December 9, 2014

How to Overcome Fear With Joy

Our first son is due this Saturday and to say I'm excited is an understatement.

But...

I'm also REALLY nervous.

I know, I know. This is very normal. I keep asking myself questions like...

  • Will the delivery go okay?
  • Will he be healthy?
  • Will I have any clue what I'm doing at all?
  • Will I be able to feed him like I want to?
  • Will I be a competent mother?

And on and on they go...

It's enough to drive a pregnant woman crazy.

And then there's the matter of the weeks and months and years BEYOND his birth. How will my husband and I shape and mold him? How will we walk through potentially dark times? What if something horrible happens to him?

So yeah. I've been fairly eaten up with worry and fear.

But then...God reminded me of something. I've been reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts off and on for the last several months. The book and devotional very heavily revolve around the concept of thanks -- and giving it regardless of circumstances. It talks a lot about worry, stress, and fear too.

And from that book I've drawn this truth: That a lot of times, I'm so busy letting worry fill me up that I leave no room for joy.

Whoa. I don't know about you, but that truth smacks me between the eyes. Because the fact that I'm having a baby -- especially when so many friends I know have lost babies and/or have struggled to get pregnant -- is a MIRACLE. A blessing.

A joy. Pure, unadulterated joy.

So why, oh why, should I let that joy be overshadowed -- be snuffed out for lack of room -- by something as awful and soul-sucking as worry?!! Especially when worry does absolutely nothing? I have no control over what happens. God obviously does, and that's where trust comes in.

But joy...joy can do SO MUCH GOOD in my life.

It testifies to the world who I am in Christ. What I have, even if things aren't going the way I wanted them to.

And you know what? It's a choice. How many times have I made the excuse, "I'm just a worrier by nature"?? Too many.

Instead, today, in this season -- in every season -- I want to strive to trade my worry in for joy. If there's only enough room in me, in my life, for one of them, I want JOY to radiate through.

Your Turn: How do you overcome your worries and fears? Do you think it's possible to choose joy?

**Given the fact I'll be having a baby any day now, my posts for the next month or so will likely be sporadic. I'll miss you, but please have grace and be patient with me as I navigate the new waters of motherhood!

December 2, 2014

One Word 2015: Clay

A lot of people pick New Year's resolutions to follow each year. Those are all well and good, but they tend to not work for me. I much prefer to select one word to focus on.

The last few years, I've done this and enjoyed looking back at the results. Two years ago, I selected the word "Rejoice." And in reflecting on 2013, I realized how much God gave me to rejoice in.

Last year, I selected the word "Lean" for 2014. And it's definitely been a year of learning to lean on the Lord in both my professional and personal life.

First, I submitted and revised -- and revised again -- my book for publication. This takes a lot of courage and generally can come with a lot of questioning and self-doubt (fellow writers will back me up on this!). I had to lean on God a lot to get me through that and trust He would help me to do my absolute best.

Second, I got pregnant. I've known a lot of friends who have miscarried, and the fear has been paramount in my mind. Even now as I'm weeks away from delivering our first child, I have to lean on God and put any worrisome thoughts from my mind. It's a choice -- and I'm choosing to lean on Him, come what may.

In thinking about what's coming up in 2015, the words "flexible" and "molded" kept coming to my mind. I know that sooooo much is about to change in my life: namely, I'm going to become a mother, which means I'll have to start juggling that role with being a wife, a part-time employee, an author, an online instructor, and much more.

That means there will be a lot of opportunity to make choices between selfishness and selflessness, between getting done what I wanted to and getting done only what I CAN do. Time will be limited and time will fly by. I don't want to miss a moment of my little guy's life or chances to be there for him. But I also want to keep advancing in my career and the goals I have for my life.

Essentially, it's going to be quite the balancing act. And I need some guidance.

I've been meditating on this verse lately:

"Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." (Isaiah 64:8)

So, my One Word for 2015 is CLAY.

When I'm confused about what path to follow or tempted to be selfish with my time, I want my focus -- especially this year -- to be on asking the Lord what HE would have me do. After all, He's the potter. He knows who He wants me to be.

I just have to be willing to listen.

And when I do, I'll be the most beautiful pot I can be -- even if that pot looks nothing like I thought it would when I made up my goals and to-do list.

What about you? Do you have a word for 2015 or a New Year's resolution you're determined to follow? 

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

November 25, 2014

The One Thing I Want With the Time I Have Left

Tomorrow is my 30th birthday.

It's hard to believe I've lived three decades, but I have. Time flies, and yet it feels like I have yet to accomplish so much. But unlike many people who bemoan the fact that the big 3-0 has arrived, I tend to look at things a little differently -- in many ways, because of the fact my mom only lived to be 46.

Today, I'm praising God for another day, another year.

And today, I'm also getting contemplative. The holidays and turning another year older tend to have that effect on me. Since I'm turning 30, Tim McGraw's song "My Next 30 Years" has been playing over and over in my head.

In the song, Tim talks about all the things he's thankful for, but all the things he is going to focus on for his next 30 years. I considered making a list of "goals" for myself -- things like getting healthier, getting published, doing this, doing that. I'm a list-maker so that appeals to me.

But as I really thought about what would make my next 30 years better than the first 30 I've had, I realized something.

There is only one thing I really want.

This thing -- if I really focus on it -- will make my whole life better. And it will have a trickle-down effect into every other area in my life.

What I really want for my next 30 years, for whatever time I have left on this earth, is to love God more.

If my focus can become drawing closer to Him, loving Him, loving His ways, then inevitably I'll become more like Jesus. I'll love His people better. I'll focus less on myself -- and more on others. More on being a servant. Which, as a soon-to-be mom (less than 3 or 4 weeks and counting!), is something I know I'll struggle with!

I'm not sure how I'll accomplish this. A lot through prayer. A lot through making time with Him a priority.

Guess I have a list to make after all. :)

Your Turn: What do you want your next 30 years to look like?

November 18, 2014

Four Tips to Make Your Marriage Stronger

November 18, 2006
Today is my eighth wedding anniversary. I'm blessed to be married to my best friend -- a guy with whom I'm survived disappointments, graduate school, debt, disagreements, and much more.
But we've had a lot of good times, too. We have many reasons to smile. One of these reasons is the upcoming birth of our first child, a boy. He's due 12-13-14.
We have survived what many call "the seven-year itch." Instead of declining in happiness and joy, I think our marriage has increased in it. I give all the glory to God for that, but I also thought back over the ups and downs and some lessons I've learned along the way.

Here are four things I believe changed my marriage for the better:

1. Brag on your husband. Nothing is off limits. 
Too often, women gather together to diss on their husbands and complain about all the stuff they don't do right. When you take time to brag on him instead -- both privately and publicly -- you show your husband he is respected and esteemed. You also shape your own perception. The more you talk about his virtues, the more you'll start seeing them instead of any weaknesses.

2. Ask what three things you can do to be the best helpmate possible.
It's impossible to do everything we think a "good wife" should. A lot of those things might not matter to your husband anyway -- they're simply a means of comparing ourselves to other women we know. I mean, my husband couldn't care less about whether the kitchen is clean (that's my pet peeve!). What's most important to him is that I make his lunch every day, do the laundry often enough for him to have clean undershirts, and take care of feeding the dogs. These things might change, so check in with him on a monthly or annual basis. Doing this will help take off some of the pressure you feel, and make your marriage less stressful overall because you know where to focus your energy.

3. Let him help you solve a problem.
In other words, don't be so independent! Our husbands want to feel like they are a help to us and that we respect their opinions. But don't ask for help unless you're truly willing to consider what he has to say. Not that you have to do exactly as he suggests, but it wouldn't be very uplifting to him to have his opinion asked and then disregarded completely.

4. Give him 15 minutes to himself when he gets home from work.
Many guys need time to transition from work life to home life. That can be difficult for us to understand if we've been home all day or busy with the kids. We see him getting home as a win for us -- "yay, he can take the kids so I can finish up dinner without interruption!" But giving him that little bit of space when he returns home -- after a quick kiss and hello, of course -- lets him decompress and switch modes without feeling overwhelmed.

Your Turn: What things have made your marriage stronger? If you aren't married, what have you seen in other marriages to make them healthy and vibrant?

November 11, 2014

Face Me Blog Tour: The Real Face of Pregnancy

When my friend Jaime Wright first brought up the idea of a blog tour featuring posts on beauty -- requiring blog authors to post a picture of themselves without makeup -- I said, thanks but no thanks.

I'm 35 weeks pregnant and let's just say...it's not been so kind in the face department. In other words, I've struggled with acne throughout my pregnancy. So the idea of posting a pic of myself without makeup to hide these imperfections from the world was...well, scary.

Because I want the world to see me like this:
A cute pregnant girl with flawless skin.

The truth is, makeup covers a lot of imperfections. And so does Photoshop.

But as I saw more and more of my friends taking up the challenge -- saying, "yes, I'll do this...even though it makes me nervous!" -- I wondered what my excuse was. Because really, pregnancy isn't an excuse (to avoid this, that is...it IS an excuse to eat lots of ice cream! Hehe).

In fact, pregnancy is one of those times in a woman's life when she feels particularly vulnerable. If you've been pregnant, you know how weird it is to not feel comfortable in your own skin -- which is always stretching, by the way. Your body does things you didn't know it could do...in both bad and good ways.

There are kankles. Stretch marks. Love handles. Acne. Tired, puffy eyes from lack of sleep.

None of these things show in the picture above. Photoshop and makeup have the ability to whisk all of that unpleasantness away. It presents a false image. And no, there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting gorgeous photos to remind us of this special time in our lives.

But...what about authenticity?

If makeup and Photoshop cover up our true physical appearance, might we also be covering up our true spiritual and emotional states? Whether you're pregnant or not, many of us rarely share our true selves.

Why? The same reason we love makeup.

Because we're afraid of rejection. If we show our true selves, will people still love us?

Because we compare ourselves. If we show our true selves, will we look as good -- on the inside and outside -- as so-and-so?

Because, ultimately, we are valuing the wrong things.

God created each of us -- He created YOU -- as a work of art, a thing of beauty. His Word says, "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:14).

That's not talking about the made-up you or the "you" that you allow others to see. Because God? He sees everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And He loves you anyway.

You don't have to fear rejection from God. He will never reject you.

You don't have to compare yourself to others for God to love you. You are a unique creation He cherishes.

Let's start valuing the RIGHT things. Let's stop caring about how we look on the outside and realize that EVEN WITHOUT MAKEUP, WE ARE BEAUTIFUL...especially without makeup. Because without it, we are real. And real is beautiful.

Because this acne and these tired eyes I'm dealing with? This. Right. Here?
I'm choosing to embrace them. Because it means there's a little person growing inside of me. Someone who God created. A mother is a warrior -- and these are my battle scars.

Embrace what you see as your imperfections.

Embrace who YOU truly are.

God has...and He loves you in spite of them. He loves you FOR them.

Bottom line -- He loves us. It's time we start loving ourselves.

Your Turn: I'd love to see a photo of your pure beauty -- without makeup, without fear! If you don't feel comfortable with that, that's okay too. Let's talk: why do you think women have such a hard time embracing their own beauty? And if you've ever been pregnant, what physical aspect of that made you the most uncomfortable with your body?


For more Face Me Blog Tour inspiration, check out posts by these amazing authors!

Gabrielle Meyer
Nick Kording
Joseph Courtemanche
Jaime Wright
Carrie Wisehart
Emilie Anne Hendryx
Andrea Michelle Wood
Sarah Baker
Kristy Cambron
Rachel Britz
Cara Putman
Stacy Monson
Laurie Tomlinson
Katie Ganshert
Katherine Reay

November 4, 2014

How to Become Dissatisfied Overnight

This time last month, the beloved car I'd had since my senior year in high school bit the dust.

The 1996 Ford Contour was in decent shape on the outside, but its insides decided to give up the fight. It was going to cost way more than it was worth to fix it.

Dilemma time. See, we'd been hoping to eek a few more years outta the old girl before upgrading.

Ever since my husband and I got married, we've driven old beat-up cars with one glorious thing in common -- they were paid off. My Contour and his 2001 Toyota Corolla were the only cars I'd ever driven on a regular basis. But we didn't care. They did what cars were supposed to do -- got us where we needed to go.

And yeah, our friends teased us about how old they were. I mean, the locks and windows were manual in one and didn't work in the other. But like I said, we didn't care. We didn't know any different.

But when the Contour died, we decided (after thought and prayer!) to purchase a van. I'm thirty-four weeks pregnant and we have two big dogs, so the extra room made sense for us. And when we did the math, we decided to purchase a new vehicle since we plan to keep this one for awhile.

Thus began a journey toward something we didn't expect: dissatisfaction. Let me explain.

We got our new van, which came equipped with all of these features that are "basic" on the vehicle, but "like, whoa, this is amazing" to us. We didn't even get the top model! When we first bought it, we loved taking it out for rides and figuring out all the gadgets and gizmos.

Then, we took a road trip in it. It was such a huge blessing to have! I was way more comfortable than I would have been traveling in my third trimester in a small car, I can tell you that.

Yesterday, for the first time since the road trip, we drove the Corolla -- which, remember, was perfectly fine to us just a month ago. In fact, it was our "nice" car.

And we couldn't believe how much our perception has changed already! We started seeing all the flaws of the Corolla and comparing it to the nice, new van.

Whoa. How did this happen? Did we become materialistic overnight?

Thankfully, my husband and I recognized this in ourselves and are still too practical to go out and buy a new car to replace one that still runs perfectly fine. But still. It speaks to something in our human nature -- something potentially frightening. And it speaks to something much bigger than my feelings about a new car.

Because I don't want to be someone who just sees the flaws in something -- or someone. I want to see the best. I want to see how something fits my needs just as it is, right now, without feeling the need to wish for something "better."

Because that definition of "better"? That's a perception thing too.

Today, especially as we head into the Thanksgiving season, I want to be GRATEFUL for what I have and where God has me. In some ways, I want back that naivete I had before buying a new vehicle. Sometimes, it's not possible to go back. And if that's the case, I want to be grateful for that too.

I guess, no matter what, I want that contentment Paul talked about -- to not always be looking ahead for the "next thing" but to be happy with what God has given me here and now.

Your Turn: Have you ever experienced a shift in perspective that showed you just how human you really are?

October 13, 2014

A Beautiful Baby Shower...and an Unexpected Gift

A little over a week ago, my friends and family threw me the best possible baby shower a girl could ever imagine. Here are just a few pics from that beautiful night (I didn't have my camera, so I'm waiting on pics of me with people!).

The couch where I sat and opened gifts. The venue where the shower was held is owned
by one of my mom's dear friends, who put together much of the beautiful decor.
One of the many beautifully decorated tables.
Another table.
Nautical decor.
One of my friends found a bunch of nautical- and mommy-related quotes.
This one made me want to cry!

Drink station.
Only some of the delicious food. There was also a mashed potato bar, fruits, and veggies.
The day of the shower, I realized something. Something significant.

I was not going to have a single blood relative in attendance.

That struck me...because many showers are thrown by moms, aunts, grandmas, or cousins. Mine, however, was being thrown by my friends, my mother-in-law, and my stepmom.

And as I think about that, I realize how completely blessed I am. That these women did all of this for me, not out of some sort of obligation...but because they love me. They love this baby. They wanted to do this.

Of course, if I'd had blood relatives here in town, I know they would have done the same thing. I'm just super blessed that way.

You see, being pregnant and all that goes along with it has been wonderful. But it's also been hard.

It's been a huge reminder to me that my mom isn't here anymore. She died 10 years ago, so she wasn't here for my college graduation or my wedding either. But this...this feels different.

And I was feeling really sad about the fact that she wouldn't be at my shower.

Then, my friends and family did something amazing (on top of all the work they did throwing a beautiful shower). Something I didn't expect. But I should have, knowing how wonderful they are.

They made my mom a part of my shower. 

The first gift I opened for the night was a baby blanket. It was beautifully stitched with a sailboat and colors that matched our nursery. 

And sewn into the cloth were the words "Gramma Sandy." Sandy was my mom's name. My friends said they wanted to make her part of my special day and my baby's life. That every time my baby boy is wrapped in that blanket, it'll be the next best thing to having my mom hold him. 

Oh my. I completely lost it right then and there. Hysterical Lindsay. But...grateful Lindsay. 

Because as I looked around that room, I realized...my baby may not ever know his Grandma Sandy. But he'll know his Grandma Harrel and his Grandma Walker. He'll know his aunties...both my sisters by marriage and those precious friends who are like sisters to me. And of course, he'll know all of my loving relatives even though we're separated by distance.

God has taken what was lost, and though he has not given it back to me exactly, he has filled my life with mentors, family, and friends who I can count on. I am blessed. And I am grateful beyond belief.

To everyone who helped make this baby shower happen...and make it one of the most memorable, beautiful events of my life whether by attending or helping...thank you. You'll never know how much you touched me.

Your Turn: Have you ever received an unexpected gift?

October 6, 2014

Kept and the Modern Family: Guest Post by Sally Bradley {and a giveaway!}

Christian fiction is known by many as sweet and saccharine -- sure to induce happy, glowy feelings about God and family. And for many novels, that's the truth. But in today's world, there's more than that to Christian fiction (in fact, my friend Rachel McMillan just wrote this awesome article about that on Breakpoint.org).

My friend Sally Bradley just released a book called Kept, about a woman who lives everything BUT a sweet, saccharine life. But the difficult themes don't mean it isn't a "Christian" book. Sally does a great job of dealing with very real life in a very real way, with truth woven in -- truth we all need to hear. I asked Sally to give a little more insight into her book today. I hope you enjoy hearing from her. (Also, check out your chance to win a copy below!)

Sally, take it away...


As a teen growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, I remember hearing repeatedly that the family unit was under attack. Changes in society and our culture were out to destroy the family, they said, and I mentally rolled my eyes. Really. Destroy the family?

Like that could happen.

Here we are, twenty years later, and those words have proven true. Overall, the American family is a completely different entity from what it was back in the day. So many families are broken by betrayal and divorce, and other families never even got off the ground with parents who were together a brief time -- never married, never committed, never parenting their child together. Many children spend little time with one parent, and some have never even known their father.

Things really have changed, haven't they?

When I prepared to write Kept, this concept hit me and played a huge role in who Miska, my heroine, was. She's grown up in a single-parent home, with a mom who beat the odds and financially was a huge success. Miska's never known her dad, not that she remembers at least, and grew up with two womanizing older brothers who've taught her their version of love and relationships. Saving herelf for true love became a joke a good decade ago, and now she's just hoping for a relationship that's half as good as what she dreams about.

I bet we all know someone -- or many -- like her.

The cool thing is that, no matter what society throws at us, no matter how it tries to twist and destroy all the good that God created, our God is bigger than all of it. Way bigger. And far more powerful. As a pastor's wife, one of the things that excites me is that in our messed-up, promiscuous culture, God is still saving people, still bringing them to Him, and still giving them new hope and a new future.

That never gets old, does it?

People who've been where Miska's been still have struggles. There are still consequences from the past that follow them into their new life, and sometimes these new Christians struggle with where they fit into the church -- with God, with other Christians, with the possibility of a Christian family. That's why I wrote Kept -- to show that there is more than just forgiveness and salvation with God; there's also love, care, hope, and a future.

Society will always try to destroy what God created and called good. Always. But God will always be bigger than that. No matter where we've been, no matter what our culture is, no matter what our messed-up society has taught us, God still has the answers and can still reach those who long for truth.

He can still bring families from the ruin.

Your Turn: What issues do you like to read about in a novel? What issues are close to your heart?

Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things -- like good pizza and a White Sox game. Fiction has been her passion since childhood, and she's thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. A freelance fiction editor, Sally can be found at www.sallybradley.com and on Facebook at Sally Bradley, Writer. Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her -- all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago's lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman.

Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father's sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can't help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she's longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again.

When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her -- a woman who's gone too far and done too much.

***

GIVEAWAY!

See below for details on entering the giveaway for a digital copy of Sally's Kept. The giveaway is quick  this time -- it closes tonight at midnight! -- and is open to U.S. residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

September 8, 2014

2014 Pre-Conference Mix and Mingle

In less than 3 weeks, I'll be attending the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. This is seriously one of my favorite times of the year. I get to gather with other authors who have the same passion as I do -- to reach people with the love of Christ through fiction. Nothing better than that.

This will be my third year attending. Last year, a few of my favorite moments included:
Hanging with my beautiful author friends at the Gala, where I was a finalist for the Genesis awards.

Performing as the Tin (wo)Man in the My Book Therapy musical.

Goofing off. (I'll miss you this year, Jess!!!)
Of course, I also loved learning more about the industry from professionals who know what's up, and connecting with editors and agents.

One of my author friends, Laurie Tomlinson, has arranged a fun pre-conference mix and mingle via a mini-blog tour. I'm supposed to answer a few questions so others can get to know me before we meet up! So, here goes!

Name: Lindsay Harrel

Location: Phoenix, AZ

What you write: Contemporary fiction with romantic elements

Place in the book world: Pre-pubbed author represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management. I'm working on my third manuscript and will be pitching my second at the conference!

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: Bring on the hugs!

The unique talking point that will get you going for hours: Um, writing? And dogs. And the upcoming birth of my first baby.

Loved ones at home you'll be missing: My husband and two golden retrievers

Conference goals we can pray for? That my pitch sessions will go well and I'll be encouraged by them.

Anything we can celebrate with you? I signed with my agent in November, so am excited to meet her and pitch with her name and efforts behind me. And the aforementioned upcoming birth of my first baby -- a boy!

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? Like my Facebook author page and follow me on Twitter! Sign up for my blog if you'd like as well!

Thanks, all! Can't wait to see you at ACFW.

July 21, 2014

Behind the Scenes of Captured by Love: What I Hope Readers Take Away From the Novel (Guest Post by Jody Hedlund)

By Jody Hedlund (@JodyHedlund)

Every inspirational fiction writer faces the challenges of weaving spiritual themes and messages into stories without coming across as sounding "preachy."

While I don't want my stories to come across as "preachy," I also don't want to neglect a spiritual message since I desire for God to touch lives through my stories. Finding that balance between preachy and heart-touching is always difficult.

During the planning stages of a novel, I always try to give my characters real spiritual struggles. In fact, I prayerfully consider those struggles, asking God to make clear what issues he wants me to tackle. Then I attempt to have my characters wrestle through those issues in meaningful ways that hopefully readers can relate to.

Often I intertwine the spiritual growth with their character arc growth (also known as the internal plot). The two are usually building upon each other, because in real life as we grow in spiritual awareness, we put ourselves in a place where God can change our character so that we become more trusting, less anxious, more forgiving, etc.

In Captured by Love, both of the main characters (Angelique and Pierre) have unique spiritual/character struggles.

The heroine, Angelique, struggles with the instability of her past. Since her father was a fur trapper and gone for long periods of the year, she desires the safety and steadiness of a permanent home on the island. Mackinac Island has become the bedrock of her life.

My hope is that readers, like Angelique, will learn that only God can be the steady foundation. Everything else in our lives is like sand. It shifts, blows away, and leaves us dry and empty. God longs for us to stand on Him, the Solid Rock, that never moves and never forsakes us no matter where we go or what we experience. If we plant our feet on Him, He'll see us through our most difficult days.

The hero, Pierre, struggles with living for himself and his own pleasures without thinking about the consequences to others. He's the prodigal son who's returned to his home after years of wild living. He claims to be a changed man, but quickly realizes that he has a long way to go. Little by little, he begins to understand what it means to sacrifice for those he loves -- until in the end he's willing to sacrifice the thing that matters the most.

My hope is that readers too will learn what it means to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. And I also pray that readers experiencing the hardship of prodigal children will draw encouragement to never stop praying like Miriam, Pierre's mother.

My own mother is a prayer warrior, like Miriam, and I dedicated the book to her, because I'm deeply grateful for all of her prayers over the years. Here's what I wrote:

"To my wonderful mother, Your solution to every problem has always been prayer and plenty of it. Thank you for praying without ceasing for me and for all your family. We couldn't ask for a greater gift."

What about you? Do you like books to contain a spiritual message? When does the message become "preachy" to you? And are there times when you thought the message was too skimpy?



Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling books, The Preacher's Bride, Unending Devotion, and A Noble Groom. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Connect with her on her website, Facebook page, Twitter, or email.









Lindsay here: See below for details on how to enter Jody's Captured by Love giveaway! I adored the book -- like all of Jody's writing -- and I know you will too! The giveaway ends at midnight on Saturday, July 26 and is only open to U.S. residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 26, 2014

Writing Blog Tour

Hey all. I can't believe it's Memorial Day already!! Craziness. The days have been flying by. I'm busy working and revising my book and...being pregnant. Yep. My energy is currently being zapped away by a tiny little entity inside of me!

Here's the fun announcement we posted on Facebook a few weeks ago:

These are our pups, Pascal and Chloe. We had to use treats to bribe them
to sit so still!
Anyway, today I'm participating in a writer blog hop. My friend (and also one of my awesome critique partners and fellow Arizonans!) Tari Faris invited me to participate. You can find out more about her and her writing at www.tarifaris.com.

For the blog hop, we're asked to answer a set of questions about our writing. So here. We. Go!

What am I working on?
I'm currently revising a book -- and am almost done! It's due to my awesome agent June 1, so I'm busy putting the finishing touches on now.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
My work is a mix of inspirational women's fiction and romance. Some women's fiction is very character driven. While mine definitely delves into the characters' lives, it also has a strong plot element to it. Plus, my poetry background means I LOVE METAPHORS! I take great pleasure in weaving in imagery and metaphors/analogies throughout my work. That's not necessarily unusual in my genre, but my unique voice helps my writing to stand out (or so I hope!).

Why do I write what I do?
I write a lot about mother/daughter relationships because I was close with my own mom before she passed away in 2004 -- and it brings me a lot of joy to write about reconciliation in relationships. I also write inspirational fiction, which means it has a faith element to it. I couldn't imagine NOT writing this type of fiction. Because my faith is so integral to who I am, it's also integral to my writing.

How does your writing process work?
I'm a planner in everything I do, so my writing is the same! I brainstorm and plot out my scenes, getting a really firm picture of who my characters are, what they struggle with, and what they need to learn in the course of the story. I give myself a little wiggle room to veer from my plot outline, but it's rare! I always brainstorm with at least one of my critique buddies -- if not more! Some of the best times of brainstorming have involved sitting around with three of my brainstorming friends (or hanging out via video chat to do the same) and brainstorming my stories with them. This is soooo helpful, especially if I'm stuck!

Once the book is written and I've taken it as far as I can, I exchange with my critique partners and take a few weeks off while I await their feedback!

---
Thanks for taking the time to read a little more about me and my writing! As part of this blog tour, I was supposed to ask three writers if they'd be willing to carry on the post next week. However, I'm feeling like a rebel, so I'd like to invite anyone reading this post to go ahead and answer these questions on your blog! If you do, be sure to let us know in the comments so we can come check out your post!

Your Turn: What's your favorite genre to read?

April 28, 2014

What I've Been Up To...

Hey all. Sorry I haven't been around the blog much lately. Life has been, shall I say, a bit CRAZY lately. A good crazy. Just crazy.

Here's what I've been up to...

With the help of some good friends, we threw my husband Mike a surprise party for his 30th birthday. We did a "leaving the roaring 20s" theme. People dressed up, and we had lots of food, drinks, and gambling. Fun was had by all. Here are a few pictures:
Fun decor for the party!
Mike, me, and our friends Rachel and Jon, who hosted the party.

 Also, Mike and I visited my grandparents in south Texas. It was a nice trip -- and relaxing!
My grandpa and I by the Rio Grande. Mexico is in the background.
In the world of writing, I sent my book draft off to a few critique partners. I'm racing toward a June 1 deadline to get the book to my agent. Here's hoping -- and praying -- it's almost ready to send into the hands of editors soon after that!

Your Turn: What have you been up to lately? I've missed you all!! 


April 7, 2014

Choosing Gratitude

A few weeks ago, I sang offertory at church. I had to pick a song, so I went through the list of songs in my repertoire.

When I came across Nichole Nordeman's "Gratitude," I started to cry.

Because we may make all sorts of plans for our lives -- but God might not have those plans for us.

And in those cases, we have a choice: to curse him or thank him for what results.

To curse him is easier. Way easier. We can kick and scream and ask why, why, why?

Or...we can make the harder choice. We can thank him for teaching us to trust him.

That doesn't mean we don't question or express our anguish or uncertainty. I think God always wants us to be honest with him.

But it does mean approaching him with humility, with open hands.

Listen to this powerful song and the lyrics -- and be challenged as I was challenged. To be thankful in all things.



Your Turn: What are you grateful for today? 

March 24, 2014

An Honest Post About Prayer

I'm going to get real here for a minute. Because I think too often as a Christian, I shove my struggles under a mat and pretend like I'm fine.

But no one ever said living the life of a believer would be easy. Jesus least of all.

So, I realized something about myself recently.

I'm not sure I believe in the power of prayer.

Yes, that sounds blasphemous. What I mean is...I know it's true. But I'm not sure I pray like it's true. I'm not sure in my heart of hearts that I really believe it makes a difference.

And that scares me.

I know there are all sorts of Bible verses and passages about how prayer changes lives, how when two or more are gathered, there the Lord is. I know He listens to our prayers, that it's good for us to pray so we communicate and build a relationship with Him.

I know all that in my head. And I pray, because I love talking to God.

But when it comes to praying for someone to be healed, or for someone's heart to change, or for there to be peace -- I hesitate.

I recently noticed this hesitation in myself and despised it. Because that's not what a Christian should feel, right? We should be offering to pray for others and praying that God would change us.

Here's the thing.

I ABSOLUTELY believe God has the POWER to change lives, to heal people, to ensure peace.

I'm just not sure how me asking for it makes a difference.

I know it does. The Bible says it does. So I believe it to be true (and that's not a blind faith...I've seen it happen).

But...I don't know. I still struggle. I think the root of that struggle is definitely the fact that I'm not naive about things. God will do what he sees is best, even if we don't understand it. He didn't heal my mom from cancer -- his answer to that prayer was no. Why? I don't know. I'm not God.

So it's hard for me to really ask God for something and expect him to change his mind. Because why should my asking for it switch his course of action?

I realize I'm opening myself up to criticism. Again, I'm NOT saying I don't think prayer matters. I know it does. But I still struggle with praying, because I'm still reconciling his purpose for prayer in my own life.

I know many times, the real purpose for prayer is to change us. To bring us closer to him. To remind us who is God and who is not.

I get that, and I keep praying because of it. It's only through communication with my God that I'll ever understand how all of this works anyway.

Your Turn: Have you ever struggled like I do? I'd love to hear a time in your life when you felt prayer made a difference! 

*photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

March 17, 2014

Friends Are the Best Medicine

I'm so incredibly blessed to have amazing friends. Truly. I don't deserve such blessing!

One of my best friends happens to be a writer I met online. Crazy, isn't it? Melissa Tagg and I became critique and craft partners nearly two years ago, even though we'd never met in person. She lives in Iowa. I live in Arizona.

But I truly believe God gave us to each other! She is one of the coolest girls I know, and I'm so blessed by not only her writing expertise but her friendship, accountability, and the truth she speaks into my life over and over again.

Melissa came out for a visit this last weekend -- and we had so much fun! We did a little brainstorming, but mostly, we spent time relaxing, taking walks/hikes, sitting around in the sunshine, playing with my dogs, watching Boy Meets World (best show ever!), meeting up with other writers, and having deep conversations about our faith and our writing.

It was an amazing weekend! We also both got revitalized and plan to hit our writing/revisions hard this week. We'd love your prayers as we head toward our deadlines.

Here are a few pictures from our awesome weekend!

Melissa and I (middle and right) got to meet up with Texas author Anne Mateer!
We also had a fun dinner with author Tari Faris to celebrate this last year's
writing accomplishments!
The amazing white chocolate brownie we ate after dinner. Yum!
I introduced Melissa to Grimaldi's pizza. Mmm. Interestingly, the former baseball
coach Tommy Lasorda sat at the table next to us! 
Being from Iowa, where it's cold right now, Melissa enjoyed sitting in the sun. A lot.  
My dogs hung out with us most of the weekend! So of course I had to post a cute picture
of Pascal. ;)
Your Turn: What did you do this weekend? Happy St. Patrick's Day!

March 10, 2014

There's Beauty in the Wait

Me and Mike at dinner before heading to the opera.
My husband loves the opera.

I'm more of a musical theater girl myself, but I can appreciate the skill it takes to compose and perform an opera well. Over the last several months, Mike has taken me to three separate operas. My appreciation has grown, even if I still prefer things like Wicked, Oklahoma!, and Sound of Music.

Anyway, last week Mike checked out from the library the score to Tristan and Isolde, a tragic opera by Wagner*. He told me how the entire opera -- all four hours of it -- is written in unresolved chord progressions. Yikes! Chord progressions almost always resolve, which gives that satisfying feeling at the end of a measure of music, or a song.

I told him I couldn't imagine sitting through a four-hour opera that had me on the edge of my seat, feeling unsatisfied the entire time! That would be torture to have to wait for that long-awaited resolution.

I don't even know if I could fully appreciate the beauty of the music since I'd be so focused on reaching the end and feeling that satisfaction I'd been waiting for.

But he said something to me that really stopped me in my tracks: "Wouldn't that make the satisfaction at the end all the greater because you'd waited for it?"

Wow.

Because suddenly, we weren't talking about Tristan and Isolde. Suddenly, we were talking about life.

How often do I want life to speed along so I can get exactly what I want, now, now, now?

How often in life do I want the reward without having to experience the trial, the hard work, sometimes the heartache it takes to get it?

And how often do I let life slip by without gratitude and appreciation for what I have -- because I'm so dang focused on what's at the end of the tunnel?

Too often.

I'm praying today that I can stop, be grateful, and remember -- there's beauty in the wait.

Your Turn: Do you like the opera or are you more of a musical theater person like me? And how do you find beauty in the wait?

*The love story may be a bit controversial, as is Wagner, but that's not the point of this post! :)

March 3, 2014

Breaking Free of Winter

 
I don't think it's any secret that this has been a long winter.

And yes, I know I live in Phoenix and haven't been deluged with snow and horrible weather. But my winter has been more of a metaphorical one.

For some reason, I have had a rough few months. All I've wanted to do is curl up and watch television. And escape. Endlessly. And yet, it's never been enough to satisfy me (go figure!). There's never enough rest to be had.

I knew I should be working on my writing or my teaching or heck, cleaning my house! But I couldn't make myself do it.

Perhaps it really is because it's darker and chillier (for me!) than usual, and I've felt slightly depressed. My energy levels have been low, and I haven't felt motivated or inspired in the ways I'd hoped I would. Perhaps it's for other personal reasons that have me all emotional.

But this last week, I was given a gift.

I attended my second Deep Thinkers writing retreat in Florida with My Book Therapy. Basically, it's five days of immersion into my craft. Five days of being encouraged by incredible mentors and teachers. Five days of searching and praying for just the right story.

Five days that were oh-so needed in helping me come out of my proverbial winter.

See, it had nothing to do with the beach or even the warm weather (since we're starting to get that here now). I think it had to do with taking time away to focus on my passion. I realize that the last few months have felt so bogged down and busy. So full to bursting with things on my to do list -- and then my own failure to complete them weighed me down more.

And I think that's the thing. We can't all get away for a week -- believe me, I know what a blessing that is.

But we can stop beating ourselves up for what we consider failures in our life. 

