Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest Blogs and Giveaways!

So, it's Tuesday.

Not Monday.

I could tell you that I planned it this way and just skip over the fact that I enjoyed, spent, wasted most of the day yesterday as I searched through box after box for the missing Wii games.

(Which were eventually found right where I left them eight months ago. Since, apparently, while the movers unpacked a trash can and put the trash in a box, they did not feel inclined to unpack that drawer and instead, moved it and all of it's contents in place. But I digress.)

And, just so you know, watching James squeal with delight and fall to the floor whenever his Mii got knocked down in Wii Boxing - made it all worthwhile.

But now it's Tuesday. And the timing couldn't be better because this week is all about guest blogs and giveaways!

First, the guest blogs. It is my privilege and delight to be guest blogging twice this week on the blogs of two of my favorite people, Vonda Skelton and Edie Melson. I told you about them earlier this month and I am still gobsmacked that they are brave enough to turn me loose on their readers.

Today, I'm over at The Christian Writer's Den, the newly revamped blog of Vonda Skelton. Please come by and say hello. The post is written for writers, but if you use your imagination (and don't tell me you don't have one just because you aren't a writer), I think you'll find a little application for your own life.

Thursday - and please don't panic about this - but Thursday is DECEMBER 1st. (Breathe. There's plenty of time. Okay, I feel better now.) And since it's the first Thursday of the month, it's time for my monthly review over at Edie Melson's The Write Conversation. I'll be talking about the holidays, family dysfunction dynamics, and birth order and how we can put this crazy time of year to good use in our novels. (Or, how we can discover new and exciting ways to torture our characters, but the other way sounds kinder (or is it more kind), doesn't it?)

And this week, is my very first blog giveaway. I'm insanely excited about this because Christmas makes me smile. And I just like to smile. Smiling's my favorite!

The very nice people over at Baker Publishing offered to give one of my readers a My Favorite Bible. Free. No strings attached. I'm sure there's a little in your life (or perhaps, the parent of a little) who would love this. It would make a fantastic gift or, if your home is inhabited, occupied, overtaken by tiny people, a lovely addition to your bookshelf.

Here's the blurb...

With the vibrant illustrations and engaging text in this Bible storybook, you can enjoy sharing the best-loved stories of the Bible with the children in your life and encourage a life-long love for the Word of God. My Favorite Bible is a book of exciting Bible stories and activity pages that guide children through the foundational truths of Scripture.

Each story is fully illustrated and includes a simple narrative full of things kids love: repetition, rhythm, and energy, along with a key biblical theme, a key Bible verse, and discussion questions to help adults introduce children to the Bible.

The colorful illustrations will capture the imaginations of children ages 4–8, and the stories will help adults to pass along the most important truth in life—the Gospel. Families will cherish this time as they read, listen, learn, and love, growing closer to one another even as they grow closer to God.

So, here's how you enter. Leave me a comment (here, not on Facebook, and you have to leave a name because I can't give a book to "anonymous"!) between now and Friday, December 2, and tell me which Bible story is your favorite. (And if your answer is "Jesus" or "God" I'm going to know your account has been hacked by a five-year-old who wants this book!)

Over the weekend, I will choose a comment at random and will announce the winner here on Monday! Then the lovely folks at Baker will put your very own copy of My Favorite Bible in the mail. So easy. Why are you still reading? Start commenting people!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

This is a test . . . this is only a test . . . but does God grade on the curve?

I was a straight-A student in high school.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I enjoyed tests, but I was good at them. They were a source of pride. Proof that I had learned the material.

And then I went to college. The first year or so went smoothly. But then my engineering professors changed the rules on me. Tests were no longer about proving what I had learned.

They were designed to discover the holes in my knowledge. To highlight weaknesses in logic and understanding.

They worked.

Thank goodness they graded on a curve. I remember being thrilled with a 37. (It was an A).

At the time, it drove me crazy. If they were going to curve the scores anyway, why didn't they give exams we had a chance of passing? I didn't see the value of an exam designed to point out how much I didn't know.

I get it now.

God gives the same kind of tests. Tests that aren't designed for us to get all cocky about how great we are doing. These tests show us our weak points. Not to condemn us. But to give us an opportunity to discover a whole new level of His grace.

Today, I'm taking a test. I'm not getting an A.

I thought, after spending the past several weeks focused on renewing my mind and living a lifestyle of gratitude, that the past week of family illness and insanity was the test. If it was, it was the high school version.

The college level exam started yesterday when I went from feeling spunky, eagerly anticipating a day of food, family, and fun, followed by a weekend at my parents, to feeling achy and miserable. This test blindsided me because it hit me in my weakest spot. My "compliant, pleaser, perfectionist" spot.

I have strep. And I'm contagious. So I'm sitting at home while my family is at my grandmother's house. My parents had to change their plans. We aren't going to their house at all. And my three-year-old was devastated.

I don't like to disappoint people.

Am I really supposed to be thankful for strep? For having to tell my three-year-old that we are not going to Papa and Nana's house after all? For my mom having to pack up all the food and goodies she had planned for us and bring them here? For my husband to have to travel with three kids, alone, to Granny's?

I could handle it if it was just me. I'll feel much better tomorrow. It's the part about disrupting everyone else. Being the cause of disappointment. That's the part that's eating at me. I expend a lot of energy avoiding that very thing.

Don't misunderstand. My parents aren't blaming me for having strep. My husband has handled bathtime, bedtime, and breakfast without complaint. My three-year-old, well, he seems to be okay with the idea of Papa and Nana coming here instead of us going there.

And I'm trying to feel thankful. Not so much for the strep, but for the God who loves me too much to let me get away with thinking I've arrived. For graciously pointing out the places where I still want to be in control. For highlighting the holes in my logic. And for giving me an opportunity to see more of Him.

I'm definitely feeling thankful for the family and friends who love me and who will be bringing me food. (I'm also ridiculously thankful for antibiotics).

And I'm thankful that I know there's a reason for the change in plans. I may never know what the reason was, but I'm choosing to rest in the knowledge that God loves me. Loves my son. Loves my parents. And none of this was random.

I don't think God grades on the curve.

I believe God grades with grace.

May His name be praised.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen! Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)


#53. A husband who isn't afraid of dirty diapers
#54. The way sweet tea slides down a sore throat
#55. Homemade mochas
#56. NCIS marathons
#57. Flexible family
#58  Knowing I am loved and missed
#59  Turkey, mashed potatoes, & gravy

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankfulness in the middle of a no good, very bad day

We spent all of October focused on renewing our minds. Then we've spent the past several weeks considering thankfulness.

Have you noticed how crucial a thankful heart is to renewing your mind?

I have. I'm living it. Right now.

I'm having the kind of day that has, on occasion, turned me into a grouchy, short-tempered mama. And by "on occasion" I mean "usually."

I woke up this morning and called the pediatrician for what turned out to be a double ear infection and a perforated ear drum. I felt the sarcastic voice of condemnation that talks to me at moments like this. The one that says, "Way to go, mom of the year. Bet you feel bad about letting him cry at 2:30 this morning, don't ya?"

But instead of allowing that jerk to get the better of me, I chose to be thankful for the nudge that sent me to the doctor. And for the pediatrician who is a good friend and assured me that this is not a reflection of my mothering prowess. And for the antibiotics that will speed relief to my little man.

We left the doctor and went to check on our house. The house we still own. The one we moved out of eight months ago. The one that doesn't seem to want to belong to anyone else.

Sometimes the financial and mental drag of this house is depressing. But today, I remembered all the things that led to us buying our new home, the great things about our old home, and the God who owns both.

I chose to be thankful for His provision instead of griping about His timing.

Then Drew started fussing. And James started begging for something to drink. Already on shaky mom of the year ground, I realized I had walked out of the house for a morning full of appointments and errands with no sippy cup. So we hit McDonalds and ordered a Sprite for him and unsweetened tea for me.

They gave me sweet tea.

Okay. This one wasn't that hard to be thankful for. I drank it with a smile on our way to the final stop of the morning.

Now, I know this will come as a shock, as you're all thinking I am the most "with it" mom ever, but I had managed to run out of baby wipes. I have three in diapers. Running out of wipes is not acceptable. And a quick glance this morning had revealed another problem.

I was almost out of diapers.

In all three sizes.

You know it's bad when the twenty-something year old girls checking you out Wal-mart start looking at each other, and then at you, with wide-eyed, sympathetic glances. The cashier finally stated the obvious, "You've got your hands full."

Ya think?

I purchased Size 2, Size 5, Size 5 Overnight, Size 4T-5T Pullups, and the biggest box of wipes they sell. I almost passed out when they gave me the total.

As I walked to the car, that sarcastic voice started again. "This is some life you've got here." And you know what? For the first time, the voice was right.

This is some life.

It's not the life I expected. It's not always the life I want. But it's the life God has given me. I can stay ticked off about the drama, or I can be thankful for the gifts of grace He pours all over me.

I came home and spent an hour outside with James. We chased falling leaves, hunted for acorns, and soaked up some sun.

Then he told me he didn't want to wear diapers anymore.

One more thing to be thankful for!

(I hope I can remember this in about an hour when I'm washing wet Spiderman undies . . . )


Are you counting? I am!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: Rooms by James L. Rubart

One of the things I am most thankful for is that my husband is a reader. I come from a family of readers and I'm not sure what I would do if I couldn't share my love of books with him.

I'm always on the hunt for authors Brian will enjoy, but he reads with a critical eye. Not critical in a mean way. Critical in the sense that he spots inconsistent plots, flat characters, and overdone description.

He usually finishes the books he starts, but when I ask him, "How'd you like it?" it's rare for me to get a rave review. He's particularly tough on the author when the storyline becomes too far-fetched for his tastes.

(In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I have rarely run across a storyline too far-fetched for my tastes. Just saying.)

So when I read Rooms by Jim Rubart a few months ago, I couldn't decide whether or not to pass it along to Brian. Because there's this little issue of an "out there" storyline . . .

It's hard to write a review of Rooms without giving away the whole thing. I make a concerted effort not to include spoilers in my reviews because half the fun of reading a book is the incremental discovery that comes as the author weaves details into drama.

But you can pick up this much from the back cover . . . Micah is a young software executive who seems to have everything. Except his faith, which he set aside as he pursued his career. All that changes when he discovers a house has been constructed for him in Cannon Beach, a place full of bitter memories and far removed from his fast-paced lifestyle.

Micah intends to enlist the services of a real estate agent at once, but the mansion on Cannon Beach is no ordinary mansion. It feels like home, like it was designed just for him.

And then new rooms appear. Some rooms are too frightening to enter. Some too pleasurable to leave.

What follows is the journey into a heart of man. And the extraordinary measures God takes to draw us back to Him.

Rooms falls into the "speculative fiction" genre. In other words, it's not bound to reality. Think It's a Wonderful Life meets The Shack. Weird things happen. But if you're willing to go along for the ride, you'll find your own rooms that require deep thoughts and long searches of the soul.

I liked it.

So did Brian.

Let me know if you do, too!

Monday, November 14, 2011

You have to look if you want to see

I wasn't expecting a God-moment as I drove to get my hair cut last week. The kids were in the back of the van, and for once, I wasn't running late. It was just a normal day. I was doing normal things.

And then it happened.

But I almost missed it. The splash of color in my peripheral vision enticed me to glance up and to the left as I crested a hill. Spread before me like a tapestry was a glimpse of splendor. Trees arrayed in riotous colors, showing off for their Creator. And they called me to worship right along with them.

I rarely travel that stretch and when I do, I'm almost always in a hurry. Probably on my cell phone. Or maybe singing along with the kids to a Veggie Tales CD.

I had never noticed that for a few brief moments as you travel Haywood Road, there's a view worth savoring.

It's been there all along. But I hadn't seen it.

The same is true of the gifts God has graced us with. And it's one of the reasons taking the time to write them down can be life changing.

They've been there all along.

But you have to look if you want to see.

I'm home with sick littles today and my list reflects this.

27. The slower pace of sick days
28. Healthy children whose sniffles are nuisances but not life threatening
29. Tylenol and Motrin
30. Emma saying, "I wanna snuggle"

What's on your list today? I'd love to hear about the gifts you see in your life!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

I think the truest test of the power of a book is whether or not it lingers in your mind long after you've turned the last page. And if, in the lingering, it inspires you to change.

Based on that definition, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is a powder keg in hardback.

I was a little skeptical at first. I mean, keeping a gratitude journal is almost passé. Oprah did it years ago. And we all know we should be thankful.

But Ann's take on thankfulness is unlike any I've heard before.

And her list of 1000 gifts is no mere "I'm thankful for my kids" compilation. It's a journey into seeing each experience through the eyes of grace. Or as the book cover declares, "A dare to live fully, right where you are."

Beginning in the second chapter, she introduces us to the concept of eucharisteo - it's a Greek word that's translated "he gave thanks" and has in its roots the Greek words "charis" and "chara" - grace and joy. From there, she takes us on a poetic journey into how grace, thanksgiving, and joy are intertwined and always available to us.

As a word lover, I found her poetic prose lush and descriptive. But I will confess that there were times when the poetry somewhat clouded the message. When I needed to go back, slow down, re-read, and ponder. Because this is no light read. There are deep questions raised. How do we give thanks for suffering? How do we trust God in the face of pain and loss?

Depending on your theology, you may not agree with all of her conclusions. But you would do well to ask the questions yourself.

For her, the deep questions all began when someone challenged her to make a list - 1000 gifts - and the list changed her life.

Because "the counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One. All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ, all remembering a remembrance of Him. For in Him all things were created, are sustained, have their being. Thus Christ is all there is to give thanks for; Christ is all there is to remember. To know how we can count on God, we count graces, but ultimately there is really only One." (p. 155)

That's what makes this listing of gifts unlike any other. Because each one points to the One.

I went out and bought a plain, blue leather journal from Wal-mart. It's huge. It's big enough to capture far more than 1000 gifts. I have this mental picture of a grandchild someday thumbing through it and asking me if I remember what prompted me to write "18. The perfect shoes on clearance."

I probably won't remember by then. But I pray the journal is worn, faded, and full of reminders of the love-notes my Abba sends me every day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Oblivious to the Obvious

I love my Tervis tumbler.

It happened so fast, all I could do was pick up the pieces.


You wouldn't think an 8-month-old had hands that move at the speed of light. But mine does. I walked by the counter, and before I could say, gasp, yell “NO!” he had grabbed the rim of my Tervis tumbler and sent it crashing to the kitchen floor.

Tervis tumblers are supposed to be indestructible. They have a lifetime guarantee, but I'm afraid the company is going to lose money on me. My 3-year-old cracked my first tumbler on the store floor before we had plunked down the plastic to pay for it.

Now, my cup (which survived), lid (which did not), and six ounces of coffee mocked me from the hardwood floor, while another few ounces ran in caramel streams down the kitchen cabinets.

I was unhappy, annoyed. OK. Fine. I was ticked.

Not at Drew. He was just doing his best impression of an eight-month-old.

But I was ticked. The way I get ticked when my day goes off on an unpleasant tangent. In "Lynn's Math" unplanned = unpleasant. Given that I have three children, you can imagine how often I struggle with unpleasant events.

I put Drew in his high chair and walked stomped to the paper towel holder.

And then it happened.

I remembered.

I remembered all those blog posts from October about renewing my mind.

I remembered all the planned blog posts for November about gratitude.

I remembered that pretty new journal where I'd begun to record things—big and little things—that I'm thankful for.


It's hard to stay ticked when you're trying to be thankful.

It's hard to be in a bad mood when you choose to think about things that are true and lovely and excellent.

Which made me wonder . . . how many times am I in a bad mood for no reason other than that I choose to be? Being upset over spilled coffee may seem trivial. But how often do the trivial things throw my day into a tailspin that I never recover from?

I thought about this as I cleaned the floors and cabinets, made another cup of coffee, and added a new entry to my list of gifts God has given me.

#6 – Hardwood floors that are easy to clean up.

I've decided that nothing is too obvious to go on my list.

Because sometimes it's the obvious to which I'm most oblivious.


I'd like to challenge you to think about making your own list. My list is growing and I'll be sharing random entries in blog posts this month. I was inspired to start my list after reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and I'll be talking about her book on Thursday. I hope you'll stop back by!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Forever Thankful

I plan to spend November sharing a random assortment of things I am thankful for. Today, I want to tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, there was a girl whose parents insisted she go to bed at a reasonable hour, even though she wasn't sleepy. So she would dream up elaborate stories to occupy her time. As a general rule, she was the heroine of the tales. There was a long stretch where she was a famous teenage spy. Then several years where she was a cancer curing doctor. And of course, a ridiculous number of stories where she wound up married to a wealthy man and had servants and jetted around the world to attend opening night at the opera.

The girl never told anyone these stories because she thought there was something wrong with her. She tried to stop herself but sooner or later, another story would emerge.

Then one day, the girl (who was now quite grown up) wondered what would happen if she tried to write the story down. How hard could it be? The story in her head would make a great book. The kind of book she would like to read.

So she did.

But she didn't tell anyone. Except her very own Prince Charming who didn't think she was crazy and encouraged her to finish the tale. When she typed "The End" she realized she had a choice. Keep the secret, or share it.

The girl was afraid. Afraid people would laugh. Afraid people would think she was crazy. After all, Prince Charming was biased so she couldn't assume others would share his opinion.

The girl chose to share. First with her sister. Then her parents. Then a few friends. And to her relief, they didn't just like it. They loved it.

So she took a class.

Then signed up for a writers conference.

And that's when things got really interesting. Because two people who did not know her at all emailed her and said, "Hey, you're a writer. We're writers. Come hang out with us."

The girl was afraid. What if they didn't like her? Or worse, what if they didn't like her writing? (Which is not the same thing, but feels like it is). The girl didn't think of herself as a writer, but she wanted to. So she went to meet the writers.

And the rest . . . well, the rest is unfolding right before your eyes. Edie Melson (@EdieMelson) and Vonda Skelton (@VondaSkelton) welcomed the girl into their circle of writers. They encouraged, instructed, and critiqued. They introduced the girl to other writers. And they continue to remind her that successful writers write and some of them get published. And while she may be a little wierd, there's nothing wrong with her that isn't wrong with them, too.

You may be wondering why I chose to tell that story today and what it has to do with thankfulness.

Today, as I do every first Thursday of the month, I have a guest post on Edie's blog, The Write Conversation. Later this month, I'll have a guest post on Vonda's blog, The Christian Writer's Den. These women have chosen to be encouragers and cheerleaders to a bunch of newbie (and not so newbie) writers. They are some of the busiest women I know, but they make time because they don't want to see new writers make any of the mistakes they made early in their careers.

Not every new writer manages to fall in with people who only want the best for them.

But this girl did.

And I will forever be thankful.