Introducing (drum roll please…) Ramiah Elizabeth Trevino!

I was watching TV with my youngest son Monday night — something I rarely do in the first place. Which is just one of the reasons the moment will always stand out.

We had planted ourselves there after his Scout den meeting because a former student from our local Catholic high school, whom we watched with great admiration during his days at Shanley High School, is scheduled to be on The Voice in the coming weeks, and we thought maybe, maybe this would be the day. So we looked on with rapt attention, only to suspect we’d missed the day our hometown hero Mike Leier would have his big moment on national television.

As we watched and waited, my phone dangled just behind us on the top of the couch, hooked up to the outlet behind to get juiced up enough to accommodate an evening phone interview. I glanced toward it for a moment when I saw the Facebook status update notification light up. And then I squealed out loud, realizing what it was!!!

“Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” The expression became a common one to me during my writing journey with Ramona Trevino these past couple years. She even took to saying it herself a few times, knowing it was my word but certainly worth borrowing when the occasion called for it.

The ushering in of a new life is certainly an occasion for such a word to be used, and I could help but call it up in that moment. Especially when I saw her cute, chubby little face for the first time!

It’s been a long time since someone super close to me — someone almost like a sister — had a baby. And honestly, the excitement I felt over seeing this new little life was a bit overwhelming. Even though I knew this baby was part of our journey from the beginning, and would play a very special role in both our lives, I didn’t quite expect the rush of feelings I would experience.
I never had a younger sister, but surely, this is what it would have felt like to be an auntie to the baby of a younger sister, I thought. I was instantly in love. I stared at the image over and over, unbelieving that just hours before, Ramona and I had been talking on the phone. “I think my water may have broken,” she’d said. And soon I’d received a text noting that she was on her way to the hospital and likely would be having little Ramiah before the night was through.
When our youngest was born in 2005, Facebook hadn’t reallyeven become a thing yet — not like it is now anyway. And I had yet to discover the world of blogging. It’s hard for me, the natural communicator that I am, to recall a world without it, but most of my life rolled along fine with no Facebook updates. 
Yet I have to admit, this is one of the most exciting aspects of social media, this chance to learn about big events so soon on the heels of the actual event occurring; like the birth of a baby, especially when you’re as far as Texas is from North Dakota. It brings two worlds so much closer together and I love that about it. And I’m so glad Ramona’s oldest daughter Lorena was willing to keep up with the status updates. Of course she would! She’s never known differently.
I’d been holding the precious image of a bundled Ramiah in my heart through the earlier part of Tuesday when her mama, Ramona, who had undergone a C-section (Ramiah weighed in at nearly 10 pounds) texted me and our third collaborating sister, Lauren, with another photo, this time with Ramian’s eyes popped open and looking like she was ready to go shopping or out to lunch.

 

“Hello world! Hello Auntie Lauren and Auntie Roxane,” read the words below. Now it was confirmed. No wonder I felt so close to that little pumpkin. She was claiming me as her auntie, even if only through her sweet mama.

Well, I can’t get this little sweetheart out of my brain. She came at a time when I surely needed some good news. The week after the release of our new book, “Redeemed by Grace,” has come with more than a few moments of consternation; things not fitting for this blog post, but suffice it to say, the beautiful news of new life was welcomed beyond imagining.

I don’t know exactly what role this dolly will play in my life, but I feel so very close to her already! After all, she was listening in on the million phone conversations her mom and I had those nine months she was cozy in her womb. When we laughed, when we cried, when we yelled, “Weeeeeeee!” together, baby Ramiah was there, sucking her thumb, swimming in amniotic waters, hanging out with God, waiting for the day he would say, “It’s time, little one. Go to the others who love you now, so you can begin making your way back to me.”

I honestly don’t know how Ramona can possibly take all of this in. A book, a baby, all within a week. But I know this. We are both so filled with gratitude. All these months before, so much preparation, so much waiting, so much paving the way for what would go down these last seven days.

All of it miracle, blessing, gift.

Thank you, dear Lord, for bringing hope into our world once again in the form of this precious child!

Q4U: What looks like love in your life this week?

meaningful mondays: a little vase of something fun to come + a soup story

I’m just a little excited about something. Hint: It’s green and yellow and warms my heart.

