Posts Tagged ‘Faith’
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 October 8, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)
I’ve never been much of a laborer or harvester. I grew up in suburbs of large cities – Chicago and Atlanta. When I was twelve, I moved back to the small town where my parents grew up. Where there are more cows than there are people. This was my first brush with gardens, crops, and farm animals. Though the peacefulness of small town life and wide open spaces grew on me, farming did not.
In the labor department, I’ve caught chickens. In the harvest department, I’ve picked strawberries, okra, and peaches and dug potatoes. Ugghhh to all of it, especially the chickens. Okra and peaches itch the harvester to high heaven. And none of the harvesting is easy on the knees or back even during the teen years.
Since my grandfather had a peach orchard, before the harvest, I used to take a paring knife and walk through the orchard—picking, peeling, and eating peaches—with juice running down my elbows until I couldn’t eat another bite. The orchard is long gone, but I’ve still never tasted a peach that good. Not even fresh from an orchard.
As an adult, my laboring and harvesting ended. I’ve never even planted a garden. Since several of my family members have gardens, they keep me in fresh veggies. And trust me, those things you buy in grocery stores are nothing like the fresh, homegrown variety.
I know, Jesus wasn’t talking about vegetables or fruit. He was talking about souls. But laboring and harvesting veggies is a lot like laboring and harvesting souls. It’s not fun. Or easy. It’s hard to witness to someone you know couldn’t care less. It’s hard when you’ve done it before and they’ve shut you down. It’s hard to witness to strangers. It can prickle your nerves like a fuzzy peach or okra. Prayer can be hard on the knees. It’s not necessarily hard on the back, but it can hurt your heart. The burden of not witnessing—when you know you should—can be hard on the heart. Trust me. I know.
It’s been at least three years ago. I was in Walmart in Little Rock in the makeup aisle. There was another woman there—probably in her late twenties or early thirties. We scanned the makeup, acknowledged each other with kind smiles, and tried not to get in each others way.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walk by. A few seconds later, he came down the aisle and struck up a conversation with the woman. They were around the same age. She knew him, but I don’t think they were in a relationship. Yet, the talk soon turned casually raunchy about plans for the weekend including a party, drinking, and worse. It made me mad that they thought nothing of talking nasty with me right there listening. I left and went several aisles away so I couldn’t tell what they were saying.
After what seemed like eons of me stewing, the talking stopped and I saw the man pass the aisle I was in. Finally, safe to go back and get my makeup. On the way, I realized this girl needed help. My anger toward her disintegrated as the Holy Spirit convicted me, she needed to know there’s more to life than parties, drinking, and worse. And I needed to tell her. I hurried back to the aisle. She was gone. I searched several aisles and women oriented departments. But I never saw her again. My heart still hurts from that burden.
I’ve thought about her often since then and wondered if she’s still on that self-destructive path. I’ve prayed she ran into a better laborer than me. And that maybe she’s been harvested by now. I’ve even prayed for the man. I also determined that I would never let another opportunity like that pass. And I haven’t.
Posted on March 19, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
Just hearing the words “writer’s block” is enough to strike fear into a writer’s heart. It’s a big, ugly, dirty, hairy beast that thrusts itself into our lives and takes up residence in our computer. The brute steals into our mind, numbs our fingers, and fills our heart with dread. We KNOW, at that moment, we’ll never write another decent word in our life.
Cue the music. Any music. Whatever music calms your spirit and speaks to your heart. Then sit back and let it wash over you, soak into you, speak to you.
I’ve been wrestling for months with the beast of writer’s block. You’d think, being unemployed, I’d be writing my brains out. Instead, my brain has turned to mush, my fingers wobble over the keyboard in search of words. The beast has had me by the throat.
So I’ve called out to…Josh Groban. Seriously. One of my stories is about an up-and-coming singer and the now-spotlight-phobic model he falls for. Listening to the powerful music of Josh Groban helps me visualize what life might be like for a struggling performer. It loosens the beast’s grasp on my throat.
In another story, an ex-con builds a ministry for kids on the street. Listening to contemporary Christian music from Sanctus Real, the Robbie Seay Band, and Big Daddy Weave drowns out the beast’s whispers that have kept me paralyzed. It allows me to enter my story world and be the characters.
I love to sing. I’m not good at it. People will move away if I sing too loudly in church (just kidding). But I still love to sing. Sometimes I go far from my computer (where the beast lies in wait) to play worship music and just sing. It reminds me to take the focus off of me and put it where it belongs – on the One who called me to write in the first place.
And when the beast finally slinks away (I know he doesn’t go far, but at least he goes), I play music to thank God for bringing me through.
Do you have any particular music that soothes your beast?
Posted on September 18, 2012 - by Stacy Monson
Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Did you catch that? Even Jesus seemed incredulous. One of the ten healed lepers returned to fall at Jesus’ feet. Only one! And to make it even more remarkable, that man was a Samaritan, someone who was not “allowed” to mingle with Jews.
He knew what the rules were yet he couldn’t stay away. Jesus had healed him, saved his life, perhaps saved him for eternity. He recognized Jesus’ sovereignty, his authority – his love. He knew Jesus could have healed the other nine and left him, the Samaritan, out. Jesus could have been selective about which of the lepers to heal, maybe pausing to look into their hearts to see who “deserved” it most. But without even approaching the men, He healed them all, the Samaritan included.
So why would ten people in desperate need of healing, outcasts from all of society, not climb over each other to thank their Healer? Why would only one think to turn back and fall at His Master’s feet in worship and thanks?
Based on today’s society (which I don’t think is all that different from thousands of years ago), I would venture to guess it was a sense of entitlement that kept them from bothering. He was Jesus, after all – wasn’t it His job to heal people? They asked, He provided. End of story.
We live in a society that provides the best of everything. Even if your life isn’t worthy of being on Entertainment Tonight (thank goodness!) and you struggle to make ends meet, you are still better off than 95% of the world. Yet how often do we throw ourselves at our Master’s feet to thank Him for all that we have? How often does it occur to us to stop everything, lift our hands and cry out our thanks?
Not often enough for me. I think I’m a pretty thankful type of person. I’m so grateful for my health and my family, a lovely home, dear friends, a solid church. I know I deserve none of it, yet He has been gracious enough to fill my cup to overflowing. But I will admit I still stomp my foot when things don’t go my way, when I don’t get what I want when I want it. Hmm.
In all honesty, I am probably more like the nine than the one. Ouch. This passage reminds me that all I have is by the grace of God and I should be on my knees regularly thanking Him for providing for me, forgiving me, healing me, dying for me, loving me.
I think I’m going to work harder at being the one – and encourage others to join me. Perhaps one day it will be nine who fall at His feet and one we drag along with us.
Posted on September 11, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh
unto the sea.
22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
I can’t focus on this scripture without mentioning what happened before this. There was no rest for Jesus that day. He’d already calmed a storm and cast out demons, then journeyed across the sea. Again. Why? Because the people asked him to leave. Only the demoniac Jesus had returned to his right mind was grateful.
As soon as he got to the other shore, a crowd awaited him. Jairus fell at his feet, begging Jesus to heal his daughter. Jesus immediately went with him only to be thronged by the crowd.
I’ve wished so many times that I could have lived back when Jesus walked the earth. Me—put aside my love for electricity, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing? Yes.
I like to think I’d have been one of the ones who fell at Jesus’ feet. Who would have sold everything to follow him. Who would have railed and mourned when they killed him. Who would have been waiting for his resurrection because he’d said it was so.
But would I have? Or would I have been frightened by the Gadarene’s healing? Would I have been one of the people praying Jesus to depart from my coasts? Would I have been in the press thronging him, getting in his way, and distracting him from Jairus’ daughter. Not because I knew who he was, but because I’d heard of his miracles and needed one.
The people living then didn’t know who Jesus was. They were looking for the Messiah, but they expected a king not a carpenter. Some didn’t recognize him. Even the disciples didn’t understand the big picture.
Would I have recognized him? Or would I have fallen asleep in the garden instead of watching? Would I have denied him like Peter? Would I have been one in the crowd crying for the release of Barabbas? Would I have doubted him like Thomas?
Knowing my short-comings and how I often fall at Jesus’ feet only after I’ve tried everything else, I think I’m glad I didn’t live back then.
Posted on April 10, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
I’m celebrating Drop Everything and Read day by sharing some favorite lines from recent reads:
From Buffalo Gal by Mary Connealy:
Posted on March 27, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
Lord and Master make me think of servants and slaves. In Bible times, the Masters lorded over their servants and slaves. What’s the difference in a servant and a slave? A servant served willingly. A slave was owned.
God longs to be our Lord and Master, but not the type of Master to Lord over us. We aren’t His slaves. We’re His servants. We are to serve Him. And as Christians, we should be willing to serve.
The last two books I’ve written, I had tight deadlines. Every word was like pulling teeth. Meeting my wordcount and deadline was a challenge. I turned both books in on time. At the moment, I don’t have any newly contracted books. I don’t have anything I have to write by a certain time. That freedom has been daunting. I’ve dabbled on four different books, but can’t seem to focus on any of them.
I’ve sent my agent this three chapters and proposal and that three chapters and proposal to see what she thinks might interest a publisher. She told me what she thought of each book, but since we’re submitting to a new publisher, she thought I should pick one and finish it.
Which one? I love them all, want to work on them all. I’m excited about them all.
