Monday, October 29, 2007

The Frost is on the Pumpkin

Today is the first frost for our area. The grass and the rooftops look like they've been sprinkled with powdered sugar and Jack Frost has decorated the windows of my car.

It's amazing how destructive something so pretty can be. In a flash, the impatiens that were bright and perky yesterday look like wilted spinach. Ick! This simple act of chill marks the end of one more summer and hints at the winter just around the bend.

What are the marks of change in our own lives? One day we seem satisfied with our accomplishments and on top of the world, the next we wonder if we are really making a difference and we question our direction. I watch my children grow into responsible adults (well a couple of them are still too young), and I see their struggles to find the right place in the world. It seems like only yesterday I was in that same position -- wondering if a single decision (like a particular college)will change the whole direction of my life in irreparable ways.

I think God gives us these crossroads to help us remember that he is in charge. We get overwhelmed with the choices and we turn to him for help. To facilitate our growth, he seldom provides a clear cut answer, but if we trust in him he always makes the best of our choices(even though it may take years for us to give him that chance).

Does this fall mark a key transition time in your life? Take it to the Father and ask his advice, seek guidance from godly counselors, and search your heart for the right direction. You will always be given choices, and if you turn it over to God as you move forward, he will bless your path or clearly tell you to take a different one. Even if you make a mistake, you can regroup and try again. The worst thing would be to get paralyzed with fear and miss out on the blessings that God can provide in any situation.

The frost marks an end of some things (hopefully mosquitoes), but it brings a promise of snowflakes, Christmas, and hot chocolate. Embrace this new season and snuggle close to God!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Feeling Convicted...

15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Why is it that we struggle so much to do the right thing? Why is it so easy to see what others could/should do to help their circumstances when often the advice we would give is advice that we, too, should take?

Our lives are so full of 'stuff' that we often lose the blessing. We think that the solution to our problems is more stuff, more storage for the stuff we have, more money to buy more never ends. We spend so much time and energy wanting stuff, getting stuff, taking care of stuff, finding the stuff we lost. And we miss the whole point of life.

Our daughter, Becca, went on a mission trip to Ecuador this summer. She was never very materialistic to start with, but what she saw there really changed her focus. She understands that the things of this world are temporary and for the most part useless. She saw very large families living in one to two room huts with no air conditioning, no running water, no cell phones, computers, televisions, sofas, rugs, you name it. As I look around the room I'm in, they probably didn't have much that I have but the bed, and then it wasn't the nice soft one we have. She learned that for less than $10, she could actually save a childs life...and she did.

How often do I toss $10 around like it is worthless? Oh, I don't think I'm too wasteful, but honestly, I'll spend $10 on a few 12-packs of soda and think nothing of it.

I clutter my home with things that may be pretty or useful, but they are meaningless. And yet I get so attached to them that I rearrange my home to be sure that I have room to keep them -- I'll give up room to relax and enjoy my family, sometimes even room to walk freely, so that I don't have to give up some stuff. At the moment, we can't get our cars in the garage because it is full of useless stuff I can't seem to give away. And in the process I've given away my peace and I'm failing in my stewardship to God.

Excuse me -- I think I need to go declutter.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's All Perspective

When Becca and I visited a college last week, we met with several of her friends who just started at the school this fall. Each had a different perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of the school, and for the most part they were thrilled with their choices to attend.

One friend, however, was having a miserable time. She didn't get along well with her roommates, she was not very involved in any activities, and she was terribly homesick.

How is it that different people have such opposite perspectives on something? Yes, each of us has different needs and interests, but these girls were having totally different experiences. There are many factors that play into this particular situation, but it has ramifications for life as a whole.

Do you know people who are miserable all the time? No matter what life hands them, they act as if there is a great dark cloud over their heads. In addition, they seem to suck others into their sense of woe.

Others, who may have really terrible things happen, seem to find a bright spot or a way to cope in tough situations. They, too, seem to pull other people toward their point of view.

There is one thing that we can know -- we will have trouble in this world. Jesus himself told us that in John 16:33. He also tells us that he has overcome the world. A little earlier, John records these words of Jesus:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

When we lean on Him, He shares his peace and helps us to cope with our daily problems. And, if we are reflecting Jesus to others, we will help them cope with their problems, too.

Which type of person are you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What a Weekend!

We have had a whirlwind weekend! On Friday, Becca and I went to Missouri State University in Springfield with Kellee and her mother to check out the campus. Becca is having difficulty figuring out exactly what she needs to take to fulfill her dream of being a missionary who runs a children's home. She goes back and forth between elementary education and social work -- it seems that a double major in those things is almost impossible. The Bible colleges we have looked at require elementary ed students to co-enroll in a local state school. We are starting to look at some private Christian schools, too.

Saturday was Becca's 18th birthday! I remember the day of her birth like it was yesterday, and it's amazing to see what a fabulous young woman she has become. Becca has always had a soft heart for others and she's been our little social butterfly since the day she could stand. I am THRILLED that she has outgrown her temper tantrums (to those of you who have to suffer through a child with these, be assured that they can pass!). She can still slam her door with the best of them, but she hasn't thrown herself on the floor in a tizzy for at least 10 years! Becca is so grounded in her faith, and I love that we have great discussions about God. She comes home to eat lunch a few times a week before she goes to work at the grade school, and it's really nice to be able to talk with her without interruptions. I know she'll be ready to go off to school, but I'll really miss her! She went to the Rascal Flatts concert with several friends on her birthday, and she had a blast.

