Friday, May 26, 2017

A Time To Remember A Time to Be Thankful


Every once in a while two celebration events happen on the same day. Isn't it fun?



The first event I celebrate with you is: Memorial Day

A day of parades, patriotism, and parties.

Memorial Day is a time to celebrate the sacrifice of soldiers both past and present. 

My family participated in this way:
My husband served in the Air Force, 
My father in the Army, 
My brother in the Marines, 
My brother-in-law in the Navy 

I believe all four served during a time of war or "police action". How blessed our nation is to have the men and women who protect us.

Let us celebrate and appreciate each one's sacrifice.



I am thankful to you. May God bring great blessings in your life and your family's life.





The second celebration event today is my daughter's birthday.

Birthdays are always fun, but when a holiday enables family to come together and celebrate as a larger group the merriment increases tenfold. 

My daughter's birthday doesn't always fall on Memorial Day, but every once in a while it does.

We'll probably have the traditional American meal, hamburgers on the grill, potato salad, leaf salad, watermelon, birthday cake, go for a bike ride (it's supposed to be sunny), laugh, tell stories, and sing happy birthday. 

She'll smile her lovely smile, not say much because she never knows what to say at times like this. But she will know she is loved. And when I peek in her bedroom, I'll see her holding her gifts and smiling again. She is happy.





So there you have it.  This is how we will celebrate our Memorial Day. What are you planning to do? 

Do you have someone you would like to acknowledge for his or her service to our country.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Level Motorcycle


Photo Courtesy

When riding a motorcycle around a curve, lean into the pull of gravity no matter what your body says to do.

No mater what your head says to do.

No matter what your eyes say to do.

Make friends with gravity.

Once giving into the natural lean, the motorcycle will move forward as expected.





We are faced with seeming contradictions almost every day. 

If we stand on the edge, even if the ground below our feet is sure, we feel like we will fall.
If the lights go out and everything is pitch dark, we feel like we can't breathe.

If...then...we all have personal if....thens that mess with us and skew our decisions.

Jesus said to His followers, "If you lose your life then you will gain it." Studying God's Word and getting to know Him helps us understand the principle of this statement. If we stop focusing on what we want for our life and turn instead to the activities that God designed for us, we will gain far more than we could ever imagine.

After being raised by an Egyptian Pharaoh, killing a man, and disappearing for 40 years, Moses had the difficult task of convincing the people of Israel to give up the miserable, yet stable life of Egyptian slavery. He asked them to follow God's direction designed just for them. He said, "This will be risky. It will be difficult. You may doubt. The Egyptian army may threaten our bodies, but they will never be able to harm our souls. Go with what God says."

And they did. They believed.

Consider Jonah, the prophet told by God to go and witness to the most evil nation on the planet. The one that delighted in torment, conquest, and gluttony. Jonah made the wrong choice. He ran away from God. Hah. He thought he could, but he couldn't. After living inside a big fish for three days, Jonah changed his mind and followed God's instructions. So why did God ask Jonah to tell the evil city of Nineveh what would happen if they didn't repent? 

BECAUSE God said in His word that no one. Not one. Will be with excuse. Every person who has or will live has had the opportunity to learn about God. 

Sometimes it is so hard to grasp the truth: our ways are not God's ways. 

It takes time to be willing to trust God. Time invested every day. We may never understand why circumstances happen...but we can always know that God has the big plan in His hands. 

For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes our world will tip like a motorcycle traveling on a curve. If we take control and sit straight, our weight will cause the motorcycle to tip over. If we lean too far, the motorcycle will tip over. If, however, we give in, and lean with the natural pull, we will do well.

God loves you so much more than you will ever know.


This post has been brought to you by the one word: SeemingContradictions


Do you need prayer? You can leave your prayer request in the comment section, or email me at maryveewriter@gmail.com...knowing that I will pray for your need.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Those Annoying Roadblocks




This weekend I am off to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Internet reception usually isn't great in remote areas, so I asked my friend, Karen Witemeyer who is also an author to stop by and share a thought we could talk about.

The topic that came to her mind involved road blocks.

Hah, yeah. Well, with the construction I'm driving through to get those lovely Blue Ridge Mountains, I know about road blocks. Sheesh, I hope I make it to the meetings on time.

Anyway, Karen wanted to share how road blocks can actually be a good thing. Yeah. I know. Doesn't seem possible, right? Take a moment and check out what happened to my author friend, Karen Witemeyer: 



Those Annoying Roadblocks


I was no fool. I expected the road to publication to be arduous. So I prepared. I put my craft muscles through years of intensive training and stretched myself in critique groups and contests.

Then I took my first completed novel to a writer's conference. 

I arrived a day early and worked at the volunteer station stuffing envelopes. A woman who had the same first name worked beside me. That was fun. However, as time ticked on, I realized who she really was. This was Karen Schurrer, an editor from Bethany House, my dream publisher. 

Only the Lord could have orchestrated such a meeting. I resisted telling her about my novel right then. Two days later, I sat at her lunch table, and after everyone talked about their projects, one brave writer asked if we could send her our proposals. She said yes.

After the conference, I sent in my proposal and soon had a surprise request for a full manuscript. Surely a contract was right around the corner, right? Wrong. The acquisitions editor rejected my manuscript. She considered the plot too similar to something they'd already done. It wouldn't work for launching a new author. 

She complimented the writing and said there was one component to the story that she liked—the dress shop. Could I come up with a new idea surrounding a dress shop?

Now you have to understand, in the original book, the dress shop burned to the ground in the prologue. It didn't even make it into chapter one. Yet she wanted me to create an entirely new book from scratch based on this shop idea. Unbelievable. It would be easier to look for another publisher.

But publishing with Bethany House was my dream. 

I started brainstorming, and even met with the editor in person at the next conference. She gave me feedback and encouraged me to send her the new story. Early the next year, Bethany House offered me a three book deal launching A Tailor-Made Bride. Yep, the dress shop book.

Just because I had a three-book deal didn't mean the roadblocks were cleared. Not even when the books sold well. 

Contract time rolled around again. Bethany asked for three new book ideas for the committee. I worked hard and wrote the best synopses I could. I like them. They should like them too. After all, my editor had already said she wanted to sign me for another deal.

Nope. They turned down two of my three ideas. Ouch. 

Roadblocks are never fun to hit, but they do teach important lessons. You see, my first books were light-hearted and fun. However, I have a soft spot for dark, wounded heroes, too, and one of my synopses featured such a tortured soul. My editor wrote that it wasn't what readers would expect when they picked up a Karen Witemeyer book. In other words, it didn't match the brand I had formed. I needed to go back to the drawing board and create ideas that better fit readers' expectations. 

That's what a professional does. She doesn't whine and complain about the publisher who doesn't understand her artistic genius. No, she opens a new document and gets to work.

Mary here. This is so true even with our Christian lives. God has in mind the projects we can do. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. If we teeter off to a project off the path, God will remind us of His will. At that point we can choose: follow God's will, or walk away.

Contract renewal time will come up again soon. I must admit, I'm still nervous about proposing ideas they will like. But now I know more about keeping true to my brand, and more than that, I know that if one or more of my ideas come back to me with a big red No stamped across them, I can persevere, be a professional, and get things done.  That's what this writing journey is about—doing our best for God's glory.



About Karen:

Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.


Two-time RITA® Finalist and winner of the HOLT Medallion and ACFW Carol Award, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes historical romance fiction for Bethany House, believing that the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com  


Thank you Karen for joining us this weekend!


So, what roadblock is possibly helping you?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

That's Right. We ARE Entitled!


Sleeping Bear Dunes-Traverse City, MI, photo by Mary Vee
It's time to take back our lives!

Since the dawn of communication, I'm talking all the way back to Eve and Adam, persuasion and stretching the truth have become the core of communication.

Beware what you believe.

Hold on, don't run away. I'm not writing one of those "The Earth is Going to End" doomsday posts. Sheesh. Wouldn't that put me in the same boat?

What I'm trying to do is to cause all of us, me included, to consider what we hear/read/see before we jump on a bandwagon.

Not that long ago sayings like, "Do it Your Way" and "You Deserve" were the theme of commercials. Those phrases became a norm. A mantra for unions. An enticer for sales. The focus has been on me. Me. ME.

The current phrase, and this one is not so new either, is: "I'm Entitled."

Okey doke. Let's talk about what we are really entitled to.



BECAUSE JESUS died for us and took on the punishment for our sins, we are entitled to life everlasting.

BECAUSE I WORK, I am entitled to a paycheck.

BECAUSE GROCERIES ARE BOUGHT AND ORGANIZED IN THE KITCHEN, we are entitled to make meals for ourselves and our family.

BECAUSE I WEED THE GARDEN, I am entitled to the flowers and other vegetables that grow there.

BECAUSE THE SUN SHINES, you are entitled to feel warm.

BECAUSE I GO TO CHURCH and PRAISE GOD, I am entitled to feel blessed by God.

BECAUSE WE HELP OTHERS, we are entitled to feel happy.

BECAUSE GOD ESTABLISHED A SCIENTIFIC SYSTEM that placed the earth where it is, we are entitled to a habitable planet.

BECAUSE THERE IS AN APPROPRIATE BALANCE BETWEEN PLANTS AND ANIMALS, a system designed by God, we are entitled to breathable air.

BECAUSE A PERSON FOLLOWS THE RULES, he or she is entitled to not suffer consequences.

BECAUSE SOMETHING IS FUNNY, we are entitled to laugh.


BECAUSE GOD LOVES US, we don't have to fear what we are truly entitled to.



Help me out here, what else are we entitled to?


This post has been brought to you by the one word: TrulyEntitled


Friday, May 12, 2017

When God Asks You to Change Careers...Now.



I met Camy Tang at ACFW. She was one of my mentors. Her gift for listening, understanding, and guidance made me so thankful I had signed up to meet with her. What a blessing. 

Sometimes all we need is a listening ear to understand direction.

Sometimes all we need is to take the direction and follow, no matter how bizarre it seems.

I asked Camy to share with us today.. Here is what she wrote:


God Asked Me to Lay Down My Writing!

I’ve always loved writing, but my attitude wasn’t the greatest. I was more interested in my name on a book cover than in giving God glory. So, God asked me to lay down my writing.

Mary here- I can see this happening for any career. We often become consumed with our idea of the end goal and not God's. Been there...many times.


At first I thought He was nuts, but once I realized He was serious about it, I fought Him long and hard over it. Eventually, I did it—laid down my writing, stopped cold turkey. Set my manuscript away (all 600+ pages of my epic fantasy novel that was going to take the world by STORM!).

I changed careers studying biology research, probably as far from fiction writing as I could go. I still made up stories in my head, but never wrote anything down. One day, quite by surprise, I was laid off from work. I didn't know what to do until out of the blue, I sensed God giving me the green light to start writing again.

To get back into the feel and learn more about the writing craft, I read tons of writing books, took online workshops, attended conferences. I learned everything I could about the writing craft, the publishing business, and the market.

I wrote and sent out my work. 

I got lots of rejections. 

I had horrible comments from judges in the contests I entered. 

I wrote five complete manuscripts with Asian American characters during a time when publishing houses weren’t actively looking for multicultural stories. Eventually, I had to go back to work because it was just too expensive to be a writer without a contract in the San Francisco bay area. Hah. That would hold true for living anywhere.

I guess I had an advantage because I had already laid down my writing once, and God had clearly told me to take it up again. I knew without a doubt that I had His blessing for my writing, so even though things were really hard, I didn’t give up. I knew this was what God wanted me to do.

