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Ellie Marrandette: A Place to Belong

A very special thank you to my dear friend Carol Balawyder, who wrote this lovely review of my fourth novel, A Place to Belong. It is rare indeed for such a busy person to put her work aside to assist a fellow author.

Carol is an incredible writer in her own rite and I highly recommend her captivating novels as well. ❤

Carol Balawyder

Most of us at one point in our lives struggle to find our purpose in life. A Place to Belongis Katerine LeVay Cunningham’s (Kate) personal battle in search for her purpose in her life.

It is not enough that she is married to a wealthy movie producer who adores her and that her marriage is one full of romance and tenderness. Following her husband on his movie shoots does not satisfy her personal needs for fulfillment.

A Place to Belong is the third of a trilogy (although it can also standalone) and when we meet Kate she is in NYC with her loving British husband, Robert, who is directing a movie on the American Revolution. Throughout the novel the relationship between Kate and Robert is a romantic, tender one.

However, Kate is haunted by her past and until she puts to rest the secret, perfect crime which she has…

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A Place to Belong (The Katherine LeVay Saga, Book 3)

I’m excited to announce the launch of my newest novel, A Place to Belong, available now at an affordable Kindle ebook price of $2.99.    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09JQC38LC

A Place to Belong (4) rezized cover book 3

Katherine LeVay Cunningham has risen from the ashes of her first marriage to become a confident, self-made woman. Then why risk everything by confessing the truth now?

Living an idyllic but nomadic lifestyle, she’s traveled the world but has no idea where she belongs. Kate now follows her second husband, Robert, from London to the States where he’s to produce a British Broadcasting Company series on the American Revolution. This time, their travels will take them throughout the East Coast: New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Charleston.

Unfortunately, all these cities remind her of her first husband, television news anchor, Richard Madison who nearly destroyed her through deceit and his womanizing. She thought she had put those remorseful days behind her. But the guilty secret Kate conceals, now threatens to erode her very soul and peaceful existence.

In reality, can anyone escape a nightmarish past?

Kate struggles with her indecision to confess to her perfect, untraceable crime. However, as she soon discovers, her loved ones harbor secrets of their own.

The saga of Katherine LeVay begins in 1957 with the coming-of-age, Sometimes Marriage is a Real Crime. Followed by Casey’s Journey and Casey Conrad’s sequel Restoring Hope. If you enjoy tales of nostalgia and redemption, I trust you’ll enjoy my novels too.

Pulling Those Pesky Weeds

I grew up on a farm which is the best place in the world to learn self-discipline. But I hated pulling weeds in our garden. Now it’s gardening season again and I find the best flowers I grow are pretty flowering weeds.

How easily sin can spread like flowering weeds throughout our lives. Pretty to look at but deadly to Spiritual growth. We’re aware that sin is destructive and shouldn’t flower in a Christ-filled life.

But how do we rid ourselves of them?

We must recognize that sin’s unhealthy habits drag us down, destroying our Christian testimony. I’m ashamed to say that when I went to college, someone asked me once, “If you’re a Christian why do you do such bad things?”  I had no answer except a flippant, “Well Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” I don’t know why God is so patient with me but I’m grateful!

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”  (1 Corinthians 13:11)  NLT

When it comes to sin we can’t be flippant by allowing a small amount to grow in our Spiritual garden. Avoid toxic people for “Bad company corrupts good character.”  (1 Corinthians 15:33) Yes it’s true that sometimes we can win others to the Lord by displaying good Christian character amidst challenging social situations. But more times then not, the character of “weedy friends” overpower us and we fall into sin, allowing our character to become compromised. Scripture urges us to flee youthful lusts, (2 Timothy 2:22) not dabble in it.

It’s similar to obtaining a healthier lifestyle. Every sin has consequences. If you always consume fattening, chemically laden foods you’ll risk diabetes, strokes, heart disease and cancers. Risk? Do you feel “lucky?” I’d prefer not playing Russian Roulette with my life but rather trust God to keep me healthy because I want to honor that vibrant life gift He has given me.

Until one gets strong enough to withstand the temptation of donuts and sugary carbs, we shouldn’t go into a donut shop! Or attend a Buffet if you’re a curious person and consume a little of everything the tables offer. Nine times out of ten we will fall to the “Feast of The Eyes!”

