I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, April 30, 2012

Do you have a dream?

Melissa Tagg here! See that ^ ? That's a rare peek inside my bedroom.  Talking about dreams today, so it felt rather apropos. And yes, I really love the word apropos. Also, that wall art looks a lot straighter on my wall than it does in this photo! 
I once had a dream.

To marry a rather well-known Christian singer's brother. (Um, if you know me, let's not go naming any names, all right? I'd like to preserve what little dignity I might have left at the end of this anecdote.)

Actually, this singer had a couple brothers in my age range and for awhile, I figured either would do. But then I saw one jump off a huge speaker during a concert and decided, yeah, he's the one I wanted.

I even met him. Twice. Not going to lie, the second time we met, when he said he remembered me, I was pretty sure it was a sign from God we were meant to be together. (And I'm so sure he remembered me because of my beauty and wit and our spiritual connection...not because of my rather interesting fashion choices back then or my nervous giggles.)

Anyway, I grew up.

We did not get married.

And I'm pretty sure now if I saw someone jump from a big speaker, I'd call 911 rather than swoon. :)

Gotta love the dreams we have as kids, yeah? Did you have any crazy childhood dreams?

How about "for real" dreams? Dreams you feel God planted in your heart? Dreams for which you're sure you were born?

I've got those. Oh, I've got 'em. And lately, I've felt God reminding me to be thankful for the dreams He's given me. Because they're exciting. They're fun. They're from Him.

Instead, sometimes it's all too easy to get antsy. Anxious. Weary.

But dreams aren't meant to be that way!

God-given, God-glorifying dreams are beautiful, energy-giving and life-fueling. I've been reading (and loving) the book Extravagant Worship by Darlene Zschech and I love what she says about dreams:
God is the ultimate dream giver and dream fulfiller. He planted His dream within you to get you up in the morning. He planted it so that you would go over mountains and through valleys...If your dream is enormous, and you think it cannot possibly be for your life, I guarantee that it is a God dream. [pg 110-111]
I love that. I love that God plants dreams in His people...nurtures and coaxes those dreams to life...in His perfect time...in a way only He can.

Let's chat about dreams. What kind of dreams has God planted in your heart? Do you see Him at work in your life, maybe gently prodding or outright pushing you toward your dream? Like me, do you ever get exhausted by your dream? How do you get your focus back on the Dream-giver?

Melissa Tagg

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Would Die For You (Maybe)

Hi! Jenness here, with a burning question for you. Ready? Here we go:

What do the Hunger Games and Twilight books have in common? (Besides the fact that you're either about to roll your eyes or grab pom-poms?)

Let's see. You could point out that they're young adult books. You might argue that they both have love triangles. (But I'll argue back, because, seriously...is Gale really ever in the running?) They're controversial.  And, not only are they best-sellers, but they have both gained a hugely devoted fan base. 

Don't worry, I'm not trying to create a hot debate or give a rambling lecture on why you should or should not allow your kids to read the books or watch the movies. I just want to make an observation. One more thing they have in common:  They're told from the viewpoints of very self-sacrificing heroines.

In Twilight, Bella is willing to face whatever and do whatever is necessary to be with the one she loves and to keep her father and the town safe. In Hunger Games, Katniss is willing to die for her sister first. Then her loved ones, her District, and for the good of the entire country.

Do you find that as interesting as I do? I admit I'm not familiar with the Harry Potter series so I don't know if that self-sacrificing theme holds over, but here it is in two HUGE, blockbuster series that won crazy-devoted fans (as in, weddings-themed-around-the-books kind of fans).


There's something about the sacrificing hero/heroine that has a universal appeal. This Easter season I can't help but feel like it has something to do with the Hero who sacrificed His very life to save us.

On Easter Sunday, I heard a sermon about the God-shaped hole in our hearts, about how He brings hope and healing, and how He holds everything together. Because of Who He is. Because of His great, sacrificial, I-will-die-for-you love.

I can't help but think stories that demonstrate real sacrificial love appeal to so many because of the tiny fragment of a mirror that it holds to the greatest story of all--that of Christ, dying on the cross for our sins and raising again. Because of His unfathomable love.

