Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pieces of the Plan


My daughter will be 3 this December, and she still struggles at mealtime with how much food should go in her mouth at a time. Seriously, at every meal my husband and I have to tell her at least once, "McKenna, you've got way too much in your mouth. Chew and swallow all that before you take another bite." She has no idea how to handle an entire chicken breast or a plate full of spaghetti.

Maybe this is why God often gives us our life plan in pieces. Like with Abraham. He didn't say to him, "Head to Canaan. You're gonna be there a while. I'm going to give you a son. I know it seems laughable now, and it's still going to be many years before it happens, but I promise it will. And then Isaac's going to have twin boys..."

You know what He said to him? "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1) He doesn't even tell him where he's going. Just that he should leave.

I don't know about you guys, but I tend to get frustrated when I don't know the whole plan.
When I was working toward getting Me, Just Different published, I wanted God to tell me what was in store. I knew it was a book I needed to write, but that was it.

God did tell Abraham this after sending him out: "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3)

God assured Abraham that He was in control, and He would take care of him.

Just like God assures us that any work we do for Him will not be in vain. "Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1Corinthians 15:58b)

I recently received an e-mail from a girl in Texas saying how much she enjoyed Me, Just Different. She writes, "You did a great job of making the book appealing to all girls. One of my atheist friends was actually saved after reading your book because it led her to have questions about Christianity!"

When I went through my "dark year" as I call it, where I had nothing but rejection after rejection, I couldn't see this moment.

Heck, when I had the privilege of holding Me, Just Different for the first time, I couldn't see this moment.

But God could. He knew that girl was part of the plan. He knew He could use Skylar's story to reach her. And what a strange mix of grateful and humbled I feel every time I read that e-mail. If all my work was just for that girl, that'd be fine by me.

I don't know what God has planned next for me. He's only giving me one piece at a time. And I'm okay with that.

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.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Formula for Danger - the book that never was

Camy here! My latest release is Formula for Danger, a romantic suspense starring dermatologist researcher Rachel Grant and set in the beautiful vineyards of Sonoma, California. But did you know this was almost a very different story?

First off, here’s the back cover blurb of the actual book that hit the shelves earlier this month:

HER LIFE WAS ON THE LINE

Someone wants dermatologist Rachel Grant's latest research, and they'll do anything to get it. Including trashing the plants needed for her breakthrough scar-reducing cream—and trying to run Rachel down. Desperate for help, she turns to Edward Villa, the only man she trusts. But the greenhouse owner knows too much about Rachel's research, and now he's a target, too. Break-ins, muggings, murder…the would-be thief is getting desperate—and getting closer. Edward vows to protect Rachel at all costs. Yet with time ticking away, Edward knows they have to uncover the madman shadowing Rachel before their chance for a future is destroyed.

Click here to read an excerpt of Formula for Danger!

Camy here: When I first wrote the proposal for Deadly Intent, the first book in this romantic suspense series, I also included tentative storyline ideas for the two other books I was planning to write about the other two Grant sisters, Rachel and Monica.

However, the “blurb” for book two in the series about Naomi’s sister Rachel ended up being very different from the version of Formula for Danger that just released.

When I started getting together the actual proposal for Formula for Danger, I was brainstorming Rachel’s big Story Problem, and decided to center it around a supercool scar reduction cream that she’s about to release as the spa’s new product launch. I admit I fell back on my biology research roots (I gotta make some use of those nine years in biology!) and gave the scar reduction cream a “secret” ingredient, a “Malaysian basil plant” that I made up.

This got me thinking about a possible hero who could be thrown together with Rachel for the length of the story, and I thought, “Well, someone has to grow this rare Malaysian basil plant for Rachel’s cream.” And bam! Edward Villa, successful greenhouse owner, was created.

The original storyline and the original hero, alas, were relegated to my computer’s archived files.

Without further ado, here’s the “original” Formula for Danger storyline blurb!

