Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Goes With Me into 2010

I just read a New Year’s newsletter, and in it was written, “This will not follow me into the New Year.”

That sentence popped for me, especially in thinking in terms of New Year’s resolutions. Instead of being in the new year and seeing some old kink in my life, a bad habit or sin I have to overcome, my “this” can be left behind. In a very intentional way, it no longer has to be a part of my thinking or life as I move into a new year.

I think of the Live Free series I wrote over the last few years, it’s basic call to live free. How crucial it is to consider what pulls us down and keeps us from living fully free as God intended. Added to that concept, a verse I grabbed a hold of in a new way during this year is John 10:10: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (NIV).

Life. God calls us to live it abundantly. In Greek that word is not bios—a simple physical, biological existence—but zoe. God invites us to a full-on thrust toward a passionate life.

Live freely. Live fully.

Couched in God’s purposes for my life and trusting his work within me, these two simple statements have become my passion and a part of my mission statement in what I do in life and ministry.

So the other side of my prayer-filled determination to not allow “this” to follow me into the New year, is bringing what I know fosters freedom and fullness with me into the New Year.

I’m picturing standing at a doorway. One side is 2009 and the other is 2010. I can’t stay in 2009. God created me, you, all of us, to be forward moving, not only in time, but in growth. I must go through the door. When I do, I can close it behind me and step into the New Year. No going back. With God's strength and life pulsing through me because I walk in trust in him, I can leave behind the old and step into greater freedom and fullness.

So over the next few days, I’m making lists.

This will not follow me into the New Year.

This
will follow me into the New Year.

What will be on your lists? Girl talk time! (Though as usual, guys are welcome to join in the conversation too!)

Jan

http://www.jankern.com/
http://choose2livefree.com/

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Carousel Ride


I feel like I should start each post with specifying that I’m Stephanie Morrill, but I don’t want to steal Camy’s adorable “Camy here!” I’ll have to work on a tagline of my own. Anyway. Pressing on.

For the last six months, every time I’ve taken my toddler, McKenna, to the mall, she’s asked to go visit the “horses.” (Known to others as the carousel.) We would always stand at the railing and watch the other kids on there, and McKenna would ask to touch the horses. I kept saying, “No, we can’t touch the horses today. Time to tell them bye-bye.” And she’d very sweetly wave and say, “Bye horses!”

When she turned two about a week ago, my husband and I thought the perfect birthday activity would be taking her to the mall to ride the carousel. I waited until after her nap to tell her what we were going to do that night, and she was SO excited. As soon as my husband walked in the door from work, she ran to him and yelled, “Horses!”

So it caught us completely off-guard when we paid for admission onto the carousel, settled her onto the horse she’d selected, and McKenna started whimpering and asking to get down. She looked completely stricken, as if she’d rather be anywhere but sitting on that horse.

As I watched the panic filling her face, it occurred to me that it really wasn’t so surprising. In fact, it’s something I’ve experienced before. Like when I opted to go to a private, all girls high school where I knew nobody. I anxiously awaited for the summer to be over so I could start the exciting new chapter in my life, but when I walked in the first day of school, I wanted to throw up.

Or how I spent years waiting for my first book, Me, Just Different, to be released. And before it was even on shelves, a so-so review hit my inbox, and I was flooded with the sensation that I was way out of my league, that I couldn’t do this. And six months later, as Out with the In Crowd is being shipped to bookstores, I’m experiencing these doubts all over again.

Watching as McKenna grew more and more afraid of this activity she’d longed to do, my husband and I fought to distract her. (Look at those lights McKenna! Can you pet the horse? Do you see yourself in that mirror?) And slowly McKenna relaxed. By the end of the two minute ride, she even looked like she might be enjoying herself. Though she did not ask to do it again.

It reminded me that in times of panic, fear, and unfamiliarity, I have a Heavenly Father to lean on. He can see the situation in full and already knows how it’ll work out for my good, same as my husband and I knew the carousel ride would be fun for McKenna if we could just get her to relax. He has the ability to comfort and guide me, if only I’ll trust Him as completely as McKenna trusts us. And he’s infinitely more trustworthy than we are.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

Stephanie Morrill
http://www.stephaniemorrillbooks.com/

Sunday, December 27, 2009

After Christmas weight loss

Camy here! I am writing this before Christmas, but I already know my uncle is going to cook us something FABULOUS and I will most likely pig out like a starving native.

It happens every year. I eat too much and feel fat. Actually, I feel fat every time I eat too much throughout the year, but somehow I feel fatter over Christmas dinner.

So here’s to New Year’s weight resolutions! I make one every year!

This past year, I was doing a bit better. I lost a few pounds, gained a few back again (but not as much as I lost), and repeated the cycle a few times. If I had been able to keep losing versus spending time losing what I gained back, I probably would have reached my goal weight set at the beginning of the year. At my thinnest, I lost about 12 pounds from the beginning of the year, but right now, I’ve gained about 5 extra pounds.

On someone my height (5’2”), it’s significant enough to make me feel good that I lost some weight, but also sad that I can’t seem to keep it off consistently.

I’m totally into natural (because at my age, anything chemical or man-made that might increase my changes of cancer or other icky stuff is not something I want to contemplate), so I’ve been eating more veggies, less meat, less starch (but not cutting them out of my diet entirely. I’ve also been trying to write down what I eat at Sparkpeople.com so I don’t go too overboard.

I’ve also been trying to do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, and some days I’m up to 60 minutes. Some days I don’t do any. :( I’m working on my discipline, can you tell?

So for all of us mourning our fat rolls after eating all of Aunt Mertle’s yummy sesame seed dinner rolls, let’s try to eat healthy and exercise for the new year! Let me know if you have any other natural tips that have worked for you!

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Times Record > Archives > Features > Harrison’s Holiday Highlights

The Times Record > Archives > Features > Harrison’s Holiday Highlights: There is more information at my website on Appreciate a Dragon Day. The underlying purpose of the day is to promote literacy. Dragonlovers are encouraged to pick their favorite literary dragon and introduce them to others through some art form. Check the ideas under fun ideas. In case the link doesn't work, the information is at www.donitakpaul.com
Merry Christmas and have a happy new year plus an interesting AADD. (Appreciate a Dragon Day.)

What if Mary had said NO?


Last weekend we put out a new nativity set that my Grandma purchased for us for our Christmas gift this year. It's a beautiful set, and I love that it's the centerpiece of my dining room. Of course, I had to pause as I was setting up beautiful Mary. In fact, it made me think, "What if she'd said no?"

This morning this thought came to me again as I was reading Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby. Here is what they had to say:

"One of the most significant illustrations of hearing and responding to God is found in the life of Mary, Jesus' mother. God's eternal purpose was to bring a Savior into the world, and through that Savior to bring his His great salvation to every person. He found the one through whom He would choose to work--Mary, a quiet servant girl. An angel from God announced God's purpose through her. Then came her amazing and wonderful response: "'Behold a maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her" (Luke 1:38). And God did what He said He would do! Impossible to man, but possible with God (Luke 1:37)." p. 19

It made me stop to think about how willing I am to follow what God has asked me to do. Do I always respond like Mary. No. Are there things He's asked me to do that I haven't followed through with yet? Yes.

Often, I ask God to lead me to new places so I can reach new people, and sometimes I wonder if He's waiting. Waiting for me to finish the assignments He's giving me. Waiting for me to say yes to all He's already asked.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Love in a Bag


Yesterday my college-aged son spent one of his first days of Christmas break in a creative act of giving. He went to the Dollar Store and bought supplies for what our church calls Manna Bags—packages of non-perishable food and toiletry items—then took the bus to the downtown station where he handed some of them out. He didn’t intend it as an act of Christmas giving. After seeing so many homeless or down-and-out men and women hanging around the bus stop whenever he took public transportation to his college classes, he felt led to do it. He had gotten in the habit of keeping a Manna Bag in his backpack in case he saw someone in need and this was his chance to give several at once without worrying about the time. It wasn’t until he got home and shared about who he’d given them to that I saw it as a creating Christmas outreach.

If you struggle with how to handle requests for “spare change” consider making some Manna Bags. They are a great way to . . .
Show you care
Offer help without giving money

How to make a Manna Bag
• Use large zipper bags or lunch bags (that’s what Christian uses).
• Go to the Dollar Store or someplace where you can get a lot for your money, to buy items to fill the bags.
• Good Manna Bag stuffers include:
o Non-perishable foods – raisins, nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, and lunch sized fruit or applesauce cups, tuna & cracker packs (the Dollar Store often carries these), beef jerky, etc. If you include foods that require a fork or spoon be sure to slip in a plastic one.
o A bottle of water
o Toiletry items like a toothbrush & toothpaste or soap & a wash cloth
o Cold weather items like socks, a stocking cap, or stretchy gloves
o A treat – slip in a candy bar or snack cake to brighten their day. If you plan to do this before Christmas, you might want to include a candy cane.
o Extras – Our church included 20-minute phone cards from the Dollar Store with a note that said “Call your family to let them know you are okay,” as a gospel tract.
Christian’s are always very simple since he is a starving student. He fills his bags with food items, a water bottle, a treat, and a toothbrush.

Tips for handing Manna Bags out
• If you encounter needy people on a regular basis, keep one in your backpack or car so you are prepared when you want to reach out.
• If someone asks you for money, offer the Manna Bag instead
• Use caution – If you want to hand out bags in an area where you’ve noticed a lot of homeless people, go with your parents, some friends, or a group so you aren’t alone.
• If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, stay away. Never risk your safety.
• Think beyond the homeless. You might know of a kid at school or in your neighborhood who could benefit from one now and then.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Favorite Things


I've been thinking a lot about what really matters. And you know what matters to me? People I love.

I blogged last time that my girls and I were getting together December 13th to make Christmas cookies. We did and guess what? This year we all wore matching pajamas.

My daughters are grown now, but when they were little, we gave them matching pj's on Christmas Eve. The past couple of years, I've started buying matching pj's again. AND this year I bought me some too! We all wore our pj's to the Cookie Making Party. I think it's my favorite Christmas activity--and it's such a simple thing to do. Simple but with much love. That's where my heart is.

One more simple thing. My husband and I have started sitting together on our front porch every morning really early. 6:30 a.m. It's still dark outside. We have our coffee and just sit in rocking chairs. We don't talk about anything all that important. This week, we've turned on the white Christmas lights that go around our porch. Today I said, "You really matter to me." He said, "You really matter to me, too."

Is there anything more valuable than spending moments with those we love? That's where my heart is this morning. If anybody else is feeling this exquisite gift of connecting with those you love, please share.

Love,
Julie

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas


Some Christians think we should contain Christmas in a little square box and only allow things "holy" into the activities of a "true Christian." But doesn't that go against Jesus coming to the world?
I agree that the commercialism around the sacred holiday is annoying, but the act of celebrating contains exuberance. So when I see Christmas homes decked with snowmen, reindeer, gingerbread houses, and other "secular" items, I relish the creativity, both cute and beautiful, and let the joy bubble in my heart. I think for those of us who are secure in the real meaning of Christmas can deal with the difference between the sublime and the ridiculous.

In my own house as the kids were growing up, we celebrated the tradition of Santa Claus from the day after Thanksgiving until Dec. 6th, which is St. Nicholas Day. We hung stockings the night before. After giving the jolly fat man his due, and also studying the different Santa Claus traditions of the world, we put him away and concentrated on the birth of Jesus for the rest of the holiday season. My children loved it. They not only got Santa Claus, but they got him early. The rest of the kids had to wait until Christmas Eve. And I told them from the very beginning that if they followed Christ and developed His gift of love and generosity, they would grow up to be somebody's St. Nick!

I'd like to invite you to the Christian Author Holiday Home tour. You can begin at my blog:

Dragon Bloggin

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Not Knowing

The anticipation of Christmas around here is high. I have three daughters, 10 and under, so Christmas is a fun time of the year. They know exactly when it is and have it counted down to mere days now. I love Christmas morning because we not only get the joy of celebrating Christ's birth, but we have the joy of giving and receiving gifts. And it is a joy.

But while we have a set day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we don't really get many other certain days.

When will I find the right guy?
When will I know what I'm supposed to do?
When will it change?
When will it get better?
What am I supposed to do while I'm waiting?

So many questions - I bet you all could add a dozen more to this tiny list. Our questions, our needing to know; it never really goes away. Today, I'm wondering how to squeeze a few more dollars out of an empty bank account. I'm waiting to see my full-time volunteer position turn into a full time job - you know, the kind with a paycheck. But I have no idea when that might happen. In the meantime, I wait.

But we don't just wait - we are waiting on God. It's waiting combined with trust that God knows the day and the hour. That God has the perfect timing. He's never late (but He isn't early either). We can trust God because he's always shown himself to be faithful. Is God faithful to what we want? No - he's faithful to what He knows is best. I'd rather have what he wants for me than what I think I want. After all, he knows the beginning to the end.

So while we are anticipating a morning of celebration, I hope you can find joy in the waiting - knowing that God will make things clear at the right time if we are willing to listen and follow Him.

Let us pray for you! What are you waiting on?

Monday, December 14, 2009

You burp, therefore I love you

Camy here! I was just thinking about this the other day—when we’re truly ourselves with someone and they don’t run screaming in the other direction, that’s got to be love.

This might be kind of gross, so TMI alert, but my husband and I actually … fart in front of each other.

Yes, it’s true. Romance has descended to this. He burps in front of me, too. But I’m better if I’ve drunk a coke.

I have a point, I promise I do. My point is that he loves me exactly the way I am, imperfect and human and sometimes stupid.

Actually, he thinks he really scored with me because I will actually forget our anniversary. Yes, it’s true. I just did it this year. All his friends who have wives who have to remind them two weeks in advance of their anniversary date—and who expect a gift—are in envy of him because not only do I not remember the date, if he doesn’t get me anything, I’m totally fine with that, since I’ve probably forgotten to get him something, too.

Now, that’s love.

My point, again, is that we love each other despite the fact I leave water behind the sink faucet and he leaves his stuff all over the floor. And steals the comforter cover.

We love each other even when I forget to take out the trash or—oops—feed the dog (although the dog isn’t really feeling the love at that point).

So for all you hopeless romantics who hope for a knight in shining armor who has good hygiene, sorry, he might not exist. But a knight in shining armor who would lay down his life for you AND buy you Godiva for your birthday—he might be out there. And God will bring him to you, in God’s own timing. And that timing will be perfect.

After all, He gave me my prince, farts and all. LOLOLOLOLOLOL I couldn’t resist...

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Meant to Last







Not all friendships are meant to last forever. This is something I’ve been reminded of in the last year. Several times over, in fact. Yes, even when you’re an adult, the nasty-friend-break-up thing can still happen.

I’m still learning how to choose friends wisely. That’s a little embarrassing. I feel at age 26, I should be better at this, but I’m not. Sometimes I still depend on the wrong people. Sometimes I deceive myself about how close I actually am to a person. When the veils come down on those situations, it’s darn uncomfortable.

And things get really tricky when we’re both Christians. When we’ve both been instructed by God, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

I’m far from an expert on how to handle these situations. Like really far. But here’s what I’ve learned in my last year of losing who I thought was my best friend and struggling to figure out where our relationship should now stand.

Forgiveness can be painful and humbling

That’s why there’s such a temptation to hang onto that anger and seek revenge. Particularly if you feel like you’ve been wronged in the situation. It’s been almost an entire year since we had our tell-all conversation, and I’m still regularly confessing anger to God and asking him to help me forgive.

Demotions are okay

I went from being the first person she called when anything exciting happened, to learning everything through her Facebook status. I found this quite maddening in the beginning. In fact, I cried the first time it happened.

But I’ve since learned that this person and I really don’t work as close friends. We’re not compatible. We are, however, good acquaintances. We both have young kids, and getting together once a month to let the kids play while we drink coffee is a much better arrangement for us. It doesn’t have to be best friends or nothing.

There are two forms of reconciliation

I used to only think of reconciliation in terms of divorce. Like when a separated or divorce couple reconciled, they went back to living like married people. Then, when I was doing Beth Moore’s The Patriarchs study a couple years ago, I learned of another kind.

In Genesis 31, Jacob’s father-in-law has come after him in anger. After the two have “talked it out,” Laban says to Jacob, “This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap on my side to harm me.”

They reconcile … but Laban goes his way and Jacob goes his.

Sometimes that’s how it works best for us as well. When you’re in a friendship where you keep hurting each other, when peace is impossible, reconciling and going your separate ways can be a good option.

I think it’s easy to imagine friendship being like those Clean & Clear commercials. You know, how the girls are always giggly, close, and smooth-skinned? But real life is a lot deeper than that, for better and worse.

Hope everyone has enjoyed their weekend!

Stephanie Morrill
http://www.stephaniemorrillbooks.com/

















Friday, December 11, 2009

Keeper of the Stars


I love flying in an airplane at night and looking down at a city all lit up like a Christmas tree, with twinkling streams of red and white lights winding through its heart and branching out on its highways. I think of all the people coming and going in those tiny cars--some happy, some sad, many feeling weighed down with life's responsibilities or worries. I always wish I could call out to them and say, "Whatever’s bothering you, it's not as big as you think it is! God is on His throne. Trust Him."

There's a line in Tracy Byrd's song "Keeper of the Stars" that says, "It was no accident, me finding you. Someone had a hand in it long before we ever knew."

Isn't that a lovely idea? It was no accident. It was planned. Someone had a hand in it. He knew long before we did.

This time of year I often think about Mary and what it must have been like for her that first Christmas. The entire Old Testament looks forward to the coming of Messiah. For Israel, it was never a matter of "if" but "when." Now the time has finally come, and Mary knows she carries the Son of God in her womb. But that's about all she knows. The angel Gabriel didn't lay out the whole game plan, and somehow Joseph and Mary missed the bit in Micah about a ruler coming forth from Bethlehem. They're still hanging out in Nazareth and Mary is almost ready to deliver, when Caesar decrees everyone has to go to their home town and be registered. Then, after what had to be an excruciating journey, the city is so crowded they have to stay in a stable.

Have you ever been in a stable? Dirty straw. Animal dung. Not exactly sterile conditions. I imagine Mary thinking, "Now I've done it. I'm giving birth to God's Son in a barn! This can't be good." But then the shepherds show up with news of angelic messengers and good tidings of great joy. No wonder Mary treasured these things, pondering them in her heart. God knew His Son would be born in a barn. The same God who spoke the Bethlehem prophecy through Micah moved Caesar to decree a census. And just to put an exclamation mark on the whole scenario, the One who numbers the stars and calls them all by name set one like a spotlight on His Son, a beacon to wise men then and now.

The Keeper of the Stars. He does according to His will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and no one can stay His hand. He acts according to His wisdom and for His own glory. It was God's plan for His Son to be born in a stable. It was also God's plan all along--even before the foundation of the world--for His Son to die on the cross.

Mothers dream beautiful dreams for their children. We want them to grow up and accomplish great things for God, and we want them to impress the world in the process. We rejoice over their successes and we grieve over their mistakes. We kiss boo-boos, calm fears, instruct, rebuke, worry, and pray. Then we pray some more. But, even with all that praying, sometimes we forget that God really is in control. That He has a plan. That the Keeper of the stars has numbered our days and our children's days. And that He is not surprised when Caesar decrees a census, or the inn is full, or Herod murders hundreds of babies, or mobs shout, "Crucify Him!"

Thirteen years ago, when our son Jacob was fifteen, he nearly drowned in Caddo Lake. He was under water for at least ten minutes, and it took another twenty minutes of CPR before he breathed. If he didn’t die, doctors said he’d be vegetative for the rest of his life.

This was not what I had dreamed for my first-born son. It wasn't what I prayed for or planned. Where was the Keeper of the stars when Jacob sank below that murky lake water? Why didn't He intervene? How could this be His plan for my son?

When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, Simeon told His mother that a sword would pierce through her soul. In the days following Jacob's accident, I think I learned a little bit how that feels. Many of you have no doubt felt it as well--pain that cuts so deep it hurts to breathe. But God was there, holding us up and whispering to our hearts, "Watch me. I'm doing something beautiful, and I want you to see it."

So we watched. Even as grief broke our hearts, we watched. And we saw a whole community come together around one wounded boy. We watched Jacob's peers become people of prayer and compassion . . . Blessings can turn up where we least expect them. But it isn't about our expectations. It's about God’s plans.

Tracy's song says, "It was no accident. Someone had a hand in it long before we ever knew." We love those lyrics when they refer to finding our soul mate--perhaps not so much when they're applied to tragedy or loss. And yet, looking back on all the beauty God has created and continues to create through our family's brokenness, I'm convinced more than ever that the Keeper of the Stars is working out His plans with perfect faithfulness. Jacob's near-drowning was no accident. Someone had a hand in it long before we ever knew. That's why I felt compelled to write our story. I wanted to encourage other people to look beyond their pain and trace God's sovereign purposes in their suffering.

Psalm 139 says,

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

We know Jesus was formed in His mother's womb for God's purposes, and all His days were written in His Father's book when as yet there was none of them. The same is true for you, for me, and for our children. Jacob is exactly who God wants him to be--a simple man of deep faith who inspires people to love God purely and to serve others with compassion.

Is this the life I would have planned for him?

No. It's better.

Our daughter, Grace, is four months pregnant with our first grandchild. Monday she and her husband Curtis found out they're having a girl. We're all overflowing with joy and gratitude, hope and expectation. I know Grace is already dreaming beautiful dreams for her daughter. That's what mothers do. I also know she will face some surprises down the road. But God won't be surprised. Even as He knits this little girl in Grace's womb, every one of the days formed for her is already written in His book.

The Keeper of the Stars has it all under control. Aren't you glad? I know I am.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas Blessings . . . in You!

It’s a busy time of year, and with the present condition of the economy, finances are tight. Can you dare to believe that you are a gift to give to others? And that is enough?

When you attend a Christmas event, what do you bring that is special about you? When you walk into a room, what will you add?

When you write a card or note, what words and expressions of who God created you to be can bring encouragement, laughter, or peaceful assurance to others during this season?

When you offer a gift, does it say to the recipient, “I know you,” and even in its simplicity, does it give a little of yourself?

