Tag: author

New Testament Conversations with a Survivor – Washing the Apostle’s Feet

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:

John 13

“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.

John 13

“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?

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New Testament Conversations with a Survivor – Healing after Cleansing the Temple

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?

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Time Spent Together is Never Wasted

By lifting others, we all rise. People are always more important than problems. Problems can bring us together, or tear us apart. In this case, being vulnerable and authentic, sharing my heart work has brought me closer to family, friends, and a whole new community.

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Wait By the Gate With Me

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

-Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Not long ago I found myself crying alone on a bridge. As there are many bridges in Seaside, that isn’t as odd as it sounds. I still haven’t decided if I was crying because I was heartbroken, betrayed by my own people, or just plain furious. You see, writers make a grand joke of rejection. We are experts at querying agents and publishers and being told our stories are, “Not what we are looking for,” or “you don’t have a large enough following,” or even, “your work needs more work.” But this rejection was personal.

I was told by an editor that my work contained characters who were members of my religion, and no one buys books with characters of my religion. They just don’t sell. And so, they’d voted and wouldn’t take any more novels that weren’t secular or contained characters who were members of my church.

In a knee jerk reaction, I offered to obliterate my religion from my story and thankfully they declined. You see, they said, my followers already know what church I belong too, and it was too late to go back in the closet. So, I countered, I read Anne Frank’s Diary, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and would have read 7 years in Tibet, except Brad Pitt starred in the Move, so I watched it 2 or 3 times. People read novels with religions in them.  But, apparently, they don’t sell.

So, channeling Brene Brown, and in the spirit of authenticity and vulnerability, I am perhaps one of the few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be rejected by an unnamed publisher for writing about characters that belong to the aforementioned church.

Most authors would just counter, oh well! That’s rejection number 666. Then they would either take out their religion or keep submitting. But, not the very successful authors and members of my critique group. Sometime in the evening, wearing pajamas and reading our work to each other over Google Hangouts and chatting over Facebook Messenger, I confessed – rejected because some of my characters went to The Church.

Immediately, I got the best advice of my life, “Wait by the gate.”

I replied, “Wait by the gate?”

The reply was a quote from a song.

“They came to a place which was named, Gethsemane

And Jesus saith unto his disciples, sit ye here while I pray…”

Lamb of God, Gethsemane by Rob Gardner, London Symphony Orchestra, Spire Chorus

In those few lines, I experienced greatness. You see, these lines came from a fellow author who also writes about characters in The Church who navigate the challenges of life, are regularly misunderstood for their beliefs, and yet cling to them. She waits by the gate, true to her beliefs, authentic, honest, hilarious, and a true friend. We write about what we know.

I decided to join her and wait by the gate. I will be true to my beliefs, to who I am and I will keep the strange little bishop who interferes with the love interest in my book and the funny lady who has never had a cup of coffee, but… well you’ll just have to read the book.

I don’t know what you believe in, but I hope whatever gate you choose to camp out at,  you are faithful to it. I hope you are brave, honest and honorable about who you are and what you believe. If you write a book, I will read it.

As for me and my friend? We will be waiting by our gate, with laptops, good books, good friends, family, laughter, and tears of joy. Because it isn’t about how many books we sell (Okay, we keep score and compete a little) as much as it is telling a great story. Not the greatest story ever told, yet. But then, you’ll just have to read the book.

 

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My Birthday Gift to You! 0.99 Kindle Safe House

 

LEARN MORE HERE

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.

 

 

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Hello Operator Can You Help Me Please

Today, sleep eluded me, and I was up and on my knees talking to my Father in Heaven. Just like so many of us, I was feeling overwhelmed with my list of responsibilities. I felt I was failing. I listed the things I am thankful for and asked for a few massive miracles. On my list was, “Please give me more hours in this day.”

I am in the middle of editing my next novel, Finding Hope, and it is taking much longer than I thought it should. Editing is a long process for me. Errors don’t jump out at me, they hide. I have to hunt them down by reading my entire book out loud. I beg saints to be beta readers who correct a copy which I integrate into my master copy. And then, after another read through and a second, third, fourth, edit I can send it off to a professional editor.

At 4 this morning my brain woke me up to think about editing. I had a whole conversation with myself. It went something like this:

Me: You should just get up right now and edit until work and then through the next night. You could get it all done.

Also Me: Right….like that time you were writing in the night and woke up to find out you had typed a whole paragraph of a dream? Editing is not something a sleep-deprived person like you should be doing.

