Sunday, March 28, 2010

Who are you listening to?

No one was more shocked than me when I didn't go to college.


The college talk in my house was always, "When you go to college," not "If you go to college." And my high school was Notre Dame de Sion College Preparatory School for girls. If anyone was on the road to college, it was me.


I had really big plans for myself, and they pretty much all centered on fleeing the nest in Kansas City. New York, Boston, L.A. Those kinds of destinations.


Until my senior year, when my college plans started creeping a little closer to home. I applied to, visited, and was accepted by Loyola of Chicago and Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. I also applied to K-State, where my boyfriend was going, but life in Manhattan, Kansas (or "The Little Apple" ... yes, I'm serious) didn't really thrill me.


Feeling totally confused about where I should go, I started asking everyone, "What do you think? Where should I go to school?" And everyone had different opinions and reasonings.


In the end, I wound up so flummoxed, I decided to take a semester off, reevaluate, and apply elsewhere. My second college search turned up even more fruitless than the first. I decided on University of Missouri - Kansas City, registered for classes, and then... Well, didn't go. So then I decided on K-State, now that my boyfriend had turned into my fiance. I don't remember if I actually signed up for classes or not, but I was pretty far into the process when I backed out.


After that, college became an idea I occasionally toyed with but never followed through on.


Everything worked out great. I wound up with the exact life I wanted for myself - husband, kids, writing - without the debt of a degree. We even spent some time living on the East coast, where I learned that I didn't want out of Kansas City quite as badly as I'd thought.


So, I don't know why, but at 3am last night, it dawned on me that in that entire process, I never asked God what I should do. I was a Christian in high school. I'm guessing I prayed once or twice about it, but I never actually sought His will in the matter. Instead, I sought everybody else's.


God's done a lot over the years to bring me to the wonderful place I am now, so as best as I can tell, this was His plan all along. But had I talked to Him from the beginning, I probably would have avoided a lot of confusion, stress, and hand cramps from filling out application forms. Something I intend to keep in mind as I continue to make difficult decisions.


Who are you listening to about those big life questions you have?


Stephanie Morrill

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What’s on your reading shelf?

Camy here!

I have a special shelf next to my bed that I put my books-in-progress on (although that might be misleading because I don’t often read more than one book at a time).

Right now I just finished Betty Neels, A GIRL NAMED ROSE. It’s a really cute, sweet romance and I love practically all of Betty Neels’ books.

I just started A LADY OF INDEPENDENCE by Helen Argers. It's a Regency romance, pretty old, and I love this author because she's incredibly clever with her dialogue.

How about you? Do you have a reading shelf? And what are you reading right now?

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!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Biggest Picture



First, there's the picture.

The picture is whatever you see right in front of you. Sometimes it's wonderful, but sometimes it's discouraging. Like when it's a big red pimple on the end of your nose, glowing back at you in the mirror when you wake up on the day you're taking yearbook photos. Or maybe it's a big fat D minus on your Algebra test, your one-way ticket to being grounded for a month. It can be a text from a friend telling you your crush just asked that annoying girl in your Spanish class to the dance. The picture is immediate and it tends to dominate our whole view, blocking everything else, at least for the moment.

Then there's the big picture. The big picture is the reminder that someday you'll look back and laugh at all your yearbook photos anyway. It's the incentive to study hard now because you really do want to get into a good college. It's realizing the world is full of interesting people and only a very small percentage of them go to your high school, so no need to hook up with the first cute guy that comes along. The big picture looks ahead to the future and makes it easier to take the immediate picture a little less seriously.

Some of us are pretty good at focusing on the big picture. But what about the bigger picture? The bigger picture looks past your own dreams and goals to consider the needs of others. It may inspire you to serve soup to the homeless or volunteer to be a big sister to an at risk child. It works at a book store after school to save money for a mission trip to Haiti. It lives aware of a big, hurting world and looks for ways to make that world a better place. The bigger picture is noble and compassionate and kind, and the world needs more people who see it.

Ah, but then there's the biggest picture. The biggest picture is the one God sees. It reveals all of history, from before the creation of the world until time ceases to be. In the biggest picture, God is enthroned in heaven and the earth is His footstool. He knows the thoughts of kings and commands heavenly armies, but He also numbers the hairs on every head. The biggest picture has a cross at its center, and everything else--the picture, the big picture, and the bigger picture--finds meaning in relation to the Lamb who willingly died on that cross for sin, then rose from the dead to give us eternal life. The biggest picture has been painted with words and we can see it, too, by faith.

