Lorri Dudley

Be moved. Be changed. Love because you are loved.

man checking watch

Oh, the Waiting Places You’ll Go

Man checking watch

According to theFactSite.com, the average person will spend five years waiting in line and an additional six months waiting on stoplights. In Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh the Places You Can Go, there are a couple of pages dedicated to The Waiting Place. Reading to the boys, I would switch to a monotone voice and list out all the things for which people wait. By the end, I’d exhale a deep sigh, and the boys would be slumping in the rocking chair, begging to turn to the next page. How do we reclaim our waiting time? How do we turn our stalled moments, especially during a pandemic, into preparing?

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

Dog laying

Newton’s first law was created to apply to physics, but it applies to people also. People at rest tend to stay at rest, whereas people in motion tend to stay in motion. I can see this in my boys and their friends. The ones who’ve been kicking back and sleeping in during their “second” summer no longer desire to hang out, leave the house, or pursue activities. Complacency has set in. I’ve had to force my boys to get up at our usual waking time, workout, and stay active, or they default to all-video-games-all-day mode. The challenge is to get them moving. They need to stay in mental and physical shape, or they will fall behind, and life will catch them unprepared.

 “it’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.” – Bear Bryant

The apostle Paul had to do a lot of waiting. He spent two years in jail in Caesarea, and two years under house arrest in Rome. However, Paul didn’t sit idle. He wrote a good chunk of the New Testament during this period. And then there was the time he was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. If Dr. Seuss had a page in his book for Malta, it would have been The Stuck Place. We’ve all been there—stuck between jobs, careers, relationships. Many of us are there now, stuck sheltering in place. But this is not the time to waste.

There’s no time to wait. Act now, while the offer still lasts! – practically every infomercial

While stuck in Malta, Paul didn’t sit on his hands. He saw an opportunity to convert the natives. Waiting not only is an opportunity to strengthen and equip ourselves. It’s a chance to relook at how we’ve done things. Scrap the old habits that are bad for us or aren’t working and try something new. Ready our hearts so we can be on our mark, get set, and go to the new thing God is preparing for us.

start of running race

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woman relaxing on couch

Brand New Possibilities

Woman relaxing on couch

It’s never a good time to be inconvenienced, but often it’s worth it. I can’t tell you how many nights I’d be exhausted and looking forward to getting the kids in bed so I could slump down on the couch and veg. I’d be the drill sergeant hurrying them to brush their teeth, put pajamas on, and say their prayers. I’d turn off the light, kiss them on the cheek, tiptoe to the door, and then I’d hear, “Mama?”

I often considered pretending not to hear so I could walk out and join my husband, who’d somehow escaped to our couch oasis, but my convictions always stopped me. I’d pause and say, “Yes?” and that’s when my son would ask one of those stop-the-tape questions: “Does God answer all of our prayers?” “Why do some kids think we shouldn’t step on ants because then we’ll become one in their next life?” Or “Why doesn’t everyone go to heaven?”

Unprepared as I was with my brain mush and my body ready to collapse, an opportunity beckoned. Even though everything in me begged for the couch, I sat down on his bed and was able to have some fantastic conversations. For instance, my oldest asked if he could pray for anything and then proceeded to ask God to make him taller than his younger brother (which led to a talk about God’s answer isn’t always yes). Sometimes my boys gave me revelations I hadn’t considered, like my youngest telling me he couldn’t wait to go to heaven so he could breathe underwater. When I questioned why he thought that, he told me, “Well, there’s no death in heaven, so that means we can breathe underwater.” I told him we’d find out when we got there.

Often, we have to pass on comfort to embrace an opportunity.

Over the last few months, life has gotten significantly harder. We can’t go to certain places without a mask. We can’t interact like we used to. We can’t even walk in specific directions. We might be exhausted and fed up and hoping to get back to the comfy couch of our pre-pandemic lives, but this is when we need to have our ears open for “Mama?” Right now, our neighbors, friends, and family members are having questions. The world has become an uncertain place, but we can be their blessed assurance. We can be peace during the pandemonium. We can be hope in desperation.

deer with ears listening

God is doing a new thing, but we must be listening to perceive it. Even if inconvenienced, our hearts must be ready and willing for new possibilities.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

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Feet hanging off bed

Essential to a Good Night’s Sleep

feet hanging off bed

Per the sleep industry, the key to great night’s rest lies in the proper mattress: foam mattresses that conform to your body supporting it in all the right places, innerspring mattresses for even firmness, or hybrids that have both spring and foam for the best of both worlds. Yet, a new Consumer Report study shows 68 percent of Americans (an estimated 164 million people) struggle to sleep at least one night each week, if not more.