Only I can’t say exactly where this will be, or what will come with it. BUT…I think those who have been faithful followers of Peace Garden Mama and Peace Garden Writer, or even just plain old friends with little old me, will be tickled with me over it.

I’ll share more about that lovely image soon. But while we’re waiting on those sunflowers to simmer…

I have a story about this weekend to share. It all started when I got a note from my friend Laetitia asking if I wanted to get together. It’s been hard finding time to sit with friends lately, even though it is one of my all-time favorite activities. But it had been a very long time since I’d seen her. Too long. I cleared my schedule Saturday to make it work.

We’d gone back and forth a few times on plans, and even postponed it from last weekend, when Valentine’s Day got in the way. But finally, the time had come. I’d just wrapped up a weekend writing project and was excited to get out and see this sweet friend.

I arrived at the coffee shop right on time, 3:30 p.m. She wasn’t there yet, and I hadn’t had lunch, so I decided to order a little something. The menu had been expanded to include more food items since my last visit, and I was thrilled to see the Reuben sandwich included. And soup, too. My father loved a hearty Reuben and was also a big fan of all different kinds of soup. I can’t help but think of him when I order that combination. And it had been a while since a Reuben had come my way, so  was ready!

At 3:32 I thought I’d better text just to make sure we were on track: “Just got here and ordered lunch. I haven’t eaten yet,” I typed. Then I thought I’d better make sure we were thinking of the same location, since this coffee shop has two. “25th right?”

“Yes,” she replied. Good. Certainly, she’ll be here any minute, I thought. “See you soon!” I texted back.

I sat down and checked my email. My food was announced. I collected everything and sat down to enjoy it. I had my back to the door so I kept looking back so I’d catch her eye when she arrived.

Which would be any minute now. Right?

Or not.

I enjoyed each bite of the Reuben and every last drip of soup. I thought of how my Dad used to use ice cubes to cool off my hot soup when I was little and we were eating at one of the many greasy spoon cafes he loved. I was enjoying my time filling up and warming up. But I was alone still. No Laetitia.

I paused. Should I order a drink now? Where could she be? Finally, a text came in. “Are we at 2 different locations???”

Oh no. Oh NO! No wonder she hadn’t arrived yet. Now, how did this get mixed up? Weren’t we clear?

“25 Dunn,” I texted. Then, for clarification, “Are you at Caribou?”

:) I am at Caribou 25 and 13. Yes.”

“Ahhh, that’s where things went wrong,” I texted back. “I’ll head over. I thought you’d said Dunn.”
  
And she had. I confirmed it. But, you know how it goes, right? Two different coffee shops with the same name in the same town in different locations. It’s bound to happen every once in a while.

When we finally found each other…at the wrong coffee shop…we laughed for about the first 20 minutes. Before we could do any real updates, Laetitia felt compelled to explain the scenario from her end. We laughed some more, realizing that each of us was waiting for the other at another location, and how mixed up the texts were as we were thinking of two completely different scenarios.

In the end, it didn’t matter. We had a cozy conversation there in the wrong coffee place. It was truly lovely, and our little mishap made it even all the more lively and real.

Besides. I think I was meant to savor that soup alone, thinking about my Daddy, just him and me, so that my heart would be even more full and ready by the time Laetitia and I found one another.

Q4U: What’s your favorite sandwich and soup combination?

second-chance sundays: ‘agape’ brings depth to oft-used word

[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following ran in The Forum newspaper on Feb. 14, 2015.]

Living Conversations: ‘Agape’ brings depth to oft-used word, love

By Roxane B. Salonen

FARGO – “Love,” conveyed in millions of heart-shaped sentiments each year this day, can be a many-splendored thing – and one of the most watered-down words around.
 
“In our culture, love is kind of a fleeting thing at times. We say we love a hamburger, but it’s obviously not the same as a family member or a pet,” says the Rev. Sarah Seibold of Hope Lutheran Church.
While we only have one word for love, she says, the Greeks had multiple, offering a richer understanding of what love is.

So what, then, is love? “God’s word, agape love, gives us a far better understanding of what love is and should be,” she says.

Seibold and several other area pastors have witnessed agape love through both personal experience and in the lives of their flock.

‘Other-centered’

The Rev. Matthew St. John, of Bethel Church, didn’t come to fully appreciate agape love until his mother-in-law, Lila, developed Alzheimer’s disease. As the illness progressed, she and her husband, Thurl, moved in with the St. Johns, and for years the family watched Thurl tenderly care for his bride, who, on the worst days, had become a stranger.

“I watched this unfold right across the hall from us. They were married for 56 years, and her dad told me one time, ‘I will do anything for her. I made a covenant to her, and I will serve her until the day she dies,’ ” St. John says. “It was the sweetest, most precious thing.”

But it was far from easy, which made it all the more special. “That was agape love to me, and it was Jesus portrayed right before my eyes.”

Agape, according to St. John, is about having a preference or regard for someone else by intention. “It’s an ‘other-centered’ dynamic.”

And it’s in contrast to another word sometimes confused with love: lust.

“When you look in our world today and see things like the movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ that’s not love. There’s nothing dignifying in that,” he says. “Lust is about what I can get, and love is about what I can give.”

Agape-led awakening

The Rev. David Motta of Calvary United Methodist Church says though he was raised in the faith, in adolescence, he went astray for a time, selling booze to minors and tempting his fate with marijuana. Eventually, he got caught.

“My parents showed me agape love by loving me anyway,” he says. “Not by accepting what I was doing, but by saying, ‘Dave, you’re going to have to face the music with the law, but we’re going to love you even so.’ That meant something to me, and it made the gospel come alive to me.”

Motta says our world is hungry for that kind of love – the kind that isn’t conditional. “It’s not, I love you if you do this, or I love you because you’re pretty, or whatever,” he says. “No, it’s just I love you, period.”

But it must be accompanied by truth, otherwise it becomes hypocrisy, he says. “You can love people, even when they’re wrong.”

His daughter Elise recently went to Washington, D.C., to march at the Capitol in protest of abortion. “As they were marching, it was a wonderful way of responding to people who disagree without compromising,” he says. “ ‘Yes, we’re the pro-life generation, but we’re not going to be mean to people who disagree.’ ”

Recently, when in the presence of someone considering suicide, Motta discovered a new form of agape love, through the simple act of listening.

“Thank God he didn’t succeed, but what do you say?” Motta says. “Words don’t mean a whole lot in those situations, but just showing up, trying to listen a little bit, that’s a powerful expression of agape love.”

Stories abound

Seibold says she’s witnessed agape love through a woman in the community who makes quilts for people who are homebound – without sharing her identity.

“She gets their names, finds out what their need is, and makes a quilt for them,” Seibold says.
“She gives of her time, energy and creativity and expects absolutely nothing in return.”

The act of parenting also demonstrates agape, she says. “You give of your time, sleep, food and money, just to raise another human being, and that’s really a self-giving love, too.”

Sometimes, she says, we even see it on the national scene, such as in the story of former Ravens NFL football player Ma’ake Kemoeatu, who retired so he could give his younger brother his kidney.

“And I think of other stories that touch our hearts. We hear about the school shootings and the teachers who give their lives to protect the kids they teach,” she says. “That’s an extreme example of a self-giving love – the kind that Jesus demonstrates.”

Though each pastor mentions various Scripture passages demonstrating agape love, they all zero in on one in particular, John 3:16, which begins, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”

“This is how we know what love is,” Motta says. “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for each other. And it seems here that love is an action. God’s love is doing. It’s a decision to love even when we don’t really think people deserve it.”

faith & family fridays: surprise! a song for our book!

I still remember how I learned about the song. “I have something to share with you,” Ramona wrote in a text. “Do you have a minute?” Soon, we were talking by phone and she told me about the song she and her daughter Lorena had written together; a song that was linked to the book we were in the middle of writing together about her life – Redeemed by Grace. “Cool, send it to me!” I said.

I found it in my email inbox the next morning. I was lying in bed when I opened the file on my smartphone and began listening. And as I did, shivers began running through my body. The good kind of shivers. The kind of shivers you can’t plan, but that tell you something extraordinary has just taken place.

