Instant winner!

Being a subscriber to Deb’s Book Blast automatically qualifies you to be in the draw to win the Kindle version of A Million Miles from Home by Mike Delloso. This relationship novel is the last 5 star book I’ve read. I’ll announce the winner at the end of this Book Blast.

This month my husband, Art, and I celebrate our anniversary. We married at age 22. Do the math and you find we married at 22, 44 years of marriage makes us 66 years old. Don’t know where we’ll be when we’re 88, but I wouldn’t mind being in heaven by then.

Secret to Happy Marriage

Our lives are so much richer for our marriage. Lots of people talk about secrets for a happy marriage. A cornerstone for our marriage is our faith in Christ and seeking to please him. Compatible ministry goals certainly help that. But the more I think about our marriage and peek into other marriages, I believe two things make marriage happy. Are you ready for this big secret? Here it is: kindness and consideration. I have a kind husband who considers my wants and needs and that makes me want to be kind and considerate right back. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it works for us.

Of course, marrying the right person is a great start. Wondering what that means? Here are 15 questions a Christian girl should ask before she says, “Yes, I will marry you.”

A Bit of Art/Marriage Humor

I learned to appreciate art and art humor as I wrote my Art Spotlight Mysteries. I love the patterns in M.C. Escher’s “Relativity.” Here’s some art/marriage humor based on that piece.

Escher’s “Relativity”

Escher’s Wife

A Song of Hope

I hope you are weathering the ups and downs of 2021. During these days I like to remember that my hope is not in circumstances, but in Jesus. “My Hope Is Jesus” is a song that reminds me of this truth.

Now for the free drawing.

I have randomly picked a winner from my subscribers list to receive the Kindle version of A Million Miles from Home by Mike Dellosso.

And the winner is … Becky Canfield.

My review of A Million Miles from Home

Ben and Annie grow up together in abusive homes and later marry. They have a daughter and are determined to leave their past behind and build a loving home. But tragedy forces Ben for face his past and work toward forgiveness.

I seldom give 5 stars to books, but Dellosso’s book deserves the high rating for telling this emotional story. The story is told from Ben’s point-of-view and goes back and forth between the past and present, but the author handles this well so that you feel like you are with Ben, feeling what he is feeling. A couple characters seem to have no flaws, but generally his characters are well-rounded and realistic.

A couple of times the author talks about baptism “washing away a person’s sin,” which clashes with my personal viewpoint. But the book is moving and well-written, though fairly sad throughout.

Merry Christmas 2020!

Instant winner!

Being a subscriber to Deb’s Book Blast automatically qualifies you to be in the draw to win the Kindle version of Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection. I’ve already read about half of these novellas by Christian authors. I’ll announce the winner at the end of this Book Blast.

Because of Covid 19 my husband and I were not able to return to the States for Christmas 2020. New Zealand remains one of the safest countries of the world from Covid. Our country here continues to have near zero cases of community transmission. We were due for a furlough from our mission church ministry this year but it didn’t seem like a wise time for us to go back.

We were disappointed not to be able to see our family who we have not seen since 2017. So we planned a virtual Christmas. From Thanksgiving to Christmas we met online for weekly Zoom calls with our daughters and their family. We used these advent calls to share memories and photos from the past, seasonal crafts, share brief devotionals, and even play a short game. We planned activities that could involve everyone in some way. Several times we talked about the ways God has provided for us during the last year and during difficult times in the past. These have been positive calls that helped us be together in a year like 2020.

I have many things for which to be thankful. Today I’m especially thankful for social networking like Facebook and Zoom which allows us to be connected to friends and family even when many miles (or kilometers) separate us.

What Christmas tradition are you changing because of Covid-19 this year? What special blessings have touched you during this unusual year? What have you learned to appreciate more because of the effects of the pandemic?

I hope you have a lovely Christmas full of awareness of all life’s blessings.

Now for the free drawing.

I have randomly picked a winner from my subscribers list to receive the Kindle version of a book with a cross cultural theme.

And the winner is … Jenny Leavitt from Florida.

