Category: Inspiration

FINDING FOCUS: Mentoring

Mentoring is God’s plan for passing along Christianity and the example of Jesus Christ himself.

This month, the blog will take a closer look at this important calling. As in the study book (no longer available for purchase), the study starts with a Portrait.

Mentoring is becoming a lost art. As you’ll see in the Bible study segment, we should be more serious about this focal point of Christianity.

What follows is my attempt to paint a portrait of one of the best examples of mentoring given in scripture. Because the details of the arrangement aren’t spelled out in scripture, plenty of license was taken in the fictionalizing of the account.

Air stagnates in the women’s section at the rear of the Ephesian synagogue. I open my mouth to join the recitation and nearly gag when the body odor of an elderly woman in front of me wafts my way. Lord, help me!
Yes, that is a prayer. I find myself uttering three- and four-word petitions all day long. And the gracious Lord I serve hears and answers.
In this moment, I don’t heave the contents of my stomach onto the women around me. Nor does a retching sound emerge in place of the scripture. God has answered again.
My tongue forms the ancient words from Deuteronomy. Feminine voices embrace me on every side, joining and blending with the deeper tones from our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons.
I tilt my head to the side, searching for my husband Aquila. My father is dead, my brother remains in Rome, uninterested in the Way, and the Lord has never blessed me with sons, only two daughters, both married.
Aquila is more than enough. We serve Jesus Christ together, just as we make tents together.
A male voice begins the first song of degrees. Other voices join in. I twitter out the high part my mother taught me so many decades past. The soprano notes complement the lower voices of both women and men.
A woman behind me joins on the high harmony. My heart leaps as I’m transported back to childhood, learning the part with my younger sister.
I turn my thoughts toward the Lord, voicing each word from my lips to his ears.
“The Lord is thy keeper,” we sing (Ps. 121:5). Praise Him for keeping us safe when Caesar evicted us from Rome.
“The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil” (Ps. 121:7). Yes, Lord, you have preserved Aquila and me too many times to recount.
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1).
Tears clog my throat. King David, author of this psalm, wrote of the tabernacle, but I have never seen the temple in Jerusalem. I squeeze my eyes closed to ease the burning.
When the singing ends, several men pray aloud. Their voices make a tuneful backdrop to my own thanksgiving and supplication.
The rabbi reads from Isaiah. It is one of the three books outside of the Torah that this synagogue has available, along with sacred scrolls.
A stranger, dark skin naming his origin from parts to the south, perhaps even Egypt, stands and speaks. The tone of his voice is cultured, smooth like cream. His words are fine. He expounds on the passage from Isaiah’s prophecy before speaking of other prophecies.
I nearly topple over when the man mentions the teaching of John the Baptist. I straighten against the hard seat, nothing more than a plank of wood set atop cinder blocks.
He speaks of the Messiah. My heart thrums in my throat until his honeyed words are nearly drowned by the pounding. Does this man know of the Way?
Many members of the synagogue are believers, but others claim Jesus of Nazareth was not their Messiah. The topic is dangerous to discuss in this Jewish place of worship.
I couldn’t discern whether the young man knows the Way. His focus seems to be validating John as the forerunner, the prophet to make straight the path before Messiah.
A chorus of murmurs from the men interrupts his fine speech, keeps me from hearing what more he says.
Several other men stand to read or recite scripture. No one else expounds on the passages. After another hymn and prayer, the rabbi dismisses the gathering with the traditional Shalom blessing.
Outside the domed building, I breathe deeply, watching the men file out. Aquila comes, head bent close to Benjamin, one of the members of our house church. Aquila’s leanness makes him appear taller than the stout cobbler. They exchange nods before Aquila extends his hand to me.
I take it, amazed that it can be cool and warm all at once. I press my back against the wall of the synagogue, raise on my toes to speak directly into my husband’s ear.
The crowd leaving the worship service is quiet, but the street around us teems with commerce. It is Ephesus. The trading never ceases.
“Who was that man? The one who spoke of John?”
“Apollos, an Alexandrite Jew.”
“Does he follow the Way?”
Aquila shakes his head, a slight move. I stare into his rich, brown eyes and see the motion wasn’t a denial. He thinks the younger man might be a believer, but it is dangerous to assume this. Apollos hadn’t spoken openly of Jesus, like Paul the Apostle had done when he visited here a few months past.
“We should invite him to break bread with us.”
Aquila nods. He scans the trickle of worshipers still emerging from the synagogue. A royal blue cloak swirls at the doorway, and the dark-skinned man emerges. Behind him, the rabbi shakes his head vociferously. My stomach clenches at the sight of the synagogue leader’s stern visage.
My husband shuffles toward the two men, waiting a respectful distance apart. The rabbi looks at him expectantly, but Aquila nods toward the stranger. Apollos stands half a head taller than my husband. Their lips move, but the bustle of the city and my distance from them makes hearing the conversation impossible.
Soon, Aquila is nodding. Both of them step toward where I’m waiting, hands folded over my queasy stomach. Lord, don’t let this be a mistake.
Trivial conversation follows us through the crowded market and into the quieter trade district. I fall behind the men, trying to listen to snatches of their conversations.
Lord, protect us if this man is not sent from you. Grant us wisdom to teach him Your Perfect Way. Move in his heart. Touch our tongues and lips. You promised your Spirit’s aide.
I could not hear much from the men, but I know the Lord hears every syllable of my fervent prayers.
A faint odor of tanning hides greets us when Aquila swings open the door to our home. It is nearly impossible to keep the stench away when our trade requires us to handle cured hides and skins every day.
The men sit on the couches in the center court of our small shop. My feet glide soundlessly across the mosaic and into the storage room. I fetch a skin of new wine and three cups. I place some bread and olive spread onto a large platter beside the cups, and carry all of it to the men.
I pour wine for both men, meeting Aquila’s eyes when I hand him his drink, ducking my head when I pass a cup to our guest.
Aquila swallows before asking, “What do you know of John’s baptism?”
Apollos sips his beverage, reclines on the pillow-covered arm of his couch. “His immersion of believers in water prepared men and women to become part of something greater.”
They discuss this subject. I swallow a mouthful of drink, but the knot in my stomach won’t allow more than that. I continue to pray until I feel a nudge from the Spirit.
“What of Christ?” I say.
Both men turn to stare at me. My husband’s eyes widen. Apollos holds my gaze, sipping from his cup before setting it on his thigh.
“Has Messiah come?” The dark man’s eyebrows press together, creasing his wide forehead.
I keep my eyes pinned on our guest, but I still see the slight shake of Aquila’s head. The witness of Christ within me prods me to ignore the wordless warning from my spouse.
“Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. He called an assembly from the body of those baptized by John. We were baptized by Paul the Apostle in Corinth a few years past.”
“I heard rumors about this Jesus. Why do you say he was the Christ?”
Aquila and I take turns quoting prophecies of old which Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled. Prophecies everyone agrees spoke of the coming Messiah.
Aquila asks questions and nods at our explanations. His attendance on my words sends a flush to my cheeks. This man is a powerful orator. If he follows the Way, many people will turn from the path leading to eternal destruction.
Light fades. I bring a lamp from an inner room and light the wicks floating in pots encircling the terrace. A sense of peace envelopes me, a blanket of assurance as real as the curtain of darkness falling around us.
Today I have discovered another way Aquila and I can serve the Lord together. A young man will be saved from destruction. In turn, his persuasive speaking will convert many more to the Way.
Thank you, Lord.

