Monday, May 24, 2010

Further Proof that I am Weird

image courtesy of

Are you laughing?

Thinking - "yeah, like we needed more proof"?

Well, it's true. I am weird. I accept this about myself.

But every now and then, something happens to confirm my weirdness.

I understand some of it better than I did before. While at Blue Ridge, the amazing Vonda Skelton shared with us last Monday night that writers are a weird bunch. She was so funny. And she made the point that one of the things that makes us weird is that we see terrible situations as plot material. I thought it was hilarious, but couldn't think of a specific time when it had happened to me.

It happened one week later. 

Picture it . . . a mom who has showered, done her hair & makeup and is dressed in matching clothes, with her two adorable children, calmly and sweetly climbing into the mini-van for the morning trek to school, all with smiles and singing a hymn.

Um. Yeah. So if that's how it goes at your house, more power to you.

Here's how it played out at mine.

James is strapped into his car seat. He is dressed in play clothes, but only because he spilled applesauce all over his pajamas. I am in a t-shirt and a pair of pants that I wore when I painted the bathroom a few weeks ago. There's a lot of paint on the pants. I have NOT had a shower. In fact, I may not have brushed my teeth.

I'm saying "Emma Kalyn Blackburn - GET IN THE CAR." This line is repeated ad naseam for the next five minutes.

Now, you might ask, why didn't you just put her in the car?

Because . . .

I couldn't find my keys.

I'm wandering around the house, I'm asking James if he's had them (he has a reputation), I'm calling Brian to see if it is possible that he managed to leave the house with both sets of keys.

They were in the diaper bag.

It's around this time that I see the note reminding me that today is FIELD DAY and the kids are supposed to wear their class t-shirts and have a complete change of clothes because they will be getting wet.

There is no time for this. Emma goes to school in the clothes she already had on. I go grab a change of clothes and a towel and stuff them in her bag.

And, we're off. Miraculously, only five minutes later than usual.

Until we get behind the most annoying driver on the planet.

Now I ask you, how many people are out and about for the sheer joy of it at 7:30 in the morning?


People are on their way to work or school. Or maybe to get coffee. But 99.9999% of the people driving around at 7:30AM are in a hurry.

I, however, got behind the 0.0001% of the population who was not.

(Like the math there? I'm sure my parents are thrilled to see my engineering degree paying off!)

The next several minutes were torture. This person consistently drove, not at the speed limit, but five to ten miles BELOW.

I'm in a hurry here. I can't imagine how it is possible for this person not to know this!

The moment that almost sent me hurtling into the abyss (I'd been over the edge for 15 minutes already) was when this lovely person SLOWED DOWN and almost came to a complete stop.

At a GREEN light. GREEN.

Did I mention it was GREEN?

I began to explain the situation to my precious children . . .

OK. I began to rant at the driver (oh, come on - you do it too) and at some point in my rant said "You just can't make this stuff up"!

And it hit me.

I can't make this up. But this is absolutely the perfect thing to torture my hero with on the very day he has to go to work with the heroine. He's tired, cranky, snapping at his precious daughter, dreading going to the office and then he gets behind that one in a million driver who is out for a joyride at 7:30 AM.


I've almost got the whole scene plotted out in my head.

What? You've never been stuck behind a slow poke and used the experience to torture the hero in the story you have mostly in your head?

Like I said.

Further proof that I am weird.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blue Ridge Friday

Don't worry. I'm not confused.

I know the conference ended Thursday.


But I think it may take a few weeks to get back to normal.

My husband and children were so glad to have me home. They had flowers and a plan for supper that did not include cooking! I so appreciate their - OK, Brian's - sensitivity and understanding that I was worn out. And he knows when I'm exhausted, taking supper off my hands is guaranteed to make me happy!

I got home, got unpacked, played with my little ones, watched TV with Brian and went to bed earlier than I have in a week.

But now it's Friday.

This may not make sense to anyone who wasn't at Blue Ridge, but I feel weird.

Not, I'm a writer so I'm weird. I feel that way all the time.

More, I'm a writer. Holy cow. Now, how do I make that work into my life? And what should I do first? Should I work on my plot skeleton for my next book? And I want to type up all my notes so I can firmly plant them into my brain.

But wait, I've got to tweak the beginning of my manuscript and get it sent out. Pronto.

I also need to clean the bathrooms.


I hate cleaning bathrooms.

I was warned that post-conference depression is normal.

I wouldn't say I'm depressed. But I can feel myself coming off the conference "high" and I'm not sure the return to reality is going to be a totally smooth transition.

It's only taken me several hundred words to figure out the one word I need to describe how I feel.


When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path. Psalm 142:3 (NASB)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blue Ridge Wednesday

What a day.

Even as I type this, I'm not sure if I can adequately describe it.

I've been a little frustrated with myself this week. I'm having a great time, meeting people, learning tons, networking, discovering that while I am every bit as weird as I had suspected, so are a lot of other people!

But for some reason, God has felt distant. Or I've felt distant. Or something.

The worship here has been great, but I haven't felt the way I frequently do during worship. I'm a crier and I haven't even come close to shedding a tear.

I've been praying, soaking up the messages, but still, something was missing.

Until this morning.

I was getting ready and I could feel the tension increasing as my neck and shoulders were tightening up. And I hadn't even made it to breakfast yet.

I never did.

I opened my Bible, still a bit frustrated with my apparent inability to "feel" close to my Abba during this oh-so-important week, and I said, out loud, "I wish I could just find this Psalm". I've been thinking about it for weeks but over the past couple of days, I could not remember where it was. I wasn't even 100% sure it was a Psalm. It might have been a Proverb.

I opened my Bible at random, into the Psalms. And just started reading. And then, some underlined verses on the right hand side caught my eye.

Psalm 138:8-The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

The elusive Psalm. Right there. Opened to at "random".

I'll spare you the details of the next fifteen minutes. But my Abba & I had such a sweet time together this morning.

There was a lot of crying (which is why I didn't go to breakfast).

But there is also so much peace.

I've been so hesitant to say that "I am a Writer" and even more hesitant to say that I have been "called" to write. It seemed . . . presumptuous? bizarre? impossible?

Uh-oh. I'm about to start crying again.

Because I am.

I am a writer.

I am called to write.

That doesn't mean I'll ever be published. As I heard from DiAnn Mills this afternoon, God's calling to write does not come with a publication contract!

But that's OK. I don't write for publication or for my fame or for people to be impressed by me.

I write for Him.

I write to spread His fame.

I write so people will be blown away by how awesome He is.

I write.

And He will fulfill His purpose for me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blue Ridge Tuesday

Random things I am loving about my conference experience.

My room has no TV.

So far I've eaten meals with Steven James, Angela Hunt, Deb Raney, Vonda Skelton, and Karen Schurrer (an editor).

My room has a radio that came equipped to play music from my mp3 player.

The coffee shop here serves Starbucks.

The vending machine on my floor takes credit cards.

I've known at least one person in every class I've attended.

The worship time is phenomenal.

Everyone is friendly and supportive.

The food has been great - far better than I expected in a cafeteria setting.

If you happen to find yourself walking beside faculty members, they talk to you. As if they are just normal people and not bestselling authors :-).

My room has wireless access so I can type this in my pajamas.

Good night!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blue Ridge Monday


I have had an awesome day.

I managed to get appointments scheduled with all the agents here, so if nothing else, I'll get lots of practice making my pitch.

I'm taking a continuing class taught by Angela Hunt - which means I get to absorb about 6 hours of writing instruction from a master. She's fabulous. She also gave us homework.

I had lunch with the editor here representing Bethany House and now I can send in a proposal (you can't do this unless they request it - well, you could, but they won't read it).

Then I had my critique. And walked out on a cloud! DiAnn Mills is no slouch in the writing world. She's won tons of awards and she judges contests and she's a mentor with the Christian Writer's Guild. And she thinks my book has serious potential.

Picture me - goofy grin - trying to be all cool as I realize she's not going to tell me to go home and delete all my files. 

Granted, if I do everything she suggested it will mean a major-league re-write. But no one ever said this was going to be easy. And, given that I just started writing 14 months ago, I think it is fairly fabulous!

I'm having a great time.

Now, if you'll excuse me . . . I need to do my homework!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blue Ridge Sunday

So. I'm here.

I met some lovely people in line during registration - several of whom I had already met online. It's been fun to put faces to names. And I continue to be humbled and amazed at God's goodness. He has placed people in my life that have helped me prepare for this week and I am so thankful!

I found my room with no trouble and even managed to find a parking space that tilts ever so slightly down and has a curb - I do not trust Brian's parking brake so this gave me extra peace of mind that I wouldn't be the one known as "that girl whose car went down the mountain in the middle of the night."

Of course, in true "newbie" style, I managed to get lost.


Picture it. Me. Tote bag over my shoulder. Wandering the halls of a building looking for an exit, and then eventually just turning around and going back out the door I came in and wandering in what I hoped was the right direction.

I did eventually find the building I was looking for - totally by accident.

Since then, it's been pretty busy. I've had a class, dinner, and got to hear Jerry B. Jenkins - who it turns out is very funny. I didn't expect to laugh so much.

So, that was Sunday. Now to get ready for Monday.

Ah. Monday. When the fun really begins. Tomorrow I have my critique and my first appointment with an agent.

I'm going to lie down.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


What a week!

I'm doing laundry, buying groceries for two weeks, trying to think of every possible scenario that might present itself while I'm away and prepare for it in advance, doing laundry - oh, I already said that. Well, there's enough laundry to deserve a double mention.

On the writing front, I'm almost ready. I'm afraid to say I am ready, because I don't want to jinx it, and because it sounds cocky and because it isn't true.

I'm as ready as I'm gonna get.

That's more like it.

But all this preparation and angst - I'll be away from my family for 6 of the next 8 days - got me thinking.

Scary, I know.

I got to thinking about how Jesus might have felt as he prepared to leave the disciples. Now, Jesus, being God and knowing everything, could have just been like "Oh, they'll be fine" and left it at that. But Jesus, being human and experiencing everything we feel didn't do that. He asked the Father (you can look it up - John 14) to send the disciples a Comforter who would stay with them (and us) forever.

Now, in my case, I know my children will be fine. They have a wonderful father who is more than capable of dressing, bathing and feeding them. They'll have a blast since they get to hang out with Grandma and Aunt Jennifer the whole time. So I'm not worried. I'm not. Quit laughing. I. Am. Not. Worried.

But think of what Jesus saw when He looked at his disciples. Talk about children. Children with the spiritual maturity of a five year old on a good day. Children who couldn't seem to stay out of trouble. Children who needed Him. Desperately.

And He saw us. Two thousand years later. Often with the spiritual maturity of a three year old on a bad day. Children who need Him desperately.

So the Father sent the Comforter. And Jesus sits at the right hand and intercedes on our behalf. Because while He is not here physically with us, He loves us. He misses us. He longs for the day when the Father says "Go" and He can bring us to where He is. Forever.

I have some friends who are hurting today. They've recently lost fathers and grandfathers. They celebrated Mother's Day, knowing it would be the last time they got to do that with their mom on earth. They've gotten bad news from test results and the future looks grim.

I've been there. I know the ache and confusion of wondering why God doesn't fix this or that.

I don't have the answers.

But I know my Jesus. And I know He loves us.

I know that the love I feel for my children is a fraction of the love He feels for us.

And I know that as much as I would never leave my children without preparing them for my absence, my Savior prepared us to go through life without his physical presence.

I know the Holy Spirit is present, praying for them when all they can do is cry. I know that Jesus is interceding on their behalf. I know that the Everlasting Arms of the Father are wrapped around them even as they feel like their world is crumbling.

I know He is holding them - and me - tight in His mighty hand. And there is no safer place to be.

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet, I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:15-16a ESV)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Juggling Act

I can play the piano.

I can knit.

I can't juggle.

But that doesn't stop me from trying.

Me and every other mom I know.

There's the house that needs to be cleaned. At least occasionally.

There's the laundry that has to be done. At least washed and dried. Folding is optional.

There's the cooking that is required. Or at least the takeout to be ordered.

Most of the mom's I know either have a job outside the home or the equivalent time commitments at school, church or in the community. They are room moms, Sunday school teachers, volunteers. They serve on committees, coach ball teams, organize fundraisers. They homeschool, lead small groups, sing in choirs.

Oh, and on top of that they are supposed to find time to exercise. Yeah. Right.

I don't know any moms that don't struggle with the juggle. Even when we try to scale back, the workload is overwhelming.

Because with all that, we haven't mentioned our core roles as wives. mothers, daughters of the Most High.

I want to do it all. I can't.

Right now, I'm juggling a full calendar, a writers conference, a major school decision, a child with a cold, a husband who has to deal with the financial markets daily, a house that needs to be cleaned, a pile of laundry I don't want to tackle, the list goes on and on. And if you're reading this, you can fill in the blanks with your own list I'm sure.

If I'm honest, there are a few things on my list that don't have to be there.

I said yes when I should have said no.

I'm not great at the "no" part. But I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that I can't do the things I'm called to do if my life is cluttered with good things, but things that don't need to there.

I'm encouraged by something our pastor said last Sunday.

When God calls you to something, He will provide everything you need to accomplish it.

But I can't help but note that he didn't say anything about God providing everything we need to accomplish all the stuff we pile on because we think we should or we don't want to hurt someone's feelings or look bad at the next PTA meeting.

Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

So as a Mother's Day gift to myself, I'll be spending some time over the next few weeks asking God to show me what taking on His yoke means for me. And asking Him to show me what needs to be taken from around my neck and laid aside.

I'll still be juggling more than I think I can manage.

And that's OK. As Beth Moore pointed out in her study on Esther, God is never going to give me a life I can manage, because then I would go and do just that!

But I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)

Maybe even juggle!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Two Weeks

So, the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer's Conference (talk about a mouthful) is two weeks away.


Insert Darth Vader theme music here. Extra points if you add in the heavy, ominous breathing for the full effect.

Are you getting the idea that I'm starting to panic?

You would be correct!

So, in order to distract myself from the things I should be doing - like polishing my one-sheet and practicing my elevator pitch - I've been thinking about a few things missing from the conference preparation.

Keep in mind, I've never been, so maybe I'm wrong.

For example, when perusing the class schedule and realizing I need to clone myself at least eight times in order to take every class I want, I decided there is one class that they really need to consider adding.

Goal Setting for the Fiction Writer - this class will help you set realistic goals, both for your writing and your life. Topics covered will include:
  • You cannot complete a manuscript, edit, polish and prepare a full fiction proposal for said manuscript, while also polishing and preparing a proposal for the one completed manuscript you have in the three months prior to the conference. While your hero is able to hunt down the bad guys and save the girl on three hours of sleep, you are a grouchy, ill-tempered mama when you don't get at least seven hours. Take it slow sister. One manuscript at a time, thank you.
  • You cannot lose ten pounds in three weeks. While your heroine may be 5'2" and 110 pounds and prefers to drink French roast coffee - black, you, my dear, are a 5'3", slightly heavier than 110 pound southern girl with an addiction to sweet tea who only drinks coffee loaded with sugar, milk and chocolate. There is a Liquid Highway less than two miles from your home and you drive past it twice a day, five days a week. Given the stress levels inherent with conference preparation . . . honey, you don't stand a chance.
And then there's the matter of "what to expect" at the conference. Our Yahoo group has seen post after post regarding proper attire (side bar - most of these are from women - the guys don't seem fussed about it) and tips on how to be organized. I've seen great suggestions for wearing flat shoes (lots of walking) and carrying breath mints (don't want to fry that uber-agent's eyebrows off).

But there have been a few suggestions that no one has offered and I can't imagine why. For example:
  1. Do not, under any circumstances, order spaghetti or fried chicken. Do I really need to explain this?
  2. Do not wear white. Although, if you adhere to tip #1 you might be able to get by with it.
  3. Do pack at least two changes of clothing for each day because as soon as you go to breakfast, you are going to spill tea down your pants or dribble syrup on your shirt (note - add pancakes and french toast to the "do not order" list). Moments after this event, you will come face to face with the "ONE EDITOR YOU'VE BEEN PRAYING FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO TALK TO" and you'll have huge sweat rings under your arms by the time the conversation is over because the whole time you're trying to pitch your devotional or romantic suspense novel you'll be wondering if that editor has noticed that it looks like you have a bladder control issue and you want to explain about the tea but you don't want to call attention to it on the off chance she didn't notice. Bottom line, you'll need to change clothes at least once, maybe twice a day. Be prepared.
  4. Carry dental floss, Kleenex and a small mirror with you at all times. Pop into bathrooms frequently and check your teeth and nose. You don't want to be all confident because you just delivered your best pitch ever, only to walk into your room and realize there's a poppy seed (note - add poppy seed muffins to the "do not order" list) stuck in your teeth or a booger hanging out of your nose. I'm just stating the facts here, people. It has happened (see one of my favorite blogs - the ScribbleChicks - if you don't believe me).

Thankfully, my caffeine and chocolate powered imagination has already come up with all of this and I'll be the best prepared newbie there! Whoohoo!

Unless . . . all those other newbies stepped away from the mochas and actually spent their time preparing for the conference. You know by praying. And having their one-sheets, synopsis, first chapters and proposals all critiqued, maybe even several months ago. And by praying. And reading books written by the faculty members. And praying. And memorizing the bio of every agent and editor who will be attending. And praying.

Two weeks.


I think I'll start with the praying. Feel free to join me.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I am so fake.

From head to toe.

Don't believe me?

I have NO idea what my natural hair color is. Haven't seen it in years. Don't want to. My guess is that it is some sort of flat brown with a lot of gray. I have a wonderful stylist who colors my hair every ten weeks. I consider it money well spent.

Then, there's my face. I'm not one of those people who won't leave the house without makeup. But let me tell you, when I put it on, the one thing I never forget is my eyebrow pencil. Why? Because I have NO eyebrows! I mean, they exist. But they are so blond you can't see them. Trust me when I say that having eyebrows makes a huge difference in the way your face looks.

As I type these words, I am wearing teeth whitening strips. I want my pearly whites to be pearly white come conference time. Does this really matter? Were they so hideous before? No. But it makes me feel better.

The lotion I've been using since capri weather struck has a tint in it. This is basically so I can go out in public wearing shorts without blinding innocent bystanders.

See what I mean? Fake hair, eyebrows, teeth, legs. All fake.

I can live with that. But what I'm struggling with today is the rest of me. The inside of me.

The real me.

I want to be the kind of person who actually lives out what I believe. But faking it comes so easily. I think it's even easier for those of us who were born and raised in the church. For whom "Christianese" is our first language. You can't scare me with words like justification, sanctification and propitiation. I can talk doctrine, quote scripture, and offer up any number of spiritual platitudes. No sweat. And if you want to challenge me to a sword drill, you are on!

But does it really matter how quickly I can find Galatians 5:22-23 if I don't live a life that bears the fruit of the Spirit?

Does it matter if I know I am justified and sanctified by faith through grace and that it is not of myself if I keep trying to do it all by myself (Eph. 2:8-9)?

Why is it so much easier to get hung up on following the rules than it is to focus on the relationship?

I try so hard to do it all and fail miserably. Then I feel like a fraud - a fake - a wannabe. Satan attacks, reminding me that I know better and still keep making the same mistakes.

But then the Spirit intercedes and reminds me that "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1)

The verse popped into my head, but I had no context. Guess what I found when I looked it up? This verse comes right after Romans 7:15 - 25 which begins with Paul saying "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do the thing I want, but I do the very thing I hate." It's a tongue twister, but it hits me right where I live and makes me feel a little better.

'Cause I bet you've never heard anyone say "That Apostle Paul, he was so fake".

Romans 8 ends with these words: In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

In this, I put my hope.

There is nothing I can do to make God love me more. There is nothing I can do to make God love me less. I am His and He is mine.

And there is nothing fake about that.

photo courtesy of