Adventures in Babysitting

For those of you who found your way here thanks to my First Time Lolly hashtag on Instagram, welcome. This is the sort of post you were hoping to see since it details my recent adventures in babysitting.

Mostly, it’s just a forum for the proud #firsttimelolly to show off a dozen pictures of the most beautiful little girl in the world. And I’m not just saying that. You’ll see.

My youngest son and his wife made my husband and I LollyPop back in April. Since then, we’ve tried to drive to their home every Sunday for quality time with the little one.

In August, my youngest daughter (wife of my son) began her job with the marching band at the high school in a nearby town.  There’s a two-week band camp in the summer and then marching band practice on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I was happy to volunteer as “child care” for lovely Shana.

I do adore butterflies

My sister doesn’t have any grandbabies of her own, so she came for a visit during band camp. She loves babies.

So much cuter than Minnie Mouse

We made sure Shana was properly accessorized.

And that those kissable cheeks weren’t going unkissed.

My sister claimed she was giving me a chance to keep working on my writing, but I didn’t get much work accomplished. Because there was so much cuteness to indulge in instead.

Why so serious?

At first, I was updating Instagram regularly with new pictures, but then I had that long-term sub job and fell behind in my writing duties.

So, this post is my online Grandma’s Brag Book (is my grandmother the only person who had a little photo album called this?).

Shana is a happy girl. Most of the time.

Sometimes, I get my husband to get a shot of me with the girl. But I’d rather just have pictures of her adorable-self.

Cutest ladybug ever!

And then I realize I need some pictures of Pop and Shana, too.

Two scoops of cute her shirt says. Oh yeah!

Mostly, I’m horrible about taking pictures, and now she’s getting to the point where she wants to grab my phone whenever she sees it. (The awesome Wonder Woman cover on it could be what motivates THAT reaction.)

She is totally reaching for my phone in this one.

The biggest adventure I’m discovering is that babysitting is SO MUCH FUN when it’s your grand-baby you’re watching.

Which is your favorite photo? I know it’s hard to choose!

What To Do With This Blog

Time for some honest reflection about this blog.

I started it for a college class. I moved it to my website to help my ranking in search engines.  But it has never gotten the following or engagement I hoped to find.

I won’t remove it because…there’s a TON of content here.

But, I’ve gone to posting once each week (and scheduling these posts as much as two months in advance), and I’m still not getting engagement. There’s not a niche this fits.

So, I’m going to change what I do with this blog. I’m also going to remove it from the “main page” of my website. It will return to a “blog” page (that is currently blank).

This Month

This month, I’ve re-purposed content from a Bible study book I published a couple of years ago into a “class” of sorts.
What do you think about that for the future of this blog?

I would start the month with a video (this month’s was first featured in my Facebook group). Then I’d follow that up with other sections from the book (possibly including comments from “real” students who participated in my online class).

Even though I’ve pretty much decided that I won’t do an online course again (because it’s taking a lot of time I don’t have away from writing), I’d still like the experience.

After all, teaching is one of my gifts from God, and I’ve learned to enjoy doing it via video (and I think I’m finally getting better at that).

After That

Do you remember me talking about a nonfiction book on grief? I did it here.

Well, I’m considering posting some of the content from the book in my blog and sharing it widely in circles where people who might want to read it could find it.

Mostly, this is another test. I want to know if people are interested in my content. If they think it’s valuable.

Also, the class I took on writing nonfiction book proposals discouraged me for completing this project. According to that agent, if I can’t prove to a publisher that I have a “ready made” audience, they won’t publish my book.

Would you be interested in reading that content here?

My Dilemma

The real problem is I don’t have enough hours in a day to do all the things I’ve undertaken. In October, my first collection of Christian romances will be available in print. This is a self-published project even though my publisher owns the digital rights to the stories.

In November, I begin the push to get REFLECTIONS noticed and purchased. This series is one hundred percent self-published, and every time I work on it I’m reminded why I want a publishing contract.

In fact, I’m generating so many reasons, come back later for a post on that.

Even when I don’t go online at Fiverr, I’m getting new orders. I’ve had to mark myself “out of the office” the last two weekends because I’d been getting two to four new orders every Sunday. I don’t even WORK on Sunday!

What am I doing on Fiverr? Mostly writing, but I also go to critique my first fiction chapter in August. It was GREAT! The author left a nice review and said my critique helped her focus on what needed changing. I hope it spurs more such orders.
I also recently ghost-wrote a short ebook on cannabis. Yeah, not really a subject I know much about (or wanted to) but during the research I realized my ignorance wasn’t very attractive.

Who knew hemp was among the oldest cultivated crops? Not me. I was vaguely aware that hemp rope was the best for seaworthy tasks, but I didn’t really think much about how it was made. Or why it was so amazing.

If you’re wondering about my Fiverr business, I wrote more about it in earlier posts.

The bottom line is that I don’t have time to take a day off. I don’t know why I’ve given myself busy mornings when that can be my most productive writing time.

And most of all, I wonder “What am I doing writing blogs? No one reads them anyway.”

But here YOU are. You’re reading this post.

What would you like to see on this blog?

A Trip to the State Fair

As we sat in our air-conditioned truck in a line so long we could barely see the Ferris wheel over the trees, my husband and I decided the last time we’d been to the Oregon State Fair was in 2012. Neither of us recalled a line of traffic from three directions converging onto a single street.

Of course, we went later in the afternoon on Friday (we think). This was the Saturday of a holiday weekend, and the final weekend for the fair.

If this isn’t the last time we attend the fair, it will be the last time we go on Labor Day weekend.

My Expectations

I wanted to see the horses, see the quilts and eat some fair food. That’s where my expectations ended.

 

Here we are waiting for the Magic Carpet race to begin

I asked my husband, “What are you hoping to see at the fair?”

“Nothing.”

Nothing? Why bother then?

So I asked him. His response should have been romantic, but it rubbed me the wrong way. “I’m going to be with you. I have no expectations.”

Apparently, being married to ME for three decades makes a man lose all sense of expectation.

Delightful.

What I Loved

After the LONG wait in traffic and a shorter wait in the admissions line, we made it just in time to see a draft horse event at the Historic Horse Arena.

They called it a Magic Carpet Race.

Then we walked through the pig barns to get to the horse barns. Item one from my list was complete.

The ladies in the race were honoring the traditional garb of early draft team handling women

I didn’t take photos in the exhibition hall, but my sister and I walked through all the hanging quilts. Some of them were amazing pieces of artwork. Some of them used patterns and colors better suited for a warning sign, but all of them had me in awe.

Double date time! This was a central meeting point for us.

Then we ate roasted corn on the cob and hand-dipped corn dogs. After walking through the aisles of vendor booths and not buying a single thing, we purchased an elephant ear the size of a paper plate.

Five hours later, we were fighting traffic to get out of the dusty field and back home.

Ten teams competed. Some of them had fancy harnesses.

What I Could Have Left Behind

Well, it goes without saying that I could have left all that traffic behind. But it wouldn’t have been a holiday weekend Saturday at the fair without it.

Here’s what else, I could have done without:

  • People who stopped in the aisles to chat with long-lost friends
  • So many sales booths
  • Lines of people at the ride ticket booths
  • The placement of the horse barns at the back of everything
  • The crowds
  • The line of people waiting for Dole whip (and keeping me from having any)
  • Wads of toilet paper all over the bathroom floor

But it was nice that people shared their table with us so I didn’t have to drip butter all over myself while standing to eat my delicious corn on the cob.

Are you a fair-goer? What do you like about the fair?

A Wide Angle Lens Look at Mentoring

This post is in preparation for the discussion on “Mentoring” in my Facebook Group which begins on September 7, 2019. If you’re not a member, click through to this link and ask to join. (I let everyone in!)

If you haven’t read the fictionalization written from Priscilla’s point of view, do that now. Then you’ll be ready to complete this study.

If you’re like the author, you’ll probably want to grab a pencil along with your Bible. Go ahead and print out this post so you can complete the study.
Or maybe you have a notebook and you’ll just write your answers there.


Whatever works for you.

Read the account of this encounter between learned Christians and one who needed teaching in Acts 18:24-28.

How is Apollos described in verse 18?

Where does the story take place?

