Category Archives: Women’s Ministry

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Crickett Keeth

Picture of CrickettIf you haven’t met Crickett Keeth, you’re missing a lot. She may be a tiny, little thing, but she is a powerful messenger for the Father! We met years ago when I was teaching at North Texas Christian Writers Conference and it has been a joy to get to know her better through her writing, speaking, and as Director of Women’s Ministries at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, TN.

I’m honored to share Crickett and her newest book with you. And in this season of gift-giving, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Her title? The Gift of Rest. Can I get an AMEN? I know you want and need a copy of this book, so be sure to leave a comment and you might win it next week! Now, let’s get started!

Welcome, Crickett. Before we start talking about your new book, would you tell us how you got started writing Bible studies?

I was leading a small group Bible study with some girls in Dallas, and we were using popular studies on the market. To facilitate richer discussion, I would add thought-provoking questions to the book questions each week. One summer, my girls challenged me, “Crickett, why don’t you write our next Bible study?” After praying about it, I accepted their challenge, and I’ve continued writing Bible studies ever since.

The Father certainly uses a variety of ways to move us, doesn’t He? So what compelled you to write a Bible study on the subject of rest?

I meet with women all the time as the Women’s Ministry Director at my church, and I started to notice a trend in what I was hearing. “Crickett, I’m exhausted. I’m worn out. I need some rest.” And I was feeling the same way. We’re all in need of rest. And I can’t imagine that this is God’s plan for us – to frantically rush through life at breakneck speed. So I began to search the Scriptures to see what God has to say about rest, and the result was this Bible study. In eight weeks, we look at God’s perspective of rest from Genesis to Revelation. And as we understand His perspective, it gives us freedom to embrace the gift of rest instead of feeling guilty about it. When we see how God emphasized, even commanded, rest, how can we not rest?

I totally agree! Why do you think people aren’t making rest a priority these days?

The reasons I most often hear are:The Gift of Rest cover Crickett Keeth

(1) I’m too busy. I don’t have time to rest. If I stop to rest, I can’t get everything done. Once I get everything done, then I’ll rest.

God gives us 24 hours a day, and He will never give us more to do than we can do in a day. The problem is not having too little time, but taking on more than God ever intended for us to take on.

(2) I feel guilty. I should be doing something productive. People will think I’m lazy if I take time to rest.

Jesus rested, and He didn’t feel guilty for taking time to do so, and neither should we.

(3) It’s not spiritual to rest. People who love the Lord stay busy. It’s selfish for me to take time to rest. I need to be serving others. I want to be a Proverbs 31 woman, and she didn’t rest. I’m not a godly woman if I rest.

There’s nothing unspiritual about taking time to rest. It’s actually unspiritual to work ourselves to the point of exhaustion without taking time to be replenished in order to carry out the ministry He’s given us to do.

I know you were going through a time of “no rest” when you wrote this study. How did you find rest in that season of life when circumstances wouldn’t allow you to rest?

Yes, the timing of this study was perfect for me in that tough season of life. My 98-year old mom was in the nursing home in Memphis, and I was there every day after work and on the weekends. Emotionally, it was draining to watch my mom lose her quality of life. I would come home from the nursing home every day, exhausted – physically and emotionally. But during those times of no physical rest, I found soul rest – a peace that God was in control. I found rest in that season by meeting with God, and letting Him refresh me through His Word. I knew He would give me strength for each day, one day at a time. But I needed time alone with Him to be reminded of His strength and sovereignty in this tough season.

Crickett Keeth Sumatra coverI have learned to value the gift of rest as a result of this study. And I pray that those who go through this Bible study will also come to embrace that gift.

And I join you in that prayer. What better gift could there be than to rest in the Gift of Jesus and His love? Thank you for sharing your book with us today, Crickett.

And friends, be sure to leave a comment for Crickett and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! And return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Here’s more about Crickett:

Crickett Keeth is the Women’s Ministry Director at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee, where she writes and teaches the women’s Bible studies. She is the author of several published Bible studies, including The Gift of Rest and Sumatra with the Seven Churches (co-authored with Sandra Glahn). Crickett was on staff with Cru for ten years and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching regularly at her own church, she also speaks at women’s conferences and retreats. She offers free resources for discipleship and encourages others in their own walk with God through her website at www.CrickettKeeth.com. You can also connect with Crickett on Facebook and Twitter.

Blessings as we prepare to celebrate the beginning of a new year!

Vonda

 

 

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . My Time, My Way, & My Best Interest

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

If everybody would just do things my way, life would be perfect. Right? It’s my way or the highway–or so I thought. I get stuff done in my time, my way, and with my best interest by figuring out just when is my time when now doesn’t seem to be working; what is my way when all paths seem foggy; and what is my best interest when I can’t see the future.

With all the clamor, noise, and jockeying for stuff, I easily lose my bearings. The center of who I am and the focus of what I’m about becomes distorted. Discouragement lurks in the shadows to claim all that I am. When things aren’t working out my way or in my time or even in my best interests, maybe I’ve lost the meaning of the word “my” and to whom it refers.

In Old Testament times, Moses experienced times like these and God sent him into the wilderness to be with the sheep. The clamor of Egypt, gone. The noise of people, diminished. The stuff related to position, eradicated. One day Moses went even further into the wilderness. “He led the flock far into the wilderness” (Ex. 3:1). Silence. Hoof step. Occasional bleat. His mind quiet, focused on one thing—find grazing land.

In the quietness, God called. Maybe Moses’ thoughts weren’t as stilled as they needed to be. God used a spectacular display to catch his attention and speak to him—a burning bush that wouldn’t burn up. In amazement, Moses heard God say what his time, his way, and his best interest was. It wasn’t about Moses at all. It was about God’s plan, God’s time, way and glory.

