The Gladiolus and the Dragonfly

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I should chop that thing down.

The emerald green of the gladiolus stem was gone. In its place was a dried out, bare stalk. The flowers had withered away, their deep pink beauty just a memory.

The bloom was off the gladiolus, and my glove-covered hands itched to snip, snip.

But, I didn’t.

I’d planted the seed months ago, in the expectant air of spring. A tiny promise in a bag.

My hubby said it would be tall, and it was. God’s amazing design, from nearly invisible in the palm to breathtaking beauty towering over the garden.

Hidden safely away beneath dark soil for weeks, months, the seed finally sprouted then shot up to nearly the same height as my nine-year old.

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The gladiolus flower was gorgeous, well worth the wait. Fuchsia tinted with darker, silken edges, it captured the eye and touched the soul with the lushness of God’s paintbrush.

But in the grip of Florida’s summer heat, the flower faded then shriveled up, as did the stem.

For some reason that day, I didn’t cut down the withered gladiolus stalk.

Weeks passed.

The stalk faded to light brown just outside our kitchen window, its frailty evident when the wind blew and the rain pounded.

I should chop that thing down.

But, I didn’t.

Recently, I glanced out the window to a startling sight. On top of the dried up stalk perched a fuchsia dragonfly, like a king, or queen, surveying its flowery domain.

Its delicate, lacy wings and large compound eyes were perfectly still.

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The bright spot of color reminded me of the flowers that once graced the gladiolus stem, and I whispered a prayer of thanks to God for the gift, so close to my window.

See, I have a thing for dragonflies, for their perfectly created gift for flight. They fascinate me, with their acrobatic action and huge, shimmery eyes.

In the days following, the pretty fuchsia dragonfly landed on that dead stalk multiple times.

Insect nap time?

I’m not sure, but how my boys and I delighted in its pink presence throughout the day.

Eventually, another one arrived on the stalk.

Golden and smaller, it also came faithfully, perching atop the stalk and providing a close up view of this fascinating little creature of flight.

And I found myself grateful for that dried up gladiolus stalk. For the reminder of the beauty God brings from the withered away moments in my life.

Wondering, praying, and begging, ‘Please God, what good can come of this?’

~~The difficult, painful months dealing with crippling anxiety.

God’s beauty: Identifying with, understanding, and sympathizing with others–friends, family, sisters in Christ–who’ve dealt with anxiety and depression. Encouraging them.

Best part? I can share that Jesus truly never leaves you or forsakes you.

~~The last six years of impatient waiting and the struggle to trust God’s timing, as I learned to write right in the grace-filled wilderness of this dream He scribbled–with a Sharpie–into my heart.

“Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:5)

God’s Beauty: Walking in faith to the perfect timing of His plans, toward the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in September, in which one of my unpublished manuscripts finaled. Praying for those who didn’t final, because I’ve been there, many times.

Best part? Whatever the outcome may be, “I’m confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)

Life isn’t all pops of bright color and flowery beauty. It’s often dry stalks and bare stems. But God will use those times for His glory, to strengthen our faith, and to bless and encourage those He’s placed in our life.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

Author Interview & Giveaway: Jody Hedlund ~ Hearts Made Whole

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I’m excited to share author Jody Hedlund’s latest release, Hearts Made Whole, and welcome her to my blog today! Fans of Jody’s books expect tender romance, rich historical detail, page-turning tension, and villains you love to hate, and Hearts Made Whole has all of those and more!

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About Jody:

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling author of inspirational historical romances including books for adults and youth. She currently makes her home in central Michigan with her husband and their five busy children.

As a busy mama-writer, she has the wonderful privilege of teaching her crew of 5 children at home. In between grading math papers and giving spelling tests, she occasionally does a load of laundry and washes dishes. When she’s not busy being a mama, you can find her in front of her laptop working on another of her page-turning stories.

She loves reading almost as much as she loves writing, especially when it also involves chocolate and coffee.

My Review:

Jody Hedlund’s second book in her Beacons of Hope series, Hearts Made Whole, is another tender, tense, and terrific historical romance.

Set in 1865 at Windmill Point Lighthouse on Lake St. Clair in Michigan, Hearts Made Whole is Caroline Taylor and Ryan Chamber’s story. Ryan is the brother of Love Unexpected’s heroine, Emma Chambers; he’s a physically and emotionally wounded Civil War veteran looking for a place to work and call home after the war’s end.

Heroine Caroline is faithfully fulfilling her late father’s livelihood–keeping the light–but is met with opposition because of her gender. Enter Ryan, with his honorable, war-damaged body and soul, and you have a dynamic mix of emotion and conflict between the main characters.

I appreciated the author not shying away from the reality and legacy of the Civil War and its wounds, both inner and outer, on the remaining soldiers. Ryan is a strong, likeable character, yet he struggles mightily with addictions and regrets, causing him to stumble over and over. Jody doesn’t sugar-coast PTSD but through the story gently shows the grace required to overcome the past.

Caroline is steady and strong, and as the oldest child, she’s determined to care for and protect her five siblings. The author creates strong and believable tensions between the Taylor family members and between Ryan and Caroline, who forge an unlikely friendship as they struggle to run the light and maneuver a tenuous situation at the lighthouse and in the duties required.

Jody is adept at creating page-turning romantic tension and stories that pull you right in and place you in the setting. I loved learning about the Lighthouse and this area in Michigan.

The friendship-turned-romance between Ryan and Caroline is realistic and sweet and honoring the Lord. This story holds a shocking twist that keeps the reader guessing, but Jody handled it carefully and still pulled off a sigh-worthy ending.

