13 Ways to Set Boundaries like Christ

Note: The Inkspers are going to try something new for the summer. Instead of writing on the same topic, we’re going to write about what interests, inspires, or influences us at the moment. We hope this will make our content more exciting, personal, and fresh for you, our dear reader friends!

Do you have trouble setting boundaries with others? Do you say “yes” when you know you really should be saying “no” to someone? What about drawing lines for your own health? If you refuse to “bail out” a friend, are you being a good Christian?

If you’re like most people, you probably struggle at times with setting boundaries for yourself and with others. I’ve been teaching the Ladies Bible Class on Wednesday night and that is the topic we’ve been addressing, so I wanted to share a little bit about what we’ve discovered.

Conflict with others and within ourselves is inevitable, and Jesus is the perfect example in all things–including setting boundaries. Think of yourself as a beautiful flower at the center of a garden. There is a fence around the garden. That fence is a boundary. What do you allow to come inside your garden? Do you let people force their way in? Sneak in the back door? Do you let bad habits grow like weeds?

I know I don’t always protect my garden. When everyone wants something from me, I give until I have nothing left. Jesus didn’t do that. As the perfect example in everything, taking a look at how he set boundaries it vital. I’d never looked at this side of Jesus and I found it fascinating.

Let’s take a look at Jesus’ example.

  1. Jesus took care of His basic needs–rest, food, lots of walking. (Matt. 4:6-7, 26:18, John 12:2)
  2. He sought support from friends when He needed it. (Matt. 26:36-38)
  3. On more than one occasion, He withdrew from the crowds to be alone or to be with a select group of friends.
  4. He knew He couldn’t be in two places at once. He had a singular focus about his mission on earth. (Mark 1:38)
  5. He took control of the pace of His life. He never told the apostles to hurry. (John 11:6, Mark 10:32)
  6. Jesus abandoned control of outcomes. He spoke the truth in love to those around Him, but He let the choice of what the listeners did with the information belong to them.
  7. He withdrew from crowds of hurting people (the demands of the world) for one-on-one time with the Father. (Luke 5:15-16)
  8. He did not allow others to abuse Him, except when He willing chose to go the cross. When one crowd wanted to throw him off a cliff, He slipped through the crowd and left. (Luke 4:28-30)
  9. He was aware of the manipulation of others, even Peter. (Matt. 16:23) He said “no” to those who felt they were entitled (Matt. 12:46-50), who asked baiting questions (Matt. 21:15-22), and who were cynical (Luke 23:8-9).
  10. He always confronted exploitation (John 2:13-16), and addiction (Matt. 19:16-21), and educated the misguided (Matt. 19:13-15).
  11. Jesus valued personal prayer time. (Matt. 6:6)
  12. He told us to be honest and direct. He said to let our “yes be yes” and our “no be no”. (Matt. 5:37)
  13. He taught us to set our priorities. (Luke 16:13)

And perhaps more than anything, Jesus taught that we should please God, not people. (John 5:44) When dealing with those around us, like Jesus, we must love their soul enough to say the hard truths at times. We must love sincerely, and take responsibility for our own actions.

Jesus was the perfect example of love and limits, grace and righteousness, mercy and justice. When we set boundaries for ourselves and others, we are showing the world the true nature of God and we are being both salt and light.

Why do you think it is so hard for us to set boundaries for ourselves or with others? In what area do you struggle most? Which of Jesus’ examples above surprised you most?

Conferences for Readers and Writers

When we were in school, conference time might have conjured up images of your parents having a secret meeting with your teacher to talk about YOU. But if you are a writer or a fiction reader, the word conference may have a whole new meaning.

The conference world for writer’s is large and growing. There are local conferences in many major cities. There are regional conferences and their are national get-togethers with thousands attending. Do you write suspense? There’s a conference for that. Steampunk? Yep. Non-fiction. Lots. Even more fun are conferences directed at bringing readers and author’s together.

For the next two weeks, the Inkspers will be discussing conferences. We will highlight some, share information on how to get the most out of a conference, and tell a few stories on our own conference experiences.

