Linda Shew Wolf–Author Interview

Linda Wolf

Dear Friends,

Today I’d like to introduce you to the talented woman in this photograph, Linda Shew Wolf. Linda is a wonderful writer, and she’s also extremely intelligent and exceptionally caring. Over this past year, it has been my delight to get to know her. I’ve enjoyed our conversations, and I’ve come to respect her deeply not only as a person, but also as a sister in Christ. It’s my absolute honor to have this gifted woman on my blog today!

Danele: Linda, I’m so glad to have the chance to interview you!

Linda: Thanks so much, Danele. I’m honored to be featured on your blog. I have admired your blog entries, especially the way you dive in deep on spiritual issues. You have quite an amazing story to tell!

Danele: Thank you, Linda. That means a lot to me! I believe that each of us has something wonderful to share, and I’m eager to learn more about you. Can you describe a time when you dramatically felt the presence of God?

Linda: Sure! I grew up in a Unitarian home in a very liberal community in upstate NY in the 60s. There you have three strikes already against anything that could be labeled evangelical or born-again. In fact, I didn’t even hear those terms until I was much older, in my early 30s and already married with one small child. Through a seemingly random sequence of events (the miscarriage of our second child followed by overworking through my grief followed by a very serious case of pneumonia), I found myself out of answers. Nothing I had relied upon before to explain the meaning of life and of love held me up when I hit bottom. When I finally began to grow stronger and gain my physical health back, I remained emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. It was difficult to go on but I did it, mechanically, for the sake of my husband and little son. The love and hope I had felt before all that loss and illness seemed to have faded to nothingness. The whole world inside my head was an unending desert with only a gray sky over it like a low ceiling.

Danele: Oh, Linda, I’m so sorry! That must’ve been very hard!

Linda: Thankfully, my dear sister Nancy had discovered God in a big way just before all my calamities took place. She had been telling me about the unconditional love of God through his Son but I didn’t buy it. Not one bit. I was afraid she had been sucked up into some kind of cult because this message was so foreign to me. Even more foreign was her unflagging certainty that what she had found was the one and only answer to life’s questions. That is completely contrary to Unitarian teachings of embracing and respecting all beliefs and cultures, of maintaining a completely open mind to all philosophies and scientific discoveries.

Danele: I’ll bet it was quite a mind-bender!

Linda: Yes, but with nothing left to hold onto for strength, I decided to put these claims of Nancy’s to the test. I was almost positive that the route she had taken was not for me, but something about her fervent certainty had captured my interest, and I needed to be absolutely sure there was nothing to this God business for me. I had always been a skeptic, and though I suspected there was some sort of giant intelligence behind the workings of the universe, I felt that belief in the God of the Bible was too limited an explanation.

Danele: So what ended up happening?

Linda: Against my better judgment and completely contrary to my personal wiring, I asked if her pastor would baptize me. This was a huge move for me, and I approached it with the zeal of a scientist bent on disproving something. I decided that if this God she believed in so strongly was real at all, the act of submitting to full immersion and asking for this uncanny thing she called the Holy Spirit would either happen in all its unexplainable glory, or it would fall as flat as I expected it to. Boom, into the cold water I went with the pastor calling upon the name of Jesus to save me. And up I came, soaking wet and the exact same person I was before.

Danele: I have a feeling that’s not the end of the story—am I right?

Linda: You are, but since no angels had started a heavenly chorus around me and no lights had shone down through the ceiling upon me, I figured this experiment was over. Satisfied but strangely saddened, I got dressed. Then Nancy informed me that I hadn’t quite finished the process because I had not come to the altar to pray for the Holy Spirit. I sighed. Why not? I had already humbled myself so much further than I thought possible. Why shouldn’t I finish the experiment and suffer even more indignities? At least that way, I could put the whole shebang completely to rest.

Danele: You’re a woman after my own heart. You figured you’d go the whole nine yards before giving up. I can understand that. So what happened?

Linda: There I was, miserable and confused on my knees at the front of a tiny little church in upstate New York. Women from the church milled about or huddled in small groups praying and talking in hushed tones. Someone was playing a quiet organ in the background. Right behind me knelt Nancy, her hand lightly on my back as she prayed with me. Only I wasn’t praying. I didn’t know how. Someone came by and, taking pity on my misery, suggested I just say Hallelujah. Okay, I tried that, but with zero gusto. How many more painful minutes would I have to invest before I could turn and apologize to my sister? Sorry, but this just isn’t for me. Then something odd happened. I had my eyes squinched tightly shut because the last thing I wanted was any eye contact. I felt like the lowliest worm on the planet. Two women nearby were talking and I realized they were talking about me. One said, “Do you think she’s close?” I held my breath. Oh, if they only knew how far away I was from anything they were experiencing. Then came the astounding answer–“Oh yes. I’m sure of it.” I was incredulous. How could she sound so confident and happy when I just wanted to curl up and die? But something about that response became a pivot point in my soul. I found that I was happy for her, for all of them, for the faith they had. With a flood of sad relief, I was glad that they could be in such a place in their souls, even though I couldn’t approach it. With the warmth of that relief, I gave up myself, my rights, my hopes, my worth, and I accepted that I was indeed nothing. Something about that shift seemed so right. Before I had a chance to do anything else about it, though, reality itself seemed to shift. I knew that I wasn’t hallucinating, but something was happening now that was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

Danele: Please tell me more!

