Tangled Words {and how to untangle them}

These words of Moses', guys? It's where I'm at in this season. Whether in person with new friends/acqauntances. Anytime I talk about my writing. I write somewhat better than I talk. But most of all?
Words are tangled and knotted and stuck right now. With Amongst the Roses' sequel, with my novella that has a title, two main characters, a setting and little else. Not to mention life whirling on at an alarming pace—it's already October! Color me overwhelmed, to say the least.
And I've been beating myself up about even feeling this overwhelmed. I should be able to handle all this. It's all good! Especially compared to the not so distant past. I should be able to shoulder it all and keep a good attitude and meet everyone's needs
Something I've been reading about in my small group's book for this season: Wild & Free, cut me to the quick.
We put God in a box.
Moses, way back when here, was putting God in a box. He was literally speaking with God then! Telling the Great I Am that his limitations and struggles were bigger than the Creator of the Universe's ability to make a way of deliverance.
And I do this more than I care to admit. I step right into the quicksand of paralyzing anxiety that's always there but off/on exacerbated by things both in my control and out of it. I freeze. I retreat inward.
Because I am a great sinner work-in-progress who has a great Savior. Who's proven Himself time and again and again and again as wildly loving and cherishing of me in all my issues.
If you're in this neighborhood of just overwhelmed—can I share a few things that've helped me?

  1. Don't be afraid to get real and honest.
    Start with a journal. Just scribble. No one'll read it but you. Talk with a trusted friend, ask for prayer. I know its often easier to not risk rejection and stay quiet, but reach out to those nearest you. You'll be surprised. And often God speaks through them.
  2. Pros and cons lists.
    They actually help. They may not for you. But take a hard look and review all your committments, and prayerfully see what needs to be put on hold temporarily.
  3. Fill your mind/ears with truth.
    Start with who God is—then who you are. For me? Music is an incredible blessing in the battle through anxiety and overwhelm. Just make sure not to numbly tune out, but really truly listen to those favorite calming songs that lift your eyes up to the One who's holding your dear heart.
  4. Prioritize rest and sleep.
    I know, I know—easier said than done. But seriously. I can hop on my computer and just end up completely zoning out or switching between my open novel doc and Facebook after a certain time of night. That's when I'm trying to close it, take a deep breath, grab whatever novel I'm reading, and curl up in bed. It'll actually get you to bed sooner and, if the book's a great one, unwind your tangled mind to get decent rest.

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The Latest Pepper Basham Novel! {Cover Reveal}

It's no secret around here I love books, and romance—in that order. Allow me to reintroduce one of the greatest romance writers of our time and in the inspirational fiction world—Pepper Basham. This woman spins magic from her finger tips when she writes her books. Not only is the romance poignant and swoon-worthy (I kid you not, there've been fans that've needed, well, fans, during some scenes), but the truth of the Gospel and the grace God lavishes upon us is woven through out every story to reflect back the beauty of the Ultimate Author. Couple all this with three-dimensional characters, hilarious comedic interludes and exchanges, and you've got a hit on your hands. Honestly every book she keeps releasing I adore more and more than the last.

Amazon | Goodreads | B&N
The cover I'm sharing here today is for book two in her highly acclaimed Mitchell's Crossroads series. A series that began with a fiery opposites-attract storyline set against the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in A Twist of Faith. { My full review here }
Love does not have an accent ... 
Dr. Adelina Roseland has worked ten years in research as an accent reduction specialist to attain her dream job. But a secret wager to transform Appalachian cattle farmer Reese Mitchell into corporate material challenges Adelina in ways she never expected, threatening her new position.
For one, Adelina didn't plan for the faith and friction of Reese, or the unexpected influence of his chaotic family. Now, drawn into a culture she'd tried to forget, Adelina finds the warmth of family, the hope of faith, and the joy of love melting away the deep wounds of her past.
But when Reese discovers that he's a pawn in her climb up the academic ladder, will he forgive Adelina s deceit or will their miscommunication end in two broken lives?

