Blessings and Blogs

All Things!

It’s been a crazy six months. I won’t bore you with the finer details (at least, not today), but the short of it is as follows:

 

The original publisher of my book closed its doors without reasonable notice, leaving me with nothing more than a promise that they would work to connect me with another publisher who would pick up where they left off, implying that this other entity would honor the original contract. I was hopeful, but I wasn’t holding my breath.

 

I emailed a reply, requesting more information, and I waited. As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I heard nothing more.

 

Eventually, I got over my frustrations–at least a little–and I prayed more fervently. I asked God whether He wanted me to continue pursuing this passion He had given me, or whether He wanted me to wait. After almost two weeks of constant prayer, I submitted my second book to several agencies. A few responded positively, and I prayed some more. I was very excited about one of the agencies in particular, but I didn’t quite feel that peace I’d been hoping for. I asked God to either give me that understanding-passing peace, or close the door. He closed the door.

 

Finally, a new publisher responded to one of my queries. It was, to be honest, a publisher I’d never heard much about. I can’t even say for certain what it was about them which drew me to submit my manuscript. But, I was drawn, nonetheless.

 

And now, not only am I under contract with Ambassador International for my second book in the series, but they contracted with me to republish my first book, as well!

 

So, I was able to make some tweaks on the first installment of the series, and now the ball is rolling once again! God is good!

 

The takeaway? The theme of the series is pretty much Romans 8:28 fleshed out. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” And now, here I am, being reminded by my wonderful heavenly Father that when He says ALL THINGS, He means it!

 

I’ll keep you posted!

Yayyyy!!!

Book 2 is being edited, and I’ve learned so much since the publishing of the first installment in my “The Calling of Casey Evand” series! It’s my fervent prayer that you’ll enjoy the second installment even more than the first, and it is my hope that you’ll appreciate the improvements I’ve learned to implement regarding flow and the art of writing well, in general.

 

See more regarding the latest in the “news” section!

 

Have a great summer!!

 

God Bless!!!

The More Grateful I Am…

It’s that season, again–when we intentionally focus on being thankful for things and giving gifts as outward expressions of love.  It’s a wonderful time steeped in sweet intentions and warm hearts.  It’s a time when we purpose to reflect upon our own lives, and we determine to remember just how blessed we are.

 

But why only for a season?

 

I have a quote upon the wall of my home’s breakfast nook–author unknown–which states, “The more grateful I am, the more reasons I find to be grateful.”

 

I love that we dedicate a season to thankfulness and giving and celebrating God, the birth of Jesus Christ, and the blessings we enjoy as a result of knowing Christ as savior.  I love that even those who cannot yet claim such a relationship still feel drawn to the spirit of thankfulness and lovingkindness.  It’s a beautiful thing.

 

And yet, how much more enriched might our lives be if we purposed to be thankful all year long? How much more fulfilling might they be if we remembered that the celebration of Christmas–which is, essentially, the acknowledgment of the identity of Jesus Christ as God Himself being crammed into the tiny shell of a human baby so that He might live and dwell among us so as to eventually fulfill our need for a Savior?  How much more might we be humbled and awestruck by the mighty love of our Redeemer if we embraced it every day of the year?

 

It’s just a thought…

 

Have a wonderful 2015 Thanksgiving and Christmas season, and may it carry through to Christmas 2016!

The Best Negative Review…

 

Every author deals with them.

 

We pour our souls onto paper, and we wait for the world to react. We hope for the world to notice. We pray for a passing glance. We wait.

 

We begin to be encouraged as accolades come. We read positive reviews and examine high reader ratings, and we are thrilled. But then, it inevitably happens. We get that first negative review.

 

When I first saw the review, I was bummed. For a brief moment, I was downright sad.

 

It was a rather lengthy review, and the criticisms were heaped upon more criticisms.

 

The first criticism: my book is too “preachy.” There was the insinuation that the story contained too many life applications; too many realistic truths. The reader had wanted to be entertained without being challenged.

 

Then, the reader was annoyed by most of the characters. The characters don’t behave the way the reader wanted them to behave. The characters are a little too imperfect for the reader’s tastes.

 

The main character, Casey Evand, is too weak; too pathetic. The character struggles with victim mentality, and she doesn’t overcome her bondage as quickly or as dramatically as the reader would have preferred. Again, there was the insinuation that the character is too realistic.

 

On and on the criticisms went, and as I read, my smile broadened. For this negative feedback was among the most encouraging reviews I’ve ever received.