When Jesus came as a little babe, he gave himself. Yes, he is the very best gift of the Christmas season for all of us, but when we give of ourselves—especially as expressions of who God created us to be—we help others discover and believe that God exists and that he cares.

This year, instead of obligatory gifts and cards, look for ways to slide away from the expectations and get creative. Do something daring and new that has your God-given personality all over it!

Have a blessed Christmas being fully you!


www.jankern.com
www.choose2livefree.com

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Purity


1. Consider purity. What does “purity” mean? Freedom.
pu⋅ri⋅ty –noun
1. the condition or quality of being pure; freedom from anything that debases, contaminates, pollutes, etc.: the purity of drinking water.
2. freedom from any admixture or modifying addition.
3. ceremonial or ritual cleanness.
4. freedom from guilt or evil; innocence.
5. physical chastity; virginity.

Some things I wish I had practiced as a teen:

Consider God’s best choice. If Jesus were sitting across from you, looking into your eyes, what would He say? What is His best that He wants for you?

Make it your choice … not your parents’ choice. Looking back in five or ten years what would make you proud?

Consider purity in your mind, body, soul and spirit. Purity isn’t just about sex; it’s about every part of you. It’s about integrity. It’s about being whole people. It’s also about helping others stay pure. Has something you said, or did, or wore become a stumbling block for someone else?

Consider marriage … and your future spouse. The bonding of two people for life. Every time you are emotionally or physically intimate with someone you’re giving a piece of yourself away.

Look to good role models. All of us follow where we are led. Who to you look to for inspiration? Do you follow behind people who live with integrity and purity?

Be a good role model. Consider your life. Are you living with integrity and purity?

Get cleaned up. None of us are completely pure. Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Take your mistakes to God. Bring them to Him in prayer.

Learn from others’ mistakes. You don’t have to mess up to learn the pain and heart-ache it brings.

Consider what love is. Love is not sex. Going “all the way” with someone doesn’t prove your love. (No matter what they show on television.) Going all the way is committing to someone for life! True love is shown through life-long commitment and by valuing the other person. You are the one responsible for setting limits on a relationship.

Pregnancy CAN happen to you. Having sex, even so called "protected" sex, can lead to pregnancy. It can happen even to kids from a good family and homeschooled kids. The only way to 100% prevent pregnancy is to not have sex. Also, you can get an STD from physical contact alone. If any part of the other person touches any part of you … you can get an STD.

Even “good girls” get pregnant. Likewise, being a “good guy” isn’t enough to stop you from getting your girlfriend pregnant. Having a good report card, being a good person, having an important parent, or being conscientious will not protect you from pregnancy. According to teenpregnancy.org, 1 in 3 young women get pregnant at least once before they turn 20—good girls included.

Most teens wished they had waited. Sex before marriage can lead to pregnancy and STDs, but there is also emotional baggage. According to teenpregnancy.org, 60% of teens “wished they had waited longer” to have sex. When you have sex with someone you are bonded to them for life.

Plan his/her actions BEFORE the situation arises. Do: set boundaries. Do not: get into situations that will cause you to compromise decisions. Making good plans can help you stick to goals.
Consider media’s wrong messages. The media (television, radio, movies, music videos, magazines, the Internet) are chock full of material sending wrong messages.

There’s a thing called secondary purity or secondary virginity. You can say “no” even if they’ve said "yes" before.

Ask your parents to interview your dates. Interview your possible date yourself, too, him/her about morals and boundaries. Tell him/her your expectations.
Seek God … often. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15b (NIV). Listen to His still, small voice.

Books for teens:
• Every Young Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge (Waterbrook)
• So You’re About to Be a Teenager: Godly Advice for Preteens on Friends, Love, Sex, Faith, and Other Life Issues, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, with Samuel and Rebecca Rainey
• Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty, Dannah Gresh (Moody Publishers)

Like this? Check out My Life Unscripted

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas is a-coming

And we won't even talk about who's getting fat. Hint: It ain't the goose!


I don't know about you, but I'm one of those people who groan when the stores break out the holiday decorations on, like, the day after Hallowe'en. I look the other way at the frosted Christmas trees, and flinch at the sight of people stringing lights on their houses on Thanksgiving weekend. My husband calls me a grinch. I prefer the term "non-commercialist." But then, last year, while I was writing my All About Us series, it just so happened that I wanted to do a Christmas story, and oops, the publishing schedule dictated that it would come out in September--a full month before those department stores put up their decorations!


Hoist with my own petard, I was. So I had to embrace my inner elf and just run with it. But I have to confess, researching Scottish Christmas traditions (this book is set in the character's Scottish castle) kind of put me in the spirit. I put out the word on Facebook that I needed some information about Scottish Christmas and New Year's traditions. A girl from Scotland replied and told me just the kind of details that I could wrap seamlessly into my story. Like what? you ask. Like these:


- At three o'clock on Christmas Day, the Queen's speech on TV is an institution. So I worked it so that my heroine is hurrying to get something done before three, and makes a mistake that pivots the plot in a dangerous direction.

- Families often go to the local pub to celebrate and dance on Christmas Eve, after the carol service. So of course I made up a pub and set a scene there.

- Midnight on New Year's Eve is called "the bells," so I made sure I referred to it that way. And I had people come to the door of the castle "first-footing," because it's good luck to bring a gift to someone's house first thing on New Year's Day.


Meanwhile, back in the States, under all the tinsel and the piped-in Christmas carols lies what it's really all about: family, close friends, hospitality, and--let's not forget--the birth of the baby that started it all. So, while we're on the subject, what are the Christmas traditions at your house? Put up a comfy chair, have a glass of eggnog, and let's talk!


Shelley Adina

http://www.shelleyadina.com

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Day Late but Better for it . . . Hopefully


I woke up in a panic a little after midnight, realizing that was supposed to blog on Saturday but completely forgot. I’d mentally reminded myself and everything. Still, it slipped my mind. I similar thing happened last month, but that time I got caught up in other things that needed to get done and kept putting the blogging off until . . . you guessed it . . . I flaked.

This morning I realized the problem behind my recent failures to post on this blog. I’ve become unorganized. At first I thought I was too busy. Then I thought of all the people I know who do just as much or more but still manage to faithfully fulfill their commitments. I thought I’d come up with a system after a writer’s conference that I attended in the spring, then again when the school year started. But I guess I let my system slip. So tomorrow it’s back to being organized. Here are some things that plan to implement (make that re-implement). Perhaps you will benefit from one or two of them:
• Go to bed earlier – I’m always more refreshed and ready to go in the morning when I do this. It’s also much easier to follow through on the next item on my list, which is . . .
• Get up earlier – Face it, when have a ever benefitted from ignoring the alarm clock then racing around like a crazy woman only to get a late start on everything?
• Make a to-do list the night before and look ahead to what needs to be done throughout the week
• Start the day with prayer and time in God’s Word
• Stick to the items on the list before adding other things
• Stay focused
• And finally, treat everything like an appointment, including posting on blogs.

So yes, I’m a day late for my post. But I grew in the process.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Crazy Christmas Cookies



When I was growing up, we made slice-and-bake cookies. My mother liked to keep her kitchen clean so never made our own homemade Christmas cookies. It's been one of those things I've always wondered about, but just hadn't tried.

Three years ago, this changed. I, along with my grown-up children, made Christmas cookies for the very first time. My daughters are now 28, 25, and my son is 18. We made a mess and laughed the whole time--especially when Katie decorated hers with orange and purple icing. We're getting together December 13th to do our Christmas Cookie Baking Tradition again.

