My Chaos Theory  Sydney Avey

Chaos is an element of most transitions. My husband and I live two lives.  Half the year we shelter under the California Gold Country oak and pine trees in the shadow of Yosemite’s granite cliffs.  The other half a year we settle into Arizona’s Valley of the Sun, nestled up against the White Tank Mountains. In California, I sing on a praise team in a small community church. In Arizona, I sing with a fifty-voice choir in a large Presbyterian church. The Phoenix area offers resources we don’t have in Groveland—recreation centers, accessible shopping, theaters, medical centers, a university, and an airport. Groveland offers rural peace and a close community.

As we pack to leave, I am re-launching my first novel, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, and readying the house for six very welcome houseguests (family) who will visit until departure day. When stress over deadlines mounts, I remind myself that I chose a life that supports my work, not work to support my life. A bit of chaos is good for creativity.

The contrary nature of chaos

Recently I asked some friends to pray for me. Their prayers changed my approach to dealing with stress.The very act of requesting prayer helped me articulate the real need, and the answers I received were refreshingly counterintuitive. Contrary to popular wisdom, striving isn’t always the answer. Here is what I learned:

  1. Cease your striving.I reset my internal clock, which runs fast, to be more in tune with God’s timing. Facing anxiety over being in the public eye, my prayer is “Lord, make me dwell in safety.” NIV Ps. 4:8b (Courtesy of a prayer partner.)
  2. Bigger effort doesn’t always yield better results. A prayer partner reminded me of the fishermen who struggled with more than they could handle. They asked their partners in other ships to come help and both ships benefitted. Power is available to us when we do it God’s way.
  3. Learn to wait. Creativity consultant Dan Blank cautions artists to spend the majority of their time improving their craft and helping people connect with the soul of their work. Trying to master every promotion strategy is time misspent. Amen!
  4. Stop pushing and let some things go. It is easy to say it is all in God’s hands. His timing is perfect. It is harder to see a publication date slip and not want to do something about it. If my identity is truly in Christ, I need to trust that it is Christ who is in the details, not the devil. If I identify first as being in Christ then I shouldn’t stress over my identity as a writer. That takes a lot of pressure off!
  5. Count God faithful.I had a moment when I was solving one tough technical problem after another and God said, “See? You couldn’t have done this four years ago.” He brought to my mind his faithfulness. As we push through chaos, it is good to acknowledge how far we’ve come, and count God faithful.

Sydney Avey write historical fiction novels about dynamic women in changing times. In each of her books, small graces foster hope and and give people courage to step over uncertainty and continue the journey. She is the author of The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, The Lyre and the Lambs, and. coming in February 2018, The Trials of Nellie Belle.

Sheep Walker’s Daughter

When Dee Moraga’s secretive mother dies in the 1950s, Dee gives up hope of ever learning her father’s identity. But a series of puzzling discoveries causes her to reconsider. Why did her mother send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency? And what does the Anglican priest who shows up at her door know about her cultural heritage that he isn’t telling? A tribute to the resilience of immigrant families, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs one fractured family’s history of loss, survival, and tough choices with one lonely woman’s search for reconnection.

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THE MUSIC OF SOUNDS  by Jeanne Gowen Dennis

Sing to the Lord all the earth. (Ps. 96:1)

 Musical Sounds

I’ve been thinking lately about the amazing gift of sounds. The songs of birds. The tinkling of water in a stream. The whispers of wind through leaves. The crashing of waves. The music of various instruments. Voices lifted in song.

The Human Voice

Most of all, I’ve marveled at the human voice. We can hum a tune, belt out a popular song, sing an aria, cheer someone on, shout out a warning, talk in normal tones, or whisper a prayer. So many sounds from one wonderfully designed instrument.

I think of the sweet sound of a mother’s voice singing a lullaby or comforting her child. Something akin to the still, small voice of God, perhaps. My mom went to heaven last year, but I can still hear her voice. One of the last things we did together was to sing one of her favorite hymns.

It seems countless times the Bible tells us to sing to the Lord and praise His name. And doesn’t it fill you with joy to do just that? It does me. Our choir plans to sing Handel’s “Halleluiah Chorus” this Christmas. Every time I hear or sing that majestic piece of music, my heart soars heavenward. No wonder people stand when they hear it.

The Music of Language

Great writers make music with words. I often stop to savor a well-written phrase as I would a luscious peach. Some have a natural gift, but most writers have to work hard to reach that level of skill in their craft. And they really appreciate it when readers write to encourage them. You might say readers’ kind words are “music” to an author’s ears.

Our speaking voices hold music in them too. I’ve always had a fascination for languages and wanted to speak several. I’m working on my third and fourth right now – not very successfully, I’m afraid. But as I’ve studied foreign languages, I’ve been astounded at the different sounds the human voice can make – including drumbeats, chirps, whistles, twitters, and various vibrations. Among other things, language sets us apart from the animals. Yet each language has a rhythm and beauty all its own.

Heavenly Music

When God made humankind in His image, he made us to praise Him with our voices, both in song and words. Just think of the music that will rise to the throne of God when every people, tongue, tribe, and nation worships Him together in heaven! Rather than a cacophony of widely different tongues, I believe we will hear every language blended together into the perfect harmony of praise.

At least that’s how I imagine it. For now, I’ll enjoy the music of life here on earth and lift my heart and voice to the God who made it all. I hope you’ll join me.

