Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No Strings Attached

Two year olds are well known for their outbursts and tantrums, but they're also among the most loving little creatures on the face of the planet (besides puppies and kittens, of course). Recently, my husband and I experienced a hilarious and heartwarming scenario involving one of these precious "terrible twos."

During a Christmas concert at a local university, a cherub-faced two-year-old girl decided that the stranger sitting in the row in front of her needed some love. In a spontaneous moment of unspeakable joy, she leaned up, grabbed the man around the neck with both of her chubby arms, and pressed her face against his. For at least 20 seconds. Maybe that doesn't sound like a long time, but count slowly to 20 and imagine yourself as the recipient of this hug. It will either bring a smile or a grimace to your face. Either way, this 20 second bear hug was one of the sweetest expressions of pure, innocent love I've seen in a very long time.

That hug got me thinking. What if I treated strangers in the same way? I'd probably be locked up for a very long time. But metaphorically speaking... what if I treated those I meet every day with the same enthusiastic, no-strings-attached love? What if every Christian did the same? Needless to say, the world would be a very different place. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

Father, help me to love others this Christmas season, not with strings attached, but with the same love You show to Your children. Thank you for the most indescribable gift of all time -- Your amazing love, wrapped in swaddling clothes, sent to a world in desperate need of You.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

It was one of those days. The dog threw up his entire meal on the floor. The laundry pile seemed like it had multiplied tenfold overnight. My middle daughter had a terrible cold and cough, and I was feeling like I might be next in line. In the midst of all the chaos, these words from Colossians came to mind: “overflowing with thankfulness.”

The only thing I was overflowing with was a bunch of complaints and groans.
When everything is going my way, it’s easy to be thankful. When the dog is behaving (not barfing!), the laundry is folded and put away, and the kids are healthy and happy, counting my blessings comes naturally. But the true test of my heart is what happens when things fall apart. Do I criticize my spouse, complain about getting a raw deal, and moan and groan that things aren’t fair?  

I want to live in a constant state of thanksgiving. Not just during November, but all year round. In every circumstance. Even when I’m cleaning up after the dog. But how?

The key, says Colossians 2:6-7, is living my life in Christ, rooted and built up in Him. If I’m living my life in my own strength, thankfulness will be in short supply. But when my foundation and strength is found in Christ, I can be filled to the brim and overflowing with thankfulness!

Father, I am blessed beyond measure because of You. Help me to live in a constant state of thanksgiving, not just during this season, but in every season of life. You are the Giver of all good things, and I long to overflow with thankfulness!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back in Time

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I dream of traveling back in time to an era where life was simpler, material possessions were few, and faith and family were cherished by society. Can you imagine? No internet, no phones, no television... Just a few good books, a roaring fire, and the company of close friends and family.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy my laptop, iPhone, coffee maker, and microwave just as much as the next girl. But sometimes, I just wonder what life must have been like.

This weekend my kids and I, along with some close friends, got a small taste of that simple life at the amazing Parke County Covered Bridge Festival. As we walked through the beautiful covered bridges, we traveled back in time for a minute or two, taking in the same sights, sounds, and smells that travelers did in the 1800s.

West Union Bridge, built in 1876 over Sugar Creek

Along the way to West Union Bridge, we stumbled upon a pioneer cemetery. Some of the stones dated back to Civil War and even pre-Civil War times. The writing was not even readable on many, worn by time and weather. Most likely, some of the men buried here helped build the earliest of the sturdy bridges in this county, proud of their craftsmanship and labor of love. Did they know their bridges would stand the test of time 100 to 150 years later?

Reading the inscriptions on the stones, I imagined what life must have been like for these Indiana pioneers. Some of them were young mothers, some soldiers, others children. They walked or rode in wagons over the bridges in the county, laughing, dreaming, and living the simple life. A poignant reminder to savor each moment, to enjoy the immense blessings of life while it is still ours to live, and to remember that each day is given to us by the One who knows us by name and holds the past, present, and future in His hands.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Perfect Fall Breakfast Treat

We are usually a no-frills breakfast family -- cereal, toast, bagels, and the occasional slice of cold pizza are the norm around our house. Since I've become a Pinterest fan, however, visions of muffins, coffee cakes, and French toast have been dancing in my head. So I decided to break out of the boring breakfast mold and try something new.

Score! This recipe was a hit. My guinea pigs kids gobbled it up like they hadn't eaten in days! Next time I will make a double batch, for sure.

As my daughter pointed out, this would make a great Thanksgiving Day breakfast. But I don't think I'll be able to wait until Thanksgiving to try it again!

Here's the recipe from Kevin at Closet Cooking (the great photo above is his, too):

Pumpkin Pie French Toast
(Makes 4 servings)

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree/canned pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons brown sugar
8 slices of bread

1. Mix the eggs, milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and brown sugar in low flat bowl for easy dipping.
2. Dip the bread into the egg mixture on both sides and grill in a pan until lightly golden brown, about 2-3 minute per side.
3. Serve with maple syrup. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Little Pinspiration

Oh. My. Goodness. Move over Facebook and Twitter. I've just discovered a website I absolutely love! It's called Pinterest, and it's a stroke of pure genius! A "virtual pinboard" for all the cool stuff you find online that you'd like to try. No more bookmarking sites only to find a jumbled mess of links that you can't identify.

Pinterest offers a colorful, organized solution to bookmarking sites. After you set up your account, you create "boards" where you "pin" and collect all of your favorite ideas. Recipes, decorating ideas, organizing tips, book suggestions -- you name it, you can pin it on Pinterest. Did I mention the word, "genius"? Oh, yeah, I think I did. :-)

Check out these great ideas I found on Pinterest for the fall season, and then go find some Pinspiration yourself! You're gonna love it -- just don't blame me if you get addicted!  (Oh, and after you've signed on to Pinterest, feel free to follow me -- you can click on the little red button in the right sidebar of this blog.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Feeling Spiritually Barren?

"Sing, O barren." Isaiah 54:1

Sunday morning arrived way too early. After an eventful Saturday, a few more minutes (or hours!) of sleep would have been welcome. But, as usual, God knew exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.

When we arrived at church a few minutes before starting time, a copy of a devotional from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening was placed in our hands at the door. Normally, the call to worship is a Scripture passage, but this day was different. As we read along with our worship leader, it was as if God was speaking directly to me.

Although penned in the mid-1800s, Spurgeon's words wafted timelessly through the church to my soul. Disappointment and spiritual apathy had been plaguing me for a few weeks (maybe months), and this message from heaven was like an arrow piercing the depths of my heart.  

If you're feeling spiritually barren today, read the following words as a love letter from God to you:

Though we have brought forth some fruit unto Christ, and have a joyful hope that we are "plants of His own right hand planting," yet there are times when we feel very barren. Prayer is lifeless, love is cold, faith is weak, each grace in the garden of our heart languishes and droops. We are like flowers in the hot sun, requiring the refreshing shower. In such a condition what are we to do? The text is addressed to us in just such a state. "Sing, O barren, break forth and cry aloud." But what can I sing about? I cannot talk about the present, and even the past looks full of barrenness. Ah! I can sing of Jesus Christ. I can talk of visits which the Redeemer has aforetimes paid to me; or if not of these, I can magnify the great love wherewith He loved His people when He came from the heights of heaven for their redemption. I will go to the cross again. Come, my soul, heavy laden thou wast once, and thou didst lose thy burden there. Go to Calvary again. Perhaps that very cross which gave thee life may give thee fruitfulness. What is my barrenness? It is the platform for His fruit-creating power. What is my desolation? It is the black setting for the sapphire of His everlasting love. I will go in poverty, I will go in helplessness, I will go in all my shame and backsliding, I will tell Him that I am still His child, and in confidence in His faithful heart, even I, the barren one, will sing and cry aloud.

Sing, believer, for it will cheer thine own heart, and the hearts of other desolate ones. Sing on, for now that thou art really ashamed of being barren, thou wilt be fruitful soon; now that God makes thee loath to be without fruit He will soon cover thee with clusters. The experience of our barrenness is painful, but the Lord's visitations are delightful. A sense of our own poverty drives us to Christ, and that is where we need to be, for in Him is our fruit found.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer Bucket List

"I pray that the life of this spring and summer may ever lie fair in my memory." Thoreau

I'm afraid I have some bad news. Summer is fading fast. Pool toys and picnic basket displays have been replaced with back-to-school supplies and Halloween decorations, nights are getting shorter, and temperatures are getting cooler (at least this week). But wait! I still have so many things to check off my "Summer Bucket List" before we start school! This is the time of year when I long to have a PAUSE or REWIND button for life. Wouldn't that be handy?

At the beginning of the summer, I decided to make a Summer Bucket List. The list was full of things I wanted to do last summer and never got around to doing. And while 11 items on my list sit patiently waiting, at least 5 of the activities sport nice, fat check marks! Of course, summer isn't OFFICIALLY over until September 22, so there's plenty of time to chip away at the list, right? Yeah, we’ll see about that!
Here are the five Summer Bucket List items we completed:

#1 Trip to the Ocean

Ahhhh, Cocoa Beach! Nothing quite compares to the beauty of God’s creation and the expanse of the clear blue ocean blending into an endless azure sky. One of my favorite sights in the universe!

#2 Sea World

After two days at this amazing theme park, our family decided it was part zoo, part dolphin/whale/aquatic animal show, part acrobatic spectacle, part amusement park, and part musical concert. We love Sea World! We were dazzled and amazed by the dolphins, whales, manta rays, polar bears, penguins, sea turtles, manatees, sharks, sea lions, walruses, otters, and more. Plus, we learned so much about the animals that live in the park. Educational AND fun equals a gold star in this homeschool mom’s book!  

#3 Ivanhoes

Ahhh, Ivanhoes! I've been wanting to visit this ice-cream-shop-turned-legend for some time now, and finally did so in early August. What an amazing place! The menu boasts 100 different sundaes and 100 different shakes in mini, regular and super sizes. (A mini was the perfect size for me, and was FAR from "mini," in my opinion).

I had the #80, Rocky Road, which the menu describes as "hand-dipped chocolate ice cream, mini marshmallows, pecans, hot fudge, whipped topping and a maraschino cherry." My one-word description: "heavenly"! One daughter opted for #93, Toffee Coffee, which consisted of crushed Heath bar and hot fudge over hand dipped coffee ice cream. My son tried the Reese's Cup, #79, which as you'll probably guess, featured soft vanilla ice cream with chopped Reese's cup and peanut butter topping. Yum! Daughter #2 tried a Superman ice cream cone while my husband ordered a basic Chocolate Malt. All of us gave Ivanhoes a big thumbs up and hope to visit again very, very soon!

#4 Picnic at Mounds State Park

We visit this park frequently to hike the trails, but something was missing each time. A picnic! The girls made a yummy chicken salad, and we invited our good friend, Steph (who just happens to be an expert on the trails there). Good times!
#5 Dor-Tees Drive In

This hidden gem is locally famous for its Toasty Cheeseburgers, Chili Cheese Fries, and Blue Moon ice cream. Unfortunately, the night we went, the Blue Moon ice cream was not on the menu. But we DID indulge in their equally delicious Cake Batter and Lemon twist cones. Yum!

#6 The Levi Coffin House

Wait! If you thought I said we only marked off FIVE bucket list items – you were right! But don't good intentions count? My dear friend Christa and I (along with our children) made a valiant attempt to visit this legendary stop on the Underground Railroad. The day was sweltering hot, nearly 100 degrees, and this is what we saw posted on the door of this historic landmark after our 1 1/2 hour drive:

LOL! The kids took it in stride, and we were able to spend more time at a great antique mall in the next town. But this historic house is definitely on our Fall Bucket List!
So how about you? Did you have a Summer Bucket List? What fun things did you do with your family this summer?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Text from Heaven?

The text couldn’t have arrived at a better time. After an incredibly difficult week, I had just read a chapter about the power of encouraging words in Sally Clarkson’s book, The Ministry of Motherhood. Hundreds of other women around the country have joined in reading this book as part of an online Bible study at Good Morning Girls, and so far, it has been an amazing, profitable journey in the Word!

The message came from my almost-70-year-old mother –- THAT in itself was precious –- like God had chosen her to reaffirm all I had just read in Sally’s book. But even more priceless was the fact that MY MOM had used a text and texting lingo as her vehicle of encouragement! (Did I mention she’s nearly 70 and not very “techie”?) Her words instantly brought a smile to my face and made my day:

You r a wonderful daughter. I love u a whole lot. Thanks for loving the Lord n following n His ways. Pray n 4 u. Be safe. Mom

Such simple words of love and affirmation. Yet so incredibly powerful and life-giving.

Moms (and Dads), never underestimate the power of your words. Whether you are praising a toddler for putting his cup in the sink, a teenager for taking out the trash, or an adult child for trying his best to live for God... Your words matter.

