Friday, June 26, 2015

Jessica Leigh Johnson: An Unexpected Writing Journey

Everyone's Story welcome author Jessica Leigh Johnson. What pulled my interest about Jessica is her personal story of how she persevered through the myriad struggles of losing her son and her desire to help others. I can only hope that Jessica's words this week will encourage you that no matter where you are in life, or what you are facing, that you will reach out to trust the One who will not abandon you. If you know of a friend or relative who may be lifted up in spirit by Jessica's words, please encourage them to read her message. Please check out Jessica's non-fiction BookGiveaway of DO YOU TRUST ME and be sure to check her website for the soon-to-be-release of her short story House On Mirror Lake, part of the summertime sweet romances, Sweet Summer Love. Also, Jessica was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us, so settle back for some insights and a tad of fun. Both Jessica and I look forward to hearing from you.

Jessica is offering 1 copy of her non-fiction title DO YOU TRUST ME? to 1 randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, July 3rd between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment.

My Very Unexpected Writing Journey
By Jessica Leigh Johnson

Over the last few years I’ve read a lot of authors’ blogs and quite a few bios, and one thing I’ve noticed is that my writing journey started out much like so many others. I hope that’s a sign that I’m on the right track with this writing dream of mine.

As an only child from northeast Ohio, I must’ve had a lot of time on my hands, and I spent most of it writing stories in blank books with lined pages. I would fill them from cover to cover. I continued to write throughout high school and college.

In 1999 I graduated from Crown College with a degree in Christian Education, got married that summer, and eventually moved to northern Minnesota (a very long way from Ohio). Once I had kids, my writing stopped. There just wasn’t time. For almost seven years, the only thing I wrote was my annual family Christmas letter. Then in November 2005, as a mother of three young children, I began to feel distant from the Lord and useless for his kingdom. I longed for a ministry role within my church (other than nursery duty), and my pastor asked me, “What do you like to do?”

I didn’t have to think long. “I like to write,” I said, and he gave me the job of writing the front-page article in our monthly church newsletter. I received so many positive comments from the people in my church about my articles—several of them telling me I should write a book. My passion for writing had been rekindled after a very long hiatus, and it felt wonderful to be using my talents for the Lord.

In late March 2006, my youngest son, Ethan, who was nine months old, got a terrible virus. For some reason, he just couldn’t seem to shake it. He ended up at the University of Minnesota, three hours from our house, where he was eventually diagnosed with a primary immune deficiency disease (PIDD). A week after Ethan entered the hospital, his two-year-old brother, Andy, came down with the exact same symptoms and was also brought to the U of M hospital so we could be together. There he was diagnosed with the same condition, PIDD. Because of a lack of B-cells, my boys couldn’t produce antibodies to fight an otherwise common cold virus. Andy developed pneumonia and was put on a ventilator. Ethan became gravely ill, and had to start chemotherapy.

On April 2nd, my latest newsletter article, which I’d written on the computers in the lobby outside the boys’ room and sent via email, appeared in the church mailboxes back home. Easter was a week away, and I wrote about how hard it must have been for God the Father to watch his only Son suffer and die on the cross, even though it had to happen in order to save the lost. I figured it was a pretty timely topic since I knew full well how it felt to watch my own sons suffer.

The next day, April 3rd, less than two weeks after being admitted to the hospital, Ethan passed away. We feared for Andy, as his illness seemed to be following the same course as Ethan’s, but thankfully, he recovered (although he would now have to receive weekly infusions of immune globulin for the rest of his life in order to stay healthy).

When we returned home, without Ethan, my newsletter articles took on a whole new purpose. I was dealing with the loss of my son on paper, and sharing every detail with my church family. The lessons God taught me about what it really meant to trust Him—even if it meant He wouldn’t answer my prayers the way I expected—I would pass on to my congregation. Eventually, the next two years’ worth of articles became my first book, Do You Trust Me?, which I published so I could share my story with a broader audience. I began speaking to MOPS groups and women’s retreats, and started a ministry to other mothers who have lost children.