That first rainy December afternoon in the kitchen, some new truths settled in my heart.

1. God made us to be creative.
2. It's okay to make cookies that don't look like the ones in the magazines.
3. You can start a new tradition at any time.

Katie gave me her recipe to share with y'all. It's from Betty Crocker.

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies--and it makes a bunch.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425.

Mix sugar, butter (or margarine), shortening, vanilla, egg, in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Divide dough into three pieces. You can refrigerate the other two while you're making the first set. Roll into 1/4 inch thinness on lightly floured surface. Use cookie cutters to make cookies. Cook for 6-8 minutes on un-greased cookie sheet.

Have fun decorating. Use orange and purple icing if you want to! It's ooooo-kay. :-)

Love,
Julie

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Principle of the Path

This is such a simple concept that it is a wonder that it is so often ignored. The principle of the path is that you will reach the destinations along the path as long as you are moving forward.
Say you are in college and you want to be a nurse. You are taking biology classes. You've lined up courses with your advisor's help and will graduate in two years. Classes and labs are situated along the path. Fraternity parties and skipping class to go to the mall are not.
That's easy enough to understand.
All paths are not equal. Your path to becoming a nurse might look different than someone else's. You got a scholarship so your path is straighter than Girl Friend A who is working in a nursing home parttime. And your path and Girl Friend A's path actually reaches the destination. But Girl Friend B says she wants to go to nursing school, but she is waitressing in a bar and going to beautition school because she wants to be able to do her own nails.
You got the picture. The principle of the path is that you will end up where the path is leading. Don't fool yourself by thinking you are on the right path when you see the signs that clearly indicate the path leads somewhere else. Be aware.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

You say it's your birthday!


I have birthdays on the brain today because one of my daughters turns 9 today. (Well, she told us very emphatically that she doesn't actually turn 9 until 10:42 this evening - she checked her birth certificate so she could know for sure.) So we have a few more minutes of being 8.

I love birthdays. Truly. I share a December birthday with my daughter only mine is on the 30th - sandwiched mercilessly between Christmas and New Years. Definitely not a good time for a birthday. I was glad that at least hers was early enough in the month to have a little distance from Christmas - when we get to focus on celebrating another joyous birth!

You know, we have a lot of trouble in this world. And I know I can't be the only one who feels overwhelmed, stressed out or just plain panicked at times. Especially at this time of the year. But days like today remind me to slow down and celebrate life. Celebrate the fact that we've been given a wonderful and precious opportunity to live.

So if you're reading this - I celebrate you. I am so glad you were born. I am so glad you're here. And I'm thrilled beyond measure that you've visited with us here at Girls, God and the Good Life. Because with Jesus, it is indeed a good life.

Till next time,
Sarah


Sarah Anne Sumpolec

Monday, November 30, 2009

Not So Black Friday




After all the turkey has been served, the parade viewed and all the family traditions of Thanksgiving are through, just one thing remains- waking up at 4am to fight the crowds just to get a jump on Christmas shopping. For the past two years, I have participated in Black Friday. I think the insanity of it appeals to my adventurous side! There is just something invigorating about the adrenaline rush of hunting for that amazing deal.

This year I was down in Florida visiting my husband’s family for Thanksgiving. We decided after seeing a commercial for a few items that we had already considered purchasing, that we would join all the other crazy people lining up outside Wal-Mart at 5am! Our mission: a GPS that we had been putting off buying for awhile as well as a digital picture frame that we intended to download our wedding photos to and give to my parents for Christmas.

I could not believe my eyes! As we pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot there was not one space open! Today I did a google search to see how many parking spots the average Wal-Mart has- 2,000. And there was not an empty spot in the lot! We made our own spot on a side curb and ran in.

As to be expected, there were people and carts everywhere. Many entire isles were completely blocked in a shopping cart traffic jam of epic proportion! When we had finally reached the GPS kiosk, they were sold out of the one we wanted and only had the more expensive upgraded version. We spotted what we thought was the digital frame on sale and grabbed two; we figured we could use one as well.

When we reached the front of the store, the lengths of the lines were unreal. Every line around us had customers who were arguing with the cashiers. One lady was challenging her total and refusing to pay, another was trying to use a coupon that was not redeemable at that time, while the gentleman in our line claimed he was given the wrong change. I stood back and observed; this was human nature at its best, or should I say worst. It was every man, woman and child for himself.

It was at this point that I realized we had the wrong digital picture frame. I had a feeling as I walked back in search of the right one that it would be too late. I pasted a lady who had five of them in her cart and asked her where she got them. She told me they were all sold out. Not wanting to throw in the towel, I continued walking towards electronics just to be safe. Once I had completely given up I headed back to the line to inform my husband that we could leave. As I rounded the last isle there was the lady with the 5 frames. She smiled and handed me 2 frames. I was totally shocked.

After everything I had seen that morning the last thing I expected was kindness and generosity. I love being pleasantly surprised and plan on looking for opportunities to pay it forward.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Child of My Love, Lean Hard

Today I walked into the livingroom of the lodge at the residential ministry for at-risk youth where my husband and I live and work and saw that they had their Christmas tree cut, lit, and decorated. A glance around the room and I spotted other decorations, including the nativity scene and the garland near the hearth with the names of Jesus. I smiled and remembered that the ribboned names had been a project I helped them with last year.

The Christmas season is here!

I realize it's not an easy time of year for all. Even when we do enjoy it most of the time, some days are just tough, or we know families or individuals who are struggling.

I thought I'd share a poem that has been an encouragement to me when events in life have become 'too much':

"Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;
I know thy burden, child. I shaped it;
Poised it in Mine Own hand; made no proportion
In its weight to thine unaided strength
For even as I laid it on, I said,
'I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms
Of My Own love.' Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on a shoulder which upholds
The government of worlds. Yet closer come;
Thou art not near enough. I would embrace they care;
So I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I knew it. Doubt not then;
But loving Me, lean hard."

From Streams In the Desert, September 12th devotion

May you know God's closeness in deep, joyous, and comforting ways this season. Especially know that Jesus who came as a babe, Immanuel, God with Us, is the one who said, "Come . . . take my yoke . . . learn from me for I am gentle and lowly at heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-30).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ahh ... Friendship


Last week, my husband and I spent seven days out in California with some friends of ours. Ben and Christian have known each other since fourth grade, and he met his wife, Rachel, during college. When you're a couple, it's a rare treat to have another couple to hang out with, one where everybody enjoys everybody. Christian and I easily find stuff to talk about, as do Rachel and Ben.

I'm not a tremendously social person. I like people and all, but I'm more likely to spend Friday nights with a book than I am hanging out with friends. While we see Christian and Rachel fairly often considering they live in California and we live in Kansas, we'd never actually vacationed together, and I wasn't sure how I'd do without my alone, recharging time.

But I'd forgotten how refreshing it is to hang out with a true friend like Rachel. We know each other, we know each other's quirks, and we've decided we like each other anyway. We spent seven days talking about everything from those new boots that come up above the knee to what God is currently pushing us on to how Christians should deal with homosexuality. We laughed and had fun, but we also asked each other questions meant to pry and prod.

I haven't had a plethora of good friendships in my life. Some of this has been my own stubborn, self-involved fault. Recently, with having a kid, husband, and career, it's been because I'm low on time and energy. I have people in my life who I'd like to be better friends with, but I haven't been very proactive. Spending concentrated time with Rachel reminded me of what I'm missing out on with other people, those I see on a regular basis.

