I’m thrilled to announce that our first grandchild, Delia Joy, was born on Sunday, January 13th. She weighed in 8 pounds and is gorgeous!
A few pictures of her being welcomed to the family . . .
Community is a huge deal for me. It’s one of the main reasons I write books, and one of the unexpected benefits to being an author. I’m blessed to have a group of readers who support one another in love, across miles and time and space. This is enormously important to me.
That’s also why my husband and I feel God has called us to the ministry of community. We want to offer hope. We are called to a belief in hope.
Read more about our ministry here.
Our third daughter Cate is in her last month of her first year at Unity College in Maine. This education was entirely funded by a wonderful scholarship from Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. We are grateful, and even though there were times throughout the year when we weren’t sure how she was going to cover things like car insurance, gas and flights home for holidays, God provided.
Cate’s car is in serious mechanical trouble. The experts in Maine have advised that the engine needs to be replaced. She needs to get it home to Florida, if she can, so that she can drive to her internship in Fort Myers this summer. She plans to drive it as far as Gettysburg in May, where we have a trusted mechanic who can give her an honest assessment of its future. PLEASE PRAY for Cate and Haley’s safety as they drive from Maine to Pennsylvania, for good news about the car, and for provision for them to make it back to Florida.
My book sales have been able to sustain us for nearly a year, covering our rent (which is amazingly reasonable, thanks to our wonderful landlady), our utilities (electric and water–we don’t have landlines or cable) and our food, as well as providing enough to pay for Clint’s gas, car insurance, the costs of providing for those who are in need of food or other essentials, and certain associated costs of doing pastoral work.
In February and March, sales dipped to an all-time low for me (and for many other authors). Since royalties are paid on a 90 day basis, that means that May and June are going to be challenging months. I’ve looked into getting a job to help supplement my author income, but so far, we’ve only hit dead ends there. Please pray for God’s provision so that we can continue to keep a roof over our heads, the lights burning and food on the table.
A new senior living facility opened this spring, and Clint approached them to offer pastoral help. We weren’t sure what was going to come of it; believe it or not, people are very suspicious when free services are offered. However, slowly Allegro began to ask Clint to do things–to lead a weekly Bible study–and then offered us the use of their facilities for our weekly service. Clint now leads a weekly service for the residents and the larger community, as well as services for the memory care unit.
While Allegro provides us the linen for the altar, the cross, the candles and the room itself, we provide the elements for Eucharist (grape juice, wine, matzah, oil). This isn’t much, but it’s still a weekly need.
The Community Garden is a huge blessing! It teaches us so much–patience, trust, endurance–and its fruits (well, they technically vegetables!) go to feed those who might otherwise not have fresh produce. Plus, it opens opportunities for people of different generations to interact and work together.
The Garden has needs if it is to keep growing (literally and figuratively!). We need equipment for irrigation (about $100). We need a new wheelbarrow (about $75). We need seeds (about $50). We need physical help–every Saturday from 9-12, a group meets at the garden to work.
Again, if you are so moved, if you feel God is asking you to help in any way–feel free to reach out to me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment here, or message me on Facebook.
And again–if you are so moved, you can help by donating at YouCaring (https://www.youcaring.com/thecommunitychaplain-880048) OR by donating through our dedicated PayPal button: paypal.me/TheCommunityChaplain .
And prayer support and encouragement is always appreciated.
Thank you and bless you for your support and encouragement!
In some recent posts, I’ve referenced the ministry in which my husband and I are involved. Today, I want to talk about exactly what it is.
What is The Community Chaplain?
TCC is a non-denominational, inclusive ministry that reaches out to those in need of pastoral care or help and guidance in times of life transition. Our goal is to build and support community wherever we serve.
We work with people on life transitions, which can include moving into assisted living, working out at-home elder care and moving from rehabilitation back home, as well as a multitude of other related needs.
We visit specific people on a weekly basis for the purpose of fellowship, Bible study and simple home repair. This is part of the over-arching ministry of presence.
We make hospital visits for those who need support during times of family or personal illness.
We perform weddings, funerals, baptisms, home blessings and ministry of the sick.
We make twice a week visits to a local nursing home that has no other chaplaincy support, visiting the patients and praying with them as requested.
We lead a service at a local nursing home 2-3 Sundays a month, with the support of several of our ministry partners.
We minister via telephone, offering encouragement and information to those in need or crisis.
We join the community in weekly worship at Allegro Senior Living, celebrating a simple service with the residents and members of the larger community.
We have developed a community garden to offer more opportunity for fellowship and community! There are plots available for those who want to cultivate their own vegetables or flowers, and there are multiple opportunities to join in the larger plot by weeding and helping with planning and planting.
There is no ordinary day in this ministry. We might spend a few hours having coffee with an elderly lady who has asked us to do some home repairs, and then stop at another couple’s home to put together a new kitchen table, and then meet someone else at Panera to offer a listening ear, and then spend a few hours on the telephone working out a delicate assisted-living transition before we devote some time to preparing the next lesson or service.
None of these tasks are paid. All are freely offered. All are freely and joyfully given.
We are doing everything we can to be faithful to the calling God has placed in our lives.
Nothing happens in a vacuum, and God moves us in His ways and time, so this ministry has been a long time in the making.
In 2008, God led Clint to attend seminary after twenty-plus years in the military and in private sector business. During that time, Clint began to minister to the homeless and those in need through the Loaves and Fishes program. Following his graduation in 2011, he took a position with a hospice provider as a chaplain.
In 2014, Clint moved from hospice chaplaincy to parish ministry when he took an assistant priest position at the Anglican church we’d attended for four years. He was able to further hone his pastoral care gifts there.
By the end of 2015, we knew God was doing something. The situation at the church was causing our family more pain than positivity, and in light of that, to seek God’s will for our next move, we spent the last week of Advent in prayer and fasting.
God apparently took us seriously when we committed to following His plan. On Epiphany, January 6th, Clint’s position in the church was eliminated because of budget constraints. We both felt strongly that God was leading not to a new parish position or another hospice chaplaincy but to serve Him in a new way.
Since then, we have been working solely as God leads, day by day. It is not an easy process. God does not send a daily schedule of activities, a blueprint for the future or notice of how the bills will be paid. But He is faithful nonetheless.
He has impressed upon us time and again that our mission is to reach His people one by one. Numbers are not the goal. And again and again, He tells us: “Behold, I am doing a new thing.”
We’ve been blessed to minister to those who are not comfortable seeking help from a church, to those who are part of a church that cannot accommodate their needs, or to those who have no religious affiliation or desire for one. We do not proselytize or evangelize, trusting that God opens eyes as He wills.
So without a salary, how are we living? That’s a great question!
God does provide, and over the course of this year, my book income has risen slowly, which helps. We’ve also been blessed by gifts as people are moved to be part of the ministry in that way.
But as you can imagine, we rely heavily on donations. That’s why this Giving Tuesday is so important to us. We’re working hard to raise enough funds to continue the ministry through 2018, to help continue to grow the Garden and to help those in need.
How can YOU help?
–Donate through our dedicated PayPal button: paypal.me/TheCommunityChaplain
-Donate via mail by sending a check made payable to The Community Chaplain to PO Box 195631, Winter Springs, FL 32719.
And prayer support and encouragement is always appreciated!
Last month, I had lunch with a good friend who is an author, too–she lives in New England, so we don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like. She was just returning from the San Francisco Uncon, and she had a lot to share with me.
One of the suggestions she had for me, personally, was to consider starting a Patreon page. Since I didn’t know much about it, I did some investigation. You might know that centuries ago, in Venice and Rome and other settings of classical art and literature, rich patrons would sponsor artists who otherwise might not have been able to survive on what they were earning through their art. This was a wonderful way for the patrons to be part of the creative process, even if they themselves weren’t gifted to create in a particular way.
Patreon operates under the same principle. For those of us who struggle to make ends meet on the money earned by our art, it’s a constant battle between creating and worry. Patreon allows us to offer incentives to supporters who will agree to pledge a certain monthly amount.
And so . . . I have a Patreon page. It’s brand new, having just launched on April 1st. I hope you’ll check it out; I’m pretty excited about the concept. My hope is that I can garner enough support to give me a little breathing room during those months when sales flounder or when I need to beef up my advertisement a bit (read: advertise at ALL).
I didn’t do this lightly. Newsflash: I HATE asking people for money. Hate it. Truth to tell, if I could live without food, a home and internet, I’d write my books and give them away. But I can’t live without those things, nor can my family. So I’m swallowing a shit-load of pride and asking people who CAN afford it to consider supporting the arts and the artist.
I am fully aware that artists are not the only people who struggle with a month that is longer than our paychecks or bank accounts allow. So I don’t expect everyone to jump onto this bandwagon. But I would love it if people who can’t support could SHARE so that perhaps others might consider joining.
I’ve modeled the levels of support on the basis of romance, so there’s First Love ($3), Going Steady ($5), Time for a Ring ($25), Wedding Bells ($50), Golden Anniversary ($100), Always and Forever ($500). Each level has its own set of rewards.
Please DO jump over there and look at the page . . . and consider supporting and/or sharing. Both are appreciated.
As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. It was my first ambition, and I wrote my first book in grade school, submitted it to Harper & Row and received my first rejection postcard. I wasn’t deterred, though. I knew, with the sort of certainty only an eleven-year-old can muster, that I was destined for authorhood.
