March 30, 2012

Fun Friday: My Bucket List


I’m a pretty simple girl. I don’t have a lot of extravagant things. I don’t dress super-hip and I don’t spend a lot of money (well, my husband may beg to differ on that one…).

But I’ve got dreams, baby. Oh yes, I do.

I think we all have things we wish we could do in life, but many of those are not realistic. But a bucket list…well, in my opinion, what’s on a bucket list is stuff you want to do that’s actually within reach.

I’m dreaming on this Fun Friday of a few items on my bucket list:

·      See my name on the cover of a traditionally published book. Or several. J

·      Travel to Europe with my husband (especially London and Rome!).

·      Visit Prince Edward Island with one of my best friends (we’re gonna do it someday, Meg, I promise!).

·      Read the top 100 works of classic British literature…and maybe American too, if I have time.

·      Have kids and raise them to love the Lord.

·      Star in Sound of Music, Music Man, or Oklahoma—or all three.

I’m sure I have more dreams that could become reality, but that’s enough for now.

What about you? What’s on your bucket list?

Photo by Simon Howden

March 28, 2012

The Names of God


One thing I love about God is how He’s always the same. He never changes.

But the way He shows Himself to me? Now THAT changes all the time.

I remember studying the names of God in junior high. We looked at all the names people in the Bible called God. They are mostly Hebrew names and they all point to the same God. But they focus on His different attributes.

Back then, I didn’t get it.

Now, I’m starting to.

Sometimes God speaks to us in a burning bush. Sometimes in a still small voice. It’s always the same God who speaks; He just uses different things to get our attention.

Sometimes God speaks to me in my fear, reminding me that He is my protector.

Sometimes He speaks to me in my loneliness, showing me that He is my friend and Daddy.

Sometimes He speaks to me in my hurt, and my Healer heals me.

So, since I didn’t “get it” in junior high, I want to look in depth at the names of God again. I want to chronicle ways that God has been so many things to me in so many different situations.

Same God. A variety of ways to speak to this fearful, lonely, sometimes broken girl.

Join me in the coming weeks as I explore the names of God and how He’s shown me Himself. I’d love to hear how He’s spoken to you too.

Your Turn: Have you ever studied the names of God? Which is your favorite? How is God speaking to you lately?

March 26, 2012

Love Is


Our society is obsessed with love.

Or at least, its idea of what love is.

But so often, what people consider to be love is really a cheap imitation. It copies some aspects of real love in order to fool people. Then, when the imitation’s false surface begins to chip away, those people believe love has failed.

But really, it wasn’t love to begin with.

Love is more than attraction. It’s more than what the good times bring. As the former Christian rock band DC Talk said, “Love is a verb.”

One of the most-quoted sections of the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. And it’s—you guessed it—all about love.

Love is patient, love is kind.
Love doesn’t grow tired of waiting. Love doesn’t grow huffy when a spouse forgets to throw his socks in the hamper AGAIN. Love chooses to see the best in someone even when she doesn’t deserve it.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Love means wanting the best for others, even if that means a detriment or disappointment for myself. Love means thinking of someone else’s needs before my own. And remember, if this doesn’t come naturally and even if I don’t feel it, that’s okay, because love is an action. It means choosing to put aside petty jealousy or pride.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love means holding back a retort when you feel you have a right to say something. It means not bringing up the mistake your loved one made five years ago. Love is not competitive. Love is not all about trying to bring fairness to your life or relationship.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Love does not tear down. Love does not purposefully hurt. Love does not look like a tear-stained face. Love does not look like a purple bruise. Love, in fact, finds joy in the light.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love defends the innocent. It doesn’t give up. Even when things look dire and a relationship seems doomed, love keeps going. Love doesn’t let circumstances get in the way of its commitment. 

Love never fails.

This last line is the part that gets me most. I know my own love fails...a lot. I don’t always choose to love. I don’t always put into action the commitment I’ve made to love others. I am impatient. I am envious. I am petty.

But the ultimate source of Love, the one who embodies it, well, HE DOES NOT FAIL.

Amen. Over and over, amen.

Your Turn: What aspect of love is the hardest for you to put into action? What aspect is the easiest?

March 23, 2012

Fun Friday: Hungry for Hunger Games


It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! The day many of us have been waiting for!

The Hunger Games comes out in theaters today.

Okay, so I’ll admit it. I read each of the books. In about one day each. Yep, they were the Oh-Well-I’ll-Stay-Up-Until-3-AM-and-Just-Be-Tired-For-Work-Cuz-I-Can’t-Put-This-Down kind of books.

What’s so appealing about books where kids are pitted against each other until the death? Where slaughtering each other is expected for survival?

I really have no idea.

