November 30, 2012

Fun Friday Christmas Tradition Style: Trees

Our Christmas tree this year.
From now until Christmas, I'm going to be talking about Christmas traditions. I think it's awesome how different families do things...well, differently. I'll share my traditions with you, and you share yours with the rest of us! Deal? Sweet.

When I was growing up, my mom gave my brother and I an ornament every year so that when we moved out, we wouldn't have to start from scratch. So we had to have somewhere to put all of these kids ornaments in the meantime. Thus, a kids tree.

Because something about my mom...well, she liked things to be pretty. And if our Christmas tree was going to be in the front window for all to see (much better than a leg lamp, dontcha think?), then it needed to be flat-out gorgeous.

And kids ornaments? Yeah, they didn't really fit the bill.

So, a separate kids tree was born. Mom had her pretty tree in the front room, and we had the kids tree in the family room. It worked really well.

When Mike and I got married, we had this dinky little tree in our apartment that we decorated with those kids ornaments--some from me, some from him (his parents gave him ornaments also!). When we moved into our house a few years ago, we bought a nine-foot tree. And suddenly, I wanted to do something different.

I wanted the pretty tree, like my mom used to have. So I asked my dad for all of my mom's decorations and he gave them to me. Now, for the past three years, I've decorated our tree with her decorations and something about it makes me feel close to her.

In a way, it's the little thing I do to remember her at Christmas time.

Your Turn: What traditions do you have regarding a Christmas tree? How do you decorate it? Did your parents give you ornaments every year when you were growing up?

November 28, 2012

Worship Wednesday: Winter Snow



Music is a huge part of my life.

Not only am I a singer, but music is one of my main ways of worshipping the Lord.

When I feel the music moving through me, getting inside of me, working its way into my heart and out through my raised hands, dancing feet, swaying body--I feel nearer to God.

Because music is so important, I thought it would be fun to share with you songs that especially move me. I'll post a link where you can hear the song, or maybe I'll post a video of me singing it myself. Then, I'll tell you why it moves me, what about it strikes me and has stayed with me.

Sound good?

For today's post, I thought I'd highlight Audrey Assad's song, "Winter Snow." I first heard this song last year at a Christmas Eve service and the melody stirs me. But more than that, I love the concept that Jesus could have come to this earth in so many ways to display His awesome glory and power.

But instead, He came as a child. Unobstrusive. Vulnerable.

Sometimes, I don't get that. Why not sweep in like a hurricane or a forest fire or a tidal wave to show the world WHO HE IS?

But that's just it.

His ways are different. He doesn't beat us over the head with His majesty. Instead, He uses it to woo us. Yes, He is powerful. Yes, He is glory itself.

But when the world expected a god to be only those things--hurricanes, fires, waves on the powerful ocean--our God gave us something entirely different.

Doesn't that just awe and astound you even more?

Your Turn: Have you ever heard this song or anything else by Audrey Assad? I'm really excited because I get to sing it for our church's annual Festival of Lights production this Christmastime. What's one of your favorite Christmas songs?

November 26, 2012

Bless the Lord Reason #9: Another Year

Every year on our birthdays, we get teased for "getting old," right?

And though we laugh at the teasing, sometimes, we actually do hate the fact that we're hitting certain age marks.

In two years, I'll be 30. I know, some of you are older and thinking, "Ha, young'un, you just wait!" Others are younger than me, snickering, thinking I'm old.


But seriously. Those decade markers seem to be milestones of some sort. Sometimes I can't believe how quickly the time has flown by. Sometimes I worry that I haven't achieved enough for how old I am. That I'll die before accomplishing anything truly great.

And I'm gonna be honest...that scares me.

But today, on my 28th birthday, I want to think of it differently.

Why?

Because life is too short to spend it worrying.

And because several years ago, I was given a great example in embracing another year of life.

I had a great role model in my mom. Many of you know she passed away over 8 years ago. She was only 46 years old.

She'd battled cancer when I was young, and prayed and prayed that God would heal her so my brother and I would know her, that she would get to raise us, to teach us the truth about life.

And He granted that wish. She was in remission for several years and then considered "cured" until her cancer returned at the age of 42.

So when my mom turned 40, do you think she moped around, depressed? No way. She celebrated, because she didn't think she'd ever see 40 years.

What a perspective change, huh?

I love that my mom had that attitude and engrained it in me: life is precious. Every day we live it. Doesn't matter if we are 20 or 60. Doesn't matter if we've achieved everything we wanted to or not.

Today is what counts.

So today, when I could be depressed that another year has passed without such and such a thing happening to me--I want to bless the Lord for another year of wonderful, beautiful life.

Another year to serve Him.

To love others.

To work toward a dream.

Another year.

Thank you, Lord.

Your Turn: How do you celebrate your birthdays? I think Mike and I are going out to Grimaldi's Pizzeria tonight. Yum yum. And there had better be some ice cream involved afterward!

*If you missed my post on The Writers Alley last Friday, it's not too late to stop in and read all about the tips I learned at My Book Therapy's Storycrafters Retreat last month.

November 16, 2012

My Star Wars Wedding Reception

Sunday is my 6th wedding anniversary. I'm so blessed to be married to such a wonderful man. Mike is everything I wanted and continue to want in a life partner.

So, upon this momentous occasion, I think it's finally time to tell the story of my Star Wars wedding reception.

Now, lest you think I was one of those brides who dressed up like a character or something on her wedding day, I assure you, that was not the case. But, for those who know me, I do like to have a little fun now and then. Wink wink.

My husband is a HUGE Star Wars fan. Like, huge. Like, he and his friends used to get together to have "pretend" lightsaber battles. Yeah, he'll tell you that was like fifteen years ago and he hasn't done it in forever.

Don't believe him. The lawyer's got some lightsabering (totally a word) skills.

On to our wedding reception...I wanted to really do something special to show him how much I appreciated him putting up with all the pink, etc., in our wedding. So, I hatched a plan with his groomsmen.

It was well into our reception--so all the formalities had been done, and we were just dancing and having a blast. The DJ suddenly announces that we all needed to clear the dance floor, because we had a special guest. I held tight to Mike's hand, pretending like I was confused. *insert evil laughter here*

Everyone is off the dance floor but Mike and I, and out of nowhere, "Darth Vader" (aka, our friend Ryan) appears in cape and mask. The DJ hands him a mic and he does a nice heavy breathing routine, telling Mike he has to fight to get me back. At that point, several "Storm Troopers" (aka, groomsmen in masks) come and take me hostage. I do a nice screaming bit, telling Mike to save me, save me.

I tell you, it wasn't fun at all. Grin.

We had to figure out how to get Mike a lightsaber, so my brother jumps out from the crowd with one in hand, tells Darth Vader to let me go. Darth Vader wipes him off the map, and my brother throws the lightsaber at Mike, telling him to "avenge him." Very dramatically, of course.

Then comes the Star Wars battle music.

Mike and Darth Vader begin fighting. Mike's cracking up at this point, of course, but he knows exactly what to do because--yeah, he's done this before. Ha.

Eventually, he slays Vader, the Storm Troopers let me go and drag their leader off the stage and out the door, and I run to Mike, crying, "My hero, my hero." And the audience goes wild with applause.

Yeah. One of the coolest memories ever.

The only thing cooler was that just before all of this, Mike surprised me by singing a very romantic song for me. He's not really a singer but he knows how much I love his voice.

Romance at its finest.

Your Turn: Did you do anything special or unique at your own wedding? If you aren't married or can't think of an example from your own, ever been to a wedding with something fun or unique?

*Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, I'll be taking a blogging break next week. See you on Monday, November 26, which just happens to be my birthday. I'd love if you'd come celebrate with me.

November 14, 2012

The Most Important Thing I Did for My Writing Career: Guest Post by Gabrielle Meyer

Today I'm excited to introduce one of my good writing friends, Gabrielle Meyer. I had the privilege of rooming with her not once, but twice--first at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in September and then one month later at the My Book Therapy Storycrafters Retreat. She's the sweetest person ever and I can't wait to see how God is going to use her in the writing world to change lives! Thanks for being my guest today, Gabe!

I'm an extrovert by nature. I get energized when I'm with other people – and sometimes that's hard when you're a writer. Yes, I spend my writing time with a plethora of colorful characters, and sometimes I even talk to them, but writing a book is a very lonely pursuit, and for someone like me, who craves support from like-minded people, it means I need to find fellowship with others to keep my tank full.

For years I felt like a little island when it came to writing Christian Fiction. I only knew a handful of writers in my small community, but they didn’t write Christian Fiction and, for one reason or another, I never connected with them.

Because I flourish in a supportive environment, I didn't go after my writing dream for a long, long time.

In February of this year I stumbled across something that changed my life forever: the online Christian writing community. I discovered there were hundreds of other writers out there, many of them pursuing the same dream to write stellar Christian Fiction, but the most beautiful thing I discovered is that we all speak the same heart language.

There is nothing like finding a group of Christians who are like-minded, but when they also have a passion to share the Gospel of Christ through the art of storytelling, it’s priceless.

Finding the online Christian writing community has been the best thing for my pursuit to publication. Not only have I made incredible friendships and learned how to be a better writer, I’ve also benefited from their expertise and encouragement (not to mention their connections within the publishing industry!).

If anyone ever asks me for writing advice, the first thing I will tell them is to get involved with the writing community – and the best place to do that is start visiting blogs. Here are some that jump started me in February:

Jody Hedlund, Author: www.jodyhedlund.blogspot.com

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent: www.rachellegardner.com

Books & Such Literary Agency: www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/

Steve Laube Literary Agency: www.stevelaube.com/blog/

Chip MacGregor Literary Agency: www.chipmacgregor.com/

What I recommend is go to these sites, leave a comment, and then click on all the other people who comment, check out their blogs and leave comments there, too. That’s how I found Lindsay!

Lindsay and Gabe at the ACFW conference in September 2012.
You’d be surprised at what you can learn, and the friendships you can make, all at your fingertips.

What about you? What blogs would you recommend to someone who wants to meet other writers? Has the online writing community helped you on your pursuit to publication?
If you are not a writer, what was something that helped you in your career of choice?
~ ~ ~ ~
Gabrielle Meyer lives in Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four young children, including two year old twin boys. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society for ten years, and the Morrison County Historical Society for two years, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by actual events. Since 2004, she’s written for Minnesota Moments Magazine and she does freelance writing for non-profit organizations. In her “free” time she enjoys volunteering for her church and community and is a big fan of MOPS and AWANA. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or her blog.

November 12, 2012

Bless the Lord Reason #8: He Reminds Me of My Blessings

Pascal and Chloe after Pascal's RETURN HOME from the hospital!
I'm just gonna say it. The last few weeks have been horrible.

Both of my dogs, including my 16-week-old puppy Pascal, got parvo. If you aren't familiar with the disease, it's a gastrointestinal virus that essentially kills the stomach lining, meaning dogs vomit blood and often die from dehydration and sepsis.

Yeah. Like I said. Horrible.

Being older, Chloe recovered quickly. But last Sunday (November 4), my husband took Pascal into the emergency clinic. They said if he'd waited any longer, we'd have woken up to a dead dog.

Horrible, horrible time.

That Monday, I thought he was a goner. I had been posting his progress on Facebook, and I wrote that we were preparing to say goodbye to him on Monday. My heart was broken.

But even in the horrible times, God brings blessings.

I am still overwhelmed to think of the support we got from friends and family. All the affirmations of prayers. All the private Facebook messages and texts asking how I was doing. Friends who even brought us meals. I mean, I fully believe our pets are our families, but I never expected that kind of outpouring of support and prayers for a little puppy.

Then, I got it. A lightbulb went off in my head. Der.

All of those people, regardless of whether they were "dog people" or not...they loved ME. They cared about what I cared about. Some knew the pain of watching a beloved pet suffering. Some didn't, but knew what it meant to me.

The love that rose up around me...I'm still overwhelmed by it. I'm tearing up right now as I write this, because I felt those prayers. Every. Last. One.

It was a horrible, horrible time, but a blessed one.

Because first of all, my puppy survived. I'm so happy to be able to say that he fought his way back to health.

But secondly and almost more importantly, God reminded me how blessed I am.

Thanksgiving is next week, and I'm thankful for so many things: my freedom, my salvation, my home, my job, my education, my writing.

But right now, can I just say...I am so, so, so thankful for YOU, dear friend. The people in our lives (and God, of course) make it worth living.

And my life is soooooo worth living to the fullest, because there are so many AMAZING people in it.

Your Turn: Has there even been a time in your life--even if it was difficult--that God used to remind you of your blessings?

November 5, 2012

Blogging Break

Hi friends.

This last week has been very tough for me. My sweet dogs (Chloe, 16 mos., and Pascal, 14 weeks) have been suffering from parvo, a horrible virus that can be life-threatening.

Thankfully, Chloe has recovered. Pascal is still fighting.

In light of all of this and the little sleep I've been getting, I'm taking a blogging break this week. I will miss you all, and I covet your prayers that my little guy will recover.

Thanks for the love.

November 2, 2012

Disney Lyrics Applied to the Writing Life

I was reared on Disney movies.

I love, love, love them.

So it's no surprise that I can find messages about the writing life within Disney lyrics.

How I felt at my first big writer's conference:

All those days watching from the windows
All those years outside looking in
All that time never even knowing
Just how blind I've been
Now I'm here, blinking in the starlight
Now I'm here, suddenly I see
Standing here, it's all so clear
I'm where I'm meant to be

-"I See the Light" from Tangled








The pep talk you have to give yourself when you feel like quitting:

I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back
To where I used to be

-"A Whole New World" from Aladdin












The truth about using publication as your be all and end all and not enjoying the journey:

The seaweed is always greener
In somebody else's lake
You dream about going up there
But that is a big mistake
Just look at the world around you
Right here on the ocean floor
Such wonderful things surround you
What more is you lookin' for?

-"Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid








Reassurance for your weary writer's heart. Say it to yourself!

I'll be there someday
I can go the distance
I will find my way
If I can be strong
I know every mile
Will be worth my while
When I got the distance
I'll be right where I belong

-"I Can Go the Distance" from Hercules








Your Turn: What's your favorite Disney movie? Did I leave any good examples out?