Dermatologist and researcher Rachel Grant wishes she could develop a love potion along with the skin care treatments she develops for her family’s exclusive Sonoma spa. She has loved family friend Dylan Roland all her life, but he’s always got a new woman on his arm, and he sees her as a sister, not a potential date. But just when he arrives at the spa to work with her on distributing her new, revolutionary skin care products, she starts to suspect someone is trying to steal her formulations. Is it Dylan? Or is it someone else plotting to harm the Grant family?

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into “the book that never was”!

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. 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!

Click here to find out how you can join my Street Team—it’s free and there’s lots of chances to win prizes!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I get tired of trying to "make myself" good ...

There are many things people say we should NOT do.

We shouldn't have sex until marriage.
We shouldn't drink.
We shouldn't lie.
We shouldn't watch unwholesome television or movies.
We shouldn't cuss.
We shouldn't dress provocatively.

Sometimes I get tired of hearing what I shouldn't do. I get tired of trying to "make myself" be good.

The best thing I've done to combat this is to fill myself up with Jesus. I spend time with Him. I talk to Him through the day. I read His words to me in the Bible. I thank Him. I listen to Christian music and sing along. And I've discovered when I fill up with God I don't want to do the things I know I shouldn't. Instead ...

I want to be pure.
I want to be a reflection of Christ.
I want to be truthful.
I want to fill my life with what is pure and good.
I want to speak life and truth.
I want to be modest and help others live godly lives.

The results are the same ... but the heart is what's different. And instead of feeling like there's a list of things I need to step away from, I live in joy as I step closer to God!

What about you?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rest

Face it, some of us must be forced to rest. Can anyone relate? I am one of those who feel guilty if I’m not doing something productive, unless it’s a Sunday afternoon or I’m winding down after a busy day. If I don’t have a deadline, I’ll create one. I am quick to admit that God often needs to knock me on my you-know-what and force me to slow down. Last week He used a horribly stiff and sore neck to pull me away from my laptop. I figured all I needed was a prescription strength pain reliever and I’d be good to go again, until I started feeling the effects of “may cause drowsiness.” I basically spent most of yesterday drifting in and out of naps. Strangely, I didn’t feel guilty. I understood what was going on. I’d pushed myself to the limit and needed more than half a day off to recover. Why must I learn this over and over again though? Why do I fight my body’s need for rest as if it’s a sign of weakness?

God clearly created us to need rest. The amount of sleep that our bodies need per night should be enough of a reminder.

God set an example by resting on the seventh day.

Jesus often took His disciples away from the crowds so they could rest.
So why do I fight it?

Whatever the reason, I’m thankful for this most recent forced time out. It reminded me to pace myself on a regular basis instead of constantly pushing my own limits, to follow my creator’s example, to listen to the body that He designed.

When is the last time that God forced you to rest? What did it teach you? How do you find time for rest during the week? (For example, I like to read on weekend afternoons or watch movies with my sons.) Thank God for caring enough even to create a day set aside for refreshing our overworked minds and bodies.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Just Discovered JJ Heller!

I love this singer. This song too.




I bet you will too.

Love,
Julie

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What are your ingredients?



I'm helping to organize a luncheon for a big crowd. Many of the people have dietary restrictions. I'm on the committee to provide food for those who can't have peanuts, or corn, or eggs, or gluton. It is amazing how many foods or additives people have to avoid or risk getting very sick.
We decided to cut out the ingredient lists from the labels and post them next to each dish. It won't be very elegant, but it will be safe.
It occurred to me that it is a good rule of thumb to check the ingredients of the things we put into our minds and bodies, and spirit in this worldly world.
So where is the list of things that don't poison?

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(NIV)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What is sacrificial love? and IMMANUEL'S VEINS by Ted Dekker

Camy here: I'm really mad because I wanted to read this book before posting about it and just haven't had time! I've met Ted and chatted with him a couple times, and he's a very fun guy. It's also refreshingly normal--LOL I guess I had expected a best-selling author to be different somehow, but he's very down to earth.

We're supposed to answer the question, "What is sacrificial love?" My first (and obvious) answer is Jesus. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." John 15:13 (TNIV)

But yesterday we had college group Bible study at my house, and our pastor led the discussion after we watched a video clip of Chuck Colson (from a Q society video Bible study).

I have to say, first off, that I love watching/listening to Chuck Colson speak. But was even cooler was his topic, which talked about "What is Christianity?" He went into four questions people ask of any religion and the fourth question is, "What is my purpose in life?"

The Purpose Driven Life was a bestseller I think because it really answered that question well. Our pastor went deeper into the topic and talked about how some people only want to stay in their "Christian bubble" and not interact with the world and fulfill their purpose in life.

I didn't really figure out who I was until my thirties, but I now have more confidence in what I am doing and why. I know my purpose is to follow whatever God leads me to. I write fiction for the Christian market and not the secular market because God made it very clear to me that he wanted me to write for the Christian market.

At first I was confused because isn't that like preaching to the choir? But now even though I still don't know what He's doing with my books, I'm trusting that He knows what He's doing, and even though I'm writing for Christians and not to nonbelievers, He's using my books for His own purposes. I am being used for His purposes.

God has also called me to youth work, as opposed to teaching children or doing adult Bible studies. This is what He wants me to do, and so I do it and know that I'm fulfilling His purpose for me.

I think that the small things I've gotten into lately have been part of His plan to draw different people to me. I've gotten into knitting and spinning wool, and more recently running. In fact, I'm training for a marathon. (Why? Because I'm about to hit 40. I think that's a good enough reason. :)

I've met different people--mostly nonbelievers--who also like knitting and spinning and running. It's drawing me out of my writing world and my church world into new different worlds and new, different people. And I know that in meeting and interacting with those people, I'm fulfilling His purpose for me.

And isn't that sacrificial love? To do what God wants of us no matter how confusing or hard? Or even if it's fun and easy! I think God honors our willingness to be used.

And for most Christians, we're willing to be used because we love Jesus. It's a very simple equation:

Jesus: I love you. Will you do this for Me?
Me: I love You too! Sure!

I'm not sure if that really addresses the question, but that's where my head is going today, so that's where I took you all. :)

Camy

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Immanuel's Veins
Thomas Nelson (September 7, 2010)

by
Ted Dekker


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty novels. He is best known for stories which could be broadly described as suspense thrillers with major twists and unforgettable characters, though he has also made a name for himself among fantasy fans.

Early in his career he wrote a number of spiritual thrillers and his novels were lumped in with ‘Christian Fiction’ a surprisingly large category. His later novels are a mix of mainstream novels such as Adam, Thr3e, Skin, Obsessed and BoneMan’s Daughters, and fantasy thrillers that metaphorically explore faith. Best known among these is his Circle Series: Green, Black, Red, White and The Paradise Books: Showdown, Saint, and Sinner.

Dekker was born to missionaries who lived among the headhunter tribes of Indonesia. Because his parents’ work often included extended periods of time away from their children, Dekker describes his early life in a culture to which he was a stranger as both fascinating and lonely. It is this unique upbringing that forced him to rely on his own imagination to create a world in which he belonged.

After leaving Indonesia, Dekker graduated from a multi-cultural high school and took up permanent residence in the United States to study philosophy and religion. Upon earning his Bachelor’s Degree, he entered the corporate world and proceeded to climb the proverbial ladder. But his personal drive left him restless and, after many successful years, he traded corporate life for wide range of entrepreneurial pursuits that included buying and selling businesses, healthcare services, and marketing.

In the early nineties while visiting a friend who had just written a book, Dekker decided to pursue a long held desire to be a novelist. Over the course of two years he wrote two full length novels before starting from scratch and rewriting both. Now fully enamored by the the process and the stories, he realized that storytelling was in his blood and a new obsession to explore truth through story gripped him anew.

He sold his business, moved his family to the mountains of Western Colorado and began writing full-time on his third novel. Two years and three novels later his first novel, Heaven’s Wager, was published.

Now, Dekker’s novels had sold over 3.4 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies with more in production. Dekker resides in Austin, Texas with his wife Lee Ann and two of their daughters.

ABOUT THE BOOK

This story is for everyone--but not everyone is for this story.