And now, book two. The heroine is Reese's sister Rainey, the hero, interestingly enough, the "villain" from book one, is Alex. Adorkable Alex, and Tough-Cookie Rainey. Both have painful pasts, and unsure futures, but despite Alex's playboy facade, and Rainey's no-nonsense exterior—they have similar tender hearts that hope against hope to be cherished for who they really are in Charming the Troublemaker.
About the book:
{Which you can Add to Goodreads Now! }

--> When Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looked as good as it did on Rainey Mitchell.Rainey Mitchell does not need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptation wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne. 
When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again?
Releasing November 1, 2017!
Y'all! Isn't this awesome? Alex's boyish "I'm a stinker" grin, and Rainey's loving "I put up with you" smile? My heart.

About the Author
As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family. You can learn more about her on her website, www.PepperDBasham.com or connect on Facebook or Twitter.


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On Pursuit

Who doesn't love a good pursuit story? The "How We Met" stories that have the guy pursuing the girl patiently, kindly, but intentionally. Even if it was simply sitting beside her at Bible study, or in a cafeteria enough times before worked up the courage to ask her out. One of my personal favorites are the totally unforeseen pursuit stories. My best friend was the one to initially ask her now-husband out—but at the time it was just to "talk shop about robotics." What can I say, I'm friends with a ton of nerds. Turns out though, her initiating that with those legit reasons (he wasn't on her radar like at ALL, trust me), gave him the opportunity to go out with her one on one. Because he'd noticed her months prior.

In my recent scrollings, there've been a few articles that've cropped up about dating and all that jazz, and the one word that keeps coming up is Pursuit. I'm all for that and refuse to settle for me putting in all the effort/communication/initiation. But we have to watch that hard and fast rule of not settling for a guy who won't pursue. Not that I've been on any dates in months...BUT.
Think about something here. Turn the whole dating/pursuit/not-settling ideas inside out with me.
A relationship takes equal partnership. Don't say "duh" yet. (And I know, I know any relationship/marriage isn't 50/50 100% of the time. But there needs to be committment. Okay. Digression over.)
This also means equal pursuit. We need to be available to be pursued, but we also need to put in effort. To be open and honest from the get go—and really get to know the guy. Which often involves hard questions, listening, and above all? Kindness.
Just think of how God pursues us, and wants us to do the same back to Him. Even when we go AWOL or try to hide our little messes, thinking He can't possibly want us at our worst? He wants to be there for us, actively loving every facet of our hearts. Even the work in progress parts. God's pursuit is the only one that will be truly relentless. Better than the stuff of all the romance novels ever written.

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Walking Through Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a real thing and has flares week by week—sometimes day by day. The definition that came up when I typed it on Google is this:
Have you ever had seasons of life where the writing was almost nonexistent? Where word counts and inspiration were nothing more than a dripping faucet that annoyed you more than it refreshed you? Not to mention scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and seeing all these other authors post their thousands of words they got logged for the week, when you struggle to remember how to get your WIP to The End in the first place.
Then though, you have an opportunity to own that title of Author—and yes, it is a title you can own proudly no matter if you're published or unpublished, traditionally or indie.
That opportunity comes and you smile, thinking about that story or sequel and all the places it'll go. Or a future reader expresses excited impatience as to when it'll be released? The smile gets tight, your heart rate goes up a notch or four...well, y'all get the picture, right?