Sally’s prayer at the end of this chapter summed up the cry of my heart so perfectly:

Father of Encouragement, Thank you for taking the time to show love to your disciples by affirming and encouraging them. Help us remember that our well-aimed words will carry life to the hearts of our children. Teach us to extol their positive characteristics whenever we can and to resist the temptation to use words only for correction. Give us lips that speak grace and that show the heart of your love through the things we say. Amen

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tears in a Bottle

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

A little over a week ago, a member of our small church family – a beautiful young mother of three – was taken to heaven violently and abruptly, leaving her loved ones to face the utter shock and pain of her untimely departure.

We prayed and cried for our friends who had lost their cherished daughter and sister.

We mourned for her children, who will never experience their mother’s gentle touch on this earth again.

We grieved for our church family, who will miss her vibrant smile and sweet spirit in our congregation.

Yet, in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, there was hope. The family chose the Casting Crowns song Praise You in This Storm to be sung at the funeral. An amazing testimony of their unwavering faith in a sovereign God.

A line in the song says, "Every tear I've cried, You hold in your hand." That line grabbed my heart. Was this really true? I wondered. "Does God really keep track of each tear we cry?"

Then I found this obscure verse in the Psalms:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

The realization hit me… I do not serve a God who is indifferent to the cries of His people. I serve a God who knows and feels my pain deeply and “collects” my tears in His bottle.

When I think of this verse, I picture a never-ending room in heaven with shelves upon shelves of bottles, each labeled with a different believers’ name: Julie, John, Tracey, Erin, Donald, Kevin, Joy…

Many tears in the bottles were shed for lost loved ones… others because of hurtful words… still others fell due to dashed hopes, broken dreams, fractured lives.

No matter the reason, each tear holds special meaning to the Father. He lovingly catches each drop as it rolls down tear-stained cheeks, and then He records it in His book. He does not forget our pain. He remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:14)

Thank you, Father, for loving Your children so deeply. Thank you for the reminder that our tears are important to You and that You – the God of the Universe – are affected by our pain. When no one else understands, You do. Thank You.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Flip Flop Gratitude

At first, it annoyed me. Three pairs of flip flops strewn across my entryway. A plastic baseball bat peeking out from under the hall table. A baseball mitt carelessly tossed onto the third step.

It was late, and I was tired. I wanted to yell. But as I started picking up the remainders of a beautiful, breezy day, it was as if God whispered in my ear, “Be thankful.”

“But God,” I started to say, “they’re old enough to know better. They need to pick up after themselves.”

“Be thankful,” the still small voice said again.

Someday, when they’re grown and gone, I’ll wish for flip flops to litter the hallway rug. I’ll give anything to hear the laughter of my children playing a game of baseball in the front yard with their friends... and see the plastic bat peeking out from under the hall table.

So for now, I choose to be thankful. I choose to remember that even though my children are “old enough to know better,” sometimes they forget. Just like I do. And if God can be patient with me and all my faults, then I can pick up a pair of flip flops every now and then.

And be thankful.

Monday, May 9, 2011

School in the Woods...

This afternoon we took our homeschool studies to Mounds State Park for a romp on the trails. The woods were softly decorated with the most delicate spring wildflowers, like these pretty Wild Phlox...

 intricate Shooting Stars...

and cheery Wild Geraniums.

While the girls were busy jogging down the trails...

Trey found a little cave just his size!

We even met a new "friend" - although he really didn't seem all that happy to meet us!

And we almost had an encounter with a bear cub... Oh, wait, that's a tree stump! ;-)

These are the days I cherish, the extraordinarily beautiful days that remind me what a gift God has given me in the form of three beautiful children made in His image. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights." James 1:17

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Leaving a Legacy

The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. ~ William James
Until I had children, I never thought much about legacy. Wasn't that something elderly people pondered at the end of their lives? After all, everyone always talks about leaving a legacy, as if it were something you could only do AFTER you left this life. But is that really true? Are we only leaving a legacy or are we building one day by day, with every word spoken and every action performed before the watchful eyes of our children?

Lately, my husband has been researching the history of our area, and what he has found has completely revolutionized my view of the phrase leaving a legacy. Since we homeschool and have a flexible schedule, we decided to spend a few days last week to take a "legacy field trip" of our area. We embarked on our first day with a sense of mystery and excitement, about to uncover the secrets of our county.

