My Blog

My “State of the Writer” Address

Posted by on Aug 30, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 comments

I figure it’s about time to write a “State of the Union” address as a writer. My last book has been out almost two months, and I’m getting a few “So what’s your next project?” questions from readers.

So…What am I doing next? Writing another series? Sitting back and raking in all the dough I’ve collected from my first two series? Wrangling through a movie deal with a big Hollywood pwhatroducer?

No, no, and no.

Here’s the deal: I love writing. I enjoyed every minute of writing the six books God has allowed me to have published. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be picked up by a publisher as amazing as Thomas Nelson. I am humbled and honored and elated to have been able to work with them and to get know others who are seeking to honor God through the words that they write. I have been amazed that people actually paid money to read my words, and that some of them actually liked those words enough to buy more books and even write me and let me know how God used my words to change their lives.

BUT…this is a tough time to be a writer. First, there are millions of us, all trying to get our words out there. Brick and mortar bookstores are dying, and online bookstores are
overwhelming, carrying, as they do, all those millions of books. Also, books are cheap. Or free. And I confess, I take full advantage of the Kindle Daily Deal and my local libraries – I read too much and too quickly to buy most books! So publishers have a hard time selling books when the market is so flooded and the product is so cheap.

Second, being a writer isn’t my full-time job. I love teaching. It is what God has called me to do. Working face-to-face with students, investing in them spiritually and academically is my calling. Writing, for me, was always an extension of that calling.

However, to be able to really make it as a writer, it is necessary to “quit the day job”. Most of the really successful writers are professional writers. It is what they do for a living. They spend hours a day on their craft. They attend workshops and conferences and have writer’s groups that they lead and are part of. They take ownership of their own marketing, knowing the publisher can only do so much. They recognize this is a tough business, and they recognize that the actual writing is just part of what is necessary to be a success.

So…I haven’t really “made it” as a writer. My books have sold all right, but not enough. And most publishers don’t want to publish someone with a history of “all right” sales. They, understandably, are in the business of making a profit. And, while I would love to keep writing, I don’t love it enough to stop doing what I love even more: teaching.

I’m not quitting. I can’t. I have too many ideas and writing is too much of an outlet for me. I HAVE to write! But will I have another book out anytime soon….? Probably not.

I have always clung to Francine Rivers’ quote that writing is another form of worship. I don’t need to have works published to be able to worship my Savior through my words. So I will keep writing, keep posting here, keep working on stories. I will keep doing what God has called me to do, how He has called me to do it. I will rejoice with those writers whose calling it is to work at their craft full-time. And I will do better at buying some of their books instead of waiting for them to go on sale as a KDD!

I am grateful for those who have allowed me to be in this amazing writers’ world: the publisher, editors, marketers, bloggers, reviewers, and, of course, readers. For a kid who avoided Honors’ English classes in school because it was just too much work — having close to half a million published words is a feat that is only attributable to the God who loves to demonstrate His strength through our weakness.

Location, Location, Location

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Psalm 1 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, and yet I still find something new every time I look into it.

Psalm 1 examines the difference between the man (or woman) who is blessed and the man (or woman) who is wicked. And what is that difference?

Location, location, location.

The blessed man takes up residence by streams of water (Ps. 1:3). He is compared to a tree who, planted by that water, has roots that sink deep into the earth and branches that stretch into the sky. Rather than wither away, it produces fruit and prospers.

What does the water represent in this Psalm? The man (or woman) whose delight is in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2a). The blessed person is so delighted in the law (the word of God) that he/she “meditates on it day and night” (Ps. 1:2b).

The opposite of blessed? In this passage, the opposite of blessed is wicked. These people walk, stand, and sit with the wicked, sinners, and scoffers. They live with and around those who drag them farther and farther away from blessings. And, as the blessed prospers by waters, the wicked will perish.

The “take home lesson” from this Psalm — be careful where you choose to put down roots. Sink your life deep into the refreshing water of God’s word. Seek friendships with those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Avoid those whose shallow pursuits will end in ruin.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

 

 

The Most Important Conversation

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

As I sit at my desk and write this, I am listening to my 13-year-old daughter chat it up on FaceTime with her best friend, Jessica. This is after she spent about 30 minutes chatting with her best friend/cousiellie chattingn, Mercy. Ellie will talk to her friends anytime, anywhere, for as long as she is permitted.They might be an hour away, but these girls are still in our house often - thanks to the wonders of technology!

