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One Word at a Time, Sweet Jesus by Anna Kittrell

The Commandment is my “one word at a time, sweet Jesus” book. I didn’t realize it when the story began to surface in my mind five years ago. I didn’t realize it as I began to outline and sketch out my characters. I didn’t even realize it in the middle, when my world shattered, and vital pieces of life were forever lost. Nor did I realize it at the end, when the last word was written. It wasn’t until much later—lately, in fact, that I came to recognize this book for the miracle it truly is. Not miraculous in and of itself, of course. After all, it’s just a fictional story built by my limited imagination. But the fact it was ever finished is a miracle. And a testament to God’s divine provision.

It was October, 2014. The idea for The Commandment was swimming around in my head when my husband and I decided to take a road trip from Oklahoma to Nevada to visit his parents. I love my in-laws, and love for my husband to be trapped in a car with me for hours, so I was rearing to go. On the road, I spent my time gazing from the passenger window, soaking up the surroundings. I was especially entranced by the lonesome beauty of the desert hills. In my story notes I wrote: blond jagged earth; haze on the peaks; pinks, sandy beige and rose; cactus plants; green bleached to yellow; cracks and valleys, sculptures without faces; her soul, dry and thirsty as the scrub on the hills. The terrain was so magnificent, even my scattered description notes sounded like poetry. By the time we reached our destination, I knew the book would be set in Nevada.

During our wonderful visit, more images began to form. An isolated medical laboratory could easily be nestled behind the Nevada hills. And those dangerously beautiful cactus…I wonder what their nectar is like? Wouldn’t it be amazing if it had a numbing quality to it, in order to create a brain-dulling serum in my story? I googled it and, lo and behold, it does! And what about a hot air balloon festival in the desert? Beautiful, vibrant colors dotting the extra-blue sky as far as the eye can see. What better place to set a main character’s abduction than in a hot air balloon? A riveting scene that just might go on record as the world’s first slow-motion kidnapping. I had heard the Nevada desert described as barren and desolate, but to me those endless hills and valleys were rich and bountiful, fertile with story ideas.

The vacation ended and we came back home to Oklahoma. The next week, my daughter-in-law and nine-month-old grandson moved in with us. I was thrilled to have them and immediately adjusted my writing schedule to accommodate having extra people in the house. I began rising at 5:00 a.m. to write—and they began coming downstairs at 5:00 a.m. to visit with me. And because nothing compares to holding a grandchild, not even authoring a book, writing would just have to wait. For ten months, I had the thrill and privilege of spending time with my little grandson every day. In that span of time, he grew and learned so much. His mother and I grew close, developing a special mother-daughter relationship filled with heart-to-heart talks, grocery shopping, shared meals, and lots of laughter. She started calling me, “Mom.” I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

In August 2015, they moved out. And though I knew I would continue to see them daily—I cried. And then I started writing again. I began writing every morning before work, and writing some more on my lunch hour. I loved my characters and the story, and was happy about how well the book was coming along. I had already told my editor about it, and she seemed excited. I couldn’t wait to submit it. At this rate, it would be finished soon.

And then, on December 30, 2015, the book—and my life—stopped cold. At ten thirty that night, my little grandson and I had gone to pick up my daughter-in-law from work, and were told she never showed up. I drove to her house and banged on the door, but she didn’t answer. From outside her home, I called my husband, who came and discovered her lifeless body inside. Our daughter-in-law, the girl who called me “Mom,” the mother of our only grandchild, had taken her own life.

We loved her as if she were our own daughter and were devastated. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and with the exception of the obituary, eulogy, and funeral poem, I certainly couldn’t write. Life would never be the same. Days passed, and I had to return to work. My son and I developed a routine of dropping off and picking up my grandson. And, after three months had gone by, I dragged myself back to the keyboard. In another three months, the book was finished.

