Tag Archive | God

The Value of a Day

I’m a proactive worrier. A planner. I want to understand all the contingencies and be ready.

Life doesn’t always allow that though and nothing I’ve worried about has ever come to pass. I’m not superstitious enough to believe that my anxieties and preparation had anything to do with that.

Worry robs me of peace and joy. It takes me out of the present into an invisible (to me) future.

Leaving worry aside and focusing on the here and now can bring me greater contentment. That is if I truly value the work I’m doing right now.

As I’ve grown older, (not grown up), I’ve had to re-think what’s important. I’ve always been a doer and getting things accomplished were a measure of my worth at least in my own myopic perspective.

God has brought me to a place where I can savor more of the less remarkable moments. Yes, I sometimes make a list of all I’ve done to reassure myself that I wasn’t lazy at the end of the day when I don’t have anything tangible to show for the time that’s passed.

Getting work done around the house, completing projects and even finishing a book or having one come out are all tasks that recycle. They never end. There’s always more laundry to do. The dogs track in mud on a freshly washed floor, my daughter needs something for school right away and the grass keeps growing and when that stops the snow will keep me busy. When the kids were younger I struggled to find value in keeping them clean, clothed, and fed. And there are more stories and books in my head than I can possible accomplish in the time God has given me today.

While I still need do all the necessities of daily life, cleaning, grocery shopping, looking after kids, paying bills, helping my husband, and doing contracted writing/editing/teaching work, I’ve found that sometimes the seemingly smaller things are more important:

  • My time with God each day.
  • Hanging out with my dying father even while he sleeps.
  • Giving my mom a break so she can get away from the 24/7 burden of caring for my dad.
  • Playing mini-golf with my husband or sitting and watching television together and date nights.
  • Spending time with my daughter shopping or working on something together.
  • Girls-night out (or in!)
  • Hosting the small group that meets in our home.
  • Having people over for dinner or playing cards.
  • Being aware of people around me wherever I go. Who would God have me bless?

I’m finding that while the daily stuff is important, making time for the eternal stuff, the relationships, is even more so. Even though I hope my stories will impact lives, encourage people to grow in faith, or see the world a little differently, and they may outlast me, I firmly believe relationships are more important than all of it. When I teach writers I emphasize this often. Don’t overlook the people in the rush to accomplish a task. It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

I like to get things done. But sometimes sitting back and valuing the moments in a day with another person, even if it is silence, has the greater value. It won’t happen unless I’m intentional about it.

I doubt I’ll ever have regrets about a dirty house, or a messy lawn when we are in the process of making changes. I won’t regret the dust that sits undisturbed. At the end of my life I won’t think about any of that. All that will matter are the people. If this were my last day on earth would I be happy about how I left the people around me? Would they know without a doubt how loved they were?

I’m not saying to abandon cleaning and caring for those around us and for the material possessions God has given us. I’m suggesting we find greater value in the people than things or tasks. It isn’t easy and I still don’t always do it well, but I’m growing in it.

What are you learning to value in your day?

Spatzle Speaks: Madi’s Secret (Book Review)

My mom wrote Madi’s Secret many years ago and then she forgot it was releasing. I think my brother, Benji, who has dementia has been distracting her. And then there are other life things going on too, much I don’t understand. Still, I really liked this book except there’s no dog in it. Really, mom?

So Madi comes back to Wisconsin with her teenage son, but she left without a trace a long time ago leaving the love of her life behind. He never really understood where she was or why she’d left.

Parker had moved on after a while and married, had a daughter and became a widow. As a paramedic he’d seen many challenging things but nothing challenged him as much as finding his long-lost love trapped in an upside down car on the side of the highway.

She was back. But why had she left? Why wouldn’t she tell him? And her son? Who was the father?

Could love reignite in the shadow of the secrets she hasn’t shared? Madi isn’t even sure what it is that she saw that has her hunted by unknown evil. She returned to Wisconsin because she believed God was leading her back. But would she survive that obedience? And would God ever give her a relationship with Parker once the truth came out?

I recommend this book. Sure, it was written by my mom, but I know she pours herself into these stories. Check it out. It’s in ebook only for now but hopefully it will come out in print soon!

I give this book five bones, because I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Polarization Pollution

Black and white. North Pole vs South Pole. Both examples of polar opposites in our world. We can accept these as valid and real. Interesting how no one wants everything all black or all white – the lack of color is limiting. Grey however is a good neutral ground and acceptable, but even then, it is often, in clothing and decorating added to with pops of color. Grey days are usually gloomy, although some people love them while others prefer the sun. Sun all the time without the darkness of night can be wearying too.

