Monday, February 23, 2015

Season of Waiting: Part Two

by Andrea Renee Cox

Two weeks ago, I told you that I’m currently in a season of waiting (read Part One). Today, I’m digging deeper on that subject and sharing more of how God’s been working with me on learning to be content.

On Sunday, February 8, there was a moment that my heart screamed out, “Ask Him again!” So I opened my journal, where I sometimes write out my prayers, planning on requesting yet again that my husband-to-be be allowed to come into my life. What I ended up asking took me by surprise, but it was more than that. Right before I touched the pen to the page, my mind and heart collided with the Holy Spirit. He impressed upon me (though I heard no audible words), “This is a moment to choose contentment.” As I started wondering how to do that, my mind grasped what the Spirit meant. Here are the words I wrote:

“Father, may I gain contentment? My human desire is for my husband-to-be to come into my life. But my spirit desires for more. Contentment with EVERY season. Father, will you please fulfill Your will in my life and grant me a dose of contentment?”

Making that choice to ask for what I really need instead of what I really want wasn’t as difficult as I’d always imagined it would be, nor as hard as it had been at other times. It took place in a matter of seconds, not the long, drawn-out minutes of agonizing decision I would have expected. After years of asking for God’s will to be fulfilled in my life, my heart was finally ready to make the choice that set my humanness aside and reached out to grasp on to a characteristic that will carry me through the entirety of my future, whatever that may hold.

A verse I’d been focusing on that week led up to this life-changing moment.

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The entire verse is great, and I’d taken it piece by piece each day since I chose it to be my fourth verse to memorize this year (learn about Beth Moore’s Scripture Memory Team for ladies here).

Fix our eyes has been my constant prayer lately. Sometimes fixing my eyes on the right thing for any given moment is difficult. It’s important to have God’s help to focus on the proper thing, and I believe that’s why I was able to choose to ask for contentment that day (and the days since then). He’s been busy doing the behind the scenes work in my heart and soul, the gritty work I can’t see being done as I’m struggling to do my part in coming to Him with a humble spirit and working on the things He’s asked me to do.

Not on what is seen. Well, my husband-to-be isn’t yet seen in my life—I haven’t met him yet, that I know of—but focusing solely on wanting him to come isn’t healthy and can keep me from seeing other blessings in each day the Lord gives me. Distracting myself with other things or duties is helpful on the surface, but to go soul-deep I had to look at the next part of the verse.

But on what is unseen. This is the trickiest part, I think, because if you can’t see it, how can you focus on it? The thing that’s helped me the most with this part has been to quiet my heart and mind and focus on God. His strength, His wisdom, the fact that He knows that I’m struggling right now. That He holds the blueprints to my life, my future. He knows who my husband-to-be is. He knows when and how we will meet. He knows what I need to learn (and what my husband-to-be needs to learn) before we meet. And He knows how to teach us those lessons so that we each will soak the wisdom He’s offering into our hearts to be held for a lifetime. By focusing on Him and everything He knows about my situation, I have been placing my trust in Him more and more each day without even realizing it. (That’s another thing I’ve been working extra hard on lately, but that’s a different story altogether.)

Seen is temporary. This bit hit me hard when I first started working on memorizing this verse. My neighbor recently died, as you know from a previous article here at Writing to Inspire, and that made me realize even more than normal that life is short, our days are numbered, and we don’t know how long we have to make a difference on this earth. In thinking of my situation of being single, I realized that life is short and I’m only getting older every year. Which means I may not have as long with my husband-to-be as I originally thought (once he arrives in my life, that is). Now, I thought realizing just how short life is would make me go into the woe is me mindset. But it didn’t. Rather, it made me begin to cherish every moment I’ll have with my husband-to-be even more. Maybe, because of all the various tragedies I’ve seen in my life and the lives of those around me, I’ll be able to treasure the days—however many they are—I’ll have with my husband-to-be once we do find each other. Perhaps those days, years, and possibly even decades will become something even more special because, a few Sundays ago, I realized in a new-to-me way that life on earth is a temporary thing that no one other than God can predict. Sure, I knew this before. But on that Sunday … that day it sank in a little—or a lot—more. And maybe that’s one of the lessons God was trying to teach me.

