Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Grace in the Storm


I'm no stranger to storms. Growing up in tornado alley, some of my earliest school memories include tornado drills. When I was in first grade, I remember my teacher reviewing those drills as the sky turned a sickly green, wind slashing rain against our classroom windows and bowing the trees low. When I was a junior in high school, my hometown was hit by a deadly F4 tornado that tore a half mile wide swatch of destruction across the small town where I grew up, destroying downtown and killing six people. 


After spending the first twenty-seven years of my life in Arkansas, my husband, two small boys, and I moved to the coast of Texas, where we were quickly introduced to a whole new kind of storm - hurricanes. Just five months after moving, a small system blew up into a hurricane shortly before landfall, and we rode out the Category 1 storm as the wind screamed and sheets of rain fell for hours. The next year we evacuated for two storms, and our home flooded in the second one: Hurricane Ike. Last year, much of our area flooded when Harvey dumped 60 inches of rain on the Texas coast. We walked with friends and church members who sustained massive damage, some losing everything they owned.

Physical storms can be terrifying. But life's storms can be just as scary, just as damaging, and even harder to protect ourselves from. These storms take many forms: job loss, marriage problems, close friendships that end, people we trust who hurt us, life changing medical diagnoses.


I want to handle life's storms the way I handle physical storms. I want to make myself small and cover my head like I did in those elementary school tornado drills. Or I want to pack up what matters most and get in my car and drive far away like we do in a hurricane evacuation. This isn't a new feeling. David wanted to do the same thing in Psalm 55:6-8: I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest." But hiding and running won't protect from life's storms.


When storms hit, I do tend to make myself small and run away emotionally. I withdraw. I listen to a lot of music, even creating playlists that fit what I'm dealing with at the time. I read a lot, sometimes fiction, because it's an escape from a dark reality; sometimes Shauna Niequist or Emily P. Freeman, because their words and their openness always seem to meet me exactly where I am. I get quiet, because I know if I put my feelings into words, I'll shatter and I won't be able to contain the emotions. I hate losing control in front of anyone, so I hide my deepest feelings until I'm alone and safe.


When you're in the middle of a storm, it's all you can see. It takes over your awareness, filling every sense. When the sky turns green and eerie silence screams in your ears, all you can do is take cover and pray. When wind screams and debris flies, all you can think about is staying safe from the carnage. When your life turns upside down, all you can focus on is the pain and the fear.


Then the storm passes, and you're left to clean up the destruction that's left behind. You find yourself looking for a new job, grieving a loss, finding a new normal while wishing life could go back to what it was like before the storm, but realizing it will never be the same. Life will be marked differently now: before the storm, and after the storm. 



Jesus knew what it meant to face storms. He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing what He was about to face, begging the Father for another way. But there was no other way. The only way we could be saved was for Him to face the storm head on. He knew how the story ended, and He knew the storm was worth the price. 


We don't know how our story will end - but God does. He wrote the ending long before the storm started. He walked this earth and faced the same kind of storms we face. He knows our pain and fear, and He doesn't leave us to face the storm alone. He holds our hand and walks beside us. He comes to us when we need Him and never leaves our side. When we call out to Him, He gives us grace to face the storms and find new life on the other side. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Beneath the Surface Blog Hop, Interview, and Giveaway







 


I'm so excited to be part of the blog tour for Beneath the Surface! This is such a great kick-off to the Dive Team Investigations series. Find out a little more about the pick up, enter to win your own copy through the Rafflecopter link, then scroll down for an interview with Lynn H. Blackburn.


Title: Beneath the Surface Series: Dive Team Investigations, Book 1
Author: Lynn H. Blackburn
Publisher: Revell
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Links:
 
 After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston needed a change. She thought she'd left her troubles behind when she moved home to Carrington, North Carolina, and took a job in the emergency department of the local hospital. But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her into the present. She reaches out to her high school friend turned homicide investigator, Ryan Parker, for help.

Ryan finds satisfaction in his career, but his favorite way to use his skills is as a volunteer underwater investigator with the Carrington County Sheriff's Office dive team. When the body of a wealthy businessman is discovered in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer--one with a terrifying connection to Leigh Weston and deadly implications for them all.

Dive into the depths of fear with an exciting new voice in romantic suspense. Award-winning author Lynn H. Blackburn grabs readers by the throat and doesn't let go until the final heart-pounding page.


PURCHASE HERE: AmazonChristianBook - BookDepository - iTunes
ADD TO GOODREADS: Goodreads
ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Lynn H. Blackburn is the author of Hidden Legacy (Love Inspired, June 2017) and Covert Justice, winner of the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, with her true love, Brian, and their three children.


 


(3) Winners will win: 
  • (1) Print copy of Beneath the Surface by Lynn H. Blackburn
  • Surprised Bookish Treat
(US/Canada Mailing Addresses Only) Full terms & conditions noted on Rafflecopter form.

Click here to enter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/7425d38e147/?
  


April 23
Create Explore Read - Author Interview
A Baker's Perspective - A Day with Special Agent ___
April 24 
Savings in Seconds - Quote Hightlight
Grace in Our Moments - Guest Post from Author 
April 25
Christen Krumm - Guest Post from Author
Among the Reads - Beneath the Surface & the Power of Prayer
April 26
Blooming with Books - Character Profile
Fiction Aficionado - Did you know this about diving investigators?
April 27
Remembrancy - Photo Tour of Carrington
Stories by Gina - Quote Highlight
April 30
The Christian Fiction Girl - Quote Hightlight
Daysong Reflections - Underwater Investigations & Evidence
May 1 
Worthy 2 Read - Quote Hightlight
Kat's Corner Books - Beneath the Surface with International Adoption
May 2
All of a Kind Mom - A Character Like Me
Robin's Nest - Quote Hightlight
Edits & Reviews by Leslie - Food Beneath the Surface 
May 3
By the Book - Quote Hightlight
Cafinated Reads - Quote Highlight
May 4
Book by Book - Playlist
Pacific Northwest Bookworm - Cookies Beneath the Surface

I loved being part of the blog tour for Beneath the Surface! Thanks to Lynn Blackburn for answering a few questions about her newest book...

I’m thrilled to be able to answer questions about the writing of Beneath the Surface and my writing experiences!



What was your inspiration for both the setting of your book and the diving aspect of it?



Lynn: I was born in western North Carolina and lived there in elementary school and high school. But after I was married and living in South Carolina, my parents lived in central North Carolina for almost two decades, so it’s a place I have never lived but have visited often.



There are some beautiful lakes in that area and wonderful people. I thought it would be fun to create a fictional city that is much like the city I live in (Greenville, SC) and add a lake and a tourism industry and then see what happened.



An added bonus to choosing central North Carolina is that it’s not far from the location of the real dive team that inspired the series. The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team gave a demonstration as part of the Writers Police Academy in 2014. By the time we walked out of the building I knew I wanted to write this series.



What is it like going from writing Love Inspired Suspense to writing a series? What do you like about each? What is difficult about each?



Lynn: The transition from LIS to a series has been relatively smooth. As a reader, I prefer series to stand-alones so I was thrilled to be able to try my hand at writing one. 



The biggest challenge in the beginning was—the beginning! Because LIS books are so much shorter (55K words verses 90K words) you have to begin with a bang and never stop! In the Dive Team Investigations series, I had to keep reminding myself that I needed to take the time to ground my readers in the story world and in the main characters inner worlds before I started messing with them too much. I’m naturally long-winded so I adjusted quickly!



I think LIS is fantastic and I’m thrilled to write for them. I’m hoping to sell a third book to them soon. It’s a wonderful way for a writer to break into the romance/romantic suspense world. You learn to write tight – you have to tell a compelling story and create realistic and engaging characters that readers will want to spend time with – and there’s no room for any extra words. And that’s a skill every writer should have! You also learn how to handle edits and how to write on a deadline. Also critical skills for writers. An added bonus is that LIS readers are awesome. I’ve received some of the kindest letters from readers of my LIS books!



The hardest part about writing the trade-length series for Revell is also the part I love the most—it’s longer! It takes longer to write and longer to edit, but I also have more room to develop the main characters and the secondary characters. There’s room for a more complex plotline and more romance.



As a reader, I love a complicated plot that keeps me guessing and a romance that leaves me swooning, and that’s what I’m trying to create for my readers.





I know Lynette Eason is your mentor. How has she helped you as an author? And who else has influenced you as a writer?



Lynn: Yes, Lynette Eason is my mentor and friend. In fact, as I type these words she’s sitting beside me in a Starbucks that’s in between our houses. We live about five miles apart and meet at local coffee shops quite often. We brainstorm and write. I can only imagine what some of our fellow patrons think about our conversations. “Well, if you kill him this way . . . ” is guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows!



We met in 2012 and she’s helped me with everything from brainstorming ideas to untangling convoluted plot threads to talking me off ledges when I’m convinced I’m a hack and no one will ever want to read my books. She’s encouraged me to enter contests and introduced me to my agent and editor. There’s really not much she hasn’t helped me with! I’m eternally grateful for the way God put her in my life!



As for my influences—I’m an avid reader and I read broadly growing up. I read just about anything except erotica or horror. Classics, thrillers, romances, literary works, historicals, YA, epic family sagas, I love all of it. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how much a steady diet of beautifully crafted sentences and stories impacted my writing.



Within my own genre I’d have to say the biggest early influence was Dee Henderson who, interestingly enough, mentored Lynette. The O’Malley series remains one of my favorites of all time.



Thank you for having me today!



Grace and peace,

Lynn

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Beneath the Surface as part of the blog tour. All opinions expressed are mine. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Grace From Beginning to End


At the end of today's post, I have a little something extra - a free printable of one of the verses I shared. You can also find a link to it on my new "Printables" page. 

Sometimes it's hard to see God at work in our lives. When we're struggling, it's easy to forget that He's in the middle of the mess with us. Sometimes it's only when we look back that we see His work and realize He was right beside us the whole time. There have been many times in my life like this, but honestly, His grace starts at the very beginning of my story.
 

Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you..." A few years ago, I shared the story of my birth in my post "First Grace." You can read the whole story here. The short version is that I had a 50/50 chance of surviving after a doctor's bad call led to a very difficult delivery. Even if I lived, there was the very real possibility of brain damage. God's grace was there from my first breath or I wouldn't be here.
 

Grace was there as I grew up. There were times I could have taken the wrong path, the one that led away from God - but He placed people in my life to turn me back to the road to Him. There were times He protected me from danger I didn't even know was there until it passed. There were the times He healed me when I could have faced surgery or worse. His grace covered me.
 

 Even in the bad times, there was grace. When I had nothing, God provided and gave me all I needed. When I was afraid and couldn't see the next step, God walked with me. When I stumbled under the heavy load I carried, He carried me.

Isaiah 46:4 says "Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you."
"Your graying years" - my hairdresser will tell you I'm there. She points out every six weeks how quickly the gray in my hair is spreading. As much as I've always loved this verse, I didn't expect to hit my graying years so soon. I'm not even forty yet. Life is passing by faster than I ever imagined.
 

My life is changing quickly. My oldest son is finishing his junior year of high school. My youngest is in eighth grade. The babies I carried in my body now tower several inches taller than me. Within just a few years, there will be two less people living in our house as our boys grow up and move out. Our nest will be empty. My husband and I will begin a whole new phase of life.

It's scary, knowing everything is about to change. I want to hang onto the here and now, or rewind time and relive past moments. But I can't. I march on through my graying years. But I know that God meets me here. He promised He would.


Psalm 71:18 says "And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to those who are to come." God isn't done. Until I breathe my last, He has a purpose for me. He has a role for me to fill, and He will give me grace to do it.
 

One day, when my life ends on this earth and my new life in eternity begins, I believe I'll look back see His hand in every aspect of my life, the good and the bad, grace from beginning to end.
 

Do you need a reminder of His never ending grace as much as I do? I've created a free printable for you! Click here for the card size version of Isaiah 46:4. Print it out and use it to memorize this scripture. Or use it as a reminder that God's grace is always with us. I hope you enjoy it!



Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Five Books I Can't Stop Recommending


There are few things I love as much as getting lost in a great book. When a story is so good it keeps me up late, desperate to find out what happens next, I'm a happy woman. Every so often, I come across a book that just grabs me and won't let go. These are the books I recommend to everyone, the books I can't stop thinking about long after the last page, the ones I could read over and over again.

These five books are fantastic. Many are award winners and bestsellers, so I'm not alone in my opinions of them. If you're looking for your next great read, check out one of these titles.

1. The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell


I read and loved Julie's first two books, Into the Free and When Mountains Move. She did a great job in these two historicals dealing with really tough topics, but nothing could prepare me for her first contemporary novel, The Feathered Bone. It deals with incredibly hard topics with gut wrenching reality and incredible hope. It's been over a year since I read this book and I still think of it often.

Be warned - this is not a light read. There were times I was so overwhelmed I had to put the book down for a little while and process what happened. But this is one of the most heartbreaking, beautiful, hopeful books I've ever read. It's a must read. Just keep the tissues handy.

2. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers


I read Redeeming Love more than twenty years ago, when the Christian fiction book market was still young. It pushed the limits back then. I remember thinking how different this book was from everything else in the Christian market at the time. Now it's considered a classic of Christian fiction.

This book deals with some of the same topics as The Feathered Bone. The retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, set in the American West, is also a heavy read, but the ending makes it all worthwhile.

