Posted on December 10, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
The Christmas Story is especially poignant, I think, because of the circumstances from which it started. Mary – the mother of God’s Son – was a teenager. Not just a teen, but on the younger side, 14 at the oldest. And not only was she pregnant through strange means, she was betrothed to a man quite a bit older. I’m not sure what that means since the lifespan 2,000 years ago was much shorter than today’s. But it seems Joseph was not a teenager like his betrothed.
Mary has already encountered an angel of God, telling her news that would make any of us tremble (or fall over in a dead faint). She was told she was favored by God, and that she would bear a child conceived by the Holy Spirit. Her response? Very different than what I think mine would have been. She bowed her head and accepted this calling, this life-changing event with dignity and grace. I wasn’t dignified, graceful or brave at that age.
I can’t imagine how she found the courage or the words to tell Joseph. His reaction was probably less than joyful, probably not very pleasant. It wasn’t until he had a dream (where he learned that the strange and disheartening news she’d given him was actually true) that he accepted the situation. It must have been very uncomfortable for them as a couple until that point. (It’s hard enough to navigate the path of a new relationship without this kind of a wrench in the plans!)
Mary went to visit her much older cousin, Elizabeth, who greeted her in an unexpected way. Elizabeth claimed her own unborn child had leaped for joy within her at the sound of Mary’s voice, and that she (Elizabeth) was thrilled to be visited by the mother of her Lord. Can you imagine traveling to see a relative, an elder, who greets you like that?
With all of that going on, Joseph learned he was required to travel to Bethlehem for the census. They had to go right then, not when it was convenient (like after the baby was born). So they packed their donkey and off they went. Mary was ready to deliver at any time but there she sat, atop a donkey, for miles and miles. Owww, comes to mind.
Arriving in Bethlehem, among the hoards of others there for the census, Mary was ready to deliver. No midwife, no family, no one there to help but Joseph – and no actual room to stay in. The Inn was full. About to deliver the Son of God, and they’re turned away from what appears to be the only Inn in town. But hey, the stable is available.
No doubt exhausted, dirty and in pain, the stable may have sounded okay. So they settled in, and in the silence of the night, this teen mother delivers her divine baby (which probably didn’t feel so divine) with only Joseph in attendance. Odds are he didn’t have a lot of experience delivering babies. Mary probably didn’t either.
Yet even though they were alone, I think they must have felt God’s presence. He’d started this whole process, after all. He wouldn’t leave them to fend for themselves. He didn’t provide a luxury suite at the Inn, but He made sure they had a roof over their heads. He didn’t announce the Baby King’s birth with earthly trumpets and fanfare, but the very heavens sang and rejoiced. There wasn’t a long line of royalty forming to greet the child, but wide-eyed shepherds came in awe then went out to tell the world (the first evangelists!).
We may not be called to do something as world-changing as Mary, but I think she shows us how to handle whatever God asks of us – with dignity, grace and an abiding trust that He who calls us will be faithful to see us through.
Posted on November 21, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
My writing journey has been a cross between screaming down a zip line, hanging on through the ups and downs of a roller coaster, and floating on a lazy river. There have been mountain top experiences followed by long walks through the desert. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. I’m thankful for every experience. One of the reasons is the people God has put in my path.
Friends – As Rose mentioned in her post yesterday, I too have connected with writers across the world. What an unexpected blessing! One of my critique partners is from Australia so we spend time learning about each other’s world through the writing process. I got to meet her briefly this September when the train she was taking cross country to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis made a short stop in St. Paul. Traveling with her was our 3rd partner, from Washington state. Such a blessing to gather together on the station platform.
Family – While my immediate family has always known I love to write, it was truly a blessing to experience their love and support when I began the journey to publication in earnest. My husband and kids have walked beside me every step, cheering along the way. My younger brother has also stepped into the world of fiction writing; it’s been a blast to share dreams, experiences and writing.
Critique Partners – Writers who are serious about their craft know, without a doubt, they can’t do it alone. What a blessing to gather with others in a place of safety, encouragement, honesty and love, whether in person or across the miles.
I don’t know where the saying comes from but I love it – God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. One of the ways He does that is through those He puts in our path. I’m thankful for each and every one of them.
Who has encouraged you on your journey?
(roller coaster photo by Dusso Janladde)
We’re giving away a copy of Rose Ross Zediker’s current release, Wedding on the Rocks to one lucky winner. The contest runs until November 30th. All you need to do it leave a comment!