Linda: It was as if a warm, inviting fog spread out before me and I was walking through it. I knew that I would not be able to see where I was going, and it was clear that I was being given a choice. I could walk ahead to whatever was waiting or I could go back to the endless desert and gray sky I knew. The air seemed charged with invitation and purpose. I knew what I wanted. Without hesitation, I moved forward into the fog. Instead of falling off a cliff as I expected, I had the sensation of falling up, as impossible as that sounds. I was immediately standing on a high, green plateau above all the world, a 360-degree panorama of earth and sky, mountains and oceans all around me. It was dizzying and glorious. As I stood there, awestruck, I heard a woman’s voice behind me. It was both singing and sobbing, almost painful to listen to, and it was a language I did not know. However, the message of the song was beautiful and somehow, I understood it perfectly. Just as I was beginning to latch on to the words, all about the depth of love and sorrow in this life and a promise of the great joy of being one with each other, I was just as suddenly right back in that tiny church. Only this time, I wasn’t huddling on my knees. I was raised up high on my toes, my arms spread high over my head, looking up, and I was laughing and crying and singing all at the same time…And that woman’s voice, in that other language? That was me. I knew then, even though I didn’t know a single word of the Bible yet, that I had found God beyond all possible doubts.

Danele: Wow, that’s so amazing! Thank you so much for sharing that powerful experience with us! God is truly awesome, isn’t He!

Linda: Yes, He is.

Danele: Now, Linda, I’d love for you to share the back cover blurb and a purchasing link for your book, A Firefly Life.

Linda: It’s 1968 and Melanie is turning thirteen. It seems like everyone is growing up faster than she is, but that doesn’t stop her from being an incurable romantic. When a gorgeous new boy shows up in her boring, small town, she’ll do anything to be noticed by him. When an unexpected sequence of events lands her the job of trusted babysitter for his unusual little sister, Melanie is thrilled to be admitted to his inner circle. But then she has to figure out what really matters—a chance to be around him or staying true to her family and her best friend. Read this dramatic coming-of-age story and be immersed in a time of turmoil and change in the heart of one memorable young girl. http://www.amazon.com/Firefly-Life-Linda-Shew-Wolf/dp/1515356906/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1446356637&sr=8-1&keywords=a+firefly+life

Danele: Linda, it’s been such a pleasure talking with you! I’ve enjoyed it more than you know!

Linda: Danele, I really appreciate your big heart and your thought-provoking questions. Thank you for having me as your guest!

 

Friends, Linda Shew Wolf is such an amazing person! If you would like to learn more about her or her books, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

FB: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007781806053

Twitter: @LindaShewWolf

Blog: https://belonging2all.wordpress.com/

Holiday Misery

leaves 11

Dear Friends,

My family really knows how to celebrate holidays! When I was growing up, every Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day was an excuse to have a huge family gathering. On any given holiday, you could find anywhere from 20-50 people at our house. It was a zoo—a big, happy, loving zoo.

fruitEach holiday followed the same pattern. Early in the morning, my mother, my sisters, and I would start cooking. Since I was artistically inclined, I usually set the table (actually 2-4 tables placed end-to-end) and then I would put together relish and fruit trays. I loved arranging things as beautifully as possible while the smell of yummy food filled the air. My family would have a grand time together chatting and laughing as we finished meal preparations. Then, like a floodgate opening, the relatives would start to arrive. Soon the house was filled to the brim with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and anyone a family member decided to bring along. The house would ring with laughter, and I would be hugged more times than I could count. After a HUGE meal, we’d do dishes and then play all kinds of games. I really love card games and board games. Later, we’d put out the leftovers and let everyone eat supper buffet-style. Eventually, the company would leave and the house would be quiet again. My parents, siblings, and I would kick off our shoes and put our feet up and talk. For me, holidays meant family, family, and more family…then my illness struck.

scrabbleQuarantine can really mess with your mind. It can feel so discouraging. My first year of quarantine, I didn’t mind the isolation too much—I was too ill to focus on anything other than survival. But by my second year, I really began to feel the strain. Quarantine was soul-sucking and disheartening—and I felt the loneliness the most during the holidays. As my family gathered to spend time together, I was stuck all alone in a silent house. At times, the silence was so loud that it physically hurt. I tried HARD to be a good sport. I’d bake tons of cookies and send them to the gathering. When my family called as a group to wish me a happy holiday, I tried to sound chipper and upbeat. But the minute I hung up the phone, I would start to cry. I felt awful. I can remember pacing back and forth, sniffling, my lower lip trembling.

Looking back now, I have to smile. I was such a tragic picture of woe. I felt SO sorry for myself. I’d lean my forehead against the window and look out—my breath fogging up the glass—and feel too hopeless to bother brushing my tears away. Family members and neighbors tried to brighten my day by sending me plates of foods and cards–and I appreciated it–but it didn’t stop me from feeling depressed, left out, miserable, and bored. I didn’t want to cook a fancy meal for myself—cooking for one person wasn’t any fun. After a few lonely holidays, my joy shriveled up and died. For me, holidays were anything but jolly. I started to dread them. I started to ignore them. I started to hate them.

turkeyDuring my third year of quarantine, as Thanksgiving approached, something began to shift in my thinking. I realized I hated holidays not just because they didn’t contain the people I loved, but also because I didn’t feel like it was worth the effort to make a fuss over myself. A few days before Thanksgiving, I sat with my chin in my hands and made plans to stay in bed with a book during the holiday, but suddenly, I began to feel a check in my spirit. Throughout my third year of quarantine, I’d been focusing on trying to hear the Lord, and the thing I kept hearing God say was that He loved me and I was important to Him. As I sat at the table and contemplated staying in bed, I realized that if the Creator of the Universe loved me and viewed me as important—how dare I view myself as anything less? I was WORTH making a fuss over. I was WORTH cooking a fancy meal for. I was WORTH celebrating! I was alive when I could be dead, and that was something to be thankful for! My partial amnesia had mostly cleared up, and that was something to be happy about! I had a reason to throw a party—even if it was a party just for one.