I sprang out of bed to find someone with whom I could share it. It was Christmas break, and my oldest daughter was up making coffee. She would be the first guinea pig. Being close to Lorena’s age, she responded with great interest to the song. If she wasn’t awake before, she was now!

This is something different, I thought. This is unique. A song written in the middle of our fleshing out the chapters of a book about Ramona’s life. A song about her life’s journey. Written by her, and refined and performed by her sweet daughter. The same daughter that, when Ramona got pregnant at 16, might have drawn a few scrutinizing glances their way.

And yet here she is now, beautiful inside and out, and with this natural gift that did not come from years of lessons but the sheer will to tap into a gift that God had bestowed on her long ago, even while she was being knit in her mother’s womb.

The song still gives me shivers. Honestly, I’ve cried while listening to it. And in difficult times I’ve found it healing. It’s mesmerizing in many ways. So when Ignatius Press talked of possibly doing a book trailer about a month ago, I chimed in, “Hey, there’s this song…” Would they consider using it with the trailer? It seemed a perfect fit. And truly, what a unique and beautiful thing. As both a music and word lover, I couldn’t help but see the sparkling treasure we had in our laps; something that would only add even more to the gift coming from Ramona’s soul, with the help of my hand.

So now, for the first time ever, we’re sharing with the world, here on Peace Garden Mama, the song, “Only You,” in its entirety — not just the bit that was part of the book trailer, which I’ll also post below.

But first, allow me to let Ramona share her own version of how it came to be. Trust me, you will want to read to the end, then listen for the couple minutes it takes.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever – by Ramona Trevino
I’ve always been a fan of poetry, music, and art.  As the first line in John Keats’ famous poem states, a thing of beauty IS truly a joy forever. That’s exactly how I feel about the song, “Only You,” that I wrote with my daughter, Lorena. This song brings me a tremendous amount of joy for many reasons, and my hope is that it will bring others that same joy, because, well- it’s beautiful.
“Only You” is a song that was truly a prompting of the Holy Spirit. I was inspired to write this song after hearing a woman who sings and shares her personal testimony and conversion via song. I was so moved by her story and the lyrics to her songs that I was instantly compelled to do the same with my own story.
Beautiful music has a way of moving us. It has a way of speaking to our hearts, allowing us to interpret the lyrics however we see fit. It has a way of healing us, a way of inspiring us, and a way of speaking for us when we can’t find the right words. Music has a way of telling a story, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do with this song. I wanted to write a song from my heart that was inspired by my own personal story, “Redeemed by Grace.”
On the evening of December 22, I told my daughter, Lorena, “Go grab your guitar! I’m feeling inspired.” She returned, we sat down, I wrote, she composed and in about 20 minutes we had a song. We had a piece of poetry that summarized my whole life in just a few lines. We had a song that has moved me and others to tears.
For me, this song has even greater meaning than just its beauty. My daughter, Lorena, has never trained or studied music in her life. She picked up the guitar one day at the age of 13 and just began to play, compose, and write her own songs. So when she sat with me on that cold winter night in December and produced this beauty of a song, it only further confirmed how God has gifted my daughter with such great talent in the hope that she would one day glorify him through them.  
When I discovered that “Only You” would be used in the book trailer for my book I was over the moon. Not only was I overjoyed to share the news with my daughter, but overjoyed that others would have the opportunity to listen to her beautiful voice and witness a truly special gift that God bestowed upon this special girl I have the privilege of calling my daughter.

And now, introducing, for the first time ever in full, “Only You,” by Ramona and Lorena, performed by Lorena :  Only You

The book trailer that includes the song…

Q4U: When did God last touch your heart with song?

Behind the Scenes of the Webcast

 

Monday night was huge for me — an evening I will never forget as long as I live. This eve of the launch of our book, “Redeemed by Grace,” became something of an online launch party, if you will. I am in awe of how technology can bring North Dakota, Texas and all the states in between and on either side together like this. And in awe that our book was given this beautiful introduction.

Truly, Ramona and I, and our glue, Lauren, were completely humbled by the experience. For several years we worked quietly on this book. Stepping into the moment when it was time to not only share it with the world, but hear what the project had meant to a group of high-profile pro-life people who had read and embraced the story, had to have transcended the experience of most authors.