 

Within the lines of this rebuke, there were a few insights which I felt were helpful criticisms which I can keep in mind as I deal with the publishing of future installments, but the rest were–in the end–simply edifying. It does not seem that the reader’s intention was in any way to edify, and yet God used her words to encourage me–to remind me once again about why it is that I write.

 

My goal in writing this first installment in the series was to set the stage for the six-book saga; to deal with realities faced by many people–and many people of faith–in a truly realistic manner. There is drama, but it is cloaked in believable possibility. My writing is designed to convey truth through fiction.

 

And most wonderfully, the reader ended her critique with a rather surprising admission: she is looking forward to reading the next installment to see what happens! How cool is that?

 

I’m sure this first negative review will not be the last, just as I’m certain that not all of the negative comments to come will contain such thrilling complaints. But, for the first negative review to be such an apparently unintended encouragement is a pretty big blessing.

 

To God be the glory!

Waiting Upon the Lord…

It’s been an interesting few months. I’ve been praying about how to proceed with regard to seeing the publication of the second installment of The Calling Of Casey Evand series. With pepperings of interest from a few large publishing companies coming to naught thus far, and with my hopes of finding a reputable faith-based literary agent at a sort of standstill, I’m befuddled.

 

I’ve heard from so many wonderful readers who have told me that they have been blessed by The Crimson Purpose. Some have shared with me testimonies of their own walks through trials reminiscent of those facing the story’s characters. Some have shared with me assurances that I had described their struggles with false Christian guilt, victim mentality, or depressive tendencies accurately. I give God the glory for this, for I believe that, in articulating struggles which we face–especially as believers–we can gain a better perspective, and we can respond as God would have us to respond.

 

And, of course, such encouragement from readers makes me all the more excited about the prospect of being able to offer the next book in the series. I’ve been working on tweaks and improvements, getting it ready for the professional editors. I’ve been praying over the content, hoping that the words will serve to continue the theme of the first book while entertaining and engaging the reader. I’ve been doing all I know to do… and yet, I’ve been increasingly concerned that nothing big has happened, lately; nothing to push that next book onto the presses.

 

But, then, God did something which should not have surprised me–for my God is indeed a big God. On the day during which I was feeling especially low–especially frustrated about the lull in sales and uncertain as to what my course of action should be–I prayed, as I’ve been praying. But, this time, I tried to pin God down on a definitive answer. Silly me.

 

God didn’t answer me in the way that I asked Him to answer me. Instead, He showed me that my duty is to follow His leading. Nothing more. Nothing less.

 

Someone to whom I’d given a copy of my book nearly four months previous–someone I barely knew–crossed my path. This person told me that after reading the book, it was passed on to several others. He shared with me the impact the story had made on himself and his wife, and their hopes of using the book as a tool to reach out to a dear friend struggling with many of the same issues addressed in the book. We spoke for some time, and I left that conversation feeling profoundly humbled. God had answered me in a way which far exceeded my hopes of knowing the future. Rather, God showed me the present.

 

As if that weren’t enough of an epiphany, God, only a few hours later, lead a lovely young woman to share with me–quite unprovoked–about something in her past with which she still occasionally struggles. The things she described were so reminiscent of the issues in the book, that I assumed that she had read the book and had sought me out because of the similarities. But she hadn’t read it. Humbled yet again, I told the woman that I wanted her to have a copy of The Crimson Purpose. It wasn’t a gesture born of arrogance, but of a certainty that God had placed me at that place with a means to minister to that woman. God is so good, and I am so thankful that He is allowing me to be an encouragement through my writing.

 

So, no, I don’t yet know what tomorrow will bring regarding the publishing of the second installment of the series, but I am striving to remember that God does know. And He will let me in on His plans when it suits Him to do so. Praise God!

 

 

 

Out With the Old…

In the spirit of saying goodbye to 2013 and welcoming in a new year, we ponder possible resolutions and tentative intentions.  We consider all that was positive about our past, and all that needs addressing in order to improve upon our present and future.  In short, we plan.

 

When it comes to new years’ resolutions, it seems that many of us allow our best intentions to fade to anonymity by the end of January.  And so, we may wonder whether there is a point in making any commitments at all.

 

I would suggest that there is indeed a benefit to making resolutions.  The key, however, is keeping the resolution truly achievable and worthwhile.