Imposter Syndrome is an occupational hazard of being a writer. Even the most seasoned pros will admit to it. There are ways we can combat it. But first we have to identify what exactly flares it into that paralyzing, self-loathing beast.
  1. Comparison
    The thief of all joy. Social media plays huge role in this. On one hand, we get real-time engagement with so many dear people, opportunities to get involved in communities for support, and we can make new friends! All the while getting our name/work Out There into the great, wide world.
    The curse? Comparison. It can creep in subtly. Scrolling aimlessly on our phones really messes with our already-shaky confidence as we wonder how we can get our Instagrams to look like that, or we wonder when we'll reach That Milestone a favorite author just met, or How on earth does she log that many words a day?! What's the secret formula?! You get the picture.
  2. Impatience
    I think I've thrown the phrase "Patience is a virtue" into every one of my novels at some point. I grew up with it—you may have, too. This, like comparison, is both a blessing and a curse. An eagerness to meet goals, to cross finish lines—to hold that book baby in your hand after perhaps years of hard labor&mdahs;is something to be clung to. When it morphs into bitter impatience (see point about comparison above), that is when we're edged closer and closer to the high point of Imposter Syndrome: giving up.

See that selfie of mine over there?
Mere minutes after signing in at the second annual Christian Fiction Reader's Retreat, I ran up to my room to drop off a few things so I wouldn't be quite so burdened whilst mingling the entire day. I had to walk slow back down to the main event space, because my Imposter Syndrome was at the highest it's been in a while. I can't even remember the last time I wrote out an entire scene of Margaret and Connor's continuing story.
But here I was, a Participating Author who ended up signing books next to THE Rachel Hauck
As amazing as a time I had at CFRR, reinvigorated to get back to my books? That Imposter Syndrome waxed and waned and I had quite a battle to keep it from utterly paralyzing me.
But why? I already published two books. Ohh yes. Those two books. Aka the most nervewracking and humbling learning curves of my entire life thus far. Because the heart of Imposter Syndrome is inadequacy. The fear/belief that me and what I do/write will never be enough. And it has plagued me my whole life long.
But this is not who I am to define myself as. We are not good enough—without  Christ. But in Christ? He is enough, and so are our best efforts.

How to Combat Imposter Syndrome:

    These black and white numbered tips are like exercises. Good, helpful—but really, really hard to actually do. But so very worth it. 

  1. Remember Whose you are
    Remembering Whose we are takes a lot of mental self-discipline, and even more honest, open communion with the Ultimate Author. He can take anything and everything we're feeling, and is so unbelievably faithful to send us just the right words to sooth our hearts, spur on our stories, and lift us up. He heals up the brokenhearted, the wounded in spirit, and with Him alone we can soar on wings like eagles. Remember He gave you this gift and calling of Author—so keep on talking His ear off about it and don't rely on your own understanding. Without Him we have nothing. Including our books.
  2. Own your title
    Take your art seriously. Honor the calling God's placed on your life by prioritizing it. By planning and setting flexible goals prayerfully. And you are totally allowed to be excited and talk about your books! :) I swiped red lipstick on before my selfie above and pretended to be psyched until it was (quickly) real.
  3. Be humble
    Yes I did just say "Own your title! Proudly!". But being humble is perhaps the hardest part of the last two points. It involves asking for help. Confessing your feelings of inadequacy, doubt and anxiety. First to the Lord—and then to one of your ride-or-die friends. One of those who has seen you through the good, bad, and the ugly. Someone who won't be afraid to tell you the hard things you need to hear—after listening to you without judgment or a platitude bandaid to slap over it.
    Ask for help. Ask even to be reminded why you write in the first place! And don't be afraid to ask someone who's read your story(ies) why they enjoyed it. Or what you could improve on.
  4. Limit social media.
    This, to me, feels like that machine at the gym that does crunches "for me." All through my own effort, but on a bench thingy. Aka my least favorite machine at the gym because my core is super weak. This is SO neccessary, y'all. And trust me I'm preaching to myself here. Keep in close connection with those ride-or-die friends I mentioned, but set a timer. Something. Unless you honestly need to find some information on the interwebs.
    Bonus? You'll have more time to write.

Can you share a time when Imposter Syndrome tripped you up like it did for me at CFRR? And other practical tips to combat it? Asking for a friend. #not.

