Wednesday, December 28, 2011

4 Things Worth Bringing into 2012

I'm a girl who likes her lists, and who likes fresh starts.

I've been doing some thinking about 2011. About things that went well and things that did not go well. I've been thinking about what will come with me, and what I would rather leave behind.

Here are 4 things I will bring into 2012 with me:

1. Forever Reign by Hillsong. My heart beats a little faster every time the worship band at our church launches into it.

2. A lyric from the above mentioned song:

You are God. Of all else I'm letting go.

I am letting go of my grip on my career. Of my need for control. Of my insecurity. Of my fears for my children. Of my need to be perfect.

This will be a daily commitment, because I know every morning I'm going to wake up holding on tight to those things, and that every morning I will have to pry open my hands, release them, and grab hold of Him instead.

3. An action plan for growing closer to God. I love the way that Richard Foster puts it in his book on disciplines where he says that the disciplines themselves (studying, fasting, praying) aren't what make you closer to God, but they put you in the position for Him to draw closer to you.

I've already talked about my plan to read the chronological Bible thought I bought 10 years ago (at least). I'm also going to read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, which I was apparently the last person in the world to know about.





Well, not really, because my husband hadn't heard of it, and neither had my best friend, Roseanna. But everyone at my Christmas party last week had, and the women who were reading it were tearing up when they talked about it. Plus, with 552 reviews on Amazon, it still has 5-stars. Unbelievable.

4. A new friend, who will become a sister.

This is Molly.



And she's going to marry my brother-in-law (pictured beside her, as you might guess) sometime this next year. I'm an only child, and my husband has just the one brother, so this is a very big deal to me. So big of a deal that I once told Chris I thought I should get veto power over my future sister-in-law. (He agreed, which is a little shocking.)

But I won't need to exercise my authority. She's awesome.

What are you bringing into 2012 with you?


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 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. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year’s Reading Resolutions by Camy Tang

Camy here! As 2011 draws to a close, how did you do on your reading goals for the year? (Did you have any reading goals? LOL)

I wanted to read more Love Inspired Suspenses but didn’t read as many as I wanted to. I just didn’t have time! I did read a rare historical romance since I happened to get a copy I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten my hands on--my friend Becca Whitham let me borrow Practice to Deceive by Patricia Veryan, which is selling for $40 on Amazon for just a “Good” grade used copy! (I love Becca, by the way!)

I got a chance to read an advance copy of Saving Hope by Margaret Daley, a romantic suspense that’s the first book in the Men of the Texas Rangers series. It was so awesome! I love Margaret’s Love Inspired Suspense novels, but this is her first single title novel and it’s terrific!

I also reread an old book I loved when I was a teenager, Regency Miss by Alix Melbourne. This was actually the very first Regency romance I ever read, and I loved it. As an entree into Regency romances, it was perfect. I read it again to see if it was as good as I remember, and it was. :)

For this coming year, my goal is again to try to read all the Love Inspired Suspense novels each month. I really love them, but I just don’t have time to read them all. I’m also “reading” several books on audiobook, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is on my MP3 player for me to listen to when I go running.

{{You can get Mp3 players to listen to audiobooks from Office Depot deals and find other players that are great for audiobooks.}}

What did you read this year? What are you hoping to read next year?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the first book in her new series, Protection for Hire, which is like Stephanie Plum meets The Joy Luck Club. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Eve!



Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! It's one of my favorite nights of the year. The very air just feels holy in expectation. I can't wait to celebrate tonight with my family, but I always try to find one quiet moment alone to gaze up at the star studded sky, (even if its cloudy) and just feel Jesus. He's there, you know. And it's almost His birthday :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas from Ashley


Some of my favorite Christmas cards when I was younger were the ones that included letters about all the adventures different families had gone on throughout the year. I thought I'd do the same for you now. So pretend you've just walked out to your mailbox, opened it up, and this is in a red envelope. And I wrote your name and address with a silver sharpie so it's really pretty. :-)


To our friends and family:

Merry Christmas! We hope this note finds you and your family immeasurably blessed this Christmas season. Since it's been a year since you last heard from us, here's a quick rundown of things that happened this past year in our lives:


  • No, we still do not have any children, thank you for asking.
  • In April we welcomed a new little nephew. He continues to be adorable and cute and fun to hang out with. His parents are quite overjoyed. :-)
  • In May, Henry celebrated his birthday. There was nothing particularly exciting that happened here, just that he got another year older. Yay!
  • Also, my wonderful dear friend Topanga got married in May. I call her husband Darcy, and it fits. They are so good for each other. I love it.
  • In July we celebrated our two year anniversary in Aspen. It definitely doesn't feel like we've been married for two years. Sometimes it feels like it's been forever. In a good way. :-)
  • In July and August, I got my very first stamp in my passport when I went to Guatemala to meet my Compassion child, Brian. I'm pretty sure that was the best thing I've ever done in my life to date. That kid may as well carry my heart around with him in his backpack.
  • In September I went back to camp and hung out with my very favorite camp friends. Then I went to the Baltimore Aquarium and was pleased to find that it is exactly as I remember it when I was six. 
  • In October Henry and I went to a real live pumpkin patch. This is significant because I'd never actually seen pumpkins growing on the vines before. It was pretty cool.
  • Also in October, we acquired a pet guinea pig. Her name is Charlee. She has a mohawk. 
  • In November, we were adventurous and tried our very first turducken for Thanksgiving. We are also rather sure this will become a tradition.
  • That brings us to this month when we will celebrate Christmas, and the wedding of my very dear friend K! 
Well, that about brings you up to speed on our year. Though I didn't have the chance to write all this out by hand, print out the picture, and mail it directly to you, I hope it puts a smile on your face. :-) 

Merry Christmas, friends!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Different Christmas


This year, I purposely set our Christmas tree up in a different place. I left our Christmas village in the box and created a scene out of choir boys, pine trees, and snow men. Instead of outlining our front window with lights, I set an angel and the three wise men on the sill. I used the same Nativity scene as in past years but changed the arrangement a bit. I bought new stockings, embroidered our names on them for the first time, and hung them somewhere we’ve never hung stockings before. We’ve even altered our Christmas Eve tradition.

I did all this knowing that our Christmas is going to be very different this year. My family has gone through some changes that are making the holidays . . . well . . . hard. Trying to do things as we always have would only make it more obvious that special days like Christmas will never be quite the same again. Instead of allowing difficult change to rob us of our joy, we are using it as an opportunity to weave in some fun change as well—changes that we chose.

The holidays have a way of magnifying our losses, resurrecting the pain and knowledge that, no matter how hard we pray and plan, it won’t be like last year. People are missing. Broken relationships mean sharing loved ones and being more flexible. Some traditions get lost in the rubble; others we need to skip so we won’t add more grief to the day. This is when we must choose whether to wallow in the lost traditions or make new ones and ask God to help us enjoy them just as much.

I’ve found that making up my mind to do Christmas differently has helped in the process of grieving the loss that forced the changes. Are we sad? Yes! Will Christmas morning feel strange? I know it will. But I also know that God has been good to us through these life-altering circumstances, and that Christmas is about His Son, not my traditions. This is our opportunity to focus on His goodness, including the ways that He inspired creativity and allowed us to have fun no matter what.

Are you facing a different kind of Christmas this year? Ask God to help you accept the changes even as you grieve, and show you how to make this season of celebrating Christ’s birth different in a good way.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Calling All Girls!

I know this post is supposed to be about grace but I'm going to have to beg for your grace instead! I have been up for days with a teething baby and a manuscript. Both of them are just as needy!

{I promise to get back to our 30 day challenge -- in the new year -- so let's call it our 60 day challenge. I want to hear how it's going for all of you.}

In the meantime, I just found out that Zondervan is publishing my first book, The Bare Naked Truth About Waiting, in Spring 2013.

SO -- you wanna help with the book?

I have a small group of girls who are answering discussion questions for me -- just to make sure I'm on the right track with the book as I write it.

If you're interested in being a part of this select group, leave a comment with your e-mail address.

Can't wait to hear from you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Rant About Out of Print Books

Camy here! Forgive me, but this is going to be a full-on rant.

My friend let me borrow her copy of Practice to Deceive by Patricia Veryan, a Georgian romance author who died a few years ago. Practice to Deceive was published in hardcover in 1985 (with a rather nice pencil drawn cover) with one other English version, mass market paperback with a truly horrid cover in 1986.

Practice to Deceive is the first book in the Golden Chronicles, one of the Georgian romantic intrigue series that Patricia Veryan was famous for. The series premise is fascinating--in the months after the Jacobite rebellion in England, there was a six part cypher that pointed to the location of Prince Charlie’s treasure and also the names of his financial supporters. The series is about the six parts, each carried by a different man, escaping the agents of the Crown.

The book was incredibly entertaining, but I also knew, even before I started reading it, that the copy I held was extremely rare. The paperback copy sells for a minimum of $45 on Amazon! It’s because the book is out of print, and the publisher no longer prints copies of it. Therefore, the few copies left out there are for sale for exorbitant prices.

I’m returning my friend’s copy to her (carefully stored in a plastic bag to protect it), and I’d like my own copy of this book but I can’t afford it! I think it’s ridiculous how some of these out of print books are being sold for so much!

Most of the time, readers just want to read the story, they’re not out to collect the books. Readers might want a copy (like I do) to reread occasionally, or to let someone else borrow it. Most typical readers don’t need pristine copies to keep on their climate-controlled collectors’ bookshelves.

(Okay, well, I’ll admit I’d prefer a nice copy but only because I’m a germaphobe, not because I need a pristine copy to collect. But I’ll settle for a used copy just to have the book to reread.)

Why do books go out of print? Why can’t publishers go through the contract processes to reprint them? Why do online book sellers have to charge an arm and a leg?

Why is it so hard for a reader to read a good book???????

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the first book in her new series, Protection for Hire, which is like Stephanie Plum meets The Joy Luck Club. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rachel Coker - published at 16!

Stephanie here! When I first heard about Rachel Coker - who is 16 and has her debut novel releasing this February from Zondervan - I practically ran to my computer to email her. And I'm so glad I did, because Rachel is not only a gifted writer, she's a sweet, Godly chica. It's been such a blessing to interview her.




Rachel, at what age did you start writing Interrupted? Was it your first novel?

I first got the idea for Interrupted when I was fourteen years old. Most of the book was written in the spring of 2010, when I was fourteen. I was fifteen when I was signed with Zondervan, and did a few revisions after that, but I’d say that over 90% of the book was written before my fifteenth birthday.

Funnily enough, Interrupted is not the first novel I ever wrote! When I was twelve, I wrote a novella (short novel) about an Irish orphan at the turn of the century. It was back when I was first trying to develop my writing style, and really reflects my personality at the time. I was a very dramatic, sensitive child. ;)

Oh, boy. Me too.


How did you know your book was "finished" and ready for the eyes of an agent?

I don't really know if any book is ever really 'finished'. A lot of authors say they knew their book was agent-ready when they looked over it and felt it was finally perfect, or at least close to it. I don't think that's the case at all. I'm always finding things to fix about Interrupted, even in the post-editing phase. I think it was more a matter of: I spent a lot of time writing this book, and I finally think it's good. It's not perfect, but it has a lot of potential and it's something I would be interested in reading. That's when I knew that I was ready to pursue publication.

What were the first steps you took toward getting published?

Well, the first thing I did was pray a lot. I don’t really know what I was praying for—just that God would make things happen if it was His will, I guess. Finally I decided to just go for it. I figured getting published was such a long shot that if it wasn’t His plan for me, there was no way it would ever happen.

Did you look for an agent? How did Interrupted get in the hands of editors?

Yes, I did my best to find an agent, because I knew there was very little chance getting signed with a good publishing company if I didn’t. I actually checked out a big book of Christian agents from the library, and then Googled a list online. I sent cover letters to about fifteen people, and only one or two were even interested.

Bill (my agent) and I just clicked from the beginning, though. Everything he said was just so in agreement with what I believed. We both prayed about it, and felt God leading us to work together. So I was over the moon when I signed him to be my agent. He’s the one who got out there and sold my book to the editors at Zondervan.

Are you in any kind of critique group? Who are the big supporters of your writing in your life?

Actually, no, I’m not in any kind of critique group, but if you know of a good one let me know! I’m very personal about my writing, and I think the only people who have even read Interrupted outside of my editors are my mom and sister. They read everything I write and tell me what they think about it. Our family is full of big readers, so I respect everything they say. I love that they are blunt with me, too. My mom is not shy about telling me when something seems to be too big of a stretch, and my sister can find character flaws in anybody. And of course, my agent and editor are fantastic supporters. Reading their comments always make me smile.

What made the big difference in you going from being an aspiring writer to being a contracted author?

I think timing is really important. Two years ago, I never could have dealt with all the pressure and business of being a signed author like I can now. I also don’t think I was mature enough to write at the same level. I never want to feel like I have to do everything too early in life, even if I’m tempted to sometimes. No, I want time to live and grow as a result of my choices and mistakes. You need time to let your feelings and thoughts mature, before you can make a lot of the big decisions that being a contracted author takes. I feel like sixteen is a good age for me, personally.

Very interesting. What surprised you most about being published?

The amount of support I’ve been getting, definitely. Before Interrupted, I never talked much about my writing or my desire to be a writer. I figured I was too young and everyone would be secretly laughing at me. But ever since I’ve started talking about my journey, I’ve been blown away by the number of teens and other aspiring authors who have told me they were encouraged by my story. I never thought being a writer could mean connecting with so many different people. And my book isn’t even out yet!

I'm eager for it to hit shelves!


What advantages are there to being published at 16? What disadvantages are there?

The biggest advantage is that it creates quite a buzz. Everyone wants to talk about you, and interview you. It makes for a really cool story, and gave me an excuse to take a year off of writing in high school. ;)

The downside is that, at sixteen, you still suffer from a lot of peer pressure. I’m always worrying that my book is being hyped too much, and wonder what my friends will think. Will they all think it’s lame? And I also worry that people will judge my writing based on my age, and not on whether or not I am a good writer. The last thing I want is someone to say, “Oh, it was a good effort from a sixteen-year-old.” I’d rather them just like it, or hate it. You know what I mean?

I do. And I'm so appreciative of you taking the time to share some of your journey with us.


I had such a great time emailing back and forth with Rachel. I've found her to be sweet, professional, full of faith. Oh, and very brave. She didn't seem too freaked out by my exuberance.





About Interrupted: Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn't shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie's heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.



Rachel Coker resides in Virginia with her parents and two sisters. She has a passion for great books, and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her gift for writing became apparent at the age of eleven, at which time her parents signed her up for a year of lessons with a professional writing coach. Rachel also has a deep love for classical music and old black-and-white movies. When she is not writing or playing the piano, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends and serving her Lord and Savior.

Look for her book in stores February 1st. Support teen writers!

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 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. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book trailer for my first YA!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJa7O8je-xM

I'm sooo impressed with this trailer my awesome peeps at Barbour made! Better than I could have hoped! What do y'all think? :)

I can't wait for you to meet Addison January 1st!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Hallelujah, We've Been Found


Hallelujah, we've been found
A child is born to save us now
Hallelujah, light is come
A Savior who will set us free
A promise for those who believe
-BarlowGirl

When I was eight years old I got mad at my parents and decided to run away from home. Apparently, I didn't think it through very much because the only thing I grabbed in my haste to leave our house was the newspaper. I found that to be a major mistake five minutes later when I'd exhausted the comics and the finance section couldn't keep my attention. But I stayed outside, huddled under a spruce, waiting for someone to come find me. I'd hoped my mom would stop doing the dishes and suddenly find me missing. I imagined that she might panic and then come rushing out of the house, calling my name. She'd call the neighbors and see if I'd gone to their houses, and get in the car to drive around the neighborhood. But none of that happened. (I probably should have chosen a better place to go if I'd wanted that sort of reaction. My spruce happened to be in view of our front room windows.)

I eventually went back inside and pouted because nobody had come to look for me. The truth is, I hadn't really wanted to run away from home. All I wanted was for someone to look for me. I just wanted to be found.

Not much has changed since then. When I'm in the middle of a big crowd of people, I want to be found. When I feel like people misunderstand me, I want to be found. I think part of why I always wanted a boyfriend when I was in high school was because I wanted to be found! At the heart of it all, I want to feel important and valuable to someone. After all, you only look for things when they're highly valuable to you. Nobody's gone looking for  a candy wrapper, but the second you lose your car keys everything else goes out the window. 

The truth is, even when I might feel like just another person in a crowd, I am important enough to warrant the world's biggest search party. And you are, too. 

I love Christmas, mostly because it forces me to remember that I've been found. I am valuable enough that I've been sought after, wooed, and rescued...even though I've run away. And in case you need the reminder as often as I do, you are also valuable enough that you're being sought after, wooed, and rescued too. 

 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." -Luke 15:4-7


Ashley Mays is the former Editorial Assistant for Brio and Brio & Beyond magazines and currently writes her own fiction for teens. She enjoys rock climbing, people watching in airports, and expanding her shoe collection. Ashley lives with her husband in Colorado. No, they don't ski. Learn more about Ashley on facebook or on her website: http://www.ashley-mays.com/.

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Fresh Perspective on Grandparents


This is a picture of my grandmother, Camilla La Chapell, taken long before I knew her. In fact, I have a feeling that my dad—the oldest child in his family—hadn’t been born yet. When my cousin sent this picture to me the day after Grandma passed away, I couldn’t stop looking at it. I’ve seen old pictures of Grandma before, but this is the first time that I really took time to appreciate her youth and beauty.

My memories star a grandmother in her late 50s on up. But this picture reveals that she was young once too. She had dreams and plans, friends and hobbies. The grandma who seemed to always wear the same dress when I visited her, obviously enjoyed pretty, stylish clothes and getting “dolled up” as she would call it. She had favorite music and went on dates.

When I look at her smile, it’s hard to believe that she had already survived the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression and was living through World War II. As a girl, she’d lost a little sister to an illness that would have been cured easily today with over-the-counter medicine and traveled from Kansas to California with her parents and six siblings, with all of their belonging loaded on a truck. She had lived on foods that trigger a yuck face whenever I hear about them, like sandwiches filled with nothing but lard or onions. She’d gone to high school but also worked to help support her family. Yet, she looks completely content and joyful. By the time this picture was taken, she’d gone to business college, started working as a bookkeeper at a local air force base, and (I think) married my grandpa. More trials and triumphs awaited her, all of which God used to mold her into the woman that I remember for her strength, courage, generosity, love, and unwavering faith.

What goes through your mind when you consider that your grandparents and parents were once young like you? How many of their stories have you heard? What experiences do you think made them who they are today?

Use the holidays as an opportunity to get to know your family’s older generations in a deeper way. If you don’t have grandparents or don’t get to see them, reach out to an older person at your church or in your community. Pay special attention to what they have learned from both the good and the difficult in life. What might you gain from their wisdom and insight?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

the calm between

I have been a bit MIA lately because I've been directing a youth musical - and well, it's been quite draining - mentally and physically. We opened last weekend with four great shows - well, three - because opening night? Well, that's a whole blog post in itself! Tomorrow we go back for four more shows this weekend and since I won't be directing the next musical, I get to

b r e a t h e

again!

But today? Today is my middle daughter's 11th birthday!!!! So today I will bake a cake and wait in earnest hope that fedEx shows up with her gift. (please, please, please!) We'll take her out to dinner and have a quiet celebration. She'll have a sleepover with a few friends next weekend perhaps. She's always been my child who likes smaller, quieter celebrations.

I love seeing the uniqueness God created in each of my girls, and to me - that's what birthdays are all about. Celebrating the arrival of a beloved child of God, completely unique and utterly loved. That's you today too - whether it's your birthday or not.

You are loved by God.
You are wonderfully unique (and that's a good thing!)
You are worth celebrating.

Love,
Sarah


Sarah Anne Sumpolec
Website
Twitter

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Starting Point

If you were to say to me, "Is it better to do something perfectly or not at all OR to do your best even though it won't be perfect?" I would try to not laugh at you as I said, "Obviously, the second. Just do your best."

But I have been guilty of just the opposite for some time now.

  Years ago - like 9 or 10 years ago - I went to the store to buy a chronological Bible. I thought it would be an interesting new way to read. But the only ones they had were "One-year" chronological Bibles, where everything was also broken up by date. I had never intended to be on the one-year plan, and my wise mother pointed out that I didn't have to read it in one year, that I could just ignore the dates.

But something about opening the Bible in June, yet seeing, "January 1" threw that uber-organized piece of me. It would be best, I thought, to use the Bible exactly the way it was intended. (As if this is in the commandments or something - sheesh.)

And then things happened. Like I was planning a wedding. "Well, I'm getting married this year. I won't be able to read every day, so I really shouldn't even start."

Or we would be travelling over New Years, so I would start off the year feeling "behind." Next year, I would think to myself.

One year when January 1st rolled around, I had just read Genesis through 2 Chronicles in the previous months and wasn't enthusiastic about "starting over."

Then these guys appeared on the scene...


...and my morning routine of Bible reading flew out the window.

This last year - I'm pretty embarrassed to admit to you - I have read sadly little of my Bible. Some weeks it went untouched between Sunday church services.

At church this week, I was reminded that one of my only jobs as a Christ-follower is to "abide."

In John 15:5, Jesus says to his disciples: I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

My job is not to make fruit happen. My job is to abide. My job is to stay connected to the vine. And one of the key ways to do that is to open my Bible regularly. It's certainly not the only way, nor is it all we should be doing, but it's a good starting point.

And after a number of years of being a Christ-follower, I am sadly, woefully in need of a starting point.

So yesterday - Sunday, November 27th - I pulled the chronological Bible off my shelf and read the scriptures allotted for January 1st. Because in 2012, I will still be imperfect. I still won't read my Bible every day. But maybe with building in this extra month, I will have read the entire Bible in chronological order by December 31st.

Or maybe that won't happen, but if I have done my best to abide, I will still bear fruit.

What's one thing you can do to "abide" better?


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 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. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Please pray for me

Camy here! Running through to ask for pray from all you guys, since I am on deadline with a book due on Monday. Please pray it turns out great! Thanks!

If I can pray for any of you guys (even if you want to list an unspoken prayer request) just leave it in the comments!

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the first book in her new series, Protection for Hire, which is like Stephanie Plum meets The Joy Luck Club. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Can you help?

Okay - so I'm going to be a total mom today - I hope you'll understand.

If you have a Facebook, would you be willing to use this link and click "like" to like a page??
That gives my daughter a vote for mayor and if she wins, she could win tickets to the premiere of The Hunger Games.

It's crazy important to her (she got to be an extra in the film so to be able to be part of the premiere would be amazing for her!!!)

Here's the link: http://myr.pn/ayu7

And can you tell your friends and spread the word for her???

You're the best!

Sarah

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Girls have Always Loved to be Girls


This week, a friend and I went to the local art museum to see an exhibit of Italian art. Not only did I get to see the La Bella portrait that I mentioned in an earlier post, but they also had a replica of her famous blue dress and prints of other paintings from the time period. One of the many things that stood out to us was the women’s clothing and hair.

“Women back then wore such pretty closes,” I told my friend. “Can you imagine how long it must have taken to get dressed in the morning?”

I tried to imagine putting on all those layers. Several of the women, including La Bella, had intricate hairstyles that obviously involved a lot of braiding and twisting. Then came the accessories—strings of beads, jewels, and furs.

“Look at her,” My friend said when we finally stood in front of the La Bella portrait that was saved for the end. “It’s obvious from her stance that she was a very confident woman.” We talked about how strong-but-feminine she looked. I wondered if part of her confidence came from feeling pretty in that blue dress, with her hair done perfectly.

It struck me as I considered how long ago she lived, that God clearly created women with a natural desire to feel pretty. Today, instead of sewing gowns lined with gold thread and braiding our waist-length hair before arranging it delicately around our heads, we choose favorite fashions, wear make-up, and style our hair in ways that make us feel good about ourselves. A bad day can often be remedied by a pedicure. Face it; few things lift our spirits like knowing we look nice.

Does this mean women are shallow and only care about our looks? Not at all. I think it means that we enjoy being who God made us to be—girls. What a fun privilege!

Each of us has our own list of things that makes us feel pretty. I, for example, love jewelry, especially if it’s delicate and looks slightly antique. I enjoy having naturally curly hair. While I like to wear jeans and boots, my clothing style is definitely feminine. I feel best when I know I’m wearing a color that people say I look good in. (Since I don’t see in color, my friends are nice enough to tell me.)

What about you? What makes you feel pretty? Why do you think women enjoy dressing up and looking our best? What blessing do we enjoy by being girls?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Make your own facial lotion and toner

Camy here! And just to warn you, today’s post is yet another piece or randomness.

So I’m in pre-menopause. It’s a little early for me, but they say that if you don’t have children, you tend to go into menopause earlier, so there it is.

The problem is that pre-menopause is a bit like puberty, with massive skin problems. I haven’t had this many zits since sixth grade!

Another couple problems is that I’ve found that a) the old facial lotions I’ve been using have lead and other toxic things in them, and I’d rather not put that on my face, and b) my skin has become more sensitive as I age, so I can’t put just anything on my face or I break out even more!

So I started making my own toners and facial lotions because I can buy organic stuff and not have to worry about chemicals playing havoc with my over-excited menopause hormones and causing excessive Crater Face.

For toner, I’ve just been using plain old witch hazel solution, sometimes with a little bit of rose essential oil dropped in for a nice smell. You can actually use any essential oil you want. I bought my witch hazel at Target because it’s witch hazel, alcohol, and nothing else (no added parabens, which I’m sensitive to).

For facial lotion, since I’ve got a pretty obvious T-zone, I only put a tiny bit on my cheeks to keep the skin from getting dry and I leave my T-zone alone (after just putting toner to even it out a bit). I’ve been using this facial oil recipe:

Beautiful Oil

I bought my essential oils and the jojoba and grapeseed oils (organic) on Amazon.com and you can also get them on Etsy.com. The oil is super easy to make and I put it in a dropper bottle (also bought on Amazon.com). I use one drop and just rub it onto my cheeks.

There’s also ready-made organic toners and facial lotions on Etsy.com if you don’t want to make your own.

I’ve been feeling a bit better since I started using my own facial toner and lotion, at least I have fewer breakouts. What do you use that’s worked for you?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the fourth book in her Sushi series, Weddings and Wasabi. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

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, November 13, 2011

Run Your Race plus a Giveaway

Last Sunday afternoon, the weather was so glorious that my husband and I walked the kids up to the park.  As we walked across the soccer field, I said to my almost-4-year-old daughter, "Race you!" McKenna loves to run, and broke into a sprint.


Me and McKenna
I did the parent thing, where I moderated my speed based on hers. Sometimes I edged in front of her just a bit, which made her squeal, "No!" and other times I lagged behind. So long as McKenna was looking ahead and paying attention to where she put her feet, she ran great. Fast and smooth


But whenever she glanced at her competition - me alongside her, or my husband on the sidewalk with our youngest - she would stumble. Or drift in the wrong direction. Or, one time, she fell flat on her face.


After her big fall, when she was whimpering a bit and clearly trying to figure out, "Am I hurt enough to  throw a fit, or should I just keep running?" I brushed her off and, after verifying that nothing was broken or bleeding, said, "McKenna, that happened because you weren't paying attention to what you were doing. Don't look backward or at me and Daddy, okay? Just pay attention to running."


Saying so triggered the words from Hebrews 12:


"...Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."


How often, I thought during the remainder of our walk home, do I let my eyes wander from my race?


Particularly what came to mind was writing. Writing is the part of my race that causes me to struggle the most. Not the doing it part - I continue to love writing. What I struggle with is keeping my eyes on the One who called me to write, on taking the next steps I feel He wants me to take.


Sometimes I do well.


Other times I start glancing at those around me, gauging myself and my security by their location. Are their book ideas more creative? Are they getting nominated for awards? What are their sales numbers like? How many people read their blog? How many pieces of reader mail do they get a day?


You get the idea. I get distracted. I stumble. I drift the wrong direction. Sometimes I flat-out fall.


I need to print out the above scripture and keep it in my office as a reminder that God does not expect me to be anybody else. The only race I'm expected to run is mine, the one He marked out for me. And the best way to do that is to keep my eyes on Jesus.


These are the first two books in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, two books that were part of my race, that God put in my heart. I would like for you to have them.




To get entered to win a free copy of both Me, Just Different and Out with the In Crowd, leave a comment with how you think you're doing in your race. Are you on track, even if it means crawling? Are you spending more time checking out the competition than you are running? Or maybe you're still figuring out God's plans for you, what he wants your day-to-day life to look like. There's no wrong answer. (Contest closes Sunday, November 20th. One entry per person. US residents only.)


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 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. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.





Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's okay to be a blinking cursor...




Betsy here.


I usually know what I want to blog about days in advance, and schedule my posts early. After all, I blog on three different blogs (My own, this one, and http://www.scribblechicks.blogspot.com/) I get a topic, or a story, or find an interesting quiz online that applies to writing or something else fun, and have no trouble bringing it all together into a post.


Other times, however, I stare at the blinking cursor and wait for genius to strike. And wait. And wait...and wait. Meanwhile, my peppermint mocha grows cold along with my creativity.

Do you ever have days like that in life? Days where you feel empty? Bleak? Like you're just blinking on white screen with no purpose, no hope, no potential?

We all have days like that, I'd say. Struggles in life, in school, or with friends, relationships, marriage, even our writing journeys. Days where we have nothing to give. Nothing to say. Nothing left to offer. We're just there, and that's as good as it gets. Blinking...blinking...blinking...

You want to know a secret?

I think that's when God shows up. When we get out of our own way, and realize that without Him, we have nothing. Are nothing. Can do nothing. When we stop trying to push our own agenda, stop trying to control our surroundings, stop trying to MAKE things happen outside of His perfect will for us...that's when He can show off in our lives.


Today, I'm blinking.

And you know what? That's totally okay. Because I'm trusting God to fill in the gaps on the screen for me :)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

"Let Them Help"

In my last post, I admitted my anxieties over an upcoming retreat. It turned out to be an amazing weekend, where God did a lot of work on my heart—so much that I can’t possibly share it all in this follow-up. But there is one lesson that I must pass on.

The friend who invited me has known me for several years, so she is aware of my low vision. Even though we’ve spent enough time together for her to see that I get around fine without help once I know where I’m going, she also knew that the retreat grounds were hilly with a lot of unexpected dips and unfamiliar to me, so she let me know that she would be there to help me the entire time. And she kept her promise. If she needed to be somewhere else, she asked one of the other women to help me out.

After the first day, I started thinking I know my way around this place now. Everyone seems to be traveling in a group. I should tell her that I can just follow the pack from now on—that I’m okay on my own. But something in me said, “No. Let your friend help you.”


I argued, “But I can do it myself, God.”


“This weekend, you will let people take care of you.”

So I did.

As the retreat progressed, I knew God was trying to teach me something. The past few months have been extremely difficult. I sensed Him telling me, “I put it on your friend’s heart to do this. These women love you and want to be available to you, not because they think you can’t do it yourself, but because they want to support you. You’ve dealing with a lot right now, so for three days, you don’t need to worry about anything, including what might trip you up unexpectedly. Just relax.” I wondered if this might also be a living illustration of my need to quit thinking I need to do everything myself.

I decided then to accept it as a gift, and as I did, I felt God’s love flow through my precious friends. Then the retreat ended and I discovered another purpose behind this unusual outpouring of assistance. A woman wrote me a note, saying that watching me accept help from my friend and others reminded her of our dependence on Christ and the humility that He wants us to have as Christians.

I found myself fighting back tears, remembering how I’d resisted at first, as I so often resist help that might impact what people think of me. He didn’t just want to teach me something and show me his love through others; He also had something to say to one of my sisters in Christ. What an honor.

What a beautiful reminder this was that our struggles and life-lessons aren’t just about us—they are also for those who are watching us walk through them. When has this happened to you? When has God taught you something valuable while also speaking to one of your friends or family members?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Talking Mean


I have a confession to make: I have a mouth. Not a potty mouth, but a mouth. Two lips. One tongue. It’s pretty good at French kissing (sorry – too much information). But it’s also pretty good at doing something else around My Boy: talking mean.

I don’t set out to do it. I don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I’d like to be a witch today.”  I don’t set out to be judgmental about people. But I am.

It seems harmless. My Boy gets the earful. I’m done gossiping. I know my words will never be repeated.

End of story.

Until recently when my heart began to realize… it’s not the repeating that’s so hurtful. It’s my attitude. My feeling that I could be better than the person I’m talking about.

When the truth is, I have no idea what it’s like to be that person. I have no idea what they’re going through.

Last winter I lay on the floor and watched the snow hit my window. Little pellets of ice... when they made contact with the window pane, they melted into tiny trickles of water.

That's the way I want my life to be. I want everyone who comes in contact with me to be forever altered by grace.

But I can't change their lives. I'm only the window pane... and God is the heating force behind that pane.

I want Him to give me His passion... His warmth... His love for the world...

So this winter as the snow returns, so does the realization that when we show our hearts we only show a little.

People on the outside can't get all the way in. They can only see through the glass... get a glimpse... a tiny glimpse... of who we are.

It’s my prayer that I’ll not judge people just by looking through their window panes...

Because there's so much more to be discovered.

Want to join me on my thirty day quest for grace? 

Of course I believe it will last longer than that, but the next thirty days are my intentional quest – for my life, and for the lives of those whose window panes I look through. I’ll be blogging about it here. 

{Leave a comment if you’d like to accept this challenge as winter returns…}

*Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


Friday, October 28, 2011

28 Things I Learned This Year

My sweet, lovely grandmother has a cheery saying she's fond of: If you're not changing it means you're dead.

As a girl who tends to stress and worry and panic, change can be a very scary thing. But on my birthday - which is today - I like to take stock of things I learned/discovered/gleaned/perfected over the last year. And here they are, in no particular order:

1. I now make excellent scones. Crumbly, delicious, and not nearly as difficult as I thought they'd be.

2. All my life I've heard people quote, "God helps those who help themselves," like it's out of the Bible. A few years ago, I learned that wasn't scriptural. And in the last year, historical writer Roseanna White taught me that quote belongs to Benjamin Franklin.

3. I can crack an egg with just one hand, which was born out of necessity since I often have Connor on my hip when I'm baking.

4. Speaking of Connor, I learned that toddler boy drama is just as wild an unpredictable as 3-year-old girl drama. Don't let anybody fool you by saying boys aren't dramatic and moody...



5. That I love Brussels sprouts. Not like a, "Yeah, I can eat those," kind of thing, but I actually crave Brussels sprouts. Particularly when they're roasted or sauteed with bacon fat.

6. The mad talent of Florence & The Machine. Wonderful, wonderful band.


7. Ebooks. I bought my Kindle earlier this year, and I was shocked by how much I like using it. There are things I miss, like flipping through pages when I'm in search of something, but I still really enjoy the reading experience. And I love how I can go from thinking, "I want to read that book," to actually reading this book within about 2 minutes.

8. The Hunger Games series, which were the first books I downloaded on my Kindle. What a fabulously creative series. Very deserving of its success.


9. Easy, tasty rolls. Oh, baby, these rosemary rolls are yummy and quick. They use frozen bread dough, but because of the rosemary, butter, and salt, you'd never know it. When you're invited somewhere, volunteer to bring the rolls.

10. I learned I love blogging. I have the best time hanging out on Go Teen Writers with the wonderfully talented young writers.

http://s118.photobucket.com/albums/o108/snickerpie/?action=view&current=teenwriterscopy-1.jpg

11. I became completely obsessed with Tastebud Magazine, which is a free publication in the Kansas City area. It's foodie heaven, and I look forward to it every month. If you like eating, you should see if your community has something similar.

12. Being the parent of the flower girl in a wedding is super scary. I had no idea. What if she falls? What if she won't walk down the aisle? What if she gets sick before the wedding? What if she picks her nose? (None of which happened, fortunately.)


13. We're watching the Ken Burns documentary on baseball, so I have absorbed a crazy amount of baseball knowledge in the last month. Like that whole thing about Babe Ruth calling his shot is a huge controversy. And that the Kansas City Monarchs dominated the negro leagues. And that there's no official creator of baseball, that it evolved from a couple different games.

14. Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones was one of my favorite books of the year. I've read most her books and enjoyed them all, but I loved the balance of humor and depth of this one.



15. Pacifier is not a universal phrase. One day on Go Teen Writers, I was using my son's love for his pacifier for a writing illustration, and I was shocked to see how few of my international readers knew what a pacifier was. It sparked a whole list of things the pacifier is called. My favorites are a "dummy" which is in Australia or a "suck" which is in Denmark.

16. In California's wine country, you can do olive oil tastings. I did one with Round Pound, and it was great. They line up plastic cups for you, so it's like little shots of olive oil. They also had vinegars, which they pour over a sugar cube, and then you pick up the cube and suck out the vinegar.

17. That my husband strongly dislikes the New Kids on the Block t-shirt I've had since 2nd grade. Which is really sad because it's so worn and soft and comfy.

