Friday, June 29, 2012

Some Quotes From Praying For Strangers

Wanted to share some of those "underlinable" quotes from River Jordan's book, Praying For Strangers:

How often are we touched by the sincerity of someone asking and really wanting to know exactly how we are? I think it's a rare occurrence, even with spouses and family and the closest of friends. The flipside of the coin, of course, is how often are we asking the people closest to us how they are and really taking the time to listen?

But one thing stands true in my heart-- a gift I think from birth. I believe. In the innermost core of my being, I believe there is a great, mighty, and benevolent God who hears my prayer.

What if that's just the way things were meant to work? That strangers could bear us strange gifts, gifts that might remain unopened if we never make contact with one another. What if the unseen things, the wonder, advice, leading we needed was just out of reach, resting in the palm of a stranger's hand, waiting for us to touch them?

I don't know what I'm doing at all. Except for this-- this praying thing. I continue doing this day after day. And I keep changing. From the inside out.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Praying For Strangers

The best indication of whether I loved a book was the amount of underlining you find when I'm done.
And Praying For Strangers has multiple underlined passages.
I have to admit that the book was written by my friend River Jordan, so I was pre-disposed to like it because I know her to be one of the most gentle, sweet, authentic people I've ever spent time with. River, I know, is the real deal. So I could trust what she had written to be that as well.
This book was not someone just dreaming up another way to repackage the same old stuff they'd written about before. This wasn't an author trying to come across as an expert on something so you will believe in them and buy their products. On the contrary, River is primarly a novelist-- someone who is most comfortable making up stories. She never set out to write a memoir based on the New Year's Resolution that God put on her heart the year she sent both of her sons off to war. That little resolution became a way of life-- an adventure that led her to get involved in stories she wasn't making up, the stories of the strangers who came her way, strangers she prayed for.
This book inspired me to see strangers differently. As more than just the person waiting on me or waiting with me. More than just people to be contended with or endured. Strangers are people like us, people with stories and struggles. People who need prayer and-- in the praying-- can help us put our lives in perspective, having an eternal viewpoint instead of an immediate one.
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Saving The Daisies

There's this yard I pass every time I run that is filled with daisies, growing wild, haphazard. These daisies weren't planted in a garden, part of a landscape artist's carefully executed layout. These daisies grow where they want, in clumps with no rhyme or reason. I love running by that yard and always have to resist the urge to pick the daisies.
The other day though, I noticed that the homeowner was out with her push mower and my heart sank. Because I was sure she'd just mow under the poor daisies. It wasn't like she'd planted them-- that was clear-- and I was sure she'd cut them down just as fast as they'd cropped up.
Imagine my surprise when, as I passed by on my return, I saw that she'd mowed around the daisies, leaving little clumps of higher grass where the daisies stood. It made me like her, this willingness to save the daisies, to respect the wildflowers that some would call weeds. I felt like I'd glimpsed her heart.
This little story soon morphed into a parenting analogy for me: how I tend to just want to mow it all under-- bushwhacking my way through my kids' lives, cutting it all out because it's faster and more efficient and less time consuming. Literally leveling the playing field. I don't want to take the time or make the effort to mow around the daisies. I just want it done. Handled. Covered. But if I do that, they'll never see my heart for them. And I'll never see theirs. Saving the daisies takes effort, and intention. It takes leaving some clumps and letting go of perfection. It takes me embracing the wildness that is their unique beauty. And doing whatever I can to preserve it.
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday Bonus: Brave and Sangria

Strange combo for a title, to be sure. But I had two weekend-y type things to share so I put them together.

One, the nice folks at Disney let me and my family see Brave last week and I wanted to share my thoughts on it for those of you who are considering seeing it.

I have to say I liked the movie. I realize it's not typical Disney fare. There is NO love story. There is no big handsome hero coming in to save the day. No big wedding scene at the end. No neat love-will-save-you-big-bow-tied-up message.

And I, for one, am glad. Now, I've already heard the critics saying it's a feminist message. And perhaps that's what some would call it. There's definitely a "girl power" element. But it's one that hit home for me as a woman and as a mother of girls. I have often wondered what we're teaching our girls when we teach them that just finding the right man will solve all their problems. For all the girls who believe that with all their hearts, I think that the first year of marriage will be a rude awakening. Because marriage--finding the right guy-- isn't the end of the story, it's only the beginning. The heroine of this movie seems to know that love won't save her-- at least not that kind of love. And I don't think that's a bad thing.

I also thought that the message of the rebellious girl and her mom's battle of wills was well done. Again, as a mom of three girls-- two of whom are getting older and expressing their independence-- this movie hit home for me. I understood the girl struggling to exert who she was but I also understood the mom who was just doing what she knew to be "the right way" and going about that the only way she knew how. The way they both come to terms with this is of fairy tale proportions, but with real-life applications.

Yes, there is magic (very few Disney movies don't have the fairy tale witch elements, spells, etc.) and there are some pretty intense, scary moments. (My 6yo buried her head in my shoulder once.) But we talked about the movie the whole way home and everyone had their opinions, their takeaways, and their favorite funny moments. (The triplets provide some good comic relief moments.)

This isn't your typical Disney movie-- and I think it was time they broke from tradition.

And now on to a recipe the gym I belong to sent out in their newsletter. Curt and I are attending a mini highschool reunion this weekend and I'm thinking about making a batch of this to take along. (And yes, there is wine it it.)

Mojito Sangria

8 large mint sprigs

3/4 cup lime juice (fresh-squeezed is best)

1/2 cup agave syrup

8 cups sauvignon blanc

1/2 cup fresh peaches, sliced

10 strawberries, sliced

1/2 cup lemon-lime seltzer

In a pitcher, muddle mint with lime juice and agave.

Remove mint, then add wine, peaches & strawberries.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, stir well and add seltzer.

Serve in wine glasses; can garnish with mint or limes.

12 servings: 180 cal ea.

This makes a refreshing and pretty summer cocktail!
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Friday, June 22, 2012

A Cute Way To Say Thanks

I received a little baggie of candy with a note attached from my child's kindergarten teacher thanking me for helping out in her classroom and explaining what each item in the baggie meant. I wanted to share the idea in case any of you have some folks to thank and would like an expensive, heart-felt way to do it.

In the baggie was a

Snickers bar-- For having a sense of humor

Life saver candy-- For being a life saver

Nestle Crunch bar-- For coming through in a crunch

100 Grand Bar-- For being worth every penny

Hershey's Hugs and Kisses-- from the class to me

You could get creative with this idea and include other kinds of candy as a way of communicating different sentiments. Next time I'm in the checkout line at the grocery store, my wheels will be turning as I check out the candy while I wait!
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bookmark Giveaway!

Last year I got a note from a reader asking if I would mail her bookmarks to pass out to her friends. She wanted to do what she could to help me spread the word about my newest book. I sent her the bookmarks and a free copy of the book as a little thank you for offering to do that and she was just delighted with the arrangement. And then I realized she'd just given me a whole new fun thing to do here on the blog. I filed it away for this new book's release.

And here we are. In just a few weeks, The Guest Book will hit the shelves. And I would love to get you guys out there spreading the word about it. But it wouldn't be right for me to ask you to spread the word about a book you haven't read yet, now would it?

So here's what I'm offering. For up to 25 responders, I'm offering to send a FREE copy of The Guest Book to you, along with 30 bookmarks that you in return agree to hand out to your friends. You can take them to church or your community pool or your mom's group or just stand on the street corner and press them into unsuspecting passers-by's hands. You can take them to your local indie bookstore or to your local library. It's totally up to you! The idea is that this will spark that invaluable word of mouth that the publishing industry desires. And you guys will be my mouthpieces.

So, leave your comment here. Make sure I have an email to contact you and I will do that privately to get your mailing address and get the book and bookmarks out to you. I hope that for some of you this will be something that you want to do. I know this won't be a fit to some of your personalities but I also know for some of you this will be right up your alley. And who doesn't love a free bookmark??

COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED. Thank you all so much for your amazing response! Y'all know how to make a girl feel loved!! I will contact you directly if you made it in. (I hate that I have to have a cutoff at all.) Books and bookmarks will be sent out the week of July 3rd. If you don't hear from me, please do consider buying the book and please do still tell your friends. I thank you, my publisher thanks you, and those smiling faces at the top of this blog really thank you. Baby needs a new bathing suit...
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin

I've started participating in TLC Book Tours, reviewing only books that really interest me. I love a good suspense novel, so I said yes to reviewing Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin. Here's a summary of what the book's about:

“Dear Tommie: Have you ever wondered about who you are?”

The letter that turns Tommie McCloud’s world upside down arrives from a stranger only days after her father’s death. The woman who wrote it claims that Tommie is her daughter—and that she was kidnapped as a baby thirty-one years ago. Tommie wants to believe it’s all a hoax, but suddenly a girl who grew up on a Texas ranch finds herself linked to a horrific past: the slaughter of a family in Chicago, the murder of an Oklahoma beauty queen, and the kidnapping of a little girl named Adriana.

Tommie races along a twisting,nightmarish path while an unseen stalker is determined to keep old secrets locked inside the dementia-battered brain of the woman who Tommie always thought was her real mother. With everything she has ever believed in question, and no one she can trust, Tommie must discover the truth about the girl who vanished—and the very real threats that still remain.

Here are my thoughts on the novel:

This novel kept me riveted, wondering how these random and seemingly unrelated acts were related. Heaberlin did a good job of keeping you guessing down to the end, yet revealing enough along the way to not leave you feeling desperate to find out something. That's the hallmark of a good suspense writer to me. Also, Heaberlin is a good writer. There were some descriptions and observations on life that I had to go back and read again.

If you're looking for a good read this summer and enjoy suspense-filled books, I would recommend this one.
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Hole In The Sand

I watched my daughter dig the hole on the beach right in front of me, intent with her pail and shovel, as if she'd been charged with digging to China. So it wasn't like, after she'd abandoned the project and flitted off to something more interesting, I didn't know the hole was there. Nevertheless, when I stood up to walk to the ocean, I stepped right into the hole, lurching forward and nearly falling, had I not reached out and caught myself. I laughed it off, feeling stupid for stepping into a hole I knew was there. Surely I was the only person on the planet who would do something that dumb.

And yet, through the course of the day, every single one of us-- including my daughter who dug the hole-- stepped into it and fell or nearly fell. It became a joke: how could we all keep stepping into this hole that we knew was there? We laughed at ourselves, but I started thinking how like life that is.

There are holes in the sand for all of us, metaphorically speaking. Things we know are there, yet find ourselves stepping into, sometimes causing us to fall, or almost fall, or just feel plenty stupid for not knowing better. Not doing better. I thought about what those holes in the sand are for me: taking to heart bad reviews on my books, beating myself up about my weight, holding myself to unrealistic expectations, talking with people about stuff that's none of my business, eating junk food, having to have the last word, always wanting to be right even at the expense of relationship. It's all stuff I've worked on and worked on, yet still find myself struggling with.

I don't have some wise or pithy moral to this story, some one-size-fits-all solution, a way to fill the holes. I think that holes in the sand are just part of this earthly experience, the "trouble" part of Jesus' "in this world you will have trouble" warning, the frustrating cycle of being human. It makes me think of my daughter's graduation the other night, when the sixth year senior crossed the stage and the 400 other kids in his class stood up and cheered for him. Eventually, he graduated. It took him a lot of attempts, but he eventually got it right. He dodged the holes and made it all the way across the stage, which is what we're all just trying to do.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Hours

Well my kids are out of school, which means that my screen time will be compressed into much smaller windows. So this is my post indicating my "summer hours"-- a limited schedule reflecting my limited time. But I know most of you are in the same spot and will probably be spending less time online too.
So this summer I will be posting three times a week instead of five times. Some weeks it might be none. Some weeks it might be twice. The posts will be shorter, lighter, less meaty and more update-oriented.
I'm looking forward to a summer spent by the pool and catching up on a lot of reading. That, coupled with the launch of The Guest Book, and I'll be plenty busy. I know it's gonna fly by!
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Thursday, June 07, 2012

100 Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer

After my post yesterday about summer projects, I thought I'd direct you to this post filled with ideas for fun things to do with your kids. I'm thinking of picking one project to add to each week this summer. Good intentions are better than no intentions.

And here's a great post about creative ways to experience reading with your kids this summer, courtesy of She Reads.
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The Summer Project List

I'm not sure I should admit what I did last night, but I'm going to. Because someone here is as crazy as me and might want to do this-- especially if you are the type who dreams of accomplishing projects during the summer. Because I do.

Months ago I started a "Summer Projects" list in my planning notebook, jotting down things that came to mind that I couldn't do right then but might like to tackle this summer.

Things like:

writing some freelance articles I have some ideas for
setting up and attending signings for my new novel
preparing a talk I'm presenting at a writer's conference this fall
organizing my writing portfolio
organizing my recipe notebook

There were 19 items when I stopped. Keep in mind that a few line items were to write an entire novel. I'm ambitious if nothing else. Needless to say not all of it's going to happen.

But last night I decided I better make a plan if any of it's going to happen. Because I love to make a plan like nobody's business. It makes me feel like the master of all I survey, no matter how fleeting I know the feeling will be. Making a plan makes me feel capable. Breaking down my desires into doable doses makes me think that I just might make this work.

So I got a piece of notebook paper, because technical I am not. And using a calendar I listed off all of the weeks of the summer, leaving three lines under each week's heading. Because trying to tackle more than three things per week is just foolishness. (Tackling three things per week might be foolishness, but I'm hopeful.)

Then, using my project list, I started plugging in projects under weeks. If a project was big enough to need more than one week, it got plugged into several weeks in a row. And when I was done, every item on my project list had a home-- a designated week to make it happen.

And so my kind of vague, "hope this happens somehow" catchall list has now become this very real plan. And as I look it over, I truly think it's realistic. I think I can do what I'm hoping to do. And the novel? It's a line item each week-- my word count goal per week listed on one of the three lines.

I hope this makes sense. And I hope if you, like me, have some projects you'd like to accomplish this summer, you'll be inspired to break them down and make them doable. It feels like a step in the right direction.
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Monday, June 04, 2012

Monday Update

So, I'm back from my tour. Got home Saturday night in time to go out for pizza with most of my family. We were missing our two oldest girls so it looked like we had three boys then "finally got a girl" as people say.

Sunday was busy. Church, then lunch, then the youngest girl had a birthday party to go to and the middle girl had a soccer tournament so Curt and I took off in different directions to provide taxi services. Later we reconvened at the pool-- my first trip there since it opened. I caught up with a friend that I only see at the pool and it turned out we both had a lot to catch up on! After the pool Curt and I got everyone settled and headed to our favorite romantic date night spot-- the grocery store! Romance abounds. But at least we have food now. And we did get to spend time just the two of us.

Tonight is a swim meet. My middle son has an earache so we're headed to the doctor this afternoon, hoping he can get clearance to swim. (I'm hoping, he's probably hoping he gets the night off.) Somewhere in the rest of the day I need to get a run in, shower, and run carpool. And there's always laundry. And dishes. And some plan for eating dinner, though gathering round the table isn't an option on swim meet nights.

I was hoping to sit down and write a bunch of blog posts to run this week but alas, I weeded out emails that had piled up in my absence last week and the blog posts didn't happen. There's always tomorrow. (Anyone else hear the girl reindeer from Rudolph sing that in their heads as they read that?) My kid-free days to write are winding down as we near the last day of school on Friday. Can't say I'm sorry for that. Am anxious to have unscheduled days, no need to think about having lunch stuff in the house, no more email newsletters from teachers, and NO MORE CARPOOL. Freedom! (Screamed like they do on Dave Ramsey, or in Braveheart.)

I am hoping to get those posts written and shared here soon. In the meantime, over at Southern Belle View we're sharing what books are in our beach bags this summer and over at She Reads we've announced our June selection. Don't miss either blog!
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