Archive | October 2013

Remember

Katie called the other night.  “Katie!  My Katie!  My sweet Katie, Katie, Katie!” I gushed when I heard her voice.  She giggled as I continued to rave about how excited I was over her phone call—and all she’d said so far was, “Hi, Grandma!”

Katie just turned ten.  When we’re together she is a little chatter box and can talk my ear off.  Lately, though, she’d become shy (?) about talking on the phone or Skype.  I’d been missing her and the connection we’ve always had.  Katie and the rest of her family live in Ecuador, South America, so the telephone and Skyping are really the only ways we have to communicate.

Apparently she’s really been missing me a lot, too.  “Grandma, I miss you so much!  I even cried last night because I was missing you so much!  I wish we lived in the United States.”  Her little voice sounded so sad.  I ached for her.DSC_0441

“I know, Sweetie.  I miss you so much, too.  But, you know, the very best place you can be is right where God wants you.  It hurts to be separated from you, and the only way I can bear it is to know that He has called your family to be missionaries in Ecuador and people are being saved because you are there telling them about Jesus.  If He calls you to go, who am I to say no?”

“I know…” her voice trailed off.  She knew, but it didn’t make it any easier for a ten year old.  For the next hour she went on and on remembering all the things we’d done together the last time she was here.  The Naranjos had lived with us for seven months in 2011 before returning to Ecuador.  It will probably be another two years or more before they come back to the USA for a short visit.  That is a long time for kids to be separated from their grandma and grandpa.  It seemed that Katie remembered every minute of her time with us.

She reminisced about the places we’d gone—shopping at Walmart, Meijer’s, or Kohl’s and then finishing our excursion with a Happy Meal or ice cream cone at Mc Donald’s.  She talked about her room here (and was shocked to hear Grandma had redecorated since they were last here) and figured out where they would all sleep the next time they come since there will be another child to squeeze in.  She recalled all the games we played—Rummikub, Mexican Train, Trapeze, three or four versions of Monopoly and our favorite computer games…  She talked about the things we ate, the movies we watched, the books we read, playing with Uncle Robbie, the funny things Grandpa did, and on and on!  That child has quite the memory!

There was longing in her voice for the “good old days.”  How could I comfort her?  “Cheer up, Katie,” I finally said.  “You never know what God will do!  Sometimes He surprises us!   Maybe you’ll be home lots more quickly than you thought.  Or maybe, next best thing— He will open a way for me to come see you.  Life with God is always an adventure!  Let’s just wait and see what He does, ok?”

“Okay, Grandma!  But let’s Skype tomorrow, okay?   I want to see you.”

It is hard to be a long-distance grandma.  I am blessed with eleven beautiful, wonderful grandchildren, and two more on the way.  They all live far away—Ecuador and California.  God has also blessed us with modern technology that lets us stay close, emotionally if not physically, and communicate every day for as long as we desire and for that I am so grateful.  Every one of those kids remembers and treasures the memories of grandma and grandpa—and cherish the connections we still have together, regardless of the distance in time and space that separate us.  The only things missing are the hugs and kisses.

Throughout Scripture we are told many times to remember many things.  Some examples:

  • Remember to pray for those persecuted and those in authority over us (Hebrews 13:3, 7)
  • Remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1); His works and wonders and judgments (Psalm 77:11;  105:5); that He is our rock and redeemer  (Psalm 78:35)
  • Remember the name of the Lord (Psalm 20:7) and His holiness (Psalm 30:4; 97:12)
  • Remember His word (Psalm 119) and His sacrifice for us (I Corinthians 11:24, 25)
  • Remember where you were, how far you’ve come, and Who is responsible (Deuteronomy 5:15;  32:7, 8:18; Hebrews 10:32)
  • Remember what you have learned (II Peter 1:12, 15)
  • Remember to pray for those persecuted and those in authority over us (Hebrews 13:3, 7)

Not least of the things we are to remember is one another!

