Lessons from the Heart

By Betty Boyd

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All families have their ups and downs and mine is no different. Each person learns different values, and ideas based upon their environment. I grew up in a home with Italian and Irish-Scottish heritage. My Dad was stern, while my Mom was gentle and kind.

The value of hard work and how to spend money wisely was instilled from an early age . I came from a family of five siblings, and my parents, so money had to go a long way. There was not much languishing, there were always chores to do, homework and of course, attending church every Sunday.

I grew up in the turbulent 1960’s and 1970’s and watched our country change. My ideas stem from this and being frequently punished to keep us all in line. My Dad loved all of us, but it was hard for him to be demonstrative. My Mom was the light in an otherwise very strict upbringing.

At the time, this seemed too harsh for me to comprehend, but over time I have come to appreciate that my parents were doing the best they could.  Both are gone, but my love for them has not diminished, it has grown.

We had our arguments and struggles, but also forgiveness, and the unconditional love that all parents want to give their children. I feel so blessed to have been raised in such a way as to truly appreciate what I have, to dream, and do what I do today.

I am a widow with no children, and have no immediate family in the area.  I do have my Savior, my church family, close friends, and my two brothers to call upon when I need help of any kind.

It all comes down to my world view. Do I want to be bitter and angry for how I was raised? My Mom and Dad were great examples of what parents should be. I am truly grateful for the family I have, and look forward to being the best person I can be for all.

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Family is important …

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3 Questions Wednesday with Susan Holt Simpson

Susan Holt Simpson

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday, Susan Holt Simpson.

Susan Holt Simpson is a freelance writer who lives in Kentucky with her husband and three grown sons. When she’s not writing, she’s probably in the garden with a hoe or a camera in hand.

Susan has followed Christ since the age of ten, sometimes lagging behind and other times running ahead, but always safe in His love.

Question: What inspires you?

Susan:  Old things inspire me. A box of beat-up doorknobs, an antique wedding veil, or a bundle of letters from bygone days can conjure up all sorts of story ideas. Also, everyday natural beauty—sunsets and storm clouds, lightning bugs and birdsong—generates so many opportunities for wonder, which for me, often leads to inspiration.

I love combing through old things and wondering about where they came from, and who owned them. It’s an imagination feast!

Next question is a bit of fun–You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Susan:  My crayon name would be Heavenly Blue. It’s the color of a high Kentucky sky on a summer day or the exact shade of my favorite summer vine, the Heavenly Blue Morning Glory.

Well, the blue spectrum suggests that you are soft, soothing, compassionate and caring. I love blue, especially that Kentucky sky.

Final Question–As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Susan: I wanted to be whatever character I was reading at the time. For a while, I wanted to be a nurse, like Cherry Ames. Then I longed to solve mysteries like Nancy Drew. I even thought maybe, a very big maybe, I could be a jockey and ride a Black Stallion. As a writer, I’m still deeply inspired by what I read and often grow in the same direction as the characters I admire.

I so seldom hear of others who’ve read Cherry Ames. I loved those books and longed to be a candystriper like she was!

Susan: Thanks so much for this chance to visit with your readers!

Thank you, Susan, for visiting 3 Questions Wednesday.

To learn more about Susan, visit her blog, Sweet Annabelle, or connect with her on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram.


Readers, Susan is a contributor to Michelle Medlock Adam’s book, Love and Care for the One and Only You. She is graciously giving this book (print version) to one among our commenters. Here are the details–

 

Love & Care For the One and Only You

What if we valued and cared for ourselves the way one does a masterpiece sculpted by a master artist? Each of us is a unique creation crafted by the ultimate Artist. When we realize that, how can we help but love and care for the body, mind, and heart God has given us?
Weekly encouragements along with practical tips and suggestions will help you love and care for yourself as your Creator intended.

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Joy in Adversity

We are so happy to have my friend, Edie Melson, share her beautiful story about family…

By Edie Melson

I’ve come to realize that the seeds of faith begin their journey to the light, in the dark. As the mother of a former Marine, I’ve been through the painful process of blooming in adversity.

Neither I nor my husband come from a military family, so our son’s decision to enlist straight after high school caught us off guard. We weren’t ashamed or disappointed in him, although we were worried about where this decision could take him. But we could see his sincere desire to follow God’s leading in his life and knew that where ever this road led, God would see him through.

But the week I said goodbye to him as he got ready to leave for his first deployment in Iraq, all those thoughts of faith and how God would take care of him fled. I found myself engulfed in a terror so deep it colored every corner of my world a murky gray.

