Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What Do You Do to Celebrate the Holy Season? Novelist and Mom Marlo Schalesky Shares Her Ideas

We have an interesting line up this week of authors sharing how they and their families commemorate the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Today Marlo Schalesky, a novelist and mom, shares with us a way to show our kids the meaning of the season. Welcome, Marlo, to Words to Go!

MARLO: Thanks, Patty. I love this time of year.

PATTY: So do I. Daffodils are springing up. I'll can green beans and salsa in the coming weeks and prepare my gardens for summer. But best of all, my lilies are starting to raise up from the soil. There are so many metaphors for spring during lily season--what was once dead is coming back to life and flowering. But you and I were recently discussing what you and your kids do this time of year. Would you mind sharing with everyone?

I'd be glad to, Patty. We have a little craft with the kids for each day of the week. On the first day, we make little paper Jesus dolls, then we may make a little garden in a Tupperware container and put our Jesus dolls in there for the Garden of Gethsemane.

PATTY: So each child makes a paper doll of Christ?

MARLO: Yes. Then we place Jesus at the table for communion--the Last Supper.

PATTY: So you mean that you make a communion table out of paper too?

MARLO: Yes, we draw them and cut them out.

PATTY: My kids are grown but were arty too. But as a former children's pastor, let me add that there are patterns galore like this on the Internet--so don't think you have to be a Rembrandt to lead your kids in a paper craft. Now this sounds like a progressive craft, something that is done leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

MARLO: It is. Come Friday we make crosses out of popsicle sticks and put Jesus on them. Then we use little boxes and take Jesus down from the cross and put him in the box tomb. Then, on Sunday morning, the kids check the boxes/tombs and surprise! Jesus isn’t there. He is risen! Yay!

PATTY: You are a fun mom, Marlo! Makes me miss our days with our little ones. Bloggers, please feel free to post your feedback. As you can see, I'm doing this a week early, so everyone care share ideas and have time to prepare for coming holy season. See you tomorrow for more fun author chats on the eve of the holiest season of the year.

Fun Fact: Before becoming a novelist Patty worked alongside her hubby in children's ministry. She was Pitter Pat the clown and her troupe was the subject of a mini-documentary for the Children's Miracle Network.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lessons Learned From a Ceramic Chicken--and Author Joseph Bentz, Today on Words to Go

Although author Joseph Bentz's first four books were novels, one non-fiction idea kept pursuing him so intently that he finally gave in and wrote When God Takes Too Long: Learning to Thrive During Life's Delays. The book sprang from his own bewilderment at God's often unusual timing. "One of my greatest frustrations as a Christian is that I am always waiting on God to act. I wrote this book to better understand how God uses "waiting" in our lives."

How well Joseph understands the trials of waiting: his first novel took ten years to write.Joseph has a fresh and unique perspective on his stories and I’ve already picked out one that I’m going to read. Joseph, we’re so glad you could drop by Words to Go today. Our readers visiting here are always on the prowl for a new and fresh read. I’m so glad to introduce them to you.

JOSEPH: Thank you, Patty.

PATTY: Waiting on God has been a recent theme of several of our authors. Why do you think this subject is one we all visit so regularly?

JOSEPH: I read the entire Bible with this issue in mind, and I was amazed at how crucial waiting was in the lives of such biblical figures as Moses, Joseph, Abraham, David, Jeremiah, Paul and others. From their stories, key principles emerge about how God's timing and methods differ from our own. For instance I wrote When God Takes Too Long to examine those principles and to help readers transform this frustration into a positive force in their lives."

PATTY: Is there a particular lesson you’ve learned you would share?

JOSEPH: I never thought a ceramic chicken could teach me anything, but recently I learned something about waiting on God from one. I’ve always been impatient for God to act in my life, which I guess is why I keep writing so much about Waiting, both in my fiction and non-fiction.

PATTY: A ceramic chicken?

JOSEPH: I’ll explain. I’m usually trying to hurry God along, but one thing I’m figuring out is that God’s answer is sometimes “Not now,” which doesn’t necessarily mean “Never.” I have a friend named Diana Glyer who is a writer and a Christian and is very attuned to God’s call in her life. She keeps a ceramic chicken in her office to help her deal with the times when God’s answer seems to be “Not yet.”

PATTY: I’ve been getting a lot of those lately.

JOSEPH: Sometimes the writing projects she is most passionate about get sidetracked or don't find a publisher, while other projects prosper. When this happens, she has learned to put the languishing project underneath the ceramic chicken. She continues to pray about that project, but she lets it sit there for as long as it needs to, maybe a month, maybe a year. Like an egg waiting to hatch, the project waits under the chicken until its proper time.

PATTY: I get it. That is really funny, though.

JOSEPH: I liked her idea so much that I went out and bought my own ceramic chicken, and it makes an appearance in the DVD for When God Takes Too Long.

PATTY: It obviously inspired you.

JOSEPH: As a writer I’m always getting ideas whose time has not yet come, but people outside of the writing world deal with this too. They get a glimmer of a dream or a call that they really believe is from God long before it’s possible to fulfill it. The calling might be real, but the timing might be wrong. Maybe that idea needs to go under the chicken, and with prayer and time and God's leading, it will hatch when the time is right.

PATTY: I do see this situation often at writer’s workshops. I’ll read a manuscript that I can sense seems like “the one” to the writer. But it’s underdeveloped or, because of the writer’s lack of training, doesn’t work. It’s agony to have to tell them their manuscript is not yet ready for human consumption.

JOSEPH: I teach literature at Azusa Pacific University, and right now we’re in the toughest time of the semester. Spring break is still a couple weeks away, people feel bogged down with work, and all of us are in a “get-through-it” mode. Seniors especially just want to “get the semester over with” so they can graduate. I know how they feel, but it also makes me regret how much time they—and I—spend wishing and waiting our lives away.

PATTY: I’m so glad you said that because the journey is something that life, God, or just the human condition is not going to evaporate just because we will it. We are going to embark on the journey when we set out on new terrain.

JOSEPH: When I look at my college students, I think, if I were in their shoes, I would enjoy every minute of the young, energetic lives they’ve been given.

PATTY: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite age to teach, but college kids are my favorite but also a challenge because they’re “raring at the bit” to get on with life. They seem to “do” more than “see” what is in front of them. As educators we have to help them slow down long enough to “see.”

JOSEPH: But most of them are focused on the future much of the time. They can't wait to get class over with so that they can get to their next class. Then they want that one to end as soon as possible so that they can get to their part-time jobs, and then they can't wait for those slow hours to pass so they can get back to campus to get their papers written so that they can get this semester over with so that they can move to the next semester so that they can get college over with so that they can graduate and get a job so that they can endure that long enough to get a better job.

PATTY: Sounds very familiar. I believe they learn this practice from dear old dad and mom.

JOSEPH: On and on this goes, but I have to admit I’m not much different, as if life is really about seeing how many items I can check off the to-do list. I find myself in “get through it” mode even with things I enjoy sometimes!

PATTY: In a couple of weeks, I’m asking some authors to talk about simplicity and slowing down to enjoy the process. It’s because it’s been a hard lesson I’ve had to learn.

JOSEPH: Lately I’ve made a deliberate effort to do what I can to slow down and enjoy the moment. I have made lists of those small pleasures in life that help get me through the day, like taking my morning run, losing myself in a good book, playing kickball with my kids in the backyard, relaxing for a few minutes on the porch after a long day, watching a movie in the quiet of the night with my wife after the kids have gone to bed.

PATTY: We have to remember that the life we’re striving for is paying for these stolen moments—so why not redeem them?

JOSEPH: I’ve sat in my office on some of the worst days and thought, I am overwhelmed by the decisions I have to make and the tasks I have to carry out. Nothing is going the way I want. I'm exhausted. I'm under siege….ButThen I'll step back into the arena and do battle. this cup of coffee tastes really good, and I am going to enjoy these few moments of respite and relish every sip, and I am going to look out at the sunshine and be grateful that I am alive.

PATTY: I think we writers have to practice these moments of respite or we’d never get a word down.

JOSEPH: I don’t want to “wait” my life away, thinking only about the future. I realize how sad it would be to get to the end of my life and think, I never really lived my life because I was always waiting for it to happen.

PATTY: “Life’s what happens when we’re busy doing other things.” John Lennon.

JOSEPH: I don’t want to sleepwalk through my life. As Ecclesiastes 11:8 puts it, "Even if you live a long time, don't take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour."

PATTY: Joseph, we have certainly delighted in our talk with you. We’re so glad you jogged by and stopped by our front porch at Words to Go.

JOSEPH: I’m glad I did too, Patty.

PATTY: Joseph is giving away When God Takes Too Long and his novel A Son Comes Home, both excellent books that some lucky readers will soon add to their bookshelves in Saturday’s book give.

Tomorrow, novelist Marlo Schalesky is back and she’s going to share with moms her ideas for getting kids into the spirit of Easter. See you all tomorrow here at Words to Go.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Author's Buffet Big Book Give

If the weather has you holed up in your hacienda, today is a good day to invite a new author into your life. And we're getting ready to do just that for some happy winners. Here are the names drawn this morning from the Big Straw Hat from this week's author chats:

Carly Kendall has won Homestead by Jane Kirkpatrick

Ruth Dell has won
A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick (release date in April)

Wanda Chamberlain has won Fatal Deduction by Gayle Roper

Alice Trego has won She's in a Better Place by Angela Elwell Hunt

I hope your weekend is full of reading and family time--or both. Don't discount the power of read-alouds. Our sons still talk the most about being read to all the way into their teen years.
It's a great way to get kids to open up and talk about things they may not share otherwise.

"Our grandmothers, and even--with some scrambling--our mothers, lived in a circle small enough to let them implement in action most of the impulses of their hearts and minds."
--Anne Morrow Lindbergh; Gifts From the Sea

Friday, March 27, 2009

Beloved Author Falls From the Sky--Hear Her Story in Her Own Words on Words to Go

Some might say that novelist Jane Kirkpatrick has led a charmed life. The Kirkpatrick's new life on their ranch has included "clearing sagebrush and wrestling wind and rattlesnakes" while "homesteading" land on the John Day River in a remote part of Oregon known locally as Starvation Point. She and her husband Jerry still live there today. "It's our 'rural 7-Eleven' since our home sits seven miles from the mailbox and eleven miles from the pavement" notes the author of fourteen novels and three non-fiction books. Welcome, Jane, to Words to Go!

JANE: Thank you, Patty. But first let me thank you for inviting me to meet your readers and to have this conversation.

PATTY: Yesterday, Gayle Roper shared the lessons she’s learned waiting on God. You’ve had a few of your own, haven’t you?

JANE: We all have to endure those lessons. For me, one is that the armor of battle is provided by God and I don’t have to fight in every battle. This lesson came 23 years ago this month though it began in January of 1986. We’d made this huge leap of faith by quitting our jobs and moving to 160 acres of rattlesnake and rock a couple of years before that, thinking we had stepped out onto a cloud a faith believing we wouldn’t fall through.

PATTY: I think for us it was twenty years of idealism and ten years of reality to understand that free-falling is not for the faint of heart.