It is a dangerous tale of times past. A torrid love story full of deep seduction. A story of terrible longing and bold sacrifice.

Then as now, evil begins its courtship cloaked in light. And the heart embraces what it should flee. Forgetting it once had a truer lover.

With a kiss, evil will ravage body, soul, and mind. Yet there remains hope, because the heart knows no bounds.

Love will prove greater than lust. Sacrifice will overcome seduction. And blood will flow.

Because the battle for the heart is always violently opposed. For those desperate to drink deep from this fountain of life, enter.

But remember, not everyone is for this story.

Watch the book trailer:



Excerpt of chapter one:

Chapter 1


My name is Toma Nicolescu and I was a warrior, a servant of Her Majesty, the empress of Russia, Catherine the Great, who by her own hand and tender heart sent me on that mission at the urging of her most trusted adviser, Grigory Potyomkin, in the year of our Lord 1772.

It was a year of war, this one the Russo-Turkish war, one of so many with the Ottoman Empire. I had slain the enemy with more ambition than most in the humble service of the empress, or so it has been said, and having earned Her Majesty’s complete trust in my loyalty and skill, I was dispatched by her to the south and east, through Ukraine to the principality of Moldavia, just north of the Black Sea and west of Transylvania, to the country estate of the Cantemir family nestled up against the base of the Carpathian Mountains.

To my understanding, the family descendants of Dimitrie Cantemir, the late prince of Moldavia, were owed a debt for his loyalty to Russia. Indeed, it was said that the path to the heart of Moldavia ran through the Cantemir crest, but that was all politics— none of my business.

On that day my business was to travel to this remote, lush green valley in western Moldavia and give protection to this most important family who retreated to the estate every summer. Russia had occupied Moldavia. Enemies were about with sharp knives and blunt intentions. The black plague had mercilessly taken the lives of many in the cities. A ruler loyal to Catherine the Great would soon be selected to take the reins of this important principality, and the Cantemir family would play a critical role in that decision as they held such a lofty position of respect among all Moldavians.

My charge was simple: No harm could come to this family.

These Cantemirs.

The sun was sinking over the Carpathian peaks to our left as my friend in arms, Alek Cardei, and I sat atop our mounts and stared down at the valley. The great white castle with its twin spires stood on emerald grasses an hour’s ride down the twisted path. A tall stone wall ran the length of the southern side where the road ran into the property. Green lawns and gardens surrounded the estate, encompassing ten times the ground as the house itself. The estate had been commissioned by Dimitrie Cantemir in 1711, when he was prince of Moldavia for a brief time before retreating to Turkey.

“I see the twin peaks, but I see no gowns,” Alek said, squinting down valley. His gloved hand was on his gold-busted sword. Leather armor wrapped his chest and thighs, same as mine. A goatee cupped his chin and joined his mustache but he’d shaved the rest of his face in the creek earlier, anticipating his ride into the estate, the arriving hero from abroad.

Alek, the lover.

Toma, the warrior.

I looked down at the golden ring on my finger, which bore the empress’s insignia, and I chuckled. Alek’s wit and charm were always good friends on a long journey, and he wielded both with the same ease and precision with which I swung my sword.

I nodded at my fair-headed friend as he turned his pale blue eyes toward me. “We’re here to protect the sisters and their family, not wed them.”

“So then you cannot deny it: the sisters are on your mind. Not the mother, not the father, not the family, but the sisters. These two female frolickers who are the talk of Ukraine.” Alek turned his mirthtwisted face back to the valley. “Heat has come to the dog at last.”

To the contrary, though Alek could not know, I had taken a vow to Her Majesty not to entangle myself while here in Moldavia.

She was all too aware of the sisters’ reputation, and she suggested I keep my head clear on this long assignment that might too easily give us much idle time.

“One favor, Toma,” she said.

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

“Stay clear of the sisters, please. At least one of you ought to have a clear mind.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.” But Alek was a different matter, and there was hardly any reason to deny him his jesting. It always lifted my spirits.