Throughout the last couple days I had with him, I was overcome with fear and uncertainty. As we sat down to eat, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the last time I’d share a meal with him. As he posed for a picture with his brothers, in the back of my mind was the fear that this would be the last picture I’d ever have of him. All through that time, the what-ifs continued to crowd out the faith I thought I had.

Then he was gone—half a world away—fighting an enemy whose main focus was on killing him. It was during those deployments that I learned about darkness of the heart. I wanted to protect him, I ached to shield him from what I knew he was experiencing, but I couldn’t. So I did the one thing I could do. It became my course of last resort because I was at the end of my own strength.

I prayed.

And I prayed.

And I prayed some more.

I learned to take my overwhelming fear to the only One who could protect him. And I left my son in God’s hands. The prayers weren’t pretty. Often times they weren’t even words. They truly were the groanings we read about it in Scripture (Romans 8:26-27).

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was like a seed, planted deep in the ground. I was surrounded by darkness, by rough, rocky soil, pressing in on all sides crushing the life from me. But through that incredible pressure, the shell of my own strength fell away, and I slowly began to push toward the light that I knew lay just beyond the darkness.

And my course of last resort became my strength, It became the first place I turned. Instead of praying in desperation, I began to pray in confidence. When the fears threatened to overwhelm me, I learned to lean into God, instead of turning in on myself.

The final harvest of that time of darkness came to fruition May 12, 2015,  just after Mother’s Day. It’s a book of prayers for those with loved ones in the military, While My Soldier Serves. How I longed for just such a book during that dark time. Now God has taken my time of darkness and is shining it as a light for those who are also facing the incredible stress of having a loved one at war.

I can say with confidence, never doubt that God will bring a harvest of joy, no matter how dark the days you’re facing now.

Click to tweet: Prayer: my course of last resort became my strength.

I’d love to know how you get through the dark times and find a way to bloom. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


While My Soldier Serves

Thousands of families send loved ones off to fight on a daily basis. These families spend a lot of time living in a world out of control. This kind of stress can take an incredible toll, but there is hope. When we feel helpless, we can take our fears to the One who loves us more than anything and holds the universe in His hands.

In this book you’ll find the words to usher you into His presence. These prayers are a place to visit again and again as you take your own fears to God. They’re just a starting point, written to help you find your own voice as you call out on behalf of the one you love.

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Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or other writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her passion to help those who are struggling find the strength they need to triumph is reflected in the characters she creates and the insight she shares. Connect with her on her website, through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find her books on Amazon.com.

Spark:The Firebrand Chronicles, Book One by J.M. Hackman

Today I’d like to introduce author, J.M. Hackman.  In 2015, she won the Editor’s Choice Award in the Realm Makers Short Story Contest for her story, “The Escort,” published in RealmScapes: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Anthology. Her debut novel, Spark, has released and I’ve asked her a few questions…

Hi, J.M.! Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

J.M.: I grew up in the mountains of Pennsylvania. An only child, my imagination was what prevented me from being too lonely. After graduating from Penn State, I married my boyfriend of five years and settled in the same town I grew up in. My mechanical engineer husband and I have been married for twenty-two years (this June), and we have two fantastic girls (ages 11 and 17).

What genre are your books? What draws you to this genre?

J.M.: In 1995, I began writing Christian romance, then took a break to have children. During that break, I read many of the YA series: Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Lord of the Rings. But none of them had any female protagonists. So I began writing Spark, a YA Christian fantasy with a courageous heroine. Although my stories are speculative, a strong thread of romance twines through each one. This genre is the perfect vehicle to show the fight between good and evil. Readers who would never read a Christian story might be more likely to pick up a fantasy novel. And I love YA because it’s such a fantastic age for discovering what your True North is and who you want to become.

Do you work to an outline or prefer to see where an idea takes you?

J.M.: I have a very rough outline (I use index cards) of where I want my story to start and end, with a few key events in between. Everything else is open. It makes things interesting. Right now, I’m fighting some of my characters because they’re not following orders. I’ll have to do some re-writing to make them fall in line!

What is the hardest thing about writing?

J.M.: Writing a synopsis. For me, trying to fit an entire narrative on a single piece of paper is a ridiculous exercise in futility.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

J.M.: Hopefully, I’ll still be writing stories! I’d like to be finishing up my series The Firebrand Chronicles and starting a fairy tale retelling that’s been simmering on the “back burner” for a while. I’d also like to have the opportunity to meet more speculative fiction authors and teach at a conference or two.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit, J.M.!


