February 22, 2013

Fun Friday: Writing Retreats, Videos, and March, Oh My!

Destin, Florida
After an amazing last weekend with my critique partner, Melissa Tagg, I'm now hanging out in Florida for a week for a My Book Therapy writing retreat.

I'm hoping to learn a lot and deepen friendships while working on my next book.

Since I'll be here for a whole week, I'm taking next week off from blogging. I'll return Monday, March 4.

For a special treat, this next Monday, Melissa is posting a video we taped about how to have a successful brainstorming session. I hope you'll stop by!

Your Turn: What are you up to this weekend? Have you ever been to a writing retreat?

February 20, 2013

Bless the Lord Reason #17: For Heart Connections

"You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

We know from God's Word that friends are meant to keep each other accountable. To help each other stay the path. To challenge each other.

And yes, by all means, a good friend does all of these things.

But when I think of my life, one of the things for which I'm profoundly grateful is my heart connections with others.

This life would be so boring if traveled alone. Oh sure, there are plenty of times I relish alone-ness. The silence. The still air and the soul seeking.

But so often I come alive the most when I'm connecting with another person's heart. There is something so simple in it--and yet, it doesn't feel simple. Feels anything but.

Because how many times have I wondered...am I the only one? How many times have I cried alone? Or asked--myself--if I'll always feel this way?

God has been my only comfort more time than I can count--and He is enough, don't get me wrong.

But He doesn't intend for us to go this road alone. He placed other people in our path to walk it with us, not for us to stubbornly walk off, determined to do this thing by ourselves, without help.

True, it can be difficult to find someone who your heart bonds with, but I believe God can provide--and often just when we need the provision most. I know he's provided this for me. I am so blessed to have many friends with whom I can share myself, my secrets, my desires, friends who will not poke fun or abandon me.

Friends who will stay the course, not only sharpening me but encouraging my heart--reminding me that I CAN take another step, and they're going to prove it by taking it with me. 

Your Turn: Do you have a friend who encourages you? What advice would you give someone who feels alone?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

February 18, 2013

Lindsay and Melissa: How to Have a Great Brainstorming Weekend



Hey all!

My awesome critique partner, Melissa Tagg, came to visit me this weekend, and we've made a video of the Top Ten essentials for a great brainstorming weekend.

We might come off as crazy, but we had a blast!  

Your Turn: What would you need for a great brainstorming weekend, or just a fun weekend with a friend?

February 15, 2013

The Most Awesome-est Writing Weekend Ever!

Our first picture together (Dallas, 2012)
You know those times when you set something on the calendar really far in advance and feel like it'll never be here...and then it is?

That's how I feel about this weekend.

My amazing critique partner, Melissa Tagg, is coming to Phoenix for a way-too-cool brainstorming weekend.

I offered to visit her, but then she reminded me that in other parts of the country, it's actually snowing in February. Who knew? ;)

We plan to eat lots of junk food, watch movies (yes, Anne of Green Gables is on the docket!), and talk through our next books.

I'm so lucky to have Mel in my life, and I cannot wait to hang out with her more.

All I can say is, my poor husband. Two crazy writer chicks are invading his home. He usually just has to deal with one. Ha.

Your Turn: What are you doing this weekend?

February 13, 2013

What Breaks Your Heart?

My pastor began a series on Nehemiah this week.

He talked about how Nehemiah heard that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down. Though Jerusalem had been the land of his fathers, he'd never been there.

And yet, he wept and mourned for days over the condition of the Jewish homeland.

Our pastor then asked us...what breaks your heart?

As I sit here, I'm thinking about the things that break mine:

  • Christian friendships that end on a sour note--something Satan so clearly loves.
  • People in need, with no one to care for them.
  • Cancer.
  • Babies losing their lives before they even begin.
  • People living in bondage--physical and spiritual.
  • The widespread belief that has pervaded my own heart before--the one that says because I am going through the fire, God must not care about me.
  • Those who are good people doing good things--and yet basing their beliefs on this idea that you can earn God's love.
  • Children suffering under the hand of those who would claim to love them.
  • Women being tortured.

It's enough to depress a person, really. Except, here's the other thing to consider. If these things truly break our hearts, shouldn't they move us into action?

Nehemiah didn't just sit around bemoaning the fact that the walls of Jerusalem lay in shambles. Instead, he did something about it.

Maybe all you can do about some of these things is pray. Maybe it's to give money. Maybe it's to actually reach out and physically change the world.

As Christians, we are called to action, whatever that means. God plants causes in each of our hearts--the same thing doesn't move all of us in the same way. And that's okay.

Remember too--God is ultimately in control. If He moves your heart in some way, He will equip you.

Your Turn: What moves you?

February 11, 2013

Bless the Lord #16: He Created Harmony

If you've hung around me for any length of time, you know that I'm a singer.

In short, I love music. And I'm pretty much always singing. I hear a phrase and often a song pops into my head--usually from a musical. Am I obsessed? Quite possibly. :)

Music has a way of drawing me close to the Lord. It's often through worship when I find myself at my most vulnerable. For me, it is a deeper connection than any other.

But yesterday as I sat worshiping with hundreds of others in our church service, something else about music stood out to me.

I love harmony.

There is something hauntingly beautiful about two or more voices raised together in worship. There's something even more gorgeous when those voices are harmonizing.

Perhaps it's just my trained ear that relishes this sound so much, but I literally ache inside--in a good way--when I hear two voices in perfect harmony. I love it even more when mine is one of those voices.

Because it's not just about hitting the right notes or blending a sound together. That's beautiful too, but it's just...deeper than that.

It's just like God to create this wonder in nature--harmony--to weave together something that we can't even fully grasp. What makes two notes harmonious? I don't know if I could even explain it to you. But we know it when we hear it.

Maybe this is a stretch, but when I hear two or more voices in perfect harmony, it makes me think, "I want me and God to be like these voices."

Perfectly in tune.

One the melody, paving the way--that'd be God--and one the harmony, following wherever the melody leads.

I love that God speaks to me through music.

I love that He draws me to Himself through music.

But even more, I love that He created harmony, so I know exactly how He and I fit together.

Your Turn: Does music speak to you like it speaks to me? What makes you feel closest to the Lord?

*Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

February 8, 2013

Eye Trouble: Guest Post by Jeanne Takenaka

Today I'm so excited to have my good writing pal, Jeanne Takenaka, on my blog! Jeanne and I met through My Book Therapy and the blogosphere, and in person for the first time at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference last year in Dallas. We'll be rooming together at an upcoming MBT retreat. She's super sweet and I'm super excited she's here!

"Hello, my name is Jeanne. I'm a forty-something, and I'm afraid to go to the eye doctor."

Because I am certain this will be the visit where the good doctor says, "You're going to need some glasses. Here's your prescription. Take two lenses and call me in the morning."

Okay, he may not say those exact words, but I know glasses are in my near future. I now need brighter light to read those impossibly small ingredient lists on the back of food packaging. My elbows get lots of exercise as I move them further out and then closer in to focus on the fine print on labels. It seems like it was only last month when they were simple to read.

My glasses-free days are numbered.

That got me thinking about my spiritual eyes. Do I ever need "glasses" to help me see situations in my life more clearly? As I thought about when my eyes have trouble seeing through the proper lens, I realized sometimes, unforgiveness blurs my vision. When I am angry with someone, when my feelings get hurt, it is easy for me to see everything in my life through the lens of pain.

Just as an ophthalmologist helps my physical eyes see better with a lens correction, so God enables me to view people and cirucmstances as they really are by adjusting my perspective.

But, I must be willing to give Him my current glasses--hurt and anger--and ask Him to change my heart toward the person who caused it. It takes time for that shift to occur, but if I will leave the situation in His hands, God is always good about making the fix.

Your Turn: What are your thoughts on glasses? When have you had a perspective adjustment that helped you to "see" better?


Jeanne Takenaka writes women's fiction that deals with real life issues with a heart to draw women closer to God and to those around them. She is wife to one amazing man who is her real life hero, and mother to two exuberant boys who hope to one day have a dog of their own. She loves being God's girl, always learning about His grace, hanging out with friends, and enjoying a great cup of coffee. She and her family live near the mountains of Colorado. She is a member of ACFW and My Book Therapy Voices. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@JeanneTakenaka), and her blog.

February 6, 2013

Bless the Lord Reason #15: He Gives Me a Choice

On Sunday, my pastor gave a sermon that really struck me.

He said that everyone nowadays is busy. It's why we don't have time for certain things. Specifically, spending time with God.

And to be honest, I thought, "Yeah. I am busy. I know God understands, though. I try. I try to be a good employee, and a good wife, and I try to exercise and plan healthy meals. And I try to hone the skills he gave me as a writer and a singer so I can bless others. I AM busy."

But then my pastor said this: "As busy as we all are, we make time for what we value."

Gulp.

I don't know why, but like I said--that just really struck me. Between the eyes.

Because life is a series of choices. We live it and it's possible that we sometimes get caught up in it. In the whirlwind of craziness and busyness and everything good and everything bad going on around us.

But in the end, we really do live it based on our priorities, whether they're conscious or not.

If that's true, then that means I really don't value God and my time with Him. Not if I'm basing my time on what I value.

And then my pastor said this: "We are shaped by what we think about."

When I think about this, I'll be honest...I get so overwhelmed. I start to feel like life is conquering me instead of me conquering it. Like this nebulous thing called busyness is taking over my life and I can't control it. Like the person I want to be can't possibly ever exist because there's just too much "stuff" going on.

But then, my pastor said this: "We are the determiners of what we value and what we think about."

Oh.

God gives us a choice. He gives me a choice every day: what will I value? He nudges me gently, asking me, "Lindsay, what are you going to value today? Me or the television? Me or that book? Me or your writing? Me or your friends?"

See, not all of those things are bad. Not at all. Reading and television are ways to rest, and we need rest sometimes. My writing is not bad in and of itself, but it is if it becomes an idol. Friendships are Heaven-sent, necessary for my sanity.

But none of those things should trump my time with God.

If I start to value ANY of those things--good or bad--more than I value Him, then yes...my life is going to be filled to the brim with craziness and busyness and a tornado of turmoil. Because when I'm not spending time with Him, my path isn't straight. My head can't be clear. My emotions take over.

But you know what? I love that He gives me a choice in the matter.

It's scary, to be sure. To know that I determine what I value. To know that I'll likely screw up my priorities time and again.

But to know also, that in choosing Him, I have a way to please Him. I have a way to make sure my life is focused, and purposeful. A clear path toward the light.

And when I do mess up and focus on the wrong thing--letting the bad or the not-as-good-as-they-could-be things--that makes coming home and correcting my focus all the sweeter.

Your Turn: Do you find it true that what you think about shapes you?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

February 4, 2013

Why My Book Therapy's Frasier Writing Contest Rocks

As a writing newbie, there was nothing I craved more than feedback.

I know, putting your work out there is scary, right? But about this time last year, I'd finished my first book and revised it a few times. I hadn't shown it to anyone yet. I didn't have a critique partner at the time, and so I really had no clue about the quality of my writing.

I decided to enter several contests at the beginning of last year since I wanted a realistic view of how I was doing. I read craft books and knew some mistakes not to make, but it was so difficult to evaluate the other, not-so-clear things.

For instance, were my characters realistic and likable? I mean, I thought so, since I'd created them. But how would they appear to others?

Was my plot thin with lots of holes, or fresh and original? Unpredictable?

Did my language have bite, or was it too prose-y for the average reader?

I honestly didn't know how to evaluate these things--so contests were my best bet.

The only problem? A few of the contests I entered gave me drastically different feedback, and the depth of it was fairly shallow. I'd get a low rating on something with no explanation as to why, or how I could improve it.

Enter My Book Therapy's Frasier contest.

Because unlike other contests, I felt like I actually came away with feedback that made sense. Plus, I received encouragement on what I was already doing right.

I believe the Frasier is one of the best contests out there, because My Book Therapy--a writing craft organization founded by multipublished author Susan May Warren--has a heart for writers. The contest is not just for those who receive the awards. Its main purpose is to teach and help writers improve on their journey toward publication.

Let's face it. It's HARD to read something in a craft book and then know if you've applied it successfully. For writers, the Frasier contest is one that will help you to know.

If you're looking to learn and improve in your writing, I can't recommend the Frasier highly enough!

*Entries for the 2013 MBT Frasier Contest for unpublished novelists will be accepted through Sunday, March 31, at 11:59 pm. The contest is open to Voices members. The winner will receive a scholarship to a My Book Therapy coaching retreat ($500 value). Final round judges are award-winning author Susan May Warren; literary agent Steve Laube; and a TBD fiction acquisitions editor. For more information, FAQs, and to enter, visit www.mybooktherapy.com.

Your Turn: If you're a writer, have you ever entered a writing contest? What did you think of the feedback you received? If you're not a writer, have you ever entered a contest of any sort? What kind?

February 1, 2013

The Gift of Peace

Peace like a river
Have you ever squandered a gift?

Maybe you have and don't realize it.

Let's think about it another way. Has anyone you known ever squandered a gift you gave to her?

Worst thing they could do, right? I mean, you spent time and energy picking out the perfect gift. Not to mention good, hard-earned money. 

Personally, it'd make me angry. And sad. Annoyed that this person cared nothing for my efforts.

I read this in the devotional Jesus Calling last week, and it's stuck with me ever since:

"My peace is the treasure of treasures: the pearl of great price. It is an exquisitely costly gift, both for the Giver and the receiver. I purchased this Peace for you with My blood. You receive this gift by trusting me in the midst of life's storms." (January 24)    

Dang it. Guilty. As. Charged.

I'm the gift squanderer of gift squanderers. 

'Cuz I worry. A lot. And worrying means I'm not trusting God. And if I'm not trusting God, I am casting away the pearl of great price He gave to me. He died so I wouldn't have to worry about my future. And yet I do that very thing on a regular basis.

That I would stop, and consider, and treasure His gift instead.

Your Turn: How do you stop yourself from squandering His gift?  

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net