It’s important to add context to this setting. Ephesus was a huge center of idolatry, especially concerning the worship of the false goddess Diana. It wouldn’t have been easy for anyone to stand for Christ in this place.

What do we know about Apollos’ knowledge and personality from verse 19?

What do you think it means that he knew “only the baptism of John”?
Who were the mentors in this story?

It’s fascinating to me that only fifteen words are used to describe the important ministry of mentoring in this passage. But we know from other scripture that Apollos became a great orator and led many people to Christ. What might have happened if Aquila and Priscilla hadn’t mentored him?

Where are the Women?

Elizabeth George wrote: “I receive a lot of mail! And I have to say that the Number One question I’m asked is this: Where are the older women who are mentioned in Titus 2? Women around the world are wondering, Where are the women who are supposed to mentor and guide me?”

It saddens me to think of young women seeking a spiritual guide while no one steps up to fill that role.

Who is to mentor whom according to Titus 2:3-4?

Did an “aged woman” mentor you?

Who are you mentoring? (Sorry, all of us are older than someone, meaning we can all play the part of the “aged woman” and take a younger Christian under our wing.)

What sort of behavior do the Titus 2 mentors model? (There are FOUR listed)

Notice that Paul didn’t hand down a long list of doctrines. He didn’t preach at women to drill Bible truths into each other. Instead, he talked about the way Christian women should act. This is the most important part of being a mentor: to walk the way Christ would. Younger women need a pattern to follow.

A Woman’s Mentoring Guide

Read Titus 2:4-5. What things are the older women to teach to the younger women?
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
A few years ago, I wrote a series of lessons on these things and still barely scratched the surface. Rather than delving into Paul’s list of “learning outcomes” let’s talk about the why of the curriculum.
According to verse 5, what was the reason for teaching the young women all these things?

Define blasphemy.

Whoa! That’s some serious stuff. If the older women don’t mentor the younger women the RIGHT way, God’s Word will be blasphemed.
In what way might this happen?
How does this make you feel about the idea of mentoring another woman or being mentored yourself?

Every season of life is the right time for mentoring. As a young mother, I needed more experienced mothers to mentor me. My favorite group to mentor has always been teenagers (and yes, some call me crazy because of that passion). Sometimes we might need to be mentored before we can reach out to mentor someone else.

Wherever you are in your life at the moment, you can be assured God has someone there who can help you. Or a woman waiting for you to assist her on the path to Christian maturity.

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

What is Mentoring?

This month, I turned my blog into more of a teaching platform. We all know what teachers do, but what is thing called mentoring?

A mentor is someone who advises or trains someone (especially a younger colleague) says the dictionary.

I’m not a huge fan of this definition because that makes it sound like mentors are only for the work place. What about the home place? Or the church place? Shouldn’t there be mentors there as well?

I believe there should be. And I think the Bible supports that idea.

Mentorship on Wiki

According to Wikipedia:

Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise.

If this is true, then any setting is appropriate for a mentorship relationship.

As a young mother who didn’t do the “babysitting” thing as a teenager, I relied heavily on my sister as my mentor. It helped that she was a wonderful mother and loved babies (even if they cried and puked all the time). Since she had a baby that was seven months older than mine, she was current with all the “shoulds” and “should nots” pediatricians were spouting.

Remember, this was long before I could Google anything, and there wasn’t a library of YouTube videos to show me how to get my kid to sleep longer than four hours at night.

Mentorship at the Bookstore

Take a minute and go to Amazon or your favorite online book retailer. Type “mentoring” into the search bar. When I did it at Amazon, there were twenty pages of results.

Titles like THE ELEMENTS OF MENTORING, MODERN MENTORING, and MENTOR 101 popped off the page. There were guides and programs and they were available in print, hardback, audio and ebook formats.

I think this mentoring is a “thing” in our society. And it should be something we consider as we’re living our lives.

Mentorship for Writers

As a hybrid author, I’ve relied on a number of published authors to guide me in my writing journey. Most of this came in the form of books on writing, but I’ve also attended classes (online and at conferences) where I could ask the teacher pointed questions.

Writers need feedback. This is something that frustrated me early in my career because it seemed impossible to get it (without paying through the nose and then not necessarily getting helpful input).

That’s why I have a page with links to my own blogs on this journey. And why I share all the great resources I’ve found on the Internet on that page.

It’s also why I’m active in groups on Facebook. I’ve always got my eyes open for someone I can help. And I’m still looking for people further along the journey who might be able to offer insights I need, too.

Mentorship for Anything

That’s the bottom line. We all need to be mentored. And we all have skills and knowledge that would benefit someone looking for a guide.

But I’m shy. I have stepped out of my box a couple times and offered to be a mentor, and I’ve been shot down. One hundred percent of the time, the person I reached out to didn’t want help.

Does that mean the older person is supposed to wait to be asked? Is it presumptuous to “offer” to mentor someone?

I mean, I’m not perfect. I don’t know everything. But I’ve learned a few things in my half-century of life (most of them the hard way), and I’d like to think that would be valuable to someone younger.

Is mentorship only for the workplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

And if you’re interested in going deeper, I’ll be tackling the subject in depth on September 7, 2019 in my Facebook Group.

More Straight Talk from Editor Kristen Hamilton

Last week, we started this interview with Kristen, owner of Kristen Corrects, Inc. in Idaho.

I asked Kristen if she had any especially disagreeable authors (other than me) and what she would do when an author argued with her about her suggested changes.

KRISTEN: I’ve had authors disagree with edits I’ve made to avoid a blatant error (usually with capitalization or grammar). In most cases, I’ll explain why the edit is necessary, and the author will agree. But sometimes, the author disagrees. These instances are harder to let go, because it reflects poorly on the author and on me, the editor. Still, the author’s in charge, and I’ll leave the error in if they request it.

Wow! I want to insert that this MIGHT not be true if your editor is with a periodical or publishing house. Most of the time, those editors have the final say on small things like this.

Kristen’s been an editor for many years. Nosy authors want to know: What’s the most difficult part of being a book editor?

KRISTEN: It’s tough to deliver bad news to authors, especially when I know they’ve already been through several rounds of self-editing and revisions. This usually occurs in the manuscript critique process, where I’m reading their manuscript and pointing out any big-picture issues in pacing, character development, or plot and story structure. There’s no secret formula to create a good book, but if the book simply isn’t engaging, something’s off. It’s not always easy for an author to see this, as they’re so close to their work. I always focus on the manuscript’s strengths and offer constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement in the areas that aren’t working, but it can still be difficult to deliver that news.

I’m always a little scared to open a manuscript from my editor. In my experience, you do a great job of offering balanced feedback. We’ll see if I feel the same way once you get a look at A LABORING HAND in September.

Now that the negative is out of the way, what do you find to be the most satisfying part of your job?

KRISTEN: Books have always just done it for me, you know what I mean?  (I’m nodding here because I DO know.) I’ve had a lifelong love affair with books. And to know that I’m personally improving every book I edit…well, that’s a powerful feeling. These books will exist forever, in some capacity. That’s a pretty big job. And that’s pretty satisfying.

Ah, books. It’s so satisfying to have a conversation with a person who loves them nearly as much as I do.

The publishing industry has undergone a huge transformation in the past few years, and it’s still changing. How has your experience as a freelance editor changed your view about self-publishing and traditional publishing?

KRISTEN: I’ve had the pleasure of reading, editing, and critiquing hundreds of books by unknown and unpublished authors. There are some incredible stories out there! Since self-publishing is a relatively new thing, it’s opening up an entirely new platform to give a voice to everyone—what an incredible thing. And trust me, as I mostly work with fiction novels and memoirs, both forms of creative writing, I can say with certainty that everyone has a story. So when some traditionalists scoff at the idea of self-publishing, saying it’s “not real publishing,” I just smile and move on. Traditional publishing is great for the masses, but if you want to hear real stories, self-publishing is where it’s at.

I’m a little floored by that answer. In fact, I’m going to use that last line in a quote graphic that I’ll be sharing on social media.

Real stories: find them at the indie bookstore not on shelves stocked by big presses.

Now that we’ve come to the end of our “chat,” I can’t say “thank you” loud enough and long enough to express my appreciation for Kristen. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer questions for a bunch of authors who sometimes wonder if they’re writing in the dark.