18. How to make excellent mashed potatoes in advance. Pioneer Woman's are great freshly made or reheated in the oven.

19. That being out of high school for 10 years doesn't feel as long as you might imagine. When I graduated back in 2001, 10 years sounded like plenty of time to turn into the fabulous adult I was hoping to be. And even though I have all the things I thought I'd have by now - husband, babies, books - I still have lots of days where I feel like I'm just pretending to be an adult. Maybe by the time my 20 year reunion rolls around, the whole adult thing will feel more normal.

20. Whop Whops. I love this phrase. A girl from New Zealand used it in a Go Teen Writer contest. It means the same thing as "the boonies" (Like, "they live out in the whop whops.") I totally want to start using it more.

21. Julie Klassen is much more fun to talk to than she is to stalk. Julie and I were at the same writer's conference in September. I adore her books, but I was too afraid to talk to her, so for the first day or two, I kept my distance. Then I finally went and said hi to her and found out she's extremely cool and easy to talk to. Wonderful lady, wonderful books. 

22. When you make coffee in a French press, you're supposed to mix it up with that plunger thingy before you let it brew. I've been making it wrong for years.

23. I learned lots and lots and lots about food television for a manuscript of mine. Like that people laughed at the concept of the Food Network, which started back in 1993. We cancelled our cable this year, and I miss FN more than anything else.

24. The Help is an incredible book and deserves all the hype.

25. I like camping. I tried it because I love my outdoorsy husband, and I was pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The best night of sleep I got all year was in that tent. We were by a river, so we had great white noise, and we went to bed when it got dark, then woke up when the sun came up. We'll definitely go again.



26. I have a tendency to avoid conflict. I'm learning that's not about wanting to keep the peace, but rather it's a self-esteem issue for me. Will people still like me if I disagree with them? If I tell them I'm mad, will they still think I'm a nice person? Sigh. Lots of work left to be done on this girl...

27. I finally picked up Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. It's been out for a few years, but for some reason I never read it. There's great stuff in there. I wish I had read it years ago.

28. I learned this just yesterday - people used to brush their teeth with boar-bristled toothbrushes. Um, disgusting. I learned this from Roseanna White, and she said it best: "Nothing like cleaning your teeth the hair from the back of a pig's neck!"

What's something you've learned/discovered this year?


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 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. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Clutter

Camy here! Okay, I have to admit I’m in a cleaning phase right now.

It seems like when my house and my office is messy, then my thoughts are messy and I just can’t work. I don’t know what the correlation is, but when I see clutter all over my office, I just can’t seem to concentrate on work very well.

But you know what the weird thing was? I didn’t realize this until a few years ago. So all those years in school when I had a hard time concentrating when I was supposed to be studying might be because my room was habitually a disaster area.

So here is some wisdom, learned almost 20 years too late--clean your room, and you might be able to study a bit better. Simple, yes?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the fourth book in her Sushi series, Weddings and Wasabi. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

Following that inner prompt...

Have you ever signed up to do something or made an appointment, and then talked yourself out of it or changed your mind last minute? I can be bad about that. I get all geared up for something and then think "you know, it'd be much more convenient if I just skipped it" or "I don't have time for that now, I'll get my money back or reschedule", etc.

There's been a few instances in my life this year that is making me think twice about changing my mind, if that makes sense.

First example - in January, I FINALLY decided to go have this freckle on my leg looked at it. I don't even want to call it a mole because it wasn't raised. It just didn't look exactly like my other freckles. It'd been bothering me for a year or two, and I made an appointment. The day of the appointment, I started to change my mind. I didn't want to deal with a doctor's office after work, all that paperwork, co-pay, insurance drama, etc. Too much hassle for a freckle, right? Well for some reason (now officially labeled The Grace of God) I kept that appt.

And found out the "freckle" was melanoma.

I had to go back three other times to have the spot cut out and thankfully it was still surface level. But if I had ignored it another five to ten years, it could have been a totally different story. Even more so, that incident prompted me to take my daughter, who was 2 at the time, to the same doctor to look at a suspicious spot on her temple over her ear - which turned out to be A-Typical. (not cancer but potential to become that way).

Now I have a nice two inch reminder on my right thigh to always listen to my inner promptings. Because more often than not, if you're a Christian actively desiring God's will, that prompting is the Holy Spirit.

Second example - this past weekend, my husband and I signed up for a marriage conference. It was taught by Kirk Cameron from Growing Pains and the movie Fireproof. He's been married 20 years and is an excellent Bible teacher. Last minute, I almost bailed. Hubby and I had been arguing and emotionally I wasn't in the mood. I wanted to bag the whole thing. But we went, mostly because we'd paid for tickets and our church had paid half of the tickets for it's members, so that would have been rude.

We got there, and it was great - but MAN were those seats uncomfortable. The event was fabulous but it was running over, my back was throbbing from the wooden pew, and we hadn't eaten dinner and it was almost 9:00. I started to suggest to my hubby that we leave during intermission, that'd we gotten a ton of good info already and had a nice time together and enjoyed the worship music.

But for some reason (now officially labeled The Grace of God) I didn't, and we stayed, and that next hour was life-changing. If I had left because of desiring to ease my physical discomfort of back pains and hunger pains, I'd have missed a very special time with my husband that was worth a year of back pains and hunger pains. We ended up eating dinner at 10:30 p.m. and having a fabulous date after :)

You've heard it said before that there are no accidents, that you are where you are for a reason. That's been proven true so many times in my life. So I urge you today to trust your inner promptings. Trust the work and that still small whisper of the Holy Spirit. You won't ever be sorry.

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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