Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Heroine of Proverbs 31

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She also does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard." Proverbs 31:10-16

Okay, ladies, let's be honest: Taking that first verse, "An excellent wife, who can find?", what picture comes to mind?

First, please allow yourself a sigh of relief. We're not looking for society's--especially not Hollywood's--version of The Excellent Wife. That lady eats a leaf of lettuce for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. She wears pearls while she vacuums, drives a late-model minivan to take the kids to soccer practice, always looks like she stepped off the set of Desperate Housewives, and is secretly always seeking to "find herself."

Let's forget that picture. Let's go instead for the one painted by the author of Proverbs 31, King Lemuel of Israel. He does a wonderful job of painting a portrait of her for us, the woman who is excellent in God's eyes.

Now, before we even get started, note that she is the excellent wife. Strong's Concordance translates that word to chayil in the original Hebrew, and the word in English translates to strength, ability, efficiency, wealth, force, army.

Nowhere do we find the word perfect in there.

So we can rule out what she's not. She doesn't always have her hair and makeup done. She runs out in jeans and has a Mets (Yankees? Jets? Panthers?) T-shirt to the supermarket because she forgot the cheese for the mac & cheese. She smudges her nail polish, forgets to charge her cell, and has the occasional argument with That Excellent Husband of hers!

Incidentally, Mr Excellent isn't perfect, either. Yet these two share a relationship that is grounded in faith, trust, and mutual respect for each other.

She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. Further on in our text, it speaks of her relationship with her children, her servants, and other people in her life. First and foremost, though, is her relationship with her husband.

I'm now at that age where my kids have kids. Our two lovable little boys, Joey and Brandon, grew up to be wonderful young men. They moved out, married to two lovable young women, and have kids and homes of their own.

That leaves my husband, Bill, and I back to Square One: Just him and me, alone in this house (that eventually will be downsized, we hope, for a little ranch).

That's a dangerous time for some marriages. A husband and wife sometimes spend so much of their time, along the way, pouring themselves into careers and the kids, that they dread the Empty Nest chapter of their lives. Many couples find themselves almost to be strangers once the dreams have been chased and the children have moved out.

Yet Mrs. Excellent "does him good all the days of her life." Listen, I know that marriage isn't always a romance novel. Still, 1 Corinthians 16:14 tells us to, "Let all that you do be done in love." We also have a promise straight from the Lord, who said, "For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20 NIV)

The woman in Proverbs 31 applies those principles in all that she does. "She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens."

Before you tell me, "All right, now that's where it gets tough!" Hey--that is the Christian wife and mother. He may be the head of the home, but you are the heart of the home. The heroine of Proverbs 31 knows she is needed. That her home doesn't run quite the same without her, even if she is a working mom and wears even more hats. She also understands that her work, what she does for her husband and family, is of value. That what she does is important to her loved ones.

And, sisters, God takes pleasure and He honors those things that you do every day. God is glorified in those things that you may take for granted, that at times we all may do grudgingly. The Lord is glorified all the little things: in the dusting and the grocery shopping; the picking up of children from daycare; the straightening up of the living room; the tending to pets; the posting of masterpieces drawn with crayon and posted with magnets on a refrigerator; the times that we work late and come home from our jobs, serving take-out pizza to a hungry family for dinner.

He is glorified in the driving of an aging parent to the doctor, since many of us are in "the sandwich generation," where we are taking care of children and elderly parents. He is glorified in the washing and folding of our loved ones' clothes.

He sees everything we do. Not one act of love that we do, however small or mundane, goes unnoticed by our Heavenly Father.

Jesus knows, personally, the Proverbs 31 Woman in your home. You are known and you are noticed and you are appreciated by that Heart.

Please check back here this week for Part II of our study of Proverbs 31. Until then, may you meditate on this passage and be blessed!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Letters to the LORD

Got a few minutes? Let's talk about devotional time...and written prayers.

First, I'm not talking about the "Our Father" or any other prayer that has already been written out and recited. I mean you, as a believer, putting pen or pencil to paper and actually writing out, in your own words, a prayer to the Lord. Have you ever thought about incorporating a hand-written letter to the Lord as part of your daily devotional?

Before we go any further, listen: I realize that not everyone likes to write,so this idea wouldn't necessarily be everybody's cup of tea. But just for a little something different, it would be worth a try, no?

I began doing that a few months back when I began volunteering as a counselor at our local crisis pregnancy center. One early evening, before speaking with a client, I saw a stack of thin notebooks that someone had lovingly decorated and asked, "What are those for?" Another counselor replied, "They're prayer journals that we can offer to our clients. Aren't they nice?"

Nice? No, cool idea! From that day forward, I loved offering them and handing them out to our clients. Eventually, I decided that I, too, could use a prayer journal.

Now, I'm sure that's not an original idea, that you'll find a lot of info about prayer journals on Pinterest, blogs, and other places. But have you ever considered writing daily to the Lord? (Or, okay, writing now and then!)

Writing by hand, not on a computer. Actually touching that prayer with your flesh-and-blood hands. Stopping to read from God's Word and writing out scriptures that the Holy Spirit uses to speak to you. Pouring out your heart and soul before Him. Writing Him a love letter.

Personally, I have found it to be a great help in keeping me consistent with my prayer time. Once I decided to gift myself with a prayer journal, I made a trip to the store and found a gold folder. Gold. The color to remind me of God's diety, that I was coming before and writing to the King of the Universe, who is also my personal Savior, my Best Friend.

My Prayer Journal
Along with the folder, I bought looseleaf paper--probably too much for the folder to hold, but that's all right--to write on and a few pens with different colored ink. Because, after all, this is my prayer journal. Just in case I'm out when I have time to grab a cup of coffee, I made sure to keep extra notebooks in my car, the kind with perforated paper, so that I don't miss my time alone with my Heavenly Father. Those pages can then be added to the folder.

In case you're wondering, no...I don't keep those pages and eventually dispose of them. I figure God has the originals! I keep 3 Bible apps (including one in Spanish) and a prayer list on my phone, so all I really need is the coffee and a quiet table. Since I'm writing, that devotional time is private; no one knows what I'm doing, so it's between the Lord and me, the way it should be. Mostly, though, my prayer time is at home.

Of course, writing out your prayers doesn't take the place of corporate prayer with your church or Bible Study group, nor can you not break out in song or meditate or just be quiet and still beforeour beloved Jesus.

Why not give it a try? See if you can squeeze out time for a handwritten love letter now and then to our Savior.

*   First, it's YOUR journal. You decide what it will be! Gift yourself with it. All you need is paper, pens or pencils,and time, maybe a binder of some sort.

*   Decorate it however you wish. Or let it be a simple pad of note paper. God is more interested in your time with Him and the fact that you carved out a portion of your day to be in His presence.

*   You can write one page or fifty. Again, it's YOUR journal.

*    Play some music, if you'd life, preferrably instrumental Christian hymns that won't distract you from what you're writing to your Heavenly Father. There's a bevy of great music you'll find on YouTube just for that purpose.

Above all, enjoy your private time with Jesus. Enjoy Him, being in His presence. Remember that He looks forward to being with each and every one of us. He sees us as His own and always makes time for us. He honors the time that we make for Him.

And if you do give writing out your prayers a try, drop me a note at or leave a message here. I'd love to hear from you!

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." -- Matthew 6:6 NIV

Sunday, May 29, 2016

New Summer Read on the Way

Actually, two--one that is a light, airy summer romance, and one that is an in-the-works Christian drama/thriller. I don't know how else to explain that second one, and I'm holding off before saying anything else at this moment, but the gist of it is that you'll have some exciting reading to do come those hot summer months!

On another note, I apologize for my lack of updates. Writing-wise, sometimes a writer needs to refill her well. That looks like what I've been doing, as I took some time off from story-creating to spend time with family and friends, plus of course, fitting in day hikes here and there. Looks like that was a good plan, because this promises to be a busy year, with our youngest grandson's birthday party sending us back up north to New Jersey and then another trip up to upstate New York for our nephew's wedding. All this well-refilling has sent me back to the laptop (and pen and paper--yes, I still write that old-fashioned way!) with renewed zest.

More updates coming this month. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 15, 2016


He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

-- Revelations 22:20, New American Standard

Today our pastor started his very dynamic Sunday message with this scripture, which also happens to be one of my favorites. As someone who looks forward to the Second Coming of our Lord, I was so inspired by his message that I wanted to share ONE SWEET DAY with readers, having it be FREE for the next three days.