JANE: My husband’s oldest son had been killed a few years before that and with a desire to live fully and to trust God’s guidance, we’d moved there to build a home and a new life there.

PATTY: It was your season of picking up the pieces.

JANE: God had been faithful through all the building woes that come with living seven miles from our mailbox and eleven miles from a paved road and 25 miles from the nearest market to buy milk.

PATTY: You’ve got one of those pioneer spirits. It works well in story telling, where we have a little control. But living in the reality of pioneering a new life is not easy, is it?

JANE: We’d had our setbacks but felt secure in His provision. Then in January during my prayer time when I asked God if he had anything he wanted to say to me this inner voice said “prepare for the battle.”

PATTY: I do that when in prayer. And then when He answers like that, I’ll say, “That’s okay. I don’t need to know.” Or “Could you replay that? I think I misunderstood you.”

JANE: I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to read about (or watch movies about) rare diseases because I always develop the symptoms! So I let that sit. But the next day, the same phrase came to me and I thought, well, what does one do when there’s a battle but you don’t know what it will be?

PATTY: It’s a feeling of exposure.

JANE: I remembered the verse about putting on the full armor of God and decided the best thing to do was to wait; but in the waiting time I delved more deeply into building my faith. I read Hebrews. I read biographies of wonderful Christian people who had endured. I prayed. I felt encouraged.

PATTY: That’s so pro-active, Jane.

JANE: Then we had a major flood. But that didn’t seem like the battle. We were told by the phone company that the seven miles of phone line we’d laid wouldn’t work and we’d have to do it over. But that wasn’t the battle.

PATTY: Do you see why Jane writes fiction? She has that great sense of foreboding.

JANE: In March we went flying one day with friends. We’d kept a small plane and both of us had licenses and that day we’d flown with our instructors for the biannual review that’s required by the FAA. All went well. We were on our way back with our friends (she was 7.5 months pregnant) and as we were coming in for a landing we hit a clear air wind shear.

PATTY: The shock of that must have taken your breath away.

JANE: We crashed in the streets of the nearby town where we kept the plane.Just after the point of impact when all the world to me had been white and I had said in my mind that we were about to die, I felt a pain that I likened to a thousand bee stings all at once. My elbow hit the back of the seat. The bone moved forward, disabling me. So I couldn’t get the seat belt off. I could hear my friend in the back gagging; heard her husband screaming her name; saw my husband’s face all bloody and had to ask if he was alive and then I knew the battle was this. I said to God then that he knew we were there and he would have to take care of things from there. I had never felt more bereft.

PATTY: You obviously lived.

JANE: We all survived.

PATTY: And the baby?

JANE: Our friend did not deliver early though she went in to labor. She has no memory of that accident and didn’t even have a bruise. Her husband had not even a sprain!

PATTY: But you and your husband were not as fortunate, were you?

JANE: Jerry and I got the broken bones--many of them. They put us into the same hospital room after my surgery.

PATTY: What about the crash site? Anyone hurt there?

JANE: The plane was totaled but we had missed all three houses, the power lines and there was no fire.

PATTY: But you still had recuperation ahead.

JANE: We had months and months of healing. And during that time, I found I could not pray, at least not for myself.

PATTY: It’s a hard thing to admit, Jane. But it helps others to hear it.

JANE: But I could pray for other people. Remembering one of the biographies I’d read about a woman in England who had been paralyzed all her life but was a great prayer warrior, she’d prayed for many things and I think it was Oswald Chambers who recognized her part in the great revival of that period.

PATTY: Intercession is such an important practice.

JANE: I know in part I was angry but equally confused. Why have me prepare for such a battle? Why not just stop the battle?

PATTY: Sounds familiar.

JANE: Here’s another lesson: our ways are not God’s ways. So I did keep doing what I’d done before: steeped myself in scripture, kept reading and praying for others during that time when my parents came to take care of us while we healed. One day I came across the scripture in 2 Chronicles where God tells the warriors that they did not have to go out to the battle that day, that the battle was the Lord’s. That was so redeeming! A huge weight lifted and I began to trust again that for whatever reason, something was being worked out within our battle.

PATTY: The times of refreshing come just when we need them.

JANE: In the years since then, I’ve seen evidence of battles worked out as a result of that accident.

PATTY: It set your mind in warrior mode. It made your prayers “effectually fervent”.

JANE: My husband’s youngest son and his wife came to live with us as they dealt with addictions after that; we now needed help on our ranch; they needed a place to heal. They gave birth to a healthy baby girl while they were clean and sober working on the ranch. Years later, when they relapsed, she came to live with us and several years after that, when she was a teenager, and they relapsed again, she again came to live with us and bless us with her life. They have now been clean and sober for nearly six years and my step-son works for us full time. God has given us the resources to sustain our two families in more ways than financial.

PATTY: I hope some of you joining us are remembering those times when it seemed your knees were turning to leather and how it’s turned out now. I know I am. But, Jane, this also set your heart in a locked and loaded position for story telling too, didn’t it?

JANE: I began writing after the accident, things for other people to read; and our friend who had been in the plane said when they got the letters they didn’t read them right away but waited until after supper, turned off the TV and read them out loud because they were like chapters in a book. They became my first book, Homestead, published first by Word in 1991. It isn’t a “how to” book about homesteading; but it is a book about following one’s heart and trusting in God on the journey.

PATTY: One of those beautiful metaphor books that teaches our souls as much as our minds.

JANE: There have been dozens of blessings as a result of that time of waiting and resting in God. From readers, of course; but in little unexpected ways that always bring me back to God being the master of my soul, my life, our lives and future.