But there’s more to this story. As the day of our webcast drew near, along with two preparatory conference calls that preceded it, I began to grow stressed. Anyone who has been to my house knows that 1) it can be loud because of either spontaneous vocal emissions from the children or pets and 2) there really isn’t a place to hide. With no basement for me to hole away into, the variables left me worried.

Sometimes I take my writing on the road for this purpose, hunkering down at coffee shops or other public places that accommodate such situations. But it wouldn’t work this time given the time of day and possible extraneous noise. I would be making a public presentation each time, and I needed quiet.

Eventually, a friend came to mind. Mary Kay had been praying for this project for a long while with us, and happens to be the godmother of one of our kids. Not only that, she lives on the same side of the tracks, and her youngest child just left the nest this past summer. Might she have a spare room to offer me for hiding purposes?

Indeed, she did, she said. The only issue to work around would be that she and her sweet husband Don would be dog-sitting for their oldest son and his new wife, on honeymoon in Greece. Would I mind just calling first so they could quiet the dogs, and come in through the garage to sneak downstairs? No problem, I said, grateful for a solution.

So for three evenings — two last week and then again on Monday — I left home for the oasis of a currently abandoned bedroom, and was ushered toward a comfortable chair, where I could set up shop, quiet my mind, connect to the Internet, pray, and focus on the others who would be talking, as well as prepare for my public piece.

The first night, my nerves sprang into action. But when I looked up and saw this…

…everything felt right again. It was so calming. Only later did I learn it had been acquired in Rome by the youngest child in the family and has a special story behind it. It’s called the San Damiano cross. Go here for more.

This place of safe harbor in the middle of winter in preparation for our book’s birth blessed me so much. It was in this spot where I listened, for the first time, to the very inspiring reactions to our hard work, and heard how the story had already begun blessing others. What a powerful, humbling experience!

One of my favorite moments Monday night was when David Bereit, the host, asked callers to state where they were calling in from, and people began chiming in from all over the United States and even Canada. What an awesome feeling to hear those voices and realize they’d come to hear about our project!

When it was over each of the three nights, I would pack up my laptop, grab my coat, and head out into the family room, where I would be greeted by this adorable motley crew – Deacon, Tucker and Rosie!

What a way to be welcomed back into the real world — with unconditional love. It was the best.

These small touches — a quiet, warm room, the generosity of a friend, a cross on the wall — reminded me that God is with me, always. I thank him for that and for this work he helped Ramona and I bring to fruition. I think we can breathe a sigh of relief now and just enjoy what’s coming from here.

And of course, today, a shift for those of us who observe Lent. Last night’s Fat Tuesday did have me craving a few indulgent treats. So after his hard-played basketball game, my middle son and I enjoyed our favorite pizza in the world. Behold the “Skinny Vinny” from Spicy Pie. Yes, on Fat Tuesday!

We followed that up with a baker’s dozen of donuts from Sandy’s a few doors down, which we of course brought home to share.

And where, pray tell, is 13th donut? Well, it may not have made it quite all the way home.

Now, to buckle down and get serious about the fasting thing. Here we go!

And by the way, if you missed the webcast, no worries. Here it is again for you to enjoy at your leisure. I think you’ll find it interesting, informative, and, hopefully, inspiring.

I have two more very sweet surprises to share Friday and Monday, so stay near!

Happy Ash Wednesday. May your time in the desert bring you future desserts, into a deeper relationship with God, and much peace.

Q4U: Have you ordered your copy of “Redeemed” yet? Here’s your chance (click here)! And thanks in advance! We’ve been hearing it’s perfect Lenten reading!

meaningful mondays: peek at chapter 1, and be a fly on the wall of our webcast tonight, Feb. 16!

Those who’ve been reading my blog the past weeks know that I’ve written a book about former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino, and that it’s coming out soon. Well, soon is now! This is the week our book, “Redeemed by Grace,” launches!

You can be among the first to read the first chapter of this beautiful story of a soul and the redemptive grace that saved her from darkness!

