Thursday, January 4, 2018

Purpose-Driven Fiction -- God's Calling on Our Pens

by Guest blogger Cathy Gohlke 

           
Memorable characters, meaningful plots, sharp dialogue, and strong takeaways make for books that last—books that raise the bar, bring hope, change lives, books that drive us deeper into the heart of God.
Remember that special novel, the one you’ve long loved, that has become a part of you? As a writer, don’t you long to write a story that moves readers in the ways that novel moved you?
Worthy goal . . . but how do we achieve that? How do we identify the steps required to get there? How do we begin?
            I believe the answer lies in the power of five questions—questions that must be broken down, questions only we, as individual writers, can answer. Our answers will be as unique as our DNA. 
            Let’s explore them together. As we go, answer each one as quickly and honestly as you’re able. This is not the time to second-guess responses. There are no right or wrong answers, only your answers.
1. What is the deep need in the church or the world that God has uniquely burned into my heart?
A refugee's journey...

   Is there a cause or issue that stirs my heart, that keeps me awake at night, that repeatedly enters my prayers and quiet time with God?
   What in the news makes me “pound the table and weep”? 
   What grieves me that also grieves the heart of God? 
   Is my heartbreak aimed more toward the church or the world? (This will help you decide whether you’re writing a novel for the unchurched, for seekers, or for the church.)
   What moves me and inspires me to greater heights? 
   What gives me unbounded joy—makes my heart sing?

2. How has God uniquely equipped or prepared me to address this need?
My beautiful granddaughter...
   When did I first feel drawn to this issue? At what stage of my life? Does that timing coincide with the life stage of one of my characters—particularly the main character, mentor, or narrator?
   What opportunities has God given me to learn about or experience this issue further?
   How have those opportunities prepared me emotionally or spiritually?
   What insights have they given me?
   Can I identify strengths or weaknesses in myself, my current family or family of origin, or my family’s history that give me insight into my story’s characters, their conflicts, their arcs, or story events?
   Do I know real-life heroes, heroines, or villains whose qualities help flesh out the characters of my story?
   What personal or professional connections do I have or know to assist in my research?
   Have my travels helped define my setting? How?
   What lessons has God used in my life to change me and/or to bless others?
   Can I trace God’s preparations in my life by year or decade? (See Lucinda Secrest McDowell’s excellent book Role of a Lifetime: Your Part in God’s Story to help with this.)

3. So far, so good. But what genre do I write in? 
   What genre most naturally lends itself to the need I wish to portray, or to the story I have in mind?
   Is my story confined to a time period, a culture, or historical or current local or world events?
   What kind of stories do I love most? What do I read? What do I want to write? 
   What were my favorite books and who were my favorite authors growing up? Now?
   What about those stories most appeals to me?
   Am I willing/able to do the research those stories or time periods require?
   If not able to travel for research, how can I obtain needed information?

4. Which comes first, need or story?



   Which did God place first on my heart? On my mind?
   If you thought first of the need, ask in what time period, what culture, among what type of characters this need would best be played out and/or what time period you feel best able to write with authenticity.
      *I identify the need/concern and find a place in history where similar circumstances played out. For instance, in my new release, Until We Find Home, I looked for a point in history that would reflect today’s refugee crisis, especially for children. WWII, the displacement of persons throughout Europe during the Holocaust, and the Kinderstransport provided the perfect crucial time period. England, a country under siege but not occupied, and its beautiful Lake District, provided an ideal setting.
      *Very often our deep desires or personal inclinations provide the answer to this question. 
      *If the answer is “historical,” research to find a time period, circumstances, or set of events in which the story might take place. 
      *If the answer is “current day,” explore current events, causes, organizations, politics, or whatever is pertinent to your need to help you decide when and where to set your story.  *Consider the research needed, but don’t let that daunt you. Ask for help when needed. Most organizations or people in specialized occupations are glad to answer questions.
   If you thought first of the story, ask how your characters would confront this need in the context of your plot, given their time period, circumstances, and relationships.
Ask what would help them grow, change their course of action, repent, surrender, or whatever they need to do to allow redemption to take place. 

5. How can I motivate without preaching?

   What is the premise of my story?
   What is the “aha moment” when the protagonist realizes what he/she needs to do to resolve the conflict and take action?
      *By writing a story that illustrates change and growth, the message will become apparent. 
      *Allow the reader to draw conclusions without spelling everything out for them.
      *Don’t contrive unrealistic plots or manipulate characters to do things out of character in order to accomplish your goal.
Consider: Jesus told parables, stories that illustrated lessons. He did not moralize because the hearers could draw their own obvious conclusions . . . and so will ours.

Ponder this:
Know that as we step out and step up for the writing the Lord has called us to do, we will have trouble. We have an enemy that does not want us to succeed, and Jesus promised, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 
We have not overcome the world—He has. We cannot do this alone. Daily, amid every joy and every pain, we are free to surrender our lives and writing to Him, to ask for His direction, the assurance of His love and encouragement, and to receive those gifts.
It’s not likely that we will have the things we need ahead of time. I’ve rarely known God to be early, but He’s never, ever late. He will meet us in our need, sometimes in the midst of our desperate need, as strength in our weakness. Through the hard things of life He teaches us total dependence on Him. In that total dependence we find sweet peace, sweet relief, sweet release, and resulting creativity. 

There is no greater thrill for a writer than to co-create with our Creator. It is exuberant, unbounded joy. The world, and even many Christian non-writers, may think we’re crazy, but we carry an ever-blooming “secret garden” in our hearts. 
As frustrated as we might become with our writing—and there are times when we all get there—it is impossible to imagine a life without this intriguing journey. 
If you are called to write, it is part of who God created you to be. It is precious and life-giving to fulfill our own unique purpose by writing purposefully (Psalm 20:4).
Encourage—and allow yourself to be encouraged by—other faith-filled writers.  Know that we are all in this together—pen warriors for the Kingdom of Heaven!

