July 31, 2013

Worship Wednesday: "Come Thou Fount" by Jadon Lavik

"Come Thou Fount" is one of my all-time favorite hymns. I love to sing it a capella, without music. The words just...capture me.

And I love Jadon Lavik's version of it. It's peppy and when sung along with the guitar, it's magic. Take a listen and let your soul seep in the words.



Your Turn: What's your favorite hymn? Is there a fun "modern" version of that hymn that you love?

July 29, 2013

The Positive Effects of Positivity


A few months ago, I posted about my attempt to lose weight and get healthy.

You see people all the time who go on a "weight loss journey" and post crazy progress, like 10 pounds lost! Or 4 inches lost!

So I've been on this "journey" -- which entails doing Weight Watchers (not so religiously as I should) and training with a personal trainer -- for about three months or so.

But I'm not one of those people who has lost a ton. In fact, though I feel better overall and have worked out five times a week most weeks, I have yet to lose any weight.

None.

I was so discouraged that last week, I was talking to a friend and said, "Sometimes, I don't even know why I'm doing this if I'm not going to see any results. Might as well save five hours a week and eat whatever I want! I'm never going to lose this weight."

See, I'm a goals person. And I wasn't seeing any tangible progress toward my goal. Yes, my arms are stronger and I've lost a few inches around my waist, but nothing super noticeable.

Then I saw a pin come across my Facebook and Pinterest pages. It's from Weight Watchers and says: Replace every negative thought with a positive one.

It struck me because a few friends* and I have been talking about the power of words and thoughts to derail us or keep us lifted up. And much of that positivity is really about being grounded in God's truth.

The truth that, no matter how much I weigh, God loves me.

That he sees my efforts to get healthy -- since he tells me my body is a temple and all -- and that they're not for nothing.

That my goal shouldn't be to lose weight, really (muscle weighs more than fat, right??). It should be to have strong arms to lift my children someday. To have a strong heart so I'm here for my family as long as possible. To have more energy to do the things I love.

And THAT...well, I can do that. I AM doing that. I may not eat perfectly, and I may not be seeing progress as quickly as I'd like, but I have been faithful in some ways, like trying new healthy recipes I find on Pinterest, and hitting the gym. Trying new things. Branching out. Doing what's hard.

Those positive thoughts gave me the fuel I needed this last week to keep going. To hop on the scale on Friday (my weigh in day) and not stress that I'd only lost 0.4 pounds even though I'd done everything right that week. To rejoice in even a little progress.

I'm talking about weight and body image here, but this idea of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can be applied to any area of your life.

For me, it's a huge thing to consider when thinking about my writing goals. For you, it might be applicable to a big dream you have or just small, everyday things.

Negativity can defeat us. Positive thoughts -- and God's truth -- can lift us up and make us soar.

Your Turn: Ever struggled with this? How has thinking positively helped you live a better life?

*Waving to Gabrielle Meyer, Melissa Tagg, and Alena Tauriainen! Thanks for the inspiration, ladies! You make me a better me.
**Photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

July 26, 2013

Fun Friday: Go-To Summer Fruit

One of my favorite things about summer?

All the fruit.

Grapes. Berries. Peaches. Nectarines. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Mmm.

Fruit adds punch to a protein smoothie, is a great salad topper, and goes nicely with frozen yogurt. Plus, have you ever grilled peaches? Oh. My.

I think one of my favorite summer fruits is green grapes. I freeze them and there soooo refreshing!

Your Turn: What's your go-to summer fruit?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

July 24, 2013

Worship Wednesday: "Hurricane" by Natalie Grant


When I listen to Natalie Grant's "Hurricane," I think of these verses (and I love this translation, by the way):

"Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you're there!
If I go underground, you're there!
If I flew on morning's wings
to the far western horizon,
You'd find me in a minute--
you're already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, 'Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I'm immersed in the light!'
It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you."
-Psalm 137:7-12 (The Message)

He sees you. No matter where you are. No matter the mess you're in. And He loves you. So much.

Don't turn from love.



Your Turn: What song is on your heart today?

*Friends, I'd like to ask for prayer today for a dear family friend. He's only 17 and just found out he has a malignant brain tumor. They've done surgery but couldn't remove it all, and hope to do so through radiation. Would you please pray that God would keep him family strong, that David would be healed, and that there would be a powerful testimony in all of this? Thank you!

July 22, 2013

Sometimes the Answer Is Resting in Him

Last week, I had a moment of panic.

Because I realized...I can't do it all.

Yes, yes, I've been talking a lot lately about giving ourselves grace and being okay with not being able to do it all. About how we need to turn to God and ask for His strength to help us do what's most important.

And even though I firmly believe that, I still have moments when I find myself WANTING to do it all. And actually, not even "all" -- with two goldens that shed like crazy, I long ago gave up the delusion that I'd have a constantly clean home -- but it's even been difficult to find time and energy to do the few things I really want or have to do.

I've narrowed the things in my life to the most important. I don't volunteer on a bunch of committees. I don't bring food every time someone in my Sunday school class has a baby. I don't do any number of "extras" that I could do.

But I've got some responsibilities I can't escape -- and several I don't want to. Like working full-time, being married, being a sister and daughter and friend. Owning a home. Paying the bills.

Then I have goals I want to achieve, like getting healthy and finishing revisions on my current book. Making a career out of this fiction writing gig.

Oh yeah. And spending time with God. Learning more about Him. Savoring my time in His presence. Relishing telling Him about my day.

But let me tell you...it's HARD to fit all of that in. But I can't really see myself eliminating any one of them from my life.

And leaning on the Lord for strength is just what I need to do.

But even more...I need to rest in Him.

It always makes me shake my head and laugh when the Lord uses things in my life to remind me of His truth, over and over. So of course, on the week when I'm fretting about not having time/energy to do all I want/have to, my devotional, Jesus Calling, talks about REST.

This entry from July 20 really stood out to me:

"Seek my face, and you will find all that you have longed for."

That's it. Seek His face. Rest in Him.

He'll take care of the rest.

It pulls me back to my life verse, Philippians 1:6: "There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears."

I don't have all the answers. I don't always know how to balance the have to's and the want to's and the what-if-I-can'ts.

But He does.

Let's go, rest in Him, and we'll have accomplished the most important thing for our day...and then, let Him direct our steps and lead us toward that flourishing finish.

Your Turn: Can you relate? How do you balance the have to's and the want to's?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

July 19, 2013

Fun Friday: Favorite Treats

MMM.

Ice cream. Especially cookies 'n cream ice cream.

Is.

My.

Favorite.

I even eat it in the winter (where it gets really cold here in Phoenix. Ha. But seriously. It does feel cold to me!)!!

And yes, if I could only ever eat one treat in my whole life, this would be it. Don't think I'd ever get sick of it.

Your Turn: If you could only have one treat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Happy Friday!

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

July 17, 2013

Worship Wednesday: "Good to Me" by Audrey Assad


You all know I love a good song.

I especially love a song with lyrics that me think.

That make me feel.

That make me ... praise.

And Audrey Assad's new song, "Good to Me", does all three.

So simple, yet so profound, is this truth: that even though things may not go our way, God is good to us. He is trustworthy. He is faithful.

He is all in all.

Take a listen and soak up the beauty of this song.



Your Turn: How has God been good to you?

*The winner of Karen Barnett's new book, Mistaken, is Lisa!! Lisa, can you email me at Lindsay [dot] Harrel [at] gmail [dot] com or message me on facebook with your address?! Congrats!

July 15, 2013

Giving Grace...to Myself

A friend and I had a conversation that reminded me of another conversation I had with some other friends.

I know, lots of talking going on.

But lots of thinking, too.

This relates somewhat to my post from last week, "Learning to Accept a Compliment." But it goes farther than that. Because not only do I find it difficult to accept compliments, I also struggle with perfectionism.

That's probably a large reason why I DO struggle to accept compliments. Because I know, deep down, that I'm not enough.

Or at least, I'm tempted to think that.

That's what Satan wants me to think.

It's just that I see my own failures over and over and over again. I keep trying to lose weight. But then I drive past Dairy Queen and completely fold to the pressure -- yeah, my own internal pressure.

I keep trying to find time to write, to work full time, to spend a good chunk of time with the Lord every day, to keep up with friends, to meal plan/work out/stay healthy, to ...

breathe.

And I fail.

And then I grumble at myself. I get down. I say I'm going to do better, and maybe I do for a little while, but then I don't.

It's a little thing called Superwoman Syndrome, and I've got it bad -- the disillusionment that I can do it all. That I should be able to do it all. That if I fail, I'm simply not trying hard enough and I CAN DO BETTER.

Do you suffer from it, too?

But let's look around us. Do we chastise our friends for not being able to do it all? No, not at all. In fact, we can appreciate things in our friends that they can't see in themselves.

For example, do I care that my one friend doesn't have time and energy to keep her house clean? Do I look down my nose at HER?

Not at all. I see that she's busy loving her husband and taking care of her kiddos and learning what it means to be a woman who relies on the Lord.

So, why in the world do I hold myself to a different standard???

We weren't meant to.

You know what we WERE meant to do?

"Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5)

"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." (1 Chron. 16:11)

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Neh. 8:10)

"Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually." (Psalm 105:4)

Because we, dear friend, can do ALL THINGS through Him who strengthens us.

My heart aches for a generation of women out there -- of which I am a part -- who always feels inadequate. Who doesn't see that ALL God has called us to do is be vulnerable and rely on Him.

Who doesn't see that we are deeply, deeply loved no matter what we do or don't do. His love is not performance-based.

So today, friend, give yourself a little grace. And remember that when you feel weak, He is strong.

Your Turn: What verse reminds you to turn to God in your weakness? Anyone else out there ever suffered from Superwoman Syndrome? How do you combat the enemy's lies with the Truth?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

July 12, 2013

Fun Friday: How Do You Relax?

If I go days and days without relaxation, I'll go crazy. (So yeah, a lot of times, I go crazy.)

What's the most relaxing thing you can think of?

Maybe a little of this?
Or this?
Or maybe this?
Or perhaps this?

I love to read and I love to watch movies. But if I want to truly relax, it means clearing my mind. So if I had to choose ONE thing to do in order to let the tension out of my shoulders and take in the beauty around me -- to really reflect -- I'd have to say nothing does that better for me than listening to the Pride & Prejudice soundtrack while I sit outside (when it's cool) or take a bubble bath.

What about you? How do you relax? When can you make time for this in the next week (even if for a short amount of time)?

*Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

July 10, 2013

Hitting the 1920s with Debut Author Karen Barnett (and a Giveaway!)

Today I'm thrilled to welcome debut author Karen Barnett! Karen's book, Mistaken, just released from Abingdon Press at the beginning of this month. 

I thought you all might get a kick out of getting to know Karen and her inspiration behind Mistaken, a historical romance novel set in the 1920s during Prohibition. Also, Karen has graciously agreed to give away a copy of her novel, so see below for details and a chance to win. 

Here's Karen's bio: 
Karen Barnett lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband, two children, three cats, and a mischievous dachshund. For more information, visit her website www.KarenBarnettBooks.com.

Karen, tell me about the first story you ever wrote, no matter how old you were. How old were you, what was it about, and what was your inspiration for it?

Oh, boy. I think I was probably six or seven, and I remember writing a story about a group of stuffed animals that get sent to the Goodwill by mistake. I always had a tough time when my parents told me to sort through my toys. I still have trouble getting rid of things.

I do, too! I always think I'm going to need that thing for something in the future... Since that first story, how has your writing journey unfolded? Tell us about the lowest low and the highest high along the way.

It took me years of experimenting to discover my niche. I started out wanting to write picture books for kids. I had two poems published in magazines, but nothing beyond that. My first Christian novel was a book about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, written for children. After some good advice, I rewrote it as a YA. On the suggestion of a publisher, I rewrote it as a historical romance for adults. I think of that novel as my learn-how-to-write assignment from God -- if I can write the same story for three different age groups, I can do anything. Since I'd already figured out my genre and audience, Mistaken was a much easier book to write!

Lows? Years of writing, and spending money on conferences with no guarantee of ever being published. I didn't keep count of rejections, but there were many. And moments of despair, thinking my dream would never come true.

Highs? Making countless writer friends. Having a short piece printed in Guideposts ("A Birthday Wish," February 2010). Signing with my dream agent, Rachel Kent of Books & Such, in 2010. Being a finalist in the 2012 ACFW Genesis Contest. Standing in line at a chocolate shop during the Christmas rush and answering my cell to discover my agent calling with the contract offer from Abingdon Press for Mistaken. And then, just recently, singing a second contract with Abingdon Press for a three-book series (remember the earthquake story?). Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about how good God has been to me.

That is an amazing story. So, what was the first piece of Mistaken that was solid in your mind before you started writing it?

The opening scene. The seed of the idea came from an old family story. My grandfather had told stories of rowing across the Strait of Juan De Fuca to buy Canadian whiskey during Prohibition. On one return journey, he was met by Prohibition agents waiting on the beach and had to flee for his life. In the first scene of Mistaken, Laurie confronts her rumrunning brother on that same beach.

Wow, that sounds exciting. I can't wait to read this book! I've often heard it said that, as writers, we add pieces of ourselves or people we know into our stories. So I'm curious: in what ways, if any, does your main character Laurie resemble you?

Laurie and I have much in common. We're quiet, observant, private, and introspective. Because she's hiding so many secrets about her family, she puts on an act for the world. I don't have any deep, dark secrets, but since I battle shyness, I've learned to put on a mask and pretend to be outgoing when I need to be.

Mistaken takes place during the Prohibition era. How did you go about doing research for this novel?

I started by reading everything I could about the time period, both from our local library and online. The truly fun part of research comes when you get out of the house. I visited old-time soda fountains and sampled ALL the ice cream drinks. I walked the beaches in Port Angeles (where Mistaken is set), dragged my kids through countless museums, and drooled over antique cars at auto shows.

That sounds amazing! I've been telling my husband I need to take a research trip to Nashville, where my next WIP is set. Hehe. Okay, one more question. What's the best thing about being a debut novelist?

The best part has been watching the process of my story being transformed into a real novel. I about fainted when I saw the beautiful cover art. And then seeing the galley proofs for the first time -- when the story is laid out how it will look on the printed page. Nothing could beat the sensation of holding the first actual copy in my hands. I said to my husband, "It looks just like a real book!" To which he replied, "It is a real book, dear."

I imagine that must be an amazing feeling, Karen!! Thanks so much for visiting with us here and sharing a little bit about your story with us. 

YOUR TURN: Readers: What has been the high of your 2013 so far? 

*We're giving away a copy of Mistaken to one commenter. Only those 18 and older with U.S. addresses are eligible. Post your comment by Saturday, July 13, at midnight. Extra entries for Twitter and Facebook shares! Be sure to tag me so I see your shares.

Since alcohol and Prohibition have made criminals out of every man in her world, Laurie Burke resolves to find at least one honorable man. Convinced that the handsome newcomer, Daniel Shepherd, is connected with her brother's rumrunning gang, Laurie scratches his name off the list. Federal agent Samuel Brown might be the answer to her prayers--or her worst nightmare!

July 8, 2013

Learning to Accept a Compliment

I don't want to write this blog post, because it means admitting something I don't like about myself.

I guess I'll start there.

Does this scenario seem familiar to anyone?

Man: Aw, honey, you look beautiful tonight.

Woman: (shrugs) I guess. Thanks.

I've been this woman far too many times (with my husband as the man -- not multiple men!). And it doesn't have to be about outer beauty either. Friends and family give us compliments: you're so smart, you're such a good writer, you've got such a sweet spirit, etc. etc.

The compliments are heart-felt -- so why do we have such a hard time accepting them?

For me, it's often because I don't believe what the person says is true.

It's not necessarily that we don't believe the person meant it -- just that the person is misguided.

Or, if we dig deeper, maybe we really think the person doesn't know what he/she is talking about. Or he/she has a flawed view.

The ironic thing here -- for me, anyway -- is that I often deflect compliments because of my low self-esteem, but the rejection often is guided by pride, at its core.

Because who am I to tell my husband I'm not beautiful? Is his view of beauty flawed because I see the flaws in myself?

And who am I to tell my friend that the thing she appreciates in me isn't really that great?

Isn't that prideful?

Furthermore, bottom line is that when we say we aren't this or that, we are rejecting not only the compliments someone else is giving us, but denying the gifts or beauty our Creator has bestowed upon us.

Ugh. Don't know about you, but that realization just came down and slapped me in the face.

I want to become someone who can accept compliments -- not because I want to hear accolades or because I need/want my ego stroked. Instead, I want to graciously thank people who see things in me that I can't see in myself.

Things the Creator put there. Because we are His creation, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together with loving hands.

And when people are complimenting us, they are really complimenting Him in us.

Your Turn: Ever had a hard time accepting compliments? I'd love to hear your thoughts on why it's so hard for people to accept the nice things said about them!

*On Wednesday, I've got a real treat! Debut author Karen Barnett will be here answering a few questions about her new historical novel, Mistaken!

**Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

July 5, 2013

Fun Friday: Staycation

This will be me and Mike this week. Except not really. Because we don't watch scary movies, and my husband doesn't get scared. I just thought this was a funny picture!
A few months ago, Mike and I were pretty weary. And August -- when we are taking our weeklong vacation together -- seemed forever away.

So we looked on the calendar and discovered we both had a four-day weekend over July 4.

Woot!

Instead of planning a trip somewhere, we decided to stay home. Oh, and take the entire weekend and not make a single plan other than to do family stuff on the actual Fourth of July.