Sure, maybe we can only get in 30 minutes a day of writing time -- or time to focus on something else you're passionate about. Or maybe that's not even possible with this time of life. But let's remember who determines our time and where we should be looking for help.

I tried taking it all on myself -- I didn't lean on God like I should have.

I told myself I was failing and I didn't know how to stop. But really, what if I was doing exactly what God had for me to do (well, not the TV, but you get my point)? What if I was only failing by my own standards?

I think that a lot of times, I need to reconsider what the true meaning of success really is.

Your Turn: Do you need to break free of winter (metaphorically speaking)? How has it happened for you in the past?

PS - Here are several more photos from my retreat!
Ashley Clark, a dear writer friend who lives a few hours away, stopped by for dinner!
Me and my roomie, Jeanne Takenaka. Love this lady!
The ever-adorable Kimberly Buckner and me. So glad I got to know her better!
Incredible mentors and teachers Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck!
So blessed by all the hugs and prayers of my dear friend, Beth Vogt.
Who says writers can't be goofy?
And again I say...

February 17, 2014

When There's Never Enough Time in Your Day...

We're all busy people.

Some days are busier than others, but lately I've felt like I'm going a mile a minute -- or more.

See, I work three jobs: as a copywriter at my full-time job, as an online English instructor, and as a fiction author. Not to mention the jobs of wife, friend, daughter, and sister.

And a lot of times, I'm super organized and get lots accomplished in a day. Other times, not so much.

Lately, I've been feeling really down, almost depressed about this elusive thing I seek: rest. It's like I'm going, going, going and look forward to the day when life won't be so busy. But who am I kidding? Life will always be busy! Yes, I can eliminate some things, and simplify a bit -- but I'm pursuing a dream, and that always takes extra time and energy. Plus, life just happens!

I came across this quote last week in Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts that just totally resonated with me and where I'm at:

"I don't really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done -- yesterday."

I wrote this in my prayer journal after reading that:

I love these moments in the middle of my day: when I get to be quiet and enjoy the sunlight and bask in You. When the puppies are still and quiet with me, when I leave my cell phone in the other room, and I just am.

How rare these moments are, what with so many things crowding out my day. It's easy to get so busy -- or just make my priorities different than they should be -- and forget to spend time in quiet. Sometimes I really wish hard for a simplified life, one where I work one job and focus on time with Mike and cook good meals and walk the dogs. 

And some days, that IS my life. 

But many times, my days are crazy busy and I don't know what to cut or how to balance. I'm sick of working three jobs but I know there are certain times that's necessary. 

There will always be something I'm not happy with, won't there? Oh Father, please -- I want my life to be filled with joy and contentment. I do. Help me to have joy and gratitude even when there are hard parts of life -- which there always are!

God, carry me. I'm pretty lost without You. I need to focus this week, relish life, and take joy in time with Mike and friends. I should stay away from the TV and read more. I should find the things I love and take more time for them. 

I'm finding that life is lived one day -- sometimes, one moment -- at a time. And I'm grateful that God knows what each one will hold.

Your Turn: How do you deal with the busyness of life? 

* I'll be taking off next week from blogging, since I'll be in Florida at a writing retreat!
** Check out my recent guest post on Casey Herringshaw's blog. I talked about what I would tell the pre-married me if I could!
*** Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

February 10, 2014

Gratitude: What's Going on in Lindsay Land

Lately, I've been feeling a little down. I have my reasons, but suffice it to say that I've been discontent with some things in my life.

But I've also been reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. Amazing book! Seriously. Her prose is exquisite. Plus, it has been teaching me a lot about gratitude.

I'll probably write another post about how this book has challenged me, but for now, I'm choosing to focus on the great things in my life. Because I'm blessed to have many.

So here's a little glimpse at some of the joys of my life lately (in addition to the obvious things like awesome friends and family, etc.):

New reads
I've got some great books in my To Be Read pile, like Rachel Hauck's latest release, Princess Ever After! I'm so looking forward to digging in, enjoying the journey, and learning from the greats.

New habits
I'm trying really hard to change my eating habits. That doesn't mean I don't fall off the wagon occasionally (especially when I don't feel good!), but I've been trying to eat more "real food" -- aka, food without artificial preservatives, dyes, etc. -- and make more food from scratch. A few weeks ago, we had homemade pizza (complete with homemade dough) and it was one of the best pizzas I've ever eaten! Yum!!

Lots of musicals!
Mike and I got season tickets to see four different shows at Gammage, our local theater that produces really great Broadway-style shows. Just this weekend, we saw Wizard of Oz and it was wonderful. The little dog that played Toto stole the show.

Cute puppies
My puppies Chloe and Pascal always keep me laughing. Pascal fell asleep like this last week and it was adorable!

Revisions and a retreat
I'm working on revisions for my book, The Song Inside. It's going to take a lot of work and butt-in-chair time, but I've already got the first three chapters rewritten. That's something, right?

And at the end of this month, I get to go to Florida for a writing retreat (the picture above is me and a few friends at the retreat last year). It's just what I need to get recharged! I plan to soak up the sun (if there is any this year!) and as much knowledge as I can from some women who have played a huge role in my writing life.

Your Turn: What's going on in your neck of the woods? What are you grateful for today?