We can have the best mattress, a pillow that puts us in the proper alignment, and sheets made out of cotton from Giza, but if there’s unrest in our thoughts, then we won’t sleep well. Take King Darius, as King of Babylon. He had the best quality of everything. However, the night Daniel spent in the Lion’s Den, the king tossed and turned, probably yanking the silk sheets along with him, and beating the pillow to fluff it up. However, his thoughts kept turning to the awful vision of Daniel being torn to shreds.

Daniel, on the other hand, stayed the night on the hard floor of a cave with pacing lions, yet he sounded well-rested and chipper the following morning. His first words to the king were, “May the king live forever!” He then explains how an angel of the Lord shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6:21-22).

King Darius might have had all the outer workings for a good night’s sleep, but he didn’t have the inner peace. He relied on his wisdom, power, and abilities, whereas Daniel trusted God. After discovering he’d been tricked into sending his friend to certain death, King Darius made every effort until sundown to find a way to save Daniel. At sunset, when no solution presented itself, he had no choice but to execute the punishment of his decree and lost sleep over it.

Lion with open mouth

I’m guilty of mulling over problems, waking up, and stressing over a solution that I, too, cannot find. I think, like King Darius, that it is my responsibility, and in my power, to fix it. I take on the burden, and my sleep suffers. I worry if my boys will get back home okay. I worry about work and if my projects will get done in time. I worry if the world is going to be okay. And there are plenty more fears waiting next in line.
When will I learn I’m not capable of holding the lion’s mouths closed with my bare hands?

It’s the nights, where instead of worrying, I release my grip and give my problems to God that I find rest. When I allow Him to close the lions’ mouths, I sleep well, leaving it in His control.

There is no problem too big for an all-powerful God, nor a worry too small that He doesn’t notice.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – Matthew 6:26-27

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Boy raising hand in class

It Never Hurts to Ask

Boy raising his hand in class

Have you questioned whether you have the skills to make the team, good enough grades to get into college, or ever poured your life into a project only for your boss to give you another even more challenging one?

My hand is raised.

You would think book launching would become less nerve-wracking with each release, but every time doubts plague me. They buzz about head like bees threatening to sting. This one isn’t going to measure up. People are going to be disappointed. And even if or when good reviews start pouring in, the bees don’t stop circling. You’ve set an expectation, how are you going to beat that? Look at your work-in-progress. It doesn’t come close.

Moments like these, I’m grateful for the story of Elijah, because we are not alone.

On Mount Carmel, Elijah’s confidence was at an all-time high as he courageously announced that he was the only remaining prophet. He taunted the other so-called prophets asking them if their gods were on vacation or sleeping. Elijah had men dump buckets of water on the offering, alter, and wood and filled a trench around it. He then called upon the God of Abraham and fire rained down from heaven, burning up the offering and drying up every last drop of water in a fantastic display of God’s power.

bonfire

Not long after, Elijah swings from a high to a low. He runs from Queen Jezebel, who’s threatened to kill him, and he hides in the desert, weeping and telling the angel God sent to restore him his woes about being the only prophet left and prayed to die. Why is it that like Elijah, our confidence can be like an iron dome one day, but the next, it’s as if we’re trying to grasp water running through our fingers?

We all have doubts—doubts about ourselves, our abilities, our future. James 1:5-6 says, we aren’t to be double-minded. “If you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” Like Elijah, we can turn to God. He’s not afraid of our lows or our doubts. He’s not going to turn us away with a pointed finger saying, out of my sight, you of little faith. God’s going to meet us in the desert and give us substance like He sent an angel to Elijah. Or he’ll bring us up to the mountain and speak to us in His still small voice. He’s going to remind us of His faithfulness and our past victories. He’ll send us revelation and people to strengthen us like Elijah’s successor Elisha.

All we have to do is ask.

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Silhouette of man and woman

Would You Want to Be a Character in a Romance Novel?

Silhouette of man and woman

We might relish the thrill of the hero and heroine’s gazes holding a tad longer than appropriate, the quickening of pulse as their fingers brush, or the intimacy of their mingling breath as a loose strand of hair is tucked behind an ear. We might sigh with longing at those romantic moments, but my answer is a firm, no, thank you. Granted, I may have a different perspective as a writer. I spend hours creating emotionally traumatic circumstances to force my heroine and hero to endure. When they think it can’t get worse, another peril presents itself.

In The Sugar Baron’s Ring which released this week, the hero, Bradlee, must return to England with his research in time to face the dons and pass his final exams, because his father is under the presumption Bradlee has already graduated. However, a drunken captain runs the passenger ship aground on a reef. When Bradlee stops to help a man, he loses his spot in the lifeboat. The vessel, then, breaks apart, and before he plummets into the dark, swirling water, a man yells, “Shark!” And that’s just the first chapter.

If writers aren’t spiteful, ruthless people, why do we need to torture our heroes and heroines? Holding a reader’s interest isn’t the only reason. We torment our main characters because, through their struggles, readers fall in love with the redemptive story. When the black moment hits and all is lost, readers experience how hope prevails.

We see similar suffering-to-redemption examples from the Bible. Naomi, in the book of Ruth, relocates to a foreign land due to a famine, her sons marry outside of their religion, and then Naomi’s husband dies. When it seems it can’t get worse, Naomi’s sons die. Let’s look at Joseph. His jealous brothers throw him into a pit and then sell him as a slave to passing traders. Joseph works hard and tries to make the best of a bad situation, but then he’s accused of a crime he didn’t commit, thrown into jail, and forgotten. And then, there was the Apostle Paul, he was arrested for being a Christ-follower, but during his transportation to Rome to stand trial, a storm sinks the ship. He helps the crew and captives swim to the island of Malta and build a fire, wherein another almost comical stroke of bad luck, a snake bites Paul’s hand as he’s warming them.

snake with mouth open

If we didn’t know the ending, we’d think God had it out for Naomi, Joseph, and Paul. In our own lives, when things take a turn for the worst, we may wonder if God is punishing us. However, we must remember the full story. Because of those trials, Naomi’s joy was redeemed through her daughter-in-law, Ruth, and she became a grandmother in the lineage of Jesus. Joseph became Pharaoh’s righthand man and saved his family from starving to death. Paul had an opportunity to heal and witness to many of the Malta islanders.

In our black moments, we may cry out to God and feel like it falls on deaf ears, but don’t give up hope, because hope hasn’t given up on you. In those bleak times, we must remember the redemption story, not the ones from fiction novels, but from history, where Jesus faced his darkest moment on the cross and took our sins upon him so that we may have life and live it to the full.

Or as I call it, happily-ever-after.

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back of girl riding bike

The Voice Behind You

Girl riding her bike.

I remember learning to ride a bike. It wasn’t pretty. My dad started me in the grass. He’d run alongside me as my little legs peddled, and handlebars wobbled. I wouldn’t know exactly when my dad let go of the back of the bike, but eventually, I’d notice his encouraging voice growing distant, “Keep going. You’re doing it.”

Once I was able to keep my balance in the grass, my dad graduated me to the road. We lived in a circle on the slope of a hill. He’d start at the top stay with me as long as he could, I remember the blur of the road under the wheels, the wind on my face, and my chest expanding as I realized. “I’m doing it. I’ve got this.” Then I noticed the curve in the road. I panicked. My dad’s pounding footsteps sounded behind me while he yelled, “Turn, turn, turn the handlebars!” I didn’t turn. I crashed in a heap in a drainage ditch.

Dad walking with daughter

My dad picked me up, dusted me off, and helped walk my bike back up the hill to try again. A couple more ditch crashes and a run-in with a mailbox, and I became a biking pro. My dad and I marched back into the house, exhausted and bruised, but with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Life can often be like learning to ride a bike. One moment we think we’ve got it—we can do this on our own—but the next thing we know, we’re lying in a ditch while our Heavenly Father pulls us out and dusts us off. He helps us get back on the bike and runs alongside whispering, “This is the way, walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21.

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Girl reading map in middle of road

Mighty Plans

2020 has been an unpredictable year. Back in Jan, the world was excited about the beginning of a new decade. 2020 Vision was spotlighted everywhere. I even wrote a blog about it. Then, like a car slamming us from out of nowhere, life threw us in a tailspin. Many of us have been blind sighted by a deadly virus, lockdowns, riots, and unrest. Quite a few of us are ready to skip ahead to 2021.

I flipped on the TV this weekend and a scene from the movie Evan Almighty was playing. Evan (played by actor Steve Carell) had been asked to build an ark, by the Almighty himself, and was having a discussion with God (played by Morgan Freeman). Evan questioned God, “Why me? Why an ark?” and then he proceeded to tell God that the whole ark thing wasn’t really part of his plans because he and his wife just bought a new house, and he just started a new job. Morgan Freeman, in his awesome God voice, starts to laugh, not just a chuckle but a hand to the stomach laugh before he chides, “Your plans,” and breaks out into great guffaws once more.

Proverbs 16:9 states, “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

I have to admit, I have my days when I’m like Evan Almighty, and I’m crying to God about how life isn’t going along with my plans. I don’t think God doubles over laughing at me when I do this, but I do believe He probably chuckles and maybe releases a deep sigh. Thankfully, God is patient, and eventually, I learn His method is better. My plans are shortsighted, but His are long term. Mine are worldly, but His are otherworldly.

Flexibility is the best ability.

gymnist

I cringe when I hear this phrase because it usually means hold tight changes are coming. However, the statement rings true. Flexibility is good. We make our plans, but God is going to establish our steps. So, we need to be open to how He is moving and what He is doing. There is freedom in knowing God ultimately is steering the ship. We may chart our course, but God is going to guide us through the storms. He’s going to lead us into calmer waters, but when it’s time for us to dock, we will no longer be cabin boys, we will disembark as tried and true men and women of God.

By the way, it turns out 2020 is the end of the old decade. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the new decade begins January 1, 2021. Since a lot of the craziness started in March, I’m extending the phrase for the entire year: 2020 may go out like a lion, but 2021 will come in with The Lamb.

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Grandmother and grandaughter

Face It. We Need Face Time.

Grandmother and granddaughter

The things we took for granted now have a whole new meaning. I went for a walk with a friend of mine, and upon parting, my friend said, “I needed this.” I understood one hundred percent what she meant. There is no substitute for face-to-face human interaction. It builds trust, understanding, and conveys significance.

As much as I appreciate Zoom and Microsoft Teams, so much is lost when you are only seeing a person’s face. Writing has caused me to be acutely aware of other people’s mannerisms. Stating she said, or he said, is like the Zoom call of writing. When authors use action beats, it draws readers deeper into the story. For instance, here’s an exert from The Sugar Baron’s Ring releasing June 23rd:

Using he said: “I knew you were playing matchmaker,” Colin said. “Whether or not I marry Miss Barrington will be my choice.”

Using action beats: Colin lurched upright. “I knew you were playing matchmaker.” He jabbed a finger into Bradlee’s chest. “Whether or not I marry Miss Barrington will be my choice.”

See the difference?

The Definitive Book of Body Language holds a comprehensive arsenal to reading nonverbal cues. For instance, men who don’t want to participate in conversations will often stuff their hands into their pockets. A woman will place her purse next to a man with whom she feels a personal connection and communicates emotional distance when she keeps her handbag away. How we hold our coffee cup can depict two different attitudes. If the coffee cup is placed on the opposite side of the body, creating an arm barrier, it shows they are unsure or not liking what you are saying. However, if they place the cup on the same side of the body, they are displaying an open attitude.

Alan Teo, the lead author of the study “Does Mode of Contact with Different Types of Social Relationships Predict Depression Among Older Adults? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey,” published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that depression rates can be reduced by half when a person met regularly face to face with friends and family compared to those who spoke via phone or email. I’m always awed by how today’s research tends to re-emphasize wisdom the Bible has proclaimed for centuries. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” [emphasis mine].

Group with hands raised in worship

I realize that recently meeting has been challenging or near impossible in some instances, but we shouldn’t underestimate the power of gathering together, even if it’s in smaller groups. This past weekend was Pentecostal Sunday, which celebrates the beginning of the church when Jesus’s followers met together to celebrate the feast of the harvest, and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. They began speaking in all different languages and brought 3,000 new believers to the faith (Acts 2). There is an impact that we make assembling together. Jesus, himself, tells us he will be in our midst in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Jesus proclaimed to Peter that, upon this rock (meaning Peter), He (Jesus) “shall build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail upon it (Mathew 16:17-19).” We need not to give up meeting together in times like these. We need to be meeting more. Doing so may mean thinking outside of the context of a building, but the church was never a building, it’s always been the people.

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pregnant mom belly and little girl kissing it

Overcome and Adapt

Pregnant mom belly and little girl kissing it.

Men may want better to understand the closeness between a mother and newborn. As much as I love to tell childbirth stories, that’s not the part I found most inspiring.

I knew there had to be a creator as I watched my body grow during pregnancy. I wasn’t doing any of the work other than eating a bit more (okay, maybe a lot more). My hips and ribcage shifted of their own accord. My blood quantity increased. (The only New England winter that I wasn’t freezing was the one during which I was pregnant.) Once the baby was born, my milk supply altered to meet the baby’s needs. I didn’t have to do pushups or eat certain foods to get it to change. My body adapted of its own accord because God made it to change.

We are meant to overcome and adapt.

Not only did God forge women’s bodies to adapt for childbirth, but He’s also given us an amazing immune system. When we catch a cold, our glands swell up, our nose runs, and we’ll cough because our lymphatic and immune systems are warring against a virus. When we eat something spoiled and get food poisoning, we don’t have to tell our bodies what to do. It just starts purging. (I’ll spare everyone the descriptions on this one.)

We often forget that our bodies aren’t the only thing God created to adapt. He made us to adjust emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Paul says, in 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” We start as spiritual infants, but we are meant to feed on God’s word, grow, adapt, and become spiritual adults. What turns us into adults? Trials, tests, and temptations. Mature spiritual adults have proven they can overcome challenges and persevere.

Take the story of Joseph, for example. Joseph was an immature young man when he bragged to his brothers about his dream that they would bow down to him. His juvenile boast set off a chain reaction. 

barred window

He was thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold as a slave, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, thrown into jail, and then was forgotten. I can imagine Joseph waiting for his father to march through the door and shout, “Unhand my beloved son!” Little did Joseph know, his brothers faked his death. What devastation Joseph must have felt when he realized his father wasn’t coming.

Joseph had to overcome his disappointment, adapt to his new normal, and mature to a higher degree of spirituality before he could go from slave to Pharaoh’s trusted advisor with power second only to the Egyptian king. He got there because he persevered. God equipped Joseph to be able to acclimate to each situation, and in the end, he came out a stronger and more capable person.

Currently, we are all adapting to a new normal. Yes, it may stretch us, irritate us, weigh us down, but lean into God. Feed on His word. Absorb His strength. Spiritually grow because God has plans for you.

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lego man at desk

Alpha and Beta Males Need Not Apply

lego man sitting at desk

There’s a new trend toward having beta males in the hero role of romance novels. If you’re unfamiliar with the term beta male, the Oxford Dictionary describes it as, “A subordinate male, or a man tending to assume a passive or subservient role in social or professional situations.” The opposite of the beta male is the alpha male, a man who assumes the dominant role in similar scenarios. The logic presumes that readers are looking for a sensitive and understanding hero who values the heroine’s views and that alpha males are overbearing, insensitive, and treat the heroine as a trophy.

Personally, I don’t want to write about either a beta or an alpha male. The heroes I want to convey in my books are what I call honor males. This may be a made-up term (I tried a Google search but came up null), but let me explain my honor male by first defining honor. Dictionary.com states honor as a noun is “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions,” and as a verb “to hold in honor or high respect; revere.” There is nothing in this definition about dominance or submission. It’s the focus on doing the right thing.

Man sitting, back facing

What’s great about novels is that no hero (or heroine) is perfect. The story evolves as the hero overcomes his false perception(s) and learns to do the right thing. In essence, the story is about his journey to becoming an honor male. From the definition of honor, we see two types, what Brett McKay from The Art of Manliness calls horizontal and vertical honor. Horizontal honor is a mutual respect among individuals that is earned and maintained. These are the men who’ve developed trust among their peers by showing strength, courage, and mastery. They know, when trouble arises, they can count on each other. The hero must demonstrate the bravery and tenacity to defend their virtue of honor when needed. Whether that consists of raising a sword and standing back-to-back or hopping on a keyboard and hacking into an evil fascist’s cyber system, depends on your genre of preference.

Firefighter in battle

On the other hand, vertical honor is derived from the verb form: to revere or hold in high respect. It’s not about mutual respect but about showing praise, esteem, and adoration to a position of power because they’ve distinguished themselves usually from the horizontal honor group. These heroes are the captains, bosses, officers, and political leaders.

My all-time favorite honor hero is Jesus. Even though He already held the vertical honor of being the Son of God, He came into the world to rub shoulders with us in the trenches. Because He loves us, He not only took on our limited human form with its vulnerability to illness, pain, and weakness, but he placed all of our sins upon himself. He suffered and died so that our wrongdoings would be washed away by His blood, so death no longer would hold its sting, and we won’t ever have to be separated from our awesome God. Jesus, who holds the honor of sitting at God’s right hand, in essence, transferred value to us, not because of what we’ve done, but because of what He gave (His life) for us.

Now that’s a hero worth writing about.

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