Shamwow!

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The day evolved like any other and the six o’clock dinner bell was fast approaching. I flipped on the tube trying to catch the tail end of nightly news. A distinct aroma stole my attention. “Not again! The garlic bread.” I rushed to the stove, donned an oven mitt, and yanked open the oven door. A burst of heat blurred my vision while I lifted the cookie sheet. I assessed the damage. The buttery slices of bread were scrape worthy. An art I’d mastered years ago.

The TV roared with the amplified volume of a commercial. “Shamwow.” I swear my neighbors heard the plea. I set the sheet of darkened crispy toast next to the sink and high-tailed it to the remote. Before I could adjust the sound, I was instantly mesmerized by the incredible power of Shamwow. I plopped down on the edge of the coffee table and rested my chin in my hands. How could something so small soak up so much stuff? Visions of all Shamwow could absorb floated in my mind as I embarked on a quest to understand the magic mop. How far was its breaking point? How much would be too much?  I danced with intrigue. For that instant, I wanted to BE a Shamwow. To possess the ability to absorb extreme amounts and to be the yummy color of a dreamcicle. Well, not so much the color, but the capacity to hold limitless amounts of …. Not liquid…. Wait… How about knowledge or wisdom? My mind chimed an Aha. Wait, I can do that. My brain is just like a Shamwow! This cerebellum located between my ears can learn, memorize, imitate, create, decipher, and absorb. At my disposal is a powerful machine capable of absorbing, no wait, inventing new things! The more challenges I absorb, the more I can transform. A creepy little brew-ha-ha sound tickled my throat.

Just as fast as it appeared, Shamwow was gone. Within seconds, I returned to earth and to my blackened garlic bread. Bending over the sink working my magic with an ordinary kitchen knife, I reasoned with a zany analogy. A curse I was born with.  Wouldn’t it be cool if God used a Shamwow? If He swept in without warning and cleaned up all the mess. With all of his wonder and power He could absorb all of the world’s problems in one masterful swoop. I smiled hoping God was watching.

But then what? My brow knit and my smile softened.

We all search for the easy solution, the simplest way make all of our troubles disappear. But that’s not God’s way. His way is lovingly complex and layered with seasons. Seasons of highs and lows, nears and fars.

One of my all time favorite books is, Hinds’ Feet in High Places, by Hannah Hurnard. A glorious tale depicting a character named, Much Afraid. Much Afraid wanders through the wilderness desperately seeking the majestic mountain her ancestors told her about. Along the journey, she encounters valleys riddled with fear, sorrow, sadness, and so on. When she reaches the foothills and basks in the breath taking sight of the mountain and the realization that she has arrived, she meets The Great Sheppard. Timid and meek she asks, “Why is it, Great Sheppard, that I had to experience such sadness, grief, and hurt throughout my journey?” The Great Sheppard responds, “Well, little one, if you had not felt such sorrow, you wouldn’t truly comprehend the debts of such splendor.”

God isn’t like Shamwow, He just finds a way to use it to Glorify Him. It’s the spills in life that show us what Love is all about.

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God is in the Hard Stuff

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I’ve been reading a book called GOD IS IN THE HARD STUFF by Bruce & Stan. The tagline reads: Where to turn when the going gets tough.

Sounds like a roadmap to happiness. It sold me.

One of the chapters outlined a handful of beatitudes. Here’s my rendition:

Patience:  Staying calm without complaining even when the immediate need is urgent but the solution is not yet a reality. Unfortunately, patience is bred in desperate times.

Endurance:  A learned ability to bear prolonged pain or hardship. Prosperity is enjoyed and adversity is endured. Thus, the birth of endurance is misfortune or tragedy.

Forgiveness:  Graciously excusing an offense committed against us. You can’t have a chance to forgive if everyone is nice and polite to you. Someone has to hurt you to forgive them.

Integrity:  Sticking to your moral principles no matter what. Integrity is forged in the furnace of criticism and circumstances.

Honesty:  Being truthful when it is unpopular. You develop honesty only in those tough times when it would much easier to avoid the truth.

These are definitely personality traits I desire to possess. For many years, I innocently prayed to be strong in the fruits of the spirit. My prayers went something like this: Heavenly Father, Leader of my Life, bless me with patience and integrity. Mold me into a strong person with an even stronger moral compass. Amen

Yikes!!!!! What was I thinking? If you analyze what I was praying for, no wonder I feel like I’m in the midst of a storm. The difficult issues I’m currently facing are exactly what I prayed for – circumstances that build character.

Perhaps the traumas we live through are the very instruments God uses to lift us from being ordinary, routine people to become extraordinarily gifted ones. Perhaps it’s those very things that have hurt us in the past that now enable us to reach out to others. I’m embracing the fact that God may be blessing me with a deeper understand of His love.

Find and Replace – 5 Easy Steps

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Find and Replace – 5 Easy Steps!

I read a great article the other morning that spurred some thinking. There’s a nifty tool in MS WORD called “find and replace”. After locating an existing word, you can replace it with one more suitable for the sentence. It’s a handy dandy option no matter how big the document. It’s particularly delightful for writers. Mid-way through writing my first novel, Powerless Consent, I decided I wanted to change one of my character names. Ah…find and replace made it easy peasy. I entered the old name in the “find what” field and entered the new name in the “replace with” field. Once I selected replace all…poof, the old name was gone and the new one magically took its place.

The “Poof”…got me thinking.

What if we had a “find and replace” option to locate bad habits or behaviors and replace them with good ones? Wow, wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever? But in reality, wishes and things that magically go poof just don’t happen. But we do have the ability to find and replace our faults the good old fashioned way.

Step 1: Find your fault and decide to change.

Step 2: Adapt an attitude of gratitude.

Step 3: Pray.

