Are You Listening?

When someone speaks, do you listen–really listen? Or do you only hear their voice?

Maybe it sounds like the one in this video. Garbled, unstructured. And when they stop talking and stare at you, awaiting your response, you suddenly realize…

You have no idea what they just said.

yada-yada-1432923_1280Awkward. Now flip it around. How many times has it happened to you? You’ve just told your husband or someone close to you all about your stressful day, or some funny thing that happened at work. They give you this blank stare. “I’m sorry, what did you just say?”

Tempted to stomp away? You could do that, but it would only make the situation worse. Instead, draw a deep breath and exhale. Count to ten–whatever it takes–then repeat your story. Make certain you have their full attention, and that…

Their eyes are on you.

Other loved one.

And realize it happens. Your child is sharing her heart, and you totally miss it. Those precious moments are lost forever, because you were distracted. Your phone beeped–a message–an email–a Pokemon!

You were there for that person who reached out to you via cellphone. But not for your child, your friend, your spouse, or other loved one.

You missed the hurt in the eyes of the one sitting next to you.

It even happened to the disciples (of Jesus). Remember that night in the garden of Gethsemane?

“Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”–Jesus in Matthew 26:40, NIV

The flesh is weak. Our minds tend to wander.

These days, our minds are like starbursts–our thoughts headed off in myriad directions. We crave constant noise and distraction. Distraction. Music. Entertainment. News. “Likes” on our Facebook or Instagram posts. “Ping!” Wait, who’s that? Did they comment? I have 150 likes and 45 comments on the coffee meme I posted!

sisters-1190080_1280Wait. What did you say? I wasn’t paying attention.

I am now, I promise. See? My eyes are on you.

Too late.


My Enemy; My Love

Help! My protagonist has fallen in love with my antagonist!

By Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) (Lilly Library, Indiana University) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Calm down, it happens.

Even in the classics, sometimes the main character falls for the bad guy. For instance, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. He was the epitome of everything she despised. Yes, he was proud. He was egotistical. His aristocratic nose in the air, he looked down on everyone. That was his way. He had money–lots of it–and power, and continually sets himself and his close friends above others.

After she came to know him better, Miss Bennett’s mind began to soften toward Fitzwilliam Darcy, (her knees and heart, too) but not until she’d completely humiliated him (and herself). In true Austen fashion, the story comes full circle. Miss Elizabeth Bennett realizes she is every bit as proud and prejudiced as he. She falls madly in love with him. He is her perfect match, in every way.

Of course, they aren’t really considered an antagonist, but these guys definitely have antagonistic characteristics. It seems to be a trend these days, with the popularity of Hunger Games. Katniss is sometimes (okay, most of the time) at odds with Peeta. He redeems himself. She ends up with him instead of the truly sigh-worthy Gale.

Even Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember has the bad boy winning over the sweet lead character. By the end of the story, he’s won our hearts, too.

love-560783_1280Are you a fan of this type of love story? Or do you prefer the slow warming of a relationship, unencumbered by anger and hate? Speaking of anger and hate, The Taming of the Shrew and Ten Things I Hate About You come to mind. Sparks fly in those two stories. Oh, if looks could kill. Kat (in Ten Things) claws, spits, and scratches, while Patrick hangs on with quiet determination.

Will they end up happy? Or will they spend their lives fighting? Does anyone really care once the happy ending leaves you sighing with satisfaction?

The man who later became my husband was not exactly an enemy, but I didn’t like his type at all. Until his life changed, and our paths crossed again. I was still hesitant, but he was determined. Our love story is ongoing.

All’s Fair in Love and War!

reading-925589_1280Do you have a favorite girl-hates-boy-till-girl-loves-boy story? One I haven’t mentioned here? When your protagonist falls in love with the antagonist, things can get very interesting. I say let it happen. See where this one leads. Definitely gonna be in one of my next books.

