21 Ways to Celebrate Gratitude / Idea #2 - Send a Holiday Care Package to a Soldier
Guest post by Shelley Hitz
Thanksgiving season is soon approaching and this year, I encourage you to take the opportunity to celebrate gratitude. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, take a moment (or two) to celebrate gratitude.
Don’t forget to check out the free book giveaway below.
Idea #2: Send a holiday care package to a soldier. If you don’t know someone personally, you can send something throughhttp://www.anysoldier.com
See all 21 ways to celebrate gratitude this Thanksgiving at Shelley’s website:http://www.bodyandsoulpublishing.com/21-ways-to-celebrate-gratitude-during-thanksgiving-this-holiday-season/
Free Gratitude Resource:
On November 14, 15 and 16th, 2012 you can download a FREE Kindle copy of the book, “21 Stories of Gratitude: The Power of Living Life With a Grateful Heart.”
Get your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009YWM3WI
Are you living life to the fullest? Or are you merely surviving from day to day?
One way to live life to the fullest is to live each day with a grateful heart. In this book, we share 21 stories of gratitude to give you encouragement and hope in your own journey. Gratitude is possible! Even though many times we cannot change our circumstances, we can change the way we see them. We can ask God to empower us to change our thoughts.
Our prayer for you is that you find encouragement within these pages. And we pray that you will ask God for His strength to renew your mind with His truth and the hope He offers each one of us every day. It is only through Christ renewing our minds that we can truly live each day with a grateful heart.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
Other Gratitude Resources:
• 21 Days of Gratitude Challenge: Take the 21 days of gratitude challenge to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. You can do this by yourself or as a family.
• 21 Prayers of Gratitude: Read a prayer of gratitude for 21 days to focus your heart on God and all He has given us.
About the Author:
Shelley Hitz has been writing and publishing books since 2008. She is also the author of the website, FindYourTrueBeauty.com, that reaches thousands of girls each month around the world. Her openness and vulnerability as she shares her own story of hope and healing will inspire and encourage you.
Shelley has been ministering to teens since 1998 alongside her husband, CJ. They currently travel and speak to teens and adults around the country. Shelley’s main passion is to share God’s truth and the freedom in Christ she has found with others. She does this through her books, websites and speaking engagements.
You can find more about Shelley at www.ShelleyHitz.com or invite her to speak at your event here: www.ChristianSpeakers.tv
Please join me in welcoming one of my favorite inspirational writers - and I mean that in its broadest term, not just as a genre Marianne Evans is a wonderful friend and talented writer and is here to graciously share with us her latest novel, DEVOTION.
You’re Writing About…WHAT?
Yep. Those four seemingly innocuous words came at me more than a few times as I created the story DEVOTION, released on October 15th from Harbourlight Books (part of the amazing publisher, Pelican Book Group!). Why, you may ask? Oh, nothing too out of the ordinary…just another day of being an author of Christian fiction and romance writing about adultery.
You read the word correctly, no need to scan back over it a few times. Adultery.
Before I wander into the topic of the “A” word, let me give you a frame of reference. Some background. First of all, there’s a misconception out there that Christian fiction and romance is, thankfully, beginning to overcome. What would that be? It’s the idea that books with a Christian world view and faith-centered themes are somehow out of step with modern culture and the reality of our world. Unrelatable.
There’s another misconception we’re blasting out of the water as well. It’s the idea that Christian novels are…well…shall we say…a cleverly masked sermon. I like to hope, and pray that the stories we tell apply to the life all of us lead with an uplifting message of hope and inspiration.
Now, I’ll step toward the topic of DEVOTION.
I’ll grant you, the idea of a Christian novel centered on the issue of adultery is unusual, but Devotion and the characters who drive it, stirred my heart and refused to be silenced. Kellen and Juliet Rossiter had a story to tell with powerful importance and impact. The idea of working on committed relationship, fixing what’s wrong and finding your way back to the love you share with your spouse appealed to me as a writer and a woman who has been married for thirty years.