When she traded small-town life for the bright lights of Chicago, Jennifer Edwards yearned to discover a world beyond Faith, South Dakota. So when her father’s illness calls her home to run their cattle ranch, she tells herself it’s temporary. Then why is she even thinking about a future with archaeology professor Brett Lange-the boy she left behind-whose life’s work is digging up the past?
Twelve years ago, Brett had a crush on Jennifer the size of the T-rex that put his hometown on the map. Now she’s a citified magazine editor who prefers designer duds to dungarees. Except that’s not the real Jennifer. Brett needs to make her see how a little faith can go a long way in uniting two perfectly-in-sync hearts.
Posted on November 12, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
But I also have to go to work, pay bills, clean the house, do the laundry, grocery shop and make meals, raise kids and pets, be a good neighbor, take my turn on volunteer boards and in volunteer positions. When I act silly, people look at me weird. If I showed up at someone’s door holding a treat-or-treat plastic pumpkin, the homeowner would probably call the police.
So while I’m generally a happy, well-adjusted, productive adult, there are times I wish I could go back to being a kid.
Playing “Free” – with all the neighbor kids. One person was “it” and counted to 100 (or whenever they wanted to stop counting), then tried to catch us while we tried to get home free (without being tagged). Home was usually a tree in the middle of a yard, or something else equally obvious and visible.
Going to the Park – which was very different then than it is now. Now parents take their children to the park. Back then, we were practically thrown out of the house and told to come back for lunch. So we went to the park. The one near us was Papoose Park (yes, it’s been renamed). During the summer they had paid playground staff who would run games all day. We’d play softball, 4 square, do crafts, and just hang out with the very cool (probably college-aged) staff person. We loved it. And I’ll bet our parents loved it.
Going to a Movie – and staying for the double-feature. You could stay there all afternoon, if you wanted. I remember seeing several Beatles’ movies in a row. But I was never “old enough” to sit in the balcony (of what I realize now was a very tiny theater). That’s where the big kids sat to…you know.
Five & Dimes – all that penny and nickel candy! We’d walk there, spend time strolling through the store and picking through the candy bins (root beer barrels, wax bottles with a weird liquid inside, candy cigarettes, snaps, and bubble gum). Our Ben Franklin store back then was a lot different than the Ben Franklins I see now.
Sleepovers – with my girlfriends. We’d go out for walks at night and shake bats from the trees (for some odd reason we dressed in black – I guess so the bats wouldn’t see us), then stay up all night eating, watching movies, doing each other’s hair, and then be super cranky the next day. (And, of course, Mom always had to come down to tell us “for the last time” to quiet down).
It’s true. Youth is wasted on the young. Anyone for a sleepover? (maybe we can stay up until 10:30…) :)
We’re celebrating the release of Shannon’s latest title, Rodeo Queen, for the next two weeks. Shannon is giving away TWO print copies. All comments will go into a drawing. Deadline: Nov 16, 11:59 pm central time.
Caitlyn Wentworth loves being a Rodeo Queen. Until she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker. The good news is, the Texas Ranger assigned to her case is none other than her former sweetheart Mitch Warren—the man who chose his career over love.
Mitch vows to focus on protecting the woman he’s never forgotten. But Caitlyn stirs up memories best left in the past. When Mitch insists on hiding Caitlyn away on his family’s San Antonio ranch, will he keep things professional or seek out a second chance?
Posted on October 29, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
I love reading these posts about who has influenced us over the years. It’s something I don’t do nearly enough – pause to consider the many people God has set in my path to encourage, challenge and support me. There are so many!
One person who has influenced my writing life is someone I met because I started seriously focusing on writing – Ellen Lindseth. When I started my dedicated journey toward becoming published, I joined the Midwest Fiction Writers (MFW), a Minnesota chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America). There I met Ellen who, it turned out, lives just two miles away.
Though we write in different genres (hers is WWII romance), we have matching hearts for writing, growing, sharing the journey, and having fun. She’s become my walking partner as well as my writing partner. She’s someone I can share my highs and lows with. We talk kids, pets, husbands, and writing (not necessarily in that order). And we push each other when it comes to getting our writing done.