No one lives comfortably at the North or South Poles, or even close to them—they are too cold. And living along the equator is too hot for others so people often live in between either, and even then weather patterns can make life challenging. There is no one “ideal” place to live since the Garden of Eden.

I was pondering all this because of how polarized our culture has become, especially in the United States. Cries of racism and a growing segregation of people of color vs those with less melanin in their skin. But what about those in the grey area? Those of mixed heritage and culture? We are all essentially one race and this is not a “race” issue but a cultural one. What else could we pick on? Are people with blue eyes perceived as superior to those with brown? Or are people with curly hair more frivolous than those with straight? Are people with a higher BMI less valuable than those with less? We can all make judgements based on visual cues that have nothing to do with the reality of our value as image bearers in God’s eyes. I can forget this too sometimes.

I’ve been guessed as Hispanic or Italian based on my appearance, but in reality, I’m in the grey area. My heritage genetically is from a variety of other places but those two aren’t in the mix. I’m a mutt as it were. But I’m also exactly who God created me to be.

Modern medicine has us polarized as well. It has also given us unrealistic expectations, and some have made it their hill to die on. Vaccine or Non-vaccine. That’s it. No colors in between, or are there? Individual choices are questioned and condemned without understanding the other side’s perspective. And it may not even be based on what you think. Cursing someone’s choice however closes the door to understanding.

Or have we made a different judgement? Who controls the power over life and death? Is it Dr.  Fauchi with his ever-changing flip-flopping on things? Or the World health Organization with its own political agenda? Or is it the Centers for Disease Control which also might have underlying precepts that some might disagree with? All led by fallible human beings with their own way of looking at things which, sadly enough, can skew data or the way it is shared to accomplish a particular goal. Trust the numbers, it’s science. Maybe so, but statistics can be flawed if one isn’t careful to see the bigger picture of how the numbers are arrived at. But what do I know? Maybe my professors misled me when they taught me about that kind of thing? They taught me to be critical and discerning…numbers can lie. There is a history of science being skewed…and even wrong.

There are a few other things that concern me…and even I struggle with these. Have we expected too much of modern medicine? Have we made it our idol? Some have made alternative medicine their idol as well. I live in the grey, seeing benefits of both. And neither one can save your life when the LORD of the Universe determines your expiration date.

But something worse happens than physical death in our American society at this present time. It is relational death. The division of people based on superficial constructs—skin color, medical position on vaccines, or political party. (gasp!)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. (James 3:17, HCSB)

Maybe right now some of you are perceiving me as that awful pillow or comforter a relative made for you, with clashing colors that make you wince. Maybe so. Muddy waters aren’t pretty either and I’ve stirred the pot a little more.

What I’m really urging is for us to relax. Take a deep breath. Try to understand the perspective of the other side even if you disagree with it. Politics and Covid aside, the reality is we are human beings created for community. Fight against evil! Always. But be careful what you determine as evil. Is it someone who disagrees with your well-researched opinion? Instead of throwing mud at the other person, perhaps sit down, face to face, to find out how the other person came to their perspective, without judgement, argument, or debate. Ask questions, and even if you don’t agree…love them right where they are at.

Kindness and love are better than black and white or even grey on any day.

Spatzle Speaks: A Second Chance for Grace (book review)

Romance novel, A Second Chance for Grace, by Karen Malley is a great follow up to her debut book Following the Sparrows. Both take place in the town of Pine Springs so you get a peek at previous characters. I especially liked the first book because there was a dog. This book doesn’t have a dog as a main part of the story. I’m a dog. I’ll survive.

Susan Montgomery is a handy woman, managing her apartment building. When her niece finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, Susan steps in to be a mom to the teenage girl. A mysterious briefcase is discovered in an empty apartment with a unique challenge for Susan to secretly carry out. To top it off, she meets two men who are interested in her. Mac seems just her type and understands her completely, and the other? Well, it’s a mystery as to how well he gets her, but there’s no chemistry

Christopher “Mac” MacAllister was kind of the bad guy in the first book but a near-death experience brought him to God. Now he’s in new territory trying to understand how to be a Christian. Meeting the enchanting Susan makes him doubly glad he chose his new path in life. Except she’s giving him mixed messages. His son is also facing challenges and somehow those interact with Susan as well. And what’s with this new guy?