137 comments:

  1. This is a very thought provoking post today! I'm not a writer, but I've often read stories where you could tell the author has a particular passion for his or her subject matter. It lends realistic scenes, feelings, emotions and grounds the reader to the story. Or at least it does for me :-) I especially love when the characters are passionate about a subject matter, say orphans or destitute women & children. The author can portray that particular characters plight to help in any way they can; ie fund an orphanage, or somehow help towards easing the needs of desperate people, or any number of things. It makes me passionate too!!

    I love your statement "Jesus told parables, stories that illustrated lessons." I find that to be true in a lot of fiction I read. I can glean some life lesson out of what I read. Sometimes the author states something in a particular way that makes me see something in a new way, maybe even something I've been struggling with. I call it that "Ah Ha" moment! God can use that to teach me an old lesson in a new way :-) I love it when that happens, don't you?

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    1. Yes, Trixi, I DO absolutely love when God teaches me an old lesson in a new way. It truly is our "Ah ha!" moment. So many of my "Ebenezers"--stones of remembrance come from those moments--moments I can look back on and see where the Lord enlightened my thinking and redirected my steps. What a good and tender, loving Father we have!
      Thank you for gleaning so much from this discussion. God bless you!

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    2. Trixi, I totally agree that when a writer's passion comes through on the page it can make me passionate about the issue as well. So often the stories written by others give me new insights into the plights of characters and their situations, and also new insights into what I might be able to do to help in similar real life situations.
      I love what you wrote about God using those "Ah Ha!" moments in reading to bring blessed lessons home to us. I especially love how God works in and through us, as readers and writers, synergistically, even when we don't know it's happening. What a good and loving, incomparably creative Father we have!
      God bless you today!

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  2. Hi Cathy:

    You've given us a marvelous post today. It is said that success in science is a matter of asking the right questions. You've sure provided a lot of right questions!

    I've a great interest in the history of WWII. I grew up just after the war was about to end and I read every paperback book that came out about the war…both fiction and non-fiction.

    You said that your book "Until We Find Home" takes place in the early part of the war. Was it during the "Phony War"? That was an amazing time of the war which almost no one knows about!

    C. S. Lewis is a hero of mine. He died the same day as J.F.K. and never got the world attention he should have. I've seen both versions of "Shadowlands" twice and highly recommend them. Also, "The Inkslings" is a great book for a Lewis fan.

    I also highly regard Beatrix Potter and recommend seeing "Miss Potter". She was a stellar woman. She answered many of your questions, then made the books happen from writing, illustrating, printing, and sales. Worthy books. C.S. Lewis said that children's books that were not good for adults to read were not good for children to read either. Potter's books are wondrous for adults to read.

    Please enter me into your drawing. It would be hard to think of a title I'd have more interest in reading that I have not already read.

    Thanks for you post today.

    Vince

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    1. Oh my stars, you and I are in such total agreement today!!!! HAPPY DANCING!!!!!!!!

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    2. Thank you, Vince, for stopping by and for your encouragement!
      "Until We Find Home" begins in May, 1940 and although the main part of the story ends not long after America enters the picture, the epilogue carries the characters through the end of the war.
      All that you wrote about C. S. Lewis and Beatrix Potter struck chords in my heart. I was excited to learn that C. S. Lewis, as a child, was inspired by the books of Beatrix Potter. He and his brother developed a whole world or kingdom called "Boxen" with sword-wielding mice, etc, after reading her books. It was a pleasure to see how one writer inspires another, even from childhood.
      Your interest in C. S. Lewis reminded me of something. A couple of years ago my son and I attended a play in D.C. about Lewis's journey from atheism to Theism to Christianity called "The Most Reluctant Convert." It was done as a one character play and was fascinating. If it ever comes your way, be sure to see it. You would love it!
      God bless!

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    3. C.S. Lewis and Beatrix Potter...no wonder we all get along so well!

      And Cathy, that story about C.S. Lewis and his brother is one of my favorites. And it's why I plan to give a box set of Beatrix Potter books to each of my children as they start their own families. I want my grandchildren to know the best literature!

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    4. Cathy, thanks for recommending that play!

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    5. Jan, I love that you're giving those special books to your children for their children! I did the same for my grandchildren, and just gifted my niece a set of Beatrix Potter's books for her new daughter. Great books never grow old!!

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  3. Cathy, good morning! First let me say that with Julie's retirement, I got the honor of hosting you... and I'm so glad I did!

    Welcome to Seekerville and thank you for your beautiful post. I've got the coffee on and I brought fresh kuchens from the local German bakery. When I was a little girl my father would stop by ethnic bakeries and candymakers... German bakeries with kuchens, Polish bakeries with cakes and cheesecakes and Greek candymakers, bringing chocolate molds with them across the ocean... your post reminded me of the industry of these people, first generation immigrants (not necessarily refugees) but what a blessing they were and are to this country.

    Years ago Webster's dropped the word "kuchen" from their collegiate dictionary and that's a real shame because history shouldn't be shrugged off so lightly by current academics. It should be lamented, treasured and a good teacher. Thanks for your beautiful work!

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    1. Thank you so much, Ruth, for having and hosting me! I'm ready for that steaming coffee and those delicious fresh kuchens! I love tasting food from other countries and cultures, so this is a real treat for me.

      I totally agree with you that words should not be shrugged off so lightly by current academics or culture. I lament the changing of our language in so many ways--but that's another topic and I won't get started. : )

      It's a pleasure to join you and all Seekerville readers today! God bless you!

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    2. I get it about the words that are dropped -- and created. I'm still figuring out how "leverage" became a verb.

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    3. Hi Ruth:

      My grandmother used to stop at the Swedish bakery (NYC) and get limpa bread. (She was born in Christiania and did not like Swedes but we both loved limpa bread!) 'Limpa' is still in the dictionary but it is not in the stores! I'd trade 'in dictionary' for 'in stores' any day. Have you had 'limpa bread' on the Yankee Belle Café?

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  4. Hi Cathy! What a beautiful post today, it is thought inspiring for the writer and non-writer alike.

    I love the WWII period and try to read books set during that time period whenever I can.

    You asked "what issue has God continued to bring to your attention"...I would have to say the homeless and how the 'general public" treat them. I have a story in my heart but it's not ready to be told yet.

    Your book and the plaque look amazing and I would love to win them. Please toss my name into the hat for the giveaway. Thank you for your generosity.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Thank you, Cindy, for sharing the concern that God has placed on your heart. The plight of the homeless and how people treat them is so very important and relevant. Telling the story from different viewpoints can bring so much to readers.

      Knowing that your story is percolating, you will continually gain new insights until it is ready to be told. And then you won't be able to stop yourself! I pray that moment becomes clear for you. God bless you in this journey!

      Pouring our hearts into the stories God gives us is a unique and wonderful blessing.

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    2. I often use the word percolate for my stories! They simmer in the back of my mind for a while.

      Cindy, I hope you'll eventually feel ready to tell that story.

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    3. Hi Missy:

      What memories of childhood! When guests came over my mother would take down the percolator and make the best coffee I've ever tasted! I'm not sure but that may also be the best way to come up with stories! (My Norwegian grandmother got me hooked on coffee at the Horn & Hardart cafeteria at 5 years old!)

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    4. I love hearing these memories!!

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  5. Good Morning, Cathy! Thank you for this wonderful post!

    I brought English Breakfast tea and scones to share.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. Caryl, I love English Breakfast Tea and who can resist scones?! I'll have mine with black raspberry preserves, please. Thank you!
      Yes, you are entered in the drawing! Thanks so much for stopping by, and God bless!

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    2. Tea and scones? Caryl, you're a woman after my own heart.

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    3. Pass the scones, Mindy! Caryl brought enough to share with everyone!

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    4. I'll have a scone, please. YUM!

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  6. Cathy,
    How very beautiful!! Thank you for the Heaven-sent perspective this morning. I especially loved this quote: "There is no greater thrill for a writer than to co-create with our Creator. It is exuberant, unbounded joy. The world, and even many Christian non-writers, may think we’re crazy, but we carry an ever-blooming “secret garden” in our hearts." There is such a joy to this calling, but as you also reminded us, we cannot glorify God through it without...God. It is a co-creation and I know so many times I'm amazed at the colorful beauty HE creates through a story that, in my own self, would diminish to black-and-white paleness.
    Thank you so much for this devotional of heart and pen.

    Blessings,

    Pepper 

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    1. Waving to Pepper!! Good to see you, my friend!! You said that so eloquently. It makes me want to run out and start tilling ground!

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    2. Good morning, sweet Audra!!! I'm so glad to visit!! Hoping to be a more frequent visitor in 2018 :-)

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    3. Pepper, that's a great way to describe co-creating--that it adds the color and beauty.

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  7. Good morning, Cathy! I'm so glad, upon Julie's retirement, Ruthy hosted you today. Your post and your message made me think way too hard for an early morning!

    What are the messages in my heart? What calls me to action to write? I can't imagine the life a person leads without Jesus standing beside them to help them through the trials -- and the successes. Even though our silly church kept putting me on the board of Evangelism, I don't feel like I could stand on a street corner and proclaim the Word.

    BUT, I can take dictation, LOL. When I pray for guidance to write books that lead just one person to Christ, I depend on Him to nudge me through the whole way. I love having my characters start out thinking they can do it all themselves and realize they need a loving God who will take them with all their flaws and make them precious in His sight (and of course, the hero or heroine's!!)

    I'm so glad you joined us today, Cathy. Please share your words of wisdom with us again soon!!

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    1. Audra, your story makes me smile. It sounds as if you clearly understand our Lord's calling on your writing.

      I have no idea how people navigate life without Jesus standing beside them to help through trials, either. By your stories showing a character's desperate need, and God's forgiveness and grace and all that His love provides in relationship, you are truly an evangelist!! It sounds like your church knew what they were doing. : )

      God bless you today, and thank you for the welcome!

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  8. What joy to see you here, Pepper! Yes, He is the creator of beauty and depth in our stories. He's the author and finisher of our faith and of all our surrendered-to-Him writing. It's a blessed journey and so exciting to share in that journey with you! God bless!

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  9. Hmmm, as far as edible goodies go, I'll have a hot lunch of broccoli and cheese soup and crusty french bread ready for all the folks locked in the deep freeze today. Colorado had it's share of cold weather last week - not really inviting it back anytime soon!

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    1. Mmmmm, Audra, count me in for lunch! That sounds wonderful! North and east of us is really getting the snow yesterday and today. We received a little snow, but lots of deep freeze. Soup sounds perfect!
      Thank you for stopping by, Audra, and God bless!

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    2. Audra, I'm snowbound and will have to shovel soon, so your soup will be a Nice Boost.
      KB

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  10. Cathy, this is a very thought-provoking post. One I will likely need to revisit. But, like Pepper, I particularly liked what you said about co-creating with our Creator. As writers of Christian fiction, that's our calling and it cannot be approached lightly.
    Thank you for this timely post.

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    1. Thank you, Mindy. Each of the questions is a meal in itself, and only we, as individual writers, can answer them as God directs us. What a joy and privilege it is to know He is with us in the process--in the discerning as well as in the writing. You are so right--our calling is not to be approached lightly, but reverently, in deep humility and appreciation for His grace. God bless you!

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  11. Lovely post Cathy.

    The cause that always tugs at my heart is the kids w/cancer. Years ago when my husband and I first became foster parents, we tended to a boy named w/downs syndrome who was also fighting cancer. You want to talk about an eye-opener. What these kids and parents go through is heart-breaking. The pain. The fear. While their lives are turned upside at the hospital, someone is at home trying to keep the house running. In our case, the boy was one out of 5 kids. His siblings were going to school and staying w/his dad while mom stayed w/him. Things were falling apart. And then the state stepped in and took the kids away for how bad the condition of their home was. I'm not saying I disagreed w/their decision, I just really wished this family could've received more help during this time. The boy was returned fairly quickly to home followed later by the other kids.