One of the places we visited was a spot along the White River (above), which was once the site of a mission built by Moravian missionaries. In 1801 John Peter Kluge, his wife Anna Maria, and 24-year-old co-missionary Abraham Luckenbach bravely journeyed from Goshen, Pennsylvania to Madison County, Indiana to evangelize the Delaware Indians. They were the first white people in our area.

These missionaries endured unbelievable hardships, loneliness, and discouragement as they sought to share their faith with the native Americans. Although many of the Delaware Indians came to believe in the missionaries' Jesus, they were persecuted and often killed for their new found faith. After five years, the disheartened missionaries packed up their belongings and left the area, feeling responsible for the lost lives of their converts.
They were now confronted by the grim reality of their situation. They were not merely in danger themselves. They were bringing death to the poor creatures whom they were seeking to save.... They gathered together their little belongings, and, on September 16, 1806, the missionaries, with the two little sons that had been born here to Brother and Sister Kluge, and a few faithful Indian converts, bade a sorrowful farewell to their home in the wilderness and turned back on the long journey to civilization and friends. The mission to the Delawares on White River was ended. ~ from History of the Moravian Mission Among the Indians Along the White River in Indiana

I'm sure as they tearfully left their home in the wilderness, the Kluges didn't think they were leaving much of a legacy behind in Madison County, Indiana. But God knew otherwise. Little did they know that the area they left would one day be the site of the world headquarters of the Church of God and home to hundreds of Protestant churches.

This bronze tablet (above) still stands on the roadside in honor of the missionaries who dedicated their lives to show the Indians the love of the Great Creator. Though they thought they had failed, in God's eyes they were more than conquerors.

As parents, we, too, may often think we're failing. We're not good enough examples. We grow weary, we snap, become impatient with our children, don't show enough love. But if we seek God's help and wisdom while building our legacy, we can be sure that His will WILL ultimately be carried out in the lives of our children in His perfect time. So instead of waiting to leave a legacy, start building one today!
Psalm 103:17-18 ~ From everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Edit Yourself!

Editing, rewriting, second draft, revision... no matter what terms we use, this part of the writing process is inevitably the part we all dread. After all, it's hard work to edit your writing, and writing is supposed to be fun, right? Ummm... well, yes and no.

At a writer's conference I attended last fall, New York Times best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins addressed editing issues in a session called "Thick-Skinned Critiques." A few brave conference attendees sent in the first page of their manuscripts and let Jerry have at it. And have at it, he did! The normally mild-mannered writer was like a surgeon during the Civil War, brutally hacking away limbs with no anesthesia. OK, maybe he was a bit more gracious than that, but by the time he was finished, the page was definitely bleeding with editing marks. (He actually used a green pen instead of a red one; maybe he thought it would look less brutal that way.)

In a nutshell, Jenkins' main advice to writers was simple: Less is more. Omit needless words. "Avoid throat clearing," he said, "and get on with the story!"

Here are a few of the tips he gave -- words of wisdom from someone who has sold millions and millions of books.

  1. Avoid subtle redundancies. Change "He blinked his eyes." to "He blinked." What else are you going to blink besides your eyes?
  2. Give the reader credit. Resist the urge to explain. Example: "Marian was mad. She pounded the table. 'George you're going to drive me crazy!' she said angrily." Jenkins deleted "Marian was mad" and "she said angrily." We already know she's angry by her actions and dialogue. Good point!
  3. Don't put quotation marks around words or phrases you think your reader won't "get." See? I just did it! 
  4. Delete the word that.
  5. Avoid telling what's NOT happening. "She didn't say anything."
  6. Don't use the term "literally" unless you mean it. "My eyes literally fell out of my head." Really? That's scary!
  7. Use strong nouns and verbs, but avoid being an adjectival maniac. "The brilliant, glowing sun set against the ominous, dreary background of the creepy, haunted house." Ugh!
  8. Avoid the words up and down. "She sat down on the couch."
  9. Avoid attributing dialogue (he said, she said) unless absolutely necessary. Sometimes this is more distracting to the reader.
  10. Avoid hedging verbs. "He frowned a bit." "She gave a half smile."
Try out these nuggets of wisdom the next time you're self-editing. In the words of Sean Connery (from the movie Finding Forrester): "Write the first draft with your heart and the second draft with your head."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Future of Publishing?

And so the debate continues... what IS the future of the publishing industry? I love, love, LOVE this YouTube video that Jan Stob, senior editor at Tyndale House Publishers, introduced to her workshop attendees (yours truly being one of them) at a recent writer's conference. Stick with it until the end -- there's quite a surprise waiting for you about halfway through. And it's absolutely amazing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Me? A Traitor?