As I started planning my party, I began viewing the holiday without dread. I called my family and friends and asked how to cook a turkey (I’d always been on relish tray duty). I gathered recipes like I was gathering ammunition. Then I made my menu. All of my favorite foods were on it. The more I planned, the more excited I became.

pieWhen Thanksgiving arrived, I got up early and fixed my hair and makeup. Even though no one was going to see me, I wanted to look nice for myself. Then I started to cook and cook and cook. And while I cooked, I put on Christmas music. My goodness, what a feast I had!!! It was DELICIOUS!!! And after my meal, I dumped a puzzle and had a grand time putting it together. Somewhere during the middle of the day, I realized that I wasn’t feeling lonely. The close presence of God was hoovering beside me. I began to talk to God out loud—not so much praying as much as conversing. I’d felt the presence of God before, but that day, I felt God’s FRIENDSHIP. We had a marvelous day together. And by the end of that first happy Thanksgiving, I was singing praise songs and smiling.

Although I’m out of full quarantine now, I still have to be careful about large family gatherings, and most of my holidays are spent alone. But you won’t see me sniffling anymore or leaning my forehead against the window glass to boohoo. That Thanksgiving became a changing point in my life. Although I’ve spent over 30 holidays alone, the sting is no longer there. Holidays are no longer a necessary evil—they’re a chance to celebrate and have fun. You see, I’ve learned that the secret of enjoying myself is to stop feeling angry and cheated.

Being alone will either drive you crazy or teach you that you can be pretty incredible company. And frankly, after all this time, I know how to amuse myself. And I LIKE myself. And after all these years of whipping up holiday fare alone, I can proudly say that I make one MEAN turkey, my pecan pie is fabulous, and my stuffing is to die for! I’ve come to the point where I actually look forward to holidays, and that’s an amazing thing for me to say.

leaves 12Life sometimes isn’t fair, and it sometimes hurts. But I’ve come to believe that happiness is more about perspective than circumstances. For the most part we choose whether we are miserable or joyful. I’ve spent LOTS of time being miserable, and as an expert on the subject of feeling sorry for myself, I can say with authority that choosing to be happy is a much nicer way to live. And choosing happiness has its perks. Rather than slumping around with your bottom lip quivering, you get to eat pie. Yummy pie. Delicious pie. And pie always makes things better.

So today, if you are gathering with family and friends, enjoy every second and hug them close. Truly make the most of every moment. Even if your turkey burns, or the electricity fizzles out, or you find yourself feeling harassed or upset or annoyed—remember that being around the people you love is a privilege—one that can be taken away. And if you’re celebrating all alone, realize that God loves you and that you are worth making a fuss over. Find a way to make today special for you. And as for me, the pies are made and my turkey is cooking. I’m getting ready to put on some Christmas music and start my puzzle. And since I’m getting stronger every day and my family has promised not to wear perfume–later on, I’ll walk over to my brother’s house where my family is gathering and see about playing a game. I fully intend on enjoying every second of this holiday. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my friends. And always remember that despite any circumstance you’re facing, you are incredibly special, greatly loved, and never forgotten by God.

 

1 flower“Then Nehemiah…said to them all, ‘Do not mourn or weep…Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to the Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” (Nehemiah 8: 9-12)

Lisa J. Lickel–Author Interview

Lisa Lickel

Dear Friends,

It’s a privilege to introduce you to the wonderful author in this photo, Lisa J. Lickel. Lisa is a sensational writer and a terrific person. I’ve had such a blast getting to know her over this past year. I’ve found her to be extremely kind and thoughtful. She’s also a lot of fun! I feel very blessed to have her on my blog today.

Danele: Hello, Lisa! It’s such an honor to interview you!

Lisa: Thank you for having me, Danele. You’ve been so gracious to everyone in the Prism group of authors. I’m excited to read your new series too.

Danele: That’s so nice of you to say! I’ll admit that I’m very excited about my books. I can’t wait until they’re released–being published is a dream come true! Well, let’s jump right into things. What were the circumstances surrounding your decision to surrender your heart to Christ?

Lisa: I was in high school when I finally lost my battle with doubt, and fear, and fierce independence. Happiest day ever! I cried and cried.

Danele: I know what you mean. When I fully surrendered to Christ, I felt like I was floating on air! Were there roadblocks to your decision?

Lisa: I had always struggled with why and how–what did God matter, and was He real. Jesus seemed so full of Himself in the Bible, and I didn’t like that when I was in my early teens.

Danele: So what changed?

Lisa: I went to church camp and met a truly loving, believing counselor. He was a university English professor who gave his summers to nurture kids. Wow. He really helped me see the truth of the Way.

Danele: That’s so wonderful! I don’t think people fully realize what an impact they can have on the lives of others. That professor gave up his summer to be a camp counselor and he ended up helping you come to Christ. Now, you write books and have a wide-reaching platform for the Lord. It makes me realize just how important it is to watch how we interact with others. We never know what far-reaching influence we will have. It’s so important to pay attention to the people around us. We never know if we will have an opportunity to talk with them again.

Lisa: That’s true. Two years ago I lost three friends to cancer—the first people of those I counted my friends.

Danele: Oh, Lisa! I’m so sorry!

Lisa: One was a woman who loved me much more than I was capable of loving her. She exemplified living for Christ–though I didn’t always approve of the choices she made. But it taught me more about unconditional love than any other experience I could have had. I look forward to timelessness with her in heaven.

Danele: It’s such a comfort to know that we will be reunited with the people we love. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says that we don’t have to grieve as those who have no hope. When our loved ones know Christ, we know that we will see them again. That verse always makes me smile! Do you have a favorite Bible verse, Lisa?

Lisa: I love Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for He is faithful that promised.” It’s a challenge to live every day for Christ—He’s the one who promised and is faithful even when I am not.

Danele: That’s a beautiful verse! God’s steadfastness is so wonderful. One of my favorite hymns is “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I love the idea that “there is no shadow of turning” with God. Now, Lisa, can you tell us a little about your latest book?

Lisa: Sure. My last published novel is called The Last Detail. It’s about a young woman with elderly parents who have passed away. She’s a little old fashioned, and she runs the Last Detail, her parent’s business. She takes care of people’s end of life issues, such as estates, funerals, and so forth. She meets a missionary on home leave who is recovering from injuries, and she realizes there’s more to life than her little corner of the world. When he can’t return to the field, he sticks around, takes on a new career, and a whole new path in life. Part of that new path includes the young woman who took care of his late uncle’s last wishes. They’ve both made life-changing choices and must weather every storm that hits them. Here are some links: http://amzn.to/1LXOeLn (ebook); http://amzn.to/1L0Czz1 (print).

Danele: The Last Detail sounds really good! Now, Lisa, I know that you’ve also written some children’s books. Can you tell us a little about your series?

Lisa: I’ve only written one children’s series–and I wrote it as an act of love. I truly learned that writing for children is a thousand times harder than writing for adults. The First Children of Farmington will be my only effort.

Danele: What inspired you to write it?

Lisa: In 1997, when I learned about all of the ethnic groups that settled in my community, I collected stories about them and got permission from their relatives to retell them. Each of the six stories in my series revolves around real people and an incident from their lives. For purposes of creating coherent tales that are stand-alone but involve a recurring character, I adjusted history and put them all roughly in the same time period—about 1850.

Danele: The First Children of Farmington is a great children’s series. I really enjoyed reading all six of the books. Can you tell us more about them?

Lisa: The stories are based on different themes: how to get along with a new friend who doesn’t speak the same language (Green Leaf the Potawatomi Boy), blended families (John Klessig the Saxon Boy), peer pressure (Marie Brinker the French Girl), the importance of education (Matthew LaCraft the Yankee Boy), obedience (Huldah Hartz the German Girl), and kinship (Ann Riley the Irish Girl). They are short chapbooks, illustrated by Brenda Hendricks. They include a glossary, an introduction, and a hidden objects activity page. Each book, geared for young readers, has links and more information on my website, www.lisalickel.com.  For instance, there’s a link to the spoken Potawatomi language and coloring pages for The Irish Girl.

Danele: Your children’s books are really good–I liked them all. I think my favorites were Green Leaf the Potawatomi Boy and Matthew LaCraft the Yankee Boy. Each of the books were terrific! You even won an award for one of them, didn’t you?

Lisa: Yes, I was honored by the Wisconsin Writers Association in 2013 for John Klessig the Saxon Boy, which won first place in its category.

Danele: That’s wonderful! Can you give us a list of the other books you’ve written?

Lisa: I’d be happy to! Meander Scar, A Summer in Oakville, Brave New Century, and Healing Grace. I’ve also published The Buried Treasure mystery series: The Last Bequest, The Map Quilt, and The Newspaper Code.

Danele: Lisa, thank you so much for being with us today! I’m happy that I’ve had this opportunity to talk with you. It’s been fun!

Lisa: I’m glad you asked, and I enjoyed our visit very much. Thank you.

 

Friends, Lisa is a terrific person and a wonderful author. If you would like to learn more about her or her books, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

www.lisalickel.com

www.facebook.com/lisalickel

My Rotten Temper

tiger

Dear Friends,

I have a rotten temper. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. I’ve spent my whole life battling to control it, and most of the time I succeed–but not always. For instance, when I was in middle school, my temper really flared up. I knew that flying off the handle wasn’t a “godly” way to live, so I went to my father for help. Dad told me that I needed to pray every night for Jesus to help me control my temper–so I did. I also asked my mother’s advice, and she told me to memorize Bible verses about anger–so I did. Soon, James 1:19-20 became my motto: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” For the next several years, instead of counting to ten, I would quote James’s words underneath my breath.

