Life Lesson: Making an Effort—Guest Post by Jill Kemerer and a Giveaway!

J Kemerer Making an effort quote

I first met Jill Kemerer over at the Books and Such blog. When I was ready to brave beginning my own blog, Jill stepped up to answer my every last question (with much patience, I might add!). We’ve since met in person, and she has become a special friend. I’m so excited to host her here today for the final installment in my series about Life Lessons. (You can read parts one, two, three, and four here). Read to the end and learn about her latest book and a giveaway.

Please welcome Jill!

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What life lesson has changed you the most?

When Jeanne posed this question to me, I had no idea it would be so hard to answer. Unfortunately, I’ve learned a lot of life lessons! I am NOT perfect.

But looking back, I think the one thing I learned that changed me the most was to make an effort with strangers and acquaintances. I’ve always been introverted yet oddly social. As a kid, I loved making my friends and family laugh, but I felt awkward around people I didn’t know.

For some reason, I always had this feeling that I didn’t have anything to offer, like why would they want to talk to me? Silly, huh!

My dog’s nose peeking out from the blanket reminds me of how I used to feel. Introverts often don’t enjoy crowds.

My dog’s nose peeking out from the blanket reminds me of how I used to feel. Introverts often don’t enjoy crowds.

As I entered my teen years, I made friends naturally, but I heard the following a few times, “When I first met you I thought you were stuck up, but you’re not like that at all.”

My first reaction? Gee, thanks. But I took their words to heart. I realized I had a different view of myself than others did. By allowing shyness to prevent me from making an effort, I was unknowingly giving the impression I was arrogant.

This is my husband and I on a recent vacation. A smile conveys so much. If I’m too tired or drained to speak to someone, I at least smile!

This is my husband and I on a recent vacation. A smile conveys so much. If I’m too tired or drained to speak to someone, I at least smile!

I began talking to people I would have been too intimidated to speak to previously. I’m not going to lie. It felt uncomfortable. Sometimes they weren’t friendly. Other times they were wonderful. But I realized how they reacted wasn’t the point. If someone didn’t like me, no big deal. At least I tried.

I’m glad I learned that lesson early, because my entire adult life has involved relocating every few years. Starting over in a strange town would have been much more isolating and difficult if I had never learned this lesson. When my kids were young, I joined playgroups. Often there were clusters of other moms who knew each other from way back when. I forced myself to talk to them. Sometimes it took three or four different tries before they were receptive. In other towns, I was blessed to connect with a kind soul right away.

I also learned not to jump to conclusions about people. If I’m at one of my kids’ practices and a mom I don’t know is sitting off by herself, I don’t assume she’s stuck up or antisocial. It might mean she’s uncomfortable or lonely. It could mean she had a bad day or had a bad experience with some of the parents. Maybe she’s nervous about her kid’s performance. Who knows? It’s none of my business. What is my business is to introduce myself and make her feel welcome.

Now when I’m at a writer’s conference or a dinner with strangers, I do my best to be friendly and welcoming to anyone I meet. And you know what? I think this was the real me all along. It feels good to brighten someone’s day. So many people feel lonely at big events. I’m glad God is using me to encourage others.

Thank you so much, Jeanne, for hosting me today.

Have you ever felt shy and self-conscious around strangers? If so, how do you work through this?

Jill’s newest book is releasing TODAY! She’s hosting a giveaway that begins at 6:00 a.m. on August 31st and ends at 9:00 p.m. September 5th. This contest is open to US residents.Read about her book and enter by pressing on “Entry Form” below to earn entries.  

Unexpected Family SmallUNEXPECTED FAMILY

His Surprise Daughter

After five years apart, Tom Sheffield is shocked to find his ex-wife, Stephanie, on his doorstep. The news that they share a child he’s never met sends him reeling. Four-year-old Macy has his eyes, his mouth and, from their first encounter, his heart. Things with her mother are much more complicated. He doesn’t understand what went wrong between them or why she kept their daughter a secret. And he’s afraid of falling in love all over again. Yet he feels a glimmer of hope that somehow he can convince Macy and Stephanie to stay in Lake Endwell—and with him—for keeps.

