About Jennie K Atkins

Jennie writes contemporary romance from her home outside of Carson City, Nevada. During the day she manages a team of software engineers. When not attached to her computer, Jennie loves to garden, sew, or go four-wheeling with her husband of almost forty years. Jennie has four children and three grandchildren.

For the Brokenhearted

reaching out to you

Psalm 34:17-18 “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

This is the season of Joy. Glistening lights, happy Christmas carols, gifts given in love. But for some, the season is not as bright. For the father who is struggling to put food on the table for his children, let alone buy them Christmas gifts. For the old woman who sits in her rocking chair, her life but a memory and her children too busy to visit. For the child who wants to be a part of a loving family. For the mother who cries over the son she lost in the war.

For those who have gone through a year of endless trials and heartbreak and feel you have no reason to celebrate, this is for you. God is a God of love. He loves you. The Bible says He hears the prayers of His children. He knows the pain and sorrow you carry even without you telling Him. But even more so, He promises to deliver you from your troubles.

Even if your sorrows haven’t been as grievous, know that God has walked by your side. That He is ever faithful to love and keep you. Psalm 34 is loaded with promises from God—He answers our prayers when we seek Him, He encamps around us to protect us, His eyes and ears are attentive to our cries, and He promises to deliver us from our troubles.

It’s easy this time of year to get caught up in the trappings, the glitter, and the clutter and lose sight of the real reason for the season. God did not come to earth to judge us, but to save us. To lift us up when we are discouraged. To be our comforter and the lover of our souls.

May this holiday season be a time of refreshing for you. I pray you can leave your cares at His feet and that God’s presence will fill your hearts and souls to overflowing.

An Attitude of Thanksgiving

thxgvg

1 Thessalonians 15: 16 – 18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

We’ve all had those days, weeks, months where we are tempted to challenge the words of this verse. How can we give thanks when the washer breaks down and we’re surrounded by piles of dirty clothes? How can we give thanks when the paycheck wasn’t quite what we thought it would be, or our spouse is being unreasonable?

We can. And we should, as stated in the verse above. Did you know the term “give thanks” appears in the Bible over thirty times? That’s one verse for every day of the month with a few to spare. Apparently God had a reason for reminding us to be thankful. But why?

To focus on what we DO have.

Rather than worrying about the things we lack, we should thank God for what we do have—a roof over our head, our health, family and friends, a car to get to the job He provided for us, and food on the table. When we count our blessings, the list is endless in comparison to what we lack.

To keep bitterness at bay.

Did you know it’s impossible to be thankful and bitter at the same time? Although it’s challenging at times, any darkness we feel can be driven away with one small act. By thanking God for His love, grace, and provision, our foul attitude is soon replaced with His eternal joy.

To produce Godly character.

The key to remember here is that we know the end of the story. We are being groomed for an eternal life with Jesus Christ. Yes, it’s hard to stay positive when life assaults us from every direction, and He knows that. God understands our humanness. He created us and provided grace and mercy to cover our imperfections, but He also gives us clear direction in His word on how to stay positive and focused on Him.

Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving annually, let’s start a daily tradition. Let the thanksgiving spirit we share as part of our annual holiday become part of your everyday life. Then sit back and see what God can do in you.

Laying Your Worries at God’s feet

worry

Matthew 13:22 “What was sown among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”

The other day I sat in my garden, basking in the sun and singing Great is Thy Faithfulness. Soon my song faded, and my thoughts slipped to family concerns—my family, our future, my job. I found myself fretting over things I couldn’t control. Not only was I worrying about today, but I was also borrowing troubles from tomorrow, the rest of the year, and the future. It was piling up on my shoulders one large boulder at a time, and I let the stress steal my joy and the message in the song.

Rather than praying, I worried. I let my fear grow, making me weak and afraid.

Elizabeth Charles once said, “When we call on God, He bends down His ear to listen, as a father bends down to listen to his little child.

That day, I turned my cares over to Him. Like a small child I walked into my father’s arms, feeling the warmth of His embrace. I told Him about every worry—and He listened. He is faithful to all His children despite our faults, despite the times we want to pull our worries back from where we’ve laid them at His feet. He loves us, and promises to provide for our needs.

Will I find myself again someday worrying needlessly? Yes, I probably will. Thankfully, I have a Savior who understands me and has abundant grace.

