Contest Monday

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Happy Monday everyone. I’ve been busy this week, talking with Grace Thorson at A Sparrow Reads (giveaway) about writing. She has a lovely blog–I encourage you to pay her a visit. I’ve also been studying, and working on my WIP (more on that later).

But today I bring you an awesome giveaway. A Young Love giveaway to be exact…tons of books to win, and a generous amazon gift card. The contest is open until February 14th.

 

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Go her to enter: Young Love and Bleeding Hearts Giveaway.

 

 

 

 

Have a blessed week, and I’ll see you next Monday

Kingdom Armor

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Sometimes, waking to a dark house is not just a dark house. Sometimes, in the deep of night when the stars have rocked our home to sleep, a foe slips in. Melding into our dreams, it shapes them into nightmares, shaking us awake.

One by one, we all search for sleep again. I tuck my little girl back in first, and being a discerning soul, she always requests an extra prayer on these nights.

Next, comes my son. I usually have to cuddle with him until he slips back into the land of nod or else he won’t find rest.

As I lay there, things drip. The house cracks and the scratching noises in the laundry room is not the cat for he sleeps deeply on the couch as twenty-year-old cats do. The dogs outside sense the foe and growl, announcing its presence to the neighborhood.

I can’t settle my legs. Despite my exhaustion, the foe thrusts his blade into the air, whipping up a battle that most people blame on the full moon.

It’s not.100_3745

I pray and put on my armor. I guard my son until I feel peace because he has not yet found his own armor.

Boys need a special kind of Knight Light, for their battleground is a fierce one.

My son slips into even breaths and I lift my request to the King.

“Please let my son take up his armor soon. And let his Knight Light never dim.

Let it shine bright when it’s time for him to take a stand.
Let it not wane when a damsel tries stand in front of it.
Let it shine fierce if he or his fellow Knights get lost in the battle.
Let him keep it securely in place, so it doesn’t get snuffed out.

And lastly, let him never try to replace it with a generic version.”

Rom 13:12 (NIV) The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

How to be an Impressionist painting

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In my teen years, I handled life with my hands dipped in paint. I found joy in the blues and reds, found peace in knowing I was good at something, and for my own entertainment, it confused those who kept trying to put me in the preppy box. Yes, I behaved myself. Yes, I was quiet and most everyone assumed I was an A student and read a lot (I did read a lot). But the messy paint and my “unique” way of fashion had more than one person scratch their heads. “How do I complete this picture?”

My art teacher encouraged me to paint big. He recognized that I was more of a free spirit and didn’t accept bashful art. I didn’t either, and I flourished with giant flowers and portraits of whoever was brave enough to model for a bunch of teenagers.

No erupting pimple could dampen the thrill of art class.100_2417

On one occasion he made what I thought a strange observation. “Your watercolor…it looks great from far away, but it loses something up close.”

There it is again. Up close I’m not quite. Not quite what?

I worked on my art, studying the masters, taking the passion to college—polishing up a bit and producing better work—but there was always that messy quality.

Of course, it worked for Claude Monet—if you look at his paintings up close, they’re a little messy. A little unorganized, but step back a bit and…hang that on my wall, please, and on every wall in my house. His work is an overall collection of wow.

Do we all really need to be normal? As one of my reviewers said about Faith Seekers: “… is occasionally like free-form jazz” (which, after mulling over, left me in chuckles). What do I do with this free-form part of me?

Twenty years later, Jeff Goins answered that question.

“Maybe the best moments in our lives aren’t meant to be so cut and dried. Maybe the mess is beautiful.”

Is this how God sees us? He knows we can be messy, and up close we’re far from perfect. But we’re His art. Why do we fight so hard to be accepted as normal? God made us unique from the beginning, and He calls it wonderful.