Eventually, for the most part, I brought my temper under control. At least it WAS under control until I experienced carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace. Two of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are anger and lack of restraint. Not a good combination for someone with a dormant temper just waiting to explode. I struggled against my temper for a long time, but then I finally gave into it—in private. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to create a fuss. Behaving politely in public has been drummed into me from a young age. So when I felt boiling mad, I would simply bottle it up until I got to my bedroom. Then I would pummel my pillow. I know it probably looked ridiculous. A furious person silently punching a pillow—but for the most part, it was effective. It was silent. It didn’t create a stir. I had Colossians 3:8 memorized, and I knew that as a Christian, I was supposed to put off anger, wrath, and malice. But since my temper wasn’t hurting anyone, I didn’t really think it mattered. After all, the pillow wasn’t objecting.

One day, I ran into a certain man who always made my blood boil. Years earlier he had said some hurtful things, and deep down inside–underneath my shiny Christian veneer–I hadn’t forgiven him. Whenever I saw him, my stomach churned. On that day, when he talked to me, he seemed extra annoying. Immediately, every grievance I had against him rose to the surface. I hated his smug face. I hated his “nice” words. I hated HIM. I wanted to cuss him out—really let some choice words fly. But swearing would be an even worse crime than losing my temper in public. Keeping the smile firmly on my face, I cut the conversation short and left. With my anger squeezing my heart and flaring up inside my mind, I went home. All I wanted to do was get to my pillow and punch away my angry feelings, but I was so mad that I didn’t make it that far. When I reached my staircase, my knees wobbled and I sat down with a furious plop.

king kongAs I sat there, hands knotted into fists, tears stinging my eyes, I felt the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit. I knew God wanted me to finally forgive that man, but I didn’t want to do it. My fury turned into a cold, dark rage. The more I felt God tugging on my heart, the angrier I became. After all, in my way of thinking, why should I forgive that jerk? He’d hurt me! He should be begging for my forgiveness. He deserved to crawl. The Lord’s gentle Spirit kept tugging—urging me toward forgiveness. Finally, I looked up at the ceiling and shouted just as loudly as I could, “I’ll be DAMNED to hell before I forgive him!!!!”

The world fell silent.

Deep in my spirit, God spoke. His words weren’t audible, but they were powerful. He simply said, “If that’s how you want it.”

I felt shocked. The full impact God’s words rolled over me. Was God really telling me that if I didn’t forgive that jerk, I was going to hell?? Surely not! After all, I was a Christian. I was–for the most part–a good person. Just being a little angry and holding onto a grudge wasn’t that big of a deal. Was it?

I listened, but God didn’t say anything else.

Squirming in my skin, I went to my bedroom. I looked at my pillow, but the desire to pummel it had fled. I felt like a deflated balloon. Reaching for my Bible, I thumbed through it until I came to Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:21-23, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, [a term of contempt] shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

My jaw tightened. My stomach churned. I turned the page as quickly as I could. My eyes landed on Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses.”

I slammed my Bible shut and shoved it underneath my bed. Sitting with my chin in my hands, I squirmed. The scripture was clear—brutally clear. I didn’t know how it worked for everyone else on the planet, but I knew that I had pushed the boundary of God’s grace just as far as I could. God had given me a direct command–and a direct warning–if I didn’t heed it…well, I didn’t want to think about what might happen if I didn’t heed it. I groaned. I knew I needed to forgive that arrogant jerk. I just didn’t know how I was going to manage it. After all, I didn’t feel in a forgiving mood.

Suddenly, I heard a whisper deep down in my spirit, “Forgiveness isn’t an emotion. It’s a choice.”

I rolled the sentence around my brain, and I could tell that it was true. I also knew that it was going to be incredibly hard for me to do. Praying for God’s help, I said in a wobbly voice, “I forgive him.”

I’d like to say that’s where things ended. I’d like to say that the clouds parted and the blue birds suddenly started to sing. I’d like to say that my angry feelings magically disappeared. But that’s not what happened. After my prayer, I ended up entering into one of the hardest battles of my life.

2 Corinthians 10:5 instructs us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ, and that’s what I had to do about a thousand times a day. When angry thoughts would batter my brain, I would have to stop thinking the angry thoughts on purpose. When hurtful memories would surface, I would have to stop thinking about the memories on purpose. Since my brain could only hold so many thoughts at once, I would force myself to mentally sing a hymn when I felt myself starting to get mad. It was a tremendous battle, and it took over a year to win. But eventually, the sting went out of my memories. Eventually, I could see the person who’d hurt me without my stomach clinching. Eventually, the old bitterness just wasn’t there anymore.

Looking back, I realize that I learned some important lessons that day. I learned that anger—even when it is expressed privately–is wrong. I learned to watch my words when I am praying and NEVER swear at God (shocker!). I learned that forgiveness isn’t just a nice, fluffy, happy idea—it’s a command that can’t be ignored. And I learned that forgiveness isn’t an emotion—it’s a choice.

At times, I still struggle with anger but the battle isn’t as hard as it was before. And if there ever comes a time when the battle within me rages strongly again, I have an arsenal of hymns at my disposal. After all, I’ve learned that it’s awfully hard to mentally cuss someone out while you’re also mentally singing “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”–especially if you’re singing it at the top of your brain’s imaginary lungs. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but when you’ve finally won through, living with yourself is much easier than when you’re bitter. Forgiveness makes your mind feel so much better. The battle is horribly hard, but it’s a battle that can be won. And I’ve learned that the freedom gained is worth the effort.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

Deborah Piccurelli–Author Interview

Deborah

Dear Friends,

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the special woman in this photograph. Deborah Piccurelli is a terrific writer who is generous with her praise of others. She has been extremely kind to me, and I appreciate her so much! I feel very privileged to call Deborah a friend and to have her on my blog today.

