Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Helping My Husband Find His Ministry

Our Unique Gifts & TalentsWe have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach, if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. ~ Ro 12:6-8 (NIV)

I’d been praying about using my spiritual gifts in a more effective way, but I wanted to be sure I had them right. The pastor’s sermon on Romans 12 was the confirmation I needed.

Though the gifts are present in several Scripture passages, I’ll stick to the seven gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leading, and Showing Mercy.

My primary gift is Encouragement; my secondary gift is Service.

In years past, I may have coveted other gifts like Prophecy or Leadership. But 33 years of walking with Christ has shown me two things: I’m no prophet and to be a leader you need followers. I have none—and I don’t think God counts Twitter.twitter-follow-achiever

Now that I had my gifts in order, as any good helpmate would do [good may not be the correct word, but meddling doesn’t sound as nice], I decided to help my mate find his.

My husband is not  joiner, nor is he as social as I am. He’s pretty much a homebody; therefore you can see why he would need my wisdom in this area.

After church, over breakfast, I brought up the sermon. “So what do you think your gifts are?”

“Not sure,” he said, as he took a sip of his coffee.

I announced, “Mine are Encouragement and Service.”

He put his coffee down. “Sounds right.”

banner-prophetic-declarationsI pushed on. “Well, do you ever feel like you have a Prophetic Word for people—besides me, I mean?” I confess I knew the answer all ready.

“Nope.” He took a forkful of scrambled eggs.

“Okay, what about Service? You’re always doing things for me like shopping, running errands, laundry, and helping me with my computer stuff.  Service could be your spiritual gift.”

He swallowed his bite and washed it down with juice. “Could be.”

“Wait. Let’s look at Teaching. You know how you’re good at explaining things to me– like on my blog or website or around the house– maybe you could teach others? You’re smarter than anyone I know.”

“Not so sure about that.” He bit into a sausage and said, “Hmm. Jimmy Dean?”

“Hey, perhaps we have the same gifts. You’re always telling me to do things that I don’t think I can do. Maybe you’re an Encourager.”

“Could be.” He wiped his mouth. “Can you please pass the jam?”

“Don’t panic, we’re not in a jam. We still have Giving, Leading, and Showing Mercy left. We’re not rich, but you give to many different causes, right? I’m always getting sidetracked, so I  certainly look to you to lead us. And we both know you have a lot of mercy.”

“Why do you say that?”  He got up and refilled our mugs.

“For starters, you’re patient with me when I’m sick. Me, with you, not so much.”

“Let’s not worry about all this right now,” he said. “God will reveal my gifts in His time.”

“I know, but this is important! We need to know what your gifts are so you can plug into a ministry.”

2014-10-20 -300-150Determined to solve this mystery, I mentally reviewed what we’d learned so far.  Suddenly it struck me. I looked at my husband and said, “Uh, oh. I think God just gave me a revelation.”

He finished clearing the dishes and sat down. “And what might that be?”

“I think He told me that your ministry is ME!”

My husband smiled and patted my hand.

I think he knew that already.

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Bungee Jumping to Conclusions

bungee jumber

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” ~ Php 4:6 (TLB)

 

I leap before I look, speak before I think, and bungee jump to conclusions. If you don’t believe me, then you probably don’t know me.  Anyway, here’s what I’m talking about.

Overreaction One:

One day, a year or so into our marriage, my husband David and I stopped at Home Depot. David needed some fasteners for one of his projects. I decided to wait in the car.

Now, at this point in our relationship, I already knew David wasn’t fast. (My nickname for him is Pokey-man.) But, I reasoned, the parking lot’s half-empty, the store aisles are clearly marked, and he knows exactly what he needs. He’ll be out in a flash, albeit a slow flash.

After ten minutes, I looked at my watch. What could be taking him so long?

Another five minutes passed. Maybe they’re short-handed at the registers?

Three more minutes went by. What’s the hold-up?

My brain froze. Hold-up? Like a robbery? What if …?

 A few more cars pulled in; people hopped out. Should I warn them to stay back or to get down?

Before I could shout out to them, I heard a siren. Yes! Someone called 9-1-1 about the 211 in progress. Home Depot Police

I whipped my head left and right and twisted back and forth in my seat, waiting for the law to arrive.

When an ambulance pulled into the parking lot, I was semi-relieved. Phew, it’s not a robbery. Maybe someone in the store had a heart attack? … David? … No, it couldn’t be him. His cholesterol is 40 points lower than mine.

More time ticked by. Maybe I’m the one having a heart attack? I began to hyperventilate. 

Before I could say “baby aspirin,” David sauntered out of the store, holding a bag the size of his shirt pocket.

