Tag Archives: Inspirational Romance

Language Barriers, Life Lessons, Letting Go

Image by Shades of Blue, Roxanne Ready. Used by Creative Commons license.

Susie Dillon took a tray of cookies out of the oven and acknowledged that her husband was right. Jed was more than a little interested in Clarissa Dye.
And Paul was right about something else. The wariness in Clarissa’s eyes came about from something dark and troublesome.
“She’ s hurting, she doesn’t trust and she’s not sure about sticking around here. You can tell that,” she said.
“I imagine she’s a lot like the barn kittens. Scared to death to get close to anyone,” Paul agreed, his blue eyes sad and sure. Susie remembered those eyes back when they were bloodshot and unfocused morning after morning. When they were hiding truths. When they were bitter and angry, and she felt alone against the world with the gift of a baby boy and a ranch to take care of.
But she hadn’t been alone. God was always there.
“Don’t you think maybe God sent her to us so we can show her love?” Susie couldn’t help but wonder.
“I know God’s in our driver’s seat, Susie, but if it comes down to this girl or Jed and Mack, we can’t let her hurt them.” Letting Go by Mary Beth Lee, July 2012

God’s in our driver’s seat. Another way to say let go and let God. It’s a lesson it took me years to learn. When I stumbled upon my small group, I wasn’t letting God control much of anything. I wanted something to do and the class happened to meet across from the youth building where I’d dropped DD off. Before too long the small group was working through one bible study after another that challenged me to let go and let God. I resisted. Back then I was focused on work more than anything. I let the yearbook and newspaper run my life. My family came second, and they knew it. I fit God in–sometimes–when I could. Or when I needed Him. Lucky for me God’s there for us even when we’re not there for Him.
In 2008 I shattered my ankle in a clutzy accident. I ended up stuck in Rome a week before yearbook camp was supposed to start. I was stuck in an Italian public hospital room with five Italian women, none of whom spoke much English. My only Italian: ciao, limoncello and gelato. My prayers went something like this. “Dear God, please let me go home now. I need to get back for work. I don’t want to be stuck here. I’m scared of this hospital!”
God didn’t answer my prayers. He put two amazing people in place to help me, though. One, a grandfather of a student on the trip with me, happened to be a minister also. He stayed back with me because he said no way was I staying in Italy alone. The other, Teresa, worked for the tour company I was traveling with. She came to see me every day to translate and to talk to me. No one asked her to be there for me, but when she heard about the American teacher stuck in the hospital, she felt horrible for me and wanted me to have fond memories of her country.
Without those two, I’m not sure how I would’ve made it. Because not only did God not answer my prayers, He let me stew in that hospital bed for seven days in the midst of a horrible heat wave. The airlines wouldn’t let me travel because the break was so severe they were afraid I’d die. I didn’t care. I had a yearbook camp to get ready for, and I needed to get home. My idea of letting go and letting God was telling Him what I needed and expecting that to happen.
The Italians thought I was hilarious with my schedule book and highlighter and iPod Touch and the hours I spent on the phone coordinating camp.
Eight days and one surgery later, I made it back to the States. I said I understood let go and let God, but I was fooling myself.
Before school started my principal told me to take all the time I needed to get back into the swing of things. I had over 100 sick days. Still, though, I arranged my PT to take place before school and had DH wheel me to my room every day. I didn’t miss. I worked hard to get back to normal because I needed to be at deadlines after school. I graduated from wheel chair to walker to limping along the hallways. It didn’t take long for the job to come first again in my life.
The next year I got swine flu at the end of October and was sick until New Year’s. I missed six days of school instead of the two-three weeks I should’ve. Once again, the job controlled everything.
Somewhere in there though, something changed. I quit missing small group for work, DH and I got involved in the college ministry at church and I saw how shallow a life led by work could be. I saw the truth of how I hurt my family and myself. My small group stood by me as I lived through those changes. By the end of that school year, I was able to say the words “Let Go and Let God,” and mean them. Life’s a lot easier when you live by that principle.
I still find myself switching into the job first, family second, God third lifestyle every once in a while. I have to work to NOT go there. I’m not sure why because life is much better when I let God stay in the driver’s seat. He’s a much better driver than I am! ###
Find out more about my books on my Amazon author’s page.
Letting Go, available now for kindle and in print.

