Thursday, October 28, 2010

27 things I've learned this year



Today's my 27th birthday, and the following is a list of 27 things I've learned and discovered this last year. In no particular order.

1. The berries inside pomegranates are called arils. And that there's an easier way to cut them up.

2. How to diaper a baby boy.

3. That I don't have to type "130" when I want to microwave something for a minute and thirty seconds. I can type "90."

4. The fabulous writings of Sarah Sundin.

5. That natural child birth is quite painful. Even when it only lasts 90 minutes.

6. In that same vein, having a book and a baby come out in the same month makes life pretty
crazy. (I could've guessed that one...)

7. How to make pancakes just as yummy and fluffy as my husbands. I still don't do shapes, though. That's his thing.

8. More about the line up on Nickelodeon Jr. than I ever wanted to know... ("Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets, we're on our way...")

9. How to be more hospitable. I'm not going to win any awards or anything, but at the start of the year, I prayed God would help make me a better, more cheerful hostess, and he certainly did. (I've done a little backsliding since Connor was born, but that'll get better.)

10. How to manage my author blog, my teen writers blog, and contribute here at Girls, God, and the Good Life.

11. How to say no to things that take away time from the three roles God has given me - wife, mommy, and author.

12. The crazy world of Mad Men. We finished up season 2 last night and will be starting season 3 soonish.

13. The meaning of the word esoteric. My pastor used it 6 times in a sermon on Sunday. After time number 3, I finally had to look it up. (esoteric: adj. Understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest.)

14. That there can be beauty in death. My favorite season, autumn, is a good example of this. Better ones are my dear friend Christy Kirven and my aunt Penny. I lost both ladies this year to cancer, and until the day they died, both of them were wonderful examples of being Christ's hands and feet here on earth.

15. Many knew her already, but I did not. You should totally check out the writings of Siri Mitchell. I adored She Walks in Beauty.

16. And another phenomenon that I knew nothing of until a few months ago, www.ThePioneerWoman.com.

17. The dictionary.com app. I almost always have my phone handy when I'm reading. I've gotten in the habit of looking up words I don't know.

18. To love my husband more fully. Something about having a little boy of my own opened up this whole new dimension of love for Ben.

19. How to make lasagna that doesn't slide when you cut it. (Thank you to my mother-in-law on that one!)

20. My favorite book changed this year. Well, Pride and Prejudice is still my all-time fave, and nothing's ever topped This Lullaby for YA. But I adored Lisa Samson's The Passion of Mary-Margaret. It reigns as my favorite uh... regular book?

21. Both the sting and the reward of disciplining a child.

22. The sheer awesomeness of the library. Somehow I'd forgotten...

23. How to make killer pot roast.

24. The joy of conversing with McKenna. I love babies, and I was sad when she was officially Not a Baby anymore. But we have some of the best conversations. Especially about her favorite baseball player, Zack Greinke.

25. There was a new addition to my "favorite craft books" list. I adore James Scott Bell's The Art of War for Writers.

26. Starbucks's dark cherry mochas over ice. Those java chip frappuccinos aren't too bad either. Mmm...

27. And finally, I'm never going to find a way to organize my time that magically fixes everything. This little nugget of wisdom came from my husband, who continues to startle me with his intelligence. I kept saying to him, "I feel like if I could just organize everything in the right way, that I could stay on top of all the stuff I need to do." And he said, "That's your problem. That you keep expecting to find something to fix it all."

Changed my life. I've become much better about just doing the best I can with the amount of time I have. If God expected me to get everything on my list done, He would've given me more hours of the day.

I enjoyed age 26 quite a bit. Even though I spent half the year saying I was 25, and the last month or two saying I was 27. The memory has apparently started to go. Along with my natural hair color.

Have a great Wednesday everyone!

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.


Friday, October 22, 2010

What does she really need?

Even though it was twenty-one years ago, I still remember what it was like to go to school pregnant. I'd been a cheerleader, on the yearbook staff, an honor roll student--on the outside a good kid. At the time, most of the kids I knew were sleeping with their boyfriend/girlfriends. I know because we'd often talked about it on bus trips to away games. The thing was, I got caught. The proof of what I was doing was evident as my stomach started growing. My friends started acting weird around me. Other kids at school would stare and whisper. Soon my boyfriend had a new girlfriend, which just made everything worse.