Free true story for Thanksgiving

Do you ever feel like life doesn’t make sense and the world is spiraling out of control? 2020 will do that to you.

I live in New Zealand, one of the safest places on earth from the Covid-19 pandemic. New Zealand locked down early and strong. Now, when cases are skyrocketing across America, New Zealand has almost no Covid cases from community transmission. Almost all cases are Kiwis returning to New Zealand from overseas.  Everyone entering the borders has to isolate in special hotels for two weeks and have several negative Covid tests before re-entering. My life these days is very close to normal except for travel restrictions. It’s been almost three years since we’ve seen anyone in our family in person. We were due to take a five-month furlough this year, but Covid changed all that. We have so much to be thankful for, but it has been a crazy year.

How are you doing where you live? Are you thriving or barely surviving? 2020 can make you wonder what God is up to. How good it is to know that, even in the darkest days, God is in control and is working things out according to his plan.

Mary Weaver, a godly Christian housewife, watched her life seemingly spiral out of control. She faced many dark days when she couldn’t see God working for her.

See a quick summary of her story in this trailer for Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story. (click on the screen with the doctor and stethescope.)

During the darkest days, Mary still believed God would show her innocence. In the end, God proved himself strong and revealed his mighty work behind the scenes.

For two and a half years I was challenged every day by this true story as Mary, her lawyer and I wrote her story. I was constantly challenged by Mary’s testimony and encouraged by God’s amazing work in her life.

As we come to the week of American Thanksgiving, I want to share a chapter from this book that will challenge you to give thanks. You are receiving this chapter free simply for being one of my subscribers to Deb’s Book Blast. In December I will tell you how you can get the ebook Edges of Truth for free as well.

Here’s the story:

 

Prison Blues: a Thanksgiving Challenge

Mary Weaver sat on her prison bunk and slipped a family photo from the pages of her Bible. It pictured her with her husband and two children, before she was sentenced to life in prison without parole. She caressed her red-headed son John and his blonde sister Catherine in the picture. For sixteen months she had only seen them once a week when her husband brought them to the prison visiting room.

It all started January 22, 1993 when Mary was providing childcare for 11-month-old Melissa. Mary was putting the baby’s snowsuit on when Melissa quit breathing. Mary called 9-1-1 and performed CPR until the ambulance came, but the baby died within a day. The autopsy found a two-inch skull fracture and other severe injuries that were seven to ten days old. Some doctors ignored these older injuries and believed Melissa’s death was caused by acute injuries from shaking and possibly slamming the baby just before she quit breathing. Since Mary was with Melissa during the forty-two minutes before she quit breathing, they believed Mary must have caused the fatal injuries.

Mary had never done anything to hurt Melissa but opinion on her guilt was divided. She was eventually sent to prison for murder. Her lawyers were seeking to appeal her case, but over a year had passed and they still hadn’t been able to get a new trial. Meanwhile Mary was separated from her husband and kids who were now five and six years old.

Mary felt sure God would eventually free her and clear her name. She was a Christian and she knew God would get her through prison one day at a time. But she grieved for her children and unsaved husband. Months had passed into a year and more and her children were growing up without her. She would never get those years back.

As Mary sat in her cell worrying about her family, a guard appeared at the door. “Mrs. Weaver? You got a visitor.”

Mary set her Bible aside and preceded the guard down the prison corridor. Who could this be? As she stepped into the visitor’s room Catherine skipped up to her in a pink tutu and leotard.

“Mommy, Mommy, I’m going to my dance recital! Aunt Lisa brought me so you could fix my hair.” Catherine jumped around until Mary could hardly get a hug from her.

Mary smiled her thanks at her friend, Lisa Murphy, who had figured out this creative way to include Mary in her daughter’s special occasion.

Mary drew her daughter close. “I’d love to fix your hair. Shall we do French braids?”

“Yes, yes, yes, with pink ribbons!” Catherine bounced with every word.

Mary removed ribbons and elastic bands from Catherine’s ponytail and pulled long blonde strands into sections with her fingers.

“Hold still,” she reminded her daughter as she started one braid. Mary breathed in the fruity fragrance of the superfine hair as she began to weave the strands into identical braids on either side of her daughter’s head, then tied perfect pink bows at each end.

Catherine shook her head to feel her new hairdo. “Thank you, Mommy! I can’t wait to see myself in the mirror.”

Mary surreptitiously wiped tears with one sleeve. “You look beautiful. Can you show me your dance?”

Catherine performed several ballet steps, ending with a lopsided pirouette. Mary clapped loudly. “Good job! Just remember, when you’re in that recital today, I’m going to be thinking about you.”

Catherine gazed at her mom with pleading eyes. “I wish you could come to my recital.”

Mary blinked some tears from her eyes. “Me too, sweetheart, but Aunt Lisa will take pictures and I’ll study them carefully. Just remember that your mommy is very proud of you!”

Mary gave her daughter a quick, prison-acceptable hug and watched the two walk away. Satan whispered, “You are missing her recital and all the other important moments in her life.”

Mary lifted her chin. But God allowed me to fix her hair. God gave me that precious moment. God is good.

She thought of other ways God had allowed her to mother her children as well. God had given Mary a prison job, and her wages had been raised from thirty-eight to forty-one cents an hour. So what if it was only ten percent of minimum wage? The job made her time pass more quickly, and she could use the money in the commissary or craft store. Supporters could also add twenty dollars a week to her prison account. The activities directors had been especially kind to use this money to purchase fabric and patterns for her. Mary had been able to sew outfits for the kids, paint T-shirts, and buy presents for them.

Mary returned to her cell, sat on her bunk, opened her Bible, and prayed. Lord, help me to be thankful for what I have, not to complain about what I don’t have.

A prison sentence made it easy to slide into self-pity. Unfairness could defeat her but only if she let it. Instead she thought about The Hiding Place, a prison library book she had recently read. Corrie ten Boom had hidden Jews in Holland during World War II. The Nazis had caught her and thrown her into a bitter cold prison for four months, then a women’s extermination camp in Germany. Except for her sister, who was imprisoned with her for a time, Corrie had almost no contact with her family. She and her sister existed in overcrowded, filthy cells with little regard for sanitation and little to eat. They were allowed no exercise or fresh air.

Like Mary, Corrie was unfairly imprisoned, yet Corrie’s sister challenged her to focus on what she had. Corrie accepted the challenge. In solitary confinement she hungered for human contact, but she thanked God for an ant that crawled into her cell and provided a bit of company. In one of her prison cells, for one hour a day, she could stretch herself out tall and feel the sun shine on her head and chest. She thanked God for the sunshine. Later, at the extermination camp, she slept piled on a straw-covered platform with many other prisoners, sandwiched between other crowded platforms. Fleas infested the stinking straw, but Corrie even learned to thank God for the fleas. The tiny insects kept the guards away from the overcrowded bunk, where she hid her precious Bible.

Mary closed her eyes to shut out the conversation of the other inmates lounging right outside her cell. Her prison cell was the Ritz Carlton compared to the ones in the book. “Thank you, Lord, that my family is safe and that I can see them every week. Thank you that I have other gals to talk to. You’ve even given me a roommate who seems to be a true Christian. Thank you that I can feel safe in prison, that other inmates haven’t given me trouble, that the guards treat me with respect. Thank you that I have a Bible and I can read it openly, whenever I want. Thank you that I’ve grown closer to you in prison.”

The State had stolen her family. The first year they seized all her possessions, even her clothes. Only now they allowed her to keep a few things of her own. The State could separate her from her home and family, but they couldn’t take God away from her and they couldn’t take her away from God. She would focus on him and the things she was allowed to enjoy. Today that meant fixing her daughter’s hair for a special occasion.

 

God showers us with so many blessings every day that we sometimes get used to them and claim them as rights. When we have them we don’t appreciate them, and when we don’t, we complain.

Thanksgiving is a great time to focus on what we have. What has God given you today?  