Here’s a sneak peek…

But if you sign up to take part in the online web chat tonight — hosted by 40 Days for Life co-founder David Bereit — you’ll get to read the rest, just by clicking this link to register:

Simply share your name and email so you’ll be able to log on tonight (8 p.m. Central/9 p.m. Eastern), and the first chapter will be immediately available.

Then tonight, you’ll get to hear the whole inside scoop from a panel of pro-life warriors, including these three — all people who played some part in Ramona’s life-changing conversion. I’ll be among them to share my part as the writer.

We’ll talk. You just have to listen. It’s that easy. And it will be about an hour of your time, but we are pretty sure you’ll come away from it enlightened and blessed.

Go ahead and pay bills, get your kids another glass of water, feed the dog, whatever you need to do during the web chat. Just have the volume turned up loud enough so you don’t miss anything.

This is the last chance I’ll have to pull you in so please join us while you can! After tomorrow, it’s too late. I look forward to hearing later what you thought!

Just a few more things before I go. It was a sweet weekend. Troy and I attended a Couples’ Night Out that our church hosted, complete with a meal and dancing, and were the lucky winners of one of two door prizes to attend next year’s event. So, we’ve got Valentine’s Day 2016 already planned!

 

Love is a good thing, and Ramona’s story is about love, too. The love of God, and learning to love herself enough to make choices that would lead to a joyful soul.

We all deserve that, and I hope Ramona’s story inspires you and others to want it even more.

P.S. If you’ve reached this post through Fr. Paul’s bulletin this weekend (Sts. A/J family), just go down a post and you’ll find the one you came looking for. Thanks for reading this one, too! You’re more than welcomed to join the webcast tonight, too!

Q4U: Will you join us tonight? And even more, tell me what you thought of it afterward? Also, please pray for Ramona, who is ready to have a baby any day now. And for another member of our book team who recently experienced the loss of a dear relative. Thank you!

second-chance sundays: almsgiving brings faith and money together ahead of Lent

[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following ran in The Forum newspaper on Feb. 7, 2015.]

Living Faith: ‘Almsgiving’ brings faith and money together ahead of Lent

By Roxane B. Salonen

In the remarks section of my report card in second grade, my teacher wrote, “Still uses fingers to add and subtract.”

The comment reveals the early, adversarial relationship between me and numbers. On the same report card, I find a scribbling from my father suggesting I learn to like numbers, too, since I would need them in life.

Despite my father’s encouragement, numbers have remained an elusive challenge to me.

For the most part, I’ve gotten around it by focusing on my strengths in letters and confronting numbers only when necessary.

A reading assignment recently led me to a book that has me rethinking my relationship with numbers, and money in particular, especially in matters of faith.

“Why Enough is Never Enough: Overcoming Worries About Money,” by local author and development consultant Gregory S. Jeffrey, has gently lured me to the numbers I so dread, showing me they are as much a matter of the heart as the head.

Early in his career as a consultant, Jeffrey discovered money is every bit as foreboding a social topic as religion and politics.

In asking for money, he found that a room of businesspeople often turns into a confessional of sorts. The discussion of money or business is only a starting point, he notes.

From there, the heart opens up.

“I go into an executive’s office to ask for support of a charity, and the next thing I know we’re talking about his marital troubles, an estranged son, or a daughter’s cancer,” Jeffrey writes. “It’s amazing how many facets of life are touched by money.”

Jeffrey has a theory: that we’re inclined to sidestep intimate conversations about money precisely because they lead to other sensitive areas of life – some that may be in need of healing.

Making peace with money ultimately leads to making peace with God, according to Jeffrey, because the underlying attitude that must precede a healthy approach toward money “animates a spirit of generosity.”

That’s where faith comes in. As people of faith, we are admonished to give alms as part of our mission, to relieve the burdens of the poor through sharing our material goods.

I found Jeffrey’s thoughts fascinating, especially the idea that giving is a spiritual act. He challenges those who give to charity as an investment, saying that this approach debases giving.

Giving alms is spiritual, Jeffrey says, because it is inherently “a response to the invitation of grace.” He challenges us to “look inward to discover the invitation to generosity God has written on the human heart.”