These conversations are rarely ended by the girls themselves. They are almost always ended by parents coming in and saying, “Enough time on the phone,” “Time for homework” or “Go to bed!”. The girls would talk all night if we let them. These friendships are important, and it seems like they never run out of topics of conversation.

Ellie longs to talk to her friends. She wants to know what’s going on in their lives, she wants to share with them what’s happening here. They talk about all kids of things – right now, she’s discussing sharing her faith with kids who don’t believe in Jesus. A minute ago, she was discussing birthday parties and annoying brothers. Wait, now she’s on with friend #3, Natalie…

As I listen to the stream of conversation, I think about the most important conversation: prayer. Paul says we should pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17). We should talk to God the way Ellie talks to her friends: all the time about everything. I had a youth pastor who encouraged us to never say “Amen,” so that the prayers we start in the morning continue all day – every thought is a prayer. Our conversation with Jesus never stops. It just pauses occasionally.

Prayer shouldn’t just be something we do before a meal or a test or a hard time. It should be part of the vibrant, growing relationship we have with Jesus – the friend who sticks closer than a brother. We can talk to Him about anything. We can praise Him, thank Him, worship Him in prayer anytime. So put down the phone and pick up your prayers.

That means you, too, Ellie ;)

It’s the Little Things

Posted by on Aug 17, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I love talking about “big” stuff: future plans, dreams, ideas. I remember, when I was younger, wondering what “great” things I’d do for God. I was up for just about anything, as long as it was big and important.

As I have matured in my relationship with God, I have realized that desire, while being pretty self-centered, can also hinder me from doing the things God actually wants me to do.

For example: I stayed home with my kids until they went to school (then, I went to school with them!). During my years at home, I sometimes felt likephoto I wasn’t contributing enough to the kingdom of God. I spent my days changing diapers and reading Dr. Seuss and mixing baby food into watery rice flakes. I remember really struggling during those years: I had a college degree collecting dust in the closet. My kids wouldn’t even remember I was home with them! Wouldn’t it be better if I used the gifts God had given me in a job that actually paid something rather than spending day after day singing Barney songs and fishing Little People (the toys, not my actual children) out of the toilet?

But while I was in my pity party, God would remind me: THIS is my purpose for you right now. I knew God wanted me to stay home with my kids. And, before I had them, it sounded very noble and rewarding. But day after day (after day after day…) I forgot about the nobility. And the rewards could be few and far between (“Yay, you almost made it to the potty that time!”). But that is what obedience looks like. Waking up every morning and doing what God has for you then, whether it’s feeding a newborn or doing your homework or mowing the lawn.

Our greatest purpose in life is to bring glory to God. And, while we might get to do something(s) big and important, it is in the little things that we really demonstrate our commitment to his supremacy in our lives. And, very often, it’s the little things that mean the most to us later…like staying home. I look back on those years now with such amazing memories, such joy. I would not have traded one day, one diaper, one midnight feeding for the time I had at home with my kids.

So dream big for God! But, as you dream, be obedient in the small things. Do those with gladness, for his glory.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” ~ Col. 3:23

Think of the Starving Children in Africa…

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Remember when you were a kid and you hated what your mom served for dinner, and she’d say something like this: “I know you hate broccoli, but there are starving children in Africa who would love this meal.”?

I hated that speech.

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I know, Mom was right. But you know what? I still hated broccoli (still do – there’s not enough melted cheese in the world to make that veggie palatable*). I still gagged it down. I would have gladly given every serving of broccoli to the starving children of Africa. But that wasn’t an option. And knowing I had more food than they did, didn’t change my taste buds or my rotten “you can make me eat it, but you won’t make me like it” attitude.

I don’t make my kids eat broccoli (though a couple of them actually like it!), but I do find myself saying things like that. I say it to myself, too, and my husband. And not about food, but – worse – about life: “Sure, this move is tough, but at least we’re all healthy!” “I know you miss your friends, but at least you’re just an hour away and not thousands of miles!”