Marriage, like life, has seasons both good and bad. People you love, the vows you make, aren’t disposable. When the seasons of turmoil transform in to the seasons of joy, you look back on the trials and share a knowing sense of connectedness and rejoice in all you have established together as husband and wife—a covenant, not just a contract.
I pray you enjoy Devotion and that it blesses you as creating it has blessed me!
From This Day Forward
Christian Music agent Kellen Rossiter has everything he ever wanted: A-list clients from coast to coast, a loving wife who honors and respects him, and a faith life that’s never wavered—until now.
Juliet Rossiter has the perfect life: a rewarding schedule serving the underprivileged, a husband who loves her as Christ loved the church, and a blessed future as a mother—at least that's what she thinks.
For Better or Worse
But what happens when their rock-solid marriage begins to crumble under the weight of an unexpected and powerful temptation? How does love survive when its foundation is shaken?
'Til Death Do Us Part
When human frailty and the allure of sin deal a harsh blow to their relationship, it will take more than love to mend the shattered trust and heartbreak. It will take a lifetime of devotion.
Ready for a sample?!
The church space sang to Juliet in a holy silence that wrapped around her like a welcome embrace. She knelt to pray, heedless of the fact that there were no kneelers in the pews of Trinity Christian. The hard tile floor felt good beneath her knees, and somehow grounding.
“God, what did I do wrong? We didn’t argue, we didn’t fight, we moved forward together in our marriage. Why did he leave it behind? How was that even possible for him? How did I fail him? And You?”
She sobbed openly, speaking the words aloud, heedless of being overheard. The space was empty anyhow. She laid her head on her folded hands trying desperately to bring herself to a new understanding of her life.
My promises are unchanging truth, and life. Your faith will save you. Go forward in peace, and be cured of your affliction.
The words, the glimpse of sacred Scripture, resounded through the entirety of her being. The decree swept through her with such power she went straight, tears drying on her cheeks as she blinked, and assimilated. Had she not already been on her knees, the summons would have knocked her there like the weakened heap of humanity she had become. She pondered. Go forward? In peace? How was she supposed to accomplish that? In prompt, near supernatural response, she received the answer.
Know that I am God, Juliet. Know that I am God.
She bowed her head, drained and empty, submitting herself as best she could. Just then, the sound of footsteps echoed down the main aisle.
The call jarred her. She whipped her head around and gasped at what she saw. Kellen.
Did she simply think his name, or had she spoken it aloud? Stunned and overwrought, Juliet scrambled to her feet. In an untidy spin, she faced her husband. Just as quickly, she went weak, sinking onto the pew just a second or two after standing. She didn’t need a mirror to tell her that her makeup was smeared and her hair was a mess. She knew by the heat in her cheeks that her face was flushed; her eyes were probably red from crying. Kellen’s alarmed expression confirmed every one of her suspicions.
“Juliet, are you OK? Please talk to me. This is driving me crazy. What’s happened to you, love?”
Love. The use of that endearment caused her stomach to churn. Anger rose and obliterated everything else. “Don’t.” Kellen’s confusion intensified. “I mean it, Kellen. Donot call me that again. Not ever again!” She bit off the words; their bitter taste filled her mouth.
He reared back. Although he hesitated for a moment, he eased into the pew next to her. A mask of sorts, protective and inscrutable, now shaded his eyes. He didn’t speak. He waited on her, keeping to his corner of the pew. Juliet simmered and seethed. Just as quickly, though, the anger fled, washed away by a wave of sadness that stretched clear through to every cell in her body.
“This moment is killing me, Kellen, on so many levels. I’ve dreamed about it since the day we married, imagining it to be bursting with joy and anticipation. Instead, it’s breaking my heart. “
“What moment? What happened?” Generally fearless and confident, Kellen regarded her now in open trepidation. “I have no idea what to do to hel—”
“I’ll never have another chance to say this to you for the first time,” Juliet interjected, “or share this moment with you the way I had always envisioned. I’m pregnant, Kellen. I’m pregnant.”