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How to Rise from the Ashes of Burn Out

As a rule, creatives err on the sensitive side of the spectrum. They put enormous amounts of pressure on themselves. Add in the trait of being the first born, a perfectionist—you've got a heck of a hot mess.
Tell me I'm not alone in my hot messiness, y'all?
Life comes in seasons, and I am learning slowly, ever so slowly, to lean into them instead of fighting them like Superwoman to keep all the plates spinning above me in perfect sync.
I almost hate even writing about this and cringe thinking of all the true Wonderwomen authors I know who are on hard deadlines, with husbands, with day jobs, with children, with ministries.

But burn out is not exclusive to one demographic group. It's not completely avoidable either since we're humans—not superhumans. What we have to do first, in order to regain some positivity and strength that burnout can zap from us, is identify it, and take one step at a time to rise out of it.

Identifying Burn Out:

  • Exceptional exhaustion
  • Lack of interest in your favorite things
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Immense anxiety/pressure when you even consider getting back to something you love
  • Immense guilt about not doing/being enough

I don't know about you, but I want to continually get back to what sets my soul on fire. On carving out moments to work on what makes me feel most alive—joyously alive.
What makes you feel most alive?
For me? It's writing.
Not that I don't love blogging, but I am an author first. An indie author, at that. Which means I set my own deadlines and make my own plans...which also means self-discipline is always a work in progress. But remember seasons. Seasons with deadlines mean I need to continually work hard to keep boundaries up. With everyone and everything—even if it means disappointing people. Chances are? If you're simply honest with well-meaning friends or coworkers about how you do appreciate the invite, you're on deadline and have to stay on task, they'll understand. That's always been my biggest hang-up—letting people down.
Can I drop a truth bomb that I need to majorly work on remembering?
We don't have to do everything for and with everybody just because there's the option. There's a fine line not of balance, but of boundaries, that look different with every season. Especially when you're coming out of burn out and want to make positive changes to regain some happiness.
Positive changes such as...

How to Rise from the Ashes of Burn Out

  • Make boundaries. Prayerfully.
  • You're allowed to say no.
  • Write out flexible and hard goals you'd like and need to meet.
  • Above all—be honest. With yourself and those in your life as to what you feel up to doing. You're not doing anyone any favors if you're not.

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Wave After Wave

Ever have those moments when you really fully exhale? Releasing tension and stress you knew you were holding but couldn't fully uncurl your fists around? It reminds me of how the salt water swoops up the shore, then sucks it and anything in its path back down into itself. Not a riptide, per se, but that undeniable pull no matter how high you lift your feet to step back and away from it.

My feet sink in the sand and I stare across the glittering expanse that is the Atlantic Ocean. One sister's fearless in the waves, the other laughingly says, "Just think, England's right there."
We're really here. All together in one place. At the beach. Steps away from the shore, for my parents dream vacation.
I have just about almost caught up on sleep. Last week prior to CFRR saw about eighteen hours of sleep for three or four days. That was rough.
But thanks to the incredible presence of God in that hotel in Cinncinatti where almost two hundred people gathered to celebrate story?
I'm finally beginning to get centered again.
Rachael's Reads, Bookworm Mama, & Me

I roomed with The Rach(a)els, got to hug tight so many dear souls who I hadn't seen for a year—had only met last year at the first CFRR—but over the course of the last year a group of us have stayed in touch daily, prayed for each other, spoken truth over one another, and anxiously awaited the next reunion that came and went in a flash, leaving us all with a dizzying book/travel hangover.
Me, Susie Finkbeiner, Jocelyn Green (!!!), Rachel McMillan and Alexis De Weese all played "hookie" for almost an hour in the afternoon of the event. Not that we weren't loving the bookish fangirling and the sessions on subtle faith and the change in Christian fiction or book boyfriends, but we are all introverts. Sleep deprived overly caffeinated introverts. And so we all got to kick back and just be for a little bit. Women who I've only known over the internet and social media—and through their paperbound beauties. If you've been around here for any length of time, you've probably seen me gush about Jocelyn Green's Heroines Behind the Lines Civil War series. So to meet her in person, get multiple hugs (and selfies), and be handed her latest book, a non-fiction called Free to Lean? Yeah, still pinching myself.