It is a terrible thing to do. Worse than drowning broccoli in cheese. When we are struggling, we need to deal with the struggle. We need to look at that nasty broccoli sitting on our plate and recognize we have to eat it. Mom’s not letting us up until we do. We can cry and whine and complain and fake gag, but when we’re done, the broccoli will still be sitting there. Getting even more slimy and bland. Might as well eat it while it’s hot so it’ll slide down faster.

In life, sometimes things happen we just don’t like. Tough stuff. Pretending it’s not tough doesn’t make it easier. Recognizing other people have it worse doesn’t help either. The tough stuff is still there, waiting to be dealt with.

So we need to deal with it. God can handle our ranting and raving. He can handle our crying and complaining. Just read the Psalms. We can let Him know just how much we hate whatever struggle we may face. And, what I have found, after years of eating metaphorical broccoli, is that he doesn’t take the tough stuff away, but he does help you “swallow” it. He’ll get you through it. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His ways are higher than ours. His purposes for us are great. And “this, too, shall pass.” Broccoli is very often followed by chocolate cake. So hang in there. Things will get better!

*I apologize to broccoli-lovers. I’m sure it’s a wonderful vegetable with great qualities and maybe you even have a recipe that is so good I can barely taste the broccoli…but I still hate it, and now that I’m an adult, I can refuse it any time I want. So no recipes, please! If you feel the need to send something, the name of a good counselor – one who deals in childhood vegetable trauma – would be most beneficial ;)

The “F” Word

Posted by on Aug 11, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 3 comments

There’s a word that Christians rarely use in conversation. I’ve never heard it in a sermon or song, never read it in a devo. It’s a word that makes us uncomfortable, offended. It just isn’t polite for Christians to discuss.

The word?

Fat.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a “beat you over the head for eating that donut” blog. It isn’t a plea for advice on how to lose weight, either. It’s a confession.

I am thinking about the “F” word right now because my clothes are getting uncomfortably tight. I either need to lose weight or buy clothes in the next size up (neither my budget nor my pride will allow for the latter!). 

What I DON’T need is a diet. God has convicted me time and time again that food isn’t the problem. Me eating the food is the problem. My go-to stress reliever is far too often a brownie or bowl of popcorn than it is His presence. This summer, I have dealt with the stress of a new house, a new job, and a new church with the same old habit: drowning my sorrows in empty calories.

After almost 25 years of walking with the Lord, I have learned this: My relationship with God is the single most important factor in every aspect of my life, including weight management. Finding the “right diet” doesn’t help because those just make me focus even more on food: what I can’t eat, what I should eat, what’s for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner…I am consumed with thoughts of food. That is just as sinful as overeating. My mind is not on things above, but on earthly things.

My prayer this morning was that I hunger and thirst for righteousness. That I turn to God when I am feeling lonely or stressed or sad or happy or nervous…When I am filled with His presence, food becomes what God meant for it to be: a good gift for me to enjoy. Not a god for me to worship or a demon I need to fear.

“Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.” Heb. 13:9 (emphasis mine)

The Blessings of Poverty

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Did you know poverty can be a blessing?

It can.

Really.

I am going through a study on the Beatitudes right now, and right at the beginning, I read this verse…

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3)

The commentator broke down the word “blessed” and explained it isn’t “happiness” – that is dependent on externals. “Blessing,” she explained, “dmatthew5-blog-post-imageepends on being rightly
related to God.”

And “poor in spirit”? That is when we recognize our own sinfulness, humble ourselves before a holy God, and truly repent. We mourn over our sin (Mt. 5:4), hate it, want nothing to do with it. This results in a humility that allows us to be rightly related to God.

And that brings blessings. Not just momentary happiness, but a blessedness that is soul-deep. Recognition of our sinfulness makes us hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt. 5:6). That hunger and thirst is guaranteed to be satisfied.

God isn’t wanting to beat us up for our sin, but neither is He allowing us to brush it off or act like it’s “no big deal.” Our sins sent Jesus to the cross. But His love for us kept Him there. A failure to recognize the former keeps us from fully embracing the latter.

So be poor in spirit. And be blessed.

