Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rejoicing



I had a topic all thought out for today's blog post, but then it flew out of my head on Wednesday around 2:00. My mom called to tell me that my aunt, who's been battling brain cancer for a year now, had been rushed to the hospital. And it looked bad enough that my mom was leaving for Tahlequah, Oklahoma - a 4 hour drive from where we live - as soon as she could get a hold of my dad.

I got off the phone, spent some time in prayer, then called Mom back and told her I was coming along. Because even though I wasn't feeling a clear, "Yes, you should go," from God, I kept thinking of July 2009.

I had my first book signing, and even though my aunt had been feeling horrible (we wouldn't learn about the brain tumor for a couple more weeks) she insisted on coming. She stood in line with everybody else, and beamed with pride when she handed me a stack of 5 books to sign.



With that in mind, how could I not go?

The Bible talks about rejoicing when others rejoice and mourning when others mourn. In my experience, it's easiest to mourn with others. On Thursday, when I stood in my aunt's depressing hospital room, mourning came easy. Especially when my uncle came in after speaking to the oncologist. He said they were calling in hospice, that my aunt wasn't expected to live more than two more weeks. I had no problems crying along with him. I had no problems aching for my aunt.

But rejoicing when others rejoice is a much greater task, and it's one my aunt performed beautifully a year ago. It was hard for her to walk, she was in too much pain to sleep, and she'd lost control of half her facial muscles. And yet she dedicated herself to rejoicing with me in my moment of excitement.

I have evidence that if she was capable of mourning for me at this moment, she would. The last time I lost a family member was nearly4 years ago, when my grandfather died of lung cancer. When my aunt heard, she mailed me the "grandfather" Willow Tree statue along with a heartfelt letter about how hard it was for her when her own grandfather passed. Instead, it'll be my turn to "pay it forward." To be there for those who feel the loss more acutely than I do, like my mom.

Because I know my aunt and her heart. She'll be partying it up with Jesus, and that means it's my turn to carry on her legacy of being His hands and feet here on earth.

Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels a few years ago and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. To check out her blog and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com and www.GoTeenWriters.com.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Low carb diets suck

Camy here, and in case you didn’t know already, low carb diets suck.

I am doing it because I have insulin resistance, which is causing health problems for me because I’m in pre-menopause, and could cause diabetes for me since I have diabetes in my family. In order to decrease my insulin resistance, I have to eat less carbs (less sugar in all its starchy and sweet forms) for a few weeks to let my body’s cells “reset.”

Oh my gosh I’m DYING.

To be honest, giving up the sugar wasn’t as hard as cutting back on starches like bread and pasta. On the low carb diet I’m on, I’m allowed to eat lots of non-starchy veggies (no potato pig-outs), but I do have to limit my fruit and dairy since both of those have sugar. And I also have to cut WAY back on starch.

I would KILL for a fettucine alfredo right now.

So why am I doing it? Because I’m a couple years shy of 40 and I’m fat and unhealthy, that’s why. I have eaten badly almost my entire life, and I didn’t start really exercising until a couple years ago when I took up running—I did the Couch to 5K program and now I’m doing the Jeff Galloway running method, which totally rocks!

But abusing my body for 30-odd years wasn’t miraculously cured by running. I had the insulin resistance to contend with, which is why I’m now taking these special supplements and going low carb for four weeks.

The first two days were AWFUL. But then after that, the starch cravings went away. Now don’t get me wrong, I still WANT carbs because I LOVE carbs. And I can still eat carbs in the form of non-starchy vegetables, and I’m not entirely carb-free, because that kind of diet is just really unhealthy, which would undo everything I’m trying to do with my body.

But I still longingly sigh when I pass the donut shop next to my grocery store. :(

I’ve learned to like snacking on carrots instead of potato chips. And I add more veggies to my meals since I’m only allowed ONE-THIRD OF A CUP OF RICE (being Asian, that just bites).