So please, if you haven't read this book, which is about a group of believers from different walks of life right before the Rapture, make sure you get your copy! Available below at different retailers:


Kobo Books


May it read and encourage you and get you excited about that one sweet day!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Movie Review: GOD'S NOT DEAD 2

Rating: 5 DOVES!

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"  - Matthew 16:15 NASB

This passage from the gospel of Matthew figures very significantly in this film, the sequel to the highly successful and beloved God's Not Dead.

Before I touch upon that, let me say without hesitation that there is no "sophomore slump" here. While film sequels have not always lived up to the original, God's Not Dead 2 may actually be an even better movie than its predecessor. Let's go a step further: Christian movies seem to have come into their own, judging by this latest work. The quality of the actors' performances, writing, the storytelling itself, and direction far exceeds the Christian movies of the past which, speaking of sophomores, (and I apologize for saying this but it's true) were pretty sophomoric.

Let's begin with God's Not Dead 2's cast, which includes the lovely Melissa Joan Hart, who has been in many more roles (but yes, in our house, she's still fondly remembered for Sabrina, the Teenaged Witch!). Here she plays Grace Wesley, who is the sort of high school teacher you won't ever forget for her dedication and kindness, as well as a devoted Christian who innocently responds to a student's question revolving around Ghandi and Jesus Christ. That leads to a political firestorm that threatens her career, her certificate, all that she has.

Grace is a caring teacher who looks after her aging dad (Pat Boone), but her life is turned upside down when the school board (Robin Givens does a fine job as the principal, who not only is so bent on running a tight and politically correct ship that she tramples on the students' freedom of speech, as well) demands an apology from her. When Grace refuses to apologize for simply answering a question, an ACLU attorney is brought in (Ray Wise, brilliant in this role!). Jesse Metcalf also delivers as Grace's lawyer, who initially doesn't want the job of defending her but eventually can't deny that Grace sincerely holds fast to her faith, leading him to defend her passionately.

The late Fred Dalton Thompson and Mike Huckabee have cameos in this, and there are some familiar faces from the first God's Not Dead--Benjamin A. Onyango as the charming and funny Pastor Jude and Paul Kwo, who gives a poignant performance as Martin Yip, a young man seeking the Lord with all of his heart and ready to give up everything to follow Him. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention David A.R. White as Rev. Dave, a local pastor who's dreading jury duty ("I have a better chance of being struck by lightning than being picked" he tells Pastor Jude) until he finds himself on the jury at Grace's trial.

God's Not Dead 2 was inspired by true and recent events here in the United States, of Christians--whether teachers or bakers or bed-and-breakfast owners--who found themselves in a position similar to Grace Wesley. What makes this so compelling is that, for years, Christians were free to worship and speak about the Lord here in the United States. The tide of political correctness and "separation of church and state" (which, as the movie aptly points out, those words never appear in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution) have changed all that.

Now, naturally, we should have been expecting that, anyway. In John 16:33, Jesus said, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (KJV) Yet persecution has for a long time been something that happened "somewhere else." Just ask believers in other parts of the world, who have seen their children murdered right in front of them, or who themselves have been tortured or killed. This year, on Good Friday, Pastor Thomas Uzhunnalil was crucified by ISIS, and all because of his faith.

Persecution has also come to the United States, though it has taken on a different form. For now. These are the last days, so expect persecution to become much worse. I loved God's Not Dead 2 because it reminds us that Christianity is not only about going to church on Sundays and practicing with the choir and all our holidays. Being a Christian is not just about believing in Jesus but about walking with Him, about having an intimate relationship with Him, even when it costs us either something or everything. It is about cultivating that relationship and holding on tight to Him even when the rest of the world says that faith is unpopular and outdated, and that it's time to move forward into a future without Christ. For us, as believers, there is no future without Jesus. He IS our future, our now, our yesterday, our tomorrows.

Like Grace Wesley, we have all been asked that question in our hearts: Who do you say that I am? Our answer to that question is what defines who we are, our life, our being. That answer should guide everything we do or say, what sets us apart from a world that needs the same Savior it is denying. This movie will inspire you to keep your eyes fixed on the things that are eternal rather than the things that are temporal. As Grace says in one scene, "I would rather be judged by the world and accepted by God than accepted by the world and judged by God."

Five doves to the memorable, emotion-packed and timely God's Not Dead 2.

Ah, yes--and the Newsboys are in this one, too!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Happy April and...