Jesus knows bodies of water still my heart and draw my eyes up to Him unlike anything else. Nature and worship music both do that.
Yesterday on the beach when our resident mermaid was taking a breather from wave-jumping, I pulled up the song You Make Me Brave and played it for her.
The chorus goes something like this,
As Your love in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us, You are not against us
Champion of heaven You've made a way
For all to enter in.

And the last few days? From my first solo roadtrip down to Ohio to CFRR, the day and a half spent with some of the most incredible women in my world—who've become soul sisters in how they see me and hear me with the kindness and grace of Jesus—and now at the beach with my family?
These waves of mercy that in truth never cease from my great God, even on the chaotic days? I'm taking time to lean into them, and not let fear hold me back, feet rooted into the sand as I flail around to keep that ever elusive balance.

Lean into the waves of God's love. Take a step forward, ears attuned for His whisper through the crashing of the salt water. And don't be afraid to fall—because He will always, always catch you.

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Owning Your Heart

Can I tell y'all a story?
It was September-ish, new lease on life, my favorite season was coming up—I was so ready to get on with my life after a longer than expected season of healing. While struggling to literally find my footing again—ever been there?—I met this guy. He was cuter than his profile photo, a coffee snob like me, total gentleman and insanely easy to talk to. It felt instantly like we'd grown up together. So easy to talk to and "be myself" with (or so I thought) that I began to get my hopes up way too high / fall too hard.
And so, when he kindly but decisively said he just wasn't that into me, it majorly hurt.

A huge problem in this whole Dating/Waiting game is forgetting that who you are—warts and all—is enough.
Boom. Hang tight, friends. I'm going to tell it like it is here.
Now, having that dream of a Special Someone is valid and important. But trying to force a relationship to happen simply because you're dying for the next part of your life to begin is folly. And it majorly discounts our value in God's eyes—and His role in yours.
Forgive those truth bombs dropped so early, but I promise I speak from an evolving experience. There is a balance between being open and available since, you know, The Guy won't knock on your door with a bouquet and say, "I'm here," and not being desperate and settling on the first guy who'd give you a second date.
I remember saying after it was all over with this guy (most dizzying two weeks of my life, by the way), that "It was just him. It wasn't Could This Be A Boyfriend Finally? It was just him." 
As it should be? Not about The Relationship Status, but about The Guy, right?
Not quite.
Part of why it couldn't work with me and this guy was because I had not regained my footing into my identity. A brand new one, I might add. So when he came along all Jesus-loving and taking the initiative I just let my hopes get caught up in all the What This Could Be, Finally.
Instead of slowing down and asking myself who I was, unapologetically, and what I wanted. Unapologetically.
Placing a huge emphasis on honesty and authenticity in the present day is because, while I always have made that a Non-Negotioable for a guy—but only recently, a challenge to myself.
And to you, dear reader.
Dating is nervewracking. Never knowing just how much to reveal and when and constantly worrying about what they're going to think. It's normal First-Few-Dates awkwardness is all.
But above all—to thine own self be true.
Go with your gut. Two things that sound abstract and cliche, I know, forgive me?
But we must be comfortable being simply ourselves, even in the quiet times, letting your dear heart catch up to life. Comfortable, content, and above all kind—to ourselves—before we can find that elusive settledness and comfort in a Special Someone.
It seems like we have all the time in the world before that Big Next Chapter unfolds. But however long staying single as a Pringle lasts? Soak it up and dig deeper into Who God is, and Whose YOU are. Because the surety that colors such a confidence is a most beautiful peace that you could ever experience.
 This is an installment of our series, Love Life & Literature: Romance in Real Life. In this series, we (myself and Rachael) will be delving into the ups, downs, frustrations, butterflies, and everything in between as career women who love romance, but are still searching in a world that isn’t all Mr. Darcy’s and Prince Charming’s.