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;  Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;  (I Thessalonians 1:2, 3)

When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. (II Timothy 1:5)

But now when Timothy came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you. (I Thessalonians 3:6)

Katie’s little time of sharing her memories with me was a beautiful blessing to me and a comfort to herself.  I don’t really want her to be lonely and missing me—I want her to be happy and enjoying her life down there—but it told me that she cherished our times together and that she really loves me.  It was a hug and a kiss!

Consider what we can do for others in remembering and sharing how much they have meant to us; how we treasure the times spent with them; how they have been an encouragement to us.  A note or a phone call could be a beautiful, uplifting blessing to someone today!  “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you!”  (Philippians 1:3)

Thank you, Katie!

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One More to Go!

I’ve set a target date—November 1st—and that day is quickly approaching!  In just 12 days I hope to launch my first series Covers1-3of books on amazon.com!  The Noble Heart collection of seven books aimed at tweens is set in medieval times and features a boy named Noble who becomes the youngest knight in the kingdom.  The stories are entertaining and exciting, and hopefully inspiring and influential, as well, for young people to live lives dedicated to the Lord.

I am working on the last few details needed to have the books ready for publication.  There is one thing, however, that I cannot do myself, and that is the original cover art.  My very talented niece Sarah Lowe has been painting beautiful pieces of art for the covers of my books and I could not be more delighted with them!  She has finished six of the seven covers—just one more to go!  Sarah is the mommy of two little ones and freelances doing other artwork for various companies and clients.  I know Covers 4-6her time is valuable and I am so very grateful to her for taking on this project.

The finish line is in sight!  I started the Noble Heart series in 2008.  Flight of the Falcon was the first novel I wrote for boys and at the time I wasn’t even sure I could write for boys!  As it turned out, not only did the boys love it, but so did the girls!  When I decided to try to publish, there was no doubt I wanted to begin with the Noble Heart series.  Now five years later, that goal is about to be fulfilled.  “The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul…” (Proverbs 13:19a)  Truly, how sweet it is!

I did not get to this point alone, however.  I had plenty of help along the way.  I never would have attempted to publish if it had not been for a lot of pushing from family and friends.  My husband, daughters and especially my grandchildren had a lot more confidence in me than I did.  Other young readers and their parents—even people I have never met but who had read my books—encouraged me to try to publish.  Then along came my friend Mark.  God brought him back into our lives after more than forty years with the technical skills, the enthusiasm and the absolute faith to give me that final shove.  Sarah, with her wonderful artistic vision, added the finishing touch.  It is the Lord Himself, though, who brought it all to pass.

I know on my own I could have never come up with the ideas or the words to make the stories come to life.  I know it is He who laid it upon my heart to make my writing a ministry for Him and to leave it to Him how big or small that ministry would be.  I know it is the Lord who is bringing this desire of my heart to come to pass.  “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.   Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass…  Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him…” (Psalm 37:4, 5, 7a)

We’re not finished yet!  I have at least twelve more books that I hope to e-publish in this next year!   After that—well, I have twenty more books waiting to go, the Lord willing, if these first nineteen do well.  And just this week the kids have been lamenting that Grandma hasn’t written a new book in over a year.  I don’t want to disappoint the kids.  It is time I get back to writing.  After all,A good man [or woman] leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children…” (Proverbs 13:22a)  This is my legacy to them—and my ministry for the Lord.

What about you? What is it in your hands or in your life that you can offer as a ministry to the Lord?  Maybe you can’t write or sing or draw or teach.  Maybe you have no skills that can be used in some sort of ministry.  Can you encourage someone?  Can you offer friendship?  Can you work alongside someone who needs help?  Can you be a shoulder on which to lean?  Can you pray?  We all have something to offer to others and to the Lord.  That something can be your ministry.

Whack-A-Mole!

We live in the city, but just outside our doors it is wild out there!  Wild as in wildlife.  You know—critters and such.  This summer we discovered something had taken up residence in our attic.  Bob thought it was birds, but by the noise coming through the bedroom ceiling, it sounded too heavy to be birds to me.  Squirrels, perhaps?  He finally discovered the point of entry and boarded it up.  All has been quiet ever since.  I just prayed whatever it was had found its way out before it was trapped in there to die of starvation or thirst.  Poor birdie or squirrel or—whatever.

Still the attack of the Creatures from the Black Beyond continues.  Bob has been fighting a losing battle for years with moles in our yard.  You have to understand—our front yard is quite small and, in comparison, our back yard is the size of a postage stamp!  Between an oversized garage, a big garden shed and a large area of blacktop, the tiny patch of grass that is left is only about 12’ x 12’.  Bob likes to keep the lawn neatly mowed and trimmed, so when holes and tunnel ridges began criss-crossing the backyard, he was not a happy camper.  When they moved out to the front, as well, he was downright irate!  He declared war on the moles.

Have you ever seen the movie Caddyshack? Bill Murray plays the part of a groundskeeper on the golf course of an elite country club.  I saw the movie once decades ago, but the only part I remember is Murray’s attempts to rid the greens of a gopher.  All his efforts fail until finally he wires much of the golf course with plastic explosives and pushes the detonator.   Bill Murray celebrates, believing at last he has destroyed his nemesis, until suddenly the gopher emerges unharmed and dances amid the smoldering ruins of the golf course.

My Bob is Bill Murray.  He has tried everything he could think of to get rid of the moles without much success.   Just when he thought they were gone, more would burrow through our yard—refugees, Bob declared, from the neighbors’ yards.  I expected any time to feel our home rocked by underground explosives in my husband’s last ditch attempt to destroy the enemy with a scorched earth tactic.  I suspected our neighbors were watching out their windows, muttering, “There he goes again!  Crazy neighbor Bob who thinks he’s Bill Murray!”

The moles were worse than ever this year.  Bob decided he would just have to pick them off one by one if it meant standing out there with a shovel—or two—in hand for hours at a time.  And that is just what he did.  When he saw a fresh hole linked by a little ridge to another fresh hole, he would stomp down one of the holes and then wait quietly by the other one for any signs of movement, or for a little ridge to form before his eyes as one of the critters burrowed its way across the yard.  Then—Whack!  Whack!  Whack!

Most times he missed but finally one day he got one!  “Look!” he proclaimed.  I glanced up from my computer to see a dead mole stretched out across his hand—in my living room!  “Eeek!” I shrieked.  “Get that thing out of here!  You’re just like Pumpkin [my daughter’s dog.]  You don’t have to bring your kill into the house to show Mama!”  He just grinned triumphantly and went back to the great hunt.

My suspicions about the neighbors were right.  A couple weeks later Bob was at it again, stalking his prey.  He stood out front for hours, armed with his shovels, watching the ground.  Finally one of the neighbor ladies could stand it no more.  She crossed the street and said, “Bob, what on earth are you looking at?”  It wasn’t an hour later when Whack!  Whack!  Whack!  He got another one!  And true to form, like Pumpkin, he just had to bring it in to show me!  Yuck!  I discovered I wasn’t the only one to whom he had flaunted his trophy.  The next day another neighbor stopped me and laughed, “What’s with Bob and the moles?  My wife Sue was sitting out on the porch when he came over and pulled a dead mole out from behind his back!  You should have seen her jump and scream!  It was pretty funny!”

The most ironic thing about the whole thing was that although the moles were messing up our yard, when Bob got through playing Whack-A-Mole with his shovels, the yard looked ten times worse!  But it seems, at least for this year, Bob came out the winner in the end and that made him happy.  Wait until next summer.

And the war on wildlife is not over, it seems.  Bob mowed the lawn the other day.  I complimented him.  “The lawn looks really nice,” I said that evening as we looked out over his handiwork.  The next morning I stared at the front yard in shock.  At least a hundred little black holes peppered the small grassy space!  “What happened?” I asked Bob in dismay.