But the rest of this weekend...open!

No plans with anyone.

No schedule to stick to.

Nothing we have to accomplish.

In other words...heaven.

I'm hoping to read, watch movies, sleep in, and just do some all-around relaxing. But I don't have any obligations, and that feels flat-out lovely.

Your Turn: What would you do for a staycation?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

July 3, 2013

Worship Wednesday: "Aftermath" by Hillsong United

I heard a song on the radio this week that really made me...well, think.

The song is "Aftermath" by Hillsong United (listen below), and basically, it talks about the irony that Jesus died so we could live.

According to Webster's, the word aftermath means "consequence, result" and also "the period immediately following a usually ruinous event."

Jesus's death on the cross -- His sacrifice for us -- would definitely be deemed by most as a ruinous event. It should have been. He was mocked, beaten, scarred. He died.

But because of all that -- and because He rose again -- the period following that ruinous event meant a consequence, a result, far better than any other ruinous event that has ever occurred.

Death for life. As the song says, we are found in the aftermath.

We are a result of the most ruinous event in history -- as is our eternal life, our hope, everything good in this world.

It's what amazes me most about God. He can turn what was meant for evil into something good. And not just something good -- but life itself.

Only He has that power. And only He can we worship.

Take a listen and be blessed.


Your Turn: When has God turned bad into good in your life or the life of someone you know?

*Melissa Tagg is hosting me and a few other writer friends on her blog today. We're talking about the story ideas we came up with while brainstorming together last week and what having close writer friends has meant to us! Come say hi!

July 1, 2013

Writing, Friends, and Ticks, Oh My!

I just got back yesterday from an amazing time with some awesome writing friends. We visited our friend Gabrielle Meyer's home in Little Falls, Minnesota.

We set aside some time each day for brainstorming our next stories (on Wednesday, Melissa Tagg will be sharing a little bit about what we each came up with!). I'm very excited to finish revising my current story and get started on this next one.

Brainstorming next to the river in Gabe's backyard.
But we didn't just spend time writing. No, we did a lot of sightseeing and hanging out as well.

Here we are above the Mississippi River (which I'd never seen before!):

Melissa, Gabrielle, Alena, and me!
 And here we are eating lunch on Lake Alexander:

Beautiful day!
We also took some time to celebrate our 2013 writing accomplishments, including agent signings, book releases (Made to Last by Melissa Tagg comes out September 15!), contest finals, finishing book revisions, etc.

To celebrate, we got dressed up and attended a fancy fundraiser dinner at Linden Hill.

My pretty friends!
We also had fun driving around in Gabe's husband's Jeep. We took this picture for our friend Beth Vogt, whose second book, Catch a Falling Star, features a red Jeep on the cover.
Chillaxin'.
Gabe also took us to a lot of historic sites, and since she used to be a tour guide, she's darn good at it! Charles Lindbergh grew up in Little Falls, so we visited his old home and the state park named for him.

And that is where the ticks come in.

*deep breath*

We were taking a walk through the state park--on a trail, mind you--and Gabe was teasing me about the term "cidiot." As in, a citified person who is stupid about all things country.

She laughed and said she wasn't calling me that...but c'mon. I'm about as cidiot as they come. Bugs and me = no bueno.

So we're walking through this grass, and Gabe says, "You know, this is the kind of grass where we'd be most likely to find wood ticks." She laughs.

Alena looks down and squeals. We all look down and squeal.

There are like thirty-bajillion (or just thirty, but um, ew!) wood ticks crawling on my pants.

We start racing away from the ticks--me screaming "I don't like it, I don't like it" over and over again--as if we can outrun them. I mean, they're on our pants. Already stuck. But dude, I ran away from those creepy crawlies as if they were a T-rex and I was in Jurassic Park.

In fact, in her amusement, Gabe snapped a shot of me in all my whiny glory. Notice Alena is just laughing.

I may have returned to 115-degree weather in Phoenix, but at least we don't have wood ticks.

I'm still shuddering and imaging I have them all over me. Pretty sure I dreamed about them too.

But seriously. Other than what will forever go down in history as the "tick incident," I had an amazing time. There's nothing like spending time with other people who just get you so totally and completely. I'm so blessed to have each of my writer friends in my life, and to be following this calling God has laid on my heart.

Your Turn: Ever had a really horrid bug encounter? Do share! 

***
Gabrielle is sharing more pics and her perspective on the weekend at her blog today! Check it out.