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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

To Do List or Time With The Father?

Lake Superior -
A wonderful place to view while praying!

To Do List or Time With The Father?

By Alena Tauriainen

I’m sitting in my home and it’s blissfully quiet with Jesus Culture playing on Youtube.

Puts me in the lap of my Father. Every. Time. 

I started the day with this humungous un-manageable list of things to do.  

Seriously, I set myself up for failure.

As I busily typed and looked at the clock, I felt myself slipping into a black hole of un-fulfilled responsibilities.  I couldn’t work fast enough.

In the back of my head I knew I hadn’t taken time to pray with My Father.  But my soul -- the human side kept saying you have soooo much to do.

But really, how much was I getting done without praying?   What’s the use of trudging through when I have no peace?  The black hole was getting wider and deeper.

Now, I’ve never been the brightest fish in the pond, but hey, even I knew I was getting nowhere.

I reverted to what I truly know.  Time in Prayer and Worship would be so much better.

I spent time at the feet of My Father. 

For me, Prayer + Worship = Peace. 

The difference? My To Do list is still there, the pile just as high. 
After time with My Father, peace and love are now my partners as I step out to handle the responsibilities for the day.

What about you?  What do you do when the responsibilities of life pull at you? How do you find time to sit at the feet of The Father?


Alena T.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lessons Learned: Memorial Day 2013

In addition to visiting Fort Snelling National Cemetery and Lakewood Cemetery every Memorial Day, we also spend time with family – grilling, doing yard work, and sleeping in. As a working mom, it’s also an extra day I’m blessed to spend with our fifteen-month-old daughter, Haley. This year, while Daddy helped Grandma with some gardening, Haley and I meandered along the sidewalk holding hands. And the next thing I knew, she tumbled chipmunk teeth first into the pavement, sprawled out. 

Screaming. Bleeding.

I’ve never been squeamish when it comes to blood. But I’ve also never seen my child covered in it, wailing. In her entire life, her worst injuries have amounted to a couple minor bumps and bruises I can count on one hand.

These days, with my baby toddling and exploring, all I want to do is protect her. And somewhere between trying to keep ice on her lip and the blood off of her grandma’s pale yellow rug, I had a fleeting impression of another side of Memorial Day.

In the past, I’ve spent the day reflecting on the service and sacrifices of my grandparents’ generation. I’ve never really taken the time to ponder the parents who bravely trust their babies into the service of our country. We most certainly should thank their sons and daughters for serving our country and protecting our freedoms. But as I scooped my daughter up to cuddle her pain away, I am reminded to thank these parents for the sacrifices they make each day. Not only do they entrust their children to our military to do this noble work – they allow their children to protect them.

So to those who have served, are serving, and will serve our county and protect our liberties, whether grandparents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, or our children, thank you for your service.

 Memorial Day is a time to remember.  And a time to say thank you.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Boy, I Wish Authors Would Listen

Pet peeves. Admit it. We all have them…those little things that annoy us.  If they increase in number they can push us to the boiling point.

When we find too many of them in books, they make us want to pitch the book across the room. (Usually we duly note the author’s name and refrain from choosing another one of her books.)

Here’s a list of my pet peeves in books:
   Too many characters introduced too quickly. Until we get to know them, it’s hard to keep them straight.
  • ·      Telling me how a character felt. Just let me see it!
  • ·      Use of the passive voice.
  • ·      Weak-willed characters
  • ·      Selfish characters
  • ·      Cliché characters, plots or emotions
  • ·      Purple prose (her eyes were like sapphire orbs)
  • ·      Jumping point of view with in a scene. Stay in one character’s head, please!
  • ·      Characters who get along with everyone. What? Don’t they have a backbone?
  • ·      Characters with similar names. (Jim, Tim, Slim, and Kim make my head spinl.)
  • ·      Killing off a favorite character in a series. (This happened recently. The author killed the heroine of the previous book. I’m having serious trouble liking the new heroine.)

What about you? What makes a book-lover like you want to pitch one across the room?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Join the Catch a Falling Star Launch Party!