PATTY: The journey doesn’t stop.

JANE: People came to help us do work on our land, people we didn’t know. One of the ranchers asked on a particular work day when Jerry and I sat with three legs in casts and three arms in casts how we were doing. “Terrible” I told him. “There are people here we don’t know; we can’t thank them enough; we’ll never be able to repay this.”

PATTY: Depending on God means that sometimes we have to depend on others—more often than not.

JANE: I didn’t say how we had never expected that we would need other people in our grand adventure to clear the land; we were going to do it all on our own! The rancher said “Oh Jane, you miss the point. We love doing this and you give to us when you let us do it for you. You’re right. You’ll never be able to pay it back. The best you can hope to do is pass it on.”

PATTY: What we know about God’s requirement of us in the beginning is miniscule compared to what he unpacks later.

JANE: I think about what the Lord requires of us: to love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly with our God. That verse came home to me as we learned the important lesson of how to receive and to pass that gracious gift on.

PATTY: And then there are the blessings of the fellow sojourners we meet along the way.

JANE: That’s so true. A woman who travels with me as my prayer partner when I lead retreats is the grandmother of that baby who was born full term in April of that fateful year. Her faithfulness has been an inspiration to my life and our friendship has deepened having endured the strain of the accident. God provides all our needs, including the emotional support necessary to help us endure.

PATTY: I have a friend who gets to travel with me when I speak. It makes the isolation of the road so much lighter.

JANE: Yet another lesson this last Sunday while we brought in our soup (we have soup Sundays from January through March to help us all get through the long winters) the retired sheriff was there with his pot of soup and he commented to my husband that wasn’t this the month of our accident. They stood talking and then the Sheriff asked if he’d ever told us that while he and the deputies and ambulances were there getting us off to the hospital that a small child in the house we’d missed choked on something and her mother ran out with her into the street and there were all those first responders and his deputy grabbed the girl and did the Heimlich maneuver and voila! She was fine! He said “if you hadn’t crashed that day right there, I think that little girl might not have made it. I’ve always thought that about that little girl.”

PATTY: Astonishing.

JANE: God worked out all sorts of things that we had no way of knowing about. And still, we keep learning.I’m not sure we would have made it either…God has been so good to us through these many years. I wouldn’t want those broken bones again but I wouldn’t give up the lessons learned from it either.

PATTY: Jane, you’ve schooled us in many ways today. Can I thank you profusely for coming by and chatting with us?

JANE: Thank you, Patty.

PATTY: We’re all on a journey. When we realize that we’re journeying together, not alone, not competing, but in reciprocal fellowship, we learn to rest in God. Jane, you rock!

JANE: I do have a gift.

PATTY: Let me guess.

JANE: The memoir I mentioned, HOMESTEAD—I’d love to send that to one of your bloggers in the give tomorrow. Plus, I have a new novel coming out in April. As soon as it releases, I’ll send a copy of A FLICKERING LIGHT to one of your readers.

PATTY: Hot of the press, folks! Leave your feedback today and every day for a chance to win in Saturday’s Big Give. Next week the Author Buffet continues. Join us Monday for a special visit from an exceptionally talented novelist, Joseph Bentz. Be sure you check in tomorrow for the winner’s list. And do have a wonderful weekend, feasting on the fellowship of your circle of fellow sojourners.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Author's Buffet Welcomes Rita Award Winner Gayle Roper!

If I could say anything about Gayle Roper it’s that she simply has the perfect combination of tenacity and talent to make it in the volatile world of publishing. She has written over 40 books, fiction and non-fiction, her specialty being romantic mysteries. She teaches on writing and women’s issues and has won a Rita Award for her fiction. When I gave her the choice of topics for our Author’s Buffet, it did not surprise me that Gayle chose as the subject near and dear to her heart the topic of waiting on the Lord. Welcome, Gayle, to Words to Go!

GAYLE: Thank you, Patty! It's interesting that the greatest lesson in waiting on the Lord has come mostly through my writing and the process of publication. I'm a choleric personality, very task oriented, very accomplishment driven.

PATTY: If you’re new to the temperaments, those of us trained in the Littauers' CLASS speaker’s services are highly versed in them. The choleric temperament is also called the A-type personality. As a matter of fact, I’ve just noticed the Alphas are leading the pack this week in chats. Gayle, how do you best describe our type of temperament?

GAYLE: Let's do it, and let's do it now and well. That mindset works well when it comes to writing. I have control here.

PATTY: For a bit, at least.

GAYLE: Oh, sure! Then, off the work goes and I've lost control. I’m forced to wait for other people to make choices over which I have no control. I am forced to wait on their time tables, their tastes, their corporate charts.

PATTY: Readers may not understand our story's tenuous journey from desk to publication.

GAYLE: If the work sees publication, then I'm forced to wait on the whims of salesmen, store owners, and buyers. Again no control.

PATTY: Well, at least little control.

GAYLE: This waiting has forced me to constantly go before the Lord, asking His grace for today, his peace for my straining urgency. I have been forced through the years to learn to say, over and over, "Not my will but Yours be done."

PATTY: But sometimes it’s easier said than done in practice at least.

GAYLE: I've observed that we all have at least one thorn that drives us to the Lord.

PATTY: Only one?

GAYLE: I have a sound marriage, two kids who love us, two daughters-in-law we love and who love us, and five great grandkids. Often family tensions and disappointments are what drive us to our knees, but that's not my situation--for which I thank the Lord daily.

PATTY: I feel blessed with my family too. But there are other types of thorns, you’re saying.

GAYLE: Sure, for some the thorn is health.

PATTY: As some author friends shared in last week’s “Greening of the Soul” chats.