3. Long Way Gone by Charles Martin


Charles Martin's name kept popping up for months - in Facebook groups, on Instagram, on friends Goodreads lists. When I read Long Way Gone, I realized why. Not only is the story incredible, but the writing style is one of the most beautiful I've ever read. I wanted to get to know these characters, to sit down and have coffee with them. Based on the parable of the prodigal son, Long Way Gone made me cry more than once, but there's still that strong theme of hope in the darkness that I love so much.

4. The Martyr's Song by Ted Dekker


Mention Ted Dekker's name and you'll probably get a strong reaction. People either love his books or hate them. I personally love them, especially his mysteries. But The Martyr's Song is unlike any of his other books. This short book is so powerful. Set in a small town in WWII, it tells the story of two people facing death for their faith in God. As they face the unimaginable, God reveals tiny hints of what they will soon see as they make the ultimate sacrifice for their faith. Though the story is very dark, it's laced with the incredible hope we have because this world isn't the end. Every Christian should read this one.

5. Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore


The only nonfiction book on my list, Same Kind of Different as Me tells such an amazing true story that it reads as well as any novel. The last line is one of my favorite quotes ever. You'll look at life, friendship, homelessness, and more so differently after reading this. Read it before you see the movie--it just came out on DVD a few weeks ago.

I'm always looking for my next favorite book. What do you find yourself recommending to everyone?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Coming Soon

Changes are coming to Grace In Our Moments! In the next few weeks, you'll see a new look, a new format, new resources, and more. You'll also see changes coming to the Facebook page. I look forward to moving ahead.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Something to Cling To


Comfort. That's what my soul is crying out for.

The cold, wet weather outside feels like it's crept into my heart. My soul needs warmth the way my body craves a soft blanket and a steaming bowl of soup. It's easy to comfort my physical body, but much harder to find peace for my restless, worrying soul.

So much in this life is out of my control. Experience has proved it time and time again. Things happen to me, to people I love, and I feel helpless. No matter how hard I try, I can't stop sickness from infecting friends or keep a loved one's heart from breaking. I can't keep storms from hitting. I can't fix every mistake or force someone to make the right choices.

Maybe it's because we're in the middle of Lent. Maybe my heart is more fragile than normal. But lately, life is tearing me down. When I pray, the words don't come, just desperate tears. My neat little prayer list sits useless as I get on my face before God, unable to put my needs into coherent words.

I long for something physical to hold when life threatens to overwhelm me, like a little girl clinging to her teddy bear. I reach desperately for my Father, longing for Him to hold me with physical arms. Countless times I've prayed, "If I could just see You, face to face, even for a few seconds..."

I know He's there, but I wish I could see Him with physical eyes. But I hear Him, whispering to me that it will all be okay, that He has this, that He will never let me go. So I cling to those promises and follow Him through the darkness of this life.

Right now, I cling to my Bible, to the words from my Father, as I long for Him. It's the physical thing that pulls me closer to Him. But one day, I won't need those words anymore, because I'll cling to Him. I'll reach out and touch Him. One day, I can finally worship Him face to face. One day, He'll reach out His hands, wipe away a lifetime of tears, and put all the shattered pieces of my heart back together. I'll be whole and complete in Him. That hope is the comfort my weary soul needs.  It's what I cling to.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Renew Isn't an Easy Word



Renew. I was so excited when God laid this word on my heart for 2016. Last year's word, refine, was so hard. But renew? Sure, I could do that. Renew is a comfortable word, right?

I was so wrong.

Renewal is hard. It's leaving me on my face, begging for grace and mercy and strength. Being made new means dying first. It's painful and scary.

Being renewed is going to take slow, focused time - time with God to renew me spiritually, time working out to renew my body, time resting to renew my exhausted body and mind. I think slow and focus would be perfect complimentary words for the year.

God is calling me to slow down. Not to take things off my plate - this isn't about busyness. This is about intention, about taking time in the midst of chaos to focus on what really matters. It's about finding peace in the middle of the storm and hearing the voice of God in the midst of the noise.

That means daily time with God, taking my spare time back to read or pray or study Scriptures (instead of playing Candy Crush Soda Saga or checking Facebook), and finding routines, patterns, and practices that bring my focus back to God.

A few days ago, I read the perfect words in Jesus Calling: "Through the intimancy of our relationship, you are being transformed from the inside out." That's true renewal - changed from the inside out, giving God control of every aspect of who I am.

As I look ahead this week to my Lent Bible study, I feel like the last few weeks have been preparing me for this time. Lent is about remembering the cross and the price Christ paid to set us free. It's a time of reflection. It's a time to remember that we have to die to truly live - we must die to ourselves to find life in Christ.

Renew isn't an easy word, but it's my prayer this year: Jesus, help me die to myself so I can made new in You.