What We Can’t See


Here in Florida, we’re warming up! We’ve had some 90 degree days, but this past week, my son flew to California and had his flight changed because of cold weather in Dallas! Wow. I forget that snow flurries still happen in May in other parts of the country.

Still, for many of us, things are starting to bloom. In my little patio garden, my tomato plant is climbing places, and I can’t contain it. We have a number of plumeria plants growing and producing lovely, fragrant pink tinged blooms. Even a chrysanthemum that I thought was long dead has sprung to life. We just never know what roots are growing where we can’t see them. Maybe you’ve found, like I have that things are blooming in your life, your heart, and mind as well. That new thing that God’s doing?

Maybe you’re seeing evidence bursting forth like May flowers. After the trials of the past year, life is beginning again. Revival is in the air.

“The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” Isaiah 35:1-2

I pray that the roots that were growing in the dormant, dark, lonely places of your life are giving way to blossoming beauty. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t despair – it will come! The length of every season is different and each zone has it’s own timing. You may be in snow flurries still while some are heading into summer weather, but God’s faithful and does not change.

As I mentioned last month, something in bloom around here is Book 2 in the Winds of Redemption series, Where Blows the Wind. Edits are well underway and we’re heading for a mid-June release. I’m pretty excited about the way God redeems the life of the main character, Tyrina Duval.

If you haven’t read it and want to follow the series from the beginning, you can get When the Wind Blows Book 1, on Amazon.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll have advanced reader copies of Where Blows the Wind ready for anyone who would like to be the first to read and hopefully willing to write a review the day it hits the market. If that interests you or someone you know, email me and I’ll make sure to add you to the list.
Laura’s Reading List for this Month

Within This Circle by Deborah Raney – 
A young mother disappears after she has an emotional breakdown brought on by stress and lies she’s believed. *****
Romeo’s Hammer & Romeo’s Fight by James Scott Bell – I love this witty, philosophizing, ex-cage fighter protagonist who has a challenging past. His heart is all compassion even while he tries to (but doesn’t succeed) avoid the trouble that comes his way. *****
Shock and Awe by Christy Barritt – A favorite author whose suspense/mystery books never disappoint. Lantern Cove series. *****
The Cake List by Dianne J. Wilson – A new author for me. Just started reading, but I’m enjoying the witty humor of this story about a woman who has a list she wants to accomplish before she turns the big 30. So far *****

*Rated 3-5 stars – I won’t keep reading something less. 

Tomorrow we celebrate our twelfth wedding anniversary. We’re looking forward to some restful, romantic, and fun time together. We believe that God has something growing in us as a couple, and we’re looking forward to seeing what that is. After the miracle of meeting online with Brendan and his children traveling across the world from Australia, we’ve had many challenges, joys, and miracles along the way. God keeps us on our toes as he refines us through the gift of marriage!

One thing I would leave you with is to remember that God is faithful even when we can’t see beneath the surface!

The Writing Journey


Me at my desk

It’s been nearly three years since the idea for my next book, Dangerous Ground, began rattling around in my head. Bits and pieces flew at me on the road, in my sleep, in the shower and, well, just about everywhere.

It’s quite a journey to write a book.

Surprisingly, the idea originated with a writer’s group prompt. A local organization held a contest for a few weeks during which time they posted a picture in the newspaper and asked for short stories based on the photo. (The original is posted below.)

I’m not good at short stories, but I forged ahead with the prompt for our next meeting. What happened next? The beginning of a story unfolded.

No short story, either.

The picture inspired a scene which connected to a book on human trafficking I’d read a few years previously and turned into an idea for a novel. Of course that was only the beginning.

Three years later, a book is born.

It’s like waiting for a baby. Only longer. And the labor, rather than being a few hours to a couple of days lasts much longer.

So here I am in the final stages of that labor. I’m polishing words, sentences and formatting while the cover is being designed.

One exciting aspect about Dangerous Ground is that I will be donating at least half the proceeds to three organizations that fight human trafficking and help those who have been rescued. One is international, one is national and one is located near my home in Florida. In my years of research, I found that each one of these organizations has the same heart motivation, but targets a distinct need.

If you’re interested in checking out the organizations click on the links below:

http://www.a21.org/content/who-we-are/gnihwo?permcode=gnihwo&site=true

https://www.notforsalecampaign.org/

https://www.bridgingfreedom.org/

So every person who buys the book will also be helping an important cause.