How often I get wrapped up in thinking my life is about me. Like Moses, if I take time to quiet myself in the presence of God, I learn his plan, his way, and his time. It’s then that I can sync my life with his grand purpose for me, for others, and for God’s glory.

The word “my” refers to God, not me. He knows better than I about time, ways, and what’s best.

Now, where can I find some quiet sheep-grazing land?

Bio: Robin Bryce is a speaker and author. She founded iGETitLIFE to inspire, empower, and challenge Robin Bryce Headshotpeople to grow close to God and develop into the creation God intended. In her twenty-five plus years of ministry, she has held many positions from a spiritual emphasis director, ministry leader, women’s ministry developer, church leadership trainer, and event speaker to a weekly Bible teacher and pastor’s wife. She develops events and programs with humor, wisdom and insight for various venues including businesses, communities and churches. Robin inspires growth and encouragement for leaders, couples and women with her conversational, down-home style. Robin developed the iGETitLIFE Capture Me! programs for small churches and communities that they might have a quality event on their home turf. She is a favorite for business seminars, training events, conferences, church leadership conferences, women’s events, ministry wives seminars, marriage conferences, MOPS, and home school workshops. Her appearances include a Blog Talk Radio Interview, a feature in the Community News local newspaper, and a Caribbean cruise where among other topics, she and her pastor-husband presented a humorous message on marriage.

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Interview & Gift Set Give-Away with Judy Bone & Debra Paulk and While My Soldier Serves Book Give-Away

Cookie ladiesChristian Writer’s Den friends, do I have an exciting post for you today! I had the joy of meeting Judy Bone and Debra Paulk when I spoke at First Baptist Church of Macclenny, FL this spring, and my goodness, did I fall in love with these ladies and the precious women of their church! Then when I read their delightful book, Stir Up Some Sweet Life: Lessons From the Cookie Jar, I just knew I had to share it–and them–with you. If you want to peek at the funny craziness of these sweet friends, just check out their Facebook page and their website. These are the kind of girls you want to hang around and go to the beach with. And it doesn’t hurt that they’re good cooks, too. 🙂

And listen to this, these dear ladies are giving away a gift set of both Stir Up Some Sweet Life and a cookie cookbook! To get your name in the drawing, simply leave a comment for Judy and Debra and you’ll automatically be in the drawing. Be sure to return next Tuesday to see if you’re the winner.

Now, let’s get started! Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Judy and Debra. Let’s begin with the question most writers are interested in: What inspired you to write your book, Stir Up Some Sweet Life: Lessons From the Cookie Jar?

Judy: Set your imagination to this scene: two women share an uncertain night in an after-surgery ICU. The patient, barely awake in a tangle of tubes and needle drips, is rolled into the room from recovery. Medical equipment beeps and hums. The mood is somber, right? Serious and grim? Well . . . it might read like that in a novel, but not in our real life experience! Minutes after Debra’s breathing tube was removed from the cancer surgery, we were giggling.

Debra: At one point I thought if the cancer didn’t kill me I would surely die of laughter. But in a matter of scant hours Judy and I realized that the Holy Spirit was rolling out a work for us, which eventually became crafted into Stir Up Some Sweet Life.

What an awesome story! So can you tell us how you got from that hospital room discussion actually coming up with the Sweet Life idea?Stir Up Some Sweet Life cover and ladies

Judy: During our hours in the hospital we talked about all kinds of things we love, like scriptures, and baking, and cookies, and Jesus. And it just clicked and we said, ‘We should write a book!’ So we did. As we brainstormed, our ideas developed into a cookie-themed set of Bible studies based on how we experience the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.

Debra: The book is our testament to the sweet life moments believers can find in the worst circumstances. God gives us just what we need when the cookie crumbles. That’s the book in a quick mix. Each chapter represents what we like to call a “lesson from the cookie jar.” For example, the title of the Joy chapter is: Joy Is Like A Cookie . . . It’s the Sweet Reward.

So was this writing journey a new venture, or have you written books before?

Debra: This is our first joint book project. When Judy and I brought our experiences together, we snapped with a crazy kind of synergy. We both brought skills and experiences to the table, and that made the process less overwhelming. Judy is a pastor’s wife with 30 years experience as a Bible teacher. She is comfortable developing lessons. For most of my career years I was a jack-of-all-trades editor in a creative niche publishing company. I had written technical books and magazine articles, but nothing like this.

Judy: Writing a book like this and bringing it to market is new for both of us. We don’t always know what we’re doing so we rely on God’s continual help to keep this testimony growing.

Interest in self-publishing has grown tremendously the past few years. Since you self-published Sweet Life, do you have any advice on taking that route?

Judy Bone and Debra Paulk photoJudy: After getting encouragement but no bites from agents and publishers at a writers conference we decided to launch the book on our own. Life is short; we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. With that thought, it didn’t seem wise to wait on a publisher. We believe God has called us to deliver a message so that’s what we’re doing.

Debra: Self-publishing is tough, though. Even with my experience as a publisher, learning a new market is hard and expensive. This is a mission for us.

Yes, self-publishing certainly has its own set of learning curves, as does any worthwhile thing. I’m thankful you hung in there and brought this book to the public! So what’s next for you?

Judy: We’re walking through every door God opens, sharing lots of laughs along with our testimonies at events and workshops, and ministering to groups that cannot be served by major speakers.

Debra: Yes! We tell people, “Don’t worry if your group is small because we work for cookies!”