“It’s the squirrels!  I finally got rid of the moles and now the squirrels have started in again!” he said grimly.  “I’m getting one of those humane squirrel traps and I’m going to relocate the little varmints to somewhere nice and woodsy!”  I love to watch the squirrels at play, but every now and then they chew through our cable wires or blow out a transformer in the alley and short out the electricity until the power company can come out and fix it.  Little pests!  And to think that only couple years ago, when our grandchildren were staying with us, he had actually invited the squirrels into our yard by building a squirrel feeder and keeping it stocked with acorns for Katie and Matthew’s entertainment.  Now the squirrels have to go!

To make matters worse, last night the unmistakable odor of skunk permeated our house.  Ewww! I moaned.  Now skunks?  Then this morning we opened the door to find a six foot diameter patch of our tiny backyard had been scratched nearly bare sometime in the early dawn hours.  Our first thought was that it was the work of the skunk, but then Bob found fresh, damp paw prints on the concrete apron of our garage.  “No, these are raccoon tracks,” he said.  “They’re bigger, narrower and the fingers are longer.”  Raccoons, skunks, squirrels, moles, even possums sometimes seen near the trash dumpsters in the alley—the critters are invading!

We fight a constant battle in our spiritual lives every day, as well.  When we trust Christ as our Savior, we are saved from our sin for all eternity.  The Bible says in Hebrew 10 that Jesus died for our sin, past, present and future, once and for all.  “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  And every priest standeth daily

ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God…  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified…  And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.  Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin…  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised.  (Hebrews 10:10-12, 14, 17-18, 22-23)

Though we are saved from the penalty of our sin, until we have our new glorified bodies we still struggle with our old, carnal nature inside these old carnal bodies.  That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”  (Ephesians 4:22-24)  It is a daily battle to defeat sin and temptation, for although he knows he cannot take away our salvation, Satan would like nothing better than to rob us of our joy, make us feel weak and defeated and ineffectual, and destroy our testimony.   Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”  ( I Peter 5:8-9)  We must be ready and watchful every day to defend against sin and temptation and that old liar, Satan, whenever they rear their ugly heads.  Then—Whack!  Equipped with the armor of God, the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith—we are armed for battle.

The good news is we do not fight alone.  I Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  God not only equips us, but fights with us.  “Be not afraid nor dismayed,” He said, “…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  (II Chronicles 20:15)

When we are weak or overwhelmed, we must not be defeated!  Be prepared, be steadfast and most of all, look to God for help in the battle.

A Noble Heart

     “Noble is his name, and indeed, he was well-named, for noble is his character.  He was lowly-born, but he is great-hearted and high-minded.  He is wise and honorable beyond his years, and generous and compassionate, as well.  Although he will deny it, he is heroic and courageous.  And he is honest and loyal—altogether an extraordinary, excellent young man whom I am proud to call my friend, just as his grandfather once was.”

     King Stephen turned to Noble.  “Noble, please rise.”  Noble stood to his feet.  His knees were knocking and he felt that his face must be red for it felt warm with all the praise that the king had bestowed upon him.

     “Noble, this morning you told me that what I have done for you in the past few months has exceeded any dreams you may have had for your future,” the king said.  “I happen to know that that is untrue for I know your dreams, Noble.  I have heard you confide them to a little boy.  I have heard you say that if you could have your true dream; it would be to be a royal knight.  You felt it was too lofty a dream for a boy such as yourself.”

     The king paused once more.  “You have spent time in the fields with my knights, training for the sport of it, or so you thought.  Sir Robert tells me, however, that you are as skilled and brave and worthy as any young knight has ever been.”  A loud cheer rose from the knights in the hall. Noble blushed once more.

     “You have said you will take no reward, Noble, for your actions of yesterday,” the king continued.  “Well then, I shall ask something of you instead.  Kneel before me, Noble.”

