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!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Get up, stand up

The other day I got some news that I hoped wouldn't be coming ... but it came anyway. It was publishing related. It was bad. In fact, it really stank.

So I posted on Facebook about it and right away the notes started coming in. Are you okay? Is everything all right? Then I realized that not everyone thinks in terms of books, like me (imagine that). My friends thought that something had happened, and were flocking around me to help.

Once they heard the truth--yes, everything's fine, there's just this hiccup with the books, it's okay--they still gave me virtual hugs and everyone went on with their day. But it put things in perspective for me, you know? There is more to life than the things that are right in front of us--things that are so close to us that maybe they block the view of everything else. Life still contains chickens, and pie, and good friends, and things that make us laugh. Today the Lord even gave me more words for my NaNo book than I ever expected. Our Father is endlessly good.

And did I mention there was pie?

Shelley B.
http://www.shelleyadina.com

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Growing up--Letting Go



Maybe some of our teenage readers feel like your moms cling too much. Won't give you your space. Want to talk all the time.

Maybe some of our mom readers are struggling with letting our grown or almost grown children go. I was.

It's hard.

I wrote about letting my son Thomas go. He's eighteen. For me, letting go has been a process. He's my youngest child. My baby. His sisters are in their twenties. We lost a baby boy before Thomas was born. Maybe this has something to do with why I had a hard time letting him go. I don't know. He broke his leg on his seventeenth birthday at football practice. Of course, I tried to baby him. That didn't work.

You can read about us in the November issue of Guideposts or find it on their Web site at www.guideposts.com. The title of my story is "A Change of Season." Sign up on their site to read it.

Can anybody identify?

One good thing. Thomas is pleased with the story I wrote. He showed his friends. :-)

Love,
Julie

Monday, November 02, 2009

So, How's That Working for You?

I like this expression that has eased into our society's collection of idioms. It has humor and a point. Humor with a point is good.
I have to admit, I don't like "No problem." Or even worse, "No problemo." as if that were legitimate Spanish. Instead of a gracious "you're welcome," or "my pleasure," "no problem" just sounds like a brush off. So "no problem" doesn't work for me.
But I digress.
The reason I like "So, how's that working for you?" is that it makes me laugh. I once had a box of books that I was giving away. A friend selected several to add to her bookshelf and lighten mine. In the box was a book about an apple cider vinegar diet. She held it up and asked, "Does this work?"
I pointedly looked down at my very round self and said, "no."
As flawed human beings, we have a tendency to persist when the evidence before our eyes should deter us. A young man has trouble attracting the attention of a certain young lady. He talks louder, laughs louder, makes inappropriate noises, and wonders why she's always looking the other way. Someone needs to say, "How's that working for you?"
A teen wants independence so she sneaks out, prevaricates over where she has been, and lifts a couple of dollars from her mother's purse on a regular basis. Her parents tighten the reins and keep a very close eye on her. "Hmm? How's that working for you, young lady?"
It's not as difficult to change behavior if we look at the truth. When I run head on into the same frustrating situation over and over again, I ask myself what brings me to this point.
It's still funny, and not nearly as humiliating, if I ask myself "So, how's that working for you?"
God has a way of helping us when we are honest with ourselves.



Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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