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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Home Steeped Hope

On Wednesday, stop by and visit Mary and me at Home Steeped Hope and check out our fun and in-depth homeschool and writing interview. Mary, a fellow homeschool writer mom, asked some great questions that cover just about everything you might want to know about the how's why's and when's of my homeschooling and writing journey.

Hope to see you there! And if there's anything else you'd like to know~ feel free to ask away and I'll try to answer your questions as soon as possible.

Prayers are much appreciated as my editor and I work on Healing Promises! Please pray that we'll hear the Lord and polish up this book so that it best reflects Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A lesson from a little one

This drawing is one my oldest did in the days after 9-11. She was four years old. Her explanation of this picture continues to humble me with its simplicity and grace.

She said, "This picture shows the angry and sad man in the airplane that hit the tower." She explained the words "I love" by saying God loves and she would choose love, not anger like those men did.

This same little girl is now almost ten years old and today taught her first Sunday school lesson. She picked the topic, wrote the paper on her own, and delivered it so well that all I could do when I first heard her practice was smile and wipe the tears of pure mommy pride from my eyes.

I asked her permission to share it with you all, and I'm copying it here in its entirety. Minus her precious smiles and adult, speaker-level eye contact. She's amazing.

The Armor of God

Read Ephesians 6:10-18, "10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

(And yes, she even copied the verse numbers when she wrote this passage out on paper. She's a very cool detail kid.)

The armor of God is necessary in our lives every day. Each of the seven pieces has a very important meaning.

First, the helmet of salvation protects our mind, like a helmet protects the head in battle. Salvation is what allows us to experience God's great forgiveness and helps us know right from wrong. A prayer taken from John Eldridge's book Wild at Heart is: "Thank you, Lord, for my salvation. I receive it in a new and fresh way from you and declare that nothing can separate me now from the love of Christ and the place I shall have in your kingdom."

The next piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness protects our hearts from corruption, like a breastplate protects a soldier's heart from being harmed. Purity and holiness are what righteousness is. They can only be received from God, and they repel satan's assaults. Another prayer from John Eldridge's book is: "Lord, I wear your righteousness today against all condemnation and corruption. Fit me with your holiness and purity~ defend me from all assaults against my heart."

In addition, we have the shield of faith, and it will protect you from satan's lies, just like a shield protects a soldier from arrows. If you continually put your faith in God, satan's lies cannot deceive you. Now, a third prayer from Eldridge's book is: "Jesus, I lift against every lie and every assault the confidence that you are good and that you have good in store for me. Nothing is coming today that can overcome me because you are with me."

Another piece of armor is the gospel shoes of peace. It is good to continually be ready to spread peace and the gospel. Spreading peace and being a peacemaker will benefit you very much. And obeying the Great Commission by spreading the gospel is always the right thing to do. Also, one prayer from Wild at Heart says: "Lord, I choose to live for the gospel at any moment. Show me where the larger story is unfolding and keep me from thinking that the most important thing today is what the world has to offer."

Also, truth holds everything together, like a belt. If you tell the truth, then you will be doing what is right. People often want to be with trustworthy people. You will have healthy relationships if you are truthful and kind and keep your word. The belt of truth will protect us from the enemy's lies if we're willing to believe God's word.

Have you ever had a good relationship because you were trustworthy? A broken one because you weren't? (My kiddo was very brave here and answered her own questions in class when the other kids didn't. This was one of the only pieces of advice I offered~ to have an answer for her questions. She talked about having a good relationship with her sisters because she does what she says she'll do. She talked about having a bad relationship with me for a time when she got caught cheating on a test. But added that over time that relationship healed and she doesn't cheat any more.)

The Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit, is an effective weapon against satan and all his lies and demons. Remembering the truth of God's word and believing it will protect you when the devil attacks. A prayer from Eldridge's book says, "Holy Spirit, show me specifically the truths of God's word that I will need to counter the assaults and snares of the enemy. Bring them to mind throughout the day."

Prayer is also essential in defeating the enemy. When we pray to God and tell satan to leave, he must flee. Prayer also strengthens our relationship with God, and He helps us fight our enemy. A final prayer from Wild at Heart says, "Finally, Holy Spirit, I agree to walk in step with you in everything - in all prayer as my spirit communes with you throughout the day."

Preparation is important for our spiritual battle. The way to get ready is to put on the Armor of God every day.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A book tag

My friend and one of the first folks to encourage me on my writing journey, Deb Raney, tagged me with a unique meme especially for writers and readers.

1. What's the one book or writing project you haven't yet written but still hope to?

I have a three book women's fiction with a bit of humor and a lot of heart that I'd love to find a home for some day. Book one, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, is finished, but the other two are plotted and waiting to be birthed. Here's the series blurb...

Kara wants connection.
Ellie wants a happy home.
Megan wants a mom.

When their mundane lives turn insane, three mothers play hide and seek—not with their children, but with their hearts. Baby woes, husband troubles, and family secrets have these women tasting forbidden fruit and ducking like Eve behind the fig tree. A crisis counseling retreat draws them together and points them in a new direction. But only when Kara, Ellie, and Megan realize their crazy lives are God’s invitation to seek Him do they give up childish games and find healing.

2. If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with?

I have a huge stack of books from ICRS and at the top are Cindy Woodsmall's When the Morning Comes and Camy Tang's Sushi for One. Mark's new book, The Void, was all gone when I tried to add one to my stack. I've been looking forward to this story ever since I finished Mark's From the Belly of the Dragon, one of my all-time favorite books.

3. What was your first writing "instrument" (besides pen and paper)?

A Dell PC that served us faithfully for many years and now belongs to my kiddos to play learning games. I'm amazed the dinosaur still works!

4. What's your best guess as to how many books you read in a month?

Like Deb, I keep track of all the books I've read. When I took my first step on this writing path, I read seven books the first month. Since then I read between 30 and 45 books a year. Not counting all the classic children’s books and historical biographies I read with my kiddos for school.

5. What's your favorite writing "machine" you've ever owned?

I'm pretty happy to have a flat screen Dell that meets my needs and doesn't follow me on vacation. ;-)

6. Think historical fiction: what's your favorite time period in which to read?

I'm so not a historical fiction reader, but of the few I've read and enjoyed Tricia Goyer's WWII and Spanish Civil War series are wonderful.

7. What's the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)?

The stories I remember most vividly are: Macbeth (I had an AWESOME 7th grade English teacher and we acted out tons of Shakespeare's work.), Catcher in the Rye (This book still haunts me at times. I tried to read it again as an adult and it was a totally different experience. I'm hoping that means I've matured some. LOL), and Beowulf (I've always loved this story/poem. It was a real treat to read it again with my kiddos when we studying the Medieval time period in school last year.).

Now I get to tag some friends to come out in the blogsphere and play: Mark Mynheir, Creston Mapes, Camy Tang, Meg Moseley, Missy Tippens, Tricia Goyer, Dineen Miller

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Meme to Drool Over

My friend Sally tagged me for a restaurant meme. My favorites in Atlanta, GA will~ no surprise~ include chocolate for dessert as that's my main criterion for where we spend our eating out dollars. ;-)

Here are the meme rules:

*Link to the name of the person that tagged you
*Include state and country you live in
*List top 5 favorite local restaurants
*Tag 5 other people and let them know they've been tagged

1. My top restaurant choice is Chateau √Član. We don't get there often because white linen table clothes, fine China, and three kids don't mix. But they have melt in your mouth filet mignon and all their desserts (even the ones without chocolate) are amazing.
2. Next would be TGI Fridays. Their chocolate brownie concoction is incredible! Plus, my kiddos love their pizza and chocolate dirt sundaes.
3. Macaroni Grill is another favorite. My kids love their pizza (see, one family theme I'm not responsible for instigating) and I enjoy their seafood and pasta. The bread to tide us over until the meal comes and getting to color on the paper tablecloths over linen ones are nice kid-friendly perks.
4. Starbucks is actually my kinda place to eat. Lots of yummy chocolate and some pretty good sandwiches if I'm trying to be healthy.
5. But my all-time favorite place to eat is my dining room. My hubby is a master chef and the fact that he enjoys cooking (I don't really) and does so because he loves me makes the food all the more wonderful.

I'm tagging:
Laurie, because everybody else tagged her. ;-)

Amy R., because Heather and Sally tagged her too.

Jen, because she needs to start blogging again.

David because, well, because I can. LOL

Meg, because I want to hear her recommendations.
And if you have some great places with awesome chocolate to recommend, let me know in the comments!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Happy Birthday my Musical Laughter!

I remember vividly where I was exactly seven years ago today. I was two weeks from my due date (thanking the good Lord for air conditioning!) and as soon as my alarm went off that morning, my middle daughter started pounding on my belly to get out.

We hustled~ well, as fast as you can hustle in Atlanta traffic~ to the doctor's office just in time for my water to break. I got VIP entrance into the OR (via a top-of-the-line wheelchair) and actually bumped a good friend of mine from her scheduled C-section.

I couldn't write that little true-life tidbit into a novel. No one would believe me!

At promptly 1:13 PM my precious 10 lbs 6 oz princess wailed and wiggled her way into the world. She hasn't stopped moving since.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

I call this kiddo energy personified, a moniker she does a cute hands-on-the-hips "Mommy!" smirk when I say. I also call her my Musical Laughter.

See, she taught this very serious mommy how to laugh from my heart. My oldest and I could sit around and read all day, discussing the finer points of literature. Not this kiddo. My second princess lives to move and grove and make us laugh.

Just her smile lights up a room. And her giggle is truly musical.

She's also an old soul. This is the kiddo who asks questions like, "Mommy, is it okay to be glad when a bad guy (in a book) dies?"

Uhm...

Wow. We've had a few very good theological discussions branching out from that one question. Not to mention all the other great questions she asks about God, life, and love.

I could share story after story about this little girl. She's the one who gave me the privilege of taking her place in the Emergency Room when she was just a toddler.

I did a superman dive onto hard concrete (with the help of angels I'm convinced) to get between her and the front sidewalk when she took a face first leap from our front porch. In the process, I ripped a tendon in my foot which landed me in surgery and a cast for 6 weeks.

My little one cried every time she looked at that cast. Until I explained I'd do it all over again to keep her safe.

Then she smiled.

Just like I do when I look at that scar. It reminds me of the price and the payoff of being a mommy.

Sometimes we get hurt.

And sometimes we get molded more into the image of Christ. Scars and all.

So to my Musical Laughter I say a loud and proud, HAPPY SEVENTH BIRTHDAY! God placed a beautiful gift in my arms and heart when He gave you to me, to hug and to hold for these many treasured days. I love you~ to infinity and beyond!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lessons from Aslan and ICRS

While there were many interesting things which appeared on the ICRS floor this year, (Eugene from Focus on the Family would have scared my kids silly and the Holy Lips lip balm was a bit much for my taste) Alsan the Lion from CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia was not among them.

At least not that we could see.

But He did make His presence known to me with a roar of truth and reminder. It was a lesson I needed after a day filled with fun and friends and lots of opportunities to either give in to comparitivitis or to praise God.

There's a quote which appears in the third Narnia book, The Horse and His Boy, that God kept bringing to mind throughout my time at ICRS. Aslan tells both Shasta and Aravis: "Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own."

So here's my story in pictures.... and what I learned.


I learned that one of the greatest parts about being a writer are writer-friends.

This is me and Mark Mynheir in Waterbrook Multnomah's booth. If you look closely, both of our books (The Void and Ransomed Dreams)are found within.




Lesson two is that you get through the tough parts and enjoy the good parts with a little (and a lot) of help from your friends.

This is my awesome friend Sharon Hinck with a beautiful poster of her newest release, The Restorer. Sharon and I have shared tears, prayers and lots of encouraging words. Today we shared plenty of smiles and talking about very cool God moments when He showed up to surprise and delight us both.






Here are some more God friends who love me well and both cry and smile with me.

This is my amazing mentor Mary Griffith and another amazing woman who has taught me much about being real with God~ Claudia Mair Burney











Then, right before my first-ever ICRS signing, Kristin Billerbeck caught me to say hi. She made me smile in her classic Kristin way and chased off any remaining jitters I had.










Lesson three is that you never know when God is going to show up. After all, "Aslan isn't a tame lion" and our God is certainly not tame either. But He is good.

I got to sit down (which felt SOOO good after already walking a ton on Monday) and share a book of my heart with lots of really incredible people. But we didn't much talk about Ransomed Dreams. Instead, we talked about their dreams:






A very cool devotional writer and I got to chat about ACFW and her dream of writing fiction.

A number of great bookstore folks told me about their stores and how they love Christian fiction.

And a super-awesome lady I met at the Faith and Fiction breakfast came up to give me a hug and share a few more beautiful New Zealand words of encouragement and blessing.


In the background are some of the wonderful Waterbrook Multnomah folks: my jewel of an editor, Julee; Jan, a super encouraging part of the amazing sales team; and Teresa, a new friend and expert book handler who helped keep books flowing from the table to the great people I enjoyed meeting.




After my signing, I hung out with some other author friends and my over-the-top awesome hubby who made the day extra special just by being there.

There were plenty of God meetings too. A friend of David's was going to interview Ron DiCianni and I shared with her how I described two of his paintings in Ransomed Dreams. She let Ron know that as well as how much I love his work.

I also got to meet Casting Crowns and let them know how much their song The Voice of Truth has touched my heart. So much so that I had one of my characters listen to the song and see the foolishness of continuing to run from Jesus. I'll leave off the gory details about how I had a "writer moment" sharing a few too many words about how Steven and Gracie are alive and talking to Jesus.

But even with all this amazing heart chocolate, I still found it far too easy to look around and say like the character in The Horse and His Boy, "But what about them?" Or a far more whiney version, "Why not me?"

That's when Aslan's words rang loudest. "Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own."

God's words rang with even more specific clarity about trusting His timing, His perfect plan... for Amy, not for anyone else. So instead of counting what didn't happen or what I wish had happened, I stopped looking around and simply started saying, "Thank You, Daddy. You've been so incredibly good to me."

So incredibly good that this picture of how we ended a very full and fun Monday at ICRS only skims the surface of how much laughter a number of tuckered out authors can handle...







Sunday, July 08, 2007

An apology

Have you ever had an epiphany in church? Maybe I should experience this more often, but lately I haven't.

Today was different.

Andy Stanley preached today and God met me there.

Not in a casual or warm fuzzy sort of way. More like an Aslan roar that froze me to my seat.

Andy's main topic was this principle: "Direction, not intention, always determines destination."

This makes logical sense when we think about planning and intending to go to the beach for vacation, but then taking the road north when we should have gone south. Good intentions and what you packed for the beach don't matter if you drive the wrong direction.

But what about life?

How often do we say we want a good marriage, to be a good parent, to grow in Christ, but we head in a far more selfish direction with the way we spend our time day in and day out?

Andy added this chilling truth: "This is not a principle we break. Instead we will either leverage it the way God intended or we will be broken against it."

If we focus on the things that capture our attention (the hurts, temptations, circumstance to complain about) instead of the right things we focus our attention on, we'll find we don't like where we end up.

Proverbs 4:25, 27: “Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil.”

Psalm 119:37: “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.”

It's not a matter of smarts~ think about Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible. He let foreign wives capture his attention and in the end reaped sadness and emptiness.

It's not a matter of godliness~ think about King David, a man after God's own heart. He let a woman bathing capture his attention and it destroyed his family and the nation he ruled.

So why is this all an epiphany for me?

The answer to Andy's two questions will clarify...

He asked, "What's captured your attention?" and "What do you need to pay attention to instead?"

God wrote the answer across my mind in a series of life snippets from these past two years of my writing journey. Flashes of time in which I heard the complaints, saw the tears, and felt the anger over how things have gone for me. Images of things done wrongly, wounded pride, wounding words, and lost friendships.

All the sudden I saw in every instance how I had a choice and I'd most of the time chosen poorly. Instead of being quick to run to God and be reminded that He called me to write for Him and through Him (what I should have been focusing on), I let my heart and mouth complain.

Which led me down a path I didn't want to go. But it's where I chose to focus. And direction~ where I placed my eyes and attention~ determined my destination.

The focus of my attention, especially these last few months, has been one of counting the heartaches and bemoaning the rotten "breaks" I've received. The destination I've been hurtling towards is one of wearing thin to the point of quitting. Not just saying I want to, but turning off the computer for good kind of quitting.

And for that and all the words of complaint, I owe a huge apology to many.

God never promised an easy climb nor a successful experience. He simply called me to obedience.

But I looked around and saw what He'd given to others and in essence pouted like a two year old. And complained to everyone who would listen.

For those who have heard my depressing recount of circumstances, I'm truly sorry.