Last week, I took off from writing for spring break. I prayed to my Lord and Master for focus and direction. Midweek, the fog began to clear. I was only thinking and plotting one book. The book that had always had problems. The book where I knew there was a plot issue, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. The next day, my agent e-mailed with her perception of the very book I’d been zoned in on. And she pointed out clearly what the problem was. Everything fell into place. Today, I’m focused and I fixed the problem. The book makes more sense. I like the characters better.
So what if I’d prayed to my Lord and Master about the last two books instead of plodding through on my own? When I took my petition to Him, I was better able to serve in writing the book He wants me to write. I hate when I get so deadline weary and become such a slave to my computer that I forget that.
When God is our Lord and Master, He wants it all–from the smallest worry or discomfort to the large issues and trials that seem like they might break us. With Adonai, we can withstand the strongest storms and tribulations. When we try to do it on our own, molehills turn into mountains.
Who is He to you? Is He your Lord and Master? Is He your co-pilot or your pilot? Do you ever forget to give it all to Him and try to trudge through on your own?
Posted on December 13, 2011 - by JerriLynn
In contemplating Christmas and what it means to me, I’ve found it difficult to get past the hustle and bustle of the commercial side of things. It’s easy to get pulled into all of the shopping and cooking and decorating that seem to go along with the season.
But in those quiet moments, when I take the time to think about the true meaning of Christmas, I find something deeper, something more. It’s not just about the birth of Jesus, the Christ.
If you want to get right down to it, the birth of Jesus was in the early Spring months according to historians. But even that isn’t what’s important.
The story of Christmas, the meaning of the holiday, is all about the strength of convictions. Mary, Joseph, and the people who supported them had to live during a difficult time by the strength of their convictions. They believed in a God that few trusted with a trust that surpassed rational explanation.
Late a night, when the house is quiet and the hustle and bustle of the season isn’t overwhelming, this is the message that I hold on to. I’m thankful for the birth of the Christ, but I’m warmed by the thought that a young girl would believe in her God so much that she would be willing to risk her life to trust His word.
I’m warmed by the thought that a man trusted his God so much that he would believe a story that would defy rational thought. And I’m strengthened by the thought there was a community their God enough to support these kids that were living by faith.
In today’s world, there are few examples of faith and trust that are stong enough to sustain the kind of faith and trust that these people exhibited. And in the quiet of the night, when I have time to think of all that’s happening in my own world and the world around me, the thought that Jospeh, Mary, and their community had so much more going against them…well, that’s enough to make me stop and consider what I’m facing.
It’s enough to make me forget about the prefect presents and a holiday dinner that will wow the socks off all my guests. It’s even enough for me to look at the struggles going on in my own life and around me and say “Thank you, God.”
For sending people before me to make the hard sacrifices. For sending people before me to create an example of how true faith is lived.
And in the quiet of the night, as I sit in front of a tree, decorated with lights and ornaments, I find that my faith and my trust is increased by the faith and trust that a young couple and their supporters had in a God that loved enough to trust them with the most precious gift ever given.
Posted on December 6, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
Our Christmas season is even more stressful and hectic than usual this year. My husband is transitioning from bi-vocational pastor to full time pastor. This transition affects our finances, our lifestyle, and his mental peace. It’s scary to put your finances in the control of a hundred people. Christians are just people. Humans. Our finances are in the control of a hundred humans. Yes, I earn a little with my books now, but publishing is very inconsistent. My income would get us on food stamps fast.
This was our plan. We had some spendable money in savings. Grant needed time off after leaving the dental lab where he’s been a technician for 26 years. We planned for him to have two weeks between his last day at the lab and his first day at the church. Two weeks with spendable money. At the time, since Heartsong Presents was ending in December, I didn’t have any deadlines. We were going to relax, spend some time together, and enjoy ourselves.
We planned a trip to Texas for Thanksgiving. In Rodeo Dust, my hero’s ranch is in Aubrey and he rodeos at the Fort Worth Stockyards. We decided to stop in both places for book signings. It was perfect timing since Aubrey was having Christmas on Main—a festival with booths, crafts, and lots of people milling about. Aubrey’s city secretary got all excited and put my signing in several newspapers. It was during the day, so I could be at Fort Worth that night. Then we’d go on to San Antonio to see family. We wouldn’t have to worry about funds and we’d do some Christmas shopping when we got back.
Reality turned into a mixture of good and bad:
- Heartsong Presents extended the line.
- My car went kaput. The bill $1200.00.
- The booksigning in Fort Worth didn’t come together.
- Grant ended up with three checkless weeks off instead of two.
I’d cried over my two seemingly dead books, so miraculously having them resurrected was a blessing. Suddenly, I had a deadline, plus edits. But I had to work during Grant’s time off.
Our spendable money had dwindled. At least we had the money to get my car fixed, but we had to limp to Aubrey since it had already been in several newspapers that I was coming. We couldn’t afford to go on to San Antonio.
In the two weeks after we got back, we couldn’t Christmas shop or even eat out much.
How it turned out:
It was an awesome day in Aubrey. Nancy Downes, the city secretary had outdone herself with a 4′ by 8′ poster of me and the book. It was much bigger than it looks in the picture. The people treated me like royalty. My signing was in Moms on Main, the restaurant where my characters eat after church in books 2 and 3 of the rodeo series. I got to eat a yummy Philly Cheese Steak sandwich there and see where the peanut festival is held, which is in all three books.
For Rodeo Dust, I’d written blindly, since I’d never been to Aubrey, so Nancy critiqued my scenes to make sure I had Aubrey right. It was great meeting her and the Murrays who own Moms. They bought 30 copies of Rodeo Dust to sell in their restaurant and a small Christian bookstore bought copies also. In the end, I sold 58 books, some at full price and some for resale.
Though I sold books, the trip cost way more than I made. But the research was priceless. Actually being in Aubrey was so worth the trip. I can capture so much more for book 2 and 3 since I’ve actually been there. The Christmas tree decorated with American flags at the top of this post was in Moms. It’s definitely going in book 3.
The family member we were going to see in San Antonio ended up in the hospital during the very time we’d planned to be there for our visit. It would have been nice to be with her in the hospital, but it wouldn’t have been a very good visit. She’s fine, but still tired and sore, so having company would have been an added stress once she got home.
My contact from the Stockyards e-mailed me the week we got back. She’s missed my e-mail, but said I was welcome any time. Oh the irony.
We spent the two and a half weeks after the Texas trip with me working and Grant bored. But every year, our son gets a week out at Thanksgiving. With Grant off work, we got to share it as a family this year. And I worked after they were in bed at night, so I enjoyed the week with them both.
An added bonus, Saturday was the annual Christmas parade where we live. Our church always enters a float.
In 2009, our huge, 8′ by 16′ King James Bible won second place. In 2010, our blue lit city of Bethlehem won 1st place. This year, we had a live nativity in blue lights on one end. An empty cross, Roman soldiers and mourners in the middle with red spotlights. Then a red carpet leading up golden stairs guarded by sword wielding angels at the foot of the throne where Jesus sat. We won first place again. Our prayer is always that we touched souls with our message. The banner along the side of the float said, “Believest thou this?”
Our horizon isn’t any less hectic. Grant went to the church today for his first week as full time pastor. I still have half a book to write by January 16th. I’m trying to get the first draft done by the 20th when our son gets out of school for Christmas break.
- Tonight is our church association pastors and wives dinner.
- Tomorrow night is our ladie’s prayer group Christmas party.
- Wednesday night is church.
- Thursday night, we’re loading up in the church van to drive 45 miles and see a live nativity and city of Bethlehem.
- Friday, my family is going to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas concert. Our 7 year tradition.
- Saturday, my guys are going with the church to Branson to see The Miracle of Christmas. I’m going 45 miles to a book signing I’d already committed to before the church trip came up.
So things aren’t perfect in Arkansas this year. But life is good. We’ve prayed for Grant to go full time at the church for several years and never dreamed it would happen this soon. I have two more books coming out in 2012. We should have more family time since Grant only has one job. And in the end, we have to put our finances, stresses, and peace on God’s shoulders and trust Him to handle it all for us.
Posted on November 8, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
Dear Teenage Shannon,
Be yourself. Stop trying to mimic others. They’re not any cooler than you are, so stop feeling bad about yourself. God made you the individual you are.
Don’t worry so much about what others think of you. Your audience is an audience of one. It only matters what God thinks of you.
You don’t have to dress immodestly to get the boys’ attention. They’ll notice, no matter what you wear. And if it takes immodest clothing to attract him, he’s not the kind of boy you need. (Your parents won’t allow it anyway, thank goodness.)
Stop being embarrassed by your parents. Some day, you’ll be in their shoes and realize how wise they are. And how much they love you.
Start an exercise program now. That way, it’s second nature and when you’re older, it will already be part of your routine.
Don’t go to cosmetology school. You’ll only waste your parents’ money and get stuck doing your mother’s hair for life. Hairdressing isn’t glamorous. It’s hard, nasty, and exhausting. Stick with your first instinct: computers.
Even better—they’re books. Those stories in your head that you never know what to do with. Don’t wait until you’re thirty-three to figure that out.
The move to rural Arkansas. Stop fighting it. Embrace your new home. You’ll grow to love it, never, ever want to live anywhere near a city again, and meet the love of your life there.
In fact, you’ve already met him. That new boy that lights your fire–the rumors are true–but be patient, God is working on him.
Pay more attention to young boys. Someday you’ll have one. The things he does and dirt he can find will astound you.
Always remember. No matter what happens or what life throws at you, you’ve got Jesus to get you through.