Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Few Thoughts . . . the Selah Awards edition

Let me welcome you to my first “A Few Thoughts” edition. Some (like today’s entry) will be more serious and thought provoking, but not all! I have future “thoughts” to share with you on everything from the NCIS season finale (sniff) to chocolate. If you enjoy these, please let me know!


I’d like to share a few thoughts with you today about the Selah Awards.
The Selah Awards are given each year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. They are awarded to books published during the previous calendar year. Selah Awards are given in nineteen categories.

I had no plans to enter Covert Justice in this or any other contest. My reasons included, “It’s my first book so it doesn’t have a prayer,” and “no one has ever heard of me” and the ever so fun, “I don’t want to waste money entering a contest I have 0% chance of winning.” 

My writing mentors tag teamed me one day and set me straight. They were quite persuasive and their threats logic convinced me that as an author, it is my job to promote my book in every way I can, including entering contests I have 0% chance of winning. ;) (When someone develops a sarcasm font, I’m going to be an early adopter).

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my phone blew up with the news that Covert Justice was a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of the Selah Awards.

Covert Justice
I stared at my phone for quite a while before I actually believed it was true, even though my sources aren’t the kind of people to joke about something like that. Then I started giggling the way someone does who’s received a great shock and isn’t sure if they should laugh, cry, shout “Hallelujah,” or run away until it has all blown over.

Because now I had a problem. 
A big problem.
I don’t like competition. I’m the person who wishes everyone could win. Even in sporting events when I have a strong favorite, I always feel sorry for the losing team. :( 

But now, I have to go to a banquet and someone will read my name, and then in front of about 400 people I will find out whether or not Covert Justice actually won. 

I am not going to win. I am completely okay with that. The other two books in the category, No Place to Hide and Rodeo Rescuer, are both fabulous (yes, I've read them and so should you) and both were written by my friend and writing mentor, Lynette Eason. She is awesome. Seeing my name in the same category as hers makes my stomach turn flips. The phrase “it’s an honor to be nominated” has never made as much sense to me as it does now. 

But in the past few days, I’ve felt this gnawing (and, frankly, highly annoying) sense in my gut that I haven’t handled this well. Oh sure, I made a small announcement on Facebook. I put the “Selah finalist” logo on my blog page, and then I dropped it. 

I don’t like calling attention to myself. I don’t like being in the spotlight. I’ll be glad when it’s all over.

Anyone else seeing a problem here? 

There have been a lot of “I’s” in this post. 

Yes, I wrote the book.

But *I* am not now, nor have I ever been, responsible for it selling, for it reaching anyone’s heart, and most certainly not for it being a Selah finalist. 

When I keep quiet, I’m really only protecting myself and that comes straight from a place of pride.
What I should have been doing is sharing the great news with anyone and everyone who would listen! I should have been recounting the story—the way God impressed on me the idea to enter the Killer Voices contest, the way He enabled me to write more words than I’ve ever written in a few short months, the way He guided me through selling the book, signing with an agent, and all the crazy steps of the revision and editorial process that ultimately led to the book landing on shelves and in people’s homes.

Covert Justice is not mine. It is His. Any glory or praise Covert Justice receives is also not mine. It is His and His alone.
And I’ve been squelching it out of pride and my own insecurity.

It’s kind of late to do much about it other than send this post out into the world. The awards will be presented tonight and I will be there. I bought new shoes, had a pedicure, and even tried out some new sunless tanner. When I walk into the banquet and people acknowledge Covert Justice, my goal will be to point them to Jesus. To how amazing He is. To how blessed I am to get to have a tiny part in building His Kingdom by writing the stories that He gives me.

I’m not attending so I can soak up the attention and bask in my fifteen minutes of fame.
My prayer, my heart’s desire, is to be a reflection of my Savior. To make His name great and to spread His fame.

I covet your prayers—not that Covert Justice wins—but that God will be glorified.

Click to Tweet: A Few Thoughts on tonight's #SelahAwards2016 at #BRMCWC. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Make the Jump

I’ve been asking God to “Edit At Will” (you can read my last post here) and this week He took out His holy red pen and told me it was high time to MAKE THE JUMP. 

Let me explain.

I love Star Wars. 