Rachael and I take turns every Friday, so keep an eye out for her next installment next Friday. And in the meantime you can read her most recent post here.

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Lights in the Mundane

What's your day-to-day look like? Clients, patients, children, husbands, laundry, dishes, emails, phone calls, you name it. The mundane is at once unique to each of our lives, and the same.
There are some weeks though where there's so much sameness, and more than that—not enough self care and kindness—that an exhaustion can build. No matter what season of life you're in. It happens, we're human.
But what if there was a way to shake up the mundane? The mundane you're so faithful in. Showing up day in and day out to the career, day job, hustle, home and family God's placed you in.
He calls us to be faithful in little things. Entertain strangers and you may be actually entering angels. You know the verses as you plow through your fifth pile of laundry in a day, or the sixth cranky patient who snaps your head off.
You may be one of the most positive people in your home, in your office, what have you—but is it ever a fight? To not get bogged down in the tiring routine that is necessary, but not necessarily inspiring?
Look for the lights.
The pinpricks through the fog, the quick strain of a harmony familiar in the midst of shouting children or twelve people talking at once in a waiting room. Hey, I write what I know here.
Look for the lights.
It may be just listening to an elderly person recount their travels or their doctor son's accomplishments. Or it could be tickling the daylights out of a child and laughing until your tension begins to melt away. Or a surprise text from a friend who never fails to see and hear you—no matter how far away they may be.
There are lights every day of the divine, in the midst of the mundane. Little moments that God sends along to cheer us on. To give us a tiny break. And it's simply because He loves us. It's a part of His strength being made perfect in our weakness—weakness Jesus sympathizes with, having been both God and Man at the same time.
Ease off the accelorator a minute, and take a second to look for a light, this Monday. And know it is God's loving heart towards you that sends it along in the mundane.

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Love Life & Literature Pepper Basham Edition!

THE Pepper Basham is in the house today!
Me and Pepper!

Today, this woman—one of mine and Rachael's biggest inspirations/mentors—is here to share—with insight into her upcoming release!—what to look for in a "sweet thing"/The Guy. Be encouraged and uplifted by these wise, sweet words from one of our favorite romance authors. Who we get to see for the second year in a row at the fabulous Christian Fiction Reader's Retreat in TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY! We're just a little bit excited.

Ma Mitchell’s Advice For Finding Your Perfect Hero
There’s something special about homespun advice, right? Okay, some of the advice can be a little crazy like “You keep flappin’ your jaws like that and you’ll git your tongue sunburnt”, but when lots of love and wisdom mixes with advice, it usually cooks up something wholesome and sweet.
Rachael & Pepper! 
Ma Mitchell from my Mitchell’s Crossroads series is definitely a lady who offers some solid advice to the people around her and in my upcoming release, Charming the Troublemaker, she turns her wise words into a romantic direction.
If you know anything about me, I love talking heroes! Come on, that’s why some of us read romance novels, right? Heroes! And it’s really hard to have a good romance novel without a great hero.
In real life, most of us have looked (or are looking) for our own hero and it’s not always an easy journey.

There’s not a clear-cut scale on hero-measurements. If there was, I’d expect Aragorn from Lord of the Rings or maybe even Captain America right up there near the perfect 10 on the scale, but they’re both fictional fellows!
Well, ironically, our fiction can give us some good advice toward real-life romance. When Rainey Mitchell (the heroine in book 2 of the Mitchell’s Crossroads series) asks Mama Mitchell about how you know when the right ‘sweet thing’ has come along (meaning…hero), Mama Mitchell doles out five questions any heroine should answer about a potential hero.

