Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

Today I have a devotion running at P31. If you've stopped by after reading, welcome! I am glad to have you here and hope you will return. Usually on Tuesdays I post a top ten Tuesday list, but I am preparing for a book launch (tomorrow!) and recovering from a busy weekend filled with birthday fun and holiday relaxation.

Soooo, I decided today instead of posting a top ten list, I would share this quote with you that went so nicely with the theme of my devotion for today: Purse, Bag or Sandals. Haven't read the devotion today? Check out the "P31 Blogs" list in the sidebar and you will see the Encouragment For Today blog, where you can find it.

I've been reading Oswald Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest for my morning quiet time, and I read this over the weekend. It gave me a lot to think about--

"Lord, I will follow thee; but..." Luke 9:61

"If a man is going to do anything worthwhile, there are times when he has to risk everything on his leap, and in the spiritual domain Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold by common sense and leap into what He says, and immediately you do, you find that what He says fits on as solidly as common sense."

Jesus told the disciples to leave without purses, bags or sandals. And they did just what He said-- even though it didn't make sense. What is He telling you that doesn't make sense in the here and now? Will you take the leap, trusting that it will fit on as solidly as common sense?

PS. Would love to see you back here tomorrow, where we will be talking about the launch of my second novel She Makes It Look Easy.
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Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day-- No Post

This is a quick post just to let you know I am taking Memorial Day off! I hope you guys get to do the same. My birthday was Sunday so we are spending a long family weekend by the pool, doing a whole lot of nothing.

I will be back tomorrow and will spend the week talking about the launch of She Makes It Look Easy-- We will go back to regular posting the following week.

Enjoy your Memorial Day!
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Friday, May 27, 2011

Fiction Friday: The Anti-Romance?

The Anti Romance

When I wrote my first novel, The Mailbox, I had two things going for me: 1) I had a unique hook that had never been done before and 2) I was writing a love story. Who doesn't love a good love story? I could count on my readers getting caught up in the mystique of the mailbox and the romance of the main characters. My thought was that if those two things were done right, then the reader wouldn't necessarily notice if the writing was bad.

It seems my plan worked because then I got asked to write another novel. (Insert maniacal laughter here.)

But there was just one problem with that. My second novel was neither based on a mysterious place that no one had written about nor was it a love story. Instead, it was more of an anti-love story. My second novel-- which released on June 1-- is actually a story about an affair that negatively affects the lives of several people. Not necessarily those warm fuzzy lovey dovey feelings I got to hide behind last time. This story is about some ugly stuff, some unpleasantness.

And the worst part was, I couldn't hide behind my little tricks this time. It seemed the writing was going to have to matter.

So I did what any writer would do once I realized this. I calmly and rationally went to my husband and asked him if it was possible to give the publisher back the advance I'd been given. I begged him to-- just this once-- let me quit.

He smiled, reminded me we have six children and any money that comes near our house gets spent immediately. Then he did what my dad used to do when I would fall off one of our horses. He smiled, told me to get back on, and ride home. No matter how scary that idea seemed at the time.

The good news is, after tears, grumbling and just a few panic attacks, I tackled the edits. I made the writing better, at least to the best of my ability. I called on my excellent editor and some good writing buddies for input and moral support. And prayer. Lots of prayer. And in the process I found that even the anti-romance could appeal to a reader.

Will I stay with these anti-romance stories? Well, I'm already back to writing a love story. What can I say? My heart is drawn to them. But I'm not afraid of anti-romances anymore. I know that writing the serious stuff, the unpleasant things, can be a powerful exercise for a writer. If you can take something people don't really want to dwell on and make them think about it in a whole new way then you've accomplished something as a writer. I might not write an anti-romance next, but I've got some ideas for some in the future. I like pushing myself as a writer. Turns out, it's a good thing to do.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Thought: Blackout

Disney/Hyperion sent me a copy of this delightfully illustrated new book about a city-wide blackout based on a true story. My kids and I enjoyed reading it before bed the other night so I thought I'd share it with you. More info and a link to the trailer is below:

“Rocco's sublime account of a city blackout reveals a bittersweet truth: it sometimes takes a crisis to bring a family together,” said Publishers Weekly about Blackout, the new beautifully illustrated book by John Rocco. In the story a family experiences a revelation about the significance of spending quality time together. When the lights go out in the city, the neighborhood comes alive and the family finds wonder in their surroundings. In an age where multitasking is a coveted skill and time with the family is a scheduled event, Blackout brings to light the importance of taking a break from the television, computer and phone to enjoy the company of loved ones.