I’m not a complete nerd about it. I haven’t read all the books. I don’t know all the backstories. I can’t remember the name of every planet. But I do enjoy the movies and I’ve enjoyed sharing them with our boys. We watched Star Wars: A New Hope a few weeks ago, and one scene jumped out at me in a way I never expected. 

Side note #1 - If you don’t think God can speak to you through ANYTHING, I would like to remind you about a guy named Moses and one burning bush. God can and will use things in your day-to-day life to speak TRUTH into your soul if you’ll pay attention. 

Side note #2 - Don’t worry if you hate this stuff. I promise it will make sense in a minute, even if you’ve never seen the movies. (Although, if you haven’t, can we talk later?)

Anyway, in this scene, our favorite characters are on board the Millennium Falcon (that’s a very fast spaceship for those who don’t know) and they are being chased down by Imperial cruisers (the bad guys). Young Luke Skywalker is questioning why Han Solo (the captain of the Millennium Falcon) isn’t making the jump to light speed. 

You can watch the clip here: 

Ben Kenobi: How long before you make the jump to lightspeed?
Han Solo: It'll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navicomputer.
Luke Skywalker: [frantic] Are you kidding? At the rate they're gaining—
Han Solo: Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?

I’ve been thinking about this clip for days, because you know what else I seem to think isn’t like dusting crops? 

Sadly, I’ve come to realize this is how I approach much of my life. I’m anticipating making the jump into the unknown and I’m terrified I’ll run into obstacles. To mitigate the danger, I plan—obsessively—and far too often I never make the jump.

Millennium Falcon 
I don’t have the Millennium Falcon’s navicomputer. I have a Bullet Journal and a bunch of colored markers. I have the type of personality that enjoys making lists. I’m the kind of control freak that wants to plan things days/weeks/months in advance and finds great comfort in my plan. 

The problem isn’t with the planning. Planning is smart. We serve a God who came up with the most elaborate and glorious plan ever conceived. I don’t think God is anti-plan.

The problem comes when I keep trying to land on a plan that will help me avoid failure, and until I find the perfect plan, I remain stagnant. Pretty sure God is anti-stagnation.

I’m thinking about moving forward.
I’m dreaming big dreams.
I’m imagining a bright future.

But I’m going nowhere fast.

God did not call me to go nowhere. He didn’t redeem me to live out my life without making an impact for Him. He hasn’t left me here to think about doing things for Him. He actually expects me to DO them. He expects me to use my brain (hello navicomputer) and then he expects me to MAKE THE JUMP.

Maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t think so. My guess is that as you’ve read this you’ve come up with at least one thing, and maybe a whole list of things, you’ve been delaying. 

Maybe it’s a ministry you need to jump into. Maybe it’s a story you need to write. Maybe it’s a business you need to start. Maybe it’s a class you need to take. Maybe it’s a neighbor you need to talk to. Maybe it’s more about your health or your diet because you know you can’t serve effectively when you can’t even walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air. 

I don’t know what yours is. 

I know what mine is, well, are. 
I know I’ve done more than enough planning to avoid the major catastrophes. I’m not in any danger of bouncing too close to a supernova and you probably aren’t either. 

Jumping may take us out of our comfort zone.
At this point, the jump may mean things get hard. It may take me out of my comfort zone. It may make me sweat (literally and figuratively). Jumping now will probably mean hitting a few bumps, scraping some knees, and probably being embarrassed at least a time or two. 

But the alternative is unacceptable. I’d rather risk the jump now than find myself blown out of the sky before I ever have a chance to see what God has out there for me in the “hyperspace” of His will for my life.

Anyone want to make the jump with me? 

Proverbs 16:9 - The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Click to Tweet - Is it time to Make the Jump? Lessons on faith from Star Wars!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Edit At Will

For the past several years, I’ve been writing a monthly post for my dear friend Edie Melson’s amazing blog, The Write Conversation. I send it to her a few days in advance (ok, sometimes one day in advance) and I always include these words in my email …
Edit At Will.

I don’t want to publish junk. I certainly don’t want to publish junk on her blog. I’m writing for her, and if she doesn’t like it or has any suggestions to make it better I want to hear them. 

She’s never sent anything back for a rewrite, but she does reformat the work to make it visually appealing on her site. She adds gorgeous photos and when she’s done with it the finished product is polished and (I hope) represents her well.

That’s why I say “edit at will.” I’m not writing these posts for my audience. I’m writing them for hers, and as such I want her to be pleased and feel like the words reflect her mission.

