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January 3, 2015

Rahab CoverJanuary 3, 2015. How strange it seems to have the holidays behind us again, the house bare of Christmas decorations. I enjoyed Christmas this year, despite our distance from some of the kids. But after Christmas night, the days have been kind of a blur. I came down with some kind of illness. It didn’t act like the flu – more like a typical cold that turned bacterial. I will admit, after ten days of this and still coughing, I’m growing rather tired of it all. I have a full week ahead of me, if I can keep it. All bets are off until I feel normal again.

In the meantime, I managed to finish Deborah’s story and turned it in to my acquisitions editor today. I rewrote the timeline to match the changes I’d made, and finished what I could of character sketches for my line editor – something she uses in her editing process to make sure I keep things consistent throughout the story. What a relief it is to finally close out those files on my computer! So now it’s back to the Egyptian Princess’s novella. Then I can start work on the research for Ruth!

91KOVyM7yKLJanuary is such a busy time. It occurred to me today that I should be receiving my first copy of The Crimson Cord in the next few weeks! I happened to notice the back cover on Amazon tonight – my first glimpse of the artwork! Ohhh…it’s perfect! I cannot say enough good things about the art department at Revell. Thank you, Cheryl!

There is such anticipation to see the idea of one person come together (with the help of many) to become a thing we can hold in our hands. And I can’t wait to share Rahab’s story with all of you! I hope you enjoy this one. I enjoyed writing it, and Tiger had a little paw/hand in some parts near the end. (He wants that made publicly known.) When you read the story, you’ll understand what he means.

I am scheduled to do two book signings at Woodside Bible Church in Troy, Michigan, the weekend of January 24/25, 2015. I will be at the Saturday service from 6:00-6:30 p.m. and at the Sunday services between 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to sign books between services. The book does not officially release until February 16, 2015, so if you come to one of the services and stop by the bookstore or the signing, you can purchase an early copy. I’m so looking forward to meeting those who come!

That’s about it for now. I have done very little this past week, but maybe that’s a good thing. Sometimes when we are sick, rest and sleep are the best medicine.

Happy New Year to all~

by jill at 8:40 pm in

A New Year

December 30, 2014

IMG_0947What do you look forward to most when a new year begins? We celebrate the start of each year with good intentions for change, but why do we seek that change in the first place?

For me, I think the new year brings the hope that I will be successful at things where I have failed in the past. Perhaps I will finally lose those seven pounds I’ve been trying to get rid of since our vacation to California in February! Perhaps I will finally work out (exercise) because I enjoy it, not just so that I don’t hurt. Perhaps this year I will find joy in the things that have become more like drudgery than pleasure. Perhaps I will shake this stupid cold that hit me on Christmas Day before next week kicks in. Perhaps I will finally find time to declutter everything from my closets and drawers to the constant ads that keep hitting my inbox, begging me to buy this or that.

Those seem like worthy goals, don’t they? And yet…that’s not my New Year’s desire.

You see, I think there is something innate in each of us that wants to change for a far deeper reason, and it has nothing to do with fitting into clothes that are getting too tight or even simplifying our lives. It’s a spiritual longing for more. And this past month, I’ve come to realize that even those who love Jesus can face this longing. It’s not that we need more of Jesus. He needs more of us.

Traverse City 219People spend their lives asking questions – how did we get here? Why are we here? For the Christian, we know that God created us, but do we grasp why He did that? If we are followers of Jesus, we are here for one main purpose. To be like Him.

Philippians 2:5 (Amplified Version) says, “Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus…”

The chapter goes on to tell us that Jesus became like us (was made in our likeness). Why did He do that? So that when He appears, we will become like Him. (1 John 3:2)

Jesus came humbly, obediently, to fulfill the purpose His Father had for Him–to become our Deliverer, our Savior, our Redeemer. He did not come to condemn the world but to save it. He did not seek those who thought themselves healthy, but sought those who knew they were sick on the inside, breakers of God’s code, His laws, His standards.

It’s this purpose, to be like Jesus, to know Him better, that spurs us to start a new year with a Bible reading plan or commit to being more grateful, or to pray more often, rather than just shoot arrow prayers heavenward because we’re too busy to really spend the time interceding for one another. (I’m speaking to myself – no guilt intended here.)