I particularly appreciated the realistic way Ryan’s healing process progresses from story beginning to end. The author didn’t try to make everything neat and tidy, but instead creates a realistic picture of healing and forgiveness.

You can’t go wrong with a Jody Hedlund romance. Hearts Made Whole comes highly recommended, and I look forward to Jody’s third book in the Beacons of Hope series about Caroline’s sister, Tessa.

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1. Why lighthouses? What fascinates you about these shining beacons?

I’m fascinated with lighthouses for a number of reasons. First, my state of Michigan is home to the greatest concentration of lights in the United States. In fact, Michigan is noted as the state where the most lighthouses were erected. And now today, more than 120 remain compared to 500 total for the rest of the nation.

Not only are lighthouse beautiful and picturesque, but they bring back a sense of nostalgia, poignancy, and romance that few other historical markers do. They’re rich in historical details and stories. They’re wrought with danger and death. And they’re just plain fun to explore. Climbing the winding staircase, reaching the top, and peering out the tower windows (or in some cases going out onto the gallery) is breathtaking.

2. Hearts Made Whole is the second book in your Beacons of Hope series. How did you come up with the idea for the story?

Historical textbooks are full of stories about men like George Washington, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, and so many more.  And while such men are truly remarkable, all too often their stories overshadow equally courageous and remarkable women. One of my goals as an author is to help bring forgotten women of the past to life.

In the Beacons of Hope series, I’m focusing on historical women light keepers who have often been kept in the dark by the more prominent stories of their male counterparts.

As I researched for writing a lighthouse series, I came across a fantastic book called, Ladies of the Lights: Michigan Women in the U.S. Lighthouse Service. The book is a tribute to the approximately 50 or so women who served either as primary or assistant keepers in Michigan Lighthouses.

I based the heroine in Hearts Made Whole on one of those women light keepers. It’s my hope to bring her and the other women keepers out of the historical shadows and into the spotlight.

3. Many of the heroines in your books are inspired by real women. Is that true of the heroine in Hearts Made Whole? If so, what women provided inspiration?

The woman light keeper in Hearts Made Whole is inspired by Caroline Antaya. Caroline lived at the Mamajuda Lighthouse on the Detroit River a short distance away from Windmill Point Lighthouse.

Caroline’s husband served with honor in the Union army during the Civil War, losing several fingers on his hand at Gettysburg. Eventually after returning from the war, her husband was named as keeper of the Mamajuda Lighthouse, but he passed away of tuberculosis.

Part of what really impressed me about Caroline Antaya’s situation was that she had been doing a fantastic job as a light keeper. But the district lighthouse inspector trumped up charges against her saying that she was in ill-health and incompetent. He took away her position simply because she was a woman and gave it to a man instead. Fortunately, her community rose to her defense and enlisted the help of a Michigan Senator to help her get her position back and she went on to serve as a light keeper for another three years.

In those days, when women were regularly discriminated against because of gender, Caroline’s story is inspirational and an encouragement to persevere in the face of injustice. I admired Caroline’s will to stand up for herself and to pave the way for women coming after her to use their God-given talents and abilities in roles and jobs that had previously been closed to women.

4. Which scene in Hearts Made Whole was the most fun to write? Which was the hardest?

My favorite scene to write was the shaving scene, where Ryan is attempting to shave himself one-handed (due to his war injury), and he ends up doing a terrible job! Caroline offers to help him which leads to a very romantic scene of her lathering him up and having to spend plenty of time in close proximity.

The hardest part of the book to write was the scene where Caroline’s sister Tessa makes a BIG mistake (I can’t mention it otherwise I will spoil the story). But it was a heart-wrenching scene (and difficult to write tastefully and required lots of editing to get it just right).

5. You’re a prolific writer. Do you ever get writer’s block, and how do you work your way past it?

No, fortunately, I rarely get writer’s block. I give myself a daily word count of how much I need to write, and I stick to it as best as I can. Whatever amount I miss one day, I try to make up on another day of that week. Having the daily/weekly goals helps keep me going even when I’m not in the mood. However, if I ever get into a slump, I put in my earbuds and listen to music. The steady rhythm helps me block out distractions, inspires me, and often evokes strong emotions deep inside me.

6. Is there a particular Scripture verse that inspires you in your writing?

Among many, here’s one I aspire to live by: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecc. 9:10) I believe in working responsibly and hard with the gifts we’ve been given.

7. What is your family up to these days?

My husband and I are celebrating 24 years of marriage this summer! Yay! My oldest son is graduating from high school and will be attending a private Christian college in the fall, Cedarville University in Ohio. My twins will be turning 16 during the summer and getting their driver’s licenses. Since they are involved in SO many activities, I’m looking forward to them driving themselves places! My youngest two children have completed 4th and 6th grade and are in an Adventures In Odyssey phase. I think they’ve listened to just about every episode that’s ever been made!

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Jody, congratulations on your 24th anniversary! Thank you so much for sharing about your books, writing, and your family. I’m so looking forward to the third book in this series!

I’m offering a chance for readers to win a copy of Hearts Made Whole!

Please leave your name and email address in the comments below, or on the Facebook post, and answer this question: Have you ever visited a lighthouse? We’d love to hear about it!

The drawing is open from Saturday, June 13th, to Friday, June 19th. I’ll draw one name on Saturday, the 20th and post it here, then email the winner. (U.S. residents only, please.)

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To connect with Jody on social media, check out these links:

I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund

I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund

My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com

For lots of fun pictures, follow me on Pinterest: pinterest.com/jodyhedlund

I get personal on Instagram: instagram.com/JodyHedlund/

Or you’re welcome to email me at: jodyhedlund@jodyhedlund.com

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