Challenges are Sure to Come
“Into each life some rain must fall.” —Allan Roberts
Yep, it’s true. No one goes through this world unscathed. Troubles are sure to fall like rain, whether we want them or not. So, if that’s the case, how should we respond?
As far as I can tell, there are only three ways. (If you can think of more, please enlighten me in the comments). You can either resist them by pretending they don’t exist, fight them angrily (blaming others in the process), or accept them, letting the challenges wash over you, knowing that somehow, they will transform you into a better person.
Challenges Are For Our Good
But, accepting them is not so easy, is it? We want to squirm out of them, side step them or squash them, right? If we are a child of God, though, we know He has a plan for our lives, and ultimately, our goal is to reflect our Father.
Sometimes, He uses the ‘controlled burn’ to conform us. Just enough challenges to kill the wayward parts like impatience and jealousy, so new seed can grow into hardy plants that will bear a good harvest (remember the fruits of the spirit?)
Not only do trials make us more like Christ, but when we accept them and allow them to strengthen our faith, in the end, it will bring honor His name. Check out the verses below. . .
1 Peter 1:6-7
Occasionally, we are the reason for the hard times. I know I have used a harsh word in the past, or avoided the truth when asked. I’ve even been jealous or critical, which leads to discontent and depression. No one sees it, of course, but Jesus does. He knows what’s in my heart. And at times, it’s not pretty—and I’m sure it makes Him sad.
Challenges Make Us Stronger
How many of us pray for challenges and trials? Scary idea, eh? But, consider this--we can speed up our goal of being Christ-like by putting ourselves into a situation that requires trust in our Heavenly Father. When everything is going well, why would we need to call out to Jesus?
I have done this a few times in my life. Sometimes, it’s being brave to talk with and editor or agent about my latest project. Other times it’s stepping out in faith, literally, as I walk across a mile-high swinging bridge, or climb a ladder like the one below. You see, I’m afraid of heights. But I was determined to move forward in faith. And I’m glad I did!
I’m not sure if it’s my age (I’m less intimidated), or that my desire to be conformed to Christ’s image is front and center in my heart right now. That, too, could be due to my age, since I have more years behind me that ahead of me.
This nomad journey has at times been a challenge. My time isn’t my own. Neither is my space. And don’t even talk about the issue of mail delivery when we move every few weeks. It’s a nightmare! One thing is for sure. I will appreciate our townhome So, Much. More. when our nomad life is done.
Whoa. I just thought of something. After dealing with this earthly life and our sinful nature all our lives, it will be So. Incredibly. Amazing. to finally step into Heaven and know we are FINALLY HOME and free of all that hinders us!
How have you seen God transform your struggles into something good? Let me know in the comments below!
Rethinking My Nomad Life
This post begins my new journey into a life of change. I call it “My Nomad Life.” We all experience change at one time or another, so I hope to give you the courage to flourish in a time of uncertainty and change.
Today, I will share some kitchen hacks I've discovered during our journey. Since our townhouse won't be finished until the fall, my hubby and I have been volunteering at various Christian ministries that offer lodging. We've found it's a double blessing. They bless us with a place to live, and we in turn fill a need neither of us anticipated. And through it all, God is blessing us with a measure of testing and faith—watching Him provide our next location just when we need it.
Why the Necessity for Kitchen Hacks?
So what does that have to do with kitchen hacks? Imaging moving every two to three months to a new location, a different-sized lodging, and an unfamiliar kitchen that does or doesn't have the supplies you normally use to prepare your favorite meals? BTW, if you typically prepare fast food in a microwave, this isn't for you. There are microwaves in every location (including hotels and Airbnb). No worries!
Well, in this nomad journey, I've had to make do with what is available. I can hear some of you say, “What's the problem? Can't you go out and buy what you need?”
I have what I need in our PackRat, but it's hundreds of miles away. Being a minimalist, I certainly don't need an extra one when we finally move into our townhouse. Although I could purchase many of them at Goodwill, we don't have the space to carry them from one location to another. Our two cars, which are essentially our suitcases for a year, are chock full already, and our money has to be used only for necessities.
Kitchen Hacks in Disguise
Some of these are obvious, like using an everyday teaspoon/tablespoon and cup for measuring, as long as it's not a recipe that depends on exact measurements, like a souffle or angel food cake. The large pot with lid I borrowed from the camp kitchen is used for frying eggs, making soup, a casserole, stirfy or chicken cacciatore. After all, pioneers cooked with one iron skillet, and made everything from stew to griddle cakes over the fire.
Since there are no cake or bread pans, I use my Pyrex dish to make a small gluten and dairy-free cake on occasion. And along with my cake, I must have tea! So, in lieu of a teapot, which is packed away, I discovered an alternative: my Yeti travel mug! It keeps my brewed tea (English Breakfast, loose-leaf) hot. I add some honey, collagen, and heated walnut/almond milk. Yum!
This is a favorite hack I accidentally came up with. Since I make all my food from scratch, I like to keep a variety of whole herbs and spices on hand. But, since I don't have the space, I broke down and bought seasoning mixes. Harissa is a North African spice I use in meatloaf or veggies. Curry and Italian seasoning are self-explanatory. Citrus herb is great for steaks, and Herbs de Provence for anything French, including lamb, chicken, zucchini and asparagus.
I had some whole rosemary and stick cinnamon, so I pulverized them in my (believe it or not) coffee grinder, after I had cleaned it thoroughly. Back in my container, I have a coffee grinder specifically for this purpose but hadn't room for it in my travels. Parsley is used in almost every dish, so I dried some fresh organic parsley.
Must-Have Kitchen Supplies
Notice the touches of coastal blue?? It reminds me that some day, Lord willing, we will settle into our home 20 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. Until then, I will continue to use these hacks even after we move.
No matter the state of your baking sheets (dirty, clean, stainless, aluminum), parchment paper is a worthy investment. You can safely bake on any surface with it, as I have done with meatloaf. Since there were no loaf pans, I formed it on a baking sheet. Easy!
I like to add chopped veggies to almost every meal I make, and meatloaf is no exception. I couldn't live without a processor. I sold my large one and bought this tiny one that is sufficient for our nomadic needs. It can even puree guacamole!
This next hack, although I really wouldn't call it such, is a sharp well-made paring knife (of sorts). This one was a gift from a friend I consider to be a culinary expert. Little did she know how much I depend on this knife! You cannot do without a sharp paring and utility knife.
If you are going to invest in something, make sure it's the best all-purpose knife you can afford. There are so many types to choose from, but this one does all the everyday meal prep work. The next investment would be a knife sharpener if you end up in a place with dull tools. It's a chef’s vexation!
I've managed to make our double-wide trailer (aka The Lodge) a home. All I need is a spot to read and write, and a good hot drink and fragrant candle. I've been a ‘happy camper’ at Hickory Cove Bible Camp. But, it's time to move on. We've had a productive, peaceful and satisfying time here, due to the welcoming nature of the staff. Lord willing, we will continue to bless others as they have blessed us on our nomad journey to the coast.
Which of my hacks have you used? Have you needed to ‘make do’ with something in your kitchen through the years? I'd love to hear how you creatively solved your problem! Let me know below.
Author Heather Norman Smith's Latest Book
I am pleased to feature my fellow author Heather Smith’s latest novel, Songs for a Sunday, soon-to-be-released on 2/7/23 by Iron Stream Fiction. Not only is it a dual storyline novel with local color and heart, but it's set in the state where I will soon be a resident: North Carolina!
Here are a few questions Heather was willing to take on before her novel is published. Let's find out what it takes to get a story out into the world—one that treasures life in all its forms.
Songs for a Sunday
How did you come up with the idea for Songs for a Sunday?
This book came to me first as a title. I was in the shower when the words popped into my brain, and I had no idea what they meant. It sounds a little strange, but along with the title, I had an image of a couple out for a drive in an older model convertible. That image later became part of the first scene in the 1960s storyline. Most of the book was written in 2020, and I actually don’t remember anything else about how I came up with the plot of the book.
Give us a short synopsis of the storyline. . .
Here’s the back cover copy:
1963: Twenty-year-old Annie dreams of managing the dance studio where she has trained since childhood and of marrying her high-society boyfriend. But when her younger sister with special needs gets pregnant, Annie is forced to set her dreams aside for the sake of family.
Present Day: Missy Robbins has always lived in her younger sister’s shadow. When given the opportunity, Missy steps out of her comfort zone as stay-at-home mom of four to prove she’s as good a singer as Erica. Missy’s new pursuit puts her on a path to self-discovery and reclaiming her discarded faith. Until she discovers her grandmother has a sixty-year-old secret.
Will Missy conceal Grandma Annie’s deception or will she be forced to reveal the hidden truth?
Which part of your story was the most difficult to develop?
One plot point that proved difficult is when a character delivers a fantastic vocal performance of Amazing Grace, yet she doesn’t fully believe the words of the song. At this point in the book, singing the song is just an act for her. It was hard for me to imagine and capture someone not being moved by the lyrics and the Spirit of the song.
Also, one of my characters in the 1960s timeline would be considered “neurodivergent” today. It was a little challenging to keep that character’s unique traits consistent throughout the story.
Who was your favorite character to develop in the novel, and why?
The main character, Missy, is autobiographical in several ways, so I think I had the most fun inserting my experiences as a mother of four into her fictional life.
Did you unearth a particularly interesting tidbit, fun character or spiritual truth you just knew had to be included in your novel?
The story is set in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I loved including lots of real locations and some great historical details in the story—things like the formation of North Carolina School of the Arts, the first public arts conservatory in the country. Many of the “real” settings are within a fifteen-minute drive of my home, and it was a lot of fun to incorporate those places.
