I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Charlotte, the Forgotten Princess

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales was born into bitter cold. Her winter birth (January 7, 1796) warmed the hopes of Britain for a stable monarchy, but did little to defrost the icy royal residence inhabited by her parents.

Portrait of Charlotte by George Dawe, 1817
Her father, George, the Prince Regent, married out of duty and the need for money. He already had love with his on-and-off-again mistress, Maria Fitzherbert, but as heir to the British throne, he was expected to produce legitimate offspring. He also lived beyond his means, and when Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger promised a greater allowance were he to wed, “Prinny” agreed.
George, Prince of Wales, by Sir Thomas Lawrence

At the time, two German princesses were under consideration, both of whom were his first cousins: Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Caroline of Brunswick. George’s current mistress, Lady Jersey, found Caroline less threatening, so George offered for her, sight unseen. He sent a diplomat, James Harris, Earl of Malmesbury, to bring Caroline to England.
Princess Caroline of Brunswick

George was not impressed. Upon seeing Caroline, his first words were, “Harris, I am not well, pray get me a glass of brandy.” Matters did not improve. Caroline thought him fat and ugly. She was regarded as somewhat coarse and vulgar, and George was drunk when he married Caroline.

Nine months scant one day from the wedding, Caroline gave birth to a healthy princess, Charlotte. George was reportedly disappointed she was not a boy, but apparently not so disappointed that he was willing to try for a son. In fact, George sent Caroline away immediately. While the nation celebrated the birth of the tiny princess, Caroline was forbidden to have any role in raising her child.

Young Princess Charlotte
Nevertheless, servants helped Caroline see Charlotte when she wished, although the situation was never ideal. By the time Charlotte was eight, George had moved her to her own residence where no one lived with her who wasn’t employed to do so.

Growing up as a pawn in her parents’ war, it was little wonder Charlotte gained a reputation as being a bit of a hoyden. She dressed immodestly, had crushes on her illegitimate cousins, and blew kisses in the direction of Whig leader Earl Grey in the theatre.

George wanted her wed, and he and his advisers settled on William, Prince of Orange, for her groom. Charlotte signed the contract, but she’d fallen in love with an unknown Prussian. He was her first choice, but if she had to pick another, it would be Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, whom George considered too impoverished to be a serious candidate for Charlotte’s hand.

Leopold I, King of the Belgians
Meanwhile, Charlotte’s mother Caroline opposed the match to the Prince of Orange, much to George’s vexation. When Charlotte insisted her mother live with her and the Prince of Orange, he refused, and Charlotte used the opportunity to break the engagement. George was furious and confined her to Warwick House. Then Charlotte did a shocking thing.

She ran away. Out in the street, a man helped her negotiate a hackney cab, which she took to her mother’s. Charlotte’s flight was the talk of the London, and it took negotiation with family and Whig politicians to return her to her father. She was sent away and her mother left for an extended stay on the continent.

Alone but under close scrutiny, Charlotte settled into her new life. When she learned her Prussian had formed another attachment, she set her sights on Leopold. George still wanted her to marry the Prince of Orange, but she refused, and eventually, George summoned Leopold. By all accounts, things went quite well, for on March 14, the betrothal was announced in the House of Commons.

The marriage ceremony was held Mary 2, 1816. Huge crowds filled London. At nine pm, in the Crimson Drawing Room at Carlton House, Charlotte and Leopold were married. 
1818 Engraving of Charlotte and Leopold's wedding

Charlotte’s wedding dress cost over ₤10,000. La Belle Assemblee described it thus:  

Her dress was silver lama on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lama in shells and flowers. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament. Such was the bridal dress ... The jewellery of the royal bride is most superb; beside the wreath, are a diamond cestus, ear- rings, and an armlet of great value, with a superb set of pearls.
The real deal: Charlotte's wedding gown, still stunning after two centuries

The couple enjoyed a brief bridal trip before settling into Claremont House, and they seemed to get along quite well indeed. Charlotte’s dramatic tendencies calmed, and they appeared to be a well-matched couple.
After a miscarriage, Charlotte became pregnant again. The nation was thrilled. They loved “the Coburgs,” as the couple was called. No scandal, no bickering, and an heir within the year.
"The Coburgs"

Charlotte grew quite large, so when her contractions began November 3, 1817, her accoucheur would not let her eat. The contractions continued for two days, but forceps weren’t used—in the days before antiseptics, mortality was high when instruments were used.

At last, a weak Charlotte gave birth to a stillborn son the evening of November 5. Charlotte declared it the will of God, took nourishment, and tried to rest. Just after midnight, she complained of pain and started vomiting. She suffered from postpartum bleeding, but at that time, the treatment was to place hot compresses on the patient. Within hours, Charlotte died.
Charlotte sat for her final portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence a few days before her death.

The nation mourned; linen drapers ran out of black cloth. Even gambling dens closed the day of her funeral. She was buried at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle November 19, 1817, with her baby at her feet. Her husband had lost his family; her nation had lost its hope.