Life is tough. We can't always make things go the way we think they should, but there's at least one choice we always have.

Which picture will you look at today?

Monday, March 22, 2010

What type of script are you writing for your life?


When I say “script” I’m not talking about career goals or college plans. I’m not talking about current class schedules or finding the unique purpose for your future. While all of those are important, there are other parts of our life we need to script, too, such as:

• Dealing with peer pressure from both guys and
friends.
• The search for popularity. How to find it. Or live without. Or be happy in between.
• Relationships with parents. No matter how out of touch with reality they seem to be.
• And living for God without turning your back on the world

When I was a teen I lived from day to day on every wave of emotion I experienced. On some days excitement and passion partnered up, pattering wildly within my heart. Other days, depression and anxiety were my silent friends. I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart. I lived my life completely unscripted . . . and, well, it didn't go so well for me.

After my boyfriend found out I was pregnant (again) he dumped me for good, and I dropped out of my senior year of high school. (It was too hard going to school—seeing him with someone else, and dealing with my own issues/mistakes/emotions too.) I decided to have my baby, especially since I was dealing with the heartache and regret of a previous abortion. And as my stomach grew, I became more and more depressed. Unlike some mistakes, an unplanned pregnancy is not one you hide very easily. Each day I walked around with the evidence sticking out before me like a basketball under my shirt.

During that painful time, I decided to give God another chance. I’d grown up in church, but during my teen years, decided I wanted to do my own thing. And when “my own thing” left me sad and alone, my grandma’s Bible study group invited me to join them. These sweet old ladies also welcomed me to church and threw me a baby shower (while my teen friends dropped out of the picture). These women showed me what the love of God is all about.

And it was during one of my depressing days, when I was six-months pregnant and feeling abandoned by both my boyfriend and friends, I gave my heart to the Lord. I told Him, “God, I’ve completely screwed up my life this time. If You can do better, please do so.” It wasn’t a fancy prayer, but it worked.



© Tricia Goyer

How about you? What Script are you writing?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Taking My Own Advice

I am a day late posting because I got caught in the frenzy of preparing for a big writers’ conference. For the second year in a row I’m on staff, which I love! I am in charge of a program for first-time attendees, called The Buddy System. First-timers are matched with those who have attended before so they can have all of their questions and fears addressed before they arrive.

With the conference only a few days away, I have been throwing out a lot of advice. At the same time I’m recognizing that I need to take that same advice myself.

“Try not to arrive at the conference exhausted. If you can get some rest beforehand, do it. At least take it slow, knowing that once you arrive at Mount Hermon you’ll be running non-stop.”
But do I do this? Of course not! Between getting projects done ahead of time so I don’t have to worry about them at the conference, coordinating things like transportation and childcare, and conference prep, I’m running non-stop until I head out the door.

“Go with realistic expectation. Focus on learning instead of on selling an editor on your project.”I was doing really well in this department until I got a rejection from an editor who was consider one of my book proposals and decided to take it to the conference.

This morning I am asking God to calm my heart and refocus my perspective. If I’m going to give advice, I better be taking it!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

While We're Waiting

Life is full of times to wait. Wait. Wait. While I'm waiting, I usually feel like I have to get busy doing something--anything--instead of just waiting.

When you're in high school, there are so many things to wait on:

Grades.
A college decision.
Your SAT score.
Maybe a prom date.
A bad family situation to get better.
Maybe a scholarship offer.
To find out if you made the team.
To make one good friend.

My daughter sent this song to me the other day. It's helping me wait.



Does anybody need prayer while you're waiting?

Love,
Julie

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Glamorous Life

I didn't watch the Oscars, but I did look at the red carpet snapshots. I have to admit I love those beautiful and sometimes kooky dresses. I don't listen to the clips, because I honestly don't want to hear what most of the people have to say. But I like the dresses. I like the colorful ones the best.
As glamorous as those people appear to be, I know in my heart that at six o'clock in the morning, they look as human as I do when I get up.
Some people think that an author's life must be pretty special. There are some perks. I like meeting readers. But most of the time, I am even less presentable than the female bus driver, the grocery store clerk, the receptionist at the dentist, the teacher, the banker, or the real estate agent, who face the world every work day.
Right now I am still in my PJs, even though it is after lunch. I have to get up and get dressed soon because a friend is coming over for tea. Most of my life is spent without the touch of glamor. But that's all right. I think sharing tiny sandwiches and scones and butter cookies with one friend is much more fun and my type of glamor. Now if I could just serve tea while wearing a blue taffeta gown with sapphires glinting from an embroidered flower, I'd . . . probably be horribly uncomfortable. LOL I guess God gave me just the right amount of glamor I could bear.
The Bible says that He won't give us more than we can bear, and sometimes it does us good to realize that that applies to good things too.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (New International Version)
13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Redefining failure