Oh, y’all make me laugh! I think know that’s why people fall in love with you just as I did! I’ve read Sweet Life, and I know my readers would enjoy it. How can people order your book or get in touch with you?

Judy: They can contact us through our website, www.stirupsomesweetlife.com, through Facebook, or visit our booth at some of the Christian conventions and events.

Thank you for bringing us Stir Up Some Sweet Life: Lessons From the Cookie Jar today, Judy and Debra! And thank you for your heart for others through sharing that life.

Friends, be sure to leave a comment for Judy and Debra and you’ll be in the drawing for that free gift set! This is an opportunity you don’t want to miss! (Don’t forget to come back next week to see if you’re the winner.)

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And who won Edie’s book, While My Solider Serves: Prayers for Those with WMSS, final, high resLoved Ones in the Military, in our Special Memorial Day drawing?

 

First of all, thanks to all of you who honored the military in your comments. They deserve it, and so much more, don’t they?

Deanna Stalnaker, you’re the winner! Congratulations! Simply contact me with your snail-mail address and I’ll get Edie’s book right out to you. I know you’ll enjoy it!

And readers, I want you to know that both Deanna and her husband served in our military during the Viet Nam era, so it’s a special joy to honor them with this book. Thank you and your family for your service, Deanna. We thank God for you.

Here’s the direct Amazon link to While My Solider Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military. Would you please got one for that friend or family member who has a loved one serving our country? You could make their burden lighter by helping them pray. Thank you.

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Thank you, sweet friends, for joining me today. I’m sorry I was late getting this out, but I’m blessed to be teaching at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference this week and I’m running behind on everything else. But what a blessed time this week is year after year.

And we have the largest number of attendees this year than ever before! What a blessing. Hope you can join us next year!

Enjoy the sweet life of living for our Savior…

Vonda

 

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . God is Greater Than Our Fears

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

Excuses. As co-director of Christian Communicators Conference, I hear them frequently.

“God can’t use me. I have a terrible past.”

“But I’m not a speaker.”

“Who am I to tell people how to live?”

“When I get my act together, then I’ll be able to speak.”

“I don’t have enough followers.”

“I don’t have a platform.”

“I don’t have anything to talk about.”

“I’ve been a pretty good person. I don’t really have a testimony.”

“I’m scared to speak.”

How many excuses can we give? Well, how many excuses are there? The truth is, for those of us who have given our lives to the Lord and try to live for Him everyday, it doesn’t matter if we’ve been “too good” or “too bad,” there’s not a single “too” that keeps us from ministry.

If we’re honest, we’re probably too fearful. A few weeks ago, my pastor at Renovation Church, Jeremy Havelin, started a teaching series on becoming one. This is his focus because we are in the process of taking two churches and making them one. What an exciting time! It’s a joy to see our Westside building filled with families and men and women and teens and kids and babies as we love and worship our Lord together as one!

Although Pastor Jeremy is teaching on becoming one, his words that day had another application to my heart and mind: Christian Communicators Conference. We’re gearing up for the 7th Christian Communicators Conference and we know from experience that there’ll be ladies there who are fearful.

  • Fearful of speaking
  • Fearful of not measuring up to other women
  • Fearful of being transparent
  • Fearful of stepping out in faith

Pastor Jeremy’s words were perfect for these precious ladies and they’re perfect for you and me: “Know that the greater our God is, the smaller our fears become. Understand that playing it safe is risky.”

Wow. What powerful truth! We know we have a great God, don’t we? Playing it safe is risky when we realize we’re allow fear to keep us from what He has for us to do for His kingdom.

What will you do with your fear? What will I do with mine? Let’s remember how great our God is. We have no reason to fear!

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
     In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid. Psalm 56:3-4a (NIV)

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opportunities & Conferences and Christian Communicators Registration is Open!

newspapersYes, it’s the 3rd Tuesday, so it’s the day to find YOUR next writing opportunity!

1.  Alaska Magazine Submission Guidelines for Freelance WritersAnd yes, we have a couple of writers who live in Alaska, so girls, this is for you!

2.  The Cattleman Magazine – Guidelines for Writing for The Cattleman Yes, we have some cowgirls, too. :-)

3.  Alive Now writers guidelines and theme list

4.  Chicken Soup for the Soul possible book titles – They’re always looking for new stories!

5.  American Girl Magazine accepts entries by children!

6.  Bible Advocate and Now What? writer’s guidelines

7.  Faith Today: Canada’s Christian Magazine

8.  Submission guidelines for BABYBUG, LADYBUG, SPIDER, ASK, CRICKET, and CICADA magazines for babies through teens

9.  Writer’s guidelines for Catholic Digest.

10. Eldridge Plays and Musicals submission guidelines

11.  Photo Life could be looking for your photos!

12. Sasee Magazine for Women. It’s all about women. It’s all about you.

13. Mary Kaarto is looking for counselors.  “I’m looking to interview licensed or certified counselors that deal with substance abuse, domestic violence, suicide prevention, grief counselors, pastors who offer couples counseling and anyone with active involvement in an unemployment ministry for a book I’m writing. Please contact me with your credentials at marykaarto@marykaarto.com. Thank you.”

14. Grace Publishing is accepting manuscript submissions

15. Jennifer Hallmark is taking blog submissions for 2016: Have you ever been overwhelmed by gratefulness over an act of kindness by a friend, family member, or organization? Have your children or spouse done something so sweet you just have to share? I have openings on my website’s blog page, Small Acts of Kindness, scattered throughout the rest of this year. I post every Monday.

I’m looking for a 300-700 word story sharing your experience. Please include photos or pictures you’d like me to post, book blurb and cover. I also will add any links and a short bio if you’d like.