I love that.

Look for your chance to be a part of changing the world one book at a time beginning in August. Release date coming soon!

Here’s a teaser:

Sierra tried to pull her eyes open. Through blurring slits, she saw the black car with its door open. She didn’t want to go in the big car, but her legs wouldn’t work when she tried to kick them to say no. Then the seat belt buckle hit her face. A trickle of something wet rolled down her cheek. The last thing she remembered was her body pressing against the seat as the car sped off.

 

 
Writers Competition 

What’s God’s Vision for You?


20160309_102709Sometimes you see more with a camera and sometimes you see less.

The other day I went walking through a nearby park where I’ve taken some wonderful pictures of birds, alligators and flowers. But this time I opted to leave the camera behind. As I strolled along, I took in the expanse of scenery. The panoramic view, if you will.

Stunning blue skies, a few wispy white, feather clouds and new blossoms in rainbow variety painted a pastoral landscape. I took it in while the sun warmed my back and the wind teased my hair around my face.

I found a new little alcove hiding a covered bench that overlooked a portion of the lake. The path was new to me, and a smile rushed out of me at the treasure I’d discovered.

Peering over the railing, I rested in the shade and a small movement caught my attention. An orange and green shelled turtle, skirted its way around some cow lily leaves. The surrounding leaves and yellow flowers camouflaged the tiny swimmer.

It was in that moment that I realized sometimes I see more with my camera and 20170816_200512sometimes less. It all depends on what I’m looking for or at. My camera allows me to zoom in from far off and look at things more closely, but I then miss everything in the peripheral.

Had I been looking through the camera lens, I may have missed the tiny turtle hidden among the leaves. I was glad to have been taking in the scene without it.

Later, I spied a white headed bird perched on a tree in the distance.

I live in one of the areas fortunate enough to house bald eagles. We see them more than occasionally. They are a wonder to watch and for a moment, I wished I had my camera so I could zoom in across the lake and see if the bird in question was indeed one the those magnificent creatures. (Eventually, I discovered it wasn’t.)

It all depends on what you’re looking for.

Sometimes I take my camera to my kids’ sports games. I love catching them in action and having a snapshot memory of the event. But when I’m focused on them, I miss the game. Most days, I’d rather see the DSC_0263entire picture than simply one specific scene.

I believe life with God is like that.

I’ve written about looking ahead to the vision, but keeping our eyes on today so we don’t get overwhelmed by the longevity of the road ahead.

But I also see how sometimes we can get so focused in on something that we miss what’s going on around us. Our journey may be centered on a particular path, but there is an entire landscape surrounding us on that journey.

Both are valuable.

Each day, I ask God

“What do you want me to see today?”

“What is your vision for me?”

“What is your plan?”

He may want me to embrace the bigger picture of my life and all that’s happening.20170720_195840 He may want me to see something closer – a trait he’s working on in me, or a way I handled something well, or a hurting neighbor.

God’s vision encompasses past, present and future so he sees far beyond anything I can imagine. With him, I can take in the entirety of a day, a week, a year or a life purpose. If I tune into him, he can point my vision in the best directions. And like a camera zoomingDSC_0141 in to see beauty up close, God also directs me to see things I may miss.

What’s God’s vision for you today?

“He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord God Almighty is his name.” Amos 4:13

In The Aftermath of Irma


DSC_0034

It’s been two weeks since Irma ravaged the islands south of Florida and made landfall only miles south of where I live. When power came on for the first time a week ago, I felt as if I’d entered an episode of the Twilight Zone.  The entryway light beckoned and a television voice spoke of a hurricane in the distance. Only the different name gave away the fact that days had passed.

It was as if time had stopped and started again with a normal week missing in between. Instead, we experienced a surreal week of survival that continues even now.

I emerged from the storm unscathed in body or material damage, but many were not so fortunate.  For the first week since early Monday morning, my church deployed a first responder team.  I had the privilege of helping organize teams to assist with physical needs, visiting shelters and helping with lunch service, delivering oxygen and fever medication,  taking water to dozens of hot and thirsty folks and praying for and encouraging them with the love of Jesus.

This week, I rested. And cried.

Everywhere is evidence of what we’ve all suffered through no matter the extent of the damage. Some houses are still under water, many massive trees lie across yards and homes. While clean-up efforts have made good progress, debris litters most streets.  Companies work round the clock to get electricity and water flowing. About half of the businesses in my town are functioning at some capacity. The other half need to relocate because of damage, or wait for power and internet to be restored.

While hope permeates and inspires, the reality of relief and recovery loom with a shocked sense of foreboding.

No one can deny the trauma we’ve experienced.

With another hurricane approaching in the distance, I confess the prospect is daunting at best. While I completely trust God and know he is in control, I wouldn’t be honest if I said I wasn’t emotionally affected by this past few weeks as well as whatever faces us in the days to come.

I’m not alone.

I’ve prayed with over a dozen people  whose lives felt chaotic, confusing and hopeless. And I’m only one person. Our church has ministered to more than 10,000 people collectively and that doesn’t count all the other churches that have impacted our state.

And let’s not forget the people in Houston, areas of California that have dealt with flooding and fires, Mexico City, Montana, and Puerto Rico.

So how do we move our lives forward in the midst of such destruction and heartache? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve had some great counsel. Here are 6 ways to move forward:

  1. Cry. Yep. It’s a good thing to release the overwhelming emotions through tears. Grieving for the losses is healthy and helpful. In addition, pent up adrenaline causes anxiety. Tears may be your way of letting it go.
  2. Rest. It may seem impossible when there is so much to be done, but taking a break by reading, watching a movie, or taking a nap will rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.
  3. Take a walk. Exercise releases endorphins which create a sense of well-being. Exercise also relieves stores of adrenaline which helps return our bodies back to a balanced state.
  4. Talk to someone. Relating your experiences to a trusted friend(s) helps us process what’s in our heart and mind. Sharing stories can help us sort through the negative and see positive in the midst.
  5. Help someone else. When I’m listening to someone else and serving and praying for them, my mind focuses on them not my woes. But be wise about how much of others’ burdens you carry. A trusted friend reminded me that when I’m helping others, I’m also feeling their trauma as well as my own so I need to take time to rest in between.
  6. Pray and praise. I could not have made it through this without constant communication with God, other people praying for me, and playing worship music as much as possible. In the depth of a disaster, we naturally feel afraid and need the reminder that God is with us, sees us and knows our needs. He will hold us and provide for us as we wait on him.

Our pastor, Matt Keller, talked about three phases in a crisis: rescue, relief and recovery.

Immediately after the hurricane, as we were able, we began rescuing people who were trapped in homes or had trees blocking their way or puncturing their roofs.  While we can visibly see a physical need, we also need to be aware that our hearts need rescuing too.

 And not only in a storm.

The Bible tells us that God is our rescuer from situations in which we have sinned or people have hurt us with their sin. He rescues us by Jesus’s death on the cross which relieves us of the sin in our lives when we accept his action on our behalf. He then can also rescue us from circumstances by showing us a way out.

After the first few days of rescuing people, we met their needs for relief. Many were without power and water so they were sweltering in our unusually high Florida heat. They needed water, food, ice and basic supplies.

God promises to provide for our needs. He sees us and makes a way for our every need to be met. He brings relief through practical ways, but also through prayer, friends and community.

And then comes recovery.

Each person and situation is different. For some of us, power is back on, we’ve been back to work, and our homes are clear of damage and/or debris. Many others are still waiting for help, power or work to start again. No matter what our position is, recovery takes time.

Recovery for our emotional state takes time as well.

After any trauma, whether it is one of the recent events our nation and neighbors have faced or a personal tragedy, we must allow for God to take us through the process of healing and recovery. We may need more than our trusted friend and community. Professional counsel can lead us through that journey as well.

I pray that whatever you are going through in your life, you will seek whatever help you need.

And let’s keep praying for everyone who’s suffering right now. God is with us. He loves us and loves when we talk to him on behalf of others.

I’d be happy to partner with you in prayer if you let me know in the comments below or email me at laura@laurabennet.com

Farewell 2014


In the distance, fireworks staccato an overture to 2015.DSC_0033

As this year comes to a close, I’m reflecting on all the difficulties, the challenges and the blessings of the previous year. Through it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, God has been faithful to heal, discipline, restore and redeem. Nothing is wasted with God. No trial too small or too big. No delight left unanswered. No heartbreak left unattended.

So, with all the pain and joy, it has been a good year.