You can still join the LIVE study in my Facebook Group by clicking here. That’s where you can download a FREE copy of the book and interact with others who are interesting in finding their God-given focus for life.

***This excerpt was first published in 2016 in the first edition of FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

A Glimpse Inside What I’m Writing Now

The cover for the second book in the REFLECTIONS series will be unveiled soon.

A Laboring Hand is the story of Jesus told by Martha of Bethany. And it’s a story that’s had a profound effect on the author writing it.

I’ve always teased my sister about being bossy, but Martha has taken flak from preachers for a couple thousand years about her tendency to be bossy. We’re familiar with this scripture from Luke 10, right?

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

But what did it look like in Martha’s life?

Here’s a glimpse from A LABORING HAND, chapter four.

I washed my hands and began to chop the handfuls of pungent herbs I would add to the beans. The pestle in my hand smashed the beans with rhythmic efficiency. Mary pressed together more flour, salt and olive oil, intent on baking more bread.

“The stone was hot.” The words had barely left my mouth when Lazarus limped in followed by a boy carrying a jug on his head.

“Leave it in the shade outside,” I waved a hand to the boy. “We’ll draw out into my pitchers half-filled with water. That will make it last.”

Laz nodded to the boy, gesturing to a place further along the house, away from the cooking fire and the chimney. I heard the jingle of coins.

“It’s already watered.”

“What proportion?” My brain estimated the amount of drink a dozen thirsty men would need.

“Fifty percent.” Lazarus slouched against the wall. Weariness etched his features, but I knew he wouldn’t rest. He was more eager for the visitors than any of us.

“We can safely add another twenty percent. Will you see to it?”

“I’ll need to draw more water.” Mary’s hands hesitated over the dough. “They’ll need what I drew for washing.”

“They aren’t zealots.” I returned to my chopping. “They won’t care about washing before they eat. Could you reach me the bowl of olives?” I gestured to the line of pottery on the wall overhead.

Mary shoved Abba’s weaving stool into place and stepped up to grasp the bowl. “I intend to wash their feet.”

I froze. Why would she insist on doing that? It was a servant’s job, and since we didn’t have servants, none of our guests ever expected this service.

“They’ll just get dirty again when he leaves on Sunday.”

“But they’ll be clean for Sabbath.”

Like that really mattered in a small synagogue like ours.

“There isn’t enough water.” That would solve it.

“I’ll draw more.”

“The bread needs baking. And the floor should be swept and the cushions beaten. Plus, we’ll need to get out all the extra rugs.”

Lazarus sighed and pushed away from the wall. “I’ll get started on the cushions.”

I shook my head. With only one arm, it took him much longer to clean them. “I’ll do it. Draw out the wine.”

Laz blinked at me, sharing a look with Mary. It was an apologetic look. He’d tried to aid her plan, but the bossy big sister nixed it. Something gnawed at my heart, but I ignored it. There was work to be done.

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.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion. My parents had often shared it. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the master while the others filed onto other cushions, some choosing to lean against the wall on the rugs Lazarus had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen once all of them sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers of wine. Once we finished, I began to distribute the bowls of spiced beans and packets of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d folded herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to talk.

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 she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued to serve. His 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 John’s cup.