Reader Events

BVRW-logoBarbar Vey Readers Appreciation Event

On April 30 to May 1, the Barbara Vey Readers Appreciation Event was held in Milwaukee. There were over 60 authors in attendance and over 420 readers. What a party that had to be with giveaways, lunch, question and answer sessions, and lots of good conversation. If you live in the area, keep it in mind for next year.

RomConRomCon

RomCon’s site says they “ALWAYS” put reader’s first. This event is limited to 250 people and will be held Sept 27 and 28 in Denver, CO, at the Renaissance Denver. Over 65 authors will be in attendance. The event features intimate chats with authors, a luncheon, readers parties, comedy improv shows, a “We Love Cowboys” event, and a Western night with roping, a mechanical bull, and line dancing. Oh yeah, there’s a chat panel with NYT bestselling authors, too. Find out more here.

CFRR Website CoverChristian Fiction Readers Retreat

This year, a new event has been planned which will be held before the annual American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference. The Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat will be held on Aug.  24 in Nashville. The idea behind the event is for readers and authors to come together “to honor Him through Christian Fiction.”

Julie Lessman, Laura Frantz, Mary Connealy, and Ruth Logan Herne will be speaking and 30 authors will be participating. For more information on this event, go here.

Hungary to connect with authors? These are just a few of the readers conferences available, but I believe more will be popping up in the future, so keep your eyes (and browser) open to the possibilities of one coming near you.

What do you think? Would you pay to go to a conference like one of these?

News from the Homefront

Does it ever feel like the world is spinning faster and faster? Do you struggle to keep up with what’s going on in the lives of your friends?

The Inkspers can completely relate. Not only do we sometimes have trouble keeping up with our lives at home, we can’t even keep up with what is going on in each other’s lives. So, for the next two weeks we’re going to share news from our homefronts. Whether it’s what is going on in our writing life or what’s going on in our families, we’ll be sharing the news.

A Women’s Conference, a New Novella and a College Grad

Three significant events mark April this year. First, about a week ago, I returned from the Women Walking With God Conference in Wichita, Kansas. There is nothing like being with 1200+ sisters in Christ singing, laughing, and learning together.

This year’s theme was “The Greatest is Love.” We had 14 ladies from our home congregation go and we had a great time. The lessons were terrific and thought-provoking, and the music by the Herndons was wonderful. But I have to admit my favorite part were the comedy lessons by Lisa Smartt. Need a laugh to start your Monday? This should do the trick.

My second bit of news is that I am pleased to announce that I’m part of a new novella collection which will release in December 2016. My story is due by the end of this month, but I’ll be sending it today.

Seven Brides for Seven Texans is based chock full of hunky cowboys, action, and fun. After their father learns he has a heart ailement, the seven Hart brothers are told they must all marry within the year of lose their share of the 7-Hart Ranch. This is harder than it seems as one of the brother was wounded in the Civil War, another is a Texas Ranger, and one is only 18.

7 Brides for 7 Texans Announcement

 

The third, and most important, thing happening on our homefront is my daughter Caroline’s graduation from college. On Saturday, she will graduate with a B.S. in Biology. The last few weeks have been a series of “lasts” for her, so the time is very bittersweet. She has loved college and has made many lifelong friends.

Caroline, Soren, Delaney
College Roommates and friends for life–Caroline, Soren, and Delaney

Tonight will be her last performance with the concert choir, then she’ll have finals, and present her senior paper. The week will fly by, and by Saturday night, she’ll be a college graduate.

Her time out of the classroom, however, will be short lived since she plans to become a physician’s assistant.

So, there you have most of April in a nutshell. Yes, life is spinning, and we just have to hold on tight.

Any questions?

 

What should I read next? Spring Edition

With spring comes tulips, lilacs, apple blossoms–and books!

Of course the Inkspers want to celebrate this garden of book so that you, our dear reader friends, can pick your own bouquet of bloomin’ good reads. Join us every day in the next week and get ready to fill your “to be read” pile.