The story takes place on one hot summer night in the city when all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, "Mommm!" His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can't work on her computer, and Dad can't finish cooking dinner. What's a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights--in stars that can be seen for a change--and so many neighbors it's like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun--talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again. Using a combination of panels and full bleed illustrations that move from color to black-and-white and back to color, John Rocco shows that if we are willing to put our cares aside for a while, there is party potential in a summer blackout.

To see the trailer, go here.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Psalms For Moms

If you are stopping by after reading today's devotion, thanks for the visit! Every Wednesday here at my blog, I share a "Psalm For Moms." This little midweek encouragement is for moms like me who could use the pick-me-up. I hope you'll come back by another time and visit. To see what my blogging schedule looks like, visit the "About Me" tab at the top of this blog.

"Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word." Psalm 119:37

What worthless things are your eyes focused on right now? To me worthless things are the things that won't last-- whether it be that problem you can't stop thinking about, material goods, or anything that distracts you from walking closer with God.

I know I can get so fixated on worthless things-- really letting them pull me down, down, down. I find myself in that pit the Psalmist wrote about (Psalm 40:2), needing God to lift me out. In today's verse, we see that the way to restore life-- and I like to think he's talking about that "abundant life" that Jesus talks about in John 10:10-- is to go to the Word, allowing it to set me straight, refocus my vision, and lift me out of the pit.

Last week I got some hard news. Not devastating news. But hard news nonetheless. For a few days I went around with my Eeyore face on. You all know the Eeyore face: "Woe is me. My life stinks. Think I'll just sit here and sulk." It was only through prayer and submitting myself to the Truth of God's Word that I began to move back to a place of joy and abundance.

I will leave you with this quote I read in My Utmost For His Highest:

There are certain things we must not pray about-- moods, for instance. Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking. A mood nearly always has its seat in the physical condition, not in the moral. It is a continual effort not to listen to the moods which arise from a physical condition; never submit to them for a second. We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won't. The Christian life is one of incarnate spiritual pluck.

I love that phrase in the last line: incarnate spiritual pluck. Sometimes turning to the Bible and letting it work out the ugly stuff and work in the good is the last thing we "feel" like doing. And yet, we must make the effort to go there, opening the Word and our hearts to the work the Holy Spirit wants us to do.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top Ten Things You Can Do In Less Than Thirty Minutes

This is a guest post by my friend Karen Ehman, author of The Complete Guide To Getting And Staying Organized. Read on to the bottom of the list to find out about an exciting free offer she's got for you this summer!

Got 30 minutes to spare? I know, moms never have time to spare. So get up early, stay up late, find 30 minutes when you’re on hold with the insurance company. Just grab half an hour and tackle one of the following ten tasks, most of which can actually be done in less than 30 minutes.
1. Dump out one drawer in the kitchen. Sort the contents into three piles: out of place, throw away, and put back. Wipe out the drawer. Replace wanted items. Put those that are out of place back where they belong and pitch the throw-away items. If you find any items that are unwanted but still in good shape, place them in a box to be donated to charity or sold at your next yard sale.

2. Balance your checkbook. Go online or use the telephone teller to see which checks have cleared and which deposits have been made; then do the math to get your current balance. Warning: If it has been a long time since you’ve done this, it will take more than 30 minutes. If you do this every week or two, it will take much less time.

3. Purge your purse. Dump the contents onto the floor. Get rid of trash. Organize your money. Stash your receipts somewhere where you’ll be able to locate them when needed. And consider getting a smaller purse. If you buy a big purse, you’ll be sure to fill it.Think small! A “clutch on a string” type purse with space for a cell phone should do the trick. You can always keep this inside a larger tote bag or diaper bag if you want. It will be easier when shopping if you keep your main purse small and its contents narrowed down to the essentials.

4. Clean your counters. Move everything to one side of your kitchen counters. Wipe thoroughly. Move everything to the other side. Wipe the second half. Place it all back where it belongs.
Disinfect your doorknobs. This is likely the most germ-infested area of your home. Everyone touches the doorknobs, but no one cleans them. Experts say to give them a good rubbing with a disinfectant wipe every so often.

