A Preview of A Laboring Hand

November is halfway over. My Reflections series has been introduced, and I’m thankful for those of you who have purchased, read and reviewed the book. But it is only the first in a series, and I’m going to give you a peek inside the second book in the series today.

Today’s excerpt comes from A Laboring Hand, Reflections Book Two, which releases to the public in January 2020.

If you’re familiar with Mary and Martha of Bethany, you’ll recognize this scene. It’s based on Luke 10:38-42. I’m intentionally starting in the middle of the scene so you can’t see what leads up to Martha’s frustration.

I hope you glimpse the overwhelmed, responsible big sister whose trying to make sure her guests are content and satisfied. Not only is she serious about being the “hostess with the mostest,” Martha wants her siblings to help.

How often have you been frustrated with the lack of help from your family during a hosted event? Or maybe I’m the only person who can imagine this actually happening.

Excerpted from A Laboring Hand, chapter four:

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two who dried their hands.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion which my parents had often shared. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the Master. He was only a couple years older than Mary and the youngest of all the Master’s followers.

The crowd of dirty disciples filled the room, folded onto other cushions. Some chose to lean against the wall on rugs Laz had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen with so many men sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers, filling every cup we owned and still two men shared each one of the battered pottery pieces. Once we finished, I began to distribute bowls of spiced beans and cloth-wrapped packages of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d seated herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to teach.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way that she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued bustling around taking care of our guests, but my frustration grew. Yeshua’s authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the Master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill the cup John shared with Yeshua.

They had promised to help. When I’d first mentioned inviting the group to stay over for more than a day, both Laz and Mary agreed to help with the work. Now they sat there, enjoying Yeshua’s teaching while I served everyone.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. Levi raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

The mud-caked toes never even flinched, and my bubble of anger swelled. I swallowed it, and turned to top off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible, but I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home. In the past, Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

Unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. After refilling my pitcher from the jar stored beneath the eaves, I counted the loaves in the linen clothes on the counter. Only three dozen were left. Soon, I would need to bake more.

And that’s when it became too much. I strode toward Yeshua holding the jug of watered wine aloft and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked, staring at me for a moment as if I’d woken her from a deep sleep.

As I filled the Lord’s cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work needed to be done? And Mary was just sitting there like a useless lump.

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. I knew he would help me because he cared about me.

“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort oozing through me turned sharp and became a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink, and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed—working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his lap. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed food and drink. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

With one long glance, he turned to scan the room. “A certain man…”

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories—they always carried so much spiritual significance. Tonight, I couldn’t listen because the words he’d spoken to me stung my heart.

Mary hath chosen that good part.

I filled cups with lowered eyes. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes and jerked my shawl up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. Mary hath chosen that good part. The words kept echoing all evening, drowning out the Master’s stories and the disciples’ questions.

Even now, as I’m writing about it, his gentle admonition stings somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

One thing is needful. What one thing?

Mary stirred on our shared bed. Her forehead wrinkled and then smoothed. As I’d helped her prepare for bed, I’d wanted to ask about the lessons, but I felt foolish. If I asked, she would know that I hadn’t paid attention while Yeshua taught.

Why did that make me feel guilty? Yeshua wasn’t angry with me. He even thanked me for the food and drink as I passed him to go to bed.

Yahweh help me understand what this means. What is the one needful thing for me to do? Sit and listen like my sister?

I sighed and my heart weighed more heavily in my chest. But if I do that, who will do the work?

**This is copyrighted material.

Are you ready to read MORE of Martha’s story? If you will commit to posting a review of the book on Amazon (and perhaps Goodreads and Book Bub), you can sign up for an advance copy. They will be going out to my Advance Review Team in December. Sign up here.

Take a Look Inside My Newest Series

This comes to you from chapter six of REFLECTIONS: A PONDERING HEART, the story of Jesus Christ from the journal of his mother, Mary.
Is there a better way to spend Christmas than with the Christ?


The sun’s last rays kissed the walls of Bethlehem as our group straggled within view of the city. Rather than heading toward the gates, Joseph followed a well-worn path to the east. His uncle lived outside the walls, near the shepherds. He spun cloth from the sheep’s wool and grew a supply of linen on a small plot of ground. Most farmland stretched further to the west, away from the meandering sheep. Or maybe away from the shepherds, who weren’t considered the cleanest of people.

We parted from the other travelers, including the grumbling man and his donkey. My feet protested against walking. I rubbed my lower back, stretching my shoulders to relieve the pressure. It would be good to sleep on a mattress again. The hard ground hadn’t done any favors for my already stressed muscles.

Joseph lessened his stride so I could remain beside him. Bleating and the familiar odors of sweat and dung eased my anxiety. These were smells and sounds of home. A group of keepers milled around the low walls of a sheepfold. Three stood in the doorway.

One goat rubbed its head against a shepherd’s leg. A twinge of sadness poked my heart. I missed my goats. My sister Mary cared for them, but she had given up the cheese-making. My mouth watered at the idea of spreading the soft, fresh goat cheese on bread. Perhaps Joseph’s uncle would invite us to join his table for dinner. Anything other than stringy dried meat sounded appealing.

The pathway widened into a well-traveled track with deeper ruts. I stumbled on a rock, too busy gazing at the shorn fields to watch my step; the advancing twilight didn’t help matters. With a strong hand on my upper arm, Joseph steadied me. Our pace slowed even more. I yearned to arrive at his uncle’s house, but my legs rebelled against moving any faster.

The smoky odor of cooking meat made my stomach rumble. I pressed my fingers over it and earned a kick from the babe. Out of the shadows, two buildings emerged beside the road.

From the larger of the structures, candlelight flickered invitingly. It was a flat-topped adobe building, common in Nazareth for merchants and shop owners. It was strange to see one outside the city walls.

I stood behind Joseph when he knocked on the door. It seemed a long while before the man appeared in the doorway. He had more gray hair than Joseph, but otherwise didn’t seem much older.

“Joseph,” the man said. His eyes slid toward me and he stepped outside, joining us in front of the house. “Your cousins arrived yesterday.”

“Travel was difficult,” Joseph said.

Uncle Biram nodded. “I have no room left in the house.”

He seemed embarrassed to admit this, looking toward the ground rather than directly at Joseph.

“The roof would be fine. Something for Mary to sleep on is all we really need.”

His uncle’s gaze rested on me, sliding down to where my hand rested on my distended abdomen. His eyebrows drew together. Would there be no escaping the judgmental scowls? We were miles from home and the untimeliness of my motherhood still garnered speculation.

“The roof is where we put Nadab and his family. They arrived two days ago.”

Joseph nodded. Were we being turned away by his family? Trembling started in my lower legs. I leaned into Joseph’s broad back. Behind his uncle, the door to the house opened and a woman emerged, holding a candle in a shallow pottery dish.

“Biram? Oh, it’s Joseph. Hello.”

“Aunt Leah.” Joseph nodded his head in respect.

“I was just telling them about our full house,” Biram said.

“This crazy census.” Aunt Leah shook her head, corners of her generous mouth turning down.

“I can find other accommodations tomorrow. If you could at least spare some floor space for one night—”

I could see Uncle Biram opening his mouth to deny this plea. Shame and anger clashed in my gut, making the empty organ churn. The baby kicked against my ribs.

“The barn,” the woman said. “We’ve room in there for you.”

I turned to gaze at the other building, stone and wood, shabbier than the adobe structure. It would be out of the wind and cooling night air. Perhaps I would find clean straw to mound into a pallet. It would be an improvement over sleeping beside the road. My back cramped at the thought of another night on the sun-hardened earth.

“Thank you.”

“I’ll bring some food out,” she said. “I see you have blankets.”

“Sorry I couldn’t offer you something more.” Biram sounded apologetic, and his gaze didn’t stray toward me this time.

“Times are hard for everyone, Uncle,” Joseph said.

He turned to me, face in shadow. His fingers closed around my elbow. We moved toward the barn. Behind us, the door to the house closed.
“It’s because of me.”

Joseph draped his arm over my shoulder, pulling me against his side. My head nearly fit there.

“My cousins came to register. You heard them.”

“The way he looked at me . . .”

“I’m sorry.” His lips pressed against the top of my head, reminding me of something my father did when I was a much younger girl. When would we have a normal husband and wife relationship? Maybe never. Nothing was normal for me now. It never would be.

I swallowed away the tears. The dark doorway into the barn loomed before us. Stepping inside, the familiar scents of animals and manure embraced me. Tension drained from my shoulders.

I would be more comfortable here than in a house full of condemning relatives.

Pick up a copy now. It’s available in paperback, digital and audio formats. This makes a great gift for the readers in your life, too. Better yet, with the purchase of the paperback, the digital and audio copies are reduced in price, so you can shop for three distinctive readers.

Thanksgiving is Coming! Time for Thirty Days of Gratitude

Gratitude is one of those non-negotiable items in my world. I love making the month of Thanksgiving a month-long celebration of gratitude.


You’ve seen my memes before.


This year, it will be a little different. I’ll be running the thirty memes on my Facebook Author page. Find it here.

I’ll be asking for your input, too.

What are you grateful for?

Remember when I ran a year-long campaign of gratitude? I had that hashtag. You know #365DaysofGratitude.


That was the year that Gratitude was my “guiding word.” I found the smallest things to be thankful about.


Sometimes the little things are really the big things.


As I type this, I sip cold, clean water out of an insulated tumbler.

There are millions of people in the world who don’t have cold water to drink. In fact, there are hundreds of millions who don’t have clean water to use for any purpose.