Sushi for One released in 2007. My husband was so proud of me—holding that book in his hands affirmed to him that this “writing thing” really was what God wanted me to do.

Since then, I’ve written for Zondervan, Love Inspired Suspense, and Guideposts and have known this was the time God wanted me to write.





Camy Tang grew up in Hawaii and now lives in northern California with her engineer husband and rambunctious dog. She graduated from Stanford University and was a biologist researcher, but now she writes full-time. She is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of the Sunday worship teams. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ to read free short stories and subscribe to her quarterly newsletter.


Thank you Camy for joining us this weekend!

Has God ever asked you to lay something aside for a time and asked you to do something else for a season?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Crushing Impenetrable Brick Walls


Photo by Mary Vee - Pisa, Italy

She was told she wasn't qualified.



God had asked her to do a job. A work for Him.  

She went to school for training and failed.



She went to the man in charge of the board and begged to be given a chance. He said no. "I'm sorry. You are only qualified to be a maid." He pulled out a card that listed a job opportunity for a maid.

She left the office. 


Who was she? Not going to tell you...not yet. 


First, think of a time you've driven to a place. On the way, construction closes the road. Did you turn around and go back home? 

Probably not. 



Now think back through your life at the times God has asked you to do something and everything possible got in the way. 

Maybe it was to bring food for a church meeting. You looked in your kitchen cupboard and didn't find enough of any ingredient to make a dish. You checked your bank account and saw there wasn't enough money to go to the store. You decide to stay home. 

During the time you would have been at the church meeting, a friend calls. Someone whom you haven't spoken with in a long time. The friend says she called because she just needed to talk, and she thought of you. 

The friend spills a heart wrenching story. One that drives you to listen. Cry with her. Pray with her. Between sobs she thanks you. She'd called several other friends and no one was home. Your words, (you didn't say many), meant so much to her. She wanted to know if she could come to your church. 

As you lay your head on your pillow your remembered the conversation and thought...I was upset about not having groceries. I was upset I couldn't make a dish to bring to the church meeting. I thought I'd let my friends down. I thought I had failed. A tear fell and you sobbed like your friend had earlier. "Oh Jesus," you say. "I am so sorry. You had something so much bigger for me than I had planned. Thank you for helping me to do Your will."


The woman mentioned in the first part of today's post ended up becoming a maid. Yeah. Sad. I know. It was the only work she could find. She went to the home advertising for a maid and was given a tiny room in the attic. She cleaned and polished the big home every day. One day she was assigned to clean the library. There she found a collection of books on China. 

She read through them at a slow pace, one she could understand the information. The more she read the more she understood. Her enthusiasm to learn more about the Chinese culture grew. By the time she finished the last book she knew more than she could have learned in the training school. 

Years past. She went to China on her own. Did the work God asked her to do. She became a great friend to the Chinese people. One they trusted and listened to. 

War broke out. The Japanese had invaded. Hundreds of children were orphaned and trapped behind enemy lines. For many days she risked her life to guide the children across the dangerous countryside until they reached safety. Not one child was lost. 

The place she guided them to was the mission belonging to the board who had said she was not qualified to do the work, learn Chinese, or survive in China. The man who rejected her request years before wept as he saw how God had worked in her life to do God's work.

The lady was Gladys Aylward. During her life, hundreds of brick walls popped up attempting to block the work God asked her to do.

Brick walls can't stop God.

Do you feel like a brick wall is preventing you from doing things for God? Maybe illness, handicap, schedule, job, etc? God would only ask you if the job were possible.  Deep inside you hear His voice.

When God said, "Who shall I send?" Isaiah the prophet said "Here am I. Send me." 


This post has been brought to you by the one word: SendMe



  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Timing Couldn't Have Been Better - Coincidence?


A project started years ago. I am talking serious years. As in: at least ten.

It was the dawn of my writing.

A fun gift for my students.