Yep--I'm still here!

A lot going on, but a real slowdown on writing for the past few weeks. This year has found us eating healthier, more mindfully, everything in moderation, but with a focus on organic food and slowly cutting out GMOs. It's also seen us becoming more active, which could account for the slowdown in books. I'm doing more walking lately than writing! That included the Foam Glow 5K in Charlotte with friends, and what fun that was.

The hubby and I also had a chance for a little getaway to the beach. Just because. That is all the reason you need!

Yesterday I had another cool surprise, finding SEA SIREN, which I wrote under the pen name Consuelo Vazquez, again on an Amazon bestseller list, right there in the Top 100 for Free Romance Fantasy. So if for any reason you haven't read it, you really do need your copy.

I'll be back in a couple days with some news, plus a couple of my new favorite smoothie recipes. Until then, take care!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Yoga--Not Just a Phase

Full disclosure time: I have to admit that last year, when I first decided to start a yoga practice, I wasn't sure if I would stick with it. I'm one of those people who doesn't always have that stick-to-itness (and maybe you're in that club, too?).

Yet here we are, just about a year later, and I'm still engaging in this peaceful and mindful practice. To be honest, some weeks have gone by when I didn't bring out my mat. My home office is a prayer room/writing office/private yoga space, so I go into it often enough, but there were a couple weeks here and there that went by during which I didn't spend any time in my practice.

Interestingly, it mattered that I didn't. There was a difference, especially when it came to my problems with anxiety and stress, and I found myself returning to the mat.

Besides helping me manage stress better, yoga has been very beneficial to me in other areas. It's true what people say--you DO find yourself eating healthier, reaching for fruits more often than sweets or carb-laden chips. There are other benefits, too, other reasons to spend a half hour or more in your yoga space.

Have you flirted with the idea of making yoga part of your life? Or maybe, like me in the past, you went to a few classes, loved it but haven't made time for it again in your busy schedule?

After only one year as a "yogi" (love that!), here is my encouragement and advice to you:

1. Like any other lifestyle change/exercise (even though yoga is more than just exercise), consult with your doctor before starting.

2. Respect your body. When I first started last year, I watched videos and felt daunted by the fact that I wasn't as "bendy" as the instructors. My heels still don't totally touch the ground when I move into downward facing dog, nor do I sit cross-legged with my ankle up on my thigh. That's okay. That's why they call it a practice. Yoga is about more, much more, than just being "bendy."

3. Don't be overwhelmed by the different styles of yoga. Hatha, bikram, ashtanga, vinyasa--it's so easy to be intimidated by all the "arms"! The old adage really does apply here: "Everybody has to start somewhere." Though I have had a wonderful, real LIVE instructor, I've also relied a lot on YouTube videos. There are a plethora of them. Look for the words beginners, gentle, and even for seniors. Here is a good description of some yoga types.

4. You don't have to be skinny or have a 6-pack to do yoga. So if you were thinking about using this as an excuse, please don't! Don't cheat yourself out of this pleasure. On Pinterest somewhere, I came across these words: "This is the body I bring to my yoga mat." Over the course of this year, I've silently said these words as I unroll my mat. If anything, yoga will make you more accepting of your body.

5. All you need is a yoga mat and comfortable clothes. You don't have to buy everything all at once, especially when you're first starting. Little by little, you can decorate your space with plants and candles, and when you're ready, add a yoga strap, blanket, blocks, whatever you'd like. The same applies to clothes: a loose-fitting tank top and comfy leggings will work just fine. When you're ready, treat  yourself to pair of fun & colorful yoga pants!

What about music? You might want to set up your phone or Ipad to softly play yoga/spa music. YellowBrickCinema on YouTube has some beautiful, hours-long music to calm you and help you get centered.

6. Life happens. It also gets in the way. Don't come down on yourself; don't tell yourself you're not dedicated or serious all because some time passes before you return to your practice. No matter how committed you are to something, there'll be times when you don't unroll that mat, be it for reasons of being extra busy at work, family commitments, or health-related problems. Whenever possible, come back to it. Your practice will be waiting for you.

7. Make time for yoga. Make time for you. Yoga is something you do for yourself. Cut out half an hour of TV-watching or start to bed 20 minutes earlier, giving yourself a chance on your mat. If you make time for a vigorous workout, you can make time at least a couple times a week, if not more, for yoga.