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Guest Blogger: Sandra Ardoin

I am delighted to have Sandra Ardoin as my guest today. Although we’ve never met, Sandy and I are part of a critique group and we’ve gotten to know each other quite well over the last year or so. Enjoy this excellent message by Sandy and be sure to sign up to follow her blog!

JUST WHOSE PLANS ARE THEY, ANYWAY?

(Sandra Ardoin)
Somewhere recently, I read a blog post in which the writer asked if there was a particular scripture that we had adopted for our writing.
Years ago, a former associate pastor sent me a small card with Jeremiah 29:11 printed on it. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” For a long time, I had that card taped near my computer where I could see it while I worked. Now I keep the verse bookmarked in my Bible. What encouraging words for anyone in any situation, but especially for writers who are anxious to see their hard work in print.
I believe God has a plan for us in the various aspects of our lives: family, career, health, etc. His plan for my writing may not match my goals. It may not match the potential sales figures my future editor has arrived at (whoever that will be). And it may not be the numerous published novels and fame my family hopes for the future. In fact, there may be no books at all. What if He only wants me to encourage others in their journey?
I’ll admit, it’s difficult to beat back frustration when I think I should be at a certain point in my writing career—I am not getting any younger, Lord. Then I remember that if I claim (to myself, God, or others) that my writing is as much a ministry as it is a profession, what do I have to complain about? He can use my words to minister to others in whatever form they take. Okay, publication is a nice bonus.
But if I believe in God’s promise that He will never harm me, that He only wants the best for me, I need to understand that no matter what my professional future holds, as long as I’m following His will—His plan—to the best of my ability, I’m where I need to be at this moment and at this time.
So how about you? Do you believe God has a plan to give you a future filled with hope?

Sandra Ardoin loves history and fiction, so how could she help but put the two together? Her work has been published in various forms, but fiction allows her to share the stories that run through her imagination. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Contact Sandra through her website at www.sandraardoin.com. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads

Second Time Around; three cord strand; God's love

Book Review

Second Time Around

I am thrilled to have my dear friend, JoAnn Durgin, as my guest today. JoAnn’s second book, Second Time Around has arrived! It’s Book #2 in The Lewis Legacy Series, the follow-up to the popular Awakening with Sam Lewis and Lexa Clarke. Both books are available from all major online booksellers in both paperback and electronic versions.
Those of you who know me, or have read my blog a few times, know that I am an avid reader – always have been – always will be. I suspect that I’ve read, including all the Dick and Jane books in kindergarten, well into the thousands of books in my lifetime. Some good, some not so good; some memorable and some not so memorable. Some books were so good that I would want to share them with others and I would loan them out especially to my Dad from whom I got my love of reading. In the last couple of years, I’ve given books as a prize on this blog. But then there are those books that are so outstanding that I keep them in my personal library so I can read them over and over again.

Such is the case with Second Time Around, JoAnn’s latest book. A follow-up to Awakening, JoAnn’s debut novel, Second Time Around is the story of Marc and Natalie Thompson. It is the story of a love that is nearly lost due to a tragic accident, of a husband who fights for the life, and then for the love, of his bride. It is the story of a new love that is stronger – a “three cord strand” kind of love that cannot be broken. What a beautiful parallel between Marc and Natalie’s story and the story of God’s love for us – how He fought for our very lives because of His love for us. And His love for us is always stronger than a “three cord strand.”

Here is the synopsis from the back cover (and speaking of covers, don’t you love the front cover??)

Marc Thompson is on top of the worlda newlywed with a beautiful wife, the owner of a thriving Boston sports advertising agency, and a century-old home they’re renovating in the suburbs. Then the unthinkable happens. Two months after the wedding, Marc sits in a hospital emergency waiting room after Natalie suffers a horrible fall. One shock follows another. Not only does his wife remember nothing of their life together, but now Marc has a personal timeline to reconnect with herseven months.

His shiny gold wedding band mocks him, a reminder of a promise broken by a rotting piece of wood. Marc’s psychologist advises him to court his wife againa daunting task the first time around. Then his pastor suggests he call Sam and Lexa Lewis of TeamWork Missions, a ministry dear to Natalie’s heart. Determined to help her reclaim her life, the young groom makes great strides until a ghost from the past surfaces, opening fresh wounds and threatening to destroy it all.

With Natalie’s trust shattered and Marc’s faith wavering, they head to Montana with TeamWork for a two-week work camp at Milestone Ranch. But instead of romancing his wife with warm fires, hot chocolate and a fresh start, he’s out in the cold and back at square one. Even if Natalie recovers her lost memories, will she forgive him? If not, can Marc come to terms with his deepest fearthe failure of his marriage?
You’ll root for Marc and Natalie as they fight against the odds and discover that giving up the reins and surrendering all at the throne of grace doesn’t mean failureit’s simply called faith. And it might be the only way to finding their way back to one another . . . the second time around.

Second Time Around will hold you captive from page one to the end. You will be swept up in the lives of Marc and Natalie and by the end of the book, they will be a part of your family. They will be a welcome addition and you will want to read their story over and over.


JoAnn, I know that you are an incredibly busy woman! How do you balance family, working full time, writing and all of the other activities you do?

It is a very delicate balancing act, and there aren’t enough hours in the day. My full-time paralegal job is demanding, and with a husband and three children, something had to give in order for me to devote the time I needed, and wanted, to my blossoming writing career. I resigned from my position as a floor manager with the Kentucky Center for the Arts in late February. I adored my wonderful volunteer staff, but now they’re cheering me on from the sidelines and are so faithful. It’s so gratifying to have a personal contingent of fans!

The short answer is the Lord sustains me, even when I feel like I can’t keep my eyes open or can’t keep going. It’s more of an energy (or lack thereof) thing with me these days, and since Awakening released in November 2010, it’s been an endless round of marketing, blog interviews and editing. Mind you, I’m not complaining, and I realize how blessed I am! The Lord has opened doors beyond my wildest expectations, and I am truly living the dream. How many people can truly say that? The other important thing to note is that the Lord gives me that peace to know that sometimes it’s okay to relax, to sit back and read or do something nice for myself. It reenergizes and refreshes me, and it’s every bit as important as all the rest.

Tell us about your family.

Sarah just turned 22, and she’s a college student and works part-time. Like her father (my husband, Jim), she’s quiet and intellectual, and loves great literature and classic movies. She also resembles Jim with dark hair and gorgeous hazel eyes. Chelsea is almost 19 and also a college student. She’s more the social butterfly, and independent like her mother, and yes, favors me physically with her lighter hair and eyes. Matthew is my 15-year-old, and what a love bug! He’s high-functioning autistic (Asberger’s Syndrome), but he’s the smartest, brightest, most intuitive kid you’ll ever meet. He can look at a skyscraper and build it from memory – almost to scale – with Lego blocks. He’s a freshman in high school this year, and doing very well. He’ll probably  be an architect or a salesman (although meteorologist figures in, too). He’s atypical (in terms of the autism) in that he’s incredibly social and loving. Matthew embodies the love of Christ, and he will do great things through Christ who indeed strengthens him.

I understand that Awakening and Second Time Around are part of a series. Tell us how you thought of the idea for the first book and developed it into a series. Or did it even happen that way?

Yes, it’s called The Lewis Legacy Series, and the third book, Twin Hearts, is planned for release sometime in the early part of 2012. It picks up with the parallel love stories of the twins, Rebekah and Josh Grant, both already familiar to readers if they’ve read the other books. There’s something so familiar, comforting and lovely about revisiting old friends, and I like to think that’s true with this series. The books are all written, just waiting to be edited. The beauty in that is that I can go back and foreshadow certain events and add or delete certain things, if needed.

I never thought of writing a series until I rediscovered Awakening more than a decade after it was originally written, and it’s loosely based on my own love story with Jim. It’s a testament of God’s faithfulness. Awakening was the last manuscript I wrote before putting my writing aside for a decade. I’d encourage readers who aren’t familiar with the story to read about it on my website (www.joanndurgin.com). When I looked at it again with “fresh” eyes, I got the idea for a series featuring the different members of TeamWork, the volunteer missions group introduced in  Awakening. The volunteers introduced in the books represent different regions of the country, professions, etc. I thought it would be a good way for each book to be a stand-alone love story and yet connected with the other books, with Sam and Lexa as my core characters and mentors to the others (including three of Sam’s siblings). Each one builds on the events of the previous books, but again, each one can stand on its own (and I’m not revealing to anyone how many books there are – suffice it to say, it’s a lengthy series).

Tell us one thing about yourself that your readers do not know.

That’s a fun question! I have several little tidbits noted on my website. Things like being related to a Master’s and U.S. Open golf champion. Then there’s seeing Liz Taylor and Richard Burton together on the Broadway stage . . . being proposed to in Carmel, CA, after a romantic lunch  overlooking Monterey Bay. Let me think of something else…hmm… Okay, here’s one. The one thing I always wanted to do (but know I never will) is learn to fly a plane. Why not? I’m too short and too nearsighted. One of my bosses in California (a winegrower) had a private jet and took us to dinner one evening. Talk about a thrill! My uncle co-owns a private jet, and he flew some of the family from Indiana to Massachusetts for a wedding once (little did I know I’d be living just down the road outside Boston in about 20 more years!). You feel the air pockets and turbulence more in the smaller jets, but it was exciting to have the experience. Nothing thrills me more than the feeling of speed and power when a plane lifts off the runway. I’m content to put it all in God’s hands and the hands of fully-trained pilots and enjoy the ride.

Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog, Edwina, and for being a supporter of Second Time Around and my other books. It’s been a real thrill. Blessings to you, my friends. Matthew 5:16.


Thank you for stopping by today, JoAnn!

To My Readers: I was given an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) for the purpose of reading the book and writing the review. The ARC is not suitable to give as a prize. However, I was so blessed by this book that I want to bless one of you!  Please leave me a comment as to why you’d like to read this book and WHO you would pass it on to after you’ve finished. Be sure and leave me your email address so I can contact you if you are the winner!  The random drawing will be held on Wednesday, October 5, so don’t delay entering!! This contest is open to U. S. residents only in the 48 contingent states and is VOID where prohibited! You must be 18 years or older to enter!   

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Book Review: Leaving by Karen Kingsbury

Karen Kingsbury is well known for her “Life Changing Fiction.” She has written another life-changing book in Leaving, Book One of the Bailey Flanigan Series.

 Readers of Karen’s book will remember meeting Bailey in the Firstborn Series. We watched her grow in the Sunrise series and Above the Line series, all three series of the Baxter Family saga. And now she has her own series. I write about Bailey as if she’s a real person because that’s how Ms. Kingsbury’s books make us feel. She writes such in-depth characters that they become a part of our lives. We are happy when good things happen to them and we are sad during their difficult times.

I will not spoil your reading pleasure by giving away the story of Leaving., although the title should be a obvious giveaway. Suffice it to say, if you are a fan of Karen’s books, you will enjoy Leaving. And if you’ve never read any of Karen’s books, Leaving is a perfect book to start your journey.

I have a copy of Leaving for a book give-away. Please leave your comment and let me know if you are a Karen Kingsbury fan or if this would be your first book Karen Kingsbury book to read. Be sure an leave your email address so if you win, I can contact you. Drawing will be held on Monday, October 3.

This book was provided free of charge by Amazon Vine Program for the sole purpose of a book review. The opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and in no way reflect the opinions of Amazon, or its employees.
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Bearing Fruit by Staci Stallings

I am delighted to have Staci Stallings as a guest blogger today! She has written an excellent post about a new way to look at John 15:1-2.  Enjoy!

Bearing Fruit

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. –John 15: 1-2

            Every so often a misinterpretation corrected sends shock waves through my life. Thus it was with this Bible verse.  I had always defined “bear” as meaning to produce.  In other words, “Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit, He takes away…”  Then I began reading about how God doesn’t expect us to do things for Him, no, He wants to do things through us if we allow Christ and the Holy Spirit to take over our lives to such a degree that it is them doing the doing and not us.

            Okay, but there was still this verse.  Clearly it says if I am in Him, I will produce fruit.  Right?  Well, maybe.

            I give you this new insight to ponder, not so that you can accept it outright, but so that you can try it on in your life and see if it fits.

            There is a second definition of “bear” I had never considered. It is actually the first definition of the word.  Bear means to carry or to hold.

            Does that make any difference in how you read this verse?  “Every branch in Me that does not hold fruit, He takes away…”  To me, holding is much different than producing.  Holding is passive.  Someone else has done all the hard work to produce it, all I have to do is be strong enough in Christ to hold the fruit He’s producing in my life!

