Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Meet Teresa Slack...

I'd like you to meet an author friend of mine whose new book, Evidence of Grace, will be released on June 15.

For everyone who loves to read "whodonits," Teresa's book won't dissappoint you!

Nearly thirty years have passed since Sally Blake disappeared from a party. Her remains were found twenty-five years later and her killer brought to justice. Or so everyone in Jenna’s Creek believes. A mysterious phone call from a potential eyewitness leads authorities to believe an innocent person may have pled guilty to her murder. Noel Wyatt enlists the help of a young attorney and David Davis, a retired judge who once prosecuted the case, to find out why.

Thus begins Evidence of Grace, the third installment of author Teresa Slack’s Jenna’s Creek series. Twists and surprises await the reader as more and more details leading up to the night of Sally’s disappearance are revealed. Did Noreen Trimble act alone in Sally’s murder? Why is she willing to sacrifice her own freedom in order to protect someone else?

Several new characters, only briefly mentioned in previous books, are introduced to keep the series fresh and moving forward. Teresa's down to earth writing style and her community of flawed and endearing characters will keep you coming back to Jenna’s Creek for many books to come.

Inquiring Minds Want To Know More - An Interview With Teresa Slack...

What is your new book about? Evidence of Grace is the third book in the Jenna’s Creek Novels Series. I don’t want to give too much away for readers just starting books one and two. Suffice it to say, new evidence surfaces in the murder of Sally Blake. The guilty party may be hiding more secrets about that night or may not have acted alone in the murder. Christy Blackwood has vowed never to speak to her mother again after finding out the secrets of her past. But now Christy is home and hiding some secrets of her own.

What were some of the challenges in writing the book? Evidence of Grace is probably the hardest book to write so far in my career. I had so many story lines going on at one time, I had to make sure I gave each one ample billing. I also wanted to make sure the reader cared strongly about each story line. It was a challenging book to write, but also a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. Of course, I always say that after a book is finished. While I’m writing it, it’s a pain and I wonder why I ever started it in the first place.

Have you ever started a book you haven’t been able to finish? Not since I started writing full time. You put too much of yourself into a project to walk away from it when it gets tough. No one would do that in any other line of work. If you did, you would lose all your clients.
How many more books do you see in the Jenna’s Creek Series? At least five. I think that’s a nice round number. But it all depends on how well the folks of Jenna’s Creek, Ohio deal with me intruding on their lives every so often.

What are the challenges in writing a series and a stand-alone book? The challenge in writing a series is keeping each new installment fresh and interesting. I have to be careful too, about giving too much back story. I don’t want to lose readers who haven’t read the previous books, but I can’t bore readers who’ve been with me since the beginning. A stand-alone book is fun because I can write the story and then walk away. That’s also the downfall. I don’t know how many people told me they are anxious to read the sequel to A Tender Reed.

Are you planning a sequel to that book? No, that story is finished. But I’m flattered that readers were reluctant to let the story go. I’m happy the characters had such a hold on them.
Are there any more series’ in your writing future? I am currently working on a short romance that will be paired in a book with a romance by award winning novelist Molly Noble Bull.

What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you since you became a published author? Oh, no, I don’t think I could narrow it down to one event. I have had the opportunity to meet other Christian writers, either in person at the International Christian Retailers Show in Denver, Colorado last summer, or in my online writers’ groups. But the greatest thing has been meeting with readers. I’ve done a lot of traveling to get the word out about the books, and everyone has been great. It’s wonderful to hear that the books are having a positive impact in people’s lives. That’s the most gratifying thing for a writer.

I know writing is a very isolating experience. How do you deal with being your own boss? That is a very difficult task. I probably waste a lot more time than I would if I had a boss breathing down my neck. I’m dedicated about getting at 6:15 every morning. I start my day with prayer and an exercise routine. If I don’t, it seems like the whole day gets frittered away with very little to show for it.