Now I’ve turned my writing focus to fiction. I’ve told my husband I don’t want my real life to inspire any further books! I’d prefer to make up the stories and use the lessons God taught me through the loss of Ethan to encourage my readers to trust the Lord, even in the most difficult circumstances.

My road to becoming an author definitely doesn’t look the way I would have chosen, but I hope that my stories will resonate with readers on an emotional level that I couldn’t have known or understood had I not experienced what the Lord has allowed in my life.

A Few Questions For Jessica:
I love your description of life up in northern Minnesota. Have you ever dreamed of throwing in the infamous towel and moving south? 

Coming from Northeast Ohio, I’ve found life in northern MN to be fascinating. It’s a lifestyle that’s highly focused on recreation and the outdoors. People up here love hunting, fishing, and spending time at their lake cabins. They’ll put up with just about anything, including sub-zero winter temps and pesky insects like mosquitoes and ticks, as long as they can do the outdoor activities they enjoy. Many elderly people “winter” down south in Florida, but I have no intention of leaving this wonderful place any time soon. I find renewal just going outside and spending time in my perennial gardens.

What advice can you offer those who are primary care givers to prevent emotional burnout?

Being a primary caregiver to three chronically ill children can be time-consuming and emotionally draining. I give my boys weekly infusions and twice-daily chest physiotherapy, along with multiple prescription medications. It’s hard not to whine and ask, “When will someone see to my needs for a change?” But I think it’s a good, concrete reminder that this life is not about “me” and I am to be a servant. Someday I will be old and my kids just might get a chance to see to my needs on a daily basis. I’m not in a hurry for that to happen, though, so for now, I try to be thankful for my present circumstances.

Fiction-wise, and for fun, what kind of meal would you describe the stories you enjoy writing? Is there a type of genre that you’ve been thinking about trying out for size?

I enjoy writing Contemporary romance. I have several novel-length fiction stories in the works, each with a heavy romantic element, and a sweet short story coming out this summer in an anthology. If my stories were a meal, they’d be a salad with ranch dressing. The salad is the healthy, fiber-filled helping of Biblical truths and hard life lessons that I like to include in each story. But because that can be a lot to swallow, especially in the form of fiction, which is supposed to be entertaining, I add a good portion of ranch dressing, or humor, to each story. It’s fatty and not really necessary, but it sure helps the salad go down. My non-fiction book “Do You Trust Me?” dealt with a heavy topic: the loss of a child. I made sure to sprinkle in a little humor, even if it may seem inappropriate to some, simply to balance out the weighty subject matter.

If finances were not a consideration, where would you visit? Would it be a family trip or a girls-only getaway?

I’ve been to several countries in Europe and I just love it there. But one thing I’ve never experienced is a tropoical island vacation. I would love to go to St. Thomas or the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, or anywhere else with turquois water and white sand beaches. I would have to go with girlfriends, though, because my husband has assured me he has no interest in a vacation like that!

Is there 1 book, either fiction or non-fiction (not including the Bible), that you would enjoy reading again?

I have never read a book twice. There are so many books on my to-read list, I can’t imagine taking the time to read one I’ve already read! But if I had to, it would be one with life principles worth remembering--the kind of book you read with a highlighter in hand so you don’t forget all of the excellent points made by the author. “Crazy Love,” by Francis Chan is one example. I love that book.

Jessica's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Meet Jessica Leigh Johnson @JessLJohnson815: A mom who didn’t give up when awful happened. (Tweet This)

Everyone’s Story: author Jessica Leigh Johnson @JessLJohnson815 tells her unexpected writing journey. (Tweet This)

Jessica Leigh Johnson @JessLJohnson815 #BookGiveaway of DO YOU TRUST ME? (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Jessica Leigh Johnson grew up in Northeast Ohio and lived there for eighteen years before moving to northern Minnesota. She is so fascinated with the unique "up north" lifestyle, that she includes a little bit of Minnesota charm in each of her sweet contemporary romances. She has written one non-fiction book, entitled Do You Trust Me? about her faith struggles following the death of her infant son, Ethan, in 2006. Her first short story, The House on Mirror Lake, was recently published in the anthology Sweet Summer Love. Jessica received her BS in Christian Education from Crown College in 1999, and now resides "up north" in Minnesota with her husband and four children.