Balloons, Balloons, Balloons. By Ian Layzell
Photo by Ian Layzell/flickr.com  
Hi, this is Roxanne Sherwood Gray inviting you to celebrate the launch of Beth K. Vogt's new book, Catch a Falling Star! Help yourself to a drink. Grab some goodies. Remember: cyber food is all low-cal and gluten-free. ;-) 

Party food
Photo by fjordaan/flickr.com.
Is life about accomplishing plans . . . or wishes coming true . . . or something more?

Dr. Kendall Haynes’s plans to have it all—a career, a husband, a family—are eluding her. Now that she’s thirty-six, she needs to stop wishing upon a star and face reality: Some dreams just never come true.

Air Force pilot Griffin Walker prefers flying solo in the air and on the ground—until a dangerous choice ejects him from the cockpit. His life becomes even more complicated after the sudden death of his parents makes him the guardian of his sixteen-year-old brother. There’s no way his life will ever get back on course now.

When their lives collide during a near tragedy, Kendall and Griffin must decide if they can embrace the unexpected changes God has waiting for them.
Behind the Scenes of Catch a Falling Star:

 1. Vogt dedicated the book to: “Ian Lyons, who taught me about courageous faith. June 23, 1995—April 27, 2009.” 

2. Ian Walker, who is Griffin's 16-year-old brother, has severe allergies. Vogt says, “I wrote that into the story because allergies are an increasing problem for kids nowadays. And as children hit their teens, they often struggle with wanting to fit in –and they feel like their allergies make them different from their peers. It's understandable. In some elementary schools, children with allergies are required to stay together on field trips with the teacher or teacher assistant who carries the required medications.”

3. Vogt writes from experience. Air Force pilot Griffin Walker suffers from vertigo, an ailment Vogt struggled with before and during the writing of her novel.

Here's my 5 Star Review for Catch a Falling Star:

A birthday celebration for thirty-something Dr. Kendall Haynes goes terribly wrong. First, her mother pressures her to relinquish grandmother Mina’s cherished heirloom ring to her kid sister—after all, Kendall’s not using it. Then, a friend announces an engagement, leaving Kendall as the last of a group that started out as single doctors. This birthday amplifies the ticking of her biological clock, and she wonders whether she’ll ever find that special someone. But it’s a good thing she’s in the restaurant “celebrating” because her medical skills are needed to save a stranger’s life.

Air Force pilot Griffin Walker’s life is spinning out of control as surely as the vertigo that’s grounded him. He’s desperate to regain his flying status. But more than that, as a recently appointed guardian, he’s got to figure out how to parent the teen his deceased parents had adopted—Ian’s life depends on it. And just where does spunky Dr. Kendall Haynes fit into his future?

Catch a Falling Star by Beth K. Vogt is destined for my keeper shelf with sparkling dialogue, believable characters who feel like friends, laugh-out-loud humor and a plot that kept me turning pages. Besides caring how Kendall and Griffin would ever make their relationship work, Vogt had me hoping for happily ever after’s for her secondary characters too. I cried with Evie as she battled adopted son, Javan’s, rejection. I empathized with teenager Ian’s grief over the loss of his parents. I laughed at the antics of Kendall’s loveable, slobbery goldendoodle, Sully. Reading long past my bedtime, I turned page after page rooting for all the characters’ dreams to come true.

If you love a good romance, Catch a Falling Star is a book you won’t want to miss!


Author Beth Vogt  
Beth K. Vogt is a nonfiction author who said she'd never write fiction. She also said she'd never marry a doctor or anyone in the military and is now happily married to a former Air Force family physician. Beth believes God's best is often behind the door marked "Never." An established magazine writer and editor, Beth's debut novel, Wish You Were Here, was released May 2012. She writes inspirational contemporary romance because she believes there is more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us. 

Leave a comment and don't forget to provide your email address—and you'll be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Catch a Falling Star! (Or if you already own Catch a Falling Star, you may opt to receive Wish You Were Here instead.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Gardening Relates to Writing

By Jennie Atkins

I have a passion for gardening. I love flowers, love the anticipation of waiting for each bloom, and rejoice in God’s creativity with flower type, color, size, and scent. This spring I am busy starting a new garden in Nevada the process quite different than my Ohio gardens (shown here). While doing it, I’ve realized how much gardening relates to the writing process.

Springtime is my favorite time of year. I watch in amazement as nubbins of green poke their head through the soil. The spring season of writing is where ideas are just starting to form—a newspaper article, a song, or a real-life incident taking root in the fertile soil of a storyteller’s heart.

Every spring, I plant new flowers and vegetables anticipating their growth. The same is true with each book. Long before I put a word on paper, I get to know my characters, invent ways that take them through challenges so that, in the end, they too can grow.

Plants need water. So do new ideas. The idea I have planted in my brain needs to be soaked in thought and brainstormed so it can grow into a full concept.

Plants need help, so I fertilize them. I need help, so I spend time learning. I research items for my book. I read books, for fun and to learn more about writing. I attend seminars and conferences. I talk about writing with other authors.

You’re not a true gardener if you’re not willing to lose a few plants. The same is true with story lines. I have dozens of stories started. Some didn’t even get out of the gate; others are still in being considered. While others have gone on to be a full manuscript.

Plants don’t grow overnight. Neither do books. Sometimes you just can’t force an idea. The creative process needs to grow.

Weeds drain the soil of nutrients and water. The weeds of writing are the things that drain you, the extra non-important things that pull you away from writing. We all have them—mine is spider solitaire. I have threatened to remove it from my computer if it keeps calling my name!

Change is inevitable. I’ve planted flowers in the sun where they needed shade. I’ve recently moved from a humid continental climate with lots of rain to a semi-arid climate where nothing grows unless you water it. Your books can change to. You may have to rip out whole scenes to make them better.

In the end, there is only one thing to say. There is no easy way to have a magnificent garden without a lot of hard work, sweat, and patience. Writing? Yep. The same thing.

What is your passion?  And what aspects have you applied to your writing adventure?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Plan, Plant, and Reap Harvest

Delores Topliff

All seeds planted grow because they contain life. The only reason they won’t grow is if they’re kept sealed in unopened packages and not planted. I like this song:

God is a farmer, He planted a garden, the invisible things of Him are thereby clearly seen,
For the whole creation is a revelation of the spiritual principles of Father God,
And the most important principle of all is what you sow you reap.

Whatsoever you sow, that shall you also reap, there is no greater truth, there is no other way.

For the whole creation is a revelation of the spiritual principles of Father God,
And the most important principle of all is what you sow you reap.

We think farmers’ labors begin in spring when they hop on tractors to plow and plant fields. During summer they cultivate and irrigate. In fall comes harvest, and afterward, fields are disked with stubble plowed under to enrich soil for the next season.

My friend launched space satellites for GE but then moved to Canada to help us establish a remote Christian farm. In the process he shepherded 102 Romney sheep which my younger son eventually took over. I didn’t initially regard this man as handsome. But as time went by and I saw his faithful consistent kindness to animals and people, he became the most handsome man I’d ever known.

He taught our high school boys agriculture; most impressive was his farming calendar. He explained that farmers work all twelve months but their most important season is winter planning. The entire rest of the year depends on plans made then. Instead of jetting to Hawaii, which most farmers can’t afford anyway, this is their critical time to build or repair equipment, plan fields, select and/or prepare seeds (cut potatoes into eyes), help spring livestock birth, and be off and running. If thorough winter planning isn’t done, the rest of the year suffers.

For writers, too, our most critical part time is our pre-writing planning. Don’t be like people I’ve heard of who “sow wild oats but pray for crop failure.” Instead, select and pay the price for your writing seed idea packet. When the weather’s right, open it and plant using hard work and faith to do your best. After you’ve done your part, ask God to bless and bring rich harvest.

What’s the most important season of your writing calendar? Which part’s your favorite?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What's Your Goliath?

Last Saturday I came home from getting groceries and asked Hubby if he wanted to go fishing. Once we put the cold stuff away, we headed back out the door to buy licenses and bait.

As we headed to the creek, I prayed and asked God to keep me from seeing any snakes. For those of you who know me, you know my phobia of snakes.

We suited up in waders, fishing vests and grabbed our poles. Hubby walked ahead along the edge of the bank to check out the water. I trailed behind, taking pictures of flowers, rock formations and the bridge we walked under. Our youngest son trailed behind me. He paused every so often, but finally caught up.

We cast our lines into the water and waited for the trout to bite.

About five minutes later, my son asked if I saw those snakes back where he had paused?

"Snakes? As in plural?"

"Yeah, Mom. Two of them slithered down the bank. You walked right by them."

"No, I didn't see them." Thank you, God.

We waded down stream and fished for a bit, but then decided to head home since the fish must've been full already and didn't want our meal worms or wax worms.

Instead of walking back up the stream to get to our car, we walked the bank. Again, Hubby led the charge with me behind, and our son followed me. Again, he paused but told me to keep going. He pulled out his camera.

Once he caught up with us, he handed me a flower and said, "Here, Mommy. I picked you a flower for being so brave for walking past that coiled up snake."

"What snake?" Thank you, God. 

The next morning in Sunday school, I taught David and Goliath to my Sunday school Darlings. After we discussed Goliath's size and how David was so much smaller, but took down the giant with God's help, I shared that sometimes we have giants in our lives that make us afraid.

I talked about my fear of snakes and how it affects outdoor activities with my family. Then I told them how I had prayed, asking God to keep me safe from seeing the snakes. I reminded them I had confidence that God would protect me. I concluded with Psalm 56:3:

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

Each of us has a Goliath in our lives. Maybe it's a stalled writing career. Maybe it's a relationship issue. Maybe it's a financial problem. Maybe you're affected by health issues. Or maybe, you're dealing with all of those situations. Even one makes that giant seem unstoppable, let alone dealing with numerous Goliaths.

Thankfully, God is so much bigger than Goliath. God puts Davids in our lives to help us take down those giants. God gives us mentors to arm us against discouragement. He gives us Voices of Truth to help us work through problems. He gives us doctors and counselors to teach us how to care for ourselves.

No matter how looming your giant feels to you, it's not too big for God. When you're facing your Goliath, pray and ask God for courage, patience, peace and most of all, trust in Him. Most of all, remember--He's got this.

Your Turn: What Goliath are you facing today? How can we encourage you to get through it...or at least, help you to trust in God to know He's in this with you?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Wonder Women Super Heroes

by Patrica Bradley

This month and next month I want to write about some of the a-ma-zing women in my life.  We all have them. You know the ones—some of them have come along side and encouraged us, some are those we look up to. Women who are our heroes.  Oh, they may not have been on television or in the papers, but they are heroes none the less.

The first is my mom. She’s always been my hero, even when I didn’t realize it. You do know it takes years sometimes for children to realize what their mom sacrifice for them, don’t you? I think a lot of the time I take my mom for granted. Especially her accomplishments. I think one of the reasons is that is all my life, she downplayed her many talents. Just last year at 91, she learned how to text and check her Face Book page. Yes, she has a FB page. If her laptop freezes up, she unplugs and takes the battery out and fools with it until it works again.

She ran our home with love and discipline. From her I learned to be independent. And to do things right, to take pride in my work…like make my bed with hospital corners so a quarter would bounce on it. We didn’t have fitted sheets, only flat.

Another of my heroes is my sister. Born almost deaf, she overcame that to graduate high school and business school and even had a job once where she took the notes for business meetings. Nothing stops this wife and mother of two from doing what she wants to.

I have other heroes:

·         Delores Topliff, a friend who just returned from a mission trip to the Philippines and Macau China. I so admire Dee for her courage and dedication to take Christ’s love worldwide.  
·         Peggy Woodhouse, who battled cancer for more than five years, but who always turned the conversation around to ask about how I was feeling.
·         Teri Smith, who had an aneurism three years ago, but who has battled her way back to working on a book with her daughter. She also promotes the Ponderer blog like nobody else!

I know you have heroes in your own life. Leave a comment about them and why they are your hero.