October 13, 2014

A Beautiful Baby Shower...and an Unexpected Gift

A little over a week ago, my friends and family threw me the best possible baby shower a girl could ever imagine. Here are just a few pics from that beautiful night (I didn't have my camera, so I'm waiting on pics of me with people!).

The couch where I sat and opened gifts. The venue where the shower was held is owned
by one of my mom's dear friends, who put together much of the beautiful decor.
One of the many beautifully decorated tables.
Another table.
Nautical decor.
One of my friends found a bunch of nautical- and mommy-related quotes.
This one made me want to cry!

Drink station.
Only some of the delicious food. There was also a mashed potato bar, fruits, and veggies.
The day of the shower, I realized something. Something significant.

I was not going to have a single blood relative in attendance.

That struck me...because many showers are thrown by moms, aunts, grandmas, or cousins. Mine, however, was being thrown by my friends, my mother-in-law, and my stepmom.

And as I think about that, I realize how completely blessed I am. That these women did all of this for me, not out of some sort of obligation...but because they love me. They love this baby. They wanted to do this.

Of course, if I'd had blood relatives here in town, I know they would have done the same thing. I'm just super blessed that way.

You see, being pregnant and all that goes along with it has been wonderful. But it's also been hard.

It's been a huge reminder to me that my mom isn't here anymore. She died 10 years ago, so she wasn't here for my college graduation or my wedding either. But this...this feels different.

And I was feeling really sad about the fact that she wouldn't be at my shower.

Then, my friends and family did something amazing (on top of all the work they did throwing a beautiful shower). Something I didn't expect. But I should have, knowing how wonderful they are.

They made my mom a part of my shower. 

The first gift I opened for the night was a baby blanket. It was beautifully stitched with a sailboat and colors that matched our nursery. 

And sewn into the cloth were the words "Gramma Sandy." Sandy was my mom's name. My friends said they wanted to make her part of my special day and my baby's life. That every time my baby boy is wrapped in that blanket, it'll be the next best thing to having my mom hold him. 

Oh my. I completely lost it right then and there. Hysterical Lindsay. But...grateful Lindsay. 

Because as I looked around that room, I realized...my baby may not ever know his Grandma Sandy. But he'll know his Grandma Harrel and his Grandma Walker. He'll know his aunties...both my sisters by marriage and those precious friends who are like sisters to me. And of course, he'll know all of my loving relatives even though we're separated by distance.

God has taken what was lost, and though he has not given it back to me exactly, he has filled my life with mentors, family, and friends who I can count on. I am blessed. And I am grateful beyond belief.

To everyone who helped make this baby shower happen...and make it one of the most memorable, beautiful events of my life whether by attending or helping...thank you. You'll never know how much you touched me.

Your Turn: Have you ever received an unexpected gift?

October 6, 2014

Kept and the Modern Family: Guest Post by Sally Bradley {and a giveaway!}

Christian fiction is known by many as sweet and saccharine -- sure to induce happy, glowy feelings about God and family. And for many novels, that's the truth. But in today's world, there's more than that to Christian fiction (in fact, my friend Rachel McMillan just wrote this awesome article about that on Breakpoint.org).

My friend Sally Bradley just released a book called Kept, about a woman who lives everything BUT a sweet, saccharine life. But the difficult themes don't mean it isn't a "Christian" book. Sally does a great job of dealing with very real life in a very real way, with truth woven in -- truth we all need to hear. I asked Sally to give a little more insight into her book today. I hope you enjoy hearing from her. (Also, check out your chance to win a copy below!)

Sally, take it away...

As a teen growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, I remember hearing repeatedly that the family unit was under attack. Changes in society and our culture were out to destroy the family, they said, and I mentally rolled my eyes. Really. Destroy the family?

Like that could happen.

Here we are, twenty years later, and those words have proven true. Overall, the American family is a completely different entity from what it was back in the day. So many families are broken by betrayal and divorce, and other families never even got off the ground with parents who were together a brief time -- never married, never committed, never parenting their child together. Many children spend little time with one parent, and some have never even known their father.

Things really have changed, haven't they?

When I prepared to write Kept, this concept hit me and played a huge role in who Miska, my heroine, was. She's grown up in a single-parent home, with a mom who beat the odds and financially was a huge success. Miska's never known her dad, not that she remembers at least, and grew up with two womanizing older brothers who've taught her their version of love and relationships. Saving herelf for true love became a joke a good decade ago, and now she's just hoping for a relationship that's half as good as what she dreams about.

I bet we all know someone -- or many -- like her.

The cool thing is that, no matter what society throws at us, no matter how it tries to twist and destroy all the good that God created, our God is bigger than all of it. Way bigger. And far more powerful. As a pastor's wife, one of the things that excites me is that in our messed-up, promiscuous culture, God is still saving people, still bringing them to Him, and still giving them new hope and a new future.

That never gets old, does it?

People who've been where Miska's been still have struggles. There are still consequences from the past that follow them into their new life, and sometimes these new Christians struggle with where they fit into the church -- with God, with other Christians, with the possibility of a Christian family. That's why I wrote Kept -- to show that there is more than just forgiveness and salvation with God; there's also love, care, hope, and a future.

Society will always try to destroy what God created and called good. Always. But God will always be bigger than that. No matter where we've been, no matter what our culture is, no matter what our messed-up society has taught us, God still has the answers and can still reach those who long for truth.

He can still bring families from the ruin.

Your Turn: What issues do you like to read about in a novel? What issues are close to your heart?

Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things -- like good pizza and a White Sox game. Fiction has been her passion since childhood, and she's thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. A freelance fiction editor, Sally can be found at www.sallybradley.com and on Facebook at Sally Bradley, Writer. Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her -- all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago's lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman.

Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father's sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can't help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she's longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again.

When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her -- a woman who's gone too far and done too much.



See below for details on entering the giveaway for a digital copy of Sally's Kept. The giveaway is quick  this time -- it closes tonight at midnight! -- and is open to U.S. residents only.

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September 8, 2014

2014 Pre-Conference Mix and Mingle

In less than 3 weeks, I'll be attending the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. This is seriously one of my favorite times of the year. I get to gather with other authors who have the same passion as I do -- to reach people with the love of Christ through fiction. Nothing better than that.

This will be my third year attending. Last year, a few of my favorite moments included:
Hanging with my beautiful author friends at the Gala, where I was a finalist for the Genesis awards.

Performing as the Tin (wo)Man in the My Book Therapy musical.

Goofing off. (I'll miss you this year, Jess!!!)
Of course, I also loved learning more about the industry from professionals who know what's up, and connecting with editors and agents.

One of my author friends, Laurie Tomlinson, has arranged a fun pre-conference mix and mingle via a mini-blog tour. I'm supposed to answer a few questions so others can get to know me before we meet up! So, here goes!

Name: Lindsay Harrel

Location: Phoenix, AZ

What you write: Contemporary fiction with romantic elements

Place in the book world: Pre-pubbed author represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management. I'm working on my third manuscript and will be pitching my second at the conference!

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: Bring on the hugs!

The unique talking point that will get you going for hours: Um, writing? And dogs. And the upcoming birth of my first baby.

Loved ones at home you'll be missing: My husband and two golden retrievers

Conference goals we can pray for? That my pitch sessions will go well and I'll be encouraged by them.

Anything we can celebrate with you? I signed with my agent in November, so am excited to meet her and pitch with her name and efforts behind me. And the aforementioned upcoming birth of my first baby -- a boy!

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? Like my Facebook author page and follow me on Twitter! Sign up for my blog if you'd like as well!

Thanks, all! Can't wait to see you at ACFW.

July 21, 2014

Behind the Scenes of Captured by Love: What I Hope Readers Take Away From the Novel (Guest Post by Jody Hedlund)

By Jody Hedlund (@JodyHedlund)

Every inspirational fiction writer faces the challenges of weaving spiritual themes and messages into stories without coming across as sounding "preachy."

While I don't want my stories to come across as "preachy," I also don't want to neglect a spiritual message since I desire for God to touch lives through my stories. Finding that balance between preachy and heart-touching is always difficult.

During the planning stages of a novel, I always try to give my characters real spiritual struggles. In fact, I prayerfully consider those struggles, asking God to make clear what issues he wants me to tackle. Then I attempt to have my characters wrestle through those issues in meaningful ways that hopefully readers can relate to.

Often I intertwine the spiritual growth with their character arc growth (also known as the internal plot). The two are usually building upon each other, because in real life as we grow in spiritual awareness, we put ourselves in a place where God can change our character so that we become more trusting, less anxious, more forgiving, etc.

In Captured by Love, both of the main characters (Angelique and Pierre) have unique spiritual/character struggles.

The heroine, Angelique, struggles with the instability of her past. Since her father was a fur trapper and gone for long periods of the year, she desires the safety and steadiness of a permanent home on the island. Mackinac Island has become the bedrock of her life.

My hope is that readers, like Angelique, will learn that only God can be the steady foundation. Everything else in our lives is like sand. It shifts, blows away, and leaves us dry and empty. God longs for us to stand on Him, the Solid Rock, that never moves and never forsakes us no matter where we go or what we experience. If we plant our feet on Him, He'll see us through our most difficult days.

The hero, Pierre, struggles with living for himself and his own pleasures without thinking about the consequences to others. He's the prodigal son who's returned to his home after years of wild living. He claims to be a changed man, but quickly realizes that he has a long way to go. Little by little, he begins to understand what it means to sacrifice for those he loves -- until in the end he's willing to sacrifice the thing that matters the most.

My hope is that readers too will learn what it means to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. And I also pray that readers experiencing the hardship of prodigal children will draw encouragement to never stop praying like Miriam, Pierre's mother.

My own mother is a prayer warrior, like Miriam, and I dedicated the book to her, because I'm deeply grateful for all of her prayers over the years. Here's what I wrote:

"To my wonderful mother, Your solution to every problem has always been prayer and plenty of it. Thank you for praying without ceasing for me and for all your family. We couldn't ask for a greater gift."

What about you? Do you like books to contain a spiritual message? When does the message become "preachy" to you? And are there times when you thought the message was too skimpy?

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling books, The Preacher's Bride, Unending Devotion, and A Noble Groom. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Connect with her on her website, Facebook page, Twitter, or email.

Lindsay here: See below for details on how to enter Jody's Captured by Love giveaway! I adored the book -- like all of Jody's writing -- and I know you will too! The giveaway ends at midnight on Saturday, July 26 and is only open to U.S. residents.

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May 26, 2014

Writing Blog Tour

Hey all. I can't believe it's Memorial Day already!! Craziness. The days have been flying by. I'm busy working and revising my book and...being pregnant. Yep. My energy is currently being zapped away by a tiny little entity inside of me!

Here's the fun announcement we posted on Facebook a few weeks ago:

These are our pups, Pascal and Chloe. We had to use treats to bribe them
to sit so still!
Anyway, today I'm participating in a writer blog hop. My friend (and also one of my awesome critique partners and fellow Arizonans!) Tari Faris invited me to participate. You can find out more about her and her writing at www.tarifaris.com.

For the blog hop, we're asked to answer a set of questions about our writing. So here. We. Go!

What am I working on?
I'm currently revising a book -- and am almost done! It's due to my awesome agent June 1, so I'm busy putting the finishing touches on now.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
My work is a mix of inspirational women's fiction and romance. Some women's fiction is very character driven. While mine definitely delves into the characters' lives, it also has a strong plot element to it. Plus, my poetry background means I LOVE METAPHORS! I take great pleasure in weaving in imagery and metaphors/analogies throughout my work. That's not necessarily unusual in my genre, but my unique voice helps my writing to stand out (or so I hope!).

Why do I write what I do?
I write a lot about mother/daughter relationships because I was close with my own mom before she passed away in 2004 -- and it brings me a lot of joy to write about reconciliation in relationships. I also write inspirational fiction, which means it has a faith element to it. I couldn't imagine NOT writing this type of fiction. Because my faith is so integral to who I am, it's also integral to my writing.

How does your writing process work?
I'm a planner in everything I do, so my writing is the same! I brainstorm and plot out my scenes, getting a really firm picture of who my characters are, what they struggle with, and what they need to learn in the course of the story. I give myself a little wiggle room to veer from my plot outline, but it's rare! I always brainstorm with at least one of my critique buddies -- if not more! Some of the best times of brainstorming have involved sitting around with three of my brainstorming friends (or hanging out via video chat to do the same) and brainstorming my stories with them. This is soooo helpful, especially if I'm stuck!

Once the book is written and I've taken it as far as I can, I exchange with my critique partners and take a few weeks off while I await their feedback!

Thanks for taking the time to read a little more about me and my writing! As part of this blog tour, I was supposed to ask three writers if they'd be willing to carry on the post next week. However, I'm feeling like a rebel, so I'd like to invite anyone reading this post to go ahead and answer these questions on your blog! If you do, be sure to let us know in the comments so we can come check out your post!

Your Turn: What's your favorite genre to read?

April 28, 2014

What I've Been Up To...

Hey all. Sorry I haven't been around the blog much lately. Life has been, shall I say, a bit CRAZY lately. A good crazy. Just crazy.

Here's what I've been up to...

With the help of some good friends, we threw my husband Mike a surprise party for his 30th birthday. We did a "leaving the roaring 20s" theme. People dressed up, and we had lots of food, drinks, and gambling. Fun was had by all. Here are a few pictures:
Fun decor for the party!
Mike, me, and our friends Rachel and Jon, who hosted the party.

 Also, Mike and I visited my grandparents in south Texas. It was a nice trip -- and relaxing!
My grandpa and I by the Rio Grande. Mexico is in the background.
In the world of writing, I sent my book draft off to a few critique partners. I'm racing toward a June 1 deadline to get the book to my agent. Here's hoping -- and praying -- it's almost ready to send into the hands of editors soon after that!

Your Turn: What have you been up to lately? I've missed you all!! 

April 7, 2014

Choosing Gratitude

A few weeks ago, I sang offertory at church. I had to pick a song, so I went through the list of songs in my repertoire.

When I came across Nichole Nordeman's "Gratitude," I started to cry.

Because we may make all sorts of plans for our lives -- but God might not have those plans for us.

And in those cases, we have a choice: to curse him or thank him for what results.

To curse him is easier. Way easier. We can kick and scream and ask why, why, why?

Or...we can make the harder choice. We can thank him for teaching us to trust him.

That doesn't mean we don't question or express our anguish or uncertainty. I think God always wants us to be honest with him.

But it does mean approaching him with humility, with open hands.

Listen to this powerful song and the lyrics -- and be challenged as I was challenged. To be thankful in all things.

Your Turn: What are you grateful for today?