    Thanks for your encouraging words.

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    1. Oh, Connie, that is truly a heart wrenching and eye-opening story. How terribly hard a journey for that family! Cancer is bad enough in an adult--I've walked that journey--but to see it in children . . . that is hard on another, deeper level, and for parents to lose their children at such a time . . . There is much to think about and wish it had played out differently. I wonder if you've thought of writing this story, even fictionalizing it as an "inspired by" story. The possibilities to portray both grief and grace are ingrained.

      Thank you for stopping by. God bless you today!

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    2. Connie, such a painful story! I can understand how you feel drawn to stories about the topic.

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    3. God bless you and your husband, Connie, for taking in foster children.

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  12. Oh, Cathy, I am so blessed to know you, my friend, as your words have encouraged me more times than I can count -- in this blog and in your books!

    This entire blog has stirred the pot in my mind, but especially this question:

    "Is my heartbreak aimed more toward the church or the world? (This will help you decide whether you’re writing a novel for the unchurched, for seekers, or for the church.)"

    I have never really thought of my heartbreak and writing in that context before, so thank you for opening my eyes on this!

    My heartbreak -- the sexual immorality in the world today -- has always been aimed at the unchurched in my mind. Women like I used to be who were raised to know God, but lived according to the world's precepts. I longed to show them the God who saved my life from further pain and hurt in this area, but the desire for spiritual depth God gave me ushered me into the churched world instead. I have often considered a secular career, but felt my passion for God was too strong to go that route, but your question has me seriously rethinking that.

    Thank you for your beautiful insight, my friend, and your beautiful friendship -- I treasure both more than I can say.

    HUGS!
    Julie

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    1. Dear Julie, your books and testimony have inspired and encouraged so many--definitely me! To write of how God has picked us up, broken though we be, and loved us with His everlasting love and lavished His grace and rejoicing over us--it's an amazing, life changing story. Thank you for making it the mission of your life.

      What you write as your heartbreak is exactly the point. I think the Lord places on our hearts different aspects of that mutual heartbreak for each book.

      He's written into my life story the need to break the chains that bind--inward and outward, and the need to forgive those who tried to bind us. Without even trying I find that each of my books holds some feature of that. The joy of knowing that I'm not unique or alone in bearing those burdens or needing that freedom found only in Christ binds me to a sisterhood and brotherhood around the world, so often found through readers. We are truly saved by grace each and every day.

      I will miss you at Seekerville, my dear friend, but know and look forward to witnessing your God-filled journey in all the days ahead! May He bless and keep you in every way, leading you to tell His story again and again!

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  13. Cathy, your post is full of wisdom and inspiration to help writers find God's calling for their stories. Thank you! All of the stories I've written showed characters grappling with issues that forced them to grow and acknowledge their need for God. But one story in particular got me fired up and I felt called to write. It was a story about unwed mothers struggling to deal with their situations while some in the church with unforgiving, judgmental hearts stymied their healing and God's love. That book was far easier to write.

    Thanks for writing your wonderful stories.

    Janet

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    1. Janet, I so loved what you wrote about the book that got you fired up and that you felt called to write. It's exciting and wonderful when that happens. I think of that as a godly fire--a burning bush fire! We really do feel in partnership with God in those moments. Even though we may struggle to get the story on paper--as I do, sometimes the words just flow straight from our heart. No wonder that book was far easier to write, as you say. Thank you for sharing that testimony!

      God's blessings for you today!

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    2. Janet, I love how, when we feel so passionately about a story, they tend to flow out of us.

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    3. Cathy, I'm not sure if my readers were impacted by the story in the same way I was. At least no reader expressed that in a review. We may never know if our stories changed hearts. That's God's part.

      Janet

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    4. Missy, some stories just beg to be written. :-) Which of your books were you especially passionate about writing?

      Janet

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    5. Hi Janet:

      I think you are talking about "Wanted: A Family" and I wondered at the time why you had the heroine be a pregnant widow as opposed to an unwed mother like the women she was trying to help. Was that something Steeple Hill required? The theme was quite bold for that time! (As was "Red Kettle Christmas" -- the Seekers tend to be trendsetters as with 'Edgy Christian Fiction' and anything Ruth does. :))

      Also, "Steeple Hill" makes me think that the line was inteded for the 'churched' and I was happy when the name changed to "Love Inspired" and became "Inspirational" fiction.


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    6. Yes, Janet. I agree--the changing of hearts is God's part. We're the scribes. : )

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  14. Hi Cathy - what an interesting and thought provoking post. I believe God has equipped me and called me to write about loss of a child. It's not a fun subject and one I'd much rather stay far away from - but the need within that topic is tremendous and heartbreaking.
    Of course, God has also allowed me to write lots of fun and enjoyable things too. So many rewards in this writing life. Thanks for being with us in Seekerville today.

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    1. Cindy, I think you hit the nail on the head--cliche though my expression is! So often the things God calls us to write are not fun subjects and they are things we'd much rather stay away from, especially if part of that journey is our own and still raw in our hearts.

      But just as you said, "the need within that topic is tremendous and heartbreaking." In times like that I believe the Lord is anointing us to do a work that will bless someone who truly needs to read that story as part of their own journey. There's no doubt that we're drawn deeper into the heart of God as we write through hard topics.

      Researching through the remnants of concentration and death camps and listening to survivors tell their stories has been extremely draining for me, but the stories brought out of those journeys have been blessed--some I've written and some that may never be written. I love how God takes a story we write--and ones we think we know the purpose of--and makes them relevant to individual readers in ways we never imagined.

      That's just what I'm thinking of the story He has equipped and called you to write about the loss of a child. Only He knows who it will reach and how it will affect them. Our part is to listen, discern where the Lord is leading us, and to follow, knowing He pilots our ship.

      May God bless you in this writing journey!