“Live your faith. Pass it on.” An award-winning author and songwriter, Jeanne Dennis hosts Heritage of Truth TV at https://jeannedennis.com. She is also a commissioned Colson Fellow and Centurion. Through her writing, speaking, music, and online ministry, she encourages families to live biblically in our spiritually confused culture.

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To celebrate my 25th book release I held a party at a boutique that showcases local artists and authors. I created a special scavenger hunt to get everyone checking out the store.

I hid small signs of my book covers all around the store. Each one included a number of the release order. As people arrived, they received an alphabetical list of the titles so they could fill in the corresponding numbers as they spotted the signs and turn them in to win pries. The newest titles included a devotional cookbook The Gift of Bread: Recipes for the Heart and the Table and a teen book on communication Girl Talk Guy Talk. Prizes included little recipe books and fun items.

I also demonstrated how to make bread centerpieces such as

muffin bouquets and provided a variety of breads for everyone to taste. My oldest daughter snapped photos. We can design anything to celebrate milestones.

I recently attended a show where singer Jimmy Wayne spoke and signed his new book. To celebrate, he had a video made of signing the first copy as he signed his name and circled the number one on the book. I received the first copy.

 

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Hurricane Harvey

And Speaking of Harvey     Elizabeth Ludwig

 

harvey2

harvey2

If there’s one thing I’ve learned living on the Texas Gulf Coast, it’s that life can…and often will…change in an instant. I was reminded of this again when Hurricane Harvey lumbered into my hometown on the Texas/Louisiana border and left a swath of devastation that stretched south past Corpus Christie, and west as far as Victoria.

My home did not flood.

But my church did. The homes of many of my friends and co-workers did. The school where I work did. I could go on and on.

Several times, I have had to remind myself to stop and lift my eyes from the flood waters so I can focus on God. He’s been here, taking care of me and mine in countless ways, both big and small. I heard Him in the voice of the car rental person on the phone, who told me, “God bless you,” and “I’m praying for everyone in Texas,” before she hung up. I saw Him in the sweet woman at the church we visited after we evacuated who gave my daughter twenty dollars and with tears in her eyes said, “I wish it was more.” I felt Him as I stood on my porch and saw the rain fall and the water rise.

But what I am most grateful for is when He met with me in my prayer closet. My prayer was heartfelt and desperate—God, please help me. I need You. I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any strength…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned living on the Texas Gulf Coast, it’s that God is…and always will be…good. And because of this, I saw people who were not ashamed to ask a blessing in God’s name. I saw people who were not ashamed to ask for prayer. Mostly, I saw people jump in to help their neighbor. It’s given me strength and hope for the state and the country that I love. People can be good. They can be kind. If they want to. That’s something I don’t think Hurricane Harvey expected when he blew into Texas with a vengeance, but God did. And I am so very grateful.

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20, NKJV)

Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author and speaker whose

books have been featured in Southern Writers Magazine, More

to Life

 

Magazine, and Christian Fiction Online Magazine. Book three in her popular Edge of Freedom series, Tide and Tempest, was recently named a finalist for the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more,

visit ElizabethLudwig.com.

 

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Who is a Hero?  by Darlene Franklin

Hero

Who is a Hero?

Who is a hero? What makes a hero? I never saw myself in that light until I faced my own hero’s challenge. I had to battle back from a month-long hospitalization. I had never fully recovered from the crippling weakness and arthritis which had led to my moving to a nursing home.

On my first day of therapy, my physical therapist worked with my lower extremities and core strength. The occupational therapist focused on “activities of daily living.” Could I raise my arms enough to brush my hair? Dress myself? We had a hundred days (according to government mandated guidelines) to accomplish the task.

Weakness and pain nibbled at my motivation. In one of my first sessions, my physical therapist asked me to stand up.

I pushed myself to my feet and tottered there for a few seconds.

“Sit down. Don’t plop.”

I reached for the wheelchair arm and carefully lowered myself into the chair. I was spent.

“That was good.” She applauded “Do it four more times.”

Every muscle screamed with pain. I adapted the mantra of the winner of The Rock’s competition as my own: “I will not let pain or fear defeat me. I will stop only if I’m physically unable.”

I stood four more times. I learned an essential lesson in facing an overwhelming task: success has more to do with attitude than with ease.

My health continues to fluctuate. I’ve just completed another hundred days of therapy.

I will not let pain and fear defeat me. I began with enthusiasm, drive, and a definite goal: to walk around the nursing home.

More lessons headed my way.

  • Accept a different normal.

Another hospitalization reminded me congestive heart failure has created problems for my other organs. They pick and choose when to work. I decided to stop waiting for things to get better.

  • Do it anyway.

So what if I’m sore and tired? Go ahead and write. Sing. Attend church. Live life in the now, because that’s all I have.

And sometimes. . .

  • Miracles happen.

For four years, I’d worked to improve range of motion in my arms. We’d worked as hard on it as much as we’ve worked on everything else, but nothing had changed.

Until one day this session, my arms lifted a few inches higher. I can wash my hair and tie on a chin strap.

  • The miracle you receive may not be the one you wanted.

My arms can move farther but I can’t walk around the building. My legs will support me but my lungs won’t.

A hero is a person who is admired for. . .courage.

A lifetime has taught me courage is not the absence of fear, but acting in spite of fear.

In that case, maybe I am a hero. Maybe you are too.

 Best-selling hybrid author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. Mermaid Song is her fiftieth unique title! She’s also contributed to more than twenty nonfiction titles. Her column, “The View Through my Door,” appears in five monthly venues. Other recent titles are Wilderness Weddings and Opposites Attract. You can find her online at: Website and blog, Facebook, Amazon author page

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