The Stranger Maiden- An Interview with B. Diaz, Author and Storyteller

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“It’s taking your time and really unfolding the beauty of the words as opposed to rushing through the action of the tale. Pausing for a moment and really creating a world for people to exist in for a little while.” – B. Diaz

It’s waiting for the right moment to tell a story and begin adventures in unexpected times and places. It’s taking the time to dream and imagine and embrace the characters who cross our paths. It’s the self-discovery through the pursuit of hopes and dreams and building character with courageous determination and quiet humility. These are the things reflected in author, B. Diaz (B, short for Brianna) and these are the things her storytelling inspires and points people towards.

Diaz’s first book, The Stranger Maiden, has been collecting rave reviews from readers of all ages. More than an exciting adventure story, the published book is one of Brianna’s dreams come true. A dream that began when she was thirteen years old, while wandering through the woods with her friend (and book’s illustrator, Kasey Walko,) the book’s heroine, Darcie, interrupted Brianna’s thoughts and asked her to tell her story.

For years, Darcie lived in Brianna’s imagination. In high school she would write pieces and short stories, “but I would always come back to this one. I didn’t feel like I was equipped to tell this story until I was eighteen—you know, going off to college and all. So I wrote it. And then I ignored it. I ignored it for two and half years until I graduated college in 2014. In early 2015, I decided to revise and publish the story. I was a more mature writer. I had read more books and developed my voice a little more. I was able to add meat and depth to the story whereas before it was just a framework.”

B. has been a reader and writer for as long as she can remember. She can describe in detail her first journal, right down to the material and color of the binding stitches. Her senior year of high school, she won an award for the most books checked out of the school library for that year. And she proudly states she owns more books than any other possession. When she speaks about her favorite books and authors, enthusiasm fills her sparkling green eyes and you can feel the depth of admiration she holds for them and the influence they have had on her life through their words and works. A book to Brianna is more than a good story.  It’s an escape and “a world for people to exist in for a little while.”

Rooted in a strong, faith-filled family and being raised by independent, “no-nonsense, no-drama parents” has also influenced her writing. She has a strong sense of self, independence, and individuality. These attributes and these qualities are woven into the characters she creates. Introducing a strong female character was of particular importance to her, she wanted her main character, Darcie, to be someone her readers could look up to and identify with.

“(Darcie) does not apologize for who she is. She doesn’t mess around. That was important for me in stories with young women. A male character would get the job done so why wouldn’t a woman also make the same choice? Portraying female characters as brave—there is a way to be strong without being macho. And I think that gets muddled a lot—the relationship between strength and femininity.” 

As a woman and a mom of two girls, I love those words. It is so important that my girls experience positive female role models in their real life and in literary settings. I want them to meet women who are fearless and know they too can go after their hopes and dreams with confidence. God has created women to be both strong and brave, as well as feminine and graceful.  I am blessed that my girls have access to Brianna and now her book. I also want to note that Brianna wrote this book free of profanity and questionable content. Young girls can enjoy it without coming across comprising situations and questionable material.

I would be remiss not to mention one more important quality I see in Brianna – her humility. Her humility is both refreshing and beautiful especially in a platform-seeking world. Her talent is years above her age, yet she doesn’t desire a spotlight or fame. “I never told anyone that I wanted to be a writer. I never set out to be an author. That’s just not me. It was always a very quiet dream. I would spend hours writing, every spare moment. And nobody but those closest to me knew that. I believe the best tended dreams are ones that start quietly. You’re guarding it. It’s your secret place. And you go there and tend and maybe, eventually, if you tend it well and are confident in its beauty, you might want to share it with other people—because maybe what you created will help someone or make them smile.”

What does B. want for the readers of The Stranger Maiden? “I want them to smile. Enjoy the story and allow themselves to be taken outside of their everyday.” For those hoping and asking for a sequel, B. Diaz says that’s something she cannot promise. “This story has been told. I have done the story and the characters in it justice. And now I have to wait until another one needs to be told and if it happens to be in Terrlyn—and it just might be because recently I woke up and I said ‘I see it’—then I’ll go on that next adventure.”

We will just have to wait patiently until the right moment, when the next story needs to be told and the next adventure begins. One thing I think we can count on, B.’s next book will be just as adventurous, just as full of beautiful settings and imagery, and include just as courageous and complex characters as the first story. In the meantime, we can focus on our own hopes and dreams and work to bring imagination back into our lives by taking hold of a little bit of wonder. As Brianna says, “When we encourage imagination it benefits everyone.”  