Spark:The Firebrand Chronicles, Book One

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands. Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil. Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time? And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?


J.M. Hackman has held many positions: assistant librarian, office assistant, office manager, substitute teacher, writer, wife, and mother. She still holds the last three. And loves it. She received a degree in Elementary Education from Pennsylvania State University and now spends her days writing stories, consuming massive quantities of chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds.

You can find her at www.jmhackman.com.

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Spark is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kobo,

3 Questions Wednesday with Melissa Henderson

Melissa Henderson and her husband Alan live in Mechanicsville, Virginia. Friends and family call her “Mimi”.

Stories are constantly flowing through her mind. She can laugh at herself, and there are plenty of experiences in life that bring laughter and joy. That is why their family motto is “It’s Always A Story with the Henderson’s”.

Melissa schedules a time to write each day and is writing her first Christian inspirational fiction story.  She spiritually prepares for writing stories by praying first and asking God to give the words that He wants her to share with others.

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday, Melissa! Let’s get to the first question:

What inspires you?

Melissa:  I am inspired by my faith. I am a child of God. His love and His mercies are new each day.  My family also inspires me. Our family is known for funny experiences. We are blessed with the ability to laugh at ourselves. I pray we all will draw closer to God each day.

I love that, Melissa. It’s evident that your faith in God is number one in your life–and humor is its own inspiration, isn’t it? It’s a survival tactic for me!

Next question–

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Melissa:  I would be “Playful Pink”. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, people started giving me items that were the color pink. Pink hats, scarves, socks, pencils, notepads, etc.  I have an upbeat playful personality and my favorite color is pink. Therefore, “Playful Pink” would be my crayon color and it would be bright pink.

Ooo, I like that! Goes right along with your earlier statement about humor. Now, last question–

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Melissa:  As a child, I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. My parents and teachers gave me a great love for reading and writing. Today, I am writing my first Christian fiction novel.

What a wonderful testimony of how God brings us full circle and grants the desires of our hearts.

Melissa, thanks for joining us today, and sharing so much of your heart and soul through your answers to our 3 Questions. I look forward to hearing from you in the future. May God bless your writing!

Coffee-loving readers–Melissa is giving away a $10 Starbucks card! Leave a comment below for a chance to win. Ask her a question, or just tell Melissa how much you love coffee! Wish I could enter. 🙂

Please visit Melissa’s blog at www.melissaghenderson.com


Join us next week as we welcome Susan Simpson Holt to 3 Questions Wednesday!

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Families, Families, Everywhere

by Carlton Hughes

This month’s blog topic is “Families and Children.” Wow, that’s a narrow, laser-focused subject, isn’t it?

Sorry blog-powers-that-be: sarcasm is my love language.

Seriously, it’s a broad topic but one of my favorites. I am definitely a family man, in varied ways.

For full disclosure purposes, I was raised as an only child. One of my favorite cartoons is titled “Only Child Problems” and features a boy yelling to his father, “Dad! I just hit myself!” It pretty much sums up a good deal of my childhood. However, I was blessed with a large extended family. Cousins, aunts, uncles—I’m rich with them. My cousins became my brothers and sisters, only without all of the sibling squabbling and rivalry. Even so, I always wanted a brother.

Fast forward in life a bit, and God showed His sense of humor. This only child met and fell in love with a lady who is the oldest of seven, and all of those siblings are boys. Built-in brothers!

We had our first son in 1996 and soon decided we didn’t want him to grow up alone. We made that decision the morning of my wife’s doctor’s appointment, when we found out another one was on the way. See above about God’s sense of humor. Our second son arrived two years after the first one. Life has been an adventure with two boys, and my wife and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I could go on and on about my wonderful immediate family, but I have also learned that “family” and even “children” can take many different forms.

I have been a teacher for (gulp) thirty years (Yes, I started when I was a mere child), and I consider my students my “babies,” even though they are high school and college students. Some have even followed me home and become like my own. If the students are like my children, my co-workers are family. We have been there for each other through the good times and the bad times—we laugh together, we cry together, we tease each other.

I am also a children’s pastor, so that gives my wife and I even more kids. Some of my former church children are now in college, but they know “Mrs. Kathy” and “Brother Carlton” will always have their backs.. My church family is also very special to me, truly my brothers and sisters in Christ.

There you have it—my take on families and children. What’s your story?

Click to tweet:  I am definitely a family man, in varied ways.

WRITING PROMPT: Think of someone at work or at church (or simply a friend) who is as close to you as family. How did you meet this person? Tell a story that sums up your relationship.