 

In the past, I’ve committed to losing weight; a fairly common resolution.  My mistake, though, was to commit without really being committed.  The goal was a worthy one.  Achieving the goal would have improved my health and my self-confidence.  But, it was such a big goal that it wasn’t long before discouragement won the day, and I sort of forgot about the idea.  Instead, I should have committed to a smaller “first step” goal, with the overall goal set in proper perspective.  And so, this year, one of my resolutions is indeed to lose some weight, but I’m framing it differently.  Instead of a large and daunting number for which to shoot, I’m shooting to weigh less at the end of January than I did at the end of December; whether it’s a half a pound or five pounds, it’ll be progress.  From there, I’ll shoot to weigh less by the end of February than I did at the end of January.  You get the idea.

 

Now that you know my strategy, you may wonder why I’m posting it on a writer’s blog.  It’s simple.  I’m resolving to implement this approach to my professional life, so that 2014 might be even better than was 2013.  My book, The Crimson Purpose, has done well, but I want to see it do even better.  I want to see the demand for the second installment grow, so that I might be able to move up its publication.  An exciting and daunting goal, but again, I’ll approach it month by month.  Baby steps.  I’m hoping to sell more books in January than I did last month, and so on.  With a little hard work, a lot of opportunity, and God’s will, it’ll be a wonderful 2014!

 

A huge thank you to everyone out there who has encouraged me in this exciting venture, and I appreciate your willingness to stick with me as I follow my God-given passion to write fiction for God’s glory.  And, I wish you well as you focus on your own resolutions!  God Bless!

Perspective…

We all have preferences and passions.  We all have callings in addition to the purpose outlined for every believer–the purpose of glorifying God and reaching souls with the Truth of the saving power of Jesus Christ.

 

For me, I believe my second most important calling (second to the aforementioned purpose shared with every believer) is to be a godly wife and mother.  This is no small calling, as I have learned.  Nor it is an easy calling.  But, it is my calling.

 

Which brings me to my third calling.  Obviously I’m speaking in rather generic terms, for, as a lover of words, I could make this list quite extensive.  But, so that I might get my intentions across, I am making an effort at speaking concisely.  My third calling is to write.

 

I’ve received a lot of encouragement along the way, but I’ll admit that there are days when I wonder whether my efforts are worth it.  After all, I haven’t yet reached tens of thousands of readers as I had dreamed I would.  I haven’t yet made any “top tens.”  At this point, I’d be largely encouraged by a “top hundred.”  Some days…

 

But then, God will remind me–whether gently or rather harshly–that my ways are not His ways.  He has placed the passion to write for His glory within my heart.  He has given me this passion; this calling.  My responsibility is not to track the numbers.  My responsibility is to respond to His calling.

 

And when my perspective is a little better, God invariably reminds me of those who have read my book, and who have been encouraged or ministered to as a result of reading it.  God reminds me that it isn’t really about me at all.  It’s about Him.

 

And so it is with this in mind that I share a prayer request.  The second installment of the series is currently being considered for publication.  Will you please join me in praying that, if God wills it, then this company will offer a fair contract regarding this endeavor?  If God has something else in mind, then pray that I might discern it in faith, and press on.  And finally, please pray that this series will reach those whom it needs to reach, regardless of how many or how few that may be.

 

Blessings!

 

Wicked Awesome!

I grew up in the Midwest, but I’ve been living just inside the city limits of Boston, Massachusetts, for about eight years, now.  It’s been nice, but of course I’ve long accepted that I’ll never blend in as a bonified “New Englander,” for my cover would be blown before I’d ever managed to complete a single sentence.  I simply don’t have a knack for placing the “r” sound in places for which it isn’t called, and removing the same sound from places in which it is slated to live.  I’ll never master the art of telling someone to “Pauk thei’ caw nea’ Hauvad Yawd” without it sounding forced.  No, in this one example among many, New England is a very different culture from that in which I grew up.

 

Another example of my inability to mesh with my surroundings is my staunch Conservatism.  I am a rarity here, so much so that it actually amazes me when I cross paths with another Conservative beyond the scope of my everyday environment.  It’s just that unlikely.

 

But, beyond such traits which serve to expose me as an outsider, I do mesh in other ways.  Like my New England neighbors, I absolutely love fresh seafood; I’ve learned that not all clam chowders are created equal.  Before coming here, I was told to prepare myself for the natural “rudeness” which is a part of the culture of the northeast.  But, I’ve found that this label is a misguided one, for people here are, as a whole, not rude at all.  Rather, they are just honest; honest at a level which seems oddly foreign to most of us who grew up elsewhere.  Of course there are a few exceptions–just as there are those in the Midwest who are not wholly “good ol’ boy” in demeanor.  But, by and large, I’ve learned that Bostonians are refreshingly straightforward.