Let’s take a peek at Ma Mitchell’s list.

  1. Does he have a teachable spirit…or “does he already know everything about everything.”
    Humility is a beautiful thing. A teachable heart, someone who’s willing to talk through situations, listen to another person’s side, and grow from what that person can add to their lives, has a skill that is not only a great life skill, but also beautiful.
  2. How does he respond to ‘gettin’ riled’ or being embarrassed?
    My granny once told me that you can tell a whole lot about a person by the way they handle conflict. If they blame others when angry or embarrassed, if they explode (especially without repentance, if they make excuses for their behavior…then those are all red flags in the hero department. Sure, we all have a tendency to ‘lose it’ sometimes, but humbling ourselves to admit we’ve done wrong, seek forgiveness, and attempt to change (repentance) is a sure-fire characteristic of a hero.
  3.  Does he have a tender heart?
    How does the guy respond to those who are weaker? In need? Younger? Does he even ‘see’ them? Does he criticize their position in the world? Is there a gentlness about him when he engages with you? Those are all important sub-questions to answer 😊
  4. Does he have a steady mind?
    This one can be a little tricky, because it doesn’t mean ‘serious’ or even ‘brilliant’. I suppose the best way to define this idea is to mean “is the guy emotionally healthy for the most part?’ Even in his brokenness, even if he has to seek help or shows weaknesses (which of course he will do!), is there an overall ability to adjust to the demands of the world around him and continue on the life-journey.
  5. Are your souls seeking the same thing?
    Big one, here! As Christians, a decision of significance should always come back to the state of a hero’s soul. How can our hero even become all the other things from our list without the assistance of the Holy Spirit to help him? Two people may have different personalities and interests, but if their souls beat in unison with the Gospel, God can work a fairytale out of the differences.
  6. Does he have a sense of humor?
    I’ll quote Ma Mitchell for this one: “Life is so hard sometimes, and some of the steadiest people I know are the ones with the best senses of humor. Laughin’ often and bringin’ laughter to the ones you love? It can get you through a heap of hardship.”

To be perfectly honest, I think Ma Mitchell’s advice sounds like a great list for anyone to aspire to—hero or heroine. Wouldn't it be great if our world was filled with men and women who actually thought about how their answers to these questions might impact others around them in the real world?
It’s easy to be so influenced by the heroes we read or see, that we forget fiction is fiction for a reason. It’s not real life. Real life heroes are flawed. They don’t always say/do the right things. They’re human, just like you and me. They need God’s help, just like we do.
And if we fill our heads and hearts with fictional expectations, we might miss out on a very human prince charming. YES, we should keep our expectations high, but God has specific heroes for specific heroines for some amazing divine romance he’s writing in our lives.

Let me end this advice post with a quote from my current novel, A Thyme for Romance, where my heroine’s best buddy is giving her some advice.

“Jane Austen wrote Mr. Darcy to be Lizzie Bennet’s hero, not yours. Despite what either of them thought in the beginning, they were what each other needed most.”
The truth in Carrie’s words singed into Daphne’s defenses. “But Darcy already had all the makings of a hero underneath. Lizzie just had to have time to unearth them through time and—”
“Mr. Darcy wasn’t written for you, Daphne. You keep trying to find heroes who are meant for someone else, instead of looking for the hero God’s written into your life. And you know what? He may not fit all the things on your very long list…all the things you think you want, but he’ll be all the things you need.”

So…what do you think of Ma Mitchell and Carrie’s advice? Have anything to add?

About Pepper:
Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus. Her debut historical novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015 and has garnered awards such as Reader’s Favorites Award, finalist in the Grace Awards, shortlisted for the Inspy Awards, and most recently a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards. Her second historical novel, The Thorn Keeper, released in Feb 2016 and her first contemporary romance, A Twist of Faith, released in April 2016 with a 4 star review from Romantic Times. The third book in the Penned in Time series, The Thorn Healer, released in December 2017 with a 4 1/2 star review from Rt and Top Pick rating.