Danele: Hello, Deborah! I’m glad that you’re able to talk with us.

Deborah: Thank you, Danele. I’m honored to be here.

Danele: It’s my honor to have you! I’ve appreciated the way you’ve encouraged me over the last year. Your kind comments have meant so much! Well, let’s jump right into things. Can you describe a time when you’ve dramatically felt the presence of God?

Deborah: Yes, I can. When my sons were very young, I would help them get out the door in time for the school bus in the morning, then after they were gone, I would read my Bible while I ate breakfast. After washing the breakfast dishes, I’d go to my room for a more personal level of fellowship with the Lord.

Danele: I love those quiet, morning devotional times.

Deborah: Me too! One morning, while nearing the end of dishwashing, I began to have a strange feeling. The only way I can describe it is that I felt “all filled up.” All I knew was that I could hardly wait to finish what I was doing so I could get to my room and get on my knees. As soon as I got there, the Lord began showing me a writing assignment He had for me. This was the first time something like this happened concerning my writing, and the first time in this way.

Danele: Wow!

Deborah: What I learned was that God can come to you at any time–and in any way–that will get your attention. I also learned that when He does this, we really need to pay attention to what He shows us, and to obey/do exactly what He says.

Danele: That’s so powerful! It reminds me of something that happened after I graduated from college. I was in my bedroom praying when I felt God telling me to get up and go talk to a certain person on campus. I was to tell him that God was real. The person in question had always intimidated me and made fun of God, so naturally, the idea of delivering that particular message really freaked me out. I didn’t want to do it. In fact, I tried to talk God out of it, but He simply said “go.” In the end, I got dressed and drove into town. I figured I was probably pretty safe. After all, the chances of running into that person on campus were extremely slim. I figured I could “look” for him and go home, but the moment I parked my car, he walked right in front of it. I was simply stunned. Considering the size of the campus, the number of parking lots, and the volume of the student body, the odds of him walking in front of me had to be astronomical. Anyway, I jumped out of the car and delivered God’s message. We ended up sitting down and talking about God for a while. He didn’t give his heart to Christ that day, but at least he had the opportunity. My experience taught me that God is just waiting to send His children on grand adventures if they’ll only listen and obey.

Deborah: That’s so true!

Danele: When I think of that day, I’m reminded of Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out!” God is so incredibly awesome! I can’t get over how He allows us the privilege of spreading His word! Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

Deborah: There are many verses I love, but Jeremiah 33:3 stands out at this moment: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (KJV)

Danele: That’s a good one!

Deborah: I love that verse, because I absolutely want to know everything God is willing to show me. Especially since they are great and mighty things!

Danele: Isn’t that the truth! Now, Deborah, I’d love to have you tell us a little about your writing.

Deborah: My inspirational sweet romantic eBook novella, Love Comes Calling, was released in March 2015. I actually wrote it years ago for an advertised anthology by a large publishing house, but they cancelled it. I didn’t find out until I submitted it, though. When I heard that Prism Book Group was holding a contest, I entered my novella and was one of three winners. This led to a contract, and here I am promoting the book!

Danele: That’s so wonderful! Can you share the back cover blurb and a link to where we can find it?

Deborah: Sure! The day new Christian, Derek Spencer, shows up on Charlie Parkes’s doorstep to make up for what he’d done, is the very day he falls in love with her. But Charlie’s sister mistakes him for a home improvement contractor, and he decides to play along until he finds a way to tell her who he really is. Charlie is attracted to Derek, but knows the attention he pays her is only flattery. How could such a great-looking guy fall for someone with a face like hers? Nevertheless, the two form a relationship that brings a joy to Charlie that’s way beyond her wildest dreams. But what will happen when Derek’s true identity is revealed? Here’s the link: http://amzn.to/1KsmBK8

Danele: I read Love Comes Calling, and I found it to be a clean, Christian romance that focused on God–and I appreciated that. I also appreciated how you portrayed Charlie’s difficulty in coming to terms with her disfigurement. Have you written any other books?

Deborah: Yes. A story called Hush, Little Baby.

Danele: Deborah, thank you so much for being with us today! It was fun!

Deborah: Thank you, Danele. I’ve enjoyed being here. It was such a pleasure!

 

Friends, Deborah Piccurelli is an incredibly sweet person. If you would like to learn more about her and her books, please follow the links below. I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Website: www.deborahmpiccurelli.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/deborah.piccurelli

Twitter: @DebPiccurelli

The Kind Word

communicate

Dear Friends,

Somewhere around my sixth year of quarantine, I ended up having trouble with my eyes. I’d been spending hours in front of the computer writing books, so my eye trouble wasn’t surprising. I knew I needed an appointment with the eye doctor, but I was reluctant to make one. You see, for someone with multi-chemical sensitivity, a trip to the doctor is full of danger. Walking into a building exposes you to cleansers. Walking by people exposes you to perfume. Walking by a bathroom exposes you to air fresheners. Logically speaking, a trip from quarantine is inevitably going to lead to chemical exposure. After all, a person can only hold their breath for so long.  In my case, it’s around two minutes and twenty seconds. Guess how I know? Simply put, leaving quarantine is going to result in painful side effects—and that’s frightening.

