Friday, November 27, 2015

The After-Turkey Toil

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I hope the day brought you warmth, laughter, and tangible reminders of the beauty in your life.

(And if not, here's a hug from my heart to yours.)

Our day was full of exquisite cuisine--special shout out to my Dude for making a grilled BBQ turkey breast that made my mother slap me!--and new memories with old friends and family. It was a miracle, a literal answer to prayer, and I was so blessed to see it happen under our roof.

But after everyone left, I was alone with the kitchen (point of fact: my Dude was taking people home; otherwise he would have been there with me.) You can imagine how it looked: slightly crumpled foil pans, half-full cups of juice, huge pots that wouldn't fit in the refrigerator, and a white kitchen floor tattooed with food and footprints.

As I formed a plan of attack, I remembered those FB posts and Instagram pics of proud chefs with their culinary creations and wondered how many people are just as excited to face the mess afterwards. I didn't recall any updates saying, "'Bout to bust these suds and steam my kitchen floor. Can't wait to get started! #cleaningboss"

Maybe someone else handled it or maybe they were too tired to post again, but I think the distinction is deeper than tidying up after the turkey and talking.

In Joyce Meyer's eye-opening series, "Attitudes of the Mind," the third and fifth CDs extol the power of a responsible attitude and a humble attitude. Her words tumbled in my mind as I faced the truth revealed by that cluttered counter and splattered stove: cleaning ain't sexy, but it's necessary. 

Yet we so often dread tackling such unsung, glamour-free parts of life. We crave credit for our triumphs but undervalue the dirty work, not realizing the reward of success is more work.

Published your book? Congratulations! Get to work promoting it and writing your next one.

Bought your first home? Attagirl! Now you get to move.

Got married? Yippee! You now have a spouse, which isa euphemism for "more work." 

Launched a business or ministry? Guess what!

I've heard that "success  precedes work only in the dictionary," and I appreciate the sentiment of the statement. But success is really a brief, often public moment of satiety between longer seasons of grueling private work. And if we understand that process, then we can bask in the applause, catch our breath, and embark on our next adventure bubbling with enthusiasm.

Or at least without dread.

So here’s to your next sink full of dirty dishes. May you have the passion and perspective to conquer them with joy!

And rubber gloves, to protect your hands.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: "Finding My Thunder" by Diane Munier

"This was my heart. Hate could squeeze me, choke me, pierce me…but it could not choke the love from me…it would not. Love had to win."

[Munier, Diane (2015-03-28). Finding My Thunder (Kindle Locations 3053-3054). Kindle Edition.]

This is the battle cry of Hilly Grunier, narrator and heroine of  Diane Munier's sophomore novel, Finding My Thunder. As we meet Hilly, dangerous secrets swirl around her, accusations lurking in every hello and how-de-do. But Hilly doesn't fear small-town scandal or the speculation about her relationship with the Negro woman living behind her house. She doesn't fear her father's temper or her mother's babbling. Opinions of the faceless town or rudeness at school...none of these trifles make the short list.

Hilly Grunier fears one thing and one thing alone: never having a chance with Danny Boyd, the eternal, undisputed champion of her heart.

It doesn’t matter that Danny hasn’t spoken to her in years, that the childhood incident in the woods ruined their relationship forever. It doesn’t matter that Danny has a popular, pretty girlfriend who represents everything Hilly is not and does not wish to be.

All that matters is Hilly loves Danny, and love has to win.

But how can love win out over bombs in Vietnam, over an honorable young man’s duty to himself and country? How can love win out over bigotry and bias, when a Negro-tainted lineage is akin to social death? And how can love win out when life is unstable and everything you know could be shattered with a whisper?

Hilly does not need to know the “how”; she cares only about the “what.” What she knows is love has to win. And in the careful, poetic hands of Diane Munier, love has a fighting chance.

The powerful beauty of Finding My Thunder reveals itself in myriad ways. It survives in Hilly’s heart as love carries her down to the river, through woods and war, and back again. It colors the bond between Hilly and Naomi and is the only color between them that truly matters. It covers a multitude of hidden sins and emerges redemptive even after death.

And it infuses every line and space of this moving narrative with depth, music, and hope so audacious it outshines every dark and ugly thing seeking to snuff it out. Because as Munier so poignantly shows us, love is the greatest thing, and it always has to win.

Finding My Thunder is available at

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Holy Week: The Three Passions

For most of my life, the word “passion” solely evoked glossy romance novel covers, soap opera super-couples, and an innocent 1990 Fred Savage commercial. The line? “My passion for you will never be quenched.” 

(So random. So adorable.)
Then in 2004, The Passion of the Christ forever changed my understanding. Christ’s Passion aptly translated the Greek word “to suffer.” Bookended by triumph and seeming defeat, the six-day journey carries Jesus from palms under a donkey to nails on a cross, all leading to Sunday where Passion becomes redeeming power.  

We see in Christ a perfect picture of how one passion informs the other: he suffered because he loved us so much:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

But how does that look for us? What is the connection between our Passion and our passion? And how does it relate to Christ’s Passion, to his rejection-turned-resurrection?

During a recent conversation with a friend, I believe I connect those dots.

To see my smiling friend, you would never know his backstory. He has endured unspeakable hurt, the kind that derails destinies and causes him to question God and His purposes for his life. Despite many victories, he still struggles with the residual effects of those childhood traumas, and last week, he briefly relapsed into an old destructive pattern. This setback occurred on the eve of an event during which he expected to minister to others and proclaim the goodness of God.

Yet there he was: smiling outside while spiraling inside.

It was at this intersection of pain and possibility that God unlocked the door to his purpose. When he pressed through his problem and honored his commitment, God met him and contradicted his fears and fallacies about failing. Not only through familiar faces but through strangers, discerning, compassionate strangers who spoke into his life and ministered hope and healing to his brokenness.

What’s more, as he let Christ’s blood-bought love flood his soul, God began to reveal His plans for this beloved son in startling color and detail. He showed him how the wounds of his past would pave the way for a wonder-working future. And those ministering strangers from before? Many of them had skills and spheres of influence that could aid my friend in carrying out the missions God set before him.

If you could have seen the light in his eyes as he shared this story with me, his awed relief that God’s love burrowed beneath his shameful scars as he exposed his secrets to the One who died to free him from their bondage…

It was breathtaking.

This, I realized, is the marriage of the three passions: where our Passion (suffering) leads us to Christ’s passion (exuberant love and devotion) for us, and He exchanges our Passion for a passion (calling, destiny) that will heal us, minister to others, and bring glory to His name.

Much like The Passion we commemorate this Week.

Holy Week culminates tomorrow in Good Friday, the death to end all deaths. And when I weep at the thought of the cross, I will cry not because I am wretched but because I am redeemed; I will wail in reverence not regret. Because I understand Christ’s Passion as the ultimate proof of his passion for me. And as we let His passion overcome our pain, He gives us instead a passion worth living His passion for us was worth him dying for.

May our passion for God be ignited this Holy Week.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Release Day Blog Blitz! "Finding My Thunder" by Diane Munier

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Coming of age 1960’s. Hilly keeps her mother’s secrets. But she has some of her own, a love from childhood for the golden boy Danny, the one who no longer sees her. Soon they are tied by more than childhood history. It’s a long dark road toward finding her thunder.

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It was Danny Boyd. Mary was no less surprised when the Angel Gabriel appeared to announce the pregnancy that changed everything. My heart took off under the hand I’d splayed on my chest. I couldn’t have my senses more assaulted. It wasn’t possible. He stood there, a head taller, his black hair long, longer than I’d ever seen it, and long sideburns. His eyes, green in that tanned face. He had a thin moustache that met these carefully sculpted patches around his beautiful mouth. Rock and roll star. But muscular…I felt faint. Faint from his nearness. My shoulder where he’d tapped me, it throbbed. God, he was a man.

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All of Diane's available works can be found on her Amazon Author Page:

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Living comfortably in the heart of America, a fake extrovert who is genuinely introverted. Lots of good story tellers in my small world, then started first grade. They put me in the middle reading group (probably based on my math scores) and after one class moved me up to group A. That was the conscious beginning of loving story.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Book Review: "Me and Mom Fall for Spencer" by Diane Munier

When recently asked what she thinks of the [Twilight fanfiction] world, author Diane Munier said, “What [Twilight author] SM achieved in my opinion was the ability to make women feel first love….That woman took us into the ache.” I hope Ms. Munier will pardon me for appropriating her words, but that statement perfectly encapsulates the magic of her own writing: this woman takes us into ourselves, moving us with a deeply satisfying story in the process.