GAYLE: For me that thorn has been the lack of control over my chosen career and ministry. Every day I live in an arena that swirls around without asking my opinion or seeking my wisdom. Every day I hand over work I've sweated over and prayed over for someone else to do with as they please. Much as it grates, it has also been one of the best things for me spiritually. "Not my will but Yours be done."

PATTY: Gayle, what do you consider the greatest goal in life to obtain?

GAYLE: So many of us can quote Eph.2:8,9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Great verses! But we often forget verse 10 which follows right after: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

PATTY: And a workmanship is a work in progress, isn’t it?

GAYLE: My goal is to do the work Christ has called me to do. As a doer, I like that idea, but I also realize that there's a LOT more than mere doing tied up in this thought.

PATTY: Like the part we’re supposed to do?

GAYLE: Yes. There's spending enough time with the Lord so that I hear Him when He calls me toward a certain task. There's learning to be obedient to this call. There's learning to walk as He would walk as I do this work. There's having my speech seasoned with grace toward those I work with.

PATTY: The little things that can trip us up.

GAYLE: In other words, doing the work He has called me to do requires me to be conformed to the image of Christ.

PATTY: Not a fallible leader, but the One on the throne.

GAYLE: And there's a goal worth living for.

PATTY: Yes, because in our reaching, he is reaching back to help us out of our frailties. Gayle, this has been such a delight to chat with you today. Thanks for chatting with us today.

GAYLE: Thank you, Patty, for inviting me.

PATTY: Gayle is giving away a copy of her novel Fatal Deduction. Please leave feedback along with your first and last name for a chance to win in Saturday's Big Book Give. Please check Saturday's list to see if you won a book from our fabulous authors on this week's Author Buffet.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Author's Buffet Welcomes Christy Award Winner Angie Hunt!

Living life through the filter of other people's perceptions is a good way to kill your passion for the very thing you’ve been called to do. Today my awesome friend Angela Elwell Hunt chats on Words to Go from the pastor’s wife’s perspective. Angela has written over a hundred books and has won a Christy Award. Welcome, Angie! I’m so glad you could chat with us today.

ANGIE: Thanks, Patty.

PATTY: A few years ago when ministry life led the Hickmans to Florida I was once again leaving behind friends like my writer’s group led by novelist Gilbert Morris. But then God gave me a wonderful new friendship. Angie and I would pull our heads out of our computers and go for what was supposed to be a quick hour for lunch. But hours later our husbands would be hunting us down, wondering if we had lost our way home. Besides being novelists, we are both also pastor’s wives. It’s a life that many people misunderstand, isn’t it, Angie?

ANGIE: Life as the spouse of a full-time minister is completely what you make it. You can make yourself--and your spouse--happy and fulfilled or miserable and resentful.

PATTY: You’ve known both sides of that coin, haven’t you, Angie?

ANGIE: When we were newlyweds, I wanted to feel that I was a priority in my hubby's life, but I didn't feel that way at home. He was a middle school youth pastor then and now, and during that first year, young girls who had crushes on him would write him notes and call and talk for long periods on the phone . . . hard for me to take. At our wedding, one of the girls said to me, "I hope you know how lucky you are to marry him." I smiled and said I did, but I wanted to reply that he wasn't exactly marrying chopped liver.

PATTY: No, you had come off a national tour as a vocalist—back then a gorgeous tall blonde—not exactly a dowdy pastor’s wife. (I do like the red too, BTW)

ANGIE: I wanted to love the kids, but I found myself resenting them--a lot. And they'd sit on the other side of him in church and cast daggers at me like I was some kind of Other Woman. When I tried to talk to Gary about it, he'd say, "Well, you knew you were marrying a man in ministry."

PATTY: The last thing that ministry couples do is construct the boundaries. Us too.

ANGIE: Finally, I broke down and confided to a friend that I was miserable. That I wouldn't divorce him, but I was resigned to misery for the rest of my life. She promptly told a friend of my husband's, and he confronted hubby and told him that he was "losing his wife."

PATTY: Sometimes they need a little jolt.

ANGIE: It was true. And somehow hearing it from that other person brought my husband to his senses. He learned to set up proper boundaries--no more calls at home. When he was home, he would be HOME. And he found that by "expanding" his ministry beyond the few girls who were so intensely infatuated, he was reaching many, many more students.

PATTY: God expects that of us, that we would erect our ministry to reach out to the ones along the peripheries of life.

ANGIE: And in return, instead of insisting on my "rights," I found myself able to loosen up and let him have even more freedom. It wasn't that I craved his attention 24/7 . . . it was that I wanted to feel that if I needed him, he'd be available for me. That I came first, not before his relationship with God, but before his relationship with everyone else. Once I had that security, I wasn't threatened by the kids, or his time away from home, or the demands of the ministry.

PATTY: I remember feeling as if I’ve was being selfish when I finally asked my hubby to put me ahead of the people in our mission field. Then once he did, things started clicking. God does have an order to things. Our first mission field should be our family.

ANGIE: When people hear that I'm a youth pastor's wife, they usually say, "Oh, boy, I'll bet your house is filled with young people all the time."

PATTY: Is it?

ANGIE: Oh, no. You do have to set boundaries. While we've always been quick to offer our home for meetings, kids who need a place to spend the night, and even kids who needed a place to stay for longer periods of time, I saw how becoming TOO involved tended to shut my own kids down and make them feel uncomfortable in their own home. (Bottom line: We're a family majority of introverts, except for the resident youth pastor.)