Saturday afternoon I drove 4 hours to Excelsior Springs to speak at a women's retreat. The women I met there were amazing! They were open and honest with each other and they desperately wanted to be more devoted to God. They were such a blessing to me in many ways, and I pray that their 'glow' from time away with God hasn't faded with the daily chores and their jobs.

Doug spent the weekend refinishing the dining room (aka computer room) floor, so I'm painting and staining moulding this week. We might have one floor of our house almost finished by the end of the week (lacking only a few rugs and a coffee table). We hope to have the basement completed in time for Thanksgiving.

The final quarter of the year is so crazy -- I pray that each of you can find some time to yourselves to find the peace of the season!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Becca's Senior Pictures

Becca is a senior...hard to believe! She asked me to take her Senior pictures for her, so I've been practicing (and agonizing) with my new camera. We took 'practice' photos today at the park. I'd love your advice! Check them out at my photoblog.

Monday, October 01, 2007

An Interview With Lisa Tawn Bergren

In an earlier post I mentioned that I was reading the books 'The Begotten' and 'The Betrayed'. I love historical fiction, and these two books were really hard to put down! They are set in Italy in the 1300's, and the story revolves around several characters who discover they have been given special gifts by God. The heroine, Daria, is a healer, and she meets up with several others who have gifts of faith, prophecy, discernment, and wisdom.

In those days, the Church was much more of a political organization than a religious one, and they would stop at nothing to eliminate those who went against their philosophies. In addition, there was a powerful organization of evil seeking to silent "The Gifted" in any way possible. The story quickly becomes an exciting chase through Italy as the Gifted find each other and discover God's will for their lives. Check these books out – they are amazing!

I had the chance to interview the author, Lisa Tawn Bergren and the information I learned is printed below. I'd highly recommend these books to anyone who wants to be transported to another time in the midst of an exciting and dangerous controversy!

1. How did you get the inspiration for this series?
I read Da Vinci Code and stayed up all night reading it. In the end, I was grieved and angered at the heresy presented there. I set out to find a true biblical mystery, and two scholarly friends told me about the "lost letter(s) of Saint Paul," written to the Corinthians. At the same time, was profoundly influenced in watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on film. So when Publishers Weekly referenced both Da Vinci Code and LOTR, and compared my book, The Begotten, favorably, I was thrilled!

2. What do you admire most about Daria?
Man, this girl has gone through misery, and look at her! She was handfasted to her longtime love, Marco, then abandoned because she couldn't get pregnant (vital for nobles in need of heirs, thus the Church-sanctioned "handfastings"--basically a try-out of marriage!), finds out she's a healer of amazing proportions, that her coming has been prophesied to come for centuries, and oh...forces of evil are likely on the hunt for her and hers. She's strong, she's faithful, she battles darkness. I want to BE her.

3. Which character was the most difficult to create and why?
I don't want to spoil the story--so suffice it to say a character who is hovering between the righteous life and the evil life. We see this character move and breathe, understand his pain, and catch a glimpse of why he might be tempted by the dark. But watching it unfold is painful. And real. It happens every day. I don't want to be THIS character.

4. What are some of the unusual things you discovered in your research?
Handfastings, mentioned above; that there were no gondolas in my era in Venice; that each region in Italy at that time spoke a different language/dialect; that Venice had the most envied maritime force in the world.

5. What is the most challenging part of writing a historical novel?
Getting it right. I'm always afraid that some history professor will come in, read my book, and send me UnFan Mail. I work hard at trying to get the big--and small--stuff right. And the thing that is really tough is getting your head into the characters, how they might see the world at that time, in that place, rather than simply applying my 21st Century American persona in a different body. That's true perspective, true Point of View, which is undoubtedly the most daunting of tasks.

6. How have these stories changed the way you look at the world?
I'm much more aware of light versus dark, that there is an unseen battle taking place that we largely ignore, when we are in fact called to don our armor and enter the fray. We can make a difference, hold evil at bay with God's help, but we have to recognize it first. I autograph my books to "One of God's gifted..." because we all are given spiritual gifts that God hopes we will make use of on his behalf. Our lives count!

7. What projects are you working on now? When can we expect your next book?
I'm working on book #3 in the Gifted, The Blessed. It's due in a couple of weeks! It will come out Fall, 2008. Then I'm on to concepting my next series and beginning the research. I'm considering another epic trilogy, set in the 18th century, and a Colorado 19th century series.

8. How did parts of the story change based on what you discovered in research? For example, did you add or delete any scenes that resulted in a major impact on the story line?
The Gifted are on a quest journey, covering some major territory. The biggest thing I discovered was that the papacy had been moved to Avignon, France, during my time period (rather than Rome). Since the Church is essentially a main character in my books, that caused a big, screeching halt, reorganization and rewriting. It could've been an excruciating post-pub "whoops." I'm shivering, thinking about it.

9. What question would you like to answer that I haven't asked?
"Lisa, did you get to go to Italy to research?"
Yes, yes, yes! (I got to go three times--once with my husband, once with my eldest daughter, and once with my folks and children--the whole gang.) And I can't wait to return. It's every bit as cool as everyone says. I would very much like to see the Amalfi Coast next...hmmm...maybe that could be the locale my next book!

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the author of 28 books, with over 1.3 million sold. She is a publishing consultant, writer, Bible study leader, mother and wife. Her hobbies include travel (mostly from an armchair), reading, watching movies, cooking and exploring with her family. Lisa's most recent books include The Begotten, The Betrayed, God Gave Us Heaven, What Women Want and The Busy Mom's Devotional. She resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado. To sign up for her monthly email (which includes a new, unpublished devotional) go to and join her newsletter list.

Make sure to check out her website, there is a longer bio and more about her other books.

The Begotten

The Betrayed: