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Archive for the ‘Christian and Inspirational’ Category

Lately I’ve been thinking about perspective, and how I often need adjustments to mine. I get caught up in dwelling all about me, and my wishes and needs, and sometimes forget about others. Then something happens and I get a eye-opener. So, I’ve listed a few situations that have another side that offers a whole new perspective.

 

When one is having a bad day– running late, and nothing going right, and you see a car while doing your morning errands…then seeing that same car again later in the day on the back of a tow truck, this time with crumpled damage.

When one has to take a detour— how much of an inconvenience will this be?… and then hearing about someone who had to have their keys taken away and can’t drive any more.

When the drive-thru messes up one’s order… and then they pass a homeless, hungry person or the line at a soup kitchen or a church with a reminder of a food drive.

When one has a bad hair day– it’s frizzy, unruly, or won’t cooperate… and then crosses paths with a cancer fighter who is bald from chemotherapy.

When one doesn’t like anything — can’t find any decent clothes in the closet or the dishes are mismatched or furniture is old and ratty….and then the neighbor’s house burns and they lose everything they have.

When one has a fight with their spouse, parent or child and is justifiably angry… and then pass by a funeral.

When the newspaper is wet, damaged or not delivered at all…. and then encounters one who doesn’t know how to read.

When it hurts– one twists their knee/ankle or somehow hurts themselves….and then encounters someone missing a limb (or some other obvious limitation)

When the friend/ relative/ date stands one up…then learns of a lonely or bullied person who commits suicide ( or tries to) because they felt they were alone or un-loveable.

These scenarios are not meant to be depressing or upsetting. They were intending to remind myself, and anyone else who needs a gentle reminder, that no matter how bad things may seem right now…there is always someone else who is experiencing it worse. It’s all in our perspective.

It seems on the days when I am feeling sorry for myself over some grievance is when I am graciously handed such a reminder that it’s not all about me. The car occurrence really did happen this weekend. While out running errands, I spotted a car that for some reason stuck out to me. A couple of hours later, I spotted it again while I was going to meet a friend, this time loaded on the back of a tow truck.  Suddenly my rushed schedule paled in comparison and I scribbled most of these situations on my way to my appointment.

 

 

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images-31Lately I’ve been thinking about making it through things. It could be an event, a period in our life, an illness, a test, a divorce, a wedding, a meeting, a drive, or just whatever “it” currently is. And the interesting thing is the “it” tends to change as time progresses, but there always seems to be some form of “it” that we are always just trying to make it through. Or at least it seems like that for me.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been battling a cold-turned-acute bronchitis. Simply put: I have physically felt miserable just about non-stop for many endless days. And during this time I’ve had overlapping pet care dates scheduled and multiple doctor appointments while still maintaining my full time job and attempting to catch up on writing chores and household responsibilities whenever I could in between. You could safely say I’ve felt stretched like the cookie dough under a rolling pin.

So I’ve had a whole bunch of “it’s” to make it through. Some were fairly short, like the drive to and fro the various places I needed to be, or the doctor appointments, and those brief moments where I could knock a few to-do items off my list. Other things are longer, like waiting for the bronchitis to run its course and the gut-retching cough to go away and waiting for test results to come back.

About a month ago I started reading a book, called “You’ll Get Through This” by Max Lucado. I like his writing style, and to be frank, the title appealed to me. It is a study of the life of Joseph from the book of Genesis, and how his life was a series of making it through some unfortunate experiences. He had misfortune, one after another, and always ended up triumphant in the end. I’m not looking for triumphant. I would be satisfied with a short break in between things I need to make it through. A period of calm in which nothing is expected of me except to just breathe.

I’d love just a temporary respite to soak in the afterglow of nothingness. A time to drift, not needing to do, to be, go, have, say, or get. Anything.  My very own “Calgon, take me away!” moment.

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However, this raised a bigger question in my mind. Why do we feel we have to make it through “this”? Or climb the mountain? Or clear the hurdle? Or whatever metaphor you happen to personally like. Maybe we’re watching the  clock slowly creeping toward five o’ clock (or our own individual quittin’ time), counting down days until some big event or turning the pages of the calendar wondering where it all went or any other method of getting through. It seems life has become one big never-ending series of the next big-something. Something to dread or something to enjoy, something to endure or something to revel in. It’s always the wait for it to get here, the actual time spent, and the period immediately after to breathe deep or wipe the sweat away.

Sometimes for me that’s the time to grab chocolate and coffee. Celebrate. I’m big into celebrating even minor, small happenstances. Competing projects, surviving rough patches of time, and accomplishing challenging tasks will all garner the reward of chocolate and coffee and a few moments of treasured nothingness– to soak in the glow of satisfaction.

But still, I wonder, if there is some way to live a life that isn’t constantly filled with the sense of “I will make it through this” or worse yet, “I have to make it through this.” Can we just reach a point were life is lived, hourly or daily or by the minute, without the constant looking beyond the “right now”? Where escapism isn’t required or used as a reward for surviving? Because, in all honesty, I suspect my chocolate and coffee treat is sometimes a means to escape as much as a celebration for success.

 

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Today, January 27th, is National Chocolate Appreciation Day. This could be like a nation-wide holiday. To celebrate, I thought I’d recycle a page someone featured on their blog earlier this year.

 

Cake Therapy

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choc cake finished productThere was a time when Ryan Jo Summers didn’t know if she was going to live until her next birthday. Undergoing surgery after surgery on her pelvis, only to suffer from an abdominal condition that nearly killed her.

After a two week stay in the hospital in a drug induced coma, she was finally able to go home.  She’s here on Fun Friday to share her sweet poem, Cake Therapy, and talk about a lovely recipe about the cake that she had to bake as a symbol of her year of suffering. The cake was difficult to bake, but well worth it.

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Cake Therapy  by Ryan Jo Summers

 

I had wanted to bake a cake, a hard one

a challenge, meant to be both therapy and fun.

A ‘difficult’ rated birthday cake, chocolate of course

To mark my birthday this year, my forty-forth.

Good intentions, I thought, to bake a grand layered cake

for my hard fought birthday, take to work, and celebrate

This year has brought many ups, down, trials and changes

and therapy I find often comes in phases.

 From measuring, leveling, mix and stir

until all the ingredients begin to blur

 A certain sense of unity

can be found by following the recipe

 Next into the oven, then the washing up

bowls, spoons, soapy water and the cups

Except something went unexpectedly wrong

overflowing, the pans set off the smoke alarm’s song

I know it’s part of what I had asked for—the challenge

so gamely the cake base I did try to salvage

 So tonight the failed effort goes into the trash bin

And tomorrow I shall attempt to bake a cake again

 Perhaps this foiled start is a symbol, a sign

Of the journey this year I have taken, the hills I have had to climb

 

So that is the poem I wrote while recovering. That was a few years ago, but I’ve never tried the cake again. I still have the recipe, so if you’d like a copy, just mention your contact method in the comments and I’ll get it to you.

Happy Chocolate Appreciation Day!! Go have a bite of your favorite chocolate treat and celebrate all the hills you have climbed.

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Last year, about this time, I posted on the evolution of my blog. It had turned five years old and had taken a few radical turns over those years. My ponderings were on those twists.

This year–as my blog turns an incomprehensible six years old–I find those original thoughts to still hold true, with a year’s worth of experience to add to. However, first, a review of last year’s post:

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Jan 1, 2016: In a few months my blog will turn five. I can hardly believe it. Just like I can hardly believe it’s already 2016. As I was taking the calendars down last night, I considered the fact it didn’t seem that long ago I put them up. And now I’ve turned their pages twelve times. I’m sure a few of you can relate.

And that got me to thinking about this blog. It hardly seems possible I started it, albeit very reluctantly, back in May of 2011. I had very little knowledge of what a blog really was, let alone the purpose of creating one. Yet I had been told if I wanted to be a serious writer, I needed one. So voila, Summersrye was created. Had I known then what I know now, I’d have skipped the nickname thing and just used my proper name. But I like Rye, and not knowing any better, it seemed acceptable. Honestly, I don’t recall how I ended up at WordPress. It might have just been the first blog site that popped up when I plugged in a Google search.

keyboard and notebook

I went through recently to see what kind of posts I’ve written and the transformation this blog has undergone. The results sort of surprised me. My first post was May 11, 2011, called “Starting out”. That was pretty much it for 2011. In 2012 there were a whole 17 posts. The content changed directions twice. First I was going to take a non-fiction manuscript and blog it piece by piece. Feedback was nil. I even sent out a post asking “Am I doing this right?” of which I got one response back. Okay, at least someone out there in cyber world was aware I was blogging.

directions sign

Then I got the contract for my first book, “Whispers in her Heart”, the book that would forever change my life. I was going to be a published author. Time to get really serious about this blogging thing. Right? My posts changed from the random and non-fiction snippets to lots of “Whispers” stuff.Whispers cover from amazon

2013 I posted about 48 times, (give or take one) I was learning book promotion and it showed. I started putting in progress on edits and cover creation as well as teasers for “Whispers”, and a few pictures of my first book signings. I included poetry and shared life happenings. I opened up just a little, trying to remember if anyone was reading this, they were a real person on the other end of the computer screen. I shared photos of my pets, who are part of my life. I shared personal reflections and works in progress.

chasing ideas

2014 I continued sharing anecdotes and photos of my pets. I was now reading other people’s books and trying my hand at posting my reviews. I was following other blogs and re posting things I found interesting. Now I had a few books out and was regularly sharing status and updates on “Whispers”, “Shimmers of Stardust”, and “When Clouds Gather”. I posted more times than ever before.

Recipe for writing success

2015 was much the same. Book reviews. Pet anecdotes. Personal situations. Personal reflections. I was getting pretty personal this year. My family of books was growing. Now we added “Chasing the Painted Skies” and “Sizzle in the Snow” Anthology plus more works in progress and two more slated for 2016. I had people contact me asking if I would please read and review their books. I added the new feature somewhere along the way of hosting authors, interviewing them and talking about their books. In exchange, I was usually hosted on their blogs. Giveaways were another new feature in 2015.

All in all, not bad for a kid who few thought would ever make a writer. I recall hiding in my closet, pounding away on an old manual typewriter I bought at a garage sale. I baby sat so I had money for paper, notepads, and pens. Finally my mother gave me an electric typewriter for either my birthday or Christmas when I was around twelve. To have access to the electric outlet, I had to move out of the closet and into first my bedroom and then a corner of the long harvest table situated in the living room. I guess she wanted to see her daughter once in a while.

old typewriter

So while looking back, I also want to look forward. What do I want this blog to accomplish in our brand new 2016? Well, I want it to be a communication point. First, I want to be able to share news with readers about new books, giveaways and anything else share-worthy. I want to continue having others from other houses on my blog, sharing news about their exciting new releases. Bonus if they offer giveaways too. I want to grow the book reviews. In fact, I just finished a sassy little story last night and will be posting a review this weekend. And I have that author scheduled to be hosted on the blog in a few weeks.

Writing is a gift

Of course I want to share stories and pictures of my zany pets. They are the world to me, as many pet owners will testify. I’d be tickled if readers shared their wonderful pet pictures. I will also continue to share personal reflections and observations. Sometimes life gets rough or crazy and it’s nice to talk about it on a blog. It may not fix it, but it makes handling it a little easier. I follow a few blogs of people who do that very well. I’ll probably go back to posting some of the poetry from time to time and maybe some short flash fiction or sample chapters. That has been in the back of my mind for a while too.

Happily ever after

The end result, I want 2016 to be a year of growth and connection both for this blog and my writing career.

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, now it’s time to turn the calendars to 2017. I have added a pet sitting service to my life this year, which does had the unfortunate side effect of eating into my writing life. The bonus is I have met some interesting people and wonderful dogs and cats this year. I have settled comfortably into the house I bought in late 2014, but still have two rooms to paint (still!) and a few odd chores here and there I tackle when I need a break from writing.

What I would like to do with this blog in the coming months is much what I’ve done the last two years–share book reviews, host authors and their works, and continue the ‘Been Thinking About’ posts. Naturally I want to keep sharing misadventures of my pets, though my rescue collie, Ty, has his own blog I struggle to keep up with here on WordPress. Since I have two more books coming out in 2017, I want to share the steps from edits to covers to final release. I have a special giveaway planned for the first one, a Food & Love anthology coming up around May (ish).

Since I have two works in progress, and one more I hope to start soon, I want to share sample chapters. The opening chapters to one is already on my website at http://www.ryanjosummers.com. And I would like to encourage everyone to leave a comment with what they would like to see included in this blog, or more or less of any feature.

Lastly, I wish everyone a happy and healthy and wonderful new 2017.

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Timely, real writing, with humor, for serious issues. Good Boy is a Good Job.

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I first began reading A Good Boy because it was set in an area I am familiar with and I was curious to know if the author could credibly write with knowledge or had he simply tossed a dart to a map. I was pleasantly surprised to find he was indeed credible and detailed in the building of the setting. Even those not familiar with the area will become comfortable with the setting.

There are doubtlessly people and churches just like the author portrayed here, as I have known some of each. A dying church is a sad reality, as is teen suicide and questionable parenting; and our hero, Wesley Ames, was tasked with a difficult job. And plenty of obstacles along the way.

The book, while based on the trials and tribulations of a good preacher, is not preachy. The reader will not be lectured to. Non-Christians will appreciate the authentic flavor and humor of a real-life story. I found myself sympathizing for Wesley’s friend Gary Meade as he stumbles through a forced diet by his well-intending and loving family. And holding my breath with dread as I waited for another avalanche of ill-timed misfortune to befall the plucky Preacher Wesley. As he moved from good experiences and unfortunate situations, the guy earned my vote. He is a good guy trying to do the right thing while surrounded by stumbling blocks called people.

Such is the reality of Bradshaw’s writing. I truly hope there will be more books like A Good Boy coming from Mr. Bradshaw in the future.

*Note, I received a copy from Reading Alley in exchange for an honest review.

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Leaves are turning, and falling. Temperatures are dropping. The sun and moon have shifted to different paths. We are entering my favorite time of year… autumn and the subsequent year-end season.

fall-stream

I love spring, with the pastels and flowers and all the fresh newness. I loath summer, with the soaring heat and tempers. I live for autumn and the cooler winter months. For me, a time to pause, breathe deep, take stock and settle in.

earthal

 

First, I congratulate myself. I survived another intense summer season. Oh boy! Cheers! Chocolate! Now I can stop looking forward to fall, and just enjoy it. I wish September and October would crawl by at a snail’s pace. Instead, it seems to me they fly by like a hawk on the hunt. Swift, gone in a blur, with only a ruffle of breeze to show it was real.

Now, to shamelessly plug my work, I’ve released a number of books lately, with the newest one coming out November 9th, and this will be the third November in a row with something new coming out. Not by design, just how it all happened, but it has ensured the previous autumn seasons have raced past in a mixture of joy, celebration, anticipation and busy preparation. I absolutely vow there will be nothing releasing next autumn 2017. I want to sit on my laurels and watch the waters flow by at this time next year.

autumn-stream

Now, shameless plug aside, autumn also means the precursor to the holidays. I can’t read a paper without ads for Halloween staring at me, or listen to the radio without some mention of what candy the trick-or-treaters prefer or top costumes or number of adults who annually dress up or some reference to October 31st. I’m okay with that, even if I don’t get into the celebration. Driving by houses and seeing spooky decorations is enough for me. I’m good.

 

However, it signals that three important dates are on its holiday heels. For me, they are Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

Thanksgiving is my time to wallow in reflective thankfulness. I examine my life, what good has transpired over the year, and I give thanks for the lessons, blessings, friends and family, and all good things that poured over me in the year like warm honey. I look what I have outgrown in the year, where do I need to grow more and how do I plan to accomplish this needed stretch. I keep a Thanksgiving Jar in the den. This is when I review and update it, praising for answered prayers, adding new names to pray for, and acknowledge more blessings or needs. This is also when I decorate the house in its Christmas finery. It is a silent signal I have ended the months’ long yard maintenance for the year.

sunlight-through-winter-trees

Christmas, for me, is sacred, hallow and also reflective, with more emphasis on my Christian walk. I examine how well it has gone, where I need to step up and work harder and it’s a birthday celebration of someone special to me. I delight in the tree, lights, and pretty decorations of the season. Since I tend to spend most of the holidays alone, they have become reflective, contemplative, introspective, low-key, and peaceful.

purple-sunset

New Years is the final recap of the year, good  and bad, and plotting of the new year ahead. I spend a lot of time thinking, journaling and scribbling notes. This is also time for a financial review. What are my new goals, or ones left that I have not reached? How can I adjust for ones not yet met and incorporate the new ones? Tip– don’t schedule fall book releases if you want to fully enjoy autumn’s splendor.

cabin-buried-in-snow

I recently came across something called Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Apparently it is a Danish method of creating or cultivating a sense of cozy intimacy and contentment. It’s about making feelings of happiness, friendliness and well-being as part of your everyday world.  I am totally into checking this out.

Step 1 is spending quality time with friends and family. I can be bad for letting this get neglected. I get busy, have things to do and places to be. However, to achieve Hygge, I need to dust the cobwebs off my relationships and let these important people in my life know how much I value them.

autumns-glory-at-lake

Step 2 is to simply sit by a roaring fire. The concept is to evoke feelings of coziness and warmth. Well, I like roaring fires, love the ambiance they create, however, I don’t own a fireplace. What I do have is an electric heater that simulates burning wood while it emits heat. I like the look of burning logs while I sprawl on the sofa with a blanket, book and cat. Check, I can do this with modification.

Step 3 is keep things simple. Okay, that sounds simple. Suggestion here is instead of agonizing over complicated recipes, make a wholesome soup or roasted chicken. Simple and just as good, if not better. While I enjoy experimenting with new recipes, I love simple, tried-and-true soups, stews and chicken meals with easy-breey prep. So this one is just a matter of remembering, when I stress the small stuff, to let it go and embrace simplicity.

Step 4 is to dim the lights and use candles. Apparently the Danes love their candles. I do not. They look pretty, flickering with a romantic glow. However, I cannot appreciate any scent they give off and I live in fear of a potential fire. I have pets. They are not a good mixture. So to keep my stress levels down, and error on the side of practicality,  I think I need to forgo this step and settle for a picture of a flickering candle.

Step 5 is to decorate the inside with the outside. I am totally on board with this one. I love nature and endeavor to bring as much inside as I can. Houseplants trail their greenery like trees and vines. Water cascades from the aquariums like a waterfall. Blues mimic the sky. Artwork resonates with beachy-y scenes. Hygge suggested exposed stones, wood floors, big wooden tables and those piles of logs you need for the roaring fires in step two.

wooden-dock

Step 6 is to bake bread. I no longer bake bread, but I like to bake flavored loaves of banana and lemon bread or various coffeecakes, layered and sheet cakes and on occlusion, cookies. Like a loaf of white bread, baking is cathartic as you knead the dough and sharing it fresh from the oven with those friends and family from step one is one of life’s simplest and greatest pleasures.

Step 7 is drink cocoa. Preferably real cocoa, cream and milk, served  and sipped from a large, heavy mug. Again, I am totally down with this one too. On a nippy night, home from work, feeling chilled, I love a mug of cocoa. That is one of my simple pleasures as I sit with blanket, book, and cat in a dimly lit room watching my fake fire burn.

 

moon-and-beach

Step 8 is don’t deprive yourself. Ah, this one is tough. I can talk myself out of nearly any good thing. Case in point– I had a coupon for a free dessert because of my birthday at a local restaurant, with any purchase no minimum. I was so going to do this and treat myself to a hot fudge ice cream cake. Yep, I liked the restaurant, could think of several nice meals that were reasonably priced and topped off with free dessert. Oh yeah! I even picked out the day I would be in town, timed and ready for my lunch and dessert treat. You know what I did?  What I can do? Please don’t yell. I was within one mile of the restaurant, with coupon in hand, and talked myself out of it. Yes, really. Pitiful isn’t it?  I said it was just as easy and quick to go home instead, find some leftovers and I certainly already had a chocolate bar or something to snack on. So home I went. Hygge would mandate, or at least encourage, I ignore conventional excuses and Go To The Restaurant And Don’t Deprive Myself of something Good. I need to work on this one.

Step 9 is much easier for me. Get outside. It is the balance  and living a good healthy life.  We need to be inside, because we decorated our inside with the outside, and we also need to enjoy the outside on walks, explorations, strolls with family and friends, and just keeping the balance of in and out. Yin and Yang. Step away from the keyboard and remote and take Fido for a walk, feel the wind in your face. Come home to cocoa.

fall-walk

Step 10 I really love, it’s pick up a book. Yeah, I am always picking up a book. Sometimes to read and sometimes just to move from one pile to another. However, proper Hygge suggests cuddling under a blanket with  a book of your choice and just getting drawn into it. I cannot tell how many hours I have done in my life, and the places it has taken me.

Step 11 is simply put down the phone.  Hygge is the antidote to modern life. It’s all about embracing experiences and living in the moment. If we are staring at a screen, whether phone or tablet or television or whatever, we cannot embrace or even see the moment. So the Danes suggest setting the phone aside and enjoy the feeling of the moment.

path

There you go, the recipe for creating happiness in your life, and my end of year thoughts. So go ahead and tell me your traditions of spending the final months of the year and how you cultivate happiness and simplicity in your life. How easy or difficult do you think these eleven steps would be to incorporate into your life? Do you see autumn and winter as any different from spring and summer? Something to be enjoyed and savored or something to be tolerated?

 

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Today I am thrilled to officially unveil the front cover to my upcoming release with Soul Mate Publishing, entitled “Beside Still Waters“.

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McKayla thought she had it all. Then she met Clay and realized love was sharing life’s adventures.

“Beside Still Waters” is my eighth published book, my sixth novel, and fifth book offered by Soul Mate Publishing. It is a shift away from some of my other stories, in that it is a Christian romance without the blended sub-genre mixtures. That makes it a clean read without being predictable or overly sweet. There are plenty of support characters to keep the action going strong. Anyone who knows me knows Christian and time travel are my two favorite genres to read, and conversely, to write. So I am exceptionally proud to introduce “Beside Still Waters”.

Here is a little about this story:

Top Journalist and corporate climber, McKayla Buchanan, is sent to a remote California mountain camp for inner-city, at-risk teens. Accustomed to political corruption and high-society drama assignments, she is suddenly a fish out of water. At Camp In As Much, she meets eight hostile and distrustful teens, assorted volunteers and rescued horses—and Clay.
Clay Michaels is the man who founded Camp In As Much and made it the success it is now. His hope for the highly recommended journalist is to come and write a feature to send seeds out to form other camps like his nationwide. He never considered the reporter would turn out to be a lovely woman, or for him to have such an attraction to her.
Between McKayla’s worldly experience and Clay’s strong faith, they form a partnership to help with the endless challenges the kids present. While McKayla’s assignment is supposed to be temporary, it isn’t long before she and Clay are each wishing it could last longer. A serious situation will force McKayla to decide if she can give up her worldly ways and place her faith in the same higher source that earthy and godly Clay does.

“Beside Still Waters” is now available for pre-order on Amazon, with a deliver date of November 9th. Click here for the link to take you to Amazon: http://amzn.to/2dvkUEe 

And here is the fun part: I am offering two $5 Amazon gift cards in honor of this reveal. For your chance to win, leave a comment (& contact info) below. That’s it. Drawing to be held Saturday, October 15th.

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