            You know, looking back, I wonder how much fruit I didn’t “hold” because I was so busy trying to “produce” fruit on my own.  I wasn’t focused on what God was doing in my life, I was focused on what I was doing for Him.  Trust me on this, the difference between the two in theory and in practice are huge!

            The funny thing is, since I’ve stopped trying to produce fruit for Him, fruit in abundance has come into my life.  In my books, in my kids, in my marriage, in our finances.  Things I used to work so hard to accomplish (which never seemed to work out) are suddenly heaped upon me in blessing after blessing. I am convinced it’s because I stopped trying to produce and started being content to hold that this change has come about.

            So, as I said before, consider this simple yet profound modification in the way you define “bear.”  It may well change your entire life!

A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from.  (Pick up the Price of Silence now for only $0.99! http://www.amazon.com/The-Price-of-Silence-ebook/dp/B004E9U7P6) Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again.  Every title is a new adventure!  That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.  Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe every week with her various Internet endeavors including:

Books In Print, Kindle, & FREE on Spirit Light Works:

Spirit Light Books–The Blog: http://spiritlightbooks.wordpress.com/

And… Staci’s website http://www.stacistallings.com  Come on over for a visit…

You’ll feel better for the experience!

Copyright Staci Stallings 2006     
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Better Late than Never – Winner Announced!

I don’t know who created that term “better late than never” but recently, it has definitely applied to me! I’m sorry I missed the deadline for the drawing for Joel Osteen’s book – but hey, I made my publisher’s deadline – in fact, I was three days early!!!!

Congratulations to Joy McGee who won Every Day a Friday by Joel Osteen!

Stay tuned this week for a guest blog – and who knows – maybe more book giveaways! My bookcase shelves are beginning to protest!!

Blessings!!

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 In Joel Osteen’s latest book, Every Day a Friday, he proposes that everyone is happier on Friday. That we have survived the week and made it to the weekend. His premise for this book is that we can be happy every day of the week, not just on Friday. In fact, the subtitle of the book is: “How to be Happier 7 Days a Week.” Here is a quote from the back cover:

                “Faith is always in the present. Your attitude should be: I’m excited to be breathing today. I’m excited about my family, my health, and my opportunities. I have plenty of reasons to be happy right now….You may have some setbacks and your circumstances may change but don’t let that change your mind…Keep it set on happiness. It is your choice to be happy. Make up your mind to enjoy this day, to have a blessed, prosperous, victorious year.”

 Olsteen took the material for Every Day a Friday and divided it into seven sections, “all built on key points or holding on to your happiness and joy every day of the week:

     ·         Don’t Give Away Your Power
     ·         Know What to Ignore
     ·         Live Without Crutches
     ·         Laugh Often
     ·         Celebrate Yourself
     ·         Travel Light
     ·         Be a Dream Releaser

Although there are many references to God and Scripture, much of the book reads like a “power of positive thinking” type book. A few examples are some of the subtitles within chapters: “Be the Best You Can Be; Stay in Your Own Race;” “Be the Best You!” Even the sidebars are very much positive-thinking oriented. “Run your own race. You have something great to offer.” “Don’t compare yourself. Celebrate yourself.”

This book will appeal to the Charismatic Christians who prescribe to the practice of stating they want something and claiming it is theirs. These Christians deny that it is “positive thinking” but is done in faith. Opponents of the “name it and claim it” (as it was known in the earlier days of the Charismatic movement) will not appreciate this book for the very same reason that charismatics will like it.

Ultimately, it will be up to you, the individual reader, as to whether you wish to buy and read Every Day a Friday: How to be Happier 7 Days a Week.

This book was given to me by Faith Words for the sole purpose of reading and writing this review. My opinion does not, in any manner, reflect the opinion of Faith Words, its owner nor its employees.
This book is available to win! Just leave a comment, with your email address so I can contact you. The contest closes on Tuesday, September 20 at midnight; winner will be notified on Wednesday, September 21 via email. This contest is open only to residents of the U.S. and is void where prohibited.
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Guest Blogger: Jennifer Slattery

I am pleased and delighted to have as my guest today, Jennifer Slattery. Jennifer is a very busy wife, mom and writer. Be sure to check out her blog – the link is at the end of her devotion. Enjoy, be blessed and have a wonderful weekend!