Your turn.
Writers, how have you worked sacrificial love into your story?
Readers, what's your favorite novel with allegorical elements?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Heroes in All Shapes and Sizes

By Teri Dawn Smith

I’ve had cause to think a lot about heroes lately. That’s not surprising for a fiction writer, but it’s not my fictional heroes I’ve been contemplating, but real life heroes.

Some of them look like heroes—like the firemen who came and picked my father up off the floor when he fell recently. I told them they were heroes, and one of the firemen pointed to some pictures on the wall and said, “Looks like you’ve got some heroes of your own here.” The pictures were of my grandfather, my father, and my oldest brother in their navy uniforms.

Yes, they were all brave men, and they looked like it, dressed in their gear.

But not all heroes wear a uniform. My brother Tim recently sacrificed a day with his family to spend the day with us when my mother needed some extra help. He certainly seemed heroic that day.

Sometimes a one-time courageous act makes a person a hero, but other times it’s the day after day small sacrifices such as the ones a person makes, year after year, that make me want to tag a person as a hero. My mother did this both in our home and in her first grade classroom. She’s a modern day heroine, as far as I’m concerned.

And heroes come in all shapes and sizes. 

We have a small Maltese puppy named Titus who barks when my elderly mother is in need. The first time he did this, I’m ashamed to admit, I scolded and him and told him to hush. But now I’ve learned to trust my tiny hero when he comes for me time after time when my mother is in need—once recently in the middle of the night when she fell.

So heroes can come with uniforms or dressed in plain clothes. They can even come covered with fur. But here’s the thing about heroes: They don’t give up, they help the helpless, they do it without complaining or boasting, and in the end they make us marvel.

What about a Hero who rescues someone who was nasty to him? Wouldn’t this amaze us even more? Or one who rescued his enemies? Jesus did this, and He is without a doubt the greatest hero of all times

How about you? Have you found a real life hero lately among your friends or relatives?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Faith For Our Children

By: Alena Tauriainen

Deuteronomy 6:7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

This year my son turns 17. Where did the time go? I question whether I’ve taught him all the things he needs to know.

It’s in this line of questioning I know I’ve taught him the most important: Faith in God.
I realize I can’t be there for everything that happens in his life. But hopefully as my husband and I raised him, he’s seen God do the miraculous for us.

For instance, my children have grown up hearing about two miraculous births.

I was pregnant with my first baby girl, Eden, when my boys decided to share chicken pox with Mommy. Children are great at sharing things, you don’t want! Ack!

My doctor immediately sent me to a specialist who told me all of the horrible defects my little girl could be born with. I grabbed onto the promises of God! I went through the remainder of my pregnancy with total peace. I spoke The Word continually and thought of all the healings I’d seen or heard God perform. God is not a respecter of persons, if he provided healing for the man with leprosy, he’d do it for me. If he healed Dodie Osteen, he’d heal my daughter. Eden was born on September 30, 1999 totally healthy.

My good friend of 18 years, Laura, was told her son Mathew had spina bifida and the doctors recommended termination of her pregnancy. She too, stood on the Word. Today, Matt is almost 6 feet tall, an excellent football player and about to graduate high school.

Or consider my friend, Robin. When her daughter Abby was a baby she was diagnosed with leukemia. They went to Texas Children’s for treatment. It was a faith walk as she watched her daughter suffer through treatments and the side-effects that came from them. Today Abby is a beautiful teenager who loves dancing and frequently dances to illustrate the love of God.

It took faith for our families to believe God. In those times, we were Peter walking out to Jesus on the water in the midst of the storm.

The cute little girl in picture above?  That's my Eden. Her name means "delightful" and she has been that to me and so many others.

My children have seen and heard the miracles of their birth. Faith is just one aspect, but a vital one for their future.

My family keeps  a “Faith Box” on our mantle. We write down the miraculous things God does in our lives and then put them in the box. It serves as a memorial in our own life to remind us.

What are some of the miracles God has done in your life? In your family?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Interview with Sandra Robbins, author of the Ocracoke Island Suspense Series

by Pat Trainum writing as P. T. Bradley

I am excited to welcome my friend and great author Sandra Robbins as a MBT Ponderers guest today.

Sandra is a multi-published author who lives with her husband in the small Tennessee college town where she grew up. At present she has eleven books published, one more releasing in 2012, and two releasing in 2013.

Her books have been finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Contest for excellence in mystery writing, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for romance, the Holt Medallion, and the ACFW Carol Award. In Barbour’s 18
th Annual Heartsong Awards for 2010, Sandra was one of five authors voted by readers as one of their favorite new authors.

Fatal Disclosure is the last of your series set on Ocracoke Island. What sparked the idea for setting a series in this area?

I had never heard of Ocracoke Island until my daughter’s college roommate got a job teaching in the island school. When I listened to her talk about the island’s history and life there today, I decided it was a perfect place to vacation. One summer my son, granddaughter, and I took a trip there. When we drove off the ferry after the two and a half hour ride from the mainland, I knew I wanted to set a book there. By the time we left a week later I was already beginning to plot the first story. The Michaels family began to take shape in my head and soon I felt like they were good friends. It was a delight to write their stories.

Were there any particular challenges in writing Fatal Disclosure? Like sadness at ending the series? I know I’ll be sad to see it end. There’s another Michaels girl, you know.

I have to admit I am sad to see the series end. I feel like I’m saying goodbye to some old friends, but it’s time to go on to other things. The challenges in writing these stories came in trying to make the characters different and give them different challenges to face within an exciting story. In the first book Kate deals with a deranged killer, in the second Scott helps Lisa solve a twenty-five year old mystery and rescues her from someone who’ll do anything to keep the past buried, and in Fatal Disclosure Betsy is targeted by smugglers. I tried to include island landmarks such as the lighthouse, the maritime forest, and the British Cemetery in the stories so readers could get a feel for some of the things the island offers.

And yes, there is another Michaels girl, but she’s an adolescent. I don’t think she’s quite ready for a full-blown adventure yet. However, Mark Webber the hero in Fatal Disclosure has a sister named Laura, and she is the heroine in the first book of a new series I’m working on. It is set in Memphis and deals with cold cases the police are working on. I’ll let you know how that series develops.

Fatal Disclosure has a very strong faith-based theme. What role has your faith played in your writing?

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes life worth living.” I have found that to be true in my life. My faith has sustained me all my life, and it was no different when I started writing. I had no idea where God was going to take me on my writing journey, but I put it in His hands and followed. I still marvel at the people God put in my path and how they played key roles in helping me become a published writer. I have had the opportunity to work with some fabulous editors, and I’m especially blessed to have the wonderful Natasha Kern as my agent. I couldn’t have a better champion of my work.

I would say to those writers waiting for that first contract to not give up. Put it in God’s hands, and let Him take you where He wants you to go.

Your turn: Sandra writes both historical and romantic suspense. Have you read one of her books? If so, which setting or character did you like best? And if you haven't, go now to your favorite bookstore or on-line store and pick one up. You'll be glad you did!

You can find out more about her books at her blog. She also writes a weekly column for The Borrowed Book blog with fellow authors Elizabeth Ludwig, S. Dionne Moore, Amber Stockton, and Candice Speare Prentice.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pondering Julia

By Heidi Larson Geis

Photo by JenMarie123

I met Julia in 1975, the summer before I started first grade.  My dad’s job as an air traffic controller (the one who actually talked to D. B. Cooper, but that’s an entirely different blog) had moved us from Seattle to a little town in southeastern Washington State. The temperature soared to 117 degrees the day we moved into our Cape Cod house on Boyer Avenue in Walla Walla, Washington, and I can still remember wishing we had stayed at our hotel so I could escape the heat with a dip in the pool.

That was the day our new next door neighbor introduced me to the doe eyed girl who lived on the corner. Julia and I became fast friends. We were inseparable, walking to and from school together, and spending our lunches and recesses together. Julia’s parents were both prominent medical professionals, so she was pretty much a latch key kid. She began showing up at my house for our walk to school earlier and earlier every morning, until finally she was having breakfast and devotions with me and my mom every day.

By the third grade, Julia and I were practically joined at the hip. We were insanely imaginative, and as a result, found ridiculously creative ways to get into trouble. On one occasion, we decided we were Perfumers and my bedroom reeked of roses and Lily of the Valley for months. Another time, we attempted to be circus acrobats, resulting in one of my many trips to the ER with a concussion. All of this ended in the middle of 3rd grade when my parents decided to move to a house across town and I had to switch schools.

Our friendship survived until we reunited in junior high school. It was like we’d never been apart! We shared a lot of the same classes, and a lot of the same friends. We obsessed over Duran Duran and RickSpringfield, and at one point, Jules was convinced I was the biological daughter of Sting. To this day, I have no idea why!

Our sophomore year in high school, Julia persuaded me to go on the school trip overseas: 10 days in England, 10 days in Greece. That summer, we saw Big Ben and the Acropolis together, and came home with enough stories to fill a hundred blog posts. 

Julia was the first person to really encourage me to write down the crazy stories in my head. I guess you could say she was my first craft partner. Between her imagination and mine, we spun outlandishly fantastic tales, and I still have many of them in a box in my attic. Upon graduating, we went to different colleges and our writing became sporadic. Slowly over the years we drifted apart. 

We were virtually out of touch until about five years ago, when, right after my husband and I were in a car accident, Julia and I began emailing. In an effort to catch up, we wrote often, and I could tell she was happy. We talked about getting together; I wanted my boys to meet their crazy Aunt Julia and she wanted me to meet her new husband. But time passed, and we just never made it a priority to meet up.

Then, just before last Christmas, I signed on to Facebook to find that several people had sent me messages about Julia. One contained her obituary. On December 5, 2011, I lost my very first best friend, and by the time I found out, the service had already been held and it was too late for me to say goodbye.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot go back in time. Julia is gone. My sons will never meet her; they will never truly know how incredibly kind and witty and talented she was. They will never get to hear her side of the many crazy stories I have told them.  I miss her every day, and writing this has been unbelievably painful. 

But I am writing this. I am writing this to encourage you to call that friend you love like a sibling, the one you haven’t seen, face to face, in far too long. We are not promised tomorrow; Julia was not old, just 42, and I thought I had thousands of tomorrows to see her. Please don’t waste another day. Take it from me: regret is a stiff price to pay for not making friendship a priority.

Your turn: I need a good laugh. Tell me your funniest story involving you and your first best friend. One lucky storyteller will win a $10 Starbuck's card to use to reconnect with an old friend.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Faith and the Writing Life

by Paula Boire writing as Sara L. Jameson


Such a short word.

Such a powerful word.

Such a life-changing word.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes my faith wobbles; even when I think I’m praying from a position of trust—of faith—that God is working out a problem or in someone else’s dire situation; sometimes when I’m praying Scriptures over those things.

As a writer there are Scriptures I pray daily. One of those is Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I AM with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties; YES, I will help you; YES, I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand of rightness and justice.” (caps mine) (Amplified Version) Isn’t that a powerful verse?

Nevertheless, one day last week as I prayed that Scripture over every aspect of my writing life— craft, editing, and the business of being a writer—the Lord showed me dismay had crept into my attitude. Wow, was I relieved to receive His alert.

Dismay is a powerful tool of destruction. It destroys confidence in the plans God has shown us He has for our lives. Dismay makes us begin to believe God never planted those dreams and goals in our hearts in the first place. Dismay makes it easier to give up working toward them. Or shelve them altogether.

Writing, like any career in the arts, is a tough road for most of us who pursue it. Mastering the craft of fiction writing is no easier than becoming a prima ballerina, or an internationally recognized opera star. All of them require years of dedicated study, sweat, and tears. Hearing, “Sorry. You’re not what we’re looking for.” Or, “You’re too tall.” Too, whatever. Fortunately, God has an antidote for dismay.

For me, transforming Scriptures into prayers of THANKSGIVING are keys to battling dismay. Using part of Isaiah 41:10 as a model: Father, I thank You that You ARE strengthening and hardening me to difficulties. Thank You that You ARE helping me. Thank You that You ARE holding me up and retaining me with Your victorious right hand of rightness and justice.

