Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Little Toes

I don’t know about you, but there are parts of my body I take for granted. 

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how much I appreciate my spleen or my eyelashes. I mean, they’re doing a good job, but it’s not like I would miss them the way I would my fingers or my eyes. 

Or…would I? 

A few weeks ago, in a moment of stunning grace and agility, I managed to trip over a cat (the cat is a story for another day, but this might be a good time to throw out there that I don’t even like cats) and slam my foot into the brick wall of my home. I was barefoot at the time and somehow managed to slice open the tip of my little toe.

I know y’all just cringed. Sorry about that.

In that moment my little toe, a part of my body that I pay very little attention to and certainly haven’t felt was all that necessary to my general well-being, became extremely important.

Because I could barely walk.

As it turns out, that little sliced up toe carries a much heavier load than I realized. It’s not just added on to the side of my foot for looks. It’s a workhorse. 
I couldn’t wear anything except flip flops for five days. I limped and hobbled and shuffled along in a way that would have made anyone watching assume I had suffered a major leg injury. It was seven days before I could tolerate socks and tennis shoes enough to be able to go to the gym and even then the muscles in my calf and leg ached from the extra strain that had been put on them.

All because my unappreciated little toe was wounded.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that make my life easier—things I don’t even realize are working hard on my behalf. Everything from my ancient washing machine to the UPS driver delivering my Amazon Prime orders to my ceiling fans keeping the air moving on warm Spring days. 

Several years ago I began keeping a gratitude journal after reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. In this journal, I record the gifts of grace in my life, and a few weeks ago I crossed the 3000 mark. After 3000 gifts counted, I must admit that my gratitude well has run a bit dry recently. I mean I can always be thankful for coffee and chocolate (can I get an AMEN!), but I’ve been trying to think of something I haven’t already recorded multiple times.

This month, my goal is to be thankful for the little toes. The laundry baskets (not the clothes—the actual baskets). The ink pens (can we all just agree that while quills were cool, they weren’t super convenient to carry in your purse). The OtterBox on my iPhone (because while I tell people I need that level of protection because of my kids, the truth is I drop my phone at least once a day). Hair elastics, pencil sharpeners, and the little bones in my ear. 

These things are gifts from the Father—the same Abba who counts every single hair on our heads. My guess is that when I take the time to be thankful for even the smallest gifts, I’ll find myself more and more in awe of the Giver of all things. 

Join me?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What I Learned in March

Last month’s “What I Learned this Month” was quite well received, so I’m doing it again. It’s coming to you a little late … I hope you don’t mind!

Without further ado…Seven Things I Learned in March.

1. Kittens are cute. This winter, a stray cat adopted us (long story) and a few weeks ago, she had kittens on our deck. I don’t like cats, but really, the kittens are adorable. And while having a cat have kittens on the deck isn’t the kind of thing I would have written into our lesson plans for the year, it’s been a fun experience for the kids. 

2. Sometimes you need a new cup. I have a stainless steel thermos with a straw top I have used for years. I love it. It keeps my water cold, it doesn’t make a huge mess if it gets knocked over, it fits in my cup holder, it’s not made out of plastic…all excellent features. But I realized recently that the very act of sipping my water through a straw was slowing down my water consumption—by a lot. I’ve been ridiculously loyal to my thermos, but this month, I broke down and purchased a new Tervis tumbler (complete with Clemson Tiger paws) and a “water bottle lid” and my “glasses per day” numbers have skyrocketed. 

3. NEVER ever wait until the last minute to enter a contest. You know when the deadline is, you know it’s going to cost you money to enter, so you might be tempted to think, I’ll wait until the last day. DO NOT DO THIS. I recently entered a contest that I have never participated in. It wasn’t a difficult process, but there were a few extra steps I wasn’t expecting. Because I was entering two weeks before the deadline, they’d didn’t cause me any trouble, but I made myself a note that cutting the deadline close could be disastrous.

4. Peter and the Wolf is awesome! A local orchestra put on a free performance of Peter and the Wolf for school aged children and we absolutely loved it! The musicians brought their instruments into the audience and showed the kids their clarinets, French horns, flutes, and trombones. The music was engaging, the narrator funny and appropriately dramatic, and the performance kept even my five-year-old mesmerized. 

5. Vitamin D for the win! Seriously. I don’t realize how desperate I am for sunshine and longer days until I finally start experiencing more of it in March. My general disposition improves dramatically. Next year, I need to be more intentional about getting outside even on the cold days.

6. Sometimes I just need to stay home. There are a lot of great homeschool opportunities in my community. We have wonderful friends. We have family nearby. But sometimes what I need to do is stay home. I need to say no to field trips, lunch dates, quick visits, and meeting people for dinner. 

Not because there is anything wrong with any of that. But sometimes for the sake of my sanity and well-being, instead of saying “That sounds great - when should we meet you?” I need to say, “That sounds great but we can’t make it tonight. Another time?” 

