Happy New Year 2016!

The last few hours of 2015 are speeding by and I’ve been thinking of the many eventful moments of this past year. For one thing our #xlfamily has grown and promises to continue to grow as one son became married and one son became engaged. Also we were thrilled to see the miracle of adoption once again bless our family as we gained a new grand-nephew. 

A life long dream was fulfilled as my very first novel was published and I can finally say I’m an author! This year has provided many opportunities to write and hopefully inspire others to consider adoption in a new light as well as draw closer to God. 

There have been heart-wrenching moments too. Loved ones have faced difficult times. I said goodbye to one of my dearest friends until I see her again in eternity. 

All in all, I believe I can say without hesitation that I have lived large and loved large. The mistakes I made were made while I was trying to do my best and serve the Lord. The times I stumbled were when I was doing my best follow His leading and became distracted momentarily. Just like the scriptures say so truthfully, His glory is in these cracked clay jars so that He shines and others can be encouraged to try and forgive themselves for not being perfect. 

I’ll tell you what else, I have been generously loved and greatly encouraged by so many folks. My life has been made better because of you. Thank you for that. 

As 2016 arrives, I’ve dubbed it the Year of Love, I’m expecting some powerful, life altering, events. I’m anticipating moments that will leave me breathless with awe and wonder. I’m counting on God’s love to show up, show off and show out. How about you?!
  

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The Year of Love

I recently read an article about the significance of numbers in the Bible. The number 16 represents love. Another article said that Paul gave 16 attributes of love in I Corinthians 13:4-7, which is known as the love chapter. This chapter tells us what love is and isn’t. The world’s definition of love often does not resemble God’s. 
So, as I pondered the year ahead which begins only a few short days from now, I decided that 2016 will be the Year of Love. The year of powerful, life altering, path changing, future impacting, heart healing LOVE. 
My chief resolution, the goal beyond all other goals for the year to come will be to walk in LOVE. When I am making decisions, speaking to others, writing a story, taking an action or faced with a choice, I am going to remind myself of what love is and isn’t and then proceed accordingly. 
You know why? Because of the verse that precedes the famous love verses. 
“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.” I Corinthians 13:2
  

Some Assembly Required

How many parents will tackle toy assembly this very night as preparations are made for Christmas morning? Instruction sheets will be studied carefully by some and ignored by others. Occasionally the instructions will be missing or in a foreign language that can make the task of assembly seem insurmountable. 

No matter how frustrating the process is, it must be conquered for the gift to be fully enjoyed. You can give up, grow frustrated or even convince someone else to help you but it must be done if it is to be assembled. 

This morning I was thinking about families and how they too sometimes need to be put together or put back together in some cases. 

Just as we’d like those doll houses and play kitchen sets to come fully assembled, we may wish the same could be said of our families. Oh how we would sigh with relief for a clear set of instructions. Perhaps if there were only a video tutorial to clarify things we wouldn’t make such a mess of it at times. 

Just like at the end of an attempted late night assembly session when we look at all the leftover bits and screws and wonder what we forgot to do, we sometimes realize we are holding pieces of family secrets and dramas that we really don’t know what to do with either. 

I want to tell you something that this momma knows and knows well. When it comes to families there is some assembly required. And more often than not, it’s complicated. After all there’s no such thing as a generic family with generic instructions. Each is unique. Each is fragile. Each is worth it. 

Take a moment to look at your family in its present state. Some complications are rather obvious. If a family has experienced a divorce or a death for instance, that is obvious. On the other hand, complications can occur from the most joyous of occasions. A marriage, the addition of a child whether by birth or adoption, changes everything. 

Suddenly, just when you thought you knew the way things are to go, you realize there is a missing page to the assembly instructions and you really don’t know what to do next. 

If you’re there, right there at that place of wondering how in the world things can possibly come together with so many extra pieces unaccounted for, take a deep breath and ask for help. Never forget that the Lord is concerned about what concerns you. His answers don’t always resemble our own solutions. But He does care and He cares for you. 

Not only does He care, He can do something about whatever the matter is. Look, that’s His speciality. People, relationships, families. He understands. I know He does because of the very thing we are celebrating today and tomorrow. Christmas!

  

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

It is about this time of year that I can almost surely hear the ticking of a proverbial clock. Tick tock tick tock. Are you ready? Tick tock tick tock. Have you forgotten anything? Tick tock tick tick? Time is fleeting. 

One week from tonight is Christmas Eve and one more week will bring us to New Years Eve. The end of another year. Opportunities seized or lost, never to be had again in that exact manner. Memories made. Moments spent whether wisely or foolishly, never to be regained, relived, redeemed. 

Once again, although I determine every year, never again, I’ve overdone Christmas presents. Well, I suppose to some we are keeping it simple and to others we are being extravagant. It really matters where you’re standing I suppose. As for me, I’m standing in the midst of it, right smack dab in the middle. 

My perspective is a bit muddled. I vascilate from imagining their expressions of delight on Christmas morning to anxious thoughts of wondering if I made the right choices. Between my kids having half a dozen Nov/Dec birthdays and the holidays, I’ve been in overdrive for weeks. 

So, for a bit of comic relief and even a bit of serious contemplation, here is my version of a familiar poem. I’d enjoy so much reading a line or two of your version if you are so inclined. Merry Christmas. 

‘Twas the week before Christmas

When all through the house,

The children are fairly vibrating

And I’ve barely seen my spouse. 

I’m making my lists and 

I’m checking them twice

I can’t really keep up 

With who’s naughty or nice. 

Gifts still need wrapping

But, thankfully they’re all bought. 

I’m hoping no person or detail

Has escaped my thought. 

I’ve done my very best

I hope it’s enough

And if it isn’t 

I might just say ‘tough’. 

I need to start a menu. 

There’s a lot of us to feed. 

Somehow I must distinguish

Between what I want and what I need. 

So, here at this busiest of times

For so many moms like me,

I resolve to stop and kneel. 

To pray on bended knee. 

Keep my heart cheerful Lord. 

Keep my spirit sweet. 

Keep my patience from wearing thin

When the house is far from neat. 

Remind me that these children Lord

Are a reflection and a reminder

Of all that is right and good in the world. 

Please help me to be kinder. 

Amen  
 

Published!! Now what?

On December 1st my first novel was published. This was a dream come true. As in, a life-long childhood dream. This was a long-term goal achieved. As in, I wrote the rough draft of the book seven years ago. This was a resolution met. As in, I’ve been taking my writing seriously and making earnest effort for two and a half years. 

So, now I’ve finally done it and instead of feeling like I can check something off the proverbial bucket list, I find myself asking, “Now what?”  

One of the first steps I took was to attend a writer’s conference. That was eye-opening, a bit overwhelming and totally challenging. Thankfully there are two conferences in Alabama that I have been able to attend several times and in case you’re wondering, yes, that is a very good place to start. You will likely, like me, catch your first glimpse of the writing world which is far more than telling a good story. 

My second big decision was to attempt self-publishing and to do so through Create-Space. However, I was determined to do so with excellence and therefore, asked my computer savvy husband and my grammar proficient friend to help with the technical part and editing. 

I took notes, I picked brains, I asked questions, I attended workshops, I revised, rewrote, reviewed and even added thousands of words to the original draft. I even decided to include chapter devotionals at the back of the book. And, just last month had two paid articles published in a magazine and periodical. Progress. 

We designed a cover, was assigned an official ISBN number, made a FB devotional page, and faithfully blogged for over two years. So, on December 1st when I saw my book, my hard labor, my dream come true right there in living color and for sale in paper-back and kindle-download , I was thrilled. And, lots of caring friends, loving family and Internet buddies were just as thrilled for me. 

Almost immediately, before I could really relish this wonderful moment I was asking, “Now, what?”

In a sense I felt just as lost and slightly overwhelmed as at that first writer’s conference. Now I needed to understand more new things. Marketing strategies, royalty charts, promotional plans. 

So, I have begun again on the next part of this apparently never ending journey. In the last few days I have created a FB author page, an Amazon author page that is linked to this blog. And, I have scheduled my first book signing. 

Here’s what I’ve decided, having a new book is a lot like having a new baby. You’ll need lots of support, you’ll have to coddle and encourage. You’ll have to provide plenty of consistent discipline and opportunity to grow. You’ll have to overlook and even expect a few stumbles and disappointments. You’ll have a few dirty diapers along the way (think scornful reviews) and there will be some days, maybe quite a few that you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. But in the end, you’ll be glad, so glad for all the trouble, proud you didn’t quit or give up and full of hope for a future full of possibilities. 

“Now what?” Well, now I’m hoping I have a good turn out at the book signing and have a few local businesses that intend to approach and ask if they’ll display my book. I am working in editing a guest blog I’ve been asked to do, have some research and interviews for a requested article on adoption AND I’m ready to start the publishing process on the second of the three books that were also written seven years ago. What about you? “What now?” 

My Facebook Author Page- 

https://www.facebook.com/Stephanie-Rodda-Author-1036034706417992/
My Amazon Author Page –

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Rodda/e/B0190057CQ
My Facebook Devotional Writings –

https://www.facebook.com/StephanieRoddaWritings/