Unexpected Family purchase links: http://jillkemerer.com/books/unexpected-family/

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About Jill

Jill-Kemerer-Blue-300dpiJill Kemerer writes contemporary romance novels with love, humor and faith. A full time writer, she relies on coffee and chocolate to keep up with her kids’ busy schedules. Besides spoiling her mini-dachshund, Jill adores magazines, M&Ms, fluffy animals and long nature walks. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Jill loves connecting with readers, so please visit her website, jillkemerer.com.

You can also connect with Jill on Facebook and Twitter.

Alone: Blessings in Alone Time

Ps 37-4

Our Five Minute Friday prompt this week is—ALONE. This largely unedited “rough draft” form of writing stretches this perfectionist, in the best of ways. I write for five minutes on a given topic. If you’re interested in learning more about 5-Minute Fridays, check out our hostess, Kate Motaung’s site. Or, click on the link at the bottom of this post. As you read my simpler Friday posts, I hope you’ll join in the conversation!

ALONE

In 1994, I attended eleven (yes, eleven) weddings, and I was a bridesmaid in three of them. At that point in my life, all I wanted was to be a wife and a mom. I was a teacher, which was great, but I was doing life alone. And at that point, a small part of me feared I would always be alone.

During that season of my life, the Lord taught me a few things. First of all, He gave me a verse to cling to—Psalm 37:4. He reminded me that when my desire is Him, contentment will always follow.

Contentment isn’t always an easy gift to choose. But once we cling to it, peace seems to be the surprise gift that tags along behind. What the Lord showed me during that time alone was that my focus could be on Him only, and He was a great place to focus!

I found myself during those alone times. I learned not to dread a Sunday afternoon by myself. I had the freedom to read a novel, or study the Bible. I could play volleyball with friends, on a whim.

I began to see aspects about me God wanted to work on, changes that would conform me into the image of Jesus.

Bench Alone

In those alone times I learned to be okay with not having all my dreams right then. Sometimes God uses those uncomfortable seasons in our lives to prepare us for the dreams He has for us. He scrapes out the chaff we’ve allowed to grow within our hearts, and He replaces it with His clear presence. He enables us to reflect him more accurately.

He prepares us for when He does bring our dreams to fruition.

If I had met my husband before 1994—if I was planning a wedding that year—I would have missed out on some of the gifts He had for me. I would have been into the role of wife, without completely understanding the beauty that comes from putting Jesus first. I would have missed out on the blessings that come from solitude . . .

. . . Of knowing His nearness.

Sunset glory

There were times when the loneliness ate at me. I’ll be honest. Mother’s Day three states away from my mom? All my married friends spending time with their families? Yeah, it was hard.

But, I learned to seek Jesus in those days. And in His presence, I’m never alone.

What about you? What blessings have you gained in the “alone times?” How have you handled times when you didn’t want to be alone but were?

Visit Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday post—Alone

Life Lessons: If We Will Just Move—Guest Post by Tiffany Parry

Moving Stream

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I met Tiffany Parry on a weekly link up we both do called Five Minute Fridays. As we’ve gotten to know each other through our blogs, my respect for this lady continues to grow. She’s a beautiful writer and a sweet lady with a vibrant relationship with God. I asked her to share part four of my series Life Lessons. (Find Parts One, Two, and Three here). I look forward to the day I get to sit and have coffee with Tiffany in person. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the words she shares on her blog.

Please help me welcome Tiffany!

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My 40th birthday is a few weeks away. As I look ahead with anticipation, I also look back and assess the landscape of my life. I’m counting what I’ve accomplished, the dreams I’ve pursued, and even the longings I’ve allowed to slip through my fingers.

It’s true what they say: youth is wasted on the young.

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Find: Being Found

Psalm 139 moon shine

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Our Five Minute Friday prompt this week is—FIND. This largely unedited “rough draft” form of writing stretches this perfectionist, in the best of ways. I write for five minutes on a given topic. If you’re interested in learning more about 5-Minute Fridays, check out our hostess, Kate Motaung’s site. Or, click on the link at the bottom of this post. As you read my simpler Friday posts, I hope you’ll join in the conversation!