The sprouting of a precocious character who acted a lot like (confession time) I did. Yeah. I was the kid my parents wanted to return. The good news is...kids like me can turn out to be sweet, loving, kind, compassionate, considerate, really wonderful people.

We rascals walk through the school of hard knocks. Gladly don our bumps and bruises, punishments, time-outs, and shunnings. 

Then like a caterpillar exits a cocoon as a quasi wonderful human being, we become the people our parents prayed for.

What better story to write. William is a boy full of mischief. If there isn't any trouble to participate in, he makes it. Until one day when the result of mischief happens to him. "That's not fair!" How could this happen to him? 

William Worthington Watkins III has been a story waiting for my writing skills. 

After hordes of studying, practicing, polishing, editing, polishing again William is ready to tell his story to you. Finally! 

His tale is available on Amazon for only $5.99.

William tells his side of the story. A mystery with humor. Of truth and forgiveness. The perfect gift for an end of a school year or summer read.



A friend of my daughter stopped by. She picked up the book and sat right at my kitchen table reading through the book. She tuned out everything around her, turning pages and laughing. At the end she closed the book and smiled. "This is a cute book!"

Enjoy!

This post has been brought to you by the one word: HopeForTheRascals

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Unexpected



Photo by Mary Vee - Desert flower, Tucson, AZ



We've all had something unexpected happen.

The best is when the unexpected is good, am I right?

Yah. I think so too.









Sadly, the reality is there are also a lot of bad unexpected things that happen to people around the world. Weather related, criminal, social, economical, and much more. I wish, how I wish I could do more than I already do to help. But having only two hands makes it tough.


Photo by Mary Vee, Michigan Sunflower




For today, though, let's talk about the good unexpected moments. Those times when someone or something completely surprises us.

Think presents.

Think opportunities

Think the sun peeking out on a rainy day.

Think the person who helped change a tire.

Think the check in the mail



Now that we're thinking about it, there were a lot of unexpected blessings that came our way over the course of our lifetime, right? All gifts from God.


Photo by Mary Vee  - Sea of Galilee




Let's have some fun and climb aboard a boat. This boat is docked on a sea.











Photo by Kit Bostrom



The Sea of Galilee. 

It's kinda crowded on this boat because all the disciples are on board with you. Scooch over. 









The winds tossed the boat side to side. Sailing didn't go very well. Everyone on board was pretty scared. Seemed the boat could capsize at any moment. It was a white knuckle ride until...

Photo by Mary Vee - Sea of Galilee
Jesus appeared. Not in the boat. He was walking on the water! 

He knew we were afraid. He left the mountains where He was praying to come and comfort us. 

Peter, you know how excited he always got, asked to walk out to Jesus. Seconds later, can you believe it, he climbed out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus!! Amazing.

Unfortunately, Peter looked down. He wobbled side to side and slowly slipped into the water. We didn't know what to do. 

But Jesus did. 

Peter shouted, "Lord save me."

And Jesus did. Right before our eyes, Peter was raised up from the water!

Talk about the unexpected!! Jesus loves us so much, He is wherever we are, ready to comfort us.

While we weren't really on the boat with the disciples, I was on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee in March. The sea was calm that day, and everyone on board knew--really knew Jesus was with us.  

So now, I am bursting with a God's blessing to share. 


A year ago, I received an unexpected email from a teacher in Kansas asking to use stories I'd written for a school play. 

She said she read the series I wrote about a missionary who lived in the early 1900's named Gladys Aylward. Gladys served in China most of her life. She is credited for spreading the Gospel to many small villages and saving the lives of many children caught behind enemy lines. Needless to say Gladys had an amazing life.

The teacher said the play would be held in April and invited me to come see it.

I wrote the date on my calendar all those months in advance and forgot about it. Eight months later I saw the note. With days to plan, hubby and I worked out the details to attend last Friday night's production, made reservations, and took off. The school was an eleven hour drive from where I live, but was so worth the drive.