Grace and the Doppelganger

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My kids are sweet, round-cheeked, kitten-cuddly miracles. But they have doppelgangers. Oh yes, these creatures of darkness bear fangs. They shout and push their competitive natures into my peace at least three times a day. It’s a tug-of-war about which creature got more juice, who got to sit on Mommy’s lap the longest. Who got the most violent…

“Mommy, he hit me, and threw my baby bear!”DSCF1156

*sigh*

But I know what it’s really about. It’s why when people come to my desk at work and dump their bad day into my lap, I know better than to take it personally (although I do bite on occasion). It’s not about who got served first. It’s not even about the doppelganger who complained about the staff member that refused to personally clear the snow around their car, de-ice the path from their car to the front door andwipeofftheirshoessotheydon’tslipontheimportedtile. It’s really not. And when someone flips you off in traffic because you’re only going 5 miles over the speed limit instead of the expected 15, it’s really not about how much they dislike you or your driving decisions. Like my kids, what they’re really saying, in the deepest parts of their heart is: “What about me?”

People hurt. And they display their pain in various ways. Revengeful natures, criticism, anger, jealousy; it’s all a masked plea to gain the attention of our parent.

“Do you see me God? How much do you love me, really?”

Even those of us who know Him forget how much he has already done for us. Would I, like Him, sacrifice my son for the jerk who spit on me? No, I wouldn’t. But God did.

His only beloved son, who at one time was a child–a round-cheeked kitten-cuddly miracle, minus the doppelganger side.

My kids hear me only when they’ve quieted down and taken their masks off. Otherwise, they get consumed by The Creatures, blinded to how much they’re loved.

A good plan for the New Year would be to live in grace. To give it, receive it, and give thanks for all that’s been given to us. That’s where we find peace.

Looking Hope-Forward

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Good Monday, friends.

I hope this day brings you unexpected blessings (Did you win a copy of Faith Seekers from last week’s contest? Check your inbox to find out).

The thing I’m hearing from a lot of people is that the rundown from 2014 is such a mixture of blessings/struggles that it ends up being a heavy year regardless of the good. Yea, sometimes it’s hard to shuffle through it all.

I had a great year with some shadows mixed in like most, but what stands in front of me, staring me in the eyes with fire-hot intensity are these words of wisdom from Hannah.

Have a blessed week, and remember:

 

GodHasNotForgottenUs

Win to Give Contest!

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On the original Christmas day, mankind was given a gift. Although it was the greatest gift, it tends to get forgotten when thoughts of reindeer and shopping take center stage. God’s gift is meant to be shared, so I try to do things to remind myself of that. This week, you have a chance to give and receive.

I’m going to gift a digital copy of Faith Seekers to two people. What do you have to do? First, go get a copy for yourself at Storycartel. You can download that, read it, and if you feel like it, post a review on amazon. It’s free! For the two people who win, they get to choose someone they love to receive the gift copy. The winners (givers, really) will also get their names in my next book (good guys, I promise).

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So if you want to play, go get your copy here, come back to the blog and type this in the comments section: I, (your name), received–now I want to give!

Post your email (I won’t use it to spam you, I promise) or message it to me at: srossbooks@gmail.com

I will draw names the old fashioned way. I will contact the winners who can then send me the email addresses of their chosen receivers. I will gift the books from amazon.

I will post the winning names on December 29th. If you have trouble commenting on this blog, go to my facebook page and comment underneath the posted link there.

Merry Awesome Christmas!

 

 

 

The Magical Kingdom

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The wind moans through the park as I stare at the old tree. It cranes over, dry and brittle like a tired old man. Its back is arced from carrying heavy branches that creep across the expanse of it like withered spikes on a crown. It looks one moment away from crumbling back into the dust.

I hold on to a that picture two hours after my Grandpa walked through Heaven’s door, and for a wonderful minute I feel some of his joy as he left his failed body 100_1071behind and walked into glory. His crown is new now, and I’m sure, full of splendor.

I sift through the memories like we all do when we lose someone. I can smell the downy fresh sleeping bags draped over dusty camper beds. I hear him and my Grandma singing on their front porch as we string beans, and the sounds of multiple trips to Disneyland play their faded tunes. My Grandpa never outgrew the magical kingdom.

