A New Devotion Book

I’ve been working on a new devotion book called The Song of the Stream that will feature Kim Lance’s beautiful photography. I’ve finished the final draft and hope to have it available for sale on Amazon by the end of this month or the first of next month.

It’s a compilation of thirty of my blog posts over the last few years – the ones you shared the most, the ones you said encouraged you, comforted you, or gave you hope.

It is designed to help you hear that lovely song of the stream over your grief.

I’ll write a post when the book is available. Until then, here is an excerpt that I hope will bless you:

Brighten the Corner

dancing-flower

Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

The first time I heard the chorus of the old hymn “Brighten the Corner Where You Are,” I thought the line was, “Right In the Corner Where You Are.”

I was just a kid, and I remember thinking, what? Right in the corner where you are, what? What happens?

That stuck with me over the years and I still chuckle when I think of it.

The photo here reminded me of the song. The little flower, with its “arms” held wide is brightening the corner where it is. It looks like it is dancing in the sunshine. It made me smile and the day I saw it I really needed a smile.

Shortly before seeing this photo, I heard about a young person who was in an accident over the weekend. As I prayed for the family, imaging what they were going through, suddenly my mind was back in ICU watching my 28-year-old daughter take her last breath.

When tragedy strikes someone we know, we try not to make it about us. We try to be there for others, to pray, to comfort, to minister. Even so, we can’t help but feel what we felt when we went through that dark valley.

Memories of the tragedy will sneak up on you. I was in a grocery store recently and saw a mother fussing at her teenage daughter. The mom was frustrated and said some hurtful things. I could see the daughter’s soul shrivel up. It broke my heart.

I wanted to tell the mom, “Please don’t – be gentle and help her. Enjoy every moment you have with her.” But I didn’t. Instead I prayed that the Lord would give them both what they needed in order to love one another.

If I’ve learned anything from the shattering pain that still pierces my heart each day it’s this: use everything in you to do good. Use your gifts, talents, weakness, strength, faith, and even your grief.

Take your stand and plant your feet, let your roots of faith grow a little deeper as you tell the Lord you need Him today. Trust His kind heart and know that all the riches in glory in Christ Jesus are at your disposal because of what Jesus has done for us.

Your corner may be dark today. It may be devastating to look at, but spread your arms and welcome the sunshine of your Heavenly Father’s love. There will be someone who sees and they will say that you’ve brightened the corner for them, dear friend.

The Word you can hold onto today:

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1, NKJV)

Phyllis Keels

Doing What You Love

TLOD-front-5in-4web

So… A dear friend said to me recently, “I don’t like the books I’m reading, Phyllis. They’re not like your books (the Daldriada series). I need you to write another one!”

I think that’s one of the most wonderful things an author can hear! It made me happy and sad at the same time.

I miss writing, and I miss my Daldriada characters so much. But you know how life is – work, family, obligations… None of those things are bad things. It’s just that I still can’t seem to carve out time to write since I came back to work fulltime.

I have about three story ideas swimming around in my head. They surface every now and then. When they do, I push them back down because they surface in the middle of a meeting, or when I finally get to sit down in the evening and not have to think.

Poor stories! They are just trying to come into being. I need to let them.

I have one more devotion book to put out (very soon) and then my focus will be on the next fiction book. The Lord will help me choose a time to write. He always does.

I say all this to encourage you (and myself) that it is okay to devote time to the things we are gifted in. Being gifted is no credit to us. It is praise for the Giver – our Heavenly Father. All good and perfect gifts come from Him.

Do what you are gifted in – it is usually what you love doing. Do you sing, play or write music, excel in a sport? Are you artistic, an encourager, a loving parent or grandparent? Do you cook such wonderful things that people’s eyes roll back in their heads when the eat your food?

Then you are gifted.

I’ve had people comment to me that they don’t think they are gifted in anything. To that, I say hogwash. The Lord is no respecter of persons. He loves every one of us. And He has given you something unique. All you need to do is ask Him what it is.

Until then, my friend, I’m going to get busy doing what I love. Oh! The very thought of seeing a story come to life in my head and then writing it down! It makes me feel like a child again – playing outside, singing songs, and making up beautiful stories of heroism and true love!

I hope you have as much fun doing what you love as I do! Just remember: the Lord loves for His dear children to be happy using the beautiful gifts He has given us!

