Guest Post – Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman

Truth. Lies, and the Single WomanAllison and I met at The Cove in Asheville at a writer’s retreat. We had lunch together in that fabulous dining room overlooking the mountains. She was single then and working on a book to help other single women stay true to God in the midst of their singleness. Now she’s one of the most happily married women I know who hasn’t forgotten what it was like to be single and praying for a partner. Her book is a gift to single women everywhere. I SO wish it had been around when I was at that stage in my life–it would have saved me a lot of grief and aggravation! And although the book is aimed at single women, there are truths here that apply to everyone.

Trusting God to Show Up–Allison Flexer

During my many years as a single woman, I often wondered whether God cared about the details of my life. Of course, I’ve always known that God loves me. I’ve heard it since I was a little girl and accepted God’s love as fact. I simply wasn’t sure whether the God of the universe had time to help me with my dating life.

Have you ever been running late to an appointment and catch yourself saying a prayer for all the traffic lights to be green? I feel guilty for bothering God when I know it’s my own fault for leaving too late. Similarly, I experienced guilt when asking God for help during my single journey. Maybe I made the wrong choices and my singleness was my own fault.

Does God really care about the details of our lives? Will he help us even when we’ve messed up?

The truth is . . . God wants us to trust him. We are never outside the reach of his loving arms and redeeming grace. Regardless of marital status, the battle to replace lies with truth is something we all encounter each day. When facing lies, we must put as much truth as possible into our lives. Accepting God’s truth from the Bible is a great place to start.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

The times when I become still and quiet and wait for God’s instruction, he always shows up. He nudges me in the right direction. Deep in my spirit, I know he cares about my choices and the details of my life.

God loves us more than we can imagine. In that infinite love, he created a plan for each of us. We can trust God to show up in our lives. He is trustworthy. He will fight for you.

AllisonBio: Allison K. Flexer is an author, speaker, and blogger. Her first book, Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman (Beacon Hill Press), tells the story of her single journey and gives practical steps for letting go of the lies that destroy the joy and confidence of unmarried women. You can connect with Allison on her website at www.allisonflexer.com or on Twitter: @AllisonKFlex.

Giveaway: Beacon Hill Press is giving away 10 copies of Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman on GoodReads.

 

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Appalachian Thursday–String Beans

Green beansIt’s time to put up the garden–canning, preserving, freezing. Of course, I hated it when I was a kid, but now I wish I had the time and cellar space to preserve summer in a Mason jar. Not to mention family close enough to gather on the porch to string beans, pare apples, shuck corn, and talk the day away.

 

THE RHYTHM OF STRING BEANS

A lapful of green
sprung from deepspring furrows.
Hands nip, twist,
neatly string beans.

Droning voices
of women working
swell in noontime sun,
drive worn hands
as they strip strings.

Garden rows stretch
fruitless, toward tomorrow.
Narrow with distance,
look like creases
in work-worn hands
holding strung beans.

Crows circle, cackle,
follow the same path
through turquoise sky,
swirl into whirls
on the tips of fingers
that still string beans.

Fruit of the earth
weighs down
women’s skirts.

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I still really love Jan Karon (and here’s why)

Me & Jan

Still smiling after greeting fans for 90+ minutes!

In 2011 I had the chance to meet Jan Karon–one of my favorite authors–and she was every bit as delightful as I hoped. Yesterday I had a chance to see her again and although she didn’t grab me and say she remembered me from that one, brief encounter three years ago, she was still as charming as ever.

While I have a LONG way to go before I have as many fans as Jan (like a really, really, really long way), I do have a little bit more insight into what it’s like to be an author than I did on that June evening in 2011. I loved Jan then for being charming, gracious, and kind while sharing her faith in the most natural way.  And I still do, but here’s what really knocks my socks off about her.

She loves her fans as much as they love her.

I’ve done just a couple of events and they are exhilarating and exhausting. Interacting with a roomful of people: smiling, signing books, hugging, shaking hands, trying to speak coherently–even on a small-scale–will wear you out. Yesterday, Jan did it for an hour and a half and was just as gracious to the person having the hundred-somethingth photo taken as she was with the first.

Jamie & Jan

My friend Jamie won a trip to meet Jan Karon and took her mom (today’s her birthday!). Click on the photo to go to Jamie’s blog, A Still Magnolia, for that story.

That takes two things. Stamina and love.

Jan Karon appreciates her readers. And, after all, aren’t readers kind of the point? I think it’s fine if you write just for yourself. Keep a journal, keep a diary, write down things you want to revisit down the road . . . But I suspect most authors want to tell people something. A passionate reader is like that person who sits down and listens–really listens–to what you have to say. And then her eyes light up and she says, “Oh, I know just what you mean.” Or maybe she says, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that. That’s really interesting.” Or, best of all, “Wow, I’m going to look at the world just a little bit differently now.”

Jan Karon has passionate fans. We’re hanging on every word. And Jan appreciates that. She’s grateful. And there are few things in this world more lovely than a grateful heart.

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Appalachian Thursday–Washing Up

dish washing

My mom (right) and aunt doing the dishes before I was ever even thought of.

Doing the dishes isn’t particularly Appalachian–people wash up after meals everywhere–but it struck me that characters in my books often have great conversations over dish washing. Why is that? Well, probably because I’ve been part of many a washing up chat.

There’s something about the camaraderie of one person washing while another dries and puts away. I prefer the washing. There’s something satisfying about taking a stack of dirty dishes and transforming them into a sparkling array of tableware. (I feel the same way about laundry–it’s almost like the things are new again.)

Growing up, doing the dishes–especially after a family meal–was part of the event. It was generally a task undertaken by the women in the house, and there was plenty of talk to go with the suds and hot water. Of course, there are pitfalls–forks not quite clean and bowls in the wrong cupboard–put it’s worth it for the fellowship.

Here’s a dish washing scene from Appalachian Serenade–my novella–which is still available for free download.

That evening Delilah washed the supper dishes while Charlotte dried and put them away. She tried to think of a subtle way to ask after Robert Thornton, but her sister saved her the trouble.

“Did you see that Robert has started carrying those Occident cake mixes? I can’t believe anyone would resort to that. As if it were so very difficult to bake a cake.”

“I didn’t notice.” Delilah wasn’t interested in debating mixes over home cooking. “I did notice that not much has changed around the store over the past fifteen years. I would’ve thought Robert would want to put his own stamp on the place.”

“Oh Robert.” Charlotte flipped her hand in the air. “He’s more interested in socializing and carrying on with everyone who steps foot through the door. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised it occurred to him to even carry a convenience food like cake mix. Maybe he’s had more success with that instant coffee than folks let on.”

Delilah wracked her brain to think how to steer this conversation in the direction she wanted it to go. “Maybe he needs a woman’s touch.” She blushed and hoped Charlotte would assume it was the heat from the dishwater. “In the store, I mean.”

“Wouldn’t hurt, but I know for a fact more than one woman has set her cap for him and it’s all come to nothing. We thought he’d marry Susanne Ross for sure, but something must have gone wrong. Last I heard she was married with four kids.” She dried the last pot and draped her wet cloth over a hook beside the stove. “Gracious, Robert must be getting close to fifty by now. If no one’s caught him yet, I doubt it’ll happen.” She wrapped an arm around her sister’s waist. “Now if it’s eligible bachelors you’re after, you might consider Joe Miller.”

Delilah elbowed Charlotte. “I’m most certainly not interested in Joe Miller. His ears stick out past his shoulders.”

Charlotte giggled and covered her mouth. Delilah risked a look at her sister and caught the giggles. They stood in the kitchen laughing like girls and Delilah felt a bit of the pain of the past decade slide from her shoulders. Maybe she did have a future. Maybe she could find another husband—a good one—and start a family. Maybe it wasn’t too late after all.

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When the Waiting’s Over (you still have to wait)

WaitingAbout a decade ago I began seriously writing. I didn’t have a clue what would be involved in being published, but I figured the first step was to write something that could be published. Good plan.

Then, once I finished that first manuscript, I began to stick one toe and then another into the publishing world. And the waiting began. The waiting for feedback from critique partners, agents, editors, contests, and so on. The waiting for replies to e-mails. The waiting for responses on queries and proposals. Waiting for the pub board to make a decision. Waiting for the contract to arrive. Waiting for edits. Waiting for the publication date. And then I held my book in my hands and the waiting . . .

. . . had only begun.

Now I’m waiting for reviews. Waiting for sales numbers. Waiting for blog posts and interviews so I can wait to see if they have any impact. Waiting for edits on book #2. Waiting for cover art. Waiting to finish book #3 so I can go through all the waiting all over again.

Waiting to see what God will do with the words I’ve written.

Back when I thought all I was waiting for was a published book, I heard writers talk about how the work really begins once you think you’ve reached your goal. They were right.

In the NIV Bible the word “wait” is used 129 times. Noah waited for the waters to recede. Abraham waited for a son. The Jews waited for the Messiah. And after the waiting? Work and waiting for the next thing.

When I started this blog, I chose a verse–Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” I thought one day I’d change that verse, pick something that fit the next phase of my journey. But it turns out that’s the perfect verse. There’s always something more to wait for. At least there is this side of Heaven.

So wherever you are in your journey, be strong. Take heart. Wait for the Lord. He has big plans for you!

 

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Appalachian Thursday–SouthernBelleView

Eva MarieToday I’m hoping you’ll join me over at SouthernBelleView where author Eva Marie Everson has been gracious enough to post an interview with me. She critiqued Miracle in a Dry Season at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference two and half years ago and was very helpful and encouraging.

Every time I attend a conference I learn something concrete. There’s plenty of big picture learning and networking, but then I find one or two nuggets that seem so simple, but have such an impact. Eva Marie taught me one of those in 2012. She asked me why I kept changing up my dialogue tags.

“Let’s get something to eat,” he said.
“Anything but fast food,” said she.

I proudly explained that I was making sure my tags were varied. Yeah. So. That would be a novice mistake. While I knew not to stray too far from the ubiquitous “said,” I didn’t know that the tag pretty much always comes last. Perla said. Casewell explained.

So thank you Eva Marie, for today’s post and for the excellent advice that kept me from looking too much like a newbie when I queried that book!

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Adjusting My Perspective–Room in the Inn

Birthday cakeAs I approach the one-month mark from my book’s release on August 5 I’ll confess I’m a wee bit obsessed with things like sales rank, reviews, and Facebook engagement. And while many of those numbers are squishy, there’s just enough information out there to, well, make me crazy.

Which is why I’m really glad this is the week for Room in the Inn at church. Once or twice a year our church hosts up to 12 homeless ladies who live in our fellowship hall for a week. Sponsored by a ministry called Homeward Bound, the goal of Room in the Inn is to meet the immediate needs of homeless women while they work toward a permanent home of their own.

On Sunday we set up the fellowship hall, putting out 12 mattresses owned by Homeward Bound and making them up with linens from a local hospital (we own the pillows and blankets we use). We also stuffed insulated lunch bags with toiletries and comfort items for each lady.

Sunday evening, we got to meet our guests. Trust me, spending time with these ladies will get your head out of your own mess and right now. The thing is, they aren’t all that different from me. Only maybe they didn’t have great parents. Maybe they married men who abused them. Maybe they lost their jobs and didn’t have anyone to help. Maybe they got sick and didn’t have insurance.

Maybe I could be homeless, too, given just the wrong circumstances. Suddenly, sales rank doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

I’m making dinner for them this evening. Fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, and cole slaw. And for dessert? Each lady is getting a mini birthday cake. With a candle. Because I suspect it’s been a while since most of these women have had cause to celebrate much. I, on the other hand, have something to celebrate every day.

And so we’ll have cake and maybe even sing “Happy Birthday” and hopefully they’ll know they’re loved. Not because they have jobs or houses or money or lots of good novel reviews, but just because they were born.

Psalm 139:13-14 – “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

 

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