Everything’s Coming Up Novellas

Perhaps it’s because I just finished writing a novella for an upcoming collection (details to follow later), but I couldn’t help notice a number of favorite authors who have novellas coming out this spring. Some dovetail on an author’s popular series, like a mini sequel, while others introduce a new series.

Novella collections, too, have taken off in the publishing world in the last few years. This is a perfect pick for the spring when your reading time might be shorter than in the long winter months.

Here are a few novellas to consider adding to your list.

the husband manuever

If you read my friend Karen Witemeyer’s book, A Worthy Pursuit, you won’t want to miss this little jewel.

1890s Texas. Marietta Hawkins has been in love with ranch foreman Daniel Barrett since she came home from school three years ago. Unfortunately, her father’s rule about hands not fraternizing with his daughter has kept him out of reach. She believed patience would prove a virtue in winning him over–until now. He is leaving. Starting up his own spread. To have any hope of maneuvering him into a proposal, she has to act fast or lose him forever.

Available for pre-order here.

Runaway Bride

I am never disappointed by anything Mary Connealy writes and this bloomin’ good read is a great addition to Mary’s Kincaid Brides and Trouble in Texas series.

Big John Conroy is a Texas Ranger asked by a friend to assist Carrie. He catches up to Carrie and her brother Isaac and races away from a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to make the beautiful young woman his wife. Soon Big John’s feelings for Carrie turn to more than simply protective, and Carrie finally feels that she’s in the presence of a man she can respect–something she’s never known.

Available for pre-order here.

Cowboy Brides

Cowboys anyone? Who can resist a man in chaps? This novella collection of nine historical romances promises a lot of action and love.

Ride onto the open range alongside cowboys and cowgirls who embrace the adventures of living in the Old West from Kansas to New Mexico, Colorado to Texas. Whether rounding up cattle or mustangs, training horses, fending off outlaws, weathering storms, competing in rodeos, or surviving drought these cowboys work hard each day. But when hardheaded men have their weaknesses exposed by well-meaning women will they stampede away or will a lasting love develop?

Available in paperback with flaps, Kindle, and Nook.

Small town brides

In case the print is too small at the top of the cover, it reads, “9 Romances Develop Under the Watchful Eyes of Neighbors.” Is your mind already spinning over the possibilities?

Join the fun and feel the romance in various historical communities from Massachusetts to Florida, Missouri to Texas. Meet ladies who take firm stands for their work in mills, orphanages, churches, schools, hospitals, and the like as they dance through courtship with their beaus. Can the nine couples develop lasting loves under the watchful eyes of their neighbors?

This book releases May  1, 2016. You can pre-order it here.

I hope I’ve planted some spring reading seeds and that you’ll be holding your bloomin’ good reads in your hands in no time.

So, what do you think of novellas? Why do you think their popularity is gaining? Have you ready any collections lately that you’d recommend?

 

Planting Seeds

Spring is a time of rebirth for the earth and for our lives, and nothing reminds us more of that than watching trees going from buds to blooms or seedlings pushing their way through the cold earth. All of this reminds us of the importance of planting seeds both figuratively and literally.

During the next two weeks the Inkspers will be sharing about the seeds they will be planting (or have already planted) this spring. Some may share their plans for reaping a beautiful garden, while others may share a seed they’ve planted in someone’s heart. Join us to see what kinds of seeds we are planting and share your own cultivation stories, too!

Seeds of Love

Bailey napkins
All members of the wedding party pitched in to help fold napkins, while I had a crew in the other room setting up the reception tables.

The last few weeks in our extended family have been fixated on a solitary event. My niece Bailey’s wedding to Joe.

All hands were on deck. My brother, her father, made a beautiful wall filled with tea light candle holders as a backdrop for the ceremony. Bailey’s uncle performed the ceremony. My 16-year-old daughter made 300 cupcakes for the event–peanut butter cup, red velvet with white chocolate frosting, and pink lemonade. My other niece, who is a professional photographer, did all of the pictures. My son was the DJ. I helped with coordinating the event and did the flowers. Her mother, of course, truly pulled it all together.