Before quarantine, I used to wear a gas mask when I went out in public. Believe it or not, walking around in a gas mask isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I received tons of strange glances. At first, the glances and whispers bothered me, but then I got used to them. I did learn a few lessons, though—when wearing a gas mask don’t chew bubble gum and blow a bubble. Mercy! Was that ever a mess to clean up! It’s also advisable to avoid wearing gas masks when entering government buildings. Security doesn’t take kindly to people wearing chemical gear…

Eventually, my illness worsened, and my lungs couldn’t take the effort of breathing through a gas mask. Although I hated to do it, I had to put my gas mask on a shelf and avoid going out in public. Quarantine. Seven years of life behind glass.

Lack of contact with people kind of messes with your brain. I’m not saying that I turned into a raving lunatic, but I did end up with some quirks. I used to love being around people, but during quarantine, I had to view people as dangers to be avoided. And when I went to the doctor, I always felt like a fugitive who was sneaking into some place illegal.

Needless to say, when I went to the eye doctor that day, I was a bundle of nerves. I held my breath past the bathroom, breathed shallowly and slowly while I stood in line, and I took a seat as far away from people that I could find. Did I mention that multi-chemical sensitivity isn’t fun? It really makes you feel like a weirdo.

By the time I was called back to the office, I was a nervous wreck and I HATED feeling that way. I used to like talking to people, now I had to smile and shuffle away when anyone drew near. I felt like a cross between Quasimodo and a leper.

When the ophthalmic assistant entered the room, I braced myself—waiting to see if her shampoo was going to make me sick. She smiled at me and said, “Wow! That’s a beautiful sweater. It looks really pretty on you.”

Her words stunned me. They literally stopped my worried train of thought right in its tracks. The whole world seemed to slow down. As I stuttered out a thank you, I tried to analyze why her words impacted me so deeply. I finally realized that other than my family, she had just given me the first compliment I’d received in years. Literally years.

I smiled. A warm glow wrapped its way around my heart. Suddenly, life looked different. Yes, I was dealing with a strange ailment. Yes, I had to avoid people. Yes, I felt like a weirdo.

BUT

I had a beautiful sweater. And my sweater made me look pretty.

My smile grew. For some reason, I no longer felt like a leprous Quasimodo. I no longer felt out of place. After all, so what if I lived in quarantine? Who cared if I could only talk to people through a windowpane? I had a beautiful sweater. And my sweater made me look pretty.

The happy glow I felt stayed with me through the rest of my eye appointment. In fact, it stayed with me through the whole day. When I got home, I wrote that woman’s kind words on a piece of paper and taped them beside my mirror. Whenever I felt like a galumphing Quasimodo, I would read her kind words and remember the joy of receiving a compliment.

That ophthalmic assistant will never know how much she helped me that day. She will never know the impact that her words had on my life. Through her, I realized the power of kind words. And now, when I’m out and about, I actively look for a chance to spread kind words of my own. I’m not talking about glibly giving insincere flattery—I’m talking about taking the time to give sincere compliments. I’m talking about looking at each individual and finding something praiseworthy that they are doing, or finding a particularly lovely thing that they are wearing, and then rather than keeping my thoughts to myself–speaking them out loud.

Quarantine taught me that kind words shouldn’t be left unspoken. When you look at the people around you, you never know just how long it’s been since they’ve heard one. You never know just how much that kind word might mean to them.

 

Kind words are like honey—enjoyable and healthful.” Proverbs 16:24

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing…be kind to each other, tenderhearted.” Ephesians 4:29b, 32a

 

Jacqueline Hopper–Author Interview

Jacqui

Dear Friends,

Have you ever had someone you could always count on for an encouraging word, or for a prayer, when you needed it? For me, that person is Jacqueline Hopper—the lovely woman in this photograph. Jacqueline is not only a terrific author, she’s also a wonderful friend. She is truly a beautiful person, and her heart beats for the Lord. I can’t tell you how many times her words have strengthened my faith. I’m so excited to have this opportunity to interview her!

Danele: Hello, Jacqueline! I’m glad that you’re able to talk with us!

Jacqueline: Hi, Danele. Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog.

Danele: It’s my pleasure! You’ve been such a blessing to me over this past year. Well, let’s jump right into things. Can you tell us when you gave your heart to Christ?

Jacqueline: I don’t remember an actual time. I was brought up in church and always loved the Lord.

Danele: It’s so wonderful that you have a faith that stretches back as far as you can remember. I was brought up in church as well, but I made my decision when I was about five. I had been VERY naughty, and my mother was punishing me by making me sit on a stool in the corner. I was such a sad, pitiful sight. I knew I was the WORST SINNER on the planet. Sitting there, in the corner, I asked Jesus into my heart. It makes me smile now, but my desire for a Savior was very real, and Jesus answered my prayer. I spent the rest of my “time out” smiling and praising the Lord. Now, Jacqueline, my illness taught me the importance of trusting God.  Have you had a difficult situation in your life when you needed to totally rely on God?

Jacqueline: Oh, goodness, I’ve had many difficult situations in my life; I’ve nearly died three times.

Danele: That’s awful!

Jacqueline: I also married Mr. Wrong and lived in an emotional Siberia for ten years. Those were the times that caused me to draw so close to God and hear His voice, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today.