Please reply to jenlhall63 (at) gmail (dot) com if you are interested. For examples, go to http://jenniferhallmark.com/blog/  Thanks! p.s. We also have interviews open on the Writing Prompts blog for the second half of the year.

Well, that should keep you busy for a while! Be sure to let me know when you get that publication!

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Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Conferences are your ticket to success!

Here’s a list of upcoming writing and/or speaking conferences. Make your plans now to attend at least one conference a year. You wouldn’t expect to get a job without being prepared and qualified, would you? You can be sure your chances of publication increase with your training and experience in writing as well.

1.  Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference: March 18-22, 2016, Mount Hermon, CA

2.  Mid-South Christian Writers Conference: March 19, 2016, Collierville, TN

3.  American Christian Writers Mentoring Retreats begin in April: Various locations and dates

4.  Write2Ignite for Writers of Children’s Literature: April 1-2, 2016, Tigerville, SC

5.  Orange County Christian Writers’ Conference: April 15-16, 2016, Fullerton, CA

6.  Writing Success 25: April 30, 2016, Stoneboro, PA

7.  Colorado Christian Writers Conference: May 11-14, 2016, Estes Park, CO

8.  Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat: April 20-23, 2016, Andalusia, AL (This is a NEW conference!)

9.  Northwest Christian Writers Renewal: May 13-14, 2016, Redmond, WA

brmcwc 201610. Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference: May 22-26, 2016, Ridgecrest, NC (I’ll see you there!)

11. West Texas Writers’ Academy: June 6-10, 2016, Canyon, TX

12. Write to Publish: June 8-11, 2016, Chicago area

13. West Virginia Writers Conference: June 10-12, 2016, Ripley, WV

14. New England Christian Writers Retreat: June 17-19, 2016, Hamilton, MA

15. St. David’s Christian Writers Conference: June 22-26, 2016, Grove City, PA

16. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference: June 23-25, 2016, Elizabethtown, KY

17. Romance Writers of America: July 13-16, 2016, San Diego, CA

18. Greater Philly Christian Writer’s Conference: August 3-6, 2016, Langhorne, PA

19. Taylor University’s Professional Writing Conference: August 5-6, 2016, Upland, IN (This is a brand new conference!)

20. Atlanta Christian Writers Conference: August 18-20, 2016, Marietta, GAccclogosmall

21. Christian Communicators Conference: August 24-28, 2016 The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Asheville, NC. Registration will open in March. Registration opens today! Don’t delay–Only 30 slots available!

22. American Christian Fiction Writers: August 25-28, 2016, Nashville, TN

23. Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 7-8, 2016, Grand Rapids, MI

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4 CCC girls 2012Ladies, it’s the day you’ve been waiting for! Christian Communicators Conference Registration is now open!

Could this be YOUR year to take the next bold step into your speaking ministry? Whether you’re novice just testing the waters, or an experienced speaker with years of events behind you, this conference is just what you need!

All-inclusive package, including video and headshots? Yes!

Ongoing mentoring and networking opportunities? Yes!

Ongoing community support of like-minded sisters? Yes!

Intimate conference of only about 30 ladies, set in the beautiful NC mountains at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove? Yes!

Let this be the year you find out what all the excitement is about.

Anonymous comments from last year’s post-conference evaluation:

“It was unforgettable. Life-changing. It anchored me to a breakthrough understanding of my calling. It was a deep cleaning of my soul, an inspired 4 days that will affect the rest of my life.”

“I’ve attended many conferences and, hands down, this is the best one EVER! It was well-planned and executed. I would have loved to stay another day…”

“I’m a conference junkie, and I’ve never seen a conference so adept at facilitating relationship-building before…”

 Find out more…

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Thanks for sharing!

#Writing opportunities & conferences. #Christian Communicators registration now open! #publicspeaker (Click to Tweet)

Happy writing and speaking!

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…We ARE Somebodies

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. James 3:13 NIV

When I read this verse, it immediately took me back to a conversation at a Christian Communicators Conference where the topic was wisdom. Could be kind of a heady topic, wouldn’t you say? Especially for those who write, teach, and speak The Word.

Left to our own devices and convictions, it would be easy to think more highly of ourselves than we should. After all, people sometimes look up to us as writers and speakers, as if we were smarter or had something they couldn’t have.

As if we’re somebody.

Yes, I know that God gifts each of us differently and it’s up to us to use those gifts for His glory, but we have to remember that the gift of wisdom has nothing to do with us.

We are somebodies. We’re sinners, saved by grace based on nothing we’ve done or deserve.

So who is wise and understanding among us? If God has called us, gifted us, endowed us with the ability to write and speak about Him and teach His Word, it’s our responsibility to live a “good life” (God-honoring life) and continually offer good deeds done in the humility of our position: A sinner saved by grace.

That is the true evidence of any wisdom we may or may not have.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Yvonne Ortega, and Who Won Kathy Carlton Willis’ Book?

Yvonne Ortega headshotWelcome to the Christian Writer’s Den 5th Tuesday as we welcome author and speaker, Yvonne Ortega!

Yvonne and I go way back to 2005 or so when we first met through the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). In 2011 she attended the NCompass Writing Retreats that Edie Melson and I were leading at the time (before life got so crazy that we had to discontinue it). Then in 2012, she attended Christian Communicators Conference. During that time, she was cranking out books and blog posts, while also providing counseling in many areas of need.

Since then, God has continued to use her in powerful ways to reach those who need to hear the Good News of the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord. She has gone on to get even more training and as you’ll see, is now training others! But one of the things I love the most about Yvonne is her often-stated goal, “To reach millions for Jesus in my lifetime.” Wow. Can you see why I’m excited about sharing her latest book with you?