FIND

I was petty young the first time I hid on purpose. Not playing hide-and-seek, but really deliberately hid.

My sisters and I were at our cousins’ house. Someone had hurt my feelings, and so I decided to hide. They had a square brick column, maybe four feet high, that sat in the back alley. Back in the day, it’s where people dumped the ashes from their cooking fires. I shimmied in there and waited.

First, I hid because my feelings were hurt. Then, because I was mad, I decided to stay hidden. My aunt, cousins, called my name, waiting for me to respond. No one thought to look in the ash container. So I stayed.

Flower amid rock

After awhile, it grew lonely, and I got over my mad and came out. I didn’t want to be found, and I’d discovered the perfect hiding spot.

How many times have I wanted someone to find me? Those times when I felt invisible, unseen, insignificant? I wanted someone to find me, to affirm me. I admit, I still struggle with being an affirmation junkie.

Sometimes I’ve hidden to protect my feelings,my heart. But I longed to be found by someone.

God is so sweet. He tells us in Psalm 139 that He sees us in the light, He sees us in the darkness. The darkness is as light to Him. We may try to hide, but He always knows where to find us.

As I read this psalm again this morning, I realized He also finds us in the dark seasons of our lives, when circumstances threaten to overwhelm us. We may feel invisible to the world, to those around us. We may feel invisible to Him, whether we’re trying to hide or not. We may feel engulfed by life’s hard.

Butterfly on flowers

But He sees us. He finds us in our dark places. He finds us in the darkest of trials, and He sits with us, walks with us, leads us. He always knows where to find us.

Have you been found by Him lately?

What about you? When have you hidden successfully? When have you wanted to be found?

Visit Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday post—FIND

Life Lessons: Finding Peace

Summer Snowballs

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

This is part three in a five-part series about life lessons. Some friends and I are answering the question: What life lesson has changed you the most? You can read part one and part two here.

I don’t know when I fell in love with photography. As a girl, I begged for a camera. And for my tenth Christmas, my parents gave me their old Kodak 110 camera. I made everyone shrug into their winter coats and stand outside on bare, brown ground so I could take family photographs. My camera made occasional appearances after that.

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Learn: The Best Lessons

Autumn path

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Our Five Minute Friday prompt this week is—LEARN. This largely unedited “rough draft” form of writing stretches this perfectionist, in the best of ways. I write for five minutes on a given topic. If you’re interested in learning more about 5-Minute Fridays, check out our hostess, Kate Motaung’s site. Or, click on the link at the bottom of this post. As you read my simpler Friday posts, I hope you’ll join in the conversation!

This prompt goes along well with series I’m hosting on my blog this month on Life Lessons. I shared one of the most life-changing lessons I’ve learned in a recent post. As I thought about other life-lessons, here’s another one I’ve learned.

LEARN

Life offers many opportunities to learn.

As a child, I learned the sting that rejection inflicts on a girl’s heart. I learned the warped lies that come from believing the words, when they’re said to you enough. And for years, I believed them.

As a teen, I learned the truth of Jesus’ gospel gift. And I embraced Him as my Savior, and my Lord. I wouldn’t learn what it means to know Him as a lover until much later.

As a college student, I learned that compromise never leads to lasting joy. Compromise may lead to temporary acceptance, short-term feel-goods, but never to lasting fulfillment.

As a young professional (teacher) I learned the beauty of falling in love with God’s word. Hardship in the classroom instilled on my heart the need for knowing God’s word. Leaning into Him was the best thing I could have learned in my tumultuous first year of teaching.

Quiet Time

In my twenties I learned the heartache and the beauty of waiting. That when I waited for God’s best for me, I would learn how to desire Him above any man. And when God brought the man I’d prayed over for years? He was so much better than anything I could have dreamed up.

Infertility? Yea, lots of lessons there. Adoption? Lots more lessons there. For another post.

Now, as a mom in my forties, I’m learning how to begin letting go of the precious boys God’s given us. Sure, they’re only twelve and eleven, but already, they’re anxious to discover who they’re meant to be. They may not know it yet, but they’ll have many life lessons to learn as well.

