Monthly Archives

May 2017

Field of Ashes Life

Some Sweet Thing

May 31, 2017

Often we lose things…or people…we thought we should have. Life could only be right with this wonderful thing in it. And then suddenly, it’s gone. Vanished. Never to be put back in our hands again. Never within our view. A memory. Simply gone.

Our hearts ache and mourn. We cannot see the purpose. We cannot see the plan. We cannot see our Master’s hand…but it is there. Take it and trust. He is not finished yet. This is not the end, only the beginning. This is the inciting event, not the epilogue. Let Him comfort. Seek Him. Follow Him. He has some sweet thing in store.


After losing her fiancé to the wild elements of the Montana Territory, Jessica Bennett is sure the key to her happiness is in leaving Twin Pines. But from the moment she steps foot in the untamed, cowtown of Grassdale, Jess discovers a whole new world of challenges: An unruly superintendent, a ramshackle school, drunken cowboys, and a letter from home that changes everything. When the hidden wounds of her heart are discovered, will one man’s secret past hold the key to her healing?

Easy has never been the path Marcus Bennett sought, but as summer unfolds he comes face to face with the one struggle he has avoided for years. When life takes an unexpected turn, he finds himself torn between his responsibilities, his love for his family, and the promptings of his heart. Would God really ask him to abandon his home and family?

This sequel to Winter’s Prey explores the beauty of God’s amazing grace and astounding love, the freedom of surrender, and the hope of experience, though faith be tried by fire.

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Featured Life

The Danger of Distraction

May 17, 2017

The grown-up in me refused to cry. Not there. Not in the middle of the store. Not where everyone could see that my heart was disappointed and confused in a moment when it was supposed to be rejoicing. But the truth was, I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand how, after pouring hundreds of hours into something I believed so firmly was the direction the Lord was leading, this important moment could come to so little.

(Image courtesy Pablo.buffer. com)

There is a sense in which you could say that writing a book doesn’t cost anything. [This of course doesn’t include blood, sweat, tears, late nights, early mornings, deadline stress, continuing education, writing hours, research hours, editing hours, layout hours, publication hours, or marketing hours.]  You could say that writing a book doesn’t cost anything more than the instruments used to write it.

But writing a book also doesn’t pay anything unless you sell it. That is the stark reality of life.

I have three basic purposes for writing the books I write:

1. To honor the Lord
2. To point people toward Him
3. To help provide for my “family” (My mom and me)

I wish it were possible to write only for the first two reasons, but even writers and missionaries have to eat. We enjoy eating actually, just like everyone else. As this book launch has unfolded, and I have seen money going out and going out and going out and only a little trickling back in here and there, my heart rate has skyrocketed more than once. I’m not usually one to stress over these things, but in this case I had much invested in time, effort, and money—all of which came out of limited stores.

Watching it do so well the first day while it was free and then seeing the activity stop when it went into the paid store was crushing. And then putting enormous effort into planning an event for the book and having a wonderful time, but only seeing 9 books go out the door—I was ready to cry. If it hadn’t been for a friend who met me after the book signing and unwittingly distracted me from the truth, if it hadn’t been for the 12” dandelions in my yard waiting for my attention when I got home, if it hadn’t been for grace—I would have been a mess Saturday night.

Sunday morning, I woke up with a heart crying out to the Lord. “Father,” it said, “how do I walk into my classroom and teach my Sunday School students ‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow’ when my heart is so confused on this matter this morning?”

You see, we’ve been memorizing Matthew 6:24-34 in Sunday School, and it has been awesome watching over the last few months as God has indeed shown that He will provide as we step out and let Him prove Himself. But this moment was not awesome. This moment was overwhelming.

I opened my Bible and began reading through all of the cross-references for the passage. Then I considered the phrase we were going to be starting with that morning: “Take no thought.” What did that really mean? I got out my Strong’s concordance, started digging, and had much to think about by the time I left the house.

Even as the Sunday School hour was starting, my heart was still sorting, still trying to understand, still trying to reconcile where things were. But as we sang the opening song, things started falling into place.

Before I go any farther there are three things, three words, you need to know:

1. μεριμναω (merimnao)– to be anxious about
2. μεριμνα (merimna)– solicitude through the idea of distraction
3. μεριζω (merizo) – to part

Class began with the question, “What does it mean to ‘take no thought’?” Does that mean we aren’t to think about our grocery list? Does that mean we are supposed to get a job but be concerned about doing a good job? Does that mean that we aren’t supposed to look at our children and say, “Oh, you’ve grown out of those clothes, you need new ones”? The children all agreed this wasn’t what this verse was talking about. So what was it talking about?

Well in in it’s simplest form, (merimnao) the phrase “take no thought” means don’t be anxious. This was not a concept the kids had trouble understanding. We’ve all been anxious—anxious about bills, anxious about tests, anxious about work, anxious about whether our friends will like us. And when we become anxious we soon become distracted with care (merimna) because our brains have been “parted” so to speak with all of our worries (merizo).

A dry erase marker was laying on the classroom table. I picked it up, removed the lid, and asked the kids, “What happens if I part this lid from the marker?”
They all just looked at me like, “You’re a teacher and you don’t know that?” And then they said, “It dries out!”