Changing the verb tense to an ongoing, happening-right-this-minute action builds faith. Dispels dismay. Sometimes I pray verses out loud, perhaps several times, before faith wells up and dispels the black pit of discouragement. And thankfully, God’s Word never returns to Him void but always achieves that purpose for which He sent it. I hope these words of encouragement will bless you in your own faith walk today.  

Such a short word.
Such a powerful word.
Such a life-changing word.

How is God helping you grow in this area of your life?

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Ah-hah Moment and Post-It Notes

By Jennie Atkins

I learned a trick at the MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat in Florida I thought I'd share.

You see, I’m a visual, hands-on learner. I can read a book or listen to someone talk about a subject, but it doesn't always sink in. (Which is why I’ve promised Suzie I’d be at the next ten Deep Thinkers retreats.)

As is usual with MBT Retreats, we watched a movie so we could apply the principles we’ve been learning. This time Susie gave each of us a mixture of colored sticky notes with different story parts on each one (such as inciting incident, black moment, and the kiss).

After the movie we placed each one of them on a big sheet of paper. It was a great effort in learning the structure, but it also helped me to see the whole picture, from end-to-end, top-to-bottom, and even the middle.

At home, I really studied the layout compared to all the concepts I learned. The use of different colored Post-it notes accentuated the various parts of the story structure. I could finally "see" the connections of how all the pieces parts of the story fit together. How the hero's story line paralleled the heroine's story. How the emotional journey and the plot fit together. How the romance line molded into the story line.

As you can see here, I put the main story items (i.e. Story question, hero and heroine greatest fear, happy moment, greatest dream, etc.) across the top with large Post-it notes.

For the hero’s story line I used dark blue, for the heroine’s I used pink. (No brainer there.) Then I chose different colors for the hero’s emotional journey (light blue) and the heroine’s emotional journey (chartreuse green – it looks yellow in the picture). I put little orange Post-it notes in to mark the different acts.

Now I can start filling in the blanks of my story and see how they can connect. Like, how can the fear of the hero clash with the greatest dream of the heroine? Or how do each of their moments of despiration bring them closer, or tear them apart?

Its not rocket science, but for me it really brought my whole story together. I hope it helps you too!

Do you have any questions? Comments?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Who You Are to Me

One of the things women, myself included, struggle with is insecurities. Sometimes I believe I'll never be a good enough writer, mother, wife...[fill in the blank]. When these thoughts overwhelm me, I ponder a poem a friend gave to me. It reminds me who I am through God's eyes.

I made her...she is different.
She's unique.
With love I formed her in her mother's womb.
I fashioned her with great joy.
I remember, with great pleasure,
the day I created her.
(Psalm 139:13-16)
I love her smile.
I love her ways.
I love to hear her laugh.
And the silly things she says and does.
She brings me great pleasure.
This is how I made her.
(Psalm 139: 17)
I made her pretty and not beautiful,
Because I knew here heart,
And knew she would be vain...
I wanted her to search out her heart,
And to learn that it would be Me in her
That would make her beautiful...
And it would be Me in her
That would draw friends to her.
(1 Peter 3:3-5)
I made her in such a way,
That she would need me.
I made her a little more lonesome
than she would like to be...
Only because I need for her to learn
and depend on me...
I know here heart, I know if I had not
made her like this
She would go her own chosen way
And forget me...her Creator.
(Psalm 62:5-8)
I have given her many good and
happy things...
Because I love her.
(Psalm 84:11, Romans 8:23)
Because I love her, I have seen her
broken heart...
And the tears she cried alone.
I have cried with her.
And had a broken heart, too.
(Psalm 56:8)
Many times she has stumbled and
fallen alone
Only because she would not hold
My hand.
So many lessons she's learned the
hard way
Because she would not listen
To My voice...
(Isaiah 53:6)
So many times I have set back
and sadly watched her go her
merry way alone.
Only to watch her return to My
arms, sad and broken.
(Isaiah 62:2)
And now she is mine again...
I made her, and then I bought her...
Because I love her.
(Romans 5:8)
I have to reshape and remold her...
To renew her to what I had planned for
her to be.
It has not been easy for her or for
(Jeremiah 29:11)
I want her to be conformed to My Image.
This high goal I have set for her,
Because I love her.
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

I don't know where my friend got this poem, but I know it always speaks to my heart. I hope it speaks to yours today.