I’m looking forward to watching Kristen’s expertise make my indie published series REFLECTIONS shine like a diamond among the millions of books available in this new publishing paradigm.

If you have a question about editing, comment below. I’ll make sure Kristen sees your questions so she can respond.

Straight Talk from Editor to Author

Editors do important work. In fact, my choice to pursue traditional publishing has as much to do with getting quality editing for my work as it does to the whole avoiding marketing ideal. (Sadly, there is NO way to avoid that irksome task regardless of an author’s path.)

I’ve worked with half a dozen editors. Three of them I chose myself and paid out of my pocket. The others were assigned to me by the publishing house. In my experience, some editors are fantastic and as relentless in their pursuit of a perfect manuscript as I am.

Others? They’re breezing through the manuscript and finding the obvious errors, but they aren’t passionate about polishing the story to the next level.

Recently, I hired Kristen Corrects, Inc for a three-manuscript independent project. She was one of the first editors I interviewed when the first manuscript in this series was an unborn dream. And although I didn’t hire her then, I have experienced her critique skills with a more recent project, MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS.

Welcome, Kristen. You’re an independent editor with a pretty full schedule and a broad range of editing projects, so I know you’ll have insight my fellow authors will want to hear.

What is something authors commonly forget to do before handing over their manuscript to the editor?

KRISTEN: Self-edit their work.

I cannot stress the importance and the difference in quality authors will see if they invest some time in improving their manuscript before sending it off to a professional editor. Unless authors have unlimited money to pay a freelance editor for many, many editing passes (spoiler alert: most don’t!), authors can really improve the quality of their final book simply by self-editing their work.

Me: That’s great advice, but I’m sure some readers are wondering what that entails. What does self-editing mean to you?

KRISTEN: This means recruiting beta readers and implementing their suggestions, and reading your manuscript several times to catch as many errors (continuity, grammar, spelling) as possible. I’ve been a freelance editor since 2012, and one thing I know to be true: the most successful self-publishing authors are those who self-edit their work. Simply handing your raw first draft manuscript to your editor and hoping they’ll make it into gold after one or two editing passes just isn’t realistic.

Me: I can’t even imagine sending my raw first draft to anyone. I even revise and give it a quick edit before I send it to my beta readers.

Let’s face it, there are a TON of editors out there. Not only that, there are several types of editing. How is an author supposed to find a reputable editor?

KRISTEN: Do your homework. Make sure the editor has a contract. Check out their portfolio and look up those books on Amazon (if there are a lot of negative reviews mentioning a story that doesn’t make sense or typos, move on). Read testimonials of the editor’s previous clients.

Most editors will offer a sample edit free of charge, so take advantage of this to see if you like how the edited passage of your book. There are a lot of editors out there, so do your research!

Me: I know that when I first interviewed you, I was hoping to find someone who had experience editing in my genre (historical fiction). In fact (along with price), this is the reason I went with someone else for that first project. Do editors prefer to work in certain genres?

KRISTEN: I’m a fiction book editor, but I haven’t “niched down” yet to a specialty (romance, fantasy, etc.). There’s a robust world in fiction writing, and I enjoy all of it—the variety makes my job so interesting. There’s a big difference between fiction and nonfiction writing, though, which is why I rarely accept the nonfiction project.

Me: At the end of the day, authors don’t have to take your recommendations. Every editor I’ve worked with has reiterated this to me (yes, even the ones with publishing houses). How do you manage issues when the author disagrees with your advice/recommendations?

KRISTEN: The majority of my clients are self-publishing authors, which means after I’m done editing their manuscript, they upload the books to Amazon Kindle or other self-publishing platforms. The book is their baby—it has their name on it, their ideas, and their story. And as such, I always tell my author clients: “You’re the author, so you’re in the driver’s seat!” (It’s kind of become a mantra.)

I’m here as their editor to make the book the best it can be—but if the author disagrees with my recommendations, I’m totally fine with that. That’s the beauty of self-publishing—it’s the author’s story, nobody else’s.

Me: Come back next week and find out if Kristen deals with a client who disagrees with changes she suggested.