 

After the “Happily Ever After”

Posted by on Aug 4, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I love happy endings. I’ll read the occasional “sad” book, but I prefer knowing in advance that, despite the conflicts along the way, the story will end happily. I want the hero or heroine to get everything he/she wants, to be loved and comfortable and never again have any troubles.

I was in church yesterday, and the pastor was referring to the story of David and Goliath. I love that story. Talk about a happy ending! But instead of stopping at the “David killed Goliath and everyone loved him!” part, he read on. It had been a while since I read what happened after that.

Now I know why.

It is not happy.

After David single-handedly defeats Israel’s enemies and is celebrated by all, becomes best friends with the King’s son, and goes on to win more battles, King Saul hears the people (literally) singing David’s praises. Saul is so jealous that he then makes it his personal mission to KILL David.

Yep. David spends years fleeing for his life. Years. Saul plots against him, gets his daughter to plot against him, his soldiers…he is relentless.

As I thought about that yesterday, I realized that our lives are similar to David’s. Not in the “killing giants and running from evil kings” sense, but in the fact that life goes on after “happy endings.” Throughout our lives, we all have “happily ever after” moments: graduating from high school and college; getting a job; getting married; having kids; retiring…But life goes on after each of them. Difficulties come. We have our own “Sauls” that seek to destroy us.

So how do we do deal with that? We follow David’s example: despite all his struggles – from within and without – he is called “a man after God’s own heart.” Read the Psalms that he wrote and you’ll see his relationship with God in black and white. He was AFTER God’s heart — seeking it, longing for it, distraught without it, ashamed when he broke it, rejoicing when his heart was like God’s.

Our “happily ever after” won’t occur on this earth. Those who know Christ are guaranteed one, though – an eternity that is indescribably glorious.

There are amazing moments here on earth. A former pastor called those “glimpses of eternity.” But those aren’t to be confused with eternity itself. Those are moments. We should embrace them when they come, but recognize that life will go on after them, “Sauls” will chase us, circumstances will threaten to overwhelm us. But we can get through them just like David did – by seeking to be men and women after God’s own heart.

I Want It NOW!!

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Yesterday, Thomas, my dad, and I went to Disney’s Blizzard Beach – a super-fun water park in Orlando. We had a great time riding the rides, bouncing around in the wave pool, and drifting along on the lazy river.

Not everyone, however, was having fun. As I sat and waited for Thomas to ride the zip line, I watched a drama unfold by the lifeguard stand. A woman had, apparently, lost her sunglasses in the pool below said zip line. It happens. A few minutes before thisBlizBeach31, I heard a man ask a lifeguard about a pair he had lost in the same place. The lifeguard told him there are a few times a day when someone comes to pick up lost items in that pool, and when that occurs, the items will be available. The gentleman thanked the lifeguard and returned to the fun of the park.

Not this woman, though. Nope. She didn’t like the lifeguard’s answer. She wanted her sunglasses NOW. She hovered over the ladder as kids got out of the (very deep) pool and tried to get some of the braver ones to dive for her glasses. When the lifeguard had to jump in to help a preschooler, the woman met him as he handed the child back to her mom and demanded he dive down and get the glasses himself. The poor guy tried, but he couldn’t get them. He was the ONLY lifeguard at that particular pool, and there were kids jumping in from a zip line AND sliding in on a mini-slide. His job was to watch them, as he very kindly explained. Over and over. He needed to be at his post. Someone would be by to get her glasses later.

Still she stayed. She got her family in on it. Tried to get her son to dive in for them (totally against the rules…the pool was a landing spot only, and needed to be cleared quickly after every landing so the next rider could go). She pulled other lifeguards in – lifeguards that were going on their breaks – and got the same answer. They all knew the policy: no swimming or diving into that pool while kids were on the zip line. Those kids wait a long time for their turn!

I was there for a while. And so was she. She was there after we left. Still complaining, still demanding. Disney parks aren’t called the “Happiest Place on Earth” for nothing — this park was SO fun!! — yet this woman chose misery instead. She chose to stand around griping instead of riding rides, bouncing around in the wave pool, or drifting along the lazy river. We left with smiles on our faces and fantastic memories. She left with a nasty attitude and very wet sunglasses.

