Monday, November 30, 2009

with Shirley Kiger Connolly

Patterings


After spending over 25 years in the ministry with her husband, Shirley Kiger Connolly, a teacher, speaker, wife, and mom all rolled into one wears two more hats as a writer. If she isn’t penning historical fiction romances laced with nuggets of inspiration for the growing believer and searching nonbeliever, she’s creating nonfiction lighthearted devotionals filled with reflection aimed for women of all ages. At other times she enjoys interviewing new and established authors over at her blog, A Penny for your Thoughts.

Shirley is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, FHL and Hearts through History-RWA, and lives with her husband on the Southern Coast of Oregon with their devoted dogs, cats, and chickens.

I See God in the Thorns n Thistles
When your heart is burdened and you're experiencing times of trial, where do you turn? When you're challenged by the complexities of life, the afflictions, the tests, and the tragedies, do you run to or from God? If you run toward Him, do you try to see what He's teaching you? God remains with you not only in the simple circumstances but also during the toughest times of your life. You're never alone, and I See God in the Thorns~n~Thistles offers you, in independent devotions, a way to make the most out of the troubles, a way to draw closer to God because, and oftentimes in spite of, your pain. Life-changing lessons like these not only help us on our personal journeys, they teach us to have compassion for others who we learn need it more. Isn't that what life's all about for the believer?

Welcome back to Patterings, Shirley!
Tell us a little about your family.

I have an awesome family. Not only do I enjoy the company of my husband, I cherish the moments I can spend with my three children (all grown now) and my grandchildren. (You have to realize I got married really really young…so, of course, that makes ME REALLY YOUNG too. ( I love to try to convince myself of that). My oldest son is a software designer and program and works at his house. I don’t know where he got the brains! My daughter in the middle is a teacher, and my youngest son, after graduating from West Point, became an officer in the US Army.

What is the hardest part of being in ministry and how do you deal with it?
We spent fourteen years in full time ministry in Northern California where my husband was a head pastor and I directed women’s ministries. The only thing difficult at the time might have been our Spartan lifestyle while trying to raise three kids and make ends meet, and the occasional (thankfully, not often) disgruntled comments that anyone in ministry understands occur in any church. Those years of ministry continued even after our children grew up and left for college, but by that time we moved to the east coast where my husband served as a chaplain to officers and cadets. There, I was more of a “mom” figure rather than being involved in women’s ministry. That was hard. I missed what I had been doing before tremendously. The only way I could deal with it? WRITE. After New York we settled into a support ministry role. There, I still teach and speak to women (it’s my passion to see them grow in the Lord) and Tom still teaches Bible Studies and subs for the pastor when he leaves the area. Serving in this capacity to both of us is nothing but joy. So I don’t know how to speak to “hard.”

Because you're such a good sport, and because you suggested this question back in September, why don't you tell us about the most normal thing you've done.
Probably eat too many chips and too much dip and put on a pound or two and then be sorry I blew it later. That sounds fairly common, don’t you think?

Where would you go for a dream vacation and what would you do?
We went on a dream vacation just last year to Ireland. What we learned there was that even though the countryside was beautiful and the people were extremely kind, the roads were terrible and we had to drive on the left and sure enough Tom and I got in a fender bender the VERY FIRST DAY! The grass is never greener on the other side, I guarantee it.

What part of writing do you enjoy the most?
If my creative juices are flowing.
What I hate the least, though I haven’t been asked, is finding all my grammatical errors TOO late to fix. Line editors are wonderful to have around.

Is there a certain food that you just love? And while we're on food, is there something that you hate?
I have a problem with food. I like it ALL! But I’m learning to eat smartly which helps. I do love shell fish. I also love Caesar Salad. Oh, yes, medium rare steak, tender with A-1 Sauce. Um… Any green veggies. (Oh, I could go on)
Hate? Grizzly onions in baked beans that are too sweet. Don’t tell my mom.

What verse is special to you right now?
I have a number of them. Isaiah 41:10 which comforts me in times of fear; Isaiah 43:1-3 which ministered to me through my bout with cancer; Psalm 139 which confirms to me just how much God knows about me…inside out.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I mentioned I See God in the Thorns n Thistles which comes out in November in our last interview together and how it deals with trials we go through, but how the Lord ministers and teaches us through each one so He can more greatly use us. I probably should have talked the last time more about I See God in the Simple Things which came out earlier this year and which, in a lighthearted way, showed the reader how we can see the Lord in every single aspect of our lives…our animals, our dust, when tripping over a table, whatever. So often we make life so difficult, when God is trying to show us He is ordering our every step if we belong to Him.

The third devotional in this series I See God on That Narrow Road is due out in 2010. The title gives the clue. There is only one way to heaven. Sometimes we forget the road we are traveling on because we begin doing things OUR way instead of HIS.

Here's an excerpt of I See God in the Thorns ~n~ Thistles:

Loving Too Closely?

I don’t remember telling you about the sad experience we had when we lost Hannah, our Border Collie-Australian Shepherd cross and all her puppies. Tom and I both still feel sick inside over how it happened even though it’s been well over a year since it all happened.

It takes a good while to get over the loss of one of our animals.

Sometimes, we want to ask why; but we don’t, because deep down, we know there’s a reason for all that happen in our lives. Don’t you agree?

Anyway, our sweet Hannah, (one of the gentlest dogs in the world) was a few days from delivering her pups. We were as excited as she probably was.

If you have ever had the experience of moving step-by-step with your little girl before she’s had her little ones, you would understand the joy we felt.

The little fellow we bred Hannah too was a purebred Red Merle Aussie named Cowboy. He lived with his family down in Crescent City, California--one of the most beautiful dogs you ever saw.