To the Woman in the Prayer Room

Jennifer Hallmark, Linda Yezak, and me at ACFW
Jennifer Hallmark, Linda Yezak, and me at ACFW

While attending the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference three weeks ago, my heart was heavy. My husband was ill at home and I felt some anxiety over that. ACFW always provides a prayer room, so I found it and entered. My good friend, Linda Yezak was the volunteer in charge at the moment. I didn’t bother her, but crossed the room and found a seat. I just wanted to spend some time in prayer. There was only one other person there–a woman, unfamiliar to me.

As soon as I sat down, I was surrounded by a tangible peace and something else–a sweet spirit–that’s the only way I can describe it. I sat there, barely able to pray, just absorbing the atmosphere. It was precious. I felt loved and lifted up. After a few minutes, the other woman got up and walked out of the room. Though the peaceful atmosphere remained, that sweetness left with her.

I don’t know who she was. I never saw her again.

But I’m grateful. That feeling sustained me and I remembered it often over the next few days.

In last week’s blog post, I hinted that something unexpected had occurred in my life, and interrupted my regular blog schedule. I’d completely missed a week. When I returned home from ACFW on Sunday afternoon, I found that my husband had not improved. He’d grown worse. He was shaking in hard chills and struggling to breathe. I wanted to take him to the emergency room right away. He wouldn’t go. He wanted to wait until morning and go to his doctor. He’d been to the doctor the previous week and had tests run.

A little backstory– he’d been sick on and off for over a year and had lost a significant amount of weight. But the doctor had not been able to find the cause. No one had. Early Monday morning, his doctor called and ordered him to go to the hospital. My husband was in acute renal failure.

In the hospital, after the crisis
In the hospital, after the crisis

Unexpected. We were in shock. This had to be a mistake. How could something like that happen? He was admitted and rushed through numerous diagnostic procedures that revealed blockages in both kidneys. Without an emergency dialysis treatment, he was hours from death. I was devastated. I’d seen my dad go through kidney failure–years of weekly dialysis–and a kidney transplant that succeeded until he died suddenly of a blood clot in his lung. I didn’t want my husband to have to go through that.

I prayed. I called on all my friends and family to pray. And often, throughout the next few hours, I remembered that sweet presence in the ACFW prayer room.

I meditated on it as I sat at my husband’s hospital bedside while his blood ran through the dialysis machine. I was consumed by peace. I laugh now, remembering myself sitting there eating a veggie sandwich from Jimmy John’s while my husband endured the procedure. Okay, I was really hungry, but I had an assurance that everything was going to be all right. He was sleeping, by the way.

We had no idea what the future held. Would he have to continue receiving dialysis? Were his kidneys permanently damaged? These fears danced through our minds on and off over the next couple of days, as prayers rose on our behalf, throughout our sphere of influence.

A lighter moment - sharing a meal in Cuenca, Ecuador this summer.
A lighter moment – sharing a meal in Cuenca, Ecuador earlier this summer.

God answered. The unexpected thing brought to light a problem my husband had had over the last couple of years. Kidney stones. They’d almost completely blocked his kidneys. This was making him very sick, as toxins filled his body. Once this issue was addressed, he began to recover. Rapidly. He still has to go through some things, but he’s getting stronger every day.

And he won’t need additional dialysis.

Yes, we were shocked by the initial news, but our trust is in God. He brought us through. I’m thankful to Him and to all our friends and family who prayed for us and with us during those days of uncertainty. And I’m thankful for that unknown woman in the ACFW prayer room. It’s possible she was there praying for herself, but God used her as a vessel–a conduit. The sweetness spilled over onto me. God’s presence stayed with me through a very difficult time.






Are You Ready for the Unexpected?

E.M. Bounds/Prayer--MemeI had no post last week! That’s because last week held the unexpected for me. But God is never surprised. In fact, I’d been warned. I had that “niggling feeling” inside. You know the one– it lets you know–something’s coming.

When you’re caught unaware, it’s good to know that you’re ready. You’re prayed up, filled with the presence of God, and able to lean on His presence, draw on His strength.

His word is strong in you. Not the mystical “force” — but God’s Word.

I pray that you have that peace. If you don’t, now’s the time. Something’s coming. Something unexpected, and you’ll need to be ready.

If you want to know where to begin, here’s one of my favorites–Ephesians.