We’ve critiqued each other’s work, cheered over contest wins and commiserated together when the feedback seemed particularly harsh. She’s a talented writer with amazing story telling skills, but she’s writing in a genre that can be tough to sell. And yet, she doesn’t give up. While she’s finishing the trilogy, she has stayed upbeat about her progress, continues to learn, and is quick to share that new knowledge.
We’ve often met for early morning walks in French Park, although as it gets colder those walks have become more infrequent. No matter what topic we start with, we invariably end up talking abut our latest work, which characters are giving us trouble, what plotline we’re struggling with.
And she makes me laugh. Her funny way of seeing the world never fails to cheer me up. We have differing views on politics (yes, we’ve even discussed that!) and yet we’re comfortable enough together not to take any of it personally. We’re fine with agreeing to disagree.
I’m so thankful for her friendship. I love getting together to write (and we do actually get writing done – thanks to her putting her earbuds in!), enjoy a meal, play with her kitties or my puppy, and just share life together. And I believe I’m a better writer, thanks to Ellen.
Posted on October 15, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.
It’s interesting that these verses fall to me at a time when I’m studying Ruth in a women’s Bible study. In the 2nd chapter of Ruth, she heads out to glean in Boaz’s field. Gleaning meant to pick up the leftovers after the field had been harvested. Not the best of the crop but the leftovers. And yet, those leftovers were what fed Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Here’s the Cliff Notes version of the story of Ruth: Naomi and her family moved from Bethlehem to Moab because there was a famine in Israel. One of the sons married Ruth, the other Orpah. Then the sons died, as did Naomi’s husband. This left the women in quite a bind. When Naomi decided to return home, Ruth insisted on going with her. This is where the “Where you go, I will go” verses come from – Ruth’s insistence on leaving her homeland to accompany her mother-in-law. (Ruth 1:16-18)
Since the women couldn’t just get jobs after arriving in Bethlehem, Ruth went to work in the fields. She “just happened” to glean in the fields of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s and a wealthy landowner to boot. (Don’t you love it when God provides a “coincidence”?)
By following God’s command not to harvest to the edges of his property and to leave the gleanings for the poor, Boaz was unwittingly providing for the woman who would become his wife. And years later, Jesus would be born of that very lineage.
Nowadays, society tends to be inner-focused, striving to take care of “#1″ and get what we can while we can. This particular directive from God stands against that attitude. He doesn’t tell them not to harvest, just not to be greedy. To make a conscious decision to provide for others.
Perhaps we can follow this command today, especially with the holidays approaching. When we buy a toy for one of our children, why not buy a second to donate to Toys for Tots? Buying a sweater for your grandmother? Buy another for an elderly neighbor. If we have a closet full of warm winter coats that we no longer wear, wouldn’t it be better to give them to someone who has none?
God provides all that we need, and then some. Rather than greedily gathering it all to ourselves, why not find ways to share God’s goodness? If we are blessed to enjoy a harvest, how can we not provide for those who cannot?
How can you provide for the poor and alien in the coming weeks? How will you share your harvest with others?
Posted on October 1, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
Google Plus? “Plus what” was my first question. Isn’t it enough that I google for information? I use Google mail. I find my way around using Google Maps. I can see anywhere in the world with Google Earth. There’s also Google analytics and Google for business. Google this and that. Now there’s Google Plus? What could possibly be missing?
At some point, someone invited me to join Google Plus. Like most other social media, at first I said no thanks. I’m like Shannon – late to every social media party. Unlike her, I don’t tend to get obsessed. Mainly because I continue to be confused about what to do, what not to do, how to do, why I would do, etc. etc. (Apparently she catches on faster than me!)
When I got more invites to be in other circles, I decided I’d better figure out what it was. I created a Google Plus profile (yet another profile), then was told to create circles to put people in. I have a writing buddies circle, a friends circle, a family circle, even an acquaintances circle (for those people who don’t fit into the other circles).
The benefit of this is that it allow you to send a message to only those people in a specific circle (or you can send it to everyone – you get to decide). Perhaps you want to post something for your family circle – e.g. photos of a family event, an inside joke, details about a get-together. You create the post (looks a lot like Facebook) and then select only that circle. No one outside the circle sees it. Everyone IN the circle can comment, share info, etc.
I like that it creates a much more private way to share messages, photos, and information. You can invite whomever you want – using your address book, Facebook, etc., and put them in any circle you want. And creating a profile is easy (honest).
I don’t utilize it nearly as much as I should. I tend to be one of those people who’s not convinced all this social media really sells books or provides the exposure we want. But I keep plugging away at each new thing.
