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The varied meanings of love

April 23, 2016

IMG_8800I was listening to a TV show tonight (coloring while hubby watched it), when one of the characters caught my attention with a simple comment. She talked about love. She said that we “spend our whole lives chasing after it. We can’t control it.”

And I thought about that assumption and realized one thing. What she said is both true and false.

We chase after what we think is love. In Hollywood terms that often represents itself as sex. The Greeks would have called it eros. Sensual love. And if that is all we are looking for, we will never be satisfied, so yes, we will spend our life looking for it because eros is not the real thing.

IMG_8913Where she was wrong comes in the phrase, “we can’t control it”. Of course we can. Love (real love – agape – unconditional love) is a choice. Even eros is a choice. The initial attraction might not be easily controlled, but we do have a choice whether or not we are going to give in to the attraction.

Ask anyone who has been happily married for 20, 30, 40, 50 years if they have ever been attracted to another person. Chances are they’ve seen someone who is physically attractive and perhaps even felt something for that person. But that’s where choice comes in. We can say, “I couldn’t help myself. I fell in love.” Like falling off a cliff? Then don’t get so close to the edge!

IMG_8930Love of any sort is a choice. The Greeks had three types, maybe four, all with different names. Agape, as I mentioned was the best kind – the unconditional, perhaps underserved love. Phileo- was the brotherly love type. Friendship love. It’s where the city Philadelphia gets part of its name. And then the infamous eros, the sexual attraction that TV and movies can’t seem to stop showing us because we “can’t control it.”

I’m sorry if I sound sarcastic. I’m more saddened than frustrated because if we only knew how much we’ve got it backwards. What if instead of thinking that we have to spend our whole lives chasing love, we knew we were loved unconditionally with sacrificial everlasting love from the time before we were even born? What if we could know someone with that kind of abiding love for us that he would give up his life for us if it came to that? What if someone thinks we are so special, he had our names tattooed into the palm of his hand?

IMG_8379What if we knew a love that looks at us with such deep longing just waiting for us to respond to him. He won’t force us to notice him. He even lets us choose to reject him, despite the fact that he is like a bridegroom waiting to sing and dance with us? To talk with us and take long walks in the garden and listen to us chatter on and on?

Isn’t that really the kind of love we are looking for? Yes, even chasing after? But we don’t have to chase it our entire lives. HE actually chases us. He is the shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep who has run so fast chasing what she thought she wanted that she fell into a hole and can’t get out. He is the father standing on his porch looking down the road–watching, ever watching, for the one he loves so much it aches inside to think he’s walked away.

She is the woman who misplaced something so valuable that she won’t sleep until she finds it because she loves him that much that she wants to show him that she didn’t lose what he gave to her.

Perhaps you recognize these examples from the parables of Scripture, the lost sheep, the lost son, the lost coin. But love in every case is never lost. It does not have to be chased. It isn’t uncontrollable because we have a choice to love and love is a choice. And God chose to love us if we will only let Him.

He is unconditional agape love–the kind that etched our names in his skin so deep that it ran red. The kind that waits patiently for us to come to Him because when He sings over us, it’s going to sound like the grandest musical symphony you could ever imagine.

Don’t think for a moment that we have to chase love our whole lives or that we can’t control it. True LOVE chases us. And He is in control of it all.

Selah~

by jill at 10:21 pm in

The Lamp of the Word

April 19, 2016

13002521_1057999130889670_2791632088572924669_oI read an article this week about the way many people today view the Bible. Since I write biblical fiction, you can imagine my interest in such a topic. The truth is, I’ve noticed a shift in the way the Bible is both handled and accepted in recent years. Even churches who claim the Bible is “inerrant in the original languages” don’t always teach it as though they actually believe the book is without error. There are a lot of people questioning its validity, its authors, its message, and so much more.

I don’t have a problem with the questions. God is big enough to handle our questions. But I see a lot of conjecture and assumption based on incomplete information. And I’ll be honest, it troubles me because both those who believe in Christ and those who don’t are not always seeing a clear picture of what the Bible is.

The psalmist called God’s Word “a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.” The word picture makes me think of a flashlight or an old-fashioned lantern, but more likely the lamp was made of clay and could be held in one hand. Lamps are used often in Scripture and Jesus called Himself “the Light of the World.”

If I’m taking the Bible at face value, believing that a book that has lasted for thousands of years, written by multiple authors and yet has a unifying message, might have some value beyond that of simple literature, then perhaps seeing the Word as a light, a guide, might do me some good.

But I have to believe in its truth. And sometimes that means accepting things I don’t understand on faith. Faith seems unreasonable to those who would rely only on common sense or logic. Faith in an ancient book, believing that its words are true makes some of us considered as fools for believing it.

Call me a fool then because I write about what I believe. If I didn’t believe the Scriptures were true, I would not be writing in this genre. Why bother to try to illuminate what you believe if it’s not true? I’d be wasting my time.

But what if…what if there is a chance that the Bible is the Word of God and the light to our path? What if the word is true?

What do we do with truth?

Science may try to refute its claims. Archaeology may be behind on finding evidence of its history. But that doesn’t mean they won’t one day find that they fit together all along. God isn’t afraid of science or history. (And we shouldn’t be either.) His Word, in all its forms – the spoken creative works to the written scribal correspondence to the breath of His Son, will show itself for what it truly is. The light to guide us to truth. God’s truth. The only truth.

May we understand enough to give that light a second look, or even a third. Ask the questions. But ask God to illuminate the answers. After all, if it’s really HIS book, then an honest prayer for understanding won’t go unnoticed.

Selah~

by jill at 8:51 pm in

The one thing God opposes

April 10, 2016

IMG_8848Pride is such a subtle thing, isn’t it? And it wears different hats–haughty eyes, arrogant speech, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, thinking we are better than someone else, looking at a person and judging them by appearance before even taking a moment to know them…I could go on, but I think we all get the idea.

Why is it so hard for us to be humble? I mean truly, the moment we think we are humble, we probably aren’t. But pride is so hideously subtle. Then again, sometimes it’s completely obvious. We’ve all met people who are proud to the point of narcissism. We see it in world or business leaders, and sometimes we see it when we look in the mirror, don’t we? I know I do. Though I usually don’t recognize pride in myself quite so easily.
But then it’s always been easier to see the faults in others, right? We judge on looks first. Even the prophet Samuel had that problem when God sent him to anoint a new king. He took one look at David’s brothers and thought that tall, handsome firstborn was surely God’s choice. Took him seven rejections to get to the scrawny kid who took care of the sheep. I’d bet by then Samuel was sufficiently humbled for looking on the outward appearance when God had to tell the prophet that He looked at the heart.IMG_8589

Not being God, we don’t have the ability to see to the heart of people, but actions and words can give us a good clue as to what they are like, what they care about – themselves or others? – how willing they are to submit and sacrifice for the sake of God’s purposes?

Several verses in Scripture tell us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Have you ever had someone oppose you? Tell you no? Or you can’t do that? It’s tough to handle, isn’t it? I’ve been flat out told “no” for things that I thought were reasonable requests. In those instances, those people were opposing my desire. They didn’t want to do what I wanted to do or wanted them to do. They opposed me. (Hundreds of book rejection letters are one small example.)

But those were minor things. Even if they felt like giant obstacles at the time, they really weren’t. In the grand scheme of life, not getting my way on certain things doesn’t really matter except to cause me sadness or some other emotional reaction. At a heart level we might be affected by opposition or rejection for a time, but we can’t stay there or we end up really bitter people.

IMG_8339And truthfully? Having people oppose us is nothing in comparison to having God oppose us. Imagine for a moment…God. Even if you only have a vague idea of Him or question His existence because we can’t see Him…think about the things in creation that are way beyond our ability to comprehend. Look at the stars on a clear night or through a powerful telescope. Gaze at a snow-topped mountain or an ocean so vast you can’t see land on the other side. Watch the beauty of birth. Ponder the dreams of a newborn as she sleeps. Study even one small part of the human body – the eye or the hand or something equally amazing – and then think again…God.

Assuming (as I do) that He made these things, can we take it one step further and say He is bigger than what He’s created? Now imagine Him, big as He is, standing up to you, opposing you. All because of pride that He sees at the heart level. Pride or arrogance or haughtiness that we don’t even realize resides in our spirit.

IMG_3705Can you imagine what that feels like? I can’t tell you how God opposes us in our pride. Some might say He withholds blessing, and that’s entirely possible. He gives grace to the humble, which seems to suggest that He comes alongside and helps those who admit they need Him. Grace. Don’t we all need a touch of grace these days? Every day?

And God wants to give it to each one of us. Grace is there breathing faith into our doubt. Grace is there saving us from ourselves, showing us how much we need a Savior and how willing that Savior is to save us. Grace brings beauty from the ashes, showers us in joy amidst heartache and various trials. Grace is greater than our pride. Grace gives us the ability to forgive those who have hurt us. Grace extends love to our enemies, our neighbors, our friends, even those who cause us the most distress. Grace gives.

IMG_8368As God gives to those who love Him, to those who humbly admit they need Him.

God isn’t looking for a fight with us. He isn’t the enemy that wants to oppose us. He doesn’t find pleasure in saying “no” to our desires or even our heartfelt prayers. But sometimes He does say “no”. Because sometimes we put Him in a position where He has to oppose us in order to teach us to trust Him.

Proud people don’t need to trust God. Proud people have a tendency to tell God what to do. (We’ve all done that, haven’t we?) We don’t pray, “Your will be done.” We pray, “Lord, this is what I want You to do”…or… “Please bless these plans I’ve made” when we haven’t even asked Him if those plans are in line with His.

IMG_8354Pride gets to us whether we are Christians or not. It slithers into our hearts unnoticed sometimes. We cast that haughty look, hidden behind a seemingly genuine smile. We say all the right words, but if our heart does not mean them, we are really thinking that we will do what we please. We just speak to appease or to get out of a situation we don’t like. Rather than stopping to consider that perhaps God has placed us in that position for a reason.

It’s hard to set aside the “I wants” and “me firsts”. Waving my guilty hand here. Or as Ann Voskamp uses in her hashtags, “Preaching the Gospel to Myself.” This post is for me because pride is ugly and I’m as guilty of it as everyone else.

IMG_3720The truth is we are all guilty of this thing that God not only opposes but in Proverbs it says that He hates it. Pride is the one thing that keeps most people from meeting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Pride says we don’t need a savior. Pride says I’m better than that, I don’t need God, I did it my way, and any number of other ways it can be expressed.

It’s the need to be self-sufficient. To prove we can stand alone. Americans throughout history have “prided” themselves on not needing anyone but themselves. Self-made men (or women). I’m sure there are examples far beyond what I’m mentioning here.

But I think what hit me most about these verses is that I don’t want to be standing before God one day, any day, and have Him turn His back in opposition against me because I was too proud to admit I needed Him. Or I needed to forgive. Or I needed to trust. Or wait. Or count trials as joy. Or suffer a little while longer. Or think more highly of other IMG_8612people than I do myself.

I would rather be humble. That’s a hard concept though, isn’t it? Humility isn’t the same as humiliation, but they might feel the same. Humility is admitting I’m not God. I’m not great. I’m not better than. I’m a sinner. I need a Savior. I trust Him even when I don’t understand. I need grace.

When we can get to that place, God doesn’t oppose us. He comes alongside us and calls us into His family and fellowships with us and etches our name on the palm of His hand. He puts the golden ring on our finger and promises us eternity with Him. He kills the fatted calf and holds a grand feast because we’ve finally admitted our need and come running to Him even if we are miles away now.

May we all be like the one whom God longs to help, to show His immeasurable grace, rather than oppose. What side will you choose?

Selah~

 

 

 

 

by jill at 9:05 pm in

March and April 2016 Christian Fiction Releases

March 29, 2016

March 2016 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

The Nanny’s Secret Child by Lorraine Beatty — She had a chance to be a nanny for the child she gave up at birth, and couldn’t say no. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter — Lucy Lovett can’t remember the last seven months of her life. She doesn’t remember leaving her fiancé Zac Callahan, moving to Portland, Maine, or getting engaged to another man. All she remembers is loving Zac more than life itself. Zac was just beginning to get his life back on track after Lucy left him with no explanation. And now she’s back–vulnerable, homeless, and still in love with him. Has he been given a second chance with the only woman who stirs his passion and haunts his dreams? Lucy knows she must unlock those missing months and discover why she threw everything away. And Zac knows that if he follows his heart he’ll win back the love of his life–but if Lucy’s memory returns, his would-be bride might say goodbye forever. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson — Marie Carrington is hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season. Seth Sloane didn’t move three thousand miles to work on his uncle’s B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart. The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they’ve got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island? (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker Publishing])

