Welcome

IMG_3863 copyThank you for stopping by. The cry of my heart is to honor King Jesus. I pray that the words that flow from my heart, through the key board, and to your eyes lift your spirit to worship Him.

This life adventure is full of new twists, and I’m excited to share some of them with you. Please stop by thefreeslavesdevotion.com to visit with me and my wonderful writing partner, Susan Roach, as we explore who we are in Christ.

Don’t skip the Grace Revealing page. Stories that shout the praises of our King should not be overlooked, and I’d love for you to share yours.

If you’re interested in the fiction projects I am currently working on, please check out the WIP (that’s Work In Progress) page.

I’m certainly no miracle worker, but prayer is a gift from our Heavenly Father. If I can pray for you in any way, I’d love for you to contact me. Just fill out the form and I’ll be in touch.

Thanks again for stopping by. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.

Giant Giveaway!!!

Y’all! I’m super excited…

Guess who’s participating in this promo? (Me!) Enter to win over 45 Inspirational Contemporary Romances, including books from authors like Susan May Warren, Melissa Tagg, Sarah Monzon, and Janet Ferguson.

Talk about a BIG giveaway! Pretty sure you don’t want to miss it (I might just enter myself…except, can’t). 🙂

feb-17-general-inspirational-contemporary-romance-1200graphic

This giveaway ends soon, so make sure you hurry and enter! Good luck!

 

GO HERE TO ENTER > bit.ly/inspy-contemp

Why Kale?

So….Kale.

Yeah, the character in Ordinary Snowflakes. That girl. I’m getting some interesting responses to her. Her name, actually. Some of the reviews are actually quite hilarious as they rant about this “hipster” name I’ve pegged this otherwise lovable character with. Super funny, because, well, they’re just funny. And also because if you know me at all, I’m the last woman you’d peg as a “hipster.” No kidding.

remember-dreams-ben-well-this-one-is-calesSo, for the sake of clarification, (and hey, something fun to talk about!) I thought I’d just share why I chose Kale for Ordinary Snowflakes.

I wasn’t trying to be trendy (I’ve actually never met a person named Kale (or Cale), so I didn’t know it was a trend). Or original (I’m seriously not that clever). I named her after the little girl in the movie Dreamer. (Yes, I realize in the movie her name is spelled with a C. The Anne with an E in my head told me that C always looked so smug. Arguing with Anne is silly.) That movie (Dreamer) has a couple of lines which God used to spur me forward in writing, in embracing courage and in trying for my dreams. I knew Kale was an “off” name, but because of what was pressed into my heart from that little girl’s spunk and courage, I used it in this book–for another character who’s life was full of spunk and in need of some courage.

Pretty simple, really. Honestly, I never imagined her name would stir up such strong reactions!remember-dreams-ben-well-this-one-is-cales

Oh, and yes, it’s pronounced just like that leafy green veggie you either love or hate (my daughter thinks that stuff is only good for her chickens. Just thought you’d like to know 🙂 ).

So, now, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

🙂

Guilt

Thinking about…

guilt.

I once asked a friend how to weed through the feelings of guilt that I was wresting with. Balancing being a wife, motherhood, writing, and volunteering in ministry is an ever-present concern in my world. At that moment (when I talked to  my friend) I couldn’t shake the guilt I felt every time my kids found me working on something not-them related.

She told me two things that really stuck.

First, our culture, especially the church sub-culture, tends to bombard us with the idea that our kids need our undying attention every second of every day, no matter what age they are (mine are 9-15. They don’t need my undivided attention ALL THE TIME. Seriously.). when-god-brings-conviction-into-our-lives-he-makes-it-loud-and-clear

Second, when God brings conviction into our lives, He makes it loud and clear. Sometimes we’re super good at shoving that clear conviction to a back corner of our minds, but it doesn’t make the conviction less clear. Maybe just less loud. Nagging, ambiguous guilt, though? That’s not from God. Especially when, through prayer, there’s not any clear confirmation of conviction. It’s just nagging, discouraging guilt. You know things like,

You’re not enough.

You failed again.

You’re not what your kids need.

Still not good enough.

It’s a tool of our enemy to keep us on the ground. Distracted. Defeated.

Doesn’t sound like God-work, does it?

Honestly, I still wrestle with this kind of guilt. Often. But I’m learning to come to Jesus, to ask Him to either make the conviction clear, or give me the courage to step under the shield of faith and believe Him when He says that voice of defeat is not His.

What about you? Do you wrestle with hazy, debilitating guilt? Do you think it’s God, or is there something else at work? How can you tell the difference?

The Snowflake Hunt

I find myself in search of snowflake ornaments now.

This is the first year I’ve experienced this obsession. Honestly, I don’t think I currently own even one of said decorations. But this woman—her name is Kale Brennan—has put into my heart a need to collect these things. Her story, which involves snowflakes, and hot cocoa, and sledding, and all sorts of other wonderful wintry things, also points to the amazing uniqueness of an ordinary snowflake. And how much we can see the extraordinary love of our great God in everyday, ordinary ways.

In the words of her daughter Sydney, “There is no such thing as an ordinary snowflake… And we’re like that. God makes us each special and loves us especially.”

Uniquely made. Loved especially. I like that. So, now I’m hunting for snowflakes. And, more importantly, for the everyday graces I’m now more aware of.

How about you? Is there something you look for, something symbolic, that reminds you of how extraordinary our God is, how wonderfully He loves you, or how special ordinary, everyday grace really is? I’d love to hear about it.

In the meantime, as Christmas is fast approaching, if you see a snowflake ornament, I hope it makes you smile. More, I pray it makes you reflect on the extraordinary God who has crafted them.

Because, after all, there are no ordinary snowflakes.

 

Ordinary Snowflakes is available in paperback, or for Kindle or Nookoscover

***Will the one pursuing her with his secret gift and kind gestures be the one her heart longs for in the end?***

“This beautiful story not only captures the miracle of the manger, but exemplifies the magnificence of unconditional love.” ~Rebecca Maney, Goodreads Review

“As well as a heart-melting romance, this novel was a lovely reminder that sometimes we forget to look for God in the ordinary things.” ~Fiction Aficionado

“Ordinary Snowflakes has definitely landed solidly in the hit category.” ~Amazon Reviewer

“…everything you would want in a holiday read and more.” ~Amazon Reviewer

 

Snowflakes, Hot Cocoa, and Hope

I love autumn, and I don’t mean to rush it away, so bear with me as I jump into winter for a moment. I’m only doing so out of sheer delight. My first novella is releasing November 21, and I just can’t wait for another second to tell y’all about it. So without more fluffy intro that you probably don’t care about ;)…

Come back with  me to Rock Creek (the setting of Reclaimed) and meet Kale, Sydney, Joe, and Craig.

Someone has noticed me. A secret admirer? A man with a good heart, who sees how much I oscoveractually need help, even though I never admit it? Maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful story—a romance full of hope and second chances and love.  

Maybe…

A secret Santa gift left on Kale Brennan’s front porch opens up a fresh view of her ordinary life, and perhaps of God. Maybe she does matter. Maybe God sees her—as does a new-to-town music teacher who has her seven-year-old daughter gushing and her own knees buckling with his killer smile. But as Kale embraces new possibilities, a staple in her life—a man who is kind and steady, not to mention necessary for her injured daughter’s recovery—also snatches her attention in an unexpected way. Will the one pursuing her with his secret gift and kind gestures be the one her heart longs for in the end?

I had so much fun writing this little story (although, I confess, and my writing/critique partners will testify, somewhere in the middle of it I decided it was the dumbest thing I’d ever written. I was wrong. This book really grabbed my heart in an unexpected, joyful way). Going back to Rock Creek, meeting some new friends in that lovely little town, and catching a glimpse of Suzanna Rustin was as refreshing as a brisk day blanketed with new snow. My prayer as I wrote was, “God, show me joy again. Whisper new life…”

And He absolutely did. He is so good.

Ordinary Snowflakes is available for pre-order on Amazon. And…I’m thrilled to announce that it will be available on audio by the release date. If you’re part of my email list, please hold off until my November newsletter. You’ll just have to trust me for a good reason. 😉

Help For the Wednesday Hurdle: Author Interview with Tammy Gray

So, it’s been a while. I know. Sorry. But I found a great reason to do another Wednesday giveaway. Her name is Tammy Gray, and she’s one of my writing heroes. I absolutely love her stories, and my favorite contemporary transformational fiction book came from her imagination. (It’s called Mercy’s Fight, and it’s sooooo good. Maybe you picked up that vibe already? 🙂 )

Yesterday Tammy celebrated her latest release, My Hope Next Door. I’m itching to dig into it! Here’s the scoop:

Can love grow in the shadow of a broken past?

Former bad girl Katie Stone can feel the weight of her reputation settle over her as she mhnd-coverdrives home for the first time in years. Feeling deeply guilty about her past mistakes, Katie wants to do the right thing for once. But the small town where she grew up is not nearly as forgiving as she’d hoped. Despite it all, she’s determined to help her parents cope with her mother’s recent illness, and Katie finds a surprise ally in the man next door.
Asher Powell never minded being the son of a small-town pastor until a recent breakup leaves him wounded by lifelong members of his church. He remembers his new neighbor as a mean-spirited high school troublemaker, but he senses that her newfound faith and desire for forgiveness are sincere.
Through an unexpected friendship, two people from different worlds find peace, hope, and a second chance they never dreamed was possible.
Looks so great, doesn’t it? Tammy, I can’t wait…this is my book for the weekend! Will you tell us about what we’re getting into with that story?

My Hope Next Door is a story of second chances. It’s about letting go of past regrets, mistakes and the image we all carry. It’s about looking beyond stereotypes to the person God has created us to be. And it’s a beautiful love story between two very different people who share a similar pain. As an author, I always want my books to leave the readers changed in some way, or at least see the world through a different lens. I truly think this book will do both.

My favorite kind of read. 🙂 So, let’s talk shop… Writing can be an outlet, but also it can sometimes demand more than you think you have. Can you give us an example of both for you, and how do you handle this calling when it seems beyond you?

I am blessed to be surrounded by an amazing group of authors who are more than just critique partners, but also friends, encouragers and truth speakers. When I’m down and feeling inadequate, they pick me up and remind me why we do what we do. When I’m frustrated, they let me vent and redirect me to where I need to be. I think the worst thing an author can do to herself is to write in a vacuum. This job is already a little isolating, so it is imperative to have that trusted group of individuals around you.

There’s not a soul on the planet who doesn’t need both those encouragers and truth speakers. I’m so glad God has provided such a group for you! What is God teaching you right now?

I think the greatest lesson I learned this year is to not be distracted by all the less important aspects of my writing career. My calling is to write a book that glorifies Him, and to do it to the best of my ability. When those two things happen, then I feel truly satisfied in this journey.

Truly it is so easy to become entangled with distractions, isn’t it? I know you’re a mommy-writer, and your husband has a rather demanding job (pastor, right?). Talk to us about how that works, how you fit being an author into your life.

I see being an author as a calling, but also a business. So, I treat it like I would any job. My work hours are 8 am  – 3pm M – F, and I try to keep my writing, social media, etc between those hours. There are times, of course, that timeline slips during deadlines and editing, but in general I really do try and keep it contained. By doing that, I’m able to spend my other time being a wife and a mother, and enjoy those hours without the stress filtering through.

So organized. I’m taking notes. 🙂

Do you have a verse that you carry in your heart as you live and work out the many jobs God has called you to?

Oh, there are many, and I try to write each book with a verse in mind. For My Hope Next Door, it was 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Such a beautiful, challenging passage. I can’t wait to see it fleshed out in the book!

Thank you, Tammy, so  much for taking the time to chat with me. I’m crazy honored, and although I’m not much of the fan-girl type, I promise I’m grinning ear-to-ear right now!

For today’s giveaway, I’ll be sending a reader a Kindle copy of Tammy’s new release, My Hope Next Door. Leave me a comment either here or on my FB page, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday. Be sure to check out Tammy’s other books (*clears throat* Mercy’s Fight especially)!

tlgrayBiography

Tammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.

When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.

Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on. For all the latest info, visit her website at http://tammylgray.com

I’d love to hear from all of you! Come join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tlgraybooks or twitter @tlgraybooks