How often do I take those 60-80 ounces of water I drink daily for granted?


I hope you’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with me all month long. Grab the #30DaysofGratitude hashtag (not my invention) and use it on all your social media platforms.


I can hardly wait to be reminded of all the blessings I enjoy.

Which of the memes shared here resonated most with you?

A Wide Angle Bible Study on Teaching

Life is a classroom. The sooner we give up on the idea that we learn only at church or during study sessions, the easier it will be for the Lord to open our eyes.

Do you remember what Paul told Titus? “The aged women..teach the young women” (Titus 2:3-4). There is no qualifier. Paul didn’t say the older women should be teaching, but that they taught. Their example resonated, and he wanted them to be “teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3).
Dear reader, you are teaching someone right now. It might be your children, or a young woman who admires you or the lady across the street. We teach, and we should become more deliberate in the lessons we’re sharing.

Teaching Life Skills

What do you know that you didn’t learn? Nothing. How many of those skills were taught to you by someone? Almost all of them.
What are life skills you feel are essential?




Who taught these to you?

Most of us had parents to show us the basic life survival skills. Or there might have been an elementary school teacher who we bonded with, or a Sunday school teacher.
You are that person to someone else.
Read Titus 2:3-5 again. What things should the older women teach the younger women?

How do you teach someone to love their husband and children?

Once again, this teaching can be done more effectively by example. Believe me, if people think you have a great marriage, they’ll ask you how you do it. My answer is always, “By the grace of God.” (Being married to Mr. Wonderful also helps.)

How is teaching different from mentoring?

How are they related?
You can teach without mentoring someone, but it would be difficult to mentor someone without a small amount of teaching.

Modeling Holiness

Now let’s get back to the subject of godly focus in our lives. How can we model this for other people?

What is holiness?

People get confused about this term. They think it is something superlative and out of reach. If that’s the case, why did God instruct us to be holy like He is (1 Peter 1:16)?

This is what Vine’s says about holiness:
It is used of men and things in so far as they are devoted to God…This sainthood is not an attainment, it is a state into which God in grace calls men; yet believers are called to sanctify themselves…from all defilement, forsaking sin, living a “holy” manner of life and experiencing fellowship with God in His holiness.5

Great, but what does this holy manner of life look like? Read Titus 2:11-15. According to verse 12 what does God’s grace teach us to avoid?

What does it teach us to do instead?

In verse 13, Paul tells Titus what the people who live by God’s grace focus on. What is it?

How does looking to Jesus help us in our walk (v. 14)?

Notice verse 15. These things are so important, the Apostle Paul told Titus to speak about them, exhort according to them, and rebuke concerning their lack. Wow.

Look at 2 Peter 1:3-8. This passage has much to say about holy living.
First things first. According to verse 3, what does every person who knows Christ as Savior have?

How do we get this “divine power”?

In Christ, we are heirs to exceeding great and precious promises. One promise is access to the very nature of Jesus Christ himself.

Is this automatic at salvation? I don’t believe so.

Picture this if you will.6 Christ’s nature is a tower. When we’re saved, God hands us a key to the door. Ahead of us, a staircase winds up and up. At the top hangs a mirror where we see ourselves conformed to Christ’s image.
The stairs are found in verses 5-7. What are the things we must add to our faith if we want to access Christ’s holiness?
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Christianity requires a lifestyle of dedication to constant learning and improving. I thank the Lord for the love of learning He gave me. Some days it even helps me live the way I should.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

FINDING FOCUS: Teaching

I spent fifteen years working in public education. During that time, I met fabulous teachers who cared about every student and mediocre teachers who plodded through their classroom like an ox with a plow. I learned tons about teaching theory, application and practice from these educators, but my most important lessons came from the students.

One remarkable example: I cried in front of a classroom filled with teenagers. Okay, the first time it was merely three students, but I was doomed to repeat this humiliation more times than I wanted. So why didn’t I learn from my misery? Because emotions are slippery fish.

Rewind to my first year as an instructional assistant. The teacher assigned me three small groups of students, each reading a different novel aloud and then discussing it together. Everything seemed fine until I saw the title of one of the books: Where the Red Fern Grows.

“I can’t read this book,” I told her.

“What?”

“I can’t read this book.” Repetition is often the key to understanding. For emphasis, I shook the book at her.

“Why not?”

“The dogs die.”

Blank, non-comprehending eyes stared back at me. What part of “I can’t read aloud a book in which dogs die” is so difficult to understand?

With a heavy sigh, I admit with unapologetic sharpness, “I cry every time.”

She nods. “I know. It’s sad.”

That’s it? It’s sad? I think heart-rending, painful and guaranteed to induce tears is more accurate. My stunned disbelief must be apparent because she asked, “Would you like to take a different group?”

“What are the other books?”

