Gentle Earth Stewardship

When I was a relatively new Christian, I supported an environmental organization. I disagreed with most of their policies and stances, but I couldn’t find a Christian organization that actively supported the first commandment in the Bible.

“Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (HCSB®)
-Genesis 1:28b

The subduing might sound aggressive in our language, however it was anything but that. We are not a conquering creation by design. That violence of subduing only came through sin.

Anything the newly created man did was to be done in God’s image as his steward upon earth. So we likewise need to tend to the world around us as God does. And how is that? There are lots of Scriptures addressing God’s care for his creations, but I like one in Isaiah.

“He protects His flock like a shepherd;
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them in the fold of His garment.
He gently leads those that are nursing.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand?
Who has gathered the dust of the earth in a measure
or weighed the mountains in a balance
and the hills in the scales?” (HCSB®)
-Isaiah 40:11-12

God is gentle. God protects and nurtures. He could obliterate everything with a move of his hand, but he chooses gentleness.

Gentleness lets the earth lay fallow at times so nutrients can return to the soil. Gentleness studies which plants work best together or how to avoid blight or disease.

Gentleness tries to minimize pollution or other unfortunate side effects of mankind’s step upon our planet.

Gentleness cares for whatever animals our under our notice. This could be putting out food for wild birds or taking regular care of the animals assigned to us—whether for livelihood or as pets.

Gentleness gives to others a share of what God has blessed us with from the earth. As Boaz instructed his men to pull out a little extra so Ruth could find enough food for herself and her mother-in-law, so we should spread that blessing however we can.

This is by no means the limit for living gently upon the earth. I’m sure anyone who reads this can think of a few more and that’s good.

In this month that celebrates the earth, as Christians let’s find ways to be gentle to all of God’s creation!


Susan A. J. Lyttek, author of four novels, award-winning writer, blogger, wife and mother to two homeschool graduates, writes in time snippets and on random pieces of scratch paper. She also enjoys training up the next generation of writers by coaching 6th to 12th grade homeschool students.

Autism Awareness Month – Asperger’s in Writing

If you’ve been a reader for a very long time, like I have, then over time you’ve no doubt loved many quirky characters in the stories you’ve read. They’re like the salt added to a recipe you’re cooking, to give it more flavor. The character whose lack of social insight gets him or her into trouble with others, often with comic results. The hero’s handsome geeky friend who somehow attracts females but once they get chatting with him they drift off in his direction.

There is argument within the field as to exactly what constitutes Aspergers Disorder and is it truly on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was a psychologist for twenty-five years during which time there initially was NO diagnosis of Aspergers. The fact that Aspergers has now moved on the latest Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) to the Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the code removed for Aspergers, doesn’t convince me that the diagnosis will stay there. There is a movement among people some to not consider Aspergers or mild autism as a condition but simply a variant in functioning. That is how it was treated in the past. Quirky kids, unless there was indeed a developmental impact (and per the diagnosis there is supposed to have been significant developmental impact) weren’t labeled.

Think about some of these characteristics and whether you have observed them in others, for example readers, writers and librarians: Excessive (obsessive) single interest, (books!), difficulty in social interaction (too busy reading or writing!), tendency to predominate conversations with long one-sided topics of their interest (usually their latest or favorite book), excessively involved in routine and order – ok, well that last one might only apply to the librarians! As a former psychologist, I’ve found these characteristics to be with some frequency observed in all those groups. But unless these individuals also manifested a significant developmental delay, they wouldn’t be diagnosed. Furthermore, you wouldn’t say they are on the ASD spectrum! They simply manifest some traits which can both help them in their vocations but possibly affect social relationships. Check out this online summary.

If you check out that article on Wiki, you’ll see that there are many more difficulties involved with those diagnosed with the disorder. I get concerned that writers who choose to include a character in a story, should be sure they’ve got it right as far as the criteria. I usually prefer to write stories where we have characters with all types of characteristics and issues and it isn’t necessary to identify the disorder. I’ve also noticed other authors doing the same. Readers comment in Christian readers Facebook groups things like, “I thought this character might have Aspergers.” I don’t think for the reader that having a label or diagnosis is that helpful in the vast majority of cases. The descriptions of the behaviors can allow the reader to draw her or her own inferences. After all, people have reading those kinds of books for hundreds of years without the need to have a character diagnosed!

What do you think? Do you prefer to draw your own conclusions about characters without an author spelling it all out? In my novel, Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter (White Rose/Pelican, 2016) my heroine has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which she overcomes with God’s help. And since she lived in the 1740s we don’t have a diagnosis – just a manifestation of her symptoms!


ECPA-bestselling author Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of a dozen Christian historical romances. Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn’t “cure” her overactive imagination! A self-professed “history geek,” she resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia. Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time! You can connect with her at www.CarrieFancettPagels.com.

National Volunteer Month

April is officially National Volunteer Month. April is dedicated to honoring volunteers in our communities and to encourage volunteerism.

Think about your community. People of different ages volunteer to help others locally, nationally and globally. Friends and strangers come together with a goal of helping those in need. There are volunteers in animal shelters, too.

Volunteers share their time and hearts by feeding the hungry, donating clothing, visiting nursing homes, giving blood, helping raise funds for various illnesses such as cancer and arthritis and in many more ways. They provide for others with their selfless acts of love and kindness.

Have you heard about youth groups who rake leaves for seniors? Or volunteers who greet folks as they enter the hospital doors? Also the friendly greeters standing by the door at conferences waiting to give directions? There are people who help with animals at the local shelter by walking dogs, cleaning kennels and showing love to the animals.

People travel long distances to build or rebuild homes after devastating conditions occur. Some people fly to other countries to help dig wells to give fresh water.

There are companies who encourage their employees to volunteer.

April is a time to recognize volunteers and thank them for the time and effort they give to help the world. There are ceremonies and recognition luncheons held throughout the country, highlighting the awesome blessings that volunteers provide to others.

Do you volunteer? Would you like to help others? Ask your friends and family for ideas. A group project might be a good idea. There are many ways to help others. Find out how you can be a blessing.

1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV).

Blessings,

Melissa Henderson


Bio here Melissa Henderson lives in Mechanicsville, VA. She was born in Hampton and has lived in various cities in VA. She and her husband, Alan, have been married for over 37 years and have one son(Mike) who is married to daughter-in-love(Christine). Melissa was taught the love of reading and writing at an early age, from her parents. She is now working on her first inspirational fiction novel. Her passions are volunteering, Bible Studies and reading and writing. You can find her online at MelissaGHenderson.com.

Dealing with Stress

Lately I’ve been feeling like stress is at an all-time high. With the stressors of modern life combined with everything going on in the world, it takes a miracle some days to even get out of bed. A little bit of stress is good motivation to get moving (can anyone say deadlines?) But too much stress can send you on a downward spiral.

Stress can wreak havoc on your body, causing lowered immune systems, tension
headaches, stomach upset, and can also cause relapses on bad habits and emotional dysregulation. And the longer you’re under stress, the worse those things get, leading to more severe health issues, including mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

As a counselor, I see the impact of stress first-hand, and it’s not pretty, which is why I try to manage mine before it gets out of control. Thankfully, I can use the same stuff I teach my clients in my own life. And, I’d like to share some ideas with you to help reduce your own stress.

Here are some ideas to manage that ever-increasing stress:

1. Take a break. Whether it’s a vacation or a five-minute potty break, allow yourself to get away from whatever’s stressing you out for a few minutes. The tricky part is getting away from it in your mind.

2. Think about something else. Anything else. It doesn’t have to be anything meaningful. You can literally count the tiles on the ceiling and multiply them by the lamps, etc. or name all of the cereals you can think of from A to Z. Putting your mind somewhere else for a moment can give you enough of a mental break

3. Practice mindfulness.

4. Spend time with friends and family. Hey, there are people out there who love you! Granted, sometimes they are the very ones who are causing you stress, but a lot of times spending quality time with them, doing something positive, can reduce both of your stress levels enough to improve your relationship. Play a board game, catch a movie, go for a walk together, cook a meal together. Really being together purposefully, no matter how simple of a thing we’re doing, can dramatically increase that feeling of connectivity.