A mix of emotions swept across his face. Disbelief came first, erased quickly by joy, then the most crushing visual of all: his love, intimate and rich. It had once made her feel so precious. Despite her vocal firestorm, his reaction was everything she had prayed for. This moment should have made her heart soar. Instead, she was shattered.
“You seem shocked.” The words came out sounding waspish. Juliet hated that fact, but couldn’t escape the rage and heartbreak. The venom inside her needed release.
“I’m very happily shocked.” His response came fast, but sincere. “We’ve wanted this for so long, I’m thrilled—no wonder you’ve been feeling—”
“I’m sure you’ll remember the night it happened.” Juliet cut him off once more. “It was spontaneous and heated and wonderful. Remember? There were no thoughts of anything else but each other. Or so I had believed. But if you do the math, you’ll realize we conceived the night you met Chloe Havermill.”
Kellen went pale.
INTENSE and POWERFUL! I wish you all the best, Marianne, as this book reaches out and touches hearts - both married and single.
VIDEO TRAILER LINK:
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Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, photographer, and writer. She is author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for Steves-Digicams.com on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors.
Expecting the Unexpected
Ask anyone in my family (especially my daughter) and they will tell you I plan nothing. I am as last minute, as ask me later, as they come. In fact, I’ll go one further and say I hate planning. My thinking on this is always full of “what ifs.” What if the weather changes? What if I don’t want to go? What if my husband can’t get the time off? So to prevent any of those what-ifs from happening, I simply don’t plan things. I rise in the morning with only a general outline of my day and go from there.
This behavior filters into my writing. In nonfiction, what I write seems systematic when you read it; it’s two or three deliberate points with supporting statements. I’ve written that way enough, I can give you 1,000 words on any subject at almost the drop of a hat. Yet when I moved into writing fiction, I found myself in with a group of people who also plan nothing, and it’s great.
Not that I haven’t tried. I’ve read articles about plotting, how to write an effective story outline (which incidentally I do thousands of outlines at work, so I know how to outline), how to create a plot and determine where it should be going, how to know what will happen to who well in advance. But I fail every single time I attempt it.
I struggled with this until I read a blog by a lady with a similar problem. She said plotting removes her motivation. That hit the nail square on the head for me. Without the unexpected, I lose any “want to.” I simply cannot write. It’s like re-reading a book the moment I finish the last page, or re-watching a movie I can almost quote verbatim – it’s infinitely boring. Instead, for me the excitement of fiction comes from expecting the unexpected to happen.
I have numerous examples of this. In a story slated to be released next year, I have a male character of Irish descent from 1870s New York City. Now, when I made him Irish, I gave that no more thought past a general knowledge of their being Irish immigrants in the city at that time. However, the further into the story I went, the more Irish he became, and the dumber I realized I was.
I finally hit a snag. The character’s wife has lost her memory, and she blames him for what happened to her. Well, I asked myself, “How can he win her back?” and it seemed to me he needed some special talent or ability. I then asked myself, “What ability would cause a woman to fall in love with a man?” And I saw what he needed. He needed to sing, and not simply be able to sing, but sing mind-blowingly well. The pulse of light that hit me at that moment was superb.
Until I hit another snag. Wait, it’s 1870, and he’s Irish. What would he sing? Oh boy. This sent me deep into research. Soon I was swimming in Irish Gaelic words and ancient songs and poems in my quest to give him something that fit the bill. It needed to be romantic, dated to that time period, and something he would have heard in his youth. Go ahead. You do a search for that. Yet you know, with the help of some fantastic people online, I eventually did!
Another unexpected character trait came more recently. In this story, a man has an injury. That really was the most I’d thought of it. I knew the story would lag there if nothing happened, and so I said to myself what I often say when I’m getting bored. I said, “Amp it up, Suzanne.” In other words, what else could I do to him to further complicate his already difficult life?