What would you like your reader to understand or come away with after she finishes Songs for a Sunday?
God has a plan and a purpose, and He can use anything and anybody to accomplish it.
How has God prepared you to be a writer?
I think He gave me a love for words, in general. My husband says I’m too analytical because I place a lot of importance on “saying what you mean and meaning what you say.” But I think it’s part of the appreciation God gave me for language and the power it has.
What sparks your creativity when you’re feeling drained?
When I hit a slump, I have to remind myself that my writing is more than entertainment. There is a higher purpose to the kinds of stories I want to tell. When I go back to the ministry aspect of writing, I’m always motived to keep going.
What is your secret to getting your word count in with many distractions?
I’m obsessive about the story. Once a story idea starts with me, I have to tell it. And, I stay up very late at night most of the time.
Where would be your ideal writing space? Why? Describe your present ‘office.’ What--if anything--would you change?
I write with my laptop on my lap, sitting on one end of my couch. That’s where all my books have been written, so I can’t really imagine writing anywhere else.
Favorite books as a child? Adult?
Ever since I first read it in high school, I’ve always loved To Kill a Mockingbird.
Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you . . .
My day job is as a Business Analyst for a Software Development company. Sometimes, when my characters start talking to me, it’s hard to focus on my work, but I’m very thankful for my job.
Thank you, Heather, for being willing to share a bit about yourself and your upcoming novel.
Preorder "Songs for a Sunday" today!
I hope you have been enticed to check out Heather's upcoming release on February 7th! It is a cozy read that draws you right in like savory smells in a grandma's kitchen. The characters will feel like your friends after only a few pages. The dual storyline is easy to follow, but doesn't give away secrets until half way through the book. You will return to the story with anticipation each time you put it down (if you are able).
Since my husband and I are without a home at this time (our townhome construction in North Carolina has been delayed until spring), we are wanderers and sojourners, traveling across country, visiting friends, house-sitting and staying with very generous church family members a few weeks at a time. Above, you see me in a "here's proof I was at one of the most popular spots in the US" pose.
I'm the Happy Sojourner. . .
. . .and he is not. Dan is a home-body who can spend his vacations in his workshop or music studio, and not leave the house. He loves ritual and hates change. I, on the other hand, love variety and crave changes. It inspires me and tickles my little grey cells (as Poirot often says).
So, I must applaud my hubby for his bravery. I am coming very quickly to the conclusion that it's the thing we dread that keep our minds sharp. Getting adjusted to a new lodging and routine every couple of weeks (not to mention moving our belongings), jiggles our thought processes and comfort zones. Last month, we spent four weeks at Conference Point Camp in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. We volunteered three weeks, and attended our annual family Bible camp the fourth week. Working in the kitchen was exhausting, and ramped up our appreciation for restaurant and camp meals.
During our last week of volunteering, I was asked to manage the snack shop for a friend who flew out west with her husband to visit their daughter and family. The first part of the week, I worked alongside my friend as she showed me the ropes. But come Thursday, I was on my own with two well-trained and capable (thankfully) teens. Occasionally, my husband, Dan, would help out, but he was even more of a novice than me.
I was amazed at how my multi-tasking abilities returned (thank you, Jesus!) as we served a hoard of 107 band kids who literally swarmed in for their ice cream, smoothies and slushies. Whew! It confirmed my hope that I was not ripe for assisted living just yet.
So, What Does Sojourning Have to Do with Writing?
Ready for a surprise? I am moving my focus from Middle-Grade Historical Fiction to Memoir and nonfiction, specifically addressing aging and its many facets. Of course, I will offer ways to grow older gracefully, and point out the issues we silver-haired folks face daily. Does that sound like something you resonate with? I would love to have you comment below, if that is the case. What is your biggest roadblock to moving forward as you age? What are your fears?
If you receive this blogpost via email, click on the title of the post, and it should bring you to the blog itself, where you can comment below. I truly want and need to hear from you! Even if you are in your 40s and 50s, I want to know what concerns you about the future.
The Serious and the Silly
Looking forward to your comments. And I guarantee some of them will show up in my next book!
There is always a feeling of reverence and wonder when one visits a well-known author's home and gravesite. Especially if it has been the inspiration for a popular series in the past. I had that opportunity last month to visit St. Simons Island, GA, home of prolific author, Eugenia Price. And although I could only see her home from afar, walking on the property of the church she dearly loved, and paying my respects at her grave, I had a new appreciation for the term 'author'.
I am so honored once again to be a part of Tessa Afshar’s book launch team for The Way Home released by Moody Publishers. This time, instead of a Biblical fiction novel, Tessa has written a 6-week Bible study on a topic dear to her heart: women in Scripture who have found a new beginning and a deep faith. Although I have never met Tessa Afshar in person, I feel she is a kindred spirit in so many ways, and is dear to me!
When I discovered she was drawn to Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, I had part of the reason. The other part you will find in the videos and interview below. Enjoy and be blessed!
The Inspiration to Write
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.