How much understanding and encouragement do you get from the people in your life? More than I ever imagined. My husband is wonderful. He works nights, so he gets up about nine o’clock in the evening to get ready for work. If he wakes up to a tearful wife, he knows it’s been a bad writing day. If he wakes up to frozen pizza for dinner or no dinner at all, he knows it’s been a good writing day.

What would you do if you weren’t writing? That’s a question I don’t really have an answer for since I truly feel called to write and blessed that I’m able to pursue it full time. I am naturally good with small children, so I suppose I would enjoy teaching at an early grade level. Or maybe I could become a nuclear physicist. I wonder if you need any special training for that.

Do you have any words of encouragement for people who dream of writing for publication? Everywhere I go, someone asks me the formula for getting published. It’s like losing weight. I’m sorry to say there isn’t a twelve step program to success. We all know what to do; it’s just having the discipline to stick with it. Dedicate yourself to sitting in the chair and writing your story. Then polish and make it absolutely perfect. That includes typos and coffee stains. No editor wants to see a messy manuscript on her desk. Last but not least, don’t give up. I am living proof that an unagented, first-time novelist can find a traditional publisher. It isn’t easy or fast. But it is possible. Just keep writing.

Look for Teresa's new book, coming soon to online book sellers and bookstores near you!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Instant pudding...Instant Tea...Instant me...????

It was a dark and rainy night... - Oops, that's another story.

Ah yes, it was a sunny Sunday afternoon - perfect for commencement exercises. Our church is the parent organisation for a small Christian school. Each year since we arrived here to pastor the church, I've helped the administrator to get things ready. Usually I'm tucked down in the kitchen, receiving and setting out the food for the reception afterwards.

This year, I helped Ella Mae by making corsages as well since I used to work in a flower shop. No problem. But I should have known something was up when she came to me a week before and asked me to sing because she didn't have any students who wanted to do it. No problem. I sing in church. I can handle this too.

Sunday afternoon, all the graduates lined up in the foyer to march into the sanctuary, but Ella Mae was pacing in front of the door. Where was the speaker, she wondered? Uh-oh. Five minutes passed, ten...still no speaker.

She asked several people she knew if they could fill in on a moments notice. Sorry no takers. That's when she turned to me and said, "Well, it's either you or me - and they've heard me all year."

It was 1:55. No time for note gathering. Not even any time to panic. Okay Lord - this is an exercise in trust! "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Right?
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 2 Timothy 4:2

I've never thought of myself as being "instant" anything. I have to take days to prepare each time I speak somewhere, and even then I PRAY a lot. My knees start knocking when I get up in front of people and at least til I get started, it is SCARY.

But not yesterday. Yesterday, I had a lesson in God's grace and was able to share and I hope challenge the students to look for opportunities to serve, to prepare for those open doors and to walk through them in God's strength.

Boy! God sure is good!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Gone fishin'...

Yep! He's gone fishin'. It has been so long since my dear hubby has gone fishing, I don't even remember when he went last.

We planned our vacation several months ago - to go to North Carolina and visit my daughter and her family for a week, traveling home on Memorial Day. But like the best laid plans of mice and men, things change.

Where do you go to get away from it all when all the children move home to live with you? No more "free" room and board (Well, it's never free til you buy groceries, presents for the kids and admission to local attractions for everyone). Now we don't have to divide up our vacation time between one daughter in NC and a son in NY with two sets of aging parents in PA.

So with our vacation plans upset, my hubby decided to go to back to his roots and take his fishing gear. That's why I didn't go along. My idea of vacation is shopping at all the craft stores and "playing with my crafting toys. But at my mother-in-law's house, she'd have me cleaning out closets and boxing up her used "stuff that's still good" to bring home to make my house as cluttered as hers.

Now you have to understand about Dan and fishing - it's more about wading along the creek bank in his hip boots, tossing in his line and reeling it back than it is about actually catching the fish. He rarely catches them. But he always comes back restored mentally and spiritually.

Bill Gaither had it right when he penned his song, "God loves to talk to boys when they're fishin'." Dan gets to slow down, forget about everything else and just relax. I expect he'll come back with a few fish stories. He may even stop at the grocery store and buy a fish or two to bring home. But most likely, he'll just enjoy the day, talking to the Lord and drinking in the quiet and calm of His creation. And that's okay with me!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

God's provision keeps going...and going...

A friend of mine called Alzheimer's one of Satan's most evil sicknesses and I believe it. He takes delight in stealing, killing and destroying and Alzheimer;s disease is surely that - one that steals the memories, kills the spirit and destroys the mind.

We just arrived home from a three day visit with my brother and his wife. While there, we were able to spend time with my parents who live in an assisted living facility. My mother is in the last stages of Alzheimer's disease and doesn't recognize anyone. She can hardly put an intelligible sentence together. My dad has degenerative senior dementia along with a mental health diagnosis.

Like most hard working American seniors, they struggled as young adults to provide a good life for their children and to put away money for their retirement. I am thankful for what they were able to do because their efforts have enabled me as Power of Attorney to keep them together and well cared for now when they need it.

It has become an increasing struggle to juggle their finances to pay for their housing, especially since they need the level of care provided by the assisted living facility. But each time we reach a point where I worry about how it will work out, God provides a way - at least for a few more months.

Thank God - He is the source of our provision! Though it was a difficult emotional trip for me, God came through again and I was given information about funding sources on this trip which will help to stretch their resources - probably through next May so they can receive good care and be able to stay together. God is truly Good!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Having Ears To Hear

I hate annual church business meetings.

Being in the ministry for over 30 years, there have been times when hateful things have been voiced in those meetings, hurtful arrows aimed directly at my husband and I. So each time controversy arises in an annual meeting, I put on my flight suit and prepare to take off (at least mentally if not physically.)

Things were going well last Wednesday night. We've just passed our 4th anniversary with this congregation and have weathered many storms, settled a lot of dust and cleared out a lot of cobwebs. We didn't expect any unpleasant surprises at the business meeting, but wouldn't you know it...

Near the end of the meeting a dear elderly saint piped up. "I have something. May I say it?"
Uh-oh. Here it comes, I thought.

"I called two people who visited here and asked why they didn't come back. They said the song service was too long and we didn't sing enough hymns out of the book. I happen to agree with them. I get very tired after sitting through Sunday School and a long song service. We need to change it or we'll drive more people away."

Since my husband is the only piano player and I'm one of the two voices on the worship team, I felt like it was a bit of a personal attack. (Flight suit on - begin to check engines for a fast take off- better to leave than to say something I shouldn't out of anger.)

Well, the discussion perked up for a few moments with one group siding with the dear saint and the other group expressing their feeling that the song service needs to be longer with more choruses for the younger generation- that's why they don't come.

When that discussion died down, the point was made by the same dear elderly saint that we just don't love each other in our church. She cited several instances to make her point.
At first her words rankled inside. I wanted to fuss, fume and justify myself and even stalk out of the meeting. But the Lord stopped me. "Listen," He instructed.

Suddenly the older woman's remarks - all of them - made sense. It wasn't that we didn't love enough. The music wasn't really the issue either.

It was that SHE didn't feel loved! She was in a lot of pain, not able to get to church as often as she liked and she was wallowing in her own neediness. At the deepest level, she couldn't even feel God's love.

"Don't be angry with her remarks, Let her feel My love through you," God said.

Now I don't have a lot of time or patience for holding the hands of mire-wallowing saints. But the more I thought and prayed about it, God showed me I haven't prayed for her enough. And there were little things I could do to let her know she is important to God and me - things that wouldn't take a lot of time, but could make a world of difference.

Thanks, Lord - for reigning me in and opening my ears to "LISTEN" to the heart of another - not just her words.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Thank You Lord For Family Time

My son is like a kid with a new toy! When they moved here, he left his grill behind. That was okay since he moved in the middle of February

But with the weather getting nicer, not to mention all the grilling programs on the Food Network, the grill bug bit him and he decided it was time to purchase a new grill.

