Monday, May 30, 2016

What I Learned in April and May

I missed the April version of this post because…well….you can read about that in a minute. So I’m squeezing two months into one.

Here goes...

Cancer Sucks. This isn’t new information, but it was brought home to our family when my Mom was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer. In the past few weeks, she’s been through major surgery and two of a planned six chemo treatments and she is A.MAZ.ING. She is totally rocking the “no hair” look and hats may become a permanent part of her style going forward. She’s a fighter and she’s battling this cancer with everything she has. 

Prayer Works. Again, not new information, but sometimes you get slapped between the eyes with prayers that you’d given up on ever being answered and then God does it in His own time and His own way and all you can do is stand back in astonishment and know in the core of your soul that “God did that.” 

I have the World’s Greatest Friends. You may think you do, but, I’m very sorry, because you don’t. (Unless you are in the same circle of friends that I’m in, in which case, you’re as blessed as I am). My friends have performed the friendship equivalent of Cirque du Soleil acts over the past few months. Watching my kiddos, bringing food, calling, emailing, texting, praying . . . They have loved me so well.

I really do love knitting. I don’t do it nearly as often as I would like, but I do enjoy it. I need to spend more time with my knitting needles and a little less with Pinterest or Instagram while I’m watching TV. 

It really is an honor to be nominated. You hear people say that all the time about the Oscars or the Emmys, and I have to admit I’ve often wondered if it is true. Well, it is. When I got the word the Covert Justice had been named a Selah finalist I couldn’t believe it. I never for minute believed I would win it, I was just thrilled to see my name in the same space as my mentor. (See this post for more info).

It’s fabulous to win. I had the closest thing to an out of body experience that I’ve ever had when Covert Justice actually WON the Selah award. I had one of those, “wait, was that MY name” moments and then one of those “I hope I didn’t hear that wrong and am making a huge fool out of myself” moments as I walked back to the stage. If there were bubbles over my head filled with my thoughts all anyone would have seen was, “What?” “Really?” “Did I hear that right?” “I wonder when they’ll realize they tallied the votes wrong?” “Is this really happening?” “I hope I don’t trip” “HOW did this happen?” and “I can’t believe it!” The best thing about the evening was that I didn’t have to make a speech because it would have been a disaster.

Reading outside my usual genre is something I need to do more often. I write romantic suspense and it is my favorite genre to read. I’ve never understood people who only read one genre, but over the years I’ve found my own reading frame narrowing, not by choice but necessity. There are only so many hours in the day! But over the past couple of months I’ve picked up a couple of fantstic books and while I certainly didn’t learn anything about how to better write a suspense novel, I hope the way the authors laid their stories on the page—with unique structures and prose so beautiful I often had to stop and savor the words—will inform my own writing in ways I can’t yet know.

Middle School isn’t so bad after all. I cannot begin to tell you how I dreaded making the transition to middle school with our daughter. A new school, new kids, new teachers. So.Much.New. But she has thrived. She loves it so much that we are all dreading the long days of summer ahead. She particularly enjoyed all her Special Olympics activities—especially cheerleading. That little bitty one in the front? That’s my girl.

Chalk Pastels are cool. I heard about chalk pastels on a podcast a few weeks ago and promptly ordered a small set. They are cheap and require nothing more than paper and some baby wipes for cleanup. I saved them for a day when we needed a new activity and my boys LOVED it. They drew apples, pumpkins, clouds, tornadoes, BB8 (from Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and then went wild creating their own masterpieces. I don’t consider myself an artist, but this is something we can do. Definitely worth checking out if you need a rainy day activity with your crew this summer. 

I learned so much more, but this post is already ridiculously long. What did you learn this month?

Grace and peace,


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.