And then I need to curl up with a book or watch a movie that I’ve seen 100 times and not feel guilty about it (that’s the tricky part). It’s a fine line to walk. Sometimes the excursion is so worth the rushed afternoon or the late night, but I’m trying to think hard about what my “Yes!” means for the rest of my day or week, for myself and for my kiddos.

7. I am not responsible for the miracle. This was my number one takeaway from the homeschool convention I attended in mid-March. It was shared by Sarah MacKenzie of the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast and Teaching from Rest fame (who I got to chat with at a meet-up after the convention and she is as delightful as she sounds on the podcast). I think she was quoting someone else, so I’m not exactly sure who to give credit for this, but I wrote these words in my journal and stared at them as she continued to speak. “I am not responsible for the miracle.” 

There’s much rest for a weary soul in those words. Whether it’s my efforts to rear my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, or my prayers for fragile relationships, broken bodies, or lost souls, I am not responsible for the miracle. God’s not fretting over my ability to “fix” anything, and if I’m stressing and working myself into a tizzy about it then I’ve installed myself in a position I have no business in. 

So that’s it for March. What about you? Did you learn something new this month? Share it with us in the comments!

Grace and peace,

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Our Stories Matter

There’s a very cool section in the book of Numbers that I think has a unique application to writers. 

If you haven’t perused this section of the Old Testament recently, you may not know that God gifted certain individuals with creative talents for the building of his Tabernacle and then called out entire families for specific areas of service. 

Very specific. He didn’t just say, “Hey, I want the Levites in charge of the Tabernacle.” He said, “I want this family responsible for the curtains, and this family responsible for the framework, and this family responsible for carrying the holy things. (Numbers 4 – check it out).

Here’s the thing…I wonder if some of the Levites in charge of the curtains felt slighted. They were Levites just like those guys in charge of the Ark of the Covenant. But could they carry it? Nope.

And I wonder if the Levites in charge of the Ark of the Covenant looked down their noses at the guys who carried the framework. I mean, really, how hard is it to carry poles?

This may sound ridiculous, but I’ve noticed that we writers? We’re bad about doing this to each other and to ourselves.

I'm guest posting today over at The Write Conversation....hop on over there to read the rest of the story!

Monday, February 29, 2016

What I Learned in January and February

Two of my favorite bloggers (Emily P. Freeman and Modern Mrs. Darcy) do something toward the end of each month that I always look forward to, so I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon.

I love to learn new things, and I want my kids to be lifelong learners. To help me model this for them, each month I’ll be sharing a “What I Learned in…” post. There are no rules here. The learning can be profound or profoundly ridiculous. The point is to pay attention to it all. 

So, without further ado…

What I Learned in January/February (I’m doubling up)!

1. I prefer cashew butter to almond butter.

I know, it sounds silly, but it’s been a big deal for me. I don’t consume a lot of peanut butter, even though I love it. Most people who make the switch to “healthier nut butters” go straight to almond butter. For the past couple of years, I’ve use almond butter and I like it. I just don’t love it. But cashew butter? Yumminess. 

I think there might be a larger lesson here. Something about not trying to force yourself to love something just because everyone else does? Or maybe about how it’s better to keep trying new things instead of assuming they are all basically the same? Come to think of it, that seems to be a theme for the entire month. Read on. 

2. I do not like e-books.

I don’t hate them. I’m not anti-Kindle or anti-Nook or anti-iPad. But if I have an e-book, there’s a good chance I’ll forget about it and never get it read. It just doesn’t speak to me the way the hardback on my nightstand or the paperback in my purse does.

3. I love going to movies alone.

After a near implosion mid-month, my wise husband sent me to a movie by myself. It was glorious. I may go to another one this month (he doesn’t know this yet). It’s not that I’m anti-social. But I am a highly-sensitive introvert and spending all day, every day with people, even the people I love more than anything in the world, makes me a little seriously crazy. 

That night, I went to dinner with my husband, then drove myself to the theatre where I arrived 45 minutes early (the only appropriate time to arrive for a move in my opinion). I got the best seat in the empty theatre then disappeared into another world (which included Chris Pine and that’s always a good thing) for a couple of hours. It was rejuvenating, both emotionally and creatively.

4. I love coffee. I don’t need the caffeine.

I gave up coffee in January. After 7 straight days of headaches, I finally broke free of the caffeine addiction. The coffee addiction, however, seems to be here to stay. I love a great cup of coffee in the morning, or with friends, but now I’m drinking decaf. Even at 6 a.m.

5. There are thousands of pounds of unexploded ordnance buried in Europe, particularly in Germany.  

I read a fascinating article in The Smithsonian about how/why so many bombs didn’t explode and were lost underground after the Allied bombing raids over Germany. My writer-brain is having a field day with it. I know there’s a way to use this in a story someday!