Step 4: Be disciplined and work hard.

Step 5: Believe in yourself.

Accomplishment trumps being stuck in a rut and deciding to change is the first step.

Be bold…just do it!

My BFF Rocks!

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I got an email from my BFF in Chicago asking me to review a memo she’d drafted to her staff. I’m always eager to comply with her requests and took a peek. The first line of her memo read:

In a perfect world, my son John would not have died in a drunk driving car crash and the woman whose job I’m replacing wouldn’t have terminal cancer.

Wow! Before I read any further, my mind was flooded with things to write about. The most prominent was my BFF. What a lady. I often wonder how someone could have their flame of existence snuffed out and still shine so brightly.

I’m one of those lucky people who have a lifelong childhood BFF. We met when we were only five years old and have been inseparable ever since. Probably because she makes me smile. Heck, she makes everybody smile.

Ten years ago, around 7am on a Saturday morning, I got the call. She whispered my name, “Janet”. Her voice frail and week. My immediate response was to ask what’s wrong. At least ten seconds of unimaginable weeping preceded her reply, “Johnny was killed in a car crash last night.” Even now, my heart bleeds. I believe, with all of my heart, that Jesus himself took her arm that day and has been lighting the way ever since.

It only took a year or so for her grief to begin its evolution. She started out by attending a support group meeting for AAIM, the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. It didn’t take long for her to get involved. She baked for the bake sale fundraisers, volunteered for the annual auction, and helped produce commemorative DVD’s for other grief stricken families. All while maintaining her full time job as a hair dresser. She spent an entire year taking speaking classes at the local college on nights and weekends. Each time we talked, she’d say, “I’ve got to let people know the effects of drinking and driving.”

Before I could blink, she was giving monthly lectures at local schools highlighting the devastating effects of drinking and driving. Johnny’s handsome picture kindled her courage at the start of each slide show. Each and every speaking engagement honed her ability to transform her profound grief into a passion so great; I can’t even put it into words. Her passion, her burning desire within, can’t be taught at a college. It can’t be won, earned, or bought. Only our Heavenly Father, Leader of our Lives, can kiss such grief and allow it to blossom into such a passion. All glory goes to God for the majestic transformation. Oh yeah, and kudos to my BFF for making faith her anchor. And for the record, she is now the Executive Director of AAIM. I’m so proud of her. Love you, Rita!

Sweet Gratitude is My Favorite Attitude!

So…Thanksgiving night, just before I slipped into my jammies and bellied up to my laptop, a wave of indigestion reminded me of how much I’d eaten. Turkey smothered in gravy, sweet potato casserole, crescent rolls slathered in butter, pecan pie…oh what a feast. Though decadent and yummy, my dancing taste buds weren’t the highlight of my Thanksgiving. What I savored most was spending dedicated time in gratitude. Ah, sweet gratitude is my favorite attitude.

Hubby and I make an extra effort to spotlight all our blessings during the Thanksgiving season. It’s become a treasured tradition. We focus on the simple, yet joyous things we normally take for granted and try to come up with creative ways to bless others. Here’s one…I’m so blessed to own an oven. I can bless a neighbor or friend by baking cookies. An added bonus is that a few cookies manage to fill my cookie jar. For me, focusing on how blessed I am always ignites a sense of fulfillment and serenity. And that night was no exception.

It didn’t take long for my happy thoughts to be interrupted by another Black Friday commercial. The chatter actually started around November 1st.  Surely, you’ve heard all the buzz. Super sales, blowout prices, save up to 80%; stores open at noon Thanksgiving Day. All I could think about was what happened to celebrating and giving thanks with family and friends?  Don’t get me wrong, Christmas shopping rocks and who doesn’t like a great bargain? But couldn’t it wait until early Friday morning? I still wanted to savor the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

I didn’t want to end my favorite holiday as a Debbie Downer, so I started thinking of what would add to the Thanksgiving spirit. I know. A smile splashed across my face. What if instead of calling it Black Friday, we tagged it Blessed Friday, and spent the day blessing others instead of spending money? Oh, I liked that idea. Personally, I’m not a super shopper, so the Blessed Friday concept sang to my soul.

Either way, shop till you drop or pay it forward, I’m staying in the zone of my attitude of sweet gratitude.

Faith or Fear?

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Christie Craig, NY Times Bestselling Author, and chapter mate extraordinaire, hosted me on her blog last week. She’s such a gem – always willing to help out newbie’s. I posted a blurb about my debut novel, Powerless Consent, and answered some questions. One question in particular triggered some heartfelt replies.

Which three words best describe your book?

IntrusionPowerless Consent spotlights a high tech concept called Invisible Surveillance. The technology monster possesses the ability to receive live video from cell phones. What if they’re watching you?

Intrigue – Who, what, where, and how build from chapter to chapter as the secrets of Invisible Surveillance are revealed.

Inspiration – Can faith extinguish fear? With a plotline revolving around spying and deception, a heartwarming ending reminds us that love never fails.

Can faith extinguish fear seemed to stand out. Three lovely ladies replied sharing examples in their own life when their faith was tested and how time, perseverance, and prayer have helped them mend.

Have you ever chosen faith over fear? I’d love to hear your story…

Time to Hit the Shift Key !

Time to Hit the Shift Key!

My e-book is here; my e-book is here! Help me celebrate as I officially shift from unpublished to published. Thanks to my publisher, Soul Mate Publishing, POWERLESS CONSENT is now available in e-book format at:

amazon.com                              Kindle and Kindle for PC

barnesandnoble.com                 Nook

soulmatepublishing.com            Kindle or Nook

What would you do if you found out that your cell phone was transmitting a live video feed every time you were on a call?  For Kate Ballard, it’s her worst nightmare and forces her into a world of deception and lies.

Doing a little happy dance…

Jan