Life got in the way of that dream, replacing it with other equally as dear and important dreams. I went through school, got married and became a mother. I used my passion for writing in other areas of life, like editing my kids’ school papers, my husband’s work and our churches’ newsletters. I wrote homeschooling curriculum during the years we homeschooled our kids.
When the universe finally worked things out that I had the time and attention to give to fiction again, I was forty-one years old. The same year I finished my first novel was a pivotal year in the publishing industry, because Amazon had released the Kindle in 2007, and KDP had joined Smashwords and other smaller outlets that made publishing a book on your own possible. However, indie publishing wasn’t mainstream yet. I didn’t even consider going my own way until I’d tried everything I could on the traditional side of publishing.
But in December of 2011, I took the plunge and became part of the indie publishing wave. I have no regrets about making that choice. It has allowed me freedom and control and the ability to shape my career in a way that works for me. I wouldn’t change that path to go the traditional route for anything in the world.
And yet . . .
The last six and a half years have contained some of my highest high points–the proudest moments of my life aside from marrying my husband and delivering my four children. I’ve seen my books climb charts. I’ve seen stories that started as a momentary bit of fantasy in my brain morph into words on a page, both paper and electric. I’ve interacted with readers who told me that my stories helped them or cheered them or helped bring them closure. I’ve met readers who have become friends. I’ve met authors who have become friends.
But these years have also contained some of my lowest lows, days of doubts and fears and so much anguish that I wasn’t sure I could go on. There have been so many weeks when I was sure I wasn’t good enough and never would be. There have been months when I’ve felt like the biggest failure as not only an author and businesswoman, but also as a mother and wife, because I’ve dedicated so much time to my work that I have missed out on things with my family.
One of the great things about indie publishing is the community, and I have been blessed to sit at the virtual feet of some of the authors I have admired for a long time. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for all of it. At the same time, though, one thing I’ve learned is that everyone is on her own path, and so when I ask for advice, it might not be exactly what I need. It might not work for me. It might–but there’s just as good a chance that it won’t.
I’ve increased how often I release . . . only to be told that real success comes from making readers eager and anxious for the next story by releasing less frequently. So I’ve slowed releases.
I’ve increased prices to show that I value my work . . . only to be told that free or 99 cents is a better way to go.
I’ve tried different genres of romance when one didn’t work well, only to be told that I need to stick with one so as not to dilute my branding.
I’ve joined groups where authors with quantified success tell others how to translate what they did into similar success. I’ve read the books everyone says we should read. I’ve listened to the podcasts and gone to the conferences and taken advice.
I’ve tried Facebook ads, BookBub ads, AMS ads, only to be told that advertising is pointless. I’ve spent what is to me a lot of money, and I’ve seen almost no results, because, I’m told, I need to spend more to see more.
I’m not someone who has to be led, who needs someone to tell me what to do. I’m strong-minded. I’ve raised three strong daughters and one strong son, and I’ve run a household, I’ve handled my parents’ very complex estates, I’ve been an Army wife who can organize a move, a dinner party and emergency care for disasters.
But this is breaking me.
I’ve had down times in the past. But nothing has been as bad as the past few months. You see, until last January, while my book income was definitely helpful, it wasn’t crucial. Now it IS. Now, we live and eat and pay all our bills on that book income. And that income isn’t growing with each new release–in fact, despite the fact that I work an average of nearly 20 hours a day 6-7 days a week, that income is dropping steadily. It’s the way the business is trending. There are too many authors, too many books and too much noise. Some of us are still doing well, but some of us are not.
Talk about pressure . . .
Am I whining? Maybe. Am I complaining when I shouldn’t? Maybe. Do others have it much worse? Oh, without a doubt. No question. I know this.
But this is my reality and my struggle. My path. I also know I’m not alone. I’ve talked to authors who are feeling the same, authors who are wondering if they can make it.
Brutal honesty time: I have been questioning, over the last few weeks, if this is worth it. I wonder if it’s time to give up on the dream, stop subjecting myself to the constant rollercoaster ride that is releases and promotions and sales numbers. I’ve been closer to complete despair in the last month than I have been in over two decades.
I’ve been writing this post for a while. I’ve almost deleted it more than once. If I do share it, the only reason will be so that another author who is out there struggling as I am will know she is not alone.
Today, I’m not giving up. Today, I’ll write some more words, and I’ll do something for my next release (my 59th release, which is this coming Saturday, on my 51st birthday). Today, I’ll chat with my reader friends and I’ll hope something I say makes a difference. I’ll reach out to other authors and try to help.
For one more day, I’ll believe that something, somewhere, is finally going to work, not only for me, but for all the dreamers who keep on working and hoping.