The Stranger Maiden is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book. Purchase online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Connect with author B. Diaz at  https://authorbdiaz.blog/ and on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/authorbdiaz/

 Just for Fun…A Little Game of THIS or THAT with B.Diaz…

UNDERWATER or UP IN THE AIR- air

LOST or FOUND- lost

PRINCE or FROG –“Prince. I hate frogs.”

CHOCOLATE or VANILLA-  “Chocolate, obviously.”

SNEAKERS or FLIP FLOPS- “barefoot”

PLAID or POLKA DOT- “Polka….PLAID. I love polka dots but wear plaid more often. “

AQUARIUM or ZOO- “Bookstore? Museum?”

FERRIS WHEEL or ROLLER COASTER- roller coaster

GOLD or SILVER- gold

SWEET or SOUR- sweet

INVISIBLE or INVINCIBLE- invisible

BOOK GIVEAWAY on the Embrace Enthusiasm Facebook Page! I am giving away two books to one lucky winner! To win a copy of The Stranger Maiden AND a copy of Ella Enchanted, Brianna’s favorite childhood book, please like this post and comment with your favorite childhood book or most recent read. You can also enter in the comments on this interview page below. Happy Friday! ❤

(This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. )

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Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti-The Podcast

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Photo Credit: MOPS International

I am so excited and honored to have one of my talks turned into a podcast! I gave this talk during MOPS International’s Coach training in Milwaukee last fall. The whole experience was humbling and surreal. I praise God for leading me out of my comfort zone and stepping into new things for His glory. I thank MOPS International for believing in me and allowing me to share my heart. I hope you will listen, be blessed and be encouraged. If you would like to know more about MOPS International and what they do, I would love to talk with you.

(Google Play link to the podcast below. It is about 12 minutes long.)

https://play.google.com/music/m/D4xz4cy52fqhn2d3gfdnv76c2im?t=Throw_Kindness_Around_Like_Confetti-Connections_Podcast 

“When Shanna woke up on her 38th birthday, she had a to-do list that didn’t excite her much. So she threw it out and made another list full of kind things she wanted to do that day. With her new list and a new attitude, she spread kindness around like confetti. All year long, we should strive to walk in grace and do good works and love each other in the name of Jesus.”

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A Safe Place with a Pint of Ice Cream

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Twelve hundred. That is the exact number of calories in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Super New York Fudge Chunk. Long before my hips showed any adverse signs from indulging in excessive amounts of sugary treats, I would down a pint of ice cream in one sitting.

I was never alone in the endeavor and I always had two pints of Ben & Jerry’s with me. One for me and one for my best friend. Eating a pint of ice cream was the extent of our high school craziness. This was one of the many reasons why I loved her. Instead of going out and partying, we were both happily content staying in, talking, and watching the TV edited versions of Dirty Dancing and Ghost.

I vividly remember the laughs, the tears over broken hearts, the questions we tried to answer, and sharing our hopes and dreams. When I think about these times, the thing I treasure the most is the feeling that has lingered all these years. I remember feeling safe.

My friend had provided a space where I could be vulnerable and authentic. She was always the first one I wanted to run to and tell the things on my heart. And she always received me with patience and kindness.I knew I was loved no matter what I shared.

I am sure we had our disagreements and differences but I seem to remember more agreements and similarities. Boys, distance, and life took a toll on our friendship and eventually separated us. Over the span of twenty years, I have thought of my friend often. At every big life event. When hopes and dreams have come true. When loved ones have passed. When I watch a romantic comedy. And every time I eat Ben & Jerry’s.

It’s because of her that I think the solution to most of life’s problems can be worked out with a good laugh, a good cry, and a pint of ice cream shared in a safe place where hearts can be exposed.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my friend and the gift of friendship. It doesn’t take much to see and hear the scary, confusing, unjust things happening in our world. In all of our interactions, I wonder if we are thinking before we speak (or post.) Are we responding to others in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?1 Or are our responses filled with hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, or envy? 2  Are we providing a safe place for hearts to be exposed?

There is a little piece of scripture I have read a thousand times but I keep going back to read. It captures the interaction of two women who were very dear to each other. Two women who were thrown into unplanned circumstances.Confusing, possibly scary circumstances that included many unknowns in the days to come.

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”–Luke 1:39-45

“Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then returned home.”–Luke 1:56

This passage makes me think of God’s power, his glory and the miracles in impossible things. But I also think of God’s incredible KINDNESS. Kindness to knit two women together, to be there for each other, to support and help each other through their callings and life’s situations. I wish I could have eavesdropped on Mary and Elizabeth’s conversations in those three months. The passage highlights the joy they shared. Wonder, amazement too. But did they also share a lot of laughs and cries? Did they discuss their futures-share their hopes, dreams, and fears?  Did they expose their hearts?