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

They weren’t drawn out of the way, so I turned and topped off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible. I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home, but usually Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

The unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. Soon, I would need to bake some more.

And that’s when it was too much. I strode toward Yeshua with my pitcher and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked.

As I filled his 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 I was doing? Why should she just be sitting there?

“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. He would help me because he cared about me.
“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort turned to 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 cup. “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 things. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

“A certain man,” his gaze scanned the rest of the room.

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories, they always carried so much spiritual significance. I couldn’t listen though because his words stung my heart.

I filled cups, my eyes lowered. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes, pulling my shawl which had dropped to my shoulders, up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. The words kept echoing all evening.

Even now, as I’m writing all this, they sting me 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?

What do you think? How had you imagined Martha in this moment that gets so much negative attention? Should women be more like Mary?

If you’re excited to learn more about the REFLECTIONS series, make sure you’re a member of my newsletter. I’ll be running special (including FREE audiobooks of A PONDERING HEART) to my subscribers FIRST!
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Happy Independence Day: A Look at Freedom

July 4,1776, a crowd of rebellious patriots rally around a document written by Thomas Jefferson and sent to a king thousands of miles across the sea. This king taxed the “colonists” but in return they received nothing from him.

Today, I’ll celebrate our independence with a collection of links to posts with the title “Why Freedom Isn’t Free.”

I don’t endorse any of the products these posts might be selling. I am not saying I agree with all of the content. But, in the spirit of “free speech” I am sharing diverse opinions about this subject.


We’ll start with an old post of mine. I wrote it when the hubs and I walked the “Freedom Trail” in Boston.

Next up is a post from a life coach. He translates freedom in your personal life to freedom in your career and finances. Read it here


I especially agreed with the first line of this next post: “Years ago back in my days at the academy and in the military, I used to hear the phrase ‘freedom isn’t free’ over and over again. Not because I heard it in my military days, but because I think it’s a phrase that’s going out of style.

Read the rest of this post here

This final post has a religious bent with a text from Genesis chapter two. I’m including it because, I believe, that’s when this struggle for freedom truly began for mankind.
Read it here.

As always, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on freedom, but please don’t quote the other articles as if I stated them or agreed with them. I am only sharing them to offer some diversity.

Don’t you get tired of hearing only MY opinion on this blog?

Do you agree that “freedom isn’t free”? What price have you paid for freedom?

The END GAME for Marvel’s AVENGERS

You don’t even have to follow this blog to know I love superheroes and superhero movies. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you figured it out right away.

I mean, the thing is called HERO DELIVERY.

My memes for it feature my favorite super: Wonder Woman.

My TWO favorite supers: Wonder Woman and Captain America

And much of this love started because I have boys and they adored the X-Men movies. Just when I thought I might have to become a mutant to get special powers, along came Marvel with a whole universe of heroes for me and my family to fall in love with.

And I didn’t really love Iron Man. I mean, Downey Jr. is a great actor, and I totally loved his sarcastic wit. But he was all about being a rich playboy off the back of weapons that killed thousands. Until he was kidnapped and compromised and found out that he could become the weapon.

Oh, right, but he would fight for good. When all he really wanted was redemption from his past mistakes.

Yes, seeking redemption is utterly human and it drives plenty of stories, but it doesn’t make the best hero. Not in my mind anyway.

And while CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER might not have been the best film ever, Captain America won my heart. You can read about why in this old post. And see why I picked him in the CIVIL WAR film.

Because those CAPS totally keep their identity secret

Give Me a Team Any Day

But I’ve already said my favorite superhero is Wonder Woman and she’s from DC’s comic universe. They’ve tried to capture the audience that Marvel has sold by the blockbuster, but they don’t have the same writers, I guess. Or they try to make it all about Superman. Or their superheroes don’t really have abilities.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE:

Barry: What’s your super power again?

Bruce: I’m rich. (Yep. And he’s trying for redemption.)

So when Marvel gave me the AVENGERS, I was over the moon. I thought Thor was hunky (and has an accent to boot) but I admired Captain Steve Rogers. Sure, he woke up 70 years after going on a mission to save the world from Hydra and the Nazis, but he was still the same guy.

Sorry, Tony Stark, he’s “more” than just the serum your dad created. They would never have injected him with it if he hadn’t met their “hero” personality requirements. And he would fight to the death for the underdog then, too, but now that he’s a “super soldier” he can actually win.

I like that no one player can win on their own. That they need to push aside their egos and personalities and learn how to fit together.

That’s probably my basketball and softball playing/watching/love shining through.

How About Some Team Players

And just like when I play softball or volleyball or some other team sport, I want to be on a team that plays like a team. If all you have are a bunch of hot shot star players, you could find yourself losing.

That’s what the first AVENGERS movie was all about. These super powerful people had to learn to “play nice” and respect each other.

Sure, Marvel had a bigger picture. They gave most of the main players their own movies to keep building the story line. Did everyone have their favorites? I know I did.

And I loved that it wasn’t a closed team.

We love Spidey! And he makes the team…eventually

But the struggle for who would be the boss always played in the background. I mean, was it Tony’s team because he financed it? Or was it Cap’s team because he led it?

And in each movie, you saw the relationships between the team members grow, deepen and change.

Like in real life. Not everyone on a team is best friends, but they know their jobs and the do them. Yes, I loved the snark (from Tony Stark) and the way the members without superpowers were considered as valuable as those with them. (Whereas in JUSTICE LEAGUE, they were doomed without Superman.)