Blessed to be a Blessing

As a Gen Yer raised in the fight-or-flight era, I’ve heard the words, “pursue your dream!” so many times it runs through my brain on auto-pilot. The only problem is when I ride the American Dream bandwagon, it’s easy to let the dream overshadows the Dream-giver. I often get so caught up in the things of God that I’m tempted to forget God all together. It’s like I’ve caught His vision, but in my pursuit, have left Him dust, asking Him to bless me after the fact.

Only problem, without God, those great accomplishments and ministry endeavors are nothing more things.

Let me illustrate. When you think of Abraham, what comes to mind first? We often hear about how God blessed him and made his offspring into a mighty nation, right? Or what about Joseph? God gave Joseph a dream of grandeur, a dream that was ultimately fulfilled some thirteen (or so) years later. When we retell the story, what do we focus on? The dream, right? How God gave it to Joseph and everyone else wanted to slam on it, but God exalted Joseph anyway.

Only it wasn’t about Joseph, and it wasn’t about Abraham. God raised up Abraham for a purpose–not to bless Abraham, but instead, to bless all the nations through him. Abraham was the father of the Jewish race, and the Jews were the nation God used to reveal Himself to all mankind (and to bring about salvation through Jesus Christ.) When God blessed Abraham, in reality He was blessing us.

Same with Joseph. When we first meet Joseph in Genesis 37, it appears he’s consumed with the dream and how he’s going to rule over his brothers.

Genesis 37:5-11

 5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

 8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

 9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

After a few hard knocks and some rather painful humbling, he comes to realize it was never about him. It was about how God wanted to save many, including his brothers.

Notice the difference in tone, and who Joseph points to, in this passage:

Genesis 45:5-7

5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

So, although God used one man, named Joseph, to bring about His plan, all the while He was thinking about the masses. Because that’s how God works. (I can’t help but wonder how his brothers felt, once they’d reached the end of the story and realized that God had their well-being in mind the entire time. Ah, if only we could see the bigger picture!)

So how does this related to writing? (Or any other “dream” God has given you.) God doesn’t give us gifts for our own benefit. Nor are they ever intended to bring glory to ourselves. He gives us gifts so that His purpose can be fulfilled. He blesses us so that we will be a blessing. But when our eyes are on ourselves, we get in the way.

The first step, it seems, is to let it go. Hand your gift, whatever it is, over to God, to be used as He sees fit. Whether that means writing a best-selling novel or spending hours crafting a Vacation Bible School lesson for your small, unknown church. It’s His gift, remember? You’re just the vessel.

As I continually work towards intentionally living, I’m going to ask God, daily, to empty me of self, fill me with Him and help me to catch a glimpse of the bigger, eternal picture. I’m going to actively and personally pray Romans 12:1-2

“Dear Lord, do not allow me to conform to the things of this world, but transform me by renewing my mind. Help me to see and understand Your good, pleasing will. Help me to offer my body, my time, my gifts and my mind, to You as a perfect, pleasing sacrifice. This will be my act of worship.”

The world says forge ahead. God says wait on Me and allow Me to live through you, as I want, when I want, because I see the bigger picture, and I’ve written the ending.

Today I’m asking God to show me areas or times when I’ve been tempted to seek my own glory instead of acting in humbled obedience. I’m asking Him to help me lay yourself, my gifts, my dreams, my time…whatever, on the alter so I can be a cleansed and open vessel ready to do His will. Most importantly, I’m asking Him to enable me to catch a glimpse of His bigger, eternal picture. Because when my time on earth is done and I stand before the throne of God, I will be held accountable not for what I accomplished, but how well I obeyed.

*****

Jennifer Slattery is a freelance writer and publicist living in the midwest with her husband of sixteen years and their fourteen year old daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse, Afictionado, and Samie Sisters and the the marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She’s also a co-host of a modern day, meet at the well, Facebook community called Living by Grace. When she’s not writing, helping other authors polish their manuscripts or increase their platform, you’ll probably find traipsing through her neighborhood hand-in-hand with her forever true love, nibbling on a hot soft pretzel, or nose-deep in a great novel. Visit her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud (http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com) to find out more about her and her writing. Visit her business blog, Words that Keep (http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com) to learn how she can help you take your novel from good to great.