I think yes to all of those questions. Mary and Elizabeth were like us in many ways and I think God shows the same kindness to us. He brings people in our life that pour into us when we need it most and who can help us navigate through callings and life together.

In a world that might not feel safe, we can be safe places for each other. We must think wisely before we speak. Pray for patience, kindness, and self-control before we hit “post.” Listen with our hearts. Speak life with our words. Find purpose in our days to use our time wisely and leave people better than how we found them. We can provide safe places for hearts to be exposed, allow raw emotions to be displayed, and with joy share in people’s hopes and dreams. And finally, we can praise God for the gift of friendship, community…and good ice cream. 😉

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1.- Galatians 5:22-23

2- Galatians 5:19-21

400 Years of Silence

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I scratched the letters B-A-B-Y on a young, green pumpkin and then quickly hid it among the tall grass and tangled, prickly vine. The word would grow as the pumpkin grew. My hands instinctively rubbed my belly as if to warm the life growing in body. I looked towards the bright, blue sky and with a smile mouthed a word of thanks.

A baby, my prayers had been answered. Counting the months, I calculated when I would be “safely” past the first trimester and when it would be “safe” to announce our news. I had it all planned. Our new addition would be adorably announced on social media with a glorious, orange pumpkin full-grown from our own garden. Three pumpkins in a row, one inscribed with the word “baby,” all lined up on the porch step. One pumpkin for each of my children. How perfectly-pinteresty it all would be!

I couldn’t wait to tell my other two children, our family, and our church but I was cautiously optimistic. God had shined his face upon me and had taken away the pain of an early miscarriage. A miscarriage I had experienced only a few short months before. I was relieved nothing was wrong with me but was it really safe to say anything? What if this baby was taken from me too? Doubts and fears flooded my happy heart and I decided to commit to silence.

The silence seemed to be the correct discipline. Only a short week later, my fears became a reality and I lost my baby in a second miscarriage. Angry, hurt, and confused, I walked to the garden with tears streaming down my face, ripped the young, green pumpkin from its life source and threw it as hard as I could into the neighboring woods. It smashed open where it landed. My actions did not make me feel better, it made me feel worse. I felt abandoned, forgotten, and lonely. My faithful prayers had not been heard. If God was so close, why did he feel so far away? And why couldn’t I hear Him? Was he just silent to everyone or just to me? As hard as I tried, I couldn’t hear a thing. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word…..


It had been four hundred years. Four hundred years of silence since anyone had heard anything from God. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word.

New religious sects had developed during the Inter-Testamental period (the time between the Old and New Testament.) These groups added many rules and requirements to the law of God and this gave way to avoidance and passive views of religious life.

Politically, Rome was a dominating and an oppressive authority. The Roman Empire was so large, land had been divided and placed in the overseeing hands of the Herods. These men’s lives were filled with political intrigue, murder, violence, sexual immorality, deceit, and hatred. 1 Times were dangerous and uncertain. Hope was waning in the deafening silence.

God was about to break in. His silence was about to be shattered.

In Luke 1:5, we are introduced to a priest named, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth.“Both of them righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” (Luke 1:6)

With a life devoted to faithful service, one might think it would have meant a blessed life. But Elizabeth was barren and having no children in those days would have been humiliating and disgraceful. The Jewish Rabbis said that seven people were excommunicated from God and the list began, “A Jew who has no wife, or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child.”  We can only imagine the whispers behind her back and the longing for a baby in her heart.

Divine interventions come at God’s timing, not ours. When the time came for Zechariah’s division of priests to be on duty, Zechariah was chosen by lot to go into the inner temple of the Lord (Luke 1:10.) This would have been a huge deal and a great honor. There were no less than 20,000 priests altogether and about 1,000 priests per division.3  Zechariah had just won the holy lottery.

On the day of his service, Zechariah stood by the alter, praying his life-long prayer for a child, burning incense, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him (verse 11.) Startled and gripped with fear (who wouldn’t be?) the angel responded, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John.” (verse 13)

Your son will be a joy and delight to many (verse 14,) one who will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah to ready a people prepared for the Lord. (verse 17.)” Zechariah’s response to the angel’s news was one of question and doubt (can you blame him?) and the consequence of his disbelief was silence. He was unable to speak (and some say unable to hear- Luke 1:62) until the day his son was born.