6. Mental clutter shuts me down and it’s worth the effort to clear it away.

I’m a very visual person and clutter drives me crazy, but I’ve always thought that as long as it was out of sight, it didn’t bother me. So things like cluttered closets or the kids’ messy bedrooms weren’t really an issue. WRONG. I spent a week cleaning out the kids’ rooms and closets and it has been deliciously freeing.

7. These sushi stacks are awesome. 

Try them. I’m not saying you won’t miss your favorite sushi restaurant, but they may help you survive until your next roll. (Random: The fact that I now love sushi is a complete mystery to anyone who knew me as a kid. If you have a picky eater, take heart. They may outgrow it!)

Ok – that’s it for now. I actually have five more things, but this post is already too long. 

I’d love for you to leave a comment and share one, two, or twenty things you’ve learned so far this year.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

You Get What You Get and You Don't Pitch a Fit

My boys have both been privileged to have the same wonderful teacher in preschool, Mrs. Rhonda. 

She’s responsible for teaching super awesome tips like how to hold onto your sleeve when you put on a jacket so your sleeve doesn’t wind up over your elbow. I think we can all agree this is a crucial skill for the preschool set.

She also has some fun little sayings. “One, two, three, eyes on me!” This one works great for her (for some reason, it is less effective when I employ it in our home). 

Without a doubt, my favorite saying is “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit!” 

We’ve handed out crayons and you wanted a different color? “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit!” 
We’re having cupcakes and you wanted the one from the far left corner instead of the far right? “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit!”
My boys like to use this on each other. When one is on the verge of a meltdown because he got the blue plate and he wanted the orange one? You can be sure his brother will pipe up with, “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit!” 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Probably Undoubtedly because I am prone to pitching a fit when I don’t get what I want. 

If I believe that God is both Sovereign and Love—and I do—then when something comes my way, shouldn’t I take it without throwing a hissy fit? 


Of course, there is a place for lament. We see it in Job. We see it in Ruth as Naomi laments her lot in life. The Psalms are full of them.

But lament isn’t the same thing as whining. Lament cries out against the injustice of a situation while declaring and trusting in the Sovereignty of God. Whining cries out against the injustice of a situation while doubting the goodness of God and insisting on our own personal sovereignty.

The truth is that most of the time, I can’t even pretend I’m “lamenting” a situation. I’m pitching a fit because I want to be in control and I’m seriously ticked off that I’m not.

I may might definitely have control issues.

I want the blue plate, the cupcake with the chocolate icing, and I want my day to go the way I planned it thank you very much. And relinquishing my desire for control? Submitting to another plan? Choosing to rely on the Father who loves me rather than my self? I feel helpless to figure this out. It feels hopeless. 

Because it is. 

If I try to manufacture this dependence on my own, I will fail. 
If I try to work harder to be more patient, I will be spectacularly unsuccessful.
If I try to pretend everything is okay on the outside when I’m losing it on the inside, I will eventually explode all over everyone unfortunate enough to be near me. (This is my default mechanism—believe me when I say the explosions aren’t pretty).

So what am I supposed to do? I’m a task oriented girl. I want a plan!
And how does God answer my lament whining? Not with a detailed action plan, but with one command.

Abide in Me.

To abide is to remain, to stay. It’s a state of being, which is lovely, but I have things to DO!

So then He reminds me of this . . . 

John 15:4-5 (ESV) - Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (emphasis mine)

Awesome. {Heavy sarcasm alert}

I am so far from living this out. It will take a lifetime of practice and I’m not even sure what it will look like. 

I suspect that one of the fruits of abiding in Christ is being able to accept whatever He gives, whenever He gives it, however He chooses to give it. 

Without pitching a fit.

I don’t know how to do this, but I suspect my Abba is smiling at me and whispering, “One, two, three, eyes on Me.”

I think that’s where I’ll start. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Writer's Fear

A few weeks ago, I watched a live Adele concertThe lucky people who filled the venue were an enthusiastic audience. There were cheers, applause, and the occasional sing-a-long when she sang a favorite.

I’m a fan so I enjoyed it immensely, but I couldn’t help but be struck by her vulnerability. She stood on the stage and poured herself into each song, even though she wasn’t sure of the response she would get. At one point, she wiped tears from her eyes and told the crowd how nervous she was and how afraid she’d been that they wouldn’t like her new songs.

As I watched, I kept thinking, “She’s Adele for crying out loud! What does she have to be afraid of? How does she not know that people are going to love it?”

When it was over the cameras followed her off the stage, all the way to a waiting elevator where she threw herself into the arms of her boyfriend . . . and sobbed.

It’s an image I’ve been unable to shake.

Even if you aren’t a fan of her music, it’s impossible to deny Adele’s success. Her voice is instantly recognizable. Her songs debut at number one on the charts and stay there for weeks. Even in this digital age, her albums have shattered sales records.