Through the eyes of her beautifully flawed characters, Munier takes us to the bottom of our souls, revealing everything we are and everything we wish we weren’t. We confront our pasts, unearthing treasures we never knew were there, and baby-step our way toward a future we didn’t know we could have. Munier has been doing it for years under the apt pseudonym “Counselor” in the Twilight fanfiction world, and she does it this time for the masses with her first fanfic-turned-novel, Me and Mom Fall for Spencer.

In this poignant story, Sarah Sullivan is a mid-twenties loner with a small life just big enough to handle. Her mother, boss, and neighbors all need a little piece of Sarah to make it through the day, and that’s just fine with her.

Until Spencer Gundry moves in next door and upsets her vegetable cart.

He has no business living in Frieda’s old house, no business peeking over the gate into her garden, and definitely no business making up sweet and silly songs about Sarah’s comings and goings.

Not that he ever listens.

Despite her attempts to ignore the intriguing interloper, Sarah can’t stop their paths from crossing. His affability annoys her as does his curiosity about her life. And his being handsome doesn’t help.

But as the title indicates, Sarah isn’t the only one with eyes on Spencer. And Marie Sullivan doesn’t like sharing what’s hers nor does she hold her tongue when Spencer artfully dodges questions about his past. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it requires Sarah’s neighbors to accept Spencer Gundry for who and what he says he is. But can they?

Me and Mom Fall for Spencer is a book about falling in love and finding yourself, not necessarily in that order. It’s about having the courage to say yes and the wisdom to say no. It’s about releasing your past to take hold of your future.

But the magic of Diane Munier is that Me and Mom Fall for Spencer is just as much about you and me as it is about Sarah, Marie, and Spencer. Because it’s about life. The unexpected magic of this glorious, unpredictable, complicated life.

And it is worth every precious word.

“…Spencer gets me on the porch and near the end it’s hard to see with the plants on the trellis, and he pulls me right there, and then it’s hug time, and kiss time, and I’m setting on the rail and he’s right there between my eyes, my lungs, my legs, my feet. He’s right there along the midline, opening me up so he can move right into my heart, and I am folded around him like a flower trapping a bee and he’s humming in me. He’s laughing and we’re kissing. It’s exhilarating and I have never felt young like this, maybe never, I have never felt young until now, strong, alive, like the good guys are winning in this world, like Spencer and I might be the very first ones to live forever. I am kissing him, and it’s the best way to celebrate… life.”

[Munier, Diane (2015-02-28). Me and Mom Fall for Spencer (Kindle Locations 3531-3538). Kindle Edition.]

Me and Mom Fall for Spencer is available on Amazon

Monday, March 2, 2015

Blog Blitz! "Me and Mom Fall for Spencer" by Diane Munier

One of my favorite writers, Diane Munier, just published her first novel, and I could not be more excited for her!!

Check out the links below and grab your copy today. You're welcome!

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The house next door to Sarah and her mother Marie has been vacant since the murder that happened there when Sarah was ten. Their neighbor, Frieda, was like a second mother to Sarah and she died brutally and the neighborhood never recovered. No one has lived in Frieda’s house for seventeen years. Imagine Sarah’s surprise when it finally sells to an on-line buyer. She looks through the thick growth separating her house from the other and a wild man looks back. He’s not exactly wild. He’s thirty-seven year old Spencer Gundry. Once he shaves the beard and gets a haircut, he’s not hard to look at. Well Sarah’s mom doesn’t think so, and neither does she. Problem is, Spencer has a few secrets of his own.

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Things don’t sell quickly in this town, that’s for sure. But with the murder, no one wanted Frieda’s haunted house even though it was repainted beige and all personal knick-knacks were long gone. Such as blood spray on the walls. No one wanted that really.
So imagine my shock, or dismay I should say, when he moves in. I see him over the fence. I go out there because the squirrels keep stealing my sweet corn and I only planted four short rows. So I go out there to whack a stick at the squirrels and I see that rental truck in front of the place and no sooner do I think about that and here he comes from around the back of it.
Right off I am interested. I mean, who buys a house where…who does that?
But I’m oohing and owing my way to the backdoor cause, no shoes, and I am nearly there when he calls out, in a very handsome voice, a voice so nice I would know it belonged to a very handsome man if it’s all I had to go on. And he is handsome. I knew that at the three second glance when he’d first manifested from the back of the rental truck.
The closer he gets the more right I am. And I have to make myself not bolt.

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