I’m a person who really appreciates organization, schedules, planning, lists, etc. Up until a couple years ago, this is something I was able to achieve. I never paid bills late, dishes rarely sat on my countertop overnight, and my to-do lists stayed manageable. It was great. I thought the only things that could make my life better were 1. A house of my own 2. A baby 3. A publishing contract.

I received all three within a couple months of each other—we bought our house in October of 2007, had McKenna in December of 2007, and received word that I’d sold


Me, Just Different in June of 2008.

Madness and chaos ensued.

Instead of feeling like my life had improved with these blessings, I felt like I’d received everything I’d ever wanted, and was totally making a mess out of it.

Laundry did not get washed, dried, and put away all on the same day anymore. Dishes often sat on the counter top for a night or two because I was so stinking exhausted. I stopped making complicated dinners. We frequently ran out of milk or fresh fruit. I began receiving notices about late bills; we had money to pay them, I had just forgotten. Several times I forgot to put on deodorant. (Fortunately, that only happened in the first couple weeks after McKenna was born.) I kept thinking, what's wrong with me?

My prayers changed from, “God, here’s a few things I think I’d like…” to, “God, what were you thinking?!?!?! I can’t do all this! How can you possibly expect this of me? Look how messy my house is! When was the last time I cleaned the bathroom? I have edits to do and laundry to fold and a daughter who doesn’t know how to sleep anywhere but on my lap!”

These kinds of panic attacks happened off and on for the first year of my daughter’s life. And somewhere in my preparations for her first birthday, when I was having one my meltdowns, I felt God saying to me, “Of course you can’t do it all. I don’t expect you to do it by yourself, I expect you to do it with me.”

After that lightning bolt moment, things really changed. I saw how my failure wasn’t that clothes sometimes sat in the dryer for a day or two before I folded them. The failure was actually in my former way of life, where I had everything so organized, so perfectly planned and scheduled, that I forgot to figure in God. I forgot how much I needed Him for daily survival. I forgot to rely on His wisdom and ask what He had planned for me that day.

My life no longer looks perfect. Especially these last couple weeks. I’ve been sick with a cold twice, had three writing deadlines, plus I’m pregnant and McKenna’s a wonderfully active 2-year-old. My husband mentioned to me yesterday that he has two pairs of underwear in his drawer. I don’t know what we’re eating for dinner tonight, or how on earth we’re going to get everything done before the baby comes that needs to be done. Or how I’ll manage to balance life when I’ve two kids to take care of instead of just one.

These overwhelming moments no longer look like a glaring sign reading YOU ARE FAILING, STEPHANIE. Instead, they’re arrows pointing my focus heavenward, so I can say, “Okay, God. Let’s do this.”


Stephanie Morrill
www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reduced



It’s easy to ignore the still small voice. The twinge. The pang. Work through the pain, and the pain will go away. Until one day you push a little too far and something snaps.

Still, it’s no big deal. Just back off for a while and it will sort itself out. But one night you wake up and your hand is numb and tingling. It happens again. And again. Finally you make a doctor’s appointment. She examines your arm, applies pressure in a variety of ways. Your symptoms seem to indicate a combination of overuse injuries. She also takes a blood sample, prescribes two weeks’ rest and an anti-inflammatory.

Rest? What does that mean. You lay off the upper-body weights, but that’s about it. Life must go on. Meanwhile, the pain increases. The blood test comes back normal except for a low positive for auto-immune antibodies. It could mean something or it could mean nothing at all.

By now shifting gears in your car even hurts, but your body has always obeyed you in the past. Surely this is nothing.

You play piano for the Sunday morning service, just like you have for decades. But something is definitely wrong. Your arm aches. Your hand is numb. You barely make it through the set. The next morning, you wake up with an arm so stiff and sore, the pain nauseates you. You almost faint.

Rest is no longer optional.