Monday, April 9, 2012

Checking Back In: One Word for 2012

by Beth K. Vogt

Wander back to December with me for just a moment.

Come on, flip back past March, February, January .... and land on the December 2 blog post titled "Don't Make New Year's Resolutions: Choose a Word for 2012."

I wrote that post just over four months ago and the word I chose was "trust." Back then, I hadn't settled on my accompanying Scripture verse, but I had my visual (see photo). I also promised to "be back in January and check and see how many of you decided to choose a word in 2012."

Well, it's a little past January, but here I am, checking in.Did you choose a word?

And I'm also updating you on how I'm doing with my word ... and with trusting.

Truth is, some days it's easy to trust. And some days it's easier to worry.

I can offer you all sorts of reasons -- excuses really -- why worrying is easier than trusting. Since January I've been beyond busy with deadlines. I'm t-i-r-e-d. Family and friends have faced problems -- emotional, physical and spiritual ones. Sometimes I crawl into bed at the end of the day and as I fall off to sleep, my thoughts settle on "what if" and jerk me back awake.

That's not trusting.

So, how am I going to focus on trusting more (and worrying less) in the upcoming months?

  • I've asked my prayer partners to pray for me to stay focused on trusting as I walk out my days. Every single day. This will be an ongoing prayer request, instead of an "oh, yeah, by the way" prayer request.
  • I've put my Scripture verse  --yes, I have one now! -- as my screensaver on my computer: You will keep him in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3)
  • I'm posting a daily quote about trust on my Facebook page because, hey, I love quotes! 

Did you pick a word for 2012? If so, how's that word influencing you? If not, there's still eight months left in 2012 -- join us in picking one word for 2012! 

* Here's an encouraging post by my friend and fellow Ponderer, Melissa Tagg about trust: What trust looks like.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dreams are Seeds from God to Plant for Harvest

by Delores Topliff

Thanks to Beth Vogt for this question from her In Others' Words blog: How would you finish this sentence: Behind every dream there is ...? My answer? A seed planted by God. If we water it, it will grow. If not, it stays dormant.

"Dormant" is a sad word. Sometimes from my computer I notice house plants by a nearby window needing water. Sometimes I get up immediately and take care of them. More often, I intend to act, but don't. I must do more than think about necessary actions to produce results. I have good intentions, but sometimes my plants wilt before I'm motivated. I intend to bring water -- after writing the next paragraph or meeting some other more pressing demand. But if I delay too long, my plants do more than wilt.

Having a dream isn't enough. Neither is admiring it from a distance, thinking, "One of these days I'll do whatever is needed to make it a reality. Any day now, I'll start to do all required."

My Reality Check Manual says we get up-close and personal regarding God-given dream needs. Learn their requirements and time parameters, or our goals won't be realized. There's also no sense of planting perfect dream-seeds in the ground and hoping they'll germinate and thrive on their own. Without care and water, they won't.

Dream seeds will stay dormant, never seeing the light of day, if we don't act on opportunities. Maybe we don't even plant our seeds -- just keep them on shelves and admire them, while promising ourselves, "Someday" -- while our seeds die.

The unjust steward hid his talent in the ground instead of risking investing it for a fair return. His outcome? His talent was taken away, given to someone who would recognize its value and plant and water it faithfully. (Matthew 25:14-30)

Today's your day ... Great stories need writing. Sometimes we read authors and think, "I could do as well." But we'll never know unless we take our dream seeds, seek God's help and start the process of planting and watering.

What dream seed will you plant today? What will the first green shoots look like? Gather storage vessels because your bumper crop is coming.

photo by BeverlyLR/stockxchng.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Connected By a Mouse

Photo Credit
by Lisa Jordan

Anyone who knows me—really knows me—knows I have a slight adoration for NCIS. Yes, I love me some Gibbs. But before NCIS, I watched JAG, the show that NCIS is a spin-off.

When I started watching JAG in 2001, I found an online message board dedicated to the show. Through that board, I met a zany cast of characters that was any writer's buffet of personalities. Through the years, many board friendships have faded, but a few have remained—Carolyn, Amanda, Sara and Shane. 