And at first I didn’t like INFINITY WAR because they lost. But then I realized that even the greatest teams have to lose. Why? Because there are lessons you can learn from losing that you’ll never know if you always win, win, win.

Read my review of that movie – you know Thanos’ story? – here.

END GAME was filled with epic battle scenes and an ending that made you gasp.

And I’m SO glad that the AVENGERS didn’t have Captain Marvel until the end. As much as I love her character, I’m glad she’s busy saving the universe elsewhere. Because she’s not as much of a team player as the others. Maybe that’s because her “team” ditched her and betrayed her. Or maybe because she’s so powerful she doesn’t need a team (and don’t we all LOVE playing on a team with a person like that?)

Go team! I was so glad to see them working together, all of them, in that final battle.

Watch the Movie

I planned to write a review of the movie. That’s what I sat down to do. I’ve watched it two times in the theater, and I have some definite opinions about it.

But when I sat down to write that’s not what came out.

If you’ve been watching the Marvel movies, you’ve probably already seen END GAME by now.

If you haven’t watched many of the other movies and wonder if that matters for this, I say yes. This movie gives head nods to almost every other movie in the series. If you haven’t watched them, you’ll miss much of the entertainment.

If you haven’t watched END GAME, dial back your expectations. Not because this movie won’t meet them–it will. But it probably won’t deliver exactly what you’re hoping for.

This guy will have HIS own series on the new Disney streaming channel

After all, Marvel is planning to continue the universe. But when the major stars are “done” being cast in the roles of America’s favorite heroes, what can a movie studio do? Sure, they can try to find other actors, but that won’t appease the fans who’ve been following this cast.

So, they do what TV series do when a contract isn’t renewed. They write the main characters “out” of the series.

Just for laughs because, “Hey, Chris!”

That doesn’t mean they killed them off, but it does mean they “ended” their part in the Marvel Universe–as far as this new, Thanos-free timeline is concerned anyway.

What’s your take on AVENGERS END GAME?

Another Year is Ending

It seems like only a month or two ago and I was working out the word of the year for 2018. Now it’s time to introduce the word for 2019.

Where has the time gone?

And so much has happened for me this year. It’s crazy! And unbelievable.

But choosing Metamorphosis for my theme word last year turned out to be more accurate than I’d planned.

Remember how I was going to change my brand and my focus.

It all started with hiring a designer to help all my posts have a certain look.


I joined Novel Academy, mostly for the weekly live classes.

Then I went to the Deep Thinker’s Writing Retreat. And while I was there, I messed up the story I was working on. Because the SEQ’s for the characters revealed more story background than I could reveal in a 30,000-word novella.

I released my second book to Kindle Worlds in March. Then Kindle Worlds announced they would be closing in July. What? I had planned three more novellas to release in that world for the year.

So much for those plans.

Thankfully, the owner of the First Street Church Kindle World decided to open her own publishing company. I was SO thrilled about this.

I wrote the story for the July 3 release that wasn’t going to happen now that Amazon had closed Kindle Worlds. I submitted the manuscript to the new press, and it come out at the same time my first two novellas re-released.


August was a busy month for me. Those three novellas came out, and a short story I’d written for a summer romance anthology with my first publisher, Roane Publshing, also released.

I ran a contest and found a few new subscribers for my newsletter. I also tried a different method of finding an Advance Review Team, and of the twenty-two books I gave away, nine people reviewed ONE SULTRY DAY.

My sister and I visited our brother in New York City over Labor Day weekend. When I got home, I was hard at work at the contracted novella for Sweet Promise Press (to release April 2019).

At the end of the month, my husband and I attended a marriage seminar in Florida. It was hot and wonderful.

While I was there, my publisher, Roane Publishing, notified us that they were closing their doors after seven years.

This ripped my heart out.

Half of my published works disappeared the next week.

This was NOT the metamorphosis of my brand I had in mind last December when I was coming up with that word.

Strangely, my remaining works were all Christian. It was like someone else DID have a big plan.


While I was working on the romantic comedy and outlining two novellas to write for National Novel Writing Month, an idea for a Bible study book gelled. I outlined that, too, and wrote some of it while on vacation with my husband.

After the big closing announcement (two in one year? Really, God?), it was difficult to focus on anything. But I did. And I determined that 2019 will be a building year for me.

I’m going to build my newsletter list. I’m going to build my new brand as a Christian writer. And one of the ways I’m going to do it is by expanding the REFLECTIONS FROM A PONDERING HEART into a series. (More on that later.)

I struggled to write 50,000 words in 30 days for National Novel Writing Month. But I did finally manage it.

Then it was December. I had to rewrite the romantic comedy, beef up my character motivations and figure out how to make it funnier without losing the serious essence that is my trademark.

I spent a week in Hawaii. So this post was written early.

Based on the clues I’ve given, what do you think my word will be for 2019?

Do you pick a theme verse or a theme word each year? If so, what will yours be?

Writing “The End”

November. It’s golden leaves turn brown and crunch beneath the soles of my shoes. (Shoes and socks?! Ugh!) Then the wind blows them away.

Meanwhile…at my computer…

National Novel Writing Month compels me to write at least 50,000 words.

For the past five years, I’ve attempted to accomplish this feat before Thanksgiving. Since the first day of the month was a Thursday, my favorite holiday came early this year.