First, I went back over the other injuries I’d already used with my characters. Let’s see. He could be shot. But no, that would mean he’s stuck there for a long while to heal, and I need him somewhere else pretty soon after. He could break a limb. But no, I did that already, and again it has a long healing time, especially in the late 19th century.
Then I remembered a story he told to another character earlier on about his mother’s death when he was a boy. She was run over by a wagon. What if the same thing happened to him? How would he react seeing the wagon heading his direction? And how could I write the scene and he avoid serious injury and yet it be enough to sustain the pace of the book? Enter temporary blindness. It was perfect, and I never saw it coming.
It is moments like these that keep me writing. I admit I have to have an idea of what my stories are about. I knew what would happen to the Irish boy from New York, what general problems he’d encounter, but I didn’t know his wife would lose her memory. I didn’t know he’d be able to sing, and I never thought the book would have not one sequel, but two.
I have learned to embrace who I am as a person. I’m not into sports. I don’t care for parties or get-togethers. Gluten, sugar, and salt are my very best friends. And I can add with those now, a love for the unexpected.
Welcome SHELLEY HITZ!
Shelley Hitz has been ministering alongside her husband, CJ, since 1998. They currently travel and speak to teens and adults around the country. Shelley's main passion is to share God's truth and the freedom in Christ she has found with others. She does this through her books, websites and speaking engagements. Shelley's openness and vulnerability, as she shares her own story of hope and healing, will inspire and encourage you.
First let me congratulate you for tackling a topic many people – especially those in the church – don’t approach except under the umbrella of “lust.” You’ve waded out into some deep water with your book, A Christian Woman’s Guide to Breaking free from Pornography. Three words in the title jump out at me:Christian, Woman, Pornography.
Can you tell us briefly when this struggle started for you and at what point God turned it around for His glory?
I was 25 when I first started to struggle with pornography and had been married two years at that time. My husband was in full-time youth ministry and we were both active in our church. I was the “good girl.” But, good girls fall to temptation too. And fall I did. I struggled with this sexual sin for about two years until I finally hit a breaking point and reached out for help. I confessed my struggle to my husband and started Christian counseling as well as meeting weekly with an accountability partner.
I have now been free for over a decade. And looking back in my journals, it was about 3 years ago that I felt God leading me to start sharing this part of my testimony publically. Almost every time I share, a woman or teen girl comes up to me to confess (usually for the first time) that she also has this struggle. After talking with a college student this last February who is the chaplain for her floor, I realized I needed to write this book. She told me that almost every girl on her floor struggled with pornography and she couldn’t find any resources to help them. We sat and talked for about an hour as I shared with her many things I outline in the book. God is now using this dark season of my past for His good, to bring hope and freedom to many.
Praise God! In your research for this book, did you learn anything that surprised you?
We did a survey on my website of Christian women and teen girls to see if pornography and sexting was an issue. I had been a speaker at a Get REAL inC event for teen girls and one of the main topics was related to sexting. At the time, I really did not think it was an issue for Christian teen girls and women but decided to include it in our survey. I was surprised to find out that 18% of those we surveyed admitted to sending a sext (a naked picture of themselves via a text) to someone else. And 73% stated they had been exposed to pornography with 25% of that group stating they were addicted, which equals 18% of the entire group surveyed.
What kind of feedback have you received on this book?
I have women and teen girls that contact me regularly who struggle with pornography and masturbation. And so, I asked several of them if they would be willing to read our book and share how the book impacted them. Here are a few of their comments:
• “I’ve finished the book and whoa, has it impacted me! There were moments when I found myself on the verge of tears because of sheer self-conviction.” - Seanna
• "This book helped me to break free. I admire the courage of S'ambrosia and Shelley for telling their stories. I have freedom from my addiction now!" - Allie
• "This book was great! It helped me see that my sins were forgivable and that if I truly wanted to change my ways, God would give me the strength to do just that. This book book saved my life!" - Elizabeth
I can probably count on one hand the books I’ve read more than once. Aside from the Bible, what book have you read more than once? Why?
