Sips with Sophie: Summer Lovin’

We are just a little over a month away from the official arrival of autumn, but the heat and humidity are at their peak here in the South.

School has just started back and as I sit and watch my neighborhood pool a lot less crowded during the day, it picks back up in the evening for anyone seeking to cool off.

It reminds me of those fun summer pool parties and vacation days at the beach. Remember the movie Grease? Danny and Sandy met at the beach and had their summer teen romance in the beginning of the film. There was no pretense between them. They merely fell in love with each other as they were and not the images they went on to portray in order to be accepted by their friends. Kind of makes one wonder how much outside influences shape our expectations in romance, doesn’t it?

As a preteen, I longed for that special boy to come along and sweep me off my feet with magical moments of holding hands and stealing sweet kisses. In middle school, I inhaled tales of romances from Silhouette First Love and Sweet Valley High. Remember those?

While I never had my own summer romance or met anyone on vacation, it’s fun to write about longings from experiences never formed but always wished upon.

Have you ever had a summer romance? Did it blossom into more?

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

My husband and I technically met ten years ago during the summer but we didn’t have our first date until the following December. Even so, our summers together have always been special and romantic. We have had our share of beach vacations that always include a walk in the sand with the ocean or gulf sweeping across our toes.

I love writing about romance because of the hope of finding true love that blooms into a long lasting force that doesn’t bow or break when the wind blows. New love is a wonderful time of learning about someone. Knowing you can lean on and trust your love long after the newness has worn off is like a ship returning to its harbor that is always there waiting with outstretched arms.

It’s fun to explore my characters’ thoughts and emotions as they discover new love. They are all broken or flawed in some way – aren’t we all? To find that person that can love and see past all the imperfections to the heart inside is love and romance at its core.

Why do you write romance?

Sophie

Sips with Sophie: Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year when I go where I haven’t been in awhile – under the couch and inside the windows of my house to clear out the dust bunnies and pollen. My allergies are a real deal and ever since we moved from the city to the semi-country, every spring is a real struggle for me to breathe.

While I wouldn’t trade where we live for anything right now except maybe the beach, it is that time of year to roll up my sleeves, put the gloves on and go to the mattresses with evaluating what can stay and what needs to go. For me, that involves digging deep into my soul and becoming completely honest with what stays in my life and what has to go!

Last fall, I did a digital detox and went completely off a couple of social media sites. One of them I have now left altogether and the other I don’t allow to take too much of my time. In fact, I’ve become quite serious in not allowing these channels to waste my time.

Life is short enough as it is and I’d rather be writing, reading or in the kitchen whipping up something delicious!

I’ve also decided to detox some people and situations out of my life. Instead of trying to juggle too many things (I’m not wonder woman and I’m GLAD!) and try to please too many other people out of duty, I’ve written out what I want my life to look like. If your heart isn’t truly into what you’re doing and you find yourself gravitating to other tasks (not just as a form of procrastination) that you enjoy, then it’s time to cut the fat, so to speak.

A couple of weeks ago I took a few bags of clothes, shoes and other misc household items to a charity drop-off. They’ve been sitting in our guest room for almost two years. Why? I wasn’t attached and I refused to look in the bags again after I’d packed up what I’d determined to donate. I’m not really sure why I’d put off that trip so long other than I just would forget about running that errand because I was finding myself prioritizing other tasks. It’s so nice to go in the guest room and not feel like it’s a storage unit for things I don’t want or need anymore.

This week, I let go of a part-time work opportunity because it had yielded me absolutely nothing but stress. I tried to renew my mind each week with positivity and a fresh approach but it was useless. I hated it and I had to let it go. It was a toxic situation that I needed to leave.

I feel so much lighter not having to try and fit it in to my life after I’d prioritized a different part-time job. Yes, I juggle multiple things. Writing had taken a backseat but now I’m excited to say that I’ve begun the 2nd novella in my novella trilogy in progress!

Of course, some things in life are commitment-oriented and shouldn’t be tossed aside because of a rough patch. Marriage, for instance. I’m not giving up on my marriage just because some days are tougher than others. I’m thankful that my husband and I are committed to each other and we are true partners in this life. I couldn’t do this life without him, that’s for sure!

Women tend to think that we have to do it all, be it all and have it all. Not true. As I’m getting older, I can definitely say that I’m becoming more intentional and DISCERNING about the things that I allow into my life.

Spring cleaning is not always fun but it isn’t really hard just tedious. When you’re done, you can step back and feel energized and accomplished!