At first I felt like a traitor. Hunkered down under the covers, a soft glow illuminating my face, while my early-rising husband slumbered beside me. Noiselessly, I turned each page by tapping my finger on the edge of the screen. But the more I read on my Nook for iPhone app, the more I began to like it. I justified my traitorous actions by reminding myself that I still loved real books, and I would never cease to purchase the paper and ink tomes that lined my bookshelves. Really. Scout's honor. After all, I've been a writer and editor all of my adult life. How could I possibly abandon real books for digital ones? Of course, I couldn't. I wouldn't. Never!

Does anyone else feel pangs of guilt when reading an e-book? Maybe it's just me. Every time I swipe my finger across the screen to turn the page, I feel like I'm single-handedly contributing the demise of the printed page as we know it.

So, what's a reader/writer to do? I've finally come to terms with the fact that it's not an either/or decision. When it comes to e-books vs. real books, I can have my cake and eat it too. I love the portability and convenience of the e-book, but for me, a digital reader can never replace the tactile experience of holding a book and turning real pages. And guess what? It doesn't have to! So why limit myself to one or the other?

And for writers... the opportunities in e-book publishing are phenomenal. Just last week, I heard an informative webinar on publishing your book digitally. My eyes have been opened to this mysterious new world of e-books, and I like what I see. Do you?

For more great info on e-publishing, check out these helpful blogs: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ and http://www.bookbuzzr.com/blog/.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Facebook and Twitter and Youtube... Oh my!

Ten years ago, Facebook didn't exist, and "twitter" was the cheery, chirping sound you heard from birds on the other side of the window pane. Now, it's hard to imagine our world without these social media phenomena.

A few months ago, I attended a writer's conference where Holley Gerth of http://www.incourage.me/ presented an amazing workshop on "10 Trends Every Writer Needs to Know." Holley played the above video clip, "Socialnomics."  The power of social media presented here will absolutely blow you away.

Our world is changing at the speed of light. Social media provides Christians with the awesome opportunity to shine the light of the gospel to a hurting world. Are we using our "small talk" on Facebook and Twitter for good? "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Saturday, March 5, 2011

God's Will... Mystery or Not?

I came across a Scripture today that I've read at least a hundred times in my life, but somehow today it leaped off the page. It was fresh, alive, and relevant... after all, it IS the Bible!

Have you ever felt like God's will was this mysterious, elusive thing that you could never quite figure out? I've had those moments more than I can count. You just can't quite get what it is that He wants you to do, what He's seeing that you're not. After reading 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, I have an amazing new perspective on God's will. And even though it's still mysterious, God's will doesn't seem quite so elusive, so unattainable now.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is GOD'S WILL for you in Christ Jesus. (emphasis added)
Did you catch that? Three very SPECIFIC details of God's will are laid out for us very plainly in this passage. All three are ACTIONS. Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. This plan seems so simple, but WHY is it so hard for us to truly LIVE this way?

If you're like me, I LOVE lists. I make "to do" lists at least twice a day. So I jumped on the fact that this list (Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks.) is preceded by another list that gives even more insight into God's will for our lives. I like to think of this whole passage as God's "to do" list for me. Not to gain any merit or favor with Him, but as a guide, a sort of Biblical Mapquest for doing His will. This amazing list is found in verses 14 and 15:

Encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Whoa! So THIS is it! This is God's will for me -- and for you. Can you even IMAGINE what would happen if we truly lived this out every day? It would completely, radically change our world and the world of those around us!

All of a sudden, God's will seems to be about much more than just "What car should I buy?" or "What job should I take?" or "Should I rent or purchase a home?" and much more about how we DO LIFE every single day.

Father, help me to not only want to KNOW your will, but to DO your will. Actively. Radically. Completely.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Grammar Geeks Unite!

Recently, I listened to a local English teacher bemoan the fact that most of her students are terrible writers. They come to her class at the beginning of the year with no clue about good grammar, proper punctuation, essay structure, etc. She blames this partly on the computer age -- texting, chatting, instant messaging -- all forms of communication which don't require punctuation, capitalization, complete sentences, or even proper spelling for that matter. The editor in me has to agree. (Txt me l8tr if u don't. LOL!) Our world is moving away from all that's proper (in more ways than just spelling and grammar) to whatever is convenient. Some people love it, but for those of us who are grammar geeks it's... well, painful.