Cover art by Mary Beth Lee.

 

 

Cookie image link http://www.flickr.com/photos/shardsofblue/5875237526/in/photostream/

Forgiveness and Letting Go

I’ve got to forgive myself. I’ve got to quit limiting the grace of God. I’ve got to pray and ask for God’s help in this. —Letting Go, July 2012.

This entry from a prayer journal provides a central theme for my new novel, Letting Go. It’s funny how we limit God. How we think we’re not good enough for Him, or how we can maybe do something good enough for Him to forgive us. Forgiveness isn’t like that, though. It’s freely given. We just have to accept it. And then we have to let go of the guilt that sticks with us, constantly bombarding us, reminding us we’re not good enough for God, reminding us that we’ve failed.
Over the last few years we’ve studied forgiveness several times in small group. One of the most freeing lessons I’ve learned is that God knows we’ve failed, AND he fully expects us to fail again. He doesn’t expect perfection.
In Letting Go, Clarissa Dye has to learn this lesson. She’s not alone. Fortunately, someone steps up and shares his story of overcoming addiction, of the grace of God. And then he shows her by living a life of acceptance and love. He doesn’t preach, he doesn’t push. He’s there, though, and that makes the difference.
Letting Go is a novel, but I’ve seen that same acceptance and love make a huge difference in people’s lives so many times. The other day a friend said sometimes christians are christianity’s worst enemies. I think they were right. My minister says Love God, Love People all the time. I think that’s key. I know that’s something I need to remember.###

Find out more about my books by checking out my author page on Amazon. Letting Go available in kindle format and in print.

Photo by Ryk Neethling used by Creative Commons license.

Prodigal Excerpt

“Momma, Justine stole a cookie.”
“Momma, Delia colored all over my homework.”
“Momma, Dani’s stuck in the slide.”
Anna Turner wished for just this once that someone else named Momma lived in the house, and then she almost cried. Because someone else named Momma did live in the house. She was just in the middle of a crying jag and wouldn’t get out of bed.
She knew she needed to try talking to her mother, but her kids needed her first.
Running a frustrated hand through her cropped blonde hair, she counted to ten and blew out a frustrated breath as she left her mother’s bedroom door and started down the back steps to see what had her baby girls in such an uproar.
Stuck in the slide sounded worst.
She hit the door and heard the commotion at the same time.
There, stuck between the first two steps on the ladder, baby Dani smiled, her toddler legs—one shoe on, one off—dangling from the backyard slide. Gran’s Chihuahua, Killer, was dancing around barking his head off. Justine had one of Dani’s arms. Delia the other. It looked like the girls were going to pull their baby sister apart.
Sighing she started through the yard, side stepped Killer’s dog doo. She reached the slide and pulled Dani up into her arms.
“Justine, no dessert. Delia, go get your sister’s homework and let me see it. I swear, if you made too much of a mess you’re gonna be in trouble. Do you understand me?”
Delia’s bottom lip trembled as she ran into the house.
Justine crossed her arms over her chest and let out a sigh that was far too old for her seven years. “I was hungry. It was just a cookie.”
But it was more than that and Justine was old enough to know it. Those cookies had to last. Anna scrimped and saved and clipped coupons so they could have those cookies.
She started to remind Justine of how much effort went into making sure they could have that cookie after school when her eyes caught the scar on her oldest daughter’s shoulder. The one that started there, matched by twins and triplets of puckered skin, skin that would never know perfection, all the way down to the top of her hip.
Guilt nagged at her even though Anna knew she’d done everything in her power to make it up to her girl, her oldest, her dear sweet Justine.
But nothing was going to erase the awareness in those big chocolate brown eyes of hers. And nothing was ever going to put the innocence back.
What harm was an extra cookie? Justine’d earned that and more.
Anna tried to hold Dani close, to use the soft touch of the baby to give her a moment’s peace, but by the time she’d caught a whiff of her No More Tears Shampoo, Dani was wiggling free.
Anna sighed at the same time Justine did, and she smiled. “Yes, sweetie. It was just a cookie. I bought the cookies for you and your sisters. One a day after school. That’s the deal. You had two, so you skip tomorrow’s.”
Justine started in on the “Mom” rant at the same time Delia brought out the homework sheet. Yep. Colored. Bright red and orange scribbles marred the perfect printed spelling words beneath.
“I was just trying to write, Momma. I was helping Justine.” Delia looked up at Justine with unadulterated hero worship and Anna tried to stifle her smile. Mr. Andrews would still take it on Monday. He’d understand. No damage done.
“You leave your sister’s homework alone, Delia. If you want to help, ask her first.”
Delia’s bottom lip quivered. “She never lets me help. She hates me.”
Delia didn’t remember, thank God, how very untrue that statement was.
Anna grabbed the homework, shook her head and didn’t bother answering.
“Your sister doesn’t hate you, Delia. She just needs her space. And her homework is important. Go get Dani and we’ll have supper in a minute.”
“Mac’roni and cheese?”
Anna shook her head. “Yep.” Third day in a row. This time they had french fries and weenies to go with.
Delia whooped with glee—the girl could eat her weight in macaroni and cheese—and chased after her baby sister. Their soft brown hair with golden highlights seemed to sparkle in the late afternoon sun. Sparkle just like Cass’s had once upon a time.
Turning to go back in the house, Anna knew she had to call Cass. She couldn’t keep doing this alone. Momma needed help. Help maybe Cass could give.
Help Anna’d been trying to give all by herself for eighteen years. But it wasn’t enough. Not any more. Cass had to come home.