Sophie

Sips with Sophie: Marching into Spring

As we say goodbye to March, I wait expectantly for Easter to arrive. Everything is greening up outside and I’ve been planning out what I will plant this spring. We’ve celebrated our wedding anniversary and the birthday of one of our pups.

Birds are singing and bulbs are peeping up from the ground. It’s that time where spring fever (and spring allergies!) gets us motivated and outside but Easter is the highlight of the season.

And Easter is my favorite season, topping Christmas. Why?

Easter represents rebirth, renewal and of course the hope that the Cross represents. It also has significance in my life.

Grab your favorite tea and scone. Sit back and relax while I tell you a story. No, it is not a Danielle Steel novel. This is real life and in a rare moment of mine, it’s about to get personal.

More than a decade ago, I lost my job on Ash Wednesday (oh, the blessed irony!) and I was in an abusive relationship. To top off already being rejected professionally, my fiance broke off our engagement during Lent. As if not having an income weren’t bad enough, I was faced with feeling rejected and isolated. Friends and co-workers abandoned me as if my situation were contagious. It didn’t matter that I was better off without that relationship. What mattered at the time was that I felt utterly forsaken.

I made it through Lent and then Easter arrived.

A miracle didn’t happen on Easter for me as I had prayed. I was, however, reminded of the hope that only Christ can offer. I am a believer and a Christian. We don’t get a good rap these days and it makes me sad. I can understand why in many cases but the more the world (Christians and non-Christians) focuses on the creation and not the Creator will cause missed opportunities to experience the confounding and undeserved love and grace of God. It’s not about us. It’s about Him.

You may not be a believer, reader, but of this I can assure you. I have seen the goodness of God in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

Even when it felt like I was in a perpetual Good Friday moment, Sunday was on the way.

What felt like hell on earth at the time, being personally and professionally dumped, was actually God’s hand of mercy saving me from both horrible situations. It contradicts what society says that we shouldn’t feel pain especially if we are on the receiving end. I was the dumpee not the dumper but I shouldn’t have been in that relationship in the first place. If we don’t have painful situations or refining moments, we can’t appreciate the good times and we can’t empathize with others who have experienced similar sufferings and help each other. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6)

I accept the fact that I recognized the abuse early on before he’d presented me with a diamond ring. I said yes anyhow. I accept that every time he manipulated me and I reacted and when he criticized me and I took it as truth, I knew full well the relationship was wrong. I stayed anyhow.

I accept that it was a sinful relationship and I chose to stay when I should have run like my pants were on fire away from this man. I know full well and accept that I should never have gone out with this man the first time. My intentions were off when I accepted that first date. And when your intentions are wrong, wrong is sure to follow.

We’ve all heard the saying that the Lord works in mysterious ways. Why would He allow me to suffer? First, I was wrong (Have I said that enough?) and He was saving me from further wrong. I had gone so far off track that He had to make an impression and get me back on track. And boy did He ever!

Our society says we shouldn’t be disciplined because of our choices. But how do we learn if we don’t suffer the consequences of our bad behavior? Maturity causes us to own up to our wrongdoing even when it stings. And as far as losing a job goes, well that’s part of life. We can’t escape bad times. But there are good times as well. It’s all about perspective and how we react to setbacks that come with life and our own mistakes.

I could have forever wallowed in my self pity and I did for awhile. But if I had continued in that pity party for one, I wouldn’t have met my now husband who is the complete opposite of that abuser. I only met him because my career path changed (Thanks, layoff!) and I am with a man who truly LOVES me! (Thanks, badly ended abusive relationship!)

God can make ALL things new (Revelation 21:5) and every morning His mercies are new! (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Two days after that Easter, the Lent from hell, I woke up and I was OVER my broken relationship. I had been healed from the bondage of (bad, wrong) THINKING that if our relationship didn’t survive that I was doomed a failure. The years of abusive relationship and the feelings that I had chosen were gone. I got up, got dressed and went out to a social event. My broken heart had been set FREE!

Holy Week is bittersweet for me. I look forward to the joy of Easter and celebrating the Resurrection. It is also a grim reminder of the events that took place before Jesus was crucified. He went from being the life of the party on Palm Sunday as the crowds adored Him to being spat upon and mocked and taking the beating of a lifetime that I pray you and I may never have to suffer.

Our petty problems and inconveniences are eclipsed by God the Father turning his back on His own Son because Jesus bore the shame of ALL sin past, present and future in all its ugliness. Talk about rejection! Nothing I have ever experienced could compare to that kind of abandonment.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5, NIV

Sometimes we have to be crushed in order to be made into who God created us to be and where He wants us to be. Sometimes we must be broken in order to be HEALED.