 

 

 

Dealing with Disappointment in 2020

Chances are good that Covid has caused you significant disappointment this year. I went through several stages of lockdown in New Zealand where I serve as a missionary. Locking down with my husband in my comfortable home was not terribly difficult. In fact we enjoyed our time together. We did eight jigsaw puzzles in a couple of months and I was able to work extensively on a book I’m writing. New Zealand locked down quickly and extensively, with good result.  As far as Covid is concerned, I find myself in one of the safest places in the world. New Zealand’s closed borders, however, made the June-to-November furlough to the States we’d been planning impossible. We had found a couple from the States who were willing to fill in for my husband and me in our church planting ministry, but Covid meant they couldn’t get into New Zealand.

As time went on we began to see that a regular furlough might not be possible for quite some time ahead. As people who travel from state to state and meet with big groups of people, missionaries pose a significant health risk to churches. Also many of our supporting churches were not functioning as usual. Most probably only had virtual services for an extended time.

When a regular furlough wouldn’t work for the foreseeable future, we began to consider a quick trip to the States for Christmas to visit our family. The first obstacle was finding someone who could fill in for us for a number of weeks. The fill-in couple pretty much had to come from New Zealand since our borders remain closed. In August we found a couple who would consider the idea, but couldn’t let us know right away. In October, just when we had begun to get excited about seeing our family for Christmas, the couple said they couldn’t come. Then within a week, it seemed like a miracle had happened. We found a well-qualified couple who were New Zealand residents who were happy and eager to fill in for us during the time needed. We decided the Lord was leading us forward, the time was right for a number of reasons, and we would go back. We started looking for airline tickets and planning a schedule. Within a week, however, some feedback we got from trusted sources made us feel that it would be significantly safer if we waited until the middle of 2021 or so. Our daughters and their family had started to plan for a family Christmas and we were all excited about it until this new development made us feel like we had to reverse our decision.

But we’re missionaries so we don’t get disappointed, right? Wrong. So wrong.  For a number of reasons, we had decided we really needed to go back at this time. It seemed the Lord had answered our prayers and provided a couple to fill in so we could go. Yet in the end, it didn’t feel right to go when waiting another half year or so would make it significantly safer for us and the people we want to visit.

What have you lost during 2020 that left you feeling disappointed? You may have lost a loved one or your health or your job. We missed a hundredth anniversary celebration for our mission and a seventy-fifth anniversary of our sending church that we had planned to attend.  Almost everyone has had plans changed and church attendance curtailed. We’ve just experienced a national election in New Zealand and will experience another in America in the coming week. Both involved critical moral issues.  Racial unrest, wildfires, hurricanes. What a year!

What do you do with your disappointment? You know God is in control, that he’s working out his best for you, but you’re still disappointed.

Here are some things that helped me:

This song sung by Ben Everson spoke to me right away. We have the CD of this so the words were so familiar that they were the first song that came to mind after our second decision.

The chorus goes, “You know better than I. You know the way. I’ve let go the need to know why for you know better than I.” I admit that I’d like to know why God seems to be saying no to this Christmas trip, but I am still working on letting go of that.

I filled in for a Sunday School teacher this morning in church. The story was about Cain and Abel. The lesson talked about warning signs. Sometimes God gives us a green light to do something. Sometimes a thing is definitely wrong and we get a red light from God. And sometimes he gives us a yellow light, telling us to use caution or to wait and listen to God’s warning. Cain was angry God didn’t accept his sacrifice and that anger was dangerous. God told him sin was crouching at his door like a wild animal, waiting to overpower him. Disappointment, discontent or anger can quickly turn to sin if we listen to it, wade through it or wallow in it.

Then a character in the current novel I’m writing was struggling with a similar issue. Long ago I had plotted out the book, but as I came to the disappointment of missing Christmas with children and grandchildren, I was just working on the part where my character faced a similar issue. I couldn’t expect my fictional character to be more spiritual than I am, could I?

So when disappointment rears its ugly head at me, I need to remember I have some choices.

  • Refuse to listen to what God is trying to tell me
  • Do what’s asked, but wallow in self-pity
  • Conclude that nothing good ever happens in 2020 and expect the worst to happen
  • Step forward in faith, knowing God is good and in control, and choosing to trust him

“Just two choices on the self: pleasing God or pleasing self.”  (by Ken Collier)