If Adele is still worried about how her music will be received, what does that say for those of us putting our art into the world for the first, second, or third time?

I'm guest posting today over at The Write Conversation. Pop on over there to read the rest of this story. 

And check back next week. I've got some new and (hopefully) fun posts planned for February. :) 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Read More from Harlequin

You should be reading more books published by Harlequin.


As I mentioned in my post a few months ago (this one - I Write For Harlequin - you should definitely read it!), the term “Harlequin” has a tendency to raise some eyebrows. Some people assume that if the book has the Harlequin logo on the cover, it’s one of *those* books. 

Many of the women (and men) I know who enjoy a nice Christian romance wouldn’t think of picking up a Harlequin. If that describes you, or if it’s just been a long time since you gave one a shot, let me clear up a few things.

1. They aren’t all like *that* - Yes, some of the lines are, but if you look for the Love Inspired (LI) logo, you won’t find anything in there to make you blush.

2. They are inexpensive - Have you gone shopping for books lately? Paperbacks aren’t cheap. But you can pick up a Love Inspired book at Wal-mart for less than $5. 

3. They are short - If you aren’t a fast reader or don’t think reading is your “thing,” these paperbacks aren’t intimidating. If you do prefer a nice long read, I’m with you, but I don’t always have time for that kind of reading. Sometimes, I need a story that can draw me in but that I can finish in just a few hours so I don’t get so busy reading I forget to deal with real life. (This has more to do with my poor self-control than anything else - you may not have this problem). 

4. They are small - I know I already said they are short, but they are also a smaller size. They’ll fit in your purse, backpack, diaper bag, or that little pocket on the side of your door…ready for your next wait in car line or piano lessons. They are also light enough for you to hold in one hand while you feed a baby, or stir a pot of chili. Yes, I know that in a perfect world you would spend each second that you are feeing your baby staring into their eyes and babbling at them. In the real world, sometimes that fifteen minutes is the only time you get to sit down. I’ve had three kids. I know. I read a lot of books during nursing sessions. They helped me stay sane!

5. They are shareable - You can let your tween read them. Really. While some of the Harlequin lines are, shall we say, spicy? The Love Inspired lines focus on the emotional attraction - not the physical. Yes, there will be kissing (yeah for kissing!), but the physical demonstrations of affection are not the focus of these books. 

6. There’s plenty of variety - I write for Love Inspired Suspense (LIS). My line has the hero and heroine in danger from the first page, and they stay that way (while falling in love) until the end. There’s also Love Inspired Historical (LIH) for all of you (myself included) who occasionally think you would have made an awesome pioneer. And if you love a sweet romance that doesn’t involve bullets and bloodshed, the Love Inspired line is for you. Contemporary characters dealing with real life issues and finding love along the way.

7. There are a LOT to choose from - LIS and LI release 6 new books every single month. That’s 72 books a year. LIH releases 4 a month - 48 a year.

8. They are really good - Ok, I’m biased. I’ll admit it. But it takes skill to develop an interesting story and relatable characters, keep them alive (in LIS) and have them fall in love in 60,000 words. It can be done and it means that the when you pick up one of these books, you won’t find yourself skimming through a bunch of fluff. I’m not anti-fluff, but when time is limited, I’ll pass on the fluff, thank you very much.

9. They stand alone - I personally love a good series, but I have a bad habit of getting sucked in and needing to read EVERY.SINGLE.BOOK in the series. NOW. So it’s nice to read books that don’t trigger that reaction in me.

10. They have some awesome series to choose from - I know I just said they stand alone, and they do. But there are two different types of series with LI. One is similar to what I’m working on now. The secondary characters from the first book get a starring role in the next. You can read any of the books without having read the previous books, but if you fall in love with certain characters (Heidi and Blake, cough, cough) it’s fun to check in with them again later. 
The other type of series is a Continuity Series. They are similar to the other series, with secondary characters becoming the main characters. But in a continuity series, each book is written by a different author. So awesome!

Okay - have I convinced you yet? 

If not, here’s one more bonus reason. Right now - November 10th -November 17th - 10,000 Harlequin titles are on sale. You can purchase the ebook version for $1.99. This is a HUGE deal!  

You have very little to lose and lots of great reads to gain.

Sadly, my book, Covert Justice, is NOT on sale. *Sob* 

But you can find a bunch of books from my friend and mentor, Lynette Eason. Her Family Reunion’s series would be a fun place to start. Each one is $1.99 this week only! 

And there are literally 1000s of others to choose from. So many awesome authors that I can't begin to list them all!

I’d love to hear about your experience with Harlequin. Are you a regular reader? Has it been years since you picked one up? Do you have a favorite LIS, LIH, or LI author? Let’s talk about it in the comments!