I share this story as an encouragement to others who are dealing with personal tragedy. Put one foot in front of the other, even if that’s all you can do right now. And pay attention to God’s provisions. The gifts He has provided—those things that you love to do way down in your soul. Gifts of distraction. Gifts of diversion. Activities that allow your mind to reset and recharge. Maybe it’s gardening. Maybe it’s sewing. Maybe it’s painting, playing a musical instrument, or singing. Or something much less artistic than that. Maybe it’s rolling change, cleaning house, or waxing the car. I have a friend who picks up rocks when life gets to be too much.

For me, that gift is writing. In that aspect, The Commandment is a miracle. A testament to how God’s gifts give life purpose and bring healing to the broken.  The loss is still there, and forever will be. But so is God’s love and concern, and personalized provision.

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? Ecclesiastes 3:22 (NIV)

One word at a time, sweet Jesus.

More about the Author, Anna Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has nine books in publication, including her new Christian futuristic thriller, The Commandment.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Author Points of Contact:

As an author and in speaking with many authors, we love to have readers contact us on social media. If you want to learn more about Anna Kittrell and her awesome writing, be sure to visit the following: Anna’s website, appropriately entitled Anna Kittrell, her Facebook Author’s pageThe Commandment Facebook pageAmazon Author Central, and Anna invites you to e-mail her. You can also take a look at Anna’s wonderful book trailer for The Commandment.

More about The Commandment:

Ten years ago, Briar’s body rejected a government mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old. She’s been on house arrest ever since.

Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains non-responsive to her mandatory SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP.

In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the ARC—a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. Her only alternative is to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum.
With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose? Except maybe her soul.

The Commandment is available for pre-release this week, not only from Anna’s publisher, Pelican Book Group, it can also be purchased from other fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Anna’s newest novel will release this Friday, August 24.

If you missed Inner Source’s Monday interview of Anna’s heroine, Briar Lee, you can read it here, and also be sure to check out our Wednesday interview with Anna here

Today is the official release date for The CommandmentBe sure to get your copy!

Meet Anna Kittrell, Author of The Commandment

Today’s guest on Inner Source is a phenomenal author of young adult fiction, Anna Marie Kittrell. I have followed Anna’s career because her books have always struck a chord with me. Her stories transcend generations, and that’s what a good story does, no matter the genre. Her novel, The Commandment, is a unique perspective for all generations and actually had me asking a very important question of myself: what do you do when “God is not an option”?

Anna, I’d love to hear a little about you. Where are you from? What do you do when you’re not writing?

Hi Fay! It’s always a pleasure to be on Inner Source.

I reside in my hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where twenty-nine years ago I married my high school sweetheart, Tim. We’ve since raised both of our children, renovated a home, and are now helping to raise our four-year-old grandson here in Anadarko. This month I began my eighteenth year as secretary of Anadarko Middle School, the greatest, busiest—and most days, craziest—place on earth this side of Disney World.

Fortunately, I’m not a person who believes a writer must pen words every single day to be considered a “real” author. Because I work fulltime and daily care for my grandson, most of my writing is done in snatches of time before work, on my lunch break, or on the occasional weekend. In other words, I write when I can and I don’t when I can’t. The seasonal and holiday breaks from school are extremely beneficial to my writing process. Although few and far between, my favorite writing days are those when I spend hours at a time in front of the keyboard.

As I noted, The Commandment is a very different kind of story, and the message of the story is one that will cause the reader to pause and think about where our nation—where the world—is going in its desire to pretend that God does not exist. Anna, what made you think of this concept?

Several years ago, when the premise for The Commandment began to surface, the story seemed to be some type of reverse-amnesia tale. I kept picturing a girl in a hospital bed, coming out of anesthesia. A doctor asked the girl if she “still remembered,” to which she replied, “yes.” This made her mother cry hysterically. Why, I wondered, did the girl’s mother not want her to remember? And what did the girl’s mother so desperately want her to forget? Only when I began to outline, did the story start to take shape. As it turns out, the book takes place thirty-five years in the future, and is the story of a girl who faces elimination on her eighteenth birthday because her body rejects a mandatory, God-erasing vaccine. As far as what exactly made me think of this particular concept, I can only speculate. Maybe the idea was sparked by the stories my great-grandmother shared with me as a child about the future hardships believers would endure. Perhaps the persecution of believers right here at home no longer seems so far-fetched as it did back then.

In your novel, the “Agathi” as a part of our brain is very important. Would you explain that for us without giving too much of the story away?

In The Commandment, it has been discovered that there is a specific area of the brain that houses Christian-related information. This fictional area of the brain is called the “Agathi.” The name is plural, because there are two matching areas or “God Zones,” one located in each of the temporal lobes. Main character Briar Lee’s brain is resistant to SAP, a serum formulated to numb the Agathi and block all God-related thought and emotion. Because of Briar’s resistance to SAP, her Agathi are alive and well, and in fact glow with color whenever she thinks on the things of God.

Interestingly, while doing story-related research, I learned that there was actually a research tool invented to investigate the brain’s role in religious experiences called the “God Helmet” (originally known as the Koren Helmet, after its inventor, Stanley Koren.) Apparently, some people have had “visions of God” while participating in experiments with the helmet. The helmet applies complex magnetic signals to the head of the wearer, exposing them to a very weak magnetic field near the temporal lobes.

Your character, Briar, despite the life she had been forced to live is very dynamic and hopeful. Is she based upon someone you know?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Briar is based on me, but I would say her doubts and fears, in many ways, resemble my own. I would like to think that in a time of adversity such as Briar’s, I would be unwaveringly strong and faithful. However, I believe the bouts with fear and confusion Briar experiences would be closer to my own reactions. She wavers when choosing between what is right and what is easy. She is frustrated, and half-wishes the SAP would have done its job and numbed her Agathi, so that she wouldn’t have to face the torment that lies ahead. She is afraid of what will happen if her God Zones light up—and more afraid of what will happen if they don’t. Contrary to being based on a particular person, I think Briar’s dynamic and hopeful nature is derivative of the faith we have as Christians. Sometimes strong, sometimes weak, but always there. Always constant. And as long as we hold to Christ, there’s always hope.

As I said, I follow your career closely. What comes next on Anna Kittrell’s wonderful journey of writing?

I always say my writing style is as eclectic (a nice word for mismatched) as my wardrobe. My collective work is a mixed bag of genres that include Christian futuristic romance, Christian YA, romantic suspense, poetry, short stories, and my new obsession—screenwriting. Over the past two years, I’ve penned four feature length screenplays in assorted genres, and have absolutely fallen in love with the process. In a screenplay, the writing is sparse and succinct, and the word count is much less than a novel. At this point in my life, screenwriting just makes sense. That’s not to say I’m stepping away from novel writing forever—just for a season. A genre-spanning dream of mine is to see The Commandment on the silver screen.

I’ll be following your career as I have for years. And,yes, The Commandment would be a great adaptation for a movie, a story to make the audience truly think about the cost of the loss of our ability to worship God as He intends for us all to do.

More about the Author, Anna Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has nine books in publication, including her new Christian futuristic thriller, The Commandment.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Author Points of Contact:

As an author and in speaking with many authors, we love to have readers contact us on social media. If you want to learn more about Anna Kittrell and her awesome writing, be sure to visit the following: Anna’s website, appropriately entitled Anna Kittrell, her Facebook Author’s page, The Commandment Facebook page, Amazon Author Central, and Anna invites you to e-mail her. You can also take a look at Anna’s wonderful book trailer for The Commandment.

More about The Commandment:

Ten years ago, Briar’s body rejected a government mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old. She’s been on house arrest ever since.

Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains non-responsive to her mandatory SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP.

In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the ARC—a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. Her only alternative is to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum.
With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose? Except maybe her soul.

The Commandment is available for pre-release this week, not only from Anna’s publisher, Pelican Book Group, it can also be purchased from other fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Anna’s newest novel will release this Friday, August 24.

If you missed Inner Source’s Monday interview of Anna’s heroine, Briar Lee, you can read it here, and on Friday (the release date for The Commandment), Anna shares a heartfelt blog about her journey in writing the story.

Meet Briar Grace Lee from Anna Kittrell’s The Commandment

Today’s guest on Inner Source is Briar Grace Lee from Anna Marie Kittrell’s latest novel, The Commandment.

Briar, it’s good to have you here today. Tell us a little about your life. Where are you from? What is life like in the time in which you live? What difficulties do you face?

Thank you for having me, I’m honored to be a guest on Inner Source. Your site is such a wonderful and informative resource for believers. However, just weeks ago, you would not have been allowed to host me on your blog without being harshly interrogated and likely, arrested. Although drastic changes have taken place in the U.S. since the fall of the OLG, in the back of my mind those old fears still linger. In fact, at this very moment, I find myself wondering how long it will take for this interview to be flagged and reported to authorities. Until recently, Operation Level Ground ran surveillance on every email, video stream, blog, social media site, text message, phone call, and all other means of electronic communication to ensure nothing Christian-oriented slipped past. The severity to which you would have been punished by sharing my story disturbs me even now, though the threat of Christian persecution no longer exists.

As you earlier stated, my name is Briar Grace Lee. The year is 2050, and I am currently eighteen years old. I am an only child, born and raised in Greenfield, Oklahoma. My middle name, Grace, is in honor of my grandmother, with whom I was extremely close. She lived with my family up until the time of her death, when I was seven. She died just three days before she was scheduled, by order of the Commandment, to receive the government-mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism) an injection formulated to erase God from the mind. I’m convinced she asked God to take her before that day arrived.

Immediately following the death of Granna Grace, I was placed under house arrest and ordered to wear an ankle monitor (or, shackle, as I preferred to call it) because my body rejected the SAP vaccine. Every six months from the age of seven to seventeen, I was forced to undergo another vaccination. My body resisted the serum each and every time. A few weeks before turning eighteen, my mother and I were informed that because of my body’s continual resistance to SAP, I would be institutionalized on my birthday. I would become a permanent resident of the ARC (Alternative Research Center), a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. My only alternative was to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum. And that’s where my real story begins.

Your story is a compelling one, a warning to those of us who live in a world where God’s Truth is being seen as the enemy, where God’s people are called self-righteous and our values are degraded. Your grandmother was a strong influence on your life, so I’m not going to ask what you would do. I’d like to know what your granny, who lived in this time, would tell us to do in order to prepare or to resist what would be coming our way.

In order to prepare for or resist against what is coming our way, Granna Grace would have first and foremost encouraged believers to read the Bible. Having spent her life in God’s word, she knew the day was quickly approaching when the Bible would be stripped from our hands and banned from our eyes. What she didn’t know, until shortly before her death, was that God’s sovereign word would also be erased from the minds of most of our country’s population. Nonetheless, Granna Grace had prepared me for this occurrence not only by teaching me to memorize scripture, but by sewing a miniature Bible into the small stuffed animal that hangs on my keychain. Who knows whether you have come here for such a time as this? This verse from Esther, chapter four, was one of Granna Grace’s favorites. I will always believe that my body’s resistance to SAP is a direct result of my grandmother’s prayers. She believed God places us where we are for a reason—and that all of our attributes are vital to His purpose. There are no accidents.

The one aspect of the story that I noted was that despite the world’s dislike for Christians, there were those who still believed in God. Yet there were individuals who had been a part of what your world required of them so that God would, in the world’s misdirected belief, cease to exist, but they were good and kind. In your world, what did that mean to you?

I believe that in this aspect, my future world of The Commandment and your current world are relatively the same. Despite the dislike and disrespect Christians (Unlevels, in my world) sometimes endure in society, believers continue to place their faith in God. Just as those resistant to SAP in my world, the believers in your world feel Christ in their spirits and experience His presence in their souls. How is it possible to deny a part of one’s own being? In The Commandment’s future world, the entire population is injected with a chemical that numbs the area of the brain that houses Christian beliefs. We who remain resistant to the vaccine know that we will endure experimentation and death. Even so, the “God Zones” in our brains light up like Christmas trees every time we think about Jesus. The belief can’t be shrugged away or brainwashed from existence—even if, on a superficial level, we wish it could be. It’s there to stay.

