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What if I Don’t Go? Lessons from My Summer

Summer 2015: my first summer in six years without a mission trip. Because of family commitments, my husband and I decided not to serve overseas this past summer. And for multiple reasons, it was the right decision. But without a mission trip, summer didn’t seem like summer. I missed the packing, the planning, the prayer over the country and the people. I missed the confusion and excitement of travel, the challenge of operating in another language, and the fun of discovering how people in other cultures and countries live. I missed the early-morning bus rides, the late-night talk sessions, the evening challenges in Word and worship. I missed the performances of a gospel-sharing drama and the intense conversations and conversions that followed. I missed the miracles of healing, provision, salvation, and more. A summer without missions didn’t seem like summer. Not at all. But is God only at work on the mission field? And is missions only about my satisfaction? Of course not. This summer proved a good time to reflect on the reasons I go and tell. Besides having some of my personal preferences unfulfilled, what happens if I don’t go? People don’t come to know Christ. I don’t have the gift of evangelism, but I do love Jesus. A lot. And I believe his Word compels me to tell others about him. If I miss a trip, the people with whom I would have shared miss the gospel. Yes, God can cover that through others, but fewer missionaries means fewer contacts, and fewer contacts means fewer people who have the opportunity to hear and respond. Students don’t grow in their faith. Every mission trip I’ve taken has involved some of my favorite people: students. I love the double opportunity these trips bring to share my faith with the nationals and share about my faith with the teens, some of whom have become lifelong friends. Of course, I learn as much from these students as they do from me (“Never the Same Missions: Grace” gives one heartfelt example). So I miss out on the spiritual growth that takes place on the mission field, too. Those in need receive less. When I travel overseas, I take clothing, toys, and other items to share. Our Never the Same teams raise extra money to bring Spanish Bibles each year. And while on the field, it seems there’s always a project, a church, or a ministry that needs our help via cleaning, painting, or other practical acts. One less person on the field means less giving in those ways, too. Stories of God’s work don’t get told. I live and move and breathe as a storyteller, so whether I’m the official writer on a trip or not,...

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Words with Friends: Cynthia Ruchti

Dear Friends, I’m excited to re-introduce an author friend to you today. I met Cynthia Ruchti several years ago at the very first writers conference where I had the opportunity to teach. Her grace, kindness, and beauty are matched only by her skill as a writer. I fell in love with her back then, but I’ve fallen in love with her words since. I don’t dare present her work as an unbiased reviewer, but I also thought you might enjoy the opportunity to get to know one of my favorite people. Today, I’m thrilled to interview Cynthia and to give her the opportunity to share a little more about her new novella release, An Endless Christmas. Let’s go! Welcome, Cynthia. I know you live in Wisconsin, but you do a great job of setting the scene for Endless Christmas near Stillwater, Minnesota. How did you decide on this location, and what research did your writing involve?  I love spotlighting places that have captured my attention and affection. Stillwater is one of those locations. The story of An Endless Christmas is centered on a too-small cottage about five miles from town, just far enough for the cottage to seem separated from the hubbub of the small-town tourist destination, but accessible to it. I’ve visited Stillwater several times over the years. My husband and I took a day trip to Stillwater as the book was being written so I could recapture the feel, lock down specific landmarks in my mind, and collect some of the details that make Stillwater such a destination spot. I researched online, tapped into the experiences of friends who either lived near or had vacationed in Stillwater, gathered more ideas from their Chamber of Commerce, their Historical Society, and from Pinterest pages that confirmed what I’d discovered personally. I love your care and thoughtfulness. The Binder family has lots of Christmas traditions. Does your own family have any of these in common with your characters? Two key traditions are borrowed from my extended family. For many years, one of the holiday meals always provided a variety of soups. My brother’s Killer Chili for the strong of heart, a milder chili, chicken wild rice soup, and maybe a couple of other choices. When Mom was alive, oyster stew was one of the options. It had been a holiday tradition in her family for many decades. The other tradition that worked its way into the story was deciding to forego exchanging gifts in favor of taking up a collection for a meaningful charity, given first in honor of my father the year after he died. Now, the gifts are collected on behalf of both our father and mother. We’ve truly delighted in sending donations...

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Review: An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

Dear Friends, Not long ago, I wrote about The Perfect Christmas and how, even with at least one child unexpectedly absent, I know it will be the perfect Christmas after all. Author Cynthia Ruchti’s new novella,  An Endless Christmas, also describes a perfect Christmas. And a perfect family. And a story that’s just—perfect, right? Maybe. Nurse practitioner Katie Vale sees herself as the one huge blot on an otherwise-flawless family Christmas scene in wintry Minnesota. When she turns down boyfriend Micah Binder’s unexpected proposal at the start of the holiday, she plans to pack her bags and return to her Florida home. But Micah and his large, loving extended family urge her to stay. And somehow, the grace-laden magic of an endless Christmas starts to work in ways that surprise everyone. In my case, the obstacle to a perfect Christmas was my attitude. Read the book to find out what Katie discovers about herself and her own imperfect holiday. An Endless Christmas is a tender, thoughtful story that, like every good Christmas gift, delivers much more than glitter and glitz. Watch for my “Words with Friends” interview tomorrow with author Cynthia Ruchti (a friend as well as an award-winning novelist), and go buy this novella for anyone who loves characters who become friends, timeless truth, and a page-turning story bright with Christmas wonder and hope. Have you had a Christmas that started out less than perfect but ended up better than you thought? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on social media. Blessings! For His glory, Marti   Find a local Christian bookstore where you can purchase Endless Christmas. Find this book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at Christian Book Distributors. (FTC Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this novella free from the publisher. I was not required to post a review or a positive...

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Do’s and Don’ts for Hospital Visits: Lessons from My Summer

In August, our son was involved in a serious accident. If you’ve never received that phone call or text—the one that tells you your child’s in trouble—please know I don’t recommend it. No matter how big your faith, your heart pounds, your mind races, and tears well in your eyes until you hear, “He should be OK.” Even with those words, I ran on pure adrenaline from about 6:15 in the morning until about twenty-three hours later, in which time I flew from Philadelphia (where I had just finished teaching at the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference) to Los Angeles, rented a car, and drove two-plus hours to the hospital where my son lay in the CCU. I actually reached his side by 10:30 Pacific Time, but it took me a few more hours to calm down enough to doze in the chair beside his bed. In what we see as a miracle, our son spent only three days in CCU and was released from the hospital in another two. But during those days, I learned a few things about how to best minister to those in the hospital—and their families—that I thought I’d share here. These do’s and don’ts will change the way I minister to others, I know. Do let your friends know you’re praying for and thinking about them. Even if you can’t visit (as most of my friends couldn’t because of the distance), social media posts, texts, and emails mean a lot. With longer stays than ours, patients and families can sometimes feel neglected. Don’t forget them or the battles they face. Don’t expect them to respond. A hospital room is a surprisingly busy place. At first, the volume of “Is he OK?” texts and other messages overwhelmed me. Even when I stayed in a nearby home, I had to be at the hospital early to catch the doctor, and I never wanted to miss any detail of his recovery process. I communicated when I could and hoped for forgiveness when I didn’t or couldn’t. Do keep your visits short. The patient’s main work is recovery, and any caregivers are doing their best to aid in that work. You may not realize the patient has just returned from an exhausting procedure or needs a bathroom break. Give your words of encouragement and hope without settling in for a long stay. Don’t ask too many questions. Allow the patient or the family to share as they wish, but resist the urge to ask for too much explanation. Different people have different comfort levels, and medical or other questions often take time (and expert opinions) before answers are known. Do think about the caregiver. Andrew already had...

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