I only have another 2 weeks on this low carb diet before I can slowly start adding carbs back in, although I can’t go overboard or it’ll totally screw up my system and undo everything I’ve accomplished.

Oh, and so the point of all this whining?

TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY WHILE YOU ARE STILL YOUNG AND NUBILE. Don’t wait until you’re about to enter menopause and you’ve become an unhealthy slob.

Tonight, I will dream about chocolate chip cookies.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Formula for Danger, releases in September. 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 ponders dogs, knitting and spinning wool, running, Asiana, and other frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!

And in case you haven’t heard, I’m holding a giveaway for my Street Team members with a chance to win Formula for Danger! Click here to find out how you can join my Street Team—it’s free and there’s lots of chances to win prizes!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"What type of job are you going to pursue?"

When I was twelve years old I had a traumatic experience with my bicycle. I was headed home and on the handle bars I carried two large, heavy sacks. Part of the ride home took me down a long, steep hill. I didn't think anything of it as I headed down ... but soon I found myself flying through the air and landing on the asphalt with a thud. Ouch! I was scraped up all over. What was the culprit of my accident? Books. I'd been to the library and I'd checked out as many as I could carry home. The books had been heavier than me, obviously. I had skinned knees and elbows to prove it.

Looking back, I didn't grow up in a reading home, yet in 6th grade we moved within a few miles of the library. Once I started reading I couldn't stop. I especially liked Little House on the Prairie books and Nancy Drew novels.

Fast-forward twenty-five years, and I'm a multi-published author. My love of books has become my career. I love what I do, mostly because I've loved books for so long. My job is a natural outpouring of who God created me to be.

In your teen years a question you're often asked is, "What type of job are you going to pursue?" Maybe you have an answer. Maybe you have no idea!

My encouragement to you is to think back to what you've always loved. Is it art? Music? Animals? Playing school? Cooking? God has created each of us with unique gifts and talents. We can usually "see" these in our youth. We know what we like without worrying about colleges or "success" in life.

After you take time to consider what you love most, pray about how you can use your God-given talents to impact the world. God places these things inside of you for a reason. He has a plan that will impact people and will bring joy to your heart as you work. Sometimes the best way to discover what those gifts are is to look back and remember what you first loved. What you spent your childhood enjoying is a good indicator of what you'd love spend your life pursuing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Praying for Strangers

I had this sort of weird idea today. I decided to pray for people as I went about my day--people I don't know.

So, here's how it went. I went by my mother's house and we left to go to lunch. On the way, we pass a hitchhiker (no, I'm not suggesting you ever pick up a hitchhiker). This guy seems angry that no one will stop for him.

Lord, whatever his hurt, help him. I don't know what's going on, but he looks like he needs Your love.

Then, onto Panera Bread. I love this place! A woman at the counter places her order and then drops her laptop to the ground.

Father, could you help her today? She seems to be struggling.

As we're eating, a young mother is trying to eat and take care of her baby.

Father, I remember those days. Bless her. Give her a heart of patience.

My brother works at Panera Bread. So many prayers have gone up for him. He stops by our table to gather dirty plates. He celebrated three years of sobriety this past May. He's doing beautifully--so happy--going to Celebrate Recovery each week, even sponsoring two men.

Oh, Jesus. Thank you. I remember when I'd give up hope. But You never do.

And then for my mother.

Thank you, Father. Each day with family is a blessing. I don't always treat it that way. Thank you that we can spend time together.

But you know what surprised me the most? As I prayed for others, I felt changed. I forgot about myself--my little worries and considered others. And God.

Forgive me, Lord. I forgot how close You really are.

Monday, August 16, 2010

First Day of School

Today my two grandsons went back to school. One went into first grade and the other went into third. One had a wonderful time and the other hardly ever has a wonderful time. They remind me of what Abraham Lincoln said.


"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865)
That is so true. So what if you decided you were going to be happy, what resources would you turn to, to give yourself a push. For instance, when I diet, I read diet cookbooks, diet pages on the web, diet books and articles in magazines. Where to go for happy helps?
Amazon, of course.
Oh my! There are 178,159 listings for books with happy in the title. But some of these are great! And you can even chose how many steps you want to go through to be happy.

Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out by Marci Shimoff,
How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People--Their Secrets, Their Stories by Rick Foster
100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, The: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It by David Niven
You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective by Ph.D. Richard Carlson

Oh, my! Look at this one: 14,000 Things to be Happy About.: Revised and Updated edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer

I'm not actually recommending any of these books. The only one I've read is 100 Simple Secrets, and yes, it was good.

But really it comes down to taking advice from Scripture (Imagine that!):
"Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye grieved; for the joy of Jehovah is your strength."
Nehemiah 8:9-11
So is this something that just bubbles out. Well, sometimes, but not always. Here's another verse that sheds more light:
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. "
Philippians 4:10-12
Aha! just like you have to learn to play an instrument to make beautiful music, you need to learn to tap your talent for a laugh and refine it through practice. And there are those who know how to play an instrument but choose to make a raucous noise. There are jokes that are funny but not pleasing to the Lord.
So let us be a sweet, sweet fragrance to our God and express our joy.
And when you hit that first day of school, first day at a new job, any first day, make up your mind to be happy. You can do it. God says you can.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Passion of Mary-Margaret



Okay, everybody should immediately stop what they're doing and pick up a copy of Lisa Samson's The Passion of Mary-Margaret.

I'm about 2/3 through it, and this is going to be a serious contender for my all-time favorite book. (Unless Lisa totally botched the ending, which I'm guessing by the Christy Award it just won, she didn't.)

I'd heard a lot of buzz about this book, including from my best friend Roseanna, who said she'd bring it to me when we saw each other in September, but then either forgot or wanted to keep her copy all to herself. I don't blame her.

Would it be totally wrong to steal this copy from my church library? Because I totally want to. I want to re-read this book with my pencil in hand so I can underline particularly beautiful passages.

Okay, enough gushing.

The Passion of Mary-Margaret is about a religious sister (like a nun, but not cloistered) who has the coolest relationship ever with Jesus. He (Jesus) asks her to marry her lifelong friend, Jude. Who's sexy, but unfortunately spent some time in Baltimore's red light district and is now diseased.

I know that might not sound like a page turner, but it is. The story is bold and the writing fresh. And far more real than you'll find in a lot of Christian fiction.

The nitty-gritty of life is juxtaposed so beautifully with what it means to love Christ with all your heart. To be honest, the overt Christianity in the story and how well it works is challenging me as a Christian writer. I tend to downplay spiritual elements, yet I'm finding myself drawn to the authenticity of the faith represented in Lisa's book.

Read it. READ IT, READ IT, READ IT.

And enjoy your weekend. (But more importantly, READ IT!!!)

-Stephanie

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels a few years ago and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. To check out her blog and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com and www.GoTeenWriters.com.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

What We Don't Know


Every once in awhile I simply have to watch an old movie; awhile back I chose the 1948 classic I Remember Mama. Throughout the story, told through the eyes of a teenage girl named Katrin, a Norwegian family experiences the ups and downs of life in early-1900s San Francisco, held together by the strength and resourcefulness of Mama. Mama is a hard worker who adores her children and wants to give them a promising life. Katrin and her siblings grow up knowing that Mama has a bank account, set aside for emergencies. Strangely, whenever an emergency comes up—such as when the little sister needs an operation—Mama always finds some other way to cover the expense (usually by getting a job temporarily or sacrificing something dear to her). Katrin eventually learns the truth: there is no bank account. Mama confesses that she made it up so her children would always feel secure. She didn’t want them to fear going hungry or not having what they needed.

Mama’s desire to protect her sons’ and daughters’ hearts touched me deeply, even if she did technically lie to them. It makes me think of my parents, who raised two visually impaired girls (including me) but never had vision insurance. I had no clue that Mom and Dad paid for all of our glasses and vision aids out of pocket, or that Grandma and Grandpa paid for them occasionally. We always had what we needed, never fearing that new glasses might mean less groceries or clothes. Like Mama, they didn’t want us to worry, or feel bad about needing expensive prescriptions.