On the other side of the coin, are those who do not believe in Christ, but are still good people. Your world (and mine) is filled with unbelievers who sacrificially give to and provide for their fellow man—oftentimes out-serving those of us who are Christian. Thank God for these people. I can only imagine how much more they would bless and be blessed if influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit that comes through believing in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

In The Commandment, as in today’s society, people have many “good reasons” for not believing in God. Lukas, the medical scientist I’ve been assigned to, leans upon science, the medical field, and his own intelligence as practical proof that God doesn’t exist. It is only through building a relationship with me, a believer, that Lukas is ultimately persuaded to seek a relationship with Christ. Witnessing my faith at work, watching as God directs my life and shapes my future, is a truth he can’t reason away. And just like in your world, when Lukas earnestly seeks Christ, he finds Him, and is able to experience not only the transformation of his own life, but aide in the transformation of countless other lives.

On the other hand, there were individuals who were, for lack of a different way to say it, gnashing their teeth and spitting at the face of God, angry and vengeful. Why do you think that is?

As in your society, many people in The Commandment resented any mention of the existence of God and—more specifically—the existence of sin. In my world, this resentment came from the detestation for being told what to do. Not only did society not want to be held accountable, they did not want accountability to exist. Period. I suspect these sources of resentment in relation to God are not so different in your world.

Briar, you are a strong heroine, but at times you shared with us that you felt weak. Then strength would return. Can you explain why that occurred?

I believe the times when I am strongest and most victorious, are the times I let go of myself and depend fully upon God. The moment I begin questioning my strength and abilities, fear and weakness set in. Acknowledging that God is strongest when I am weakest perplexes my mind. It is for that reason that I leave my mind—God Zones and all other zones—to God.

 More about The Commandment:

Ten years ago, Briar’s body rejected a government mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old. She’s been on house arrest ever since.

Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains non-responsive to her mandatory SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP.

In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the ARC—a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. Her only alternative is to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum.
With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose? Except maybe her soul.

The Commandment is available for pre-release this week, not only from Anna’s publisher, Pelican Book Group, it can also be purchased from other fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Anna’s newest novel will release this Friday, August 24.

About the Author, Anna Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has nine books in publication, including her new Christian futuristic thriller, The Commandment.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Author Points of Contact:

As an author and in speaking with many authors, we love to have readers contact us on social media. If you want to learn more about Anna Kittrell and her awesome writing, be sure to visit the following: Anna’s website, appropriately entitled Anna Kittrell, her Facebook Author’s pageThe Commandment Facebook page, Amazon Author Central, and Anna invites you to e-mail her. You can also take a look at Anna’s wonderful book trailer for The Commandment.

Be sure to join us here at Inner Source on Wednesday when we discuss Anna’s latest release with her, and on Friday (the release date for The Commandment), Anna shares a heartfelt blog about her journey in writing the story.

Character Interview: Jacqueline Dunn from Jennifer Slattery’s When Dawn Breaks

WhenDawnBreaks_N154102_300dpiRGBToday’s special guest is Jacqueline Dunn from Jennifer Slattery’s heartwarming novel, When Dawn Breaks. Jacqueline, I know that your life has become a very busy one, and I’m thankful that you can take the time out to stop in and share a little about your story. In the last year, you’ve been through a lot of loss. Your story is one that truly does show the truth behind Romans 8:28, that all things do happen for good to those who love the Lord … What I’d like to know is your take on that verse.

I’ve certainly see God work a lot of good out of my mess! And boy, am I thankful! I think Jennifer would get upset if I said too much, as I’d probably give parts of the story away without even knowing it! But suffice it to say, I’m learning to trust God more and more each day, to see He truly does have my best in mind—even when I’m smack dab in the worst storm, literally and metaphorically, I’ve ever experienced.