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    2. Cindy and Cathy, bless you for writing about the difficult, heartbreaking issues.

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  15. Cathy, I'm so challenged by your post.
    I feel as though I need to go on a retreat and focus on these questions, seeking my heart and God's will for my writing. Thank you!

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    1. Barb, I feel the same way! And the new year is a great time to reflect on this.

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    2. Barbara, you've just made my heart sing! I will pray for you as you bring your questions to the Lord. I know He will lead you, faithful Father that He is. He's gifted you for a purpose. God bless you!

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  16. Hi Cathy! It's great to see you here on Seekerville!

    You've written a wonderfully thought-provoking post. I've known what God's call on my life has been for a long time, and I purposefully write my stories toward that end, but these questions you've suggested will help me dig deeper into that calling.

    Thank you!

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    1. Jan, it's wonderful to know you're on this writing journey by Divine calling and that you're faithfully following where He leads. It's so exciting, isn't it?! Praise God! May He bless you as you dig deeper and carry on.

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  17. There are so many hurting people in today's world but I guess my focus is mainly on drug addiction and the effects on the children of addicted parents. I am now helping my daughter raise her almost four year old daughter because of my son-in-law's fight with addiction. Even as I pray for his recovery I worry about my granddaughter's future. As an older grandmother I realize that I may not always be here to care for this precious little girl!
    Blessings!

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    1. Connie, what a heartbreaking situation. I'll be praying for your family.

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    2. Bless you, Connie, for taking up the torch for your precious granddaughter--in life and in writing. You certainly have a first hand experience in seeing the effects of addiction, both on addicts and for the children of addicts. May God bless and lead you as you care for your daughter and granddaughter, and prepare for their future in the ways God enables you. Know that He will provide where we're not able. Know that I'm praying for you and your family. May God hold you close!

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    3. Praying for you and your family, Connie! Drug addiction is a terrible plight on our country now. Too many are caught in its clutches. So glad you are there to help your daughter.

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  18. Beautiful post today, Cathy! I love reading books where I can sense/feel the author's passion. And also where it's apparent that they took the time to get to know the place & time period that they are writing about.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Beth. I love being able to sense an author's passion for their subject and knowledge of their place and time period, too. It makes all the difference, doesn't it, in drawing us into the story?

      God bless you!

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  19. Cathy, beautiful post!!! I totally...completely agree with motivation without preaching! "Jesus told parables, stories that illustrated lessons." - THANK YOU!

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    1. Thank you, Natalya! Jesus is our best teacher--in every way!

      God bless you!

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  20. Cathy! Thank You! Your post has danced around my mind and heart a zillion times already!

    HOPE! People need hope. Hope draws us into the future. Hope for tomorrow gives power and patience to today.

    And people need PURPOSE! Intention, purpose, and a reason to live that is So Much Bigger than ourselves! Life can be a Wildly Vivid Adventure. Bold and Powerful! Giving our lives away to others and impacting eternity! Just walking along and watching God do so much more than we could ever do ourselves!

    And you’re asking what that looks like in our everyday lives? What will drive my actions and decisions?

    In the past year, I’ve learned a lot about what doesn’t really matter. Dreams and goals are great, but purposefully, intentionally impacting Eternity is Incredible! God is worth whatever it costs!

    2 Cor 4:16-18 (the Message)
    “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

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    1. Jana, I agree. People need hope and a purpose!

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    2. Jana, I love your comments! Absolutely, people need hope and a purpose. From the verse you quoted I glean this key for writers, "not a day goes by without His unfolding grace."

      It takes discernment to see that grace, especially in the midst of severe trials, but that discernment is a gift He's given writers to write His story of grace, the hope He provides, His purpose. May He continue to bless you as you follow Him. You're right, "purposefully, intentionally impacting Eternity is incredible! God is worth whatever it costs!"

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  21. Cathy, this is DO deep. And it's something I constantly have to remind myself of. I've made my living in secular nonfiction, mostly journalism, and it's a different dynamic. I did try to bring Christ into my work and "first do no harm," and there were some times I felt He used me, but Christian writing is so much more, well, Christian. Or it should be. And there's no guarantee of success as the world sees it. The journey is our "success."
    I have for a while been fascinated with Britain's response to Hitler. Loved "The King's Speech" a few years ago, "Dunkirk" this past fall, and over the New Year's weekend saw "Darkest Hour." You have got to love the Brits. Their response to the Third Reich makes up for what they did to Scotland, Ireland, India and, well, us. They really did "fight them on the beaches" etc.
    I'm snowed in today, have the Christmas tree lit, the fire going, and working on my contemporary Christmas romance. First time I've been able to implement my new writing schedule. Excited to finally have the time. God is good.
    Back later,
    Kathy Bailey
    Working it in New Hampshire

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    1. Kathy, stay warm! I'm glad you can finally try your new schedule. :)

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    2. Kathy, you bring up a really good point. This is an ongoing discussion between our Lord and us about our writing and about our life. We all have to support ourselves in this world. As we do that, we can live purposefully, write purposefully, and work purposefully. I love that God meets us where we are and walks with us through our circumstances, helping us navigate life as only He can.
      It sounds like being snowed in at your house--with Christmas tree lit and a fire going, and writing away is pretty nice! God bless you!

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  22. Cathy, welcome! I love how you personalized this post. Questions for each of us to honestly ask ourselves.

    And I'm going to be asking myself those questions today as I work on editing a story!

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    1. Thank you, Missy. It's a pleasure to be with you and all here today. I'm glad the questions are thought provoking for you. They are for me, too. I continually ask myself these questions--each time I begin a new book or consider a new story idea.

      God bless you!

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  23. "Through the hard things of life He teaches us total dependence on Him. In that total dependence we find sweet peace, sweet relief, sweet release, and resulting creativity." Loved this, Cathy. Thank you for this inspiring and thought-provoking post.