A very good year.

And I want to thank you, my readers and comrades in this life journey for walking with me, offering encouraging words and prayers, supporting me and allowing me to speak into your lives with words that I pray have come from the Lord.

Will you celebrate with me over these milestones?

  • I published my first book, The Miracle of Us: Confessions of an Online Dater. Yippee! And people like it. I am humbled and grateful beyond words.
  • I welcomed grandchild #7 and #8, a seven month old granddaughter who lives with mom and dad in Poland, and a grandson born one week ago yesterday. I have yet to meet Liwia, except on Skype for now, but we will become friends that way until I get to hug her in person. In two weeks, I will have the pleasure of holding my youngest grandson, Zion.
  • I finished writing my first novel, A Voice from the Past.  Double yippee! Looking for an agent, but may end up with another self-publish. We’ll see…
  • We got out of the moldy house!!!!!!!!! Feeling so much better, but still on the mend.
  • We moved across the country from California to Florida, and we all love it here. God has answered so many prayers with this move. (Though I sorely miss my family and friends – especially grandkids #4 & 6 – they grow so fast!)
  • My husband has 2 great jobs now which we pray will soon stabilize us financially. Thank you, Lord for provision.
  • I’m homeschooling our youngest two children in jr and sr high. I love having them around, and they are growing remarkably in every way.
  • I’m working on a new e-book which should be out in about a month or less….(you’re curious now, aren’t you?)
  • I’ve started work on three other projects: a non-fiction sequel called Beyond the Miracle: When the Fairy Tale Becomes Reality that follows the lessons learned in our first six years of marriage ; a biblical historical novel Rachel’s Son, and a suspense novel Silk Stalkings. Only God knows in what order they will be completed.

Thank you all for your wonderful support in every way. May God bless your coming year with fruitfulness and joy.

What are some of your highlights of the year?

 

What I’m Learning From My Illness


I began getting sick more easily last November.

And it seemed to take longer than usual to shake it off. By January, I had been sick two more times and still felt under the weather. An unexplained rash began taking over my body with painful itching. At first, I didn’t make any connections. Stress governed my life due to family pressures, a beloved friend losing her baby, my grandmother passing and my push to sell myself to an agent. I assumed sleep would take care of my health issues. That is, if I could get any.

During the Mt Hermon Writers Conference, I silently itched and couldn’t sleep for the pain. But, after meeting with an agent who had some great ideas for me, I put my goals in place and plowed into my writing and marketing plans. Within a couple of weeks, the rash on my fingers had turned into painful, oozing blisters. My hand was so swollen I couldn’t type. Complete exhaustion prevented me from speaking a cohesive sentence let alone putting one in a book.

It was difficult to drag myself out of bed at all.

After numerous tests, the bottom line is a depressed immune and adrenal system – the result of a variety of issues. One of which is the driven, non-resting me that ties my worth to my productivity as a person, wife, mother, educator and writer. In the furthest recesses of my heart, what I do and how I perform dictate my value. Oh, my head knows this isn’t true. Jesus loves me based on who I am, not what I do or don’t do.  A recent read of Embracing Grace by Daniel Brown, PhD,  reminded me that God’s love is unconditional and complete. But sometimes my broken places scream otherwise. Especially when my defenses are down because of external or physical stress.

Here are a few things God’s been showing me:

  1. As I admired the amazing diversity of God’s creation on a recent trip to Florida, I was struck by a whisper of God to my heart.  “Just as my creation praises me by being what I created it to be, so are you my creation and praise me by your existence. I delight in you simply because you are.” Wow! DSC_0018Really? Still wrapping my mind around that one.
  2. Rest is more spiritual than physical. Yes, I need to get enough sleep. But on my vacation, during which I basically slept or lounged all day, every day, the Lord showed me that my soul wasn’t at rest which was just as exhausting as not sleeping enough. I’m trying to grasp that I can be still because God is God and has everything under control. He says “I have everything you need. Relax. I’ve got your back.” I am finding peace by spending time each day in his presence—simply sitting and listening for his voice. I’ve read Psalm 23 about 100 times. Really.
  3. I need to listen to what God says. Not agents or bloggers or other authors (no offense to all you wonderful, wise writers out there). I was crazily trying to learn everything and do it all even as it shifted from week to week. Knowledge is helpful. God tells us to “get knowledge.” But God will lead my steps. His direction may or may not fit with the “101 Steps to Getting Published.” Therefore, I need to be selective with what I read (I do not have time or energy for all of it, even if it’s good advice), and I need to submit it to God to see if it fits with his plans for me. He’s the one who can make his good plans for me happen. I got off track. It’s easy to do.
  4. Reacting to others or circumstances rather than seeking God first sends me into emotional overload and gives the enemy a place to attack. Instead, whenever I start freaking out inside, I’ve been trying to ask God, “What do you say about that?” Sometimes it takes some sorting out the truth from the lies that swirl through my mind. Today my husband reminded me that whenever the thought I hear accuses or belittles me, it isn’t my thoughts or God’s about me. Satan hates me and wants me to hate myself. He is the one who tells me lies.

I’ve been learning  so many great things. And while I’d rather have God heal me miraculously, I believe this has been the better way. Of course, God knew that.

And now I need to get to bed 🙂

Perhaps you can relate to feeling overwhelmed or exhausted because of an urgent driven place inside. Would you be willing to share your experiences?

 

What Leaves You Wonder Struck?


Wednesday night I returned from one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken in my life.

I spent the week in Ft. Myers, Florida with my best friend (closer than twin sisters my husband says) and her husband. They moved into their new home the night before I arrived, so you can imagine the chaos of boxes and furniture that greeted me! Unbelievably, my hosts had arranged for the guest room to be ready, and I slept in comfort and peace with gentle, balmy breezes soothing my travel weary body.

What couldn’t be imagined was the view that presented itself upon my rising the next morning.

From the front door (adjacent to my room), through the entire length of the house and out the wall sized triple sliding glass door, I beheld the most marvelous view of their lanai, pool and the lake beyond—in that order. The lake is actually a “pond” (I was informed), but to use the word pond conjures an image that can’t do justice to the scope of beauty it offers. We spent many hours relishing that view.

The lake panorama was only the beginning.

Three days later we strolled along Lover’s Key Beach searching for shells and exalting in the ocean scenery. We had spied osprey (also called sea hawks) diving into the river a half mile up from the beach, and now I noticed one swoop overhead and land in a nest atop a driftwood looking tree. My interest was piqued, and I proceeded to take various camera shots of the surrounding trees supporting a scarce osprey.

Suddenly, one of the black and white feathered sea hawks soared across my lens and landed with glorious wings outstretched and dripping with river water. In his right talons, he gripped what appeared to be a catfish struggling for release. My heart raced, and I tip toed closer to the tree where he perched, holding my breath and marveling at a sight one would only see on Animal Planet. I confess I shed a few tears of awe.

And that wasn’t all.

The day held more wonders of God’s creation: a yellow footed heron, a horseshoe crab, a blue heron, giant pelicans, the largest hermit crab I’ve ever seen, and sea gulls with black and white polka-dotted tails. A few days later I held an alligator.

My week in Florida left me struck with wonder at every turn. Stunning sunsets, tunnels of mangrove trees, manatee sightings and all I’ve described set a stage for God’s creative majesty. But the gracious love of my friends and the way they felt helped and blessed by my presence left me speechless. I was simply being myself, and me being me enhanced their lives. Now THAT is an amazing God!

What does all this have to do with writing??

During the past couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Margaret Feinberg speak at two of our women’s retreats. She delighted me with her stories, and I hung on every word. I caught deep glimpses of God’s love and character. Naturally, I devoured three of her many books, and now she’s releasing a new one on Christmas Day. It’s titled WONDERSTRUCK. On my way home from Florida, these words from her book resounded in my mind:

Aware of the privilege of watching God’s creation unfold its glorious mysteries, I didn’t want to miss a millisecond. Wonderstruck by my Creator, this moment of spiritual awakening stirred in me a longing to experience more of God.

I couldn’t have put it better. This passage describes my trip of wonders, and my desire to revel in the wonder of my God. I am in awe and my heart can only bow on its face in adoration.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the same. You may want to consider checking out Margaret’s new book which I believe will lead you to greater depths of wonder in your spiritual life. Even today, I pray you are struck with wonder by God and his majesty.

What leaves you wonderstruck? Have you read any of Margaret’s books or heard her speak?
 
All photographs used on laurasconfessions.com were taken by and are the property of Laura Bennet. Please do not use them without permission. Thank you.