Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Jesus and the Beanstalk by Lori Roeleveld


I've been hearing about this book for a while now. Heard it wasn't like anything else out there. Heard it wasn't going to be "for everybody." 

Once I finally got my hands on it, I understood.

It is NOT like any thing I've ever read. It's part Christian living, but not like what you think of when you hear "Christian living." It's part devotional, but not like what you think of when you hear "devotional."

It is other.

Which is appropriate, because overcoming giants? Living a fruitful life? That requires something OTHER.

You don't need me to tell me you that. You already know. You already know that the usual stuff isn't going to cut it. And that's why you need to read this book. 

Lori is not interested in patting you on the back and telling you a fluffy story. This is a grown up story for grown ups fighting grown up giants in grown up battles.

If you're looking for a book full of platitudes that will make you feel better, this book isn't for you. If you're happy remaining childish in your faith, then you should pass.

But it you want to take your childLIKE faith and put some muscle on it? 
If you want to explore what virtue looks like in this day and age?
If you want to learn how to use Biblical knowledge in battle?
If you have issues with self-control (um, ouch), know you aren't always as steadfast as you should be, get a little nervous about "godliness," struggle with how to juggle affection and confrontation, and suspect that there is something missing in the way you love...then Jesus and the Beanstalk could be the very thing you didn't even realize you were looking for.

I know. Some of you are getting a little antsy. This sounds a lot like to-dos and those of us who consider ourselves to be recovering legalists tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to anyone telling us we NEED to do ANYTHING other than trust in Jesus.

Relax.

This book is not about condemnation. 
This book is not about doing more or pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.

It IS about putting on the whole armor of God. 
It IS about growing in our understanding of Scripture.
It IS about seeking holiness and righteousness.
It IS about Biblical sanctification. 

It is OTHER.

And it can help you live a life that will point others to Jesus and the extraordinary, better-than-any-fairytale life He offers.


About the book: 

Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life (Abingdon Press, September 2016)

What if a fairy tale and ten Bible verses could free you to live an effective, fruitful life in Christ?

We live in unsettling, challenging times. Everywhere we look, we see giant problems: giant obstacles to sharing faith, giant barriers to peaceful lives, giant strongholds of fear. But what if you knew eight small secrets to unlocking a strength big enough to overcome whatever obstacle life may bring?
Using allegory and a bit of humor, Jesus and the Beanstalkexplores a passage in 2 Peter 1 to uncover eight truths that will help you unleash a larger-than-life faith:

-Faith
-Goodness
-Knowledge
-Self-control
-Perseverance
-Godliness
-Affection for others
-Love
In this creative, refreshing perspective on spiritual growth, you will discover an unyielding strength when you tap the power of a God who is stronger than any beanstalk and bigger than your biggest giants.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/2dcnopJ
About the author:


Lori Stanley Roeleveld is the author of Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus) and Red Pen Redemption. Her blog, LoriRoeleveld.com, was voted Top 100 Christian Blogs by RedeemingGod.com and has enjoyed over 1.5 million views. Lori lives in Hope Valley, RI.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

God Calls Everyone to Care, But . . .



The image flooded social media and I couldn’t look away. A little boy covered in dust, dazed, alone, having been pulled from the rubble of a building. A little boy who could have been my Drew. Same size. Same age.
What if that had been Drew?
What if that was our life?

My questions bubbled into lament. Why, God? How can You stand it? How can You let it go on? And how can You tolerate those of us who go on about our lives as if there is nothing seriously messed up about our world?

I sobbed. I raged. I begged God to show me what I could do. 

I know He calls average moms to extraordinary work. They visit a slum, a quarry, a certain street, and nothing is ever the same. They begin ministries that save thousands of lives from slavery and starvation. I could do that, too.

I was willing. As a teenager I was ready to go anywhere. Learn any language. Take any risk to spread the gospel. I was standing on my tiptoes in the dugout, ready to take my place in the lineup. But I never got the call. Not for that, anyway.

I went to college. Got married. Got a good job. Had a daughter, then a son. I started writing, and we had another son, and then the writing took off and I got published! 

And then God led our family to homeschool the boys. Homeschooling! I did NOT see that coming but, okay. 

I continue to homeschool and write and God has continued to bless those pursuits, but as I sat there bawling my eyes out over a very real child halfway around the world, I had to ask . . . What about the big stuff, God? What can I do?

Crickets. 

(You know how it is when your kids have really ticked you off and you don’t speak so you can avoid saying something you’ll regret? Yeah…this silence may have been a much holier version of that…read on).

I slept that night with the prayer of, “Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus,” on my lips. In the days that followed I wrestled with the relative ease of my life. I live in a nice house in a safe part of town. I live in a part of the country where my faith is rarely questioned, much less mocked. I homeschool two of my three children. That’s about the most radical thing I do, and where I live, it’s not that radical. I write inspirational romantic suspense. My stories have a message of faith, and at some point there will be some nasty reviews about them because of that, but so far I’ve suffered nothing that could be called persecution for my faith.

But I would risk all of that if God would just put me in the game!

God let me wrestle with why He has put me here, doing what are relatively easy things for the Kingdom, when I am so willing to do more . . . until He’d had enough. 

That’s when He pierced me with this...

What makes you think I love your neighbors any less than those people around the world? When did you decide the people in your city didn’t need to hear about me? Or that the people who read your books don’t need to hear the Truth in exactly the way you’re telling it? Have you forgotten who I AM? 

What makes you think I don’t already have you doing something *big* - or it could be big if you’d quit worrying about why I haven’t moved you to the Middle East and start focusing on the ministry you have in your own home and on your own doorstep. What could you do for My Kingdom if you cried as much over the lost, broken and hurting in your own sphere of influence as you are over that child?” #Dropsmic

I’ve been living with that reprimand for a while now and I’ve realized something.

God calls everyone to care, but God doesn’t call everyone to go. At least not the way we usually define "go."

Sometimes He calls us to stay. To stay in our nice subdivisions and be bold about our faith. To stay in our comfortable churches and use them as the launching pad for reaching our communities. To stay in our jobs and be a light to our coworkers. To exhibit God’s love on the soccer field and in the rehearsal hall. Sometimes he calls us to stay in the house writing a book and to trust Him that it will somehow play a role in the larger Story He is writing. 

He calls us to stay put and to be intentional about entering into what He is already doing. Right where we are.

This isn’t a call to stick our head in the sand and pretend that evil doesn’t exist. 
Staying put doesn’t mean staying oblivious and staying put doesn't mean we don't cry out to God on behalf of our broken world. It doesn't even mean that we don't continue ask Him what He would have us do.

But if He tells us to stay, we need to remember that wherever we are called to be—it matters. 

We can be sure God has important work for us to do. What might He do through us if we realized that as far as He’s concerned, we all have a big role to play? That no location or ministry trumps another? That whether we are serving in Africa, Aleppo, Alabama, or the Annual Company Softball Tournament, if we are being obedient to His call, then our work has eternal significance?

He has called all of us to extraordinary work. 
I don’t know about you, but I need to get busy.


Colossians 4:17b - See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord. (ESV)


I’d love for you to leave a comment and share how and where God is using you, and how you are joining Him in His work whether it’s in your own home or around the world. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Turns Out I'm Just Like Gideon

I don’t like talking about this. 
It feels like bragging. 
I’d much rather let someone else share the good news while I nod, smile, say thank you, and we all move on.
How do you tell people you won an award (or, um, two) without it sounding cocky or prideful?
I don’t know.

Covert Justice won the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel and a few months ago it won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense.

Why was that so hard to say? It’s ridiculous really. Especially since my #1 love language is Words of Affirmation. I crave approval the way a kid craves sugar. But even when other people talk about it, it makes me uncomfortable. I appreciate it, but I don’t know what do with it. 

So I’ve been talking to my heavenly Father about it. About why He’s chosen to give me such lovely affirmations and about why I’m simultaneously ecstatic and embarrassed by them.

don’t have a definitive answer. I may never get one. But this weekend, I got a glimpse, a snippet, a clue into what’s going on. 
Turns out, I’m just like Gideon. 
Two fleeces. Two awards.
Gulp.

You know the story, right? God calls Gideon to a work he doesn’t think he can do, so Gideon asks God to prove it. To prove to Gideon that all of this hasn’t been in his imagination and that He will be with him in battle. Instead of God turning Gideon into a little pile of Gideon dust, God agrees to the test! One night, the fleece is wet and the ground is dry, and still Gideon doesn’t quite believe. The next night, the fleece is dry and the ground is wet. Boom.

I didn’t ask God for a fleece, but I might as well have. He knows my heart. Knows my fears and insecurities. 

Now, I have to wonder if when I sit down to write a new story and am overcome with panic that someone’s going to figure out that I.AM.A.FRAUD.—does God want to grab my face in His holy hands and turn it around until I see those two awards sitting on the mantle? The two awards for a book that I didn’t think I could write. For a book that His fingerprints are all over. For a book that has opened up opportunities for me that I never could have imagined.

Is He waiting for me to finally believe?

Not to believe that I can do anything, but that He can do everything. 
Not to think that I have any reason to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, but to understand that I have every reason to shout from the rooftops how awesome He is, and to cheerfully and with a peaceful heart move forward into the battle He’s calling me to fight. 

Is He wondering just how much He is going to have to do to convince me?

I wish I could tell you that this realization has left me raring to charge into the fray. That my fingers are twitching with the possibilities. That I’m thrilled to find out how God is going to show up in this next chapter.

But the truth is, I’m still afraid. 
My mouth is dry, my chest is tight. My fear of failure is off the charts.
So I do what I always do. I try to figure it out. I work myself half to death this week and I get caught up. I get caught up on the laundry, the housework, the bills, the school schedule.

And I kid you not…five minutes after I think, “Okay. I’m going to survive this. This is going to work,” I get an email that sends me right back into panic mode.
It’s a good email. A positive one. But it contains marching orders. There’s more to do.

And once more, I wonder why God picked me for this and then I think about Gideon. He figured it out. He gathered his army—and God sent most of them home. We all know why—so no one would ever be able to say he’d won in his own strength. The battle is the Lord’s. He will win it. And anyone watching, anyone listening to the story as it’s told later, will have no choice but to say, “God did that.”

So this is where I am. 

I’m marching into battle armed with a few words and a few ideas and a whole lot of questions. I am terrified, but I know that anything good that has ever happened or ever will happen is because of Him. I am clinging to these words from Thessalonians… He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” 

If you want to know how you can best support my writing, pray that I will stay close to Jesus and that I will rely on Him to do what only He can.
He’s amazing and when I’m not hyperventilating, I really am excited to see what He’s going to do next.




Thank you for joining me on this wild adventure with Christ.
Grace and peace,
Lynn




Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What I Learned in August






It’s that time again. August was a wild ride and the stuff I learned this month? 
Pretty random. 
Here goes.

1. The Olympics are my favorite. Oh my word. I get lost in the backstories of the athletes, the drama of the competition, the rivalries. Love me some rivalries. You have medals? I want you to win more. You don’t have medals? I want you to finally win one! 
I will cheer for the USA as long as we are in the fight, and if we aren’t, I’ll pick some other country to cheer for. And my reasons for choosing are as logical as wanting to see the home country win or as random as having issues with the color of someone’s uniform. I love it. I stay up late to watch even though I know I could Google it to find out who won. But where’s the fun in that?! I know some people who just don’t care about the Olympics, but I am not one of those people. 

2. The InstantPot rocks. I got mine a few weeks ago when they lowered the price on Amazon Prime day. I’m still figuring it out, but I love it. Boiled eggs - perfection. They peeled so easily, I might actually be able to make some pretty deviled eggs now. Roasts in 70 minutes. Frozen chicken breasts become shredded chicken in under 30 minutes. I have dreams of meal planning and always being prepared when dinner time rolls around but I have yet to see them come true. The InstantPot is a lifesaver for someone like me

3. Lularoe for the win. Have you heard of this stuff? Leggings that are as soft as butter. Shirts that actually hang down long enough to cover your rear when you are wearing those leggings because—say it with me—LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS. My sister got me hooked on LLR and I now own several (cough, cough) pairs of leggings and a few (or, you know, 6) shirts. They are so comfortable. Seriously the most perfect outfit for a homeschooling, writer mom who needs to be able to run outside and throw the football one minute and then snuggle up with her laptop in the next. These are actual clothes—and they look like clothes—but they are as comfy as pajamas. What more could a girl want?

4. Always travel with $1 bills. Let me explain. I rarely have cash. When I do, it’s because I just hit an ATM. So I have $20s. $20s work just fine until you need some smaller bills. Say to tip the bellman at the fancy hotel you just showed up in. But you only have $20s. And he’s nice and friendly and he got your key card to work for you but $20? I’m generally a big tipper, but I can’t go $20. So instead you turn as red as your laptop cover and mumble how you don’t have anything to tip him with but could you please get his name and hunt him down later? And you can tell he totally doesn’t believe you will, and then you spend the next 3 days trying to locate him in the lobby of the hotel. Lesson learned. Keep some $1s and $5s handy. 
BTW—I found him. His name was Kevin and he was awesome and I was right. He didn’t believe me. We ended up having a lovely chat and he told me people say that all the time and then never follow through. So if you don’t heed my advice and fail to have small bills handy, promise the bellman a tip and then make good. It just might open up an opportunity to share a teensy bit of the Gospel with him and who knows what God might do with that? 


Me with Lynette Eason after the Carol Awards!
5. Listen to your mentors. Someday I'm going to talk more about this, but for now, here's what I've learned. If God has been gracious to you and put mentors in your life, when they tell you you "must" do something? You should probably do it. I'm not going to say always, because humans are fallible and it's possible they could be wrong. But if you have two mentors who gang up on you and INSIST you take a certain course of action? Yeah. Probably better just say, "Yes, ma'am" and do it. 
The screen shot that left me stunned.
In my case, two of my mentors (Lynette Eason and Edie Melson) ganged up on me last March and insisted I enter a couple of contests. Contests I had NO PLANS to enter. None. I said things like, "It's a waste of time and money for me to enter." They refused to listen. And now they walk around with big heads saying, "I told you so." :) 

Me with Edie at the ACFW Gala.
6. Sometimes obedience is fun. Edie shared that little nugget with me a few weeks ago when I was being all angsty about winning awards. Recognition and awards are awesome. Really and truly awesome. But I struggle with it. I don’t want to be prideful—and I know how fast my sinful heart can go there. But I also don’t want to be ungrateful. As another dear friend (and frequent deliverer of spiritual Gibbs’ slaps), Lori Roeleveld reminded me, these awards are gifts from God. Gifts from my very good Father. And as a parent, how would I feel if I gave my children a gift and they said, “It’s nice, but I didn’t really want it?” So I’m trying to stay close to Jesus and enjoy the gifts He’s giving. And trying to remember that while sometimes God does ask us to do hard things, sometimes, obedience is fun. 

So what about you? Did you discover something awesome in August? Share it with us in the comments!

Friday, July 29, 2016

What I Learned in July

How is it possibly already the end of July? How? 

Anyway - it's been a C-R-A-Z-Y month, but here are a few things I learned in July.


Dollywood has an amazing guest assistance program. If you travel with a child with any sort of disability, you know how difficult it can be to face long lines, loud crowds, and staring patrons. We spent two days at Dollywood this month and we were very impressed by their attention and care for their guests with disabilities. A quick stop at the ride accessibility office provided us with a card that gave us easy (and fast) access to all the rides, as well as a phone number we could call if we needed anything, or wanted access to Dollywood's new calming room. The Calming Room was fabulous. Thirty minutes of peace, quiet, books, comfy places to sit, and a break from the crowds. It was just what our girl needed to get through the rest of the day. Who am I kidding…it didn't hurt me, either!

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Cacao Nibs are amazing. They are my new favorite writing snack. They are tiny, it doesn't take much for me to feel like I've had enough (unlike milk chocolate which I can eat in large quanities and still want more), and they have the crunch from the cacao nib that makes them simply delightful. I'm a fan!

Lavender Oil is the BEST thing for burns. I promise I'm not going to turn into an essential oil evangelist, but despite my original skepticism toward them I have been blown away by how well Lavender Oil works on sunburns and kitchen burns (which I have a LOT of experience with). Our youngest managed to get a pretty bad burn after a day at the lake. I slathered him in some coconut oil that I mixed with the lavender. No complaints, no drama, and next morning, no redness. Even my husband was amazed. I keep Lavender in my kitchen for when I splatter myself with grease or attempt to reach into the oven and burn myself on the rack (don't ask). It works every time. 

Chocolate Avocado Smoothie - I can't call this health food because people have checked the calorie/sugar counts and shared them in the comments (just look), but this is way better for me than a milkshake, and it satisfies my sweet tooth. Even better, my kids hate it. :) Probably because of the flax seed, or maybe it's because I don't use as much honey as called for so it's not super sweet. Regardless, I don't have to share! 


Buy the big pot. I have several recipes that are part of our regular meal rotation. I make them often, and I usually double the recipe and freeze whatever is left to save myself some time and trouble later. The problem has been that I haven't had a big enough pot to double the recipe without having to divvy it up into multiple pots or deal with lots of spillovers. I finally broke down and bought a BIG pot. WHY did I wait to do this? It made meal prep so much more enjoyable and cleanup so much easier. Take my advice…by the big pot. 

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Friday, July 15, 2016

ACFW Pre-Conference Mix and Mingle

In late August, I’m headed to my very first ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. I am so excited! 

Laurie Tomlinson is hosting a super fun “mix and mingle” link up on her website for conference attendees to get to know each other prior to the big event. The rules are simple…you answer the questions she has listed and then link your post on her blog. 



So here goes…

Name: Lynn Blackburn (I write as Lynn Huggins Blackburn, but that is a mouthful).

Location: Simpsonville, SC

What you write/tagline/trademark: Romantic Suspense

Place in the book world: My debut novel, Covert Justice, is a Carol finalist in the Short Novel category! I'm represented by the fabulous Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. 

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: Did you see my maiden name? I’m all for the hugs. :) 

Something VERY serious: How do you take your Starbucks? During the summer, I’ll take it iced. Cream only. I love the Flat White anytime, but at Christmas I’m all about the Chestnut Praline Latte. Decaf. 

The unique talking points that will get you going for hours: Clemson Tigers football, Bullet Journals, Homeschooling, Special Needs parenting, Hamilton, NCIS.

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: My husband, 13-year-old daughter, almost 8-year-old son, and 5(and a half!)-year-old son. 

Conference goals we can pray for? I’m mostly coming to learn and network, but I will also be pitching a new romantic suspense series. 

Anything we can celebrate with you? My debut novel won the Selah Award (Mystery/Suspense category) at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and I’m still hyperventilating!

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? You can follow me on Twitter and sign up for my newsletter here!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Rules for the Rest of my Summer Vacation


As a kid the main advantage I could see to summer vacation was the virtually unlimited reading time it provided. But by July, I was ready for routines, new textbooks, and bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m still not the biggest fan of summer vacation. I appreciate the break from the routine, while simultaneously craving the return of it. I love the potential of a slower pace to our days, but find myself fighting the tendency to fill them to the brim with activity. I enjoy hanging out at the pool or the lake with friends, but dread the laundry that follows. 

I want my kids to look back on their summers with delight. Lightning bugs. Popsicles. Staying up late. Sleeping in (although one of mine may NEVER sleep past 6:15…sigh). But I also want to reclaim some of the joy of summers for myself. I want to read more. Write more. Play more. Stress less.
How does a 42-year-old wife, mom of three, author, homeschooling kind of mom actually do this?  

Honestly, I have no idea. But I know that it's the middle of July and while I do have a few truly good things to show for the past few weeks, I can see a disturbing trend. One that involves me spending too much time on my phone and not enough time with my nose in a book. Too much time performing tasks and not nearly enough time playing games. 

I do have things I need to accomplish over the next 6 weeks, but I’m thinking there has to be a way to cross off some big to-do list items AND roll into September (it’s really mid-August but I’m in denial) feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a new school year.

I know for myself that a BIG part of my problem is screen time. This is tricky for me, because the whole “writing thing” kind of requires screen time. But you know what it doesn’t require? Facebook. 
I love Facebook, but I’ve come to realize that my social media time has gotten out of hand.

So I’ve decided to run a little experiment and I’m telling you about it in order to keep myself accountable. You may have seen this handy little sheet that has made the rounds on Pinterest and Facebook where the kids in the house have a list of things they have to do every day before they get any screen time. (Yes, I do appreciate the irony here). Anyway, I’ve made a few modifications for myself and my life and I’m going to give it a shot for a few weeks and see if I can tell a difference.

Here are my Rules for the rest of my Summer Vacation (Rules apply when I'm at home. There are NO rules when I'm at the lake or in the mountains!) --  


Before you start surfing Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram for non-work related matters you must:

** Spend some time in the Word.
** Make your bed.
** Hydrate—this means WATER not coffee—not that I won’t also have coffee!
** CrossFit (unless it’s an intentional rest day - I can’t hit the box 7 days a week).
** Read for thirty minutes - for fun, not heavy reading.
** Write for thirty minutes.
** Clean a room (ha - like this even needs to be on the list).
** Tackle one “project” for thirty minutes.
** Do one load of laundry (sigh).
** Play with the kids—go to the pool, throw the football, shoot some hoops, read a book, draw with chalk pastels (I’m terrible at it but the kids like it), color.
** Make contact with a friend—write a letter (imagine!), text, call.

If the whole day happens and I never open my Facebook page and don’t find any cool pins on Pinterest? I think I’d be okay with that. 

I’m curious how you handle screen time - not for your kids, but for yourself? If you have any awesome tips or tricks, a funny story or an inspiring one, please share!