I started the books upon recommendation of a friend, and just got completely caught up in the action, the stakes, the characters’ lives… I’ll be honest. I really didn’t think I’d enjoy these books.

But I can’t wait to see them come to life on the big screen.

Of course, there’s a part of me that’s dreading it. What if I’m disappointed? What if the movie doesn’t follow the book? There’s always the risk of that. I’ve been disappointed before, and I’m sure I will again.

Yet, there’s something so amazing about reading a book and then seeing the images that were only in your head now playing out in front of your eyes.

So I wanna know: What book would you love to see turned into a movie? Are there any books you think should be left alone, because there’s too much risk of the movie ruining the book for you? And who else is seeing Hunger Games this weekend?

March 21, 2012

God Reigns

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

We know there’s sin in the world. We all sin. Nobody’s perfect.

And yet…

There are just some things in this world that make me sick.

Watching the news, you hear about people doing awful things to one another.

But it’s even worse when ugly, grotesque, despicable sin hits close to home. When it becomes a reality. When it affects you and the people you love. Not because you’ve done it, but because you’re the victim of it.

Thankfully, I have not been the victim of this stomach-dropping type of sin—the kind so evil, you can’t imagine it really exists outside of the television world—but I have known friends who were.

And it made me question. It made me ask God where He was. Why He didn’t stop it. Why He allowed—and continues to allow—such depravity and evil to fester in this world.

There is no simple answer to why, but I do know this: Without that dark, dark sin, the brilliant light of good emanating from Jesus wouldn’t look half so holy.

And I also know this: Jesus said He has overcome this world.

He has overcome.

He is in charge.

He allows evil for a time, but evil will not reign. It does not reign. It cannot reign.

God reigns.

And when I hear stories of depraved acts, I can do nothing else but cry out to the Lord of Heaven and Earth and beg Him to be present, to shine His light into these situations, to remind me and those around me that He. Has. Overcome.

Wretchedness will not win.

Friends, let’s be on our knees today, praying for those who believe wretchedness has overtaken this world, who have been affected personally. Let us pray that God will heal those broken hearts and mend those weary souls, and that His light will penetrate the darkness and drive out evil.

Your Turn: Aren’t you so glad God has overcome? What is your prayer today?

*Photo by David Castillo Dominici

March 19, 2012

The Lie About Invisibility


As a writer bobbing around in a sea of writers, it’s easy to feel invisible.

It’s easy to wonder whether an agent, editor, publisher, or reader will EVER think you’re worth their time.

It’s easy to begin hyperventilating at the idea of putting yourself out there—via your blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.—and getting swallowed in the storm of social media. Of getting blown away on the wind of rejection, hard work that gets you nowhere, and lack of connections.

It’s easy to feel alone.

Invisible.

But here’s the amazing, wonderful thing.

You are NOT invisible.

God sees you.

In Genesis, the Egyptian slave Hagar called God “El Roi”—the God Who Sees Me.

Wow.

He. Sees. Me.

And this doesn’t just apply to writers.

Are you a stay-at-home mom who wonders if anyone notices or appreciates all the work you do to keep your kids clean, fed, and happy?

God sees you.

Are you an overworked employee sitting in a cubicle whose eyes bug out every morning at the increasing workload and whose boss sees you as easily replaceable?

God see you.

Are you jobless, homeless, friendless, handicapped, weary, or afraid?

My friend, God sees you.

He sees you, and He knows every little thing about you. Every freckle. Every hair on your head. Every worry, every sigh.

He sees it all.

If ever you feel invisible, remember that you are not. Because your Creator, the One who made the entire universe around you, loves you. You have a purpose. You may not see what that is, but God does.

Let His words of promise sink into your soul and soothe your spirit. “For I have loved you with an everlasting love…”

Amen.

Your Turn: How do you know that God sees you? What evidence has He given? Or tell us about a time when you struggled with invisibility.

*Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

March 16, 2012

Fun Friday: A Weekend of Celebration

So, this weekend is gonna be ca-razy and filled with CEL-E-BRA-TION (anyone hearing the song? Anyone?).

Tonight, I’m going to a wedding. The wedding of a girl I mentored when she was in junior high and I was in college. I’m. Feeling. Old. But new love and new beginnings are always fun to celebrate.

Tomorrow, I’m heading to the baby shower of a dear friend; new life is definitely worth celebrating! I’ve loved watching all of my friends experience their first pregnancies…and for some, their second. It’s definitely an exciting time in life. I’m enjoying watching them and observing, tucking away little notes in my head for when it’s my turn.

Then this weekend, I’m also celebrating my friend’s birthday with her. She’s turning 30. Some people freak out about getting older, but you know what my philosophy on age is? Celebrate having another year. Seriously. I think we all should thank God for every second we have together, whether we are 19 or 39 or 89.

(I’m also hoping to pound out some work on my next novel’s outline…but I might be so tired after all this celebrating that I just collapse. We’ll see what happens…)

Your Turn: What are you up to this weekend? Any celebrating in your future?

*Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

March 14, 2012

Three Secrets to Being Content


On Monday, I told you a story about contentment…one that involved an eyepatch.

Today, I want to talk more about being content.

Apostle Paul learned the “secret of being content” whether in need or want. Whether happy or sad. Whether starving or well fed.

Despite whatever circumstances he faced.

How can we also be content in our circumstances? Here are three ways I’ve discovered—and rediscovered—over the years.

Laughter
The ability to laugh in the midst of trial is a glorious thing. Seriously. Have you ever felt like crying, and the only other option was to laugh? Then you know this is truth I speak.

When you’ve got a physical ailment, nothing about it seems funny. But if you can joke about it and laugh at yourself, you’ll be that much closer to getting through it.

And when you’ve got an emotional trauma, ask God to give you some joy. Even if it’s just something silly that seems so insignificant, but that makes you giggle. In the midst of your trial, God will give you joy. And again, you’ll be that much closer to getting through it.

When life doesn’t go the way we want, it’s so easy to get caught up, to become frustrated and bitter. Instead, laugh in the devil’s face. Tell him he can’t have this day. He can’t steal what God’s given. Don’t let anything on this earth steal your joy.

Perspective
Another secret to being content is to remember that there is always someone worse off than you. That shouldn’t make you feel better; it should make you feel grateful. Yes, you may be going through the worst thing imaginable, but be grateful of what you still have (and I don’t say this to chide, but to remind…I need this reminder over and over again too!).

Remember that God gives, and in his infinite wisdom, he might take away. Some of that is to teach us and some is the consequence of living in this sinful world. Either way, try to see the glass half full. And if you just can’t, give of your time to a homeless shelter or some other place full of hurting people. Ask God to grant you perspective.

Trusting in His Strength
Finally, I believe the most powerful secret to being content is to secure a spot in God’s arms and hunker down right there…forever. Remember that it’s in Christ that we are strong. Remember that God protects and loves us fiercely. Remember that he is trustworthy.

And ultimately, remember that you can do ALL THINGS—even be content—through Him who gives you strength.

Your Turn: What secrets have you found to being content?

*Photo by Evgeni Dinev

March 12, 2012

Making the Best of an Eyepatch


When life gives you an eyepatch, become a pirate.*

Er…maybe I should back up and explain.

Several weeks ago, my stepmom Kristin had a bit of an accident that led to problems with one of her ocular nerves. (Yes, the eyes have nerves.) The accident also led to vertigo (dizziness and seeing double). Anyway, the end result of all of this was that Kristin’s eye nerve needed strengthening.

Enter the eyepatch.

Yes, the doctor recommended she wear an eyepatch until her eye gets better—and said that it could be anywhere from three to six months before there’s improvement.

OK, folks, I’m just saying, if this was me, I might be tempted to hole up in my house, sending my social life to a grinding halt. Perhaps I’m vain (the song is playing in my head…you’re so vain…) or maybe just self-conscious, but I would dread people staring at me. Not to mention how frustrating it would be to have to deal with only having the use of one eye most of the time.

But you know what my stepmom did?

She got a pink-studded eyepatch.

Yes, she owned it. Embraced it. Figured she might as well have fun with it.

Not only that, she’s tried a variety of other methods of strengthening her eye, including painting one side of her glasses with fingernail polish and only wearing one contact lens.

She’s making the best of her situation. Not letting it get her down. “Life’s too short to mope,” she says. She realizes that her life can’t be put on hold just because she’s got this physical issue going on. She’s a physical therapy assistant and has patients to help, patients who have worse ailments than her.

She’s living out what apostle Paul said in Philippians: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

So what are some of those secrets of being content? Come back Wednesday, when we’ll explore that topic together.

Your Turn: Have you ever faced a situation that made it hard to be content? Tell me about it.

*Please note that I am in no way, shape, or form encouraging anyone to become a pillager and thief. It's a metaphor, people. A metaphor.

March 9, 2012

Fun Friday: Extreme Sport Style

Confession time.

I watch The Bachelor.

*silent cringe*

OK, so before you all start telling me what a horrible choice I make every time I turn the TV on to watch a train wreck in progress (at least I can admit that much, right?), I’ll get to my actual point.

The Bachelor features some of the coolest dates ever: amazingly romantic concerts, picnics in places with limited access (like by the Hollywood sign…so cool), and yes, adventure dates.

You know, like zip-lining and jumping from helicopters in the ocean and hiking it up the Golden Gate Bridge.

So here’s a Bachelor-inspired question: If you had enough courage, money, and time, what extreme sport would you most like to try?

I think I’d pick skydiving. Remember the superhero post and how I picked flying as my power? Yeah, so I think skydiving would be as close as I’d ever get.

Sure, I’m sure I’d scream the whole way down, but what an amazing ride…

What about you?  

March 7, 2012

Light It Up


This last Sunday, my church hosted its annual Missions Conference/Festival, where missionaries we support come to hang out and tell us about what they face every day on the mission field.

It’s always really awesome to see people who devote their entire lives to the Cause. To seeing Jesus’s name glorified. To bringing His light to the dark places.

But missionaries aren’t the only ones who can do that.

Don’t get me wrong—I completely admire missionaries for giving up their lives here in the United States (if they’re a missionary in another country) and potentially facing persecution, etc. But I think, as Christians, we’re all called to be missionaries.

Regardless of where we are, we are all called to devote our entire lives to the Cause. To devote all of ourselves to seeing Jesus’s name glorified. To bring His light to the dark places.

I think in many ways, we put missionaries on a pedestal. We think, “Wow, they’re so amazing. I could never be like that.”

But you can. And you don’t have to go to another country to do it.

You can be Jesus to that woman in your office who is facing divorce. To the cashier at the grocery store who is behind on his rent and doesn’t know where to turn. To the other mom in your play group who is overwhelmed by having three kids under 4 years of age.

You can be the light wherever God has placed you. For foreign missionaries, he may have led them to Kenya, or India, or Japan. But something I don’t think about often enough is that God has placed me where I am. It didn’t happen by default. Just because I didn’t have to go through the arduous process of getting a foreign visa, raising support, and saying good-bye to loved ones doesn’t mean that I’m not exactly where God wants me.

What it does mean is that I need to be on the lookout for opportunities. Who in my life needs Jesus? How can I show Jesus to them? How can I be the light?

The following video features an awesome song by Kari Jobe that I got to sing on Sunday. It reminds me that God doesn’t want me to hide the light he’s put into me. He wants me to light it up.




Your Turn: What does being a light mean to you?

*Photo by Michal Marcol

March 5, 2012

Four Movie Quotes Applied to the Writing Journey

I love movies. Whether they’re based on books I’ve read or fresh creations for the big screen, I love getting lost in a story I can see with my eyes…and not just in my head (though that’s alright too!).

There are so many levels of enjoyment, because movies can touch the deepest parts of us. They can make us laugh, cry, and everything in between.

And we can learn so much from movies.

Here are four movie quotes that I’ve found particularly applicable to my own writing journey. I hope they encourage you.

“Baby steps…it means setting small reasonable goals for yourself, one day at a time, one tiny step at a time.” – What About Bob?
So often I want to leap ahead on the writing path. I want to have 10 books written now, I want to have devoured 20 craft books, I want an agent now, I want to be published now. Now now now. (Can you tell I’m not super patient?) I think this whole principle of baby steps is so important to me as a writer. I want to absorb knowledge, not just skim over it quickly with my eyes. I want to immerse myself in this journey so that, when one year, two years, three years (and beyond) have passed, I’m a better writer and a deeper thinker.

Like we’ve heard so often, life is not about the destination, but the journey. Taking those baby steps helps us to enjoy the scenery and take it all in as we go.

[After Albert tries his unique style of dancing]
Hitch: “Don’t ever do that again.”
Albert: “Just expressing myself.”
Hitch: “Noooo, uh uh. Not like that you’re not.”
Hitch
Sometimes people who claim to be experts in a certain area are not giving room for someone else to be creative in his/her own way. Yes, there are certain writing “rules,” but give yourself a little room to break them if you have a good reason to do so. This doesn’t mean you should never listen to your critique partners, but mull over others’ advice carefully and be sure you are developing your own unique voice and style. By all means, express yourself. Albert did, despite what Hitch said, and he got the girl because of it.

“The Reverend Mother always says, ‘When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.’" – Sound of Music
Be encouraged that the Lord who set your fingers to writing has a plan for you, one that will lead you in directions you might not anticipate. But it’s always the best way, because it’s His.

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” – Dead Poets Society
Words are powerful. Enough said.


Your Turn: Any favorite movie quotes that inspire you, whether it be related to writing or not? What types of movies are your favorite?

*Photo by Salvatore Vuono

March 2, 2012

Fun Friday: Where in Your State…



Alright, you peeps were so encouraging with my last vlog, I decided to try again. I think I got the lighting better this time, and you won’t want to miss an appearance by a very special guest…


In case you don’t have time to watch, here’s my question for you: Where in your state (or region of the country if you don’t want to name your state) is your favorite place to visit?

Happy Friday!