Your Days Are Numbered

Your days are numbered.

Did you know that?

As in:

1

45

16,782

Numbered.

And not ONE of them is worthless or unimportant.

Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Whoa. So, how do we number our days? Well, the first few verses in that chapter give us some clues. It’s basically this:

Realizing who WE are and what We’ve done in the light of realizing who GOD is and what HE’S done.

Moses starts the Psalm by talking about the greatness and eternality of God.

v. 2 – “Before the mountains were born
   or you brought forth the whole world,
   from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

So, basically – we must try to see our lives from God’s perspective, since He’s been around a bit longer than we have, and knows a whole lot more than we ever could.

To make sure we get the point, Moses goes on to describe our humanness and mortality.

v. 5 – Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
   they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
   but by evening it is dry and withered.

Or

v. 9-10 – All our days pass away under your wrath;
   we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
   or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
   for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Pretty gloomy sounding, isn’t it?

Almost in one breath – life is here, then it’s gone.

Does it matter to us?

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with being my own god.

By living my life as if it is going to go on forever, and forgetting why I was created.

I forget that by original design, this world is not my home and the things of it are as frail as a snowflake.

I live my life as if I am the author of my future, the keeper of my past, and the conqueror of my present, but I deceive myself.

The eternal Time Keeper sees the big picture of my life – the good, the bad, and the ugly- and weaves them all together to make me into a child fit for Heaven.

The troubles, the trials, the heartache, and pain, serve a grander purpose. Moses’ words help us put grief and trials in their proper place:

See verses 14-17, particularly verse 15:

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
   establish the work of our hands for us—
   yes, establish the work of our hands.

It’s really all about seeing things from the right perspective. Who we are and who He is.

If his ‘unfailing love’ truly satisfies us, then whatever the ‘affliction’ or ‘trouble’, we can ‘sing for joy’ and ‘be glad all our days’, because we recognize the extravagance of the Father’s love.

When we are satisfied with His ‘unfailing love’ – then everything else falls into its proper place. Our deeds and our ‘works’ no longer control us but are controlled by the Holy Spirit in us.

The number of our days no longer matter – it’s how we fill each one of those days that begins to shape our points of view.

I don’t know about you, but I really need to get my mind off of me – and onto Jesus!

Blessings,

pepper (1)

Book Journeys – Bath, UK #1

second-impressions-cover-embellishmentsMy upcoming novella, Second Impressions, which is released in a fun compilation called Love at First Laugh, takes place in the beautiful city of Bath, UK during the Jane Austen Festival.

 

A few things of note:13882671_10210072079179210_8611067354192595449_n

  1. Bath is a beautiful city.
  2. There’s lots more to see than just what is in the city.
  3. The spirit of Jane Austen is still alive and well in Bath – especially durin
    g this festival 😉

So, since Second Impressions is on the way, I thought I’d share some highlights from my visit in July 2016, so you guys could enjoy some of the sights.

My heroine, “Austen nut” Nora Simeon, arrives in Bath to her lovely inn. Now, my inn in the novella is fictional, so I’ve put a phot13654186_10210072085059357_6555886267897989381_no up of a LOVELY building in Bath that just looked delightful! The Huntsman.

There are all sorts of shenanigans that happen to poor Nora…and her new acquaintance, Ethan Keller.

One of Nora’s first stops is to practice dancing at the Assembly Rooms in Bath – so you’ll see a few photos of those and a FUN video of my daughter in the middle of one of the ballrooms.
The grand Promenade down the streets of Bath happens pretty early during the Jane Austen Festival – so here’s a photo of one of the streets and a few of the lovely buildings.

Now…Part 2 – I’ll share some photos of the Jane Austen Centre and Tea Room as well as the Roman Baths….the city’s namesake. BOTH play a fun part in my novella, Second Impressions.

Bonus points if you know why the title of my novella is important 😉

The novella is part of the Love at First Laugh collection which is ONLY .99!! That’s less than a dollar for 8 fun stories. You can preorder it HERE – and enjoy these stories in only a little over a week!