Exactly. It dries out and becomes useless.

At this point,  the chalkboard came into play. I’m not an artist, so in real life the following picture looked like a plum with worms:

God has given us one brain, and He wants it to be focused on Him, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness. When we start “taking thought” distraction starts taking residence in our brains, dividing our attention. “I have a problem,” it says, “I have a big problem. I will never find the answer to this problem. I wish I didn’t have this problem.”

Our heart cries out, “God can fix this problem!”

And then our brain throws in that dangerous word. “BUT…I have a problem!”

At this point, we decided that our brains sort of resemble a dog chasing its tail. This is where we see the danger of distraction. Soon the heart, like that marker missing its lid, begins to tire of having to cry out so loud over all the distractions in the brain. Its voice grows quieter. It dries out and dies away. And WE become useless.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. One SLIGHT change can make all the difference.

This is where it must rest. This is when our confidence in Him must be sure. Do we know Him? Have we seen Him work? Have we seen Him prove Himself? Then this is where we must set aside distraction and walk on in the hope of experience. If we haven’t given Himself a chance to prove Himself, then this is the perfect opportunity to begin, to learn of His promises, His faithfulness, and His supply.

Suddenly time was up, class was over, and my heart was at peace. It is still at peace—two days later. Nothing has changed in my circumstances. My focus has just been adjusted.

Where is your focus? Are you allowing cares to bring anxiety, distraction, and division to your pursuit of God, His Kingdom, and His righteousness? Or are you thinking on those things that will keep your heart fixed on God? Put the cap back on the marker. Listen to the truth the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart and rest there. God can fix the problem!

Featured The Writing Journey

How A Book Comes About

May 9, 2017

When I was a little girl, I used to pick up books and wonder about where they had come from. Who drew the pictures? Who wrote the story? What were those people like? What was the process like? My dad worked in a print shop at a Bible institute for a short time when I was about nine. I was amazed by the presses and the processes. When we moved to Montana, he worked in various print shops for several years. I joined him during high school and in-between trips to Russia, working in both pre- and post-press operations. The beauty of the process never got old.

There is something intriguing about seeing a book move from an idea to a manuscript to a printed product. But it’s not just the product that’s so special. It’s the fact that the product can bring smiles, make us laugh or make us cry, give us insight into the past as well as the present, teach us something we’ve never known before, remind us of things we’ve forgotten…and can even change our lives.

Obviously, I don’t have a printing press in my living room, but I thought since I’m starting out on a new book, this would be the perfect time to share the rest of the process with others who, like me, have ever picked up a book and wondered, “Where did this come from?” Creating a book is more than just writing a story. It is a craft, which requires as much creativity and WORK as any other craft or trade. I hope through this journey to share with you the joy and labor of writing, the process of turning a manuscript into a book, and the beauty of the finished product. I hope you’ll come along!

Where a Book Begins

Once the general idea comes and the initial thinking and mental plotting is done, where do you go from there? The answer can vary depending on what sort of book you’re writing. It also varies based on what approach the author finds most helpful. Some authors, especially those writing non-fiction, might start with a mind-map or point-by-point outline. Other authors use storyboards, outlines, sticky notes, or any one of a host of other techniques.

When I first started writing, I outlined by scene, and then wrote an expanded outline, which had a minimum of a paragraph under each scene heading. This created pages and pages and pages of outline and was cumbersome to use.

A few years ago, while tutoring, I found a new method, which I have come to love. It puts the basics of the entire book all on one line, while at the same time showing the story arc (stasis, inciting event, growing action, climax, and final stasis). Like this:

 

But, as you can see from the picture, the overall plot of the new book required three story arc lines: one for Jess, one for Marc, and one for Wesley! Something could get missed that way. I wanted something that would pull all three together, so I combined the three into a handwritten, vertical timeline:

Then I went back (for the 3rd time) and looked over the parts of the book that have already been written. (The Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens series was originally one book…it was really long!) I discovered that the book couldn’t be left in the same order that I had already plotted, and that I might need to be able to move a few things around as I write. My handwritten timeline was three pages long and not flexible enough. It was also still incomplete. So, I set up a document in Pages and recreated the timeline using moveable text boxes. Each color represents a specific character or group of characters:

But, as you can see from the picture, I realized there was a thread missing from ALL three of my attempts. I also realized that I needed to do a little Montana research. I found some old maps online and began plotting. Unfortunately, the maps I found weren’t very accurate, so I went back to my original plan based on my own knowledge of state geography. After a lot of thought and prayer, I carefully penciled in the remaining thread, and then added a new set of colored text boxes to the Pages document:

Finally, on my fourth attempt, the outline is complete!

Some people ask if an outline is necessary. In my opinion—absolutely! An outline is a road map. You can detour along the way, but you always have a way to get back on track, to make sure you make it from start to finish.

So that is where the journey begins. In the next blog, I’ll share about where the writing starts. Not the physical location, but the process. It’s pretty cool. Enjoy the journey!

 

Are you a writer? What plotting/outlining methods and tools do you use? Share in the Comments below!

 

Here’s another approach getting a story started from my best friend and fellow author, Anna Huckabee. Check it out!