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

This book is multi-layered and filled with new twists and turns that kept my mom reading. I highly recommend it because I prefer her reading nearby rather than going somewhere or working in her office. I give this book five bones, because I’m a dog, and that’s how I roll.

Ten Years

Ten years ago, I listened to a still, small voice telling me to write a novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for more info go to http://www.nanowrimo.org).

So I did.

The first novel I ever wrote, finally released in November of 2017.

I wrote 117,000 words in 21 days. The goal was 50,000 words in 30 days. I had a blast. I was hooked.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. By the time I published my first novel in 2015, I had written my complete 5-book Gothic Regency series as well as four other novels. I had published a flash fiction and a short story. I was working as an editor for a small publishing house, Prism Book Group, which was eventually bought out by Pelican Book Group.

As of today…those totals have increased to 20 completed titles. 15 of those are published, three more are contracted and in the process of getting to publication. Two are awaiting a home. Five are available in audiobook and I’m working on recording some of my novels. I now teach workshops at writer’s conferences and at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh through their continuing education department.

I have four more stories started.

My first published novel, with a new cover!

Life has changed significantly since God first called me to write.

Writing was initially an escape. A place to go to hide from the pain of my daily life. I wrote the happily-ever-after stories I wanted to read. I wrote about the love that I hadn’t experienced but believed was possible. I poured my own personal pain into the pages of my novels.

Then it happened.

Just as God revealed Himself in amazing ways as I wrote, he finally gave me my own happily-ever-after. After a long time of loneliness, struggling to obey God in my difficult circumstances, and finding freedom from that in 2017, God brought love into my life in 2018.

It wasn’t without obstacles. What good romance goes smoothly? Matter of fact, some of those obstacles remain, but I’ve found a new life to be LIVED, not just on the pages of my novels, but to experience and enjoy. And I found someone to do it with.

I won’t go into details of my struggle here. Those who have walked with me on that path have prayed, listened, encouraged, and even challenged me. I am grateful for their love and support.

Last year I didn’t do NaNoWriMo for the first time (after winning 8 years in a row!) because I was recovering from shoulder surgery, planning a wedding, helping remodel a house, and preparing to move my family. Oh, and all at Christmas-time!

God is good, even in the darkest days when I wondered if He would be good to me, I never doubted that it was His character. I am blessed beyond measure. I look forward to how my new life will impact my writing.

My poor hubby doesn’t understand all I do but is a champion of my work anyway. He’s loved the stories he’s read/listened to. This will be his first NaNoWriMo…so here’s hoping he can cope with this crazy writer. He’s done fairly well so far…

Happy November!

Spatzle Speaks: The Commandment (Book Review)

Anna Kittrell is a wonderful author of young adult fiction that even adults will love. The Commandment is a perfect example of her excellent storytelling.

In the science-fiction fantasy world Kittrell creates, everyone is mandated to get vaccinated with SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism). It is a formula designed to erase God from the mind. When Briar was 7 her body rejected the vaccine and she’s been on house arrest ever since.

She’s about to become a legal adult and her body continues to reject the SAP injections. She is now ordered by the Commandment, to be institutionalized at ARC – a facility where tortures are rumored to occur. A last minute opportunity to become the object of an experimental subject of a new God-dissolving serum. She decides to take the risk but fears what losing God would mean to her. But anything would be better than spending the rest of her life imprisoned at ARC.

The relationship that develops between the young man in charge of the potentially life-changing serum along with his brother, nephew and assistant, (and a dog! Yay!) make the process even more complicated. Will God finally be erased or will the Commandment rule them all?

Filled with suspense and great relational tension, this book is a fun read with a surprising ending. I highly recommend it. My mom doesn’t normally read this type of book but really enjoyed it which meant more snuggles for me. I give this book 5 bones, as I’m a dog and I don’t have thumbs.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

 

Dream Chaser

It has been some time since I’ve written here and I wish I could give you some grand excuses as to why. Life has been busy and to be honest, I don’t want to write something just to have a post unless I believe I have something of value to say. If I think long and hard I could probably come up with things, but as a single mom of three Hobbits (that’s what I call my teenagers), life gets crazy at times.

I often use my rare profundity in my real-life, face-to-face interactions with people, whether my friends, or those I meet at conferences when I go to speak, teach, and encourage. 

I admit that life is a challenge at times too.