He sent his wife and his Dad on a mission to find a grill one afternoon while he was at work. Since it was still early in the season , Wal-Mart had a few of last year's models on clearance.They were able to pick up a great grill at a great discount.But the best part of it was the "bonus" God provided - a smoker grill. Dave got 2 grills for the price of one 2007 model.

So today, he's playing with his new smoker grill, preparing "pulled meat."

"Mom, do you have a good recipe for rolls?" He told me homemade sandwich rolls would taste sooooo much better and I fell for it...Well, he is my son after all!

So while he grills the meat, I get to baby sit and make homemade rolls. Once again, I am grateful to the Lord for allowing my family to be close by after so many years of living 300+ miles away. It has been wonderful to watch Avery grow about 2-3 inches in the last few months and to watch him develop new skills and words.

Thank you Lord for family! Hope you have a great weekend with yours. God bless you all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What's in your child's little head?????

Ever wonder what your children are learning from God's word?

I heard a humorous story last week about a mom who was bound and determined to raise her preschool age children in the Word. So twice a day, she read a chapter from the Bible to them, beginning in Genesis and working her way through to Revelations.

By the time they reached Leviticus, the children's eyes would glaze over when she started reading and their interest waned because of all the "rules." But, determined to be faithful to God's command to bind His precepts to her children's hearts, she continued.

On they journeyed, through Numbers and Deuteronomy. She feared they were getting nothing from the daily readings until one spring day they came to Deuteronomy 23. The children became intrigued and interested as she began to read about life in the camp of Israel.

9 When you are encamped against your enemies, keep away from everything impure. 10 If one of your men is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, he is to go outside the camp and stay there. 11 But as evening approaches he is to wash himself, and at sunset he may return to the camp.

12 Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. 13 As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. 14 For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.(NIV)

"Ah! At last I'm getting somewhere," she thought. "They're listening, at least."

She found out just how closely they were listening a few days later when she announced a trip to a nearby attraction. "Hurry and get ready," she said. "And be sure to go to the bathroom before we leave."

Immediately, the four-year-old ran from the kitchen, out the back yard and toward the barn. Ready to discipline him sternly for disobeying, she followed him, arriving just in time to see him covering up a well-used hole with his shovel...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

God's Exquisite Gifts...

In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:
"What makes life on this frightful sod so exquisite is God's merciful propensity to perform divine tasks amid deeply flawed people."~ Beth Moore, LPM Blog ~

Just about the time this “frightful sod” becomes hard to deal with, God does something exquisite – something marked by His flawless craftsmanship and elaborate execution (definition from Meriam -Webster Online).

Discouragement, impatience and doubt seem to mark my daughter’s days as they wait for the Lord to open up a new door of ministry. It has been difficult for them to leave their place of ministry and move the family here with us while waiting for God’s leading. She has expressed her fear that she and her minister hubby are doomed to failure and that God has tossed them onto a shelf and forgotten them.

I understand her feelings because I felt that same way many times during our 30 years of pastoral ministry. Through church problems and conflict, as well as through my own times of depression (resulting from ministry and other difficulties) I found myself wondering how I could endure a life of serving God. It was a love-hate relationship most of the time. I loved Him and desperately wanted to serve Him in ministry, but hated the pain and difficulties that came with it.

Each time I felt tempted to give up, God would do something so “exquisite” my faith was renewed and my resolve to keep on was reinforced. Often it was an answer to a prayer – some little thing that had nothing to do with eternity – yet it was something I needed, given as an extra special blessing from a loving heavenly Father. Even though He didn’t take me out of the hard or painful situations, His exquisite “gift” reaffirmed my needy inner self, letting me know I was important to Him.

He still provides those little gems. Last week my daughter noticed a robin’s nest right outside the living room window with three blue eggs in it. It is so close; we can take the screen out of our window and look right down into it. None of us ever were able to observe a nest that close. (See my blog from May 7th.)

Just last evening, the eggs hatched allowing us to see three fuzzy little birds, mouths gaping for food. The newness of life right outside our window is an “exquisite” gift from the Father, reminding my daughter and myself that He will surely care for her family as He cares for those birds. In spite of our doubts, fears and imperfect lapses in faith, He was, is and always will be there for us – providing new life and new opportunities.

Thank You Lord!

If you would like to join us on: Tuesday, May 15th
Blog about the quote on your site, then visit "Laurel Wreath" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Creativity Unleashed...Well, sort of

Whenever I sit down to write a story, I've found it helps to visualize the character I write about. Up until now, the pictures of my characters were only in my head, but last week, I discovered a way to make them 3-d!

While on a mini vacation visiting a friend, we had time to kick back and just have fun together. She is a dyed-in-the-wool crafter, like me so we decided to try to make polymer clay characters from a book she recently purchased on the subject.

I wouldn't have tried it on my own - the characters in her book looked far too complicated and elaborate, but together we followed the step by step instructions and ended up with the heads of really cute characters. We didn't have time to finish dolls, but, we did enough to become familiar with the author's techniques.

Pictured here is my first attempt, a street-smart young man who probably hawks newspapers for a living. He reminds me very much of the young man in one of my short stories - a boy nobody loved or claimed, but God saw the value in him and began to work in his life.

I know it's not really great (my grand kids tell me he's a little scary) but with practice, I think I might be able to master the miniatures and at least create some inspiration for future stories.I enjoy doll-making anyway, usually the cloth kind, so this is a new wrinkle in an old hobby.

The God of infinite creativity has formed each of us from the "dust" of the earth, making us special, each with our own unique characteristics and our own story. He is crafting our lives from beginning to end. thanks God for allowing me to experience just a smidge of your creativity!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Come as a child

Last night, seven year old Eve decided to go to Bible Study with me, not for the study, but just to be able to spend time with her Grammy.

Eve was a model child, sitting there coloring away with her markers while her father delivered the lesson. She continued to color as prayer requests were taken, her markers making soft swishing noises on her paper. I bowed my head as her daddy began to pray and suddenly realized, the markers had quieted.

Glancing over, I noticed her hand, still clutching the marker, had stilled. Eve had bowed her head, closed her eyes and was silently mouthing the words of a prayer for all the requests which had been offered.

She only prayed for a moment before her eyes popped open and she began to color once more, but my heart was touched to have witnessed her sincere childlike prayer to her Father, asking Him to meet the needs of these people she barely knew. Thank God for His poignant reminder to come to Him in simplicity and trust - as a child.

Monday, May 7, 2007

God's Little Miracles

I couldn't resist including this photo this morning. We discovered this nest in the bush outside our living room window. My grand kids will be watching the process without disturbing the momma bird as these little ones hatch. Just another of God's little miracles He shares with us along the way!

Friday, May 4, 2007

On The Road Again...

Decisions, decisions - all week I've wrestled with them. I knew what the Lord wanted me to do, but was having difficulty determining the "how to get there" part. Though I continued to pray, none of the solutions seemed right.

Then this morning, the Lord reminded me of a solution I had completely forgotten about - a very viable, workable path that He had already prepared several years ago - it was just sitting there, waiting for me to step onto it!

So why did I still falter and wallow in my indecision? Well, I guess I just wasn't ready to quit wallowing yet. I could avoid starting down the unknown path, avoid following His solution by claiming I just "wasn't sure" yet.

Once I realized the avoidance behaviors, I should be ready and eager to step on the appointed path, right?

(Hanging my head) Not really. To start down that path requires trust - trust that He knows what He's doing; that His hand will lead and guide me because He has a future and hope planned for me.

Thank God He's patient with me. He knows the difficulty I have trusting. He doesn't push, but just tells me the truth and waits until I'm ready to take that deep breath and plunge forward in Him.