5. Relax. Start by noticing your breath. I always tell my clients that if breathing weren’t automatic, we’d be passed out half the time. We don’t think about breathing, so therefore, just taking a moment to notice how the sound of your breath as it passes through your nose and mouth, how air is cooler as you breathe in and warmer as you breathe out, the movement of your stomach and chest as you inhale and exhale. That, in itself, will slow down your breathing, which, in turn, slows your heart rate and relaxes your body. You can intentionally breathe out for six and in for four, if that helps. Or, my personal favorite, combat breathing, where you breath in through your nose for a few seconds, hold it, and then breathe out long and slow through your mouth like blowing through a straw. Relaxing your body by getting a massage, or tightening and relaxing your muscle groups from head to toe, or taking a warm bath or shower are also ways to chill out.

6. Do something fun. Enjoy yourself. Even if you think, you have too much to do to relax or enjoy yourself, still do it for a little while. It’s like a car, if you keep driving it but don’t stop to put gas or oil in it, it’s only gonna take you so far. So think of fun and relaxation as the oil and gas of your car. Put a little bit of it in your life every day, whether it’s watching your favorite shows, doing a crossword puzzle, writing a silly story or poem, having game night with friends, trying out a new recipe or restaurant, playing sports, or any other activity you enjoy. You’ll notice the difference in your mood (as will others!), and you’ll even be more productive at the stuff you were doing before you had fun.

7. Be creative. Sometimes there are things that we need to do something about and we’re not sure where to start. Getting ideas down on paper or just getting our feelings out of our heads, either through writing them down on paper, playing an instrument, or drawing, can really help you through that stressful situation.

8. Turn off everything electronic. Unplug, as they say. Sometimes stress is coming from overstimulation. Turn off the news. Pull yourself away from the endless stream of Facebook or Twitter. Get your face away from your phone. Go outside. Smell a flower, feel the grass, listen to the birds, watch the leaves sway in the breeze, taste the air. Use all your five senses to experience the world around you.

9. Reach out to people. Sometimes stress gets so high, that we need to ask for help. Don’t be embarrassed. Everyone needs help sometimes. It’s better to get help than to wait until things are so bad that you end up hurting yourself or others. There is plenty of help out there. You can start by asking the pastor of your church; he/she will be happy to speak with you and if it is outside his/her area of expertise, he/she will know of resources in the area.

10. Pray. This should be number one on the list but it usually ends up being the last thing we do. God is always there for us, listening, loving. Reach out to Him and rest in His arms. Lay your burdens at His feet, and He will carry you through those stressful times.

*April is National Stress Awareness Month.


Allison K. García is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a passion for writing. Latina at heart, Allison has absorbed the love and culture of her friends, family, and hermanos en Cristo and has used her experiences to cast a glimpse into the journey of undocumented Christians.

Member Spotlight: Tracee Lydia Garner

Thanks for stopping by the ACFW Virginia Blog today!

Today we’re focusing on our member, Tracee Lydia Garner. Grab something warm to drink and sit down to learn about Tracee.


Hi Everyone,

So happy to be featured on the Member Spotlight today and I thank you for joining me and I thank God for blessing me with a gift of storytelling. A little about me, hmmm?  First, my name is Tracee Lydia and Garner and next to the Lord, my other love is writing romantic suspense and my sixth published book Deadly Affections debuts on Friday, March 30.

In addition to writing fiction which new stories will always be in the works, I wrote one non-fiction self-help book entitled Pack Light: Thoughts for the Journey and that came out in October 2016.

I live in Virginia, just a few minutes from Dulles Airport and I am a Virginia native. Besides writing, I also teach at our local college, I do speaking engagements and I work full time in social services.

My very first book came out when I was 23. I entered a contest hosted by a publisher and I was failing my “Math for Liberal Arts” and I just thought, this is hard, so I would disappear in my own world where I created stories of love and romance and where there were certainly NEVER a heroine or hero who was an accountant or a math teacher. Yuck!

Here are some of the questions I’ll move on to answer from the spotlight:

So first up, a fun fact about me is that I LOVE event planning. Not weddings so much, I’m sure I’d enjoy some aspects of that as well (until I met up with a Bridezilla of course), but I love parties, launch events and helping people conceptualize and putting together details -and though I love event planning- what I think I love about it is just getting people together to fellowship and have a positive, fun time. I’m also a HUGE list-maker, it’s so fun and you can find a zillion lists at any time on my desk.

Both of my favorite genres to read and to write are ROMANCE! Of course, I love reading about the elusive Happily Ever After, I always tell people if you want to have hope and escape (build your hope on Jesus and righteousness of course) but you can watch the news if you want to be depressed. Writing and reading is always a wonderful escape and there are hidden in the prose, themes of triumph over adversity, forgiveness, hope and so many things you find and learn as you read. I’ve read for such a long time. I couldn’t imagine my life without books. It was a kindergarten teacher of mine who when he read the stories aloud during circle time, I was front and center, not to mention, mesmerized by how his tone and voice inflection made the story come alive! I now know I fell in love with stories and story telling right then.

My favorite writing tip isn’t about story structure and development or plotting, so much, but it’s about process and in that process of writing is to learn how to WAIT.  In the classes that I teach and in almost every article I write now, I am certain I take time to encourage other new writers AFTER they finish their very first book, take time, breathe, and WAIT to publish your book if you can.

The reason behind this? Most people are so excited about the one book that they just rush to publish it and then they underestimate the amount of work it’s going to take (not only to promote it) but, to complete and finish that next book. If you publish book one right away, you never ever know how long it will take you to complete book two. The other piece of that WAIT is to PLAN and to SEEK input/mentors. Writing is so solitary, find groups and people who are ahead of you with more books (than you) and think about your writing career long term. Those are things I wish someone would have taken the time to tell me at 23 when my first book came out. By saying this, I also want to remind anyone who is waiting to get out there don’t wait any longer. I know it seems like I’m contradicting myself with “Wait, plan…. no Go, Now!” LOL 🙂

The point is to find a middle balance. Don’t be too quick to publish without a plan and clarity for the long term and don’t be so fretful that year after year finds you tweaking the exact same manuscript over and over again.

One of the hardest things about writing and my writing journey, for me has been just trying not to judge myself. I have a disability and my muscles don’t’ listen to my brain because it’s the muscles that have the disability and not my brain. It’s a constant battle of prayer and peace and surrender to not compare my progress to other authors/writers and business people I watch all the time on YouTube. And I know, whether disabled or not, that comparison is an issue for so many of us. But I have to constantly yield to and work with this body that slows me down and keeps me from progressing at times and gets tired even when my brain is still chanting “Full steam ahead!”. I want to have written more books, to have released more projects, to do more online and in social media than just -what I tell myself- is seven measly books. In the end, however, I remind myself about God’s grace (and a small cheerleading section here on earth) lets me know I’m doing good and so I try to remember to pat myself on the back for the little things and cut myself a break. Not 70 books yet but 7 and that’s still wonderful. I believe sometimes I’d be father along without my disability but the reality is there, that’s not necessarily true. I do work full time outside the home and that’s no small feat to contend with while trying to write on the side. Everyone is struggling with something and we need to be more mindful that God is there through it all.

I enjoyed sharing and I hope you enjoyed finding out more about me, please visit me on my homes on the web: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter.

God bless,

Tracee


Tracee Lydia Garner is a bestselling, award-winning author who writes stories full of complex heroes and heroines, relationships and families that experience tough but realistic life challenges in their quest for love. Born and raised in a suburb of the DC metro area, Tracee works in health and human service by day, has a degree in Communication and is a speaker and advocate for people with disabilities.