Watch "Brother's Keeper" ~a powerful book trailer by Christa Jaussi
Sharing this book is a sincere pleasure. I don't know anyone who hasn't been touched by suicide in their lives. The joyful holidays can lead some of us to compare ourselves to others or to feel alone, pressured. This holiday, I hope Christa Jaussi's book reminds you that connection and loves ones are priceless, and that you matter. Every
Thursday I feature an author committed to writing clean or inspirational books. Each time, I am moved by the quality of authors and the importance of their work. This book, Brother's Keeper-a fictional novel based on author's experience of losing brother to suicide-, by Christa Jaussi has important content for our times. We are losing too many of our young people. Although it is fiction, it can start conversations and open dialogues with family members about suicide.
Christa Jaussi lost her brother to suicide in 2005...
She’s hiding in her present.
With nothing but her guitar and a few belongings, Hope Flanagan escapes the abuse and negligence from her mother’s boyfriend. Hope’s lucky enough to find a warm exhaust vent in an alley of her coastal town and blessed with help from a coffee-shop employee who sees her desperate situation. But Hope is determined to stay under the radar from social services and the other homeless kids, who seem to go missing once they fall under the notice of the local homeless tough girl.
She’s hiding from her past.
Grace James works with the police to help survivors of abuse while desperately fighting to keep her own family safe from her vindictive ex-husband. News of her husband’s release from prison pushes her to accept help from the handsome and secretive Officer Joe Hart. But then her mother brings home a stray from her coffee shop, and Grace finds herself catapulting through her fears to do for Hope what she just might not be able to do for herself—find out who she really is to save her before it’s too late.You can find "Finding Hope" on Amazon:Paperback, OR Kindle, Kindle Unlimited
It was my privilege to be a guest on Valerie Loveless's podcast! Valerie is an author and a world changer. Learn ways to support survivors, tips for keeping teens safe, and why I love Oregon's services for survivors. Hear about Safe House, and my next novel with the same characters and setting, FINDING HOPE.
Meet bestselling author, Julie L. Spencer, and learn why a group of authors has dedicated themselves to writing clean fiction! Find out how to subscribe to Julie's fun, free Chapter a Day emails featuring her works in progress.
In Matthew 26: 6-13, we read about the loving ministry of a woman towards the Savior. She anoints his feet with precious and expensive oil in the last days of his life. The disciples are upset that she is using the precious oil on him, instead of selling it to feed the poor. But he is grateful for her ministering and promises that when people speak of this moment, she will be remembered, and she is.
I am not surprised that it is a woman who ministers and serves the Savior in the last days of his life. I may be partial, but I believe sisters in the gospel have the capacity for great love. And yet, I and others, sometimes miss promptings to serve. I can see myself reacting as the disciples did, judging the woman for her kindness and suggesting we should sell the valuable oil. In my frugality and judgment, I would have missed the point of the loving act of kindness, a perfect example of how the Savior wants us to treat each other.
How often do we hold on to our pennies and minutes, counting them, and miss opportunities to give them away by ministering to others?
In Mark, Chapter 14, the Savior takes Peter, James, and John to the Garden of Gethsemane where he tells them, in verse 34, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.” Then alone he goes into the garden for what we often call, “His Gethsemane,” On this night, we are told by,
“Thankfully, Jesus Christ courageously fulfilled this sacrifice in ancient Jerusalem. There in the quiet isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane, He knelt among the gnarled olive trees, and in some incredible way that none of us can fully comprehend, the Savior took upon Himself the sins of the world. Even though His life was pure and free of sin, He paid the ultimate penalty for sin—yours, mine, and everyone who has ever lived. His mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish were so great they caused Him to bleed from every pore… And yet Jesus suffered willingly so that we might all have the opportunity to be washed clean… Without the Atonement of the Lord, none of these blessings would be available to us, and we could not become worthy and prepared to return to dwell in the presence of God.”
We don’t really know what happened in the garden, other than a few words in the New Testament, which included an angel ministering to the Savior, because the disciples, who waited by the gate, fell asleep. He faced the greatest challenge of his mortal existence in absolute solitude. During this time, He cried out using a tender term:
“Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”
Like many of you, I faced my Gethsemane or truly painful moments in life by myself. However, because of the sacrifice of Christ, I wasn’t really alone. I felt the sweet presence of the Holy Ghost and the Savior’s love. The Savior, who understands our experiences sent the comforter and waits for us to ask for Him, to seek Him out, and to have faith that he will be there for us, even if we can’t see or touch Him.
He Understands. “There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache … that the Savior did not experience first. … The Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens.” (Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Ensign, May 2014, 90.) Apr. 2015
Sadly, so often in our world, we suffer alone. We are called to minister to each other, and yet when it is our moment of need, we are ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. Even the Savior asked his friends to wait, watch, and be with Him, if only by the Gate.