“For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (1 John 2:16) NLT

What about toxic relationships? Following a raucous, sinful crowd is being like a sheep who plunges to his death because he followed the leader over a cliff. Sheep are dumb animals! You shouldn’t be! As painful as it is to say goodbye to a close but unrepentant friend, if they are dragging you into a pit, for your own safety, let go and fervently pray for them.

And the best advice: don’t allow temptation to grow in the first place! If you prevent pesky weeds from growing, you won’t have to pull them later. Use the best Spiritual Weed Killer there is: Scripture! Cultivate appropriate Bible verses deep inside your mind and soul and it will absolutely act as weed preventer!

Developing Healthy Patience

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Sometimes as little children occasionally do, we’ll stomp our feet and declare, “But I want it now!”   Afterward when the regrets kick in, we ask ourselves, “Why did I think that was a great idea?”

Have you ever stopped to think that our Heavenly Father loves us so much, He will give us the desires of our heart even if those are bad for us?  It’s called “free will.” Naturally God hopes we’ll choose what’s best. But it’s our choice.

Have you ever debated if you should consume something even though you understand it’s going to create an illness? Then shake a fist at God and ask, “Why’d you do this to me?”

I know very few children who choose vegetables over candy, cake or even cheesy fries. After a few tummy aches however and children usually instinctively learn to choose better. Do we really think eating all that fattening, processed, chemically-laden packaged food is good for us? We need to conquer our food cravings and resist the tug of gluttony. We are not children anymore.

No food is bad (1 Corinthians 10:23) but our reaction to it sometimes is.  Who’s in control, you or are you lured by manipulation? Have you ever lost control, giving in to a decadent food only to become discouraged because you couldn’t stay on your health plan?

As God’s child we also need borders which will assure a healthier lifestyle. When young, our children need boundaries to keep them safe and healthy. Certainly you wouldn’t feed your child only candy? They need real food to grow and thrive. God laid out our diet plan in Genesis 1:29 and 9:3. Follow His plan and achieve a healthier lifestyle. So why can’t we resist temptation?

Unfortunately some never grow up. When presented with a menu of grilled fish or chicken or hamburgers and fries, they’ll still go for the fattier selection every time! THINK! Once in a while that’s fine but choosing an inappropriate choice every day and you’ll wind up with debilitating diseases and parasites, lovely.

Why do we fail to understand we answer to a Higher Authority? If I am out walking my pooch, I’m her authority. I want her to enjoy her journey but if she misbehaves and wants to chase squirrels across the road, I reign her in because I don’t want to see her run over! God provides boundaries for the same reason. He wants us to be safe! And because He is All Knowing, He realizes what will happen when we give in to temptation.

Emotional eating is not healthy. If you desire something unhealthy, work it off by exercising and you’ll remain in control.  If you’ve kept your food journal for two weeks as I encouraged, you might understand why you give in for reasons other than hunger. Continue to journal; asking yourself, what happened just before I gave in to my desires? A disturbing phone call, an argument? Are you lonely – food offers comfort. Bored? Eating is something to do. Angry? Crunching on food is a stress reliever. Sad? Chemicals in food release happy endorphins.

For example, chocolate contains  phenylethylamine which makes us feel loved. Since God created chocolate, it’s fine in moderation.  But if we’re motivated by a chocolate commercial on TV, losing control, we’ve become manipulated. Give in and you just made that food an idol before our Lord.

 “I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”  (Galatians 5:16)

Remaining in control and conquering addiction is a wonderful feeling. Conquer self and honor God.

“But I Haven’t Lost Weight!!!”

Could your mind be manipulating you into a false picture of truth?

One of my patients, after losing 65 pounds, turned to me and sighed, “But when I look in a mirror Ellie, I still see a huge woman and feel I haven’t accomplish anything!”

Unfortunately, that’s a common misperception. Our mind doesn’t always recognize our successes. “You haven’t changed, you are still fat and the same failure you always have been, so just give up!” is what Satan is whispering in our ear.

Don’t believe it! That’s stinkin’- thinkin’!

It takes several weeks for your mind to catch up with your body image. Allow yourself some patience. Positive thinking is a habit after all and changes take time before we are comfortable with them.

It’s important to create tangible evidence of your accomplishments. Sometimes like Doubting Thomas, we need to see progress with our very own eyes before we believe it.

Here’s a few helpful tips:

  1. Create a personal weekly weight loss graph to recognize how much weight you actually lose.
  2. Find an old belt to see how much smaller it closes around your waist.
  3. Try on a piece of old clothing and see how loose it is.
  4. Find an old picture from a year or two ago and compare it to a new photo. See the difference?

By comparing her old self to her new self she recognized how far she had come. She wasn’t trapped at all! She had broken through the mental, spiritual and physical bonds that had previously ensnared her. Her mental image simply had to catch up.

As much as I want to get healthy for you, you must want it more than I want it for you. It is an individual decision to put discipline and training into action to be successful. You alone become a new creation, inside and out. No longer should your mind be trapped into thinking you failed.

It doesn’t please the Lord when you degrade yourself. Just as we accept salvation individually, through a growing faith, we must put positive decisions into real life practice in order to produce the fruit of the Spirit.  We don’t always see that fruit of the Spirit immediately. Sometimes it is a “two steps forward and one step back” process, but you are still going forward!

Have you ever had a day when you’ve said: “I want to be joyful but, man . . . I woke up in such a lousy mood . . . and that boss of mine is such a  . . . and the dishwasher’s broken again and the bills are due . . . ” Sometimes we just do not feel joyful, patient, kind or self-controlled. Everyone has “one of those days.” Forgive yourself; realize you are human, not perfect.

“to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Physiologically there is no quick, safe way to consistently lose 5-10 pounds per week! It is deceitful and dangerous for diet companies to imply one can safely do so. We would be losing water weight, muscle, brain and bone as well as a little fat.

Quit searching for quick fixes and instant gratification! Start educating yourself. By making small gradual changes, you’ll discover fortitude, patience and physiological truths long-term, which honors God.

 God made you special. You were meant for a purpose and you aren’t disposable because God doesn’t make junk!

Aren’t We All God’s Needlepoint Project?

A dear friend worked on a needlepoint project for weeks. I once walked in while she was laboring over her design. It was turned upside down. From where I stood, it looked a total mess. All those patchwork colors were joined in scrambled directions. What in the world was she working on? It looked incredibly complicated and discouraging.

Then she turned it over. The top side displayed a beautiful young child in a meadow amidst colorful flowers. Who knew??? It was so lovely and intricate, revealing a life lesson to me not to judge a piece of work until it’s finished! To her it was worth the effort.

How very much like a needlepoint project is God’s intricate work in us!

Years ago, I worked for a faith-based, drug recovery center.  The women who arrived at the facility were beaten down by life – shattered into pieces. Life’s choices hadn’t been good to them.

Sometimes their drug addiction began as a cry for attention. For some, it was to cover painful emotional attachments to family challenges, boyfriend or peer pressure situations. Others to dull the pain of loneliness, self-esteem issues or friends urging them to join into the “thrill” of drugs and alcoholism.

Unbelievably and regretfully, several had begun their dangerous meth or drug habit merely to lose weight. Now they were addicted. What a half-truth Satan proclaims when he tells a young woman that she will lose weight, gain beauty and popularity through drugs. Weight loss? Of course – through malnutrition and early death!

The half-truths of this world mislead many, just as it has since Adam and Eve. (“Surely you will not die . . .  ” Genesis 3:4) And any drug which artificially jumpstarts one’s metabolism will hang on to every pound after the “goal” is reached as an act of survival.

Losing weight through manipulating drugs  WILL. NOT. WORK! Please do not even think of attempting a drug (diet pills) to lose weight if you’re a Christian. It not only hurts your heart, but God’s as well. You are God’s holy temple and drugs change your biochemistry and brain function!

Today many of these lovely women (but sadly not all) conquered the satanic bonds that anchored them to this world’s view of beauty. True beauty comes from within.

Those women placing their trust in Christ are now firmly anchored to His Truth of Salvation instead of drugs as Christ proclaimed each one was worth the sacrifice He endured for them. They are now children of the One True King!

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

A luring idol has a powerful tug of the heart. But the Word of God is stronger! I pray that the intricately woven Word of God will be able to assist you in resisting the ever present, powerful enticement towards a degrading lifestyle of weight loss pills and other diet fallacies.

If our life is God’s tapestry, it is unclear even to us how His work will turn out until our lives are completed. God’s prick of the needle can be painful as He works on us. And sometimes God needs to modify His creation by reworking the pattern if we go astray. (Genesis 50:20) His Patience and His Timing is perfect in His workmanship of us.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

What It Takes To Be A Champion

Have you ever gotten tired of winning? No? Didn’t think so.

