Thursday, February 25, 2010
I am busy preparing for a retreat I lead this weekend in the mountains of NC and still plugging away on my second novel, plus overseeing the daily needs of our fiction site, She Reads.
Hope you all are having a great week!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
I am thankful for... God's word. How it speaks to me directly, giving me answers I wasn't even looking for but needed to hear so badly.
I am praying for... a job for my husband. He needs some encouragement... and so do I.
From the kitchen... chicken and stuffing casserole, green beans
I am wearing... an old sorority sweatshirt from college and gray sweatpants
I am creating... a novel, plans for the next one too
I am reading... Traveling Mercies (re-reading this one), Writing Fiction For Dummies
I am hoping... that this test we are facing will become part of our testimony
I am hearing... the tv, the water running in the kitchen, a whining child
Around the house... laundry, dishes, cleaning, straightening... the usual
One of my favorite things... taking Sunday as a true day of rest
A few plans for the rest of the week... I lead a retreat next weekend so on Friday I will be leaving. This week I will be preparing for that and writing my 1000 words per day. Am still on track to finish up by mid April with my first draft, which leaves me 6 weeks for tweaking and revising before I turn in my novel on June 1. Interestingly, one of the characters in my new novel's husband loses his job. I planned that long before Curt lost his job. Talk about life imitating art! It has made me much more sympathetic towards this character.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I don't mind going back. I go back a lot in my mind. As a writer, I am constantly revisiting my own memories, mining them for the rich resources they add to my prose. I go back to wander the rooms of my grandparents' homes. Back to the home I grew up in. Back to the schools I went to. Back to what's familiar and comforting. Sure, I have bad memories and things I did that I am not proud of. Who doesn't? But for the most part, I enjoy going back. The past is a pleasant place to me.
It's the future that I shy away from. Just yesterday Curt arrived home from a trip to Dallas TX to interview for a job that would take us far from home, to places as yet undetermined. There is no comfort in that thought, no familiarity. The future is not a pleasant place to me. It is a place of shadowy corners and unexpected turns. It is a place our family has not gone. One of the options we've been presented with feels a bit better than others, but we are not guaranteed that place.
We are not guaranteed anything.
Two months have gone by since I got the phone call that would change our lives in an instant. When I hung up that phone, I thought that by this point Curt would have started his new job and we'd be singing praises about the abundant provision of God. We are still singing His praises-- they just sound a bit different. We praise Him because He holds the future. We praise Him because He goes before us.* We praise Him because He provides, no matter where we live. He will provide the answers, the friendships, the church, the community in a new place that He has provided us here. He has already been to where we are going and in that I take comfort.
Perhaps He has a big surprise in store and we will not have to move. Perhaps, like Abraham, He has to move us to accomplish His purposes for us.* No matter what, I trust there is an end in sight, a destination He has planned. He still has it under control and we do have hope and... a future.* When I focus on that, the future doesn't sound so scary. Going back might be comforting but going forward is an adventure. The comfortable life isn't the stuff that faith is built on. My flesh craves comfort, but my soul cherishes the adventure. So I keep going forward, stepping into the unfamiliar while tightly grasping His hand.
Don't let go, I whisper.
I will never, He promises.*
*Verses referenced in this post: Psalm 139:5, Genesis 12:1-5, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 37:23-24
Here's a song that I will be listening to today. Maybe you'd like to listen to it too.
Isaiah 41:13, "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'" (This verse is on an index card on our fridge right now!)
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
This one by my friend Ann Voskamp is one to chew on and mull over.
And this two-part interview with Francine Rivers is worth reading. Here's part 1 and part 2. Many women cite her book Redeeming Love as life changing so I thought some of you might like to hear what she's been up to.
I hope you are all doing well. Will post an update on life at the Whalens soon!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Wendy Blight www.WendyBlight.com Wendy is giving away a copy of the One Year Chronological Bible and her book Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God's Story.
Shari Braendel www.ShariBraendel.blogspot.com Shari is giving away 3 beautiful jewelry pieces to begin a spring wardrobe with! One for a Glamour Girl, one for a Movie Star and one for a Rock Star!
Micca Campbell www.miccacampbell.com Micca is giving away her book An Untroubled Heart, and a cute clutch purse for those fun summer evenings!
Whitney Capps www.Whitneycapps.blogspot.com Whitney is giving away a $30 Francesca's Gift card, redeemable at www.francescascollections.com
Melanie Chitwood www.melaniechitwood.com/ Melanie is giving away One marriage conference call (see her blog for details) and her new book What a Wife Needs from Her Husband.
Lynn Cowell www.LynnCowell.com Lynn is giving away a prize for mom and a prize for a teen girl in her life – the 3 book series B.A.B.E. series by Andrea Stephens (Beautiful, Accepted, Blessed, Eternally Significant) for the teen and for Mom a $10 gift card to Starbucks along with Lynn’s CD “Building a Bridge to Your Child’s Heart”.
Karen Ehman www.KarenEhman.com Karen is giving away a Winter White Basket centered on Psalm 51:7 "Wash me and I will be whiter than snow" that includes Skin Milk body wash, a white loofah, Winter White Citrus Bath & Body Works products, white lily linen and room sprays, white hot cocoa, a white mug and white-chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Along with it, a copy of her book on celebrations entitled Homespun Memories for the Heart: More Than 200 Ideas to Make Unforgettable Moments.
Suzie Eller www.SuzieEller.com Suzie is giving away a webcam!
Zoe Elmore firstname.lastname@example.org Zoe is giving away a journal, a copy of My Heart's Cry by Anne Graham Lotz and a piece of jewelry Zoe style!
Charlene Kidd www.CharleneKidd.blogspot.com Charlene is giving away a $20.00 Starbucks Gift Card and a copy of Karen Ehman’s book: A Life That Says Welcome, Simple Ways to Open Your Heart and Home to Others.
Tracie Miles www.TracieMiles.com Tracie is giving away her CD "Overcoming Stress with Extraordinary Faith" and a Soulmates Slipper with Christian Notepad and Pen.
Rachel Olsen www.RachelOlsen.com Rachel is giving away Bread for Life": a hardback copy of The Daily Message: Through the Bible in One Year by Eugene Peterson (which you can read this along with her this year) and the Williams-Sonoma Muffins cookbook.
Wendy Pope www.wendypope.org Wendy is giving away a copy of her book Out of the Mouths of Babes and her CD Yes, No, and Maybe of a Balanced Life
Luann Prater www.LuannPrater.com & www.EncouragementCafe.com Luann is giving away an Encouragement Cafe mug and t-shirt for both sites!
LeAnn Rice www.LeAnnRice.com LeAnn is giving away a copy of her cookbook Sharing Grace: Recipes- Family Traditions-Gift ideas and a Starbucks gift card.
Susanne Scheppmann www.susannescheppmann.blogspot.com Susanne is giving away her Birds in My Mustard Tree Bible Study with an I-tunes gift card.
Renee Swope www.ReneeSwope.com Renee is giving away Lysa TerKeurst’s Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl DVD Set and her CD message, Living Beyond the Shadow of Doubt on DVD.
Lysa TerKeurst www.LysaTerKeurst.com Lysa’s give away is a Mom's Book Club gift pack including 4 copies of Lysa's book, Am I Messing Up My Kids?and a 30-minute Q&A conference call with Lysa.
Van Walton www.vanwalton.blogspot.com Van is giving away her DVD for children - From the Pound to the Palace
Glynnis Whitwer www.GlynnisWhitwer.com Glynnis is giving away her book work@home: A Practical Guide for Woman Who Want to Work from Home and a French Country Wire Silverware Basket
She Reads www.shereads.org She Reads is giving away two novels, Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish and Screen Play by Chris Coppernoll, and chocolate, courtesy of the authors. They will tell the story of how their writing brought them together - a love story, quite literally, fit for a novel!
RadRevolution www.RadRevolution.org Our ministry to teen girls is giving away a copy of Do the Hard Thing along with a RadRev t-shirt!
Monday, February 15, 2010
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
A few years ago I received a small gift bag filled with the following items: a birthday candle, a page from a calendar, a list of words, a thread, and a picture of a baby. I loved what each item symbolized so much that I wanted to share them with you.
The birthday candle symbolizes that God knew the day you were born. He ordained the circumstances and people who were involved in your birth. He knew what you would look like and who would welcome you. He knew how much you would weigh, what your cry would sound like, and whether you would be bald or have a head full of hair. Psalm 139:16
The page from the calendar symbolizes that each of your days was planned before you were even born. He knew how you would spend your days—what your hobbies and interests would be, what your job would be, and who you would share your days with. He knew the days you would spend honoring Him and the days you would wish you could do over. Psalm 139:2-3
The list of words (which could be a typewritten list or a page from an old dictionary) symbolizes that God knows every word you say before you even say it. The nice words and not-so-nice words. The angry words and the words of encouragement. The times you should have held your tongue and the times you thought of the right words to say hours too late. When you spoke up for Jesus and when you chickened out. Psalm 139:4
The thread represents the hairs on your head, which the Bible tells us are numbered. Straight hair or curly hair, red hair or gray hair, real or bottled. God knows every detail of you, His marvelous creation. He counts your freckles, knows the ridges on your fingernails, and sees the blemishes you try to hide. He truly loves you, warts and all. Matthew 10:30
Finally, the picture of a baby is to remind you that He knit you together in your mother’s womb. He knows you better than your parents, your spouse, your children or your friends. He knows the parts you don’t show anyone else. He sees the tears no one else sees. He hears the dreams and frustrations no one else hears. He knows you, inside and out. Psalm 139:13
The Bible assures us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I once read that the word “wonderfully” in the Hebrew is palah, which means “to distinguish, to be set apart.” God created each one of us to be unique and distinct in some way. We each have a special destiny only we can fulfill. In a world of comparisons and keeping up with impossible standards, it is so easy to forget that our uniqueness is His gift to us. Too often we see it as a curse.
Psalm 139:14 says “I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” God wants us to praise Him for the way that He made us. He wants us to celebrate the little details He thought of. My friend bought a tee shirt for her little boy that said, “When God Made Me, He Was Just Showing Off.” Oh, that we could all feel His pleasure in us to that extent! That we could praise Him for how He created us instead of complaining about it. I love that the contents of these bags help us to focus on God’s love for us, a love that exceeds our limited understanding, a love that goes far beyond skin deep.
Dear Lord, You love me and You created me exactly as You intended. I confess that sometimes I forget that. Help me to see what You had in mind when You fashioned me. Help me to remember that You have set me apart for Your purpose. Thank You for that reminder today, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I am thinking... about Curt's job prospects... or lack of.
I am thankful for... the prayers and encouragement of good friends as we walk through this trial.
From the kitchen... heart-shaped sugar cookies with pink icing and sprinkles, chocolate fondue for a special Valentine's Day dessert tonight.
I am wearing... jeans and a Virginia Cavaliers sweatshirt my son gave me when he outgrew it.
I am creating... goodies from the kitchen.
I am going... to try to keep up with my pledge to write 1000 words per day for 60 days straight (except Sundays). So far, so good and am on day 13. Lord willing, next week I will hit the halfway mark!
I am reading... I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Wow but it was good. I highly recommend it. It's so good that I don't want to read anything else now. Nothing else will measure up.
Pondering these words... "Who knows but that something wonderful may happen today. Have faith that it will. After all, every morning is a chance at a new day." ~Marjorie Pay Hinckley
I am hoping... for good news about Curt's job prospects this week. Don't have any indication that we will hear anything but last week nothing happened so am counting on something happening this week!
I am hearing... the kids hollering at each other and the pounding of feet running. The soundtrack of my life.
Around the house... trying to get excited about making meals, doing the grocery shopping, etc. My enthusiasm for such tasks waxes and wanes. Usually reading homemakerish blogs helps. Guess I need to read some of those!
One of my favorite things... writing in my journal. I have been writing consistently for over 6 months now and I don't know why I didn't start journaling much sooner. I love having a place for all my thoughts and for cataloguing the things that happen to me, writing my prayers down, etc.
I even got Curt a journal for Valentine's Day. He liked it. Or pretended to.
A few plans for the rest of the week... not much. Last week was pretty busy so I am glad this week looks slower. I am a homebody.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
I have been saying all the right things for nearly two months:
God is in control.
God is sovereign.
He wasn't surprised by Curt's layoff.
We just need to trust, have childlike faith.
God is never late but rarely early.
I know all the right answers and I say all the right things. So does Curt. And people have written to both Curt and me confirming that our niceties have been helpful. And yet...
Sometimes all the spiritual thoughts in the world don't help. Sometimes you find yourself forgetting all about the nice, happy thoughts you've been telling other people. You get tired of saying all the right things. And you just want to say:
We're getting down to the wire.
This job loss thing isn't fun anymore.
This "little trial" we are going through is turning into a big problem.
I am starting to think that this isn't going to end well.
I am realizing that I had a certain kind of life... and that life ended on December 17th. It makes me nostalgic for what we had, like when I used to feel homesick at summer camp.
So that's where I am at right now-- feeling kind of hopeless. We've watched opportunities come and go. We need more information, but we can't get it. We wait on phone calls that never come, on people to do things they say they will do... and then forget. Our life feels controlled by outside forces. I want to be the one in control.
I have spent time telling other people not to think too far ahead, to take their manna for that day and trust God with the future. I have encouraged them to hang onto promises that now seem flimsy when I have to say them to myself. I want answers. I want something real to hang onto. I want what I once had, but that's not available to me anymore.
In short, I am struggling, and Curt is too. That's where we are. That's the honest truth. I know there are those of you who get this... because you've written to tell us that you are familiar with the rollercoaster-- you know the dips and drops that are part of this ride. Lest you think we are all sitting around here at the Whalen house singing Kumbayah and feeling positive all the time... I just wanted to set the record straight. It's tough, and with each passing day it feels a little tougher.
I won't even end this post on some positive platitude. Because I am fresh out. And that's the truth. I tried to warn you...
ETA: Wow. Thanks to all of you who have commented, emailed, messaged me on Facebook or commented over there. I am blown away by your promises to pray and your affirmation that this wasn't too real for you. It's good to know I can be real and you all will still love me. :)
Monday, February 08, 2010
You can find a story in Christian Fiction Online Magazine about She Reads. Thanks to CFO Mag for helping spread the word about what we are doing!
And finally, the giveaway we're doing over at She Reads today is NOT TO BE MISSED. Seriously folks. I am not kidding. I dare you to go check it out.
Friday, February 05, 2010
The baby is tiny and precious, her downy black hair so soft I want to touch it. She nestles her into the crook of her neck and I remember the delicious feeling, the way that my baby's head seemed to be created to fit perfectly for that spot, like puzzle pieces clicking into place. I do not have to lean in to sniff the smell of a newborn, my whole body remembers that intoxicating scent I never tired of inhaling.
I look around the kitchen and see the vestiges of a life I once lived-- the black board where she has chalked memory verses for her 5 and 3 year old, the sippy cups, the 2 little ones who are restless and energetic, the small red table set for 2 with tiny plastic dishes. Once these were the trappings of a life I wanted out of, a life I thought I would never escape. I couldn't see past the crying and the needing. I couldn't believe that these little people would ever grow up, that the endless days would ever speed up. I couldn't fathom that I would ever, ever want any of it back.
And yet, as I hop into the van with my husband and children, I smile wistfully as we pull away. I was just there, I think. Minutes ago. And now the days of having 3 little ones are gone forever. I can't go back and do it again. I can only look around at the scenes of my life as it is and work harder to appreciate what I have now.
I found this video that, if you have 7 minutes to spare, perfectly sums up what I felt standing in my younger friend's house.
It goes so fast, the older women always told me. It turns out, they were right.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
When they look back I want my kids to remember me as a mom who was in the picture. I don't want to be so riddled with insecurities about the way I look that I hide. I don't want to get so caught up in getting the perfect shots that I forget to step out from behind the camera.
On Saturday morning that included braving the bitter cold and ice to head outside with my family. Yeah I had to wrap a scarf around my head because I didn't own a hat and yeah my hands were freezing because I don't own any gloves. But that didn't keep me inside. When I was younger, it would have. Instead I grabbed my camera and, instead of watching from the warm, dry window, I got in the picture. I took some shots and I let some shots get taken of me-- scarf around my head, no makeup, and all.
The older I get, the more I am learning about the way I want to live my life. I want to get in the picture in a lot of ways and be content to sit on the sidelines. I don't want to miss the action and I want to be able to remember it long after the action is over.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I have spent the past 6 weeks going through a Bible study called Secrets Jesus Shared. I loved learning about the tools Jesus used to draw in His listeners, how He would take a complicated subject like grace or forgiveness and see that the people were not getting it. So He would lapse into a story to aid their understanding. Our Creator knows the way our brains work best. We grasp stories. Think about the last time you heard a speaker. Can you name the 3 or 7 or 10 points they made? Probably not. But can you still recall the story they told? Stories work!
Fiction writers know this. I think it's easy to discount fiction as fluff-- unnecessary, a waste of time. One person I know said, "I don't read fiction because if I have time to read I need to use that time to actually learn something." I challenged her to read one of the She Reads books and see if she doesn't learn something in a whole new way.
This point was best driven home for me this weekend when I gave one of my friends who doesn't typically read fiction a She Reads book to read while she was out of town. She ended up reading the whole book due to airport layovers and cancelled flights. She told me she literally could not put the book down, she was so engaged in the story. "It was like a movie in my mind!" she said. "The message in the book was so strong and was relayed in such a way that it didn't sound preachy. It's a message I want my daughters to hear so I am going to buy them each a copy."
I had created a fiction convert. Which is what I hope that She Reads does for those who don't typically read fiction. And for those who are already fiction lovers, I hope we can keep introducing new and seasoned authors who have something to offer. There really is power in stories-- whether serious or slapstick, literary or lighthearted. I am excited to keep letting others know what's out there, to share the wealth of great reads that exist in the world of Christian fiction.
How can you get involved with She Reads? Visit the site. Subscribe to our newsletter. Follow us on Twitter. Friend us on Facebook. Become one of our blog followers so you don't miss a single post-- including two great (and I do mean GREAT) giveaways we have coming up this month. In honor of Valentine's Day, we are also featuring a post by two writers whose writing brought them together. Want to find out how? You have to read the post!
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Be sure and stop by www.shereads.org too. It's a great place to find intriguing stories written by talented Christian writers. Never tried reading fiction? It's time to start!
And now on to my regularly scheduled post!
The other day I was thinking about my kids' views about music. When I was a kid, I had tapes of the music I liked. When I was in college, it changed to cd's. The point was, when I liked a song on the radio, I had to buy the whole tape or cd to get that song. Ok sometimes you could buy the cassette single and sometimes you could get lucky enough to tape it from the radio (anyone else remember sitting by the radio waiting to catch your favorite song so you could hit record?). But for the most part, you had to buy the whole enchilada.
A funny thing happened when you bought the whole tape or cd, though. Not always, but a lot of the time, you found other songs you liked by that singer or band. Your eyes were opened to other possibilities. (Hang on... I am going somewhere with this...) You discovered a song that you felt like no one else knew about but you. It became personal because it wasn't popular. It was what you found when you were looking for something else.
Now music has changed. One of my kids hears a song and within moments they can get online and have it downloaded to their iPod. No trip to the mall with their hard-earned money, no waiting for your mom to have time to drive you. Just a few clicks and press play. And you also didn't have to buy anything you didn't want or know about. You got what you wanted, when you wanted it. It has revolutionized the music industry. But is it necessarily better that way?
I spent time last week going back through old songs I loved, many of which were songs that were never popular, that most people never heard of. I found them because I had bought the whole tape of some band's latest release. I like them so much because they weren't popular, therefore they didn't get overplayed. They were mine.
How often I want my faith the way I want my iPod-- instant gratification without having to wade through the unknowns. I want what I want when I want it. Point click and play. I don't want God to require me to buy the whole album, to deal with the parts I don't like, to take the time to listen to things I might not want to hear.
And yet, I gained a lot from wading through the stuff I never would have tried without being forced. There were unexpected treasures to be found, surprises I ended up valuing more than what I originally set out to find. I wanted to be a mother but I didn't want the sleepless nights and being stretched to the point of breaking. I wanted to be married but I didn't want to learn how to get along with another person day in and day out, to discover what sacrifice really means. I wanted to be a novelist but I didn't want to have to work so hard to make it happen. I wanted what I wanted, and God used those desires to build my character along the way.
Call me old school (you wouldn't be the first) but I don't want an iPod faith. Just because it's more convenient or faster doesn't mean it's the best way. Sometimes being open to what you weren't expecting is the best way to find what you were looking for all along.
Monday, February 01, 2010
M) pancakes and bacon courtesy of daddy
T) leftover chicken noodle soup, birthday cake for small group (We're celebrating 2 bdays!)
W) Cashew chicken and broccoli casserole
H) Homemade pizza (recipe from The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner-- a book I checked out of the library and have liked so much it is now in my Amazon cart!)
F) Chili Mac
Sat) Chicken and Stuffing Casserole, Baby Peas
Sun) Superbowl Sunday-- Fun foods-- wings, pizza bites, Caramel apple dip, etc.
M) Chipped Beef On Toast (make fun if you must, but this was a staple of my childhood and it tastes SO good!), Black Eyed Peas
T) Meatball Subs (Frozen meatballs in spaghetti sauce and cooked in the crockpot all day, served on hoagie rolls), Fruit, Chips
W) Chicken Tortilla Soup (this isn't my exact recipe but close... I use lime juice rather than lemon) in the crockpot, Beer Bread
H) Pioneer Woman's Cajun Chicken Pasta
F) Italian Baked Chicken, Steamed Broccoli, Mashed Potatoes
Sat) leftovers/GYO (Maybe a date night for the big holiday that is the next day)
Sun) Red Dinner for Valentine's Day: Spaghetti, Cherry 7Up, Garlic Bread, Chocolate dessert of some sort or maybe some pink heart-shaped frosted sugar cookies using the dough I made at Christmas and froze but never used...