So, would you like to be in my circle? I’d love to have you!
Posted on September 17, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
Isn’t the phrase guilty pleasures an oxymoron? Or maybe it’s just that as women, we tend to feel guilty when we take too much time doing something we enjoy. But then THAT is an oxymoron – can we possibly take too much time for ourselves with so many other things pulling at us?
But I digress. This isn’t a post about oxymorons. It’s about those things in life I love, love, love! There might be a twinge of guilt once in awhile, but for the most part – bring it on!
* Sitting in the sun (that’s it – just sitting under a comfortably warm sun enjoying the outdoors)
* Dinner out with my girlfriends
* The change of seasons (yes, even into winter – which lasts until January 2 and then I’m ready for spring, which is pretty funny considering I live in Minnesota!)
* Singing praise and worship songs (which I only do alone in my car, or in the house with all the windows closed – trust me, it’s not pretty)
* and of course, M&Ms – plain
Now I have this sudden need to go shopping with my girlfriends for new office supplies with a bag of plain M’s in hand. Then I’ll have to stop by the Dairy Queen before heading home to settle in for a good long soak in the tub. Sounds like a perfect evening to me!
What are some of your guilty, or not-so-guilty pleasures? We’re giving away a gently used copy of Sarah Sundin’s On Distant Shores to one lucky reader this week, and a copy of Laura Frantz’s Love’s Awakening to another reader. Every time you leave a comment over the next two weeks, your name will be entered.
The two winners will be chosen after midnight on Friday, Sept. 20 and posted on Saturday!
Posted on September 3, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
I loooove new books. (I suspect I’m among friends with similar feelings here.) I’ve included three books that are set for release this month – all with covers that intrigue me (along with great story lines)
A Log Cabin Christmas is a collection of stories from some amazing writers, including fellow Minnesotan Erica Vetsch. I love this cover for several reasons. First, I want to stay in that log cabin! Wouldn’t it make a great hideaway to read or write? Second, I love the mountains. Maybe I’ve spent my life in the suburbs of Minneapolis, but I’m a mountain girl at heart.
I love the stories within this collection: Experience Christmas through the eyes of adventuresome settlers who relied on log cabins built from trees on their own land to see them through the cruel forces of winter. Discover how rough-hewed shelters become a home in which faith, hope, and love can flourish. Marvel in the blessings of Christmas celebrations without the trappings of modern commercialism where the true meaning of the day shines through.
Any cover with nature (especially those mountains!) quickly gets my attention. I’ve yet to visit Alaska (it’s high on my bucket list) so I hope reading the Alaska Brides Collection will give me an idea of life in that vast state. These stories are written by some of my favorite authors including Mary Connealy and Tracie Peterson. I’m expecting this to be another great read.
Experience five Alaska adventures through the lives of determined women who overcome the many challenges to build their lives in the wilderness. From the gold rush, through a diphtheria epidemic, to the building of the Alcan Highway, readers will enjoy the stubborn fight each woman displays as love comes into her life. Will the women also give up fighting God and let Him lead them through America’s last frontier?
Yet another September release, The Prayer Box, is by Lisa Wingate. What drew me to this cover was, first of all, the title. I have a prayer box myself, so the simple cover of a young woman surrounded by paper prayers caught my eye. And I love the story line.
When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house. Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola’s youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper–the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.
What kind of covers catch your eye?
Posted on August 20, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
I love all of the prayers that have been shared here – for students young and not-so-young, for teachers, for parents. Many in the Inksper group are sending children off to high school and college for the first, or last, time. My kids are both out of college now and both are elementary teachers.
My son, child #2, starts New Teacher Orientation today. This will be his first teaching job and he’s thrilled. And nervous. Excited and a bit scared. There’s so much to learn, to remember, to do. For years he’s worked toward his dream of teaching. Now that it’s here, he’s antsy to get started while wondering how he’ll get everything done before school starts.
He will be an amazing teacher. And that’s not just coming from a proud “mama bear.” Every evaluation during student teaching included statements like “You’re a natural. This is definitely the right job for you.” His substitute teaching jobs this past spring were reminders that, though he was flying a bit blind each time, it was exactly what he wanted to do. It doesn’t hurt that he’s 6’7″ which definitely makes him stand-out among the kids!
So as he starts his first year, I’d like to share a prayer I found recently. I offer it up for all first-year teachers, for those who’ve been teaching for decades, and for all those in-between who return each fall eager to be part of their students’ lives.
Lord, let me be just what they need.
If they need someone to trust, let me be trustworthy.
If they need sympathy, let me sympathize.
If they need love (and they do), let me love, in full measure.
Let me not anger easily, Lord, but let me be just. Permit my justice to be tempered in your mercy.
When I stand before them, let me look strong and good and honest and loving. And let me be as strong and good and honest and loving as I look to them.
Help me to counsel the anxious, crack the covering of the shy, temper the rambunctious with a gentle attitude.
Permit me to teach only the truth.
Help me to inspire them so that learning will not cease at the classroom door. Let the lessons they learn make their lives fruitful and happy.
And Lord, let me bring them to You. Teach them through me to love You.
Finally, permit me to learn the lessons they teach.
(I don’t know who wrote this – if you do, please let me know so I can give them credit.)
Posted on August 6, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
Our favorite place is Lake Tahoe. Over the past eight years or so, we’ve been out there several times. We’ve also visited many other states in the US, but we always seem drawn back to Tahoe.
A few fun facts, in case you don’t know the area. This beautiful lake is bordered by both Nevada and California. (We prefer North Lake Tahoe, in California. Far less crowded than the south end.) It is the largest alpine lake in North America at an elevation of 6,225 ft. It’s the second deepest lake in the US (1645 feet), with Crater Lake in Oregon only 300 feet deeper. It was initially called Lake Bigler (in honor of California’s 3rd governor), which doesn’t suit it at all. It was officially renamed in 1945.
To the Monson family, the beauty of the lake is absolutely breathtaking. Every time we visit. From every angle. The amazingly blue water is crystal clear. The fresh mountain air combined with the ever-present aroma of pine is invigorating. We can’t be outside enough when we’re there.
This year my husband, son and I met up with my older brother and his wife to spend a week in a lovely rental home. It was their first visit to the Tahoe area so we had a blast showing them some of our favorite things to do and see. (The first photo, above, is from the deck of our home. What a view every morning!)
One of the first things we did was stop by Donner Lake. While I lounged in the sun (someone who shall remained nameless forgot to put my climbing shoes in the car as they packed it while I was at work), everyone else did some rock climbing – not with ropes, just plain climbing up the mountain. Our son made it to the top – about 10,000 ft.
Another of our favorite places is Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Olympics. Aside from looking at lots of Olympic memorabilia (the Games were much smaller back then!), it’s another great place for hiking, swimming or roller blading, and shopping. We love taking the gondola up to High Camp and then hiking to Squaw Peak. It was fairly cool when we were there this year, so we were hiking over large patches of snow and battling some brisk winds when we got to the top.
We took a paddlewheel boat ride this summer. Fun to get to see the scenery from ON the lake rather than beside it. In past years we’ve gone parasailing, and yachted on the lake (on a tour – not our own yacht!). Again, this year those winds were brisk so, while the scenery from the paddlewheel was fabulous, a few times we had to go inside to warm up! The two-hour boat ride crossed from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay and back.
We spent an afternoon hiking down to Emerald Bay (one of the prettiest spots on the lake), where we lounged on the beach for a few hours. We were joined by some locals who got a little more up close and personal than we wanted but overall they were polite and curious.
We also took the long and steep gondola ride up Heavenly (there are ski resorts around every bend in the Tahoe area), then climbed to the top of the mountain. The view of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area is breathtaking. I think I heard there are nearly as many visitors to the Tahoe area during the summer as during the winter. Since we aren’t a skiing family, we haven’t been out there in winter – but ski resorts are sure fun to visit in the summer! On my bucket list is hanging out at one of the Tahoe resorts during the winter, where I’ll happily sip hot chocolate and write my heart out in the Chalet.
We visited Virginia City, an hour’s drive from Tahoe. It’s an old western mining town that boasts a long and storied history. A few places we didn’t have time to visit are Reno, just 45 minutes from where we stayed, as is Sacramento. San Francisco is only 4 hours away. My brother and his wife spent a few days in nearby Yosemite National Park. I think we’ll include that in our next trip.
So we were happy hikers this past June – hanging out in our favorite place. Can’t wait to go back (although it will have to wait until after next year’s long-awaited Italy trip). Have you been to Lake Tahoe? What did you like best?