But as I was watching her, feeling oh-so-good about myself and my fabulous attitude, I realized that, though I wasn’t behaving like the spoiled brat from “Willy Wonka” right then, I have had plenty of those “I want it NOW” moments: When I’m in a hurry to get somewhere and my family isn’t moving as fast as I want them to; when I’m in line at the grocery store and the woman in front of me has problems getting her credit card to work; when I see a cute outfit I’d love to have, but know it’s just not in the budget right now…I can get SO Veruca so fast. I get frustrated, demanding…This is important to ME so it should be just as important to everyone else!!

The Bible tells us just the opposite. Paul exhorts us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil. 2:3-4). Those times when we want something now, and it isn’t happening…? Those are opportunities to reflect Christ. Putting the needs of others above ourselves is HARD. And it’s definitely not what the world is saying! But it is true. And there is far greater peace in living according to God’s standard than the world’s.

So relax. Let go of the selfishness, and embrace a life where you’re NOT the center of the universe. Walk away from the sunglasses…

How to Leave Church Crying

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Yesterday, I left church crying. I shed quite a few tears in church, as well. Why?

It was our last Sunday.

We love our church. It has become more than just a place of worship. It is a home, a refuge, a community.

Yet so many people hate church. They leave churches or refuse to join because they have been hurt at church, or people they love have been hurt at church, and they decide they’d rather worship at home than with a bunch of hypocrites.

I get that. I’ve been there. Not every church is a healthy church, but there ARE healthy churches out there. How do you find one so great that you cry buckets when you have to leave it? Try these two tips:

PRAY

Emma and JuliaBefore we joined this church, I prayed like crazy. My biggest prayer was that we find a church where our kids could grow. I wanted them to be surrounded by people who love Jesus and who will encourage our kids to love Jesus. God answered that prayer in such a big way. We had Miss Julia, Emma’s Sunday school teacher, who oozes passion for Jesus. She would call Emma out when she was doing wrong, point her to scripture when she was struggling, and text her at all hours of the night when she was doubting.  She even came to Emma’s activities (like “The Music Man” performance at school). Andrew, Ellie’s middle school pastor, digs deep into the word and knows that 6-8 graders can do more than just play games on Wednesdays nights – they can be world changers! Mr. Frank worked in the elementary ministry, despite his disability. He hugged Thomas every time he saw him, looked him in the eye and said, “You know what, Thomas? I love you. But Jesus is crazy about you!”

Get Involved

I knew a woman who left a church because no one spoke to her. I asked her if she was involved in any ministries? “No.” Part of a Sunday school class? “No.” Volunteer in the nursery or youth group? “No.” She got to church late, left early, and complained that, after six months attending the church, she had no friends. The biggest mistake church-goers make is thinking church is for them. Like it’s Chick-Fil-A where the workers are there to meet your needs and make sure you are satisfied. You miss out on the joy of community and the fulfillment of your God-given gifts when you think that! The church is a body of believers. Every part of that body is important. No church can function if the only people serving are those who are on staff. We are all gifted differently.

My friend Rebekah is both merciful and organized. She is the homeroom mom to a second grade class at an inner-city school that our church has adopted. She makes sure those kids have school supplies and uniforms at the beginning of the year. She sends their names out to our Sunday school class so that each kid has a family praying for him/her and has gifts at Christmas and their birthdays. She plans class parties and field trips. And she LOVES doing that. I can hear it in her voice when she talks about those precious kids.

The Wheetley’s (the “real” Carey and Kristie from the ANOMALY series) are some of the most hospitable people I have ever known. They’ll open up their homwheetley'se to anyone, anytime. When the teen Bible study needed a host home — the Wheetley’s volunteered. When our Sunday school class needed a party house – the Wheetley’s volunteered. The VBS workers need a place to make crafts?? Yep, the whole crew met up at the Wheetley’s. Never once have I heard them complain about the mess, the amount of people, the expense of hosting. They love opening up their home. They delight in using the gifts God has given them to help the body of Christ.

I could go on…but you get the idea (and this post is already long enough!). Want to love a church so much you cry when you have to leave it? Pray about which church God wants you in, then get involved! Use your gifts. Look to serve. It is SO worth it, believe me.