The wedding party--7 bridesmaids and 7 groomsmen. The lights were off for the ceremony which made it more romantic.
The wedding party–seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen. My daughter Caroline is the third from the left. The lights were off for the ceremony which made it more romantic.

It was a lovely ceremony and everything looked beautiful, but the real beauty radiated from the couple as they gave glory to God for bringing them together. Theirs was a love, as the groom said in his vows, that “no one saw coming,” and yet, it’s hard to imagine them without one another now.

Mr. and Mrs. Joe Davis
Mr. and Mrs. Joe Davis

God planted a seed of love and it’s bloomed into a beautiful flower. I feel blessed to be part of the celebration of seeing the Master Gardener at work.

Improving Your Quiet Time

Can you imagine a husband and wife who only spoke on Sundays? And even then, only in a group setting? What kind of marriage would they have?

The answer is easy. They would grow farther and farther apart because marriage is about intimacy. It’s a relationship that needs time and nurturing. I want to spend time with my husband because I love him, and the more time I spend with him, the more I love him.

The same can be said of our intimate relationship with Christ. Spending time with Jesus daily because we love Him will only make us love Him more deeply.The goal of a Christian life is to know Christ and to be like Him. In John 17:3, Jesus said, “And this is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Like any good relationship, change can be good thing. Sometimes our quiet times with God need a little revamping. We need to take a look at that time with fresh eyes.

With spring in the air, we want to suggest some ways and resources for us to recharge that special time. Some of the Inkspers will be sharing ideas and others a devotional book they found particularly meaningful. Join us and get inspired to recommit to your daily time with God.

Is your quiet time too quiet?

I know. I know. The very name “quiet time” implies a lack of noise, but there are some special ways to commune with the King of Kings which aren’t exactly silence.

  1. Listen to Christian songs. I love to watch a Youtube video with the words and images on it and then spend some time in prayer on the message shared in the song.
  2. Read scripture aloud. There is something powerful about reading the words of God out loud, especially the Psalms. I imagine Satan cowering at the sound of God’s words on my lips.
  3. Pray aloud. Saying what is on my heart out loud somehow cements it more. God wants to hear our every thought, concern, and confession. Why not truly tell Him?
  4. Sing. Spend your entire time with God praising Him in song. If you aren’t a singer, read through some hymns aloud and think about the words. The poetry of the words and the cadence feeds our souls in a whole different way than other music.

Write a Phil. 4:8 list.

In Phil. 4:8, Paul tells us to think on “whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things”.

Make a list of things that are lovely, pure or admirable. What qualities in your spouse or a friend do you find excellent or praiseworthy? After you make your list, spend time thanking God of for these blessings in your life.

Read a challenging book

No More Christian Nice GirlRight now, I’m teaching the book No More Christian Nice Girl by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer Degler to our ladies class. It’s a wonderful book about being “good” rather than “nice.” During our study, we’ve taken a fresh look at the side of Jesus that was authoritative and called things like He saw them. We’ve learned that Jesus wasn’t always “nice”, but He was always “good.”

It’s been a thought-provoking study and sometimes that’s exactly what we need most. Sometimes we need meat, rather than milk. We need true sustenance, so dig into something that will truly feed your soul.

So, let’s talk about our quiet times. Is your quiet time too quiet? What do you think about writing a Phil. 4:8 list? Have you read any “meaty” books during your quiet time?

8 of the Most Common Writing Mistakes

Reader friends, in case you’ve missed this, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The Inkspers are writers.

As writers, most of us have a strong internal editor when we read things. Whether it’s a sign on the street or a church bulletin, we will most likely notice grammatical errors. However, what we really see are common writing mistakes in books. This could be in our own books, in the works we are critiquing for friends, or in books we’re reading.

For the next two weeks each of us will be sharing a writing mistake we’ve seen. That will be eight writing mistakes. Join us and see if you agree.