For my part, I’ve worked with several editors, and I’ve never had any arguments. There were times I disagreed with my editor and cited the Chicago Manual of Style to them as to WHY I didn’t accept their changes. Amazingly, they thanked me for pointing those errors out to them.

Next week, I’ll open up the comments at the bottom of the post and ask Kristen to check in and answer any questions you have for her. In the meantime, why not check out her blog and see if she answers them there.

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

From the Archives: “I’m Not a Playwright”

Republishing a post from the early days of my blog…back when I was earning my college degree and had to write a “Ten-Minute Script.”

This was first published on my middleagedcoed WordPress blog on February 9, 2013.

What do you think?

Words well within me, an unquenchable passion, until my fingers transfer them to the page. Writing, flying for my soul and spirit, frees me like nothing else.

Penning a play – especially one that must be performed within ten minutes – just doesn’t offer the same joyful release.

Two Problems

Story line: Really, what sort of story that has any plot development or character arc can be told in ten minutes? Solely with dialogue. In a single setting and make it a simple one. It can only be a snippet of a story and yet, the instructor expects it to have the richness of a full-length work.

Stage directions: I am bogging my script down with stage directions. Even as I know this, I feel the only way to develop my characters is to show their facial expressions and body language. So much can be said in narrative. My story seems empty if I don’t insert these specific emotions and actions for the characters.

I’d Rather Write a Story

I keep telling myself that the only difference between what I’m writing for this workshop and what I love to produce is the format. Instead of using paragraphs and quotation marks and endless lines of prose, I’m typing stage directions and parentheticals and character names.

I’m not fooling myself. I’ll be surprised if I pull the wool over the eyes of my professor and classmates.

The story is shallow and the characters don’t have time to be fully developed. They will appear onstage as completely formed, speak their lines and exit.

In the end, I’m hoping for a few chuckles over my preposterous premise. If I could change the world in ten minutes I would have some sort of dedicated following, wouldn’t I?

Have you ever written in a form that felt uncomfortable and unworkable? I’d like to hear your story.

Join the Discussion

Discussion holds the power to enlighten and inform. Of course, it needs to be a two-way conversation where listening happens as often as talking…and from both sides.

In our crazy “You Can Do it All” world, it can be difficult to maintain the focus needed to accomplish any task well. That’s one of the things I mention in my study guide Finding Focus through the Lens of God’s Word.

Eight Bible lessons to help you discover your focus

For the rest of this year, I’ll be offering the content of that book FREE to members of my Friends of Author Facebook group.

This is the table of contents from the book.

Session One:  Your Life in Pictures

Session Two: Where’s the Auto Focus?

Session Three: Choosing what to Focus on

Session Four: Focus-Helping

Session Five: Focus-Mentoring

Session Six: Focus-Teaching

Session Seven: Focus-Mothering

Session Eight: When Life’s out of Focus

To kick things off, we’ll start at the beginning, but I won’t go through every chapter. If you’re interested in joining with this study and discussion, go here to join the group. Then follow this link to fill out the poll where you select the top three topics from the book that you’re interested in reading and discussing. The four topics that receive the most votes will be discussed beginning in September.

Why Am I Doing This?

First of all, I’m trying to see if there is a market for this information.

Secondly, I need to build a platform of active followers if I want to convince an agent to take on the proposal I’ve been working on. More about that later once I decide if I can make a “course” out of the information that people might be interested in paying to obtain.

And finally, I don’t get a lot of traction here on my blog. A few people comment. If Google Analytics are painting the best picture, a few more are reading the blog without leaving any feedback.

But mostly, my writing here goes into the Virtual Ether and that’s the end of it. So why do I keep posting here?

A New Focus

Speaking of focus, I promised earlier this year that the blog articles would take on a new focus. But I haven’t really delivered on that.

Now is the time for that delivery.

Next year, all the content on this blog will be either research related to the REFLECTIONS series, book reviews or opinions that relate to either the genre of Biblical fiction or Christian living. At least once each month, I’ll share an article that relates directly to the topic  of grief and grief recovery.

If you’re a regular reader, I’d love to hear your input on these changes.

As always, thanks for reading.