A Glimmer of Hope: A Novella Prequel to Isle of Hope by Julie Lessman — Lacey Carmichael is a wounded girl serving up trouble. Jack O’Bryen is a pastor’s kid bent on serving God. But can they find a glimmer of hope for a future together? (Contemporary Romance from Julie Lessman LLC)

General:

Grace in the Flames by Michelle Massaro — Three people. One God of Grace. John Douglas thought he knew the future God had for him–raise a family and grow old with his bride, Hannah. But then a deadly house fire incinerates his faith, destroying the man he’d been. Worship leader Jenni Dupont conquered her demons years ago and has the scars to prove it. But temptation strikes when her world is shattered, and this time she’s not sure if God can carry her through. Bar waitress April Johanson lives with the secret trauma of an abusive past. Desperate to stay off the streets of Vegas, she’ll do whatever is necessary to pay the rent. When their lives intersect, God will ask them to do the impossible. To love Him even if… (General from Harvest House Publishers)

Historical Mystery:

Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering — Drew and Madeline Farthering attend a Regency-era house party but end up with a murder mystery to solve when one of the guests dies from a drug overdose. Then the dark question arises of whether the death is an accident or murder. Drew is shocked when the police arrest someone he’s trusted and admired since his childhood–someone who’s been smuggling drugs into the country for years. Questioning his own ability to see people as they really are, Drew doesn’t know who to trust, and he’s not ready for the secrets he’s about to uncover–or the danger he’ll bring down on everyone he holds dear. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker Publishing])

Historical Romance:

The Cowboy’s Bride Collection by Susan Page Davis, Vickie McDonough, Susanne Dietze, Nancy J. Farrier, Miralee Ferrell, Darlene Franklin, Davalynn Spencer, Becca Whitham, and Jaime Jo Wright — Ride onto the open range alongside cowboys and cowgirls who embrace the adventures of living in the Old West from Kansas to New Mexico, Colorado to Texas. Whether rounding up cattle or mustangs, training horses, fending off outlaws, weathering storms, competing in rodeos, or surviving drought these cowboys work hard each day. But when hardheaded men have their weaknesses exposed by well-meaning women will they stampede away or will a lasting love develop? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Marriage Bargain by Angel Moore — Lily Warren’s new hat shop is her ticket to self-reliance…until a fire threatens to destroy her dreams. And when Edward Stone–her landlord and the town blacksmith–bursts into her private rooms to rescue her, Lily’s reputation is tarnished. So Edward proposes a solution that could save her good name–even as it puts her independence at risk. With an orphaned niece who needs a mother, Edward believes a marriage of convenience is the answer to his and Lily’s problems. But he didn’t plan on developing feelings for his new wife. Perhaps it’s time for the wary blacksmith to try forging something truly precious–a real family… (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Mystery:

A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard — Despite her mother’s pleas to do something safer–like get married–Serena Jones has joined the FBI Art Crime Team and is learning how to go undercover in hopes of catching the art thief who murdered her grandfather. When a local museum discovers an irreplaceable Monet missing, Jones leaps into action. The clues point in different directions, and her boss orders her to cease investigating her most promising suspect. But determined to solve the case and perhaps discover another clue in her grandfather’s murder, she pushes ahead, regardless of the danger. (Mystery from Revell [Baker Publishing])

Romantic Suspense:

The Stronghold by Lisa Carter — Drug violence, revenge killings, and kidnapping are nothing new along the U.S.-Mexican border. But now teenage girls are disappearing from the Apache reservations of Arizona and New Mexico. Apache tribal cop Pilar To-Clanny and FBI Special Agent Alex Torres have a long and tumultuous history. When someone close to them disappears, Pilar and Alex must risk everything to rescue the child, including facing the unresolved issues of the past, and venture into the no-man’s land of the drug cartels. Can Pilar and Alex work together to stop a sadistic killer before he strikes again? On a quest to rescue those they love, who will rescue them? (Romantic Suspense from Abingdon Press)

Protecting Her Daughter by Lynette Eason — After someone attempts to abduct her daughter, single mom Zoe Collier flees to a remote ranch for safety. But when the would-be kidnappers follow them to Wrangler’s Corner, Zoe must figure out why somebody wants Sophia. Local vet Aaron Starke is determined to help Zoe investigate–and to keep his intriguing new neighbors safe. Zoe’s used to relying on her own wits to survive. But quick-witted, caring Aaron is just the type of man she needs in her corner. And he might be her partner for keeps…if they can find the truth without losing their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Women’s Fiction:

Breaking Free by Jennifer Slattery — Women’s ministry leader and Seattle housewife, Alice Goddard, and her successful graphic-designer husband appear to have it all together. Until their credit and debit cards are denied, launching Alice into an investigation that only leads to the discovery of secrets. Meanwhile, her husband is trapped in a downward spiral of lies, shame, and self-destruction. Can they break free from their deception and turn to the only One who can save them? And will it be in time to save their marriage? (Women’s Fiction from New Hope Publishers)

April 2016 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

A Twist of Faith by Pepper Basham — A high class speech language pathologist and an unrefined cattle farmer cause sparks in this modern retelling of the beloved classic My Fair Lady. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Coast Guard Sweetheart by Lisa Carter — Second Chance Sailor When coast guard officer Sawyer Kole is stationed again in Kiptohanock, Virginia, he’s ready to prove to Honey Duer that he’s a changed man–and the right man for her. But it’s not smooth sailing when a hurricane blows their way. To save the family inn she’s restored to perfection, Honey will ride out the storm. But can she handle the turbulence of seeing Sawyer again? Years ago he walked away, taking her dreams of love. Now as Hurricane Zelda barrels down, Honey may have no choice but to trust Sawyer to save her life and–just maybe–her heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Better than Fiction by April W Gardner and Michelle Massaro — While creating a fictional romance, a novelist dissatisfied with her marriage falls prey to an emotional affair with her spiritual, sensitive friend, Curtis, who inspires her handsome hero. Meghan Townsend imagines the whole thing as harmless…until it isn’t. Under Meghan’s skillful pen, her characters, a 1916 heroine and a reckless racecar driver, embark on a thrilling, adventurous romance. But she finds that writing those love scenes with Curtis’s face in mind takes her heart places it shouldn’t go. Will she realize in time that real life can be better than fiction? (Contemporary Romance from Plaited Press)

Close to You by Kara Isaac — A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together–and fall in love–on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Historical:

Counted With the Stars by Connilyn Cossette — Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all. To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she’s only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh? (Historical from Bethany House [Baker Publishing])

Historical Romance:

Stitching a Life in Persimmon Hollow by Gerri Bauer — Living with her aunt and uncle, housekeeper Josefa longs for the glamorous life of a fashion designer far beyond her small town. But her dreams alarm her Tia Lupita, who fears Josefa’s ambitions are unrealistic for a girl of her station. When Lupita announces a plan for Josefa to move away from Persimmon Hollow to live with distant relatives in Texas and prepare for an arranged marriage, the headstrong beauty knows she has to make an audacious choice. And when a decision arises between two suitors, will she choose a rich man who could give her all the outward trappings she desires, or a quiet carpenter who has fewer material goods but a bigger heart? (Historical Romance from Franciscan Media)

The Lady and the Mountain Call by Misty M. Beller — Trapper Reuben Scott planned only a quick visit to his parents’ homestead to tan his winter hides, but the strange woman standing at his mother’s stove is a shock. And then this Cathleen Donaghue tells him his father’s dead and his mother is losing her mind. The sad news may bring an end to the life he’s loved–trapping, living in the wild freedom of these mountains, no one demanding he measure up. But he’ll do anything for his family, even deal with this city woman since she seems to connect with his confused mother. When tragedy strikes Cathleen’s family, this impassive mountain man may be the only one with the skills to save her. But can she trust him with her heart, too? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Where the Heart is Romance Collection by Andrea Boeshaar, Carol Cox, Rhonda Gibson, Sally Laity, Claire Sanders, Connie Stevens, Pamela Kaye Tracy, Erica Vetsch, and Jane West — Journey along with nine women who find themselves on the move out of their comfortable lives and into the unknown as they set up new homes, take on new jobs, seek out loved ones, and encounter romance. Will their faith endure the hardships, and will love form when life is in transition? Written by nine inspirational romance authors who have a passion for American history and faith. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Mail Order Mix-Up by Christine Johnson — When school teacher Pearl Lawson sees an ad for a mail-order bride, she leaps at the opportunity to find a husband for her best friend. Roland doesn’t know how an ad seeking a wife for his brother found its way into print. But now he has to handle the hopeful applicants–women who think he’s the future groom. Not to mention the feisty, matchmaking schoolteacher who is just as determined not to marry as he is. Will this mix-up push Roland and Pearl to forget their plans of staying single and allow love into their lives? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Losing Lincoln by Stephenia H. McGee — Among the thousands of captured and hopeless Confederates in Elmira prison, Annabelle searches to find the one man who could be the key to saving her inheritance. Matthew will do everything in his power to protect the woman he loves–even if it means keeping her from the truth. Especially given his ties to a desperate madman seeking vengeance. In the final dark days of war, Matthew sets his hopes on Annabelle. She could be the lighthouse that guides him out of the ever encroaching sea of chaos. But first they must allow love and trust to overcome their prideful hearts. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Rumors and Promises by Kathleen Rouser — Sophie Biddle, an heiress on the run with a child in tow, seeks to start over in a small town that doesn’t like secrets. Reverend Ian McCormick has come to Stone Creek to escape past mistakes and prove himself a worthy servant of God and his congregation. They are drawn together by their love for music and her child, Caira, who Sophie tries to pass off as her little sister. Will the scandals of her past destroy his hope for their future? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

The Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M. White — Lady Rowena Kinnaird may be the heiress to a Highland earldom, but she has never felt good enough. After a shocking attack, she’s willing to be forever an outcast if it means escaping Loch Morar. While Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham, has never shied away from manor-born ladies, the last thing he needs right now is the distraction of Lady Rowena’s desperate situation. When Rowena’s father tries to trap Brice into marrying his daughter, Brice makes a surprising decision. Rowena wanted to escape the Highlands, but she’s reluctant to marry a notorious flirt. And when she learns that Brice is mixed up in dangerous business with a stolen treasure, she feels pushed directly into the path of everything she was trying to avoid. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Romantic Suspense:

Silence in the Dark by Patricia Bradley — Two years ago, Bailey Adams broke off her engagement to Danny Maxwell and fled Logan Point for the mission field in Chihuahua, Mexico. Now she’s about to return home to the States, but there’s just one problem. After Bailey meets with the uncle of one of the mission children in the city, she barely escapes a sudden danger. Now she’s on the run–she just doesn’t know from whom. To make matters worse, people who help her along the way find themselves in danger too–including Danny. Who is after her? Will they ever let up? And in the midst of the chaos, can Bailey keep herself from falling in love with her rescuer all over again? (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker Publishing])

Picture Perfect Murder by Rachel Dylan — When photographer Lily Parker escapes an attack, she doesn’t want any help from the FBI agent who is convinced she’s a serial killer’s latest obsession. But after one of her photographs is found at a murder scene, it’s clear that Special Agent Rex Sullivan was right. Lily, a former CIA agent, isn’t used to relying on others, but she won’t survive without Rex at her side. And Rex quickly sees that Lily isn’t a typical victim in need of his protection, but a valuable partner who can help him bring down a madman. With the murderer growing bolder, Rex has to convince Lily to trust him with her safety–or she could become the killer’s next victim. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis — When a talented musician is found dead in Memphis, Nate and Nicki are determined to find their friend’s killer with a list of suspects longer than the Mississippi River. (Romantic Suspense from Harvest House)

Reunion Mission by Virginia Vaughan — Lured into a dark classroom, high school teacher Claire Kendall stumbles over the body of a dead student–and into the clutches of the killer. Certain she’s about to die, Claire is shocked when DEA agent Matt Ross bursts in and rescues her. The former army ranger who broke her heart ten years ago is back in town to bust a drug trafficking ring operating at the school. With Claire being framed for the young informant’s murder, she has to put aside their past and trust her handsome ex to keep her safe. But someone is dead set on bringing their hometown reunion to a permanent end. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative:

Tainted by Morgan L Busse — A young woman discovers she can control the laws of science, but every time she does, she kills a part of her soul. If she doesn’t find a cure soon, her soul will die and she will become something else entirely. After a devastating personal loss, Stephen Grey leaves the World City Police Force to become a bounty hunter. He believes in justice and will stop at nothing to ensure criminals are caught and locked up. However, when Kat Bloodmayne shows up in his office seeking his help, his world is turned upside down. Together they search World City and beyond for a doctor who can cure Kat. But what they discover on the way goes beyond science and into the dark sphere of magic. (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)

A Desperate Escape by JC Morrows — The palace is scrambling to recover from a brutal assault . . . the country is in disarray . . . and the royal security team is on edge like never before. Kayden entered the palace under a lie . . . a lie that has now been exposed. Now Prince Dvarius has to decide what to do with his reluctant assassin. (Speculative from S&G Publishing)

The Xerxes Factor by Anna Zogg — USF special agent Kelli Layne has one goal in life—find the girl who was abducted on her watch. Confident and self-sufficient, she doesn’t need anyone. Including God. When she is nearly killed, she is forced to question her ideology. Only one person believes Kelli wasn’t involved in the kidnapping, fellow agent Jayden Song. He risks his career to help her follow the clues to Xerxes IX, an alien planet with a humanoid population. To rescue the missing girl, Kelli and Jayden have no choice but to become fugitives from the law. Can they save the child without forfeiting their own lives? (Speculative from Next Step Books)

Thriller/Suspense:

The Tenth Plague by Adam Blumer — Water turns to blood. Flies and gnats attack the innocent. Marc and Gillian Thayer’s vacation resort becomes a grisly murder scene, with a killer using the ten plagues of Egypt as his playbook for revenge.
When their friend turns up dead, Marc and Gillian put their vacation on hold, enlist the help of a retired homicide detective, and take a closer look at the bizarre plagues as they escalate in intensity. Meanwhile, a stranger is after the Thayers’ newly adopted baby. Will they uncover the truth behind the bitter agenda before the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn son? (Thriller/Suspense from Kirkdale Press)

by jill at 8:14 am in

From here to there

March 26, 2016

IMG_7479They say all good things come to an end. They are right to some extent and wrong in others. It’s been several weeks since I posted here, as we have been away from home since the end of February. We decided to try our hand at being “snow birds” and got the chance to visit our family. We are grateful for the time God gave us to do this. But nearly five weeks away from home has taught me a few things of who I am and what I’m not. More on that.

We began our trip in Portland, Oregon visiting two of our married kids who have lived there nearly a year now. We saw the Pacific from a different point of view than here in California and tried everything from fresh-made donuts to award-winning chocolate! I had the privilege of meeting with five different writer friends, which made the trip extra special. Of course, being with our kids was the highlight as there is just never enough time in a life to be with people you love.

IMG_8251But that trip came to a swift end and we flew down to LAX to see our whole family for a few days. Never enough time, but grateful for the time we had.

IMG_7987Before we left L.A. one of our sons took us to The Last Bookstore. We visited several bookstores on this trip – from Powell’s in Oregon to the one on Alcatraz, but this one tops them all. The unique way they use books for decor is fun and creative!

We drove from L.A. to Arroyo Grande, one of California’s best kept secrets. I love the Central Coast! Whenever we’ve been west, it’s always been to L.A. since our two oldest moved west, with occasional visits to San Diego and Monterey, but Arroyo is like stepping into a midwestern town. We rented another house, this time in the country. Quiet is something I never really appreciated until we stayed here. The owner has been great. We’ve met his chickens and his dogs, both of which are also very quiet. The only noise you hear is at night when the frogs and insects and distant coyotes start talking. I don’t think I could ever vacation in hotels again, though we did have a few nights in them.

IMG_8244A few days after our arrival here, my agent, Wendy Lawton, and her husband met us two hours from here. (It was a two hour drive for both of us.) We spent the day chatting over lunch and dessert and I don’t know how the time flew so fast! I’ve been Wendy’s client now for around ten years and I truly count her a friend. I’m glad the feeling is mutual.