Mistake #1: Choppy Writing

I just finished my dear friend Laura Frantz’s The Mistress of Tall Acre. I was behind the times in reading it, but I’d promised myself I’d only read a chapter a day. I failed miserably and finished it in only a day and a half.

As I was reading her book, I thought, “Why am I enjoying this so much?” One thing, of course, was the characterization and plot, but another is Laura’s masterful way of writing prose. Her books have a lyrical quality to them. They read like symphony pieces. They have both pace and poetry.

I’ve also read books that would comparably read like hard rock. The sentences are choppy often because the author is trying to mirror the way we think. They write many short sentences in succession which makes it hard for the reader to sustain a thought. I’d like to point out there is a big difference between writing tight and writing choppy. Tight writing doesn’t use a lot of unnecessary words and there’s nothing wrong with that. The sentences are still complete and devoid of run-ons. Choppy writing, however, might sound good at first, but it quickly becomes irritating and exhausting.

Let’s look at an example of choppy writing.

John’s breath caught. Same old Grace. T-shirt and jeans. Brown hair draw drawn up in a ponytail. Smelling like horses. But now she belonged to someone else. His brother.

What to look for?

How does a writer know if their work sounds choppy? First of all, read it out loud. Our ears hear more than our eyes see when it comes to the rhythm of text.

Second, look at the paragraphs. How often do you use sentence fragments rather than whole sentences? Can sentences be combined? All authors use fragments occasionally for effect, but are you overdoing it? If you have more than three short sentences or phrases in a row(of less than 10 words), you might want to take a second look at that area. If you’re finding that tendency often in you manuscript, give it a good rework.

Third, study the cadence of other writers and their sentence structures. When they need to increase the tempo of an action scene, the sentences are usually short and to the point. When they want to slow things down and make the reader reflect, they usually increase the sentence length.

sentence-problems-11-638

The Fix

Fixing choppy sentences is easy. You combine phrases and clauses or rework the structure. If you’re old enough to remember School House Rock, you already know the answer. Remember “Conjunction juntion, what’s your function?” Like the song says, “and, but, and or will get you really far.” You might also need to add some “meat” to some places.

conjunction-junction

Let’s take a new look at the example above. I’ve reworked it to make it less choppy.

John’s breath caught at the sight of Grace. Was it his imagination or did she smell like roses and horses–the two things she loved most? Wearing a t-shirt and jeans with her hair drawn up in a ponytail, she seemed to have changed at all. His chest tightened. She hadn’t changed except she had a new boyfriend who happened to be his brother.

It’s not a perfect re-write, but I think you get the idea. So share your opinion. Do you ever write choppy prose? Have you read any recently?

An Affair of the Heart

Nothing symbolizes February more than a heart. It’s the month of love and it’s the month designated by the American Heart Association as American heart month. But did you know that February also boasts “An Affair to Remember” month, Creative Romance Month, and National Weddings Month?

For the next two weeks, the Inkspers are going to be celebrating all things related to the heart from romance to heart health. Join us each day as we celebrate “An Affair of the Heart.”

5 Things Every Husband Needs to Hear

  1. “I respect you.” The Bible tells husbands to “love their wives”, but wives to “respect their husbands.” In order for a man to feel truly loved, he must also feel respected. Mary Connealy once told me that she told her daughters to marry a man that is easy to respect. Excellent advice.
  2. “I believe in you.” Husbands need to know that you believe in them even when they aren’t able to believe in themselves. Help them see how God is using them and where you envision God using them in the future.
  3.  “Thank you for fighting for our family.” There is a spiritual battle going on that a husband must fight every day, knowingly or unknowingly, for the hearts and minds of his family. Thanking him for being a man who stands for what is right and for providing for his family helps him fight the next day with confidence.
  4. “I feel safe with you.” According to Beleif.net, “Show your husband that his presence is needed and his protection is important. Sometimes we as women take on too much and we need someone to say ‘Honey, that’s enough.’ Thank him for being your buffer and standing guard when you really need it.”
  5. “I love you more every day.” Let’s face it, who doesn’t need to hear this often?