She gestured to the stacks of novels on the round table behind her. I stepped around her to peruse the titles. Gang wars and the Nazi occupation of Denmark. None of the choices looked more appealing than the dead dogs.

“I guess I’ll stay with this.” It will be weeks before we got to the sad part of the book. I’m pretty sure I felt a sick day coming.

Nature offered up a summery spring afternoon when the coon hunt gone bad made its appearance in the read-aloud. Our group was outside, reading beneath tall evergreen trees. Wind ruffled the pages. The fresh, pine-scented air brought those fictional woods to life.

I tried to cover my emotions, but there’s just something about a clot of mucus in the throat that makes speaking impossible.

Three young teenagers practically gaped while my tears, unwilling to be quelled, strangled me. I pretended not to notice their shock, but I felt mortified. To my distress, their attention had never been so completely focused on my face or words.

“Are you crying?” one girl asked.

Gulping down the infernal throat-frog, I admitted, “This part is so sad. It always makes me cry.”

“I hate when animals die.”

“I cried when we had to put my dog to sleep last fall.”

Who knew overly dramatic, hormone-driven teenagers could be compassionate and empathetic?

My tears provided an effective teaching aid. If nothing else, they proved that effectively written prose can evoke deep emotions.

The lesson was about more than that, though. And it took something bigger before I learned it.

Bigger? Oh yes. I broke down in front of the entire seventh-period class. By “broke down,” I mean I wept. Shoulders shook and snot ran like a flood-swollen creek. It was so extreme my co-teacher was forced to take over for me.

Those 24 eyes staring at me expectantly weren’t waiting to hear the rest of the story. Nor were they judging an over-emotional, pre-menopausal, middle-aged woman.

They knew my grandmother had recently passed and that my mother was undergoing a life-threatening treatment. I’d missed work to take her to chemotherapy at least once.
Their silence respected my grief. It endorsed the teacher’s freedom to be human, to show weakness, to be vulnerable. And, in the end, it made the story I was reading more meaningful.

Teaching others means realizing your own shortfalls. A good teacher doesn’t know everything and won’t enter class with haughty arrogance. Transparency is the key to effective teaching because it gives silent permission to the student.

They don’t have to pretend either. So what if they don’t get the concept? If this lady CRIED, they can set aside their pride and ask for further explanation. When they’re having a rough day, they can vent steam in the corner until they collect themselves. They recall when the teacher had to take a break to pull herself together. If all else fails, there’s a box of tissues to mop up tears.

Even the teacher gets overwhelmed sometimes.

Christians must walk with the same authenticity demonstrated in that classroom. No sense pretending we’re infallible when the Bible clearly teaches us Jesus is the only perfect man who ever lived.

If we want our teaching to find it’s mark, our first lesson is humility. The second is honesty. With both of those book-ending the classroom of our life, we might impart a few truths to those we teach.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

Just Another Substitute Teaching Job

September comes. School is back in session, but I know it will be several weeks before I’m called upon to fill in for teachers.

Until I get the first call…before September comes. WHAT?

The Long-Term Job that Wasn’t

So I was a tad surprised when it wasn’t even September and my cell phone showed a text from one of the language arts teachers at the local high school.

This is the same teacher who asked me to talk about writing tropes during her J-Term book club. I’ve covered her classes many time.  At the last-minute or while she was off for long weekends with her family.

Apparently, she hadn’t had the best summer. In fact, she needed surgery and hoped it would only mean two weeks out of the classroom. I hope that’s true.

I conceded to cover for her. The entire month of October if she needed me.

Fast-forward to the last week of September. The job was cancelled. At the same time my inbox got that notification, a text came from the teacher. Complications. She has to wait until January for the surgery.

She’s frustrated. While I understand her irritation, I’m actually a bit relieved. I have deadlines and projects that need my attention at the moment. But January? I don’t even know what I’ll be working on then.

Maybe nothing. Read more about that here.

My Favorite School

After the cancellation, I decided I should check out the updated computer system.  While I was there, a job popped up: Friday in a social studies classroom.

At my favorite school. This also happens to be my local high school, the place where I won’t be doing a long-term job in October.

Civics class? A bunch of seniors who have a current events quiz and then preparation for presenting in a faux congressional hearing.

Topics they’ll “debate” ranged from lessening gun control (does this surprise you?) to improving schools to changing immigration policy. Yes, I’m the substitute teacher who walks by every group to ask what they’re working on (even if they’re on their phones and don’t appear to be doing anything remotely scholastic).

Two Weeks with Freshmen

This first job is in the hall where I worked with freshmen for the final weeks of the term last May while their social studies teacher was in Germany with a group of students.

When that teacher walked into the classroom, he gave me a high five. He informed me he was heading out of the country again in the spring. Would I be interested in covering for him again?

Because he wanted me to do it. And there would be dark chocolate as part of the bargain.

It’s nice to be wanted, right? Even if it does mean a couple weeks trapped in a room with freshman. One of the weeks in question being the week before Spring Break.

Can anyone say “Spring Fever”?

But, since I don’t know what else will be on my calendar, it felt pretty good to accept a paying gig for a couple weeks. It was my favorite school, after all, even if it wasn’t my favorite subject.

What do you remember about substitute teachers “back in the day”? I remember they didn’t do much teaching, but they did seem to think they had “all the power.”

I Don’t Know What to Write

I am a published author. It’s my job to write all the things…and when I finish writing them, to write something else. For the first time in five years, I don’t know what to write next.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

But it is. Because I don’t know if I even WANT to figure out what to write next.

Where is this Coming From?

This year, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to write a series. No, it’s not a series that is out of the zone for me. It’s the genre of this series and the method of publishing it.

I don’t want to be an independently published author. Crazy, right?

In this day when indies make as much money as many traditionally published mid-list authors (if they have a backlist and a decent following), you’d think I would embrace this new paradigm. Ah, the freedom! The income!

The stress. The multiple hat-wearing. The crazy schedule. The headaches of finding affordable cover designers, editors and formatters.

But I didn’t consider all this. After all, I had the second story half written. The third book was the same story from a different character’s perspective (how hard could that be?) And the fourth story…yeah, it might never exist.

I wrote two stories. I’m revising and editing book three (while book two is with my line editor), but the plan to write book four during November? It’s out. Because there is NO story. Not enough to write 30,000 words for sure.

I tell myself it is the burnout of writing this difficult genre (historical fiction based on biblical characters). Or it’s the fact I’ve been doing so very little “creative” work during this process. After all, I’m following the Bible’s outline.

Too much revising and editing make this writer a very cranky girl. Could I sell that along with a little “redrum” to the horror crowd?

Where could this Lead?

What’s scary to me is that in the five years I’ve been “doing this author thing” for real, I’ve never ONCE run out of passion, drive or stories.

Truthfully, I haven’t run short on story ideas now, either. But not a single one of them calls to me. Nothing says, “Tell my story or I will keep you awake.”

And since I don’t want to be an indie author, I’m looking mostly to my small publisher for ideas. Of course, SPP is all about series. The publisher is offering two “solo series” each year to authors who have published in any of her shared series. I have some ideas to pitch.

But none of them are siren songs to my creative soul.

I applied to write a story in one of the existing series. (The one that I wrote for originally is NOT going to be opened for any new stories.) The “open worlds” are going to be released in batches and only one time per calendar year. I have several ideas for that series, but I don’t know if I want to write them or not.

This lack of passion could lead to a total derailment of my “author career.” And just when I’m starting to get a “regular” paycheck that can buy more than a cup of coffee, too.

What if I have to take more sub jobs? Or write a ton of $5 emails on Fiverr? Is that what I want to do for the rest of my life?

No. I’ve said it before. My sub license expires in 2021, and I’m praying I’ll be making enough from other sources (especially my back list of novellas) that I won’t “need” to renew it. And I raised my prices on Fiverr which has led to a marked decrease of orders because I didn’t have time to deal with those piddly emails.

Where I’m NOT Going with This

Earlier this year, I mentioned taking a dive into the nonfiction world. I’d outlined and drafted a book called THROUGH THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS that chronicled my “grief” journey.

I’ve invested time on this idea this year, too. You can hear about my attempt at writing a proposal that would sell it to agents here.

I attended some online conferences especially to drop into sessions about writing nonfiction and memoir. During one of these, I signed up for a free 15-minute consultation with an author coach. She graciously agreed to look over my proposal and give me an idea of what she thought I’d need to write this book.

Needless to say, the book needs an overhaul. Mostly because I wrote it for me without a clue about structuring a nonfiction book.

Do I want to spend a $1000 and several months turning it into a finished product?

I know I won’t be able to sell it to an agent. I learned that from the Book Proposal Workshop I took this spring, and I don’t foresee anything changing that reality.

The answer here is pretty obvious.

Which brings me back to the original question: What do I want to write next?

What Do You Want to Read?

Thanks for stopping in to read my blog. Not many people do. That’s why I’ve trimmed back to posting once per week and often recycling older posts or content from some of my published works.

If you read my books, this is where I need your input.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of pursuing my “dream” of writing fantasy (possibly young adult fantasy). Would you buy and read it?

I’m also considering delving into women’s fiction since many of my romances are more about issues than finding love. Would you buy and read those?

Better yet, what do you LOVE to read? What do you WISH someone would write because you can’t find it anywhere?

REFLECTIONS Series: Have You Read Book One?

I’m thrilled to announce that the first book of the REFLECTIONS series is live on Amazon. In fact, it’s available in three formats and at discounted rates if you buy the print version and add on either digital or audio (or both).