IMG_3783The following week we drove to San Francisco one day and toured Alcatraz the next. (Did I mention how LONG a state California is?) Took us four hours of driving and if I ever visit San Francisco again I will do more research on quiet lodging. Such a busy, noisy city! But the tour was fun and informative and boy, am I glad I have never had to call a prison cell home!

From Alcatraz we drove two hours to Sacramento and spent the next day touring the California State Train Museum. I have never done so much walking that made my calves hurt front and back, as though I’d sprinted a half marathon. Old Sacramento is kind of cool with it’s old architecture and horse-drawn carriages. But the five-hour drive back to Arroyo was exhausting.

IMG_8698We’ve spent numerous visits to the local beaches here – Pismo, Grover, and Avila – all beautiful. Visited a few local sites like Bubblegum Alley and another train museum (Randy’s hobby), and spent a day at Solvang and sometimes all that driving just wore us out so we sat in the house trying to recoup! Our house sitter has Skyped with us twice so we could see Tiger – I can’t wait to hold that furry baby in my arms again!

IMG_8319San Luis Obispo is another fun city nearby though they are doing a lot of construction right now, so it wasn’t quite as fun to walk around town. I found a great coffee shop there that makes their own almond milk from fresh almonds and shaves the chocolate for a cafe mocha. Also found a fun coffee shop in Arroyo that makes a great coconut milk, cherry, coconut, cafe mocha latte. Call me caffeine addicted, but all that driving and fresh sunshine causes one to need a real pick-me-up.

IMG_8654Randy got to golf once with one of our sons, while I had lunch with the other. And too soon we will be seeing them all one last time and boarding the plane for home (this coming week).

So back to the beginning of where I started this. What I’ve learned spending five weeks away from home–it’s too long to stay away. I guess at this point in my life I’m not a “snow bird.” That is, we loved getting away from the Michigan cold and enjoy California’s earlier spring. The flowers here are in full bloom, oranges ripe on the trees, and the temperatures have been in the 60s and 70s. Perfect. (We get to go home to the 40s.) Not so perfect.

IMG_8188But I also learned that God can teach us things wherever we are. Some of those things have not been easy lessons. I’ve had enough struggles already this year to last several decades, trials I hope never to repeat. I’ve also learned that God forgives. He can be trusted. And that the Holy Spirit prays for us and through us with groans too deep for words. We don’t know how we ought to pray sometimes, but the Spirit knows and He is working when we least expect it.

I’ve learned the value of friendships. I disconnected from most of my email groups and only answered email that I felt was work-related or personal enough that it couldn’t wait until April. But I have a group of author friends who have been an anchor to me through many a storm in recent years, and I stayed in touch with them. I’m not sure what I would do without those God-given relationships.

IMG_3639Or the God-given relationships of friends from back home. Today I heard from two friends who miss us and that makes me smile. And so grateful. Everyone needs to feel wanted and needed, and vacation tends to skew our view of things. And yet it also helps us value what we have.

So while all good things, like relaxing trips away from home, less reason to cook, hot tub soaks before showers in the morning on sunny days, and spending time with the people we love most do have to come to an end, the gratitude for life doesn’t have to stop. God put us here for a purpose and our purpose resides in Michigan for now. Randy has classes to return to and I have a book to write. Hannah is starting to take shape in my thoughts, and I’m grateful I have her story to return home to.

EUUZ4471There are a lot of things I’m going to miss about California. The weather. The scenery – the mountains are green and lush with vegetation since they’ve finally had some rain. The ocean never fails to remind me of how big God is. But the traffic reminds me how many people find this state just as inviting as I do, and I can definitely do without the traffic!

Mostly, I’m going to miss the closer proximity to family. It’s hard having all of our kids on the west coast. If I had my wish, they would all prefer Michigan. But maybe God will make a way for us to move here someday. Right now…that’s a long way from my desire. I just want to soak up the sunshine while we can, be grateful for the friendly people in this town, and look forward to one more visit with our kids.

Then Tiger can finally let our house-sitter sleep in his own home in peace! (And hopefully, he will forgive us everything and be glad to have his “mom” and “dad” home again!

Selah~

 

by jill at 9:43 pm in