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Thursday, December 31, 2009

All About Love

Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary. And it's fitting that today I'm finally ready to share my word for 2010, a tradition started years ago.

Unlike other years, we haven't spent a lot of time this holiday season looking back over 2009. It was a hard year. One better left in the hands of God as we trust Him to take the last 365 days and continue the quiet work He was always about.

My word for 2009 was PEACE. The oddest of all the words God has given me to reflect on for the coming year.

But it was the good way God showed Himself in the midst of multiple hard things. He was our peace. Both felt and not realized until well after the fact.

When I do look back on 2009, PEACE is what covers everything.

I pray I'll say the same this time next year, because the word for 2010 is LOVE.

Fitting for today, the day David and I said I DO to whatever God had in store.

Like 2009, our wedded bliss has been a challenge, more like a roller coaster ride of high heights and deep drops that God has covered in His grace.

And God has always been at work teaching us about His love.

Sometimes we've listened.

Sometimes we've touched heaven. We've held three precious gifts of God in our arms and released one straight to God's arms.

We've stood in awe when our Heavenly Daddy became our daughters' Heavenly Daddy too.

We've celebrated birthdays and Christmases and anniversaries where love was the focus.

But as God whispered my 2010 word, it was clear there's much more to learn.

I have so much more to learn.

Especially in everyday moments. Those small flashes of time where God is always there, always speaking, and where we make choices which seem small, decisions that don't feel like big things. But they change the course of our lives.

Sometimes, in those seemingly small moments, I don't listen. School, work, even serving others creates a static that drowns out God's words. But God doesn't give up on us. He continues drawing us closer, opening our eyes and ears.

In one of those everyday moments full of big potential, God got my attention and I listened to a set of verses that my whole family got excited about.

Since then, we've started saying these verses together, the verses God used to turn my heart to thoughts of 2010 and LOVE.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

Barukh sheim k'vod malkhuto l'olam va'ed.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.

V'ahav'ta eit Adonai Elohekha b'khol l'vav'kha uv'khol naf'sh'kha uv'khol m'odekha.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

V'hayu had'varim ha'eileh asher anokhi m'tzav'kha hayom al l'vavekha.
And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart.

V'shinan'tam l'vanekha v'dibar'ta bam
And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them

b'shiv't'kha b'veitekha uv'lekh't'kha vaderekh uv'shakh'b'kha uv'kumekha
when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Mark 12:29-31

'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

These verses jumped off the page as God reminded me that it truly is all about love. So that's my prayer and my hope for 2010: that all we say and do be all about LOVE.

Speaking of love.... Happy Anniversary, honey! I'm more in love with you today than on that extra-special day fifteen years ago when my heart was more full than ever before. I love you. Always.

And Happy New Year, everyone!

May your 2010 be filled with LOVE. A love that wraps around your heart and soul and warms you in the cold moments, calms you in the tough moments, thrills you in the joyous moments, and comforts you in every moment.

May you love as Jesus loved~ with all that He is. Enjoy 2010 and love well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Gifts

The stockings are hung, the decorations are out, and like many of you all I'm almost too exhausted to enjoy the fruits of the labor.

Except that God keeps taking me back to a few simple things...

We celebrate Christmas because of one reason: Jesus came.

Everything else is icing.

So instead of focusing on the icing, I wanted to share some of the good stuff God has been showing me about the Christmas story.

The First Christmas Gifts

Salvation~ Jesus came to make a way for us to be reconciled to God. He came to be the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, on the cross. I wonder if that's one of the reasons the angels proclaimed the first birth announcement to shepherds.

Peace~ After God's glory was proclaimed, the angels spoke of peace to men on whom His favor rests. That's us, His children. He is our peace.

Hope~ Jesus was born into a dark world, a world where many had given up hope. But because of His birth, centuries later we can have hope. Hope that all the trials and hardships have a purpose and that this life is not the end. Because of Jesus, we can anticipate heaven and spending forever face to face with the One who loves us more than we can ever comprehend.

Purpose~ From shepherds to prophets and wise men, in our uniqueness we can proclaim Him and share the good news that sent wise men journeying far, prophets shouting out praise, and shepherds telling everyone they met about all they had seen.

I hope, as you open other gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, that you'll remember these first Christmas gifts too. And rejoice in the truth that God's gifts are life changing. They're never too old or too used to unwrap and enjoy year after year.

May your Christmas be full of awe and wonder as you worship the newborn King, God with us~ Immanuel!

Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Noel with the Novelists

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I'm thrilled to be among a group of Christian fiction authors opening our homes for a special holiday tour and our personal wishes to YOU.

The awesome Marlo Schalesky has linked to me, so if you're stopping by from her blog, a special welcome to you!

Enjoy the video below and then continue the tour by hopping over to my friend and historical fiction author and beauty expert, Ginger Garrett, and her festive video.



Next stop, Ginger Garrett's blog~ Happy Christmas to all!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Making a Difference

Christmas is an amazing time of the year when many turn their focus outward and see how they can show kindness to neighbors and complete strangers.

Because of thankful lists my family made this Thanksgiving and an offhand comment about making our lists come true for others, we're entering this holiday season and 2010 looking for ways to spend time, treasure, and talents to help others.

I have the beginnings of a list for ways to serve others, but would love to enlarge it. Maybe one listed here or hopefully in the comments will start your heart to pumping faster and you'll know you've found a way to make a difference this holiday season and on into 2010.

One person can make a difference. One family even more.

What about you? Who will your life touch this December and New Year?

Ways to Make a Difference:

Give the gift of hope

Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree: http://www.angeltree.org/angeltree-home

Harvest of Hope: give gifts that change lives www.harvestofhope.org

Give the gift of food

Heifer International: giving families a source of food rather than short-term relief http://www.heifer.org

Give the gift of security

Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults. http://www.compassion.com/

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian charity organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. http://www.worldvision.org/

Give the gift of respect and health

Secret Angels Project: provide gift cards for moms and grandmoms who care for children born with HIV. Your gift also provides warm clothing, coats, socks, underwear and a toy. Secret Angels Project has offered crisis support in Christian love for the past ten years. http://www.secretangelsproject.com

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts

New ideas and traditions abound this Thanksgiving Day in the Wallace home. We started the day a new way with a snuggle time devotion in our bed.

First we all piled in and David read Psalm 100. And then each of our girls read Psalm 100 from their different versions of the Bible. Even our youngest... with a little help from Mom.

It was so beautiful.

Next, instead of waiting for the big dinner to do kernels of corn and say five things we're thankful for, we each took sheets of paper and listed lots and lots of things from this past year we're thankful for.

Before I share our lists, an idea hit me. What if we took these lists and found ways to make them come true for others in 2010?

So that's our plan for 2010. Want to join us?

First make a list. Then choose as a family which things you're thankful for to make happen for someone else.

I'd love it if you could share some ideas here. We just might inspire each other and others to make 2010 an incredible year of blessings.

Here's my thankful list:

Jesus being real and powerful in my life
My husband and amazing daughters
David's job
Anchor church and participating in the Children's Ministry through drama
Writing
Teaching
WORD~ Writer's of Remarkable Design
Tao Hsieh Wu Shu and the amazing believers we've met there
Writing a new book that I'm loving

The encouragement from readers and fellow authors who have become friends~ you all make my life so much richer!

Lizzy~ a young lady I'm mentoring in writing

Chip MacGregor~ my awesome agent who keeps me striving higher and working happier

Best friends~ Jen, Sharon, Elizabeth, and Carrie. I love praying with these ladies, laughing, and being nudged to keep growing and loving well

Beauty Secrets of the Bible book~ it's made us rethink our definitions of beauty and see ourselves as beautiful

Beach trips with friends~ Stewarts and Medlins. You guys make it soooo much more fun!

Fresh air
Clean water
Abundant food
A comfortable bed
Books
Laughter
Health~ being in better health this year because of martial arts
Our Compassion Children
Freedom

David's list included many of the above plus:

The gift of a car we couldn't afford
Men's Bible study
A mentor
Growth in our relationships

Our girls has these things to add:

My Bible
My toys
Disney trip
Pictures of fun times
Light
Clothes and PJs
Food and treats
Heaven
Life
Nature
Education
Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes
Indoor plumbing
Animals
Snuggle sessions and devotions

Right away, my mind zeroed in on fresh air, clean water, Bibles, and other things we can be part of bringing to people around the world.

Also, church ministries. What are your gifts and how can you use them in your local body?

How about special times with loved ones and welcoming someone without that into your home and heart?

The possibilities are endless. So what will you do all through 2010? Please share your ideas!

And have a Thanksgiving filled with special, heart-filling moments of love!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving mishaps

Now that many thoughts are turning to turkey and all the fixings, I'm gonna share a red-faced Thanksgiving moment.

This holiday humor is inspired by my dear friend Sharon Hinck as we traded Thanksgiving foibles today.

First you should know that two years ago I was diagnosed with gluten allergies as well as an allergy to eggs and dairy. Sort of shoots Thanksgiving recipes out of the water, huh? Yep.

So this year we're getting creative with all new recipes we pray retain the taste.

So far we've tried cranberry chutney which turned out pretty well. And I baked a from-scratch pumpkin pie.

That's my offering for today's holiday chuckle.

To begin with, I made this pumpkin pie for the first time to take to our church's Thanksgiving meal.

First mistake.

But all went well the entire adventure. My kids looked on with awe as I masterfully pretended to know all about these weird flours and other stuff the recipe required.

A little over two hours later, the pie turned out looking great and smelling great. I even put a cute pumpkin cut out of crust on the top of the pie.

Then we loaded up our food offerings and proceeded to church.

The meal was wonderful. The company awesome.

But at the end of the evening I found the dessert table still held my almost intact pie.

Why?

Apparently, the thick pie crust was hard to cut.

As in try cutting a brick.

So it's back to the drawing board for me... I'm still working on allergy free and tasty... minus the bricks.

And I'll try it out on my family first. ;-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Life lessons

I'm not big on jumping into the deep end with my eyes closed. It scares the daylights out of me.

But my family and I are part of an amazing group of believers who are also martial artists. The head of our school, our Soke, seems to think it's good to grow.

Which I'm all for... except that deep end, eyes closed jumping.

So he sort of shoved me~ nicely~ off that diving board.

And David and I landed in our first martial arts competition this past Saturday.

My hubby not only looked formidable, he also took ownership of his ring and came out with a second place trophy!

Way to go honey!!!

I came out of the entire experience having learned some valuable lessons.

The first is Do Your Best The FIRST time.

Circumstances converged to shake my confidence, and I didn't adjust. I stayed shaken and technically did a good job with my traditional form~ so says my husband. He's sort of biased, though.

But I knew inside I'd not done my best. And I was ticked at myself.

God was gracious and gave me a second chance. I'd tied for third, and a trophy was on the line.

So I got out there and gave it my all. I earned a score I'm proud of and experienced the difference between good and best.

It's a lesson I won't forget.

The second lesson is to never stop learning.

One of my favorite people in our martial arts school inspires me to keep reaching higher and learning more. She's graceful, amazingly strong (I have bruises to prove it) and such a beautiful person inside and out.

Julia is the kind of person who teaches by example and encouragement. I want to be more like her as I grow in martial arts.

The last lesson I'll articulate here is to cheer for others~ loudly.

No matter what you're doing, sometimes the difference between giving up and giving your all is someone in the crowd cheering for you.

I want to be the person whose words spur others on and strengthen them to do their best.

So that's my goal for the next tournament: Do my best the first time, keep learning, and cheer others on~ loudly.

It's my goal for all of life too.

One last thing I learned... martial artist have pretty good taste in books. Don't ya think? ;-)










Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Twenty years too late for prom

Seeing as I've already passed my twentieth high school reunion, I've had little use for a prom dress.

Until the first part of November, that is.

My family and I were recently asked to be in a wedding and we said yes. That involved a trip back home to Louisville and getting my children and myself all dressed up. Hubby even donned a tux. He looked amazing too!

We practiced and talked a lot about proper wedding manners.

And we survived. No one fell. (I tripped a couple of times.)

No one burped the ABC's at the formal dinner either.

Success! ;-)

But our kids were ready for bed after a long spin on the dance floor. David and I were not.

So we took a nice horse drawn carriage ride and then headed back to the hotel in downtown Louisville.

The girls were given a cell phone and strict orders not to burn the hotel down while David and I did something we've never done before...

We left our oldest (of baby-sitting age) in charge and went out for a very late dinner.

Dressed in prom attire.

I've never been looked at so weirdly in my life.

I mean, really... what's so strange about a guy in a tux and a lady in a huge, billowing purple dress???

Maybe if we were in our teens and it was prom weekend, all would have been well.

But prom was a long time ago and so were our teen years.

Even so, David and I had a great time, a great dinner, and got some extra mileage out of our wedding attire.

So what do you think? Would you have given us weird looks???

Friday, November 06, 2009

Words

I have a love hate thing going on with words. From what I’ve noticed as a teacher, a church leader, and even in my home, lots of folks feel the same way.

We love words when we’re understood and hate it when we’re not.

We love crafting the right response to a sticky subject, sharing a word fitly spoken, and cheering up a friend. But at the same time, we hate when those things we call words fail us.

Aren’t you glad we can pray without words? (Romans 8:26)

This weekend, and into the holiday season, I encourage you to listen closely to your words. Are they saying what you want them to say?

Or are they getting you into trouble?

Either way, God is there with infinite patience and understanding and wisdom to help. After all, He spoke the world into being and is called the Author of our faith.

Talk to Him. If necessary, use words.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Welcome to our Homes This Christmas

A special treat for you all... Noel with the Novelists. Stay tuned for more details about this blog video tour of Christmas wishes from our homes to yours.

Here are some sneak peeks to get you in a holiday mood...



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Beauty Breakthrough

Have you ever picked up a book and knew right then it would change your world?

Well... I've picked up tons of books over the years and many have added depth and richness to my life. Some have even drawn me closer to Jesus and made me love Him more.

But until a few weeks ago, I couldn't say a book changed my world.

I'll share the title in a minute. But first, the big deal...

I have three beautiful daughters who I love with all my heart. Princesses I spend almost every waking moment with being both mom and teacher.

And I love it.

But my oldest and I have always looked at the world through different glasses and never quite found a way to meet in the middle.

That dissonance has reared its ugly head lately and left both of us hurting. And I’ve been unable to just walk away and hope it gets better this time.

Please tell me I'm not the only parent who tried to tuck something under the rug because you had no idea what to do with it!

Enter my best friend. Jen loves my girls dearly and me too. She's also the one to listen to me rant and then tell me I need to go have a talk with Jesus. Kind of a "you need a come to Jesus moment right now" sort of thing.

But last week, she didn't tell me to go talk with Jesus. Instead, she poured out His words until they overflowed my heart.

They stung at first. REALLY stung as she pointed to my aching heart and said I had a big part to play in that pain. As in you need to stop living with guilt and using it as a smoke screen to the real problem.

Ouch.

After about an hour, I was in tears. Something I'm not given to do where anyone can hear me. But Jen was right. And I needed a long stay in my heavenly Father's arms to see the past through His eyes, repent, and see my sins and my children's nailed to the cross.

Nailed there paid in full.

I got up from the floor of my bedroom and couldn't wait to see what God would do next, how He was going to answer my prayers for healing in my relationship with my oldest daughter.

Then I woke up the next morning and felt like a teen on my first date. Shy. Awkward. Wondering what in the world I was supposed to do.

God kept flashing the cover of a book in my brain and started walking my feet down to my oldest princess's room. There I stood in the doorway and asked if she'd like join me in a new beauty routine I'd started from this amazing book: Beauty Secrets of the Bible.

She said yes. And we had a totally normal, girly spa session that opened the door to another long talk. A talk that ended with lots of tears and true repentance.

And my daughter's assurance that I'd not lost her heart, but gained it.

Now there's so much more to this story that a blog couldn't contain. But I'll let my wise daughter's words sum it up....

After we read the ninth day of beauty devotions in Beauty Secrets of the Bible, my oldest looked me in the eye and smiled, saying, "I'm glad you got that book. It's helping me stop thinking I'm not beautiful and see that I am beautiful in Jesus."

We would have never had this ah-ha moment and the breakthroughs before if it hadn't been for God speaking through a best friend, a beauty secret, and an amazing book.

Want in on some of the beauty secrets that led to a bonding time with my daughter? Check out Ginger's website and some sneak peeks from her book, Beauty Secrets of the Bible: http://gingergarrett.com/downloads/

It may be that, like me, you need some time in your heavenly Father’s arms to sort out fact from fallacy and see yourself and your children as beautiful.

I pray you’ll make that time. And give yourself a treat that nudges you down that road. (hint: Ginger’s book is awesome!)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Evidences of Grace

Six years ago today I almost died.

So did my youngest daughter. After a complicated delivery, I watched her struggle to breathe and shake from a crashing blood sugar.

Today she never slows down, and the only time she can't breathe is when she's laughing so hard she's making the rest of us gasp for air.

There’s another prevalent memory from six years ago…as the people prepping me for surgery administered too much anesthesia and I watched my heart rate slow to almost nothing, I whispered a desperate prayer to just see my baby.

I now see her every day, and I'll never tire of it.

Because looking in her eyes is a very physical evidence of grace. I almost lost her before I held her. But today we baked her first cake and played princess games.

This is a far better way to spend an October day!

But now I have to go... a little princess still wants to snuggle and play dress up. And eat cake! ;-)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Sound of Sleigh Bells

If you're looking for a great Christmas read or an awesome Christmas gift for the readers in your life, Cindy Woodsmall's newest release, The Sound of Sleigh Bells, is perfect!

Cindy's books took me on a journey into a different world, a journey that cost me a few night's sleep. But it was worth it! The writing is so rich and beautiful and the characters so real, it's like spending the early morning hours with good friends huddled around a cozy fire.

So whether you're knee deep in snow, or water as the case is in Atlanta, snuggle up with a quilt and a yummy beverage and enjoy a taste of Christmas joy with The Sound of Sleigh Bells.

Leave a comment and you could be the winner of an early Christmas present! ;-)

Story Summary:

Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store, and serving as contact of sorts between Amish craftsmen and Englischers who want to sell the Plain people’s wares. But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart everyday as she still wears the dark garb, indicating mourning of her fianc√©. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work–including Lizzy’s dry goods store. But she doesn’t know if her bishop will approve of the gorgeous carving or deem it idolatry.

Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after Lizzy hunts down Jonah, the artist, she is all the more determined that Beth meets this man with the hands that create healing art. But it’s not that simple–will Lizzy’s elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love work? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love–or just more heartbreak?
Cover art:

Author Bio:

Cindy Woodsmall is the author of When the Heart Cries, When the Morning Comes, and The New York Times Best-Seller When the Soul Mends. Her ability to authentically capture the heart of her characters comes from her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. A mother of three sons and two daughters-in-law, Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband of thirty-one years.

I need to add to be FTC compliant that this book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Lessons From the Dojo

If you haven't already heard, my family and I take martial arts classes and love it! After a grueling class on technique last week, I sat down to write one of the devotionals I've mentioned to you all before.

Since you've seen my broken boards and many of you have seen the ankle braces and finger braces and bruises... I figured you all might like to see one of the many great things we've gained from martial arts.

Oh, you haven't seen the board pic? Well... here it is. ;-) And yes, I broke it all by my self. ;-)

And here's the devotional. Enjoy!

We love Tao Hsieh Wu Shu! I could do without the running before almost every class, but what we learn and how we’ve grown is worth the difficulty of running.

We’ve broken boards~ big, 1 inch thick, oak-like wood. Okay, maybe not oak, but they weren’t balsa either. ;-)

We’ve learned kicks and stances and punches and…most of all we’ve learned discipline, respect, and that technique matters.

And after a very focused class on technique, it dawned on me that technique matters in our walk with the Lord too.

No, not the check-off-boxes-and–feel-good kind of technique. But the basics: praise, confession, all-out honesty before the Lord, and reverence. Forgiving others. Loving well.

Maybe you guys have all that down with a snap. But me? Well, I’ve been a believer for twenty-four years and I’m still learning and growing and realizing how much more I have to learn.

In martial arts, if my technique is wrong when I kick, I break my foot. If it’s wrong when I fall, I go boom on the floor and hurt for a long time.

But with the Lord, if my “technique” is wrong, it might not show up right away. It will show up though. Maybe months later when prayer has grown rote or I hold a grudge or there’s a lot of bickering going on at my house.

That’s when I stop and get down on my knees asking why. The Lord has always been gracious to show me too. And to welcome me back with open arms.

My family adores and highly respects our Soke, our martial arts leader. He’s tough but clear that he’s tough on us to make us better and keep us safe.

Even more, my family and I love Jesus. And He’s tough too because He knows all the amazing things He’s created us for and knows exactly how to prepare us. He’s also loving and compassionate and just and so very much more.

So join me in brushing up on our “techniques” with the Lord. Let’s jump in to cheer each other on too. We can do that a million unique ways: lend a hand when there's a need, offer a kind word or a written prayer, call to say hi…they may seem “little” but they’re not.

They have more power than someone breaking concrete blocks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where it all began

I'm part of a cool group of folks who write weekly devotionals. This group was started by a dear friend of mine from high school.

My friend Cindy, the devotions guru, asked the writers to share a little about themselves to start this year's devotionals.

I thought you all might get a kick out of seeing my first devotional. Here it is.... I'm pretty sure you'll learn something new about me in there! ;-)

Oh, by the way... can you guess which one is me in the picture?

Okay, on to the devotional...


When Cindy, who is one of my high school buddies and knows waaaayyy too much about my growing up years, asked the DT writers to share about themselves, I got a little nervous. Sort of envisioned being questioned by a cop in a cold, gray room with one bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

I mean, what would you all really want to know about me?

I could do the basics: I've been married to a great guy for almost 15 years. We have three children we've home schooled from the start. I'm a published author, teacher, and speaker. I love teaching kids and adults about writing, about God's infinite grace and patience, and how He is the Giver of Dreams and the One who called us with a holy calling according to His purpose and grace. (2 Timothy 1:8-9)

I suppose I should add some things about my faith journey that Cindy and Chris would probably rather forget. Did you know Chris and another DT member used to draw straws on who had to drive me home from youth group? It might have been because I talked everyone's ear off who would listen with all my God questions.

I didn't come from a Christian home, so at 15 when a school friend invited me to church, I went. But not before I'd backed out a ton of times. See, my only concept of God was a big guy with thunderbolts who probably didn't like me much. But what I found there was this huge, amazing God who knew everything about me and loved me. Me. And so I did what I've always done and continue to do~ I asked questions. I read books. I bugged everyone with everything I could think of regarding religion and Jesus and the church.

I heard a lot of great answers. But nothing stuck. Not until I sat out on a cold concrete step behind the church and looked up into the stars and asked, "Are You really there? Do You really want me?"

The answer was yes. And it's been a journey of wrestling, dancing, and questioning our very big God with all my very small questions. I know less now than I did twenty-four years ago. But I've never forgotten that God bent near a scared and alone 15 year old and said, "Come."

Still awed,
Amy

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Perfect Love

Some days I resemble the Cat in the Hat on a really bad day.

It's the age old lament of too much to do and not enough time. But I'll go a step more transparent and say that a lot of my problem has been my refusal to sit down for a decent amount of time and be quiet.

I get uncomfortable with the silence.

Especially when I'm afraid of what God is going to show me.

It's easy in the day-to-day to excuse my frustration as understandable, my short prayer time as at least I prayed some, and my busyness as "everyone is doing it" and just part of how it goes when you balance two full-time careers.

But all that sort of evaporates in one silent moment before a holy God.

The funny thing is when I took my pastor's dare to try to spend an hour in prayer each day for a week, I didn't expect anything good to happen.

I expected to feel guilty.

What I experienced was freedom.

It didn't happen that week. But over time...and even when the time I had in the morning shortened...I noticed God still showed up. He still guided my eyes to take in something in His Word that connected.

And I found that confessing sin and praying for my family were no longer times when I felt guilty for all that I've done wrong. They were times I admitted to this holy and loving God that I couldn't do what I was asking to be done~ only He could.

Today, as I was praying for my husband with The Power of a Praying Wife prayer cards by Stormie Omartian, (GREAT book by the way!) I prayed 1 John 4:18 about perfect love driving out all of my husband's fears. And 2 Timothy 1:7 that David would walk in a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.

Then my eyes locked on a note I'd written years before. A year when God was so near I could feel His breath on my cheek.

The note said, "Perfect love creates a safe place."

I long for my husband and children to think of our home as a safe place. A place where love drives out fear and God's perfect love is closer than a whispered dream.

So I prayed for that very thing.

But that note pulled me even deeper. It was as if God were inviting me to see that the safe place is closer than my DNA.

It's real. And the door is always open. The Light is always on.

Even when the darkness of a cave presses in on me and it’s hard to breathe, my Safe Place is still there.

Even when prayer times are short and my to-do list long, I can run into the Perfect Love that creates a safe place.

I still long for my home to be a safe place too. But today I caught a glimpse of the only way that will ever be true.

Christ is the only perfect love that creates a safe place.

This is where I need to hang out and trust God to cause what I learn there to overflow and broaden that Safe Place to wider dimensions than I can even imagine.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9-11

Eight years ago today our country was attacked. Lives lost. Chaos.

Where were you?

I was baby-sitting my oldest daughter's best friend, and my husband interrupted a normal day of play with a shaky phone call.

He said a plane hit one of the Twin Towers.

I said that was crazy.

I meant impossible. But when I turned on the TV, I saw it was possible. It was still crazy.

I sat in front of our TV on a scratchy rug, numb as I watched the second plane hit and both towers crumble.

I stayed there for a week.

Then and now I couldn't comprehend why it happened. Or what would happen next.

I just knew my world had changed forever.

For a short time, the world changed for good. People from all over the globe held vigils by candlelight. Leaders expressed sympathy. Heroes emerged from twisted metal and police cars and fire trucks.

They showed us what the American spirit looked like in the 21st century. Our nation came together and sang God Bless America on the Capitol steps.

It was beautiful.

So where were you? What do you remember?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Magical moments

Monday morning, 1 AM, I was driving my three sleeping children home from a magical week with dear friends and a Disney trip.

Our very first Disney trip.

Let me just say, the fairy dust didn't keep my old feet from screaming at me during the fireworks. ;-)

But it was truly magical to watch my princesses meet their favorite princesses and absorb all the wonder Disney specializes in.

For all five of us Disney was the high point of our trip. Of course, a very close second, maybe even tie for first, was spending time with friends. Oh, and swimming with manatees.

As usual, there's a story with each. And some pictures.

My middle princess is the daredevil of the family, so her and her daddy's fave stop in Disney was the famed Splash Mountain.

I sat that one out.

Hearing both of them scream all the way down the watery drop-off was enough to confirm my wise choice. But when we met them after, all our princess could do was gush about how cool that was.

My oldest princess loved the Swiss Family Treehouse and Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride. She's a total book-girl and had enjoyed the books so much she couldn't wait to see them in real Disney life. The rides doubled the fun as she recounted story facts and reveled in books coming alive.

Fun fact I added...the love song from Aladdin was the music I walked down the aisle to at my wedding.

Here, David and I pose with the Genie at Mickey's PhilharMagic~ one of my favorite Disney experiences.

And contrary to all the adult moans I heard about It's a Small World, we loved it. My youngest princess even danced to the familiar tune...

Sing with me..."It's a small world after all. It's a small world after all...."

Okay, suffice it to say we too are still singing the catchy ditty because we rode It's a Small World twice.

I liked the air conditioned, calm ride across the water and through the countries of the world, especially Ireland and Germany.

My husband's favorite ride was the Jungle Cruise. He got a big kick out of our guide's corny jokes. David even videoed the entire cruise. So we'll have the pleasure of reliving fifteen minutes of stand up comedy with rushing water, head hunters, and non-ear wiggling hippos, minus the sweat-dripping heat.


But it was worth it. Having David's laughter on tape is priceless.

I've already shared my highlight of Disney magic~ my princesses awed by Cinderella, Belle, and Aurora. Another very high point was part of our lunch celebration.

First, I have to tell you all that I haven't tasted bread in almost two years. I'm allergic to wheat, so most of my fave foods have been big no-nos for me.

Thankfully, Disney's magic isn't just for the tiny tikes. They do their best to make the big kids smile too. And they did with special made rice rolls just for me.

I had to commemorate the moment with a picture. Can't you see my smile?

We capped the day off with shopping~ four girls in the family, remember? ;-)~ and fireworks.

It was amazing! Nobody does fireworks like Disney.

The rest of our vacation was spent at the beach and pool. My three fishes loved every minute.

We found shells~ gorgeous, huge, only on the Atlantic coast shells. Shells David and I risked life and limb to snatch out of a stormy ocean.

But hey, the ocean taught me how to do a full split and live to tell about it.

We also swam with manatees. After wolves, manatees top my list of cool wild life. So when one of my best friends suggested Sebastian Inlet Park, I was there.

David and two of our princesses hung out on the rocks, above the tide pool. My friend and the rest of our kiddos, stayed in chin deep water~ murky, green water~ hoping to spot a manatee.

One, and then two huge manatees popped their noses up to say hi a few times. But then they disappeared.

I made a joke about how they were probably close by, listening to us talk about wanting to pet them and just laughing because we couldn't see them.

So they popped up again, less than two feet away, right after I said that.

Everyone but me got to pet them. My hubby accidentally sat on one and it nudged him back up. Another of the manatees saved my daring daughter when she swam out to where she couldn't touch and got too tired to keep treading water.

The benevolent manatee swam up closer to the surface and gave her a boost my way.

I'm telling you, these creatures are amazing!

But instead of letting me pet them, my manatee friend decided it was going to pet me.

Yep, he swam close, nudged me with his flipper, and then swam off. Probably laughing all the way.

Even so, our swim date with these cool creatures showed us that fairy dust doesn't just make magical moments at Disney.

One of my princesses said it best. "Thank you, God, that You really do make dreams come true!"

And while it's fun to be silly about fairy dust, I know what got sprinkled over my family this past week had nothing to do with fairies.

It was all the Holy Spirit's laughter, inviting us to make memories with Him that we'll smile about for decades to come.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Good From Excruciating Bad

I get a kick out of telling a group of women that my last baby weighed 11 pounds, 8 ounces.

Wide eyes, wows, and even some bowing follows.

I smile.

And now I've joined a different type of group. What I get when I tell my story is deep empathy and tons of advice.

But it's a painful group to belong to~ these folks know excruciating pain: migraines.

I could list all the physically painful things I've experienced, but I won't. I'll just say that birthing a three-month old was at the top along with a ripped rotator cuff injury.

Now migraines bumped both of those out for first place.

My children have only seen me cry in pain twice. Both times were because of migraines this year.

Thankfully~ praise God!~ I have an amazing doctor who listened to my research and together we charted a new medical course for me.

One that I pray puts migraines squarely in my past.

I also need to say that there were MANY wonderful people whose advice regarding migraines got me through those nightmare days.

The one good thing I will take away from my miserable migraine time is how I watched the Body of Christ work beautifully.

So many prayed along with their helpful advice. Others just prayed. Some sent books. Some just got in the trench with me and practiced the ministry of presence.

My incredible family did all of the above.

I'm SOOOO thankful for each and every one.

And I'm curious. When have you seen the Body of Christ work like that? Or what good have you taken out of a bad experience because of the actions of believers?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A deep, dark cave

On Monday, I was praying with a dear friend, and a reoccurring dream from way before I was a writer came back to me. The cool thing was, as I prayed, I started to understand some things I've missed.

But the creepy thing was I could still see the mental pictures as vividly as the first time I woke up in a cold sweat, breathing hard, scared the dream was real.

Any of you dream analysts can go to town on what I'm about to share. I'd love to hear what you think...okay, only if it's along the lines of I'm not crazy. ;-)

The dream starts out with me realizing I'm blindfolded.

I try to tear off the blindfold, but I can't. It's on too tightly. So I start groping for some idea of where I am. And I touch cold.

Rock cold.

Bumpy. Cold. Rough. Hard. Rock.

Pretty soon a frigid wind blows with no noise. No leaves rustling. No animals moving about. Just cold.

I try to step forward, but the ground is pebbly, uneven. Nothing solid.

On one side of me there's just air. Cold air.

On the other side is the rough rock. I cling to the rock and try to scoot my way forward, one foot tapping out in front before I step.

A few times I stumble and the rock under me gives way. There's no one there to catch me.

But somehow I dig into the wall and steady myself, heart hammering, tears falling.

I still can't get the blindfold off.

After miles and miles of stumbling forward, I sense a hand gently tugging me forward. It's large, warm, and smooth. No voice. No comforting arms wrapped around me.

Just some unknown person gently guiding me forward.

As we keep walking forward, I sense more of the world around me. The rock ledge I've been traveling widens and feels more like pavement.

But then, as I explore the area with my hands, I swish into cobwebs and jump back...almost falling into the cold air.

Then the blindfold comes off.

And it's still dark.

I can't see the person guiding me, can't hear anything but the thumping of my heart trying to get out of my rib cage.

So I ask questions.

Why am I hear? What's going on? Who are you?

No answers. Just gentle pressure to keep going.

When I settle into walking one step at a time, pretty soon there's this huge cave opening, but all I can see is light.

Blinding. Painful. Light.

That's when I wake up.

I won't share yet what I've always thought the dream meant. I really do want to hear your thoughts.

What I will share, so as not to leave you anxious and sweating about the dream, is that in praying I finally realized two of the biggest dangers of that cave.

Not the cold abyss I could fall into.

Not the mammoth spiders those webs belong to.

The two biggest dangers were the choices I faced in that cave. The choice to run ahead and try to force my way out. Or to sit down and give up.

So as my friend and I were praying, I asked God to keep us from those two easy choices and show us how to walk the hard walk.

It's soooo not an easy path. It's very rocky.

See... I'm already trying to explain everything. So I'll stop and give you first dibs on unpacking this dream. What do you think it means?

No creepy music sort of ideas either, okay? ;-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Teen inspiration

Ever since I was in college, I've loved teaching teens. They're open. Honest. And they typically just say it like it is.

Back in April, I had the privilege of visiting South Effingham High School and speaking to the Stomping Stangs book club.

I met some amazing teens that day. It's been my continued blessing to keep in touch with many of them.

A few sent me chapters to books they're writing. They're good! And creative.

Some stay in touch via email and Twitter.

One of the young ladies I connected with sent me some poems she'd written and we talked about.

I know not everyone digs poetry, but I do. Especially gut-level honest poems.

And while Christina said I inspired her, I'm here to tell you all that she's an inspiration to me. She's been through a lot in her years, and yet she was at the book club meeting with a smile. And she stayed after to help clean up and make sure my entire family felt welcomed.

We did. And we left there thankful to have met her.

So with her permission, I'm letting you all have a sneak peek into this young lady's world. And as someone who has listened to teens share similar stories and emotions, I'd strongly suggest we adults listen up.

There's much to be learned from the insights Christina shares in her poetry.




poem 1:





sorry





sorry im not perfect


sorry im not smart


sorry im not nice


sorry i do the things i do


sorry i am who i am


sorry i dont speak my mind


sorry i do the right things


sorry i dont listen to what you say


well youre right im not sorry


sorry im not perfect


sorry im not smart


sorry im not nice


sorry i do the things i do


sorry i am who i am


sorry i dont speak my mind


sorry i do the right things


sorry i dont listen to what you say





poem 2:





undefined





I want to hate you


but i dont hate you


i love you


but its hard to love you


you cheated


you lied


five years was a long time


but now its gone


i miss you


but i dont need you


i have no regrets being with you


but i do regret giving my heart up to you


i cried every night


but now im done with all the tears


i dont need this


i deserve better


we had a future together


i was supposed to be your wife


i was supposed to have your kids


guess now we are over


you have found another


so now i have to move on





poem 3:





my life





I try to put the past in the past

forget about all the hard times

i try to change

but its hard

parents siblings cousins

aunt uncles are just more pressure on me

do this do that

i feel like im doing everything wrong

always messing up

i know im not perfect but i try to be

im going to make mistakes in life

i know im going to have to live with them every day

everyone is different

you make sacrifices

drugs alcohol killing yourself

wont solve anything

getting help will

all you got to do

is keep your head held up high

today is the day my life takes a turn


~Christina, 11th grade South Effingham High School

Monday, August 10, 2009

Winners!

It's so fun giving away books! :-) And especially sweet to give back to you all who have always been such an encouragement to my heart.

The two book winners are:

Edna~ Blue Like Play Dough

Robyn~ The Hope of Refuge

Congratulations ladies!

And for those of you who still haven't read Enduring Justice, book 3 in the Defenders of Hope series.... I'm having too much fun giving away books, so I'll give away one more.

Just leave me a comment and someone will win a signed copy of Enduring Justice for yourself or to give away.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Hope of Refuge

I'm super excited to share with you a book that renewed my love of reading and made me laugh, cry, and cheer for the main character, Cara Moore.

The book is The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall.

Cindy is a dear friend, someone I love teaching with, and one of the few authors I will read everything they write and offer to clean their home so they can write faster. :-)

And now Cindy has a fantastic new series that combines the fascinating life of the Amish with a tough and tumble New Yorker, Cara Moore, and her search for answers and a better life.

Treat yourself well and pick up The Hope of Refuge!

And to help you along with that, I'm giving away a copy~ leave a comment and I'll draw a winner next week.

But first... more about Cindy Woodsmall and The Hope of Refuge.

Raised in foster care and now the widowed mother of a little girl, Cara Moore struggles against poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker. When a trail of memories leads Cara and Lori out of New York City toward an Amish community, she follows every lead, eager for answers and a fresh start.

She discovers that long-held secrets about her family history ripple beneath the surface of Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, and it’s no place for an outsider. But one Amish man, Ephraim Mast, dares to fulfill the command he believes that he received from God–“Be me to her”– despite how it threatens his way of life.

Completely opposite of the hard, untrusting Cara, Ephraim’s sister Deborah also finds her dreams crumbling when the man she has pledged to build a life with begins withdrawing from Deborah and his community, including his mother, Ada Stoltzfus.

Can the run-down house that Ada envisions transforming unite them toward a common purpose–or push Mahlon away forever? While Ephraim is trying to do what he believes is right, will he be shunned and lose everything–including the guarded single mother who simply longs for a better life?

Cindy Woodsmall is the author of When the Heart Cries, When the Morning Comes, and The New York Times Best-Seller When the Soul Mends. Her ability to authentically capture the heart of her characters comes from her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. A mother of three sons and two daughters-in-law, Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband of thirty-one years.

Don't miss Cindy's The Hope of Refuge Tour!

New York Times bestselling author Cindy Woodsmall is on tour, and she may be coming to a city near you! Don’t miss your opportunity to meet Cindy and have her sign her newest title The Hope of Refuge at one of the following events.

Tuesday, August 11 7 – 8:30pm
Barnes & Noble
5141 Peachtree Parkway, The Forum
Norcross, Georgia 30092
(770) 209-4244

Wednesday, August 12 7 – 8pm
Barnes & Noble Opry Mills
515 Opry Mills Drive
Nashville, Tennessee 37214
(615) 514-5000

Thursday, August 13 6 – 8pm
Barnes & Noble
2540 Futura Pkwy. #135
Plainfield, Indiana 46168
(317) 838-7941

Friday, August 14 6 – 8pm

Barnes & Noble
1550 West 75th
Downers Grove, Illinois 60516
(630) 663-0181

Saturday, August 15 1 – 3pm

Baker Books
2768 East Paris Ave SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546-6139
(616) 957-3110

Sunday, August 16 2 – 4pm

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
3700 Rivertown Parkway Ste. 2058
Grandville, Michigan 49418
(616) 531-1825

Monday, August 17 7 – 8:00pm

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
1739 Olentangy River Road
Columbus, Ohio 43212
(614) 298-9516

Tuesday, August 18 7– 8:30pm

Joseph Beth Booksellers
2705 E. Carson Street
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15203
(412) 381-3600

Wednesday, August 19 6 – 8pm

Hackman’s Bible Book Store
1341 Mickley Road
Whitehall, Pennsylvania 18052-4610
(610) 264-8600

Thursday, August 20 1 – 3pm

Rachel’s Country Store (Amish dry goods store)
6352 McClays Mill Road
Newburg, Pennsylvania 17240
(717) 530-9452

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe

I've finally reached a point in life where...

My children are out of diapers
They can dress and feed themselves
School is a nice routine (okay…only some days)
I'm happy in my career
My home is mostly peaceful

And I'm bored.

So...we're considering the fulfillment of one of our daughters' long-held wishes.

A dog.

And not just any dog, but one that first existed in Enduring Justice. Gotta love it when fiction becomes reality. :-)

So I did what I always do when faced with something new....

I read.

Yesterday, I searched online and read a ton of things, looked at a load of pictures, and even took some doggie and family compatibility quizzes.

Then today, I went to the pet store and bought a bunch of books on Labrador Retrievers.

And now I'm not so bored.... I'm scared.

And tired.

Who knew how much went into finding, buying, and training a canine?!

Not me. At least not before today.

All I can say is, it's a good thing I didn't read a bunch of books on parenting until AFTER I found out I was pregnant.

Or maybe that was God's divine wisdom.

Because had I read about babies like I'm reading about puppies.... well, let's just say I might have waited a while longer.

But I love being a mommy. And I'm praying I'll love welcoming a new canine addition to our family.

Thankfully, we're going into this a bit slow. We're all reading and planning and puppy-proofing and budgeting BEFORE our dear little fella joins us.

And I'm sure, once the big homecoming day arrives... I'll not be bored for a gooooooood looonnngg while.

Maybe never again. :-)

Any tips or lessons learned the hard way would be much appreciated! Leave me some wisdom in the comments. My whole family and family-to-be thanks you!



Monday, August 03, 2009

Blue Like Play Dough

Tricia Goyer has a new and totally rad new book out called Blue Like Play Dough.

I fell in love with the story in the prologue when I read these words: "Donald Miller had blue jazz. I had blue play dough.

"I tried not to be disappointed. In each of our lives, there is molding and shaping to be done. Perhaps I needed more work than most, but as I look back on my life, I realize that if there is one thing that all the stretching and poking and smashing has taught me, it's that I never want to be anywhere but in the grip of God."

Want to learn more? Keep reading... there's a ton of cool things to learn about Blue Like Play Dough before you rush out and get a copy.

Want to win a copy? Keep reading and leave a comment. I'll be picking one special winner.

Want to help others? Check out the GO-GO Campaign

Tricia Goyer's Go-Go Campaign!

For every copy of Blue Like Play Dough purchased, Tricia will donate a copy of My Life Unscripted or Generation NeXt Parenting to a pregnancy, teen or family support ministry (while supplies last).

All you have to do is buy a copy of Blue Like Play Dough on Christianbook, on Amazon, or at your local bookstore, and then go to Tricia's Go-Go page and fill out the form. EASY!


Now here's more about Blue Like Play Dough and Tricia Goyer...

A note from Tricia:

Are you a mommy who feels squeezed by Motherhood? Could God be shaping something beautiful in you?

In my new spiritual memoir, Blue Like Play Dough I invite women to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary! To learn to see God's hand lovingly at work in every aspect of your life---from laundry-folding to the umpteenth reading of Goodnight Moon.

About Blue Like Play Dough:

In the everyday stretch and squeeze of motherhood, Tricia Goyer often feels smooshed by the demands of life. In Blue Like Play Dough, she shares her unlikely journey from rebellious, pregnant teen to busy wife and mom with big dreams of her own. As her story unfolds, Tricia realizes that God has more in store for her than she has ever imagined possible.

Sure, life is messy and beset by doubts. But God keeps showing up in the most unlikely places–in a bowl of carrot soup, the umpteenth reading of Goodnight Moon, a woe-is-me teen drama, or play dough in the hands of a child.

In Tricia’s transparent account, you’ll find understanding, laughter, and strength for your own story. And in the daily push and pull, you’ll learn to recognize the loving hands of God at work in your life… and know He has something beautiful in mind.

Read an excerpt:

http://triciagoyer.com/cmsdocuments/Blue_Like_Play_Dough_Prologue_CH_1.pdf

About Tricia:

Using her own experiences as a teen mother, and leader of today’s generation, Tricia’s vision is to be a voice of hope and possibility for teenage girls, pregnant teen girls, mothers and wives through her educational and inspirational speaking, workshops and books. Her intention is to serve ordinary women by encouraging extraordinary things with God’s help. Tricia expresses real life, real hope, for real women.

Tricia is the author of 20+ books and has published over 300 articles for national publications such as Guideposts for Kids, Focus on the Family, Christian Parenting Today, Today’s Christian Woman and HomeLife Magazine. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from American Christian Fiction Writers, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion Book Award in 2005.

In her fiction novels, Tricia writes contemporary and historical stories that feature strong women overcoming great challenges. She recreates historic wartime eras with precise detail through perseverant and comprehensive research.

Each of her World War II and Spanish Civil War novels tell the inspiring stories of engaging characters—and a God whose hand is evident in the landscape of history and the obstacles of ordinary lives.

Tricia speaks to groups interested in these eras, with the intention of preserving and honoring the memory of the men and women who served.

She also speaks and conducts workshops for teens around the nation, and offers programs to assist teens and teen moms through Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Northwestern Montana, which she founded. Tricia is a frequent workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Convention.

Author website: http://www.triciagoyer.com/ watch a video and read the endorsements

Link to purchase the book: http://triciagoyer.com/store.html

Want to learn more? Check out the Blue Like Play Dough Tour: http://www.litfusegroup.com/latest/what-is-new/87-blue-like-play-dough-blog-tour

Don't forget to leave a comment and a way to contact you! I'll draw a winner this weekend and might be sending a copy of Blue Like Play Dough your way!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Breaking down

Last night I did something I've never done before...

I broke a 1 inch pine board completely in two!!!

Okay, that may not be exciting to you... but it totally was for me! Adrenaline rush and hand slaps and cheers from the class and all.

Here's the play by play: David and I lined up together to break boards. He went first.

First try, he split the board clean in two.

So, of course, I had to do it too. ;-) And I did. Woot!

It was such a cool feeling to know I'd focused on a task and succeeded. So much of writing and mommy-ing doesn't afford that instant gratification.

The coolest part was I did it! My hand went through wood. And I felt just a tad of superhero-ness. ;-)

After our first try went so well, David and I decided to do synchronized board breaking.

I so wish I had pictures... it was a hoot. David counted down, and then on three we slammed through the boards.

But... alas.... I'm still old and my hands are screaming at me today and one is a nice reddish blue color.

Truth be told... old has nothing to do with it. I just got so focused on breaking the board because David did that I forgot to use good form.

My sore hand is teaching me all about focus and good form.

So next time I'll split the boards without taking home a blue and red trophy. :-)

Okay, now it's your turn. What new thing have you tried and found out you could do? Share the excitement. And maybe even the lessons learned.

I'm all ears. And sore hands. Prayers appreciated. :-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dinner with a writer

Last Friday, my husband began the descent into craziness.

See, it all started with a fantastic meeting David and I had with my awesome agent, Chip. In the process of discussing book ideas, David and I had a minute to discuss meshing new plot ideas with old, and he was a huge help.

I didn't think anything of this, because David and our kiddos have helped me work out story ideas many times over the past four years.

Then we went out to dinner to celebrate Healing Promise's IRCC win. And, of course, I was talking book ideas the entire drive and scribbling notes like crazy.

I love this part of the writing process, especially when God pours out the ideas and my husband assists in organizing them.

A while later, our elegant dinner at Chateau √Član started normally enough.

Well... normal for us, anyway.

My husband placed a menu back on the table and it slipped into a water vase...

Said vase dumped over onto my lap and streamed down the table. The water kept coming and coming.

We had a good laugh about it though.

Then we went back to discussing books.

That's when it happened.

As you all know, I'm a writer. And writers aren't normals.

I can hear many of you laughing. Other's thinking, "Oh... that's what's wrong."

My husband is a normal, most of the time. So I thought nothing of starting a game I play when I'm out somewhere around people I don't know.

I surreptitiously pointed to an older couple and asked what they did for a living. We discussed this a while and then moved on to another couple.

Pretty soon, David had concocted this story about one of these men doing business deals out on the golf course and being forced into some shady situations, unwilling to share these things with his wife. As happens when we hide things, this man kept turning a blind eye to his downward spiral and was about to fall into...

I forget the rest of the story. See, I was so shocked and bewildered to be sitting next to a once normal man now spouting suspense plot outlines.

Then it hit me. Eureka! I've finally done it!

Insert evil "bwah ha ha ha" and hand wringing here.

I've finally done it.

I've turned my husband into a writer!

So now I'm wondering.... who's wants to take me out to dinner next?! :-)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Praise God for wow moments and loved ones

Many moons ago, I shared the story of when I received "THE CALL" and a was offered a three-book contract by my dream publisher.

If you'll remember, my reaction was not dancing or celebrating.

I got sick.

Really.

But I distinctly remember the reason wasn't so much fear as the overwhelming responsibility to give readers a story that touched their hearts and drew them closer to God.

When I contemplated that...then the fear kicked in.

It didn't last long. Not when I started sharing with friends and they did the dancing and celebrating.

I couldn't help but join in.

What a difference it makes to share the joys with my family and friends who have also shared the teary bumps in the road.

Unlike that "CALL" years ago, today I received another very cool call. This time from a number I vaguely recognized but let go to voice mail because I was working.

My hubby was upstairs, and all the sudden I hear him pick up the phone.

Silence for a few beats.

By now my ears pricked up.

And sure enough his voice rose an octave and he came thundering down the stairs, phone in hand, smile on his face.

"I think you want to take this call."

Okay.

So I took the phone and the delightful Nancy Farrier explained that my second novel, Healing Promises, won first place in the romantic suspense category of the IRCC!

Wow!

This time I wasn't queasy at all. In fact, I nodded and babbled and blinked a few times before it sunk in that I'd won.

Then I danced.

A little while later, at dinner, my hubby called everyone to attention. He then proceeded to announced that a very special, award-winning author was their special guest tonight.

Our children didn't exactly get it, so he continued and explained that I'd won first place in a very amazing contest.

That's when the high fives, way-to-gos and lots of hugs and smiles started.

I didn't have time to get teary since we were all laughing too hard at David's silly introduction in a very exaggerated British butler voice.

A while later I logged on to Facebook where a flurry of congrats hit me and made me smile.

All the kind words in addition to the congrats made me cry.

Really.

That's when it sunk in that today was a day to celebrate.

And I'm still beaming.

So my very special, tear-dropped thanks to you all for praying through the tough times and dancing with me in the good.

Today's a day I celebrate you! Thank you for making this day even more amazing!

And thank you, Daddy, for such a sweet kiss. Not only is Your timing always perfect, but Your gifts are always good.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn

I'm so excited to give a shout out to Liz Johnson, my publicist at Multnomah, who is now not only an amazing publicist, but she's also a talented author.

Here's a bit about The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn and about Liz, then a fun interview and how you can get a copy of this great new book...

The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn

Myles Parsons is just another inmate in Kenzie Thorn’s GED course until he kidnaps her, offering only a feeble explanation–that he’s actually FBI Special Agent Myles Borden. Terrified, Kenzie doesn’t want to believe his story of being undercover to protect her. Moreover, she can’t believe that someone might really want her dead.

But just when Myles thinks he has her out of harm’s way, his plans start to fall apart. He attempts to take Kenzie to a safe house—but the stubborn woman won’t go! So together they must uncover the clues that will reveal a most shocking perpetrator. All the while Myles tries to keep his distance from Kenzie … but finds himself falling in love.


After graduating from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a degree in public relations, Liz Johnson set out to work in the Christian publishing industry, which was her lifelong dream. In 2006 she got her wish when she accepted a publicity position at a major trade book publisher. While working as a publicist in the industry, she decided to pursue her other dream-being an author. Along the way to having her novel published, she wrote articles for several magazines and worked as a freelance editorial consultant.

Liz lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she enjoys theater, ice skating, volunteering in her church’s bookstore and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nephew and three nieces. She loves stories of true love with happy endings. The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn is her first novel. Keep up with Liz's adventures in writing at http://www.lizjohnsonbooks.com/

An Interview with Liz

I love writing and reading about the FBI and enjoyed your FBI guy a lot! What resources did you use to research your suspense novel?

Wow, that’s a great question. I spent a lot of time reading other novels about FBI agents, Navy SEALS, and other elite military men. It helped me get a feel for how Myles, my FBI guy and hero, should feel on the page. I did a lot of research and reading on the official FBI website to learn more about the organizational structure, titles, and things like that. I also did a lot of research online about the Oregon State Prison system. While the Evergreen campus is fictional, it was important to me to find the right titles and phrases in the system. But I have a terrible habit of reading up on these things and then throwing them out the window as I write. After all, it’s fiction, and I love taking a bit of liberty with my writing.

What sparked the idea for The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn?

It’s hard for me to pin down one specific spark for this book. There are a lot of little ones. I think that a big part of developing Kenzie’s story was where I was at in my own life. I had just made two major moves in the span of six months, and I was 1100 miles from my family. I felt like the only one I could lean on was God, so reliance on Him became one of the key themes of Kenzie’s story. I also had a friend from high school who made some really poor choices and ended up in prison for five years. His sister asked me to write to him, and I did. For five years we wrote back and forth, and his letters made me wonder if there was anything that would cause someone to willingly go to prison. It all just developed from there.

How did you decide on the names in your book: Kenzie Thorn and Myles Borden?

Well, with Kenzie, her name was just always there. Before I even started the book, I knew I wanted to title it The Kidnapping of … someone. I’m a big fan of alliteration, so I was looking for a K name. I just tried a bunch of combinations, and when I landed on Kenzie Thorn is was just so perfect. It fit perfectly as I needed her to share her grandfather’s name. Mackenzie was easy to split up so he is called Mac. As for Myles, I’ve just always thought that was a tough-guy’s name. It seems strong, and now I can’t imagine him with another name. Right before I started writing the book, I had seen The Prestige, which has a character named Alfred Borden. It was stuck in my head, and while Myles is nothing like Borden in the movie, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind.

What is the spiritual emphasis for this story that you pray touches readers' hearts?

I really pray that readers will be reminded that the eyes of the Lord are on those that fear Him. I pray that they’ll recognize that God can be relied on in every situation, no matter what.

Share a little about your background and how you started down the writing path.

I’ve always loved reading and writing, so I knew from a young age that I wanted to work in the Christian publishing industry. After college, finding a job—especially one in publishing—was harder than I thought it would be, so I signed up for the Christian Writers Guild apprentice course. I learned a lot about writing over the 2-year correspondence course, and I continued playing around with stories (terribly written stories) until I was hired into the industry in 2006. And then it was a my good friend and fellow publicist Kelly Blewett who told me she couldn’t wait to read the book I had told her I wanted to write. Her accountability got me from the dreaming stage to the sitting down and really working out The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn.


Find The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and CBD. You can include any or all of these links.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Sunset Beach

Summer is the perfect time for a story that whisks you away to a beach setting (minus the sunburn and sand) with characters you'd love to hang out with in real life.

And I have just the story for you all that I've read and loved.

Trish Perry's new novel, Sunset Beach.

I've said before that Trish is one of my all-time favorite authors. I fell in love with her writing as I read her debut novel: The Guy I'm Not Dating. She made me laugh and cry and close the book with a satisfied smile.

Trish is also a dear friend and a very classy lady. In fact, she so impressed my daughters when we caught up with her in DC last year that they still talk about how nice, pretty, and funny she was. All of that translates into her stories.

My thoughts on Sunset Beach:

First off, isn't the cover GORGEOUS?! It makes me smile just looking at it.

Sunset Beach is an upbeat, engaging story with depth that translated into real life for me. One of the main story lines involves Sonny's quest for answers about her family that her mother has kept secret all her life.

Sonny's questions and the consequences of her digging into the past really got me thinking about how I teach my children about their extended family. Even though I've never even thought about acting like Sonny's mother, there are things in everyone's past that are easier left unsaid. But God has kept me open and honest with my children as we talk about life and faith and God's Word.

So while Sunset Beach made me think, it also left me glad for the path I'd chosen to walk with my daughters.

There are some heavy moments and deep themes of forgiveness and brokenness, but they're handled with grace and Trish's uncanny ability to make human nature ring with authenticity and yet still sparkle and make you smile.

Here's more about Sunset Beach and some really cool questions to learn more about Trish.

About Sunset Beach:

Sonny Miller is tired of not knowing who she is. Soon she’ll begin graduate school to earn her masters in Psychology. But how can she counsel future clients about their identities when she isn’t even sure about her own? To that end she has cooked up a little meeting at a certain beach house in San Diego.

Sonny’s mother, classical soprano Teresa Miller, isn’t aware she’s about to be reunited at the beach house with her sister, Melanie Hines, after 25 years of estrangement. And Sonny isn’t aware her mother has invited a surprise guest of her own. Russian adoptee, Irina Petrova, finds herself dragged along on a trip so tumultuous she summons her handsome concert violinist brother for moral support.

The four women converge on the funky little beach house in San Diego, each with her own disappointments and hopes about family, identity, and love. For Sonny, the trip reveals all she expected and more than she ever dreamed.

About Trish:

Award-winning novelist Trish Perry has written Sunset Beach (2009), Beach Dreams (2008), Too Good to Be True (2007), and The Guy I’m Not Dating (2006), all for Harvest House Publishers. She writes a monthly column, “Real Life is Stranger,” for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. She was editor of Ink and the Spirit, the newsletter of Washington D.C.’s Capital Christian Writers organization (CCW), for seven years. Before her novels, Perry published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media.

Perry holds a B.A. in Psychology, was a 1980s stockbroker, and held positions at the Securities and Exchange Commission and in several Washington law firms. She serves on the Board of Directors of CCW and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group and Romance Writers of America. Perry lives in Northern Virginia with her teenaged son.

Interview with Trish:

Tell me a little bit about your background and your family.

I’m the middle child; middle girl. I was raised as one of five kids by my British mum and my WWII Air Force vet dad. I lived in Newfoundland (Canada), California, Colorado, and finally Virginia, which I’ve called home for the greater part of my life. I love it here. Most of my family still resides in Virginia, which is a bonus.

My late sister lived a rough lifetime of medical problems, which had a distinct bearing on our family lifestyle and our sensibilities toward the hardships of others. Her eventual death may have been a blessed relief for her, but it was a huge loss for us. The loss is what brought me to the Lord.

Both of my children are believers, which brings me such peace. I have a 29-year-old daughter, who is one of the coolest, smartest, most intuitive women I know. She’s blessed me with a remarkable grandson, now five. And my 16-year-old son is brilliant and funny, and he tells me daily that I’m weird (but I can hear the “I love you” in there when he says it).

What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?

Novels and films are constants in my life; if I’m home and not working, I’m usually absorbed by one of those. I love good stories. I enjoy varied styles of music. I love to sing and served on my church’s worship team until my writing schedule got so busy. I still serenade the neighbors on occasion, whether they want me to or not. I’m a self-admitted former disco queen, and I still love to dance. And I make sure to get together with girlfriends at least once a week. Socializing, dining, and laughing—it’s like having your batteries charged!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Well, hands down, I’d have to be able to teleport. Frankly, I’d travel a lot more if it weren’t for airports! I would have chosen the superpower of flying, but who wants to carry all that luggage in the air? If I could teleport, I could have my luggage in my circle of teleportability (you have heard of those, yes?), and it would teleport with me, free of luggage searches and additional-baggage fees.

What has God been teaching you lately?

I’ve been blown away by how clearly He forgives my weaknesses. Things have occurred in my life over the past 18 months for which (right or wrong) I carried a burden of guilt. You know, that feeling of “how did I contribute to this mess?” Yet He has blessed me so abundantly in the midst of my feelings of conviction, that He amazes me daily with His obvious love. The blessings keep me humbly aware of how much I need Him. And they instill in me such a strong desire to serve Him and to follow His guidance and will.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?

I love writing dialogue. What a control freak’s dream, to have control over what everyone says, including the antagonist. If only life were that easy, LOL! But truly, sometimes a scene simply shapes itself right before my eyes when the characters are engaged in dialogue. I don’t know quite what will be expressed sometimes, and I love it when it flows even faster than I seem to be able to think it.

When you write do you generally know where you’re headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?

There is always surprise, no matter how well I plan out a book’s progress. I was just talking with my editor about that the other day, the fact that the initial summary I write might change a bit as events unfold around my protagonist. I think that’s happened with every book I’ve written. I typically write a summary, which tells me generally where the story will go, and then I write a sentence or two per chapter idea, and then I start hammering away on Chapter One. As I write actual chapters, the events between “Once upon a time” and “The End” evolve in more significant ways than I expected in the first place. It’s an exciting process!

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?

Give the endeavor to God first. And daily. When doubts arise (and they will), you must be able to fall back on the knowledge that your efforts are for Him. And know that He will never show you the way by crushing your efforts with rejection and desolation. If He wants you to do something other than writing, He’ll lovingly draw you to that other endeavor.

That said, take all the practical steps to learn the craft and the business. Read (both how-to’s and novels), write, network, and submit. Over and over again.

Where did you get the idea for Sunset Beach?

The setting (the funky little house on Mission Beach) and time frame (one or two weeks’ time) were already established for me by my publisher. All of the books in The Beach House series fall within those parameters. But the characters and their stories formulated over time.

First I dreamed up Sonny—a young woman who had lived her entire life devoid of details about her family background, thanks to her secretive mother. Sonny had reached a point where she wanted to take control of her own life. Her mother was the barrier to that, so Sonny needed to both go around her mother and barrel headlong towards her. The hidden details about Sonny’s past arose as I created each new character. Even though my own family is close and forthcoming about our family history, there have always been fuzzy areas about which I’ve wanted to know more. I imagined how difficult it would be if your entire family history were fuzzy. I know I’d be compelled to act as Sonny did.

What are the major themes of the book?

My books always end up having a broad overall theme of the importance of seeking God’s guidance in everything. That’s never been deliberate—that’s just the way my stories work out. But for Sunset Beach, the most important theme entails our personal identities and how we determine them. Upon whom, or what, do we base our beliefs about who we are, what we’re worth, what our purpose in life is? A subtheme in the book has to do with the struggle to approach romance and passion appropriately. I think that’s a tough one for every single person I know, and it brings us right back to that whole seeking-God’s-guidance-in-everything theme.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book?

For the setting, I had already done quite a bit of research on Mission Beach and Pacific Beach for my previous book, Beach Dreams. And I read both of Sally John’s books in the series, which were the best research material I could ask for. But for Sunset Beach, I wanted to branch out some, so I sought help from friends from the surrounding areas and businesses that operated in San Diego and elsewhere in California. Also I was blessed by coming across a fellow writer who was able to answer my questions about Russian orphanages, which I coupled with online research. Finally, with regard to the psychological aspects of the story, I leaned on my own education, my textbooks, and on research available through various psychological studies and educational sites online. I’m not a fan of research, but those particular searches were fun.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

First, I hope they’ll find the book entertaining. I want them to enjoy Sonny’s journey and the way her discoveries uncover secrets and feelings for the people around her. I hope they’ll be amused, but only when I mean them to be! On a grander scale, I hope readers will be touched by the whole issue of personal identity and how God factors into that. I never want to write a preachy book—but I certainly enjoy hearing when my books are inspiring. My prayer before every book I write is that God will give me the story someone somewhere needs to read in order to feel more of what He wants them to feel. Then I leave it up to Him.

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