Be sure to leave a comment for Yvonne and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her latest book, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward.

So let’s get started! Welcome, Yvonne. First of all, I’d like you to tell my friends a little about yourself.

I’m a small-town gal who enjoys the beach and music—everything from country western to classical music. Mention travel, and I’ll pack my bags right away. I watch comedies and laugh until my sides hurt.

As I’ve already mentioned, you’re a professional speaker and an author. How did you get interested in this line of work and ministry?

As a child, I gathered the neighborhood kids to play school. I was the teacher. Mama took me to the library weekly until I could go on my own. I would get lost in a book and forget to eat if it weren’t for Mama’s dinnertime call. I liked the smell and feel of paper and composition books and wrote stories. At thirteen, I submitted my first letter to the editor of the local newspaper.

After a diagnosis of breast cancer fourteen and a half years ago, I cried out to God through journaling. After lots of rewrites, I wrote my first book, Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. I had to speak in order to market and publicize the book.

That led me to speaker training, and now I’m a World Class Certified Speaking Coach.

What led you to write your second book?

Prior to breast cancer, I had gone through a domestic violence marriage, divorce, and single parenting. After breast cancer, I had four car accidents in seven years. None were my fault, but I suffered injuries and damage to my car. Six years ago, my only child unexpectedly passed away following surgery. Each crisis forced me to my knees in prayer and to the Bible for answers. God showered me with his love, Yvonne Ortega book cover 2compassion, and faithfulness.

After the divorce, I became a Licensed Professional Counselor and became involved in Women’s Ministry. I met many hurting women who didn’t know they could move from broken to beautiful with God’s help. That’s how my latest book, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, came about. Passion drives me to share the message of these life lessons with women worldwide. Hurting people don’t need to give up. They can move forward and lead a productive, joyful life beyond measure.

What words of wisdom do you have for women who want to write about their painful past?

  • Make sure you’re ready to write about your painful past without an emotional, physical, or spiritual collapse. Take your time to heal. Ask God to show you when you can tackle the trauma of your past. He will show you.
  • Have you forgiven those who hurt you? God says in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” I struggled to forgive my ex-husband. With God’s help, I’m no longer a prisoner of the past. Your readers want to know you aren’t either.
  • Acknowledge your pain and loss and admit you still grieve. I lost my mother before Mother’s Day and my only child three days after in the same year. Their birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mother’s Day trigger the pain. They’re in heaven, but I can’t call or visit them and can’t send them a card or a gift. They can’t call or visit me, or send me a card or gift either. That hurts.
  • If you present yourself as Wonder Woman, your readers can’t identify with you. And you can’t minister to them. Acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses.
  • In writing about your painful past, you answer a divine call. You minister to those you write and speak for. Your writing cannot be therapeutic journaling. There is a place for therapeutic journaling, but not for publication. For publication, include application, application, and more application. Have Scriptures, prayers, resources, links, quotations, etc. for the readers. Answer the question, “What’s in it for them?”

Your advice is right on target! Where can readers find your book?

Moving from Broken to Beautiful is available as a paperback and an ebook on Amazon and other online booksellers.

Do you have another book in progress?

I’m thrilled to say I’m halfway through writing a book on forgiveness.

Awesome, Yvonne! I didn’t know that! Thank you for joining us today. I pray God continues to bless you as you bless others.

And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Yvonne and you’ll be in the Random.org drawing for a free book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Yvonne Ortega book cover 1Readers, you can contact Yvonne through:

Her website: www.YvonneOrtega.com

Her blog: On the homepage of her website

Twitter: @yvonneortega1

Facebook: Yvonne Ortega

Facebook Community Page: Yvonne Ortega

To contact Yvonne about a speaking event, please visit her website or contact her directly at yvonne@yvonneortega.com

Bio: Yvonne Ortega is a World Class Certified Speaking Coach, an international speaker, author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer and a contributing author to two anthologies. She has taught at major Christian writing conferences in the USA. Yvonne has been interviewed on radio and TV programs including Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, the Harvest Show, 100 Huntley Street, and Marnie’s Friends. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has taught Precept Bible Studies and in Bible Study Fellowship. Yvonne currently serves on the Advisory Board for Christians in Recovery. She served as the Regional Speaker Trainer of Virginia for more than three years and on the board of Kairos Prison Ministry. Subscribe to her newsletter and free weekly devotion at www.YvonneOrtega.com

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And who won Kathy Carlton Willis’ book, Grin with Grace?Grin-With-Grace_cover

The winner is:

Jean Wilund!

Congratulations, Jean! All you need to do is contact me with your snail mail address and Kathy will get your book right out to you!

And for you who didn’t win, here’s your direct Amazon link to Grin with Grace. I know you want your own copy so you’ll be able to grin through the tough times, too!

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Friends, I don’t know if you noticed, but both of these books are about how to get through those tough times in life. I didn’t plan this, but apparently God did! I hope you find that both of these books encourage you and lift you up through the human lessons and the supernatural love, grace, and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Grace and peace be your in abundance,

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Kathy Carlton Willis and Who Won Edie Melson’s Book?

Kathy Carlton Willis ImageIt’s a joy to introduce my friend, Kathy Carlton Willis, to you!

Kathy and I have been friends for many years and have seen many changes in the writing world. But one thing remains constant: The secret to getting your work published is to write well! And that’s exactly what Kathy did with her latest book, Grin with Grace. What a joy to share this new book with you!

Leave a comment for Kathy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of Grin with Grace! Be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner. Now, let’s get started!

Welcome, Kathy! Let’s begin by letting you tell my friends a little bit about yourself.

