December 16, 2011

My Week: Cookies and Endings and Airplanes, Oh My!


So, this post will be a bit random…just fair warning. Here’s my week in a nutshell:


COOKIES

  
I went to a cookie exchange this past week with a group of girls from my Sunday School class. Everyone brought 2 dozen cookies and we each went through the line and took an assortment of cookies. It’s nice, because now I don’t have to bake a whole lot to get a nice variety of treats!

Thought I’d share a super-de-duper easy cookie recipe with everyone. It’s only got 4 ingredients and you don’t even have to heat the oven to make them. It’s a great treat for kids to help with too (the mixing part):

Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies
Ingredients
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups Rice Krispies

Instructions
Combine sugar with syrup in a pot. Bring to a boil on the stovetop. Quickly add peanut butter and Rice Krispies. Mix rapidly. With a spoon, quickly drop cookie-sized clumps onto wax paper. Allow cookies to cool, then serve.

ENDINGS


As a student, I couldn’t wait for the end of the semester. As a professor, I’m a little sad to see it end. I really have enjoyed my students (well, most of them) and I’m hoping they learned a little something. This week I gave them their final exams and then flew into a flurry of grading. All I can say is “Whew!”


 AIRPLANES


As you read this, I may very well be on an airplane headed out to Kansas for my cousin’s wedding. I am looking forward to spending close to a week with my family out there and making it home in time for Christmas. What a great time of year! Crazy, but great. I’ll be responding to comments as I can later in the day.

Because of my schedule, this will be my last post in 2011 (I’ll be back the first week of January!). I’m going to try to practice being a Mary (see my post here to understand what I’m talking about) and just lap up all the love around me.

Your Turn: What did you do this week? Got any good plans for the weekend?

December 14, 2011

I Press On


“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

Paul’s words minister to me. As you can probably tell by several of my recent posts, I’m all about goals. About moving forward. Pressing on.

But it can be hard to press on sometimes, especially when something in the past is weighing us down.

Maybe it’s a sin we just can’t seem to forgive ourselves for. Maybe it’s something that happened in our lives that’s made us angry. Or sad. Or nostalgic. Maybe it’s a great loss we’ve experienced, or something we failed to do, or even a blessing we aren’t ready to give up, even if God’s asking us to.

When I was 19, my mom passed away. She’d been sick for about 4 years off and on (fighting cancer). From the time I was 15 to the time I was 19, the words “chemotherapy” and “hospice” took on new meanings for me. I became depressed, weighed down. Understandable, I think.

And after she died, I couldn’t possibly think about “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Life had lost its luster, its shine of promise. Life was shrouded in death.

But slowly, day by day, God gave me “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3). I can’t really explain how He did it; I just know it was Him all the way.

And I’m so glad, because I wouldn’t want my past to define me. I only want God to use my past to transform me, to change me into someone who is more others-centered, more focused on what’s really important.

By forgetting what’s behind, I don’t actually forget the pain I went through. I don’t forget the ache I sometimes feel when I see my mom’s picture and know she won’t be with me on earth another day.

But I don’t focus on it or dwell on it. My past is past, and it’s part of me. I’ve learned from it, so it definitely still has value.

But it isn’t what should be taking up my energy. 

I should be “straining toward what is ahead,” pressing “on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

May God help me do that, day by day, so I can be most effective where He has me, right now.

Your Turn: Do you find yourself dwelling on the past or straining toward what’s ahead? What has helped you keep your eyes on the path ahead?

*Photo courtesy of jscreationzs:
http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1152

December 12, 2011

Q&A with Author Ruth Douthitt


Today I’m interviewing a good friend of mine, Ruth Douthitt, author of The Dragon Forest, a fantasy novel for middle-school children.

I’ll split the interview into three parts: her writing journey, some fun get-to-know-her questions, and her bio.

Come say hi to Ruth and get to know her! Also, post a comment here by Tuesday night for a chance to win a copy of her book (be sure your email address is available on the post so I can get ahold of you should you win!).



RUTH’S WRITING JOURNEY

Tell me about your writing journey and your first book, The Dragon Forest.
I first thought of writing a children’s book back in 1989. Since I am an artist, I thought of combining my artistic talent with my love of writing to develop a picture book for little kids. I thought of two boys (one a prince and one a pauper) who enter into a mysterious forest and meet a dragon. I put the idea away for many years and then in 1997 when I took it back out, I realized I wanted to write a children’s chapter book for middle school kids instead.

By 2004, I was enrolled in a creative writing course at ASU and discussed my book with my professor who encouraged me to continue working on it and how to outline the story. I decided then to make the book about Prince Peter entering The Dragon Forest to save the kingdom. With the outline completed, I was able to finally finish the book in 2008. It was released through OakTara Publishing in 2011.

[Note: You can buy the book at Amazon.com (both print or Kindle versions), at barnesandnoble.com, or through the publisher’s web site.]

So, I hear know you are working on a new YA series, The Warfare Club. What was your inspiration for this series?
When I was a stay-at-home mom and working part time, I would visit the public library on a regular basis for books and movies. Since I was finished with first book in The Dragon Forest series and the second book was started, I thought about what I wanted to write next and felt a book for teens would be best since my son is a teenager in high school. I happened to wander over to the YA section at the library and noticed a lot of paranormal books/graphic novels for teens focused on vampires, werewolves, and witches. It concerned me that there wasn’t much for a Christian teen who likes books of a similar genre, but not so much about evil. This led me to develop a story about the supernatural battle between good and evil over the souls of God’s children. Later that year I started working with teens at our church, so it was perfect that now I had contact with my target audience, a chance to teach them God’s Word, and knowledge of the issues teens are facing today. The Warfare Club came together rather easily. I explained the synopsis to my two teenage nieces who were really interested in the storyline. That gave me encouragement to go forward with the books!


GET-TO-KNOW-HER QUESTIONS

Would you rather eat Mexican food or Chinese?
Well, since I am Mexican, my favorite food is Mexican food! I especially love cheese enchiladas. My nana Ruth made the best enchiladas Sonoran style. Very spicy, but delicioso! But my second favorite food is Chinese food. 

What relieves your stress?
I love to exercise. Running is my favorite thing to do to relieve stress. When I run, it is my alone time to think, work out problems, construct scenes to write later, or just enjoy the scenery around me. I also love hiking and cycling too. If I can’t exercise due to weather, I’d say the next best stress reliever for me is reading a good book. I prefer non-fiction books like historical accounts, biographies or memoirs.

What’s the best date your hubby’s ever taken you on?
My husband of 23 years has always been very good at romantic stuff. He’s the best at it! I’d say the best “date” he ever took me on was a summer day trip to Flagstaff, AZ where we ate breakfast, toured some sites, hiked in the mountains, walked around Northern Arizona State University, and then ate dinner at a nice restaurant before heading home to our 3-year-old son. It was a very relaxing day for us. We felt like and acted like honeymooners that whole day.  Very romantic.

Would you rather visit the Rockies in winter or California in summer?
California in summer! I do not ski, so the Rockies in winter wouldn’t be much fun for me. California in summer, however, means beaches, Disneyland, etc. Fun!!

Favorite holiday tradition?
For me, my favorite holiday tradition is Thanksgiving night. After dinner is done and the guests leave, we sit by the fire and watch the first Christmas movie of the season while eating pumpkin pie knowing that the next day is decorating day and the start of the Season. My favorite time of year!! Gives me that warm feeling in my tummy.

You’re locked in a room for a week and only allowed three items (no people allowed!). What are they?
Well, if I there’s wi-fi I’d bring my laptop to write…my Bible to read and glean ideas from…and my cell phone to call people or to surf the internet!  If no wi-fi then I’d bring a notebook to write in instead of my laptop.  I find it’s best to jot down ideas as they come because I tend to forget them later on. It would be a pleasure to just write for a whole week without interruptions!


RUTH’S BIO

My name is Ruth A. Douthitt, and my life took a turn for the better when I returned to college in my late thirties to complete a B.A. in Visual Art from ASU as well as a Master’s in Education from University of Phoenix. After teaching college part time, I decided it was time to complete my first book after working on it for almost 20 years. Our son grew up reading C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien which served as my inspiration for my own bildungsroman-type, fantasy adventure book designed to inspire boys everywhere to go out and make their own adventures happen. The Dragon Forest is part one in a three-part series of adventure books about knights, castles, and the dragon realm. Now working in curriculum development as well as teaching teenage girls in church youth ministry, my desire is to write both non-fiction as well as fiction for teens based on youth issues today.  I live in Phoenix, AZ with my husband, and our teenage son who still inspires me to tell my stories for others to enjoy. For more information on my books, please visit  www.thedragonforest.blogspot.com.

Contact Ruth at artbyruth@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter (@RuthADouthitt).

The Dragon Forest
No one has entered the mysterious forest and lived. Ten-year-old Peter might be the Prince of the kingdom of Illiath, but he feels pretty useless. His father is too busy running the kingdom to have time for his son, and his mother is dead. Now the forces of the evil Lord Caragon threaten war, and only one weapon can save the kingdom: the powerful scales of a dragon. Illiath lies at the edge of a mysterious forest ruled by a fierce Dragon the King has sworn to protect. But what if Peter can best the dragon and bring back the scales? As Peter and his horse, Titan, plunge into the trees, he has no idea of the surprises awaiting him..... A fantastical adventure for the young-and all those young at heart.



Thanks for being my guinea pig interviewee, Ruth! I can’t wait to read your next book in The Dragon Forest series and to see where your Warfare Club series takes you.

Your Turn: Do YOU prefer Mexican food or Chinese food? And what’s the most romantic date your significant other has ever taken you on?

December 9, 2011

Reeling in Christmas Fun

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is sitting down with family and watching Christmas movies. It’s been part of my family’s traditions as long as I can remember.

Now, granted, I know that not all movies reflect on the birth of Christ, but even so, there are some great family-friendly movies out there that warm my heart as I sit by the Christmas tree and take in the holiday cheer.

Some of my favorite Christmas movies include:

·      The Nativity Story: This is a very real depiction of what Mary and Joseph must have gone through when traveling to Bethlehem. Never before had the true harshness of the journey struck me, and yet, Mary didn’t complain.

·      White Christmas: I’m a sucker for a musical in any form. I especially love the song “Count Your Blessings”: “When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, And I fall asleep counting my blessings.”

·      A Christmas Story: C’mon, you’ve gotta love that leg lamp! And I don’t know why, but my favorite line: “Randy lay there like a slug.” Something hilarious about the way the line is delivered and seeing the kid in his big padded snowsuit lying there. Gets me every time.

·      Elf: I normally don’t care for Will Ferrell, but he’s onto something here. “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

·      How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon version): You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. But you turn out alright, realizing that Christmas isn’t about the presents and the decorations.

Your Turn: What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? Any favorite quotes from them you’d like to share?

December 7, 2011

Accepting Forgiveness

We all mess up. We all know we all mess up. But that doesn’t make it any easier to accept our failures, especially when it means we’ve hurt someone we love or we disobey God.

It’s so easy to look at our lives and see the blemishes instead of the sparkles. We try so hard to cover up those blemishes in our lives, to heap a foundation of good works and disguise on them. Our self-esteem plummets. We self-loathe.

We can’t accept forgiveness, even when it’s offered.  

If we believe in Jesus’ death on the cross and the forgiveness His death allows us, then we know that asking for that forgiveness washes us white as snow in God’s eyes.

But what about in our own?

I’ve heard the phrase, “We need to learn to forgive ourselves,” and while I guess that’s true, more importantly, we need to learn to see ourselves as God sees us.

Easy? No. Possible? Yes.

If we never learn to accept the grace He offers and move on so we can be effective vessels for Him, we will miss out on a lot of blessings and a lot of ways He wants us to bless others. God shows His strength in our weakness. He takes what is broken and creates something beautiful. Beauty from ashes. That’s His specialty.

I started thinking about all of this because of one of my main characters, Jessica. For much of my novel, she is paralyzed by fear that a secret will come out, one that she thought she’d come to peace with but has been trying to “make up for” every since, through intense service at church and being perfect in every way.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we aren’t. We can never “make up for” our sin, only accept His gift of forgiveness and serve Him out of a truly grateful heart that we were lost but now are found, sinners but now saints, in bondage but now set free.

Your Turn: Have you ever struggled with being unable to accept forgiveness? What helped you to move on from that place?

December 5, 2011

Goals Galore


We’re almost to the time of year when people will reflect on the past year and evaluate what they wish they’d have done differently, or perhaps what they want to accomplish that they never got to. Yep—it's almost time for New Year’s Resolutions.

I’ve always been a goals person. I’m a lists person too. I think I’m a bit neurotic—every morning, I make a list of all I’m going to accomplish that day. And usually, that list is way too long, because inevitably, something else comes up to interrupt my plan (note: I hate changes and unexpected happenings!) or some activities take longer than anticipated.

What’s the result? I end up frustrated with myself for not accomplishing my “goals.” I forget about all of the things I DID get done and chastise myself for what I didn’t. I mark one goal off my list and move right on to the next, with maybe a small celebration, but no more than that, because I’m intensely moving to the next thing. Always the next thing.

It’s an exhausting way to live.

I read some good advice from my blogging friend Keli Gwyn the other day: in order to actually achieve a goal, focus on one thing at a time, and then focus all your energy toward achieving that goal.

Part of me is relieved to hear that. But the other part of me struggles to find just ONE thing to focus on, when I want to excel and achieve in so many areas. But the idea of picking off one thing at a time totally makes sense, especially with the level of intensity with which I attack my goals.

Since I tend to get so focused, I do think it is a good idea for me personally to have one main goal in each of two areas—career and personal—lest I should become too focused on my career and forget my family and friends in the process (unfortunately, been there, done that before).

I find it’s helpful to state the goal out loud (or at least in print) for others to hear/read.

So, here goes:

CAREER: My goal for the next 6 months is to edit this novel and get it out to agents by the end of May 2012, if not before.

PERSONAL: I want to be intentional about spending more time with my husband and finding cheap creative activities to do together.

I would love accountability with these, so please feel free to ask me how I'm doing with them! I appreciate the support and encouragement.

Your Turn: What helps you to stick with a goal and achieve it?

December 2, 2011

Lindsay’s Life: Some Fun Facts

A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger, Cheryl Linn Martin (see her fun blog, Life in Flip-Flops, here), gave me the Tell Me About Yourself Blog Award. Needless to say, I am quite flattered! Thanks, Cheryl!

Part of the award is telling seven facts about myself. I thought it would be fun since I’m fairly new to blogging and some of my readers don’t know me that well yet. So here goes…

1)   I’m a sour candy fanatic. Yep, I’ll take a bag of Sour Patch Kids over chocolate any day! (Yes, my mother always said I must not be her child, chocolate lover that she was.)

2)   In college, I sang in a Christian rock band. I still have about 50 unpurchased CDs sitting in my garage…

3)   I moved to Arizona when I was 6, but still consider myself a Texan at heart.

4)   Last April, I ran my first race (4.2 miles!). I’d never really run farther than a mile before that. In August, I started writing my first novel, when I’d only written short stories and essays before. Guess I like a challenge, and 2011 was a year of stretching myself.

5)    “Do you love it? I love it!” I probably got it at Ross (or Old Navy).

6)   I drink milk when I eat pizza. Some people think it’s weird. Seems perfectly normal to me!

7)   Confession: My guilty TV pleasure is the Bachelor and Bachelorette. It’s a train wreck and I’m a total rubbernecker!

Your Turn: Tell me a fun fact about yourself!