Me: I can push harder. Let’s see. Editing from 4:30 to 7:30, Workout 7:30, work 8:30 (looking really bad), Editing from 5:00 to Midnight. See, it can work.

Also Me: Why am I am so anxious. Why isn’t it done? Everyone else in the whole world, I mean every single person, could do this faster than me.

Satan: You’re not good enough. This is a waste of time. You should be spending time cleaning the house or with your family. You should just quit. Quit. Quit.

It was at that moment that I decided to roll onto my knees and give all my worries to my Heavenly Father.

One of my favorite spiritual leaders, Deiter F. Uchtdorf said,

“We must learn that in the Lord’s plan, our understanding comes “line upon line, precept upon precept.”6 In short, knowledge and understanding come at the price of patience.

Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness.”

This morning, I didn’t get my answer on my knees. All I could do was give my challenges up in prayer, say Amen, and get on with my day.

I work at a nonprofit that sits a few blocks from the ocean. Weekly, we have the gift of a wellness hour with free yoga. Today, however, was bright and sunny so I opted to take a walk. I put my headphones in, turned on a good book and walked to the beach.

Somewhere on the walk, I remembered I needed to call Deseret Book and update my platinum membership. Ironically, I am on a tight budget, but it felt important.

Because I was walking, (And I am a new age girl who can walk and text), I googled the customer service line and got on with an Operator.

Me: Hello? I think I need to renew my platinum membership so I get Bookshelf for less. I might have been charged more this month. Someone there called me last month, but I forgot to call back. My name is Shannon Symonds.

Operator: That was me! I called you last month. I remember because after we talked, I bought your book, Safe House, and read it. I have been wanting to tell you I loved it. It was good. I think it will help people.

Me: You just answered my prayer! I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I was pretty discouraged this morning and wondering if I was doing the right thing.

Operator: You are! Keep writing.

Me: Tears of gratitude for a Heavenly Father who answers prayers and for a sweet woman who listens to the spirit and blessed my life.

When it feels like you are overwhelmed, and your burden is too hard to carry, remember the operator. Call Heaven and ask for help. Maybe you will get the operator, maybe you will get a miracle, or maybe, if you are patient, you will find a mountaintop and look back to see the Lord was with you every step of the way, and the journey was for your own good.

Wait! Did I use too many commas, not enough? I should edit this again.

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How to get Cinnamon Rolls and the Keys to Dad’s Car

Do you want to see this author geek out? Just tell me you read something I wrote in a newspaper. It is like Christmas morning! Yes, I wrote the article. Yes, I thought it might be published. And yet, every time I cannot contain my joy. It is like opening a new book and smelling the pages (Confess true book lovers, you know you’re closet book sniffers).

The Deseret News Mormon Times (I know- didn’t we all rebrand ourselves?) published an article by several authors detailing the way they prepare for General Conference. It is filled with wonderful ideas. But, as for me and my house? We prepare with Celestia Sappenfield’s Cinnamon Rolls, lovingly known as Mom’s or Grandma’s Rolls. They have kept us together for General Conference for more than 40 years.

The only person happier than me to see the newspaper story was my dad, Jeffrey Sappenfield. You see, there is nothing my father loves better than reading a newspaper. Not on a Kindle, but a real paper newspaper. The kind that is thrown on your porch.

Growing up, my brother’s and sister’s knew that for my father, his mother, and all of the relatives, newspaper reading was to be taken seriously. All pages were to be read. Every front page story was to be discussed. And then the paper was folded lovingly for the next reader. My job was to cut out all the good political cartoons and paste them in my notebook.

We also knew that dad came home after 5 PM. He would walk in the door with the paper. He would sit in his lounger and read, cover to cover. if we wanted the keys to the car, we let dad finish the paper before we asked. It felt like an eternity.

Today is my father’s birthday. I won’t give away his age, but I will say the older I get, the younger he seems. It may be silly, but seeing an article in a newspaper about his family by his daughter (me!) was the perfect gift. Tonight, when I say my prayers, I will thank the appropriate person.

And here is the recipe!

Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls

Preheat Oven to 425

In this century – Use parchment paper on a thick Costco Baking Pan

In a very large bowl (Yeast hates metal)  add 1 and 1/2 cup water. Make sure it is 110 degree (Yeast likes warm)

Add 3 Tablespoons Yeast (Rapid rise is okay – use fresh new yeast)

Add 4 Tablespoons….or more…sugar

Let this rest for 15 minutes. Yes – the ENTIRE 15 minutes. Let the yeast have a party.

