Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blessing Wednesday

That about says it all, doesn't it? Especially in the face of the storm out East. I'm gonna keep counting my blessings today, but the biggest of all is our weather over here. A little rain, a little wind, a little cold...nothing compared to what others went through.

But I'm also blessed by:

~my dear friend Jean who allowed me to guest blog over by her at Sislyn Stewart's From the Church House. But she didn't simply put up my post, she gave me some incredibly encouraging words and those were a BIG blessing to me.

~My quiet time in the morning. God is ever-so-faithful to meet me in that time, and it's a big blessing to my day.

~The guys who come and cart away my leaves...they are a HUGE blessing. We bag our yard, as does our entire neighborhood, and they come and carry those bags away.

~Blessed by a memory...to even have memories is a blessing for some of us, and this past week I looked over and saw my daughter, Ella, pull a pose that exactly mimicked that of my grandmother. It was uncanny how she looked JUST like her! I'm blessed by a God who carries on generations and gives us those little moments to remember those closest to us.

~Blessed by my BFF who helped me pull off this skirt. I mean, come on, my youngest wanted to be a peacock for Halloween. A peacock, people. Thanks to Pinterest and my crafty friend, she now can be:)

Hope you all are filled with blessings this week - please share. And eats lots of chocolate tonight...unless that's not your thing, then enjoy an apple or something:) Be blessed!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Let the Games Begin...

Yesterday at church our pastor used a great analogy that I want to share here today:

Imagine paying to see a game. Let's take football because I LOVE football! Let's even make it the Super Bowl.  Big time expensive seats, right? You're cheering. You're screaming. You're about to jump out of your skin with excitement because you're there, ready to watch your team play.  And out comes the team. Cheerleaders wave their poms. The band plays. And the team runs onto the field.

They huddle.

And you excitedly wait for the first play.

The huddle continues.

And you sing their fight song.

The huddle goes on.

You sit...

And wait...

And wait...

And three hours later they break the huddle and run off the field, never having played.

Uh, yeah. Pretend that just happened.

You paid for a game, but the players never did more than huddle together, strategize, pump each other up, and then do nothing with it. They even trained ahead of time. But then...nothing.

You can picture that, right? So here's the question: Are we, as the church, perhaps doing the same thing? We come together and huddle on Sundays and Wednesdays, but we never break that huddle and get in the game. We train, we listen to our coaches, we pump each other up, but we don't run any of the plays. All the while Christ is saying, "HEY! I paid a HUGE price here, now get out there and play!"

Don't get me wrong. The huddle is important, friends. We need that time. But it can't be all we become. There is a lost world out there who needs us in the game, actively playing. There is a real eternity, and everyone will either spend it in hell, or in heaven. There is no in-between. And we who are saved need to be reaching those that are not.

And it's simple.

As simple as smiling at someone. Building relationships. Inviting them to church. Yes, just an invitation. We don't need to be perfect...because we won't be until heaven. We don't need to have a seminary degree. And we don't need to have every Scripture memorized. We just need to love them. Ask them. Point them to Christ. Because it's going to take each and every one of us.

God didn't save you to sit on the bench. And He didn't save us to live in the huddle.

He's building a team here where everyone plays.

You may be the quarterback. The defensive line. Maybe offense...but we all play a part. The key thing here is you gotta play. There's a world that needs you.

What are you going to do today?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday!

Hey all. I'm currently in the middle of Dee Henderson's new novel and will have that review to post next week. So today is a little all-over the place. It's Friday. It happens.

First off, how many are ready for Halloween? In case I haven't shared, I loathe Halloween. Oh sure, I'm all about free candy, but the costumes? I'm not about to shell out money for something my kids will wear one night, and I'm not crafty in the least. And my children will not let me bribe them with bags of candy if they only won't dress up...so I'm stuck. It is the one and only thing I can't wait for my kids to grow out of...well, since we're past the diaper stage and all anyway.

Second, is anyone else enjoying an Indian summer? Because we are, and I'm loving it. Warm days, cool nights = perfection.

Third, I want to introduce you to my church, Grand Rapids First. If you are in the West Michigan area, I'm inviting you to church. If you're not, I'm still inviting you and you can catch us on line. It's an hour-and-a-half that could change your life...in an amazing way. Sure, this picture tells you about Big Day, but you can join us any day.

And last, what are you up to this weekend? I'm going to a writer's conference. Yeah me! And while driving there I'm going to listen to the end of Dee Henderson's new novel. The one I'm posting a review to next week. Which brings us full circle...

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blessing Wednesday



I love that picture, don't you? Maybe it's because I wait for this time of year all year long. I absolutely adore Fall...even those leaves that blanket my ground. But it wasn't just the cool photo of the leaf I liked, it was the reminder to be thankful for "every little thing".

So today I am thankful for:

~My shoes. Yep. Not everyone has a pair, and I have several. What a blessing.

~Warm milk with honey in it.

~Dropbox. I'm not normally a techno-girl, but this has been a huge help with all my writerly files.

~All three of my kids bonding together over a game called Mindcraft. No. It's not a board game like we used to play, but I still see them all playing together, helping each other, and laughing. Music to this mama's ears.

~And this one's not so little. Both my mom and brother had surgeries this week. They both were successes, went incredibly well, and the two are now at their homes healing. Big-time thanks here!

So what's on your "every little thing" list this week?

Monday, October 22, 2012

iPhone Face

Ever gone out and the person across from you looked like this:

Yeah. Worse part is, I’m sure I’ve resembled that picture myself. Ugh. It is all too easy when these phones do so much, making sure we’re always available to the entire world. And then it almost becomes a tick, you hear the ding that you got a new voice mail, or email, or text, or Facebook post…you try to ignore it, but you start to twitch, your eyes stray to your phone, and before you know it, it’s in your hand.

Don’t act like you’ve never been there.

I’ve worked really, really hard to break this habit, mainly because I hated being the recipient of it—it kinda makes you feel unimportant. So imagine my surprise when I was doing my Bible study the other day and God called me out for doing this to Him.

See, I’d slept in later than I should have, but still wanted to squeeze the time in. I sat at the kitchen table when the kids were in the kitchen. I answered questions, made breakfast, even got up to throw in a load of laundry…all the while “doing my Bible study”. (yeah, those quotes are me doing the little quote thing with my fingers.)

And as I sat back down after one more interruption, right then is when God gave me the picture of my distraction. There He sat, at the table I’d invited Him to, trying to talk with me, and I kept getting up and leaving. It was the equivalent to going out and having the person I'm with stick their phone in their face--something I'm pretty sure NONE of us like.

Yet, how often do we do that? Sit with God then give in to other distractions. Holding our finger up and saying, “Just one sec here, God. I need to handle this.”

Oh. There is so much wrong with that statement!

I need to handle? Just one sec? Ugh. And then we wonder why He’s so silent.

God has so much He wants to say to us. He loves us with a love that is beyond imagine. And He’s just sitting, waiting for us…and so often we walk away.

But here’s the thing. He’s still there, waiting. With His unfailing love.

So today I’ve got another challenge for you. If you don’t have quiet time with Him on a daily basis, carve out a moment for it—even if it’s only five minutes. And if you do, make sure you don’t let distractions interrupt that time.

And I’d love to know—any of you been on the giving or receiving of what I like to call iPhone Face?

Friday, October 19, 2012

(Fill-in-the-blank) Shelf Friday

Author Beth Vogt posted a great quote at the beginning of this week on her blog:

"It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish." J.R.R. Tolkien

It got me thinking, and doing. Sure, I only got my basket-full-o-socks matched that day, but it was one job that had been staring me down for far too long. And I want to finish a few more things this week.

I have lots of other shelves that can be cleaned off:
~my refrigerator shelves...pretty sure there's things growing in there that shouldn't be growing.

~my pantry shelves...after discovering I'd eaten moldy corn tortilla shells, well, that's a clue to clean out those shelves.

~my closet. Nuff said.

~my youngest daughter's birthday scrapbook. I'm a HUGE procrastinator on these, but they've become traditions for the kids and I love them when they're done. It's their entire year at a glance.

~my email inbox

~my kids' schoolwork and grades. It's all piled together on one shelf, and I need to organize it and put the grades into the computer. Since they get paid on a sliding grade scale (don't judge. yes, we pay our kids for their grades...and yes, we homeschool...it all makes sense to us), they're anxiously waiting for me to do this one.

I obviously cannot finish these all this weekend, especially not with the rate at which the leaves are falling. But I can start one of them. What about you? Do you have a shelf/project that needs tackling? If so, fill in the blank above, and tell me what you're up to this weekend. I think mine's going to be sorting through the past year in pictures to find the couple hundred I want...there's only a few thousand to go through. WHO gave me a camera?

Have a GREAT weekend! And don't forget to PLAY too!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blessing Wednesday

Hey all, I'm just jumping in today. Come join me, the water is fine:)

Today I am thankful for:

~The joy on my daughter's face as she starts to understand and excel in school work that's been so hard for her.

~A friend who will dance with me in the middle of the outlet mall just for fun.

~Hubby's understanding that I needed a little time away and making sure I got it. I was at my "Calgon, take me away" moment!

~Olives. The bigger the better. Oh so salty and good! I could eat an entire jar by myself. Really. I could.

~That God encourages us--just when we need it-- to do right, especially when He knows we aren't going to feel like it. I love that He loves us enough to give us gentle reminders and the strength to make the right choice. Because though I desire obedience and its blessings, sometimes I WANT to do the wrong thing in the moment. (Okay, and I kid you not, as I'm writing this here's the song that comes on...no lie... )

And yes, I WAS listening to my Hymns station on Pandora. Hymns. Next thing you know it will be the Gaither Homecoming DVD (thanks, Mom)

Huge blessings to you all today! Share a few here before you leave!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hisbook

Yeah, I know I’m not the only one to cleverly use that title,but it totally fits today.

See, I conducted a little test recently. I’d been getting some what restless and down. The more down I’d get, the more I’d grab my phone and look at my Facebook or e-mail. As a homeschooling mama, my social media becomes a way of connection for me throughout the day—I know I’m not the only mom who does this…not even the only lady who does. Add to the fact I am home all day without any other adults, but I’m also pursuing publication; a world where we hear the word “platform” a lot, which is code for lotsa followers, lotsa readers, BIG numbers people—build a tribe! So when I’d pick up my phone and there were no new emails or no Facebook notifications, well, I’d get more down. Why do we do that to ourselves?

That’s when it hit me…

I was in a dangerous spiral!

Now I know that I’m not suppose to get caught up in all that stuff. I know my value is directly proportionate to only one thing: God. And I’m beyond secure in the fact that He loves me, so that means I’m pretty special. Same goes for you—and if you don’t know that, you should. God LOVES you. An insane amount. TIMEOUT HERE: If you’ve never realized that, take a second right now and ask Him to show you, because He will! (Or inbox me and I’ll pray with you. Let’s get this settled once and for all! GOD LOVES YOU!)

As for me and my incredibly silliness over social media, I was caught up in this world’s value system, a nasty place to be. You’d think we’d outgrow it about the time we left High School, but as women, I think we’re pretty susceptible to this. And as I reached for my Facebook one more time to check who was talking to me I heard this little voice “You know, if you checked My Book as often as you checked Facebook, you wouldn’t be in this spot.”

Duh.

And I KNOW this.

I just momentarily forgot.

So I decided right then and there that every time I picked up my phone, rather than hitting my email or Facebook Apps, I’d hit my BibleGateway App. I chose one Bible passage for the day (Psalm 62 to be exact)and read through it in place of reading everyone’s statuses or scrolling through my homepage. Whenever I’d get the itch for Facebook, I’d pick up my phone and select a different translation of that same verse—NIV, NAS, The Message—there’s twenty-seven different ones on that App. Or sometimes I’d focus on just one of the verses.

And as I made my mind steadfast on God, His perfect peace invaded my day.

Yes, having a network of fellow believers around us is important. We’re not meant to go-it alone. But it won’t matter how many people speak into our lives if our Father’s voice isn’t one of those speaking, because at the end of it all, His is the only voice that truly counts.

So I challenge you today. Pull out your Bible or pull up BibleGateway on your computer or if you’ve got a phone, download the App. Then mark a passage. And today, each time before you check your Facebook, read that one passage or verse, because there’s nothing better than your Father’s voice speaking into your day.

Okay, truth time here, in this day of social media right at our fingertips, how often do you check your Facebook or other social networking sites? How do you handle balancing it all?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bookshelf Friday - When A Heart Stops by Lynette Eason

This is not the first Lynette Eason book I've reviewed. It's also not the first in this series. But I gotta say, it's one of my favorites! And it's made me oh-so-curious of what exactly goes on in Lynette's head...the woman comes up with some crazy-good story lines. Here's a blurb:

Spunky and outgoing, nothing much bothers medical examiner Serena Hopkins--except for the thought of falling in love again. But when a serial killer is picking off her former classmates, Serena's life becomes intertwined with her old high school crush, FBI agent Dominic Allen. Is the secret she's keeping putting her next on the killer's hit list? Can she trust Dominic with the truth before it's too late?
Now, if you've read Lynette's Women of Justice series, you'll already know Serena. She snuck into this series too and finally has her own book. Maybe having to wait so long to have her front and center is one of the reasons I so loved this book. Maybe it's that it's such a clever plot. Maybe it was the great chemistry between Serena and Dominic. Or maybe it's simply because I like the way Lynette writes: clean, fast-paced romantic suspense. One thing is for sure--it was a great read.

I do have to warn you though. Unlike her Women of Justice series, this series is one you'd benefit from reading in order. The first book in this group is When the Smoke Clears, and it ends on a cliff-hanger. So now would be a perfect time to read it because you can go straight into When a Heart Stops without having to wait eight agonizing months. Beware though, while this book has some endings tied, there is still a cliff-hanger at the end. I kinda like it...that hanging on the edge feeling...it definitely has me waiting for the final book.

Happy reading this weekend!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blessing Wednesday

Hey all. Hope you are all are having a fantastic week. This week has had some bumps around here, but today I want to get out of that funk and count my blessings--because there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. We may have to dig a bit deeper some weeks, but God's blessings abound. So come on, let's start racking them up:)

Today I am thankful for:

~Good friends who make me laugh. I have been blessed with some seriously funny people in my life.

~That my children are all safe and healthy here at home. Even after a tough day with them all yesterday, I could tuck them in, pray over them, and kiss their warm little cheeks.

~That God partners with us in everything we do. I don't have to rely on my wisdom, I get to draw from an Infinite Source.

~That though my chicken turned out more like jerky last night, I still had a warm meal on the table.

~Edy's Slow-Churned Smores Ice Cream

I pray God showers you with blessings this week, my friends. You know the drill by now, share some here! I love to hear how He's working in others' lives, and it always makes me realize even more of the blessings in mine.

Have a great week!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Crushin'

So I have a secret crush...or maybe I'm simply coveting...not sure which it is yet, but I thought I'd share.

Here it goes: I am in love with Shane & Shane's music. Not the men. Though they are pretty cool with their guitars and all, I am so totally in love with Hubby that there's not room for another guy.

See, it all started a few years ago with their song "Yearn". I stopped when it came on. Pretty sure the Holy Spirit was woven through their lyrics and coming out through their voices. Yeah. It's that good. And I added it to my 'Favorites' list. Take a listen:



But then I kept hearing their songs. Each time they'd play I'd run to my iPod to click the little thumbs-up on Pandora and find "Oh, hey, it's Shane & Shane"!

And so my crush began. On their music. On the way the Holy Spirit breaths through the talent God has given them. I desired it! Even tried to recreate it. See this little guitar here, it's my daughter's. Let's just say that I cannot make that thing sound quite like they do with theirs. (I blame it on the difference in quality of guitars.) But that didn't stop me from having grand plans to drop into the back of these jam sessions with Shane & Shane and Phil Wickham. I totally could!



But I've come to realize something. While God loves hearing me praise (I've got love, so I'm no clanging gong) and the Holy Spirit resides in the sound of EVERYONE's praises, I'm not gifted with the talent of music. Not like these guys. That's because God's given me other talents. And rather than try to squeeze myself into one that isn't meant to fit me, I need to develop the talents He has given me.

And not be mad about the ones He hasn't.

The pretty neat thing though is when I started to give myself over to developing the talents He's given me--even when it does stretch me some (or a LOT, we're talking Gumby-Girl here)--is that the Holy Spirit began to breath through what I was doing, too. And THAT's what using our talents is all about. God's given them to us not simply to draw us closer to Him but to reach others THROUGH them. See? Pretty neat, huh?

So. I'll keep crushin' on Shane & Shane's music and rockin' my daughter's purple guitar here at home. Because I do love music and praising. But as for developing my talents, I think I'll stick to writing, because clearly it is NOT playing guitar;)

What about you? What's one talent you really admire in others that maybe you don't possess? And what is one talent God's given you that you're working on developing? And don't try and say nothing, because we ALL have talent - mothering, baking, taking care of other's, gardening, sewing, business, numbers...you've got one, what is it? (And now, once you pin it down and share, go have some time with God and ask Him how He wants you to use that talent this week. Yep. That's right. I just gave you homework;) )

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bookshelf Friday - Amberly by Mary Elizabeth Hall

Mary and I joined the ACFW Scribes group at the same time almost two years ago now (Scribes is the large critique group that ACFW manages where you submit your work for others to critique and give back suggestions). I remember when Mary gave her introduction to the group and I thought, "Well, I'm never going to do critiques with her because she's a WAY better writer than me." Honestly, I don't even remember what she said in that introduction to intimidate me, and I have a feeling it was more my insecurities than anything to do with her, but I'm sure God was chuckling at me.
My friend, Mary.

So I begin grabbing other people's work and critiquing for them until one day I stumbled across this little submission called Amberly. I started reading it before I realized who's it was and I was hooked! I had to go back and pull this author's older submissions so I could start at the beginning of the story. And that's when I realized I was reading Mary's stuff.  I emailed her and told her how much I enjoyed her story. I sent her my critique that I'd done. And our friendship was born. A few months later we even ended up in a small critique group together.  Yep. Never say never.

I've had the immense pleasure of reading Amberly since it's infancy. Through name changes. Through landscape changes. And even through ending changes. But one thing never changed. The heart of this story. Amberly is an epic saga. Truly. I cannot think of any other way to explain it. It sweeps you into another world and simply carries you away. And while Amberly is in another world, a world that Mary fully created, it still feels familiar.

Think Lord of the Rings meets Cinderella.  Battles between good and evil. Commoner falls for a King. Heart-stopping action and romance. I am in love with this book!

And there is a sequel coming.

Yes!

Okay, so lemme give you the blurb:

In a world that might have been… Snatched by coldblooded enemies as a declaration of war, Eleanor Williamston finds herself caught in a deadly snare—miles from home and lost in the wilderness. Her heart is drawn to the handsome palace guardsman who rescues her, but she is torn when he challenges her political ideals—and then reveals something he’s kept hidden that will make her choice even more difficult. Marsten longs for a God-fearing wife, but cannot marry the lady he desires. The sassy young schoolteacher he rescues catches his eye, but he fears she’ll turn out to be like the beautiful women who’ve broken his trust in the past. Journey with them through the spectacular but treacherous Aspian Mountains while they evade enemy pursuit and wrestle through the challenges of wilderness and budding love, only to run headlong into Ellie’s anti-royalist family—and a whole new onslaught of foes.


You can buy an e-book format here or a soft or hardcover here. Either way you choose to read it, you'll love this book.

Happy reading and have a wonderful weekend, my friends!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Blessing Wednesday

Good middle-of-the-week to you all! Hope it's going well. Ya'll know what Wednesdays mean around here, so let's get started!

This week I am so thankful for:

~FALL!!  September through December is my favorite time of the year! It takes until about right now for the colors to really start kicking in, so lately I've had some awesomely beautiful mornings around here. Truly God outdid Himself with the color palette when He created fall in Michigan. And He created all these colors simply to give us eye-candy. Yum!

~Slippers. Seriously. I will live in them for the next several months. Quite possibly because I like my house so  cold that I can cocoon myself in sweats, huge socks, and blankets to feel toasty warm.

~Best Sleeping Weather EVER!

~The doctors and nurses treating my father-in-law. We are half-way through his chemo treatment, and today we find out how well it's working. Of course we know our God is bigger than any chemo treatment out there, and THAT I'm truly thankful for.

~My town. I mean, where else can you live smack-dab in the middle of the movie Tangled? We let off 15,000 lanterns this past week as part of Art Prize, an annual art competition/festival we put on.

What are your blessings this week? Come on and count them with me:)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pronoun Replacement


So I went to the ACFW conference. And it was amazing. Uh-maz-ing! Not in the I-got-a-contract-and-will-be-published-next-month amazing, but in the God-was-so-totally-there amazing!

The rest of it—when it happens—will be pretty cool too. But I gotta tell you, nothing beats the presence of God.

And He was there. Every single moment of every single day.

Even when I stumbled.

See. Things were going great until Friday night. In fact, I had such peace I know it had to have been ticking satan off. My normal introvert ways were nowhere to be seen, and I didn’t even break a sweat with my first appointment with editors. So by Friday night, I think satan decided to hit me with a one-two punch. Insecurities started to flood in. Those small thoughts that magnify before you even know it.  It all started with one thought:

“I really messed up at lunch today.”

Then…

“I said the wrong thing to that woman.”
“I handed out the wrong sheet.”
”I stuck my foot in my mouth completely with that one.”
“I asked the wrong question.”
“I bet they don’t really like me.”

And on and on it went. I, I, I…until God leaned down and whispered:

“You’re using the wrong pronoun. Stop with the “I” and start with the “you”.

“You, God are good.”
“You, God, are holy.”
“You, God, have ordained my steps.”
“You, God, keep my mind in perfect peace.”
“You, God, are bigger than my mess-ups.”
And “You, God, LOVE ME!”

Because the truth of it is, I don’t want people seeing me. I want them to see Him. And sometimes He’s seen best in the grace of my mess-ups, because His power is made perfect in my weaknesses.

So I go up Saturday morning and headed down to the prayer room and put Him back at the center. I removed the word “I” and replaced it with “you” and was blown away by the things HE did that day.

What about you? Are you using that “I” word too much? I challenge you today to replace it with “you” and point back to His promises and truth. It’ll change your entire day.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call on you. Psalm 86:5