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Coming Soon!

Jaded, contemporary Christian romance, published by David C. Cook

Having been shunned by the local congregation, Ruthie despises Christians. But her bitterness is put to the test when a new preacher moves to town. Against her better judgment, she falls in love, and their relationship reveals secrets which turn the church upside down as Ruthie learns to forgive.

Jaded will soon be available in stores and online.

In the meantime, sign-up for my newsletter and receive a sneak peek at the first chapter.

Rest like God rests.

April 15, 2014

vvdenman bearcat

I’m exhausted most of the time.

Aren’t we all?

We work, usually at more than one job. We sign-up our kids for a bajillion activities. We feel compelled to participate in several ministries at church. And of course, we like our entertainment . . . which usually involves some sort of exertion.

It’s difficult to fit in time to rest. And even when we go to bed, we toss and turn, thinking about what needs to be done tomorrow.

Why not rest like God rests?

He only had seven days in the week, just like us. And even though He had WAY more to do, he still rested one day a week.

Let’s take a lesson from the Creator of the Universe, and give ourselves some down time. Not just from work, but from responsibilities.

Take an entire day off.

Every week.

Sounds foreign (if not impossible), but let’s try it.

Pick a day. Any day.

Then stay home. Sit there. Hug the kids. Talk to the hubby. We’ll be worth more the next day when we hit the workforce at full speed.

vvdenman rest like God

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Genesis 2:2 NIV

Bearcat Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net – Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

5 Reasons to Seek Marriage Counseling When You Don’t Need It

April 1, 2014

vvdenman marriagecounselling

Years ago, couples only sought marriage counseling if they were getting a divorce.

Times have changed. Now, if a couple is in counseling, more than likely it simply means they care about their marriage.

My husband and I have been on both ends of the spectrum.

Even though we never considered divorce, there was a muddy time in our marriage where nothing held us together except stubborn determination. But fortunately that low spell drove us to counseling . . . which changed our perception of therapy.

Now we seek counseling BEFORE things get messy.

For issues like this:

  1. Our relationship has fallen into a boring routine. We know we still love each other, but through the daily frenzy, we no longer show it. Or even remember how. We get up in the morning, go to work, come home, go to bed, and never once truly see/hear/talk/acknowledge each other.
  2. The kids are making trouble, and we don’t know what to do. Be it toddlers or teenagers, offspring can stress parents to the point of distraction, or worse, wedge themselves between us.
  3.  One or both of us is blucky. No, that’s not a real word, but I’m using it as a combination of any of these adjectives: selfish-whiny-pouty-needy-bitter-bored-lazy-irritable-silent-moody-cranky. (You get the idea) Somebody needs a tune-up.
  4. We can’t agree on an important issue. Okay, my husband and I are polar opposites, so we never completely agree on anything. But when we’re too testy to compromise, we seek advice from a neutral third party.
  5. Too many changes! New jobs, new ministries, new bills, new houses, new drivers. Not necessarily bad changes, but sometimes life becomes overwhelming, and we feel out of control.

The list goes on. And on. And on.

Every couple has different concerns, but we all need to work on our marriages continuously.

If you’re interested in counseling, ask your local congregation if they offer private or group sessions. Or get online help from Focus on the FamilyHeaven Now Ministries, or  Crosswalk.

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

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Photo Credit: Happy Couple – freedigitalphotos.net, David Castillo Dominici

Click to Tweet: “5 Reasons to Seek Marriage Counseling When You Don’t Need It”

I’m Getting Published!

March 18, 2014

vvdenman contract signing

That’s my hand,

signing a three-book publishing contract with David C. Cook, so that means . . .

 I’m a real author now!

(Strange, I don’t feel any different.)

At this point, I don’t have a release date. Maybe the end of the year, or the first of 2015. (No one ever said publishing was speedy. Yikes.)

I’m not sure of the title. Or the cover. Obviously, I don’t know much.

But I do know the series is inspirational romance, set in a small Texas town.

Here’s the nutshell:

Having been unjustly shunned by the local congregation, Ruthie Turner despises the church members who refuse to speak to her. When the new preacher asks her out, Ruthie’s bitterness is put to the test. Against her better judgment, she falls in love then re-examines Christianity while he risks his reputation to be with her. Their relationship reveals a string of secrets which turn the little church upside down as Ruthie learns to forgive.

Jaded is a love story, not only between a man and woman, but also between the church and the lost.

Want to read the first chapter?

Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you a sneak peek.

After that, you’ll receive an email once a month (or less) with details about my writing trek. Occasionally I’ll include a fun short story so you can get to know my characters while you wait for their books.

Thank you for your constant encouragement. You guys are great!

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Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Why I’m Giving Up On Chocolate

March 4, 2014

First . . .

vvdenman ChocolateCookies

Meet my daughters, Thing One and Thing Two. You can tell we’re related because they’re eating chocolate.

Like most Americans, our family is addicted to the heavenly brown stuff. We add chocolate chips to our pancakes, chocolate syrup to our ice cream, and chocolate sauce to our fruit. We celebrate with chocolate birthday cakes, chocolate santas, and chocolate bunnies.

Don’t even get me started on my use of chocolate as a comfort food.

Now . . .

vvdenman DanielRosenthal Ivory Coast

Meet Richard. He’s there on the left.

Richard and another child slave are just leaving a cocoa plantation where they have been working all day. Richard carries a pesticide tank on his back, and his body is covered with a skin disease.

These boys were lured away from their homes with promises of good fortune. Instead they got hard labor, hazardous conditions, no pay, little food, and no hope of returning to their families.

Both boys have scars from accidents involving the machetes they use daily. They do not attend school, and they have no idea what becomes of the cocoa beans they harvest.

Neither of them have ever tasted chocolate.

freedigitalphotos.net - Sura Nualpradid

Sobering, isn’t it?

The Ivory Coast, where these boys work, exports 36% of the world’s cocoa beans. It is estimated a quarter of a million children work on cocoa farms in that country alone. (source: DanielRosenthal.com)

A decade ago, the world’s largest chocolate producers pledged to stop buying their chocolate from slave traders, but they have been VERY slow to comply.

However, there’s an easy way to know if the chocolate we buy is “Fair Trade,” meaning it contains only chocolate from non-slave plantations.

vvdenman FairTradeLogo

Look for this symbol when you buy your chocolate.

By buying certified Fair Trade, we can know our chocolate does not come from farms incorporating child slavery. If, as consumers, we demand a change in our chocolate’s supply chain, large companies will pay attention. (source: TheMarginalized.com)

For more information on Fair Trade products, and to locate fair trade stores near you, visit FairTradeUSA.org.

I’m new to this, so if you know of good links or other information, please leave a comment.

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They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. Psalm 78:18

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Photo Credits: slave boys - Daniel Rosenthal, chocolate candies - freedigitalphotos.net (Sura Nualpradid), fair trade logo - Fair Trade USA

The Best Part of an Awesome Marriage Proposal

February 18, 2014

vvdenman Marriage Proposal

My son proposed to his girlfriend last week in front of the student body and faculty of his small Texas college. He got down on one knee, held up a ring, and told her he couldn’t live without her.

Our family and hers had been expecting a proposal, but not one so romantic,  so touching, so public. Since then, I’ve watched the video approximately nine million times–first, a fuzzy phone video, then a professional video made by the university–and I’ve memorized every word and analyzed each facial expression. Their obvious love warms my heart.

But my favorite part of the proposal? The part that brings tears to my eyes every time?

The audience.

An auditorium filled with cheering students. Girls with tears on their cheeks, screaming at the top of their lungs. Boys with deep throated chants, pumping their fists in the air. All for two of their friends making a commitment to each other.

That’s what makes me cry the most.

It gets me. Knowing there are still kids in our crazy mixed-up country that will celebrate marriage, praise purity, and rejoice with the vows of their friends. And they will do it loudly, with tears streaming down their cheeks and their fists pumping in the air, and they will not be ashamed.

Rejoice in the wife of your youth. Proverbs 5:18 (NASB)

If you have attention deficit (like me), forward to 3:00.

Media Credits: photo courtesy of Dr. Philip Camp/video-Lubbock Christian University

How Many Kids Should We Have, Honey?

February 4, 2014

vvdenmanPeople2

Family size is tricky to figure out.

Or should we even try? Some couples leave it in the Lord’s hands, while others calculate ovulation down to the minute so they can determine not only the birth date of their baby, but also the gender.

Maybe you’re strategically planning your family.

Maybe you’re contemplating what lies in store as you wait for God’s small gifts.

Maybe you’re looking back on your parenting years and wondering what on earth happened.

In a nutshell, here’s my take on family size:

1 child - You and your spouse have complete control of the situation. The odds are forever in your favor. Should a parent become _____ (insert appropriate adjective), no worries! the other parent is available to intervene. The child is well cared for and feels constant love and affection, though occasionally your bundle of joy may slightly prefer one parent over the other.

2 children – It’s one-to-one now. That seems reasonable. Things are still under control, as long as the parents support each other, practice patience, and take plenty of Tylenol. Everyone is happy here. No parent is left without a child to cuddle, no child is left without a sippy cup fetcher. All is well.

3 children - Now you’ve gone and done it. You’re out numbered. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to control all of them at the same time, and at least one child is always scurrying away from you at record speed. The children begin to feel a loosening of the reins, and respond accordingly, testing the boundaries.

4 children - No noticeable difference whatsoever. Once you’re outnumbered, all control is lost. You might as well try for a football team.

5 children - Or perhaps a basketball team.

vvdenmanFamilySize

Wouldn’t you know, there are no Bible verses detailing the perfect family size, so I’ll leave you with this one instead (slightly out of context):

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Phil 4:13 (NAS)

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Click to Tweet: How many kids should you have? Here’s a handy chart! 

Photo credit: (silhouette) Group of People, Vlado, freedigitalphotos.net

What Yoda and Yoga Have in Common -or- Becoming Yoda

January 21, 2014

vvdenman yoga

My family and I were introduced to YOGA over the holidays, and we were instantly hooked. No, that is not my husband and me in the picture, though I sort of wish it were. (I opted not to post a picture of myself in a yoga pose, because I don’t want you to click away from my blog).

vvdenman Gwen LawrenceWith my #1 New Year’s resolution in mind, I purchased a 20 minute DVD, planned my schedule (yoga every SINGLE evening), and alerted the family of the fun times we would share.

Since then, I’ve heard every YODA joke imaginable. For example:

“Where’d you put the Yoga DVD?”
“Ah . . . take you to it, I will.”

As I press forward in the new year with my exercise routine, I’ve noticed I relax while doing those stretches. Not only am I working out, I’m slowing down (another New Year’s resolution).

So in my frantic attempt to meet goals, I stumbled on the similarities between Yoda  and yoga. I mean, OBVIOUSLY Yoda was an avid yoga-er. Think of how calm he was, how thoughtful, how in control.

If I keep this up, I could in fact, become Yoda.

vvdenman yoda

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For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8

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Photo Credits: Yoga-freedigitalphotos.net/lobster20 Yoda-everystockphoto.com/Jonathan Powell

 

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