Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Unexpected


Since today, May 30th, was once traditionally recognized as Memorial Day or Decoration Day (from 1868-1971) and yesterday was the day we set aside to celebrate Memorial Day (a day for honoring all our fallen servicemembers), it made me stop and think about the unexpected things that happen in our lives. How tragedies, in time, can bring about a certain unique beauty. How the loss of countless lives throughout history has paved the way for the freedoms we experience and enjoy today. How Jesus Christ giving up his life on the cross paved the way for us to experience freedom from sin if we will only choose to believe. How we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).
 

Even when we finally catch a glimpse of the good, it doesn’t annihilate the pain, sorrow, loss, emptiness, and uncertainty that comes from the unexpected -- the tragedies. But we can be assured that when we are weak, He is strong. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (II Cor. 12:10).  Because of Christ we can face tomorrow regardless of the unexpected that may be lurking around the corner.   
 


Remember the fallen, reach out to those who are struggling with such loss, and cherish the freedoms you experience. The unexpected – the tragedies –  they will come and when they do choose to trust in the One who holds you in the palm of His hand.
 
 
 
 
 
Happy Memorial Day, my friends!!!
Shauna Williams
 
 
 
 

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Ultimate Reading Challenge


About two-and-a-half years ago I embarked upon a reading challenge of sorts — a challenge I set for myself — a challenge that I’ve since dubbed The Ultimate Reading Challenge. And it’s impacted my life in such a way that I feel compelled to share it with you. But before I divulge the nitty-gritty, I want to explain what brought me to the point of this challenge in the first place.

 
 
 

As I’ve mentioned before, I have always held a deep love for the written word. And since I am now an author, I’ve found that books hold more value, for me, than they once did. Mostly because I realize what it takes for a book to become a reality — how much time, energy, and love are poured into each page — from the earliest imaginings to the latest publications. Every story is unique and indelibly imprinted with a piece of its creator’s soul. Therefore, it takes a lot of courage for an author to finally release a work for the world to see and critique.

 


 

With having joined the masses of those who openly bare their souls, I understand the elations and disappointments that inevitably follow. And let’s be honest, there are more books available to read than there are readers to read them…. Yep, not exactly the kind of nugget you want to uncover as a novice author. Actually, it’s a pretty hard pill to swallow for any author, even if you’re someone who doesn’t hold grandiose dreams…. So, after many tears and prayers, I’m learning to write solely for the love of writing, and in order for me to write to the best of my ability, I have to continually follow my calling.


 
 

Which leads me to The Ultimate Reading Challenge itself.... In all my confusion, I began to misconstrue tangible results with success. But success is not always tangibly measurable, not in life and especially not when it comes to books. You see, when I started to complain about what I couldn’t see I was reminded about the Creator of the Universe. And it dawned on me in a new light that God had chosen to reveal Himself through the written Word—that He’s an author, too. That tidbit of information I’d taken for granted since childhood instantaneously transformed my point of view and my life. Suddenly, it felt as if I finally understood a small aspect of who God really is—that I could somehow relate to Him on a more intimate level. Mind you, my elation was short-lived and rapidly replaced by utter shame. It had been years since I had read the Bible in its entirety. And I couldn’t help but ask myself ... What value, in actuality, did I place on God and His Word, considering my actions? As an author, I long for my books to be read and have even found myself disappointed, at times, by those friends and family members who seem disinterested. But isn’t that exactly how I'd been treating God’s Word—with similar disinterest? And it was then when I realized what I had to do—I had to once again read through the Bible in its entirety.

 
 

I figured the most realistic goal I could attain was to read it through within a year’s time. So, I downloaded a Bible app on my smartphone and began reading. I’m happy to say that I stuck with my goal and actually finished one month ahead of schedule. Now, I’m on my third round of reading through in one year and am loving it. With the continuation of this challenge, I’ve begun mixing it up a little by selecting a different version with a different reading plan (Beginning to End, Canonical, Historical, Chronological, New Testament 1st, etc.). I’ve also begun to prayerfully read, asking God to reveal what He would have me to know so I’m not relying on my own understanding based on what I’ve been taught. It’s amazing the truths you will find when you view the Bible for what it is and realize that God, the Creator of the Universe, cared enough to reveal Himself in written form.