Phyllis Keels

From Alpacas to Crafts

alpacas1

I spent a couple of days in the mountains this past weekend with a dear friend and we visited an Alpaca farm. Oh, they’re so cute! They’re like adult sized stuffed animals and they make the funniest noise when they eat.

It’s sort of a cross between, “Huh?” “Eh?” and “Hm.” I laughed so hard just watching and listening to them.

The farm we visited has a shop where they sell the sweaters, scarves, socks, blankets and things they make from the Alpaca fiber. It is so soft and warm.

All of this reminded me how much I love crafty stuff. Just looking at all the garments made me want to buy a loom and learn how to weave. It made me want to make candles and soap, or dried flower arrangements.

I told myself just to wait because this weekend at First Baptist Church in Salisbury, there will be a huge Holiday Faire (with 85 vendors) and I can look and dream and buy to my heart’s content. The hard part is that I will be one of the vendors!

Sandra Ardoin and I will have a book table where you can look at and purchase all of our books. If you are going to be there, please stop by. We would love to see you.

Then you can make your way around to the other 84 vendors and shop to your heart’s content. This year, all of the proceeds from the Holiday Faire will go to help the hurricane Matthew flood victims in eastern North Carolina.

We look forward to seeing you there this Saturday November 5th from 9:00am-3:00pm at the First Ministry Center of First Baptist Church of Salisbury, 220 N. Fulton St.

They’re sure to have everything from – well, I can’t promise you Alpacas, but there should be lots and lots of wonderful things.

Come by and say, “Huh? Eh? Hm.” We’ll know what you mean.

holiday-faire

Phyllis Keels

Another Holiday Faire

I’m sure there is no shortage of fun stuff to do this fall, but I have to tell you about a really great thing. This November 5th, First Baptist Church of Salisbury will have their annual Holiday Faire. I hope you will come by and visit the table where Sandra Ardoin and I will have all of our books for sale.

Until then, here is a post I wrote after last year’s event. I’m already praying that the Lord will bring another “one” we can minister to.

holiday-faire

(Written November 18, 2015)

On November 7th, I was at my church’s Holiday Faire. A dear friend (who is a fine author and has been a mentor to me for many years) and I rented a space together to sell our books.

During these types of events, I know by now that the Lord brings one person to me – the one I’m there to bless, encourage, comfort. Sometimes He brings many people, but there will always be “the one” who needs His touch more than all the others.

Please understand this is not about me. The Lord can minister to anyone without having to go through us. He graciously allows me to be present when He does this, and that is a great joy to me. It is like a sweet fragrance to my broken heart and I am always grateful for His kindness to me in this.

I kept looking for “the one” throughout that day. Then, just about the time I remembered that sometimes I don’t know who “the one” is, (but He knows) she showed up.

Ten minutes before closing that day, a young woman came our table. She picked up my children’s book “Emma and the Paper” and asked if it had anything about Jesus in it.

It was all I could do not to jump out of my chair. There she is, I thought. After I answered her question and told her about the book, she pointed to the children’s book Kimberly Rae wrote, the one I illustrated for her: “When I’m With Jesus,” written for children who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

That’s when this young mother shared with me that her 3-month-old son had died in a car accident earlier this year. That’s when the last shred of wondering whether she was “the one” disappeared like a mist in a summer breeze.

The brokenness was all over her. The terrible, consuming, terrifying grief… I wanted to wrap her in a warm blanket of God’s love and let her sleep peacefully until she can breathe again.

I shared with her that my daughter also died from her injuries in a car accident, so she would really understand that I cared about her grief. I was able to give her a devotion book for her, and the “When I’m With Jesus” book for her 3-year-old daughter who is still grieving for her little brother.

I gave her my contact information and told her I would pray for her, and that she could call me or email me anytime. She may never want to, but often just knowing that you can is enough.

I left the Holiday Faire that day thanking my Heavenly Father for bringing “the one” near me – the wounded lamb who just needed to know that the Good Shepherd has not moved from her side, even though she can’t see Him.

That lamb is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but she is no longer alone, nor will she ever be again.

Soon I will be with my dear friend, sharing a book table at another church’s craft fair. I’ll be watching for the next “one.” I may not know who you are, but the Lord knows.

So come, whoever you are. Jesus will walk with you though it, friend. He will walk with you through it, because He is all about “the one.”

Phyllis Keels

The Ministry of the One

My mom has been in the hospital since last Friday and the Lord sweetly reminded me of this post written last November. I think because right now, my precious mom is the “one” I can minister to.

