January 27, 2014

It's Not Always Bad to Give Up on Your Dreams

March 2007: Mike and I in NYC just before seeing Wicked on Broadway.
There are people who will tell you it's a bad thing to ever give up on your dreams.

But I don't agree.

In many cases -- mine included -- I had a lot of dreams. Some I developed as a little girl. Some I developed later in life. Some I forgot about and rediscovered.

I've achieved some, like traveling to Europe.

I'm still pursuing and looking forward to some, like becoming a published author and hopefully one day a mother.

But some dreams...well, some dreams I had to let go. And I think that's okay.

When I was young, I had the dream of being an actress on TV (don't we all?). I took acting lessons and all that jazz, then discovered a talent -- and love for -- singing. So I took voice lessons.

I wish I had done more musicals as a child, but I didn't really know there were theaters outside of my school where I could do that sort of thing. I wish I had taken dance lessons growing up. But I didn't.

I was so busy with school, and everything else, that I just pretended that I was okay with singing at church and occasionally doing school musicals.

But secretly, I thought it would be all kinds of awesome to be on Broadway one day.

And of course, at this point in my life, that dream is likely never going to come true.

Sometimes, I really struggle with that. I'm an ambitious person, and the idea that I may have squandered opportunities to pursue a dream...well, that doesn't sit well with me.

And the idea that I really can't do it "later"...that probably bugs me most of all.

But I made choices -- and I don't regret those choices.

I chose to get a degree in journalism instead of musical theater. Why? I loved writing, and I knew I could get a job as an editor or writer and always do musical theater on the side if I wanted to.

I chose a career that gives me more of a social life (working on nights and weekends are standard fare for a performer).

I chose a career that is more flexible and allows me to pursue other dreams I have.

Of course, there are times -- like when I watch a musical theater production, or hear a great song on the radio, or watch Dancing with the Stars -- when I wonder what could have been. I question whether I gave up on that other dream too soon.

Giving up on a dream is hard. I think to a certain extent, we're always going to wonder what could have been! But life is made up of priorities and choices. We can't have it all, much as we wish we could. But here's the amazing thing I've come to realize.

God is there, in the midst of it all, willing to guide us toward HIS dream for us. And sometimes, it doesn't look at all like the dream we had for ourselves.

So I'm going to stop fretting about what could have been, and embrace all of the wonderful things that ARE. I'm going to focus on the dreams I am still pursuing, and pray that God is gracious in helping me along the way. And also pray that He will continue to guide and direct me -- WHEREVER I go.

Who knows? Maybe by some twist of fate, I'll still get to sing and dance on the Great White Way someday. But even if I don't, I'll know with confidence that I have a good life, full of amazing dreams that I chose -- and that God chose for me too.

Your Turn: What's one dream you have chosen to pursue -- or that God has for your life that you never expected for yourself? It can be big or small -- doesn't matter! I'd love for you to share.

January 20, 2014

How You Know You're Doing the Right Thing With Your Life

Picacho Peak in Arizona. Photo courtesy of azstateparks.com.
I am not an avid hiker by any means.

However, there are tons of amazing trails in Phoenix and surrounding areas, and I love a leisurely hike when I get the chance.

Over 10 years ago, a friend invited me to hike Picacho Peak just outside of Tucson with him and his family. I wasn't in great shape, but I wasn't in terrible shape either. So I said sure.

Thing is, I had no idea what I'd agreed to.

See, Picacho Peak is a beautiful hike (see picture above). The first half of the hike is steep, but pleasant enough. I huffed and puffed my way up to the "saddle" (the mid-way point) and patted myself on the back when I reached it. I said to myself, "You did it! Look, it wasn't that hard." Even though it kinda was.

But then, my friend said we were going to the top. All well and good -- of course we were. But what I didn't know is that making it to the top required a lot more work. And steel cables. As in, the terrain was much more difficult, and hikers have to use steel cables for balance and help climbing parts of the mountain.

Some hikers using the steel cables to climb Picacho Peak.
Photo courtesy of azstateparks.com.
Uh....

Let's just say, I wasn't thrilled at the prospect. Still, I put on a brave face and agreed to go. After all, you can't climb a mountain and not make it to the top. I'm no quitter.

I definitely wouldn't have made it without my friend's encouragement. There were so many times I wanted to quit. My untrained body ached and strained. My hands hurt from the cables. I kept picturing myself stumbling and falling, falling, falling to my death over the side of the mountain.

But eventually, I made it.

And the air at the top of a mountain never made me feel so alive as that one did.

Because it wasn't easy.

In fact, it was the hardest hike of my life.

But even today, over a decade later, I still remember it.

How many times in my life do I reconsider doing things because they appear too difficult? How often do I wonder if I should throw in the towel after a misstep? Ask God if He's REALLY asking me to follow that path?

Let's just say, more than I would like.

In my everyday life, being a novelist is my Picacho Peak. Nothing has ever been as hard for me as writing novels. I can spend a year on a novel -- putting everything I have into it -- and still not get it right. I'm still learning, it's true. But it can be disheartening.

But...

It challenges me. And shouldn't the thing we spend our time on -- the things we are most passionate about -- challenge us?

Should they come easy?

I say no.

Because in my opinion, those things are the most worth doing. They garner the largest rewards, because I worked for them.

I sweated for them.

I toiled for them.

I ached for them.

Which tells me I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to with my life.

Your Turn: What are you passionate about? Is it worth the effort, the sweat, the challenge to pursue your passions?

*The winner of A Match Made in Texas from last week's drawing is Gabrielle Meyer. Congrats! 

January 13, 2014

Texas vs. Oklahoma, Time Machines, and Homemade Ice Cream: An Interview with Author Regina Jennings {Plus a Giveaway}

First, I wanted to say: Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful time during the holidays with family and friends. Since my husband was out of town, my two golden retrievers and I had a wild New Year's Eve. I read and they laid around...LOL.

Second, I wanted to let you all know that I've made a change to my blogging schedule. I'll still be here every week, but only on Mondays. Because I want to write quality content and still want time to chat with you all, but have such a busy schedule, it was a change I needed to make. I'm still over on my Facebook page and Twitter throughout the week, though, so please connect there!

Okay, so my first blog of the year is an interview with Regina Jennings, an awesome author who I had the privilege to meet last year at ACFW, a big Christian fiction writer's conference. She's sweet and fun, and a great author too!

Regina recently collaborated with a group of other authors on a novella collection called A Match Made in Texas. It's got lots of fun spunkiness -- and of course romance! -- set in historical Texas. I chatted with Regina about the project. Don't forget to read on for a chance to win a copy!

Regina Jennings is a homeschooling mother of four from Oklahoma. She enjoys watching musicals with her kids, traveling with her husband, and reading by herself. When not plotting historical fiction, she plots how she could move Highclere Castle, stone by stone, into her pasture and how she could afford the staff to manage it. 

Regina's novella "An Unforeseen Match" is included in the collection A Made Made in Texas. She is also the author of Sixty Acres and a Bride and Love in the Balance. She loves to hear from readers at her website www.reginajennings.com and on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest


LH: Give us a little background about this project. What's your story about and how did the novella collection come together?

RJ: This novella collection was the brainchild of Karen Witemeyer. She first pitched the idea to our publisher Bethany House and once they found their four authors, the project was on the fast track. We (Karen, Mary Connealy, Carol Cox, and I) brainstormed some possible ties and that was a hoot. We knew the collection would be set in the Texas panhandle in the late 19th century, but beyond that we didn't have a theme. Maybe the heroes all worked for a windmill crew, or maybe the heroines were nannies, or maybe they all involved shotgun weddings. That's when you really appreciate the creativity of the ladies you're working with.

We finally settled on a matchmaker character that set up these couples, even though it wasn't necessarily her intention. We collaborated on descriptions of the town, made a map, and shared pictures of the area. I loved working with these ladies.

LH: That sounds like so much fun! So, why do you write about Texas, especially since you live in Oklahoma? Isn't there some sort of rivalry between the two? *grin*

RJ: Is there? I hadn't heard. No really, there does seem to be some jealous Texans out there, but we try not to notice. You see, Oklahoma is much smaller than Texas and our space is limited. Those who don't make the cut have to stay just south of the Red River.

And why do I write about Texas? Because I enjoy the history of the mid- to late-19th century and Oklahoma wasn't very populated at that time. In fact, the county I live in was only opened for settlement in the 1889 land run, but that hasn't stopped me from working in some Oklahoma history. My hero in A Made Made in Texas is on his way to the Cherokee Strip land rush in Oklahoma Territory and my next full-length novel Caught in the Middle hops across the infamous border several times.

LH: If you went back to the time your books take place and had the chance to bring one modern invention with you, what would it be and why?

RJ: Most of my favorite modern inventions require electricity and therefore wouldn't do me much good. So being the practical person I am, I would bring a combine in my time machine. That would allow me and my family to farm an amazing amount of land. Of course I'd need to bring a supply of gasoline too -- at least enough to last until the refineries are up and running.

LH: Practical indeed! Okay, here's another. If you lived in the time your books take place, what meal and dessert would we consistently find on your table?

RJ: I like ham. Good, pink, smoked ham with a honey glaze. Yum! And rolls dripping with real butter. I don't know if I'd even have a garden. Just get me bread and meat and I'm happy.

For dessert...homemade ice cream. Yes, I know the ice would be hard to come by, especially in the summer, but since this is fiction I'll say that I have a giant icehouse that can keep our ice frozen throughout our 100-degree summers. Or maybe I'd trade in my combine for a freezer.

LH: Ooo, you're making me hungry! Okay, last question. Would you rather live in the time your books take place and dress like we do today, or live in the modern world but dress like they did back then?

RJ: Do you have my house bugged? Recently I was given the opportunity to buy the dress used on the cover of Caught in the Middle. I'd really like to live in that dress for a while...for research, of course. We all assume that the clothes were so uncomfortable, but I think that's because we wear elaborate dresses when we're at weddings or other formal occasions. How long would it take to become acclimated to a corset and heavy skirts? I'm willing to find out, but my husband and two teenage daughters might disown me.

Short answer: Modern day, vintage clothes.

LH: Haha, that would be so fun to see you at the grocery store "doing research" in that dress while shopping! Thanks for being with us today! 

Readers, enter to win a copy of A Match Made in Texas below!

In Dry Gulch, Texas, 1893, a young woman with a tender heart that longs to help those in need takes it upon herself to meddle in the affairs of three acquaintances who are in dire straits. Wanting to stay anonymous, she relies on unusual methods to hire men and women of good character who she thinks can solve the problems facing her "targets." How was she to know that her meddling would turn into cupid's arrow? And what will she do when her friends turn the tables on her with a matchmatching scheme of their own? Four novellas in one volume.





Your turn: Readers, I want to hear from you! What's your favorite time period in history? Now, if you went back to that time in history, what one modern invention would you take with you?


GIVEAWAY DETAILS:
Regina's offering up a copy of A Match Made in Texas and there are lots of ways to enter! Use the Rafflecopter box below to enter by
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The contest is open to U.S. residents only and ends at midnight on January 18. There must be at least 10 entries for the contest to be valid.

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