One week later

Cass took the last exit into Standridge, Texas, and resisted the urge to turn the car right around and head back to Kansas City.
She rubbed a sweaty hand on her pants and scanned for a radio station until she finally settled on the only one that seemed to be working. Country 101.
Just like old times.
But it wasn’t.
Anna’s desperate call for help had come at an opportune moment.
Cass was desperate enough to get away that she’d clung to the excuse.
But now that she was here, passing the royal blue and red sign proclaiming Standridge the home of the Standridge Dancing Ranglerettes, she realized she’d made a huge mistake.
Eighteen years was a long time to be gone.
She’d never planned on staying away, but it had just happened. One year had become another and another until it seemed okay.
But Cass knew the truth. She hadn’t come home because it was easier to avoid the truths she’d run away from.
Now it was easier to face those truths than the ones she’d left at home with John.
God help her, she was a mess.
She pulled the car over into the Shell station on the corner. It used to be a Texaco. Before that a Gulf. But back before she’d escaped Standridge, it didn’t matter what its name was. Everyone knew the man who ran the whole full-service show was Old Man Swenson. Surely Lord by now he was doing something else. Especially since the Shell didn’t seem to have a full-service area anywhere in sight,
Grabbing a dollar from her purse, she stepped out of her Camry and started into the store. She should probably get on to her mother’s house, but she couldn’t make herself go just yet. The Coke break would settle her nerves. Maybe.
She pushed open the door with the come in we’re open sign and a tiny bell rang sounding her arrival.
Inside, nothing much had changed. The scent of fried burritos and coffee still mixed with oil and gasoline. Where the cigarettes used to line the cabinets, lottery tickets now enticed customers with promises of instant millions.
The young cowboy behind the counter greeted her with a Howdy Ma’am and she swallowed her nervousness. How strange to be called Ma’am. How weird to know she really was old enough to be ma’am now. Eighteen years had passed and she’d felt every one of them until this minute. Suddenly she felt like the same mixed up eighteen-year-old senior she’d been the night she’d left town.
This had been her last stop then. Funny it was her first stop now.
No Old Man Swenson so far.
There in the corner she saw the Icee machine and smiled. Sure enough, it still churned its cherry on one side Coke on the other mixture. She pulled a medium cup from the holder, snapped on the plastic lid, her taste buds dancing at the idea of the sweet treat, and nearly jumped right out of her skin when she heard the loud, long whistle followed by the tobacco scraggled voice. “Lordy me, is that Cass Deason I see over there at my Icee Machine?”
Cass bit her lip, said a quick prayer asking for help and pasted a smile on her face as she turned toward the voice.
Old Man Swenson hadn’t changed a bit in all these years, and she wasn’t about to tell him Cass Deason had ceased to exist a long time ago and not just because her last name had changed to Myers the day she got married.
“Mr. Swenson.” Her voice shook. She hoped he didn’t hear it.
The man made his way slowly across the station floor, and she saw that yes, something had changed. The cane and the slow gait made him seem older. But his denim overalls and white cotton shirt were exactly the same as they’d always been. So were his twinkling blue Santa Claus eyes.