So, here goes, Lord. Hold my hand will You? - I'm your servant "Much Afraid"...Someday maybe I'll be ready to live up to my new name, "Grace and Glory" (Hind's Feet In High Places by Hannah Hurnard).

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Extreme Trust...

Romans 7: 17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. (The Message)

Paul was so down to earth! He knew the law - he knew what he "ought" to do as a man and as a follower of God, but found he had trouble doing it - especially in his own strength.

Awhile back I started a lifestyle changing program to eat better and exercise more. It's difficult to exercise with the severe arthritis in my knees - even low impact exercises hurt if I'm not careful about overdoing it. And the eating plan is good, but I tend to get hung up at times, letting things get the better of me.

Like Paul, I am finding more and more that it is a spiritual battle - a matter of keeping my eyes focused on Him and His strength rather than my own. I continued to read the rest of Romans 7 and then into chapter 8 in The Message.

He describes Christ's " death and resurrection as a "deep healing" for sin (8:4)and our old nature. Then he instructs us instead to "embrace what the Spirit is doing in us" rather than trying so hard to do it on our own.

What a profound lesson in trust! Rather than trying to control my appetite by sheer willpower, I must embrace Him tighter and open myself to allow Him to work in me. There's the real battle - opening myself to His power in my life (trusting!)rather than controlling life on my terms.

Looks like I've got a lot to learn...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Cool, Clear Water

Moving can be hard on pets. Muffie, our beautiful long haired cat, had a real difficult time adjusting when my husband and I moved in with his parents many, many years ago. She found a place to hide under the back porch - right above the cistern. She hid there, birthed her litter of babies there and rarely made an appearance in the main house.

The house which was an old coal mining company house, didn't have a deep drilled well - only a shallow hand dug well which collected surface water. Usually there was enough water for laundry, bathing and such, but during the hotter summer months, the shallow well often went dry, forcing Dad to take his truck to a nearby spring and haul containers of water back which he pumped into the well.

The problem happened when one of Muffie's babies slipped and drowned in the shallow well. No one realized what had happened until the well water began to smell funny. Though we were sad about the kitty, it's death caused bigger problems.

We stopped drinking the water. Dad had to get in there and drain all the water out so he could clean and disinfect the whole well. Then he had to visit the spring and refill the well. Needless to say, he wasn't very happy with Muffie or her kittens!

In the book of Jeremiah (2:13), the prophet speaks about the children of Israel forsaking God, the "fountain of living water" and trying to draw water from broken and fouled cisterns - their worship of the Baals. This false worship left them sick and thirsty, rather than satisfied and whole from walking with the Lord.

How thankful I am for the good, sweet, satisfying Living Water we have in Christ who fills us up and brings health and healing to souls in distress! O Taste and see that the Lord is Good!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Perseverance and Protection

In "Other" Words

This week, "In 'Other' Words" will be hosted by Iris (eph 2810) over at Sting my Heart. Iris chose a quote that's short and sweet; it's about perseverance.
This week's quote is:

"By perseverance the snail reached the ark." ~ Charles Spurgeon ~

Picture this poor snail struggling inch by torturous inch toward the ark and safety. He senses the urgency to get there and commits himself to the journey. “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” Spurgeon had the right of it.

But consider the rest of the story – along with our snail’s perseverance, God place His protective hand around the snail as he journeyed. The dangers were many – the lumbering, careless flat feet of the pair of elephants as they strode by; the hungry glances from the crows looking for an exclusive French escargot lunch as they flew overhead toward the safety of the ark…

As we journey toward heaven our home, we need to be committed like the snail. Without an attitude of commitment, we’ll never reach our goal. But may we never forget God’s protective hand on our lives – His help when we feel beaten down by the careless acts of others; His love and care when people around us threaten to chew us up and spit us out along the way.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 KJV

“By perseverance (and God’s protective hand), the snail made it to the ark.”

If you would like to join us today, blog about your thoughts on this quote. Then visit "Sting My Heart" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.