Interacting with people often feels draining to me, and I'm grateful for the reminder that it doesn't have to be. Being in a genuine relationship means being myself with people who accept me, but who also lovingly ask me tough questions. What a wonderful thing that is.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends!


Stephanie Morrill

Friday, November 27, 2009

When People Ask Hard Questions

Camy here, talking about something a little more serious than normal (for me). At youth group the other night, one of the girls asked what to say when a friend or someone asks a really hard question, like if they’re going to hell because they don’t believe in Jesus, or why bad things happen, or something like that.

In youth group, we’re doing a year-long study on evangelism and God’s mission and God’s will, and we’d just covered something that I told to the girls—God’s Spirit is in us to help us.

The Bible talks about how the Holy Spirit gives us the words to say in difficult situations. And sometimes the Spirit doesn’t want us to say anything. And that’s okay.

It’s not up to us to make someone believe—it’s up to God and the Holy Spirit to convict a person. We are not responsible for anyone’s salvation, so don’t freak out thinking you’ve made someone turn away from God forever and they’re going to die in their sins because of you. That’s just not true. God has His hand over every person.

And sometimes, a conversation is not for that person, but for our benefit instead. Sometimes, there’s something God is trying to teach us.

There’s also a point you have to reach where you’re not going to understand everything. And it’s okay. We’re not meant to understand everything. We’re not meant to understand everything God does or allows—that’s what makes Him God and us human. Sometimes, His motivations are just too far out there for us to see or comprehend.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I have reached a point where I just love believing in God. I love being a Christian. Jesus rocks! And so what if I can’t explain exactly why I believe in Christ, why God exists, why I believe in the infallibility of the Bible. I just do. And I like believing. And no one can take that away from me, not with any arguments. I like being a Christian. Other people just have to deal with it.

So when you’re put in a hard situation, pray to God to give you the words to say. And be willing to say whatever He asks of you. And be aware that sometimes, He doesn’t want you to say anything.

And most important, trust in God. He’s got complete control of a situation no matter how it looks, no matter how completely incomprehensible and non-understandable it is.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Here Comes the Bride . . . and sixty babies?


If you know my son Luke, you'll understand why I've always given special consideration to my prayers for his future wife. I knew she was going to have to be a "special" lady.

Luke was born laid back, easy going, optimistic. He's a poet, a dreamer, a philosopher. He was the little kid in the outfield, examining dandelions or spinning in circles with his glove on his head. His fifth grade teacher summed it up well when she said, "Luke will be able to do whatever he wants with his life . . . but he'll need a secretary." His IQ is off the charts. He can quote reams of T.S. Eliot or remember details from an article he read years ago in National Geographic. But he can't find his keys. Or his shoes. Nor does he worry about it. "It will all work out," is his motto. And, somehow for him, it always has.

And yet, for such a laid back guy, Luke is passionate to the core. He'll happily land on the "uncool" side of hot topics if political correctness offends truth. He also loves intensely. His whole life he's been a cuddler. Never mind that he's a hairy, twenty-four-year-old man. If you let him, he'll sit on your lap and snuggle. One of his friends joked, "Luke's love language is violence." It's not that he's abusive. He just hugs that hard.

Over the years I wondered what his future wife would be like. I hoped she'd be organized where he's absent minded, but also free-spirited and artistic. That she would love his poetry and music, would share his passion for Christ's kingdom, and that her gifts and intellect would complement his. I knew she would have to be a prayerful, adventurous sort. I prayed that she wouldn't stress out when he came home shivering because he'd given his coat and last twenty-dollar bill to some homeless guy, that she would share his complete lack of material ambition and his burden for people who've never heard about Jesus.

Honestly, I wondered if she existed.

Well, friends, she does. Not only does Sarah complement Luke in all these matters, she gives him a run for his money. She thinks every bit as deeply. Her poetry is stunning. Her heart for the Lord as fearless as it is pure. Luke wasn't ever going to be the conventional boyfriend, and Sarah wasn't looking for one. They talked marriage on their first date--perhaps not so shocking when you know that the date happened eight months after she knew she would marry him and started praying along those lines. And, on top of all that, she's gorgeous and fun. He adores her, and so do I. She's perfect for my son.

As I've mentioned before, Sarah lives in a refugee community in Dallas, and that's the apartment they will share after they're married February 19. Which brings me to their wedding registry.

I'm a big fan of wedding registries. People like to give presents to their beloveds, and most young couples can't afford all the stuff you need to set up house. Registries help guarantee that the gifts will fit the couple's style and needs. Win-win. Given Luke and Sarah's disinterest in possessions and their future missionary plans, I was a little concerned they wouldn't register at all. But they proved sensible in that regard, and Grace escorted them to Crate & Barrel, Target, and REI. The process was quick and painless, neither one having strong opinions on electric mixers or measuring cups. After they finished I checked the registries online and was satisfied they'd have all they needed.

Then, after a couple of weeks, a strange thing happened to their Target registry. Items multiplied. One dirt devil vacuum cleaner became fifteen. And who needs thirty floor lamps? Fifty toothbrushes? And, wait a minute . . . sixty Gerber baby sleepers?!

You guessed it. (You always were the quick one.) They already have so much more than their refugee neighbors, the thought of adding piles of brand new household goods to their comparative abundance felt obscene. So they did the only logical thing (if you happen to be selfless and non-materialistic). They're giving their friends and relatives the opportunity to bless folks who are far more needy than almost all American newlyweds. Folks who've been displaced, who find themselves far from home with little more than the clothes on their backs. For Luke and Sarah, part of "setting up house" will be loading their arms with Christ's love in the form of lamps, brooms, toothpaste, and soap and carrying it to the mission field outside their doorstep. God only knows the doors and hearts that will open in response.

And yet there's still a part of me that wants to say, "But wait. What if everyone buys the items for the refugees, and you don't receive the stuff you selected for yourselves? This is YOUR wedding. YOUR chance to feather YOUR nest. You won't get another opportunity like this ever again."

I won't say it, though. Because, hearing it through their ears, it sounds as selfish and hoarding as it is. And, honestly, I'm ashamed. Ashamed that I would even consider weighing them down with misguided priorities just because I've held them myself for so long. On the contrary, may I become more like them, joyfully sharing all things, loving in more than word, living what I say I believe.

Luke and Sarah are getting married. Only time will tell what God intends to do with their union, but meanwhile sixty babies and I will be glad they did.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Amazed

This is currently my favorite worship song and I thought I'd share it with you! I truly am amazed by God's love and faithfulness towards me:)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Want to Follow God?


You don’t need to DO these things to be a God-follower, but these are things that have helped me on my journey. Things I have tried to teach my children and maybe they’ll help you too:

1. Make time for God. Set your alarm clock to get up early. Focus your thoughts on Him first and often.

2. Read the Bible and ask God for the one thing to take-away from your reading.

3. Read devotional books. I recommend: My Utmost for His Highest. Practicing the Presence of God. God Calling.

4. Listen to Christian music and/or praise music throughout the day. It helps to keep you focused on the right thing and protects your thoughts from all the worries of life.

5. Pray with friends—together in person or on the phone.

6. Get advice from other Christ-followers. Look to men and women you respect for encouragement about following God with all your heart.

7. Read biographies of famous Christians. Be inspired!

8. Seek God throughout the day.
a. Talk to Him.
b. Seek His strength.
c. Be encouraged by His word.
d. Believe in His love.
e. Trust in His plan for your life.

2. Have a mission statement for your life. If you could do anything with the talents and gifts God has give you what would it be? Who would you serve?

