Tag Archives: Christian romance

Is Real Really Perfect? by Sherrie Hansen Decker

One of the first things I saw on Facebook this morning was a photo of 6 or 7 women of every shape and size (including some who are quite large) lined up in a  row, part of the “Real is Perfect” campaign presented by SKORCH and Lane Bryant.  I pressed like. When I was growing up, if you didn’t look like the excessively thin model, Twiggy, or have a figure like Barbie, you weren’t considered to be pretty, say nothing about perfect. I’m glad that I (and evidently others) have learned that beauty comes in all different shapes, colors, and sizes.

Part of the reason I chose to accept the contract that Second Wind Publishing offered me for my novel, “Night and Day”, a few years ago is that it seemed like bigger publishers were looking for a more standardized idea of “beauty” in the books they published, and that an independent press was more likely to be open to unique stories that didn’t fit the current mold embraced by the masses.

I felt that my books were “different” in two major respects – one, that my stories were about what the publishing industry considers to be older characters (30’s and 40’s as opposed to 20’s), and two, that my books contained aspects of both faith and a conservative Christian world-view, and  some fairly lusty, what I call steamy, scenes.

My characters are real. They’re not perfect people living in an evangelical Christian bubble. They are touched by evil. Their temptations are much more than superficial , and  sometimes they give in to them.  When they do, they feel pleasure. When they do things that are opposed to what they believe is right, and when they do things in the wrong order, or at the wrong time, they also feel pain. There are consequences to actions, whether having sex before marriage or eating or drinking too much, or simply having the wrong focus and priorities in life.  Because my characters and situations are real, you see both. Diversity often brings dichotomies, and conflict, and I believe that makes for a good story.

Much to my delight, my books have been well-received, and garnered good reviews. Readers have been enthusiastic.  My publishers were supportive. I was thrilled that I was able to write the books of my heart without feeling pressure to color totally inside the lines. And then I tried to write a book for the Christian fiction market. “Love Notes” has no steamy scenes. Hope’s faith has remained strong even in the face of losing her husband, and almost losing her home. Tommy Love grows more and more convicted of his selfish ambitions and turns back to God. There is a clear Christian message.

In a review of “Love Notes”, Sheila Deeth says “Sherrie Hansen Decker’s Love Notes is Christian romance where fiction is lifted up, not bogged down by faith. Genuine hope kindles slowly in human hearts. Beautiful music soars. Trials come, not because the characters are sinners but because they’re human and the world around us is wounded. The bad guys are drawn with space awaiting healing grace, and the scenery, towns and countryside are vivid with beauty and darkness side by side, hope hiding in the shadows.”  And,  “This story kept me glued to the page, never knowing how I wanted the tale to end, but always sure the author would end it well. After all, she’s very clearly listening to the author of our lives as she writes these lives—Christian fiction indeed, where honest humanity meets heavenly hope.”

In the Timberjay newspaper out of Tower, Minnesota, a recent reviewer said “Anderson is struggling to reopen the resort owned by her late husband, who died in a car accident. Tommy Love is a local boy who found national fame in the music business, who is now looking for a peaceful spot to call home. Their two paths collide when a local banker tries to foreclose on the resort in order to sell the property to his old friend, Tommy Love. The book is an inspirational Christian romance, with plenty of intrigue and adventure. It is also a novel that explores the complications and hurdles when two middle-aged adults, with very different histories, fall in love. The weather, as in any novel set in northeastern Minnesota, also plays a significant role in the story. In an interview with author Pat Bertram earlier this year, Decker said “I hope each reader will have their faith in miracles renewed. I’m a firm believer in second chances. I know from personal experience that God can take the most adverse scenario and make something beautiful out of it – in His time.”

When “Love Notes” was first published, I joked that if every one who had griped about the steamy scenes in my previous books bought a copy of “Love Notes”, it would be a best seller. But I’m not laughing any more, because certain Christians evidently feel that “Love Notes” is not Christian enough. First, an “influencer” from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), declined to recommend the book to her friends because it contained the word bi-ch (uttered by the bad guy). Now, a Christian bookseller has declined to sell the book in her bookstore even though it has a “great story line”, because the main characters sleep under a shared blanket to stay warm in an ice storm after the power goes out, and the bad guy hopes to have sex with his ex-wife, and other characters have “sex thoughts”. Even more insulting was her assessment that “God is mentioned, but neither main character really knows God and who He is.”

So, what to do? I will not be writing any more books for the Christian market. I am going to write real books with real characters who struggle with issues of faith within a real world context. If their struggles lead to passion, some “steam” will be included. If that’s not where the story goes, you can join the ranks of those who were disappointed when I told them “Love Notes” didn’t have any steamy scenes. And as for the Christians who are so confident that their  particular brand of Christianity is so perfect, I would remind you that there was not one perfect disciple, who said one perfect set of words when he came to Christ and who lived a perfect life thereafter. There were 12 different disciples, each one unique, each of whom came to Christ from a different place, and in a different way. Each had different weaknesses and strengths, their own personal doubts and struggles, a different style of writing, and a unique ministry. Yet God used them all. There are also prostitutes and murderers and adulterers and and sex thoughts in the Bible.  It’s a  real book about real people living in a real world. And I think it’s the perfect book.

As for “Love Notes”, I’m sure it is far from perfect. But it is real and I hope you will read it and decided for yourself if you agree.

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Nip It In the Bud by Sherrie Hansen Decker

A friend of mine at Gather.com posted a photo today of her peach tree, laden with fruit almost ready to pick. Thoughts of enjoying juicy, ripe peaches fresh from the tree, still warm from the sunshine, made me mourn all over again for our own lost crop.

Our cherry, pear and apple trees at the new parsonage in Hudson, IA burst into bloom early this spring, each delicate blossom filling my head with thoughts of spiced pear jelly, fresh-baked apple pies and sitting on the back steps eating dark, sweet cherries and spitting out the seeds.

The trees were still in bloom, along with two rows of raspberry bushes, when we had a hard frost. We hoped it wouldn’t matter, but now it is summer, and there is not a single piece of fruit to be found on any of our trees. Nipped in the bud, literally. Thanks to a drought this summer, and to many excessively hot days, our corn crop doesn’t look much better.

It’s painful to watch hope turn into disappointment. When hopes are crushed by random acts of nature, it’s one thing, but I especially hate it when something you’re excited about fizzles and dies because someone purposely takes a pin and pops your balloon.

I recently felt this way when I got a note about my new Christian Inspirational novel, Love Notes.  The caller had read Love Notes, and was distressed because she didn’t feel she could recommend it to her friends, even though she liked the book very much, because it contained a word that is evidently not allowable in Christian fiction. I immediately deduced that the word was spoken by Billy Bjorklund, the vulgar, hate-crazed bad guy of Embarrass. On doing a search later that day, I discovered that I used the word 8 – 12 times. I will be the first to admit that the word is probably considered offensive, but I personally do not consider it a swear word, or I never would have used it.  Her suggestion was that instead of using the word, I should have said “He swore profusely,” or “He called her every bad name he could think of,” or “He uttered a string of expletives.” Both my husband and I agreed that if we read any of these phrases in a book, we would think of words far worse than what currently comes out of Billy’s mouth, which starts with a b and ends with a ch.

So, as Barney Fife always said, “We’ve  got a situation on our hands.” The logical action, since the last thing I want to do is to offend the very readers I’m trying to attract, is to (also compliments of good, oldBarney) Nip it in the bud!”  I spoke to my editor, and they agreed that I could edit the word out of future copies if I wanted to.

So my dilemma is this: I truly feel like I am da..ed if I do and da..ed if I don’t remove the word. Here’s why:  Some of the Christians I know will never even pick up a copy of Love Notes because I have previously written books that include steamy scenes. I’ve already been judged, pegged and deemed irredeemable. Others, even if they are not offended by the word Billy utters 8-12 times, or even if I take it out, will find something else to be offended about. Tommy Love, my hero, has been divorced twice. He encounters groupies. He’s going through a midlife crisis and thinks he wants to write hip hop. Billy, the bad guy, has a beer in one scene. He does several wicked and dastardly things. He thinks heinous thoughts. Evil is not glorified in this book, but it is present, an adversary to be overcome.

And if I leave the word in? As we’ve learned this past week, a person can also get into trouble for simply being open about their faith and beliefs. It’s certainly possible that other readers, some of whom do not share my Christian beliefs, may conversely be offended by certain God things and events in this book. God is at work in the lives of the characters in Love Notes, convicting, guiding, making things of beauty out of chaos. This may not sit well with some. Being openly Christian is not exactly a popular thing in today’s culture.

My conclusion is that if I try to re-write the book with the intent of offending no one, it would very probably  end up so watered down and without heart that no one would want to read it.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, take me as I am or leave me. My books have always been honest, candid and character-driven. Each of my books, steamy or inspirational, contains references to faith and old-fashioned, traditional values, and Scripture-based wisdom. I have always tried not to unduly offend while at the same time being true to my characters and the story as it comes to me.

My closing thoughts. Christians, be careful that you are not the hard frost that freezes the blossoms off the fruit trees. Sadly, at this point, I think the best thing for me to do may be to stop labeling Love Notes as a Christian inspirational, which I think is a shame, as it has a beautiful Christian message about the God-given gifts of hope, joy, peace and true love. I will say that if you are a Christian reader, it’s your loss if you let one somewhat offensive word ruin a perfectly lovely love story.

Now the song Accentuate the Positive is running through my head. Personally, I prefer its attitude to Barney’s  “Nip it in the Bud.”  So take me or leave me, just as I am. Thankfully, God does.

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Interview with Sherrie Hansen Decker, Author of “Love Notes”

What is your book about?

Hope Anderson’s heart is finally starting to thaw. Tommy Love is treading on thin ice — he wants the only thing Hope has left.

For Hope, recreating the past — reopening Rainbow Lake Lodge and seeing it bubbling with families, children, and laughter again – means new life. It’s the only way she can honor her late husband’s legacy.

For Tommy Lubinski of Tommy Love and the Love Notes fame, Rainbow Lake means coming home — peace, quiet, seclusion — and a second chance at stardom. Once he’s bulldozed the lodge and built his dream house overlooking the lake, everything will be perfect.

Hope is sinking fast, but she’ll be fine if she can just keep her head above water until spring. Tommy’s troubles run a little deeper, but there’s no need to worry for now… Rainbow Lake is frozen solid. Or is it?

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Tommy Love is a fading pop singer / songwriter who wants to write one more big hit (hip hop, to attract the new generation), and Hope is a widow of two years who is trying to reopen the family resort where her husband was raised. I loved writing Tommy Love. He’s irreverent and clueless and has a huge ego on the outside, but inside, he’s lonely and insecure and afraid of being a nobody again. Tommy grew up Tom Lubinski in a shack on the edge of Miller’s Swamp. In his mind, building his dream house overlooking Rainbow Lake will make everything okay again, and he’ll be able to write another hit song, and he’ll be unforgettable to a whole new generation.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

Baby-boomers will love Hope and Tommy. Hope is 38 years old. Tommy is in his late 40′s. Who doesn’t get to that stage of their life and on some level, think, it’s all downhill from here, the best is behind me. Except, in many cases, what lies behind hasn’t even been all that great… and you fear it’s too late to do anything about it, that you’ve used up all your chances, and that things can only get worse… Both Tommy and Hope are making one last ditch effort to carve out a legacy for themselves, to secure their future. Anyone who has failed at love or had their dreams dashed for whatever reason will be able to relate to the hope that somewhere out there, you might get a second chance.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

I hope each reader will have their faith in miracles renewed. I’m a firm believer in second chances. I know from personal experience that God can take the most adverse scenario and make something beautiful out of it – in His time.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

My biggest challenge is finding the time to write. I own and operate a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn in Saint Ansgar, Iowa, am a pastor’s wife, a sometimes musician, and maintain 4 houses in 2 towns, an hour and a half apart. Life is crazy busy. But I love to write – have to write – so I find the time. I juggle as best I can and try not to let too many balls drop.

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

I had my own second chance at real life romance and remarried after being single for almost 20 years. Whereas my first four books were fantasies about what could happen if I ever found love again, Love Notes is written with a firm belief that happy endings — miracles — can and do happen in real life. Love Notes is the first of my books written by a married woman. It will be interesting to see if my readers notice a difference in my perspective.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Love Notes is my first Christian inspirational novel and certainly reflects some of my deepest beliefs about my Christian heritage. In other of my books, the main characters have been rebelling against the very faith Hope clings to in Love Notes. So yes, my Christian beliefs definitely color my writing, whether in shades of guilt or hope. In Love Notes, I love it that Hope’s strong faith is intact even though she’s lost everything dear to her, including her husband, who died in a tragic car accident. Tommy has everything a man could want, yet he is cynical and discontented and very short on faith. In the end, Tommy finds hope, joy, peace and love where he least expects it — as have I on several occasions!

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on a book that I started a couple of years ago after a trip to Scotland. It’s called Wild Rose. The main character is the pastor or St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe. I’m loving the interactions between the church ladies and Rose, who is, well, a bit wild. I’ve also started a sequel to my first book, Night and Day, called Daybreak in Denmark. I’ve also got a great idea for a book set in the Florida Everglades and at a famous hotel on St. Pete’s Beach called the Pink Lady. It will involve gangsters, an heiress, and a 75 year old mystery.

What writer influenced you the most?

Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the Betsy Tacy books, set in fictional Deep Valley, Minnesota, my home state, greatly impacted my life as a young person. (Think Little House on the Prairie but set during the Victorian era.) Maud’s main character, Betsy Ray, longed to be a writer, and set the stage – really formed the expectation in my mind – that I would write a novel one day. The Betsy Tacy books are wonderful (and back in print thanks to Harper Collins). One of the guest rooms at my B&B is named “Heaven to Betsy” in honor of the tomes.

Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?

When I was just starting to write, I went to a writer’s retreat at Glen Eerie, the Navigator’s castle in Colorado Springs, sponsored by Victoria magazine. Madeleine L’Engle (author of Newbery Award winning A Wrinkle in Time) was the guest speaker. There were only about 20 of us there, so our conversations were deep, meaningful, and intensely personal. Madeleine said that she got 27 rejection for A Wrinkle in Time before it was accepted for publication. Each time she mailed the manuscript out, she addressed a second envelope to a different publisher. Each time it came back, rejected, she would immediately put it in the second envelope and mail it off again.

Have you written any other books?

I wrote four other books that are published under the name Sherrie Hansen. My first book, Night and Day is set in southern Minnesota and Denmark and features a modern day internet romance, and old fashioned love story, and a hundred year old mystery. The Maple Valley Trilogy, Stormy Weather, Water Lily and Merry Go Round, is set in fictional Maple Valley, Iowa, and Red Oak, Minnesota. Each book features a special quilt, and one of three sisters, each of who has her own set of troubles.

Does your understanding of the story you are writing change during the course of the book?

I start the story, my characters finish it. Themes come to me as the book goes on, and often, when it’s totally finished. Sometimes I have to rewrite the beginning of the book, because by the time I’m done, I know the characters so well that I think they would never say or do the things they did at the beginning of the book.

Who designed your cover?

Lonnie Arnevik, a good friend of mine from Thompson, Iowa, designed my book cover. She’s an amazing artist, and a wiz with graphic design.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Love Notes was released on June 4 and is available at amazon.com, smashwords.com and http://www.secondwindpublishing.com.

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Excerpt From “Love Notes” by Sherrie Hansen Decker

Hope Anderson’s heart is finally starting to thaw. Even Tommy Love’s is melting around the edges. They both want Rainbow Lake Lodge. Only one of them can have it. For Hope, recreating the past – reopening the lodge and seeing it bubbling with families, children, and laughter again — means new life. It’s the only way she can honor her late husband’s legacy. For Tommy Lubinski of Tommy Love and the Love Notes fame, Rainbow Lake means coming home – peace, quiet, seclusion – and a second chance at stardom. Once he’s bulldozed the lodge and built his dream house overlooking the lake, everything will be perfect. Hope is sinking fast, but she’ll be fine if she can just keep her head above water until spring. Tommy’s troubles run a little deeper, but there’s no need to worry for now… Rainbow Lake is frozen solid. Or is it?

Excerpt:

Tommy lifted his suitcase chest high, handed it to her, and eyed a handful of scraggly, roadside weeds that looked sturdier than they were because of the half-inch of ice coating them. Grabbing a handful, he tried to hoist himself up out of the ditch. And slid backwards. Three times.

“It’s wicked stuff,” she said, trying to hide a laugh. “Here. I can help if I set these down.” She laid his suitcase on the snow-covered ground and perched his precious guitar on top of it.

So she was gorgeous and thoughtful. That didn’t mean she could run Rainbow Lake Lodge all by herself.

She took off her mittens and dug the heels of her boots into the gravel at the shoulder. “Let me give you a hand.”

“I’m fine,” he said. And he was, once she’d helped him out. The woman had a strong grip – he’d give her that.

“What brings you to Rainbow Lake?” Hope asked as they headed into the woods, toward the lodge he was going to bulldoze.

“Um… I had a gig at the Indian Casino at Fortune Bay the night before last,” he said, not wanting to say too much. “I have a small plane that I use when I’m in Minnesota. I was on my way to the airport.”

She looked over her shoulder at the Porsche as if realizing that his car was pointed in exactly the opposite direction that it would have been had he been telling the truth.

“I must have taken a wrong turn,” Tommy said, stopping to shift his weight as he skated along on the icy road. His guitar was lighter than his suitcase and he felt totally unbalanced. “I couldn’t see a thing with that sleet coming down.”

“I was just thinking that you’re mighty fortunate that you weren’t in the air when this weather started up. Or it could have been your plane that crashed instead of your car. In a lake instead of a ditch.”

He looked her in the eye for the first time and nodded.

“I learned a long time ago that God has ways of getting us where he wants us to be,” she said. “Usually at the precise moment he needs us to be there.”

He assimilated her words and chose not to respond. What he wanted to say was, if you really believe this, how do you make sense of the fact that a drunk driver just happened to come around a blind curve on the wrong side of the centerline at the exact moment your husband was coming upon the same curve from the opposite direction? He wanted to ask it, but how could he, when he wasn’t supposed to know her, or that her husband was dead?

“I grew up in Embarrass, you know,” he said, not knowing whether he should just keep his mouth shut or try to distract her from asking him point blank what he was doing in her ditch, and why he was snooping around her property.

“I think David did mention it now that I think about it. I didn’t grow up around here, so I’m a bit clueless when it comes to who went to school with whom and that sort of thing.”

“Then I guess I could ask you the same question,” he said, feeling safe, for the moment anyway. “About what brought you to Rainbow Lake.”

“I’m renovating a lodge and a cluster of cabins that’s been in my late husband’s family for almost half a century”, she said, not mincing any words. “I hope to be ready to reopen on Memorial Day weekend, but there have been a few glitches and things aren’t moving along quite as quickly as I’d hoped.”

“They never do,” Tommy said, trying to convince himself that he wasn’t the jerk he felt like. She needed to sell this place — it was what was best for her. Everyone knew it except for her. Besides, it wasn’t as though he had just randomly decided he had to have her land. Billy had made it clear that Hope was going to lose the property regardless of the fact that Tommy was in the picture. Somebody was going to buy the place. Why shouldn’t it be him?

He’d nearly convinced himself he was right when they turned a corner and he saw the lodge poking through the trees off in the distance, looking as big and grand as the Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road.

Maybe it was the snow, or the fact that he was chilled to the bone. Maybe it was the way Hope kept referring to the lodge with such love in her voice — whatever, he was mesmerized at first sight. Until that moment, he’d only seen the roof and the top few feet of the exterior that had been visible from the lake. The plane had revealed even less because of the dense ground cover and tall trees. He’d really had no concept of what the place was like. So when the rough hewn timbers and river rocks and old green mortar started to appear through the thick veil of lacy snowflakes falling from the sky, he felt like he was on the inside of some kind of pretty little snow globe, walking toward the fairy-tale-like building in the center.

Get a grip, he told himself. Stay cool. Be objective.

“This is it,” she said. “‘Home Sweet Home.’”

Don’t let her get to you. It wasn’t as though he was going to be evicting her and her six children. She was young. She had options – or would have, when Billy convinced her she needed to relinquish the land and Tommy paid her more than it was worth.

Who was he kidding? Not only was he inside the snow globe, some maniacal kid was shaking it as hard as he could. He was so shook up he could barely swallow.

***

Sherrie Hansen Decker lives in a 116-year-old Victorian house in northern Iowa who, just like her, got a second chance when she rescued it from the bulldozers grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Love Notes is Sherrie’s fifth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing, and her debut Christian Inspirational novel. She attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL and University of Maryland, European Division, in Augsburg, Germany. Her husband, Rev. Mark Decker, is a pastor and Sherrie’s real life hero. She enjoys playing the piano with their worship team, needlepointing, renovating and decorating historic houses, traveling, and going on adventures with her nieces and nephews.

Love Notes was released on June 4 and is available at amazon.com, smashwords.com and http://www.secondwindpublishing.com.

Click here for an interview with: Sherrie Hansen Decker, Author of “Love Notes”

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Looking for Hope, Joy, Peace and Love in all the Wrong Places… by Sherrie Hansen

Tommy Lubinski of Tommy Love and the Love Notes fame, the somewhat unlikely hero of my new book, LOVE  NOTES, is a fading star whose heart has been trampled on so many times that it’s frozen solid. Although he’s enjoyed fortune and fame, he can’t find the words – or the heart – to write a new song. Probably because he has no hope, joy or peace. Or faith. Tommy thinks that building his dream house on the shores of  Rainbow Lake so he can sit on his new deck and bask in one of the most beautiful views in all of northern Minnesota, his childhood home, will inspire him to create again.

What Tommy wants to write is punk – or hip hop, so that his new hit will appeal to a younger listener. That way, his legacy will live on in the hearts of a new generation. But once he meets Hope Anderson, the original old-fashioned girl, all he can seem to think about – or write – are love songs about Hope. As God was working in Tommy Love’s heart – and mine – while writing this book, a song came to me / him…

I was so deep into Tommy Love’s character when the song came to be, that it truly felt like Tommy Love wrote it. For the past few years, we’ve sung it during the Christmas season at the church where my husband was pastor. The first time Mark printed up the words to put in the church bulletin, he asked if I wanted it to say, “Written by Sherrie Hansen”, my maiden name, and the name under which I’d written 4 novels, or “Written by Sherrie Decker”, my married name, since that was how everyone at church knew me. Without thinking, I responded, “I didn’t write it. Tommy Love did.”

Mark smiled and said, “I wouldn’t tell that to too many people if I were you.” You authors will know what I mean. In my mind, the song truly was a love note written by Tommy Love, with a heart newly melted around the edges, to Hope. And to God.

That’s where the song Hope, Joy, Peace and Love came from. You can hear the music at Gather.com if you click here. Below, I’d like to share my thoughts – some of which came from getting to know Tommy Love – on each of the four words in the title.

Hope, Joy, Peace, Love

Gentle blessings from above.

A rainbow bright, a starry night

To warm our hearts – the gift of light.

Hope, Joy, Peace, Love

A star to follow from above.

Shining brightly in the night

To warm our hearts – the gift of light.

Hope, Joy, Peace, Love

The Son of God from heaven above

came down to us on Christmas night

To warm our hearts – the gift of light.

Hope – I don’t know about you, but on many occasions, I’ve given up hope – hope of ever feeling good again, hope of ever being slender and healthy, hope of ever being happy, hope of finding someone to love, of being loved. I start out at least a little hopeful, but if things don’t come together fairly quickly, just the way I think they should – the way I HOPE they will, then I lose hope. Maybe depression is the opposite of hope, looking down instead of up. So how does a mid-aged woman who knows that things are probably just going to keep getting worse from here on out, have and hold on to hope? In Ephesians 3:20, the Bible says, “By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope” and in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written was given to us for our learning, that through patience and comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.

Joy – To me, joy is the most elusive of emotions. The older and wiser and more cynical I get, the harder it is to attain any semblance of it. Joy is not synonymous with happiness, or pleasure, or feeling good. It is so much more than that. I know, because on rare occasions, I have experienced it. Most recently, I’ve seen it in the eyes, heard it in the squeals of my little nieces and nephews, so quickly lost, so hard to capture. Joy is like a hummingbird, flitting around us at lightening speed, teasing us, taunting us, because we are just too slow and encumbered by burdens to get more than a glimpse. But God says of joy, “Those who sow in tears will reap a harvest of joy; for though they may weep while going forth to plant their seed, if they persevere, they will undoubtedly return rejoicing—bringing their sheaves with them. (Psalms 126:5-6). And in John 15:11, after telling his disciples that they need to keep his commandments and abide in his love, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Peace – Hard as I try to keep my life, my household and my business organized, there is so much chaos surrounding me that lately, it has become possible. I struggle with anxiety and come from a long line of “fretters and stewers”. Unfortunately, my wild imagination – the same one that makes me a good writer – adds fuel to the fire. The same “what if” exercise I use when I’m coming up with my stories has often kept me up at night, as I imagine the worst and worry about what will happen if I’m right. God’s peace is the only answer to the chaos of the world… another of those things that I can’t possibly control or conquer on my own. If you’re going to have lasting peace – peace that sticks with you through the bumpiest of rides, you need to find it at the feet of Jesus. Here’s what He says about peace in John 14:27:  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Love – I do know that people love me – my husband, my parents, my brothers and sisters (well, most of them), my nieces and nephews, and friends – but we all know that human love is fallible.  We’ve all had broken hearts, we’ve been betrayed, we’ve lost at love. What we really want – need – is unconditional love. And the older I get, the more disillusioned with the world I am, the more I realize that the only place we’re likely to find true love is in Jesus. John 3:16 talks about a love that is unparalleled:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Now that’s true love.

So it turns out that Tommy Love and I hadn’t only been looking for love in all the wrong places, we’d been looking for hope, joy and peace in the wrong places, too. The world is full of wonderful things, but nothing can and will satisfy our restless souls like God’s gifts to us. Hope, joy, peace, love, gentle blessings from above. So keep looking up – the rainbow bright, the starry night will guide you and remind you that it is He alone who can give us the treasures we seek -hope, joy, peace and love. If you don’t know Him, all you have to do is look in His Word – it’s a lamp unto your feet and a guide unto your way.

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