Tom Brady is an incredible athlete. In 2003, I debated several opinionated men who argued Peyton Manning was the better Quarterback. I respectfully disagreed. Praise God, time has proven me right.

Please don’t put others down because it makes you look more important. You can never build yourself up by putting others down.

How did Tom Brady defy the odds to become the G.O.A.T? An inauspicious beginning, he was the 199th draft pick in the 6th round! That didn’t exactly assert upcoming greatness.

Granted, TB wasn’t a top-drafted NFL recruit but he never whined about it. No excuses! He wanted to prove what he believed. “If you want something badly enough, you’ll work your hardest to achieve it.

Discipline is key to appreciating greatness and there’s always a price to pay to reach it.

Tom Brady began incorporating strict discipline into his life, determined to become his best self. Dedication to greatness is what we all should strive for. Just ask my inspirational friend and follower, Steve, who’s legally blind but runs and climbs mountains. Just like Brady, he wanted to prove something to himself! He did.

TB is the epitomy of a dedicated athlete. He recognizes change always starts from within. He follows the strictest diet, which even I, as a nutritionist probably couldn’t adhere to. He knows nutrient-dense foods produces mental acuteness which helped him out of challenging situations.

Tom Brady has all the qualities it takes to succeed. He’s thinks things through, before he acts. As should you. Talk yourself into success. TB not only wants victory, he wants it for the right reasons. He realizes football is only a God-given gift for a limited time. Being a QB is only what he doesnot who he is – a genuinely caring individual.

He works as a team player. Have you noticed how TB directs the football to different receivers? He threw to Gronkowski to get him to the all-time SB touchdown QB/receiver combo record. He knew Evans was nearing a running record several weeks ago, so he helped Evans quickly obtain it. He thought Antonio Brown was worth redemption and mentors him. Similary, in your own life be an encourager, let others shine! It’s not all about US!

Tom Brady knows the value of fitness! Exercise creates muscle which burns fat which acts as the body’s furnace. To create muscle means talking oneself off the couch and move when you’d rather sit lazily watching a movie. TB practices an all-round exercise program which includes a stretching, limbering routine. Do the same! Start out small and get better over time by talking yourself into success.

Tom Brady’s an example of that mental outlook. I only pray he realizes that football will not get someone into Heaven, (although I firmly believe, we’ll be playing or watching sports, creating works of art, theater, music – not sitting on clouds being bored for eternity.) Heaven is Amazing!!!

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14)

Of course TB has bad games, but he shakes it off and plans a way to overcome future obstacles. So should we- learn from our mistakes. Everyone endures challenges in life. I had an extremely horrific childhood but I don’t live in the past!  Make your life matter, because we matter to God!

Through it all, remain humble. Glory fades, champions are mostly forgotten but the Word of the Lord is Forever –  Amen.

 

What’s Your Purpose for Staying Healthy?

Have you ever watched the movie, “A Dog’s Purpose?” It’s a cute, sweet, emotional movie which tugs at any dog-lovers heart.

Sometimes I believe our beautiful little white dog only lives to please us. That’s a comforting feeling. He bestows upon us the gift of love. I certainly believe he loves us more than his toys, his chewies and his comfortable bed.

But perhaps you’ve pondered that same question. What is my purpose? Why was I even born? Was it to acquire wealth, prestige, power? Items that never last – are never enough – never truly satisfy? Sadly, some in the church (as well as Congress) think that. They will receive their reward and for some it won’t be pleasant.

No, our entire purpose on Earth is to glorify God. To know Him, make Him known and bring Him Glory. We were made because He first loved us.

 

By You I have been sustained from my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother’s womb;
My praise is continually of You.  (Psalm 71:5)

So how should we show our love to God who created us?

Today is the first Monday in January. 45 million people will begin a diet. They’ll vow, “This time I’ll lose weight!” That usually lasts till the end of the first week. That’s as foolish as those who worship on Sunday and act carnally every other day. They get discouraged and try countless other diets to lose weight – not necessarily healthily either. Why do they fail?

They must find their purpose! They’ll strive to  look good for others, create self-esteem, or lose weight for a specific event. Not for anything substantial – only temporary reasons. This isn’t the right purpose. I believe my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t easy, but I try to maintain control as a way to honor my Lord. That’s my purpose! Christians should honor God with their bodies.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

When someone looks at you, do they see someone fit, healthy and vibrant? Or an out-of-shape, tired and older person for their years?

God is a loving God who gave us an abundance of activities on earth. With that, He also gave us free will. Some abuse that gift and create idols out of careers, sports, money, power – or even the enjoyment of food.

Yes, my nutritionist mantra is “any food is fine in moderation” and “eat for nutrients,” but why create an idol out of food? Food shouldn’t control us. Can you stop at one piece of chocolate or potato chip? Losing control gives that food power over you.

Certain foods are as addictive as any drug. Choose healthier foods and you won’t crave junk. Your body won’t tolerate it any longer. Seeking to live for the Glory of God changes us too.

Change starts from within. It’s a personal decision. I can’t make you healthier, you must want it more for you than I do.

First, change your mind-set.  Determine WHY you want to become healthy. Don’t allow it be be about temporal earthly things with no redeeming purpose.

I see so many around me who “live to eat” and it’s very sad. The results are bad knees, exhaustion and a myriad of health issues. I don’t prefer to live like that, do you? Visualize yourself as a strong, healthy person with energy to enjoy life.

How we live brings Glory to God and I live to please Him, won’t you? I pray you’ll love God more than chocolate!

 

Excuses Only Spin Your Dieting Wheels!

Our Lord was not a wimp. Nor was he someone who had a robotic personality who spoke as if he was reading a stock market report. On Earth he felt every emotion we feel. He laughed, sighed, became weary and excited. He got righteously angry upon seeing his Holy Temple in Jerusalem misused.

So how do you think Jesus feels when he sees us destroying our bodily temple of the Holy Spirit? Probably the same.

Here are some common excuses I hear each year and what I’d offer as practical alternatives in overcoming them:

“This year I want to really get healthy, but . . . ” 

“I can simply take a vitamin pill” Our bodies work within a fascinating team environment. Vitamins and minerals need food in conjunction with each other to produce optimal efficiency. For example; iron should be consumed with vitamin C for maximum absorption, (try tomato sauces with meat). Calcium, magnesium and potassium work together for electrolyte balance . . . and so on. Without food, vitamins are ineffective, so starving yourself and then popping a vitamin won’t succeed and you’ll be wasting your money.

“But without fat, food doesn’t have flavor” Oh, really? Well then, open a Crisco can and dig in. It’s herbs and seasonings that give flavor to food. Fat coats the tongue. Avoid heavier fat items such as prime rib, ice cream or whole milk for a while and you’ll taste the difference when you resume.

Garlic, onions, mustard, curry, oregano, sage, thyme, cumin, lemon, even wine and vinegar enhance food flavor. Try adding vinegars, especially balsamic vinegar, to pasta sauces. Sure, use real butter, but use less of it.

“I have no time to eat right” By the time you get to the fast food joint, get out of your car, get in line, order, wait around, pay for your order, get back into your car, drive home, change into something comfortable, get your place settings out, get drinks and sit down, you could have pounded a chicken schnitzel, popped a few baked potatoes in the microwave, created a salad and have relaxed with a glass of wine! So don’t give me that excuse!!

“It’s too expensive to eat right” See above. For the amount you paid for that bucket of chicken, you could have purchased spinach, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, radishes, any meat on sale, potatoes and a loaf of French bread and had leftovers! Search store circulars and choose sale items from that week. As my mother said, “You can have anything you want . . . and this is what you want.”

“I have no time to exercise!” Listen, I know you’re tired after a tough day at work. Exercise revives you! Do you watch TV at night? During the commercials use stretchy bands or lift small hand weights. One of my patients peddled her stationary bike while watching Jeopardy each evening.

Have children? On weekends, get them involved! Dance with them, rake and jump in leaves, play Simon Says, walk the dog, go to the park, throw the ball around. Your children will forever cherish those memories forever.

 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:21)  

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus didn’t offer excuses. Are your excuses more important than HIS were? He went to the cross because he thought we were worth more than his comfort.

Isn’t that enough to choose to honor God with our bodies.

“for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

Press on toward Success!

Except from “Life’s Too Short to Eat Bad Cheese”

The Garbage Truck

Change Therapy

David Pollay was in a New York City taxi cab and here’s what happened to him.

“I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, the car skidded, the tires squealed, and at the very last moment our car stopped just one inch from the other car’s back-end. I couldn’t believe it. But then I couldn’t believe what happened next. The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and he started yelling bad words at us. How do I know? Ask any New Yorker, some words in New York come with a special face. And he even threw in a one finger salute!…

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