Better yet, it’s so pretty.

I know the woman on the cover isn’t authentic to first century dress. Scroll down to see the covers of the other three books in the series. I did much better using authentic models on those covers.

But, I’m SO overjoyed to have my first self-published title recovered and rebranded under my InkSpired imprint.

Also, I’m doing some live author events in November. I hope you’ll be excited enough to get an autographed copy that you’ll plan to attend.

REFLECTIONS: Where it Started

This started years ago as a seed planted from a Facebook quiz.

I know. That’s crazy. But if you’ve followed this blog for long, you know that I get story ideas from many strange places.

“I don’t think I’m anything like Mary the mother of Jesus. I mean, God chose her to be the mother of His Son. She must have been perfect.”

A comment from a friend on Facebook that went something like that planted the seed for this story in my heart and mind.
Because I had felt similarly. In fact, I’d retaken the silly Facebook quiz because I’d gotten Mary the mother of Jesus as my first answer, and I thought, “NOT!”

But why? Aside from the Catholic compulsion to saint Mary and pray to her for absolution of sin (which doesn’t have a basis in scripture), why would any human who lived be “perfect” or “above me”?

Because I don’t have the right perspective. I think that the fact Peter, Paul and Mary are written about in scripture means they are superior human examples. (Bonus points if you thought “The sixties folk singing trio?” when you read those names.)
They are human. God used them as examples.

None of them are perfect. The only perfect person to live? Jesus Christ.

And suddenly, I felt an urge to tell Mary’s story so people would see her as a woman who God chose to mother His Son. What would she feel? What would she think?

Well, scripture is clear she pondered many things in her heart.

And there you have the title.

The first version of this book was self-published on CreateSpace in 2015.

This updated version includes two additional scenes and a section of lesson plans so the book can be used in Sunday school classes or youth groups to help teenagers grasp the humanity of Mary of Nazareth

REFLECTIONS: A PONDERING HEART

This is the new cover and blurb, as well as some reviews of the first edition.

From Handmaid to Madonna: a journey fraught with agony

Blurb

My father asked me to keep the strangest parts of this story to myself, but I’ve always worked my thoughts out best when I put them on parchment. So, this journey begins the day an angel informed me I would have a baby—before I was even married.

On that day, the girl who loved her goats and spent time making cheese to sell disappeared.

Once Joseph realized I hadn’t betrayed him, life settled into a new pattern. In the next few years, I traveled further than I had in the fourteen years before them. But my spiritual pilgrimage had barely begun.

“You’ll call him Jesus,” Yahweh’s messenger told me. The old man in the temple prophesied that my soul would be pierced with many sorrows. From Judea to Egypt and back to Nazareth, swords of sorrow struck my heart and mind.

Jesus was only the first of five sons I would mother, but his life changed us all. For the better, yes, praise Yahweh. But not without conflict.

God’s promises always come to pass. Could I learn to embrace the painful with the same sincerity as the joyful?

As old Simeon told her in the temple, a sword pierced her soul – again and again. And the killing blow was yet to come…
What readers of the earlier editions are saying:

“This is an excellent fictional account of what it might have been like to walk in Mary’s shoes. The author did not take any verses out of context, but simply allowed the reader to see the human side of Mary.” Barbara, winner of Goodreads copy

I started reading this at 9:00PM on Dec. 23. I thought I could start and then finish it on the 24th. Well, let me tell you – I was up in the wee hours of Dec. 24th, not being able to stop reading once I had started. Sharon Hughson has done a beautiful job of putting words to paper on this narrative of Mary’s thoughts from the time she was approached by an angel about a virgin birth. There are no words to sufficiently describe this BEAUTIFUL story. As a mother and a lover of my Lord – this book moved and touched me deeply.
Vicki from Wyoming.

This was a great story and I can’t stress that enough. It was an in depth look at how things may have been for Mary after she found out she would give birth to Jesus up to his ascension. I learned so much about their customs and saw things from a different perspective. I highly highly recommend this book!! – Mary, 5-Star Amazon Review

This isn’t the typical book I’d pick up and read, but found I was hooked from the first page. I’ve often thought about Mary, not only as the Blessed Mother, but as a woman. Mary is perfect, and as a Christian woman that’s an intimidating standard to live up to. This book takes a brave look at Mary’s life and shows the human side to her, bringing the reader into her world and her mind. I wish this was required reading for CCD classes! Not only was I drawn into Mary’s story, her fears, her hopes, her dreams, I was amazed at the historical detail and the biblical accuracy as well. Highly recommended! – Jessica, 5-Star Amazon Review

Sharon Hughson took the little bit of information contained in the Bible, with (probably) a great deal of research, and a bit of literary license – managed to write a very realistic rendition of what Mary’s story quite possibly looked like. I was utterly impressed with what I read. I am without a doubt looking forward to reading the rest of the series!!! – E. Eblin, 5-Star Amazon Review

This book will give you a new perspective on the life of Jesus. – Shonda, 5-Star Amazon Review

REFLECTIONS: Where it’s Headed

So far, I’ve written two additional stories for this series. The second book, A LABORING HAND, is Martha of Bethany’s story. It didn’t receive the same stutters of awe and amazement from my beta readers as Mary of Nazareth’s story did, but it is the story I was most compelled to write during November 2018.