“You surely are a sight for sore eyes, Gal. ‘Bout time you made it home for a visit.”
Cass swallowed past the guilt. “You’re definitely right about that.”
His smile turned to a frown and he leaned in close. “You home to help your momma?”
She started in surprise before she remembered that in Standridge everyone knew everything about everyone. Just one of the reasons she’d left that night. “Yes sir. Anna called, and here I am.” She sipped her Icee, the explosion of sweetness camouflaging the sour taste of regret and something else she didn’t want to identify.
He grunted and then coughed. Whipping out a red handkerchief from his pocket, he blew his nose. “’Bout time that fool sister of yours called you for help, too.”
Cass tamped down the anger at his words for her sister. Anna hadn’t had an easy time of it, Cass knew. But she was no fool.
“Anna was giving me time to come home on my own.”
Old man Swenson shook his head. “Well, it don’t much matter. You’re here now. You better get home. Your momma needs you and so does your sister. I figure you need them just about as much if not more. You got a sadness in those eyes that didn’t used to be there.”
Good grief. There was such a thing as too much honesty.
Cass didn’t know what to say to his words so she held out her dollar. “I’m sure you’re right. I better pay…”
He waved his hands through the air and wouldn’t hear a word about paying. “Consider it your welcome home. And here,” he grabbed a pink peanut pattie off the counter next to the register and threw it to her. ”I seem to remember you liking these too. You come see me if you need a break.”
With that he turned around and scooted across the station’s black and white cracked tile floor and through a back door.
Cass looked at the confection he’d thrown her. She hadn’t had one of these since the night she’d left town. Just touching it brought back memories of that scared girl she’d been.
The tiny welcome home bells rang as Cass left the air-conditioned station and walked into a breathless combination of gasoline fumes and heat so heavy you could almost taste it. The sun dipping down in the west burned bright red and gold and orange. A dust storm was blowing in from Lubbock. Maybe the dry brittle heat would help her get her head on straight. Lord knows something needed to.
She climbed in the bug splattered Camry and sat for a moment dragging her finger through the sweat on the outside of the paper Icee cup.
She was stalling and she knew it. She didn’t want to go to her mother’s home. Didn’t want to get all involved in things she couldn’t fix. Didn’t want to remember.
But she couldn’t go back either. Not yet. Not when everything was tumbling around in her brain making her feel like she was losing a part of herself, losing all of herself.
No. She had to do this. Anna needed her. So did Momma.
She closed her eyes and prayed for peace. But, as always, the peace proved elusive.
She took a few deep breaths and chastised herself for the prayer. Peace hadn’t come around with all the prayers in the last eighteen years. No way was it going to make a sneak appearance now that she was back in Standridge. So she changed her prayer to the one thing she knew God had given her plenty of. She prayed for strength.
When she opened her eyes her heart was lighter. She could do this. She didn’t have a choice.


I sincerely hope this book finds a home some day. Out of all my works, it’s the one I love most.

Memories

Back in the day…
Rebellion was my middle name. It wasn’t fun, but I sure did wrap the emotion around my shoulders and shove it in my mother’s face every chance I got. Not my dad’s. Just my mom’s. I don’t know if it’s because I’d heard the stories of my dad’s youth and didn’t want him to relive those days or if it was just because my mom spent more time at home. Probably the latter.
Somehow we made it through those rough teen years.
But for some reason that tug of rebellion stuck with me. I can’t count the number of times my mother’s been on the phone with me, simply discussing, and I’ve turned it into an argument. Usually the topic deals with religion. Sometimes it’s Harry Potter. 🙂
She thinks he’s all about real witchcraft, I think he’s fun and fiction. (Just like the prince in my last book.}
Now that I’m closing in on the upper 30s something’s shifted. I don’t want to debate. I can’t change her mind about the stuff we disagree on and she can’t change mine.
And that’s okay.
There. I said it.
My mother does not have to live and breathe by the word of her eldest. She can have her own opinions, her own beliefs, her own code of conduct.
And just because we’re different doesn’t mean I’m going to burn in Hell. 🙂
What exactly does all this have to do with my writing?
It goes way back. For the last five years I’ve avoided writing an inspirational romance simply because my mother begged me to write one. In my mind, her request was tantamount to embarrassment of my other work. Silly, but then it takes a gal who’s buried her head in books for years a while sometimes to figure out real life.
My new work is an inspirational, but it’s different from most I’ve read. We’ll see where it goes. Today in the shower another idea popped in my brain. Another inspirational. Both are dark, gritty books. But I’m going to have a good time writing them. And then I’m going to go back and write the inspirational I avoided writing for five years just because my 18-yr-old self from long ago kept whispering that I didn’t really want to write a book about God when I wasn’t even sure what I thought about God. Not that I didn’t like Him or appreciate Him, but that I didn’t get Him. Silly me. There was nothing really to get. I just had to accept that He’s there and go on about my business.
I wish I would’ve figured all this out 18 years ago, but I didn’t. Since I can’t change the past, I’m going to let it go.
And tonight when I write, I’m going to say a quick thanks to my mom and God.

Writing Fears and Lessons from God

Last summer I read Redeeming Love and I knew what was missing from a lot of the inspirational novels I read. THen this winter I read Yada Yada Prayer Group andI was so touched, so moved, so blessed. For months I’ve thought about inspirational. But I read the ought nots on the H/S boards about what’s allowed in inspirational and what’s not and I just didn’t feel like I could do it. Not and write a believable novel. Not and touch people. Share God’s love.
So I kept working on my other stuff, totally ignoring the idea that I could ever write a book like that.
And every week in my devotions or in church, I kept hearing God speak to me. And I kept ignoring Him. I’ve been doing that for years, so it wasn’t all that hard. Only this time it was. He just kept on.
And then yesterday I sat down and wrote a synopsis in less that an hour. A good synopsis. And the book is real. And the people are real. And there’s not only one romance, there are two, but they aren’t the total focus of the book. Instead, the lessons the women learn are. And above all I think it does show God’s love.
And now I’ve hit the scary part.
In theory, this is an awesome book. In theory it does what I believe it should do. But in practice, Oh MAN!!! Can I do it? I mean, can I make a difference in someone’s life the way Francine Rivers made a difference in mine last year? Or better, can God make a difference in someone’s life by using my book? And am I pondering this because it’s better than sitting down and writing something I’m so afraid of?
I guess I’m as guilty as Peter of not believing. This Sunday at church, that’s what we talked about. How Peter walked on water until he looked down and then he started sinking and Jesus asked why he didn’t believe and how that wasn’t about believing in God at all but about believing in yourself and how God’s dreams for us are bigger than any dreams we could ever have for ourselves. How we limit Him.
I’d never really thought about that story in those terms. And once I did, I realized I’m good at limiting God and myself. It’s definitely something I need to work on and pray about.
In the mean time, I’ve got a book to write. Yikes!