PATTY: I’ve seen pastor’s wives who worked feverishly to make their home grand central ministry. It can wear you to a frazzle, even becoming a tool of the enemy to bring you down exhausted and useless to your family or God. I say that as a recovering work-aholic pastor's wife.

ANGIE: I've learned to make home a safe place for the marriage, for our children, for our friends, and for ministry . . . within reason. And the rewards are amazing--some of the kids we've worked with over the years are so dear to me, they're like my own spiritual children. They're grown now, with children of their own, and they'll always be special.

PATTY: Yes, we know children from our past children’s ministry who’ve now grown up to be pastors and missionaries. We’re there to influence them and point them toward Christ. And you and Gary have done a stellar job of that, Angie. Thanks for coming today to Words to Go.

ANGIE: I’ve enjoyed it. And I’m giving away a book too. She’s in a Better Place, my latest release.

PATTY: This is the funeral home setting, some humor—a great read! So leave your feedback and your name goes in the Big Straw Hat for Saturday’s book give. Thanks for coming today and drop in tomorrow for a chat with award-winning novelist Gayle Roper.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Author's Buffet--Feast on Editor and Novelist Karen Ball's Rich Wisdom About Growing Up a PK!

This is editor and novelist Karen Ball’s second visit to Words to Go. When I asked some author friends to share with us a week of insider’s perspectives on what it’s like being in the ministry, two wonderful authors stepped up to bat—Karen Ball and Angie Hunt. So today we’ll hear from Karen and tomorrow, Angie. Karen is head of acquisitions for fiction at Broadman and Holman. Will you kill me, Karen, for saying B&H is Beth Moore’s publisher?

KAREN: Not at all!

PATTY: When I heard that Karen was taking the helm for their fiction, I said, “Look out—here comes the boss!” But Karen didn’t come by her calm yet assertive leadership style by chance. Her life was shaped by a succession of realizations, the first having been shaped out of being a “good girl.” You’ll remember when Lisa Samson and I approached this topic a few weeks back. Karen, I understand that you can offer some insight about what it's like to live on the "inside" of ministry life. What concessions did you have to make as a child of a pastor?

KAREN: First, let me say I've always loved being a PK and PGK (pastor's grandkid). I was immeasurably fortunate in that my parents knew their first ministry was their family. That's so rare. In fact, my older brother and I were just talking about this yesterday. We never felt the church came before we did.

PATTY: That is very rare.

KAREN: Even so, I'd heard too many people in other churches make comments about PKs along the lines of, "And she's a pastor's daughter!" or "And her father's a minister!" As though that meant the child was somehow exempt from all the mistakes and idiocy kids seem to embrace. I can't tell you how deeply it impacted my growing-up heart that when a PK acted out, it wasn't the kid who was blamed or criticized, but the pastoral parent.

PATTY: We actually sent our youngest to a summer camp just for PK’s. It was the best thing we ever did for him. Even though I had stood vigil over my kids, they still sensed outside pressure to “be good” rather than to obey Christ.

KAREN As a result of my parent's ministry, I determined early on no one would ever say such things about my dad because of me. So how did I accomplish that? By not letting anyone outside of the family see me angry or upset.

PATTY: That’s a lot for a little kid to take on. You must have looked “perfect” to the world but felt miserable from within.

KAREN: I worked very hard to maintain an image of being happy and content and smart and fun. To be the kind of kid other parents would hold up as a role model. Which meant I internalized a LOT.

PATTY: But tamping down has its ultimate costs, doesn’t it?

KAREN: Yes. Little wonder, then, that I ended up with ulcers when I was 16, and again in my 20s, and again... Well, let's just stay it took me a lot of years to realize what I was doing to myself.

PATTY: I think that may be true of a lot of us on many different levels. I both love and hate those realizations.(Hate that they come so late in life)

KAREN: To not just know in my head but in my heart that negative emotions aren't wrong, they're just part of being human. That it's what you do with, or because of, them that matters. I had to learn how to deal with those emotions in a healthy, non self-destructive manner. Shoot, I still have trouble letting anyone see me cry.

PATTY: Been there.

KAREN: That whole "fishbowl" syndrome pastoral families endure can be so harmful. Knowing your parents and their ministries--or even their call from God!--are judged by what you do and say? Devastating.

PATTY: It’s a great lesson, not just for ministry families, but also the church members to know.

KAREN: I know I escaped a lot of the downside of the ministry because of my parents' determination to be parents first, a pastoral family second. That's why I can say I'm a PK who loves the church. It's sad how unusual that is. People need to realize pastoral families are like any other family, just doing their best. And kids are kids, no matter what their parents are called to do.

PATTY: Exactly. We once had a friend who was a children's pastor. When he would come and take our children's ministry pulpit to give us a break in our children's ministry days, he would always pay special attention to our youngest making sure he got picked for the games and things his dad couldn't do because of looking as if he was being given privileges. There are ways that church members can respond to their pastor's children and wife to make them feel special and noticed. Thanks so much for stopping by again today, Karen. I know you are so busy but I love these chats we have. You’re always willing to be authentic. You help us all when you do that.

KAREN: Thanks for having me again, Patty.

Tomorrow, all rise—Angela Elwell Hunt is dropping in to pay us a visit at Words to Go. Angie and I have been friends since the years our ministry was in Florida. When Angie and I would finally come up for air from novel writing to do a girlfriend’s lunch, our “hour” would turn into two, then three. And then our husbands would be calling to see if we had up and run away from home. You’re going to love our chat tomorrow with best-selling, Christy winning novelist Angela Elwell Hunt, so drop in for fun and a chance to win Angie’s latest novel!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Author's Buffet

Welcome to a week's worth of author chats where every day is a surprise on the Words to Go menu. Tomorrow, popular editor and novelist Karen Ball and I are going to chat about her perspectives growing up in the fishbowl of ministry. To follow are more great author chats and the topic is different every day, but will provide us with some insight into authors and each of their very different lives.

Speaking of the ministry, it is very much like a fishbowl being married to the ministry. Pastors' families are often the unsung members of the flock. My sons are both in college now but I really had to protect their rights to just be kids like everyone else's kids in the church.

Once my daughter had a slumber party when she was a teen. She had invited girls from school and church into our home. The girls stayed up late and had a great time. But come Sunday a mom approached me. She did not allow her daughter to attend movies and our family loves a good film. So when Jessica and the girls started talking about a film some of them had seen, this teen, feeling left out, complained to her mom that "even the pastor's daughter" was allowed to go to the movies. This mom was prepared to blast Jessi and me for "allowing such a horrible practice." Very firmly, this woman who had intruded on my home life, was invited to take a step back out as I helped her construct a new paradigm--my boundaries for my family.

For seven years when we were in a ministry building phase, we did not even own a TV, reserving our evenings for family time, reading aloud, a family study, a season of home schooling, and prayer. So it was indeed a strange complaint to field on behalf of a daughter who was chaste, saving herself for marriage, and very obedient and loving. I never told Jessi about that mom's complaint. When she passed away, we were very close and my heart was full of gratitude for the fact that my husband and I placed our family above the ministry. Mothering cannot be done by church committee. Yes, we can seek support in small groups and should feel free to ask other moms opinions about what sort of parenting practices have worked. But kids cannot be reared in a fishbowl and come out of it knowing what they want or what they believe. They draw their confidence from us, not through some church filter.

So drop in tomorrow for a chat with editor and author Karen Ball as we kick off a fun week called Author's Buffet.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Garden of Books Big Saturday Give-Away on Words to Go

We’ve enjoyed a week of hearing how stormy seasons brought beauty to the lives of some of our favorite novelists. Today, we’re bringing beauty to the lives of some of our bloggers in Saturday’s Big Book Give. Every time you left feedback this week, your name was entered in the Big Straw Hat. Here are the winners:

Jennifer Eckert wins Healing Promises by Rene Gutteridge

Carly Kendall wins Like a Watered Garden by Patti Hill

Rose McCauley wins Always Green by Patti Hill

Lynette Sowell wins In Every Flower by Patti Hill

Wanda Elaine wins The Queen of Sleepy Eye by Patti Hill

Moonine Sue Watson wins Jacob’s List by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Joyce Mahan wins A Claim of Her Own by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Lilac Grandma wins How to Help a Grieving Friend by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Kay Huck wins Becoming Olivia by Roxanne Henke

Congratulations winners! Please email pattyhickman at bellsouth dot net with your mailing address and your book will be shipped to you the first of next week.

Next week we invite you to participate in our very first AUTHORS’ BUFFET, where every day is a surprise and a surprise guest author who will visit with us on any topic they choose—but it’s sure to be a surprisingly great time and more exciting great book gives! See you next week at Words to Go!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Will the Storm Ever End? Chat Today with Stormy Writer Rene Gutteridge on Words to Go.

Rene Gutteridge has had an interesting writing career that includes playwriting and even novelizing a major motion picture—The Ultimate Gift. She wrote the Boo series, showing off her gift for humorous writing and will release another co-authored novel in June, Never the Bride that is also a movie. She is an avid weather watcher and has written her share of stormy stories. But when you read her own stormy life, you’ll understand why she’s become a veteran of traversing life’s storms. Rene Gutteridge, welcome to Words to Go!

RENE: I’m glad I’m finally getting my turn today.

PATTY: You’ve been very patient. Like our last two chat guests, you’ve had to overcome personal physical illness too, haven’t you?

RENE: Yes. And it took time to diagnose, a trial in and of itself. From the time my symptoms started, it took about two weeks for me to get the diagnosis of Interstitial Cystitis. I had never heard of it and was so confused about what was going on. They ruled out bladder cancer and MS and this is what they landed on. I remember they handed me a laminated sheet with about ten different foods on it and I said, "Oh, these are foods I need to avoid?" And the doctor said, "These are foods you can eat." I knew then that my life was changed.

PATTY: My friend, Lissa Halls Johnson, has a condition that only allows her to eat a very small list of foods. It’s a real challenge in a culture that runs on a rich diet.

RENE: For months I did a ton of research on the disease, trying to figure out how to win against it. One day I was standing in the kitchen and this overwhelming thought hit me: You are chronically ill. You are not going to beat this. It was one of the most sobering moments of my life.

PATTY: I think that we tend to think that only loss of a family member sends us into these steps, but it’s the loss of anything that’s become part of our life.

RENE: Up until that point, there was nothing in my life I felt I couldn’t overcome. I realized I wasn’t going to beat this and that I had to find a way to live with a significantly altered lifestyle. My quality of life had lowered. But my faith had really held strong. I had this feeling, "Well, why not me?" I knew that God had never promised a life free of problems. I was in horrible pain, but I never felt closer to God during the worst of it. I was terrified and was mourning the life I had to leave behind. But there was peace.

Then, with no warning at all, my son became very ill. And I’m just being honest, I was so mad at God. I felt it was too much. I was just climbing out of my hole, trying to get my life rebalanced. It’s one thing to get sick yourself. It’s like you can handle it, because you know how much you can take. But it’s a whole other level of pain to see your child suffer. I would lay out in my back yard, on the patio, in the middle of the night and want to scream. I couldn’t because I live in a neighborhood, so I would cry and cry and ask God how He could do this to us.

It challenged my belief in God for sure.

PATTY: The most freeing truth I got once in a fellowship group was that we all have a crisis of faith—just like the heroes of the Bible. As a young Christian—baby Christian for far too long—I thought that only the weak had a crisis of faith. That’s why Bible study groups are so important.

RENE: I had to come to terms with the fact that deep down inside I questioned whether or not God was really good. He felt so mean to me, so cruel. As much as I suffered, now my child was suffering as well. Beyond that, medical bills were piling up. And to add to all of it, this all took place during a time when my husband and I (both of us had been Christians for over thirty years) had made a commitment to give sacrificially. So all this money we were giving away could have been used for the medical debt that was accruing.

PATTY: It was your time of testing.

RENE: Those were dark days. I never gave up on God. I never turned my back. But I fought him and I fought him hard.

PATTY: I love it that we continue to see the same patterns to final surrender in all of these personal stories. There is thequestioning and then the wrestling match.

RENE: My heart was broken.

PATTY: . . . and then the brokenness.

RENE: I felt like my heavenly Father had decided to put upon us a severe test that we were sure to fail. I didn’t know what I was striving for, beyond keeping my head above water.

PATTY: But then, even though your circumstances weren’t changing, the real breakthrough came inside you, didn’t it?

RENE: Slowly, though, I began to calm down. I began seeing the ways God was working in our lives. Not mighty, all-healing miracles, but small things, like putting certain people in our path. I began realizing my faith had some major problems in it. I realized I did not fully trust God. Yes, I trusted him up to a certain point, as long as, like you said, I could come up for air. But at the point that I felt like I was drowning, my belief was that God’s hand was upon my head, holding me under.

PATTY: It does feel like that. I’ll admit it.

RENE: It took not weeks, not months, but years of dissecting all of this and allowing God to heal the part of me that doubted him. It has been a long road to realizing that my weak body has betrayed me and let me down and that this is the very path God laid down for me to find true strength.

PATTY: The big debate among fellow sufferers who are also believers is how they come out of it trusting or not trusting in God's sovereignty--or redefining it.

RENE: Well, for me it has only caused me to understand this: I must fully trust. I will never understand his nature. I can only take small glimpses of it. For example, I understand that I must cause some discomfort in my children’s lives for them to grow.

PATTY: Parenting and marriage—the ultimate object lessons for grown-ups.

RENE: So on a basic level, I understand that suffering is the only way to grow. I truly believe that. I know that if my life was cushy and without problems there would be nothing pushing me to change. But I am still often left wondering where he is and why he isn’t answering.

PATTY: Yes. I always feel like he’s nudging me toward an end. And I’ll argue with him and say, “If you’ll just tell me where it is you want me to go, I’ll go willingly without all of this awful waiting. But the process is the beautiful story unfolding. And where would we writers be without our stories?

RENE: Yes, true. And the Holy Spirit works so beautifully in my life. He whispers and I believe. I hear him say, "I am completely trustworthy." In my human nature, I suppose I will never stop trying to figure out the "why," but my spirit is filled with the capability of being okay with not knowing.

PATTY: How has this season of suffering affected your well of grace?

RENE: I figured out something pretty quickly when I became ill. The world is not kind to the chronically ill. If you’re dying of cancer, there is grace. Otherwise, suck it up. And I was one of those intolerant people. I had no tolerance for excuses. I was not weak and expected other people not to be either. When I was forced into weakness, it was so hard on my ego and pride.

PATTY: Well, if we’re confessing . . .

RENE: Making it worse, I had people in my life who disappointed me. It took grace to forgive them. I guess I understood them more than I wanted to admit.

PATTY: We have to remember that the people who disappoint us are even used by God to get us to where he is taking us. We have to give credit to God for the way he stages our life as part of his ultimate story of mankind.

RENE: I remember one night my son asked me, "Why am I sick?" And I had to answer, "I don’t know." And then he asked me, "Why are you sick?" I was about to answer I don’t know when I was suddenly filled with this revelation: "Maybe it’s so I could understand what it’s like to be sick...so I could understand what you’re going through and I could help you better."

PATTY: And he’ll understand and pass it on one day too.

RENE: I approach his illness completely differently than I would have had I not been sick myself. And I have a well of compassion that I never had before, for those who are weak. I am now weak myself and I reach out to people who have fallen on hard times, rather than judging them.

PATTY: Yes. I can still fill out one of those spiritual gifts surveys and flunk compassion because I’m being honest about the way I “feel.” But outwardly my actions resonate compassion because my actions are Spirit-led, not feelings led. It is Christ working through me, and in spite of me. But we have to get used to the fact that not all who proclaim Christ have surrendered to his leading, right, Rene?

RENE: It does astonish me at how harshly we are judged and how harshly we judge in the Christian community. But I am now one who will reach out my hand in compassion, because I desperately need it myself.

PATTY: And this is the big story here today, Rene. That he is leading us, not to be successfully famous or celebrated in some grand public way. God wants us humbled to the point that we are useful in his hands. We are the clay. Rene, I’m so glad we saved you for Friday.

RENE: Thanks for inviting me here today, Patty. Have a great weekend everyone!

PATTY: We’re going to have an awesome weekend because a bunch of our visitors to Words to Go are going to win books by the basketful. So please leave feedback and your name is entered in the Big Straw Hat. Watch tomorrow, Saturday for the winner’s list. Then just email me with your mailing address and each author will mail you an autographed novel or non-fiction book.

Thanks for stopping by this week. We’ve enjoyed getting to know you and hearing how your stories intersect with ours. Now visit your favorite neighborhood congregation and celebrate Sunday all that God is doing in and through you as he greens your beautiful soul.