I’m a flawed pastor’s wife on the search for grace. I’ve discovered a lot about God, others and myself along the way. I dote on my Boston Terrier, Jazzy, and love to find the humor in any given situation—even the trials. I’ve laughed. A lot. Grace (and Jazzy) have a lot to do with the ability to grin even when I’d rather groan or grit my teeth.

Will you share how you began your speaking and writing ministry?

I guess we can blame my profusion of words on my Mom. She says I pretty much came out of the womb talking, and soon after she helped me discover our public library. I’ve always been a words girl and started writing when I started writing—and haven’t looked back!

How did you come up with Grin with Grace?

All through my husband’s time in church ministry—over thirty years now—I’ve learned the importance of grinning with grace. So often, when I felt backed into a corner by a not-so-well-meaning church member, I found a way to bite my tongue: I told myself to grin with grace. It became my go-to phrase.

To organize the book, I searched for the word grace in Scripture and combined the results into different categories. I discovered how God blesses us with His grace, and the ways grace impacts our relationships with Him and others. Since life is more bearable with laughter, humorous transparency is woven into the fabric of this study. Hence—Grin with Grace.

I know from my own experience that God often qualifies us as authors by allowing us to gain life experience before we write on the topic. What happened to prepare you for writing Grin with Grace?

While writing this series, I dealt with multiple health issues, surgeries, cancer, and hospitalizations. At the same time, I moved to a different town and dove in to a new church ministry with my husband. Very little in life seemed familiar or comfortable. But God infused grace into each challenge and turned them into opportunities.

What will readers discover in Grin with Grace?Grin-With-Grace_cover

Grace isn’t meant to be hoarded. Once God blesses us with grace, we are then recruited to be instruments of His grace to others. Grin with Grace tells stories of real-life grace and gives suggestions for creating new grace moments for others. Learn how to become a Grace agent.

What are some of the events you have planned to go along with your Grin with Grace book? Event planners are welcome to contact me to find out more about these programs: Grace Gal Pal’s Night Out, Grin with Grace Banquet, Tea or Brunch, and the Grin with Grace Retreat.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

If you’re serious about obtaining the writing goals God’s given you, then you have to act like the CEO of your own company and do the work of writing. If you treat it as a hobbyist, you will get hobby-like results. But when you treat it like a business, the industry will take you seriously. Take the time to do it right the first time rather than getting in a hurry. Ask yourself: “Am I in love with the idea of being a writer, or am I in love with actually writing?”

(Vonda here: Kathy didn’t tell you, so I will. Kathy also has a writers group she coaches called WordGirls. It’s a group customized to the needs of the members, and involves a variety of services: webinars, private Facebook discussion group, one-on-one coaching, critiques, weekend getaways, downloadable tutorials, monthly newsletter and more. Their next event is in Kentucky later in October. Contact Kathy if you’d like to hear more about WordGirls.)

Where can readers find your book?

Grin with Grace is published by AMG Publishing and can be found or requested anywhere books are sold.

So what’s on the horizon? Do you have another book in progress?

The next book in the Grin With…Bible Study Series is Grin with Joy. It’s set to release around March, 2016. I also have a book for speakers that released this year titled Speaker to Speaker: The Essential Speaker’s Companion.

Thank you for being with us today, Kathy. You gave us all a lot to think about and work on.

And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Kathy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00025]Readers, you can contact Kathy through:
Her website:
www.KathyCarltonWillis.com
Her Grin with Kathy Blog: http://www1.cbn.com/blog-grin-and-grow-with-kathy
Twitter: @KCWComm
Facebook: Kathy Carlton Willis
Facebook Groups: Grin with Kathy and Speaker to Speaker
To contact Kathy, please email her at: kathy@kathycarltonwillis.com

Bio: Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. Not many funny girls also have Bible degrees! Kathy’s a pastor’s wife, which gives her plenty of opportunities to grin with grace. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published in books, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Kathy’s tagline describes her best: Light & Lively: His Reflection/Her Laughter. Kathy lives with her pastor/husband, Russ, in Rockdale, Texas.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Connections cover

Who won Edie Melson’s book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers?

And the winner is…

Rene` Diane Aube!

Congratulations, Rene`! Just contact me with your mailing address and your book will be on it’s way!

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Thanks for Tweeting!

Can you grin through the gook of life? Grace can’t be hoarded! #Free book #amwriting @KCWComm via @VondaSkelton http://ow.ly/Sve09 (Click to Tweet)

Happy writing!

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Nan Jones

Nan Jones new headshotFriends, it’s a joy to introduce my friend, author, speaker, and Christian Communicators speaker training graduate, Nan Jones, to you. Nan and I met many years ago when she attended one of the writing retreats Edie Melson and I used to lead in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. Since then we’ve watched her grow as a speaker and award-winning writer of The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife. We feel like proud mamas!

Be sure to leave a comment for Nan and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Don’t forget to return next week to see if you’re the winner. Now let’s hear from Nan!

Welcome, Nan! Let’s start by letting you tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in the mountains of North Carolina. My home is a farmhouse built in 1895 with a much loved wrap-around porch, complete with rocking chairs and porch swing. I have three adult children and one grandchild. I served as a pastor’s wife for 31 years—a great honor—but these years of ministry were some of the most painful and difficult in my life, thus my book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife. When I’m not writing or preparing messages for my speaking ministry, you’ll find me gardening, crocheting, reading or sharing a cup of coffee with a friend.

Will you share how you began your speaking and writing ministry?

As a child I was an avid reader and have always enjoyed the power of story. I am also an artist. Around age ten, I realized I could put my two passions together and paint with my words. It seemed to ooze out of me. When I was twelve I made a list of my life goals. Writing a book was number one.

Throughout my life writing was a hobby— something I did, not something I was. But a pen and paper was never far from me.

In 1992 we were living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While attending a ladies’ conference I felt overwhelmed by the Spirit of God. He quietly whispered deep in my spirit, Nan, look at these ladies surrounding you. Even as they lift their hands in praise to Me, many are hurting deep within. You will take My message of love to them. You will teach them of My faithfulness, especially during the struggles of life.Nan Jones Perils book cover

For eighteen years I waited. I used those years to develop my faith, to be available for anything the Lord asked of me albeit teaching Bible studies, leading women’s ministry, writing and sharing devotions … whatever He asked, I did while awaiting the appointed time.

About five years ago my husband and I went through an extensive period of unemployment. It was at that time that my husband encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing and speaking full-time.

As a reader of your blog and book, I can totally confirm that you paint with words. I have to remind myself that coveting your gift of lyrical, beautiful writing is wrong!

What was the impetus of writing this book?

Pastors’ wives often live in silent pain. We have struggles, we experience enormous amounts of rejection, and our hearts are often ripped in two through the lonely fires of ministry. That sounds harsh, I’m sure, but most pastors’ wives will agree with me. My heart’s cry is that the pastor’s wife will realize she is not alone—that someone understands how she feels. I want her to walk away from this book with renewed confidence in her calling, with healing deep in her wounded spirit, and the realization that in her darkest moments God was with her—He is faithful.

Yes He is. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

The word that comes to mind is diligence. Be diligent in all things and write for an audience of One. Let it be an offering and leave the results up to Him, whether it reaches thousands or just a handful of people. God’s ways are not our ways. In that knowledge I can cease striving, but remain diligent.

Where can readers find your book?

The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

So what’s on the horizon? Do you have another book in progress?

Yes, I’m working on another non-fiction piece tentatively called SEEING BEYOND THE VEIL. It’s about learning to look for the evidence of God in our lives. When we’re going through a difficult time, it’s easy to think God has abandoned us, but I’ve learned that during our darkest moments, the Lord is closest—He is drawn to our pain. But we must open our eyes to see Him. I’m also working on a Bible study for small groups by the same title. In addition, I’ve created a Facebook community page with a similar purpose: Seeing Beyond the Veil.

Thank you for joining us today, Nan. I pray God’s continued blessing as you continue to bless others! And readers, don’t forget to leave a message for you. You could win a free book!

Nan Jones Perils endorsementReaders, you can contact Nan through:
Her website: www.NanJones.com
Her blog: Morning Glory
Twitter: @NanJonesAuthor
Facebook: Nan Trammell Jones
Facebook Community Page: Seeing Beyond the Veil (a place to find the nearness of God when you need Him most)
Pinterest: Nan Jones, Author
To contact Nan about a speaking event or prayer retreat, please visit her website or contact her directly at nan@jubilantlight.com

Bio: Nan Jones is an author/speaker who uses the words of her heart to assist fellow Christians in discovering the Presence of God in their darkest hour. Her devotional blog, Morning Glory, has become a place of community for Christians to find encouragement in God’s Word and comfort in His Presence. She has been published in several anthologies as well as the online inspirational sites Christian Devotions, and Inspire a Fire. Nan has also had the honor of being featured as a guest blogger on several sites. She is thrilled to announce her debut book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife released June 30, 2015 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. When Nan is not writing, she enjoys leading prayer retreats, Bible studies or sharing God’s love as keynote speaker for special events. She is becoming known by her brand: “Even so, I walk in the Presence of the Lord” as she teaches her audience to go beyond the veil to find God’s Presence.

Thanks for Tweeting!

Are you a #pastorswife? Have you struggled with #hurts from the #church? Perils of a Pastor’s Wife is for you! @NanJones knows & understands. (Click to Tweet)

Happy reading and writing!

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Laurie Coombs: Letters From My Father’s Murderer, & Who Won Tammy Blackburn’s Book?

Laurie Coombs Round HeadshotToday is the 5th Tuesday, and that means that I’m free to do whatever I want on the Christian Writer’s Den blog. Well, today I want to introduce you to Laurie Coombs and her new book!

(I know this post is longer than usual, but this is a powerful message for all of us, so I pray you’ll stay with me as we work through this amazing testimony. You won’t be sorry.)

Laurie and I met in August 2014 when she attended the Christian Communicators Conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, NC. I immediately fell in love with her contagious smile and engaging manner. Little did I know the horrendous heartache she had been through. And now I’ve asked her to share her journey with you. So sit back, open your heart and hear how–through the power of the Holy Spirit–one young woman changed not only her own heart, but a murderer’s heart as well.

And as always, be sure to leave a comment for our guest and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of Laurie’s book.

Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Laurie. Let’s start with this question: Why did you want to write Letters from My Fathers Murderer, which details such a tragic and painful part of your life?

To be honest, I didn’t initially want to write this book. I wanted to share my story, but I knew that writing it in a book would require me to bare all. I knew I’d have to share difficult things, and I didn’t want to. But greater than my resistance was my desire to see people experience freedom and redemption and healing as I had. I wanted God to be glorified for what He had done in and through my life.

I knew God was calling me to write this book. And I knew God well enough to know that if I answered that call I’d most assuredly see lives change as a result of the message He has given me. God allowed me to see that good could come out of the ashes of my past. That I could play a small part in the grand story He has been unfolding since the beginning of time. That I could participate in what He’s doing in the here and now, for the good of many. And so, I chose to say yes, and of course, I’m now completely on board.Laurie Coombs book cover

Tell us about the significance of the few interactions you had with your father just prior to his murder.