3. Ask God for the one thing He desires for you to do.
a. He knows His plans for your future.
b. He knows His design for your marriage.
c. He has gifted you with your children.
d. Now what does He want you to do with all these things?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bead Your Faith


Today I am proudly wearing a “wordless book” bracelet that I made during Parents’ Night at our church’s Awana club. We had a great time doing a craft usually reserved for kids. You might remember making one in Sunday school or VBS. When I think about it, wordless book bracelets are creative way to share your faith. If you don’t have any Christian jewelry or want something new, why not try making one?

Here is what you need:
A thin piece of leather long enough to fit around your wrist after tying some knots in it (one website said 15 inches)—if you can get a piece with a pointy end the final steps will be easier
5 pony beads – 1 yellow, 1 black, 1 red, 1 white, 1 green, and 1 clear (some also add 1 blue bead)

Making your bracelet:
Tie a knot about 1/3-way down the piece of leather
String your beads in this order: yellow, black, red, white, green, and blue if you choose to include it

Tie a knot close to the last bead
String both ends of the leather through the clear bead to connect your bracelet (if you can crisscross them it will be easier to adjust)
Tie off the ends

Now, how do you explain your bracelet when someone asks about it? Here is what each bead means:

Yellow – this bead represents the streets of gold that are in heaven
Black – reminds us of our sin, which separates us from God and heaven.
Red – Jesus shed his blood to save us from the penalty of our sin
White – When we confess our sins and accept Christ as Savior God immediately forgives and forgets, making us pure and fit for heaven
Green – After we accept Christ as Savior, God wants us to grow through studying His Word, prayer, and becoming an active member of His family
Blue – represents baptism, the public expression of our faith

By sharing the meaning of each bead you are sharing the gospel.

So these cool, colorful bracelets aren’t just for Sunday school kids.

Have fun seeing the opportunities to share Jesus that come after making one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Random Conversation? I don't think so.




I was waiting to pick up my computer. Waited for three hours as they transferred files for me because my computer crashed. Sometimes I start talking to strangers who work in stores--ladies, of course. My children hate when I do this.

I noticed a young woman working in the phone department sorting through a box of phones. I was drawn to her. We had an amazing conversation. She volunteers through the Lilburn Co-op Young Parents' Group. I asked if she'd be open for an interview for the blog. She said sure. Her name is Kelsey.

1. Tell me about the organization where you volunteer.
Well, the group, as we call it, is a mommy class. It's a young parents group that acts as a support group. We get together the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month to relax and learn about ourselves inside and out. It helps build relationships with new people. A lot of the girls in the class now have a strong support group and good friends to turn to.

2. How long have you been serving?
Funny story, actually. I've been involved with this group for about a year and a half. When we first started it was just two other ladies and me. The group kind of sought me out as the main leader. I met one of the ladies when she came in the restaurant where I worked. We just started talking. We had similar issues and she gave me a lot of good pointers. Since then, our group has grown to reach between 20 and 30. It's a blessing to see that these girls come from all different backgrounds. We've formed a strong bond.

3. What are you duties?
I do a lot of networking and outreach to single young parents. Being a young person myself, it's easy to relate. Whether it's mental, physical, or emotional, I see a little part of myself in them.

4. How did you get interested in doing this?
Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted to help people. I never really acted on it until I became a mother. I realized how many people are struggling just to feed their kids and don't take a second for themselves. I had my daughter 12 days before I turned 19, but I had a tremendous support group. It's sad but a lot of girls and guys who have kids that young don't have friends or family to help them. It kills me. I still struggle with things but having my family makes it easier. I need to show others there is someone who cares, even if it's just an ear to listen.

5. Do you have a dream or goal that involves your volunteer work?
I do. I want to have a shelter for young parents. I would love to help give that to others--make little apartments for people who need financial and emotional help. Teach them better ways to survive in our economy. I would LOVE to help single parents and homeless people. Maybe they've made just one wrong choice and need help learning to live again.

6. Can you think of one particular girl whose story stands out?
Well, I do have one girl that gives me serious inspiration. Let's call her Lindsey. She's a single mother to 3 young boys. She and her husband divorced a little while ago. She takes of the boys by herself. The father goes in and out of their lives. She works three jobs to make sure the boys have food and clothes. She struggled with ovarian cancer after the birth of her third child. She doesn't let this get to her because she knows she has to take care of her boys. When she told me this, I just hugged her tight.

7. Any words you'd like to share with our readers?
There are people out there who do care. If you feel like there's nothing left or no one to listen, I assure you there is. young (dot) parents (at) yahoo.com

Thanks for reading. Thanks for letting me interview you, Kelsey. May you one day have your heart's desire.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Book Blog Tour

I'm doing something new this week. I am participating in a Blog Tour for my friends' new book: The Curse of the Spider King.
The friends are Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. I know the coolest people! That's one of the perks of being a Christian Fantasy Writer.

I got to know them better last year when we did the Motiv8 Fantasy tour of the West Coast.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Inexpensive Christmas gifts

Camy here! Have you started thinking about Christmas yet?

I love Christmas. I mostly like giving gifts to my friends and family. I especially like being able to give them something they’ll really enjoy and could use.

I’m also dirt poor, so the challenge is giving a gift that’s not cheap-looking, but that’s inexpensive to make or buy.

Yarn craft

I’m big into knitting, so I like asking my friends point blank what they’d like me to make them for Christmas. I give options like a scarf, hat, mittens, fingerless gloves, bag, etc. It makes it easy for me, and it guarantees they’ll get what they want. Then I buy the yarn and make something for them.

Do you crochet or do some type of yarn craft? Why not make your gifts this year? You can also learn to knit or crochet really easily online. Believe it or not, I learned to knit from watching knitting videos.
Knittinghelp.com videos
Knitpicks.com community learn to knit tutorials
Lion Brand website for knitting and crochet tutorials

Sewing

There’s a sewing group that meets at my church who have volunteered to show me how to sew, although I haven’t taken them up on it yet. But it makes me think that if I do, I can make cute sewing projects for gifts, too. iPod or phone cases, bags, pillowcases.

If you sew, consider some cool sewing you can do for your friends or family as gifts. Pillowcases in cute fabric are always great gifts and they’re very inexpensive, too.

If you embroider, consider buying something small and embroidering the person’s name or designs on it. Regular or ribbon embroidery can really dress up something that’s otherwise very plain.

Cards

I also like making cards for people to use, because everyone could use thank you cards or birthday cards. I get stamps, colored paper, double-sided tape, and ribbon trim from the local craft store and then go to town. It’s fun because I get really creative, and it’s fast because I can make several copies of the same card really easily.

And if I make several different designs, I can give everyone one or two cards of each design, for a total of a dozen or two dozen cards as a gift. I wrap the bundle of cards in ribbon and it looks great!

If you’re creative and wise with what stamp sets you buy, each card can be as little as 25 cents each to make. There are some stamp sets that are hearts or flowers, with several stamps in the set, and you can mix and match with different colors, different paper, and different ribbon or trim to make different types of cards with the same set.

Are you a photographer? Why not develop several copies of your favorite pictures and paste them to cardstock to make fantastic blank cards to give away? You don’t even have to embellish the cards if you don’t want to, because the photos themselves make the cards special.

Sparkly stuff

Some of you do beading, and jewelry is a great gift to give. Earrings, a pendant, or a bracelet are relatively inexpensive, and you can make them in your friend’s or relative’s favorite colors.

And you don’t have to limit yourself to jewelry. You can also make cell phone charms, bookmarks (see those book thongs in Borders?), zipper pulls. Be creative!

Any other ideas?

What are you considering for inexpensive Christmas gifts this year?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!

Friday, November 13, 2009

God is bigger



When I decided I was going to pursue my dream of being a writer, I was 17 and didn’t know exactly what that looked like. It ended up being a lot of trial and error. First, I learned I didn’t need to send my whole manuscript directly to the publishing houses. There were people called “literary agents,” and I needed to get me one. I read up on how to do that, then I started sending out my query letters.

Then I learned that I didn’t know what genre I wrote for. I did some more research and determined that I wrote Young Adult Fiction. Then I learned that a thing called “Christian Fiction” existed, but I didn’t know exactly where my books fell. Did being a Christian writer automatically mean I wrote Christian Fiction? No. In fact, whether I chose to write for the general market or the Christian, my content needed tweaking. It needed less tweaking if I went the Christian route, so I did that. (Doesn’t that sound like such a spiritual decision? Sheesh. It would be so much nicer if I could say that I prayed about it.)

And after a few more years of trial and error, I started hearing this “platform” word. It was something I needed and didn’t have. A platform is basically anything that gives you name recognition and will help you sell books. I was 23 at the time, quite pregnant, and I’d spent the last six years primarily devoted to improving my writing. I left my “platform” class at a writers’ conference feeling depressed and defeated. For the first time since I’d started on my journey, I wondered if it was really possible for me to be published.

A funny thing happened a few months later—my agent called and said Revell wanted to buy my Skylar Hoyt books.

I knew I should have been excited, and I was, but I kept thinking, “Wait! Are they sure? I don’t have a platform.”

Before we got off the phone, my agent laughed and said, “I just can’t believe it. You have no platform, and you write for a risky genre. I can’t believe you got published.”

And I felt God saying to me, “I can.”


The thing is, God is bigger. He’s bigger than the publishing industry. He’s bigger than cancer. He’s bigger than the government. He’s bigger than financial crisis. He’s bigger than a bad grade, mistakes you’ve made, or regrets you have. Whatever you’re going through today, whatever is burdening your heart—He’s bigger. It’s a thought that comforts and strengthens me, and I hope it does the same for you.

Stephanie Morrill

www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Homeward Bound


Today I return to Texas with a full heart after nine days in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. A few highlights: I spent time with my kids and dear friends, spoke to writers at Northwest Christian Writers Association, spoke to women's groups at Beit Tikvah in Renton and Sonlight Community Church in Lynden, met with a book club, spoke at Lynden Christian High School's chapel service, and concluded my time here last night speaking at the Cascade Christian Services Staff & Donor Appreciation Banquet. I've connected with writers, women, teens, and a group that exists to serve the disabled. Sometimes I think the beauty of the body of Christ will make my heart explode.

As I prepare to head home, I'm thinking about heaven and how there will be perfect community and no more good-byes. I long for that day. But in the mean time, loving and being loved sure is fun.

Love well, friends. We have so much to be thankful for.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Simplicity, Beauty, and Transformation

Early summer, I traveled to attend a seminary class, which gave me the chance to hang out in one of my favorite areas of California, in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Mount Hermon. I had a little time before I arrived at the home where I would be staying, so I stopped at a deli to grab a bite to eat.

A shop next door looked intriguing. After I ate my dinner, I noticed the open sign still hanging, so I stepped inside and browsed through the unusual items, some brand new, some antique. I found a quirky but beautiful glass bowl and lifted it to the light. It was priced reasonably. I sat it down and moved on to explore the rest of the shop. In the end I bought the bowl. I knew just where I would put it in my home.

This purchase was part of a decision I had made just a few months before. I wanted to simplify and beautify my home in ways I hadn’t yet done since moving into the ministry house where we lived. My time and financial resources are limited for this project, so I decided to make one or two simple changes in a room, then move on to another, make a change, take another room, make a change . . . you get the picture. That way each room would receive some attention and all would gradually transform.

Sometimes the change involved throwing or giving away things we no longer used or needed. Sometimes it meant finding something new (at least for us), like the glass bowl. I’m not going for House Beautiful here. Just warm, welcoming, and an expression of who we are.

The plan felt do-able. As I began, I realized this was fun, encouraging, uplifting. Even as simple as each change was, I felt the subtle transformative impact on the overall look and feel of a room or my home.

I’m far from done. This will take a while. But that’s okay. I’m enjoying the journey.

This all sounds a bit familiar to me. This thing of changing a little bit at time is very much like what God has been doing in my life since I met him in high school. I’m so glad that when I quietly prayed to ask him to forgive me and change my life, he did forgive me entirely, and he changed my heart. Those were huge and noticeable as have been other changes where God has really dug into an area of my life. But many changes have come slowly over the years—a few in this area of my life, a few in that one.

And God’s transformative work goes on to this day. Getting rid of stuff not needed in my life. Simplifying what I’ve made complicated. Beautifying areas that are dingy or dowdy.

And I hear God say to me, “I’m not done. This will take a while.”

I smile and respond, “I’m okay with that, God. I’m enjoying the journey.”



“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”

(2 Cor 3:18 NIV).


Have a beautiful, transformative week!

Jan

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Teens and the bad rap ...


Choices, Choices

A few years ago I helped a family member purchase a money order to mail to her daughter who lives out-of-state. It seems her boyfriend kicked her out, and she’d been staying in a hotel. Unfortunately, she ran out of money, and her boss from the local diner had already fronted all he could. This person needed money quick, and she didn’t know where else to turn.

Around the same time a friend of mine related the story of being startled awake by her son. It was 3:30 a.m. when the phone rang. Her son had been partying and needed a ride home. Though my friend had to work the next morning, she jumped out of bed and hurried to her son’s aid.

Does this sound unusual? Maybe not. People find themselves in binds like this all the time.

Well, what if I told you that these people in trouble were 50 and 55-years-old? That’s right. They experienced adolescence in the 1960s, yet here they were not straying far from their old ways.

Many times teens get a bad rap for being irresponsible. Teens drive too fast. Party too hard. And don’t make wise choices about their future.

Well, as far as I’m concerned, wise-decision making has more to do with a right heart-attitude than with age. I’ve seen teens make very wise choices . . . ones that their older acquaintances should try to copy!

Proverbs 1:15 and 18 says, “Don’t go along with [sinners], my child! Stay far away from their paths . . . they set an ambush for themselves; they booby-trap their own lives! Such is the fate of all who are greedy for gain. It ends up robbing them of life” (NLT emphasis mine).

For the past few weeks, I’ve been wearing a white wristband similar to Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong. It says these words: “Choose Life.” On the surface the meaning is pro-life, of course. But to me this bracelet also reminds me to choose life in all the decisions I make.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him” (NIV).

Choosing life means choosing God’s way. It’s choosing to seek Him instead of the world’s answers. It’s choosing hope, peace, abundance, and faith. It means serving God and loving people, instead of attempting to find happiness through live-in boyfriends and all-night-parties. It means not booby-trapping your own life by making bad choices over and over again.

Each of us messes up. I have too many times to count! But being “grown-up” means realizing those mistakes and deciding to take a better way. As Psalms 119:30 says, “I have chosen the way of truth” (NIV). Truth as Jesus gives it--not as Hollywood tries to display.

So the next time someone tries to give teens a bad rap, be sure to tell them differently. Let them know you’re choosing life. You’re choosing not to bobby-trap your future. Choosing blessings instead of cursings.

After all, your choices are good choices when you choose God’s choices for your days!

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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