I pray this blesses you, dear friend.

(Written November 18, 2015)

On November 7th, I was at my church’s Holiday Faire. A dear friend (who is a fine author and has been a mentor to me for many years) and I rented a space together to sell our books.

During these types of events, I know by now that the Lord brings one person to me – the one I’m there to bless, encourage, comfort. Sometimes He brings many people, but there will always be “the one” who needs His touch more than all the others.

Please understand this is not about me. The Lord can minister to anyone without having to go through us. He graciously allows me to be present when He does this, and that is a great joy to me. It is like a sweet fragrance to my broken heart and I am always grateful for His kindness to me in this.

I kept looking for “the one” throughout that day. Then, just about the time I remembered that sometimes I don’t know who “the one” is, (but He knows) she showed up.

Ten minutes before closing that day, a young woman came our table. She picked up my children’s book “Emma and the Paper” and asked if it had anything about Jesus in it.

It was all I could do not to jump out of my chair. There she is, I thought. After I answered her question and told her about the book, she pointed to the children’s book Kimberly Rae wrote, the one I illustrated for her: “When I’m With Jesus,” written for children who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

That’s when this young mother shared with me that her 3-month-old son had died in a car accident earlier this year. That’s when the last shred of wondering whether she was “the one” disappeared like a mist in a summer breeze.

The brokenness was all over her. The terrible, consuming, terrifying grief… I wanted to wrap her in a warm blanket of God’s love and let her sleep peacefully until she can breathe again.

I shared with her that my daughter also died from her injuries in a car accident, so she would really understand that I cared about her grief. I was able to give her a devotion book for her, and the “When I’m With Jesus” book for her 3-year-old daughter who is still grieving for her little brother.

I gave her my contact information and told her I would pray for her, and that she could call me or email me anytime. She may never want to, but often just knowing that you can is enough.

I left the Holiday Faire that day thanking my Heavenly Father for bringing “the one” near me – the wounded lamb who just needed to know that the Good Shepherd has not moved from her side, even though she can’t see Him.

That lamb is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but she is no longer alone, nor will she ever be again.

Soon I will be with my dear friend, sharing a book table at another church’s craft fair. I’ll be watching for the next “one.” I may not know who you are, but the Lord knows.

So come, whoever you are. Jesus will walk with you though it, friend. He will walk with you through it, because He is all about “the one.”

Phyllis Keels

Something Wonderful While We Wait

FB_IMG_1456263758815

Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s photos)

I heard about a wonderful thing we could do when we’re not yet seeing the fulfillment of a promise from the Lord. You know what I mean?

This is for when you know that the Lord has something for you. He has shown you that it will come, but you wait and wait, and you don’t seem to see it come to pass.

I’m there. I feel like I’ve been there for a long, long time. I know the Lord is faithful and He will do what He promises. I know it. I just get discouraged sometimes when I’m waiting. I’m guessing you do too.

The wonderful thing we can do while we wait is found in Genesis 20. It is the account of when Abraham and Sarah journeyed to a foreign land. You can read all about it by clicking here.

The summary is that Abraham was afraid that the king of the land would kill him and take his wife Sarah because she was so beautiful. He told Sarah to say she was his sister and not his wife.

The king took Sarah for his harem, but the Lord kept him from touching her, and then came to the king in a dream. God told him to restore Abraham’s wife to him and that Abraham would pray for the king and his household, because God had caused those in the king’s household to stop bearing children during that time.

Here’s the wonderful thing: during all of this, Abraham and Sarah were still waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a child to them. They had been waiting for about 24 years…

Abraham prayed for the foreign king’s household to have children, when Abraham was still waiting for his own child to come.

All of this touched my heart because, as a writer, I am still waiting on my books to sell. I’ve been writing for many years, I have many books, and I sell only a few handfuls each year.

The Lord called me to write. I know this. He speaks through the words I write. I know this too. He has good for me in using the gifts He gave me. I know this as well.

So, where is the fulfillment? Why the delay? I don’t know, but I am certain that while I wait, I am to do this: I am to pray for other writers who are in the same position.

And I know three right off hand: Sandra Ardoin, Susan Jane King, and Kimberly Rae.

I love all of these women dearly. They are lovely sisters in Christ who have been waiting for their books to reach more and more people.

Today I begin deliberate prayer for all of them. I am asking the Lord on their behalf to remove all the obstacles that prevent their books from selling out everywhere.

