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Posts Tagged ‘inspirational’

Unbound is a fascinating fictional read that explores many themes, among them self-concept, sorrow, sin, God’s forgiveness and grace. One of my favorite lines is: “What was it about sorrow that made people insist their grief was unique, worse than anyone else’s.”

Ruthie Adrian has been living her dream life, but when that life is ripped from her, she feels she is paying for past sins. The mother-in-law she has always seen as a stable woman, suffers similar misconceptions. Both women have secrets that the author skillfully unravels as the narrative progresses.

The novel shows the story through the eyes of a very diverse array of characters, and their reactions to crises. They add tension to the plot, and raise the stakes considerably, keeping the reader wondering how much worse things can get before there is resolution.

A constant in the book is Ruthie’s passion: her alpacas…her biddies. They become a MacGuffin (something that reflects much that is happening in the story; it could have been told without them, but they add insight). The animals offer simple comfort, as well as a connection to the past, a distraction in the present, and a hope for the future.

The author has skillfully created this tale as a modern-day parallel to the biblical story told in the book of Ruth, with enough similarity to be recognizable, but enough variance to stand on its own.

Unbound is a thought-provoking book that leaves the reader considering the many themes that affect us all, and with the strong hope that God’s grace can change even the most dismal circumstances into opportunities for grace.

Five stars! *****

Author Eleanor Bertin

A fascination with the intersection of people and God’s Word inspires Eleanor Bertin’s fiction. Like the under-renovation century home in Alberta where she lives with her husband and youngest son, God is at work in her life and the lives of her characters.

See her website at eleanorbertinauthor.com

Read my interview with Eleanor.

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JAN: I am excited today to interview one of my new friends from the Mosaic Collection of Authors. Her name is Stacy Monson, and she hails from Minnesota. Stacy, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

STACY: I’ve been writing my whole life; well, since I could spell anyway. But while my family knew I loved to write stories, there were few others who did as I got older. I dreamt of publishing a book but didn’t think it would ever actually happen. Then, about 10 years ago, I was home early from work having picked up my Dad from cataract surgery, and he was watching Oprah while I worked nearby on a story. The show was on midlife opportunities (as opposed to midlife crisis), and by the end of it I KNEW God was calling me to step beyond my comfort zone and start writing for him. That was when I started my professional writing journey.

JAN: That’s cool. An unforgettable moment. Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

STACY: Aside from Oprah? 😊God put just the right people in my path at just the right time. A woman from church wrote for Harlequin, and she invited me to a local RWA (Romance Writers Assoc.) meeting. From there I learned about ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), and began meeting more people who encouraged, taught, critiqued, and walked alongside me. Then the Mosaic Collection began to form and again God put just the right people in place to form the group. It’s been amazing.

JAN: As a recent fellow member, I concur! What’s your preferred genre?

STACY: To write, it’s definitely contemporary. While I love reading a variety of genres, I know I’m too lazy to write historical because all that research would squash my writing!

JAN: And here’s the cover of your newly released contemporary novel, When Mountains Sing. See my last week’s blog for a review. Stacy, how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

 STACY: I started out as a total pantser; didn’t have the patience to be a plotter. I’d just dive in and write, and then end up rewriting and rewriting. Now I’m what I called a plotting pantser. Creating an overall outline, and doing some character interviews helps me know who I’m writing about and the general direction of the story, but then I let it unfold as I write.

JAN: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

STACY: I’m a character-driven writer and reader, so my stories always start with a character idea. Something in the news or a story I hear from someone can get my “what would happen if…” wheels turning, and pretty soon I’m building a story around that specific character. New characters and events pop up as I write (suddenly the main character has a brother or sister I didn’t know about, or something happened in their past I hadn’t considered) so I adjust to that as the story unfolds.

JAN: Fascinating. So, even contemporary stories need some research. How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

STACY: For When Mountains Sing, I definitely researched what specific tools/equipment were called, how they were used, etc. And while I’ve visited Winter Park, CO a number of times, I had to research the names of areas, where there was water, etc. Usually I’ll check several sources and if the information I’ve found is consistent, I know I can trust those sources. If not, I keep looking. Gotta love Google for that!

JAN: Oh yeah. What do you like most / least about writing?

STACY: What I like most is the satisfaction of seeing a story unfold and how characters react to the issues that crop up. And especially how they come to understand who God is and what that means for their life. In some stories, the characters have had a basic faith/understanding of God and that has grown. In others, they had no knowledge of God and it was a game changer as they met people on their journey who introduced them to Christ, shared their faith, and helped the character get on the right track.
What I like least is writing the first draft. I much prefer the editing process, so I really have to force myself to get the story on paper in an absolutely rough, ugly draft, then I happily edit from there.

JAN: I’m with you there. What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

STACY: Word of mouth and reviews are always the best ways for books to be discovered by new readers. It is very, very difficult to be noticed in today’s overcrowded world of books being released every single day. And as an indie author (self-published), I cringe at some of the very poorly written/edited indie books out there. Those books give the world a bad impression of indie authors. Those of us who put the time, effort, and money into making our books as professional as possible are impacted negatively by others who just wanted to “write a book.”

JAN: Yup, yup. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

STACY: A mix of Facebook and Amazon. I’ve found spending money on the ads doesn’t really generate much interest, while interacting with people, putting the book on sale occasionally, and posting other people’s impressions is far more effective.

JAN: Good to know. How do you balance professional time with personal time?

STACY: Now that our kids are grown (we have 4 grandkids now), I have a lot more time to write, so it’s not so difficult to balance the two. I can write late at night or early in the morning, or whenever I want, and still have space in my day for personal time.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

STACY: I’m reading the 2ndMosaic Collection book to release, Unbound by Eleanor Bertin. I much prefer print but sometimes digital is easier (if I’m traveling, or find I have unexpected free time but don’t have the print copy with me).

JAN: Just for interest sake, what are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

STACY: Not sure about what makes me unique, but my favorite things are good books, good chocolate, and spending time with family (especially our grands). Favorite season is autumn (followed by my very, very least favorite, winter). Favorite color is purple. And I love creating new characters, new worlds, and new ways for God to show up.

JAN: What keeps you going in your writing career?

STACY: When I’ve gotten worn down or discouraged and decided to put writing on the back burner, God has provided just what I needed to recharge (a nice review, encouragement from friends and other authors). It’s a lonely process so it’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts, comparisons to others who seem much more successful. Spending time chatting with other writers, encouraging them, and celebrating the milestones and goals of dear friends always cheers me up and sends me back to the keyboard.

JAN: You feel better when you cheer others on. I like that. How is your faith reflected in your writing?

STACY: I’m a follower of Christ whose main desire is to illustrate how much God loves us and longs to be in relationship with us. My stories always seem to have an element of identity in them–people searching for theirs, or the way they perceive themselves has changed. Always, it comes back to being grounded first and foremost in our identity as a child of God. He is what defines us, not the world around us, and that weighs heavy on my heart as I listen to people around me who struggle with understanding who they are and what their purpose is. When we follow the world, we will always be left wanting, and lacking in comparison to what the world says we should be/do/act, etc. When we follow Christ, we may still struggle but we can always come back to the foundation of our identity and start again.

JAN: Beautifully worded. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

STACY: I think identity is a theme in my stories because it’s something I’ve struggled with throughout my life. When I finally understood that I’m the beloved of God, even in my daily sins, it changed how I view the world. Each story unveils a new layer to that knowledge and understanding. It’s a process!

JAN: What is your ultimate writing goal?

STACY: Is dying at my computer a goal? Just kidding (sort of). I hope I never stop writing, and that God continues to speak to others through the stories He gives me.

JAN: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

STACY:  Know that this is not easy, no matter what anyone says. You will not (unless you’re one of those very, very few people who gets “discovered” early) become an overnight sensation. Never stop learning and growing, encouraging others and letting them encourage you. And compare yourself only to what God is calling you to do. Your journey will not look like anyone else’s and that’s okay! As long as you stay on your unique path, God will continue to unveil new things and lead you forward.

JAN: Thanks so much, Stacy, for taking time to answer these questions and let us get to know you better.

Readers, see below for Stacy’s photo, bio and social media links.

Author Stacy Monson

 

Stacy Monson is the award-winning author of The Chain of Lakes series, including Shattered Image, Dance of Grace,and The Color of Truth, and also Open Circle. Her stories reveal an extraordinary God at work in ordinary life. She’s an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the MN Christian Writers Guild (MCWG). Residing in the Twin Cities, she is the wife of a juggling, unicycling recently-retired physical education teacher, mom to two amazing kids and two wonderful in-law kids, and a very proud grandma of 4 (and counting) grands.

 

 

 

Let’s Connect!

For news about upcoming books, contests, giveaways, and other fun stuff – stop by www.stacymonson.com and sign up for her monthly newsletter. You can find information about her speaking ministry there, as well.

Facebook         https://www.facebook.com/stacymmonson/

Twitter            @StacyMonson

Instagram        https://www.instagram.com/stacy_monson

Pinterest          https://www.pinterest.com/stacymonson/

Goodreads       https://wwwgoodreadscomstacy_monson

Books by Stacy Monson

When Mountains Sing, Book 1 in My Father’s House series

Open Circle

The Chain of Lakes series:

Award-winning stories of loss, redemption, love, and truth.

Shattered Image

Dance of Grace

The Color of Truth

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One of the best books I’ve read in a while, When Mountains Sing will live in my mind and heart for a long time.

Mikayla Gordon has always known who she is: an outdoorsy woman who prefers hiking and fishing to anything girlie. Although these interests have not helped her to fit in, she has maintained a strong determination to follow her dreams.

Then a long-hidden truth reveals that she has no idea who she is, that everything she believed about herself and her family is false. She is on the verge of losing it all, but instead of giving up, she sets out to find answers.

Running away from the present, looking for truth from the past, Mikayla ends up at an outdoor camp in the Rocky Mountains, and for once in her life, she fits in. When she listens carefully, she can hear the mountains sing.

On the journey to find her identity, Mikayla discovers many things about herself and others, besides facts that bring more pain. Can this mosaic of revelations work together to bring her closure and peace? She can’t remain hidden in this haven forever, especially with her twin sister’s wedding coming up. And what will she do with her strong attraction to Dawson Dunne?

What I liked most about this story is the theme that “Blood isn’t the only thing that makes a family.” (Location 857) “…family means working together toward a common goal, depending on each other, sharing daily life.” (Location 1416) Can this be true for Mikayla and her family? And what of the faith in God she sees all around her at the outdoor camp?

I found the characters strong and individual, each clearly delineated and purposed through theme and plot. The intensity of this story is eased somewhat by the presence of Lula, a small but mighty Chihuahua/Papillon puppy who joins Mikayla on her journey and brings joy into the chaos.

The tale moves along quickly, and it’s almost impossible to put down. The writing is tight and strong, pulling all the necessary elements together a weaving them into a memorable tapestry. This is the first book I’ve read by Stacy Monson, but I will be looking for more. Also, check out the Mosaic Collection of authors for more compelling Christian fiction.

Author Stacy Monson

P.S. When you’ve read this book, listen to the song, You Say, by Lauren Daigle. It fits the theme so beautifully, as noted by the book’s author.

Stacy Monson is the award-winning author of The Chain of Lakes series, including Shattered Image, Dance of Grace, and The Color of Truth. Her stories reveal an extraordinary God at work in ordinary life. Residing in the Twin Cities, she is the wife of a juggling, unicycling physical education teacher, and a proud mom, and doting grandma.

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August 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

The Butterfly Recluse by Therese Heckenkamp — Lila finds solace in her sheltered world by raising butterflies and surrounding herself with their gentle beauty. They’re all she needs—until a motorcycle-riding stranger roars up her driveway, invading her safe haven, throwing her life off-kilter, and forcing her to question everything. What exactly is he after, and what is he not telling her? In one intense night of desperation and revelation, Lila must confront her darkest fears—and hopefully discover that with faith and courage, shattered dreams can be restored, damaged hearts can love again, and broken wings can heal . . . maybe even fly. (Contemporary Romance from Ivory Tower Press)

A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson — Anne Norris moved to Savannah, Georgia, for a fresh start. Now her pirate-tour business is flagging and paying the rent requires more than wishful thinking. When she discovers evidence of a shipwreck off the coast of Tybee Island, she knows it could be just the boon she needs to stay afloat. She takes her findings to local museum director Carter Hale for confirmation, but things do not go as planned. Carter is fascinated with the wreck, the discovery of which could open the door to his dream job at a prestigious museum. But convincing Anne to help him fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is no easy task. And working with Carter means that Anne will have to do the one thing she swore she’d never do again: trust a man. (Contemporary Romance from Revell-A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hometown Healing by Jennifer Slattery — She’s home again, but not for long… Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction:

Grace in Deep Waters by Christine Dillon — William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out. Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself. When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

When Mountains Sing by Stacy Monson — Mikayla Gordon loves nothing more than sleeping under the stars, reeling in the “big one,” and long hikes in the wilderness. A medical crisis reveals a 30-year-old secret that turns everything she’s known and believed upside down, unraveling her dreams and her identity. In search of answers, she follows a trail from Minnesota to Colorado and discovers more unwelcome secrets even as she falls in love with the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and a wilderness camp leader who shares the greatest secret of all. Knowing her life can never go back to what it was, she must make decisions that will impact far more than just her future. (Contemporary from His Image Publications)

All In by L. K. Simonds — Cami Taylor: a blackjack dealer, a bestselling author, and a fraud. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, loves her in spite of her flaws. He wants to marry her, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family–a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami bolts like a deer. She breaks off the relationship and launches on a new quest for happiness, not knowing that a nasty surprise waits around the corner. What follows is a fight to the death. Who will be the one left standing? (Contemporary from Morgan James Fiction)

Historical:

Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano — A rag girl accepts an invitation to become the lady she’s always dreamed of being, but some dreams turn out to be nightmares. (Historical from Revel – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Historical Romance:

Lady and the Lawman by Crystal L. Barnes, Vickie McDonough, Annette OHare, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Four historic stories of lawmen and the ladies who love them. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Farmer’s Daughter by Mary Davis, Kelly Eileen Hake, Tracie J. Peterson, Jill Stengl, and Susan May Warren — Enjoy five historical novels by some of Christian fiction’s bestselling authors. Meet daughters of prairie farms from Montana south to Kansas who find love in the midst of turbulent life changes. Marty’s nieces are kidnapped. Rosalind’s town is overrun by a railroad company. Amy’s jealousy comes between her and her twin. Beulah’s answer is needed to a marriage proposal. Lilly’s choice puts her at odd with her neighbors. Into each of their lives rides a man who may only make their situations worse. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Cowboys by Sandra Merville Hart, Cindy Ervin Huff, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Linda W. Yezak — Taming the West–one heart at a time. Healing Heart: A physically scarred cowboy finds solace with a ranch girl who is hiding from her past. Becoming Brave: A cattle drover wants to get his boss’s heard safely through Indian Territory…as soon he figures out why a bloodstained woman is holding a gun on him. Trails End: Waiting for his boss’s cattle to sell, a cowboy takes a kitchen job at a restaurant where the beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Loving a Harvey Girl: To improve the local preacher’s opinion of career women, a Harvey Girl makes it her mission to redeem a wayward cowboy, but finds herself longing for a husband, hearth, and home. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Lost in the Storm by Tamera Lynn Kraft — Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job. Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist wants him to reveal what he’s been hiding. He’d prefer to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind. Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried? (Historical Romance from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Love’s Allegiance by Linda Shenton Matchett — Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Isaac, Love’s Allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

The Brightest Hope by Naomi Musch — Five years after the Great War, Holly Allen is a well-adjusted war widow with a knack for running the family press. She’s over the days of waiting for a white knight to ride in and sweep her away from her cares. Besides, if Hugh Phelps is a knight, he’s certainly a black one—with his prison record, personal demons, and the ghosts of war that haunt him. When Holly hires Hugh, despite her reservations, it isn’t long before she sees the man he could really be, and as Hugh finds his niche at Allen’s Printing, he finds his lady boss equally appealing. Despite the attraction, however, Holly won’t let herself fall for a faithless man, and Hugh isn’t on gracious terms with God. Then, just when new beginnings seem possible, old heartaches from the war come calling. Now it might only be in letting go of everything dear that they both discover what real love is. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Annabelle’s Joy by Betty Thomason Owens — She’s waited too long. When Tom proposed last year, Annabelle wasn’t ready to open her heart to another man. Pain still held a thin crust around it. Time has healed her heart, but with a new woman in town, one who clearly has her sights set on Tom, does it matter if Annabelle’s heart is ready to love again? Folks in town are keeping a close eye on their pharmacist, hoping to be the first to hear the good news. He’s been courting the widow Cross for nigh on two years now. Annabelle Cross better wake up and put her dancing shoes on. Mr. Tom is prime real estate. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Mystery/Cozy Mystery:

Hidden Secrets by Janet Sketchley — When an online vendetta against the Green Dory Inn escalates to physical threats, a cryptic message about a tunnel points to the property’s original owner, a notorious Prohibition-era sea captain rumoured to have left hidden wealth. (Mystery, Independently Published)

Murder at Rendsburg Resort by C. L. Wells — Trapped in a remote resort with a killer on the loose, the body count piling up, and no one else to save them, mystery writer Jill Pemberton must help find the killer before they claim their next victim. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

Two Steps Forward by Luana Ehrlich — When CIA operative Titus Ray has an unexpected encounter with a Jihadi terrorist while he and Nikki are on their honeymoon in Morocco, he assumes it’s a coincidence, but when they travel to Israel for the second half of their honeymoon and encounter him again, he takes action, which takes him to Baghdad to prevent the assassination of a high-profile government official. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Edge of Truth by Kimberly Rose Johnson — The DEA sends two of its best agents, Kara Nelson and Jeff Clark, to Central Oregon, to shut down a major drug ring. Kara and Jeff usually work alone, but Operation Trail Ride throws them undercover together in a way neither of them expected. A notorious Miami drug lord wants Kara dead. Can these agents pull off the greatest acting job of their lives—and manage the sparks flying between them? Or will they die trying? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Speculative:

Redemption by Jacques R. Pye — Sterling Newman and Armena Sandal face death as they struggle to help the Alesandrans and the Kirilleans combat a force seeking the destruction of both worlds. (Speculative, Independently Published)

Young Adult:

Shards of Light by Susan Miura — Sometimes the pieces of a shattered dream can transform into something extraordinary. (Young Adult from Vinspire Publishing)

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It’s raspberry picking time again at my place on the Canadian prairies. The bushes are full this year, thanks to June rains after a very dry spring.

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If you’ve ever picked raspberries, have you noticed that after a rain they are harder to pull off the stem? Some innate force makes them tighten up so the rain doesn’t wash them off.

As I was picking and thinking about this, verses from John 15 popped into my mind: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine…I am the vine; you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:4-5.

Those of us who follow Christ are to remain dependent on the Vine, holding on tightly. When storms come, we are to tighten our grip even more.

Such a simple analogy but so important in our lives. We need the nourishment provided by the Vine, that is, Christ, and so we hold fast to Him.

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I’m thankful for this example from nature of how to live in the strength of God. May you also remain in the Vine as you go through your peaceful times as well as your storms.

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Recently, some friends, bison ranchers, shared an interesting story they’d heard about these animals.

These massive beasts that used to freely roam the plains of North America, sustaining the indigenous peoples, are now being raised on ranches, but they are not tame.

John Stanley painting
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According to our friends, bison, or buffalo, as we used to call them, have never really been domesticated. They can be contained in strong, tall fences, can be shipped for sale—if they want to be loaded—but they are not compliant, nor can they be trusted. Owners cannot help with calving, and treating an animal is tricky.

The story they shared with us involved a female bison who needed to be treated for some ailment. A veterinarian had been called, and had shot a tranquilizer dart into the animal. She eventually fell to her knees but did not go down. The vet prepared to use another dart, because a bison that is not completely down is definitely not out.

Before the vet could fire his second shot, two more cows came alongside the tranquilized animal, one on each side, and drew close to her, effectively shielding her from the veterinarian. As a team, they pushed her to her feet and guided her forward. As she moved, the sedative wore off and became useless.

I was captivated by this picture of support.

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How often do we feel alone? How often do I see someone else who is suffering alone? Our responsibility, as children of God, is to come alongside and lift each other up. Guide the suffering one forward. Encourage by our presence.

Let’s keep this picture in our mind’s eye and try to remember to lift up those who are in need.

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It’s been a dry spring. We had little snow, no run-off, and only one tenth of an inch of rain to start off the crops and gardens. Not nearly enough. I mowed my grass a couple of times, but it was becoming brittle and yellow.

Then the rain came. A shower that amounted to over half an inch. It helped. The flowers perked up, and the ground drank every drop as it fell. Then the clouds dropped two more inches, and our world changed. Dry, dormant grass awoke and began to grow again. Crops flourished. Gardens sprung up almost overnight. Flowers nodded and smiled.

Sometimes we go through dry spells, and the reasons are myriad. Illness and loss, disappointment, financial trouble, all these can leave us temporarily stricken. Nothing to give, lack of energy, no motivation.

Just like the seasons of the year, our times of drought can deplete our resources. We need time, patience, and showers of renewal from the Lord in order to re-energize and move forward. Even small bits of input can increase our energy and inspire us to refocus.

This week I had to mow the grass twice. Even though it makes more work, the result is the luscious look of green that feeds both the eye and the soul.

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If you’re in a season of drought, take heart. It will not last. Nourishment of the soul will come, and with it, renewal. We only need to look up and believe in the Creator who knows exactly what we need, and often uses our dry times to prepare us for the busy growing season ahead.

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