You lost your home, practically everything that you own in a hurricane. I live in a hurricane prone area. I’ve seen the devastation of hurricanes myself, but I want to know the emotional toll this loss took on you?

Oh, wow, that was hard. I’d spent my entire adult life building my career and assets. It probably didn’t make a lot of sense to plunk so much money into a beach home, but the market was doing so well. I really though I was making a great, long term investment. I learned how futile my plans are, and I guess, in the end, I learned that was a good thing. Even so, it was still hard to lose so much; so much I’d worked decades to build. More than that, I lost a lot of cherished mementos… but in the end, I gained things of greater value.

Broken relationships are a theme of this story. I do believe that everyone has at least one relationship that might have been broken by either that person’s actions or non-actions or by the actions of others. What would you say is the one Scripture or Biblical precept that helped you to cope with a relationship that you know only God can heal?

God really used Romans 12:18 to encourage me. I’ve since committed this verse to memory. It says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

This verse first and foremost encourages me to do everything I know to work toward peace. That means owning up to my mistakes and realizing, when I’ve hurt others, like I have my daughter, it might take time to earn their trust. But then the verse also reminds me that I can only do so much; it’s up to the other person whether they want to forgive, and they may not. That’s hard. That’s really hard. But it’s life. That doesn’t mean I wash my hands of the person or situation but rather that I release them and their response to God.

Another theme that I saw in the story was one of leaning on God, and trusting not in your understanding but in God’s promises. How difficult a journey was that for you?

Oh, my, is that ever hard for me! I haven’t been a Christian for long, and sometimes it’s all so confusing, and terrifying! I hear other believers talk about God speaking to them, telling them to do this or that, and I can’t help but stare at the sky and think, “Um… when will I hear God? What does He sound like anyway?”

So a lot of learning to trust in God is learning to recognize His voice, which usually doesn’t come via a megaphone. Haha. I suppose that’s why He gave us promises in Scripture; so we would rely on the truth we know rather on what we think or feel. Not to say God can’t or doesn’t speak to us directly, but my old pastor used to say, “Before you go asking God to speak to you about this or that, get busy doing what He’s already told you.” That stepped on my toes a bit, in a good way.

And lastly, I want to know how you’ve managed to cope with all of the changes in your life.

Hm… I’m not sure how well I’ve coped, to be honest, though I’m learning. To be more patient, more giving, more loving, more relaxed. I guess that comes from learning more about God, growing closer to Him, and staying around other believers. You know, I think serving has also helped.

Shortly after the hurricane ripped me from my home, I began serving in a shelter filled with other storm refugees—those who literally had nothing, not even family they could stay with. That really put my problems and pains into perspective. Not only that, I found I could still experience joy by allowing Christ to love through me, even when my life is hard—especially when my life is hard! I’ve heard it said, the more we focus on ourselves, the more miserable we become. But the abundant life Christ promised comes from dying to ourselves, honoring others above ourselves, and surrendering to Christ and His plan for our lives. I’ve learned through all this storm garbage just how true that sentiment is!

Jacqueline, it has been a pleasure getting to know you both here and in When Dawn Breaks. I look forward to the interview with your author, Jennifer Slattery, on Wednesday.

More About When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution motivate her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here.

When Dawn Breaks is also available at Barnes and Noble and Christian Book Distributors.

BeyondIDocoverAbout Jennifer’s First Novel, Beyond I Do:

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage … it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

headshot2013About the Author:

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

 

Surrendered by Julie Arduini

Portrait of a happy middle aged woman enjoying lifeWhen I surrendered my fear of rejection and what others would think and promised God I would write for Him, it didn’t take long before I knew surrender would be the center of everything I do. When my fiction life moved forward I decided to make that my brand. Every reader can relate to a surrender issue, so each of my stories has one. Entrusted focuses on surrendering fear.