I take another look at the tree, a heavy shadow tucked inside the Christmas lights strewn about. Life blooms and celebrates around it. It’s really a picture of all of us—those who can see the lights weaving among those who only see the shadows.

I step back and take it all in. If I take my glasses off it all whirls together. It’s no longer joy separated by pain, party here and sorrow there. It’s a true magical kingdom—a glimpse of heaven touching earth.

But that’s how it really is. Even though there are days when walking in the shadows of the fallen seems like the only thing to do—days when it feels like everything has fallen—seeing the magical Kingdom around us is just one choice away.

I would like to extend my gratitude to all of you who’ve joined or visited this blog. Thank you for becoming a part of this community and supporting my writing efforts. The digital version of Faith Seekers is now available for $2.99 here.

Release Day

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Faith Seekers is here!

As I’ve told a few people before, this book was written under the influence of chocolate, chai tea, and Dr. Pepper, none of which are healthy but all are stuffed full of inspired awesomness. This book is neither Republican or Democrat, or even politically correct…which makes it more interesting from the start.
So take a peek, and if you happen to read it please post an honest review.

FaithSeekersFrontCoverFaith Seekers on Amazon.

 

 

Book trailer here.

How to wrap a Christmas gift

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Sometimes the most wonderful time of the year feels like living inside a mobile barrel of monkeys. It starts off a jolly good time until you realize it’s just a huge bucket of chaos. One monkey’s using your hair as a steering wheel, tugging you to every Black-Friday-Cyber-crazy-half-off-sale until you wonder how wonderful time became synonymous with stressful.

Don’t misunderstand, there is much joy in giving and gratitude in receiving, but what can we offer our circle of family and friends when the stress gets in the way of the heart of Christmas?

How do those who live paycheck to paycheck give generously?

Or for those who have a few more dollars, what can bless others that will mean more than the newest gadget or someone’s 200th DVD?

Hildreth has been coming to my mind a lot lately as I deal with the monkey barrel. prayercandlesShe lived in the Retirement Resort for a few years before she left us for Florida. She was one of the quietest, but her impression was one of the deepest. How many times she shared her dessert with me, I can’t count…how many times she kept me company after I dimmed the lights and waited inside the empty lobby for something or someone to need my attention…but it was mostly that time she invited me to her apartment that I saw her shine.

She had welcomed me inside so she could clean my wedding ring for me, but what a delight I found at her dining room table. She laughed when my smile spread the width of her apartment, and tried to brush off what I saw as a silly thing, but it wasn’t. I can still see inside her dimly-lit apartment, the teddy bears—one in each of her dining room chairs around her table—several were Victorian elegant, some fluffy, but they were all her family. She had flesh-and-blood family, her daughter Jane was just as sweet, but those bears filled the empty places when she was alone.

“They keep me company,” she said, and smiled as she escorted me into her bathroom. She dipped my ring into a tub of cleaner and talked about how it wonderfully it shined up her jewelry and didn’t it make my ring shine too?

“It sure does,” I said, but it wasn’t the ring as much as it was Hildreth. She shined, in her smile, in the way she made a family out of a collection of Teddy Bears, in the way she gave me all that she really wanted—company.

I have this monkey pounding on my head this year, steering me this way and that, demanding I drive it through blocks of politically-correct commerce. It’s annoying, demanding, and works hard to suck the joy out of all that’s wonderful.

I keep my memory of Hildreth in front of me and reach for the catalog on the buffet. That darn monkey is yanking on my hair and pointing toward that stores that won’t let its employees say Merry Christmas, but I turn my head away and look back to my own table. This is the only catalog that hasn’t found its way into the trash can. There are photos of babies. I can pay $9 and feed one of them for a week. There are shoeboxes I can fill with toys and toothbrushes that will be the only gift a child will get this year. I can give to our patriots, help build a school or a church—there is something for every income and I AM IN.

This is stable-love.

This is shaking those monkeys out of my life, the light coming from Hildreth, the Jesus the world needs to see.

This is Merry Christmas.

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