For those who have loved me anyway through all of this, I'm truly thankful.

I wish I could say from now on I promise not to complain, but I've lived long enough to know that's a fool's promise I'll break quickly because my focus would still be wrong. It would be on not complaining.

And direction, where we focus, determines where we end up.

So where do I want to end up? In writing and in life, I want to end up hearing, "Well done. You've been faithful with a little. Come and enter into your reward."

I want to honor God. I want to humble myself and apologize, as well as seek forgiveness, when I mess up.

I want to focus on what I know in my heart is true...

My calling is to obedience not to a sales number destination

My anchor is in being loved by a God who is neither disappointed or impressed by my performance

God has a good plan and He is good all the time, even when I don't feel it

In every hard circumstance there is a simple ~ not easy ~ decision: where does my focus belong?

Attention determines direction and direction determines destination.

I'm taking a long-overdue U-turn from the path I've been on and placing my attention back onto the forgiving face of my God.

How about you?

Where are you headed?

Attention. Direction. Destination.

It's a principle that we can't break. But we can be broken upon. Or we can high tail it into the loving arms of our forgiving Father and set out on a new path with a new focus.

The choice is ours. I pray, like Andy did at church this morning, that God would grant us the wisdom to know what we need to do and the courage to do it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy 4th of July

On this day when we Americans enjoy fireworks, grilling out, swimming, watermelon and waving our flags, I pray we also remember to pray. Because while we relax on our day off, many are still fighting for the privileges we enjoy.

And many still long for what we too often forget we have.

Freedom.

Let’s not forget the many who by their honor and bravery won the land we call home and the right to live free. Let’s not forget those fighting now. Or those longing to breathe free.

As we celebrate, let's honor them. Let’s remember. Pray. And worship the God who is True Freedom.

Freedom wasn’t free for Jesus~ it cost Him every drop of His blood. Freedom wasn’t free for the Revolutionary warriors~ it cost them life. Freedom wasn’t free for those men and women who have died in modern wars. Or those continuing to fight.

But we can honor their sacrifice. And be thankful. We can celebrate freedom with our hearts and lives and prayers.

We can live free and pray that others will as well.

Let freedom ring!

Concord Hymn
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe lone since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Ta-da! Defenders of Hope book 2

I'm about giddy to share with you all the book cover for the second book in the Defenders of Hope series: Healing promises!!! The awesome folks at Waterbrook Multnomah did a fantastic job with capturing the story on the cover and in the back cover blurb.

Facing a new threat.

When FBI Agent Clint Rollins takes a bullet during a standoff, it might just save his life. But not even the ugly things he’s seen during his years working in the Crimes Against Children Unit could prepare him for the overwhelming powerlessness of hospital tests revealing an unexpected diagnosis. If only Sara weren’t retreating into doctor mode…he needs his wife now more than ever.

Frozen in fear.

Sara Rollins is an oncologist with a mission—beating cancer when she can, easing her patients’ suffering at the very least. But now the life of her tall Texan husband is at stake. She never let the odds steal her hope before, but now the question of God’s healing promises is personal. Can she hold on to the truth she claimed to believe?

Faith under fire.

As Clint continues to track down a serial murderer despite his illness, a past military incident haunts his nightmares, pushing him beyond solving the case into risking his life and career. Clint struggles to believe God is still the God of miracles. Especially when he needs not one, but two. Everything in his life is reduced to one all-important question: Can God be trusted?

So what do you all think????


Here are some of my favorite headlines...

First the serious one: “In sickness and in health” is about to test Sara to her core.

Now my all-time favorite: Child abductions and a grim medical diagnosis…and you thought your day was bad.

That one makes me laugh out loud. No, guess my day's not so bad after all. ;-) Especially when I get to share pictures of my second book baby.

It's funny, I thought I'd be less awed this time around. But I'm not. I'm even more excited and even more in awe at what God has done. Ransomed Dreams is a book that challenged my heart and opened my eyes to God being an amazing dream redeemer. Healing Promises is a book that continues to challenge my faith and expand my view of how awesome God is...even when I don't understand His ways.

Thank You, Daddy, for being my guide through it all! Moments like these make me long even more for heaven, where mountain-top joy doesn't fade and where we'll see You face to face. For now, may both these books and what we do here honor and point people to You. Amen
 
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