Elizabeth, became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months (Luke 1: 24.)   We are granted insight into her heart with a response of praise. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (verse 25)

A baby. A miracle baby was coming. A baby who would make way for another miracle baby. Against all odds, this was really happening….

 


 

I stared at the positive sign. It was the fifth test, the fifth positive test. How could this be? The timing did not line up. There must be some mistake but how could five positive signs be wrong?

I had just come back from a four-day conference and retreat. I had been surrounded by Godly women, sat under the teaching of faithful people who had inspired and challenged me and my faith. I knew it was a special place and I had been there by divine intervention. I needed healing and restoration and I wanted not only to feel God but I wanted to hear from Him too.

It started as a peep, then a whisper, and then words. “Lay it down at my feet. Surrender your plans and your desires. In my time, not yours.” I did not fully understand but I faithfully made a decision to obey a voice I felt had long forgotten me. I surrendered it all-the fear, the control, my plans- and I left the conference full of peace and hope. I was not fully healed. I knew there would be more work to do, difficult times ahead but I was on a path of healing and God’s silence had been broken.

The blood test from the doctor came back positive, the first trimester came and went, I broke out of my own seclusion and silence and shared the news we were expecting a third baby. No pumpkins lined up but cute little shirts just as “Pinteresty.” This was really happening….

Nine months went by and when it was time deliver my son, he tore into this world through an unexpected C-section. The silence of our life was shattered by his colicky, incessant cries. His first year was challenging. I lived on a limited, allergy free diet and little, very little sleep. I struggling to hear any peep, whisper or word from God. Something was different this time though, I knew the silence did not mean avoidance or abandonment. I knew what I felt did not equate to what was true.

In a sense, the Lord used that time and my son as a way to prepare my heart for a deeper, more dependent, and richer life in faith with the Lord. My babies (the ones in heaven and ones on earth) created an atmosphere that has helped me remember the importance of repentance, dependence, and to stay the path of the Lord even when its hard, goes against all odds, and when it seems God is silent and far away.

Some of us may wish a message from God would come to us. We might feel like God has long forgotten us or his silence is sign he no longer cares. I would like to encourage us to hold on to hope. Listen in the silence for a peep, whisper, or word. Take heart in knowing God hears your prayers (even when we don’t feel like he does.) And be ready with a prepared heart for the Lord’s divine intervention and startling interruptions in our life.

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  1.   Swindoll, C. R. (1984). John the Baptizer: Bible study guide. Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living.
  2. Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
  3. Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press

Seek and Believe-A Study of the Gospel of Luke-Scripture Plan

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You will watch a generation of Christians-of Christians-set the Bible aside in an attempt to become more like Jesus. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible . This will be perhaps the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation. Sacrifice TRUTH for LOVE’s sake. And you will rise or fall based upon what whether you will sacrifice one for the other. Will you have the courage to live in the tension of both TRUTH and LOVE?

– Beth Moore

If we are going to be a generation of Jesus followers who follow Jesus well. A generation who keeps His commandments, live like Him, love like Him, then we are going to have to think like Him and KNOW Him well. We can sit under good teaching, read books by good and faithful people, and we can discuss things of faith with others BUT when it comes down to it, each of us, as individuals need to know how to distinguish between truth and lies (with discernment given by the Holy Spirit.)

The only way to get to know someone well is to spend time with them. To get to know Jesus, we need to go right to God’s word. Spend time in prayer and read scripture. Jesus wants us to seek Him, ask questions, believe in His words, rest at His feet, and experience His love as we learn to walk faithfully with Him.

Over the next months, our Sisterhood will be studying through a series on the gospel of Luke. We are going to focus on getting to know Jesus well- what he did, what he said, who he said it to, who he associated. My prayer is through our prayers and scripture readings, God would work on our hearts, help us become more like Jesus, and know both TRUTH and LOVE so that we can become faithful disciples and more willing servants of Him.

Below is a scripture reading plan for the Gospel of Luke. There are five scripture passages for each week. Grab your Bible, grab a journal, maybe a cup of coffee. I have developed a tool, using Luke as an acronym, to help in our study of the scriptures. As you pray and read through each of the scriptures, I hope you find what God has for you to discover.

Please join us (virtually) and in person at our Sisterhood gatherings on this journey to seek and believe in Jesus, Son of Man. I will be praying for you!

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L- Look towards God in prayer ( Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9)  Don’t go to  the scriptures looking for your idea, go searching for his.