     Noble’s legs felt shaky as he knelt before the king.  King Stephen reached for his sword and gently touched each of Noble’s shoulders and his head with its blade.  “I ask faithful service of you to your king and kingdom.  I do dub thee, Sir Noble Heart, a royal knight of the kingdom.  Rise, Sir Noble.”  Noble rose and faced the king.  His heart was beating wildly in his chest.

“I have changed your name, Sir Noble, for you do indeed have a noble heart.  You are young for a knight, but as our Father Himself has said in His Word, ‘Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example…’   Let all here tonight know, Sir Noble is a true knight of the kingdom, one of my true men.  If any despise him for his birth, or for his youth, they shall answer to me!  And so tonight, I present to you Sir Noble Heart, a true Knight of the King’s Guard!”

*****

This is an excerpt from the ending of Flight of the Falcon, the first book in my Noble Heart series for young people.  I wrote it back in 2008 and I will be publishing it as an e-book around the first of November.  I have been busy this week giving each of the seven books in this series a final proofread and putting them in Kindle format for publication on Amazon.com.

It is exciting to finally be publishing some of my work.  Oh, not so much for the sake of publishing itself, or for whatever money I may earn by selling my books, but for the fact that it is an answer to prayer.  I have prayed that whatever I write would be a ministry to reach others for the Lord, and that it would bring glory to God.

The Noble Heart series is dear to my heart because it is based on a character who is a role model for young people of high character, faith and obedience, and someone who loves and seeks to follow God.  The stories are entertaining and exciting, of course, but my goal is to not only entertain, but to inspire and influence young people, as well, by upholding godly values and presenting Jesus Christ as Lord without being “preachy.”

One of the biggest complaints I have heard from conservative Christian parents is that the Christian bookstores are full of books that they do not consider appropriate.  One traditional publisher critiqued Noble Heart as being too good, but that, indeed, was my goal!  Noble did struggle with fear, loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, etc. sometimes, but his faith and hope in God carried him through and helped him to grow.  My work was criticized by the same person for not having enough “tension” in the plot, but I don’t want a lot of violence—or the occult or physical intimacy or disobedience to authority, for that matter, in my books for kids.   No wonder some parents find it difficult to find good, wholesome, G-rated, Christian literature for their children.  It is more difficult to write that way, but I’d rather have my books be spiritually influential than commercially viable.

I have taken constructive criticism to heart and tried to work on further developing my characters and increasing the tension in my plots, but I will not lower my standards.  E-publishing allows me the freedom to write what and how I believe God wants me to write in this ministry for Him—nobly.

We are not perfect humans.  We see that in the glimpses God gives us into the lives of the great men and women of the Bible.  We see it in the lives of Christians around us.  And of course, we know it to be true in our own lives.  Even when we have accepted Christ as Savior and have been forgiven of our sins; even when the Holy Spirit dwells within us; even when we truly desire to follow Christ, we fall from time to time.   God nevertheless instructs us to Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16)  He wants us to desire holiness—in fact, He says it is “reasonable” to expect it!   I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1, 2)

And how are we to renew our minds?  Philippians 2:5 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.  The chapter goes on to tell us that Jesus humbled Himself and became an obedient servant and a sacrifice for us.  (vs. 5-8)  We are to follow His example in having a mind of humility, obedience, serving and sacrificing for others.  Philippians 4:8 sheds further light on the way we ought to think:  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  When we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we ought to be filled with Him, as well, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: (Galatians 5:22, 23)

All of these things—holiness, humility, obedience, service, sacrifice, truth, honesty, justice, purity, goodness, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faith, meekness, self-control—are part of the fabric of nobility.  We may fall.  We may fail.  We may fall short of nobility or holiness or any of these other things from time to time, but we are to strive for them with God’s help, nonetheless.  “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:12-14)  When we fall, we must pick ourselves up and keep pressing forward!

We are the children of the King, after all!  We should—and can—be noble!