I was thinking about those three little words the other day in a different context.

I was thinking that those three little words—edit at will—should be my prayer.

Every day. Every schedule. Every event. Every (gulp) plan.
Lord, please, edit at will.
Change whatever needs to be changed.
Polish my life until it shines.
Help me be a beautiful and true reflection of You.

But it’s so hard.
It’s a sad truth, but it’s easier for me to give my friend free rein over my words than it is for me to give the God of the Universe free rein over my life. 

The first day I prayed that? Oh yeah, you guessed it. My day ran off the rails before 8AM. By lunchtime I was staggering around like an outmatched fighter desperate to hear the bell. And I had hours and hours to go. When I remembered my prayer from  the morning, I started laughing. Not in a “ha-ha that’s funny” way. It was more of a deranged, one step away from a full-blown panic attack kind of way.

Really, Lord? Because if this is what I’m going to get when I pray this way— 

But then I thought about it a little more.

That crazy day? It would have gone that way regardless of my prayer. The difference came when it dawned on me what was happening (several hours later than it should have). I was able (slowly) to regain some perspective.
Was this ridiculous day going wrong? Or, maybe, was it going exactly right?
Was it falling apart, or was it falling into place?

It looked nothing like what I’d been expecting, but I’m not God. I couldn’t predict the day. He could. He knew before it happened. He was already there in the crazy and upheaval. He wasn’t surprised at all. He was ready to help me, to redirect my path in a way that would bring Him the most glory. 

I still don’t know why the day went nuts. I do know that when I looked back at my calendar for the week I discovered something very interesting. The things that didn’t get done that day that went upside down? They all got done later in the week. The only negative repercussions were my own issues with not being able to say, “I got everything done today.” 

I’m trying to pray this more often. Some days go off without a hitch. Most don’t. But when the wacky Wednesdays hit on a Thursday, I’m hearing that still small voice in my soul whispering, “We talked about this. Remember?” 

I wish I could tell you that I’m now cool, calm, and collected all day long no matter how the day goes. I’m not there yet. (Just ask my kids).

But I’m asking God not only to edit my day, but to edit me as well. To illuminate the darkness in me, the fears, the desperate need to control everything. To eliminate the junk and reformat me into someone that represents Him well and makes Him look good. To help me live my life in a way that makes others want to know Him.

Most of all, I’m asking Him to help me remember that my life is not my own. I’m not here to fulfill my own purposes, but His. 

So I ask again . . . Father, edit at will.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Little Toes

I don’t know about you, but there are parts of my body I take for granted. 

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how much I appreciate my spleen or my eyelashes. I mean, they’re doing a good job, but it’s not like I would miss them the way I would my fingers or my eyes. 

Or…would I? 

A few weeks ago, in a moment of stunning grace and agility, I managed to trip over a cat (the cat is a story for another day, but this might be a good time to throw out there that I don’t even like cats) and slam my foot into the brick wall of my home. I was barefoot at the time and somehow managed to slice open the tip of my little toe.

I know y’all just cringed. Sorry about that.

In that moment my little toe, a part of my body that I pay very little attention to and certainly haven’t felt was all that necessary to my general well-being, became extremely important.

Because I could barely walk.

As it turns out, that little sliced up toe carries a much heavier load than I realized. It’s not just added on to the side of my foot for looks. It’s a workhorse. 
I couldn’t wear anything except flip flops for five days. I limped and hobbled and shuffled along in a way that would have made anyone watching assume I had suffered a major leg injury. It was seven days before I could tolerate socks and tennis shoes enough to be able to go to the gym and even then the muscles in my calf and leg ached from the extra strain that had been put on them.

All because my unappreciated little toe was wounded.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that make my life easier—things I don’t even realize are working hard on my behalf. Everything from my ancient washing machine to the UPS driver delivering my Amazon Prime orders to my ceiling fans keeping the air moving on warm Spring days. 

Several years ago I began keeping a gratitude journal after reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. In this journal, I record the gifts of grace in my life, and a few weeks ago I crossed the 3000 mark. After 3000 gifts counted, I must admit that my gratitude well has run a bit dry recently. I mean I can always be thankful for coffee and chocolate (can I get an AMEN!), but I’ve been trying to think of something I haven’t already recorded multiple times.