Charlotte had been the King’s only legitimate grandchild; his children’s numerous illegitimate offspring were not eligible for the throne. Newspapers urged the King’s unmarried sons (all over forty years of age) to wed, and the King’s fourth son, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, decided to do something about it. He was living in Brussels with his mistress, but he dismissed her and proposed to Leopold’s sister, Victoria. Their daughter, Princess Victoria of Kent, grew to become Queen Victoria.

And what of Leopold? He married Louise of Orleans and became first King of the Belgians. He was invested in his little niece Victoria, however, and took an active role in securing her marriage to his nephew, Prince Albert. But he never forgot his dear Charlotte.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Howdy, RWA style

One of the best things about attending the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Anaheim, California, this July was meeting people. I met people I already know but have never seen face-to-face like our Anita Mae Draper and Suzie Johnson (sweet ladies!), and I met a whole bunch of other writers. From all genres! Inspirational (like me), paranormal, suspense, you name it.

Right away, I learned the first question you ask at these things is, “What do you write?”

from wikipedia
It’s a natural question at a writer’s conference, and it gets the conversation going better than “where are you from” or “what do you do when you’re not writing,” etc.

But I also learned this type of question can label you very quickly. Or at least, I felt it labeled me. When a suspense writer tells you what she writes, there’s still a bit of mystery about her as far as theology goes. But when I told new acquaintances I write inspirational, it automatically communicated my beliefs as well as the type of story I write.

This is a good thing. I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. But I did find that my label of inspirational author (aka Christian) met with one of the two reactions that I usually receive in real life: acceptance (me too! or that’s nice) or discomfort (huh, nervous laughter, or goodbye.).

eBay Image 1 envious T-shirt: Original NOOMA Film Prop
Back of an actor in Nooma 018, from worthpoint
Feeling "labeled" reminded me of something I’ve seen in the mall, on a Dr. Pepper commercial, on “Glee,” and in a “Nooma” video. The concept is that we secretly—and not-so-secretly—label ourselves and/or allow others to label us. In this exercise, people wear t-shirts emblazoned with a single word that they feel describes them or describes how others perceive them. Words like “HIV+,” “nerd,” “addict,” “snob,” etc. Hard words, but the idea is that once they’re out, they aren’t as shameful. (In the Nooma version, the end result is a great visual illustration of who we are in God.)

So there I was at RWA, immediately sharing my identity as a Christian every time someone asked me, “What do you write?” I tried to be mindful to well-represent my genre and my God. But an encounter with a woman who laughed at the inspirational genre had left me a bit weary and self-conscious.

Soon after, I was standing in a long line, and the lady in front of me—a member of the Published Author Network—smiled at me. So I extended my hand, introduced myself, and asked, “So what do you write?”

She grinned. “Erotica! How about you?”

I was almost afraid to answer. Not because I was ashamed of my Christianity or what I write. But at that moment, I was raw and feeling judged. Surely this author would do the same and wouldn’t bother talking to me once she knew what I believe. She would judge me as someone who would condemn her chosen genre. Or condemn her for writing it.

Instead of frowning, she beamed. “Super! I see you’re a first-timer. What do you think of the conference? Have you pitched yet? Who did you pitch to? What’s your story about?”

Talk about irony—I was the judgmental one! I’d expected her to disapprove of me, but instead, she showed me kindness. The line we were in was long, so we talked about a lot of stuff. I asked about her writing journey. She offered me advice and encouragement as a first-timer. Then she gave me her card and wished me well.

There’s networking, and then there’s friendliness. This woman was simply friendly.

Our encounter left me thinking about how quick I am to judge others. While I was wallowing in how others have labeled me, I labeled other people. I let my own hurtful experiences shape my expectations. In doing so, I limit God when I assume a type of person won’t be responsive to His message or one of His children.

I also realized someone might not know Jesus if no Christians bother to start a conversation with them.

Jesus started—and finished—conversations with every sort of person. People from within and without his culture. People whom others ignored. People with power; people with nothing. Am I open to every person God brings my way? Am I afraid of being rejected by certain types of people, and if so, what does that matter in light of God’s ability to accomplish all things?

There’s no one beyond God’s saving grace. Therefore, there’s no one we shouldn’t try to love. Even in a brief moment when we can perhaps plant a seed with a kind word, a smile, or word of thanks.

It's not about me. It's about Him.I’ll try to keep it in mind next time I say hello and extend my hand to a new acquaintance.


Are there certain types of people you fear approaching because you might be rejected? How has God helped you overcome these fears?

Originally appeared on www.inkwellinspirations.com

Monday, August 13, 2012

Does God Like Your Facebook Status?

Have you ever wished there was an “unlike” button on Facebook?

Just for the record, I’m not easily affronted. And when I am, my husband is quick with his common refrain: “don’t attribute what they said/did to malice.”

But this time, one of my Facebook friends posted a status update that offended me. To me, there's a difference between starting a discussion/sharing an opinion, and calling everyone who doesn't agree with you stupid/robotic/insane. Whether it's about politics, parenting choices, theology, or what-have-you, I'm all for discussion. I'm not all for putting others down who see things differently.