Places to connect with Jessica:

Friday, June 19, 2015

Laura Hodges Poole: Ouch! Who Put That Wall There?

Everyone's Story welcomes fiction and devotional author Laura Hodges Poole. I've gotten to know Laura the past few years through the writings on her blog and Twitter and was delighted when she contacted me with the news of the release of her devotional WHILE I'M WAITING. If you are yearning to replace an emptiness within you with hope, Laura's messages will uplift an encourage you on. The message that Laura shares with us this week is dynamic. It's perfect cheer for a difficult spot in life, one's seemingly stuck writing journey, or for the reader who devours words to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Please check out Laura's BookGiveaway. Both Laura and I look forward to hearing from you.

Laura is offering 1 Kindle copy of her devotional WHILE I'M WAITING to 1 randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, June 26th between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment.

Description of WHILE I'M WAITING:

While I’m Waiting originated from a portion of the author’s blog devotions from the past few years, put together for the first time in a collection. This devotional will inspire the reader to wait on God patiently and reverently to answer prayers according to His perfect timing. The author shares her own struggles and shortcomings in a relatable way that encourages and brings hope even in the most difficult circumstances. The devotions show that it is possible to walk through the valley and not despair while praising God and choosing contentment during trials. As Jim Elliot once said, “God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.”

The Invisible Wall by Laura Hodges Poole

“A flash of harmless lightning, a mist of rainbow dyes, the burnished sunbeams brightening, from flower to flower he flies.” ~ John Banister Tabb

Last summer, I walked through my garage and heard a noise coming from behind the window blinds. It sounded like an oversized bumblebee—or a miniature power tool. Along with the hum, I heard a tap, tap, tap. The little creature was beating itself to death against the closed window, when he only needed to back up and exit the way he came in—through the open garage door.

We have this problem every summer. No doubt, the hummingbirds are attracted by anything red in the garage. They hover around my van’s taillight, apparently trying to discern if it’s a food source.

Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards. I could list many amazing attributes about this beautiful creature, but no matter how magnificent, its design is also limiting. One trait in particular—fear—causes the hummingbird to ignore its God-given instinct to simply back out of a situation it shouldn’t be in.

Horrified that the bird would tap the window until it died, I grabbed a rake. After several careful attempts to free the bird without stressing or injuring it, I guided it away from the closed window back to the open garage door. Was it relieved? I doubt a bird has the capacity to feel relief, but it went on its merry way, to the next red bloom or taillight that caught its attention.

Sound familiar? How often do we insist on following a path in pursuit of something that turns out to be a counterfeit blessing, much like the taillight is to a hummingbird? We see the end of the path—the objective we’re after—so we keep beating our head against the invisible wall to reach it. Though we could take a step back and reassess our objective and the means to achieve it, we refuse to do so.

God grabs our shirttails and tries to rein us in. We try to wriggle out of His grasp.

“But, God, I see the prize. If I try hard enough, work hard enough, sacrifice enough, I’ll get there. Don’t pull me back. Here’s a better solution … remove the invisible wall.”

Because we know best, right? And removing the barrier would be best.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Reflection: Are you facing an obstacle today? Challenge yourself to take that step back into the arms of God and wait for His direction. Trust Him to get it right!

(Post shared from “While I’m Waiting” devotional.)

Laura's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Author Laura Hodges Poole @Laura_Poole: you can walk through the valley & not despair! (Tweet This)

Everyone’s Story: Laura Hodges Poole @Laura_Poole, an author sharing own struggles to give you hope. (Tweet This)

Laura Hodges Poole @Laura_Poole: #BookGiveaway of WHILE I’M WAITING (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Laura Hodges Poole is a Christian writer with dozens of articles, devotions, and short stories in publication. She is a 2014 ACFW Genesis semi-finalist and a 2012 RWA Emily finalist (second place) in Christian fiction. Her novella, "A Christmas Chance," and devotional, "While I'm Waiting," are available on Amazon. She collaborated with several published authors on a Christian romance serial “Path to Love,” available July 1 on Amazon. Her upcoming Christian romance novella will release in November. Laura is also a non-fiction ghostwriter/collaborator. Her passion is encouraging others in their Christian walk through her blog, "A Word of Encouragement." When she’s not writing, you might find her hiking in the mountains or being crafty. Laura lives in South Carolina with her husband and is a mother of two sons.

Places to connect with Laura:

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Kathleen Rouser: A Blog-lift And Hope

Everyone's Story is thrilled to welcome back author Kathleen Rouser. Since Kathy's last guest appearance in 2013 (wow--can't believe it's that long ago, can't believe I've blogged all this time!) I've been blessed to deepen my friendship with this lovely woman. I hope you will see Kathleen's warmth shine as you read her encouraging words. Bonus: if you subscribe to Kathleen's blog, plus Everyone's Story, via email subscription or Google Follower (both options are found on our blogs' right-hand sidebars) you will receive 1 extra chance to win Kathleen's BookGiveaway. Present Everyone's Story's subscribers who subscribe to Kathleen's blog will also receive a bonus drawing. Both Kathleen and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kathleen is offering 1 printed copy of the anthology BRAVE NEW CENTURY, which features her novella THE POCKET WATCH to 1 randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, June 19th between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment. *** To receive a bonus chance to win this Giveaway, please subscribe to both Kathleen's blog and Everyone's Story. Thanks!

An excerpt from Kathleen's THE POCKET WATCH:

By Kathleen Rouser
Searching for the past, an orphan and a young doctor find love and hope for the future.

The winds and rains of October, 1899 seemed to conspire against Isabel Jones as she rushed to cross Jefferson Avenue. She squinted to avoid the cold stinging drops and strands of wet hair from whipping into her eyes. Isabel gripped the bottle of much-needed cough medicine in her pocket, which she had procured for the little ones at the orphanage. She hurried to get back to them before the croup worsened. Chugga, chugga, chugga... She looked up just in time to see one of those motor contraptions barreling around the corner.
“Miss! Watch out!” An iron grip on Isabel’s upper arm propelled her backward.
She didn’t see her rescuer until they had tumbled onto their backsides and both sat like children playing in a puddle on the side of the road. The bewildered look on her rescuer’s face chased away Isabel’s embarrassment. She bit her lips together in vain. Laughter bubbled out.
The glint in his sky-blue eyes belied his amusement, despite his serious expression. Then he smiled. “May I ascertain whether you’re well, miss?”
“I’m quite all right, but the bottle of medicine must have broken. What a mess!” She held up her gloved hand, sticky liquid dripping onto her navy woolen cloak. “It happened so fast.” Isabel blinked, then, much less amused.
The young man stood then and helped her to her feet. “I am so sorry. I’ll take care of it. What was the medicine for?” He reached for a black bag, which he’d dropped next to him and then rattled around in it.
“The little ones are sick with croup.”
He gave her a quizzical gaze.
“Oh, they’re not my children, but I help with them.”
“I see.” He handed her a small bottle. “Don’t worry. I’m the real thing, not part of a medicine man sideshow.” He grinned.
Isabel took the proffered medicine.
“Where do you live, miss?”
She swallowed. “I...”
“I’m terribly sorry. I don’t mean to be improper. I only want to make sure the druggist delivers more to you as soon as possible. I’ll be heading that way momentarily.”
She relaxed. “I’m Miss Isabel Jones.” She pulled off the soiled glove. Where could she tell him she lived? Isabel took in the strong chin, straight nose, the blond hair with a bit of curl in front and a moustache. He might as well be a handsome prince rescuing her on a steed. Perhaps the orphan asylum looked like a mansion, but living there wasn’t as impressive as abiding in the Gothic structures on Griswold. She stared down at her wet boots. “Over at Elmwood and Jefferson, at the Protestant Orphan Asylum of Detroit.”
He took her fingers lightly in his. “Delighted to meet you, Miss Jones. I’m Dr. Daniel Harper.”
“Pleased to meet you as well, Doctor.” Isabel pulled her hand away. “I must get back now. Thank you.” She held the bottle up, turned, looked both ways, and then ran across the street.
When she glanced over her shoulder and waved, the young man lifted his hat. “Good-bye.”
Isabel made it to the corner with her heart pounding and stopped. She had left the parcel with the broken bottle near the curb. It could be a danger to someone. She went back. Miss Crabtree would be furious she’d taken so long. She opened her cloak and untied her apron to wrap the sticky pieces of glass. Where rain collected just off the curb, something shone in the wan sunlight. She found a stick to hook the gold chain peeking out from the murky puddle. Along with it came a pocket watch.
Isabel grasped onto the dripping treasure. On the back she read the initials DJH. Daniel...something... Harper perhaps?
“Doctor!” she cried out, looking round for the gray tweed overcoat and matching newsboy cap. Passersby stared at her, but Dr. Harper was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t have time to check at the pharmacy, so she put it into her pocket, tucked next to the sample he’d given her, and picked up her garbage.
More of Isabel’s hair tumbled free from under the front brim of her hat. Her navy wool cloak and gloves were probably irreparably stained. She was Cinderella without glass slippers. No handsome prince would ever come to her rescue.
* * *
Daniel Harper, MD held tight to the handle of his black bag. The girl’s laughter had tickled him—no—it had gotten under his thick skin he’d carefully grown since the betrayal. But her chestnut hair had fallen out from under her hat in a most fetching way. The fact that she was more worried about getting medicine to her wards than the stains on her worn clothing pricked at his heart as though Cupid dared try to enter its chambers again with his deceptive arrows.
Daniel noticed the sun began shining like a golden smile between clouds. It must be at least mid-morning. He’d promised to stop at the pharmacy, but Mrs. Campbell would be pacing the floor with little Timmy, in quite a tizzy. If he didn’t get to his patient soon, he would have to medicate them both. Reaching into his waistcoat, he felt for his timepiece, but the spot was empty. He searched all around his feet. The pocket watch seemed to be long gone. Even the button he attached the chain to dangled by a thread. Had it happened when he fell? There wasn’t any time to look, but there certainly wasn’t time to buy a new one either.
* * *
Miss Crabtree stood waiting inside the door with arms folded. “What took you so long, young lady?”
Isabel felt six years old again as she stooped to remove her boots and bit her tongue against her impertinent reply.
“Just look at you! You’re an absolute mess! I send you on a simple errand, and you can’t even complete it.”
“Yes, ma’am. I do have the medicine, though.” She fished the small bottle from her pocket.
“What? This isn’t nearly enough. Didn’t you hear all of the children up there coughing the whole night, struggling for breath? And you bring me this?” Miss Crabtree snatched it from Isabel’s hand.
“But the wind blew my hair into my eyes, and I closed them against a sheet of rain for just a moment. And I didn’t see the automobile coming around the corner—”
“I don’t want excuses for your laziness!” Miss Crabtree began a new tirade.
“Is there a problem here, Biddy?” Mrs. Pleasance put a hand on Miss Crabtree’s shoulder, stopping her friend short.
“You handle this slothful child, Hope! I can’t do anything with her.” Miss Crabtree turned and stomped up the central stairway.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Pleasance, I know I must look frightfully unkempt, a terrible representative of the home.”
“Nonsense, dear, wherever you take your smile, you shine forth. Oh my, you must have had quite a run-in! Let’s get those wet things off of you. There’s nothing a little FelsNaphtha soap cannot handle in getting rid of tough stains.”
After Isabel changed her clothes, Mrs. Pleasance accompanied her to the laundry tub. They stood scrubbing her garments, side by side, while Isabel told the account of her savior-doctor and his kind offer of more medicine.
The orphanage director smiled. “Well, that was a double blessing for us, saving your life and being generous enough to replace the bottle of medication.”
Isabel nodded. Somehow, the young doctor appeared more than that. She kept thinking about the surprised amusement on his face, when she laughed about falling in the puddle. He looked jolly and boyish, not stern and tough like some of the doctors who’d visited the orphan asylum.
“Best stop daydreaming and get about your chores now, Isabel. Why don’t you stay on the first floor, and give Miss Crabtree a wide berth.” She smiled. “You could clean the office for me and be there in case anyone stops in.”
“Yes, Mrs. Pleasance.”
With so many children ill, the office had fallen quiet. Isabel filed papers as she’d been shown. Her humming filled the silence. Once everything was better organized, Isabel found the feather duster and went about her cleaning. The middle drawer was slightly ajar in a tall dark wood filing cabinet…not just in any cabinet, but in the forbidden cabinet…filled with the secrets of the children’s pasts. She should push it closed, search for the key, and lock it.
But a white corner of paper taunted her. It would be okay to look, if she tucked it back inside, right? Placing the duster on the shelf behind her, Isabel pulled the file out. Molly Duncan’s full name was written on it. Inside she found a birth certificate, complete with parents’ names and information about where she’d been born. It rang true with what she knew about little Molly. Both of her parents had died, and she had no kin close by. The distant relatives had never come for her, but occasionally Molly had a new Sunday dress she said her cousins sent.
Isabel tucked Molly’s file back where it belonged and began to push the drawer closed. But what about her own? There must be something in here about her past.
Whenever she asked, Mrs. Pleasance had changed the subject, telling her to think of the good things the future may hold, but she still wondered.
Who were her parents? All she knew is that she’d been dropped off at the orphanage in a little basket with Isabel printed on the paper pinned to her blanketMrs. Pleasance added Jones, rather than Smith, but there had been no other clues, according to the director.
Isabel’s hands grew sweaty, her heartbeat louder than the clock ticking in the room. She rifled through the folders, not even stopping to watch in case someone opened the door. Ah! There was the file she sought!
“Miss Isabel! What are you up to? Close that drawer immediately!” Miss Crabtree stood with arms akimbo, her eyebrows furrowed.
Isabel dropped the papers in her hands, pushing it shut onto her fingers. “Ow!” She pulled them away, feeling quite guilty. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me. The drawer was open and I—”
“We have taught you honesty and to honor the rules of this home, but you simply act like a spoiled child. You will go to your room and wait until Mrs. Pleasance and I can deal with you.”
“Yes, Miss Crabtree.” Isabel bit her lip and held her throbbing fingers. She just wanted to know whose family she had come from, which the unfeeling woman probably couldn’t understand. “I just want to find out who I am.”
“What? Don’t raise your voice at me. You’re nothing but the child of some riff-raff off the street, no doubt, so don’t get any high-faluting ideas. Be thankful you still have a roof over your head.”
Isabel turned away, marching out the door and up the stairs to the room she shared with three other young women. Ginny Baker, who slept on the bottom bunk to the left of her, breezed in. A halo of ginger hair curled around her freckled face. “We’ll be serving lunch in a few minutes. What are you doing up here?”
“Haven’t you ever wanted to know more about your past?” Isabel stared into her friend’s blue eyes.
“Remember, silly? I was a little older when I came to the orphanage. I have some memory of my family.” Ginny placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m in trouble for looking in the forbidden files. Now I have to wait for Mrs. Pleasance.”
“I’ll save you something to eat. I just came up to put my sweater away. It’s warm by the ovens.” Her dear friend hugged her. She was like a sister. “Don’t worry. She’ll understand and go easy on you.” Ginny attempted to reassure her with a dimpled smile.
As Isabel watched her leave, Mrs. Pleasance appeared in the doorway with a small box under her arm. She bit her lower lip, and her eyes shown with a sympathetic light. “Isabel, I think it’s time we talk about something important to you.”
She nodded back at the orphanage director, moving up the edge of the bed to make room for Mrs. Pleasance, who sat down next to her. “I’m sorry I have had to put you off for a long time. Part of this is my fault.”
Isabel shook her head. “I got carried away, I—”
“No.” Mrs. Pleasance squeezed her hand. “You have asked me many times and I have avoided the whole story.” She pried the lid off the paperboard box. “These are yours, Isabel. Go ahead.”
She reached in to touch a white blanket, yellowed with time, and felt its softness, like a whisper of her mother’s love. Isabel held her breath. This little covering was a part of her life, her beginning. It smelled of attic dust and lost memories. “I came here wrapped in this blanket?” But there was more! An envelope lay in the bottom of the box with a lump in the middle. The yellowed paper crinkled at Isabel’s touch. “This is mine, too?”
The older woman nodded. “Yes, my dear.”
At nineteen, Isabel felt the odd wonderment of childhood, despite her age. She rubbed her fingers over the object in the envelope. Opening it, she then emptied the contents into her other hand. A petite red oval gemstone shone almost pink, catching the brief rays of sunlight. She sucked in her breath as she took in the gold filigree setting and two little diamonds, one on each side of the stone.
“Your mother likely came from a local mission for…women. She was ill when she rang the doorbell and tried to run, but we opened it quickly and implored her to come in. She would only say that she wanted you to have a better life than she could give you. Your eyes, for that was all we could see in the dark, are much like hers. It was winter and her scarf was wrapped close around her face. She refused any assistance from us, but she asked us to give you the ring when you grew up.”
Isabel slipped the piece of jewelry onto her right ring finger, which fit like it was made for her. She felt richer for it—not because of the gem or the precious metal—but because it had been a gift from the woman who had birthed her. The ring, next to her Bible, was her only other treasure.
“Thank you.” She could barely get the words out as she choked back a sob.
“One other thing, Isabel, it’s time for you to see more of the world outside of these walls.”
Isabel shook her head. “I’m happy helping with the children.”
“I understand, but I know just the job for you. A gentleman who needs a companion for his invalid wife called. I believe you’re a perfect fit. You have a gentle, helpful spirit.”
“I thought you needed me here.” Isabel couldn’t look into Mrs. Pleasance’s eyes.
“My dear, someday you may want a family of your own. Keeping you here until you become a spinster isn’t the job of the orphan asylum.” Mrs. Pleasance patted Isabel’s hand again.
Isabel’s gaze fastened on the ring as it glinted in the daylight. Her own family? If the good Lord gave her a family, she would never leave her children. But could she be the right kind of mother when she wasn’t able to even deliver a bottle of medicine to the orphanage in one piece?

Learning To Trust God With The Outcome
by Kathleen Rouser

Trust has been a theme word for my life for more than a year. Wherever I’ve turned, God has showed me He has everything under control. From absolute exhaustion to a cancer scare, the Lord has reminded me He never leaves my side. Then, sometimes the little things are harder to let go of, including a change in blog look and theme.

The nervousness and excitement of trying something new surged through me while perusing possible new headers and backgrounds. Though I told myself I could always go back to the look of the old website, I had this feeling there was no turning back. So I plodded forward. The title of my blog, Writing, Whimsy and Devotion, has become Kathleen Rouser (& Cat!) While short messages on Facebook and Twitter serve their purpose, my desire has been to connect with a readership at a deeper level. A blog seems like a worthy venue to accomplish this online.

My blog, which sometimes includes the fictional musings of my cat and alter-ego, Lilybits, has been a place where I could share insights the Lord has placed on my heart, my gleanings on writing, or share about other writers and their books. Since I’ve felt that other authors, more qualified than myself, are serving aspiring wordsmiths well, I’ve backed off on writing advice for the most part.

As my blogging has evolved, I have been in prayer for guidance on a niche to fill. Bad news and disasters overtake headlines online, in print, and on television. Having been through quite a few difficult trials over the years, I am aware how much energy is needed to focus on the positive in a negative world. Yet, I’m truly surrounded with blessings--life is over all very good. So many people trod through this life filled with deep hurts and emotional pain and need a touch of humor and happiness. Because of this, I wanted to have a lighter feel to my blog and have continued to believe this is worthwhile.

Lilybits’ commentary on life is tongue-in-cheek of course. After all, I’m half convinced if cats had the gift of speech and opposable thumbs, they would set to conquering the world. Their big eyes and purrs are already enough to melt our hearts into those of willing servants and companions.

Sometimes, however, I enjoy sharing the things the Lord has shown me through His word and put on my heart by His Spirit. As brothers and sisters in Christ we have so many common trials and need to encourage each other, lifting one another up.

I also would like to continue promoting authors of uplifting Christian writing. Eventually, I also hope to share history, which has played into creating my stories.

Often, it seems, our human nature is drawn to the negative, but I would hope my blog can be an option to that, in a God honoring way. I chose to replace an antiqued look with a vintage one, using a fun background with white polka dots on a blue field. The header shares an element of this background and who wouldn’t smile when they see a bubble with the words, “Chatting about the good, the cat and the inspiring!” coming from the very cat who lends her charm to the website? Well, if you find this too silly, I will perhaps elicit an eye roll, if nothing else.

With the help of my good friend, Elaine Stock’s, input, I rearranged the blog’s text as well. She also gave feedback on the side bar content. I admire the way she encourages people, giving them a platform to share their stories and their writing, and I appreciate the clean, folksy look of Everyone’s Story.

With my new look and an increase in number of weekly posts, my page view numbers are going up to some degree or another. Daily comments are lacking and my followers are slow to increase, but here I must be patient. Like any other prose, the writing must be done with a view to the glory of our Creator. Investing time and craft is like planting seeds and watering the garden. I must continue to work the soil and weed out what’s not good, trusting there will someday be a harvest.

**You can see Kathleen's previous Everyone's Story feature, An Author Bridging The Past To The Present, here.

Kathleen's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Author @KathleenRouser on Everyone’s Story: A new blog look and hope! #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

#Writers: Author @KathleenRouser asks why bother re-designing a blog for your #readers? (Tweet This)

Like #HistoricalFiction? Check out @KathleenRouser’s #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
An author and speaker, Kathleen Rouser, has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. Kathleen’s first novella, The Pocket Watch, was part of the anthology, Brave New Century, and was published by Inspired Romance in 2013. She has a short story in the bestselling anthology, Christmas Treasures, released in 2014. Her first full-length novel will be published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in April, 2016.
She studied communications and English during her first college years. Kathleen has been published in Homeschool Digest, An Encouraging Word, the Oakland Press and Happy Sis. She interviews authors for the Novel PASTimes historical fiction blog. Her desire is to bring to life endearing characters, who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives.
During a long career as a home school instructor, she and her husband raised three sons. She graduated in 2012 with her Associate in Applied Science and is sometimes a mild-mannered Registered Dental Assistant by day. Kathleen is longstanding member of ACFW, former critique group moderator, past Genesis judge and former Great Lakes Chapter board member. Along with her sassy tail-less cat, she lives in southeast Michigan with her hero and husband of 33 years, Jack, who not only listens to her stories, but also cooks for her.

Places to connect with Kathleen:


***I'll love for you to take a moment and take this month's poll on the right-hand sidebar. Thanks so much.

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