Unseen is eternal. This part of the verse focuses on building treasure in heaven. If I’m focusing on the invisible (or unseen) God and gaining characteristics that mirror His own (such as contentment, patience, and trust), then I’m building up heavenly treasure that will last for all eternity. I may not be able to see it or use it or touch it right now, but it is building a legacy of godliness that I’ll be able to leave for future generations to learn from, and it’s also preparing me to be received into my heavenly home whenever my time eventually comes. And honestly, no matter how many collections of books or movies or shoes I have here on earth, the only true legacies that matter to me on a spiritual level are the ones that will show my children and their children that spending eternity with God is the most special treasure we could ever hope to attain.

There are so many things to be learned from that one verse in 2 Corinthians. Just imagine how much more there is to learn in the rest of the Bible!

Other sources of knowledge on the subject of waiting for your spouse to arrive in your life are books from the Christian living aisle at your favorite bookstores. Here are some of the titles I learned about a couple weeks ago that I’m looking forward to reading over the next year. This is the list of titles I promised a couple weeks ago that I would share with you.

Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
Secret Keeper by Danna K. Gresh
God’s Gift to Women by Eric Ludy
When God Writes Your Life Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy
When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy
Lady in Waiting by Jackie Kendall
The Mark of a Man by Elisabeth Elliot
The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot
Every Young Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn
Uncompromising by Hannah Farver
The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas
Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes
Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris
Sacred Singleness by Leslie Ludy

Be encouraged, my friends! Whatever season of life you find yourself in, God is there, waiting for you to trust Him with your heart, even when you are afraid of the results or the journey.

Readers, what season of life are you in right now? If you could encourage someone else dealing with similar things that you’re dealing with, what would you say to them?

What Bible verses have you found to be encouraging during this current season of your life? Are there any books you would recommend that deal with where you’re at? Or what type of books are you searching for?

Maybe we can help each other find books that will lend a new perspective.

Coming soon:
March 2 - The Prayer Box
March 9 - (yet to be decided)
March 16 - Be My Guest: Elizabeth Maddrey

Thanks for stopping by today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to drop by next Monday for my latest article.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Be My Guest: Karen Witemeyer

This year is already flying by fast. Something else that goes by fast is a Karen Witemeyer novel. Somehow, I always zoom right through them. And I haven't met one yet that I haven't liked. I'm so excited to have Karen here at Writing to Inspire today!

Where Do You Find Your Inspiration?
by Karen Witemeyer

One of the most common questions readers ask authors is, "Where do you get your ideas?" As a creative person, I long to say that my ideas sprout naturally from the fertile soil of my imagination. But alas, I cannot make that claim with a clean conscience. So I'm going to share with you the deep dark secret hiding in my authorial closet . . .

I get my inspiration from other writers. Gasp!

I know, I know. I've completely disillusioned you, haven't I? Well, do not fear. I'm sure there are many successful authors out there who are creative geniuses, who produce unique plots and original characters with a simple flip of a neural switch in their mind. You may admire them all you like. But, me? Well, I'm like one of those chemical reactions you studied back in high school that needs a catalyst to get things started.

Now, I'm not talking about plagiarism or stealing someone's idea. Those are crimes deserving of flogging, to my way of thinking. What I'm talking about is the spark that ignites when you read a passage or watch a scene in a movie that sets the creative fires burning in new and exciting directions.

So here are some of the catalysts that set off the spark for my stories:

A Tailor-Made Bride – My heroine, Hannah Richards, is a 19th century fitness maven who was inspired by Deeane Gist's cycling heroine in Deep in the Heart of Trouble. There's also a touch of reality television inspiration since Hannah is also a seamstress and works a little "make-over" magic on Jericho Tucker's sister, Cordelia.

Head in the Clouds – Inspired by my love of fairy tales and my favorite book from classic literature, Jane Eyre. I also had the idea of blending my two favorite types of historical novels (regency romance and western romance) into one. So I have a British nobleman running a sheep ranch in Texas who hires a governess to tutor his ward.

To Win Her Heart – The parable of the Prodigal Son. I know what you're thinking. Lots of stories have used this parable as a foundation for a spiritual thread or character arc, so how did I make this original? I asked, "what if". What if instead of ending my story with the hero repenting and returning to God, I started it there? Think of it more as an epilogue to the famous story. I wanted to know what life was like for the young man after the fatted calf was consumed and the party was over. How did he relate to his bitter older brother or the servants and townspeople who were only too aware of his past arrogance and wild living? I decided to explore these questions in a new setting—1880s Texas.