 

Cover Reveal…and massive celebrating

img_5842Okay, this week has been CRAZY…and it’s ONLY Tuesday!

At least it’s the good kind of crazy, right?

I have so much to share with you guys!!! (and….of course, I’m saving my favorite for last…so don’t scroll down and steal my thunder 😉

  1. There is a fabulous Scavenger Hunt going on right now involving kisses, misses, and chances to win 8 super novels! You can find out ALL about it here! And since I’m not above name dropping….can I just say it’s an honor to have my name beside authors like Melissa Tagg, Jessica Patch, and Sara Monzon 😉

2. My first contemporary romance novel, A Twist of Faith, is FREE on kindle this week. (So you can buy this and save your money to actually purchase the next two items on the list 😉 http://amzn.to/2ld5QjO   This story has garnered so much praise and it’s such a fun book. 16640751_487167148073737_1130643388656871229_n

15941082_10211748002556247_3298997609762240397_n

3. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to write my first
novella! A fun, romantic comedy with a touch of Jane Austen flair! It’s up for preorder in this compilation with some other fantastic stories (and authors). And the price is superb! Check out this beauty and make sure you preorder today for just .99!!!! http://amzn.to/2kMxOlP

This story is all about romance, humor, The Jane Austen Festival in Bath, UK, AND a homicidal bonnet. Be prepared 🙂

 

4. Okay, okay….arjtwyaback-coverwebjpege you ready for my Valentine’s GIFT???

That might be a bit melodramatic 😉 but I’m so excited about this novel. This romantic comedy releases on April 6th and is my very favorite book I’ve written so far.

Why? Because I poured all the things I love best into one story…and hopefully an entire series.

Just the Way You Are is the book equivalent of my FAVORITE dessert!

Filled with romance, humor, mystery, adorable kids, hilarious families, England, Appalachia, Blue Ridge Mountains, a swoony British hero, an adorable heroine….and Scooby Doo references. What’s not to like, right? This story may have more of me…and my heart than any other story I’ve written to date.jtwya-web-frontjpeg

So….without further drama. Let me show you the cover to Just the Way You Are!

Isn’t it sweet!!! AND you can preorder it NOW!!! http://amzn.to/2lJ6PGa

I cannot wait for you to meet Eisley, Wes, the Harrisons, the Jenkins, and Lizzie! This is definitely a romantic comedy….with a little bit of old-fashioned Hollywood magic sprinkled in!

Only $4.99 to preorder!!

So….what do you think? Sound like a story that’s up your alley?

 

uk2k16 -Edinburgh 1

day5To continue with my love for England, I’m going to take you on our quick trip to Edinburgh.Oh my, this might have been our favorite part of our recent trip. I plan to take some time in the future to talk about other England adventures, but Edinburgh was amazing – a city that didn’t feel like a city.

But…to start, since it was Sunday, we worshipday5oped in a wonderfully historic (and evangelical) church called All Souls Langham Place.What a wonderful place to visit! Such a warm and friendly church where you could feel the welcome and community of faith. We witnessed a baptism, learned some new songs, and enjoyed a chat with another
visiting American family…and OF COURSE we got to spend time with our new friends Peter and Ilona.

Well, after church we picked up a quick lunch in Kings Cross station and then day5chopped on the train for our 4 hour ride to Edinburgh. It was such an enjoyable trip. On the way up, we all actually got to sit together in a four seat set with a table in between. The scenary was lovely – we saw the English coastline just
before we crossed over from England to Scotland. BEAUTIFUL.

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It’s around 5 by the time we get to Edinburgh, so we load up in a taxi, take our bags to our hotel, and walk directly to Arthur’s Seat. But on the way to the hotel, and looming directyl over the train station, is the amazing Edinburgh Castle. Oh my, day5djust turning around and seeing this medieval fortress towering above you is impressive enough, but knowing we were going to get to tour it made it even more exciting. Again…photos seem SO small!!

day5eArthur’s Seat is part of Holyrood Park – 360 acres attached to the Queen’s Scottish residence Holyrood Palace.  The hike is probably considered a moderate one, until you get near the top – which is more rigorous – but we didn’t get the opportunity to hike all the way to the ‘Seat’ because of the lateness of the hour. However, we hiked halfway and had an amazing view day5kof Edinburgh and even the North Sea.  Hailed as one of the possible sites for the legendary Camelot, it immediately becomes a place filled with stories waiting to be told (or that’s how it was for me anyway 😉

I’ve posted a few videos below so you can see our hike in real-timday5le 🙂 Lydia and I had lots of fun creating videos, so if you want to see more – we’ll have links at the end of the post.