There are two devotional books that I have read regularly over the last few years as our family has gone through some difficult times. They are “Streams in the Desert” and “Jesus Calling.” Even though I have read the same devotionals the last several years, God continues to use them to impact me in new ways. That is the power of His Word. My step-mom was given the “Jesus Calling” devotional when my dad was in the hospital in a coma with a brain injury. It was just what we needed at that time.
Do you have any writing quirks?
I don’t know that I have any specific writing quirks, but to be honest I never dreamed I would be a published author today. English was my worst subject in school and my college degree is in the medical field, physical therapy, where I excelled in math and science. However, God has a way of using our weaknesses for His glory. I am humbled and grateful that He has chosen to use me and my testimony to impact many.
What’s the best piece of advice you didn’t take?
Hands down, the best piece of advice I didn’t take was my dad’s advice to live below my financial means. Twice in our marriage we racked up thousands of dollars in credit card debt. At one point, I even froze my credit cards in ice in the freezer to avoid spending money that I did not have. I am so thankful to say that we are now debt free and have finally learned this lesson. We no longer have or use credit cards and now choose to live below our means (even though it is hard to wait sometimes).
What Scripture best represents this stage of your life?
It would be Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” This verse is what I call my “life verse” as is so clearly describes what God has done in my life and is now doing through my life for His glory.
Wow, Shelley, thanks for your open heart and willingness to share your testimony to help others. What a blessing.
Shelley has been writing and publishing books since 2008 including the book she co-authored with S'ambrosia Curtis, "A Christian Woman's Guide to Breaking Free From Pornography: It's Not Just a Guy's Problem." During their book launch on 9/26/12 - 9/27/12, you can download a free Kindle copy and also enter to win over $400 worth of resources. Find out more at www.ChristianWomenandPorn.com
Lynnette Bonner, the daughter of missionaries, was born and raised in Malawi, Africa, graduated high school from Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya, and attended Northwest University in Washington, where she met her husband, Marty. A few years after their marriage, they moved to Pierce, Idaho. While studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin The Shepherd's Heart Series. Marty and Lynnette have four children and currently live in Washington, where Marty pastors a church. You can find out more about her here: www.lynnettebonner.com
Okay, you just sat down to write a sure-fire best seller. What's the first line?
Hmmmm... How about: Detective Rory Donovan had nearly reached his exit when the body fell from the overpass and struck the hood of his car.
Love it! Is Rory Donovan one of your characters?
No. Not yet, anyway. I've often thought about writing suspense/thrillers but haven't done one yet. (Although many people have told me they loved the suspense in Rocky Mountain Oasis, my first novel.)
Have you ever written a character and realized, oops, I know that person.
Funny you should ask. I just noticed this about my heroine, Victoria Snyder, in my current WIP. And it's me! I kept thinking, "Man! This is the hardest book I've ever written!" And then I realized... she is a lot like I am. Doesn't like to talk about her feelings. Tough girl who likes to do everything herself and isn't afraid to try, but so wishes she had the courage to open up more to people; afraid to risk her heart for fear it will be crushed.
For Victoria, those responses come from her adoption, her insecurities over why her birth family gave her up, and the mean comments she endured from classmates when she was younger.
For me, I think those responses come because as a child I moved so much. You learn to keep people at a little distance when you are just going to have to say goodbye to them forever in a year, anyhow. As an adult, I've had to learn to get past some of this - still working on it, to some extent.
Anyhow, who knew writing could be therapy?
Wow, you just answered my next question which was going to be do you learn anything about yourself when writing? Did you want to be a writer when you were a kid?
