Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

This Tuesday I am not writing the top ten list. Being a believer in not reinventing the wheel and giving credit where credit is due, I am directing you to Ann Voskamp's excellent post, The Ten Point Manifesto For Joyful Parenting. In this season of JOY, I think we can all benefit from printing off her words and posting them somewhere visible.

I know I intend to.
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Monday, November 29, 2010

In A Food Mood

I am in the final days before my second novel is due to the publisher. Which means, I am going to be relying on other people to help me out while I finish up my edits. So all this week, I am going to be providing links and information from talented bloggers and writers while still keeping up with my regular schedule for blogging.

Today I am going to share some of my favorite food bloggers, who are in a food mood. Always.
They inspire me and I know they will inspire you too!

The Pioneer Woman

The Southern Plate

A Year Of Slow Cooking


Menu Plan Monday

She Cooks

Heritage Schoolhouse (check out her recipe list in the sidebar-- good stuff there!)

There Is No Place Like Home (again, check out her recipes in the sidebar)

Check them out-- but do come back!
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Break

I am taking a break today to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend with my family and work on my edits for my upcoming novel. If you've stopped by today after reading today's devotion, thank you! You can learn more about this blog-- and me-- by clicking on the "About Me" tab at the top of this blog.

I will see you all back here on Monday when we'll turn our subject to... yes, it's time... Christmas! And if you want to be inspired between now and then, don't forget my Christmas ebook. It seriously is a collection of everything I've learned about Christmas in 18 years of being a mom. Check it out! In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving! Don't spend too much today!! :)

And if you want to check out my review of Tangled, the new Disney animated movie, see below!!
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tangled Review

Looking for something to do this holiday weekend?? Check out Disney's new movie Tangled, a retelling of the classic tale of Rapunzel. I posted a few video clips a few weeks ago and now it's in theaters. A few weeks ago, the nice folks at Disney invited me and my kids to a screening and I took everyone from my 16 yo down to my 5 yo. And we all loved it.

I asked my 5yo (who is sitting here "helping" me write this) what her favorite part was and she said, "When she was a baby and when she was swinging around and around the tree." Be sure to watch out for those moments.

To be honest, I thought I would be bored in this animated movie, but honestly, it was SO cute I stayed engaged the whole time. To the point that, when my 5yo needed to go to the bathroom at the climax of the movie I had to give myself a pep talk to not get angry. But seriously? Why do kids do that??

Anyway, go see Tangled. It's cute. It's funny. It'll make you laugh. And your kids will laugh too. And I can't think of a better way to spend time this holiday weekend than laughing with your kids.

Here's the trailer, just to give you more idea of what it's about:

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Psalms For Moms: Thanksgiving

Psalm 95:1-2,Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to
the Rock of our salvation.Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him
with music and song.

As we prepare for tomorrow, let us come before Him with thanksgiving and not forget the many things we have to be thankful for, no matter what situation we are in.

And now, I am off to do some major cooking! Happy Thanksgiving!
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Thanksgiving Menu

Top Ten Things I Will Be Serving On Thursday:

1. Turkey. My friend Tonia is bringing the turkey, which is such a help. She gets a fresh one from a farm. Recently she sent me an email about the turkeys. The farmer had included pictures of the flock. I replied and said those pictures troubled me greatly. I really don't like to see my Thanksgiving meal when he is still gobbling and has all his feathers. Maybe it's just me. Maybe other people like to pick theirs out from the picture, like choosing the best one from a litter of puppies? This was all new to me but I am certainly thankful to Tonia for taking care of our turkey selection. And I am trying to block those pictures from my mind before Thursday.

2. Sweet potato casserole. I know there is a debate over marshmallows or streusel topping. I am a streusel girl. I double the recipe and pile it on thick. Yum!

3. Green beans. It makes us feel better to have something green on the table but the truth is, I cook these to death and there are virtually no nutrients left in them. But boy howdy are they good!

4. Stuffing/Dressing. I do not stuff the bird. I make it in a casserole dish. My search for the perfect recipe for this is ongoing. I got out of it this year by asking my mom to do it. She is also, incidentally, still searching for the perfect recipe. Maybe this will be the year.

5. Rolls. Tonia and I agreed that Sister Schuberts do the trick. I make some wonderful homemade Parker House rolls but... why?

6. Gravy. The more the better. I will freely admit to buying it jarred. I am not ashamed.

7. Corn pudding. I posted the recipe last Monday, so if you missed it, go back and read it.

8. Cranberry pecan relish. Also posted this recipe last Monday. Go check it out too!

9. Tarheel Pie. Posted this yesterday. It's SO easy. It's SO good. I don't just make it at Thanksgiving, but I have to have it at Thanksgiving.

10. Rice Casserole. I know mashed potatoes are, like, required but I do this yummy recipe with consomme soup and onions and butter. The rice has such a good flavor, is easier to make than homemade mashed potatoes, and tastes really good with turkey. And besides, the corn pudding, rolls, sweet potato, and stuffing aren't enough carbs, you know? You need rice.