Which means my Nanowrimo deadline came later.

Day One

It begins. I’m excited. I have prepped the two Scrivener files I’m using for the next two First Street Church romance novellas. If I draft both of them fully, that should take me closer to 60,000 words.

There’s a write-in at a local coffee shop from 1 PM to 3 PM. There are only two of us there, but words pour from our fingertips.

I update my word count on the nanowrimo.org website as frequently as possible.

Day Two

I’ve decided to write all Bailey Travers’ point of view scenes first and then return to write the shero scene. This is exactly how I wrote my young adult fantasy novel during November two years ago.

By the end of the day, I have 8,000 words.

Write on!

Day Three and Four

The weekend. I don’t usually write on weekends. This means I won’t get the badge for updating my word count five days in a row. *sad face*

Day Five

I’m scheduled to work at St. Helens Middle School. This position involves teaching seventh grade science for four hours and monitoring a study hall for an hour.

During the hour prep period, I start Jaz’s first scene.

Since I’m showing the same movie and discussing the same work sheet during all four class periods, I manage to finish writing the scene during the afternoon class sessions.

Day Six

I need to research a few items about the Texas Family Protective Services for Jaz’s story line. Also, I’ve missed my Monday scheduling of Facebook and Social Media, so my morning is unproductive as far as word count goes.

In the afternoon, I finish off all of Bailey’s scenes. I’ll be ready for Jaz in the morning.

Day Seven

I wake up with a sore throat.

Day Eight

I’m still lethargic from not completing the usual workout stuff. I’m in the Hot Seat during the weekly Novel Academy webinar, so I work on the dark moment for Tessa, the shero of the second novella I intend to write during November.

I do manage to get the SEQ filled out (although it changes somewhat during my 30 minutes of fame online), and write a scene from Jaz’s point of view.

I’m still ahead in the word count.

Day Nine

Finally, I have a 4,000-word writing day.

Word count by day-end: 20,875

Day Ten – Eleven

Weekend Again. I write this blog post and do laundry. Sunday, there’s church.

Day Twelve

Conquer the FINAL scene of November novella #1

(Yes, this manuscript might need additional scenes to complete it, but I’m ready for Tessa Travers to face her demons and fall in love.)

Except wait…this scene refuses to be written today, so on to the the opening scene of Tessa’s story. Hey, at least I wrote a couple thousand words.

Day Thirteen

Thanks to the repeated listening of John chapter 11, my writer’s brain gets a new idea. It would include redesigning the cover this book:

And releasing it as A PONDERING HEART next Christmas. After that, another new book written from the perspective of other Bible women would be released each month until Easter 2020, when the fourth (and possibly final) REFLECTIONS book would come out. (Thus, it’s a series so a cover redesign is imperative so all the covers can feel similar and I can’t afford to hire the cover designer who created what you see above for THREE additional covers.)

So, I wrote a scene for that first story (Maybe A SERVANT’S GIFT) to the total of 1,527 words.

Afterward, my muse allowed me to finish Jaz and Bailey’s story.

Thank you, Ms. Muse.

Daily total: 3,556 words

Day Fourteen

Edits on LOVE’S RECOVERING HOPE.

Must. Submit. To. Publisher. This. Week.

Day Sixteen

Tonight’s the night. Our local writers show up at the public library at 5PM and write and write and write.

Creative energy buzzes around us, increasing everyone’s typing speed.

There is pizza. There are sweet treats. Some drink coffee and others consume tea.

The past three years, I reached 50,000 words on this night.

So not happening this year. But the camaraderie is delightful and the story unfolds.

Day Nineteen

More of the same. Some scenes fly off my fingers. Others feel like I’m cutting them out with a dull Exact-o blade.

But…eventually…I reach the end of the second novella.

It’s Finally Over

Not really. Come January or February, these two stories will be subjected to my extensive rewriting and revising process before finding their way to beta readers and my editor.

If you’re a faithful reader, I’m planning for them to release in April and June 2019.

But, what is finally finished is the insanity of National Novel Writing Month.

Goodbye, November.

I’ll be heading to Hawaii in three weeks…and I’ve got some revising to do on my other April release before then.

5 Battle Tools To Help In Hard Moments

For several years, I’ve been applying as an advanced reviewer for both fiction and nonfiction books. Most of the time, I’m excited to read these books, and even more thrilled to share my thoughts about them.
I started following Kelly Balarie’s blogs a year or so ago when she released a book called Fighting Fear. After all, that was during my “No Fear this Year” phase. It seemed like she had something to offer me in my battle against fear.
Even though I didn’t read that book (although I have ordered it and will read it now), her weekly blog posts encouraged me. When she asked for volunteers to help her launch her next book, I applied.
Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Battle Ready? Well, sure. The Apostle Paul warned that we were in a spiritual battle, but how does that look in my life?
If you’re wondering the same thing, read this book. Kelly’s transparency touched my heart. And she quoted TONS of scripture, so I knew I was hearing heavenly wisdom, not just her thoughts on these subjects.
This is a book to be savored. There are journaling activities, do them. Take each chapter in and don’t move to the next until you’re sure God has given you a glimpse of the mindset discussed: from Identity to Objectivity to Positivity.
Still not sure it’s for you?
Here’s a post from Kelly to give you a tiny sample of what’s inside this book.

5 Battle Tools To Help In Hard Moments

By: Kelly Balarie

She didn’t so much as say hi to me. In fact, even worse, she walked right past me, looking the other direction. She pretended I wasn’t there. Hmph!! After all I’ve done for her. After all I’ve given her. After how I’ve gone out of my way to love her.

Now I’m the one left looking like a crazed waving-at-the-air fool. Like -an idiot.

I humphat her husband along the way to my church seat. Silently, I critique her in my mind, She’s rude. Before not too long, I get side-tracked by own thoughts: Everyone always hurts me. Like that boy, I asked to dance in 4th grade. Like those girls who circled up to whisper about me in that damp locker room. Like the group of women who act like they’re far better than me.

I’m supposed to be listening in church, but who can listen, thinking about all this, all them!?

Here, I find myself, in the heat of a horrible battle. You can always tell if you’re in the heat-of-a-battle. Almost instantly, your soul-crushing problem magnifies 100x larger than your promise-keeping God. Suddenly, you’re standing weaponless, in all-out combat within your own mind. Hardly able to win.

Ever been there?

I’ve struggled through a lot–through massive health-scares, depression, an eating disorder, financial debt and relationship-severing dramas. Battles. Huge, hard-fought battles, loaded with momentary decisions of pain, struggle and uncertainty.

I remember the time:

  1. The doctor returned to the room with the clipboard saying, “You really might have Mulitple Sclerosis.”
    I thought: How do I keep my thoughts close to God with this kind of news?

2. My colicky newborn made me pace my hallways 24-7. Sleepless, hardly-thinking and powerless to change my health-situation, I didn’t know what to do.
I thought: How do I still love people when my whole life is unraveling?

3. A family member called me to say I really should get on setting up long-term care for myself.
I thought: How do I deal with the fact all my dreams will now look different than I thought?

Through all this, I realized, real wisdom is having a battle-plan.

Let’s talk about Christ-centered battle-plan preparedness. Begin by asking yourself: What am I currently facing?

Identifying your main struggles (resentment, regret, trauma, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, fear) is to allow God to help you win your battle. For example, for me, underneath that issue with the girl, was an old war full of rejection, humiliation, and abandonment from years past. Underneath, were old battles I’d lost–because they were left unaddressed. Therefore, they left me with resentment towards God.

Seeing our battles for what they are, gives us a clear-cut strategy to fight – and win. It also removes all the pent-up offenses that, like plaque, cover our heart.

What about you? Do you emotionally respond to happenings set before you or do you wisely act based on God’s Word and promises?

Today, you can fight your battle a new way. Consider:

  1. Asking God what feelings of fear, worry, anger, resentment, neglect and hurt He desires you give to him.

2. Giving those hurts to Jesus, by saying, “Jesus, I am not meant to carry these. Forgive me. They’ve hurt me for far too long. I know and believe you have peace, joy, life and freedom for me as I give you these things.”

3. Blessing any women who have hurt you.

4. Reframing your moments of hurt. (Example: when she passed by me quickly, she was probably was in a rush, she might have had something to do or she lost in thought)

5. Returning to a heart of love. (Example: Thank you Go d that you love me and I can love others. In fact, I can love the very person who hurt me by ___.)

This is the start of being Battle Ready. There truly are practical insights, wise biblical instructions and truths that can help you rise above the mayhem of trials and hardships. You can find the light of Christ and step into all God has for you.

The victory belongs to the Lord. Isn’t it time you began to make room for it?

About Battle Ready: Train Your Mind to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt & Live Victoriously

“The best time to be strengthened against the Enemy’s tactics of doubt,disappointment, and devastation is before he makes his first move toward us. We all desperately need the biblical guidance and preparation found in Battle Ready!” – Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

Battle Ready is a hands-on scriptural plan that teaches you twelve easy-to-implement, confidence-building mind-sets designed to transform your thoughts and, therefore, your life. You’ll gain practical wisdom, like how to· make new habits stick in just five steps· disarm the seven most common attacks that plague women· exchange self-limiting thoughts for purpose-driven, love-releasing thoughts· implement thirty-second mind-lifters that deliver peace· create boundaries so you live life full of what matters

Buy Battle Ready here: https://amzn.to/2l5qQrw

To get Battle Ready freebies – printables, devotional reminders, a customizable daily Battle Plan and the“Find Your Battle Style” quiz, visit: www.iambattleready.com

To order the companion Battle Ready Daily Prayer Journal that will help you practically change your thoughts, then your life, click here.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Change

One quarter of 2018 is past. It’s supposed to be a year of metamorphosis around here, but what has really changed? If nothing else, I’ve learned a few things about the process of making changes.

In January, I posted my word for the year. I made a lovely graphic.

And then a few weeks later, I adopted a new branding design. Which included a lovely new logo.

Things were off to a metamorphic start. Oh yes.

I penned blogs about what was changing: career,website and me. And maybe a few people even read them.

But when change happens to someone else, it doesn’t affect us. I mean, really. Other people move or find a new job or send a kid to college. We might feel for them (especially if we’ve experienced these changes before), but there’s no metamorphosis in our life when that happens.

1. Change Takes Purpose

Let me explain this. Things change in our lives without our PERMISSION. That’s a circumstance.

In order for us to truly “become something better” there has be be purposeful change.

For example, we get laid off. That was a job we loved and felt called to do. Now we hit the streets to find a new job. After a few dozen applications and some not-so-fruitful interviews, we are offered a new position and we accept it.

However, the new job might end up being only a circumstance. If we don’t embrace this new place and employ our gifts toward this different mission, we won’t change.

WE won’t change.

Just because circumstances change, it doesn’t follow that we will change.

So when life throws you a new circumstance, be a good Marine. Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. And most of all, set your mind to making the most of it so you become a better person.

2. Some Change is Excruciating

I have no idea what the caterpillar feels inside a cocoon. I’ve always imagined the little guy spun his secure bed, fell asleep and woke up as a butterfly.

We aren’t caterpillars. If we sleep through a change, nothing will happen.

My experience this past year is that the longer I’ve been in one place, the more difficult it is to change. More than that, it’s often an unpleasant experience.

Think of it this way, your car is stuck in the mud. You rev the motor. Wheels spin. You sink further into the mud. The more you struggle to get out of the rut, the deeper you get into it.

So it is with changing something that has been static for many, many years.

In order to pull ourselves out of the rut, there’s going to be external force needed. And then there will be internal struggles to accept that application of brutality.

Metamorphosis in the human arena is agonizing.

3. Change Can Be Small

We want big and flashy. This is most often true in areas where we’re making physical changes.

We start a diet and exercise plan. Three days later, our muscles scream and our stomach rumbles. We step on the scale and see:

We’ve lost one pound

One pound?!? For all this misery? Why am I doing this again?

Because big changes start small. Think of the avalanche. It can start with a single pebble sliding down the slope. It hits a larger boulder which rumbles. Dirt loosens around it. When it goes, it takes trees and more rocks with it, leaving behind a corridor of destruction.

The thing about a small change might not even be that it becomes bigger. Often it remains a small, simple thing: filling out a gratitude journal every evening before falling asleep.

But that ONE LITTLE THING bleeds into every area of life. It might begin as, “I have to pay attention to what I’m grateful for so I have something to write in the journal.” Soon enough it becomes a habit to give thanks for all the little things.

The rain stopped when I walked out to get the mail. The cat didn’t run away when I needed to load him into the carrier (and I’m not wearing scratch marks in the aftermath).

The truth is:

4. Real Change is S-L-O-W

Weight loss is another one of those things we want to happen now. Nope, actually, yesterday.

How long did it take me to pack on that extra fifteen pounds? A year? Two years? And yet I think I should be able to drop it in a couple months.

What I’ve discovered is that when I try to be diligent about eating a low calorie diet and exercise every day until my muscles STOP aching, I get burned out. My limit for persevering in both of these things is about one month.

One month? Can I even lose FIVE pounds in that time?

But when I think about it like that, it discourages me. So instead, I look at things as progressive. My sister the Beachbody coach has lots of motivational memes, and they make me feel like a failure if I let them.

Instead, I pull out my calendar and see all the times I know it will be difficult to stick to low calorie eating. I make sure I can up the intensity of my workouts during that time, but I don’t plan to follow the restrictive eating plan.

Why set myself up for failure? Instead, I shoot for MAINTAINING the strides I’ve already made.

After the week of vacation, I return to another 21-day focused eating and exercise plan. At the end, I give myself a week or a weekend to relax in the kitchen.

No, I don’t eat everything in sight. Usually, I’ll reward myself with pizza (and I don’t eat the whole thing) or baked goods (that I give away or share so I don’t eat them all). Then my head is in the right spot to do another 21 to 30-day focused weight loss plan.

It could take me six months or ten months to lose those fifteen pounds, but that’s still LESS time than it took to gain them.

5. Change isn’t always Better

Sadly, change isn’t always the best course of action. It’s difficult to admit this in a post extolling the virtues of metamorphosis.

I’m not talking about YOU attempting to improve something and it falls apart. That’s failure. And failing is the key to success.

Sometimes we were OKAY in an area of life we decided needed to change. Maybe we’ve decided to double the number of books we read in a year. Reading is great, right?

But if we forfeit family time, sleep and preparing nutritious meals (because we’re reading!) then we’ve missed the point of making a change.

Sometimes, we are healthy even if we aren’t a size six anymore. This doesn’t mean we should indulge in a daily dose of ice cream or cookies. Let’s not become UNHEALTHY. But we don’t have to strictly count every calorie. If we miss a workout, there’s no need for self-flagellation.

If reading self-help books makes me adopt a negative self-image, this isn’t a change for the better. We must weigh the change from every angle.

The world is filled with excellent things that I’ve never tried. And if I tried them they could hurt me or deter me from the best course for my life.

So it’s important to remember that a change doesn’t have to be permanent. If you make a change and discover it’s actually detrimental to your life purpose or mental or emotional health, you can change back. Or better yet, re-evaluate WHY you wanted to change that and see if there’s another way to achieve the end result you desire.

What have you learned about change? Have you experienced any of these five lessons about change first-hand?

Transformation: Me

Transformation means a complete change. Are you sick of hearing about it yet? This is the third and final post in the series about my 2018 word of the year.

Whenever I choose a word, it might be meant to impact a certain area of my life. For example, when I chose to have an attitude of gratitude in 2016, that was mostly a mental transformation.
However, the memes I shared on social media also affected my author brand. My change of attitude helped me with my physical goals of reaching a healthy weight toward the lower end of my “target.”
However, I wasn’t intending to change from creepy caterpillar to winged butterfly. There will be no plastic surgery to alter my face and form. No mutations are being invoked at the cellular level.
So this means my personal metamorphosis has specific parameters.