After our little hike, we went to grab some DELICIOUS burger at Byron’s. Wow! Yum!! And the hot chocolate was stupendous. Our waiter, Ross, was wonderful – with the endearing mix of Scottish accent and dry humor. Definitely a future character in a book!! (well, his personality paired with a waiter we met the next day…adorable young men who need day5hto be in a book)

We then attended a free piano concert inside of St. Giles (the ‘home’ of Presbyterianism). I’ll tell you more about St. Giles in my next post because we actually toured it then, but needless to say, it has a lot of history and fantastic accoustics.

Photos truly do not do this city justice! Beautiful! and OLD!

 

#uk2k16 – Day 4 – Oxford

day4As we continue on our whirlwind trip to the UK, today I’m going to take you on our excursion to Oxford.

OH what a fun day- but the best parts happened outside of the actual college area. Of course, there are wonderful photos to share of the historic university and all of its many buildings, but some of our most interesting and humorous adventures today happened on the ‘fringes’ of our plan. Isn’t that how things usually go, though?

Again, our morning involved leaving our hotel and boarding the Tube during the crowded London rush hour, but this morning we rode from Monument to King’s Cross train station (you know, like King’s Cross in Harry Potter! And yes, there was a Harry Potter store AND a 9 3/4 – to which Lydia fan girled a little bit. I think I have a video for you about that)

day4dThe train took us to meet our guide for the day, Peter. He picked us up in his car and we drove toward Oxford. What a fun ride!! Truly, everyone needs to experience of riding on the other side of the car on the other side of the road!

Our first stop, and one of my favorites of the day, was a visit to author, speaker, and theologian, C.S. Lewis’ house, aka The Kilns. This place was lovely, as you can see. Flowers in the garden and a resident cat named Warnie (C.S. Lewis’ brother’s name). The house is used for college students to study and visit, as well as ‘groups’ to stay, so it was occupied while we were there, but one of the guests came out and talked to us about her studies and the house.

day4cWe also walked behind the house to Lewis’ little haven in the back. The pond, bomb shelter, and wood surrounding The Kilns’ in which he, Warnie, and Lewis’ wife, Joy, walked and talked. It was a lovely little space in the middle of an otherwise crowded subdivision. The quintessential English cottage. Seriously. Lovely windows, rose covered ways…beautiful.

After visiting the Kilns we traveled down the road a short distance and parked. Down a narrow lane through the wood, we came to a lovely and small old church called Holy Trinity Church in Headington, Oxford. We weren’t able to visit the inside of the church (which has stained glass windows representing Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia), but we did see Lewis’ grave. What a day4elovely, green, and quiet setting for this amazing man’s resting place.

From there we traveled to Oxford for lunch. As we walked through the streets, Peter told us about the Martyrs memorial in the middle of the street. A powerful statue memorializing the men who were burned on that spot for their faith.

To keep with the amazing historical trapse about Oxford, we ate at the Eagle and Child – meeting place of The Inklings! And we happen to get there early enough to sit in the actual booth amazing authors like CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, sat in as they discussed literature, theology, and day4ifantasy!!

The kids enjoyed Fish & Chips (their usual fare for the trip) and then we went off to explore the university.

Magdelen College was my favorite of the ones we visited. The cloister was beautiful, filled with blooms. In back was New College (new meaning built in the late 1700s :-). Lewis stayed here during his teaching at Oxford.  A few photos down day4kyou will see the building. The window with the red flower under it is the room where Lewis stayed.

There is a bridge here that takes you on the famous Addison’s Walk – the beautiful woodland path that Tolkien, Lewis, and
some of their friends, walked. It was on one of these walks that Tolkien and Hugo Dyson talked to Lewis about Christianity in terms of Christ’s sacrifice being like the myths Lewis loved…except it was a ‘true myth’. Lewis’ journey of Christian faith came to a pinnacle at this point and propelled him into a new understanding of the Gospels and the faith he’d once shunned.

We also visited Christ Church with its amazing stained glass windows. Our tour of it was cut short by a wedding party. Lots of weddings happening in day4lvaroius places during our trip 🙂

After spending a little more time in Oxford, we traveled down the road a little way to a large cemetery where, after some searching (and sign following), we found the grave of JRR Tolkien. People had left their tributes to him in various forms. Coins, papers, even a quill and inkwell. The inscription on his grave was created by Tolkien’s day4mson, Christopher, in a beautiful memorial for his parents and celebration of his father’s legacy.

We traveled back with Peter to his house and had the wonderful opportunity to meet an unforgettable character…Henry.  Henry was the former head of Scotland Yard. A man with a big personality, he also happened to have a car owned by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of  Sherlock Holmes. Oh my goodness, this man was hilarious. I might even venture to say meeting him was one of the highlights of the trip for me, Ben, and Lydia. His humor was fantastic, laced with thick sarcasm and a deep laugh.

day4oOn this theme, we ended our day back in London in search of 221B Baker Street. To Lydia’s delight, we found it!!

What a full day!!! So thankful for this quick trip to places some of our favorite authors visited.

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From Dawn to Dusk – #uk2k16

day1Oh it seems way too long since I returned from my ‘heart home’ in England, but I love getting to revisit the memories and pictures of the trip.

Today, I’m taking you with us on day #2 – London.

It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep and a great English breakfast can do for energy levels. 🙂 And boy, did we need the energy for THIS day!

 

We started our morning with a 25 minute walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral to meet our Christian Heritage Tour guide on the steps.

day2Peter Greyling was such a wealth of wonderful knowledge, taking us on a two hour walk through some of the quieter streets of London to learn more about the less popular stories of Christianity.

We walked in areas where the Wesley brothers had walked and hear their stories. Learned of martyrs, world war veterans, and early Christian fathers – all who walked along the same paths we walked. It was pretty spectacular.

We visited the church where the Wesley brothers preached, saw day2bthe remains of the 2000 year old Roman wall, touched WW2 bomb marks on the walls of buildings, and even stubmled upon the street where “Sherlock Holmes” died (in BBC’s/Benedict Cumberbatch version). (Note Lydia’s ecstatic expression about this little discovery)

 

 

Then we toured the gothic and historic Westminster Abbey. Being among the tombs of so many powerful people of history was an interesting and humbling experience. The day2 sherlockarchitecture, age, and overall beauty only enhanced the awareness of memories painting the walls. At noon, a clergyman addressed the group to engage in corporate prayer for the nation and world. I was glad to be a part of the prayer, because despite the fact that some in the crowd may not have prayed at all, I knew to Whom I prayed….and that He was listening.

After a brief chat with a very nice policeman in the giftshop of Westminster (I tend to talk to EVERYBODY), we went to lunch at St. Martin’s in the Crypt. Yes, you read that right. THE CRYPT. We had lunch in a crypt. (and not creepy). We met another tour guide here, a guy who became an instant friend, day2westminsterKeith Berry, historian and past of New City Church in Hammersmith 🙂 Keith took us on a tour of the British Museum, where we focused particularly on some Biblically significant ancient history. Assyrian, Persian, Egyptian….all these priceless artifacts were housed in this building and many were thousands of years old.

Of course we saw the Rosetta Stone, mummies, and even some fashions of different times, but the ancient wall carvings and paintings were my favorites. Why? Because they told stories 🙂

We headed through St. James Park where hundreds of people day2jenjoyed the balmy day with by having picnic lunches on the grass, and of course we spied Buckingham Palace along the way. We also saw beautiful window boxes filled with flowers (I have a weakness for lovely window boxes).

And then we traveled to the British Library to check out the “Treasures” Room….filled with manuscripts from centuries old to more modern (you know, 1600s ), just kidding – it had handwritten lyrics from the Beattles ;-). This room houses original copies of The day2oGutenberg Bible, Magna Carta, Leonardo DiVinci’s notebook, Shakespeare’s handwritten notes, King Henry VIII’s letters, an original copy of Utopia, and so much more.

We stopped for a bite to eat before heading to the theatre!! What a fun treat to watch a live production of Into the Woods in a small intimate theatre called The Chocolate Factory (where, of course, I had to eat some chocolate). It was a small cast with amazing talent!

The night ended with a walk back to our hotel over London Bridge. What a great day!!

Storybuilding Places – Inspirations from the click of a camera

Are you guys as crazy as I am? Do you take your camera with you everywhere?

I do.

Because I never know when I might walk into a place of inspiration. A sunset. A interesting panoramic scene. A historic bit of information.

Who knows!?!

In fact, I’ve taken pictures of places that are a part of my novels. Let me show you.

For my contemporary romance, I have two settings. The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the rolling hills of Derbyshire, England. Not only that, but I have the perfect manor house I use as the inspiration for the 600 year old manor house in my novel.

Here are a few pictures. One is of the Blue Ridge Mountains – my heroine’s home

Next is a picture of the hills of Debyshire – my hero’s home

And third is Haddon Hall, a manor house in Derbyshire and the ‘model’ for my mysterious backstory.

Isn’t it beautiful?

 Since most of my novels are inspired by my home in the Blue Ridge, many of my contemporary novels are influenced by that world and culture.  The uniqueness of Appalachia, the importance of oral history, and the quirky culture makes it the perfect fuel for story ideas 🙂 I have family members who are just waiting to creep on a novel page in some form or other 🙂

With my historical novel, I needed inspiration that showed WWI, England, and the setting of the magnificent ocean liner, Lusitania. For me, the setting becomes a part of the story – especially in my historical. (I didn’t take these pictures, of course 🙂

 WWI reflects the internal struggle of her hero and heroine.

The cold stone of my heroine’s home reflects the relationship she had with her father and has with her sister.

And the Lusitania is a mirror of the pretension in her world.

All the wealth and prestige in the world could not protect those travelers from the devastation of a German torpedo.

What about you? Do you have pictures you’ve taken to inspire your work? Have you found some online? Does your setting reflect your story in any way?

How will you celebrate publication?

Okay, so I’ve complained about my lack of time to write.

Now I’m going to jump to the very opposite thought. Getting published!

It’s a dream every aspiring author has, and those who are already published KEEP dreaming about staying published.

But that very FIRST time, is a moment of wonder and celebration. I loved having the opportunity of celebrating with Melanie Dickerson when she found out about her book, The Healer’s Apprentice, and more recently with Keli Gwyn, who just signed a contract with Barbour. WOW!

How would you celebrate publication?

I believe in shooting BIG!!

My best friend, Jessica, and I have a plan to go to England within the next two years. We’re both moms of five and before our oldest kids start college, we want to take one whole week and just spend it together in England. We both have even started saving for it.

Now, I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve told Jess that if I get published before we go- the room is on me. A piece of England is in almost every story I write, and if…er…when I get published – I want to go back. And going with my best friend of 18 years would make it the ULTIMATE celebration for me. The only thing that would make it better – would be if my Mom could come too.

So tell me, have you thought about publication? If you are published, how did you celebrate The Call?

Here are a few pics from my trip and the inspiration for many of my novels. Hope you enjoy.

These last few pictures are of the Bed & Breakfast where I stayed – and where I plan to return with my friend Jess. It’s called The Manor Farm Inn in Dethick. The hosts are WONDERFUL, the food is fabulous, and the atmosphere is simply lovely. I can’t wait to return!

Vacations & Research

Check out my post today on The Writers Alley about my WONDERFUL trip to England and the way it inspired so many of my novels.

To see even more pics, you can skim through my blog posts for June 2008-June 2009 to view them. There is also an album on my FB page.

I can’t wait to go back. It was an amazing opportunity. Definitely the best way to gather research 🙂