Monday, October 22, 2018

Blog Tour / Interview: Laura Vosika, Author of The Water Is Wide



Laura Vosika is a writer, poet, and musician. Her time travel series, The Blue Bells Chronicles, set in modern and medieval Scotland, has garnered praise and comparisons to writers as diverse as Diana Gabaldon and Dostoevsky. Her poetry has been published in The Moccasin and The Martin Lake Journal 2017.

She has been featured in newspapers, on radio, and TV, has spoken for regional book events, and hosted the radio program Books and Brews. She currently teaches writing at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
As a musician, Laura has performed as on trombone, flute, and harp, in orchestras, and big bands. She lives in Brooklyn park with 5 of her 9 children, 3 cats, and an Irish Wolfhound.
Her latest book is the time travel/historical fiction, The Water is Wide.

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Title: THE WATER IS WIDE
Author: Laura Vosika
Publisher: Gabriel’s Horn Press
Pages: 451
Genre: Time Travel/Historical Fiction

BOOK BLURB:
After his failure to escape back to his own time, Shawn is sent with Niall on the Bruce’s business. They criss-cross Scotland and northern England, working for the Bruce and James Douglas, as they seek ways to get Shawn home to Amy and his own time.
Returning from the Bruce’s business, to Glenmirril, Shawn finally meets the mysterious Christina. Despite his vow to finally be faithful to Amy, his feelings for Christina grow.
In modern Scotland, having already told Angus she’s pregnant, Amy must now tell him Shawn is alive and well—in medieval Scotland. Together, they seek a way to bring him back across time.
They are pursued by Simon Beaumont, esteemed knight in the service of King Edward, has also passed between times. Having learned that Amy’s son will kill him—he seeks to kill the infant James first.
The book concludes with MacDougall’s attack on Glenmirril, Amy and Angus’s race to be there and Shawn’s attempt to reach the mysterious tower through the battling armies.
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Thank you for this interview! I’d like to know more about you as a person first. What do you do when you’re not writing? 
Many things! My ‘day job’ is teaching private music lessons on piano, harp, and a variety of wind and string instruments. On Sundays, you’ll often find me playing saxophone or alto flute or reading poetry at an open mic in the Twin Cities. This past year, I’ve gotten back to some composition, focusing mostly these days on writing new music in the style of Irish jigs and reels.
In addition to my own writing, my publishing company, Gabriel’s Horn, is now accepting submissions for an anthology of classical formal poetry.
Outside of music and writing, I enjoy getting out for long walks with my dog, an Irish Wolfhound much like the Laird’s great hunting hounds in my novels, and spending time with my kids. I have nine, from ages 29 down to 13. Five of them currently live at home and the rest are around the country at colleges or out on their own. I also have a wonderful daughter-in-law and grandson, who is a delight!

When did you start writing? 
I’ve been writing since I was eight. I started a novel when I was ten, but quickly realized O. Henry had already written the same story in The Ransom of Red Chief!

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life? 
Definitely joining my critique group, Night Writers, in September 2006! This is an amazing group of very talented writers, the original four of whom have been together more than thirty years now. They have had a great impact on my writing and on my life, as fellow authors and as friends.


If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why? 
I would go to the hostel on the northern end of the Isle of Iona with my laptop and no internet. Iona is often referred to as ‘a thin place.’ Although many tourists go there every day, the northern end is relatively isolated and quiet, yet the history of the abbey and church are all quite close and it’s a ten minute ferry ride to the isle of Mull if I wanted to take a break and see a bit more of Scotland.

It has been my dream to go back to Iona and spend two weeks in that hostel writing.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do? 
It depends on the particular day and what I didn’t get done. Today, I didn’t get my marketing work done. Lately, I haven’t composed any music or gotten out for walks with my dog, so I might give two and a half hours to putting together the music book I’ve been working on and an hour and a half to walking the trails in my neighborhood.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet? 
It would be nice to set a story in a place I know well, such as the North Shore of Minnesota. I also think the beautiful old mansions of Duluth would make wonderful settings for books.

Back to your present book, The Water is Wide, how did you publish it? 
In 2007, Night Writers was joined by Jack Stanton, who really talked up the changing world of publishing, in which it can take years to find a publisher and authors are often being asked to do more and more of their own marketing, without increasing their royalties. Eventually, Jack and I created Gabriel’s Horn Press, under which our own books and some thirty or more others are published.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research? 
The internet is an amazing tool for research, but there’s still nothing like actually being in a place.
I’ve been to Scotland five times over the course of writing the entire Blue Bells Chronicles. As much as possible, I have visited the actual locations in the story—Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness, which is the model for Glenmirril; Inverness, including the backstage area of Eden Court Theater where the orchestra plays, the bridges Amy and Angus cross, and churches where Simon and Eamonn might meet; Mull which Amy and Angus drive across, the ferries the ride on, and Iona, which is known to and visited by several people through the whole story. 
I’ve hiked the hills as both Shawn and Amy do, been down to Carlisle and driven up in the Schiehallion Hills and visited Chesters Roman Fort—all of them place Shawn and Niall travel, albeit in the fourteenth century, not ours.

Why was writing The Water is Wide so important to you? 
It’s the third of a five book story, so that made it necessary, in order to continue the tale. So maybe the real question is why The Blue Bells Chronicles as a whole was important enough to spend twelve years writing. 
I’m not sure I have a good answer other than, the story was in my head. The people of the Blue Bells world were in my head. They seemed to need to live in print and need to tell their story. To not tell the story would have felt like keeping all of these people trapped, somehow.
I suspect many writers feel this way.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is? 
I’m not sure there’s any one place. Given I’ve spent the last twelve years on a single story, many events in those books are drawn from actual historical events—the Battle of Bannockburn, the laundress who gave birth as an enemy army surrounded Bruce’s men—from historical finds, such as the discovery of a conduit exiting Carlisle’s walls from under a monastery, from visiting Scotland myself. Shawn and Niall discover this conduit in The Water is Wide and it was a fun scene to write!
Outside of writing this book, news stories, song lyrics, people I meet, things that are said in passing, events of the day—all of it is full of ideas for stories.
Any final words?
If you love time travel, if you love Scotland, stop by my sites. At my Blue Bells Trilogy blog, you’ll find many articles on Scotland—its history, castles, food, music, and more, including a series there on Scottish and medieval music played in Scottish (and medieval!) locations.
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Book Feature: Miss Management by Tracihighland #blogtour @tracihighland


MISS MANAGEMENT by Traci Highland, Romantic Comedy, 215 pp., $9.99 (paperback) $2.99 (Kindle)



Title: MISS MANAGEMENT
Author: Traci Highland
Publisher: Cheshire Lane Press
Pages: 215
Genre: Romantic Comedy


Mags has gotten herself in a ton of trouble: she’s lost her job, any hope for references, and she’s going to run out of money…. fast.

Yeah, sure, it may be her fault for punching her boss, but the jerk totally had it coming.
Nobody listens to her until she reaches her boiling point, and by then, well, she’ll admit that there’s no stopping Mr. Fist To The Face.

Now her years of hard work as a speech therapist are about to go down the drain unless she can find some way to salvage her career. So when her Aunt Elise calls to say that she has a job for her, it’s not like she can say no, even if the job is up in the wilds of Vermont.

Between stuffed moose, sloppy dogs and sexy men, Vermont proves to be a lot more interesting than she expected. But when she uncovers a scheme that would put her new employers’ livelihood in jeopardy, more than just hydrangea bushes are about to get squashed.

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Aunt Elise’s house, a tidy little Victorian painted white with blue shutters and a red door, looks like a gingerbread house about to collapse.  Sure, it’s clean or whatever.  But it’s old and sinking on one side.  She invited me for lunch after I got back from the bank yesterday, and after a night spent drinking beer and trolling through online job postings, and then spending the morning drinking coffee and trolling through more job listings, the invitation to drive on out into the Berkshires and have an excuse to see the sun is actually kind of nice.  The Berkshires is about as far as I can drive at any given time, given, well, anyway.  It’s nice to get out.
I knock and Elise opens the door. “What the hell is that in the driveway?  I didn’t recognize it.”
“It’s my Prius, Elise.  I’ve been driving it for four years now.”
“What happened to the pick-up truck?  I thought you liked to drive pick-ups.”
“I crashed that pick-up, Aunt Elise.”  She furrows her brow.  “It was on the news, remember?  I sort of accidentally ran over a mailbox.  And some hedges.  And an arbor.”
“Oh yes, the mistress’, right?  Now I remember.”
One of the mistresses.”  My husband of the time had many.  But I had been friends with Shawna. “I hit some black ice.”
She harrumphs.
The police also harrumphed when I told them about the black ice, as I recall.
“I always hoped you were a lesbian, you know.  With that truck.”
“Not all lesbians have trucks.”
“No, but the fun ones do.  Have you met Sharon and Hazel down the block?  Lovely couple.  Hazel drives a truck and—“
“Can I come in?  It’s starting to rain.”
She pulls the door back further and ushers me inside.  The house is a tea-party nightmare.  Shelves filled with teapots and chubby figurines pucker up at the flowered wallpaper in the hallway.  The rug of the adjacent living room is the color of cotton candy and I swear my stomach growls every time I see it.
I brush the plaques of inspirational sayings out of the way as I hang up my coat on the coat rack.
She stomps like a thin Godzilla back to the kitchen, causing the house to shudder and clink in alarm.  “You’re in luck, I just made some chicken salad.”
“Sounds great.”  I follow her into the kitchen and sit at the table with a sigh.
“I have a job for you.”
“Is that door still crooked?  I thought for sure that tightening the hinges would do the trick.”
“No, I mean a real job.”  Elise places a colorful bowl down in the middle of the table and glares.  Sealing her lips with some sort of judgmental superglue, she waits.
Oh, right.  The hands.  I go over to the sink and wash my hands.  She’s got this thing about germs.  Betty and I used to mess with her when we came over, going over to the sink and putting our hands together so that she would wash one of my hands and I would wash one of hers and then we’d wait to see if Elise would notice that we each still had one dirty hand.
She did. 
Always. 
As twins, Betty and I were convinced that we were supposed to be born with some kind of twin-specific super-power, but really the only thing we were consistently good at was making our baby sister Piper laugh so hard that milk would shoot out of her nose.
That was another trick that Aunt Elise didn’t find to be particularly endearing. 
After I dry my hands and grab the loaf of bread out of the breadbox, I say, “All right, so what kind of job are we talking about?  And please don’t mention the one in the woodchuck town.”
“What do you have against woodchucks?”
“Sweet Romany Halls! I don’t have anything against woodchucks, I don’t can’t work in a town that worships vermin, that’s all.”
“Fine. But please don’t take Romany’s name in vain.”
Romany Halls is a professional wrestler that Aunt Elise has a crush on.  One night when I was over doing some repair work for her I heard her swearing at the television set.  And I mean full-on swearing.  Aunt Elise never swears, at least not that I’ve ever heard.  As I walked into the guest bedroom to make sure she was okay, I realized that she not only was watching television in her guest bedroom, which was odd, but that the walls of the bedroom were covered in posters of one very muscled wrestler wearing not-so-many articles of clothing.  It was like an homage to all that was masculine and spandexy.
Whenever it’s just the two of us, I feel obligated to tease her about her crush and her shrine to the glory that is Romany Halls.  Me?  I don’t so much dig the guys with eye makeup thing.  But Elise, well, Elise seemed to like them big, oiled up, and wearing nothing more than colorful underwear.
“So this job?”  I grab a spoon and scoop out the chicken salad.
“It’s for a friend of mine, actually.  Very nice.  Her name is Eve and she needs help with Mansfield.”
“Mansfield?  That’s quite a name.  What happen, did he have a stroke?  Car accident?  Cancer?”
“I don’t know.  But she has put out several ads in the paper and everyone who shows up to check on Mansfield apparently refuses to treat him.”
“Refuses to treat him?  That’s horrible.  Why doesn’t she take him to a clinic?  If he’s rehabbing, a facility is probably better equipped than her house.”
“She says that he can’t travel to a clinic.  He must be in pretty bad shape.”
“Have you ever met him?”
“No, I know Eve from college.  She comes down sometimes, and I’ve met her grandson a few times.  Lovely boy.  But I haven’t met Mansfield.”
“Is she nearby?  Can I pop over there today and see what’s going on?”  I really need a job.
“She’s up in Vermont.  But last time I spoke with her on the phone she mentioned that she has a guest cottage you can stay in when you come.  I guess she has a lot of land.”
“Waityou already told her I would go?”
“Of course you’ll go.”
“You know that time you asked me to tell you when you were overstepping some boundaries? Consider them overstepped.”
She takes a bite of her sandwich, her eyes demanding from over the top of her bread.
I chew my bite of sandwich, taking my time in savoring the flavors of Aunt Elise’s chicken salad, just to make her sweat for a bit.  I close my eyes, exaggerating the chew.
When I open them again her eyes are no less stern as she wipes the side of her mouth with a hot pink napkin.
Damn.  She’s not sweating this at all, is she?  Not even a little bit. “Fine.  I’ll go.  This is a paid job, right?”
“Good.  And yes, of course, provided you don’t walk away like those others.”
“Speech pathologists don’t usually make house-calls.  I’d imagine that the other folks just tried to convince your friend to take Mansfield to a proper rehab facility.”
“Try not to be so judgmental before you even get there.”
“I’m not being judgmental.”  Maybe a little.  “He should be where he can get the best care, and that’s not always at home.”
“Eve and I went to Smith together, Mags.  I’ve known her for years and years. Trust me, if she’s determined that the best place for him to be is at home with her, then she’s right.  Period.”
“When did you tell Eve I’d be there?”
“Tomorrow. It’s going to be a great job for you.  You’ll see.”
Tomorrow.  Of course.


In some cases, bloggers ask us for first chapter reveals.  Please paste your first chapter here:
Nothing says Happy Friday like having Mr. Roth dribble crackers and sing La Cucaracha.  Nothing.
“Great job!  But let’s make sure to give those crackers an exaggerated swallow before the next stanza.  All right?”  I grab the paper cloth from the box and give his chin a wipe. 
He stares at me with rheumatic eyes, pushing his whole damn heart into his smile.
“Your smile always makes my day, Mr. Roth.”  I pick the last remnant of saltine out of his gray stubble and throw the paper towel into the garbage.  When Mr. Roth first came to see me, the stroke had paralyzed the left side of his face.  The paralysis had diminished somewhat and now he can do things like smile.  And sing.  Sort of.
At least we fixed the swallowing.  That’s a biggie.  He exhales a barely audible bar of his favorite song and I join him.  “Make it louder for me!  La cucaracha!  La cucaracha!  Ya no puede caminar…”
His smile widens and his voice rises, like a phoenix, dammit.  That asshat Dr. Robbins said he’d never speak again.  And here Mr. Roth is, six months later, singing. 
Days like this, I love my job.  Just as we’re about to finish up our session, Dolly pokes her head in the door. “I’m sorry, Mags, but Dr. Robbins says you’re going to have to keep it down.”
“Tell him to shut his damn door.”  That man exists to be the pain in my neck.  You know the pain, the one you wake up with every morning and no amount of Advil can kill?  That one.
“Was I too loud?”  Mr. Roth asks, worry crossing his cherubic, drooly face. 
“No, angel.  Not a bit.  You’re a rock star and I’m damn proud of you.” One day I am going to open my own clinic, so naysayers like Dr. Robbins can learn to shut the hell up.
Dr. Robbins, the asshat, runs the clinic. So naturally, he feels that everything in the office is his, too, like, you know, the pretty nurses and speech pathologists that he employs.
Grabbing Mr. Roth’s arm, I help him with his jacket.  Dolly clicks the pen in her hand like it’s a hand grenade.  On off, on off, on off.
“Stop it,” I hiss to her as I grab Mr. Roth’s gloves.  “Now keep practicing those scales we talked about and I’ll see you next week.”
He squeezes my hand and then says to Dolly, “She’s a saint, this one.  A regular saint.”
His r’s don’t come out quite right but hey, it’s a work in progress.
The second he’s out the door, I walk over to the nurses’ station and pull up the electronic records on my next patient. I haul on down to room number six, where Mr. Earle is waiting for me to re-adjust his tracheal tube.
I reach for the handle and I’m blindsided by Susie, the intern.  She’s the best kind of intern, hard-working and wicked smart, and rather pretty in a cute, slightly disheveled kind of way.  She’s shaking as she bumps into me, wiping tears from her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” There can be lots of things wrong when you’re twenty-one.  Hormones and boozing and all that, but this looks… different.
“Nothing, I’m fine. Tracheal tube, right?”  She straightens her Hello Kitty scrubs and adjusts the chunky black-rimmed glasses, making sure the floating strands of pinkish hair stay behind her ears.
I open my mouth but the words just sort of dry up.  Sometimes, it’s best just to leave it.  She knows I’m here—prodding would be rude, right?  Let her tell me when she’s ready, or not, her choice.  Besides, I’m running behind.
Susie and I wrestle Mr. Earle’s tube back where it belongs and the second we finish and leave the room, Susie’s face pales.
Dr. Robbins is standing in the hall, blocking the path between where we stand and the nurses’ station. 
He looks up at Susie and gives her a grin that turns my stomach into a rolling pool of bile and fire. His yellowish, crooked teeth and greasy hair make him look more like a Goodfellas reject than a doctor.  But hey, it could just be that I’m biased because he told me once that he hired me for my boobs.
Not my stellar resume.  Not my incredible grades that I worked by butt off to earn, but because he liked my boobs.
I wanted to quit right then and there.  To stand up and shout and sue and do all those noble things I would tell my sisters to do if they were in the same situation.
But yeah, I had just gotten divorced and needed the job.  Nothing like having to buy your cheating ex out of half of your own damn house.
So the words disappeared and I sort of just resorted to sending politely worded emails, like “Please remember to interact with the staff in a professional manner.” And “I believe we are due for the state-mandated sexual harassment prevention course.  Can I sign us up?”
Susie freezes beside me.  Her cheeks turn to scrambled eggs and she grabs my hand.  “Don’t let him touch me again.”  She whispers.
Again?  Touch her?  My vision blurs.  Like actually blurs as he walks towards us.  That creep. That stupid, sexist creep.  He touched her?  She’s just a child.  Mostly.  Practically.  Hell, it doesn’t matter how old she is!  He’s a monster.
Dr. Robbins sidles over and his snakelike tongue pokes in and out of his mouth as his eyes roam over Susie.  “Susan, do you know where the canned peaches are?  I need to use them for a videofluoroscopy this afternoon.”  He leans in closer to her and she clenches my hand as his chili taco breath assaults us. “Maybe you can show me in the supply closet?”
She shakes like a shake weight in those cheesy late-night infomercials.  “No.” Her voice is barely above a whisper, but I can hear her just fine.
He, however, moves closer.  “Stop,” I say.  As usual, my words do nothing. No one listens, dammit.  Again and again and again I’ve asked him to stop doing this. 
“Stop,” I say again, louder. 
He just moves on in closer, like I’m nothing more than a lamp.
That’s when I see it.  He reaches down and grabs her ass.  She jumps and he smiles.  “Get off.”  She hisses but he doesn’t listen, he never listens.  He cups her whole cheek now, grinning.
I punch him in the face.
His head slams back, blinking like, well, like I just punched him in the face.
Oh crap.
Did I really just punch my boss in the face? 
My fingertips chill and my hand aches.
I didn’ttell me I didn’t.
Susie gasps, her hands covering her mouth and a look of unadulterated panic in her eyes. My throat tightens.
Oh my God, I totally did.
“She asked you to stop.” It’s the only thing that leaves my mouth in a somewhat coherent fashion. 
He narrows his eyes, a large red bump creeping across his smarmy face. “You hit me!” 
Susie, her jaw now on the ground, looks at me. Her eyes are wide and frightened like a deer’s.  Her voice is flat when she says, “You punched him.”
I kind of hate deer.
“Yes!  Yes, I see that.  You’re fine, right, Dr. Robbins?  You should have stopped.  We all know you can’t go around grabbing asses like they’re doorknobs. But you just kept grabbing and squishing it around so I had to, had to—“
“You’re fired.”  He growls.
“You can’t!”
“Get out, Miss Anderson.  Get out now before I call the police.”
Well, damn.










Traci Highland writes funny books for sassy ladies.  She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and has a Master’s from Quinnipiac University.  She uses this education to write books, bake cakes, garden and make homemade jams.  Her children say she’s bossy, her husband says she’s high-maintenance, but the dog thinks she’s perfect.

Her latest book is the romantic comedy, Miss Management.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Book Feature: Going for Broke: How to Suffer Well by Shannon Medisky @shannonmedisky




Going for Broke: How to Suffer Well, Christian/Devotional/Nonfiction, 110 pp., $8.99 (paperback) $4.99 (kindle)


Title: GOING FOR BROKE: HOW TO SUFFER WELL
Author: Shannon Medisky
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 61
Genre: Christian Nonfiction/Devotional

Hardship hurts and suffering sucks.
But there’s very important work—and rewards—we need to be occupied with in the middle of it all.
Suffering has a way of stretching us beyond ourselves. It prompts us to stretch outside of our current comfort zones. But no matter how we feel, we don’t have to be buried by our challenges and circumstances. Instead, we can recognize that God has planted us right where we are for a reason: It’s time to get growing.
Here’s how.

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INTRODUCTION
 
Einstein once said, "God doesn't play dice." He also made it very clear that he didn't believe in a personal God, but rather he trusted that there were underlying laws of nature that made perfect sense of some of the science (mainly quantum mechanics) that even he couldn't wrap his brilliant mind around.
Einstein was an incredible man of science, but he also appreciated that he couldn't make sense of everything. Yet, even in the midst of this, Einstein professed that there still had to be a rhyme and reason to it all. Even if he or current science couldn't make sense of it, Einstein held the belief that there was still a structure, an order behind it all.
I believe the same is true for suffering. I believe this because I've seen evidence of it firsthand.
To put it bluntly, I watch my son die a slow, painful death daily. He suffers terribly, and my heart suffers, too. My heart breaks each time he cries out to me for comfort and relief, and there's nothing I can do.
My head is weary of keeping tabs of his daily intake of protein. Too little and he becomes catabolic, metabolizing his own muscle tissue. Too much, and ammonia levels rise in his blood stream causing debilitating headaches and irreversible cognitive loss. There's no cure, and that's just the tip of the medical and genetic iceberg.
There's also the GRIN2B genetic mutation that causes my son debilitating joint pain, short and long-term memory loss and yet more metabolic issues. His specific mutation causes his body to convert the amino acid called arginine to histidine. This poor kid can't seem to eat enough food to ever really feel full because he can't eat more than about 15 grams of protein per day.
Think about that for a moment.
Imagine being underweight with low muscle tone, experiencing constant headaches and joint pain and then never feeling fully satiated…and that's when he actually feels up to eating at all.
It's hard enough to watch Mark suffer, to walk through all of this with him. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to be him.
Mark’s physical suffering alone is staggering to imagine. Prior to joining our family through adoption, Mark was subject to severe abuse and neglect. Deprived of basic nutrition, physical touch and comfort as an infant, it's not surprising that he suffered cognitively, developmentally and behaviorally as a result.
I share all of this because I've heard it said that one should write about what one knows. The last ten years have taught me quite a bit about suffering: how it feels, the toll it takes, and just how unsettling it is when looking ahead holds no promise of relief or respite. I know how it feels to not be able to quite catch your breath, to feel completely and utterly helpless, to vacillate between wondering if you're (really) strong enough to keep going or when exactly you're going to fall apart.
It's from this place that I write about suffering, an open, raw place of complete transparency, because frankly I don't think there's enough out there about it. Everyone experiences hardship at some point. Christ even told us to expect it (John 16:33). Yet most every blog post, podcast and article I’ve come across covers how to get out of it, how to avoid it or—even worse—does a tremendous disservice by quickly trying to sugarcoat it. Suffering is rarely if ever a choice. It’s a natural part of the human experience. So, why isn’t there more help out there on how to do it well?
I believe in the power of prayer. I know God can—and still does—move mountains. I also know that God allows suffering, too. Suffering is a part of His plan. If it weren't, Noah would've never been stuck on that big boat after watching everything he’d ever known be engulfed in water. Joseph never would've been thrown into a pit, sold into slavery and imprisoned. Jesus Himself would never have been ridiculed, tortured and crucified.
During my prayers for Mark's relief and the easing of my own emotional burden, none of this escapes me.
We don't have to relish suffering. We don't have to run after it. It's completely natural to want to avoid it. Even Christ prayed to the Father and asked that suffering be taken from Him if it was within God's will (Mark 14:36). But sometimes suffering is a part of the plan, a piece of the story that God is weaving together in our lives. If we know this is true, that sometimes suffering is a part of the Lord’s greater plan, then doesn't it make sense to prepare for it as best we can?
It has been said that misery loves company, so I took the hint. I dove into Scripture and surrounded myself with what felt like old friends, but I visited with them in different ways. While their stories were nothing new, I connected with what their emotional experiences must have been in brand new and very personal ways. I noted what they did and how God responded to their thoughts, words and actions. I found patterns and parallels. In my searching, I discovered evidence time and time again that God truly does meet us in our mess.
Jesus said, "What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops" (Matthew 10:27 ESV).
Jesus will tell us things in the dark when we're unsure and insecure. It is in this darkness where He whispers to us, sharing things that are only accessible when we're willing, able and waiting to hear.
Suffering is often the place of this darkness.
During suffering we're broken enough to stop listening to ourselves, and instead tune in more carefully to His whispers. Ironically enough, it's usually in the middle of hardship where our relationship with Jesus can truly grow the most. Whether we like it or not, hardship often pushes us out of our comfort zones. Suffering enables us to grow through what we go through.
From this perspective, what a tremendous opportunity suffering can be!
Yes, hardship hurts.
Yes, suffering sucks.
But there's very important work—and rewards—we need to be occupied with in the middle of it all. That's exactly how this book is different. In the pages that follow, you won't discover how to pray your way out of challenges and pain. Quite the opposite, actually. You'll be encouraged to go for broke, to face suffering head on in anticipation of meeting God personally in brand new ways. Suffering has a way of stretching us beyond ourselves. It prompts us to reach outside of our current comfort zones.
This book has been designed to help you take full advantage of this, to essentially help you not waste your pain. If God allows us to suffer, then we can rest assured that it isn't and won't be for not (Romans 8:28).
Suffering isn't just an experience or state we're in. It's a skill, too.
We can squander our experiences and energy trying to spin our wheels to get out of suffering as soon as we can (and sometimes futilely so) or we can choose to suffer well. We can be intentional about how we respond to suffering. We can work on ourselves, actively seeking to grow into all that God wants us to be. We can work on our listening skills, discovering how to quiet ourselves and the chaos around us. We can practice and grow in patience as we wait on God, His will, and His timing. In short, we can recognize with our choices and our actions that, yes, suffering is in God's plan for us, too.
If you're suffering now, I hope this book serves as a tool to help you feel less helpless. I hope that it helps you discover new opportunities to grow closer to and experience God in ways you've never known before. I hope that it helps you realize that you are not buried by your current circumstance or hardship even if that's exactly how you feel, but rather God has planted you right where you are for a reason: It's just time to get growing.











 








“Shannon’s writing is infused with an abiding passion, a marked sensitivity to the needs of her readers and a tangible wisdom gleaned from real life experience,” Danielle D.
Shannon Medisky is a leading expert in struggling with stress, screwing up and seeking God in the midst of it all. Sometimes funny but always real, Shannon’s writing is infused with practical ideas designed to help others create positive, real change in their daily lives. In short, Shannon writes about how to intentional move from simply “going on” to growing on—by God’s grace.
Shannon’s articles, insights and ideas have been featured in Exceptional Parents, Adoptive Families, Hybrid Mom, Mothering and Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family. For the past nine years, Shannon’s also worked as contributing writer and curriculum designer for OneHope, a global nonprofit ministry devoted to sharing the life-changing message of the Gospel with youth and children worldwide. To learn more, visit GraceToGrowOn.com.

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