 

Love Stories We Love

If I live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” –A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Throughout the ages, authors have captured glimpses into the world of love. In some books, romance is central to the story. In others, romance plays in the background behind a mystery or adventure. In either case, we readers are swept up, and along with the characters, we fall in love over and over again.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Inkspers are going to be celebrating love between the pages. We’re going to be sharing romances we love to read over and over again, ones we’ve recently devoured, or ones we can’t wait to read. Join us to share your own favorites or to find some books to add to your romance list.

My First Christian Fiction Reads

DuvallI was a members of the Crossings Book Club long before I thought of writing fiction. However, the books I purchased were all non-fiction books. At the same time, I was quite a fan of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” When I received an advertisement from Crossings for a series that “Dr. Quinn fans would love,” I had to order the book. Theses books, the Cheney Duvall, M.D. Series by Gilbert and Lynn Morris, were my first introduction into Christian Historical Romance–and I was hooked.

This series consists of eight books, which made the love story between Dr. Cheney Duvall and her handsome, strong nurse Shiloh Irons, an almost episodic experience. The original eight books were even followed by additional 3-book series with the same characters.

Why I loved the books?

I loved the banter between the characters, the respect they had for one another, and the strong spiritual thread. Of course, the rich historical elements in the stories were a plus for me, too.

Since the first book, The Stars for a Light, was originally published in 1995, this is clearly not on today’s best seller list (although the books above have been re-packaged and re-released). However, if you are looking for a romance series to keep you warm, night after night, check out Christianbook.com, your library or used book store. Better yet,  get the whole series, volumes 1-8 from Christianbook.com for only $37.99. You can order it here.

It will be the best money you’ve spent in a LONG time! I will be forever grateful to Gilbert and Lynn Morris for writing books I could love and showing me the kind of romance novels I could write.

 

 

Traveling 7,843 miles to Find God

When we think of missionaries serving in other countries, we don’t often think of them reaching American citizens. That, however, is exactly what happened to someone very special to me.

In 1981,  my husband David left the U.S. as part of the International Foreign Youth Exchange (IFYE), an international 4-H program for college-aged young adults to learn about other cultures and exchange knowledge. He was 21-year-old at the time, fresh from college, and had scarcely been out of his North Dakota home. (Does visiting Minnesota from North Dakota count?)

David flew to Thailand, 7,843 miles from North Dakota, for his 2-year stint as an IFYE representative. But before he could begin his work teaching agricultural programming to the Thai youth and their parents, he needed to speak the language.

He began attending language school with a three other IFYE representatives, a missionary from the States, and his family. The missionary family brought this group of homesick Americans into their home–and they had peanut butter! When you’re submerged in a new culture, little things like peanut butter are a God-send.

It wasn’t long before the missionary led these directed these young people toward the Bible and the Gospel of Christ. David studied and felt as if his eyes had been opened. He was baptized in the shallow end of a pool by the missionary. Because David is 6’6″ and the missionary was much shorter, David had to stand on his knees.

 

The missionary and his family didn’t stop there. During David’s years working  in rural Thailand, he went to their home in the city on the weekends for church services and to spend time with them. Now able to speak Thai fluently, Thailand became David’s home, and this missionary family became his own. David loved the Thai people, their culture, their country, and their hot, spicy food, but I think he loved this family the most.

When he returned to the States and took a job at the National 4-H Center, he began to worship with a church that sponsored another Thai missionary. Later, God brought him to Iowa and to me, where God has used him to touch the lives of hundreds of young people.

You’ve probably heard the song “Thank You for Giving to the Lord” by Ray Boltz. It’s song about a person’s dream of going to heaven and meeting all the people he’d unknowingly influenced for Christ.  In it there’s a part that says, “Remember the time a missionary came to your church and his pictures made you cry. You didn’t have much money, but you gave it anyway. Jesus took that gift you gave and that’s why I’m here today.”

I cry every time I hear that song, and so does David. I still find it amazing that God had to take a young man from North Dakota to Thailand to reach his heart, but I am so incredibly grateful that he did.