 

But I’m not really writing this article to expound upon the virtues of any American subculture, for I’ve learned that, though there are differences, there is also a vast number of similarities.  We’re all human, after all.  And one of those similarities is the desire to achieve.

 

I think that, for whatever reason, this desire is manifested here in a more measurably materialistic way than in other regions.  Perhaps it’s because of the emphasis on academia.  Maybe it’s because of the city’s proud history.  It may simply be because of the high cost of living.  I don’t know.  I just know that it exists.  And, it’s far more contagious than I could have ever imagined.

 

When we moved here, it was our plan to be out of our “temporary” apartment and in a single-family house within three years.  Soon after arriving and assessing the cost of housing, we amended our plan to four years.  As time has unfolded, our address has remainded the same.

 

Don’t misunderstand–I feel blessed.  Our apartment has been a wonderful place, albeit a crowded one.  But my dream is to once again be in a house.  Somehow, it seems like that a house would be more of a home; less “temporary.”  This is where I find myself in good company.  This is where my goal of “achieving” becomes problematic.

 

But now, even though I would love to be in a house–a place which is wholly ours from front drive to back yard–I’m seeing God’s gentle hand in reminding me that any focus, any desire, which gains preeminence over God-given focuses and desires, is wrong.  And, in the spirit of straight-forward speak, it is sin.

 

Now, I understand that God doesn’t mind when we hope for things.  He doesn’t mind when we want things.  He doesn’t mind that I wish we could put an offer on the red house down the street.  But, such wishes need to be cloaked in a willingness to rest in God’s provisions.  Such wants need to be relegated to proper perspective.  Some things are simply more important.  I find it so amazing and beautiful that God used these incredible New Englanders–through both good and lesser examples–to remind me of that very thing.  And, in my best affected Bostonian, I have to say that it’s “Wicked Awesome!”

 

 

 

The Crimson Purpose–chapter one

This is the first chapter of the first book in the series, The Calling of Casey Evand.  The title of this first installment is The Crimson Purpose.  I hope you enjoy it!

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chapter one

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You know, Casey, there are a lot of perfectly good schools around here. It’s crazy for you to even consider attending somewhere so far away.”

     “Yeah, maybe,” Casey Evand acknowledged reluctantly.  It was true, after all.  Several more local colleges and universities had also offered full academic scholarships.  And the money she would save by living at home would have been significant, to say the least. 

      She looked at her tall, athletic boyfriend as he stood leaning against the railing of her family’s honeysuckle-lined front porch.  She reclined in the old, squeaky porch swing—as far as it would allow her—and reached up to adjust her thick chestnut brown hair into a fresh pony tail.  She sighed.  “But, I don’t know, Dan.  I just don’t have a peace about any of those schools.  I feel like—for whatever reason—God wants me to go to Boston.”

      Dan grunted in disgust.  “Oh, please!  Admit it, Casey.  You like the prestige of going off to a big, hoity-toity, Ivy League school.”

      Hurt that Dan would reduce all her prayer and thoughtful consideration with such flippancy, Casey stood.  “It’s getting late, Dan.  We both have to work tomorrow.  You should go.”

      Exasperated, Dan pulled Casey to him.  “Casey Baby, please, just hear me out.” He waited until Casey’s emerald-green eyes met his own intensely blue ones.  “You know I want what’s best for you.”

      “Yeah. It sounds like it.”

      “But be reasonable for once.  Don’t get all tangled up in the romantic idea of gallivanting off to some distant, big city.  This is a major decision—huge—and it could mess up everything we have planned.”

      Casey sighed, and relaxed a little.  “I know this would have impacts and complications, Dan.  I get it, but you’re right; it’s my decision to make.  And whether you believe me or not, I am taking it seriously. I’m praying more than I’ve ever prayed about anything.  I’m really trying to seek God’s direction in this.”

      Dan hugged Casey.  “I know you are.  And I’m sorry if I sounded like I doubted that.  It’s just, well, you’re book smart, sure.  But—and don’t get me wrong, here—you’re not very…worldly.  You’re sweet and shy and honest, and, basically, a target.  I’m just not sure you could make it in a place like Boston.  Or any big city, for that matter.  I love you, and I want to protect you.” 

