Saturday, July 28, 2007

Awesome Gifts from a Father's Heart

Today my husband and I attended my niece and nephew's birthday party. She turned seven and he turned five. As I watched their faces light up with delight as they worked their way through the mound of gifts their friends and family members bought them, I was filled with joy. My heart swelled with pride when one of my sisters-in-law told me my other nephew slept with the toy car Michael and I gave him for his birthday a few weeks ago (I have fifteen nieces and nephews so there is always a birthday in my husband's family).

There is something extremely satisfying about giving someone a gift that he or she loves. As I thought of the kids and how much they enjoy the toys they receive, I couldn't help but think about God and the delight and satisfaction He must receive when He lavishes great gifts on us. Do we add to that satisfaction with an enthusiastic response or do we just mumble a meek thanks and move on?

For me, the best part of giving my nieces and nephews birthday gifts is watching them enjoy their gift. It's hearing them tell me they enjoy it. I'm sure the same is true for God. He enjoys watching us delight in the blessings He has given us. He wants to hear us praise Him and shout our thanks to the heavens. Worship that is birthed out of gratitude is one of the best thank you notes we can send heavenward. But how often do we respond like that?

If you're anything like me, you don't do it nearly enough. So take a moment to pause today and shout your thanks to the heavens and let God know you are fully enjoying all of the amazing gifts He has lavished on you lately...

Friday, July 27, 2007

The first year of college challenge

You may or may not know, I and my husband work with my church youth group. We had youth meeting on Saturday and the lesson was on the covenant of marriage.

It’s kind of cool to be a married person in youth group with my spouse also working with me. I feel like the high schoolers trust us because we’ve been with the youth group since before they started attending, and we’re also down to earth enough that they can ask us tough questions. Plus we won’t blab to their parents about what we talked about.

So we went over the whole “be faithful” and “oneness of marriage,” but my youth pastor added something that I thought was pretty insightful.

He said, “I want to challenge you all to not get into a dating relationship in your first year of college.”

We were all like, “Whaaaaat? Why not?” I mean, let’s face it—that’s when homework is the lightest.

His reason actually made a lot of sense. This is more true for girls than for guys, but it’s still good for a guy to take up this challenge. If a girl gets involved with a guy in her Freshman year in college, she usually spends a lot of her time with him—especially if she’s dorming and away from home.

She doesn’t have the time to develop real, deep relationships with other girls, and the first year in college is the most important year for doing this.

If they break up later in the year, or even in her second year, she doesn’t have a lot of close, intimate girlfriends to fall back on. It’s also much more difficult to form close friendships with other women in your second year in college, because they’ve all gathered in their own circles in their first year.

The distraught girl will usually end up finding another boyfriend. That’s not necessarily a good thing, because dating around isn’t as positive a social experience as bonding with other sisters in Christ.

Also, if a guy really likes you, and if he really wants what’s best for you, he’ll be willing to wait until your second year to enter into a dating relationship. No cheating by hanging out each night, driving you places, etc. If he’s not willing to wait, he’s frankly too selfish to care about anybody but himself.

I want to challenge you to this “no dating in my first year in college” vow. Well, pray about it first, obviously.

But consider devoting that first year in college to building female friendships, learning from each other, maturing with each other, praying for each other.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Busy, busy, busy!

This week is officially one of the busiest weeks of my entire year. Every July, my church puts on a huge outreach event for middle-schoolers that involves games, music, preaching and just random ridiculous fun (tonight is the giant Slip N’ Slide and I can’t wait!).

But in the midst of all the fun, there’s also a TON of stress on the leaders’ shoulders because we’re trying to organize, plan, schedule, make-up solutions to problems as we go and this can make all of us a little…um…tense. Frustrated. Short-tempered. And lots of other adjectives that apply to me switching my status from “Just Fine” to “Bawling Basketcase” in about 1.03 seconds flat.

Tuesday was the worst. I spent a good hour tearing up, talking to my pastor, praying and driving to Starbucks for a mocha. (This is a side note: Mochas and prayer make great combinations.)

That night, I finally settled into bed late again after cleaning up the church and pulled my Bible over. I’m going through a book on prayer and one of the verses I was supposed to read suddenly jumped off the page and hit me in the face.

Job 42:2 – “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

Why did this verse shout out to me so much? Because I realized that even though I’m completely human, God is completely God and even when the day is AWFUL in all caps, He’s still accomplishing His purpose.

Even if that purpose is just me learning to trust…yet again…that He’s still in control.

Have a wonderful week everyone! ☺

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Putting a Face on Pain

Sunday evening we watched the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. We hadn't seen it before, but had heard it was good. Now that I've seen it, I agree it's a good movie, but it wasn't very easy to watch.

Based on a true story, Will Smith plays a man named Chris Gardner who is struggling to support his wife and five-year-old son. They're behind on rent, taxes, and everything else. The stress becomes too much for his wife, and she leaves. He insists their son remain with him.

It seems that every time something goes well for Chris, five things go wrong. Against all odds he's accepted into an internship at Dean Witter, but it's a non-paying position. He has to try to make ends meet while completing the six month course, with no guarantee of a job at the end of it. He can't afford rent, so they wind up on the street, standing in line for a bed at a local mission, sometimes sleeping in the subway bathroom. His friends let him down. Strangers take advantage of him. His fellow interns and potential bosses have no idea that he's destitute, or that he's a single father, or that he's studying late at night in a stairwell while his son sleeps nearby on a cot at a homeless shelter.

The Pursuit of Happyness is a movie about love and commitment. About how much a man will endure for his son. About not giving up, no matter what.

But it meant something else to me. It made me realize that I far too often stereotype people. If someone is homeless I assume he is either mentally ill or irresponsible or lazy. If he's healthy and smart, I wonder why he doesn't just get a job. I don't make the effort to find out how this person landed on the street. The Pursuit of Happyness let me walk in one man's shoes and allowed me to feel his desperation, to watch the world beat him down again and again, and to realize that, unless I allow God to make me the heart and hands of Jesus to people I encounter, I may add to the pain of someone like Chris Gardner.

I recommend the movie. But even more, I recommend obeying Jesus' command to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Even (or maybe especially?) if our neighbor doesn't have a home.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Do More. Or Be More?

I've read articles about how kids today are busier than ever. I'm not even sure how some parents get their kids to all the activities they have. I have three kids and let me tell you, activities make our lives a lot busier. Right now, we are in the midst of trying to make decisions about what the kids will be able to do this fall. We can only do so much and we want to be sure that they have "down time", but it's so hard. There are so many things to get involved with out there and my kids seem to want to do everything.

In the spring, my daughter was involved with her first CYT (Christian Youth Theater) production. And now she's hooked. It's a big committment (for her and for us) so that's all she's allowed to do. My second daughter is unsure and the third daughter, well, she's easy.

But all my wonderings about what to do with my kids made me wonder about y'all.

Do you feel overscheduled? Or do you not do anything?
How do you decide what to do and what to let go of?

I have a tendency (and always have) to take on too many things. I have lots of interests and if I'm not careful, I can find myself buried. It's the same with my writing. I have to work hard to pick and choose what I focus on so I don't end up going in too many directions.

But it's sometimes hard to figure all of that out, don't you think? Well, here's a simplified version of my process:

1. Take a look at everything I have "on my plate".
2. Assign a code to each thing. "No choice" would go to the things that I have to do. For you all that might be school. "My choice" would go to the things that I choose to do, but don't necessarily have to. "Ditch" would get assigned to anything that I could easily give up if needed.
3. Then I go through the "My choice" and "Ditch" sections one by one through prayer. I ask God to give me wisdom about the things I'm doing. And you know what? God is always faithful to give me an answer - but honestly? Sometimes it's not what I want to hear.
4. Be obedient to what God showed me. And usually, that means making a choice to let something go.

Let me give you an example. I have an extensive theater background and because of this, I am always asked to help out with drama things, and I've even been convinced to try and start drama teams and things like that at church, many, many times. Well, one day I found myself sitting at a drama team meeting and I felt like God just asked me "What are you doing here?" And I certainly didn't have a good answer for Him. It took me a few weeks to extricate myself from what I had gotten involved with but I learned an important lesson. Just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean that's what you SHOULD be doing it. Drama was distracting me from the hard work (and patience) that was required to be a writer. Drama was my comfort zone, the easy choice and it is not what God wanted me doing.

Activities are one of those things that the enemy can use against us. You see, it's just as effective for the enemy to keep us too busy for God as it is to try to get us out of church altogether. Why try to convince us to give up on God when he can simply make us too busy to even notice we're not listening anymore?

So what about you? How busy are you? Try out the process above and then let us know what you discovered. Come on now, I 'fessed up. What about you?

I can't pretend...

To be Tricia Goyer. Even if I tried! Tricia is out of town at children's camp and then she'll be off to a much deserved writer's retreat! In her absence, she asked me to throw up a post for her. And so here I am.

Maybe I should introduce myself? Hi, I am Tricia Goyer's assistant, Amy Lathrop. Nice to meet you too!

Today I thought I share a bit about her new book, My Life Unscripted. It's a nonfiction book written for teen girls, and it ROCKS! (no, I'm not biased!)

Here's the scoop and the first chapter...

Drawn on Biblical principles, My Life Unscripted, teaches girls to "script" the story of their lives, rather allowing their emotions and temptations to dictate their decisions. The book in Barnes and Noble NOW! as part of their back-to-school promotion. It will be everywhere else in September. Here is an excerpt from the first chapter:

Lights, Camera . . .Action!

(a note about this book)

My Life, Unscripted may look a little different from other books you’ve seen. For one, there are actual scripts within the book. Some of them are ones I’ve made up. Others are true scenes from my life that I’ve written out in script form. I’ve tried to make these scripts as real-to-life as possible. I’ve designed these to look like they would if they were in the hands of a director.

In writing these scripts, I’ve used the same terminology as a scriptwriter. Here are a few terms you might come across:


Establishing: (Establishing shot) An image or shot that indicates the location of the scene and/or story.

Ext.: (Exterior) Used in the scene heading, this indicates that the scene is taking place outdoors.

Fade In: (Fade from black) When an image slowly appears from black. This is typically used at the beginning of a film. Sometimes it is used between scenes to show time passing between points in the story.

Fade Out: (Fade to black) When an image slowly disappears into black. This is typically used at the end of a scene.

Int.: (Interior) Used in the scene heading, this indicates that the scene is taking place indoors.

CAPS: You will also note that certain words are in all CAPS. This is not a mistake!

In the beginning of each section, each NEW PERSON OR GROUP OF PEOPLE will be in ALL CAPS. This is a cue for the casting director. It tells him the number of people he will need to cast. Also, each SOUND is in ALL CAPS. This helps the soundman to know which sounds will be needed for the scene.

Pretty interesting stuff, isn’t it?

And for my own personal touch, you’ll see that the Scriptures are in the same font as the scripts . . . because here in the real world, these Scriptures should be the script for our lives.


Not TV Land

(the real deal)

If you were to come across the script for a new (and just a bit cheesy) teen movie, the script might be written something like this:




Stadium stands filled with CHEERING FANS.


PLAYERS run onto field.


Soda cans and fast-food wrappers littering

the floor are KICKED aside by trendy shoes

belonging to MEGAN JOHNSON, 16. Light from

the stadium filters through the back window

over the muscled, tan body of CHRIS

COOPER. He brushes Megan’s hair from her

cheek and turns Megan’s face toward him.


You don’t have to be shy, Meg.

We’ve been talking about this all week.

MEGAN (wryly)

Talked about the football game, yes.

I thought we were actually going to

watch the game.

CHRIS (chuckling)

And why would I do that when I have

the most beautiful girl in school

right here? Besides, I don’t even

like sports.

Megan OPENS DOOR and climbs from car.


Chris, I came to watch the game, not

fend off your plays.

Megan slips her purse over her shoulder and

steps back from the car. She SLAMS the door



CHRIS (stuttering)

But I thought . . .


I know exactly what you thought.

Sorry, Chris, no touchdown tonight.



Yeah, well, you’re not the only girl

in this school. . . .

Megan watches Chris drive away.


I know. But I am the only one who has

to live with the consequences. . . .



Now that would make a typical movie, right? We’d watch as Meg goes to the football game shaken, but proud to have dumped the creep. If it were a great movie, Meg would meet a cute guy sitting in the bleachers. Of course, then there would be some conflict that keeps them apart. Maybe he’s rich, and she’s poor. Maybe he’s a rich prince from Denmark!

Oh wait, that’s been done. Maybe his parents have big plans for him, which don’t include her. Maybe hers are shipping Meg to boarding school.

But no matter the conflict, in the end they confess their love. And though the movie only ends with a kiss, we know their happiness lasts forever.

Ahhh . . .

Unfortunately, the script of my life went a little more like this:





Tears run down MOM’S face. Her jaw is

clenched tight. In the passenger seat,

TRISH VALLEY, 17, slumps lower into the

seat. She wipes away her own tears and

wraps her arms around her waist almost

instinctively. Her eyes widen as a car

passes. Driving the beat-up Ford is a teen

boy. A PRETTY GIRL rides with CHASE, 16,

curled to his side. Trish sits straight

and points to the car.


There he is. Follow him.

MOM (surprised)

Are you sure? Do you want me to

turn around?

TRISH (hurriedly)

Yes. Turn around.

The sedan turns and follows the Ford to

the McDonald’s parking lot. Trish jumps

from her car, SLAMS the door, and stalks

to the Ford. Her eyes refuse to meet those

of the girl in the passenger’s seat. She

focuses her eyes on the boy.

TRISH (angrily)

We need to talk.

CHASE (annoyed)


TRISH (with quivering voice)

Yes, now.

Trish stalks toward the large trash can

at the corner of the parking lot. Chase

follows. She pauses and turns to him.

His gaze is ice cold. Trish’s hands are

shaking as she crosses her arms over her

chest and takes a deep breath.


I’m pregnant.


I don’t believe you.


It doesn’t matter what you believe

or don’t believe. I am pregnant.


So what are you going to do?


I’m going to, uh, have a baby.


What about like last time?

TRISH (hurt)

An abortion?

Trish lowers her gaze, then shakes her head.


I’m not doing that again. I’m having

this baby.


I doubt it’s even mine.

TRISH (hurt)

Whatever. I don’t need you.

Trish stalks away, then she glances back

over her shoulder. She watches Chase

saunter to his car and to the other girl.



A little different script, don’t you think? Of course, the first script is something I imagined. The second is a scene I’ve lived through.

Writing the scene I starred in (even a number of years after the fact) causes a surge of emotions. Anger at my former boyfriend—yes, even after all these years. Anger at myself for being sooooo stupid to get myself into that situation. (That situation and many others. As you’ll read within the pages of this book, more than one scene from my life played out like a bad teen movie.)

Writing that scene also brought relief that I’m no longer that person, along with hints of joy that God has done so much with my life.

But more than anything, as I look back at my dramafilled teen years, I wonder . . . What was I thinking?

The truth? I wasn’t. I lived from day to day on every wave of emotion I experienced. On some days excitement and passion partnered up, pattering wildly within my heart. Other

days, depression and anxiety were my silent friends. I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart. I lived my life completely unscripted . . . and, well, you saw how well that went for me.

How about you? What type of script are you writing for your life?

Read the rest of the first chapter here

And, if your interested in learning more about the book or interested in helping promote the book to teens, youth workers, youth pastor's and the like...we're giving away free influencer copies! Send me an email and I'll fill you in on all the!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

It's not about the shape, it's about the values

Last night we had some friends over for dinner, including their teenage son, who had just got back from art school in another state. He said he had an epiphany during his figure-drawing lessons: "It's not about the shape, it's about the values!" In other words, it's not the lines you use to draw something, it's about the shadings, the treatment of light and dark areas, the shadows and highlights, that give the shape its three dimensions--and its beauty.

Now, I know zilch about art, but even I can understand this. Since last night, I've been thinking about it some more. What does our loving Father see when he looks at the shape of our lives? Does He tilt His head and go, "Hmm, we could use a little depth here," and then send us an experience that might be dark or smudgy, but that gives us some? Or does He say, "I need this part to really pop," and voila, there we are on a mountaintop experience that changes our lives--the kind where we look back and go, wow, it was all different after that day.

Has God been giving you some values--some shadings of light and dark? And don't they make the picture beautiful?

Shelley A.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What Do Girls Want?

This past Valentine's Day, my husband and I went to an event at our church for married couples. They provided desserts and coffee along with a program that was designed to encourage our relationship with each other. They had a band that sang all kinds of romantic love songs. I'm sure I had a grin across my face the entire time because I love love songs. At the end of the event, my husband put his arm around me as we walked out the door. I nestled myself under his arm and rested my head on his chest. He looked at me and said, "You know what I've been thinking..." I thought he had been thinking about how great his wife is or how beautiful she is or how much he loves his wife. I gazed up into his eyes and was caught off guard by the finale of his statement. Here is was: "You know what I've been thinking? I've realized why Arby's are so good in Atlanta. It's because their headquarters are located here." Arby's??!! I couldn't believe that after a romantic event he was thinking Arby's!

Isn't that just like us? We are so different from guys. Who knows what they want and how they think. I don't think I will ever understand why they can play video games all day long. And I'm sure they will never understand how most of us could talk to a brick wall. Since we are so different, it's hard to see what we were designed to want. We, as women, were designed by God to want what He wants when it comes to relationships. Sometimes that can get blurry because there are a lot of other people trying to tell you want you should want.

When it comes to relationships, what is it that you want? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Go Out and Play

This summer I’ve had a few opportunities to do something that I’ve missed out on for a long time—play. For a variety of reasons I think I’d forgotten how. I highly recommend it. Here are some fun discoveries that I made when I went out to play this summer.

1) Bubbles and glow sticks are a great alternative to fire works – They banned fireworks in our area years ago but this year the fire danger meant that, for 4th of July, we couldn’t even find party poppers or those cool snappers that you throw on the ground. So we opted for glow sticks and bubbles. While dividing the stuff equally between my kids I suddenly found myself holding one glow stick back and asking my oldest, “Can I have one?” After a token eye-roll/smirk he said yes. With a blue glowing bracelet I grabbed a bottle of grape bubbles and proceeded to blow until my lungs gave out. I even sent a few through a hole in our fence to our neighbors’ barking dogs. It was the best 4th ever!

2) Joining in the fun at Jump Man Jump is better than hanging back and watching the kids play – For those of you who aren’t aware, Jump Man Jump is a party place full of jump houses, bouncy slides, and other air-pumped activities. When I heard my friend Jane shriek with delight as she flew down the biggest slide I simply couldn’t resist. Those slides are a blast!

3) Tennis for the Blind – I probably don’t need to clarify that I am not an athlete. I couldn’t even get the hang of beep ball when my low vision specialist tried to teach me the skill. Well, a few weeks ago we visited my parents and Dad, my sister Kristy and I took the kids to a tennis court to whack a ball around. I decided to take a few swings. I discovered that I have a wicked serve. More than that, when I really listen and concentrate I can actually hit the ball when it’s served to me. So to those of you who passed me up when it came time to choose sports teams in 5th grade: you missed out.

4) Squirt gun fight! – We’ve had temperatures in the upper ‘90s and well into the 100s all summer so when Nathan’s squirt gun broke it was a major tragedy. Christian assured me that he didn’t need one (at 16 he’s a bit too cool for squirt guns) but I had a feeling he might change his mind. I bought him one. Since he wasn’t home I kinda “borrowed” it while Nathan was breaking his in. When it’s 100+ outside a mom can’t be responsible for her actions. In case you didn’t know, squirt guns are awesome!

5) Wading pools aren’t for preschoolers only – That same day I took a dip in Nathan’s wading pool. Hey, I needed to reload my squirt gun and it was closer than the hose.

I hope these provide some ideas for the next time you get bored this summer.

Go play!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

One of my FAVORITE times of the year is Adventure Week, aka Vacation Bible School. For one week out of the summer, my church puts on a giant production and sees over 500 kids and brings Christ to life. It’s crazy. It’s barely controlled chaos. And I love it. We don’t tell Bible stories. We act them out. We do mini-plays for our kids. Why hear about Jonah and the whale when you can see it? This year our theme was “Myth Busters.” Every night we busted a popular myth about being a follower of Christ. One night the myth was that young people can’t do anything for God. Sooo not true. The Bible says
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Tim. 4:12

That’s God saying, “Hey, you. Yeah, you— the girl with the bra that won’t cooperate, the teen with the drivers manual that won’t stick in your head, or the chick who just got a zit on the night before school pics—God wants to use YOU. Not only that, but he tells you that he wants you to be an example—even for adults.

Remember David and Goliath? David was young, scrawny. So not prepared to face down a nine foot giant. He was unprepared on all fronts, except on the inside. His heart was ready. Yeah, he beat the giant and his army with a slingshot, but his most important weapon was faith. David TOLD his brother he was going after that giant. David TOLD King Saul he was going to take Goliath out with God’s help. Nobody—not one single person in the Israelite army or region would step up. Just a small person, small slingshot, small stone—but an enormous helping of faith.

Where are the Goliaths in your life? Are you cowering from them daily like the Israelites or do you rush out to meet these challenges, knowing God has your back and will provide all you need? You are not too young to be useful for Christ. He is calling you, telling you that He needs you, that others need you. Come on, give it a shot.
Jenny B. Jones

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ever Felt Like Carter?

This is LOL funny. Some days, the harder I try, the more ridiculous my day gets.

I'm praying that today WILL NOT be a day like Carter's.


Monday, July 16, 2007

I am Woman, Hear Me Roar, or Gripe, or Wail

From our generation, there is a song by Helen Reddy (not sure about how to spell her name) that is fun to sing but not very scriptural. I am Woman, Hear Me Roar urged women to recognize their potential. That part's all right, but the lyrics also implied that in order to do that, we had to use the men around us as stepping stones. One didn't get the feeling that the woman and man were partners, that it was more of a tug of war.

Well today I feel like a woman, and no, I don't feel like roaring. I'm feeling the negative elements of having the hormonal make up of femininity. Today, my natural tendency is either to gripe about everyone and everything around me, or weep. I'm having a hard time focusing on sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. This is the pits.

The logical side of my brain can count my blessings. The emotional side just wants to wail. At this point in time, I can say for sure that men just don't "get" this aspect of being a woman. I'm also pretty sure I'm glad they don't. Can you imagine a PMS man who gets teary-eyed over a cloud formation that looks like the bunny he once had who died? That's just not a pretty picture.

My mother used to say, "Wait 24 hours, and the sun in your soul will shine again."

The Bible says, "This too shall pass."

It is always a good thing to remember that God loves us even when we don't FEEL loved. It's especially good to remember when illogically, you want to rant, rave, wail, weep, gripe, grump, and ditch the whole world as a lost cause. Praise God He is faithful and NEW EVERY MORNING!

Show me the way. . .