 

 

So, here comes the actual challenge…. I would love for you to embark upon this journey with me. Whether you’ve never read the entire Bible or have but haven’t in a while or even if you have just finished a similar plan, why not join this Ultimate Reading Challenge? Find an app (if you already haven't) for your smartphone, Kindle (what I use now), Nook, laptop, or whatever electronic devise works best for you. Or simply Google a one year reading plan, open a physical Bible, and join with me on this incredible challenge. (Here's one to try if you're a one-click kind of person: https://www.backtothebible.org/one-year-reading-plans.) 

 

 

In the beginning, I started with the Touch Bible App(http://www.touchbible.org/) then moved on to the Bible.is App (http://www.bible.is/apps) but have since  found that the YouVersion Bible App (https://www.youversion.com/apps) is, in my opinion, one of the most user-friendly apps with numerous options available to tailor-make your reading experience just the way you want it. There’s a feature for setting up a daily reminder so you’ll never forget to read again. It even offers several versions (including the KJV) in audio format so you can forgo reading and simply listen—definitely a great asset for those who are constantly on the go with little downtime for reading. Mind you, these aren't the only free Bible apps out there. So, if none of these are for you then do a little research and find one that suites your taste. There are definitely plenty to choose from. And honestly, in our modern age, we have no excuse not to be able say we’ve read the entire Bible, not once but multiple times throughout our lives.

 

 

To give you a little perspective on why this challenge is well-worth the effort let me give you some food for thought on just how unique the Bible is.... The Bible IS the greatest love story ever written. And unlike most love stories, it IS the only book written by an Author who actually loves every person who reads it and longs for a personal relationship with them. It IS the only book a reader can read multiple times and continuously fall deeper in love with its Author. It IS the only book written by an Author who is always present when its being read. It IS the only book that contains everything needed to live a victorious, prosperous life. And it IS the greatest book ever written or that will ever be written.
 
 


 

So ... what’s holding you back? Don't you want to be able to say you've read the Bible in its entirety? And if you already have, when was the last time you read it asking God to reveal what He would have you know instead of understanding it based on what you’ve been taught?

 

Please, don’t let one more day pass you by before you begin The Ultimate Reading Challenge. I promise, this challenge won’t disappoint. Your life will be ultimately and forever changed for the better because of it!
 
 
 
 
 
Blessed Reading,

Shauna Williams
 
 
 
 

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Simple Pleasures


How long has it been since you’ve allowed yourself to become lost in a moment? When was the last time you really smelled the roses? Observed some cows grazing in a pasture? Enjoyed the feel of your cat’s fur beneath your fingertips? Basked in the warmth of the sun as the springtime breeze caressed your face? Or gazed up into the nighttime sky filled with awe and wonder? How long has it been since you’ve taken a moment to enjoy the simple pleasures that surround us?



I know what you’re thinking…. Who’s got time for that? For goodness sakes, most days, I barely have time to take a bathroom break. Look, between work, errands, dealing with kids, figuring out what’s for supper, keeping the house from looking like an episode of Hoarders, trying to accommodate my husband’s needs, and somehow fitting in a fifteen minute or so devotional, I barely have time to make it to bed at a decent hour before it’s time to begin the vicious cycle all over again. Oh, and don’t worry. I am going to relax. We’ve got a trip planned for this summer, like always. Trust me, I’ll take some time then to enjoy nature and whatever else type moments you mentioned.

 
Perdido Beach, Alabama, during a trip we took two years ago.





Hey, I hear you loud and clear. Oh, and I most definitely understand because, well, that pretty much sums up my life, too. But what if we’re missing out by not indulging in a moment here or there? We lead such hectic, planned-out lives. Think about it, we even feel the need to schedule time to relax. Yeah, let that sink in for a minute, why don’t you.