I am thanking the Lord for the beautiful way these godly women tell others about the love of Jesus and the freedom we have because of His finished work, and about the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father.

Today, I say, “Father, bless them with all the blessings of Abraham! Make their way prosperous like you did for Joshua and Caleb! Open the windows of heaven and pour out such a blessing that there is not room enough to receive it! Load their boats with fishes so that they have to call for help to pull in the nets!”

Today, I thank the Living God for these women, and the wonderful things that He is doing through, to, in, and for them!

This day, I say, “Thank you, Father, for bringing about the fulfillment of your promises to all these women! Thank you! In the name of the Lord Jesus, thank you!”

Phyllis Keels

When He Brings the One

the one

Photo by Kim Lance, used by permission

On November 7th, I was at my church’s Holiday Faire. A dear friend (who is a fine author and has been a mentor to me for many years) and I rented a space together to sell our books.

During these types of events, I know by now that the Lord brings one person to me – the one I’m there to bless, encourage, comfort. Sometimes He brings many people, but there will always be “the one” who needs His touch more than all the others.

Please understand this is not about me. The Lord can minister to anyone without having to go through us. He graciously allows me to be present when He does this, and that is a great joy to me. It is like a sweet fragrance to my broken heart and I am always grateful for His kindness to me in this.

I kept looking for “the one” throughout that day. Then, just about the time I remembered that sometimes I don’t know who “the one” is, (but He knows) she showed up.

Ten minutes before closing that day, a young woman came our table. She picked up my children’s book “Emma and the Paper” and asked if it had anything about Jesus in it.

It was all I could do not to jump out of my chair. There she is, I thought. After I answered her question and told her about the book, she pointed to the children’s book Kimberly Rae wrote, the one I illustrated for her: “When I’m With Jesus,” written for children who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

That’s when this young mother shared with me that her 3-month-old son had died in a car accident earlier this year. That’s when the last shred of wondering whether she was “the one” disappeared like a mist in a summer breeze.

The brokenness was all over her. The terrible, consuming, terrifying grief… I wanted to wrap her in a warm blanket of God’s love and let her sleep peacefully until she can breathe again.

I shared with her that my daughter also died from her injuries in a car accident, so she would really understand that I cared about her grief. I was able to give her a devotion book for her, and the “When I’m With Jesus” book for her 3-year-old daughter who is still grieving for her little brother.

I gave her my contact information and told her I would pray for her, and that she could call me or email me anytime. She may never want to, but often just knowing that you can is enough.

I left the Holiday Faire that day thanking my Heavenly Father for bringing “the one” near me – the wounded lamb who just needed to know that the Good Shepherd has not moved from her side, even though she can’t see Him.

That lamb is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but she is no longer alone, nor will she ever be again.

This Saturday I will be with my dear friend, sharing a book table at another church’s craft fair. I’ll be watching for the next “one.” I may not know who you are, but the Lord knows.

So come, whoever you are. Jesus will walk with you though it, friend. He will walk with you through it, because He is all about “the one.”

Phyllis Keels

Oakdale

Come See Us

Flyer designed by Sandra Ardoin

Flyer designed by Sandra Ardoin

Flyer designed by Sandra Ardoin

Flyer designed by Sandra Ardoin

Hey, guess what! Fellow author Sandra Ardoin and I will be at two holiday vendor fairs in November. November 7th we will be at First Baptist Church in Salisbury, NC. November 22nd we will be at Oakdale Baptist Church in Spencer, NC.

We would love for you to come by and see us. All of our books will be there available for purchase, and there will lots of other vendors on site. It’ll be a great time to pick up Christmas presents!

At one of these fairs last year I met the dear young lady who designed the cover for my book “The King of Daldriada,” Christina Helm. At another one I got to talk with another dear lady whose daughter had recently lost a child.

You know, it’s great when you get to sell books after you’ve gone to the trouble of planning and setting up at an event like these. I’d be lying if I said otherwise.

But the real treasure is in getting to see someone’s heart touched by the Lord’s kindness. It’s in meeting someone you can pray for from then on, each time the Lord brings them to mind. It’s in meeting another beloved child of the King.

I’m looking forward to that, and to seeing those of you who faithfully come to visit me each time I’m at an event.

Even if you can’t come by, I hope you’ll forward this post (and the beautiful flyers above that Sandra Ardoin made) to someone who will come.

You never know. The meeting of those who love Jesus, those who want to know Him, and those who have yet to meet Him is no accident, my friend. The Lord calls us gently to His side, often through His children.

A Tale of Three Characters

rainbow

This is probably a simplistic way of looking at literature, but I can’t help it. I like getting to the heart of things and looking at the primary elements.

Just like there are only three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), I think there are only three kinds of characters in stories. What I mean is, all other colors are made up of combinations of the three primary colors. (Blue + yellow = green, etc.)

Characters are the same way. They are all combinations of three kinds.

I think they are:

  • The character that serves as a warning – the kind you know you don’t want to be
  • The character you can identify with – the kind with the same strengths and flaws you have
  • The character you aspire to be like – those we look up to

The first type of character is easy to spot in a story. This one is almost always the villain, and is often the tragic character, the one doomed to fail.

The second may seem the most desirable – the one you can identify with. We like what they like, we fear what they fear, we want what they want. But for me, this kind doesn’t really offer me much.

Sure, they make me feel like I’m not the only softie in the world who cries over a dead animal in the road, or hothead who has a blast of temper over an injustice. But finding a kindred spirit in a story is not my priority. Not saying it’s wrong to want that – just saying it’s not for me.

If you long for someone like you in a story, more power to you. There are great stories out there that can give you this comradeship, and yes, we can learn as these characters grow throughout the story.

Maybe it’s the way we are made. Maybe that’s why we like certain types of characters. I can’t explain why I always gravitate toward the third type, the kind you can aspire to be like.

I only know that every book or movie I consider to be great has that kind of character in it. Not overly flawed, and better than I am.

The difference with these characters is that they never struggle too long with whether to do the right thing. They don’t wrestle with whether to sacrifice for the greater good, whether to go on the difficult quest.

Their make up is such that the choice between sacrifice and self is really no choice at all. They go quickly forward to sacrifice for others.

I’m pretty sure that I love this kind of character because I love Jesus. He is the original. When He was on this earth, He was never about self. He was about what the Father had asked Him to do: to save us.

He went through the worst kind of death, and He did it because He chose to do it. That is the heart of a hero.

So each time I write or read about a character that lets go of self and walks through the suffering for others, I see a picture of the Hero of all heroes. And that is why Jesus’ story is the greatest story ever told.

Phyllis Keels

A Brand New Story

Horse in Pasture

I did it. I started a new book manuscript two days ago. (Insert squeal of delight here!) For the last several months, when I turn around, a brand new story has been standing there staring at me. “Are you going to write me, or what?”

Now that I’ve released my last book (a little over a week ago), this new story has been all I could think about (mainly because I’m tired of getting stared at). But, I’m really grateful, too! It’s so difficult to let go of beloved characters. But when we have new ones waiting on our attention, it’s a little easier release the fully-grown book into the wild.

This new story is different and is so full of everything I love! The outline came to me in one day. That has never happened to me before. Usually I know the characters, the opening setting, what kind of opposition they face, and how I want it to end. Then I write wherever the story takes me. Most of the time I don’t know how things will get resolved until they do.

This is the first time I saw the whole thing like a movie in my head. It’s good, too! Really good!

I can say that because I’m certain the story didn’t come from me. It was a gift from my Heavenly Father.

He knows that if I don’t write, I will dry up and wither like a fern in a desert. It’s like a dear friend told me not too long ago. She said, “Phyllis, writing produces the fountain in you. When you write, everything else in you flows and you have great joy in everything.”

I think I knew that before she said it, but I didn’t know it consciously. It was really nice to hear someone say it – someone who knows me. That kind of encouragement, that kind of affirmation always builds us up, it always gives us impetus to continue in our area of gifts, doesn’t it?

And that kind of encouragement comes from only one place: the Holy Spirit. Not only does He bring our gifts to us, He teaches us how to use them, He gives us the desire to use them, and then He encourages us in using them.

Because the Lord has presented me with this lovely new story, I’m going to be very ambitious and plan to finish it and release it for Christmas. This year. Oh yes!

Help hold me accountable when I start to whine about how busy I am, and that I have no time to write. Just remind me that writing is a fountain and that it is what I was made to do.

Not that I am a literary genius, or a world-class novelist. I know I’m not. I’m just a broken-hearted sheep who is grateful to be carried tenderly by the Good Shepherd who loves me.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for loving me so much!

Phyllis Keels