If I were a woman I would have loved Alek. If I were a king I would have hired him to remain in my courts. If I were an enemy

I would have run and hid, because wherever you found Alek you would find Toma, and you would surely die unless you swore allegiance to the empress.

But I was the farthest thing from a woman, I had never aspired to be a king, and I had no mortal enemies save myself.

My vice was honor: chivalry when it was appropriate, but loyalty to my duty first. I was Alek’s closest and most trusted friend, and I would have died for him without a care in the world.

He blew out some air in exasperation. “I have gone to the ends of the earth with you, Toma, and I would still. But this mission of ours is a fool’s errand. We come here to sit with babies while the armies dine on conquest?”

“So you’ve made abundantly clear for a week now,” I returned.

“What happened to your yearning for these sisters? As you’ve said, they are rumored to be beautiful.”

“Rumors! For all we know they are spoiled fat poodles. What can this valley possibly offer that the nights in Moscow can’t? I’m doomed, I tell you. I would rather run a sword through myself now than suffer a month in that dungeon below.”

I could see through his play already. “From frolicking sisters to suicide so quickly? You’re outdoing yourself, Alek.”

“I’m utterly serious!” His face flashed, indignant. “When have you known me to sit on my hands for weeks on end with nothing but a single family to occupy me? I’m telling you this is going to be my death.”

He was still playing me, and I him. “So now you expect me to give you leave to exhaust your fun here then go gallivanting about the countryside seeking out mistresses in the other estates?

Or would you rather slip out at night and slit a few evil throats so you can feel like a man?”

He shrugged. “Honestly, the former sounds more appealing.”

His gloved finger stabbed skyward. “But I know my duty and would die by your side fulfilling it.” He lowered his hand. “Still, as God is my witness, I will not tolerate a month of picking my teeth with straw while the rest of the world fights for glory and chases skirts.”

“Don’t be a fool, man. Boredom could not catch you if it chased you like a wolf. We’ll establish a simple protocol to limit all access to the estate, post the sentries, and mind the women—I understand that the father will be gone most of the time. As long as our duties are in no way compromised, I will not stand in the way of your courting. But as you say, they may be fat poodles.”

A sound came from behind us. “Who has business with the Cantemirs? Eh?”

I spun to the soft, gravelly voice. An old shriveled man stood there, grasping a tall cane with both hands. His eyes were slits, his face was wrinkled like a dried-out prune, and his long stringy gray hair was so thin that a good wind would surely leave him bald. I wasn’t sure he could actually see through those black cracks below his brow.

Alek humphed and deferred to me. How had this ancient man walked up on us without a sound? He was gumming his lips, toothless.

Silent.

I held my hand up to Alek and drew my pale mount about to face the man. “Who asks?”

A bird flew in from the west, a large black crow. As I watched somewhat stunned, it alighted on the old man’s shoulder, steadied itself with a single flap of its wings, and came to rest. The man didn’t react, not even when the crow’s thick wing slapped his ear.

“I don’t have a name,” the old man said. “You may call me an angel if you like.”

Alek chuckled, but I was sure it was a nervous reaction without a lick of humor.

“Who inquires of the Cantemir estate?” he asked again.

“Toma Nicolescu, in the service of Her Majesty the empress of Russia, Catherine the Great, who now rules Moldavia. And if you are an angel then you may vanish as all angels vanish, into the air of superstition.”

“Toma?” the old man croaked.

“What business do you have with this estate?”

“Eh, that is you? Toma Nicolescu?”

His demeanor now bothered me more than I cared to admit.

Was this my elder, whom I should honor, or a wandering lunatic?

“Watch your tongue, old man,” Alek snapped.

The crow cocked its head and lined up one of its beady eyes for a hard look at Alek; the old man did the same.

“Eh? Is that you too, Toma?”

Alek’s brow furrowed. “Stop playing the buffoon. And get rid of that cursed bird.”

“State your business, old man,” I demanded.

He lifted a boney, scarcely fleshed hand and pointed to the west.

“There is evil in the wind. Beware, Toma. Beware the evil.”

“Don’t be a loon . . .”

I held up my hand to stop Alek, interested in the oddity before us, this ancient blind prune and his all-seeing crow.

“What makes you think there is evil to beware?” I asked.

“Eh? The crow saw it.”

“The crow told you that, did he? And does your crow speak as well?” Alek’s voice wrung mockery from each word. Lightening stabbed at the plains in the east. I hadn’t noticed the clouds on the horizon until now. A muted peal of thunder growled at us, as if in warning I thought, and I wasn’t given to superstition.

The devil wasn’t my enemy and God wasn’t my friend. Nothing I’d experienced in my twenty-eight years had moved me to believe in either.

The old wizard with his crow was staring at me through slits, silent. I wanted to know why the man seemed to sense the threat— it was my job to know. So I dismounted, walked up to him, and dipped my head, an easy thing to do considering his age, for I had always been given to respecting the aged.

The black bird was only three feet from me, jerking its head for a better look, sizing me up, deciding whether he should pluck my eyes out.

I spoke kindly, in a low voice. “Please, if you feel it wise, tell me why your crow would warn us of evil?”

He smiled a toothless grin, all gums and lips. “This is Peter the Great. I can’t see so well, but they tell me he’s magnificent bird. I think he likes me.”

“I would say he looks like a devil. So why would a devil tell an angel that evil is near?”

“I’m not the devil, Toma Nicolescu. He is far more beautiful than I.”

I was sure I could hear Alek snickering, and I had half a mind to shut him up with a glare.

“And who is this beautiful devil?”

“A man with a voice like honey who flies through the night.”

The old man removed his right hand from the staff and used it like a wing. “But God was the one who told me to tell Toma Nicolescu that evil is in contest with you. He said you would come here, to the Brasca Pass. I’ve been waiting for three days, and I do think one more day might have claimed my life.”

“So the crow saw it, and then God told you, his angel, to warn us,” Alek scoffed. “How is that possible when we didn’t even know which route we would take until yesterday?”

“Perhaps God can read your minds.”

Our minds didn’t even know!”

“But God did. And here you are. And now I have done my thing and can live a little longer with my crow. I should go now.” He started to turn.

“Please, kind sir.” I put my hand on his. “Our mission is only to protect the estate. Is there anything else you can tell us? I don’t see how a warning of evil given by a crow is much use to us.”

The man’s gentle face slowly sagged and became a picture of foreboding. “I can hardly advise you, who thinks the devil is only hot air, now can I?”

I was surprised that the old man knew this about me. But it could as easily have been a lucky guess.

“As for your oversexed friend, you may tell him that this valley will certainly exhaust his feral impulses. I suspect that you are both in for a rather stimulating time. Now, I must be going. I have a long way to travel and the night is coming fast.”

With that he turned and walked away, a slow shuffle that made me wonder how he expected to reach the path much less the nearest town, Crysk, a full ten miles south.

Monday, September 13, 2010

God, I want my trash back



On garbage day, my daughter, McKenna, gets obsessed with the trash collectors. This is a picture of her last fall watching them out the window:



McKenna is always super excited to see the garbage truck chugging down the street. She'll call into me, "Mommy! I see the garbage truck!" She'll watch with wide eyes as the men hoof our heavy, stinky, diaper-filled trash into the truck.

And then she'll burst into tears and wail, "Where'd my trash go? I want my trash back!"

Week after week, I explained to my sobbing daughter that the garbage men were being nice by taking our trash, and that she didn't need them to bring back the pail full of used diapers.

Then one day as I was saying this to McKenna, I could see myself in the situation.

How many times have I asked God to help me change, to grow me, to enlighten me? Boiled down, aren't I asking God to remove the yucky parts of me? To remove my inner trash?

As I pray those prayers, it's exciting to think about all the change that's about to happen. Much as McKenna stands at the window in anticipation of spotting the garbage truck, I go about my day waiting for God to show up, waiting for him to take away my inner trash.

But the process tends to be more painful than I'd like, and inevitably I find myself saying to God, "But I like that TV show." Or, "But it's normal to be impatient with my family." Or, "But that person is so difficult for me to love!"

Basically, I'm telling God, "I want my trash back!" Yes, I asked you to take it. Yes, I volunteered it to you - set it out on the curb, so to speak - but now I'm telling you not to take it from me!

Even though all those stupid things I hold onto are about as valuable as a pail full of used diapers.

And you know the funny thing? The week I had this revelation was the last week McKenna cried over the garbage men taking her trash.

Last Tuesday, she yelled out the screen door, "Don't smell my trash! It's stinky!" and then waved enthusiastically as they hauled it away.

And hopefully I can follow suit and do the same thing as God works in me.

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.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

When Suicide Hits Home

There are some days when you wake up and have no idea your life is going to change. One of those moments was the day I first heard about a young woman named Kristen Anderson who tried to commit suicide by laying down in front of a train.

The first time I'd talked to Kristen on the phone, I knew I had to write her story. There was a time Kristen's life had sunk into darkness. She had four friends and her grandmother die, she started drinking and smoking, and then she was raped. Kristen felt like a zombie for about six months. She didn't want to die, but she didn't want to live with the pain, either. One January night she laid down in front of a train. Kristen survived, but lost her legs. For three years she struggled with depression and even went back and forth out of the psych ward. Kristen knew that to get beyond the depression she had to give herself to God completely. She started praying, reading her Bible, going to a dynamic church and she surrounded herself with Christian friends. Through the process of seeking Him, God changed everything. She's now one of the happiest people I know.

When I thought about writing the book, I knew that if people would see how Kristen's life did not remain in that dark place, they could have hope for their own journeys. My intentions were to help people “out there.” I had no idea that it would open up conversations within my own family.

When I first started working with Kristen on the book, I was intrigued. I'd seen Kristen on Oprah and I knew people were amazed how she survived. I was amazed too. There were numerous times in the interviewing process that I thought, “This is a miracle.”

As with all books, I often share what I'm writing with my family. I remember one afternoon when I was driving and my sixteen-year-old daughter Leslie was with me. I was talking about Kristen and Leslie looked at me, sadness in her eyes. “Mom, I have to tell you, I've considered suicide before.”

I felt my breath escape me. Tears sprang to my eyes. “What? When?”

Leslie went on to tell me it was when she was in junior high. She didn't have many friends and felt shunned at church. Worse than that, the girl she considered her best friend teased her all the time, telling her she wasn't pretty, wasn't smart, and would never have a boyfriend. “I was so sad inside. I didn't want to face that sadness anymore, but I didn't take my life because I knew how much it would hurt you and dad.”

Over the next couple of days Leslie and I continued to talk about how hard life seems sometimes. We also talked about how easy it is to pretend everything's fine when we're really hurting inside. It made me realize that as a mom there could be things my kids are struggling with that I have no clue about. How about you? Are there things you're struggling with that your parents don't know? I know it's hard to share sometimes ... but maybe you should tell them. It might be hard, but parents want to be there to help. They care.

When I talked with Kristen's mom, Jan, during the process of writing the book, she told me she'd been worried about Kristen's friends at time, but not about her daughter. “Kristen was the one everyone turned to for help. She seemed to be having a hard time, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten.”

For Kristen, her story turned out to have a happy ending, but for so many others
it doesn't. Make sure you take time to talk to talk to a parent, a youth pastor or a mature friend about about sadness, depression, and suicide. Also be sure to have them tune in to FamilyLife Today September 8, 9, and 10 or pick up a copy of Life, In Spite of Me.

There is hope!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Do You Want To Live Forever?


Last night I re-watched the 2002 Alexis Bledel movie Tuck Everlasting, a story with a lot to say about what it means to experience a full life.

Frustrated with her ordered and restrictive upbringing, 15-year-old Winnie Foster wanders into the nearby woods for the first time. There she meets Jesse and his kind-but-strange family, the Tucks. Winnie soon learns that the Tucks have been immortal since drinking from a mysterious pool almost 100 years earlier. As she falls in love with Jesse, who desperately wants her to drink from the pool and stay with him, Winnie also learns from Jesse’s older brother about the dark side of living forever while everyone around you grows old and dies. Eventually Mr. Tuck takes Winnie away in a small boat to explain the cost of staying stuck like a rock at the edge of a stream while the natural course of life cycles around you.

“Humans will do anything not to die,” he tells Winnie, urging her to fear the unlived life rather than fearing death. Winnie is left with a choice, to take a drink and stay with the boy she loves, or return to her family and learn how to really live.

Humans will do anything not to die. Even if it comes at a price, as it did for the Tucks. Magazines and television are cluttered with ads, anti-aging procedures, and plans that feed our longing to stay young and alive forever. The sad thing is that so many have missed the message that they can live forever. We will all go somewhere after we die. The question is, where will we spend eternity? Those of us who have confessed our sins and need for a Savior, and committed our lives to Jesus took, in a way, a drink from His life-giving pool, not so we can experience immortality on earth and stay stuck while the world goes on without us, but so we can live eternally in Heaven. Unlike the Tucks, who had to stay isolated and on the move in order to keep their secret hidden, we are told to share the way to salvation with whoever will listen and make a difference for Christ’s sake as long as we are alive.

Do you live in fear of death? Are you trying to squeeze as much into life as you can in order to have what the world considers a full life? Perhaps today will be the day when you accept the forgiveness and grace that Christ has to offer, and begin a life that is truly rich, full, and everlasting.

Friday, September 03, 2010

For all of us Double-A Battery Types

I think surely there's something called a spirit of rush. And those of us blessed with a Type A personality tend to be in a constant rush. All things must be done in a hurry. Everything is of utmost importance and sooner is always better than later. Staying ahead of schedule is crucial.

For instance, when I go to the grocery store for a few items, I grab my purse and rush out the door as though I'm headed to perform emergency surgery.

When I walk through any store, I almost run.

I follow too closely behind cars--you know, trying to push them along.

Here's the problem. If I'm not careful, I stay so busy in my hurried little world that I miss the beauty of life, and the beauty in others. I take my world so seriously, that I forget about the joy that always comes in slowing down for a bit.

So, I'm trying some new behaviors. I've almost completely stopped wearing a watch. Believe me--this is huge for a Type A person.

I decided to take up a hobby. A slow motion hobby that forces me not to be in a hurry.

I took a knitting class. There's no way I can knit in a hurry. I'm just a baby knitter, so I still have to go slow and think about every single stitch. Knitting even slows my thoughts. Is this a knit stitch or a purl? I make a lot of knitting mistakes. From my Type A brain, it could be considered a waste of time. I've gone back to the yarn shop plenty of times for knitting help (trying to drive slowly the whole way).

But I'm going to stick with my lifestyle changes. Mostly, I'm still not wearing my watch. And I'm probably the slowest knitter in town, but think maybe God has a lesson for me buried in my unfinished miniature pink scarf. I pray I'll be more aware of divinely unexpected appointments with others.

God holds time in the palm of His hands. Daily now, I'm asking Him to slow me down so I won't miss sweet opportunities.

Any double-A batteries understand?

Love,
Julie

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Laughter, the Best Medicine?

You know Satan has a habit of taking something that God created and perverting it to sully the masses. Good, healthy sex is twisted to become pornography. Tasty, nutritious food is battered and fried, creamed and distorted to be filled with calories and saturated fats. Proverbs tells us that laughter is good like a medicine. But Satan is using.
This is the process, which really works for him.
The sitcom presents cheating on a wife as a funny situation. The writers are clever. The audience laughs. Suddeny cheating in a marriage is not as far down in the black pit of sin, because the audience laughed. The more often the concept is revisited and the more often it triggers the laughter response, the less sinister it seems. Remember that old song in Sunday school? Be careful little eyes what you see. Be carefule little ears what you hear. Be careful little hands what you touch.
We need to be careful what we laugh at. We may be weakening our defenses, smearing the line between right and wrong, and allowing Satan to bend our convictions.
Laugh! But make sure you are enjoying the same type of humor, Jesus would enjoy.

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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