Entrusted shares a lot of my life with my husband. Jenna Anderson moves from Youngstown, Ohio to the Adirondack Mountains after one phone interview. For us, we were living in Upstate NY and the financial effects of 9/11 hit our area hard. His job transitioned from salary to commission with no benefits. My job ended. We had a kindergartner and a newborn who was chronically ill. Tom got a call from a company based in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and after ninety minutes, they basically offered him the job. We had to surrender everything and everyone we knew. I’d never moved far from home. My dad was terminally ill. Our baby was very sick. It meant new doctors. Finding a school for our oldest. A new church. The ability to leave at a moment’s notice to be back for my dad. Fear? I was bathing in it.

Jenna’s fear is wanting to belong. She moved quickly and once things slow down she realizes she’s homesick. She learns there is a culture shift she isn’t prepared for. Her stable car needs to be sturdy for Adirondack winters. Most Speculator Falls residents access the internet through the library. The church dress code is casual. It isn’t comforting when the only one who seems to understand her is Kyle Swarthmore, the mogul from New Jersey. Every time Jenna and Ben clash he reminds her of the one thing that unnerves her—she isn’t one of them.

Ben’s fear is change and loss. He’s had a lot of transition in a short amount of time. To him, it’s easier to shut down, literally. The senior center represents everything he lost, and too much change. If he never enters the doors again, he’s fine with that. With Jenna in the picture, he’s challenged. She runs the place he hates. The last director broke his heart. On top of that, he’s trying to follow his grandfather’s final wish and expand the store his grandparents started together. But that means more transition in an unstable economy. Jenna’s presence messes with him on several levels. She appears to have courage to try new things that he doesn’t have.

What I loved about writing Entrusted is there is a faith message that isn’t banged over anyone’s head and yet the truth that God can be trusted with our fears is evident. I believe readers will walk away encouraged because are funny and touching moments that will make them think about their own lives.

As for us, the day we moved to the area our daughter, delayed by illness, pulled herself to stand for the very first time. We claimed that as confirmation we had done the right thing, as scary and hard as it was. It’s now been over ten years since that move. I still have my Upstate NY roots but I can’t imagine any life but our Ohio one. God has done such a work in our daughter. Our son is a teen with solid friends and a great school. My husband loves his work and is choir director at church. Had we not yielded to His call, we would have missed these blessings.

And that’s my challenge for readers. As scary as it is, I promise trusting God with your fears is the best choice. He will take care of you. What He starts, He will finish.

I’m living proof.

melodylodgekoct132_editedAbout the Author:

Julie Arduini is an author with a passion to encourage readers to find freedom through surrender. Her first Adirondack contemporary romance, Entrusted, gives readers hope to surrender fear. A Walk Through the Valley will soon be available as an infertility devotional with five other authors. She blogs every other Wednesday at Christians Read and is a frequent contributor to Jasmine’s Place. To learn more about her writing and love of chocolate, visit http://juliearduini.com. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.

You can also connect with Julie on Facebook, her Facebook Author Page, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, and her Amazon Author Page.

Entrusted FRONT Cover_editedAbout Entrusted:

Jenna Anderson, sassy city-girl, plows—literally—into Speculator Falls with a busted GPS, arriving in town as the new senior center director. She has only one goal—that of belonging no matter how out of place she appears and how angry she makes town councilman and grocer Ben Regan.

Her new life is so rural there are no traffic lights, and when she learns her car isn’t equipped to handle the mountain terrain, Ben’s grandmother offers her late husband’s vehicle, further alienating the local businessman.

As she endears herself to the seniors at the center and creates a vision full of ideas, programs, and equipment, she ruffles Ben’s plans to keep Speculator Falls void of change, including the store his grandfather built.

The two work through community events and shared heartbreak only to face off in a town council meeting where Ben publically rejects her proposal for the senior center, causing Jenna to react out of her fears about belonging.

She returns to Ohio where she realizes she needs to surrender her plans for the center and fears about belonging and trust her Heavenly Father when facing fear, change, loss, and love.