Short-Straw Bride – Inspired by the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. My story has four brothers instead of seven, and the men don't sing and dance while they do their chores. However, the spark came when I thought about this movie and then asked, “what if”. What if, instead of having the heroine agree to a marriage of convenience at the beginning of the story, the brothers drew straws to see who would marry her when a good deed goes awry? And what if, instead of all the brothers being named in alphabetical order after Bible characters, my four brothers were named for heroes from the Alamo?
Stealing the PreacherThis is a follow-up to Short-Straw Bride, so I already had my hero, Crockett, and I knew he wanted to be a preacher. But who should I get as a heroine? Who would provide sparks and humor and crazy situations? Why, an ex-outlaw's daughter, of course. Sparks fly not only between Crockett and Joanna, but also between Crockett and Joanna's father, Silas.

Full Steam Ahead – What inspired this story? My husband's love of action movies. Ha! I decided I needed to blow things up. Nothing adds more drama and excitement to a story than a good explosion. At first I thought I would make my hero a mad scientist with a chemistry lab, but my high school chemistry class was way too far in the past. So I did a little research and discovered the tragic but perfect-for-my-story history of riverboat explosions. Thousands of people died every year in the 1840s and 1850s because of boiler explosions. My hero's on a mission to change that. Oh, and just because I thought it would be fun, I threw in some piracy. My heroine is from Galveston, the home of legendary pirate Jean Laffite. She's on a mission to protect her family's legacy—the Laffite dagger.

Love on the Mend – This novella is a follow-up to Full Steam Ahead, so inspiration came from the previous novel. My hero started out as a runaway boy in Full Steam Ahead, then grows up to become a doctor. His past is hinted at but never revealed in the novel, so I had fun brainstorming ways to force him to return home after 17 years away. He returns to lay his past to rest, only to find his past still alive and kicking.

Love on the Mend is a digital-only release that became available February 3. It's available for all e-readers, or if you held out on the e-reader, like I did for many years, you can read it on your smart phone or computer with the free Kindle app. Click here to order.

·         So, do you ever try to rewrite endings to movies?
·         Does watching a television show spawn daydreams or story ideas?
·         When you finish a book, do you imagine the characters' lives continuing past the last page?

Maybe you are a catalyst-type, too. Yay! 

Christy Award finalist and winner of both the ACFW Carol Award and HOLT Medallion, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes Christian historical romance for Bethany House, believing the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher and makes her home in Abilene, TX, with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:

Karen, it's so great to hear how you find the inspiration for your spunky novels. Ideas can come from so many different places, and we know God works in mysterious ways to provide those moments of genius.

Readers, I'd love to hear your answers to the questions Karen asked at the end of her article. Share your stories in the comment section below!

Coming up:

Monday, February 23 – Season of Waiting: Part Two

Monday, March 2 – Book Review: The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

Thanks for stopping by today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to drop by next Monday for my latest article.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Season of Waiting: Part One

by Andrea Renee Cox

There are many different seasons in life. Childhood, teenage years, marriage, friendships, trials, joys, deaths, births, mentorships, and the list could continue for quite some time. Each one brings its own challenges, its own joys. Each presents opportunities to learn new things and practice things you’ve already started picking up on.

I currently find myself in a season of waiting. All my life, since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of becoming a wife. Taking care of a husband, cooking meals for him, sharing conversations and laughs, enjoying each other’s company. Even arguing at times and coming to some sort of compromise. Raising children together, if the Lord allows. And always, always growing closer to God and serving Him together, supporting each other as we grow spiritually. All of that and so much more. Yet, so far, that dream remains only a dream.

Courtesy of Graeme Weatherston
Patience has never been my strongest characteristic. In fact, I’d say it is my least mastered quality. And when I asked God for patience, well, He gave me children to tutor and stories to write, two challenges that have tested me in many different ways over the last dozen years, even as they've brought many, many blessings. Yes, I’ve gained patience along the years. But I’ve still got a L-O-N-G way to go. Of course, living in the times of social media and to-go restaurants and 1-click online purchasing options, it seems patience is a thing of the past.