Add 2 eggs

3 Tablespoons oil (I like to use melted and cooled real butter)

Add 2 cups warm milk – 110 degrees (Not too hot! You will kill the yeast)

Mix

Take 1 Tablespoon of Salt and add it to a cup of flour and set it aside.

Gently mix in 4 cups flour

Add your 1 cup salt and flour

Add 3 more cups until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl

Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot in your kitchen. Let the dough rise until double.

On a clean surface (There is more dough than you think) roll out the dough until it is a thick rectangle. Pour melted and cooled real butter allllll over it.

Mix a bag of brown sugar and cinnamon to taste. Sprinkle it generously all over the butter. Roll the dough and slice into cinnamon rolls.

Place them on the parchment paper on your baking tray and let them rise for a few minutes.

Bake 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees

Frost with a mixture of powdered sugar, 1 TBL real butter, 1 tsp vanilla, and water. Serve hot with MORE butter.

Next week- The Gluten Free, Dairy Free Cinnamon Bun recipe for me…sigh…

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The Making of the Cover Art for Finding Hope by Shannon Symonds

Do you believe in answers to prayer? I do! Recently I discussed cover art with the talented author of the Buxton Peak series and other clean adult fiction, Julie L. Spencer. She gave me some great tips. I hung up the phone and wondered how I would ever get cover art done in Seaside, Oregon on the edge of the world?

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.

Here is a sample of her photographic art from the release of Safe House. You can find out more about HisNames.org and Haley’s artwork here. Haley is also an Operation Underground Railroad supporter!

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.

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Cedar Fort Author Appreciation Dinner

Do you ever wonder what happens behind the curtain? Are you ever curious about what it takes to publish mountains of quality family entertainment and education? I did, and so I flew to Utah for Cedar Fort’s Author Appreciation Dinner.

Not only did Cedar Fort feed us great food and entertain us with wonderful prizes, they gave us a peek behind the curtain and shared what goes on in the Cedar Fort house.

As an author who writes alone on the Oregon Coast, I had never been to the building or met the staff. It was great to see all the support we have.

I don’t know why, but whenever I called the office, I pictured a small office with books stacked in a closet. Boy, was I wrong! Cedar Fort is a talented team whose CEO, a second generation publisher,  is putting into place new and exciting ideas to support clean, quality entertainment.

My sister Sara came as my date for the night. We sat with Nikki Zacharias Trionfo, author of “Shatter,”  wonderful Cedar Fort family members and more. Table 8 rocked the house.

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Memorial Day- I never thought…..

While visiting my mother, I was given this old photo. My first thoughts when I looked at it was how little my children all were when we took this picture, and I wish Jamie was smiling. My second thought was I wish I had known then what I know now.

I didn’t know that in 6 short years one of my children would be flying off to Germany as a United State Army Air Traffic Controller during a war. I didn’t know she would be pregnant halfway around the world while her husband flew out for 5 months as a soldier set to enter combat.

I didn’t know that one more child would shortly find himself in harm’s way while serving in the United States Army and return home honorably as a disabled veteran. I didn’t know we would be going to war.

Would it have changed anything if I had known? Would I have spent more time teaching them how to survive, to be smarter, stronger? What would I have done to equip them for the mighty challenges they would face in a few short years?

It would have changed everything. I would have cared less about clean bedrooms and bedtimes. I would have cared less about grades and chores.

If I had known then, what I know now I would do everything differently. I would spend hours playing on the beach with them. I would have spent days doing nothing but snuggling, reading, and talking to them about the importance of home and family. I would have read them more scriptures, prayed more often, and made sure they knew God would always be by their side.

When my children entered the United States Army I saw them for the first time and I marveled at the people I had been raising. I saw my daughter, with pneumonia and infected tonsils rank 7th in a class of over 400 soldiers when she completed basic training. I saw my son’s heroic love of his fellow soldiers. I watched him become more of a natural leader, connected, caring, and courageous. He was happiest when helping others.

I learned the military is about more than guns and war. I learned the military is about courageous, connected children of other mothers sacrificing for a cause greater than themselves and joining a larger family.

My children came home, I am one of the lucky ones. My heart breaks for those who lost family. Everything was so simple on that summer day.

I can’t look at a marching army, a soldier’s face, even a soldier from across enemy lines without thinking, somewhere there is a family, friends, a mother missing you, loving you, and wishing they had one more day to play.

Thank you to all the men and women across all time who have served to protect our country and thank you to all the mothers, family, and friends who love them.

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