Honestly, does relaxation and planning go hand-in-hand like we’ve conditioned our minds to think? Why have we, as a society, determined that we need to hold out for some perfect, manufactured setting we deem best before we can truly relax? How often have we been guilty of thinking – when I go to the beach in a couple of weeks, when I finally board that cruise ship, when I enter the spa this afternoon, or when I drive up to the cabin in the mountains, that’s when I’ll finally be able to let go and simply relax. I’m sure we’ve all thought something along those lines before, and there’s nothing wrong with planning or setting aside time so we can relax. But what if there’s more to relaxation than simply the destination? What if it’s not about the where but is, instead, about the how? What if there’s an art to relaxation, a method if you will? What if true relaxation is made up of simple moments that aren’t constrained by our schedules?

 
A cruise ship from one of my parent's trips. (And, no, I've never been on a cruise.)

I say this because I’ve been stressed more than usual. This was Spring Break week in north Alabama and my kids are staying with their grandparents who live nearly five hours away. I had this week planned out, too. No kids equaled plenty of time to catch up on household chores, to paint the wall in my son’s bedroom, to plant shrubs and flowers in my flower beds, to sort through my kids outgrown clothes, to reseal the grout in the tiled areas of my house, to work on my blog, to write another chapter in my book…and technically the list goes on, but I won’t bore you with any more of the details.
 

Needless to say, by Wednesday I was nowhere near the point of tackling half the things I’d set out to do. So, like a good Christian wife and mother...ahhh....Yeah right. Not me; instead, I did what I do best. I panicked. I mentally freaked out for several hours. But guess what, life went on. Which made me realize, that even though all those tasks are important, life does go on whether I can accomplish them all or not. And one day, before I know it, time will rob me of my youth and I will be unable to accomplish much of anything due to age and physical limitations. Then, I’ll look back and wish I’d enjoyed some moments along the way, made a few memories, and didn’t take life so seriously. So, I determined, while I’m accomplishing my tasks each day, I’ll also find a way to enjoy the simple things in life that are readily available.

 
The next day, as I washed dishes, I glanced out my window and watched the cows grazing in the rolling field behind our house. I love cows. It’s a love I’ve had since childhood when I had the privilege of bottle-raising a calf. And guess what? In that moment, I found myself relaxing a little while doing a chore.

 
Me bottle feeding Honey.
 

Honey when she was old enough to be with the other cows.
 


A photo op I took of some of the cows in the field behind my house.

Later, I cleaned out the inside of my car. I found mostly my kids’ stuff – toys, pieces of toys, hair ties, and trash including a half-eaten corndog and a shriveled-up piece of a banana…ummm…Yuck! But amongst the sorted piles, I took time to enjoy the sun’s warmth which was accompanied by the ever-present blustery, springtime breeze. I even paid attention to the sounds around me – the birds chirping, the bees buzzing by, the rustle of the grass rippling in the brisk gusts. It was actually relaxing. That night, I stood out on my back deck, tired and physically drained from a long day; but I chose to glance upward and observe the majestic, star-filled sky. I relaxed in the moment, knowing that the God who created something so spectacular also chose to create me.

 

When I finally made it to bed a couple of hours later, I read a chapter from a friend’s book I’ve been meaning to finish, and my cat of nearly ten years curled up on top of me as usual. I began to pet her out of habit but, instead, decided to notice the sensation of her fur beneath my fingertips. I relaxed because this, my friend, is my happy place – reading a book and being with my cat. If you didn’t already know, I’m a cat person, always have been, always will be. I fully embrace the colloquial term “Crazy Cat Lady.” That would be so me if I weren’t married to my wonderful husband. He keeps my cat collecting habits in check. Just so you know, I currently only have three – one inside and two outside.


Dixie Bryant
 
This morning, after painting a second coat of paint on my son’s wall, I sat down in front of the computer to type this and indulged in the first sip of a piping hot cappuccino I’d made. Wow! Life is always better after that first sip!


My favorite mug!
 
So far, becoming lost in a moment has made a significant impact on my overall view of life. Plus, being acutely aware of the simple pleasures found while accomplishing a task has made all the difference on my stress level throughout the day. So, I want to continually allow myself to become lost in the moments, to smell the roses whenever the opportunity presents itself. And I long to share these experiences with my children so they too can learn the importance of embracing the simple things in life. And hopefully, you’ll find ways to do the same.
 

We’re surrounded by a beautiful world created by the One who loves us. He took the time to observe what He’d accomplished after each day of creation so that He could determine if it was good – that it would be the perfect environment for the creation He loved most of all. So, why not plan our days, even plan our vacations, all the while making sure to be aware of the little things – the things that will put a smile on our faces or will provide a calming effect in the midst of our hectic, crazy lives?

 

 
To the simple pleasures,

Shauna Williams
 
 
 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Creative Inspirations


My love for the written word began in early childhood and has morphed through the years about as much as I have. I was an imaginative child who enjoyed fairytales such as Snow-White and Rose-Red and Cinderella.... Seriously though, are there really any little girls out there whose imaginations haven’t been sparked by a good, old-fashioned fairytale? As I grew older, fairytales, for the most part, fell by the wayside and stories such as Little House on the Prairie, the Mandie series, and Anne of Green Gables quickly took their place. Then, low and behold, I become of age to delve into the world of fictional romance, and authors such as Janette Oke, Grace Livingston Hill, Brock and Brodie Thoene, Judith Pella, Michael Phillips, and Francine Rivers became some of my all-time favorites. For a while, I toyed with the idea of one day becoming an actual writer, even jotted down the beginnings of a few stories but was never quite able to fully transfer my thoughts to paper. Once I was college-bound, my initial interest in writing was left by the wayside and soon long forgotten. As a young adult, my love for the written word continued and I began to explore beyond the Christian literary world. I read many a good novel of varying genres written by both men and women. But no matter how good the read may have been, to me, there always seemed to be an element of depth missing from each piece.


 
Snow-White and Rose-Red by the Grimm Brothers


 
Essentially, that void was what inspired me toward my forgotten desire of writing. I suddenly longed to meld the elements I’d enjoyed from both the Christian and non-Christian novels into my own creations. I began envisioning various storylines that showcased human frailty made beautiful by God’s love. My first novel, Imperfectly Perfect Love, grew from those desires and became the first book in the Surrendered Hearts series.
 

 
 

With Imperfectly Perfect Love, I wanted to showcase the realities of marriage and the not-so-perfect bliss of motherhood. To me, the most important message any love story can convey isn’t expressed within its romantic scenes or the oh-so perfect ending but is, instead, brought forth through God using the imperfectness of earthly relationships to draw a character toward His perfect love which in turn ultimately draws them toward others. And that’s pretty much the sum of Maggie Grace’s story. 
 
 
The picture that was my inspiration for Granny Grace's house.
A picture I found that reminded me a little of my great, great aunt's house.
Obviously, more like the state Peter found it in before making repairs. 

 

 
With Serene Courage, I purposefully made the scenes slightly intense. Let’s face it, a dysfunctional family is intense, and domestic abuse is always intense. I wanted you to be immediately thrust into Emily Faith’s world so you could understand the depth of her struggle on a realistic level. I think, because of its intensity, you appreciate the ending even more. My prayer is that Emily's story will be an inspiration to anyone, saved and unsaved alike, who has dealt or is dealing with domestic abuse.
 
 
The W. B. Davis Hosiery Mill in Fort Payne, Alabama, was my
inspirational idea for Abigail's Haven of Hope. Obviously, in the
story, it was a remodeled version and not in the middle of the 
downtown area of Sunnyville.
This picture was the inspiration for Emily's wedding dress.
                                                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                                                                    
With Amazing Faith, you will come to know all there is to know about the passionate, adventuresome coffee shop owner from Oklahoma. Pieces of Kennah Joy’s past will slowly be revealed, allowing you to fully appreciate the woman you’ve already met. Her deep devotion to God has been grounded since childhood, but it doesn’t mean her faith never wavers or that she doesn’t long for her heart’s seemingly unreachable desire. It also doesn’t mean that she won’t ever ask, “Why?” Even though this story deals with the realities faced by many a single woman, it is a light-hearted, eye-opening read. And for all you single ladies out there who are still waiting for Mr. Right, you might just find that this particular story will speak directly to your heart. Don’t settle for less than God’s best because whoever He has on the other side will definitely be worth the wait! And who knows what fun adventures you’ll inevitably embark upon along the way.
 

This is somewhat how I envision Kennah Joy
but with longer, straighter, and darker hair.
 

With Resilient Hope, I’ve been purposely saving a subject that is close to my heart for last. This story will explore the journey of Gloryanna Hope as she traverses the difficult realities of miscarriage, infertility, and all the emotional and physical ramifications that follow. No matter how dark and dismal a situation may seem hope will always spring eternal because He is our hope.




 

Once the four-part Surrendered Hearts series is finished, I plan to continue writing as the Lord leads. My heart’s desire has been and continues to be, for the most part, to minister to Christian women. That’s why the Christian-worldview is far from subtle in my novels. My goal is to create stories which deal with real topics faced by real Christian women today. I know there are many of you out there who are hurting, who feel alone in your struggles, who need hope in the midst of your pain. I feel a distinct calling to begin tastefully broaching subjects that are far too often rarely discussed within Christian circles but are realities in many homes today. I pray God will give me unique, entertaining stories to tell that will bring hope and light to those who need it most.




Love,
Shauna Williams






Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Life, Faith & Eyes


Life is complex and confounding yet a mere irony when examined as a whole. . . . Truth, especially as far as my life is concerned. And I know my life, generally speaking, is not much different than yours. That’s why, when I felt led to begin something new this year, I fought against it tooth and nail. Me? Blogging on a regular basis, really? Why would I, of all people, write a blog post each month? First, in all likelihood, no one will ever read it. Second, I have nothing to write about, especially on a monthly basis. Third, I don't have the time. Well, as you can see, I lost out on my own argument because here I am writing the first of twelve posts for the year. So, whether the posts are ever read or whether anything I write ever makes a difference, I’m following my calling. And I couldn’t think of a better way to dive in, than to give you a peek into my not-so-interesting life.

My husband and I.

 
To begin, let me get a little nostalgic and admit that whenever I take time to reflect I’m always amazed to see how God has tested my faith through the years. Majority of the time, I wasn’t exactly aware of the process until I happened to be on the other side looking back. A few examples that readily come to mind are: dealing with marital issues (Yes. I know. I’m a romance novelist. So, I’ve got happily ever after, in reality, actually figured out, right? Ummm . . . that would be a resounding NO. I don’t have nor have I ever had a perfect marriage or am I anywhere near figuring it out.), dealing with years of infertility (If you’re interested in that story, see my previous blog post from Sept 30, 2015.), dealing with moving away from family and friends to a remote area in north Alabama for my husband's career (At times, this still proves to be a hard pill to swallow), and dealing with children who have eye issues (And, yes, both of my beautiful, perfect-to-me children have dealt or are currently dealing with eye issues.). To make it clear, it’s nothing simple where you hear the doctor say let’s give them an antibiotic drop that’ll clear this up in a couple of days. No, it’s more along the lines of surgeries, glasses, patching, no definitive diagnosis at this point, and continual follow-ups.

My beautiful, perfect-to-me children.


So, to make a long story short, I, at one point in my pre-mommy days, worked as the lead technician for a pediatric ophthalmologist. Fast-forward some eight years to when my seven-month-old daughter became her patient. The tables had turned, and I was the mom, waiting in the outpatient surgical lobby, praying that everything would go as planned. Hadassah’s first surgery went well, and over a span of three years, she had a total of three successful surgeries for strabismus. She patched off and on and wore glasses for about a year and a half as an infant. She is now a four-year-old, energetic little girl who loves gymnastics and wears glasses part time. To know, that years before while struggling with infertility God placed me in the perfect environment so I would know the perfect pediatric ophthalmologist for my child who hadn’t yet been conceived is, in fact, amazing. What a mighty God we serve!