This particular status update was like a fist in the gut to me. Even though I would not have hit the “unlike” button if one existed, I would have wanted to use it just to make the not-so-loving point. (Yes, I am ashamed now by my quickness to anger.)

I’m sure I’m not the first to get steamed by something on Facebook.

Facebook can be weird. It’s fabulous for keeping in touch. Those of us who are writers befriend agents, editors, authors, and publishers. In this way, we learn about the industry, cultivate relationships, and “get our names out there.” We share our experiences and show that we’re real, cool, interesting people.

But what else are we sharing about ourselves? When we post, are we revealing our sparkling personalities, or could we be revealing TMI, judgmental hearts, insensitivity to others, or lack of impulse control?

Everyone from our neighbors to our employers have access to our thoughts, experiences, and jokes when we share on these sites. It’s been said—loudly and often—how important it is to use common sense when we’re on social networking sites, to think before we type.

I would go a bit further and suggest we apply what I call Christian common sense: consideration of how our words, thoughts, and actions affect our relationships, ministries, and God’s plans.

A few basic questions to bear in mind:
  •  Who is your audience? Whether it’s on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest, keep in mind who can view what you write, post, or pin. Can only “friends” see your posts? How about “friends of friends”? Keep in mind that people you don’t know might be able to view your status, links, and photos. And they can judge you for it.
  • When sharing a stimulating idea or opinion, is your intention to start a dialogue or to shame or bully others into seeing things your way? 
  •  Could you alienate someone by your post? If you have professional followers/friends, will they be more or less likely to pursue a professional relationship with you?
This doesn’t mean we should be bland, boring, or anyone other than the interesting, unique people God created us to be when we’re on Facebook. Political opinions, parenting methods, and theological questions are not taboo, and posing questions can engender some great discussions. But we could be doing ourselves and our relationships a disservice if we don’t examine our motives or methods when we share.

How we deal with Facebook should be the same as how we deal with the rest of life. If Christ is integrated into every fiber of our beings, He should be present in our Facebook conduct, too.

For the Scriptures say, "You must be holy because I am holy." 1 Peter 1:16

So before you post, here are some things to consider:
  • Rephrasing an opinion isn’t difficult. If it could cause offense (whether to a potential employer or a dear friend), consider how to soften your words. Putting others down to make ourselves feels better isn’t just unprofessional, it’s unrighteous.
  • Ask if your post would embarrass you if the wrong person saw it. Gossip is a sin, whether it’s through lips or a keyboard.
  • Consider how you best respond to information. Most of us do not respond to shaming or bullying, so using those tactics to sway others to our viewpoints on Facebook probably won’t work, either.

Managing our dealings on Facebook isn’t just a professional issue. It’s a spiritual one, too. When Christ is at the core of our impulses, decisions, and choices, we become builders of his kingdom through all kinds of mediums. Even social networking.

What's the funniest or neatest thing you've seen posted on Facebook?

Originally posted on Inwellinspirations.com on 7/13/12. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

RWA: First Conference but Not My Last!

Romance Writers of America's annual National Conference (held in Anaheim, California) has been over for a full week, but I'm still catching up on my laundry, emails, and my sleep! What a great first experience for a conference.

I had some idea what to expect, but boy was I glad to have a few friends there to meet me: fellow Inkwell Inspirations contributors Anita Mae Draper and Suzie Johnson. We met up at Disneyland before the conference and had a blast.

Photo: Suzie, Susie & Anita in our 3d glasses after the Disneyland attraction, Star Tours.
Wearing our 3-D glasses after "Star Tours," L-R: Suzie Johnson, me, and Anita Mae Draper
They made great roommates, too.

The first thing I did at conference was attend the annual meeting of the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter. Worship and fellowship truly set the tone for my conference experience, and I loved meeting other FHL members.

In fact, some prayed with me before my pitch appointment with an editor, and Anita Mae waited for me so we could process how things went. I couldn't believe others would give of their valuable time for me, when there were so many other things they could be doing.

Right after my pitch appointment, with authors Debby Giutsi, Anne Barton, Sandra Leesmith, Anita Mae Draper! Sweet, talented ladies.

(By the way, pitching my Regency manuscript went well, and I'm busy editing/polishing it so I can get it out!)

In addition to making new friends and pitching my story, I attended the literacy book signing, the PRO-Writers retreat on legal issues, publisher spotlight events, an update on the inspiratinal market, workshops on craft, and book signings. I had a great time at the Harlequin signing, meeting some fabulous inspirational Love Inspired writers like Renee Ryan, Terri Reed, Leonora Worth, Winnie Griggs, and Janet Tronstad--they were all so friendly and kind.

I could not resist the opportunity to meet Nora Roberts, either. (As my husband said, "Even I know who she is.") I picked up a copy of her J.D. Robb-penned suspense anthology and she was kind enough to pose for pictures. Too cool!

And throughout it all, I met writers. In lines, at workshops, at the meals, in the elevator. Sometimes we exchanged business cards and I look forward to connecting with some these ladies.

I can't wait to attend another big conference. So here's to starting a new piggy bank fund.

But in the meantime, I've got a manuscript to edit!