Pepper’s first novella arrived in March as part of a Love at First Laugh novella compilation and her novel, Just the Way You Are, released on April 6th – a funfilled Britallachian romance! And Charming the Troublemaker is coming out in November! All these books and more are available on Amazon.
You can get to know Pepper on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Calling is not "One Size Fits All"

I had a caesar salad and chicken panini. My beautiful friend almost eight years and four kids married? She had broccoli cheddar soup and a sandwich. Growing up together has found us still caring and catching up every long while. After a bit, I filled her in on my life; the dates, the day job, the books. And too, being rather exhausted at the lack of a Special Someone. Now, she is one who I can be authentically myself with—a gift, after all these years. Three years my senior, this friend beamed at me from across the lunch table. "Isn't it wonderful that, these desires in your heart are the ones God made you for? Which means He'll only bring them to pass!" Loosely quoted.
And she is right. My heart was bolstered.

By family, coworkers and friends alike I've been called the nurturer, the mother, the encourager, cheerleader. I care deeply. All facets not merely maternal or feminine—no, that is limiting. But these facets in my heart are of the divine nature. They are parts of God's heart.
In counseling sessions this spring I was challenged to name what I thought was God's favorite thing about me. A few breaths of prayers later, I realized it was —how much I care about people.
We are made in God's image. Many working parts on a vibrant, breathing, intricate body.
Which is why the idea that marriage and motherhood are a woman's highest calling is not steeped in Scripture, but tradition. Tradition that was twisted into a yoke of oppression instead of a mantle of honor thanks to fallen mankind.
Even in today's day and age—it prevents women from reaching their fullest potential.
Trust me. Been there. Let me explain.

This friend and I grew up similarly. Upon crossing the threshold into our respective adulthoods—both oldest children, incredibly romantic and feminine, creative—our lives took the two paths a woman's can take:
She? Marriage and children.
Me? Career(s).
And for the longest time I kept thinking that the swelling purpose in my heart to write was a mere means to an end prior to marriage. Not a real dream or calling on my heart like marriage and children were/are. Surely not! I was just biding my time till Mr. Right came along to sweep me off in a shower of baby's breath and rose petals.
Or so my hopeful romantic heart used to wax and wane.

Calling is not a one size fits all. This friend of mine who married right after high school before going onto having four beautiful children? She also is an incredible artist. A water color painter. An increasingly knowledgeable home renovator. But it is not these, her titles, that define her calling. She has a heart for others. And the others in her immediate sphere of influence? Her husband, children, and church family.
She is walking in obedience to God our Father. Fully and still her own strong person whose capacity to be the hands and feet of Jesus has only grown.
As am I, ever a major work in progress, at my office, in my home, in my new church—and in my books.
Isn't this what we're all called to? How have we lost the divine simplicity in the purpose in bringing the Good News to all?
The Greatest Commandment quiets the well-meant but often pressuring voices of tradition from our strong matriarchs. Who were engaged at twenty-two, married by twenty-four but who know how hard it is to be single, but "Just you wait!" And though we know, we know God's timing is unique? Those examples are bittersweet to hear over and over again. So are the bridesmaids duties, the sticking your neck out there only to be friendzoned. You get my point.

I have to note too: the Greatest Commandment also silences the lewd voices of misogyny and sexism that our fallen world is filled with still today—that grieve God's heart as much as they lash across our souls as women.
The fairer sex? No. God created us to wear His armor, to give and sustain life. To teach, and, yes, lead. Created equal in the Garden of Eden.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 

Our callings are not one and done. I may be a contented career woman, but that doesn't cancel out the hope of one day having a special guy in my life and eventually children. Not one dream, goal, or Relationship Status is lesser or greater than another.

Tell me, friend? What's your calling, The Greatest Commandment, look like in your everyday?

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