What I'd really like to see is people using phonetic punctuation. This sketch by the late musician/comedian Victor Borge is a fun look at what the world would be like if we included punctuation in our everyday, face-to-face conversations. Hope it brings a smile to your day. TTYL... :-)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

If You Give a Writer a Virtual Cookie...

Saw this hilarious post at The New Emily and just had to share it. What a great take on If You Give a Mouse a Cookie! Does this woman have a camera inside my house? Or maybe this is a malady that all writers share. There's hope for me yet! Either way, if you're a writer, you'll get it!

If You Send a Writer a Virtual Cookie
by Laura Malish

If you send a writer a virtual cookie from your blog, she will return the love, but will notice that you’ve updated your profile. Clicking on your new smiling image, she’ll see that you’re on Twitter. She’ll decide to send you a tweet which will remind her that she forgot to post a tweet on her account. Closing her blogger friend’s page, she’ll remember that she was supposed to be blogging.
Sitting in her quiet office, waiting for inspiration, the dryer beeps in the background. Avoiding ironing at all costs, she pops out of her chair and quickly hangs up the warm clothes before the dreaded wrinkles can set in. On the way back to her desk, she’ll notice the stack of unopened mail on the table by the back door. Sorting through ads and bills, she finds a professional looking envelope with the name of an agency she queried.

Sighing, she resigns herself to the expected rejection letter which reminds her that she needs to query that agent she found online yesterday. Tossing aside the not quite right for our agency letter, she dashes back to her desk to dig through the pile of notes on her desk, desperately trying to find that email address. In the pile, she discovers the science paper that her daughter had been searching for last night. Grabbing her keys, she’s out the door. She turns on the radio and hears a beautiful love song that reminds her of the scene she’s writing in her latest manuscript. Repeating it over and over, she hopes to cement the lyrics in her brain so she can remember it when she sits down to write.

Returning home after preparing her lecture speech about responsibility for her child, she tries to remember what she wanted to write. Hurrying to her desk, she notices the empty screen still waiting for her blog post. Staring at the flashing line, she ponders what the heck she can write about. Maybe children that need a lesson in organization? The line is still flashing. Maybe a more professional entry would be better in case a prospective agent checks out her blog. Agents and editors! She forgot to send a query to the editor from the fall conference. Quickly, dragging out her binder of important papers, she shuffles through until she finds the submission guidelines. Three months? She swallows and starts to count how many weeks since the conference and remembers that she needs to make an appointment for a haircut.

Going to the mirror, she looks to see if any gray roots are showing. Looking at her reflection, she wonders if she will ever get her manuscript published – there are a few wrinkles appearing around her eyes. That’s what her character needs! Wrinkles. Back behind the desk, she brings up her work-in-progress. A soft ping announces she has mail. Opening the email, in case it’s the agent she queried last week requesting a partial, she finds a big chocolate chip cookie from her critique friend. Thought you could use something sweet today. Oh, no!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And We're Off! 2011... Already?

Well, as you can see, I didn't do much blogging in 2010. A whopping two entries in a whole year...seriously? Who am I kidding?

Things have got to change. And soon. I've always considered myself a writer, because I was paid to be one. Last year, however, was the first time since I began my professional writing career in December of 1990 -- 20 years ago, eek! -- that I didn't receive a paycheck for a single writing or editing assignment. And that, friends, is no one's fault but my own. You can't BE a writer if you don't WRITE. Hello? That's a no brainer.

Oh, I can come up with some great excuses for not writing...Hmmmm, let's see: My office/desk is a mess; I homeschool my three children and don't have time to write; The dog ate my notes (no kidding); I have writer's block; I don't feel good; I have no energy; blah, blah, blah. What it all comes down to is this: I just didn't write.

Writer Mary Heaton Vorse once said, "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." It's not brain surgery, true. It's DISCIPLINE, which can be somewhat akin to brain surgery if you're a free spirited procrastinator. Unfortunately, that's what most of us creative types are. Which is why most writers talk about how fun it is to THINK about writing, GO to writer's conferences, SURF the web, READ books, but the actually writing process...forget about it!!

So... what's a writer to do? A writer friend of mine has just invited me to order a book called Bang the Keys by Jill Dearman, and actually DO something. What a novel idea. (No pun intended.) DO something! Write! After all, I AM a writer. I NEED to bang the keys! If you're a writer, I invite you to do the same.