“What on earth took you so long? You scared me half to death!”

He stared at me with a blank look. (He does that a lot.) “Um, I had a hard time finding the right screw length.”

From that day forward he’s made those harrowing trips to Home Depot alone.

Overreaction Two:

A friend invited me to a choral performance at her church. We arrived early enough to get good seats—third row, center aisle. Since it was one of their most popular events of the year, the room filled up fast.

Although the audience remained seated for the first few numbers, the conductor invited us to participate. Depending on the song, we were alternately asked to stand or sit.

As the show progressed, I noticed something odd: The gentleman seated to my right seemed to be getting closer to me. I checked to be sure I was  lined up with the chair in front of me. Then, more than once, I repositioned myself in my chair, claiming non-verbally, “This is my seat, buster!”

After another song and another few inches of him getting closer, I turned to my friend on the left. “I’m think I’m sitting next to a pervert.”

She leaned over to me, “What did you say?”

Before I could repeat myself, the conductor asked us to stand for the finale. When it was over, I turned to sit, sneaking a peek at the weirdo to my right.

chairs off set

As I did so, I noticed my chair was not lined up with the row behind mine. I scanned the auditorium. The placement of the chairs in each row was OFF-SET.

My Epiphany: I had one cheek on my chair and the other cheek on his the whole time.

[Sigh.]

Overreaction Three:

After a long year of treatment and hospitalization for Acute Myleloid Leukemia, my husband’s visits with his oncologist were always a bit unnerving. The clinical trial he’d been enrolled in was just that, a trial. So we never knew exactly what to expect.

After months of weekly, then bi-weekly, follow-up appointments, the doctor announced at the end of one visit, “We’re going to send you away for three months.”

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.I sat there stunned and confused. In the half minute before the doctor could say another word, my mind took off in all different directions.

Where are they sending him? Is it close? Will I be able to find my way? Is this like some lab rat experiment? Can he have visitors? Conjugal or otherwise? I don’t remember reading about this in the clinical trial manual. Shoot. If only I’d read the clinical trial manual.

The doctor continued, “By that I mean, go home. Relax. I don’t need to see you back here for three months.”

Well, why didn’t he just say that in the first place?

“Now, friends, read these next words carefully. Slow down and don’t go jumping to conclusions regarding the day when our Master, Jesus Christ, will come back and we assemble to welcome him. Don’t let anyone shake you up or get you excited over some breathless report or rumored letter from me that the day of the Master’s arrival has come and gone. Don’t fall for any line like that.” ~ 2Thess 2:1-3 (MSG)


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Bras, Glutes, & Duck Heads: Age-Defining Moments

It’s been a rough few weeks for my ego. Please note the title says age-defining, not age-defying

Party of One Final Cover

Watch for it in May!

It began when I was out with a friend at a small local restaurant. Since my book Party of One is due out within weeks, I’ve been scouting venues to have book signings. I asked to speak with the owner of the place. I was surprised when a cute guy in his twenties approached the table.

He’s the owner?

Anyway, I told him what I had in mind. He was agreeable to the book signing idea, and I was excited.

“We could schedule you any night, maybe seven to closing,” he said. “We’ll set you up at one of our larger tables, and advertise it on Facebook. Just let me know what night would work best.”

The baby-faced owner was so darn cute and optimistic I didn’t have the heart to tell him.

First, nights won’t “work best.” My readers are women, middle-aged and older. Some of them don’t drive after dark—or shouldn’t. The rest of them have taken their bras off by seven. Once that happens, there’s no turning back.

After expressing my appreciation, I promised to get back to him soon. Better yet, maybe I could speak to his mother. She may be more sympathetic and better able to explain this rite of passage to her son.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. ~ 1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG)

A second age-defining moment actually stems from my new membership at the gym … but not in the way you might think.

When I joined earlier this year, I had no fantasies about competing with lunks and beauty queens who were half my age. My goal was simple—to be more comfortable in my clothes, preferably the smaller sizes.

Anyway, after being assessed by a professional trainer, I got started.

I’d been working out for a few months, when I noticed an unwelcome change on my way into the kitchen one morning. My PJ bottoms hugged my glutes a little too tight. My brain ran back to the gym. (Okay, maybe “ran” is an exaggeration.) I pictured the machines in my head, then grumbled, “Why would a pro tell me to do exercises that would make my butt bigger?”

This may look exactly like me, but it’s not.

I was writing a formal letter of complaint in my head as I tugged at my PJ bottoms. That’s when I saw the tag—in the front. In my rush, I’d put my pants on backwards.

Knowing my husband was on his way, I wanted to right that wrong before he noticed.  A speedy off and on, then I began my breakfast duties with all the innocence and sophistication I could muster.

Then I heard him chuckling behind me.

With a hand on my hip, I said, “What’s so funny?”

“If you’re wondering why your sweatshirt has no spots on it, it’s because you’ve got in on backwards.”

Without much thought, my big mouth snapped back, “Then it matched my pants! So there!”

He’s still laughing.

In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery. ~ Proverbs 28:23 (NLT)

This past holiday weekend, I got to spend time with my six grandchildren. The four older grandkids—Jessica, Colin, Michael, and Darin—are polite and tactful, but basically ignore me. Nice way of saying there’s a good chance I bore them. C’est la vie.

However, I can still amuse the youngest two: nine-year-old Max and seven-year-old Margaux—even when I’m not trying.

Dressed in my new outfit with my make-up and hair looking as good as ever, I sat on the sofa in their rental house, admiring the view of a lovely pond.

Margaux joined me. She leaned over the back of the sofa, her precious little face studying my features, like seven-year-olds do—up close and personal. Pointing to my chin and/or neck area, she exclaimed, “Hey! Memere! It looks like you have a duck’s head under there.”

Max jumped on the sofa, abandoning his Legos. “Let me see!” He twisted his whole body for a better view.

I began to laugh.

Margaux turned my head toward her. “Wait! When you laugh it looks like a tiny person!”

Max got even closer. “It does! If we draw eyes on it, it would look like a chubby face.”

I can’t wait until they grow up and ignore me.*

Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children. ~ Proverbs 17:6 (NLT)

(*That’s so not true.)


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Breakfast at Epiphany’s 

Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful! ~ Proverbs 15:23 (MSG)

The breakfast conversations between my husband and me often sound like this.

ME, cheerful as always in the morning: “Do you want banana-pecan pancakes or your usual oatmeal?”

DAVID, laughing: “I take it a banana’s gone bad?”

ME, hiding the brown banana: “Maybe. I can throw it away or make you the pancakes—your choice.”

DAVID, making a snap decision: “Pancakes.”

ME, smiling sweetly: “Wise man.”

[THE PANCAKES ARE ON THE TABLE AND GRACE HAS BEEN SAID.]

ME, resting my chin in my hand: “Do you know how to bail someone out of jail?”

DAVID, looking at his stack of pancakes: “Does this have anything to do with my getting pancakes on a Tuesday?”

ME, befuddled: “What? No. Dee’s son Zach got arrested for drug possession. I don’t know how to post bail.”

DAVID, even more befuddled: “Why do you need to know? He’s Dee’s son.”

ME, sighing loudly: “Yeah, but I want to know how to do it first.”

DAVID, scrunching up his face: “What are you talking about?”

ME, holding my hands up to emphasize my point: “She doesn’t know how to begin to find out about bail. And she’s just not the type of person who’d leave her son in jail for any length of time.”

DAVID, taking a bite of pancake: “Okay …”

ME, narrowing my eyes at him: “What’s that supposed to mean? Would you leave one of our kids is jail?”

DAVID, thinking: “Depends on the charge—and the kid.”

ME, ignoring his wise remark: “Oh, and another thing, I’ve changed my mind on the white cabinets for the kitchen.”

DAVID, turning to look in the kitchen: Our kitchen?”

ME, giving him a duh look: “Who else’s kitchen would I be talking about?”

DAVID, trying hard to get a grip: “Oh, I don’t know, maybe Dee’s.”

ME, waving his comment away like a pesky mosquito: “Anyway, I wanted all white, but now I decided maybe a light grayish-brown wood would look nice with the stainless steel appliances.”

DAVID, again looking in the kitchen: “What stainless steel appliances?”

ME, dreaming about how it will look: “The ones we’ll be getting with the new cabinets.”

DAVID, rolling his eyes: “And how do you plan to pay for all this?”

ME, rolling my eyes back at him: “I already told you. Out of my $7,000 a-week-for-life winnings from Publishers Clearing House.”

DAVID, nodding: “Good to know you’ve got a solid plan in place.”

ME, pushing my dream aside to get back to reality: “Now, about Zach. How do you think Sergeant O’Neil knew he had drugs in his car?”

DAVID, one eyebrow raised: “Who’s Sergeant O’Neil?”

ME, surprised he doesn’t remember: “She’s the cop who works with Kyle.”

DAVID, both eyebrows raised: “Who’s Kyle?”

ME, wondering what he was doing when he wasn’t listening to me: “You know, Charlie’s friend, Sarah’s husband? Remember, I told you about Sarah being Juliette’s best friend?”

DAVID, sighing loudly: “You did? Juliette? Sheesh, I can’t keep track of all the people you know.”

ME, crossing my arms: “They’re not people I know, silly, they’re people I’ve made up.”

DAVID, kneading his face with his hand: “Are any of the things you talk about real?”

ME, astonished he would even ask: “Duh, yeah. You’re eating pancakes, aren’t you?”

DAVID, poking the stack with his fork: “Am I? Then I think I’ve earned some sausage to go with them.”

ME, taking a long slow sip of my coffee: “I’ll get right on that. As soon as my new kitchen is in.”

And oh, my dear Timothy, guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life. Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith.Overwhelming grace keep you! ~ 1Timothy 6:20-21 (MSG)

 


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What Is Hooey and Why Is There a Lot of It?

As my title suggests, another year has gone, and I still don’t know everything I want to know. Here’s my latest dozen queries.

pig-in-mask

Sorry, I’m out. Pulled a hammy.

  1. This is a compound question. On the new reality show Hunted, teams of two go on the lamb, hoping to win big bucks by being the last ones captured. Are they or we supposed to ignore the camera crew following them? And why do they go on the lamb? Why not a goat or a cow or a rat? Huh? What do you mean it’s lam? What on earth is a lam?
  2. Why do the disgruntled get all the headlines? Don’t the gruntled deserve some attention?
  3. Can a pig pull a hamstring?
  4. Why is it that when people drive faster than us they’re considered idiots, but when they drive slower they’re morons?
  5. When we can’t do everything, why do we choose to do nothing?
  6. Why does Hawaii have interstate highways?
  7. In 2016, someone named their baby Little Sweetmeat. Why do parents do this? I’ve already started a GoFundMe account to pay for this kid’s therapy.
  8. Since Jesus taught by telling parables, why do Christians insist they “can’t possibly read fiction”?
  9. The picture of a thousand words. What’s it worth? Does it depend on the words?
  10. Why do we continue the whole groundhog thing? There’s no food or gifts connected to it, and no one really believes it, especially those Christians who don’t read fiction.
  11. What do I say when someone says I’m in denial but I’m not?
  12. Why do I own 47 bowls and still use old Cool Whip containers? (Okay, so maybe I am in denial.)

how-i-bowl-3-strings

[hoo-ee] 

interjection — 1. (used to express disapproval or disbelief): Hooey! You know that’s not true.

noun — 2. silly or worthless talk, writing, ideas, etc.; nonsense; bunk: That’s a lot of hooey and you know it!

 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. ~ James 1:5 (NIV)


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Meet Author Christy Brunke

In the winter of 2015, I met Christy Brunke at the Writer to Writer Conference in Hershey, PA.  I was smitten by her smile, enthusiasm, and sincerity. We were both finalists in the Jerry Jenkins Operation First Novel Contest. I thought, “Lord, I guess I wouldn’t mind so much if she won.” The Lord was gracious! We both won book publishing contracts that year–along with our soon-to-be-friend Linda Brooks Davis! 

CJ:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Who first supported you in this dream? 

CB: When I was born, my parents named me Christy after Catherine Marshall’s bestselling novel. You might say Marshall and her famous heroine were my first inspirations. As long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading, especially inspirational fiction.  

As a little girl, I was always dreaming up stories. I remember going into a patch of woods near our house and pretending I was the queen of a small kingdom. When my brother Jeremy was born, I was disappointed he couldn’t walk or talk. My solution? Create an imaginary friend named “Eremy.” In sixth grade, I won a short story contest and was rewarded with a Butterball turkey. From then on, I dreamed of writing novels, memoirs, and children’s books.

My mom, another avid reader, was the first to suggest I write novels. But I probably inherited by creativity from my dad. A former singer and songwriter, he helped me plot Snow Out of Season.

CJ: What did you do before you became a writer?  

CB: Penning Snow Out of Season was an incredible experience, but, before that, the Lord led me on other adventures. I completed a bachelor of arts in English and moved to China to study Mandarin and teach at a university. When I returned to the States, I attended seminary and taught drama and music.  

Then God called me to Chicago to work at a multi-site church where I fell in love with a zany youth pastor. After we got married, a story grew in my heart, one I felt compelled to share. Now was the time to pursue that long-delayed dream.  

snow-out-of-sesasonCJ: Tell us a little bit about your debut novel Snow Out of Season.

CB: Two pregnant women separated by time . . . Are they more connected than they know? 

Shannon Henry is just starting to put her life back together after the death of her infant daughter when she discovers she’s pregnant again. When her doctor presents her with the choice of either raising a child with Down syndrome or terminating the pregnancy, Shannon is torn. 

Leslie Gardner is a high-school senior in 1979 who dreams of becoming a professional ballerina, but discovers she is pregnant. If she has the child, her chances of a dancing career and college are over …

CJ: What inspired you to write this particular book? 

KB: As a teen and young adult, I longed for a God-scripted love story. I devoured books like Elisabeth Elliot’s Quest for Love: True Stories of Passion and Purity. Realizing my Creator knew me better than anyone, and knew every man as well, I asked Him to choose my husband.  And He did.  

Mark complements me perfectly and has been an incredible blessing to me and many others. But when his mom was pregnant with him, her circumstances would have led many women to have an abortion. I started wondering what my life would have been like if she’d made a different choice. 

So began Snow Out of Season, the dual stories of two women of two generations who struggle with the same questions. Is the child each carries worthy of life? What will it cost to keep the child? What will happen if each decides not to? 

CJ: How have your readers responded?

CB: Fiction lovers, book reviewers, and other novelists have blessed me with their reactions to Snow Out of Season. 

  • The Library Journal called it “. . . an astonishing tale with a gratifying ending . . . completely engrossing.” 
  • Award-winning author Brandy Vallance said Snow Out of Season is . . . a beautifully poignant and much-needed story.”  
  • Bestselling author Sandra Byrd said, “The story caught me with characters so real I feel I might see them on the street, and it held me with breathtakingly clever storytelling.” 

Amazon readers have encouraged me greatly with their 5-star reviews, including: 

  • “Best book I have read in years.” 
  • “Great New Author!” 
  • “Couldn’t put it down!” 
  • “I cried!”
  • “Fantastic  – A Must Read!!!”

CJ: What writing projects are you currently working on? 

CB: During this season of my life, I’m focusing on book events, blogging weekly, and writing articles for online newspapers. In 2017, I hope to begin writing my next book. Between novels, creative nonfiction, and children’s picture books, I have over a dozen ideas. 

On my website, I plan to share teasers for my best tales and ask readers to help me decide. Subscribe to my blog at ChristyBrunke.com, so you can tell me which one you’d like to read next!

christy-brunkes-author-photo

MORE ABOUT CHRISTY: Three months after her second daughter was born, she entered her manuscript in the Operation First Novel contest. In January 2015, Jerry Jenkins announced her story was a winner. In November, the Library Journal named Snow Out of Season the Christian Fiction Debut of the Month. By January, it topped Amazon bestseller lists. Christy Lives in Maryland with her husband, Mark, and their two adorable daughters. When she’s not at church or with her family, you can often find her blogging, writing articles, or dreaming up her next story.

Click HERE and scroll down to order all three winners of the last Jerry Jenkins Operation First Novel Contest: The Calling of Ella McFarland by Linda Brooks Davis, Double Header by Clarice G.  James, and Snow Out of Season by Christy Brunke.


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So Very Thankful: Remission Accomplished

so-very-thankfulHands down, this year’s major to-be-thankful-for item is my husband David’s remission from cancer. His diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia early in January was a jumpstart to a year of extreme faith.

I remember the first prayer we prayed: “Lord, cancer does not define us! Our faith in you does. Help us to remember that as you carry us through this journey.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Our hope is in God, our future is with God—whether here on earth or in Heaven.

We shook off our pre-planned 2016 agendas and headed to Boston, thankful we lived in close proximity to some of the best hospitals in the world. We are grateful for the expertise and experience of the caring medical teams who still treat David. We were blessed with help from family and friends—most especially the perfectly-matched stem cells from David’s sister, Darleen.

peace-lloyd-jonesWe didn’t fret or fear.We prayed and trusted God—not necessarily for David’s healing, but for God’s perfect will for our lives. We’re not naive. We know bad things happen to all people—whether they have faith in God or not. It’s hard to understand sometimes.

But Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) puts it this way: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LordAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

We had no idea how this would turn out, yet we lived in the midst of a peace that goes way beyond our mere mortal comprehension. When you know God in a personal way, He does that sort of thing for you.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the midst of cancer, grief, marital strife, emotional turmoil, physical pain, failure, job loss, financial stress, or loneliness. He’s within a prayer’s reach–and it doesn’t have to be a fancy prayer either. Just open your heart to him; you’ll see.

We are so very thankful for our family and friends–for your prayers, moral support, kind words, warm hearts, open arms, and for taking the time to listen.

remission-accomplishedDavid still has a couple more months of a semi-quarantined lifestyle. He’ll start the re-immunization process after the first of the year. Until we see you again, we’ll continue to celebrate a remission accomplished!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!