We’ve been friends for the past 11 years. But, with the exception of Carolyn, I haven't met the rest in person. Someday… For now, we stay connected via Yahoo IM

I met Carolyn in person in 2003, and she didn’t run away screaming, so I guess I wasn’t one of those scary online horror stories. Carolyn was the first person to read Lakeside Reunion in its infancy. She watched me grow as a writer. She cried when I announced my book contract and attended my Lakeside Reunion book launch party. 

Amanda is my cyber daughter—we met while she was in college, and I gave her motherly advice. She is now a career woman, homeowner, and mom to furry Emma. She scored points by reading my book twice!  

Sara was a senior in high school when we first met—the same age as my baby is now! Now she’s establishing her business career. She makes me laugh and shares my passion for romantic comedies, especially those with Ryan Reynolds.

Shane is my go-to computer guru who flies his Canadian flag with pride. A fellow Apple lover, he wears sarcasm like a designer suit and reminds me daily that I’m old. He’s so eye-rolling patient with me, especially when I need male POV insight for my novels.   

My cyber pals are single college-educated professionals who encouraged this old married lady’s writing dream from the moment I was brave enough to share it with them. When I learned of my first book contract, they were among the first whom I shared my news.

We’ve been there for each other through the laughter, the tears, the scary stuff, and just the everyday mundane.

Recently someone asked me what my priorities were, and I said, “God, family, friends.” I simply can’t function well without my friends. 

We may not be able to meet in person for some time (someday?), but they’re just as important as my face-to-face friends, and I love them to pieces. Yes, Cranky One, even you.

Your Turn: Do you have online friendships that have lasted through the years? How did you meet? How do you stay connected? Have you met in person yet? Did meeting your online friend fit your expectations? 

Lisa Jordan

Monday, April 2, 2012


By Roxanne Sherwood Gray

I believe a life-changing experience ought to change you.

That sounds obvious. Redundant. I can see the evil editor marking that phrase G.W.S.--meaning "goes without saying." Yet, many people go through a crisis and remain the same. Unchanged.
Unable to be shaped more into the image of the Jesus, which is God's desire for you. Unwilling to discover the joy found on the other side. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds." James 1:2.

How sad, tragic even, to miss the lesson.

A long time ago, a friend battled breast cancer. I'm grateful she's a 15-plus-year survivor. Before the victory though, she thanked God for her cancer. Huh? She still had young children who needed her. How could she be thankful for something as insidious, and often deadly, as cancer? Well, she rejoiced in her closer walk with God. She counted her blessings and found a positive balance in the ledger. She discovered joy in her trials. See, she allowed a life-changing experience to change her.

Singer and Songwriter Laura Story wrote the No. 1 worship hit “Indescribable,” recorded by Chris Tomlinin in 2004. Story's debut album won a Dove Award for Inspirational Album in 2008 and earned her two consecutive nominations for Female Vocalist of the Year. She seemed to be living a blessed life.

Story's "Blessings," a popular song on Christian radio, asks:
What if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

With all her success, Story is blessed. However, her life is not without trials. In 2006, her husband, Martin Elvington, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and suffered significant post-operative vision and memory loss. Yet, through trials, Story discovered joy.

My life was changed when my wonderful husband, Jack, died suddenly, leaving me with seven children, ages 1-20. I'm not thankful for his passing or that our children lost a terrific father. But I am thankful for the years we had together. For his testimony. For the legacy he left behind. For the blessing of his life.

I try to live a changed life. I've seen widows who think they own the corner on the market of suffering. Instead, I see past my own pain to a whole lot of broken, hurting people in the world.

I used to be afraid, thinking I needed to protect my children. I thought I could control my circumstances. Now, I relinquish my hold on people, events, and surroundings because I'm not
in control. And guess what? Neither are you.

Recognizing it will bring you a certain amount of peace.

It's like saying: "Let go and let God."

I'm thankful for my new husband, Steve, who had been widowed after losing his wife to cancer. He blesses our family daily. I'm grateful Steve and I have discovered joy after the mourning, living truly changed lives.

Have you experienced a life-changing event? Are you living a changed life? If not, what can you do to live joyfully today?

~Roxanne Sherwood