You know, that’s a tough one to answer. I didn’t even really like to read until I was in about the 7th grade. From then on I devoured books all the time. And in high school I toyed with writing stories, but never completed one. I think I would have to say that if I’d thought it was possible, I would have wanted to be an author when I was younger. But the thought that I, me, myself, and I, would one day actually hold a book that I had written in my hands, never even crossed my mind until I got older. So I guess, the answer is yes, I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t dare to dream it would ever happen.
What was the first “grown-up” book you read?
I think the first book I read that I still read every once in awhile (besides the Bible) was one of Bodie Thoene’s Zion Chronicles The Gates of Zion. AWESOME books, still to this day.
Better than my pick as a young girl. I wanted to read Vigilante but my father said no. Good call. What’s the best perk of being a writer? Is it the fast cars, the expensive gems, the respect and acclaim? LOL.
Hahaha! I suppose it is the chance to work at something I love and then share my stories with others – although that can be one of the scariest parts of the journey too.
You’re right about that! Speaking of sharing stories, I can’t write when I’m angry. Does your mood influence your writing? Or are you a machine, that can get words on paper no matter what?
No, I’d have to say that mood definitely affects my writing. I wish I could say I was a machine! But we are all human and emotions do play a big part in who we are. I try to write each day, but there are days when the words just seem to come easier – and those are the days when I don’t have a lot of other emotions weighing on my mind. Prayer helps. When I have to get something written, and I don’t know what to write, I often pray for the words to convey the message God wants conveyed. Then I just start writing – it’s an act of faith, for sure, on some days.
Amen =-) When did you realize your writing wasn’t just something you enjoyed, but had a deeper purpose?
I think, for me, that has come over time. A LONG time ago my first book was picked up by an ebook publisher (way before ebooks were even a smidge popular.) That was the first encouragement that someone else actually liked my writing even though the company went out of business shortly thereafter. Then when I was picked up by OakTara, that was another big encouragement – affirmation, if you will, that I hadn’t spent all that time for nothing.
After that came the letters and feedback from readers – I think the one that has meant the most to me so far came from the gal at my local Borders who coordinated my book-signings. She put a note up in the store next to the display of my books that read something like: “This is the first Christian Fiction book I’ve ever read. Its message will stick with you long after you turn the last page, and will leave you wanting more from the pen of this author.” She doesn’t work at Borders anymore, and I don’t know where she is or what she’s doing with her life, but I pray for her often – that the message she heard will not only stick with her but make a change in her life. I hope that as I continue on this journey, there will be more lives touched for the Kingdom because of my stories. Ultimately, all I can do is be faithful, and leave the rest in God’s hands.
Wow, what Author wouldn’t want a review like that? On the flip side, have you ever found a book so bad you throw it out mid-way? Or do you feel obligated to read it after the initial time investment?
No, I don’t generally feel obligated to read the whole book if it isn’t keeping my interest. I don’t very often pay for books anymore, since I do a lot of reviewing and get books for free. I have very little time for reading, sadly, so the free books I get generally fill all the time I have available for reading each month. And if I pay for a book and it isn’t holding my interest, I generally just put it up on eBay or resell it on Amazon and move on with life. I already lost out by spending money on the book, so I don’t want to waste time on it too.
Where I live, in Jersey, I think we probably have the only full-service gas stations left in the country and I’ve been asked about that when one of my characters goes to get gas. Is there anything in your books you’ve had to explain to “outsiders?”
Not that I can think of. With the book being historical much has changed since then, anyhow.
Any unusual hobbies? Like archery? Designing sock puppets?
LOL. I have 4 children, a job, am a pastor’s wife, and also, of course, a writer. I USED to have hobbies. I used to enjoy rubber stamping, quilting, and tole painting. But I haven’t done any of that for years. One of my favorite things to do now is to watch my kids play sports, I try to make it to every game or meet they have. Otherwise, I’m pretty boring.
Thanks for letting me visit with you and your readers, Dana! It’s been fun.