This month, my goal is to be thankful for the little toes. The laundry baskets (not the clothes—the actual baskets). The ink pens (can we all just agree that while quills were cool, they weren’t super convenient to carry in your purse). The OtterBox on my iPhone (because while I tell people I need that level of protection because of my kids, the truth is I drop my phone at least once a day). Hair elastics, pencil sharpeners, and the little bones in my ear. 

These things are gifts from the Father—the same Abba who counts every single hair on our heads. My guess is that when I take the time to be thankful for even the smallest gifts, I’ll find myself more and more in awe of the Giver of all things. 

Join me?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What I Learned in March

Last month’s “What I Learned this Month” was quite well received, so I’m doing it again. It’s coming to you a little late … I hope you don’t mind!

Without further ado…Seven Things I Learned in March.

1. Kittens are cute. This winter, a stray cat adopted us (long story) and a few weeks ago, she had kittens on our deck. I don’t like cats, but really, the kittens are adorable. And while having a cat have kittens on the deck isn’t the kind of thing I would have written into our lesson plans for the year, it’s been a fun experience for the kids. 

2. Sometimes you need a new cup. I have a stainless steel thermos with a straw top I have used for years. I love it. It keeps my water cold, it doesn’t make a huge mess if it gets knocked over, it fits in my cup holder, it’s not made out of plastic…all excellent features. But I realized recently that the very act of sipping my water through a straw was slowing down my water consumption—by a lot. I’ve been ridiculously loyal to my thermos, but this month, I broke down and purchased a new Tervis tumbler (complete with Clemson Tiger paws) and a “water bottle lid” and my “glasses per day” numbers have skyrocketed. 

3. NEVER ever wait until the last minute to enter a contest. You know when the deadline is, you know it’s going to cost you money to enter, so you might be tempted to think, I’ll wait until the last day. DO NOT DO THIS. I recently entered a contest that I have never participated in. It wasn’t a difficult process, but there were a few extra steps I wasn’t expecting. Because I was entering two weeks before the deadline, they’d didn’t cause me any trouble, but I made myself a note that cutting the deadline close could be disastrous.

4. Peter and the Wolf is awesome! A local orchestra put on a free performance of Peter and the Wolf for school aged children and we absolutely loved it! The musicians brought their instruments into the audience and showed the kids their clarinets, French horns, flutes, and trombones. The music was engaging, the narrator funny and appropriately dramatic, and the performance kept even my five-year-old mesmerized. 

5. Vitamin D for the win! Seriously. I don’t realize how desperate I am for sunshine and longer days until I finally start experiencing more of it in March. My general disposition improves dramatically. Next year, I need to be more intentional about getting outside even on the cold days.

6. Sometimes I just need to stay home. There are a lot of great homeschool opportunities in my community. We have wonderful friends. We have family nearby. But sometimes what I need to do is stay home. I need to say no to field trips, lunch dates, quick visits, and meeting people for dinner. 

Not because there is anything wrong with any of that. But sometimes for the sake of my sanity and well-being, instead of saying “That sounds great - when should we meet you?” I need to say, “That sounds great but we can’t make it tonight. Another time?” 

And then I need to curl up with a book or watch a movie that I’ve seen 100 times and not feel guilty about it (that’s the tricky part). It’s a fine line to walk. Sometimes the excursion is so worth the rushed afternoon or the late night, but I’m trying to think hard about what my “Yes!” means for the rest of my day or week, for myself and for my kiddos.

7. I am not responsible for the miracle. This was my number one takeaway from the homeschool convention I attended in mid-March. It was shared by Sarah MacKenzie of the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast and Teaching from Rest fame (who I got to chat with at a meet-up after the convention and she is as delightful as she sounds on the podcast). I think she was quoting someone else, so I’m not exactly sure who to give credit for this, but I wrote these words in my journal and stared at them as she continued to speak. “I am not responsible for the miracle.” 

There’s much rest for a weary soul in those words. Whether it’s my efforts to rear my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, or my prayers for fragile relationships, broken bodies, or lost souls, I am not responsible for the miracle. God’s not fretting over my ability to “fix” anything, and if I’m stressing and working myself into a tizzy about it then I’ve installed myself in a position I have no business in. 

So that’s it for March. What about you? Did you learn something new this month? Share it with us in the comments!

Grace and peace,

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Our Stories Matter

There’s a very cool section in the book of Numbers that I think has a unique application to writers. 

If you haven’t perused this section of the Old Testament recently, you may not know that God gifted certain individuals with creative talents for the building of his Tabernacle and then called out entire families for specific areas of service. 

Very specific. He didn’t just say, “Hey, I want the Levites in charge of the Tabernacle.” He said, “I want this family responsible for the curtains, and this family responsible for the framework, and this family responsible for carrying the holy things. (Numbers 4 – check it out).

Here’s the thing…I wonder if some of the Levites in charge of the curtains felt slighted. They were Levites just like those guys in charge of the Ark of the Covenant. But could they carry it? Nope.

And I wonder if the Levites in charge of the Ark of the Covenant looked down their noses at the guys who carried the framework. I mean, really, how hard is it to carry poles?

This may sound ridiculous, but I’ve noticed that we writers? We’re bad about doing this to each other and to ourselves.

I'm guest posting today over at The Write Conversation....hop on over there to read the rest of the story!

Monday, February 29, 2016

What I Learned in January and February

Two of my favorite bloggers (Emily P. Freeman and Modern Mrs. Darcy) do something toward the end of each month that I always look forward to, so I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon.

I love to learn new things, and I want my kids to be lifelong learners. To help me model this for them, each month I’ll be sharing a “What I Learned in…” post. There are no rules here. The learning can be profound or profoundly ridiculous. The point is to pay attention to it all. 

So, without further ado…

What I Learned in January/February (I’m doubling up)!

1. I prefer cashew butter to almond butter.

I know, it sounds silly, but it’s been a big deal for me. I don’t consume a lot of peanut butter, even though I love it. Most people who make the switch to “healthier nut butters” go straight to almond butter. For the past couple of years, I’ve use almond butter and I like it. I just don’t love it. But cashew butter? Yumminess. 

I think there might be a larger lesson here. Something about not trying to force yourself to love something just because everyone else does? Or maybe about how it’s better to keep trying new things instead of assuming they are all basically the same? Come to think of it, that seems to be a theme for the entire month. Read on. 

2. I do not like e-books.

I don’t hate them. I’m not anti-Kindle or anti-Nook or anti-iPad. But if I have an e-book, there’s a good chance I’ll forget about it and never get it read. It just doesn’t speak to me the way the hardback on my nightstand or the paperback in my purse does.

3. I love going to movies alone.

After a near implosion mid-month, my wise husband sent me to a movie by myself. It was glorious. I may go to another one this month (he doesn’t know this yet). It’s not that I’m anti-social. But I am a highly-sensitive introvert and spending all day, every day with people, even the people I love more than anything in the world, makes me a little seriously crazy. 

That night, I went to dinner with my husband, then drove myself to the theatre where I arrived 45 minutes early (the only appropriate time to arrive for a move in my opinion). I got the best seat in the empty theatre then disappeared into another world (which included Chris Pine and that’s always a good thing) for a couple of hours. It was rejuvenating, both emotionally and creatively.

4. I love coffee. I don’t need the caffeine.

I gave up coffee in January. After 7 straight days of headaches, I finally broke free of the caffeine addiction. The coffee addiction, however, seems to be here to stay. I love a great cup of coffee in the morning, or with friends, but now I’m drinking decaf. Even at 6 a.m.

5. There are thousands of pounds of unexploded ordnance buried in Europe, particularly in Germany.  

I read a fascinating article in The Smithsonian about how/why so many bombs didn’t explode and were lost underground after the Allied bombing raids over Germany. My writer-brain is having a field day with it. I know there’s a way to use this in a story someday!

6. Mental clutter shuts me down and it’s worth the effort to clear it away.

I’m a very visual person and clutter drives me crazy, but I’ve always thought that as long as it was out of sight, it didn’t bother me. So things like cluttered closets or the kids’ messy bedrooms weren’t really an issue. WRONG. I spent a week cleaning out the kids’ rooms and closets and it has been deliciously freeing.

7. These sushi stacks are awesome. 

Try them. I’m not saying you won’t miss your favorite sushi restaurant, but they may help you survive until your next roll. (Random: The fact that I now love sushi is a complete mystery to anyone who knew me as a kid. If you have a picky eater, take heart. They may outgrow it!)

Ok – that’s it for now. I actually have five more things, but this post is already too long. 

I’d love for you to leave a comment and share one, two, or twenty things you’ve learned so far this year.