Don’t keep others from being blessed. Allow them the blessings that come from ministering to you when you are in need. Reach out, share one another’s burdens, leave the world, and shame, behind. Rejoice in the Love the Savior asks us to have for each other.
The Savior didn’t say, “And when your house is clean, the baby stops crying, and thou art perfect, love one another.” He said, “As I have loved you, love one another” (John 13:34-35). He has been to Gethsemane for us. In remembrance of His suffering, let us do our best to not leave another soul to carry the burden of this life’s pain alone, while we sleep.
Imagine hiking all day on dirt roads in sandals with 12 best friends and then entering a busy town where mud is common and you will know what my feet looked like after the 24-mile Hood-to-Coast race walk I took several years ago.
Now imagine offering to give your entire team pedicures and you will have a tiny glimpse into the love the Savior showed when he offered to wash the Apostle’s feet in John 13. It was not a quick, easy, or totally about clean feet. It was about love, letting the Savior see us as we are, and washing away the dirt of this world.
During the Last Supper, when the Savior washed the Apostle’s feet, Peter responded as I would have. He recoiled from having the Savior, whom he loved, wash his dirty feet. Read John’s account below:
“1 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;
3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.”
This week, my church is studying a Come Follow Me lesson which includes John 13-17 in the New Testament. As I read the chapters, I remembered my dirt covered feet after the race and marveled at the Savior’s love for his brethren, the Apostles. I also wondered about the toxic things we regularly pick up our journey through life, all the dirt along the way, including unhealthy relationships, addictions, and choices. Would I allow the Savior to clean my feet, every whit, or would I hide in shame? Would I be willing to wash away the world, or would I ask him to leave behind a little chocolate addiction or worse?
When Peter hesitated to have the Savior wash his feet, the Savior told him, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” Following which, Peter wanted to the Savior to wash all of him. Are you ready to go all in? Reading the New Testament reminds me to shift my focus from the things of this world to a higher plane. It helps me keep my focus on the Savior, service, and the importance of loving one another. It reminds me that true happiness is found when we go all in with the Savior.
During these same chapters, I also noticed the word love used over and over. Indeed, one of my editors would have made a quick note of an “echo” and asked me to remove all but 2 of the 40 mentions in the chapters. And yet, 2 of my favorite scriptures is found in John 13. they repeat the word love 4 times.
“34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
When I was young, I was privileged to sing in the old Tabernacle, in Salt Lake City, during a Conference. We were taught brand new songs for the occasion. One of the new songs was, “As I have Loved You.” It continues to be one of my favorites to this day.
I really do believe love is the answer. Love as the Savior loved. The pure love of Christ, charity, service, and the willingness to take upon Himself all of our sins, or dirt. A love as sweet as I felt the first time I washed the tiny feet of my newborn daughter, after all, are we not all as helpless as a newborn without the atonement of the Savior.
This week, find a way to serve the people you love, as the Savior served others, selflessly and completely.
Take a Deeper Dive:
Watch the story of the Last Supper.
Listen to the insights Dave Butler and Emily Belle Freeman share about the Savior washing the Apostle’s feet.
What toxic habits or things have you held onto that maybe you are ready to ask the Savior to wash away?
How have you felt the Savior’s love in your life? How can you love as the Savior loved?
This is a photo of one of my most prized possessions, an actual widow’s mite from the time of Christ. It is tiny, light and even surrounded by silver, unassuming. It represents one of my favorite New Testament stories, The Widow’s Mite, and some of the guiding principals I live by.
Let me share what I learned from the story of The Widow’s Mite with you and tell you what duct tape, tithing, and faith have to do with each other, and why you are enough.
I am not a widow. But I learned what it means to be without when I found myself alone with 5 children. I had the privilege of a family to go to for help, but that didn’t change the bleak future before me. I had lost it all, a new home, a stable income, and a marriage. And yet, while losing it all, I learned about faith, tithing, and my worth in the Savior’s eyes.
But first, because you may have never read the story of The Widow’s Mite, here is The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints version on the Mormon Channel as told by children. Nobody tells a story better than these adorable kids.
“41 ¶ And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
42 And there came a certain apoor widow, and she threw in two bmites, which make a farthing.
43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this apoor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
44 For all they did cast in of their aabundance; but she of her bwant did ccast in dall that she had, even all her living.”
The widow gave everything she had, a mite. Has there ever been a moment when you paid your tithing and all you had left over was your faith in the Lord?
Back to the picture of me, sitting on the side of the road with 5 kids in a van. I had nothing and was dependent on the mercy of family. I wasn’t sure anyone had the capacity to help me with the challenges I was facing, except… I did the only thing I had left. I folded my arms, prayed.
There are some things that are learned best by practicing them, even before we believe. Faith is one of those things. Trials give us opportunities to practice faith and build a strong testimony of the love of our Savior. I have no doubt, the widow who gave her all walked by faith.
Our Heavenly Father gives us everything we have and made us everything we are. He only asks us to pay a tithe in return. Tithing is a commandment and a blessing to each of us best learned by the act of paying it, like the widow, even when it is all we have.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
I would like to say that I responded to all my trials with grace and dignity, but I would be lying. I learned faith and the power of tithing through trial and error, my errors. Or, as I like to refer to it, the big “smackdown,” that comes from my own failings. The Lord doesn’t need to punish me, I do just fine on my own. As the years have passed, through his blessings, I have learned the benefit of obedience to the commandment of tithing. My faith grew as I stumbled along. I am sure I will stumble again, but I know who to look to when I fall.
Several years later, I stood in the kitchen of my old house by the sea with my mother. Because I had been without, I was joyful in the “shabby chic” old house. Usually, Mom was calm, but on this day, she was not. She and my father had just retired and were about to leave on a mission. Their new retirement income terrified her. I wasn’t used to seeing Mom worry. I remember trying to comfort her.
Me: Mom! Everything is going to be okay! You pay your tithing. You’re going on a mission. The Lord will bless you!
Mom: What do you know?! You have duct tape on your refrigerator door and a bungee cord holds your oven closed!
Me: If the Lord feels I need a new refrigerator, he will get me one! He knows I can’t cook!
Mom: Louder crying.
Truth? I am safer outside a kitchen. However, the next day my cousin, Kristi, called me. She had purchased a new home and didn’t like the almost new stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator with all the bells and whistles. If I could drive a few hours, it was mine, along with several other pieces of furniture.
Me: Mom! The Lord sent me a refrigerator – for you!
Am I ever afraid? Do I worry? Absolutely. But I am less afraid now than I have ever been. I have learned to walk by faith. If I lose everything again, I will cry and it will be hard, but in my heart, I will have faith that it will be for my good.
As survivors, we often live waiting for the next bad thing to happen. We know from experience that bad things happen to good people. But we don’t have to do it all alone. We can have nothing one day and the windows of Heaven can open and bless us the next day. The Savior wants to walk beside us. We are never, ever alone.
Within a few months, I had all new appliances in my kitchen. I was blessed as a direct message of Love and peace to my mother. We laugh to this day. All I have to say is, “Remember the duct taped fridge,” and we smile. Miracles happen. I have no doubt the Savior blessed the widow who gave her mite.
There is another lesson to be learned from The Widow’s Mite. David Butler and Emily Belle Freeman say it best in their weekly show, “Don’t Miss This.” The widow’s offering was enough and so are your offerings. On those days when you watch others who have more and feel you have nothing to offer the Savior, remember, of all the offerings He immortalized the widow’s mite. It was enough and so are you.
What does the story of The Widow’s Mite mean to you?
Why are we asked to give tithes to the Savior when he could clearly take care of things without our help?
This year my church released, Come Follow Me, a new study guide or resource for learning the gospel. Each week, as I read and study, I have been struck by how much of the New Testament holds little gems of hope and healing for survivors. For example...Are there times in your life when you have felt the Savior clear the way on your behalf? Is there something keeping you from healing? Is there something you would like cleared out of the way? Have you asked for help?
For my birthday, I want to give you a gift. The SAFE HOUSE kindle version is 0.99 cents for the month of January. Thanks to a very special editor and my critique group (who shall remain nameless until they approve the final copy!), I am editing away on the final draft of the next novel in my clean mystery-suspense series, set in the same coastal location, with the same beloved characters. While I work, I wanted to share the first story, set in the small town of Necanicum where the winds blow and the rain falls.
So enjoy the winter storms that roll in over the ocean or the snow that falls on your lawn. Snuggle up by the fire and READ! I know I will…when the edits are done.
I actually prayed out loud, a name came to mind and the phone rang. One of those rare friends, the kind you meet and feel like you’ve known a hundred years, was calling – Haley Miller of HisNames.org and Captures Photography. She said, “I’ve been thinking about you. How can I help you?” I felt like Angels were in the room singing.
Haley was there for me when I launched Safe House. I was so happy to see her!
Today we went to a little known local spot. I had the privilege of watching Haley, a talented photographic artist, create the cover art for my next novel, “Finding Hope.” She asked about the characters, the story, the feelings, and went to work. I can’t wait to reveal the cover.
Finding Hope is a clean stand-alone novel which takes place in the same beloved town as Safe House with everyone’s favorite characters, Grace and Officer Joe Hart. Maybe this time Grace will find love.
17-year-old Hope Experience Flanagan thought she was escaping danger when she walked away from the Yeti Haven Trailer Park and the Rat. But, the world is a dangerous place, unless you have Grace and a little help from friends. Grace James and Officer Hart work together to help Hope find her mother and a place to call her own before she becomes easy prey for traffickers and finds herself in deep water.
So I leave you with this thought, Can Grace find Hope, while Hart saves Grace?
Comment below if you want to know the location of the shoot and maybe, just maybe, I will share one of my favorite local (and often missed) beaches on the Oregon Coast.