But it’s never been more necessary.

Being single yet wishing my husband-to-be was already in my life presents a problem of loneliness for me. A problem I’ve struggled for years to solve. But what if finding the solution isn’t what I’ve been tasked to do?

What if God’s got different plans than the ones I’ve dreamed of all these years? What if, instead of getting married young and having kids soon after, He wants me to become better acquainted with patience? And contentment. Perseverance. Confidence, not in myself, but rather in Him and His ability to make my dreams come true in a unique and awe-inspiring way. A way that exceeds my expectations by a billion miles. What if He has way more planned for me than I could ever have imagined?

And what if those plans come only after I learn those pesky qualities that come in handy but are practically impossible to master?

Just this past week, I came to the end of me and stepped out in faith. I shared my struggle of being single with a group of people on Facebook who read Christian nonfiction books, asking for advice on which “being single” books to read that would give me a fresh perspective on this season of waiting. Not only did I receive suggestions for books (some will be included in a list in Part Two), but I was surprised and blessed by the reassuring words and prayers offered by other members of the group. A few others then chimed in that they were also in the season of waiting for their spouse to come into their lives. We were able to encourage and pray for each other, which lifted up my heart (and I’m sure it did theirs as well).

Sometimes God emboldens us to share our concerns with others and to speak words of kindness and encouragement in return. When we do so, even if we’re afraid of how it will be received or the responses we’ll get, we become a part of something bigger and grander than ourselves. We overcome our fears of rejection and being hurt by harsh words and trust God with the outcome.

Because I took a leap of faith to speak out when I was afraid to admit my weakness, God has given me a new determination. This year, 2015, I plan to push myself hard, with God’s help and guidance, to learn to be content with this season of singleness and waiting. It won’t always be easy; I imagine there will be days I feel I can’t take another second of being alone. But God will be with me through each breath of this journey of spiritual growth. A battle is being waged in me, one that threatens to rip apart my sanity. With God by my side and commitment in my heart, I will overcome the enemy trying to hold me back. And I’ll step into my future, learning patience and contentment and confidence in God along the way.

Readers, what battles are you facing right now? In what ways has God shown you that He’s working behind the scenes in the part of the battle that you can’t see?

Coming up:

Monday, February 16 – Guest Karen Witemeyer shares the inspiration for her spunky novels.

Monday, February 23 – Season of Waiting: Part Two

Thanks for stopping by today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to drop by next Monday for my latest article.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

The Secret of Pembrooke Park

by Andrea Renee Cox

There are many reasons to enjoy Julie Klassen’s novel, The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Setting aside her incredible backlog of books I’ve collected over the years, here are a few of the reasons I liked this particular one.

This book felt like a historical mystery to me, which is an intriguing combination. The mysteries came early and often, building upon each other until the tension and suspense had me holding my breath. Not a great thing when you’re sick and having trouble breathing in the first place. But I was eager to be distracted from my discomfort and couldn’t resist reading more chapters to find out the answers to the questions bouncing around my fever-riddled brain.

Rich characters are to be expected in a Klassen book, and Pembrooke Park didn’t disappoint. One character that stood out for me was Mac Chapman, the steward of the mysterious manor. The moment he held three other characters at gunpoint, I knew the feisty old codger and I would be fast friends. What took me by surprise was the intensity of his loyalty to certain other characters. That loyalty led to protectiveness which created even more empathy for him.

Julie Klassen
Admiration comes to mind when I think of how Julie Klassen’s novels continue and enhance the tradition Jane Austen began so many generations ago. The Regency Era was such a beautiful time period, and that is put on display perfectly in the settings, hierarchy, rules of propriety, costumes, dialogue, and familial interactions within Ms. Klassen’s stories. She writes exquisite tales enriched with incredible detail that often transport me to her favorite era. It’s authors like her that keep the classics alive … because she’s giving us new ones.
Oh yes, this woman’s books are certain to stand the test of time!

Here's a little behind-the-scenes video. Enjoy!

Readers, when was the last time you read a book that could be considered an instant classic? What makes you feel like you’re “friends” with the characters of a book? Which book do you come back to over and over again, and why?

Thanks for stopping by today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to drop by next Monday for my latest article.

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