This is my New Year’s Desire.

photo-89But trust me in this – if we set this as our goal, we will face opposition. (Speaking again from experience.) We war against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and all three will fight to keep us from changing. But God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. He longs for us to know Him, to spend time with Him. He is the only person who can keep His promise to never leave us nor forsake us. But how easy in our humanness it is to forsake Him.

A month ago I began a different kind of prayer. “Lord, make me like Jesus.” When I find my joy waning, my anxiety rising, frustration and disappointment filling a too ready a space in my heart, I remember this prayer. And then I ask myself, “What was Jesus like?”

But that’s the best part of the challenge. To read the Scriptures that tell of Him, to observe His creation, to stand in awe of His glory.

Will you join me in this prayer? I’m finding my life richer, peace fuller, joy sweeter the more I seek Him.

I pray that in this new year, you will find Him nearer too.

Selah~

by jill at 5:37 pm in ,

Christmas Future

December 24, 2014

IMG_3166Ahh, the future. Now this is a post I cannot write with any earthly certainty, because none of us can know what a year will bring. When I look back at 2014, I see a year I never expected. Family and dear friends have lost loved ones, we’ve traveled more than we planned, saw a son get engaged to the love of his life, and faced many trials and struggles. And yet, life is good. God is good. And we look ahead with joy to 2015.

If I could predict my earthly future, I would see Christmas Future as a time surrounded by an ever-growing family. I would welcome grandchildren into my heart, and I would face more change, as it is with every season. But I can’t predict such things.

What I do know with the certainty of faith is that Christmas will continue as long as life is long, until Jesus fulfills prophesy once again and returns to earth to take back what is rightfully His. When that day comes, He will not come to earth as an infant, but riding on a white horse with power and authority over every thing that lives and breathes.

In that day, when Jesus rules, there will truly be peace on earth. There will be no more evil or sickness or heartache or pain. As Amy Grant sings in her “Grownup Christmas Wish” song, “no more lives torn apart, that wars would never start, and time would heal all hearts”…

IMG_1427And yet, as my pastor said this past Sunday, time does not heal. Time helps. God heals. And if we let it, Christmas Future can be a time of healing, even before Jesus comes to make things right. Christmas Future, if it went the way I’d love to see it go, would be a time where lost faith was restored, broken relationships were healed, ruined lives were healed. Christmas Future would hold true Love in our hearts by faith, and we would all see Jesus as He truly is today. Not just as a baby in a manger in a small Jewish town two thousand years ago. But a King who reigns. A King who longs to change our hearts–who came the first time to become like us so that we could become like Him.

Christmas Future would be to know Him more. To love Him more, and by loving Jesus in turn loving our fellow human beings with the same love He’s given to us. It’s a daunting challenge, one that requires sacrifice and surrender. But it is a future that I long for. And one that is worth whatever it takes to reach it.

Merry Christmas!

by jill at 8:00 am in ,

Christmas Present

December 23, 2014

IMG_3584During the writing of yesterday’s post, I pulled out old photo albums and took a trip down memory lane. My how much time has changed us all! So many people have come and gone from our lives. Friends moved away and we have lost contact, or family and friends have moved on to a better life in heaven with Jesus. It is good to go back, to remember. But it is also good to live today–to make new memories for the future.

Christmas Present in our house looks much different than it used to. All the years of raising the kids were such fun! I remember (here I go again with Christmas past) the year I spent shopping for three of every Star Wars figure I could find because each boy needed their own set. And the year one two-year-old jumped on his toys in his grand excitement of receiving them. (Unbreakable, thankfully!)

IMG_1409One year Randy found two used tractors – one plastic, one metal, and fixed them up. The metal one needed painting and repair, but I think we found it discarded or very cheap, so the work to fix it was worth it. We had a lot of fun and have some funny home movies to prove it.

But as seasons change, and batons pass to the next generation, we are in that transition of creating new memories with adult children. Two live across the country and have not come home for the past two years. So Christmas invites use of online shopping and the post office and chatting over webcam. But how wonderful technology can be when a houseful of guests can suddenly have a “visit” from a family member in California? Or when a 91-year-old grandma can talk to her grandson over a cell phone and see his face on FaceTime? My grandma would not have understood it, but my mom has lived to see and experience it.

