Friday, February 21, 2020

The “Good Stuff” by JoAnn Durgin

Meme with Ephesians 2:10

The “Good Stuff”

The family gathered on a recent Sunday afternoon for a very special celebration—our granddaughter Amelia’s fifth birthday party. My daughter and Amelia’s mother, Chelsea, made a festive cake with three different-colored layers and a design of chocolate candy beads on the top. If I may brag, it tasted as delicious as it looked.

Then it was time to open her presents! Like most children (and some adults), Amelia quickly tears away the wrapping paper in her haste to get to the gift inside. Her facial expressions are comical as she puts her hands over her mouth or lifts her hands in the air to express her delighted surprise with appropriate oohs and aahs.

My favorite moment of her birthday? With one of the first gifts, she ripped open the paper and then exclaimed in a joyful tone, “It’s a box!” You’d think the box itself was the best gift she’d ever received. I loved that moment of sweet innocence before she opened the lid to see the treasure nestled inside. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be content with something as simple as a box?

Photo of wrapped gift
My mother was a master gift wrapper, especially for Christmas gifts. She expertly measured, creased, folded, and even used “invisible” double-stick tape. She fashioned gorgeous bows from different types of ribbon, pinecones, bells, and any manner of embellishments. Later in life, she lovingly handcrafted the tags. Mama took great pride in her creations, and without fail, the gifts looked professionally wrapped, worthy of the finest department store. My brother and I each received five gifts for Christmas, and my “special” gift each year (usually the one at the top of my wish list that I opened last) was wrapped in a beautiful gold foil paper with the same beautiful angel adornment every year.

I’ve tried to carry on my mother’s wrapping tradition, but I’m not quite as meticulous (double-stick tape drives me crazy!). When I only need one gift—for a wedding or baby shower, for instance—I love to create a unique design using artificial flowers and ribbons that starts on top and trail down the sides of the box. The most satisfying compliment is when someone says it’s almost “too pretty to unwrap.”

We all like and appreciate lovely things, but one lesson we learn as we grow older is that what’s on the outside is sometimes prettier than what’s on the inside. That lesson applies to people as well as things. First Samuel 16:7 tells us, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV)

As a kid, I loved Tootsie Pops (and still enjoy them on occasion), but they can be an exercise in patience. Do you savor the hard, sweet candy on the outside? Or do you chomp through the candy to get straight to the chocolate-flavored, chewy Tootsie Roll inside? If you’re like me, you skip the outer candy entirely and simply buy a bag of miniature Tootsie Rolls! That works splendidly because I only want the “good stuff.”

That theory doesn’t work so well when applied to a novel, however. In the books we write, we can have a stunning cover, but we also need to make sure the story inside does justice to its beautiful exterior. Think of the cover and exterior package as the “wrapping” and the actual book as the “gift” nestled inside—the treasure, if you will. Focus on building a story world readers can immerse themselves in, filled with fascinating characters and a riveting plot.

What’s at the “heart” of your novels? Is the inside as pretty as the outside? Through your words, are you revealing the power of Christ to your reader—His redemption, grace, love, forgiveness, and promise of eternal life in heaven? If you can, that’s truly the “good stuff” that’ll give them something to savor and chew on. And that’s oh so satisfying indeed.

Until His Nets Are Full,

Matthew 5:16

What's at the "heart" of your novels? #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads
Getting to the "good stuff" in what we write! #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads
Is the inside of your book as pretty as the outside? #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads

The Valentine Verse
The Valentine Verse

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for February 14th anymore! Love should be celebrated every day of the year. That’s Thornton Fielding’s philosophy. In spite of a few false starts in the arena of love, he holds out hope he’ll eventually find the woman of his dreams. The problem? He loves his job, and there’s no end in sight to his travels. But when Thornton returns to his tiny hometown of Cherish, Minnesota, he meets a beautiful and intriguing woman he believes might be God’s answer to ending his bachelor status—permanently.

Vara Alexandris is soured on love and scoffs at the notion of soul mates. But soon after meeting the handsome and unconventional Thornton, the speech and language pathologist suspects he might be the perfect ally to help jump-start her stroke patient’s recovery—if only Vara can keep Thornton grounded in Cherish long enough. This man who spouts romanticized and idealistic ideas about love seems all too eager to resume his world travels. Could it be Thornton actually prefers globetrotting in order to avoid a romantic relationship?

Is it time for Vara to call the dreamer’s bluff? And can Thornton convince Vara to put past heartache behind her and trust in God’s plan for her heart?

JoAnn Durgin
USA Today Bestselling Author JoAnn Durgin is the author of more than thirty novels, including the Lewis Legacy Series, Prelude, the Starlight Christmas Series, Catching Serenity, Hearts Design, Gentle Like the Rain, Whisper to My Heart, the Serendipity Christmas Series, the Treasured Vow Series, the Wondrous Love Series, If You Believe, Echoes of Edinburgh, Portrait, and The Valentine Verse. Her most recent release is Love on Assignment in Millcreek, Book 1 of The Millcreek Christmas Series. She’s also written three novels under the pen name of Julianna Desmond, her latest being Only A Whisper Away.

A former estate administration paralegal, JoAnn writes contemporary Christian romance full-time and lives with her family in her native southern Indiana.

Feel free to connect with her at
or via her website at


  1. A cover may capture our eyes, but what is found inside is truly the most important. That works for covers and for people, too. :-)

    1. Exactly the point of what I was trying to say (and hope I adequately conveyed)! Thanks, Melissa.

  2. So true! Cover design is extremely important, but we need to make sure that what we include within is worthy of our readers' time and attention.

    1. Yes, the truly "good stuff" is on the inside. What good is pretty packaging if there's nothing of substance within? You're right in that we don't want to waste our readers' time. Thanks so much for the comment, Dawn.

  3. Lovely way to illustrate this important point. (And I'm in awe of your mother's gift-wrapping talents!)

    1. Thanks so much, Kay! My mother truly was the most meticulous person I've ever met when it comes to her wrapping! I feel as though I'm doing well to actually wrap instead of putting everything in gift bags (fashioning tissue paper is an art in and of itself, I've discovered!). LOL. I appreciate your comment. Blessings!


We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!