Depression is an old friend who comes to visit when I least expect, uninvited and unwanted. 

I’m heading into shoulder surgery in a few weeks and that has me a bit scared. Not of the surgery itself, but of the recovery as I am unable to take most pain medications.

I will survive somehow. By God’s grace, I always do. 

I took this photograph in May when I traveled to Colorado. This is south of Pike’s Peak and it was a stunning sight to see I couldn’t help but try to take a picture.

Seeing this display of God’s glory was breathtaking. The mountains, the people I met, the chance to be in a new environment and watch what God would do, was inspiring. 

I realized something very striking.

I live my life too small.

My characters in my novels much more readily go above and beyond in their adventure in living. But not me. I sit behind a keyboard and fabricate stories that hopefully share God’s truths to the reader while entertaining them. Not a bad job by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a lot of hard work for little gain.

That sounds so negative, doesn’t it? Maybe I should clarify that is monetary gain.

God continues to provide for the needs of my family. And sometimes our wants. I get to travel periodically and meet amazing people on my journeys. That’s bigger than the life I used to live by far. And the future holds more promise of the same.

I’ve been challenged recently to dream. To think beyond my daily needs to greater things God might want to do in and through me. What’s surprising is I want to do what I’m doing. I get to write. What an honor to be able to do that. it’s not a smart career move financially but it’s a calling that God has honored. It is hard work. Not all of it is fun by any stretch of the imagination. And I ashamedly get so busy with writing and editing that I sometimes forget that I have a book to promote. Shameful, I know!

But I do want to do so much more than that and not surprisingly it’s not about making money.

It’s about having more opportunities to serve others, encourage them, and watch them dream wilder and bigger.

So I’m praying and have been challenged to dream bigger.

To stretch my imagination with “What if’s” and do things that might help me get there. It means stepping out of my comfort zone. Trying new things even if they scare me…like internet dating!

It means I might fail. I want to be responsible. I have three young people counting on me to be there for them. It might hurt (surgery).

It might mean letting go of some things to make room for better ones. 

So what are your dreams that you’ve been afraid to dream? Can you trust God with those and seek His guidance in reaching for them? If you struggle with depression it can be hard to dream of bigger and better things…but when I look at that photo of the mountains, I’m reminded we have a BIG GOD who can do amazingly, abundantly, more than we could ever think to ask. So I’m seeking Him as I lean into the future and I challenge you to do the same.

What are some of YOUR dreams?

Spaztle Speaks: Donuts & Detours (Book Review)

Finally, my mom has put me into a novel. I know, it’s not really me. I don’t like to talk about my past personally. I’m a rescue dog much like Shazam/Cooper is in book six of her Orchard Hill Romance Series: Donuts & Detours.

B.J. is a young mechanic in a volunteer ministry that fixes cars for single moms. She finds a dog in the trunk of a donated car. She rescues the animal and hopes to adopt it. Titus (aka Ty), decides to adopt the dog. He also wants to reach this young mechanic but doesn’t realize the boy is not quite what he seems.

He’s really a she.

Bethany Joelle has a rough past not too dissimilar from the rescued dog and is hurt when Ty adopts the dog before she can. Ty is also showing interest in Bethany Joelle but letting him close means risking her closely held secret–that she is really B.J.

Titus has his own dark past that he carries around. Secrets collide and are revealed making for some interesting relationship challenges.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Of course, the best part of the book is the dog which I know my mom based on me. Titus showed up in Bratwurst & Bridges so it’s fun that he finally gets his chance at love. I give this book five bones because I’m a dog and don’t have thumbs.

 

Spatzle Speaks: Root Beer & Roadblocks (Book Review)

My mom (Susan M. Baganz) writes books. In this one, she had a little boy and I love little kids so Root Beer & Roadblocks is a story I enjoyed. Johnny Marshall is a favorite character, but I was sad that at the end of Feta & Freeways, Johnny’s cancer had returned. I knew then that she would write Johnny’s story and make it a great one.

Johnny had a rough time because he endured a bout of cancer in his past and discovered the truth at the same time his wife served him divorce papers. He’d had his chance at fame as a musician and lost any chance to fulfill his dream of having children.

He sold his home and had moved in with his cousin. Partly because he didn’t see any point in keeping it when he figured he’d likely not survive this cancer battle. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to bother with pursuing treatment because he knew it would be brutal with no guarantee of a cure. He serves at church teaching little kids in Sunday school since he can’t have any of his own.

When he saves a little boy from being hit by a car after church, he gets injured instead. The crash reunites him with an old flame from high school. The one woman, Katie, he never really got over and she holds a secret, one that might give him the will to live.

Johnny is not a victim in this story although he suffers terribly. Matter of fact, in spite of his challenges he often emerges the unwitting hero. His journey and struggle seems hopeless at times, defeated by depression, illness, and cancer, he also finds that because of his struggles there are amazing blessings to be had on the other side as God opens the floodgates to fill his heart (and arms) with more than he could have hoped and dreamed for.

Johnny is still a musician and singer with Specific Gravity although they don’t tour in this book as they make time to allow Johnny the opportunity to fight this battle with his family, friends, and Orchard Hill church by his side. If you enjoyed Feta & Freeways you’ll enjoy the continuation of the relationship between Niko and his cousin Johnny in this story. While both books are connected they can be read as stand-alone novels.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

I would suggest that Johnny and Katie get a dog, but given the end of this story, I suspect they’ll need a bigger home and some time to adjust to all their blessings. I’d offer to join them but I love my mommy too much and she needs me. They don’t call me a rescue dog for nothing. I give this book five bones, because I don’t have thumbs and don’t do stars. And I’ll give my mom lots of kisses as long as she keeps rubbing my tummy.

Dream Musings and Music

Not all dreams become reality. Sad isn’t it? People come along and kill our dreams. Sometimes real life interferes.

When I grew up I wanted to be a disc jockey. You know. A DJ. I love music. Always have. I enjoy singing. I love to talk, so radio seemed like a great place for me. But my father told me that radio people don’t get paid much and work odd hours. I had a friend in radio at one point and he had to use a different name on the air to protect himself from his fans. Oh, to have such trouble!

I played saxophone through high school but gave it up for choir. I did well there. Won some solo ensembles. I always wanted to play guitar. Twice I’ve taken guitar lessons. When I was in a band they let me play on one song.  Yup. I was that good! *snicker*.  Actually, I’d have been great if I could have been disciplined enough to practice more.

Jonah's VacationI also wanted to be a singer but had a pastor years ago who gave me a reality check. He told me “Susan, you’re good but you don’t work at it. You’re a B-grade singer but could be an A.” Ouch! I did work at it and got good enough to be in a band for a short time.

Jonah’s Vacation was a great experience. Hard work. Amazing musicians. My next book, Feta & Freeways is dedicated to Jim, Rob, Jeff, Erick, Mark and Irene (she joined us months after this photo was taken.). I learned so much from these people (including how to belch although Jim was definitely the master of that and he didn’t have a microphone to help!)

13620018_1411151115567715_4418536725403216346_nI don’t sing for others much anymore. I did for a while. I worked at it. But now I only get an opportunity maybe once a year to do that and play my guitar. I miss the synergy of being in a band. I admire groups that have that “magic” when they play together.

I based my next book on a lead singer of a band (and his friends). Yeah, it’s a romance, but it’s so much more than that. I based it off Burlap to Cashmere. I wish I could play guitar with even a 10% of the skill they have. Can you see the joy they have as they play together? Makes me smile every time I see this photo I took from the last time I saw them live.

Maybe someday I’ll get there. Not everything has to be for the purpose of performing. Maybe playing guitar and growing in that skill will only be for me and God this time around. I can remember the past fondly and rejoice that God gave me those opportunities. And I can write and encourage others who can pursue them.

Maybe words on the page are meant to be my song in this season of my life. Why that makes me cry I don’t know, but dreams are like that. Sometimes it is okay to grieve what you can’t have. Life isn’t fair and God doesn’t always give us what we want for His own reasons. Hard to believe but that’s often a good thing. Sometimes to make room for one dream we have to sacrifice something else we value. We don’t always recognize what those choices will be…time, family, finances…there’s a cost for pursuing dreams. And there will always be those who will try to stop us, defeat us, criticize us for following God’s direction. Dreams God calls us to follow become “callings”. And they are only worth pursuing because He is the one who leads the way.

This is a live video I took from Burlap to Cashmere’s performance in Green Bay in July of this year. Gifted and a called. The “closing jam” as it were… featuring Johnny Philippidis and his amazing guitar skills. Part of the song is the Dialing God Instrumental from their Freedom Souls album. Enjoy. Maybe someday I’ll have that 10% to enjoy for myself.