Physical Transformation

After years of resolving to lose weight, I’ve given up on setting my goals in those terms.

Yes, I have an “ideal” weight in mind.

But this transformation is more about building muscle, endurance and all-around fitness levels.
Along with that, I’m juggling food choices until I land on something that will help me do what I’ve always done: eat what I want and maintain my weight.
In younger years, this meant working out a little longer or harder for a few days before or after a splurge (like Thanksgiving dinner with all that cornbread dressing and gravy).


However, my fifty-year-old body isn’t keen on cooperating with that. I thinks that doing the same workouts is a big waste of time, and it will greedily cling to every scrap of chocolate ingested. And place it inconveniently on my waistline.
Ugh.
So I may have my work cut out for me to morph into a butterfly in the physical realm.

Spiritual Metamorphosis

Last year knocked me down and kicked me repeatedly while I huddled in the fetal position protecting my head from the blows.

The biggest battlefield was in my spirit.

I’ve always prioritized my spiritual self. I learned long ago that when my spirit went hungry, it drained my emotions and physical strength. Eventually, I withered.
That’s where I ended up last year.
Now it’s time to cocoon that ugly caterpillar and rely on the Holy Ghost to transform her into something resembling a Christ-like individual.
One area I’ve lacked in years past: meditating on scripture. It will blow your mind to realize how much more often meditating on scripture is recommended over simply studying and learning it.


So why haven’t I focused on it before now?
Your guess is as good as mine, but that’s what I plan to do to fortify my spirit for the next big battle.

Writing Transformation

Yes, it might seem the website and branding should fall in this category, but I don’t see it that way. Those are about my CAREER as a writer.
I’m changing my focus in writing. In turn, the website and branding need to reflect that.
This year my writing is going to focus on Christian and inspirational work. Yes, I have a sweet romance coming out this summer, but I wrote that story in 2017. I hope to release a sweet romance novel, as well, but it’s a compilation of the novella series I penned from 2015 through 2017.


Every fiction story I write this year will have a Christian worldview. They will be intended for readers of Christian fiction (specifically romance, but my romances are atypical).
I hope these readers will enjoy my writing style enough to purchase my sweet romances. They will certainly be candidates for picking up Reflections from a Pondering Heart or either of my Bible studies.
I am changing from a general market romance author to a primarily Christian author. I hope that will include women’s fiction and fantasy as some point in the future, but the metamorphosis has to start small.
What area is most difficult for you to transform?
If you missed my earlier posts, you can read about my website transformation and the transformation of my brand and platform by clicking on the appropriate highlighted word.

For more information about all my releases, jump on board for Hero Delivery and snap up some free fiction as a “thank you” for signing up.

Transformation: Genre Branding & Platform

It’s hard to make a change when you don’t have consistency. Or at least that’s what I told myself about my author brand and platform. And then came 2018 and its Word:

The truth is, I’ve been walking around rather apologetically since I started this professional author gig. Well, except for a few months around the time of this release:

“What do you write?” People would ask.
“All sorts of things.” And then my eyes would dart to the side. “Most of my published stuff is romance, but I have one YA Fantasy and a women’s fiction novel.”
I’m guilty. I was ashamed to admit that I wrote romance. Many of my author friends are angry and revolted as they read this.

Because romance writing isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. Is it what I “dreamed” of writing? Nope.
But it IS what I’ve been able to market to publishers, and where most of my readers come from.
This is the year I embrace that identity. With one caveat, of course.

My Brand: Before

I’m not even sure I had a brand before this. Check out the things I used for continuity across every social media platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you saw those things, what would you guess I wrote?

What? It doesn’t scream any genre at you?

That would be because I wrote so many genres I feared embracing anything that might look distinctively romance or fantasy or nonfiction or Christian.
Is it any wonder I haven’t been able to build an audience? No one can figure out what it is I’m selling here.

My Brand: After

 
One thing I’ve heard over and over is: “As an author, YOU are your brand.”
But what does that really mean? What does that LOOK like in logos and colors and fonts?
I am a person who loves to read many genres and has too many ideas to contain in a single writing category. So do I brand multiple personalities? How?
This is what I learned from a quick quiz from Kaye Putnam and her Brand Personality Quiz:
1. I have elements of several personalities in my brand
2. The ones that appeal to me most are Hero and Magician
3. To settle on ONE or know how to properly combine these, I needed to discover what I want my ideal clients (readers) to FEEL
Light bulb moment.
I knew the answer to this. So I took some time considering it more deeply.
I want my readers to feel understood and hopeful and encouraged. I want them to be empowered to chase (and capture) their own dreams.
Yes, I want to offer them escape, but more than that I wanted them to see themselves between the pages and know they are not alone. Someone relates to how they’re feeling and what their lives are throwing at them right now.
Then I outlined all of that and shipped it off to a designer. Perry Elisabeth is a freelancer I met through a Facebook Group. I’d been admiring her cover designs for months and I’d succumbed to the magnetism of her WriteMind Planner.
And this is what she came up with.



There was a transformation here, right? I can build a platform with this distinctive symbol.
Based on that, what genre would you guess I wrote?

And if you say “romance” or “women’s fiction” I won’t cringe. Because in 2018 I’m going to publish three (or more) Christian romances with women’s fiction themes and motifs.
More on that later.
What do you think of the new look? What/how does it make you feel?