Deep in the Heart of Giving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year, iCoverFinalMD-ADaughter's Heartsn’t it? It’s a time to get off the roller coaster of life and enjoy family and friends. It’s a time to give thanks. It’s a time to be grateful for all we have been given. And it’s also a time to give. I love giving to food banks around the area. But this year, I wanted to make you aware of another way I am giving and I hope you will join in too! With each purchase of A Daughter’s Heart, I give ALL proceeds to charities that promote life and help mothers and children in need. A Daughter’s Heart was born from my heart and passion for the sanctity of life and the desire to help mothers and children. I prayed about this book for a long time before writing it, and one day I felt the Lord press on my heart that this book should be a gift to Him. It’s not just my first new book to write for indie publishing but it’s completely for God in every way. I hope that you will find encouragement in the pages of this book and be inspired. I also hope that it will raise awareness and money for the tiniest among us to struggling mothers to children in need. In my e-newsletter, I’ll profile a few charities that I give donations to.  A Daughter’s Heart is available as a Kindle ebook and also in paperback. I hope you will enjoy it and also let others know about it!

 

Deep in the Heart of Hate

Does it feel like the wheels are coming off our world when you watch the news lately? Ebola, beheadings, riots, earthquakes.

It feels a little like that to me, and I have to fight the urge to watch the news constantly. The news makes me feel frustrated and fearful, and I don’t like that. I’ve been trying to stay in the Word of the Lord rather than focusing on all the chaos.  Because ultimately, I know, God is in control.

Ebola seems far away, even though I am praying for those in West Africa and I’m praising God for the healing of Dr. Brantly. The Middle East crisis is frustrating and frightening, but also far away (at least for now). But Ferguson, MO is not far away. It’s here in America. It’s in a town, like yours or mine. I don’t know the answers in Ferguson, MO. No one does. No one really knows the truth, and yet all seem to have lined up on ‘their’ side. The news is reporting hearsay and unnamed sources. The media is a monster that needs to be constantly fed, so they find whatever bits and pieces they can. And how much is true? How much is false? How much do they just not know at this time?

I think it’s important that we look at the deeper issues, deeper than skin tone.

Here’s what I know:

  1. Racism still exists. And that is heartbreaking to me. In my world, I thought it was pretty much eradicated, but in talking to a friend this week, who has children of a different color, I learned stupid people still exist. But racism isn’t one sided. It seems to me that a lot of folks were eager to believe a white cop maliciously killed an innocent black teen. A lot of people wanted to stir up more hate and fear. The truth, I hope, will come out. But I’m not sure the truth can bring healing when so many want justice according to their own views. Only Jesus can heal hearts. Truth only reveals brokenness. But this whole incident has shown me that deep down in hearts across America hate and fear and distrust reside.
  2. Life is full of choices and the consequences of such. We all make choices—chocolate or regular milk, gluten or not, Diet Coke or water. Some choices are easy, some not so much. Some choose to follow the law, others do not. We also choose rather to forgive or not, whether to hate or not, whether to trust or not. We choose how we are going to look at the world through rose-tinted glasses or through squinty, distrustful eyes. We also choose whether or not we want to be offended. If we are looking to be offended, then we will. If we are looking to spread the love of Christ, then we will. Choices are all around us. And once we make a choice, we must accept the consequences.
  3. Ignorance exists. Try walking in someone else’s shoes. Try looking at life from a different perspective instead of always from your own comfy chair. I often take this for granted because I’m a writer so I do this all the time. But most folks don’t. They should. Try walking around in Michael Brown’s shoes for a while, how he was raised, what was his life was like, what kind of family did he have. Then try walking around in Darren Wilson’s shoes. What’s it like to be a cop, to walk up to a car, not knowing who is inside or what their motives are, what is it like to confront folks on a daily basis?
  4. Finally, if we let fear, hate or rebellion rule our lives then we will be towed around like we are wearing a leash, tugged this way and that and we will not have control of our own lives. If we hold onto fear, hate or rebellion then we cannot grasp the cross of Christ. We cannot grasp His mercy and grace (and boy do we all need extra helpings of His mercy and grace), nor can we extend it to another.

Finally, again, I don’t know what happened in Ferguson, MO, but I know that those who are there need Jesus. They need His healing touch. They need His mercy and grace. How can we ask anyone to love when they don’t know Jesus? Jesus is the only one who can teach us how to love. We need Jesus in our lives to change us from the inside out. He won’t make us perfect. We will still make mistakes, and we’ll have to pay for those mistakes. But Jesus will help us be better than we are and will save us from ourselves.

A Daughter’s Heart

It’s here! It’s LIVE! And it’s ready to be read!

I’m super excited about this novella. For years it rattled around my brain, but last year I finally figured out the best way to write it. So it’s a long time coming, but it’s finally here and I hope you love it!

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Hannalee comes of age in a well-guarded orphanage. A photo album her father made introduces her to her mother, and she daydreams of their meeting one day. But the harsh reality of being unwanted strips away the façade of her imaginings. Through caring for a young infant who comes to the home, she learns about love and forgiveness through her Father’s eyes. When she learns her mother is in danger, she climbs the wall surrounding the orphanage, determined to find her. The world she enters is dark and cold, far different from her home where she once basked in her Father’s warmth and love. A cross between Lovely Bones, The Shack, and Sixth Sense, A Daughter’s Heart reveals the consequences of choices and the loving sacrifice required for redemption.

A DAUGHTER’S HEART is a sweet combination of past, present, and future—the kind of story that only a talented writer could pull off!

–Michelle Stimpson – Author, Speaker, Educator

Leanna Ellis once again weaves a beautiful story of a Father’s patience and hope as He holds out love and waits for His child to embrace it and come home. But it isn’t just any story. It’s everyone’s story. Maybe it’s YOUR story.

–Jerri Phillips – Author, Speaker

This day deserves a celebration! So let’s give away a copy of A Daughter’s Heart. If you would like to be entered into a drawing for a Kindle edition of A Daughter’s Heart, please post a comment! I’ll make a drawing Friday!

Hope is Available

I wonder if Robin Williams knew how loved he was? Did he know how much he would be missed? Look at the outpouring of love this week in the aftermath of his untimely death, I wonder if he knew. I suspect he didn’t. I suspect he couldn’t see beyond the pain he was feeling.

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The darkest time of my life came after the birth of my second child. I had two babies—a toddler under the age of 2 and a newborn. And I was depressed. I don’t mean I was tired and weary. Yes, I was. But I was truly depressed. It was a very dark time. On top of that, I felt guilty for the depression. After my firstborn was delivered, I felt euphoric. I was elated to be a mommy finally. So, it was hard for me to accept that after my second was born, I faced crazy tears and a darkness I had never experienced. Where was the joy over this new and healthy baby? Thankfully, I spoke to my doctor about my unusual feelings. We quickly realized that it was the birth control pills I went on right after her birth. All those hormones wreaked havoc on my system. I immediately got off the pills and my hormones regulated themselves. The storm clouds cleared. Sunshine returned.

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Depression comes in all shapes and sizes. For this optimist, it was a shock when I experienced it but it was also quite a shock to watch my father go through it after his heart surgery. It’s a common phenomenon for heart patients or anyone who has had a serious ailment to go through depression. My dad was like John Wayne–strong, confident, steady. And yet, to watch him go through depression was heartbreaking. Even more shocking to me was the lack of response by his heart doctor. My mother would slip a note to the nurse during a doctor visit telling her how depressed he was. The doctor would come in and say, “Are you depressed?” My father, being stoic and never accepting what he perceived as weakness, would deny it. And nothing would be done to help him.

My mother is also very calm and steady, so it was also a shock when she realized several years ago that she was depressed. She was unflappable during her bout with breast cancer. Her doctor kept asking her if she was depressed during follow-up visits because some medication she was on could cause depression. One day, my mom was watching Grumpy Old Men, a comedy, and she cried three times. That told her something was not right. Thankfully, she sought help.

Depression can be caused by hormones or medication or traumatic situations. Some people have an illness, which is depression, and there are all sorts of manifestations of that. Unfortunately, I have also known those who have not sought help. Robin Williams’ death by suicide brought that home to me again this week. I ache for his family and friends, because I too had a friend who committed suicide. I have asked myself all the questions that follow. Did I…Could I…Why didn’t I…What if I’d…? There are no answers to those questions only a lingering pain. I simply understand the deep ache of what they are now facing. Suicide doesn’t just affect the person that takes his or her own life. Suicide devastates families and friends. There is not a week that goes by since my friend’s death (and it’s been 3 years) that I don’t think of my friend, of those last moments in her life, and wish I’d been able to help.

I didn’t know Robin Williams. I don’t know all that he struggled with. From the outside, his life looked to be ideal. But no one’s life is ideal. Everyone struggles. Everyone faces difficulties. He recently had heart surgery. He struggled with addiction. He struggled with depression. He faced financial difficulties. Here is what I know: depression is an isolating illness. It makes you feel alone, and in that isolation lurks hopelessness.

This morning, I was reading out of the book of Job. Surely, if anyone had reason to feel depressed and hopeless, it was Job. All of his children had died. His wealth had been taken. His health was failing as he suffered boils on his body. He was in severe pain. Friends came to see him, trying to help and also accusing him of sin in his life, which they believed caused his suffering. Job 3 is Job’s lament. “Why didn’t I die as soon as I was born…” “Instead of being alive, I would now be quietly lying down. I would now be sleeping peacefully. I would be with the kings and the counselors of the world who built for themselves what are now ruins…. I would not exist…I have no peace! I have no quiet! I have no rest! And trouble keeps coming!”

Surely, Job was in a desperate situation. He was in a very dark place. He needed help. He needed hope. Let’s skip over what all his friends said to him in response. Because what really matters is what God says to him in chapter 38. “Then Yahweh answered Job out of the storm… “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have such insight.” Later, God says, “Will the person who finds fault with God correct him?” Finally, Job responds to God with, “I know that you can do everything and that your plans are unstoppable.”

Life is temporary. Eternity is forever. The suffering we feel here on earth does not last forever. It is a season. There are answers and solutions to any problem. God has the answers. He can work miracles in our lives if we will but allow Him.

For those who cry when others are laughing…if your life feels dark and hopeless…if you think about ending your life…reach out to a friend, a family member, a professional doctor, nurse, anyone. I know it’s scary. I know you feel as if no one will care. There is someone who wants to help. Please, reach out and get help. You do not have to live with tears or loneliness or darkness. Reach out. Get help. If you haven’t reached out to God, then do so. People make mistakes and fail each other, but God loves you. Always. Let me repeat that. God. Loves. You.

For those who have been left behind by someone they love who took their own life, it’s okay to walk through all those stages of grief: sadness, anger, etc… There are organizations that can help you in the aftermath. Get help. But also, reach out to God. He understands your pain, your suffering, and He wants to help you through this very difficult time.

For those who do not face depression (yet), please remember that no one knows what situation another faces, what resides in another’s heart or the pain another suffers. Looking at Robin Williams, it would be easy to assume that his success, his laughter, his life would cause happiness. It’s never that simple. Be mindful that others are hurting and reach out to help, listen for clues that someone needs help or is asking for help, and most importantly simply love each other.

For those who have gone on, who found this life too painful, too dark, you are not forgotten. You are loved. You are missed.

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

It was a cold night in the Texas Panhandle, and I was a little girl going to the rodeo with my family. This was not a slicked up rodeo but a nitty-gritty rodeo out in the country with real cowboys, some of which were my older cousins. I remember sitting on one of my cousins’ laps. She already had children of her own but she helped warm me up on that chilly night as we watched the cowboys rope steers and ride bulls.

strongsilentcowboyMaybe that’s where my love of cowboys began. Because most of my cousins were many years older than me, I didn’t know them well and simply watched and admired them. My dad also raised me on John Wayne movies. My favorite movie growing up was True Grit. Just the opening song could get my blood pulsing.

As I grew up, I fell in love with country music. One day, I was driving around Dallas, to and from work, listening to Rodeo by Garth Brooks when a character came to me. He was wearing chaps and boots and he had a slight stutter. I immediately fell in love with Kirk and had to write his story, Strong, Silent Cowboy, which became my very first published book.

So began my writing career, which started with writing about cowboys. I love cowboys’ strength, ingenuity, traditions, and love for nature. I love that they are real men, with a bit of swagger, but also a touch of humility. They know God created the land and bow their heads to pray. I’m proud that I know real cowboys, and I’m blessed to have been able to write about them.

christmasinjulyChristmas in July was my second published book and a sequel to my first. This book features not only a cowboy but also a cowgirl–a barrel racer. These girls have courage and big hearts. Geena, a young widow, has more than her share but she also has a wall around her heart that the right cowboy is going to have to jump.

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Finally, my latest release, For the Love of Cody, is actually a re-release of my 5th book. It garnered the National Readers’ Choice Award when it was published. Since then, it went out of print but I gained the rights back to it and recently brought it out as a Kindle ebook. But now, it’s also available in paperback! You can click on the titles of my books to find out more about them.

So for a long while, my heroes have always been cowboys. Next year, I’m publishing a brand new cowboy story! Hope you’ll hang around until it’s ready.

So what about you? Do you love cowboys? Country music? Western movies?

Contest: For a copy of the paperback For the Love of Cody. At the end of this week, I’ll draw a name from those who leave a comment below for a winner.

Welcome!

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My website has had a facelift! So welcome to the new blog area too…or as I like to call it my back porch, where we can sit and talk about our favorite books (or occasionally even mine!), gaze at beautiful scenery, chat about life and love, swap recipes, and explore topics of inspiration. Khalil Gibran once said, “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Walking alone, enjoying beautiful scenery, or even reading a great book, in my experience, is even more enjoyable when it is shared with others. The path of sorrow or pleasure becomes steeper and more difficult when one is alone. Thankfully, we don’t ever have to be alone as God, our heavenly Father, is always with us. Family and friends can also lighten the load, making the music of our lives sweeter, the smiles brighter, and our days more delightful.

Let me pour you some hot tea…or a big glass of sweet tea. Kick off your shoes and make yourself at home. Let’s share our hearts and search for rays of sunshine and truth. Be sure to come back as often as you like!

My Top Three Favorite Tea-Time Recipes

Tea time. For many years, it was a special occasion when I traveled to England and had tea at Harrods or for a bridal shower. But when my children were about four or five and we were beginning to homeschool, I started serving tea in the afternoon with a little snack. Sometimes, I used store-bought cookies or made pretzels or little sandwiches. It was an opportune time to reinforce manners (still is!). I shared poems and art books with my children, and often we listened to classical music. They loved it. Seriously, even my son loved it. What boy doesn’t like food? Now, that they’re older, we don’t have time for tea every day, but we try to have it at least once a week. It’s a great way for us to come together and share about our day, to talk about books we’re reading, to discuss what activities are coming up on our schedule. Time together is precious, and tea-time is a delicious time for us to share, not only good food but our hearts. Here are three of my favorite recipes:

Scones! There is nothing better on a cold afternoon than hot tea (Earl Grey or Yorkshire) and scones. My hint: add a little extra heavy cream…or maybe a little more. It keeps the scones nice and moist. On the side, serve butter at room temperature, mixed with a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar. This is a great way to great your kids after school. It’s fun to sit around and chat about our day.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes! Let me just say one word: YUM! Child-tested, these cupcakes were a huge hit! You can serve these with hot tea or iced tea, depending on the weather.

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

These are my kids’ favorite scones. I love to make these in the summer with fresh blueberries. Again, my hint: add a little extra heavy cream. Serve with iced tea or lemonade.

Exciting News for FORGIVEN!

This week, I was informed that PLAIN FEAR: FORGIVEN had been chosen for a special promotion by Barnes and Noble. It goes on sale today as a NOOK book.

Samuel Fisher committed a sin of biblical proportions—he killed his own brother, Jacob. Samuel’s guilt overwhelms him as he struggles to understand the choices Jacob made which led to his death. Haunted by doubts and questions, Samuel starts down the same dark path of destruction. In the gripping final battle between hunters and vampires, Samuel must choose where his loyalties lie. The decisions he makes not only threaten the lives of those he loves, but determine if he will ultimately be forgiven.

You can read a preview here.

Reviews:

“An unlikely, yet fresh idea that completely works, thanks to her ability to blend the genres in a tasteful manner.” – RT Book Reviews –

“A richly detailed and atmospheric tale of suspense.” – Library Journal –

I hope you’ll help me make PLAIN FEAR: FORGIVEN a big success during this special promotion! Thanks for all your support!

Giveaway: To celebrate this promotion, leave a comment below and I’ll draw a name of a winner to receive the paperback copy of PLAIN FEAR: FORSAKEN and PLAIN FEAR: FORBIDDEN, the first two books in the series. I’ll draw a name on Monday, April 7th.

April Fools’ Cat

My father-in-law was a cat magnet. He loved them, and they loved him. He also loved to laugh. So, it’s fitting that we got our sweet Sawyer from him.

Here’s my father-in-law, Glenn, with my daughter and my sister-in-law when he came to see Annie a few months before the “incident”.

As I said, cats adored Glenn and came from far and wide to live with him. So it was not surprising that another cat had adopted him. However, he thought this particular cat was a male. So he did not rush to get it fixed. But lo and behold on April Fool’s Day, this ‘male’ cat delivered kittens.

Aren’t they adorable? Well, a couple of weeks after Glenn discovered his error and these adorable kittens, he had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital. My husband raced to Kansas City to be with his father. Unfortunately, Glenn did not recover and passed away. As we were making arrangements for the funeral, my husband told me about the kittens and asked if we could keep one. Well, what could I say? Of course! So when we went up for the funeral, my daughter picked out a kitten for us and a kitten for my sister. They were still too young to leave their mother, so we anxiously awaited their arrival to our house in May.

They had not had much human contact because of Glenn’s hospitalization, so they huddled together. We had thought to name our kitten, the orange/blond one ‘Glenda’ after both Glenn and one of our favorite books/movies–The Wizard of Oz. But the day we took them to the vet to get checked out, we discovered that orangey kittens are 95% male. And so, we quickly changed Glenda’s name to Sawyer, after one of our favorite characters on the TV show LOST.

The pretty gray one, my sister kept, and she named her Scout.

Now here they are all grown up!

April Fools’ Day is bittersweet, as I think of sweet and wonderful Glenn, but it’s also joyous in that we have an adorable cat. Sawyer is so lovable. Our sorrow will end one day when we are all united in heaven, but until then we will remember Glenn and his sweet gift, Sawyer.