Faith Lessons from Father Mike by Sydney Avey

sydauthorphoto_smallI’ve always liked the idea of having a spiritual mentor, so I created Father Mike, an Anglican priest who gently guides my protagonist Dee into the discovery of faith. Much like Christ, who asks questions that reveal the hearts of those who come to him, Father Mike drills down to get to the heart of Dee’s anxiety. When Dee spills her antagonism toward her mother, Father Mike refocuses her on connections she is missing in her life that have nothing to do with her mother and everything to do with the choices she herself has made.

Anxiety is an expression of fear, a state of being the Bible warns us against repeatedly. Getting to the root of what you fear most in a situation and asking God the biggest question you can about that fear is an exercise in Hebrews 11:1 faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV)

As a debut author, I have much to fear. When I take it to its deepest level, I fear the demands of marketing my book will cause me to lose heart for writing. I experienced this knee-knocking fear in my first meet and greet at Barnes and Noble in Bakersfield, California.

Standing alone by the table where my books were stacked alongside a fresh supply of newly purchased Sharpies for signing, I pep-talked myself much the way a wallflower at the prom does: Don’t be shy. Be confident. Be approachable. Smile! Then I put Father Mike’s advice to work. I worked from my place of fear, that no one would buy my book, to my place of hope.

Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with book sales. My prayer was this: God, if this is no fun I am never going to want to do it again. Can you make it fun? And He did. He sent me an angel named Julia who came to my table, took over and made it a party (See the story, Signing Books at Barnes and Noble http://sydneyavey.com/2014/05/13/signing-books-barnes-noble/.

My biggest fear was not that I would fail to sell books but that I would fail to connect with readers. Julie facilitated that connection by drawing people to me and the conversations were exhilarating.

As I prayed, my certainty increased that once I got to the heart of the problem He would be there to walk with me. God ignored my initial pathetic fear-based mumblings: Dear God in Heaven, could you let me sell just ONE book? When I finally got to the heart of what I hoped for – connection – God said now you’re talking.

Life is messy. When I started out to write novels I was unaware what was ahead; a publishing industry in turmoil and pressure to turn art and craft into a business seemingly at odds with the faith walk I experience when I write. But God is in the business of helping us connect the dots so we can see the big picture.

Faith Questions

In The Wisdom of the Sheep Walker, a companion to my novel The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, Father Mike poses these questions to Dee, who does not know God at the beginning of the book.

  1. Assume there is a God. What is the one question you would like to ask Him?
  2. Ask questions. Expect answers. Pay attention to what people say; and what they don’t say.
  3. This is what faith is, being sure of what you hope for, even though you don’t see it. What is your biggest hope?
  4. Assume there is a God. Ask Him to bless you. Ask Jesus to guide you. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you. Watch what happens.
  5. The doors to our hearts can malfunction. Our Lord opens doors to understanding, but only if we keep the hinges properly maintained. Our faith hinges on knowing what we hope for and believing it is there for us.
  6. Keep asking the big questions. Keep seeking truth in your art and your life. Keep knocking on the door.

Confess your fears, but ask God for your biggest hope. I love the New Living Translation of Luke 11:9. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”  Only believe.

The Wisdom of the Sheep Walker is available on Amazon.com.

bookcoverMore About The Sheep Walker’s Daughter:

Delores “Dee” Moraga Carter, a Korean War widow’s difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of Dee’s father. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency? Why is Dee’s own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that he isn’t telling? The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with one woman’s search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment.

The Sheep Walker’s Daughter is available in print, eBook, and audio.

About Sydney Avey:

Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney blogs  on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life at sydneyavey.com.

You can also discover more about Sydney via her e-mail (sydneyavey@gmail.com), her website, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Be sure to check on Monday’s interview with Delores Moraga Carter and Wednesday’s interview with Delores’ author, Sydney Avey.

This week on Inner Source has belonged to Sydney. Be sure to check out each of the posts this week and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Sheep Walker’s Daughter. One lucky reader will be able to choose the book format they prefer.