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    1. Thank you, Jill. Those are truths I've learned as He's taught me total dependence on Him--most recently through cancer treatments and their residual complications. Knowing I'm not in control is sometimes scary, but mostly very freeing. I love it when He takes the wheel of my ship!

      God bless you!

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  24. I also meant to say that one of my main themes in life and in what I write is people feeling loved for who they are. I want the reader to discover the unconditional love of God. And, in my romance novels, I want my characters to find a person who loves them just the way they are.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that, Missy. Unconditional love is what we all seek and are so in need of. The ability to trust and to know that we are loved if fulfilled in our Heavenly Father. Sharing that with readers is a real lifeline. May God bless you in your writing and journey!

      Cathy

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  25. Cathy, this is a wonderful post! I'm a bit under the weather (in more ways than one), but wanted to jump in and say hello and give you a hearty welcome to Seekerville.

    It was so much fun to meet you at the ACFW Conference and enjoy the amazing desserts at the Judy Pie confectionary in Grapevine. Such a fun evening.

    Bookmarking this to study later. :)

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    1. Hi, Pam! It's so nice to be welcomed here. I'm so sorry you're under the weather, and hope that whatever is causing that will pass soon.

      I loved meeting you in Texas! Yes, that was a fun evening with Tyndale authors and team members--the pie made the evening ala mode!

      This is the nice thing about the written word--it won't go away. We can always come back to it later.

      May God bless you today, Pam, and restore all good things!

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  26. Been thinking about what causes motivate me (and thus avoiding going out to shovel snow). I don't have a particular pattern in the stories I've done. I guess I'm motivated by the thought of People Without Christ. The first two stories in my contemporary Christmas series deal with child abuse and neglect in the heroines' past lives, driving them to be perfectionists, but I already know that that won't be the driving issue in the third book. I do see an underlying pattern of people believing the lie that they're not good enough, in all my stories, so guess I'll work with that.
    Going Outside Now. It has been nice knowing you.
    KB

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    1. Kaybee, thank you for stopping by! I'm truly sorry you have to shovel snow today. Sad to say, I think you have a whole lot of company.

      Re. what you wrote: Knowing there are people without Christ is a great and driving motivation to write stories that connect them to Him.

      Struggles against the lie that we're not good enough to come to Him is something that so many of us know firsthand, so that's another urgent cause.

      Identifying these things that move us and are dear to our hearts helps us step out with greater confidence in writing the stories He places on our hearts. It's exciting to share in your vision. Thank you! May God bless you as you write for Him and His glory, and for the blessing of others!

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  27. Cathy, I so appreciate your questions! I think the one heart-issue that seems to come up in each of my stories is knowing our identities—who determines our identity, and how we learn to live it out. I'm going to be thinking about your questions! Thanks for posing them!

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    1. Jeanne, that's such an interesting perspective--"who determines our identity, and how we learn to live it out." I think struggles with identity is something that is almost a cultural confusion of our time.

      I love how the Lord places on each of our hearts unique concerns, and how He prepares and equips us to write about those things. Together, writers create something whole that we are each a part of. It's like playing an instrument in a symphony of grace.

      God bless you!

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    2. Jeanne, I too love that perspective of identity. Maybe because it's something God is working on in me now.

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  28. I feel called to write clean books for fellow teenagers, who shouldn't have to resort to reading trash in order to read the books targeted to them. But I also write honest books. My characters aren't perfect. Sometimes, they aren't even nice. They mess up constantly, they don't always learn from their mistakes and mess up again, and the way is seldom ever clear.

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    1. Nicki, that sounds like real life: "My characters aren't perfect. Sometimes, they aren't even nice. They mess up constantly, they don't always learn from their mistakes and mess up again, and the way is seldom ever clear."

      Writing clean and honest books for fellow teens is a unique gift and calling. Your ability to understand the culture, the climate and the unique concerns and needs of teens of this time because YOU are a teen, is something few writers can do. May God bless you as you write and especially as you point readers to Him, who covers our messes in amazing grace. Trust me, we all have messes!

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  29. Hi Cathy! Great points, you cut right to the heart of the matter! Carrie and I were just drooling ov--er ahem--admiring your blurb and cover yesterday!

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    1. Beth, you make me smile! I do love the cover Tyndale designed. I could not have imagined anything more perfect for the story. A tidbit that I love to share is that the handwriting in the sky--on the cover--was taken from an original manuscript of C. S. Lewis's "The Problem of Pain"--a book referenced in the story. I love it when designers surprise us with things that make our hearts sing!

      Thank you for the welcome! God's blessings today!

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  30. Hi Cathy! Thank you for such a profound post. I actually read it first last night when it came on live, and it just kind of kept me up a bit. LOL. I'm not a writer, but I think some of those questions still apply to our lives in general, at the very least in each of our professions.

    In terms of novels, I appreciate the thought and prayers that went into writing each novel. And that is what I love about Christian Fiction. It' is written with a God driven purpose.

    Thank you again.
    Annie

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    1. Annie, I absolutely agree that these questions pertain to our lives, as well as to writing. Knowing how we've been blessed and saved by grace from the Lord, we can't help but want to live purposefully for Him--for His glory and for the good and blessing of others. Taking stock and asking ourselves hard questions does keep us up at night sometimes. I sympathize and empathize with that! : )

      God's blessings for you!

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  31. Cathy, thanks for being with us today and for your lovely blog post!

    I hope you're in a warm part of the country. I'm in Georgia, which has been far too cold these first days in January. Praying for all those impacted by the cold, the snow, the ice and that huge storm battling the east coast.

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    1. It's been my pleasure to be with you all, Debby! Thank you for having me!

      I'm in Virginia now. School is closed, although we only received a little snow. But it's bitter cold with high winds. Still, it's nothing like so much of the country is experiencing. Yes, I'm praying for those affected by the storms and cold, ice and snow, too.

      God bless you today!

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    2. My kids are in Haymarket, VA, so I'm getting updates. No school. So cold. High winds. Brrrr!