Christmas Present includes more flexibility on our part. Being available to celebrate on different days, making plans with friends far more than we did when the boys were small. And seeing a different side of love.

As the story of Jesus’ birth in a biblical novel made Christmas real to me in my teens, so life and changing expectations has made love stronger, and perhaps different in these adult years. Christmas has never been about us, but at times we don’t always realize that. We want things to go the way they have always gone, forgetting that there was a time when they were different. There was a time when our parents had their traditions, which they transferred to us and allowed us to create our own when we married and had our own children. Time for such a change has now landed on our shores.

And so Christmas Present means change. It means flexibility. And it means asking, “How can I make Christmas special for you? How can we relieve your stress?” And asking the Lord to make us more like Him, so that our love for those we love can be the best it has ever been.

Selah~

 

by jill at 8:00 am in

Christmas Past

December 22, 2014

Mom Dad Den Elaine Jill 1960sWhen I was a little girl, we lived in a colonial (a house with an upstairs, main floor, and basement). My grandpa had died when I was three, so my grandma came to live with us for a while. (This is a photo of that house with my dad. I was probably six or seven that Christmas.)

My Christmas memories are sketchy as a child, and the pictures are in my memory rather than actual photos, but I recall family gatherings, always centered around the dinner table where dessert was my highlight! We had “eight-layer cake,” which was really a torte made with Cadbury chocolate (oh yum!), and my grandmother’s fruit cake, which was better than any fruit cake I have ever tasted since. (My grandma knew how to cook and bake and she loved to entertain! I did not inherit that gene, and am very grateful that Randy bakes our Christmas cookies. No one bakes her fruit cake anymore, but someday maybe I’ll talk some family members into helping me make that eight-layer cake again.)

One of my favorite Christmases with my grandma was the first year Randy and I got married. We invited her over to our home and she helped us string popcorn and cranberries for our tree. Newlyweds didn’t have a lot of money for ornaments, but I learned quickly how hard it was to string popcorn! That was the only year we did so. (This is rare photo I have of her the year before she went to be with Jesus.)

IMG_3792But, back to my childhood–my grandmother moved from our colonial to an apartment to live with my great aunt, while we moved to a smaller house with a bigger basement. My parents had a ping pong table and every Christmas, my mom would lay all of the Christmas gifts on the table and cover them with a big white sheet. We weren’t allowed to peek…but one year (I was probably eight or nine at the time), the temptation was just too great. I had the basement to myself and boxes were all unwrapped. The sheet was so easy to lift, and it was just a little nudge to get the lid off of each box…

I don’t know how many boxes I peeked into because none of them mattered until I found one that I knew was meant for me. There is an age gap between my brother and sister and me, so no one else would have asked for toys. And that year, I wanted Gumby and Pokey. (If you watch the Honda commercials right now, my son did the pre-vis (pre-visualization) and directing on the ones with the toy characters – Gumby and Pokey are in one of these. (Watch it here.)

Anyway, that Christmas I found Gumby and Pokey lying neatly beneath layers of tissue paper. Funny how all of the excitement of a desire quickly wanes the moment the surprise is over. I’m pretty sure I pretended to be surprised on Christmas Eve when we opened gifts, but I wasn’t. I never, ever peeked at or hunted for presents again!

My favorite Christmas memories during those growing up years though, came the year I read Two From Galilee. I was sixteen, and suddenly the whole story of Joseph and Mary and Jesus meant far more than it ever had before. Those people were real. The Bible came alive for me. And Christmas has carried a whole new meaning ever since.

There are many more memories, especially those that we made when the traditions became our own and when we brought each child home from the hospital and shared their first Christmases with them. But I would have to write a book to include every story.

How about you? Do you have a favorite memory of Christmas Past?

Whether you have time to share it here or not, I wish you the best this Christmas. May Jesus become real to you, perhaps in a way He never has before. And may your memories be sweet.

Come back tomorrow for Christmas Present and Wednesday for Christmas Future.

Selah~

 

by jill at 8:00 am in