About one month before my dad died, he said, “Laurie, when I die, I want people to remember me for who I am. I don’t want anyone turning me into something I’m not.” The comment sort of stunned me at first. It came out of absolutely nowhere. My dad continued to tell me that people only want to talk about the good parts of a person after they die. “But that’s not who they really are,” he said. “There are good parts and bad parts to every one of us.”

For many years, I didn’t understand why my dad had said that to me––obviously, neither one of us knew he was going to die––but as I began to write this book, his words came to mind, and I knew, without a doubt, that God had him speak those words to me, over a decade before I needed them, to give me the freedom to share my story however God may lead.

You’re very honest in the book about the mistakes your father made and how that affected your teen years and even your choice to reject the faith you had been raised in. Was that difficult for you to do?

Absolutely. I had to do a lot of thinking and praying about how to write what God wanted me to write. But ultimately, I knew God was calling me to truth. My dad was an amazing man. A wonderful father. I really was a daddy’s girl. But he wasn’t perfect. And neither am I. It’s my hope that I conveyed my imperfections throughout the book as well.

Laurie Coombs Not-My-Plan-269x404Almost immediately after learning about your father’s death, you say the hate for his killer began to fill your heart. How did that hatred affect you?

My hatred affected just about everything I thought and did at first. Anger consumed me. But then after several months, I chose to lay aside my anger and my grief. I knew my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to live like that, and so I deliberately chose to put the whole terrible thing behind me and move on.

I didn’t see the affects of anger on the surface after that, and I honestly thought I had worked through it, but in reality, I had simply buried it. For years, that anger festered in my heart and turned into bitterness without me even knowing it until the day God brought it to my attention nine years after the murder.

You began to build a lovely life with your family in the years following the trial, and appeared very strong. What happened that finally brought you to the point where you turned to the Lord?

I fell apart. God presented me with something I couldn’t fix. Anxiety and depression finally brought me to my knees, and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t fix myself. I couldn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps, so to speak, as I had many times before. I had fallen into such an incredibly dark place, and I was scared. I tried everything the world tells you to do, but nothing worked. So as a last resort, I found my way to church.

My family and I willingly walked through those church doors with an incredible sense of desperation. God was truly my last hope, but even though I desperately wanted Him to be the answer, I was highly skeptical that He would be. The concept of God speaking to man was so foreign to me, but having that pastor preach a message to my inner thoughts got my attention. It was enough to draw me back the next week and the week after that and the one after that, but each time, I fully expected the God-thing to be a fluke. But it wasn’t. Over and over again, God showed Himself to me in many ways, and I was given the proof that I needed to believe.

What made you decide to begin corresponding with your father’s killer? What did you hope would Laurie Coombs Would-I-obeycome from it?

God had freed me from the anxiety and depression after coming to Jesus, but then He began to show me that I was irritable pretty much all the time. He showed me that the root of my irritability was anger, which had ultimately turned into bitterness.

I prayed, asking God to remove the bitterness in my heart, and that’s when I heard His gentle whisper tell me, “It’s time to forgive.” But then He took it a step further with “Love your enemy.” God’s call to forgive and love my enemy resulted in the my correspondence with the man who murdered my dad. Initially, I wasn’t sure what would come out of our interaction, but I did know where God was taking me. I knew He was leading me toward forgiveness and healing. I didn’t know what that journey would look like, but I knew wherever I ended up would be a good place.

And you were finally able to forgive. Tell us about that.

Forgiveness came when I least expected it. My correspondence with the man had gotten heated. He was blame-shifting and justifying, and I was obviously not okay with that. All I wanted to do was rebuke him, and I almost did, but instead, God said to me, “Laurie, leave him to me. Now forgive.” And I did. But it wasn’t of me. God called me and enabled me to give that which I had already been given: grace and love and forgiveness.

After I forgave, God brought him to his knees. All the blame-shifting, all the justification stopped. He began taking complete responsibility for what he had done, and he was repentant. And ever since that time, I have witnessed this man share the gospel of Jesus Christ subtly, yet powerfully, with his fellow inmates. Lives are changing in there. He truly is living to the glory of God in that prison.

Laurie Coombs book signingWhat a powerful testimony! So what is at the heart of the message?

Hope is at the heart of my message. God truly has worked all things for good in my life. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” The first part of Genesis 50:20 says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” God brings good out of evil. Love out of hate. Peace out of despair. I believe it is His desire to do this for every one of us. You see, our pain won’t be wasted. We don’t have to sit in it. If we bring our pain, past and present, to God, He will redeem it.

Yes, He will. Thank you for being with us today, Laurie. But before we go, I want to tell our readers that your story was blessed to be part of Billy Graham’s latest film and evangelistic tool, Heaven. Friends, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for Laurie and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Fathers Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven. Laurie is a graduate of Christian Communicators Conference and a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery. Be sure to visit LaurieCoombs.org or connect with Laurie on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet…

Letters From My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of #Forgiveness – #FreeBook @LaurieCoombs via @VondaSkelton http://bit.ly/1U1tfOM (Click to Tweet)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Tammy Blackburn book cover

Who won Tammy Blackburn’s children’s book, How Do I Know?

And Random.org says the winner is…

Julie Garmon!

Congratulations, Julie! Simply contact me with your snail mail address and Tammy will get your book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win…I know you want a copy for the little ones in your life, so here’s a direct Amazon link to How Do I Know?

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Well, that does it for another 5th Tuesday here at the Christian Writer’s Den. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! So now, go write the words He gives YOU to write!

Vonda

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