Renewed Faith

full-moon-in-night-sky-over-waterI have a beautiful picture on my bedroom wall of a full moon rising over a clump of trees. The caption on it reads: “Love is like the moon, beautiful and ever new.” I’ve been married for going on forty years and one thing I’ve learned is the truth of that statement. One day I feel like I’m still on my honeymoon, and the next? Yeah, well, we won’t go there.

I believe the same is true of our faith. Some days we feel like we are standing on the mountain top, drinking in God’s blessings, our faith so strong we can conquer the impossible. Other days we find ourselves so wrapped up in life, in the demands of our daily routines, that it drains us of our strength and spiritual stamina.

Then the road of life turns rough, filled with potholes—our kids are sick, the Sunday school teacher calls at the last minute and asks us to bake an extra dozen cupcakes for class, or we have an argument with our spouse. Soon we find our faith careening off the edge of a cliff or at least being stuck in a rut.

It’s not to say we’ve lost all faith in God. It’s because we’re so overwhelmed, our faith feels as far away as the stars.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says: “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”

God has promised us that we are His, the sheep of His pasture, and that He is faithful. We can bask in His promises knowing His love is patient and kind. That He will never let us down. That is when we step into His grace and find ourselves back on the mountain again.

We may struggle from day to day, but He knows the child that loves Him. And He is faithful to keep us and provide for us renewed faith in Him. It is a gift, freely given as stated in Galatians.

Faith is not hoping God can—it is knowing He will.

Conferences and Friends


writingWith the beginning of the ACFW conference barely a week away, you’ll see many posts outlining the reasons you should attend a writers conference, what to expect, how to approach editors and agents, and basic conference survival guides.

I’d like to tell you about my first conference (albeit not ACFW, but RWA) in San Francisco. The day prior to the start of the conference was the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter meeting, which was RWA’s chapter for inspirational writers. There I met three special, very gifted writers, Debra Clopton, Linda Goodnight, and Janet Tronstad.

We had hooked up briefly in a pre-conference chat room and decided to take in a few of the San Francisco sights together. It was an afternoon of laughter and fun, especially when we ended up on the wrong street car and found ourselves in the Painted Ladies section of town rather than at Fisherman’s Wharf. Long story short, we finally made it to our destination, but what impressed me most was not the sights of the beautiful Oceanside city, but how these women took me in. Me–a green newbie writer. The encouragement I received from them that day has fueled my writing efforts for years.

I have since met other wonderful woman, such as the dozen who formed the group called the My Book Therapy Ponderers. A God-ordained story that I’ll save for another post, but just as impactful in my writing career.

The key to a successful conference is making connections. Surround yourself with as many writer friends as you can to encourage you, pray you through the journey, and help you along the way. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this. Get their business cards or write their names and emails down on a piece of paper. Then afterwards send them an email, or perhaps invite them to do a guest post on your blog. The key is to make new friends. It will be one of your best takeaways from a conference and an invaluable resource to the future of your writing career.

Your turn: What have you found to be the most valuable takeaway from a conference?

Dandelions and Spiritual Gifts

dandelionhand1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

When my children were little they’d run into the house, their knees scuffed, their cheeks smudged with dirt, and their hands stuffed full of dandelions. A gift for me. They’d smile when I’d pull a vase from the cupboard and treat those weeds with the same care as I would a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses.

One day, one of the neighbor girls came in with my daughter and handed me a fistful of flowers. After hugging my daughter and adding yet another vase full of yellow blooms to my collection, I tried to encourage the neighbor child to take her bouquet home to her mommy. She pouted, shook her head, then proceeded to stuff her fist toward me again. “My mommy just throws them in the trash.” Stunned and not knowing what else to do, I took the flowers from her and gave them the same special treatment I’d given the bouquets from my daughter.

It made me wonder how many times, like her mother, we have refused the gifts God has given us. How many times have we missed the blessing God wants to bestow on us? When we’re asked to be a substitute for a Sunday school class, do we turn away? Do we shrink back from an evangelistic effort because we’re afraid? Do we refuse to sing in the choir because we question our ability?

How often have we thought of someone, even felt led to call them, encourage them, and perhaps utter some of God’s truth in their ear? But we never do. Aren’t we missing the blessing–the gift that comes back to each one of us when we do God’s will?

Do we miss out on what God has in store for us by doubting our faith? Do we ever wonder if God is in control? Do we doubt His ability to meet our needs? Do we question His ability to perform miracles (through us and for us)? Faith is a gift.

How many times, like my neighbor, have we thrown God’s gifts into the trash and never looked back? Because of our disregard for the gifts He wants to give us, we’ve never witnessed the joy on God’s face—the same joy I saw on that little girl’s face when I took her flowers and set them in a place of honor at my kitchen table.

From that day forward, until the little girl’s family moved away, she brought me dandelions. If God sees He can trust us with one gift, He will provide another, and another. He will multiply our blessings because of our faithfulness and willingness to step out in faith. Sometimes this means having to face our fears, but remember, if God has ordained it, He will help you achieve it.

Holding onto God’s Hands

jesus hands

Psalm 73: 23-24 I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, or years when everything goes wrong? Health issues, financial problems, family struggles, or the death of a loved one—these are all things that can rip the joy from you, zap you of your strength, or leave you wondering if God is even out there.

How often, during these times, do we think our prayers have gone unanswered? Or that God has turned his back on us? Or that he doesn’t care?

Even if our faith runs deep, it is easy to get into that rut of believing the worst. It’s human nature. But I assure you, God will be with you every step of the way. He won’t stop at just walking beside you. He will, as the scripture says, hold you by his right hand. He will be your teacher, counselor, and mentor. He will guide you through the rough times, if you listen for his voice and search his word.

I knew a woman who had lost her first and only child to crib death, or SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The impact of that child’s death rippled through our small church with the force of a tsunami. A short time afterwards, I found her in one of the Sunday school rooms cleaning the toys, wiping off the shelves, and singing. When she sang, when she prayed, or even when she shed her tears across the altar, she believed God was her strength. He held her hand, and guided her through the valley of the shadow of death.

But most of all, she knew God had led her baby into glory. And that one day, he would lead her through, too. She’d be able to hold her child in her arms once again.

This is his promise to us. A promise we can count on.

Marketing—It’s Not Rocket Science

Business slogans on a road and street signsWriting isn’t rocket science, except for when it comes to my stymied brain.

Yes, I program software systems that run multi-million businesses and some consider me a computer geek. But creating an online presence using Facebook or Twitter, or starting my own blog for marketing purposes, scared me to death! What if I did it wrong? What if I put all this work into it, and no one made a comment? Plus, how does having a blog on gardening bring in possible sales for an inspirational romance novel that had little or nothing to do with gardening? Except, perhaps, for the garden scenes I built into my story world.

I read books on marketing. I looked online and even talked to others who explained it in very simple terms, but I still didn’t get it. Or maybe I didn’t want to. I’ve seen the bad side of marketing where authors inundated Facebook and Twitter with post after post, vying for a reader’s attention. Although having an online presence is the way marketing works, and yes, you must be visible, I knew that type of strategy wasn’t for me.

I wanted a marketing plan that was as subtle as the Energizer bunny. Do you remember those ads? A commercial starts, there is a woman turning on the water preparing to take a bath, bubbles rise from the water’s surface. Then out of nowhere comes the Energizer bunny, marching across the screen, beating his drum. From that point on, every commercial aired made the viewer wonder (unconsciously at least) . . . was this going to be a legitimate commercial or an Energizer bunny moment? The marketing scheme was perfect. Other than their original series of commercials, not one dollar was paid to other companies, yet because of the subtle intrusion into the normal commercial venue, you were thinking about their batteries every time a new commercial aired! Even if the company sold soap, tires, or lawn furniture.

So, in my effort to understand the process, I pulled out the big guns…my son, who had to market himself to raise funds for his trip to Portugal when he represented the US in the International Six Days Enduro off-road motorcycle event.

I showed him my blog and my FB page. We talked about me joining gardening groups, letting people see my name and my posts. (I’ll interject here, my knowledge of FB was v-e-r-y limited.) He showed me how getting my name out there as a reliable source of gardening information would make my name “recognizable.”

Another concern I had was I didn’t want to be the “dumb” commercial. I refuse to insult the intelligence of my tribe—or would-be tribe in this case. Just doing a blog on miscellaneous information (how I started), or on useless information, may get you some readers, but the key is to pull them in. Give them a reason for wanting to come back. People don’t have time to read something that will be of no help to them. Especially when there is a plethora of more useful blogs out there to read.

So what is marketing? It’s that sweet spot of taking something you are interested in and sharing it with others. As more people find that you are a valuable resource, your name becomes commonplace to them. Then when you have a product to sell—voila! You make a sale on your name alone. Because of your diligence, you will start with a small group willing to take a chance on you because they’ve learned to depend on the information you provide. As your name earns recognition, your influence broadens.

For any of you who were baffled by the need for expanding into the world of marketing, as I was, I hope this helped!

Freedom

American flagAll around the country this week, people are celebrating our country’s independence. Some are enjoying picnics on the beach with their blankets spread across the white sand, others are watching fireworks burst into a neon display over their local community center, and many are cooking burgers and dogs over a pit, the woodsy scent of hickory and charcoal permeating their back yards.

Despite our political views, we all enjoy the freedoms this country offers. As writers we can put pen to paper and say whatever we want because we have freedom of speech, as Christians we can worship in the church of our choice because our constitution gives us freedom of religion, and as citizens, we have the right to bear arms.

The freedoms we enjoy as Americans are indeed precious, but there is one far greater than we can ever imagine—the freedom Christ gave us when he died on the cross.

John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” By turning our lives over to Christ, we are free men and women. There are no political boundaries, it cannot be rescinded by human standards, and there is no cost. He has taken our sins away and lifted the burden of our actions from our shoulders.

2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” God’s freedom is for the asking. We don’t have to walk into the crosshairs of the enemy and fight for it—Jesus did that for us. The Lord has paid our debt in full. We only have to step into the outstretched arms of our heavenly Father. And there, in his presence, we will find eternal peace.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This is the best part of all. Once God has taken away our sins, He will never make us accountable for them—ever again. They are gone. Out of sight. He will never come back and remind us of all we’ve done in the past. We are free!
Freedom is a gift. You cannot see it, smell it or taste it. Yet, it is real and incredibly tangible. And it is the very essence of who we are as Americans, but more so—who we are as Christians.

God Bless America. God Bless you!

Hearing What You Can’t Read

woman listeningI am always fascinated by our five senses—touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing. I love the warmth of my husband’s hand when he clasps mine, the fragrant scent of a rose caught up on the morning breeze, or the tart pucker of a Granny Smith apple.

As writers, we know that adding the senses into our books makes the world our characters live in more real to the reader. But that’s not where I’m going with this post. My question to you is, when was the last time you listened to a book? I don’t mean just for pleasure, but to get into the depth of the story by using more than your eyes.

I have a Kindle that offers a “text to speech” option, which I’ve found to be available on many books. (I believe this is up to the author and/or publisher if they offer this choice and I’m sure it’s available on other readers as well.) It has a computer generated voice, which for me is fine, but you can go through this exercise with an audio book as well.

The trick is to listen to the words, but not become caught up in the story. It’s amazing what you can hear.

Rhythm: Did you know words and sentences have rhythm? When you listen to a story you can hear it. A good writer will create a steady beat with their words to slow the pace of the story. Or, speed it up to raise the tension as needed.

Choice of words: I’m a big proponent of not using the same word over and over again. I’m not advocating pulling out a thesaurus and running the gamut of possible choices, but just having an acute awareness of word choices. It makes the work more appealing. Fresh. You can “hear” the repeated words more than “read” them.

Story world: Has the author “painted” the world the character is in vividly enough that when you close your eyes while listening to a scene you can almost imagine yourself right in the middle? This aspect is hard to do when you need your eyes to read!

Emotions: Much like the story world, can you picture the characters’ actions? Feel their pain? Or laugh with them? This follows the line of showing instead of telling. When you listen to a book, you can “see” their reaction, like a movie screen playing on the backside of your eyelids.

I go through this exercise with many of my favorite authors. I take the time to learn from their writing style by listening to it. Then try to apply the concepts to my own writing.

So what do I do then? I always listen to what I’ve written. I email the Word doc to Amazon and it goes right to my Kindle. Then I go through the same exercise. Have I set the proper rhythm for the scene? Do I have words repeating that should be changed? Have I created a memorable scene mixed with real-life emotions?

Try it some time. You might be surprised what you hear that your eyes would have never seen.