Talk about an amazing blessing. The children did a great job telling Glady Aylward's missionary story. 

It's your turn. 
Let's talk about how God has sent this unexpected blessings.




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THIS is what God Can Do!!

On my trip to Israel, I met several wonderful Christians in my tour group. One night, one of them shared his testimony. It is a story of God's passionate love for all the lost souls.

Grab a cup of coffee and read what Gary has to share.




I am Redeemed and Free Indeed 

Gary in Jerusalem - Photo by Mary Vee

My name is Gary Spillman and this is my testimony to God's glory.

I grew up without a father. There were a lot of wannabe substitutes for him, except for Bob Spillman who adopted all six of my mother’s children before having one of his own with her. I felt like he would be the one to help me grow up into a man, but the Lord took him with cancer less than two years after being married to my mom.

With no father, again, and being sexually abused by my older brother and sister at age nine, I pretty much gave up on God. A God who allowed all that stuff to happen to me was a God I didn't want! Jesus loves me... Right!   

At the age of twelve, I was locked up in a boy’s industrial school. At seventeen, I was incarcerated at Hutchison prison. By the time I turned twenty-one, I was doing two life sentences. My heart was so dark and black. I didn't care about anyone or anything. I took and did whatever I wanted to fill the empty void inside me. But nothing did.


My mom died in 1987, and I made a promise to her that I would not hurt anyone physically anymore. I've kept that promise, although my words have hurt and killed some people.

I got out of prison after doing twenty years and thought that if I had a place to stay, a car, and a good job, I could go fishing anytime I wanted and finally be satisfied. Well, I had all that, but something was still missing, and I really wasn't satisfied.

I got arrested again for manufacturing meth and a whole bunch of other charges in Missouri and Kansas and was sent to Ellsworth in 2002. All I could think about was escaping. I was 45 years old and thought I was gonna die in prison. I came up with two different schemes to get out: take one of the bikes the guards used to patrol the compound, build a ramp, and jump over the two cosseting wire fences; or make a rope, lasso a light pole, then swing off one of the buildings to freedom.

Some buddies of mine suggested I join a program called the Interchange Freedom Initiative, now called Brothers in Blue. It is a faith-based Christ-centered program. I laughed at them. But I realized there were banquets with people who came in from outside, and I saw I could take one of the people in the bathroom, knock them out, put on their clothes, take their ID, and escape. So, I joined the program. Low and behold, after three months of having to study God's word and hearing about God's word, the Holy Spirit started working on me.

One day during class, Don Raymond taught about the Gospel of John. He read the Scripture John 8:36 Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

I wanted to be free!

So, I ask him how I could be free. He said, “Well you need to go back to John 8:31 -32 that says, 'if you are truly my disciples you will follow my teachings and then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.'

The truth? What was the truth???

Don said, “You have to study that out.”

Gary on the road from the Mt. of Olives
to Gethsemane Photo by Hank Vee 
So, I did. I found out that Jesus did die for all my sins and that if I accepted Him as my Savior, my personal Savior, I would be set free. One night, during a Wednesday evening revival, I accepted Christ into my heart and told God that if Jesus set me free, I would never forsake Him or leave Him. But I had accepted Christ for the wrong motives. I figured He was going to set me free physically because I was still going back to court on charges at that time.

Later, at a Brothers in Blue weekend I surrendered myself to the leading of the Holy Spirit and knew I was truly set free.

I still had to serve ten more years in prison before I got out. During those ten years, I didn’t see prison bars, walls, or guards to keep me locked up. I saw that time as being in the kingdom of God. I studied and memorized God's word.


To this day, I've been out of prison for four years, am off parole, and have travelled to Israel. I still go back into the prisons, which I never thought I would ever do again, to minister to men and tell them about being set free from the bondage sin has them under.


Wow! Thank you Gary for sharing what God did!

Reader, as you can see from Gary's testimony: God SO loves the world that He gave His only Son that WHOEVER believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16