I’m glad he wasn’t around to see what happened to his wife.

Tom has this big red truck, an ’84 Ford four-wheel-drive thing that has big tires that make the cab higher off the ground than a normal little truck. He was turning into the driveway while coming home from work one day, and all our dogs, who show great excitement when they hear the sound of dear old dad coming home, ran to meet the side of Tom’s big pickup so they could greet him. Hannah, carrying her heavy load of whelps, was much slower in movement and response than usual.

She suddenly looked up at that front grill of that giant red truck and without thinking decided to run across to the other side of the driveway the moment Tom turned up and in.

I was at the front door waiting (it’s kind of what I do at the end of a day) but Tom sitting high up in the cab, I’m sure, couldn’t see low in front of him or well along the front drive. It was clear, he also had no idea what was happening, because it happened so quickly.

Much too fast.

The hit was swift…over for Hannah in a second.

Her neck broke instantly—probably a blessing in disguise.

Still, we rushed sweet little Hannah off to the vet anyway, and the doctor even tried to save her, but it was too late. The whelps on the other hand, the vet successfully removed from her tummy-dog womb. Even though they were four or five days early each were kept alive one-by-one.

Born with no hair, the preemies kind of looked like giant, but cute, rats, but at this point to us they were beautiful. We also knew the rest was up to us in keeping them alive.

The feelings that went through my heart and soul right then over our Hannah and her pups, and through Tom’s mind, I’m sure, and probably through the thoughts of our Heidi, Hannah’s mom, who is another dog of ours and who saw it all happen. Even our big old Silas dog, as he watched looked heartbroken.

We’ve often wondered over time why we had to go through this particular trial, knowing of the deepness of our love for our animals especially for Hannah in a class all by herself.

Lots of people go through the loss of an animal. If you ever have you know it hurts. It took weeks for Tom to get over and I have to tell you the evidence was clear.

He and I had both looked forward to the raising of those puppies after nursing Hannah throughout her entire pregnancy.

Have you ever gone through that type of experience with your dog or with a horse or goat—where you watched them grow in pregnancy then waited for them to give birth? It can be trying toward the end, as you wait for the day of birthing. In Hannah’s case, it became much more.

And God apparently had other ideas in mind.

For 23 days we nursed Hannah’s puppies with love and care, and still we lost all six of them…one after the other even after staying up night after night taking shifts to try to keep them alive. The experience was grueling.

I took notes at every feeding, whenever they went potty, whenever I got one to drink from the little syringe of water. I still have those notes.

I wondered for a long time after it was all over what could have been the lesson for in all this. I asked Tom what he thought God had taught him.

He replied there’d been times when he even thought he showed love to his animals more than he showed love to humans. I understood why he said that, too.

Ever notice how animals, for the most part, do not let people down but we, as humans do?

Tom shared how animals tend to be loyal to their masters making it easier to forgive them for doing animal-like things.

Ever notice how humans sometimes have a tendency to be more stubborn and prove it to you time and again during times of rebellion?

Whenever Tom needed to scold one of our animals, they appeared to respond as if they hoped to do better the next time--only wanting to please.

How many humans do you know like to be criticized? I don’t. How many make the same ones again, only the next time maybe worse than before? I have.

God showed me something else during the whole ordeal with Hannah and her puppies. That’s that sometimes I place too much importance on a pet or a dog over other things.

When Hannah died, all we could think of was her pups and how they had to live. We forgot about everything else going on around us. For someone like me, who has problems keeping her head on straight when I am awake, this was not a wise thing to do. So I neglected myself.

The truth was both Tom and I made ourselves physically miserable trying to keep those babies alive.

Soon after Hannah and her pups died we lost our oldest loving Siamese cat, Amos, who’d been with us for thirteen years.

God was obviously trying to speak to our hearts.

I could hear Him clearly, even though, at the time, I was very ill.

“Tom and Shirley, where are you, focusing your love these days?”

I had to look at the entire picture and tell Him the truth. So did Tom.

Thankfully, God understood.

I know He did.

I know because He always does.

I had to ask myself if I would stay up 24/7 just to show others how much I love Him. I wonder.

I had to ask myself would I ever be found guilty for loving Him too closely.

I hope so.

How about you? “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” Lamentations 3:22


You can purchase I See God in the Thorns n Thistles from Amazon:


Shirley is giving away a copy of I See God in the Thorns n Thistles. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment and check back on Sunday, December 6th to see if you've won. You can enter twice--once on each post in this spotlight. If you want to guarantee that you're notified if you win, then leave your email address in the comment, otherwise, you can just check back and email me through the button in my sidebar.
**Annoying little disclaimer: This giveaway is void where prohibited; open only to U.S. addresses, odds of winning depend on number of entrants. No purchase necessary. By clicking on the Amazon link above or in the sidebar and purchasing I will receive a small percentage of the sale.

7 comments:

  1. I need a book right now to help me through my trials. Please enter me.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous5:44 PM

    This sounds like a really good book! Nice interview too!
    Sunny

    ReplyDelete
  3. Enjoyed the interview.
    joann4us(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  4. You always list such great books. This is another I'd like to read. Thanks.
    partymix25(at)hotmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous12:57 PM

    I am interested in reading this book...please add my name to the drawing...thanks

    karenk
    kmkuka(at)yahoo(dot)Com

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would love to win! I love the title of the book.

    Dutchlvr1(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you to all who entered. I had so much fun doing this interview with Patty. One of the most interesting I've done. I look forward to sending a book to the winner this weekend. I hope she will receive it in time for Christmas.
    God bless you ... everyone.
    Shirley
    http://apenforyourthoughts.blogspot.com
    and write me anytime
    sh1rlee@verizon.net

    ReplyDelete

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