Shirin Taber, a 20-something author of Wanting All The Right Things, says, “We need each other more than ever. Many of us grew up as latchkey kids, come from broken homes, or weren’t taught to plan or prioritize for the difficult crossroads we find ourselves facing today. Our baby-boomer mothers and fathers, influenced by the sexual revolution, have in many respects only added to our confusion. They’ve taught us to mistrust men, become economically self-reliant, indulge our anger, and pursue independence—at any cost.”

As I read this, what I heard as a spiritual mom and as someone who works with young women and teens is, "I need someone to show me the way".

Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you have a parent who has shown you how to live, how to run after God. But perhaps you want direction in another area: how to pursue God's will or how to begin a healthy relationship with a guy that will honor God, or how to know where you fit and why.

Or maybe you are trying (and always have) had to fly solo in your faith life.

Who is your mentor? Who do you allow (or ask) to pray for you or to show you how to move past the roadblocks or speedbumps that trip you up?

Just this past week I connected with a woman I respect. She is an author. She has sold a gazillion books. She stopped for a morning and poured into my life, and I realized that I also needed that--someone who has already experienced things I have not, and who will show me what she has learned.

It's scriptural, women of all ages talking with each other about life, love, faith, direction, and more. So I'll ask again:
Who is your mentor? And if you don't have one, are you willing to ask God to show you someone who can encourage you as you run after him?
Let's talk. If you have questions about mentoring or faith, or anything else, I'd love to hear it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Creativity--a spiritual gift?

Obviously, as a writer I'm a creative person. Writing is, after all, a form of artistic expression. But writing isn't the only way I like to create. To those closest to me, I'm also known to be quite the scrapbook addict and well intentioned cook. I say well intentioned because my creations don't always come out as planned in the kitchen!

Genesis 1:27 tells us that we are made in the image of God. That verse takes on an entirely different dimension when we view Him as the Creator of the universe. God is creative, and every ounce of creativity that you have attests to the fact that you were made in His image! That may not seem like a big deal at first, but it does give new significance to things like drawing, painting, theatre and other creative expressions.

Normally, we view things like prophecy, giving, teaching, spiritual gifts but we tend to overlook the spiritual significance of our creativity. This summer, as you have some extra time on your hands try to engage with God in a new way. Instead of having your traditional quiet time, choose to commune with Him by worshipping Him through your creativity for a change. I feel closest to God when I am at my computer writing or in my kitchen whipping something up. And, not surprisingly, I tend to hear His voice loudest in those two places as a result.

I've also discovered that God and chocolate go pretty well together. So, if you're looking to be creative you might want to whip up a batch of my favorite chocolate chip cookies while you're at it.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup reduced-calorie stick margarine, softened

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1/2 cup reduced-fat semisweet chocolate chips

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl; stir well. Set aside. Combine margarine and sugars in a large bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy. Add applesauce, vanilla, egg, and egg white; beat well. Add dry ingredients; beat at low speed until well-blended. Stir in chips.

Drop dough by level teaspoons, 1 inch apart, onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until almost set. Remove from oven; let stand 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; let cool on wire racks.

Yield 5 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 52(35% from fat); FAT 2g (sat 0.8g,mono 1g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 0.8g; CHOLESTEROL 4mg; CALCIUM 3mg; SODIUM 65mg; FIBER 0.4g; IRON 0.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 8.7g
Cooking Light, NOVEMBER 1996

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Secret Fantasy

I have this secret fantasy and I think it needs to finally come out of the closet. Well, come out of the closet if the closet were my brain. Which sounds weird, but…anyway, here’s my secret fantasy:

At some point in my life, I’ll be sitting (perfect posture, of course) in my bedroom, wearing the most beautiful dress ever, my hair will curl in perfect waves down my back and I’ll be doing something impressive, like reading the dictionary.

Suddenly, out of the blue, there will be this slight rattling against my window and I’ll dash to look out it and see the most handsome guy ever standing there, tossing little pebbles up at the window (small enough to not break it, big enough to make some noise). And of course, he’ll be holding a bouquet of white daisies. He’ll grin at me with an adorable, dimpled smile, help me climb down a trellis of fragrant pink roses and take me on the most romantic date ever recorded.

Sigh. There. It is out. Here’s why this is completely unrealistic:
1. My bedroom is on the first floor. This means no trellis. Actually, outside my window is a devastatingly beautiful display of rocks and lizards.
2. I don’t typically dress like that to sit in my room.
3. Perfect posture? Are we kidding?

I’m hoping that by sharing this secret fantasy, there will be more out there who understand this or have even had it. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m a little wacky in the head.

Here’s something else to consider: As amazing as this fantasy is, it’s not real.

I can hear you now: Duh.

Sometimes I get so caught up in how I imagine things should go, that when they don’t go that way, what do you think happens? Right. I get horribly disappointed. Who wants to live their life horribly disappointed?

Worse than all of this, how often do I imagine how God should be? Or what He should be doing in my life right now? I think He should bring a perfect fairytale ending to my crazy life and it doesn’t happen. I think He should write out the answer to every question I ask in the sky (how cool would that be?).

And yet, God asks that we trust Him. In Psalms it says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Be Still. That’s a hard command for me. I like to Be Busy or Be Loud or Be Shopping.

Be still. God is God and we aren’t. He holds the universe in His hands and yet notices when a bird with a brain the size of a pea dies. How much more will He care for you?

An Erynn-translation to a popular passage. But it is true. And that is no fantasy.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Yeah, YOU ... that's who I'm talking about!

Tricia Goyer here.

You know what I've been thinking about? I've been thinking about YOU.

1. You matter. You are significant, not because of what you do, but because of who you are.

2. You are wonderful. When you see yourself as God sees you, you don’t have to worry about an identity crisis. You are his child. You have amazing strengths that are unique to you.

3. You can succeed. When you take time to explore your dreams and dare to grow by trusting God to help you, you become more of the person he designed you to be. You also become a gift to those around you!

4. You are loved. Intimacy means connecting with someone who touches your heart—through communication, time spent together, and love shared. True intimacy is found when you connect with those who appreciate you for YOU. They are concerned about you and honor you in every way.

5. You are smart. We receive instruction from school, through special training, and from life. Focus on being instructed by those who want you to succeed and are willing to help you.

6. You can’t do it alone. Everyone needs a support system--friends, parents, teachers, and mentors. Also, if we ask for his help, God never makes us struggle alone. His help may be bringing another person into our life. It may be giving us the courage to deal with our bad habits or to get out of a destructive relationship. His help may be providing the strength to go to attend school, to work, and take care of yourself. Jesus is available 24/7. Just ask.

7. You need to recharge. We can’t work 100% of the time. Everyone needs to enjoy life and rest. When God created the world, he worked for six days, then rested on the seventh. He didn’t need to take that long. He didn’t need a day off. He did it as an example for us. God created within us the need to balance our work with rest. This includes a physical breather—actually setting aside time for recreation. We don’t need to feel guilty for the way we were made. Taking time to have fun is just as important as taking time to meet our other needs!

8. You can’t do it all. Perspective means focusing on what will last—especially our family, other relationships, and God. They are the things we will never regret giving our time, energy, and love to. Focus on those.

9. You matter. Everyone needs to feel that what they do is important. If you ever doubt if you are important ... just look into the face of your child. No one can take your place!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Shelley's intro

Hi all! First of all, thanks so much to Sarah Anne, who invited me to join you. This is going to be fun :) You'll hear from me on the 7th and 21st of the month ... which reminds me, did you know that today is the most popular wedding date in the last, oh, 100 years? LOL

To help us get acquainted, here are five things you didn't know about me:

(1) I write chick lit for Christian teens, with the first book (which has the cutest cover EVER) coming out in May 08. Think of these as the Christian answer to Gossip Girl :) My books and I hang out at, which is a work in progress.

(2) I've been to 25 countries ... and I'll be going to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland this fall on a concert tour with a polka band. (Yes, I know, how weird is that. I do not play in the band ... but the whole experience might come in handy in a story someday!)

(3) My house fell down in an earthquake in 1989. But my husband built me a new one--much nicer than the old one. So God was good and it all worked out.

(4) I have a master's degree in writing fiction.

(5) I loooooooooove cosplay. I make historical costumes, such as a Regency gown from 1812, or a late-Victorian ballgown from 1892, for fun. The next project is either one of Arwen Evenstar's gowns from Lord of the Rings (probably the Requiem Gown), or else Elizabeth Swann's gold gown from POTC1. I suppose the deciding factor will be whether I want to make a 1720s corset and pocket hoops. Arwen's underthings aren't quite so complicated!

What about you? Any fellow costumers out there? What kinds of things have you created?
Shelley A.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Money, Money, Money

Do you ever think about money? I'm interested to hear your thoughts. As a teenager, what do you think about money? Money is something everyone wants. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, you want money.

I think Americans tend to equate success with excess. Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot, wrote, “Success is equated with excess. Our ambition for excess wrecks us.” (Switchfoot, Oh Gravity!) The more we have, the better we think we will feel. The problem is that usually the more we have, the less satisfied we feel. There is always something inside of us that wants more. As soon as you get what you thought you wanted, something better is released.

THe Bible tells us...

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21

How do you know if you are laying up treasures on earth? Think about where you spend your time and money. Then, you will see where your heart is.

Think about where you spend your money this week. Do you think it will bring you happiness?

If you have time, I would love to hear your thoughts about money...about spending, saving and giving.

Sarah Bragg

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What Dishes Can Teach Us About Society

“Oh my gosh!” I almost literally yelled. “Norm, come look at the size of these bowls.”

Norm took a quick glance, shook his head, and went back to feeding the cats. He’s not as easily inclined to make a big deal about something like bowl circumference as I am.

We’d just bought new dishes. I chose them for the cool grapevine design and the super-sized coffee mugs. But the bowls almost gave me a heart attack. I could have fit half a box of cereal on one, no problem. I noticed that the dinner plates were the size of one of the serving dishes in the set of china that I inherited from my grandmother.

“No wonder we have such an obesity problem in America,” I preached. “Everyone eats off of dishes that can hold enough food for a family of four.” I pictured Norm moving his lips as I spoke. He’d heard similar speeches before, in reference to the size of burritos, fast food drink cups, and the “small” ice creams at Cold Stone. But did I exchange those dishes for a more practical set? Of course not. I needed those mugs that held a quarter pot of coffee, cutting down on refill trips to the kitchen each morning. I have clearly fallen into step with our “Super-size it” society.

This morning, as I filled one of those gigantic mugs with French roast and a splash of flavored creamer I saw the issue a little differently. The day after celebrating our nation’s independence I recognized that more-than-I-need capacity as a reminder of how blessed I am. Even as I’m making a grocery list I have enough food in the house to fill one of those huge bowls or plates. If my coffee mug is empty in the morning it’s because I already drank the contents, not because we couldn’t afford coffee.

Consider the many ways that God has blessed you, even when it comes to the basics like food. Today, instead of giving into temptation to consider all that’s wrong with the world, what reminds you of all that is right? I pray that God fills your day with pictures of His goodness.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

no bungee for me

I don't get bungee jumping. My daughter does. She loves it.
But I also don't enjoy taking risks. I like to play it safe on solid ground.
God seems to be calling me to bungee jump with Him. I love to be alone and write, but lately I've been speaking and teaching others to write. I write inspirational non-fiction articles. But I'm going to be brave and go to California next year for a huge writers' conference. I want to have a good start to my first novel to take with me.
Scary as it is, I want to learn to write great fiction which means leave all that it comfortable for me. Free falling.
Is there any kind of bungee jumping you think God may be calling you to do?
I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Podcasts, Radio, and Stuff Like That

Today my interview with Stacy Harp, Active Christian Media, hit the cyberwaves.

It was informal and fun and I sound like I have a lisp due to the connection, but it was a great interview. We talked about stuff like dealing with tough issues from the past, finding wholeness and healing in God, and lots more.

I also just finished a radio interview with a very cool lady named Erin Campbell with Water Through the Word. It will be on satellite radio in August. And another with Focus on the Family will air later this year (I'll let you know when I find out.)

Now, the same thing happened after each of these interviews.

I hung up the phone or climbed out of the interview chair and thought: I WANT TO DO THIS!

It's the same thing I've been saying for the past four years. But there's obstacles. Really big ones, like where I live.

If I moved and left behind my family, my cats, my horses and home, then I could work for a radio station in a larger city, creating my own daretobelieve program.

But this is the scoop. I really love my husband, and my children. And I haven't felt God speaking to me to move and take all the human beings in my family--and livestock--with me, like he did Abraham.

So, if there are challenges, should I give up this dream? Is God dangling it in my heart like a carrot in front of a donkey cart?

Absolutely not. You see, I know the desires are from God, but the timing has to be his as well.

While I wait, I'm praying. I'm asking for direction, and I am learning.

I bought a new microphone that I can use with a cool computer program called Audacity. I'm playing with it, when I have time.

As I travel, I talk with people who are in the broadcasting business. They have a lot of sage advice to offer (wisdom!).

I'm also interviewing people who I really like, and who I think has a lot to say, and sharing it on my teen ministry site, Real Teen Faith, like this interview with Shannon Kubiak Primicerio.

I'm not going to give up my dream just because it's not happening right now, right here.

What about you? Do you have a dream? Is there something you really long to do, but it seems like it will NEVER happen.

If so, I invite you to join me on a trust journey, believing that God has a plan and a season, but also using that waiting time to grow in your relationship with God, and in learning new and fun things. Things that will be valuable as all the pieces fall in place.

See, waiting is painted as a bad investment in our culture.

But the Bible has this to say about it:

That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what
is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. (Romans 8:24-25 The Message)
Will I ever achieve my radio broadcasting dream? I think I will. But while I wait, I'll look forward to experiencing where God has me today as he opens the doors to my tomorrow.

PS: If you want to hear the podcast with Active Christian Media, click here!