Watching them get hurt—trusting them into God’s hands is hard—but it holds its own beauty. 

Holding Hands

Growing older with my husband, I’m still learning the delight that comes in complete acceptance/unconditional love from a human.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned so far in my nearly fifty years? I don’t have to work for acceptance from anyone else. God’s unfailing acceptance of me—His delight and perfect love for me—is enough.

What about you? What ’s one lesson you’ve been learning? What’s the most life-changing lesson you’ve learned? 

Life Lessons: An Embarrassing Display—Guest Post by Shelli Littleton

8. Bear (1)

 

I’m so excited to have Shelli Littleton guest posting today, as the second of a five part series on Life Lessons. I first “met” Shelli on a blog we both follow. Her thoughtful, encouraging comments—both in response to that blog, as well as to other commenters—revealed what a uplifting person she is. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her over the last couple years. Her love for Jesus and living her life for Him comes through her words.  

Please welcome Shelli!

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By Shelli Littleton

“Shelli, you have about a 50% chance of conception,” my doctor said, leaning over my hospital bed. I can’t begin to relay the pain I felt or the tears I cried. For you see, having a family had been my childhood dream.

Embarrassment … shame, and everything in between, covered me. All my friends were having babies … baby showers. I felt less than ….

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Here: Determined to Stay Here

Rainy day road

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Our Five Minute Friday prompt this week is—HERE. This largely unedited “rough draft” form of writing stretches this perfectionist, in the best of ways. I write for five minutes on a given topic. If you’re interested in learning more about 5-Minute Fridays, check out our hostess, Kate Motaung’s site. Or, click on the link at the bottom of this post. As you read my simpler Friday posts, I hope you’ll join in the conversation!

HERE

Tweeting with some of the FMF ladies tonight, the phrase, “keeping it real,” came up. How easy is it, really, to do this? As I’ve thought about what my week has held . . . oh, it’s been real all right.

Real agonizing as one boy struggles with what his core identity is.

Real painful as I watch him battle things out with me and those around him.

Real sorrowful knowing I can’t be all that I want to be for him.

Because, really, what he—and all of us—needs is that close intimacy with Jesus. Right here, in our hearts, in our thoughts.

At times this week, I questioned why God thought I was ever the right person to mother these two amazing boys—His gifts to us.

But, gifts don’t always come with no trouble. The most worthwhile gifts often require change in the recipient. And so too, does the gift of motherhood.

Hands fingers intertwined

Right here, in my home, I’ve been challenged to stay humble before the Lord. To press in hard to Him, begging for a soft heart once again.

Right here in my home, I’ve cried, I’ve ranted a little, and I’ve prayed . . . hard, for all that’s going on in our hearts.

It’s right here in this place, on my face, where God can work the changes in me that He needs to work. When I am humble before Him, when I’m willing to look at everything going on with eyes that look beyond my own hurt? That’s when He can begin the work of healing and restoring.

I need to be here, in this place—right now—for Him to begin that work. No, I don’t want to be in the place of pain. But it’s often here when I feel the closest to Him . . . When I know His peace the most intimately.

Orangy flowers

It’s only here, in this moment—hands lifted to God in prayer and choosing to worship Him—that I can know the depths of His presence.

Right here is where I’ll remain, even when life’s pain is great.

What about you? When have you chosen to endure pain to know God better? How do you remain in the hard places without losing heart?

Hop on over to Kate Motaung’s site, and celebrate her one year anniversary of hostessing Five Minute Friday—Here

Life Lesson: What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Footprint and wave

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I’m beginning a five week Tuesday series. I’ve asked some friends to join me in sharing their answers to this question: What life lesson have you learned that has changed you the most? Please stayed tuned as Shelli Littleton, Michelle Lim, Tiffany Parry, and Jill Kemerer also share what life lesson changed them the most. And please join in the conversation each week!

I thought I’d begin by sharing my answer.

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“What’s love got to do with it?” Everything, it turns out. Sorry if I just put Tina Turner into your heads.

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