      Casey started to speak, but Dan silenced her with a quick kiss.  “And besides, this will be my junior year at the university.  My junior year, Casey.  I’ll be starting linebacker this season.  And this could be our year to go all the way—to the championship.  I can’t believe you’d even think of missing that.”

      “Dan, of course I’d hate not seeing you play this year, but you know, you were starting by the end of the season last year, too.  And even though we weren’t dating at the time, I came to every home game.  If I go away to school, you’d just have to keep me posted, that’s all. 

      “And as for your first concerns, yes, I am incredibly shy, and a move like that would be way out of my comfort zone.  But don’t you see?  That’s just further confirmation to me that this is God’s leading—and not my own silly ideas.” 

      Casey shrugged and added, “But you know what?  All these…these arguments about why I should stay here, or why I should go there—they’re irrelevant.  I want to do what God wants me to do. Period.”

      Before Dan could launch into further discussion, Casey reminded him again of the late hour.  He then kissed her good-night. 

      It was, at inception, a mechanical, detached touch of the lips.  But it quickly progressed to a deep, insatiable hunger that seemed to be marking so many of their parting moments lately.  And although Casey nearly always found the exchanges pleasurable, she also felt strangely bereft of any passion-filled response.  She felt pressured and irritated.  Eventually, Dan picked up on her lack of interest, and he sulkily ended their time together. 

      Waving absently, he walked off the porch, to his fiery-red, expensive pickup truck, and backed out of her family’s driveway.

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      Later, in her small upstairs bedroom, Casey read a few chapters in her Bible, and then pulled her journal out from under her mattress. 

      She began writing, trying to make sense of her mildly overwhelming, conflicting emotions.

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Lord, show me what to do. 

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 Dan wants me to stay.  He says that going would be selfish and thoughtless.  He says that if we’re really serious about getting married some day, then I should trust his leadership—his preference—in this.  But he hasn’t proposed, and if he did, I just don’t know what my answer would be.  I mean, I think it would be yes. I’ve dreamed of it often enough.  But I’m still a teenager, for crying out loud.  And lately, he just seems so much more—I don’t know—controlling than he used to be.  I know he’s not trying to be that way—at least I hope he’s not—but it’s like he’s afraid I might start thinking for myself more, or something.

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And then, there’s Mom.  She tells me that how I treat Dan’s wishes now reflects the kind of wife I’ll be one day.  Is that true?  Is it wrong for me not to give him that kind of authority over me?  Is it sinful?  And if so, why doesn’t that work two ways?  Why is it okay for Dan to show such contempt of my wishes?

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Dad agrees with me.  Or rather, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I agree with Dad.  He says that if You want me to do something, then I’d better stop contemplating and just do it, and let You take care of the fallout.  That makes the most sense to me.  But am I only thinking that because it so closely mirrors my own ideas? My so-called agenda? 

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God, last year, You showed me what has since become my favorite verse of scripture.  Romans 8:28.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

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Help me, God.  Help me to resist the urge to try to figure this out on my own.  And help me to line the input of others up against Your will. Help me to rest in the knowledge that, as long as I put my love for You before anything and anyone else, then You will indeed work it all together for Your good.  And mine.

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     Casey stopped, considering the words she’d just penned.  A tear trickled along her cheek and dropped onto the page.  She wiped it off, smudging the ink a little, and finished the entry. 

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I see now that my decision is clear.  Thank You for Your faithfulness.  Amen.

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Closing her journal, Casey felt an undeniable peace that had been fragile and, occasionally, wavering over the past several weeks.  She was choosing obedience over comfort—God’s will over hers—and the reassurance that infused her at the realization was nothing short of miraculous.  She placed the journal back in its special place, and went downstairs to speak with her parents.

      They were still sitting in front of the family’s only television set, watching the second airing of the late, local news.  “Mom?  Dad? May I talk to you for a second?”

      Pressing a button on the remote control to mute the sound, John Evand smiled. “Sure, honey.  We’re just passing the time, waiting for your sisters to get home.”

      “Okay.” Casey sat down on the rocking chair nearest them.  “Well, um, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been praying and fasting—a lot—and, well, I finally know what I’m doing this fall.  For the next four years, really.”

      John’s smile deepened, and he nodded.  “Wonderful, honey.  So, you’re Boston-bound, then?”

      Casey grinned.  “How did you know?”