Now my desire is that I will know when to follow their example and protect my kids from information that might cause them fear or unnecessary stress. Of course I won’t lie to them. But, as I clearly did not need to know about Dad’s lack of coverage for glasses when I was twelve years old, my boys don’t need to know how hard I pray that enough funds will come in to cover the mortgage and homeowner’s insurance in time when we also have back-to-school expenses looming.

So, why am I telling you this when you clearly aren’t parents? My hope is that you will consider what your mom and dad hold back and why. When have you discovered that they protected you from a truth that would have been too big for you to handle at the time? How have your parents helped you feel secure by NOT letting you in on everything right away? On the other hand, when have you benefitted from their tough-but-true honesty (such as, “I’m sorry, we can’t afford to send you to that college.”)?

Thank God for times when He provided security by keeping you sheltered from what you didn’t need to know, and for knowing when you were strong enough to handle the truth.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Sisters




This is my mom and sister Jennifer. I'm in the middle. A new friend had a tea party birthday for me this year. So special--just the friend and my mom and sis.

Jen and I aren't exactly alike. She loves to shop and is a fantastic tennis player. I'd rather walk alone in our woods (or do almost anything)than go to a mall and I don't play any sports.

Growing up, Jennifer loved baby dolls. Not me.

We have different styles of decorating. She's more classic and elegant. We live in a log house--sort of rustic country.

She has two boys and a girl. I have two girls and a boy.

But we share our childhood and a deep, constant love.

I've been thinking a lot about my family lately. We can call just to chit-chat, say something funny, or ask the others to pray.I love that!

I just wanted to pause today and say, "Thank you, God for creating us, and for giving us the gift of family."

Life zips by so fast. The picture was taken on my 50th birthday.

If you have a sister, are you a lot alike? Are you close in age? What do y'all do when you hang out?

Love,
Julie

Monday, August 02, 2010

I lose many things, but

. . . the thing I miss the most is my head.
This past week has been filled with so many wonderful happenings that I got overwhelmed. I guess that being overwhelmed is not as good of an excuse as being under the weather, or undermined, or under stress. Life has been full of the the extraordinary. So much so that the ordinary, mundane things have been pushed to the side. (Anyone want to volunteer to do laundry, clean the bathroom, or put books back on the right shelves? Yes, putting books back is a major task at my house.)
We are getting ready to release The Dragon and the Turtle. My webmaster is designing this super website. I keep throwing new ideas at her and then she goes above and beyond the call of duty in presenting them. The site is not live yet, but when it is, I want you to visit. Not because you would drool over this book, but because you probably babysit kids who would. LOL
It's http://www.dragonandturtle.com/.
I've even enlisted one of great friends who develops games and crafts for elementary church curriculum. And we developed a recipe for Mock-mock Turtle Soup. Yum. (No turtles were harmed in the making of this soup.)


And I feel like Peter Pan in the old stage play, where he flies around the nursery, singing, "I gotta crow!"


And you know what makes this book so special?
It isn't MY book. It's OUR book. My daughter and I wrote it, and Vincent Nguyen, with his creative genius, brought it to life. It is so much more special because of the joint venture. Just like the website is a compilation of several friends' talents.
Oh, I absolutely LOVE this.
(Yes, Capital letters are SHOUTING. Not at you but because of you. I get to share this enthusiasm. I'm not stuck in a closet with my joy bundled up and no one to share it with. Hurray! Hurray!) Hurray! You see, even one of the hurrays escaped the parenthesis fence.
This type of joy is not an everyday thing so I am going to revel in it, not stifle it. I know God understands it is not about me, but all He has given me. If I tamped down the bubbles in my blow bubble pipe, I would not be expressing the gratitude I have.
Do the Snoopy Happy Dance with me?
Rejoice with those who do rejoice!

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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