Today, things are different. I mentor young moms on a weekly basis. Many of them say they still get the stares, the whispers ... but not in a bad way. A few even said that being pregnant made them popular. They said that people would come up to them and say that they wanted to have a baby, too.

The truth is, neither of these stances helps a teen mom. She doesn't want to be an outcast, and she doesn't need to be the most popular girl in school. What does she really need? A friend. Someone to invite her to church, to ask how she's doing, and to call her up at home after the baby's born and she's feeling distant and alone.

When you're a true friend you don't condemn. When you're a true friend you are realistic about what helps others and what hurts them. Friends are there when the baby is crying. They are there when the young mom feels overwhelmed. Do you have someone you can be a real friend to today?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dressing the Part

Clothes. We probably all give some thought to this subject at least once a day, right? I love clothes, and with Halloween coming, my first thought isn't scarfing up the mini-chocolate bars that the trick-or-treaters leave behind ... uh-uh, it's "Oh boy, I get to dress up!"

This carries over into my writing life, too. Over the years, it's become part of my process to get into the clothes that my main character would wear. For a while, I tried writing Regency historicals, so I went and got the Regency dress pattern from La Mode Bagatelle and made an afternoon dress and an evening gown. You would be astonished at the insight you get into a character from wearing her clothes. That Regency corset made this body do things it had never done before, LOL!

And when I made a Victorian ballgown, suddenly I knew why mothers of that period insisted that a lady's spine should never touch the back of a chair. Um, it can't. In a corset, you can't slouch. And in a bustle, you have to sit on the edge of the seat. So your spine literally can't touch the back of the chair no matter how hard you try. But I have to say, my posture was great. But I understood in those clothes just how confining they are--bending over or going to um, the ladies room, is an effort that takes careful concentration. And girls back then used to play tennis in their corsets! My hat is off to them.

Now I'm moving into Amish fiction under a new name (Adina Senft), so what did I do? Yep, I went on eBay and ordered a set of Amish clothes (who knew you could do that? I love technology). I got a glimmer of the "plain" mindset, which doesn't use buttons. You pin your dress together with straight pins, and pin the apron and cape on. You pin the prayer covering on your hair. Suddenly I have new and interesting details to write into my story--details that other women who are interested in clothes might be interested in learning.

Clothes say a lot about a character. What do yours say about you?

Love,
Shelley

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time to Laugh


There were eight of us in the van: me, my sister Kristy, our kids (aged 4, 8, almost 8, and 19), Mom, and Dad. Despite the huge age range represented we were all laughing ourselves sick over the same DVD—Season 2 of Spongebob Squarepants. Mom and I admitted that we usually found the show annoying. Dad had never seen it before (make that heard it, since he was driving the van). Yet there we sat, riding along, laughing like kindergarteners.

Maybe the family togetherness had us all so loosened up that we would have laughed at anything. But I’m more convinced that the adults in the car just needed a chance to relax and get lost in the silliness of a sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea. Between work, school, and everyday life stresses we started this particular trip with knots of tension that the little guys couldn’t relate to. We laughed it out through one dumb cartoon after another, whispering to each other, “I think I see why kids like this show. It’s so stupid but that’s what makes it hilarious.”

Now when my sons watch reruns of Spongebob I no longer cringe and mutter, “Oh no, not Spongebob. He is so annoying!” Instead it reminds me of that road trip when we rediscovered the power of laughter.

Sometimes we just need to laugh, even if it’s over something we would usually roll our eyes at. Even the Bible teaches that there is a time to laugh (see Ecclesiastes). Proverbs calls laughter good medicine. Laughter loosens our tension and gets our minds off all that is going wrong. It heals our sadness and melts anger.

Do you need to laugh today? Ask God to send a gift of humor your way today, even if it’s something really silly like an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Hated to Play Barbies!



Weird post, I know, but this has been on my mind.

Growing up, I hated to play with Barbie dolls. But all my friends--even my sister-- loved playing Barbies. I never knew what to do with them. What is the point? Get them dressed, undressed, ride them around in a plastic car, and go on pretend dates?

I lost one of almost every pair of Barbie's (or Skipper's) miniature shoes. Coordinating their outfits wasn't fun for me. So, my Barbie had to hobble around with one shoe in mismatched clothes as her friends pranced in style.

Sure, I played along, acting like I was having fun, but on the inside, I cringed.

Here's the thing. I wish way back then I'd have had the courage to say, "No, thanks. I'm not playing Barbies anymore. I'm going to go read my book."

Sometimes it takes years to be able to stand alone. To risk being different.

If you're in a situation that doesn't feel right, pray. Maybe God's calling you to say no--this isn't right for me.

Deut. 31:6 "Be strong and courageous.Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.

Lots of love,
Julie

Saturday, October 16, 2010

go directly to jail, do not pass go




I am going to be put behind bars, although they are promising me gourmet bread and water. But I try not to eat any gluten, so that is not much comfort.



Two weeks ago, I got a phone call. The man calling joyfully informed me that I had been turned in and was going to jail. He was much to cheerful to be serious, so I asked if I didn't get a trial first. He said no. Hmmm? Which one of my friends was behind this? He said he couldn't tell me, but told me when the paddy wagon would come to my house and pick me up. He also told me what my bail had been set out. Finally, I got the underlying message.



I was being put into jail for good. Being good, that is.



And my friends must bail me out. He suggested I raise my bail before I went to jail on November 18th and therefore I would only have the formality of posting the money and getting out.



What is this all for? Muscular Dystrophy. My bail will go toward research and practical aid for MD. That's a good thing. If you want to help me with my bail, go to this site.



So far, I haven't raised much. But I'm finished being shy. It's for a good cause, and hey! I really don't want to spend time in the clinker, even if the clinker is a nice restaurant.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Future Wife Rock

I had to share this with you all, it's written by a tenth grader named Paul:

I believe that the girl of my dreams is worth waiting for.

I am not going to waste my time on hormone crazy teenagers. People argue with me and ask how I know that the right girl is not here in my school. They say that the only way to get to know her is to date her, but that’s not true. You can get to know someone by being friends with them. Besides kids don’t act like themselves around a crush. The guy who one minute will sing Japanese karaoke for his buds will suddenly be way too cool for that when the girl he likes shows up.


Read the rest of his essay HERE

Have you really thought through dating and what God wants you to do?

Sarah, who is married to the most amazing man in the world, but believed during high school and college that I'd never find anyone

Sarah Anne Sumpolec is the author of the YA series, Becoming Beka - My website



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Whine, whine, whine



So, I have to admit. I've been feeling a little bit sorry for myself.

I know, I know. It's dumb. Because let's take a little inventory of things I've prayed for and things God's given me.

4 years ago I prayed for God to take me back to Kansas City, to give me a baby, and have someone buy Me, Just Different.

Fast forward to a year later: I lived in a beautiful house in Kansas City, had a healthy, beautiful baby girl, and sold not only Me, Just Different, but two other books as well.

When we prayed for another baby, we got pregnant with Connor.

I'm in the process of praying for another book contract. And I just know God's going to blow my mind. It's His style.

And yet...

Here's the thing. My life is amazing. But it's very ... home-based, for lack of a better word. Both my "jobs" (writing and Mommy) take place at home. Sometimes my entire morning will be getting the kids ready, going to the grocery store, feeding them lunch, and getting them down for their naps.

My career is to write, to entertain, and yet my days often feel full of nothing but diaper changes, outfit changes, and e-mails. Oh yeah. That's the stuff great page-turners are made of.

Part of me knows this is just a season of life. Connor won't always need to eat every 3 hours. McKenna will someday decide she's too old for diapers. One of these days, I'll get back to having the kinds of adventures I'm dreaming of. Like visiting Jane Austen's place in England. And seeing Lake Geneva. And going back to New England for leaf season (I know, I know. I'm old.)

One of these days I won't just be reading about things, I'll be doing things. And there'll be fewer posts about spit-up and more about ... I don't know. Hang-gliding.

Okay, maybe not. But one can hope.

So here's my question for y'all ... what do you do to stay content?

For me, it's looking at a picture like the one below, and reminding myself they won't be little like this forever:




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.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Finding My Voice

Eh hem . . . la, la, LA, la, la (clears throat) Try that again. Laaaaaa, laaaaaaaa, LAAAAA, laaaaaa, laaa. We used to do that in high school choir, going up and down the scale for voice warm-ups.

High school. Talk about a time when I had lost my voice!

It started in junior high. The chatty, outgoing little girl that I had been got buried under the ugly divorce of my parents, a move to a new state, and a nightmare junior high experience. Yes, that included the typical stuff of trying to figure out who I was, but then my own “best” friends started bullying me. They seemed to love the power they had over me, even threatening to beat up other friends if they talked to me. I wanted to hide and escape, but where do you go when you have to be in class and walk to and from school every day?

I didn't know much about God, so it didn’t cross my mind that I could turn to him for reminders of who I really was or who I was becoming. I had no idea that Someone was there to walk with me through that crushing season.

I now can look back and see he was there, protecting me and beginning to draw me to himself.

Thankfully the friends of junior high went to a different high school, but the whole experience left me so shaken that even after I found new, great friends, I was afraid to speak. I would but words were often carefully measured. I’d cringe and want to hide when I perceived that I’d said anything wrong. With one friend, who I really cared about, I could share my feelings and even be angry. While it sometimes strained our friendship, I think I was thankful I could be myself and she wouldn’t entirely reject me.

One tiny step in finding my voice. God wasn’t going to let it stop there.

(More to come in future posts)

How about you? Have crushing experiences and relationships silenced your voice? Your heart?


http://www.jankern.com/
http://www.courageousmoves.com/

Friday, October 08, 2010

First Things First

Have you ever prayed with everything in you for something and it didn't happen? I remember one time I did. I was a Junior in high school and our basketball team was playing against our rival team for a slot in the championship game. There was only ten seconds on the clock and we were one shot down. The other cheerleaders and I huddled together on the sidelines and prayed. “Please God, let us get one last shot.”

We got the ball, our player shot, and he missed. The buzzed sounded and the crowd on the rival side cheered with victory. I was disappointed, and I wondered if our prayers made any difference. Obviously not.

I'd prayed other times in junior high and high school too. I prayed before tests. I prayed for certain guys to like me. I prayed I wouldn't be sitting by myself, alone and forgotten, at the school dance. Yet even though I prayed, it didn't seem to make any difference. I could have come up with some ritual like patting my head three times and turning in a circle. That would have done as much good as my prayers … or so it seemed.

What I didn't realize then was there is more to this prayer thing than I first realized. It's not just about believing there could be a God “up there somewhere” and sending up a plea for help. Lots of people pray for many things, and like me they probably don't get the answers they hope for. Maybe that's because prayer isn't about getting God to do what we want. Instead, it's open communication with a loving Creator who wants to be part of our everyday lives. God wants more from me then just sending up hurried prayers during desperate times, hoping they'll do the trick.

First things first

Before we can pray, and expect our words to make a difference, we must have a relationship with God. We must decide we do not want to live this life without Him. We must give Him our whole selves, our whole hearts.

God is the true lover of our souls. He knows the desires of our hearts. He has a good plan for our lives, and for many that includes plans for a future husband.

In the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11 says: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (NIV).

Isn’t that incredible? God has plans for your future! He wants you to prosper and to have hope. God doesn't just want to be “that guy in heaven” you turn to when you want your team to win or when you want your mind to remember a certain algebraic equation. He wants to be included in much, much more than that … your whole future. Listen to what the next verses say.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (vs 12-13 NIV).

God just doesn’t want us to hang around waiting and worrying and wistfully hoping everything will turn out alright. No! These verses tell us He wants us to call upon Him, to come to Him, and to pray. God promises He will listen.