      “Honey, I’ve been praying, too,” he answered, eyes moist.

      Lorraine Evand was not quite so enthusiastic.  “Well, it sounds like your decision is made, then.  I don’t suppose there’s any point in my trying to throw good sense into the discussion.”

      Casey hugged each of them in turn.  “I know you don’t agree with this, Mom.  But I can’t tell you how much your support means to me.  I know you believe in me, and I appreciate that.”

      Her mother, not given to shows of emotion as her husband and daughter were, cleared her throat.  “Have you told Dan?”

      “No. I just decided.”

      “Well, then, perhaps you should call him.  The news is bound to be difficult for him, I daresay.  I suppose you’ve allowed him to have some input in your decision?”

      “Input, yes,” Casey answered vaguely, but honestly.  “And I don’t want to tell him over the phone.  I’ll talk to him tomorrow night.”

      “Good idea,” John interjected.  “I’m so proud of you, honey.” 

      Down the hall, the sound of a toddler crying began, faintly.  The crescendo only took a few seconds, and the lack of any immediate response was met with a full, screaming tantrum.

      John stood and stretched.  “Justin’s awake.  Again,” he laughed, heading for the source of the noise.  “Grandpa to the rescue!” he sang as he jogged away.

      “Wow,” Casey observed.  “It’s nearly midnight.  It’s not like Julie to be out this late.  Not on a weeknight, and definitely not since Justin came along.”

      “No.”

      Casey caught her mother’s tone.  “What is it, Mom?”

      “I suppose you may as well know.  She’s been seeing Justin’s father again.  He claims he wants to work things out.  You know, shoulder his responsibilities.

      “Hmm. That’s a switch.”

      “That’s what I thought.”

      Deciding to steer to what she hoped was a safer topic, she asked about her younger sister.  “Where’s Natalie?”

      “She started working at the fireworks tent just outside the town line today.  Tonight’s a late one, since they have to stock the tables before the tent opens for business in the morning.”

      “Oh, right.  I’d forgotten.”  Casey thought for a moment.  “You know, since the job is only through Independence Day, I might ask Nat if she’d be okay with my seeing whether they need any help in the evenings.  The extra cash would come in handy this fall.”

      “Good idea.  Then you could keep an eye on your sister, too.”

      “Why? Is something up?”

      “No. Not really.  I just….  She’s so much like Julie.  Popular. Beautiful.  I don’t want her following in her oldest sister’s footsteps.”  Lorraine looked up, apologetic.  “I don’t mean that I wish Justin hadn’t—”

      “I know, Mom.  And you’re right.  God’s timing would have been better—especially for little Justin.  And if I end up working there, I’d be happy to keep an eye on Natalie.  But, you know, she’s learned from Julie’s past choices.  Jules has been great about being totally upfront with both of us about the difficulties of single motherhood, not to mention the consequences of disobeying God’s boundaries.”

      Lorraine, relieved to see that there was no judgment from her middle daughter, smiled.  “You know, Casey, even though I wish you were staying in Missouri—or at least in the Midwest—for school, for your sake as well as Dan’s, I want you to know that, of the three of you girls, I have the most confidence in you.

      “You’ll make some mistakes, and I’m sure we’ll disagree often—we always have.”  She and Casey laughed lightly.  “But I know that your heart’s desire is to honor God.  And for that, I’m very proud of you.”

      So seldom did she have an intimate moment with her rather stern and serious mother, Casey found herself speechless.  Teary-eyed, she hugged her mother again, and managed, “Thanks, Mom.  And just because we don’t agree, don’t ever think I don’t appreciate your guidance.”

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      Later, well after midnight, as Casey lay in bed, she thought about what the next few months might bring. She pulled out her journal once more and penned her musings as quickly as they came.

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When will I have clarity here?  When will I learn the whys of God’s leading me to Boston?  Will I ever?  Is it merely for a better education?  And, if so, wouldn’t that be enough of a reason?  And yet, I feel like there’s more to it.

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Is there someone specific that I’m supposed to be God’s light to?  Is there something that will happen there—something that will help me to become stronger in my faith?  Is His purpose a combination of several of these possibilities, and more? 

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Or, is the reason something so different—a concept so far out of my ability to comprehend right now—that God is simply taking me out of my safe, familiar environment so that He can more easily shape me into what He wants me to be? 

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And lastly, when His purpose for taking me there is fulfilled, will I know it?  And will Mom ever see it?  What about Dan?  Or will they always look back on this time in my life as one of my biggest mistakes?

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     After stashing her journal once again, she lay back on her pillow and let her mind wander repeatedly over the possibilities she had just written of.

~

Dan drove home and parked in his family’s long cobblestone driveway.  He didn’t want to go inside.  He didn’t want to hear his mother ask him how he was doing.  He found their kindness—their constant concern and gushy joy—revolting and weak. 

      He ignored the fact that they’d given him just about every advantage a loving family could possibly give their only child.  He dismissed the way his father often tried to discuss spiritual things with him, in an effort to exhort him to God-honoring goodness.  Everything about them irked him, deeply and thoroughly.

      Dan grunted and threw the truck they had purchased for him upon his sixteenth birthday into reverse.  Piece of junk, he growled, irritated that he was still driving the same vehicle he’d had since his sophomore year of high school. 

      The old man could’ve bought me a new ride for my eighteenth.  Or my twentieth.  But no, they gave me lousy shares of stock, and a stupid gold watch.  Idiots.

      The porch light was on, and Dan spotted his mother peeking through the window.  He smiled, inexplicably and maliciously glad that she would be launched into further concern by his departure.  He set out and instinctively drove to his favorite place.  A place his parents had long forgotten, and his friends didn’t even know of.

~

Casey?”

      “Over here!”

      John looked around the expansive, gently sloped roof, and spotted his small-framed daughter at the ladder, hefting yet another bundle of shingles to George, his most reliable crewman.  “Oh, good.  I was looking for those,” he said. 

      George, large and solid, nimbly tossed the heavy load to his boss.  John looked at his daughter.  “Was that too heavy for you, honey?”

      “No, I’m fine.  Thanks, sweetie,” the big man replied, winking at Casey.

      Laughing, Casey shook her head at George.  She then looked at her father.  “No, Dad.  I can handle it.  How many more do you need?”

      “Uh, I guess three ought to do it for today.”

      “Got it,” Casey called as she descended the extension ladder.

.

      Later, John, George, and the two other crewmen finally made it back down to ground level, to find that Casey had already cleaned up their workspace on the paved driveway. 

      George gave a long, low whistle.  “Hey, I could get used to this.”  He then dropped to one knee in front of Casey, pulled the sweat-soaked bandana from his bald head, and gave an exaggerated clearing of the throat before begging, “Will you marry me?”

      The other men groaned, calling George’s latest proposal such things as “pathetic” and “real subtle.”  Then, laughing, they all thanked Casey for the chance to knock off a good half-hour early.

      When they were gone, John said, “I’m really gonna miss having you around to sweep up the shop, run errands, and, well, everything.”

      “Thanks, Dad.  This job has been such a blessing for me.  I think I would have died if I had to actually interact with strangers all day like Julie does at the bank.”

      Laughing, John shook his head.  “Two years ago, when you started working for me, I might have agreed.  But when the time comes for you to break out of your shell, God will give you the strength to survive it.”

      Casey laughed with him, although a little nervously.  “Yeah.  I think this move to Boston is just the beginning of God’s plan to mold me into…well…a more self-confident person, at least.”

      “I think so, too.  So when He puts opportunity in front of you, rejoice. He loves His children too much to let us be content with who we are right now.” 

      They finished loading up the tools and materials, and drove back to their own house and the adjoining wood shop that served as the headquarters for John’s roofing business.  In his spare time, the space doubled as his hobby center, where he enjoyed building various reproductions of period furniture.

      “Are you doing any woodworking tonight?” Casey asked as she helped him to load the next day’s supplies into the truck.

      “A bit.  I’m trying my hand at punched tin.  You know, for that pie safe I’ve been working on.  Actually, you should give it a go.  I’m sure that, with your artistic flair, you’d be a natural.  Wanna hang out and chill?”

      Casey giggled, as she always did when her father tried to sound young and hip.  “Thanks.  That sounds fun.  But after a quick shower, I’m heading over to the fireworks stand.  Nat said she thought they could use the extra help.”

      “Good. You’re starting to crack that shell already,” he smiled.

      “Baby steps,” she agreed, drawing a deep breath to steady her suddenly quickened pulse.

      “Don’t overdo it with all the work, though,” John cautioned.  “Dan’s bound to have a hard time with your going off to school.  Make sure you leave a little time in your summer schedule for him.  Unless…”

      “What, Dad?”

      John closed the back of the truck securely before turning to look at his daughter.  “Well, unless maybe you’re thinking about breaking up, I guess.”