5. Clean out your fridge. Pull everything out onto the counter. Wipe down the inside. Replace only what is not out of date. Pitch the rest. If any items are near the expiration date and not going to be used soon, freeze if possible. You can do this with your freezer another time.

6. Mind the medicine cabinet. Check the dates on all your meds, and decide which ones must be tossed. Rid the cabinet of any lotions, shampoos, and products you don’t need. Wipe the shelves down and replace only what you’re keeping. I do this twice a year when the time changes. That’s also when we check our smoke-alarm batteries.

7. Purge the pantry. Remove all canned and boxed goods from your pantry shelves. Throw away what is outdated. Make a pile of what is still good but your family won’t likely eat. Donate this to a local food bank or homeless shelter. Replace items in an order logical to you. Sometimes, see if you can eat for a week with only the items you find in your pantry. I’ve invented some recipes this way. Go online to find recipes that pair items you have on hand. Shop for only what fresh items are needed to round out your meals. You’ll save a bundle on your groceries that week.

8. Add an address. Transfer any addresses from sticky notes, letter envelopes, and Christmas cards into your address book.

9. Give thanks. Anyone you’ve been meaning to write a thank-you note to? Do it now. And to make it easier in the future, place some thank-you notes, stamps, return address labels, and your address book in a basket near your sofa or in a tote bag you can take to the doctor’s office or carpool line. Grab it often to jot a note of thanks or encouragement to someone.

10. Peruse your porch. Take a look at what others see when they knock on your front door. Does your front window need washing? The porch need sweeping? Are there cobwebs that could do with a good knocking down? Take a little time to make the entrance to your home look presentable.

If you'd like to get more intentional this summer in using your time wisely and finally getting things organized around your house, join the free Facebook study Karen is hosting on her book The Complete Guide to Getting & Staying Organized.

The study begins June 1st and includes daily tips, discussions, giveaways, guests and a few optional conference calls.

Head over to the page and "Like" it to join and then stay tuned for details and a suggested reading schedule. You can locate the page by clicking here:
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Monday, May 23, 2011

In A Food Mood: Breakfast For Dinner

Last week we had a breakfast casserole for dinner and my kids loved it. I don't know why I hadn't thought of doing this before, but I know I will do it more often. While I've made eggs and bacon for dinner before, I've never made a whole casserole.

One thing I liked about doing the casserole is I could assemble it in the morning (when I have more energy), put it in the fridge, then just pop it into the oven an hour before we needed to eat. Add some fresh cut up fruit from the produce section and voila! Dinner is served!

So if this sounds good to you, I am going to share these two casserole ideas. I hope they inspire you to get in a food mood!

Crescent Roll Casserole

1 lb pork sausage, browned and drained
1 (8 oz) pkg crescent rolls
10 eggs, beaten
2 cups mixed shredded cheeses
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp, Italian seasoning

Grease 9X13 pan. Heat oven to 350. Pinch seams together and spread crescent rolls in pan. Bake for 7 minutes. Sprinkle cooked sausage on rolls. Mix eggs, cheese, milk and seasoning and pour over sausage and rolls. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, reduce to 325 and bake for 20 minutes.

Ham and Hashbrown Casserole

8 frozen shredded hashbrown patties (I used Ore-Ida frozen hashbrowns and just sprinkled them liberally on the bottom of the pan)
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb. cooked ham, cubed (I got this at the deli, asked for thick sliced and diced it when I got home)
7 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt

Arrange hashbrown patties in a single layer in a greased 9X13 baking pan. Sprinkle with cheese and ham, set aside. Blend together eggs, milk, mustard and salt in a bowl with a whisk. Pour over ham. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for one hour. Uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

Fiction Friday: Delving Into the Darkness

I think it’s worthwhile to really spend some time trying to see the conflict from the villain’s point of view. That can help us write more convincing villains.

As I mentioned above, I think many writers are uncomfortable with doing that. They don’t want to delve into a dark character because it requires them to delve into the dark parts of themselves. Being able to do so, however, can make your villain far less of a cardboard cutout and far more of a character. And stronger characters make more compelling stories.

(Quote from Carolyn Kaufman, author of The Writer's Guide To Psychology in this interview)

When I read this quote I was struck by how much it mirrored what I ended up having to do during the edits of my upcoming book, She Makes It Look Easy. The "she" in the title is Justine Miller, domestic diva and queen of Essex Falls, the neighborhood that the main character, Ariel Baxter moves into. Ariel is Justine's backdoor neighbor and the two form a tenuous friendship based on proximity and Ariel's unabashed admiration for Justine. Ariel would like their friendship to deepen but there seems to be something holding Justine back from going below the surface. Through the course of the novel, Ariel must come to terms with what that something is-- even if it means seeing Justine's faults and grasping that nothing is really as easy as it looks.

When I originally wrote the book, I wrote it completely from Ariel's perspective. You only saw Justine through Ariel's eyes. This was safe, because Ariel was safe. She was the one who was (mostly) making the right decisions and (mostly) wanting to be a better person. Justine was the dangerous one, the rogue. She was more ambiguous as a character and if I didn't write her from her own perspective, the writing stayed safe.

Guess what my editor wanted me to do right off the bat?

You got it... Give Justine a voice.

So I took about two weeks to really think through Justine's voice-- her perspective, the way she saw things. I let her-- as my editor said-- talk to me. I didn't look like I was working but in my mind I was. (My husband has said that the inside of my mind must be a scary place to be. Let's just say I am never bored.)

After two weeks of mulling I was ready to delve into the darkness that was Justine. It was not a comfortable place to be. I found her thoughts disturbing. Largely because of what Carolyn Kaufman described in this quote-- I was delving into the darkest parts of myself, seeing what thoughts I was capable of, taking a good look at the blackness that lurks in all of our souls.

What ended up happening is that I found a sympathy for Justine as a person that I know has added something to the novel that was not there in the draft I originally wrote. And my editor agrees. The novel is better for it. I am a better writer because I pushed myself to delve beyond the happy sunshiney surface I wanted to live on as a writer. I learned from these edits that delving into the darkness might not be comfortable, but it is necessary if you want to produce an emotional novel. Carolyn Kaufman says it will make for a more compelling story and that's what I want-- to compel my readers to turn the pages.
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday Thought

We're at the mid-point of May and all I can say is, come on June!! We have two kids finishing out their soccer and baseball season and four kids swimming swim team. Add to that a mom finishing the first draft on one book and launching another and three kids preparing to graduate from transitional kindergarten, middle school and high school and you've got a house that is bordering on chaos. Last weekend I was in bed asleep by 9:00 both Friday and Saturday night. Party animal, I am not.

I don't like busyness. I don't like keeping up with 45 different events and all the detailed emails that come with those events. I don't like having to buy things and bring things and remember things.

This past weekend I traded emails with a friend, venting for a minute about how crazy life had become. And I wrote, "I have to remember that it's all good things." She wrote back that she tells herself the exact same thing when life gets crazy. Graduation? Good thing. Kids healthy and able to play sports? Good thing. Being the mom of this brood? Good thing. Getting to pursue my dream of writing books? Good thing.

But in the midst of all these good things, I am looking forward to a month from now, when school will be out. The flurry of emails from teachers will end for a few blissful weeks. The rush out the door in the morning will be but a memory. The nightly race to this practice and this game and this event will be over. Instead we'll move slow, our biggest concern for the day being when we're going to the pool. The kids will still be doing swim team but that will be all. I can handle that.

When things get crazy, I set my sights on a month from now and tell myself "You can make it til then. Hang in there." So if you are also running crazy right now, I say the same to you. Summer's coming. I promise.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Psalms For Moms: Giving

Psalm 144: 3-4, "LORD, What are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow."

I Chron. 29:14, 14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand."

I have read two books back to back that have challenged me profoundly in the area of giving. One is called One Simple Act by Debbie Macomber and one is called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Perhaps you've heard of Crazy Love? I think most everyone has by now. Let's just say I am a bit late in reading it, but it's been perfectly timed for me to read it in tandem with One Simple Act. Two books in a row that both zero in on giving? Random coincidence? I think not--

These two verses challenged me as I read them so I wanted to share them with you. The second verse builds on the first. We're only giving what was never ours. And who are we anyway? With this in mind, how can we not give generously and enthusiastically?

If you're struggling financially right now, don't let this post be a guilt-inducing post. Let it be an inspiring post-- something to set your sights on for the future. I think if we're getting out of debt just so we can be financially free, then there's no point to it. But if we're getting out of debt so we can better care for those we love and reach out to those in need, well that's the game-changer. We can pray for the ability and resources to give, then praise God when we reach that point.
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Monday, May 16, 2011

In A Food Mood/Top Ten List All In One!

Menu Planning Tips:

1. Have your calendar handy when you're planning. That way you can note the nights you need to be somewhere or have an easy "dinner on the go" planned.

2. Make a grocery list as you plan your menu. Then go shopping. This is why I try to menu plan on the weekends so I can spend the time it takes to do both.

3. When planning your menu, it's best to be in the kitchen so you can hop up and check the pantry and fridge for ingredients you need. No sense buying double.

4. Get out your favorite cookbooks or go to your favorite cooking sites, and start browsing around for recipes that sound good to you. I always love delving into a new cookbook because it provides fresh inspiration.

5. Invest in some cookbooks that will help you prepare easy meals, especially if you tend to avoid cooking. Look for slow cooker cookbooks, cookbooks with five ingredients or less, etc. That way when you sit down to meal plan, you can just go to those and put together some "no-brainer" meals. I haven't met a busy mom yet who doesn't appreciate a no-brainer meal!

6. Plan some desserts while you're at it. My kids love when I surprise them with a special dessert for no particular reason.

7. Have a menu board where you post the week's menu. This makes it easy to check first thing in the morning and see what needs to be put in the crockpot, what needs to be defrosted, etc. Ours is a write on/wipe off board on the side of our fridge. I always chuckle when we have guests over and they sit and read my menu board, remarking on what their faves are.

8. In my opinion, it's easier if you don't assign days to the menu. That way you can just see what's available to make and decide what you feel like making that day. It also gives you room to adjust things when life intervenes, as it surely will.

9. It's good to cook for three nights, then have a leftover night so you can use up the stuff in the fridge and it doesn't go bad. I plan leftover night in my menu. I *love* leftover nights.

10. Instead of looking at menu planning as a chore, think of it as an honor. It's an honor to feed our families. (Especially if you have boys-- I am convinced there's one additional love language, and that's food. When I cook for my boys they see that as an act of love.) It's a gift to be able to have food on the table. When we make that shift in perspective, menu planning becomes less about "have to" and more about "get to."
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Bonus: Pirates of the Caribbean

The newest edition of Pirates of the Caribbean comes out May 20th!

Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Rob Marshall, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” captures the fun, adventure and humor that ignited the hit franchise—this time in Disney Digital 3D™. Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in an action-packed adventure. Crossing paths with the enigmatic Angelica (Penélope Cruz), he’s not sure if it’s love—or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” the ship of the legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know whom to fear more: Blackbeard or Angelica, with whom he shares a mysterious past. The international cast includes franchise vets Geoffrey Rush as the vengeful Captain Hector Barbossa and Kevin R. McNally as Captain Jack’s longtime comrade Joshamee Gibbs, plus Sam Claflin as a stalwart missionary and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as a mysterious mermaid.

Want to download an activity pack for your kids while they wait? To help celebrate, Disney has created an awesome activity pack for kids! It includes face masks, coloring sheets, door hangers, mazes, etc. and can be downloaded via the link below.

**Note: this link expires in 7 days.
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Friday, May 13, 2011

Fiction Friday: Time For Some Honesty

In a few weeks my second novel comes out. And I feel like I can be gut honest with all of you who have been sticking with me here at my blog over the years. The question hanging in the air is, will this novel be as successful as the first one? Or-- dare I say it??-- more successful?? Do I even dream that big?

I want this second novel to do well. I really, really do. My career's (still sounds so weird to say that for a stay at home mom) success hangs largely on whether I build on what I started with The Mailbox. Mailbox didn't blow the industry out of the water by any stretch, but it did well enough for a first time author. With this new novel comes truth time. Do I have the chops to sell well again?

And here's more truth: She Makes It Look Easy is an entirely different novel. It isn't a love story and it doesn't involve the beach. It's about women's relationships and the complications that can ensue when we're not honest with each other. It's about the fact that all is never as it seems, with any of us. I used much of what I have learned in women's ministry over the past 15 years. I had to dig deeper with this novel, stretch my writing muscles further (farther?) than I ever have. I wanted to quit many times on this one. I begged my husband to just let me give the advance back to my publisher and call it good. He said no, finish the work and then see if you still feel that way.

Obviously his little strategy worked and I persevered.

Which leads us to now... and you. What do you have to do with it? Here's the honesty part: everything. I need you to buy this book. I need you to pre-order it at Amazon. I need you to buy it the week it comes out. Or both. I need you to download it on your Kindle or Nook or iPad.

Don't read fiction? Try reading just this one story. Or buy the book for a friend who does read fiction. Even better, buy one for you and one for a friend! Challenge several friends to read it, then set a time and all of you meet over a potluck dessert night or something fun like that and discuss the book. There are discussion questions in the back for just such a purpose.

The week the book comes out I will be running a post about other things you can do but for now, I just wanted to plant this seed and take a moment for a shameless plug: If each of you bought this book it would be off to a great start. Do it because you like this blog. Do it because you want to support a stay at home mom whose kid is starting college in the fall. Do it because you know from reading my blog that I rarely push my products here so I must really need the support.

The first week the book launches, I will be talking about it a lot here. Bear with me. That's part of this industry-- shameless self-promotion, something I shy away from but must occasionally play along with if I am to get my book in front of buyers. And yes, I write for the sake of writing. But I won't be able to keep writing if the books don't sell.

All of this to say, please consider buying the book. You might just be glad you did.
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday Thought

Last week I didn't even post a Thursday thought-- not because I didn't have one, but because I've had too many of them to sit down and boil them down to one post! Scattered is a word that best describes me these days.

So when I saw this post from my buddy Karen Ehman, I knew I had to share it with you.

And then, just because it touched my heart, I wanted to also share this post written by new mom and author Aidan Donnelly Rowley. So sweet and brings back memories.

These are the things I am thinking about these days-- wearing many hats as I chauffeur kids all over creation and prepare for a new season as school transitions into summer-- my favorite time of year! I am also trying to launch one book and finish the first draft of another. So there's career-- such as it is-- to think of too. Which brings me back to those moments of savoring the here and now and not becoming so busy I miss things I should be paying attention to. I hope these two blog posts make you think like they made me think. I suspect they will.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Psalms For Moms

Psalm 94:19, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."

When I am stressed, my first response is typically not to let God console me. I let escaping in a good movie console me, or a big bowl of ice cream, or a long conversation with a friend, or a big hug from one of my children. But mostly-- and I am just being honest-- my first inclination isn't God. I am too quick to look to the world's offerings: Get a massage! Take a vacation! Go shopping! Have a drink!

But the truth is, not one of those things brings joy to my soul. Sure, they bring joy to my flesh: fleeting, temporary joy.

But my soul stays empty because I don't fill it with what I truly need.

God's consolation looks different than the world's. It involves listening, seeking, pursuing... Him. I have to be intentional about it by focusing on His Word and making His message to me a non-negotiable part of my day, as my friend LuAnn Prater says. I have to remember to pray-- to go to Him first and not my friends. And I have to remember that I have the Holy Spirit inside of me-- that I have everything I need for life and godliness, as II Peter 1:3 says. With all of that working on my behalf, I can handle the stresses of life. And amazingly I can even find joy for my soul: deep, abiding joy.

Recently our family's been dealing with some stress. The other day I was feeling very overwhelmed by it, fighting feelings of anger and the urge to flee the situation, wanting to handle things for the short term and not for the long run. (The long run mentality is SO much harder!) In a moment of lucidity, I got out my little spiral bound index cards of memory verses and flipped to a couple of verses that I want to describe our family. Now they didn't describe our family at that moment, but I could hold them up as a bulls-eye to aim for, a promise straight from God's Word to my heart. I put the card where I could see it throughout the day and I just read that verse to myself every time I walked past. I whispered the words as a prayer.

And slowly but surely, peace began to fill my soul. The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) It can cut through to the heart of any issue you're dealing with and slice off all the ugly, unwanted feelings you're struggling with. The trick is to remember to go to it-- and not the world-- when you're in those tight places. I have sought the consolation of the world and come up empty. I want the consolation of the Lord to bring joy to my soul.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Questions About Me

I got these questions from Sarah Elizabeth at Daughter of the King. She apparently got them from someone else. They do this as a Wednesday post. I am doing it on a Tuesday. It all works out.

1. What was your first job?
At a clothing store. I worked every Saturday from 10-6. My mom got me the job. She came home one day and said, "I got you a job. You start Saturday." The following Saturday, she put me in the car and dropped me off on the curb by the store. I stood there trying to figure out what had just happened. Now I know it was that I was 15 and she just couldn't come home and find me lounging unproductively on the couch one more time. This was a very good precedent and I pretty much did the same thing to my oldest when he was 15. I highly recommend it.

2. Have you ever seen a stand-up comedian?
We saw Sinbad live last year. We would go see him again in a minute.

3. When was the last time you played mini golf?
I dragged my family there when we had 3 small children because I thought it would be "fun." It was a pirate-themed mini golf place and my oldest was in a pirate phase. Not the ideal thing to do with 3 small children and I have no desire to ever do it again.

4. What was the last picture you took?
Easter pictures. I actually got one of all 6 of the children, a rarity.

5. Burnt food: yes or no?
Never ever for any reason.

6. If you have a pocket full of change, what do you do with it?
Spend it on coffee.

7. Can you touch your tongue to your nose?
No. But I can launch spit bubbles off my tongue, a skill I acquired in college. Never say that my parents' money was wasted on my education, no sirree.

8. Do you scrapbook?
This is a sad story filled with regret. I used to but I haven't in about 5 years. The writing just took over and there are only so many hours in a day. Moving on from this sensitive topic...

9. Do you buy lottery tickets?
No. I have bought raffle tickets before though. Mostly because the kid selling them looked desperate, not because I actually thought I would win.

10. Do you prefer to be in front of the camera or behind it?
Behind it. Always.
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Monday, May 09, 2011

In A Food Mood

I have a devotion running today at P31. Thanks to all of you who pop by for a visit! For those of you who've never stopped by my blog, on Mondays I write a food-themed post-- recipes, tips, etc. for busy women who find they still must somehow provide food for their families. Try as I might, I can't find a way around it. You all profit from those moments when I am "in a food mood" and plan out menus, try new recipes, think of fun things to do with food, etc. The idea is I then inspire you to also be "in a food mood."

Just go with it.

Today I thought I would share with you a recipe from my mother's day gift-- a homemade cookbook written and assembled by my daughter's pre-kindergarten class. This cookbook is SO cute and one of my favorite gifts from Mother's Day. Each mom contributed her favorite recipe and the class compiled, illustrated, and bound them all for us. I'm enjoying these and wanted to share this one with you:

Chicken Burrito Bake

4 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup store-bought medium-hot green tomatillo salsa
1 pkg shredded taco style cheese blend
8-10 flour tortillas
1 jar alfredo sauce
shredded lettuce, tomatoes, etc. for serving

Preheat oven to 375
Place chicken, salsa, 1/2 cup of cheese in mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.
Spoon 1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken mixture down center of each tortilla. Fold over, creating a filled log.
Place filled tortillas in 13X9 inch dish. (Place them snug against each other.)
Place pasta sauce and remaining 1.5 cups cheese in mixing bowl. Stir well.
Pour over burritos.
Bake 20-25 minutes, let cool 10 minutes.
Serve with toppings.
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Friday, May 06, 2011

Fiction Friday: Here, Home, Hope

You know the old line from Jerry Maguire: "You had me at hello?"

Well this book had me at the title. Three words all in a row that reflect themes in my life.

Here: Be here. Be present. Quit always focusing on what lies ahead. Rest in this present you've been given.

Home: This place I've both loved and hated, longed for and longed to get away from. For many years I felt that home was a prison to be escaped-- needs and demands and responsibilities waited for me there. But then I changed and now home is my favorite place to be. I love all things home-- put home in the title and you've got a sale. The story of my conversion from home hater to home lover is a blog post for another time, however.

Hope: That elusive word that I try to latch onto no matter how many times it slips from my grasp.

And that cover? The hydrangeas! The bare feet! The porch! Swoon. Here's a summary of what the book's about:

Kelly Mills Johnson becomes restless in her thirty-ninth year. An appetite for more forces her to take stock of her middling middle-American existence and her neighbors' seemingly perfect lives. Her marriage to a successful attorney has settled into a comfortable routine, and being the mother of two adorable sons has been rewarding. But Kelly's own passions lie wasted. She eyes with envy the lives of her two best friends, Kathryn and Charlotte, both beautiful, successful businesswomen who seem to have it all. Kelly takes charge of her life, devising a midlife makeover plan.

From page one, Kelly's witty reflections, self-deprecating humor, and clever tactics in executing that plan--she places Post-it notes all over her house and car--will have readers laughing out loud. The next instant, however, they might rant right along with Kelly as her commitment to a sullen, anorexic teenager left on her doorstep tries her patience or as she deflects the boozy advances of a divorced neighbor. Readers will need to keep the tissue box handy, too, as Kelly repairs the damage she inflicted on a high school friend; realizes how deeply her husband, Patrick, understands and loves her; and ultimately grows into a woman empowered by her own blend of home and career.

Here, Home, Hope will surely appeal to readers of chick lit and other women's fiction titles who are ready to transition into something new in their own life.

(Disclaimer: this book is not Christian fiction. If you're looking for Christian fiction, hop over to for some great recommendations!)
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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Psalms For Moms

Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

Today instead of writing on these two Psalms, I am going to let my friend Ann Voskamp do the talking. Find her wonderful post about broken hearts here.
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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Top Ten Truths Your Teen Needs To Know

Today I am featuring a top ten list written by my friend Lynn Cowell, author of the new book for teens: His Revolutionary Love. I asked her to share ten truths from the book that teens need to know. Read on for an insightful list and a note from Lynn. I know you're going to want to check out this book if you have a teen girl in your life!

Top Ten Truths Your Teen Needs to Know:

1) If a guy doesn't like me it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with me.

2) Relationships with girls can be more complicated than those with guys.

3) You already have God's approval and it has nothing to do with you.

4) When Jesus looks at you, he is not disappointed in you.

5) Guys don't have what it takes to fill our need for love.

6) We please God most when we throw ourselves in his arms.

7) He says there is no flaw in you.

8) He wants to be more than the God I serve; he wants to be the God I love.

9) The question is not what will I do, but who am I.

10) Some of God's love notes are hidden.

If you are like me, I wish someone had shared these truths with me when I was a teen! Want some help sharing with your daughter?

In “His Revolutionary Love,” I help teen girls and their moms:
· Create confidence that leads to a higher self-esteem by discovering Christ’s radical, life-altering love.
· Replace loneliness, rejection, and pain with acceptance, affirmation, and approval.
· Make wise choices that lead to a fruitful future, rather than becoming a victim to emotionally-based decisions.
· Shift faith in Jesus from just a parental influence to a personal, growing relationship.
· Learn how to discern the voice and will of God.
· Develop and stick to boundaries that protect the heart, mind, and body.
· Communicate with guys and other girlfriends in a manner that’s healthy and positive.

Thanks Lynn for sharing with us today-- I know this book is going to help so many moms and teens discover God's Truth for their lives.
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Monday, May 02, 2011

In A Food Mood

Today I am going to share a recipe for a black bean salad I made when we had some friends over to cook out last night. I got this recipe from A Southerly Course, a new cookbook I am enjoying. Martha Hall Foose is my current food hero.

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 carrots, grated
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Toss all of this and let sit at least an hour before serving.

I really liked that this recipe involved lime juice and olive oil. A nice departure from the standard baked beans I usually serve with hamburgers.

Then I had some lime, red onion, garlic and bell pepper left, so I whipped up this salsa using canned tomatoes. It made another nice side served with tortilla chips. And much better than the jarred stuff.

For dessert I just made Oreo Pie. In our house this is a huge treat and it's one of the easiest things I make. You buy an Oreo crust. Make chocolate pudding and fill the crust. Spoon Cool Whip on top. Chill til ready to serve. Voila! Dessert is served! Kids and adults alike gobble it up and you can make it in like 5 minutes. That's my kind of recipe!

The next time you get invited to a barbecue/cookout remember these recipes. And pick up a copy of A Southerly Course. (I got no compensation or even a free book out of this recommendation-- I just really like this cookbook.)
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