When we seek Him with all our hearts we will find Him. That is where your love life must begin. At the heart-level. And once God is deep in our hearts, our prayers will take on a whole new meaning.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Storm Friends


This week I had the fun of reviewing my friend Cheryl Ricker’s new book A Friend in the Storm. It’s a gift book of poetry, quotes, and Scripture written for people going through a difficult time. Some of the poems are heartfelt words from a hurting person to God, but must are God's words to a soul that is troubled or in pain. While I know that Cheryl originally wrote the poems for a friend who was dying of cancer, they ministered to me as I dealt with a very different kind of life storm. So in a way she became a friend in the storm to me.

Who have your friends in the storm been? You know, those friends that God sent to be there through heartbreaking, disappointments, illness, or grief. When has Jesus been the only friend you had? How did He use that season (which probably started out feeling extremely lonely) to draw you so close to Himself that He became all you needed?

Thank God today for the gift of those storm friends, knowing that it takes a special kind of person to shoulder our tears, daily phone calls, and heavy loads of need. Thank Him also for those times when it seemed like you had no one to share your burden with, until He surrounded you with His presence and became the best friend you could ever have.

If you are in the midst of a storm right now, or know someone who is going through a rough time, check out Cheryl Ricker’s A Friend in the Storm.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Jenny B Jones--I Love your Writing!



I attended the American Christian Fiction Conference in September and got to chat with one of my favorite authors, Jenny B. Jones. She's the kind of person who can handle unexpected situations with humor. She's fun to be around because she doesn't take herself so seriously. She's discovered the secret of laughing at herself, which puts everybody around her at ease.

Jenny has the uncanny ability to laugh through weird, unpredictable, crazy things. I attended one of her classes on "Writing with Humor" and her laptop presentation somehow malfunctioned. She never missed a beat. She had the class laughing in one of those awkward-type moments.

I've decided something--if you can laugh, you can get through just about anything.

Go here to read the first chapters of her novels. http://www.jennybjones.com/books/

I'm predicting you'll love her and her writing as much as I do.

Love,

Julie

Friday, October 01, 2010

Don't know much about...

Recently, there was a study done by the Pew Forum that looked at American’s knowledge about religions. It didn’t just look at what Americans knew about Christianity, but about other world religions as well.


You can take their short 15 question survey and see how you do on their test!


I took it and got 14 out of 15 correct, but as I really considered the questions they were asking I realized that the reason I knew the answers was not because of anything I ever learned or heard of in church necessarily - but because of several classes I took in college on World Religions and Christian Theology.


Then I was talking to my Mom over the weekend - she’s a high school history teacher and several sections of AP classes. She was bemoaning how hard it was to teach her classes about the Reformation because they didn’t understand enough about Christianity or theology to understand what really transpired.


Can you describe the Reformation? And why it was so important?


Here’s the thing that has me concerned. It’s a wonderful thing to “believe” and “have faith”. Those things are precious to God. But the Bible also says things like this:


“Be diligent to present yourself approved to god as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” 2 Tim. 2:15


and this:


“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2


So how do we have our minds renewed and know the will of God?


Well, it doesn’t come by just sitting around in church listening to a sermon here and there - or by singing some worship songs - or by simply “believing”.


It comes when we pursue God:


“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness: and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33


It comes when we pursue His Word:


“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12


Here’s the thing. Our lives are full of tests and trials - no one is immune. But too many just hand around and live their lives and only really pursue God when things are hard. We’ve got things backwards.


The Word of God - truly studying it and allowing the truth to soak deeply within you - that needs to happen every day. If we do that - when the test comes - the truth and wisdom we need is right there. When we’ve spent the time to put the truth in - then it’s the truth that comes out when we need it.


Would you sign up for a class and then only show up on the testing days?


Or would you go to class, take notes, learn, ask questions and study - then go take the tests?


It’s the same with our walk with God. We have to walk with Him every day - learn, grow and study what it means to be a Christian - and a follower of Christ. We have to choose to make it a priority. We can’t just talk about it. We can’t just think it’s a good idea but do nothing.


We must act.


And if you do, then when the trials of life come - and they will come - you’ll be ready. And you’ll know beyond a shadow of doubt that you aren’t alone.


Love Sarah


Sarah Anne Sumpolec

Check out my YA series Becoming Beka







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