Perfect costume when you've got to patch!
 
A fun-filled first.

First day back in glasses since an infant.

At that point, I thought we were finally in the clear. Hadassah’s eyes were aligned and working beautifully together. The part-time-glasses thing was a walk in the park. . . . Whew, made it through, and God had been nothing but faithful. Smooth sailing ahead, right? Wrong. My five-year-old son, who’s had perfect alignment and seemingly great vision, failed his eye screening exam at school. Okay, I’ve got this. No big deal. All it is, is decreased vision in the left eye due to probable astigmatism. Well, that’s what the paper they sent home said anyway. So, for a while, I toyed with my options. Should I have him examined by a local optometrist or see if Hadassah’s ophthalmologist would see him? And it just so happened or, better yet, in hindsight it was Divinely orchestrated that Hadassah had an upcoming regular follow-up. So, I thought, why not take the failed screening sheet with us to ask the ophthalmologist her opinion? Hadassah's doctor volunteered to see him, and I scheduled the appointment for the beginning of this year.


After a thorough exam, it was determined that astigmatism was not an issue at all and, in fact, the actual issue was a more serious one than originally thought.  The doctor informed us she'd detected corneal changes in his left eye and found an eyelid infection in both eyes which may or may not be attributing to some of the corneal change. My heart immediately dropped. Worry set in, and worse-case scenarios flashed through my mind. As I began following the prescribed regimen (washing eyelids twice a day, patching four hours a day, and applying eye ointment three times a day), I began to stress and worry. God knew this even as I outwardly prayed and asked for friends and family to do the same; and He, in His infinite greatness, allowed for one of the corneal specialist I had occasionally worked with back in the day to contact me upon seeing my request. This physician, of his own accord, discussed Ephraim’s case with me and gave his expert medical opinion. And again, I saw how God’s Hand had been at work all those years before. This knowledge alone ushered in such a sense of peace and comfort. What a reminder that God’s sovereignty is always at work! 

 
My son, who loves everything space and wants to be an astronaut when he grows up, sporting his astronaut patch.


 
I know what my daughter faced and my son is now facing pales in comparison to others who have faced congenital heart defects, cancer, autism, autoimmune disorders, and so much more with their children. But as a mother, when it’s your child facing a medical issue, there is never any easy situation, only difficult. So, for now, I’m trusting God with the details. He knows what’s wrong with my son’s eyes. He knows specialist copays are high along with insurance deductibles and premiums. He knows I’m easily stressed. And He also knows the future. I have to continually remind myself I’m not called to worry but to be a wife and mother who trusts no matter the outcome. That’s my calling as a Christian, and, yes, it’s difficult. Some days I fail, and some days I don’t. And thankfully, either way, God is faithful. There are still lots of appointments ahead and a definitive diagnosis to be rendered, but the one constant, in the midst of it all, is GOD.
 

I’m sure you, like I, can reflect over your life and see how God had you in the right place at the perfect time. Maybe you’re like me too and the older you get the more you're able to see how the hard-to-fit pieces of your life seem to be fitting together. And maybe, just maybe, you are beginning to understand how the uncertainties and tragedies are what brings us to our knees, reminding us of II Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."


Please know that no matter the struggle or uncertainty you face, God is faithful. He goes before you. He will sustain and keep you; therefore, you can be free from fear. "And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed." (Deuteronomy 31:8). Though life brings change and uncertainty, God is forever the one constant.




Blessings friends,

Shauna Williams


P.S. If you are struggling, have a child with an eye problem or any other medical condition, or just need someone who'll share your burden, please feel free to send me an email or contact me via social media. I'd love to pray for you and encourage you as best I can.