      I lived a lot of years in VA...Arlington and the Fort Belvoir area. Love that state! Are you in Northern VA? I'm a Mount Vernon High grad, if you know that part of the state.

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    3. I love VA too, Debby! I really miss living there.

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    4. Yes, Debby, I'm in Northern VA and it truly is cold and very windy! I'm hoping the planes are flying!!

      I've been to Mount Vernon, so am guessing the high school must be in that area? It's a small world! : )

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  32. Cathy! Welcome to Seekerville today! What a thought-provoking post. This is a real 'think-with-your-heart' message!

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    1. Thank you, Erica. It's lovely to be here with you all today!

      Yes, these are questions we can't always answer off the top of our heads, but we need to pray about them and see where the Lord leads. I hope they will be helpful to ponder.

      God's blessings for you!

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  33. Hi Cathy:

    By giving C.S. Lewis and Beatrix Potter cameos in your historical "Until We Find Home", you've done something I've been advocating for over ten years and that is to put more history into historical romances.

    I think the biggest problem with Historical Romances is the lack of history. It seems to me, a lover of history, that every effort has been taken to leave the history out of the romance! Prices and money are not given because they require research. Almost nothing is said about government. In most romances, if not all, you couldn't tell who was the Governor or even President. There could be an economic depression going on (called panics back then. The word 'depression' was a euphemism for panic!) and you'd never know it. I even read a romance where the San Francisco earthquake didn't happen. If you are not going to mention the earthquake, then don't give exact dates in your story!

    Many famous English writers in the 19th century came to tour America and give lectures. One even went to a remote mining town out west because they had so much money they could afford to pay him! (Mining towns also brought full opera companies because they could afford it.)

    Why not give some of these famous authors cameo appearances in our western romances? That is, add historical value to the reading experience. Make the reader feel smarter for having read your romance.


    Writers seem to be leery of using real people in such cases. Even to the point of not wanting to simply have people overheard in a restaurant talking about how Oscar Wilde will be coming to town in the future.

    Did you have any problem using real famous people in your cameos?

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    1. That's such a good and interesting question, Vince. I love including real people in my stories. My heart's desire is to bring Christian writers and people of faith from times past to a new generation through stories. So many of the literary greats of the past are not well known today. Their books are out of vogue, perhaps because they're harder to read, having been written in a style not popular today. But their messages are phenomenal! I want to share the good things I've been blessed with.

      That being said, I think there is a difference in genre that might influence the characters writers bring to their stories. I write historicals with a thread of romance, not historical romance. In historical romance, the story of the romance is the main thing. In historicals, the story set in history is the main thing. That might make it easier for me to focus on real people, because they are important to the story. Including real people of the time period I'm writing about helps focus the story and lend credibility.

      I recently read two books, however, that I think are considered historical romances about Martin Luther and his wife, Katherina. One was by Jody Hedlund and one by Allison Pittman. While the romance was the primary focus in each story, the history was amazing. I stand in awe of both writers' research and the historical detail they included. So, I think a lot depends on what is important to the story.

      Research is something I love. It's sometimes hard to know when to quit researching and begin writing.

      God's blessings!

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    2. Cathy, the other book by Jody Hedlund I've read that was chock full of historical details is Newton and Polly. John Newton who as you know, wrote Amazing Grace, and this was such an incredible book! I didn't really know the story behind the song until I read this!! It was quite eye opening. Made me appreciate the song so much more and brought a deeper meaning to my heart.

      I'm going to be biased in saying Jody is my top favorite historical author because of the authenticity in her writing, and the massive amount of research she does in for her books. She blows me away with each book she comes out with!

      Shameless plug here, you should check out her newest series about the orphan train called (obviously) the Orphan Train series. First book released June of this year entitled "With You Always". Her writing is absolutely exquisite, in my humble opinion :-)

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    3. Trixi, thanks for those recommendations!

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    5. Trixi, those are great recommendations. I'll look for those books of Jody's.

      In December, my husband took me to the Museum of the Bible in D.C. and to the play being staged there, "Amazing Grace." It was a Broadway musical and so well done! I truly love that story. My favorite movie of all time is "Amazing Grace." That's really much more the story of William Wilberforce's fight for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, but it brings in John Newton as an older man, and of course, his wonderful hymn.

      I've read a good bit about the Orphan Train, too, so know I will enjoy that. Thank you!!

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  34. Hi Cathy! First, I'm waving emphatically because I am a huge fan of your books. This is a great post and one worth printing!

    You asked: Is my heartbreak aimed more toward the church or the world? (This will help you decide whether you’re writing a novel for the unchurched, for seekers, or for the church.)

    What a fabulous way to nail down direction. I never thought about it that way so this is huge!!!

    Thank you for being here and sharing this and I can't wait to read Until We Find Home.

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    1. Thank you, Sharee, for your encouragement. I'm so glad you enjoy my books!

      I think you've nailed it: We all need to "nail down direction." It's too easy to wander from story to story otherwise. Once we understand how we've been gifted and where our passions lie, we can move forward purposefully.

      It's been such a treat to share this discussion today!

      I hope you enjoy "Until We Find Home."

      God's blessings for you!

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  35. Wonderful post, Cathy! Thank you. Especially loved this thought: "There is no greater thrill for a writer than to co-create with our Creator."

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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    1. Writing is an exciting venture, Phyllis, there is no doubt. But to write with our Heavenly Father at the helm of the ship is the greatest of adventures.

      Thank you so much for joining ini today. God's blessings for you!

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  36. Off Topic:

    Montana Rose is available for free on Amazon for the Kindle right now.

    It's a Seeker book! I had the paper copy but not the Kindle.

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  37. Cathy, welcome today.....good to know more about you! I first heard of your books in Dec. 2016 when I read The Secrets She Kept. Loved it!
    Later I read Promise Me This, and I have Band of Sisters in my TBR pile and Saving Amelie on Kindle. I am an avid reader so am anxious to read Until We Find home!
    Thanks for your giveaway!

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    1. Jackie, you are so encouraging! I'm delighted you've read so many of my books. I hope you'll enjoy "Until We Find Home, " as well. Being an avid reader makes us kindred spirits! God's blessings for you!

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  38. Wonderful, thought provoking post! Great questions! I am going to pin this on Pinterest and save for future reference.

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    1. What a great idea, Carrie! I should make a board of blog posts TBR.

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  39. So nice to see you here, dear Carrie! I'd never have thought to add this to Pinterest. That's a great idea! Thank you!

    God's blessings, my friend!

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  40. I'm later stopping by today (been without internet a good bit--ugh!) but wanted to say thank you for this wonderful post, Cathy! It's going into my Keeper File. :)
    I still remember meeting you at my very first ACFW conference---at the Awards dinner, I sat at the table with you and sweet Carrie Turansky (and felt quite honored being among such talented ladies!).
    Thank you again for sharing, and I pray your new year is healthy and happy!
    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

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    1. Patti Jo, I hope the Internet problem isn't from bad weather!

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    2. So nice to be here with you, Patti Jo! What a blessing to have met you at that ACFW awards dinner!

      I'm glad your internet is working again, and like Missy, hope it wasn't because of bad weather. So much of our country is being hammered by severe storms.

      God's blessings for you in your writing and all your journey!

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  41. I am so thankful for authors like you. May God continue to bless you and give you ideas.

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  42. Thanks so much for the post. Definitely food for thought. I’m a reader and not a writer and have often speculated as to why some authors write books with certain themes.

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    1. MH, I can't speak for other writers. I can only share what I have received and hope it's helpful. I imagine that writers have a myriad of reasons for writing what they do. As another reader pointed out in an earlier post, these can be good questions as we think about purposeful living, too.

      I'm so glad you stopped by. God's blessings for you!

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  43. Oh Cathy what a dear post! So many wonderful questions to ask ourselves. This is a keeper!
    When I think of what grieves my heart, it goes to two things. People who have been absolutely bashed their whole lives who really need to know that the Lord loves them and that they have a purpose. My heart breaks for them. A broken woman, man or child. I just want to wrap them up in hugs and let them know that Jesus died for them.
    I also am broken for the hurting people out there who lash out. It is a saying for a reason "Hurt people hurt people." I just wish they knew that there is a better way.

    Cathy your wrote: "Consider: Jesus told parables, stories that illustrated lessons. He did not moralize because the hearers could draw their own obvious conclusions . . . and so will ours. "

    I will keep this close. :) Thank you for sharing today.


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    1. Kelly, you've already discerned these things for yourself, and I'm so glad! Praise God! You are absolutely right that hurting people hurt others, as if that will ease their pain. So many of us have endured terrible "bashing" in our lives and desperately need to know that the Lord loves us, just as you described.

      I love hearing God's unique calling on the lives of His people. Thank you for sharing yours here! God bless and keep you on this journey!

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  44. This is so beautiful! Thank you for this incredibly thoughtful and thought-provoking blog! I love to read and so appreciate the many wonderful Christian fiction authors. Sometimes I think I'd like to write, but other times I think I'll stick to reading. I will keep a copy of this blog just in case ;)

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    1. Jeanne, we'd love to support you if you ever decide to write! And of course, we all support reading. :)

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    2. The wonderful thing about reading, Jeanne, is that we all love it--readers and writers are all avid readers! Your encouragement to authors is so very much appreciated and really helps us keep going when the going is sometimes tough.

      It's great to have this home in Seekerville to share and explore both reading and writing, and to encourage one another. What a gift this is! God bless you!

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  45. Cathy, What an inspiring post you gave me to read the first thing this morning. The comments that followed were also amazing. They didn’t leave much for me to say, but I really enjoyed your blog today with your comparison of God’s creative ability and also ours as humans. Thank you for taking the time to enlighten the Seekerville community with your inspirational creativity nudge for all our writers and readers. Have a blessed day.

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    1. Hey, Suzanne, I couldn't agree with you more about Cathy's "inspirational creativity"!

      Cathy couldn't make it today, but I assure you she will be reading your comment tomorrow. But I wanted to jump in to say that Cathy Gohlke is one of the most inspirational writers I have ever read.

      I still remember when my agent asked me to read Cathy's book, Promise Me This, for endorsement. I finished the book at like 2:00 AM and was SO deeply moved that I literally jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to write Cathy a note. She is truly a remarkable author, as evidenced by three Christy awards and two Carol and INSPY awards.

      Thank you for coming by and God bless you in the new year!

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  46. On this chilly morning I have coffee brewing and a pot of tea steaming. Please take a cranberry orange muffin from the platter and some vanilla yogurt and a scoop of fruit from the bowl. Enjoy everyone and stay warm in this frigid weather. This too shall soon pass.

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    1. Aw, Suzanne, what a blessing you are! Cranberry orange is one of my faves, so THANK YOU!!

      Now if the growls in my stomach were only cyber too!! ;)

      Hugs!!
      Julie

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    2. Thank you for those wonderful treats, Suzanne! And thank you for your kind words. It's been such a pleasure to share this time with you and all at Seekerville! God bless!

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  47. I’m a reader not a writer but I think you said some wise things here. I especially liked *Allow the reader to draw conclusions without spelling everything out for them. Your Secrets She Kept was amazing. Keep on keeping on, your readers love your work.

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    1. It's so good to meet you here, Anne. Jesus' storytelling methods are the absolute best, and such great guidelines for engaging the listener--in His case, and the reader--in ours.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed Secrets She Kept. Thank you for your wonderful encouragement! God bless you!

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  48. Hi Cathy! I love to write stories of hope and Overcoming with Gods help. Looking forward to your new novel. Blessings

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    1. So nice to meet you here, Carrie! It's wonderful that you've discerned the message God wants you to write. Knowing you're following His leading makes all the difference while writing, doesn't it?

      God bless you in your continued writing and encouragement for so many writers!

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  49. So late to this party--but I have to thank you for this wonderful exercise.

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