      “Why would I—”

      “Casey, a long-distance relationship would be difficult enough without all the added circumstances.”

      “Like what?”

      “Well, you’re still young, for one thing.  Sure, you two have been dating off and on for a long while, but Dan’s been hinting pretty steadily at marriage.  You never contradict him, but you never bring it up, either.”

      John’s tone was gentle.  He wasn’t judging or trying to make Casey’s decisions for her.  Rather, he was simply pointing out some things in an effort to stimulate Casey’s own ability to reason through the facts.  “Dan says he loves you.  Maybe he does.  But do you really love him?  Or do you just say the words because you think they’re expected of you?”

      Casey shrugged and looked down at the gravel drive, kicking one of the larger rocks.  “I…I guess I love him.  And, I’ve been thinking I was going to marry him for so long, I—”

      “You know, honey, it’s okay if you’re not sure.  And, it’s okay if you decide that he’s not the man God has for you.”

      Casey looked at her father, confused.  “Dad, you mean…don’t you think he’s the one?”

      John chuckled.  “I’m afraid that one’s off my radar, honey.  And, although your mother may disagree, it’s not on her radar, either.”

      They shared a laugh, and then he grew serious again.  “There’s something else, Casey.”  Her father turned and leaned one arm against the truck, considering his words carefully.  “Dan is a nice enough young man.  But he doesn’t seem—how shall I put this?—very strong in his faith.  Especially these past few months.”

      “But he is, Dad.  He co-leads his on-campus Bible study at his school. And, he helps out in the college and career class at church.  And—”

      “Casey, honey, being strong in your walk with the Lord isn’t just about what you do with your natural abilities.  That’s important, sure, but it’s more about letting God use all of you—your weaknesses as well as your talents—to accomplish His purpose.” 

      John smiled to diffuse any possible misunderstanding.  “Has Dan even offered to pray with you about your school decision or anything else?”

      Sighing, Casey agreed.  “You’re right.  And, as for the first part of what you said, I suppose that’s something I still struggle with—relying on my own ideas and works instead of God’s grace.”

      “It’s a process.  I’m just not convinced that Dan really wants to depend on God’s strength.  He may some day—and I pray for him.  But right now, I don’t think he’s seeking God’s direction, the way you’re trying to.  Okay?”

      Casey took another deep breath, not sure of how to compute all her father had just said.  She looked at him and smiled.  “Thanks, Dad. You’ve given me a lot to think about.” 

      They hugged, and John silently praised God for such an open, honest relationship with his daughter.  Casey then said good-bye, and John watched her disappear into the house. 

      Misty-eyed, he admitted freely that it wasn’t her sweeping and errand-running that he would miss when August came.  It was these moments.

A Thought To Ponder…

During this rather intense political season, I’m finding one thing increasingly alarming.  We, as a blessed and wonderfully free nation, have become lazy in our enjoyment of that freedom.  It seems that thinking through things critically is no longer a natural inclination.  Rather, it seems as if there are many people who are content to allow others to do the thinking for them.  This is not to suggest that the population as a whole is without the ability to rationalize, or even that American society lacks intelligence.  But, when it comes to discerning for oneself what is true or even plausible, many don’t seem to want to invest the effort.

 

I’m not making this argument so that I might put forth my own viewpoints regarding the upcoming elections.  Rather, I’m simply stating my dismay.  Also, I’m imploring our citizens to use their individual minds–wholly and fully and independently. 

 

I realize, of course, that the majority of the people following this blog don’t fall into the aforementioned category, for readers are often thinkers; and faith-based readers even more so.  That said, I would venture to guess that all of us know more than one “someone” who is blindly accepting whatever latest spin we are fed by the media; who believe that, if someone on television says it, then it must be true.  I have to reiterate: this trend is nothing short of alarming.

 

I love this country, and it saddens me to see how readily we as a nation are allowing our rights to be infringed upon.  And so, I feel compelled to suggest to anyone who would read this that we must embrace the task of exhorting our friends and family members to listen–really listen–to the bias coming from many of our media outlets.  We must encourage our fellow citizens to rationally consider the information flowing from multiple sources.  We must admonish Americans to embrace our freedoms–our right and duty to question the things which should be questioned, to challenge the things which need to be challenged, and to defend the things which demand defending.  

 

Thanks for bearing with me as I “purge” this frustration, and may God continue to bless America!!

 

 

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