U Read prayerfully and carefully to understand  Proverbs 2:1-3, “Call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding. and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of  the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

KKeep and store commands within your heart– Proverbs 2:10-11,” For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant for your soul. Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you.” Deuteronomy 11:18

EExplore– What does this mean to me and my relationship to Jesus? How does it apply to my life? Where can this passage lead to me to deeper and new places with Jesus? (James 1:22, Ephesians 5:1-2)

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Click link below to download plan….

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One Word for 2017: INSTRUMENT

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There are too many good words to chose from and I went back and forth before deciding on THE word. The one word which will serve as a lens to view life through and a word to focus on in 2017. It’s a word I will explore and ask God to use to help me to grow in character and in faith. My word for 2017 is INSTRUMENT.

It wasn’t a word I had considered. I could have missed it. I discovered the word while watching a scene from a TV show aired on the Hallmark Channel. I know, I wish I could say I was led to the word in prayer or while studying my Bible or reading classical literature written by some famous, great author, or even heard the word from a motivational speaker or pastor. No, it was through a TV show.

In this one particular scene, a character held a worn Bible in his hand (at least it was a wholesome TV show) and carefully turned to the inside of the cover. Holding his breath in anticipation, he found what he had hoped would be there and thoughtfully read the inscription (the following prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.) The words sparked new resolve in him, renewed his faith in himself and his mission. In classic dramatic action, he took off running with his Bible in his hand, sprinting to bring healing to a situation and leaving me to think about St. Francis’s prayer. The word INSTRUMENT lingered in my head all night and the following day.

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The next night, I was watching another television show. This one about a group of nuns and midwives from London who traveled to a struggling mission hospital in Africa. I know it is just a TV show but I was inspired by the characters and story lines. Each character using their gifts and INSTRUMENTS, whether faith-based or science-based, to bring hope and healing to lives. By the end of the special, I was ready to buy plane tickets to Africa, move my family, and join some mission field hospital!

Granted these shows are fictional, the settings staged, the characters imagined, but the story lines are not all that different from the true stories and realities of our world. There are lost people. People who have lost their faith and faith in themselves. Hurting people who need light and hope. People with physical needs- food, clothes, a roof over their head and emotional needs. People who need to be heard and loved. People who need someone to come alongside of them and need to know they are not alone or forgotten. And I want to get in there, in the middle of it as an INSTRUMENT, as a tool in God’s hand.

Whether that means working in the little things, everyday life with everyday people or building something big, with new people, outside of my comfort zone, I am praying that God will use me for his glory. A tool by itself is useless. It is only effective in the hand of one who knows how to use it. For me to be an effective tool, I need to know the One who is using me and for what purpose. Part of my 2017 plan is to read through the Bible and focus on the gospel. Particularly, I am feeling led to the gospel of Luke. Some of my blogging, writing, and speaking engagements over the next months will be on my study of Luke.

I hope your new year is off to a great start! I am looking forward to studying, learning, and trying new things in 2017. If you have a word or goals for the new year, I would love to hear and pray about them for you.

Until next time,

xoxo

Shanna 

 

Nancy Drew and Jessica Fletcher

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I love a good mystery! But what makes a mystery so great? Trying to piece together the clues? Testing theories against logical thinking? Or is it thinking about the possibilities of impossible things?
 
Nancy Drew and Jessica Fletcher are two of my favorite fictional heroines.They both share a keen perspective, ask the right questions, make accurate deductions, and find themselves in adventurous (and somewhat dangerous) situations. All the while they meet the most interesting of characters, solve the case, and seem to enjoy every minute of it. (Or at least the majority of the minutes, when their lives are not in danger…)
 
If we think about it, don’t we all have a little bit of Nancy and Jessica in us? Thrown into the great mystery of life? Trying to figure out the possibilities in impossible situations? Making deductions with what we know and moving forward testing our theories? Some of us trying to get out of dangerous situations? Crossing paths with some of the most interesting people and always, always learning something new?
 
I will never figure out all the mysteries of life (not while I’m here on earth) but I may be able to solve a small “case” here and there. I can get to know the people I meet and piece together clues to love and serve them better. I can ask questions and make deductions based on what I understand to be The Truth. I can marvel at scientific discoveries and wonder about vastness of God’s creation. I can put myself out there, in the middle of messes, take risks and chances, and embrace the places I find myself in.
I can do all of this because I have peace and confidence. Peace given to me by the One who has all the answers, who has solved all the mysteries, and who has created all things. Confidence in my relationship with Jesus. In this, I find safety and freedom to wander, to wonder, and securely step out and into what the Lord is calling me to do. So take hold of wonder, observe, question, search, dream, move forward in peace, and learn something new. Mystery and adventure awaits! 

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Psalm 40:5 (NIV)