I hope you've enjoyed this top ten list. I hope your mouth is watering and you are anticipating sitting down on Thursday with the ones you love. And if you're hosting Thanksgiving, I want to encourage you to think of someone who might have no one to spend Thanksgiving with and invite them! You never know what that guest might add to your day! And you never know what being included might add to theirs!
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Monday, November 22, 2010

In A Food Mood

Twas the Monday before Thanksgiving and all through the house

The mama was fretting and stressing her spouse.

The house should be cleaner!

There's groceries we need!

And what about the place cards?

We've all got to speed!

Ok, so that's all I got but you get the point. If you're hosting Thanksgiving you might sound like that. I am trying to keep the stress out of our Thanksgiving, but it inevitably sneaks in. I thought I'd provide two easy desserts for you to make, and maybe the recipes will help you stress less.

Tarheel Pie

1 cup chocolate chips
1 stick butter
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
pie shell (I use the Pillsbury red box)

Melt butter on stove (not in microwave-- it doesn't get hot enough). Pour hot butter over chocolate chips. Blend all remaining ingredients and pour into chocolate chip/butter mixture. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake in 350 oven for 40 minutes.

This is always the first to go wherever I serve it! It's seriously good and seriously easy. It's even better served warm with a scoop of whipped cream or ice cream on it. :)

Pumpkin Crisp

1 box yellow cake mix
1 can of pumpkin (15 oz.)
1 can evaporated milk
3 large eggs
1.5 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom of 9X13 pan. Combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Pour into 9X13 pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture. Top with pecans. Drizzle melted butter over pecans. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Serve with whipped topping.

This to me is better than pumpkin pie. It's like a pumpkin cobbler. I have said before that I could stick my face in the middle of it. It's that good. But then again, I've already admitted my pumpkin obsession so that shouldn't surprise you.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Fiction Friday: Working On A Dream

I'm working on a dream
Though sometimes it feels so far away
I'm working on a dream
And I know it will be mine someday

These lyrics are taken from Bruce Springsteen's song, Working On A Dream. When I heard these words, I thought it was a fitting tribute to all of us who are working on a dream. And so, today, for all of you who have a dream of seeing your words published I give you these words. It might feel far away at times, but you have to believe that dream will be yours someday.

Keep working!
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday Thought: Your Questions Answered

Q: I would love to start a blog. Can you give some tips? I think which I need to pray about is to encourage others. I would love to do a blog to encourage others about the everyday things we face especially as a single mother.

A: One thing I have seen with my blog is that if you're going to commit to it, you need to commit to some level of consistency if you want to grow a readership. If that means you post only on Wednesdays, or you post only three times per week, or M-F (that's what I do), etc.

Also have a subject that you try to focus on-- if it's organization, marriage, motherhood, knitting-- what have you. Pick something that you're passionate about and become the go-to place for that. Since you're a single mom, you have a great potential to minister to other single moms.

Having a blog will make you a better writer. That is for sure.

And finally, don't hold anything back. Give your best. Don't save things for later-- information, tips, insight, etc. Put your best foot forward and readers will come. It won't happen overnight but you will see growth.

Plus blogging is just plain fun. It's fun to share your life with others. It's fun to make connections with other people. It's fun to know that what you're learning is going "out there" to people other than yourself.

Q: I've been thinking about starting a blog about homeschooling. I have 4 kids, 2 are school age the other two preschool age and my husband is in the army. I'm a little concerned about privacy though and if I should even do it at all. I know I'm not unique in this situation and I would love to encourage other moms in this situation but I don't know. I'm going to pray about it first but I have to be brave enough and know more about it first. Thanks!

A: I gave some tips above about starting a blog so I will just comment on the privacy issue. I would encourage you not to give out your location. If it asks when you register the blog for where you live, simply give a region and not a particular city. Also, don't put your last name anywhere. Just use an initial. And finally, don't use your kids' names. One blog I read regularly gives her kids nicknames on the blog. I always just give the child's age. I will say "My 14 yo son" instead of give his name. Another thing is to not post pictures of them. One blog I read only shows her kids' profiles or the back of them. It sounds odd, but it works.

However you protect your privacy, it is smart to think of these things on the front end.

Good luck to both of you as you begin your blogging adventure!
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bonus Post: Tomorrow Is One Week Til Thanksgiving!

Instead of waiting til next Monday to post this for my "In A Food Mood" post, I wanted to share this link about how to make your Thanksgiving dinner ahead. The timeline they provided really helped me! Since the timeline begins tomorrow, I figured I better go ahead and let you know about it!
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Psalms For Moms

Psalm 10:11 He says in his heart, "God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he
will never see it."

The Message version of this verse says it this way: "He thinks God has dumped him, he's sure that God is indifferent to his plight."

Wonder if I could get any of you to raise your hands and admit you've felt that way before? It's not exactly the most Christiany way to feel and yet... there are those dark days, those hopeless moments where doubt and fear creep in.

Surely God doesn't see that my family is on the verge of financial collapse or He would move.

Surely He would've healed my marriage but we're further apart than ever.

Surely He doesn't hear me beg for help with losing this weight, with tackling this addiction, with facing this health issue.

Surely He would grab hold of my wayward child and bring him back.

Surely He would give me the child my heart longs for.

The list goes on and on. Have you ever felt dumped by God? I think there is no worse way to feel in the world. I am convinced that much of the misery we see in the world is because people go along through life convinced God has dumped them. They give up on Him because He doesn't move within their timetable; He doesn't answer their requests the way they wanted; He doesn't seem to be listening. So they shrug, announce that He just doesn't care and go off to live life apart from Him.

I am reminded of Jesus on the cross when God turned His back on Him as He bore all of our ugly ugly sins. Jesus screamed "My God, My God why have You forsaken me?" Being separated from God made Him cry out in agony. And yet, many people choose to live life separated from Him, convinced He won't respond anyway... so what does it matter? Hell, it turns out, isn't about fire and demons as much as it's about never ever having the opportunity again to choose Him. Eternal separation from the One our souls long for.

God says, "Return to Me, and I will return to you." (Malachi 3:7) Not because He is standoffish and doesn't want to be the one to make the first move. Totally opposite. If He barged His way into our lives, it would go against the very thing He gave us from the beginning: free will. He gave us the choice to choose Him... or not.

The good news is, He is right there waiting when we do. His plans for us are still in effect whenever we choose to jump into the stream of His grace. And in all of that, our faith and trust grows as we learn to submit to His perfect plans-- even when He seems to have forgotten or seems silent or to have hidden His face from us. I have said before that the best prayer we can pray is "I trust You, I trust You, I trust You." It's not an easy prayer to pray. It's one of complete and total surrender. It's one that many of us fight against. Some of us will walk away. And some of us will press in. (Luke 8:45)

What will you do?
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Top Ten Quiet Time Tips

1. Get up just 15 minutes earlier than usual. Fifteen minutes is not much to sacrifice and you will start a habit that gets easier and easier to add time to. Soon you will find that 15 minutes just isn't enough and you will long to lengthen it. It won't feel like much of a sacrifice by then.

2. If you don't feel comfortable doing a strict Bible study-- if that sounds too formal and ostentatious for you-- get a Christian nonfiction book that you can read just one chapter of each day. Check out for a great selection of books by some amazing women. Rachel Olsen's new book It's No Secret or Lysa TerKeurst's What Happens When Women Say Yes To God are faves of mine. Or check out Micca Campbell's An Untroubled Heart or Wendy Blight's Hidden Joy In A Dark Corner. Find a book that speaks to your circumstance or an issue you are dealing with. Right now I am reading Sun Stand Still by my pastor, Steven Furtick, for my quiet time as an interlude between Bible studies. I look up the scriptures he references and journal about specific quotes that speak to me. More about journaling in a minute.

3. You can always buy a true Bible study Bible study. You know like with Scriptures you look up and blanks you fill in. For a type A like me, this just warms your little listmaking heart. I have been doing Jennifer Kennedy Dean's Bible studies lately. I just finished Live A Praying Life and am going to be starting The Life-Changing Power of the Name of Jesus as soon as I finish Sun Stand Still. I get these books for about $10 on Amazon and they last me a few months. Not a bad investment.

4. Get a routine and establish a place that makes you long to get to your quiet time. I have mentioned before that my friend Rachel Olsen has a certain candle she lights when she does her quiet time, making me think of that verse about our prayers being a sweet fragrance to God. Some people have special chairs they sit in or an afghan they wrap up in... the point is to make your time welcoming and cozy-- whatever says that to you. For me it's getting back in bed with my cup of Tazo Zen tea. Sipping and studying. I often wish the time would never end and real life didn't have to insert itself into my reverie.

5. If you need accountability, look for a small group, a Community Bible Study or Bible Study Fellowship, a class at your church, etc. to get you into the habit of meeting with others and having to do your homework. My years in Community Bible Study helped me with this so much! No one wants to get called on and not know the answers... so that's a good motivator. Another idea is to ask a trusted friend or your spouse to ask you regularly 1) if you're having a quiet time and 2) what you're hearing from God as a result. This can be a great conversation starter!!

6. Set parameters to make quiet time a priority. I have told the story of how God got my attention when I made the excuse to Him that I don't have time to have a quiet time because I have six children. He shot back, "You always seem to have time for that computer." Ouch. He was so right on target. I did always make time for my computer, so why didn't I always make time for Him? Misplaced priorities. I set a parameter in my life from then on that I would not turn on the computer unless I had first spent time with Him. That was four years ago and I still stick to it. Simple, but it worked wonders. What parameters do you need to set? It's one thing to say God's a priority in your life. It's another to live like it.

7. Get a journal. I have written before about how a journal has added to my quiet time. I am not going to go deeply into it here but I will say that it has made my quiet times more personal and applicable. I write prayers and responses to what I've learned that day, capturing what I feel God wants me to learn, making commitments I've been called to, expressing worries I have, etc. My journal is just one big long love letter to God. It's such a great way to take quiet time to a more intense level.

8. Create a Bible study basket with everything you need for your quiet time. My friend Jess came up with this and actually used to give them away to people. What a great gift this would be for a friend for Christmas this year! Include in the basket your Bible, whatever book or study you're using, pens, highlighters, a journal, a candle to light, a box of tea, a pretty mug, index cards, scratch paper, etc. The nice thing about the basket is you can pick it up and take it wherever in the house you want to go. It also just feels quaint and organized to have it all in one place.

9. Subscribe to the Proverbs 31 Encouragement For Today devotions if you haven't already. The arrival of these free devotions in your inbox each day might be just the little reminder and push you need. Many women print these off and make notebooks of them with dividers for certain subjects-- motherhood, marriage, surrender, purpose, etc.-- so they can go back to them when they need them.

10. Keep a piece of paper or your to-do list right beside you during your quiet time. That way if you think of something that needs to be attended to, you can jot it down quickly and refocus. Otherwise you sit there trying to remember what it was you were thinking of and before you know it your concentration is shot. Maybe none of you struggle with this, but I do.

I hope that this little top ten list inspired some of you. It's all just stuff I've learned. I don't always feel like doing my Bible study but I am always glad I did. It's usually when I feel like it the least that I need to do it the most!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

In A Food Mood: Side Dishes and Decorating Ideas For Thanksgiving

First off, side dishes. I am featuring two here today.

Corn pudding is a must. Because at Thanksgiving, it's all about the corn. Remember how Squanto taught the pilgrims how to bury a fish when they planted corn to get a good crop? Yeah, I didn't either. Homeschooling taught me a lot. So, it's kind of a thing with me to have corn on the table at Thanksgiving, as a nod to Squanto. Without Squanto, historians agree the Pilgrims would've died out. Who says just one man can't make a difference?

Corn pudding is pretty basic. Here are two alternatives. This one uses more sugar. And this one is the classic one that uses Jiffy Corn Mix. I've made both and they're both good.

My second recipe is for Cranberry Pecan Relish. This is a wee bit fancier than just opening the can of cranberry sauce, and doesn't take a whole lot of time.

Cranberry Pecan Relish

1 (16 oz.) can whole-berry cranberry sauce

1 (8.5 oz.) can crushed pineapple, packed in juice, drained

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Pour cranberry sauce into serving bowl. Add other ingredients to sauce in order. Stir well to mix. Serve at once or refrigerate til ready to serve.

Here's a shameless plug: I feature a full blown holiday meal with recipes in my Christmas ebook. It's a perfect time of year to get this book and start inspiring yourself for the holiday season from now all the way to the new year-- I even have the traditional meal I cook on New Year's Day.

And now onto the the promised easy and inexpensive decorating ideas for Thanksgiving links:

How to wax leaves and create a garland from them here. And here. And, um, here. Apparently waxing leaves is all the rage in the blogworld right now. Who knew??

Be sure to visit next week where I will highlight some of our favorite desserts to serve at Thanksgiving, including Tarheel Pie-- the world's easiest yet tastiest dessert. It's always the first dessert gone at our house! Hope to see you back here then!
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Fiction Friday: Dig Deeper

Welcome to all of you who stop by today after reading my turkey day tips at She Cooks. Every Monday I have a feature I run called "In A Food Mood." I feature menus, recipes and anything else food related. This month I am featuring Thanksgiving recipes and I've got lots of fun things to run during the month of December as well. Please come back and visit! In the meantime, today I am running my regular Friday feature: Fiction Friday. If fiction fascinates you, read on!

My new edits are hard. This new book is totally different from The Mailbox. Mailbox was a light, fun beach read love story. And because I wrote these books back to back I carried that breezy beachy feel into this new story when I started writing it. But it's not a breezy beach book. Though the characters do go to the beach for a weekend at one point in the book, that's where the similarities end.

The problem, I have realized as I've battled through these edits in recent weeks, is that I merely skimmed the surface of the story. I did write the story from beginning to middle to end. My character did begin the story one way and went through a transformation as the story progressed. According to a checklist, I accomplished the mandates of fiction, at the bare minimum.

But I needed to dive below the surface. I needed to go deeper. Deeper into who the characters are, what their wounds are, what motivates them. In this case it isn't enough to just tell a fun story. I have to expose their vulnerabilities, which means I've got to expose a few of my own.

If you stay on the surface, it feels safer. To go deeper within the characters requires going deeper within yourself, as a writer and as a human being. But some stories-- most stories, I would venture-- require depth. As writers we should mine the depths of what we have to offer each and every time. That's what I am learning from these edits. I can stay on the surface and be a good writer. Or I can dig deeper and be a great writer.

I am learning as I go, digging as deeply as it requires and finding surprising reserves waiting when I do. It's not comfortable to dig deeper, but it makes for a much more compelling story.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Thought: Another Question Answered

Q: Here's my question: I enjoy writing and have a book in mind. It is hard to find the time to put my words down and then there is the process of editing that must be done. My husband is not really encouraging me and seems to think it is a whim and something to keep him at arms distance. This is not the case as I need support and go to a writer's critique group for poetry I write. I feel it is causing some resentment on his part.

Should I just ignore his feelings. Talking to him about it will always result in a stalmate as he says it's OK. I want to be able to write something that is worthwhile and makes a person enjoy as well as learn life lessons. Thanks for your insight.

A: I will never forget sitting at a table at a writer's conference with a woman who was there for the sixth year. Six years of spending over $1000 on this particular conference, with no results. She was back again with a proposal, hoping this time would be "the time."

"How does your husband feel about this?" I asked, knowing exactly how my husband would feel about it.

"Oh he's supportive. He knows this is part of it," she replied. "He encourages me to come back, to keep writing."

I did not tell her that the only reason that I was there was because I had gotten enough money from my writing to be able to cashflow this expense. That was the deal my husband and I had. He understood that I needed the training the conference could provide. He agreed I should go. He worked it out to be with the kids. He was/is supportive of my writing. But I can promise you beyond a shadow of a doubt, he would not have supported forking over $1000 every year as I chased after a dream with no results. He would've encouraged me to get a new dream.

I say this not to make my husband sound like an ogre. He's just a very practical man. (Men tend to be more practical while we're more emotional, which is why God puts us together-- He knows we need that practical voice in our lives.) Curt wants me to be successful. He wants me to chase my dreams. But he also doesn't want us to go into the hole to do it. He doesn't want the kids to go without a mom, or the house to be a wreck or our relationship to suffer in the name of "mom's dream." My priorities, he has helped me to see, need to stay in place no matter how close the dream seems. I see acknowledgements where the author thanks her husband and family for eating frozen pizzas during the time she wrote the book. While my family will eat frozen pizza every so often, they won't eat it as a lifestyle. I still need to put dinner on the table and keep a decently clean house. I can't just announce I've become a writer and abdicate all the things that were once important to me. That includes creating a home, caring for my children, investing in my marriage, etc.

All of this to get to my answer. I think that pursuing your dream of writing is good. I think it's good to have stuff that's solely ours, whatever that may look like. But I also think that our husbands fear losing us to those passions, especially if they see signs that could happen. Pray about the way you can do both, finding blocks of time where writing can fit into your life instead of your life yielding to your writing. Depending on your kids' ages, write when they are in school. Put writing in its place in your life. Don't let it bleed all over the other areas. And when your husband talks, really listen instead of arguing in your head. (Not that you do that, but I know I do.) Try to hear what's at the root of his concerns. What's true about what he's saying? Do you spend more time writing than with him? Are you distracted by your daydreams of being published? Do you forsake things you used to make a priority in the name of accomplishing more? These are all things I am guilty of. Things I have to guard against.

I don't have this all figured out. I am continually tweaking, adjusting, shifting. And then sometimes-- as I wrote about last Friday-- just laying it all on the altar and saying "I will quit if You tell me to." I don't ever want to hold anything more dearly than I hold God's voice in my life.

I've written this before but I always try to think about that signature line I saw many years ago that said "Striving to be an old woman with no regrets." When I reflect on my life will I regret it if I don't write? Will I regret it if I miss things with my kids? Will I regret it if I don't invest in my marriage when I can? I try to measure everything against this. Jacqueline Kennedy said "No matter what I do in life, if I mess up raising my kids, nothing else will matter much." (Totally paraphrased but that's the gist.)

Pursue your dream of writing by all means. God gave it to you. I believe that. He will also help you fit it in your life. He loves to make much out of nothing and to work in spite of the odds. That includes husbands who don't seem to "get it" and serious time limits. Write for His glory, live your priorities, and the rest will follow.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Psalms For Moms

Psalm 119:123, "My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your
righteous promise."

Ever had failing eyes? Eyes that grew weak from searching the horizon for that answer you were sure God was going to send? When I read today's verse, it jumped out at me. I have eyes that fail. I know exactly how the Psalmist felt when he penned those words. I've scanned the horizon for financial rescue, marriage help, wisdom for a situation with a child, and professional answers. I've watched and waited, and waited and watched. Eventually in my flesh I grew weak. My eyes failed. I didn't want them to. I wanted to be stronger than that, have more spiritual fortitude.

My Bible referenced two verses in the cross references:

Psalm 6:7, "My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes." (Ever felt this way? There's just too much against you? The sorrow weakens you?)

Isaiah 38:14, "My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens. I am troubled; O Lord, come to my aid!"

These verses comforted me. Just to know that having failing eyes is part of the human condition. That I am not the only one who grows weary in waiting.

And then later I read this verse and I realized, this is the key:

"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." II Chronicles 20:12.

We may not know what to do. We may grow weary. We may have failing eyes. It's not that we aren't full of failings and weakness. We're not supposed to be full of strength and knowledge. We're just supposed to keep our eyes on Him. When they grow weak, He is the lifter of our heads, enabling us to refocus.

Psalm 3:3,"But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." (ESV)

When your eyes grow weak, remember these verses and ask God to help you keep your eyes on Him, lifting your head even when it seems impossible to do so.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Top Ten Stories To Read Aloud To Your Kids

1. The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

2. Homer Price by Robert McCloskey

3. The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

4. From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankwiler by EL Konigsburg

5. Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik

6. Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards

7. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

8. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

9. The Mouse and the Motorcycle/Runaway Ralph collection by Beverly Cleary

10. Charlotte's Web by EB White

With Christmas coming, my mind is on gifts that will make a difference and not end up in the bag of junk we're getting rid of months later. I had the thought of buying copies of these or other great read alouds, wrapping them up and including an official looking certificate promising to read the books aloud in the coming year. That's a gift that keeps on giving!

I have a friend who takes each of her four boys on a special date on their birthday and let's them get a hot chocolate and pick a book out. She hopes this will inspire a love of reading in her boys' lives. I love this idea!

For other resources for great read alouds, check out Chinaberry catalog (The book Under The Chinaberry Tree is a great one to read for further suggestions and inspiration.) Veritas press, Sonlight Curriculum (both these catalogs offer great read aloud selections you can order) and the books by Cay Gibson, Literature Alive and Picture Perfect Childhood. Cay's books really got me going on this pursuit of reading aloud. I need to get back to it... I've not done as well with this as I've been working on my own books and the kids have been in school. A good goal for 2011, perhaps??
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Monday, November 08, 2010

In A Food Mood

Today I am going to share a menu with you, and a favorite Thanksgiving recipe, as promised. I just bought a book called Thanksgiving 101 from Amazon and am looking forward to adding it to my collection. You can check it out here. (When I was buying, there were used copies to be had... I love finding used copies. Of course, as an author I should encourage you to buy everything new. Ahem.)

Here's our menu at the Whalen house for this week:

Barbecue pork chops on the grill, pasta salad, corn

Meatloaf, homemade mac and cheese, green beans

White chile served with tortilla chips, sour cream and shredded cheese

Waffles and bacon, cooked apples

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage, salad, bread

Crispy Oven Chicken, Steamed Broccoli, Mashed Potatoes

And here's a Thanksgiving recipe, as promised:

We'll start with the turkey. Never cooked a whole turkey before? This is an easy way to do one!
(This recipe is from my holiday ebook: A Recipe For Christmas JOY, available from Proverbs 31 Ministries.)

Bag-It! Turkey
1 Tbsp. All-purpose flour
2 ribs sliced celery
1 medium sliced onion
1 (12-24 pound) thawed turkey
vegetable oil
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Shake flour into oven bag; place bag in roasting pan that is at
least 2 inches deep. Add celery and onion to bag. Remove neck and giblets from turkey.
Rinse turkey, pat dry with paper towels. Brush with oil. Place turkey, breast side up, on
top of vegetables. Close bag with nylon tie; cut six ½ inch slits in top. Insert meat
thermometer through slit into thickest part of thigh, not touching bone. Bake until meat
thermometer reads 180 degrees.
2-2 ½ hours for a 12-16 pound turkey
2 1/2 – 3 hours for a 16-20 pound turkey
3-3 ½ hours for a 20-24 pound turkey
When done, let turkey stand in bag for 15 minutes. Remove from bag, discard vegetables
and reserve drippings for gravy, if desired.
The bag really does seal in the juices and results in a turkey that is not dry-- always a good thing.

Next week, we'll move on to side dish recipes. Hope you'll come back and visit then!
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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Coming Soon: Tangled

Anyone else looking forward to this movie? My friends at Disney sent me the link to this video. I think Tangled looks like a great take on the classic tale of Rapunzel. Can't wait to see it! I might have a review to share here in the near future-- and prizes too! Here's a short summary of the movie:

RAPUNZEL may have lived her entire life locked inside a hidden tower, but Rapunzel is no damsel in distress. The girl with the 70 feet of golden hair is an energetic, inquisitive teenager who fills her days with art, books, and imagination. Rapunzel is full of curiosity about the outside world, and she can’t help but feel that her true destiny lies outside of the lonely tower walls. Rapunzel has always obeyed Mother Gothel by staying hidden away and keeping her magical hair a secret… but with her 18th birthday just a day away, she is fed up with her sheltered life and ready for adventure. When a charming thief seeks refuge in her tower, Rapunzel defies Gothel and seizes the opportunity to answer the call of the kingdom. With the unwilling Flynn Rider along for the journey, Rapunzel leaves the tower for the first time, and begins a hilarious, hair-raising journey that will untangle many secrets along the way.

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Friday, November 05, 2010

Fiction Friday: Finding Hope

So today I wanted to talk about finding hope in your publishing journey. Just last week I had a few hopeless moments, wondering if I was supposed to pursue this writing journey beyond the two novels I've done in the past year and a half. Once again, I laid it all on the altar and asked God to show me what needed to come off. And if I was wrong about taking things away, to send some encouragement to help me persevere.

It seems that this will be the path I take as I move forward with writing. That there will be times that I must re-evaluate my calling and consider what God has for me. This is not a bad thing. I might feel bad at the time, but God is working even my feelings of despair for good. In my sadness, He speaks. He tells me things I am not listening for when all is well. He speaks Truth and I seek Truth. And always, He is the God of Hope, pointing me back towards the hope that is not in me, or the industry, or my friends, or my circumstances... but in Him.

This week I read about the list of "Hope Scriptures" (scroll down to get to the "hope" ones) that author Julie Lessman has taken the time to post on her site and I knew that today I was supposed to share them with you. In an interview I read, author Melanie Dickerson said that this list was helpful to her during her down moments as she pursued publication. She printed them off and keeps them accessible so she can read over them often. However you use this list, it's good to have. Thanks to Julie Lessman for making it available so that we can all focus on hope as we tell our stories.
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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thursday Thought: Your Questions Answered

Q: How do you get the navigation tab on your blog?

A: I am the most non-techie person you could meet. If I can't cut and paste my way out of it, you can forget it. Lucky for me, cut and paste works a lot! As for how I got the navigation tab on my blog, I have to say I am assuming you mean the tabs along the top of the blog that say "Where I'll Be" and "Writing Is A Passion" etc. I got those by paying a techie type person to do what I could not. I believe very much in paying others to do what you cannot. I mean, if you have the money. If you don't have the money you should do it yourself or go without. Speaking of...

I am hoping soon to 1) take a new family photo now that the one at the top is 2 years old and 2) pay someone to revise and revamp this blog. I might change up the navigation tabs on the top too, just to keep you guessing. I also want to add some new features and just generally make this blog more cutting edge. I am not cutting edge, so it would be fun to have a blog that is. Then over time, I could catch up to it.

Q: What are your thoughts/tips on teaching children to share with siblings and friends?

A: Here are my thoughts/tips, such as they are:

1. Try not to yell at them for not sharing. And if you yell, make sure your windows aren't open so that the neighbors hear. That's embarrassing.

2. Tell them that if you and their dad fought as much as they do, they would have to be in therapy. So why is it that they expect you to listen to all that yelling and fighting and not have any residual effects? A tic or compulsion is to be expected. They will shake their heads and walk away when you go on this particular rant, but it will make you feel better to pose this question to the air around you.

3. Pray for their hearts to be more giving.

4. Try to notice how much you lay claim to your own stuff and dislike sharing. Scratch that. It will only make you feel hopeless.

Seriously, we require our kids to share. We take things away that they are fighting over. We tell them, "You know what? This thing is not more important than this relationship, so until you can get your relationship where it needs to be, you don't need to have this thing (whatever it is)." We also make them hug each other and say things aloud like "I love you more than my DS." Or, "I'm sorry for treating you like that. Here, you can have whatever the item is." Things like that. Having to say it aloud is good, I think. It really helps them put things into perspective and it teaches them to humble themselves with each other. Plus it's just fun to make them do it because they don't like to and that's what happens when you make your mama mad. She makes you do things you dislike. What's the moral of this story? Don't make your mama mad.

Ok, so it's late as I am writing this and I apologize for how slap happy I am as I type. I do hope you got some usable answers out of this (not very intelligent) post.

I will be back next week with some more answers. Thanks to all of you who sent questions! I am enjoying hearing about what you guys want to know!
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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Psalms For Moms

Psalm 118:13-14, "I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

A few weeks ago we had a tense time in our marriage. There were days of not much being said to each other beyond terse, businessy conversation. I hate when things get like that between us but it seemed that neither of us was really into talking about the issues. We both needed time to process and decide how we were going to approach the issues at hand.

Maybe it's just us but folks, Curt and I fight. We are two strong people with strong opinions. We don't fight as much as we used to but every few months an issue will sneak up on us and thrust itself into our midst like a pushy, uninvited guest. And it takes us awhile to escort the guest to the door and lock it behind him.

I read this verse during that time and it really spoke to me. I felt exactly like what the psalmist was describing-- pushed back and about to fall. I have seen so many marriages break up through the years and it never stops breaking my heart when it does. I don't want to be our future. And yet, as the fight stretched out over days, I did feel that "pushed back" feeling. I wondered if we were about to fall. Would this be the fight that finally drove us apart? Would we be pushed back so far that we couldn't find our way back?

And then I read this verse and saw the key. Yes, we get pushed back, yes, we nearly fall. BUT the Lord helps us. What I love about this verse is that it doesn't say we're never going to feel these hopeless feelings, that we're never going near the point of falling. We are. But it's what He will do for us even as we're struggling that we can hang onto. He is our strength, our song, our salvation. He will come through. It might not be as fast as we want. But I believe that rescue will come. Because God doesn't want His people to fall. He is fighting on our behalf.

Because of that I can keep praying, keep seeking, keep trusting. I can claim this verse even before I see the help. I can rest in the knowledge that it is, surely, coming.
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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Little Things That Make A Big Difference

1. Eating protein for breakfast. Lately I've been eating soft boiled eggs. Yum! A couple of slices of turkey bacon is also a quick and easy breakfast if you cook them in the microwave. Eating protein for breakfast does give you more energy and gets your metabolism going for the day. Your body needs proteins more than the typical high carb breakfasts most of us eat.

2. A clean kitchen sink. Having the dishes out and the sink shiny and clean really does help your kitchen feel cleaner and more peaceful.

3. Talking to your kids. Listening to their stories, asking them questions, telling them your stories. It doesn't take much time, but it goes a long way towards building relationships and showing them they are worth your time and attention.

4. Reading aloud to your kids. I have such great memories of reading aloud to my kids. Curt does too. I love when my olders will see one of our faves from their younger years and say "Mom, remember that one?" Always time well spent.

5. Letting people know you're praying for them. I love when someone emails me to let me know God has put me on their heart. How amazing and humbling and reassuring! Because I know how much it blesses me, I always try to do the same when God puts someone on my heart. It takes seconds to shoot a quick email, but it might be just the reassurance someone else needs.

6. Putting things away rather than putting them down. A few extra seconds to put it where it actually goes goes a long way towards creating a home that's picked up and neat.

7. Making your bed. This has the same effect on your bedroom that a clean kitchen sink has on your kitchen. Plus a made bed just sleeps better. No tangled, wrinkled sheets. Just sliding into smooth, welcoming goodness.

8. Buying time-saving cleaning products. I love (and have written about) Clorox or Lysol wipes, glass wipes, dust wipes, Swiffer mops, etc. Anything that saves me time with my cleaning efforts or makes it easier for my kids to help out is worth the little bit of extra money I have to spend. It's still cheaper than a maid!

9. Tidying up before your husband gets home. My mom did this with us when we were little and now I do the same. I know that it can be disconcerting to walk into a messy home after a long day and I try to keep that from happening to my husband. So when I know Curt's coming home I will have the kids stop and do a quick clean up-- put toys away, take folded laundry to their rooms, put away stray discarded shoes, etc. I also try not to be on the phone when he walks in either. I don't do it perfectly all the time, but I try.

10. Fifteen little minutes with God every morning before you put your feet on the floor. Nuff said. Little thing, big difference.
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Monday, November 01, 2010

In A Food Mood: Caramel Apples

I have a devotion running today at Proverbs 31. Thanks to all of you who stop by after reading. At my blog I have a theme for each day (you can learn more about what that looks like by clicking on the "About Me" tab at the top of this blog). Today's theme is "In A Food Mood" so I am discussing caramel apples. Not really spiritual, but really delicious!

All through November I am going to be sharing some of my favorite holiday recipes, so please keep coming back, or enter your email in the sidebar where it says, fittingly, "Subscribe" to subscribe to my blog!

One of my favorite fall flavors is the tasty combo of caramel and apples.

Here's a couple of ways that I combine these flavors at my house:

Caramel Apples
Feeling ambitious? Make real caramel apples as a treat.

Caramel Dip
(buy the Kraft 14 oz bag of caramels and use the recipe on the back of the bag)
Tip: have your kids open all the caramels because you do not have 1) time or 2) the inclination to do such trivial things.
This takes mere minutes to mix up and if you buy one of those peeler/slicer dealies, you can slice up a bunch of apples in just a few more minutes.

Caramel Apple Pie
This recipe combines the flavor of apples and caramel in a pie. Delish!

Combine 10 caramel candies, each cut into 4 pieces, add 1/3 cup of flour. Add 3 cups chopped (1/2 inch cubes) Jonathan or Rome apples, 2/3 cup caramel ice cream topping and 2 tsp lemon juice. Mix well.

Pour mixture into frozen regular 9" pie crust and sprinkle with 1/2 cup pecan pieces.

Bake at 375 on a preheated baking sheet for 40-45 minutes. Store at room temp.

Caramel Apple Bars

Does a pie sound too ambitious? Try these delicious sounding bars.

Next week I will start posting Thanksgiving recipes. In the meantime, maybe the pie would be a great dessert to offer your guests or take wherever you are going? Something to consider!
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