You stop working out completely. You can’t play piano or guitar. You can’t do laundry or housework. No shooting or processing photographs. You can’t even drive your own car. Forget about spending hours on the computer, writing, blogging, tweeting, facebooking. You can only type left handed.

You ice your elbow for fifteen minutes every hour. You have a lot of time to think. A lot of time to pray. When almost all the ways you busy yourself day to day are suddenly stripped away, you tend to take stock. Your values and priorities line up for inspection, and you discover how selfishly focused you are, how much you’ve come to rely on the strength of your own right arm.

It’s a sobering revelation, and it reminds you once again how kind, good, and patient is your merciful God. You thank Him for His faithfulness. You get still before Him, and you pray, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant is listening.”

And then you wait.


(Yes, I typed this post left handed. I'd appreciate your prayers as I navigate this new adventure with God. Also, please pray as I travel to Indiana this weekend to speak at a church. My topic? God’s redemptive power in suffering. Don’t you love His timing and sense of humor?)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Pledge for True Intimacy

I recently had a conversation during a radio program (She Speaks to Inspire) where we ventured into talking about abstinence, abstinence pledges, and promise rings. We stayed on the topic long enough to bring up the importance of having conversations of depth about what that pledge or promise really means to the person making it.

A few follow-up ideas:

Keep the dialogue going. Have conversations about sex and abstinence within the context of solid family relationships. If that seems difficult with your family right now, make strong connections with mentors at your church (women with women, guys with guys).

Keep asking questions and checking in with those who can help you stay firm in your commitment. Remember that this is more about what you’re running toward (God's gifts and best for you) instead of what you’re trying to stay away from.

Create your line of no compromise by using God’s standards instead of the shifting lines of others. A couple verses to check out are 1Timothy 5:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:11, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 in The Message is also powerful!

If you’ve already compromised—even a little—stop now and talk to an adult who can help you get going in a solid direction from this day on. Pick up or borrow a copy of Seduced by Sex, Saved by Love—A Journey Out of False Intimacy. Get rooted in understanding true intimacy worth waiting for.

I know this is an incomplete list. I wrote a whole book about the topic and knew I couldn't cover it all. In my letter to my readers at the end of the book, I said:
This book was written with you in mind. At first I struggled because sex is such a huge topic. How would I be sure I could cover everything you would want to know about it. I realized, very quickly, I couldn't.

So I prayed. I prayed for you. I prayed for this book. And in praying I felt that I might do many things with these pages as I told the stories of others and invited a
dialogue about sex. But I had to do one thing for sure: Go for the heart--your heart.

After all, it's your heart that makes the difference in what you choose to do with anything you read or consider about sex.

So above anything you might or might not fully grasp about sex, may you know God's pursuit of you and may you keep your heart fully open to him. I'm convinced that if you do these things, you'll have no room for false intimacy. You'll discover healing for those wounds and the confusing perceptions that send you there. You'll know in an instant when you're walking the thin line of compromise.

And you'll be attuned to his voice, the one that calls you back into the safety of his boundaries, back to his design for intimacy. True intimacy, not a false one.

I wish for you the most amazing love story you could ever imagine.
Jan

http://www.jankern.com/ - including book excerpts

Monday, March 08, 2010

Secrets


I hated the idea of telling anyone my secret, and now I’d have to tell my kids about what I’d done. I didn’t want them to know I started dating when I was thirteen or that I faced my first pregnancy at fifteen. I didn’t want them to know I’d had an abortion, and then found myself pregnant again at seventeen. I especially didn’t want Cory to know his biological father had wanted me to get an abortion or that he dumped me before Cory was born.

I worried that if my kids knew all the horrible stuff I’d done, they’d think they could do the same. Even more, I worried that they’d look at me differently. I’d be devalued in their eyes. They wouldn’t respect me.

God was squeezing me, molding me into a woman willing to put her life and her kids into His hands. But I wished it wasn’t so painful. Instead of them using my mistakes as an excuse for their own sins, the opposite happened. They witnessed my pain, regret, and struggle, and because of that, they developed high standards for themselves. They made positive decisions for their lives, in part because I was truthful about negative ones I made. And the things I wanted to hide forever are the things that showed them that I’m human, that God is big, and that there is nothing we could ever do to separate ourselves from His love.

It’s hard not to pretend we are better than we are. We all want to look good—to ourselves and to others. We want to hide our imperfections. I wanted to hide my mistakes and sins—hide them all. But in the end what my kids needed from me was the truth. The truth of who I was and who I became because of Christ. They needed the truth of how wrong we can all go when left to our own devices. And where God can take us when we depend completely on Him.

Are you carrying your own secrets or have you been able to share them?

Excerpt © Tricia Goyer, Blue Like Play Dough

Friday, March 05, 2010

What a Disappointment


Earlier this week my son Nathan saw a contest listed in a magazine, challenging kids to create an underwater ship out of Legos and write an essay about it. After thinking up a plan for a cool ship, spending an hour building it, and having his big brother take a picture, Nathan discovered that he did not meet all the criteria for entering the contest. Obviously he was disappointed.

After pointing out one blessing in the situation (at least he hadn’t written the essay yet!) we helped him make the best of it. I posted a picture of his ship on my Facebook page and bragged about his hard work. The next day we carefully packed his ship in a shoebox so he could show it off to his class at school. Before we knew it the disappointment had worn off. He still had a great ship to be proud of. Someday when he did meet the criteria for entering he would have some practice building great Lego ships. And yes, he also learned to read all information carefully before getting excited about participating in something, especially if it involves work.

So this week we had a lesson in both handling disappointment and making the best of it. How do you handle disappointment? How have you made the best of a disappointing situation recently? Thank God today that He has the power to bring good out of anything!

Oh, here is a picture of Nathan’s water plane, which flies under water. Not bad for a seven-year-old, huh?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

I want to write about a tough subject. Abuse. This happened to someone very close to me. It stirred me to write a novel. I'm praying daily that my agent will find the right publisher.

Abuse can be a sneaky thing to spot, sort of like it comes dressed in camo. It's really hard to see when you're in a relationship and you think you love someone. But abuse has nothing to do with love.

I found a good Web site for teens dealing with abuse. http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/relationships/abuse.html#
This site has some great information. "If you think you love someone, but often feel afraid, it's time to get out of the relationship. Fast. You're worth being treated with respect and you can get help."

It gives a list of signs of abuse:
"Harms you physically in any way--including slapping,pushing,pushing, grabbing, shaking, smacking,kicking, punching.
Tries to control different aspects of your life such as--how you dress, who you hang out with, what you say.
Frequently humiliates you or makes you feel unworthy.
Coerces or threatens to hurt you or self-harm if you leave the relationship.
Twists the truth to make you feel you are to blame for your partner's actions.
Demands to know where you are all the time.
Constantly becomes jealous or angry when you want to spend time with your friends.

When someone says something like, "If you loved me you would..." That's also a warning of possible abuse. A statement like this is controlling and is used by people who are only concerned about getting what they want. Trust your intuition. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't."

The information below is from this site. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm

"Do you:
Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
Feel you can't do anything right for your partner?
Believe you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
Wonder if you're the one who is crazy?
Feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Does your partner :
Humiliate or yell at you?
Criticize you and put you down?
Treat you so badly that you're embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
Blame you for his own abusive behavior?
See you as property or sex object rather than as a person?

The aim of emotional or psychological abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence."

What to do if you think you might be in an abusive relationship...
Google crisis centers, teen help lines, abuse hot lines. Contact a church, your doctor, a health care professional, a school nurse or counselor, a teacher.

If you're beginning to wonder if you're in an abusive relationship, you probably are. You probably didn't read this blog for no reason. There's a lot more information on these two sites.

Get help.

Love,
Julie

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

March 2nd - thinking income tax

I've been thinking about income tax. I've turned mine in and will actually get some back. That's nice. But this is what I was thinking about income tax: you earn money. You work to get it, and you have to actually do something and do it well to get paid. (If you don't do it well, you get fired and cease to get paid.) Then the government taxes you and you give your earned money away. I don't really begrudge the government taking my money. I just convince myself that my money goes towards a tank to protect our soldiers in Afghanistan. I choose to believe that my money does not go to one of those crazy govt. projects like building a tunnel under a road for migrating turtles.
Here's the thing: apply "income tax" to spiritual matters. I receive income from God in the form of grace, mercy, salvation, blessings, and I didn't do a thing to earn it. And He doesn't require a percentage back. He encourages me to pass it on. To forgive as He has forgiven, to share, to show Christ through my behavior. (Tithing is not taxing, but that is beside the point for this little exercise, so we won't go there.) So this month I am conscious of my worldly income, but rattling around in my brain box is this concept of heavenly income. And I think it'll do me good to dwell on that income and how I am using it.

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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