The third book is Mary of Bethany’s story. It’s truly a young adult book, so it also includes a section of lesson outlines. It’s also the most worrisome of the three stories. At the moment, I’m revising and polishing it so I can get it to my editor by October 11th. I’m sure she’ll need to work more magic on it than either of the other stories needed.


The fourth book in the series is roughly outlined. It’s Salome’s story, and I’m struggling with where it needs to start and end. What is the point of this story?

For me, I’m writing it to understand Salome’s audacious request that her sons sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in His kingdom. I’ve always been stunned by this short scene in scripture.

But other than a few passing mentions, scripture tells us much less about Salome than any of the women I’ve written about. That means there’s more room for my imagination.

And more chance I’ll blunder the story completely and turn off all my readers.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I tackle this story in November. I want to explore my thoughts, of course, but I really want to tell the story God wants told.

My Author Schedule

Now that I’ve rambled on about this series. Let’s get specific about the release of A PONDERING HEART. The best way to stay informed about my author events, is to follow me on one of these platforms:
Facebook
Instagram

If you want the full rundown and opportunities to give me input about what I’m writing next, you should join this Facebook Group.

I’m hosting two book release events:
The “in-person” event will be held at Cathedral Coffee in Scappoose on Friday, November 8, 2019 from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.

The Facebook Event, which will include a couple of live videos, a giveaway for an autographed copy and several FREE copies of both digital and audio copies of A PONDERING HEART will be held on Saturday, November 9.

Here’s a link to the event. Plan to attend for your chance to win series bookmarks, an autographed copy of the first book OR the entire REFLECTIONS series on eBook.

Of course, if you’re willing to pay $10 and shipping, I’m happy to send an autographed copy of the paperback anywhere and include a FREE audiobook code with it.

Just complete this form:

The Wide Angle Lens on Helping

It didn’t surprise God that Adam needed a companion. The Creator of time glimpses each moment of it in the same instant. The thought boggles our minds, I know. So let’s move on to something we can comprehend.

Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone: I will make him a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him – Genesis 2:183

If God recognized this problem, we shouldn’t doubt it.

A Lesson from the Garden

Read Genesis 2:18-25.
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t make the woman right away? Verse 19 tells us God made the animals and birds. Look at verse 20. What was the true purpose behind God’s parade of livestock?

You’ve heard the saying: “dog is man’s best friend,” but that’s not a truth from scripture. After God made all the animals and Adam named them, there still wasn’t a suitable helper for him.

List the ways a wife helps her husband in our world.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
I don’t know how things work in your household, but my husband and I share all the domestic chores. If I cook dinner (which is usually a minimum of five nights per week), he does the dishes and cleans up the kitchen. When our kids lived with us, they shared this responsibility. On weekends, he cooks breakfast and sometimes I clean the kitchen up afterward. What can I say? Dishes aren’t my thing.

I keep the house clean. We both do the laundry. He takes care of mowing the lawn and weeding the flowerbeds. (Praise the Lord! I detest yard work. And remember my black thumb?)

We help each other take care of our home. It’s a team effort.
That’s exactly what God created in the garden.

Read Genesis 1:28-30. What responsibility to God give to Adam and Eve?

How does that look in the 21st Century?

Obviously, the Earth is “replenished.” However, reproduction guarantees that humans will continue to be able to share the Gospel and shine the light of Christ in our dark world.

Lessons from Godly Women

You can’t read a woman’s study book without turning to Proverbs 31, right? King Lemuel’s mother described the perfect wife. This Virtuous Woman shows us more than we want to see. (It does me, anyway. Does this woman ever sit down and take a break?)

Read Proverbs 31:20-25. How does this woman help others? Who does she help?
v. 20
v. 21-22
v. 23
v. 24
What is the result of her helpfulness (v. 25)?

Copy Proverbs 31:31.

How does that verse motivate you to be more helpful?

Read Acts 9:36-39.
Who is the godly woman named in this passage?

How is she described (v. 36)?

What did she do to help others?

What did Peter do (v. 40-41)?

Why do you think he did this? Is this what the two men who brought him to Joppa expected?

I believe Tabitha’s death left a hole in the church and community of Joppa. Her helping heart ministered to many people and displayed the love of God for all to see. Even though I can’t sew a lick (and don’t want to learn), I admire this saint. Will I ever be described as “full of good works” like she was? I don’t know, but I believe helping others should be every Christian’s priority.