I pray that as this Easter comes and goes that God will present us all with a renewed perspective. The days of the last year have been dark across the globe. But He is the Light that shines bright with hope in the midst of the darkness.

Happy Easter and may you be filled with HOPE, RENEWAL and HEALING!

Sophie

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20, NIV

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

Sips with Sophie: Love Notes

Have you ever received a love note?

There’s something about receiving an expression of love and affection that you can touch and reread that fills the senses and warms the heart. Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays and the main reason why red and pink are my favorite colors. From the sugary sweetheart candies with those cutesy valentine messages to red rose bouquets with dark chocolate truffles and a glass of bubbly, that day on the calendar signifies love and sweetness. The hint of hopeful longing and returned affection has always been one of my favorite plot lines in classic and contemporary romance stories.

But the greatest romance story of my life happened on Valentine’s Day 2013 when my husband proposed. He’s a bit of a romantic at heart and even though most days together aren’t glamorous, we get to remember that special night when he asked and I answered YES! Every year, we plan a special dinner at home to commemorate our engagement. It’s a lot more affordable and we can even enjoy our homemade gourmet meal dressed comfortably!

Our relationship started out with a love note. When we first met, he helped me as a struggling entrepreneur have free publicity at an event he coordinated so I bought him a thank you card. It’s all I could afford. He told me he had never received a thank you card before and it really impressed him. Ever since then, we exchange cards at every holiday.

But my love affair with love notes and valentines goes way back!

In elementary school, my mom made me a special Valentine box. She took an old shoe box and wrapped it with green wrapping paper. Then she glued on red wrapping paper cut into heart shapes. I was so proud of that box and couldn’t wait to get home and read all my valentines!

Later as a teenager when couples were exchanging Whitman’s Samplers, my mom bought me Valentine’s heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. I wasn’t exactly a boy magnet and never received any chocolates or valentines from my unrequited crushes. Somehow even after I started dating later in high school, those immature relationships either ended just before or started after February 14th. Funny how the timing worked with boys back then!

I have always been a hopeless romantic even if I only imagined being the heroine in those First Love by Silhouette and Love books I devoured as a preteen. Then came the teenage and young adult years when I couldn’t be pulled out of a Jane Austen or Bronte novel sprinkled with a few Zebra romances.

It’s funny remembering how I wanted so badly to have a valentine when I was younger and the love of my life chose Valentine’s Day to ask me to marry him!

Valentine’s Day is about more than just romantic love. Even when I celebrated alone, I had other valentines to love like my parents and other family, friends, and pets. No matter the day on the calendar or if you’re single or taken, the greatest Love Note of all comes from above!

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8, NIV

And He is the best Valentine of all!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sophie

Sips with Sophie: Writing Rituals

“Bring me the sunset in a cup.” 
― Emily Dickinson

As I pore over the pages of my planner and schedule my writing hours, those hours change on different days.

Either I write in the morning or after lunch. Nevertheless, I have a ritual that I’ve established.

Writing MUST involve tea drinking.

Every morning when my husband and I get up, we start the day with one cup of coffee. I set the coffeemaker the night before so that pleasant aroma stirs us from slumber.

But after that first cup of java, I switch to tea.

Regardless of the flavor tea I’m drinking, having that cuppa besides me for writing inspiration is soothing and kicks me into mental gear.

Another ritual I include on occasion is enlisting the aid of smells to stimulate my writing. I have often found that for me, scents are quite nostalgic. They also help plant me in the scene I’m writing.

Either I will light scented candles or just open the lid to release the fragrance. My favorite scents are lavender and lilac. Seasonal favorites are pumpkin spice, apple cinnamon, balsam and peppermint.

Some writers listen to music. I prefer the sounds of nature or blissful quiet. During warmer months, I take my writing out on our back deck so I can hear birds chirping in the trees, cows mooing in the distance at nearby farms and yes, even the whir of passing cars. During the Christmas season, I draw inspiration from classical Christmas songs.

My office is the brightest room in the house and my desk looks out onto the street. It is also the warmest room in the house in colder seasons as we are now. At the start of the new year, I cleaned and reorganized my office so that my mind is clear when I write. Occasionally, I will sit at our kitchen island for a change of pace.

But that mug of tea is right by my side no matter where I write!

Do you have a favorite ritual when you sit down to write? Does it involve the five senses? Can you write anywhere or do you keep a special place for weaving your words?

Sophie