Danele: I’m so glad that you made it through! And I agree, it’s the hard times that really draw us closer to God. In my case, I knew about God, I loved Him, I served Him, I worshiped Him—but it was during my illness that I really became especially close to Him. It’s comforting to know that nothing is ever wasted—especially our pain. There are so many people hurting in this world—what would you like to say to them?

Jacqueline: Years ago, during my marriage, there were nights I struggled with the temptation to commit suicide, but the thought that the sun would shine in the morning always brought me through. And sure enough, the sun was shining when I woke the next day. (Psalm 30:5 b)

Danele: Ending it all can be very tempting when you’re in extreme physical or emotional pain. It seems like the problem is going to last forever and that nothing will ever get better. But the verse you shared, Psalm 30:5b, is so right: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” It’s so easy to get swallowed up in a problem—especially if it is a huge one like you experienced. It’s so easy to despair. When I was in quarantine, I felt pretty hopeless too. I’m so glad that we both won through and found joy again.

Jacqueline: Me too.

Danele: Jacqueline, your incredible spirit, and your wonderful faith in the Lord, has been such an inspiration to me over this past year! While you were undergoing your difficult time, was there an instance when God spoke to you?

Jacqueline: The one situation that stands out the strongest was when I was wavering between staying or leaving my now ex-husband. The agony of rejection was destroying me and yet I was frightened of what would happen to me if I did leave. I can still remember the sensation of stress weighing heavily on my shoulders, pressing me down—crushing me. My mother had called and asked, “Well, are you ready to leave?” She and my dad were letting me move home with them again, but it’d been years since I’d left home and I didn’t like the thought of walking away from my “nest.” I opened my mouth to say no, when the Holy Spirit checked me, telling me, “Don’t be like Lot’s wife.” I also had a vision of a woman running away from a city, the wind whipping her hair just before she turned back. I knew I was “seeing” Lot’s wife and I did NOT want to be her. I didn’t want to be a woman who looked back, longing for what would destroy me. At that moment, the feeling of pressure left me and I told my mum, “I’m ready.”

Danele: Wow! That’s amazing! What a wonderful way for God to reveal Himself! Has there been any other time when you’ve dramatically felt the presence of God?

Jacqueline: Yes, when I was fourteen and just learning how to experience the presence of the Lord for myself. One evening in my bedroom, I completely lost myself in worship and in my spirit I could “see” His spirit falling like a gentle snowfall in December. I learned how beautiful and peaceful it is to surrender to Him. It was also a beginning for establishing my faith in Him instead of living on my parents’ experiences.

Danele: What a beautiful way to describe God’s presence! I’ve been in church services where God’s presence comes so dramatically that it feels like I’m standing in a ring of fire, but I think it’s God’s “peace” that always makes the most impact on me. Sometimes when I’m praying, it’s like I’m being wrapped in a warm, snugly quilt. There’s nothing as beautiful as the presence of God. Now, Jacqueline, I know you love Psalm 30:5, is there another Bible verse that you especially like?

Jacqueline: Yes, Numbers 23:19. God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?”

Danele: That’s a beautiful verse. Can you tell us why it means so much to you?

Jacqueline: I love that verse because often times throughout varying stages in my life I’d been promised things by people that most times they couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver, but with God, He fulfills His promises every time!

Danele: That’s so true! God never lies, and He never fails us. When I was sick, there was a time when I thought God was a liar, and I thought He was mean. But as the years of quarantine passed, I began to realize that although God didn’t send my illness, He was using it to do something good in my life. The devil meant to kill me and destroy my faith when I became ill, but God used those years of quarantine as a way for me to draw closer to Jesus. During those years, my faith was firmly established, and I wrote my books. It’s so easy to get upset with God when we’re in pain, but I’ve learned that when we’re hurting we need to run toward God–not away from Him. I don’t understand why God allowed me to become ill, but I’ve learned enough to realize that God is using my illness to do something beautiful. I’m looking forward to heaven and to finally understanding the reason behind all things. What’s the first thing you want to do when you get to heaven?

Jacqueline: Fall at Jesus’ feet and just love and worship Him, and thank Him for His sacrifice on the cross.

Danele: That’s so beautiful, and so true. I think when we get to heaven all of our heartache and questions will fade and we will be able to say, “It was worth it all!” Now, Jacqueline, I’d love for you to tell us a little about your book.

Jacqueline: My book is called The Gingerbread House, and it was published by Prism Book Group.

Danele: Can you share the back cover blurb and a link where we can find it?

Jacqueline: Sure! Keren Joel has a phobia and, without realizing it, she’s passed it on to her son, forcing her to seek professional help. What she doesn’t expect to find is the man who’d been her best friend, twenty years earlier, and his shrine to a moment that forever changed the adults they became. http://www.prismbookgroup.com/thegingerbreadhouse.html

Danele: I really enjoyed The Gingerbread House when I read it—it showed the importance of facing your greatest fears. Your characters seemed to come to life, and there was true artistry in your writing. The way you described your characters’ actions in such a way that you also managed to describe their emotions was masterful. Jacqueline, it’s been such a pleasure talking with you today!

Jacqueline: Thank you for having me!

 

Friends, Jacqueline Hopper is a truly beautiful person with a genuine love for the Lord. She has been an incredible blessing to me. If you would like to learn more about her or her books, please follow the link below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

http://jacquelinedhopper.blogspot.ca/