Though giving as an investment may offer us temporary satisfaction, by allowing God to first examine us, then asking him to lead our decisions, Jeffrey says, we will find liberating joy.

This is important, especially in our American culture, where we find an abundance of financial anxiety.

“Persistent worries about money are a weight that millions live with every day, sapping the joy of life,” he says, adding, “This is not how our Creator intended us to live.”

All are invited into the true spirit of almsgiving – not just the wealthy.
Jeffrey says that generosity, especially when our finances seem tight, requires faith that God will care for our material needs.

In other words, it becomes an act of surrender.

“Eventually, with eyes fixed on God, he frees us of constant financial anxiety,” he says.

With Lent around the corner, with its almsgiving focus, I am especially grateful for the timing of Jeffrey’s insight.

I might not be inviting numbers over for regular playdates, but at the very least, I’m now looking at them as a prospective friend.

Just don’t expect me to abandon my calculator or finger-counting. We all have our limits.

faith & family fridays: our Feb. 16 webcast will be led by prominentnational pro-life leaders

Before I say anything else, please do me the honor of going here and registering for a webcast set for Monday night to learn the inside scoop on our book, “Redeemed by Grace.” It’s super easy to sign up. Your name and email is pretty much all we’ll need. And then, you just set your alarm for the right time on Monday evening, log into your computer and the webcast page, and you will have a privileged peek at a story that, we believe, is going to bless many people.

Did you sign up? Not yet? I can wait, really……(pause)…..okay, you done now? Great!

Here’s who you’ll be hearing from Monday night, Feb. 16. (You can click the photo to get a closer look.) Cool huh? Yeah, I’m in there somewhere, too.

Whew, it’s hard to believe this time has finally come. After hundreds of texts, emails, and phone calls, late-night deliberations, and hushed celebrations, the week of our book’s release has finally arrived!

There was good reason we stayed quiet about it for a long while. A dear writer friend gave me that advice years ago and it seemed so very astute. “Protect your writing in its early stages,” she’d said. And so we did. We didn’t want anything to infiltrate the writing process, nor to sway us in another direction than the one that seemed to be the whispered answers to our prayers.

We were focused on telling a story — a beautiful story in my opinion (and not because I wrote the book but because of the main character, the author). We knew the story had the potential to make a tremendous impact. And we entrusted God with it all — even before securing a publisher. We just rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

Some of my closest friends didn’t even know I was working on this project, nor that I flew to Texas on several different occasions to meet with Ramona Trevino, whose story I tell through a several-year-long collaboration. Our visits were largely organized by our mutual friend, Lauren Muzyka, who was one of the first to stand by Ramona during her transition from a worldly focus to one intent on the ultimate pursuit of heaven.

Lauren Muzyka, Me and Ramona Trevino, near Dallas, TX, June 2013

But at some point, the time for something like this just becomes right, or ripe. The baby needs to be born. Literally, because Ramona is currently nine months pregnant, and her real baby will be born any day now. And figuratively in the form of this “book baby” that’s about to be birthed. You might consider me Ramona’s mid-wife in the journey.

Having waited so long, and summoned all the patience we could muster, we wanted something really special to launch this baby into the world. Our prayers were answered again in the form of a handful of prominent pro-life warriors stepping up to join us for the above-mentioned, one-time, exclusive webcast. The purpose? To give those interested a chance to meet the good souls who played a part in Ramona’s conversion, and in the book coming to be. And also, I want to be upfront here, to bring some of the darkness of the abortion industry into the light. We feel that’s a worthy goal outside of the beautiful story of a soul; a soul who was willing to be vulnerable in order to reach your heart!

We would be tickled if you’d join us Monday night. You’ll be muted, so all you have to do is listen, and maybe wash the dishes, floss your teeth, or whatever else needs doing during our bantering. Just stay close to your computer to hear our sharing. I think you’ll be glad you did. And please tell anyone and everyone you think might be interested! The more the merrier.

Oh, you forgot the webcast link to register? Here it is again! Honestly, it will take three minutes of your time. Totally slick and user-friendly.

Looking forward to sharing with you on Monday, the eve of the official book launch!

Q4U: Just one question today. Will you be on the webcast Monday? “Yes” is the right answer to this one! :)