Lessons from Jesus

Consider the life of Christ. He was always helping others, putting their needs before his own.
List some ways Jesus helped people during his earthly ministry?
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Read Matthew 25:31-46.
When will this separation of sheep and goats take place?

It’s important to note that the sheep didn’t inherit the kingdom because of the works listed in verses 35 and 36. Just as James 2:17, 18 & 26 confirm, authentic faith in Christ produces works.
The children of the kingdom, sheep, were characterized by many good works. What sort of actions does Jesus say they do?

What is the key to this kindness in Christ’s eyes (v. 40)?

Jesus came to minister to others and give his life. We should pattern ourselves after Him, which means helping others on a daily basis.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

FINDING FOCUS: Helping

“I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18) is the Bible’s first description of Eve. In fact, when God created the woman (Adam’s name for her since he named all he saw), His purpose was to give the man a helper.

After all, there was too much important work to do–naming everything, dressing the trees in the garden, having dominion over all of creation–for one guy (even a perfect man, which Adam was at that point) to do it all. Eve was created to help him.
Is it any wonder so many women feel inclined to help?

You arrive for dinner at a friend’s house. The first thing you say after thanking her for the invitation: “Can I help you do anything?”

Dinner is over. You stack your silverware in the middle of your plate and reach for the plate next to you and the next one. The thought of setting them on the counter makes you cringe, so you rinse each one and tuck them into the dishwasher (unless it’s full of clean dishes).

Although our world is sliding into a state of selfishness, most women still possess that urge to help others. They notice a need, and they step to fill it. (This is one reason we can fall so easily into the auto focus trap mentioned in chapter two.)
Let’s take a moment to focus on the first woman’s pure, innocent desire to fulfill her role as her husband’s helper.

* * * * * * * *

Eve followed Adam through the garden, listening as he recited the names of each tree they passed. A small critter with a bushy tail scampered down the branch of the oak tree.

“Squirrel,” her husband said. “They like the nuts. Once I tried to count how many he stuck in those fat cheeks, but he hurried away and buried them.”

Eve reached toward the gray and brown fur. The squirrel wiggled his nose at her, ducked his head up and down. The hair on his face tickled the pads of her fingers. When he dashed back up the tree, the fluffy tail brushed against her wrist.

“He’s soft.”

Adam’s handsome face creased with a smile. He extended his hand toward her. “Let me show you how to harvest the vegetables.”

Eve held the broad fingers which dwarfed her own. Together, she and her husband stepped from the shade of the massive tree into a wide clearing.

Rows of green, leafy plants stretched in every direction. Corn stalks towered over her, the browning silk on their ears indicating ripeness. Bushes burst and bowed beneath the weight of green and purple gourds that Adam called squash. Her husband dropped her hand to demonstrate how to tell which ones were ripe and twisted off a smaller green one.

“We can roast the zucchini whole when they’re this size.”

Her lips formed the strange name. Zucchini. He handed her the squash. Its stem felt bumpy and the hide smooth.

The garden seemed endless. Beyond the vegetables, there were rows of berry bushes. The raspberry left a pink stain on her fingers. Tart exploded along with sweetness on her tongue. Carrying these by the handful didn’t seem practical. It would take too much time and too many trips to collect enough to satisfy her craving for another taste.

A pair of deer nibbled on the leaves of smaller bushes. They raised their heads when Adam approached, their ears flicking toward him.

With dewy brown eyes and smooth tawny pelts, the animals were beautiful. Adam spoke softly to the deer, rubbing the one with antlers behind its large ear.

Eve’s mind whirled with all the information. Her stomach gurgled and her tongue longed to taste everything.

Her gaze rested on Adam’s muscular frame. “Are you hungry now?”

She extended the handful of berries toward Adam. He turned from the animals which side-stepped away from the sound of her voice. His dark eyes grazed her face before he grabbed the raspberries and tossed the whole bunch into his mouth. A few of the seedy fruit missed the mark, dribbling onto his bare chest.

Eve flicked the stray bits away, frowning at the pink dot left behind. Adam pressed his hand over hers. Warmth seeped into her palm from his smooth skin. Tingles skittered up her arm, much like the squirrel had scampered up the tree.

Their eyes met.

“If you’re hungry, you can show me how to cook the squash.”

A longing welled inside her chest. She ached to help him take care of the garden. Her heart leapt at the thought of preparing food for them, seeing his eyes flicker with satisfaction as they did when he swallowed the raspberries.

“There are fragrant herbs to make things more savory.”

His hand dropped away, and he walked ahead. He would teach her what he knew, then she would find the best way to please him.

Warmth pooled in her stomach and radiated into her chest. Helping him be content would give more pleasure than eating her fill of sweet fruit.

Which must be why their Father God said everything was very good.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson