May 24, 2013

Fun Friday: Travel and a Break

My grandma is the bestest.
Tomorrow my dad and I set out on a 16-hour drive to Oklahoma.

My grandma lives there (thankfully, not the part touched by tornadoes earlier this week) and we decided to head out for a visit.

Since I work from home, I have the awesome luck of being able to work while I'm there without having to take too much time off. I'm very blessed.

Since I'll be hanging out with my off-the-charts-awesome grandma, I'm taking a blogging break. I'll be back Monday, June 3! Enjoy your weekend and Memorial Day.

Your Turn: What are your Memorial Day plans?

May 22, 2013

Worship Wednesday: "You Are" by Colton Dixon

2013 has been quite the year for tragedies already.

The Boston Marathon bombings.

The explosion in a small Texas town.

A tornado that leveled parts of Oklahoma.

If we focus on the tragedies and the tragedies alone, we're left with nothing but fear. And anger. And sadness. But mostly -- for me, anyway -- fear.

Because if THAT can happen THERE, what's stopping it from happening HERE? To me? To my family? To my friends?

That's why we cannot focus merely on the tragedies. If we do, we'll implode with all the grief and terror.

That's why we have to look to God.

For the answers -- even if we don't understand them.

For comfort -- even if it doesn't necessarily mean it WON'T happen to us, but does mean He can use anything and everything for good.

For security -- even if, when we talk about security, we mean something eternal.

I love this song ("You Are") by Colton Dixon because it reminds me that God is...simply put...everything we need.

And He is bigger than the fear.


Your Turn: Do you battle fear? How do you cast it out? 

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

May 20, 2013

The Diary of a Reluctant Gym-Goer

January 1, I joined Weight Watchers, determined to lose a little weight and get healthy.

Of course, that included heading to the gym. I've been an intermittent gym-goer for several years, even with times of great persistence thrown in there. But nothing's ever stuck.

Toward the middle of March, my husband and I decided to try out personal training in hopes it would motivate us to go to the gym more. You know, because we didn't want to waste the money?

Here's a brief look at some of my diary entries...well, as they would have been if I'd written my thoughts down.

April 3, 2013: Feeling great. I have my first personal training session tonight. In preparation, I've even been working out a few times this week. Woot!

April 4, 2013: I can barely move my arms to write this. First personal training session was great, but I learned I'll have to work out five times a week for an hour each in order to reach my goals. And here I thought my three times a week for 30 minutes each was a lot!

April 5, 2013: Excited to hit the gym and apply what I've learned.

April 10, 2013: Been successful this week. Lost some weight and going strong.

April 17, 2013: Ugh. The gym smells and I'd much rather stay here in my bed. Alarm? What alarm? I don't hear an alarm...

April 18, 2013: I have to do better today. Yesterday I didn't hit the gym at all. But I'm so tired this morning. I'll just go at lunch. Yeah, that's what I'll do.

April 19, 2013: I'm suuuuuuch a failure. I'll never get this right. Yesterday at lunch, not only did I eat leftover pizza, I didn't go to the gym like I promised myself I would. Laura Frantz's "Courting Morrow Little" just sounded soooo much better than lifting weights.

April 21, 2013: Okay, time to lift myself out of this pity party and just. do. it.

April 23, 2013: Forced myself to hit the gym this morning. Hated getting up at 5:30. Way too early, but I felt great leaving.

April 24, 2013: My trainer said I need to be consistent to see results. Yeah, yeah, I know...but the thought of all that work makes me wanna whine and quit.

April 30, 2013: I hit four times this week. Go me! I think some ice cream is in order to celebrate!

May 7, 2013: My grandparents were in town last weekend so we ate out and I didn't have time for the gym so I gained weight. I'm never going to win.

May 8, 2013: It's a new week so I just need to focus on that! Maybe meal planning will help. Maybe some accountability will help.

May 15, 2013: Yes! This week was great. I went to the gym five times so far and kind of missed it when I didn't go. That's victory right there.


After seven weeks of trying to lose weight, I'm starting to understand something. First, that habits are not formed easily.

And second, there will be times I'm not going to make my goal. But I can't beat myself up about the times I don't. That doesn't do anything but discourage me.

The bigger question is what WILL I do about it? How can I focus on making TODAY great? This week? This month? It's tempting to look so far into the future and start hyperventilating because I'll never be able to accomplish everything I want to in the time I want to. I start worrying that I'll never lose weight or I'll never get truly healthy or I'll never...whatever.

But that's not how God wants me to live my life: with fear of defeat.

Instead, He wants me to face that fear, stare it down, and take things one day at a time. 

Your Turn: This same principle can apply to so many areas of our lives. How does it apply in yours?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

May 17, 2013

Fun Friday: Worst Chore Ever

I kind of hate laundry.

So much so, I put off doing it.

You know. Till necessary.

And then, I regret that decision when I have mounds and mounds of laundry to fold. And then put away. Sigh.

Let's commiserate. What's your most dreaded chore?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

May 15, 2013

Worship Wednesday: "How Could I Ask for More" by Cindy Morgan

Sometimes, it's the simple things in life that mean the most.

I was reminded of that on Sunday at church when a friend sang Cindy Morgan's "How Could I Ask for More" (see below).

Simple joys I've enjoyed lately:
  • Sipping a passion tea at Starbucks and working on my novel.
  • Grilling chicken and zucchini on a Sunday afternoon with my husband.
  • Reading a good book by a friend on my Kindle while I'm at the gym.
  • Laughing at my puppies' crazy antics.
Your Turn: What simple joys have you experienced lately?

May 13, 2013

The Assumed Dichotomy Between Joy and Realness

Our pastor talked yesterday about joy. A specific point that stood out to me is that joy is attractive.

It made me automatically check myself. Am I joyful? Are people drawn to me because of my joy? If not, why? I have so much to be thankful for--so much to be joyful about!

Okay...but what about in times of trial?

That throws a wrench in my thinking. Because what if we DON'T have a lot to be joyful about? What if your husband has lost his job, or you've miscarried, or you've lost your mom to cancer, or your life is just not what you always had hoped it would be?

What then?

Because another thing that is attractive--to me at least--is realness. When people are REAL, I want to be around them.

But if someone is going through a major trial, she probably won't be shouting praises from the rooftop or spinning like Maria in Sound of Music, right? I mean, it's pretty hard to be joyful when your world is crashing down around you.

So either you pretend to be joyful or you mope around in a negative manner--and either way, people don't want to be around you. Because people can sense fake joy. And they don't want to be around someone who is negative all the time.

So what choice does someone who is going through something tragic really have?

The world tells us that you either have to choose joy or realness.

But God says differently: "Count it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2).

And the reason is rooted in the definition of joy.

Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is deep, abiding, hope-filled. Joy reminds us that God will bring all things together for good in the end--even if we can't see that now. Joy thinks about heaven and all the glories that wait for us there. Joy embraces the freedom that is given in Christ, a freedom that knows no bounds. Joy is unstoppable.

And joy does not preclude realness.

Because you see, when a person is facing a trial, and she's very real about her struggles--even to the point of showing the scars and letting others know "I'm doubting" or "really struggling with faith"--and yet she radiates joy...well, to me, that's the most attractive thing of all.

Your Turn: What does joy mean to you? What draws you the most to someone else? You do think joy and realness can coexist?

May 10, 2013

One Word 2013: The Encouragement I Needed

For those who are new here, I chose one word to focus on for 2013: rejoice!

The last few months have been somewhat difficult for me. Due to a variety of reasons (life!), I haven't been able to focus on my writing the way I've wanted to (it's my dream to become a published author).

I entered a few contests in the hopes that the feedback would show I've improved since last year, but I really had no clue what to hope for. My awesome critique partner, Melissa Tagg, kept telling me to hope, but I just felt...worn down. Discouraged.

It seemed everyone else was moving along much more quickly than me, and able to spend more time focused on writing than I was.

I started to compare myself to others. And that's never EVER a good place to be.

I'm realizing more and more that God has His own special path for each one of us. And that path is perfect.

On Monday, I received awesome news: I semi-finaled in one of the contests, the ACFW Genesis.

It's always amazing to me that God knows just how to encourage us when we're down. In this one event, this one moment, He affirmed for me that I was doing exactly what He wanted me to. That I was being obedient to slow down and that I needed to have patience as He walked me down this road.

I know that there were those who were disappointed in their results*, and I know what that's like too. Yet even in disappointment, God is good.

And He can still use those things to affirm our obedience to Him. 

As for me, I plan to pick up my proverbial pen...and keep writing. His encouragement gives me the strength to do it.

Your Turn: What has God used in your life to encourage you in the past?

*It is not my intention at all to appear to be bragging here, or to receive congratulations. I give God all the glory for this achievement. I know I wouldn't be anywhere without Him. I only hoped to share some of my heart along this journey.

May 8, 2013

Worship Wednesday: "How Great Thou Art" by Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill

God is so big.

I often forget just how big -- mostly because I'm worried about my own little life right here, right now.

But when I get out in nature, and feel the immensity of the ocean, and the height of the mountains -- reaching beyond the clouds, beyond my view -- I cannot help but be in awe.

And not just because He created these wonders.

But because He also spent time creating me.

His creations are precious to Him. Even me. Even you.

Especially me. Especially you.

No worship song is as appropriate to express the awe I feel at God and His power and creation than "How Great Thou Art." I love this version by Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill. It's just...wow. Have a listen and tell me you didn't cry. ;)


Your Turn: How does the immensity of nature draw you closer to God? What does it do for your spirit?

May 6, 2013

Living the Dream (Before You're Living the Dream): Guest Post by Amanda Dykes

Sometimes you meet people online, and you just click. Oh, and you're also just incredibly blessed by them and their spirit. Amanda Dykes is one of those people. I've not had the privilege of meeting her yet in person, but I've given her plenty of cyber hugs!

I asked Amanda if she'd be my guest and -- as is her nature -- she so graciously agreed. I know you'll be blessed by what she has to say today. Take it away, Amanda!

Sometimes I can be pretty slow to pick up on things.

For instance...I've felt this pull on my heart to write books for a long time. My whole life, really. I used to hold the Mandie mysteries in my child-hands and dream of writing books -- a series, even! -- that could minister to people and sweep them away into meaningful story.

OK, so my 10-year-old brain probably didn't think in those exact words, but I did have the longing to spin words into tales.

Finally, 1.5 years ago, I picked up my proverbial pen and started. I knew it would be a long time before (and if) I ever saw that book published, but that was my dream, and one must begin somewhere in the dream-chasing, right?

But there was a problem with my thinking, with my approach...one I've slowly, slowly begun to understand along the way.

In my head, the dream went something like this:

Step 1: Write book.
Step 2: Pray for, query, and hopefully find an agent.
Step 3: Pray for, submit to, and hopefully find a publisher.
Step 4: Get published. Dream has come true.

For the most part, that sequence has been sort of, mostly, that's-about-the-gist-of-it, accurate (as long as you envision about five more rounds of editing in there!). Right now I'm on Step 3, still praying for a publisher. Any of your prayers would be most delighted in, welcomed, and cherished! :)

However, there is one major flaw in the sequence. See that last sentence? "Dream has come true"? It's completely in the wrong place.

And see Step 1? There is a crucial--the crucial--part missing. Something that could change the entire list.

It should read like this:

Step 1: Write book because God has asked you to. Dream has come true.

Step 2: Pray for, query, and hopefully find an agent. Do so in obedience and with a servant's heart because God has asked you to. Dream has come true.

Step 3: Pray for, submit to, and hopefully find a publisher. Maintain a tight, tight grasp on the truth that God will do whatever He desires in this, and whether it ever gets published or not, you are following because He is leading. Dream has come true.

...and so forth. The success is in the obedience, not the outcome.

The joy is in the serving along the way.

Because some things will -- or rather should -- never change:

I want to write as much for God's glory now as I will if ever I'm published. I want to be as faithful to Him in pre-published "obscurity" as I hope to if ever I'm published, so that my life is worship to Him.

So that my heart will be trained on Him, my eyes fixed on Him, and so that if ever I do move beyond pre-published, I will follow hard after Him and never, ever lose sight of Him. So I'll worship the dream-giver, not the dream.

These are bold statements and they scare me a little, because of that pesky little "what if?" What if I stumble? What if I do lose sight? What if I never get there?

But these what if's are not the things I want ruling my heart. I want the Lover of my Soul to rule my heart...and my writing.

Oh, the heart-work that has needed to be done inside me on this journey! But...oh, how sweet, how freeing, to rest in a place where I take the next step in order to serve -- and in the serving, I'm living the dream.

Trust me, I don't always have it down. I mis-step and I falter. Far too often. But He is patient, so patient to help me begin again, each and every time.

Lindsay has done such an amazing job of fostering this warm, encouraging community here (I know you'd all agree with a resounding "Yes!"). It is so neat to be able to look at each person here and see the unique places God has them.

And to think -- in every single one of those places, no matter what stage of that person's particular dream -- God is working mightily. And in those four words, there is this truth: You are living your dream.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Your Turn: How do you see God working in your life right now as you live out your dream?

---

Amanda can be found most days drinking copious amounts of tea and scribbling away on her historical romance stories, set in the early 1900s. Let's just call the tea-drinking "research," shall we? Chocolate eating too, while we're at it.

She'd love to connect with you on her website at www.AmandaDykes.com, where she blogs and is currently hosting the Trust Chronicles event.

She also hangs out online on Facebook, Twitter, hosting the Book Bridge discussions at Novel Crossing, and at the Christian Fiction Book Club she co-hosts (they're about the begin reading and discussing Beth Vogt's new book, if anyone cares to join in!). She is represented by Wendy Lawton of Books and Such Literary Agency.

May 3, 2013

Fun Friday: Visiting Family & Friends

My grandparents are visiting from Texas this weekend!

It can be so hard to be separated from friends and family by city, state, and sometimes country lines.

That's why I'm so grateful for the ease of transportation to get me somewhere else within hours.

In fact, I'll be visiting my other grandma in late May, and then seeing a few friends for a writing retreat in June. I'm also very excited to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Indianapolis later this year!

Your Turn: Do you like to travel to see friends and family? Who do you love visiting? Who will you be seeing this year?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

May 1, 2013

Worship Wednesday: "Hanging On" by Britt Nicole

I don't know about you, but I love songs that convict me.

I love that they make me think, sometimes in a way that I never would have thought of something before.

Love that they require some sort of response from me.

Love that, with God, nothing is impossible -- and He can turn that conviction into a blessing that brings me closer to Him.

That's the kind of song "Hanging On" by Britt Nicole (see below) is for me. It talks about how the Bible is essentially life for us and we should hang on every word of it -- because it's from God.

Have you ever stopped and really thought about that? The Bible is a letter from God to you.

Wow.

I know I definitely don't have enough awe, reverence, or devotion to God's Word.

But I want to.

And that is a start. God can use that desire and grow it into whatever He wants to.

Your Turn: What song has convicted you at some point? 

Here's Britt's song: