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My Favorite Character in Justified … and a Giveaway of the Book She Needs to Read

May 26, 2015

Meet Fawn Blaylock, the heroine in Justifiedthe second book in the Mended Hearts Series. She’s the daughter of a wealthy rancher, but she recently got herself kicked-out of her parents’ home, so now she’s living on her own, expecting a baby, and extremely insecure. Her life has been turned topsy-turvy, and the things that once were important, suddenly don’t make much difference in her life.

Like beauty. And money. And power.

Without them, her confidence is a tangled mess of doubt and she feels unimportant and alone, not at all sure that God even notices her any more. Her old friends won’t give her the time of day, and her new friends … well, Fawn doesn’t really trust them yet.

I think she needs to read Carey Scott’s new book, Untangled, Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life.

As Carey states, “Almost from birth, we are trained to find the approval and acceptance we crave in the eyes of family, friends, and even strangers. The result is that we cannot believe we are who God says we are—accepted, loved, beautiful, and treasured. We get tangled up in the world’s assessment and our own self-judgment.”

Fawn turns out all right in the end, even without Carey’s book, but it takes the help of a handsome coach named JohnScott Pickett to gradually convince her she’s beautiful from the inside out. It takes a while longer for her to believe she’s worthy of God’s love, but she finally realizes He was with her all along.

Six days from now, Justifiedhits the shelves, and in celebration, I’m giving away a bundle of the two books. To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment. Good luck!

…………..Justified Cover……Varina Denman Untangled

vvdenman newletter sneak peek

Selfie vs Author Head Shot (and a Seldom-Mentioned Benefit of Hiring a Good Photographer)

May 5, 2015

Writer blogs stress the importance of an author having a quality head shot depicting herself as approachable, friendly, and relaxed. This conveys the author’s professionalism  and can help attract an agent by showing the willingness to put forth time and effort (not to mention the cash) for her career.

But I’ve discovered another, seldom-mentioned benefit of a quality author photo.

VarinaDenman headshot spoof

Consider the author on the right. Her image says she has it all together. The lighting is soft and flattering, and her expression conveys openness, confidence, and capability. Not only that, she’s probably able to connect with readers on a personal level. A good author head shot can show all this in one click of the lens.

Now, consider the author on the left. She’s harried, to say the least. She’s on deadline and clearly hasn’t taken the time for hair and make-up. She’s confused, overwhelmed, and sleep-deprived. Her family hasn’t seen her come out of her office lately, but if they could, they would cringe at her transformation. A quick author selfie can show all this with just one share on Instagram.

I’ve got to come clean, here:

Ninety-seven percent of the time, the left-hand author is me. Only something that doesn’t show in the picture is the overwhelming insecurity I feel almost daily. Will I be able to write another book? Will anyone want to read it? Am I really supposed to be a writer? I could always go back and do that other job/project/dream instead.

I’m not embarrassed to say that sometimes I pull out my author head shot just for the reminder that three percent of the time, the right-hand author is me. On the days I get a good review, or a scene comes together perfectly, or a reader sends an email saying my writing has helped them, those are the days, I feel approachable, professional and confident.

My author head shot is proof I’m not always overwhelmed and insecure. And it reminds me my picture was on the back of a book once, and it can be there again. Because both those authors are me … no matter what I’m feeling in the moment.

Do photographs help you in this way? How do your portraits make you feel?

My Least Fave Thing About Writing A Novel

April 21, 2015

Five years old little cute boy hiding behind a table

It’s been less than two months since my debut novel released, but it feels like ten years. I’m thrilled with the hubbub of activity that surrounded the launch (after all, I prayed for it a l-o-n-g time). But at this point I’m sort of … kinda but not really … I hate to say it but … Okay, I’m tired of doing the hard things.

To be more specific, interviews are not my BFFs. I’d much rather sit alone with my laptop, writing all day and never-ever speaking to anyone. I considered taking applications for a stunt double, but the job would require a talented impersonator since I have that weird, squeaky voice going on.

All joking aside, interviews are getting easier, as are all the other unexpected duties I never knew I’d be performing. (I thought writers … wrote. Silly me.) But evidently I’m getting used to it because, after this last interview, the fear-induced diarrhea only lasted a day.

Click over to Josh Old’s “Life is Story” blog to listen to our conversation on church hurt and Jaded. I can honestly say I enjoyed the interview and wouldn’t mind doing it again someday. (But if you think your voice could pass for mine, message me privately.)

vvdenman newletter sneak peek

Restored in the Ruins – Guest Post by Lynne Gentry

April 14, 2015


Today I’ve invited my friend, Lynne Gentry, to tell us how God worked in her life, even while she experienced church hurt. Welcome, Lynne!

Restored in the Ruins, By Lynne Gentry

IMG_1011While exploring the ruins of the Roman bath in Bath, England, I stood at this quiet pool and wondered about stories hidden inside these crumbling walls. What were the people like who used to slip into these steamy waters after a long day? What alliances did they make while slaves slathered their bodies with oil? Who were they plotting to marry, to put into political office, or to kill?

During the second century reclamation of Carthage, the Romans rebuilt the baths of Antonin from the ruins of three previous wars. Their shiny new complex overlooked the beautiful Carthaginian harbor. Marble and granite pillars soared fifteen meters high. Inside these stone walls people of all classes chatted, relaxed, and made political connections.  Never would the Romans have expected their extraordinary work to be laid low by something as simple as a virus. When the Plague of Cyprian struck their treasured port, the labor force was nearly obliterated. Construction ceased. The baths fell into disrepair. It looked as if all was lost.

carthage punic portBut then, a group of Christians said, “Enough!” They put aside their fears, joined hands, and began caring for the sick. This may not sound like such a big deal, but these Christians were caring for the very ones who’d made a sport out of nailing Christians to crosses and setting them on fire. For fifteen years, this scruffy little band of Christians worked tirelessly and thanklessly. Some of them forfeited their fortunes. Some of lost their lives to the sickness. But some of them lived to see Carthage restored.

If you’ve ever had your hard work side-swiped by an unexpected setback, then you know the devastation of painful loss. When you’re world crumbles into ruins, what do you do?

Five years ago, I experienced an unexpected and painful setback at the hands of the church. I was crushed. The world I’d worked so hard to build crumbled. As I stumbled about in the ruins, I wondered if anything good would ever come of the destruction.

Then the same thing that happened in Carthage so many years ago happened to me.

IMG_0636A small group of Christian friends said, “Enough!” One by one, they rallied around me. Loving me. Encouraging me. Rebuilding my self-esteem brick by brick. They encouraged me to keep writing. During this time I couldn’t have sat down at the computer and typed a single word if they hadn’t goaded me on. Day after day, page after page, I wrote. Slowly, sprigs of new life began to sprout through the ashes. Before I knew it, I’d written the first book in the Carthage Chronicles series. Beauty rising out of ruin.

Look around. Is the destruction too overwhelming? Too much for one person you say?

Imagine what could happen if we joined hands and built each other up. Maybe the restoration won’t take things back to their original shape, but something new and different and possibly even better can arise.

When the church becomes the hands and feet of Christ, broken lives are restored. This smile on my face is proof your life does not have to remain in ruins.

Hi-Res Cover RTEBIO

Lynne Gentry has written for numerous publications. Return to Exile is her second book in The Carthage Chronicles series. She is a professional acting coach, theater director, playwright, and inspirational speaker. Lynne loves spending time with family, working the cancer centers with her medical therapy dog, and connecting with readers. Connect with Lynne here:

God Still Pursues Us Even When We’re Jaded

April 7, 2015

GodStillPursues

I’m glad you dropped by as I wrap up my Jaded blog series. I started off explaining How The Church Hurt Me, then lightened up with Why I’m Done Being Hurt By The Church, and last week we touched on How To Stop the Hurt.

Today I’d like to tell you about a friend of mine who left the church. She refused to worship with the saints, and for good reason. She was badly hurt by the church and eventually became jaded.

But God started working on her.

She was angry at the Christians who turned their backs, and she didn’t always think before she spoke and spent even less time considering her actions. She drove herself farther from the One who loved her most.

But He kept pursuing her.

God put people in her path to encourage her and keep communication open. Those Christians became a fragile cord connecting her to the church … even though she didn’t always want or appreciate their friendship,

But God was still there.

Opportunities arose: a job offer here, an acquaintance there, an open door. She didn’t recognize it as the Lord’s work or the Lord’s plan,

But He was patient.

When the Holy Spirit pricked her heart, she began to feel the prayers of her friends. She softened, reconsidered, and wept. She didn’t acknowledge the Spirit’s power, but God didn’t give up,

He just kept working on her.

Finally, she began to notice what was happening, and she listened to those who cared. Then she admitted the luck she’d had was more than that, and she let go of her anger and started to forgive.

And she realized how long God had been pursuing her.

This woman’s journey is a blend of my own story and the stories of several of my friends. There’s a lot of us who have blindly walked the rocky path, not realizing God was by our side the entire time.

How has God pursued you when you felt jaded to the church?

I’d love to hear how He helped you through a difficult time. Consider leaving a message in the comments section below, and we’ll have a virtual celebration of God’s goodness.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Interview with Varina Denman, author of Jaded

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Read what other bloggers are saying about being jaded to the church

To link your own #GodStillPursues blog post to this list, click HERE.

To leave a comment, scroll down a little farther.

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Click to Tweet: God is bigger than my hurt feelings. How to overcome church hurt. http://wp.me/pM9q6-2RF #GodStillPursues

How Do We Stop Church Hurt?

March 31, 2015

StopJading
What is church hurt?
You know…stuff that gives church members that I-don’t-want-to-be-here feeling. Stuff that makes them want to stay away. Stuff that’s icky.

I’ve talked about How The Church Hurt Me, and I’ve talked about Why I’m Done Being Hurt By The Church, but the more I talk about it, the more I realize almost everyone has a story of being jaded to Christians. From something as trivial as the minister not shaking their hand, to something as huge as congregational shunning (It happens). The stories are out there, and they’re painful.

So how do we stop it? It’s easy.

Love. Forgive. Everyone.

Okay, maybe that’s not so easy, but it’s a place to start, and it’s what Jesus said to do.

I’ve seen a church completely ignore a woman who got pregnant out of marriage, but I’ve also seen a church celebrate the same situation with a baby shower. These days, it seems people are becoming less judgmental and more forgiving.

But I’m not sure who I feel more sorry for: the pregnant woman or those who ignored her. Both did something wrong–and depending on the circumstances, one may be easier to forgive–but I need to love them both.

I’ve been on both sides of the jading issue, and it ain’t pretty from either perspective.

But it all comes down to changing our attitude. The question isn’t how can we stop jading, it’s how can love and forgive each other.

And be more like Christ.

What do YOU think? How can we stop jading in the church?

How has God worked in your church to spread love and forgiveness? How have you seen church hurt diminish in your congregation? What do you think would help us to help the hurting? Consider leaving a message in the comments section below.

Check back next week for the conclusion of the series: God Still Pursues Us Even When We’re Jaded.

 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1Peter 4:8 NIV

Interview with Varina Denman, author of Jaded

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Read what other bloggers are saying about Jading in the church:

To add your own #StopJading post to this list, click HERE

To leave a comment, scroll down a little farther.

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Click to Tweet: How Do We Stop Church Hurt? http://wp.me/pM9q6-2RD #StopJading

Why I’m Done Being Hurt By The Church

March 24, 2015

DoneBeingJaded
Last week, I wrote about How The Church Hurt Me, but I can’t leave it at that.

I’ve been hurt by the church and will undoubtedly be hurt again, but I know the pain I feel is usually inflicted unintentionally. But even when it is decidedly deliberate, holding a grudge only hurts me.

At times it’s easy to heal. If someone comes to me and apologizes, we both live happily ever after. But when there’s no hope of penitence, let alone an apology, then the responsibility falls on me alone, and I don’t always shine like a beacon of Christianity.

I’ve spent too many worship services thinking jaded thoughts about so-and so who did such-and-such, and I’m tempted to talk behind their backs. But then I remember those persistent Bible verses that tell me to be bigger than that, and I try to . . .

Let it go.

One phrase. Three words. Seven letters. And ten million reasons I don’t want to do it. After all, pain is pain, and when I’m hurting, I want someone to pay.

But, WOW, someone already did. Two thousand years ago, on a cross on a hill.

I don’t mean to oversimplify church hurt—it’s real—but Christ called me to love Him. Not just when I’m pain-free. Not just when other Christians are getting it right. Not just when it’s easy.

The church is bigger than us Christians who are making a mess of things. It’s forgiveness and tolerance and openness and communication. It’s icky feelings and awkward apologies and overlooked offenses. It’s not easy. But God wants me to love the church like He loved them, whether it’s easy or not.

What has helped you let go of church hurt?

Were you one of the lucky ones who received an apology? Or maybe the pain wore off gradually? Did you have to stuff it for a while—fake it till you make it? Or are you still in pain? If so, what do you think would help you heal?

Consider leaving a note in the comments section below. I’d like to hear your story, and draw from your experiences, and grow.

Ugh. Growth. Now there’s something that’s painful.

Check back next week for the continuing discussion: How Do We Stop Church Hurt?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 NIV

Interview with Varina Denman, author of Jaded

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Read what other bloggers are saying about overcoming church hurt:

To link your own #DoneBeingJaded post to this list, click HERE

To leave a comment, scroll down a little farther.

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Click to Tweet: Why I’m done being hurt by the church. http://wp.me/pM9q6-2RB #DoneBeingJaded

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