Saturday, May 28, 2011

Girl Meets God



Stephanie here. I love this book - Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner

I read it a couple years ago, and I'm getting itchy to read it again. It's one of those that has a quiet power to it. It's not like every page was sending off light bulbs in my head, but it's stuck with me. Like comfort food, you know?

Lauren was a devout Jew - incredibly devout - and became a Christian after Jesus appeared to her in a dream. Her memoir is honest, intelligent, and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it.

One of the things that has stuck with me most is a story she tells about lent. Her pastor approached her and said he felt she should give up books for lent. Lauren read constantly, and the idea seemed ludicrous to her. Books?

The idea seemed weird to me too as I read her story. I went to a Catholic high school, and my friends always gave up soda or chocolate. Sometimes they'd joke about giving up sex. (None of us were having any, despite what they say about trashy Catholic school girls.) Giving up books seemed weird to me. I mean, books are good for you. At first, it seems akin to give up vegetables.

Lauren decided to follow her pastor's advice and gave up books for lent. She talks about the quiet of her apartment. About the extra time to just ... think. To just be.

Be still and know that I am God, the psalmist writes. When was the last time you were still before God? The last time you went to your room and just sat there. Not because you didn't have anything else you could be doing or should be doing or would like to be doing, but because you wanted to carve out time to just be with God. To be mindful of Him.

I'm not a big reader of nonfiction, but I adored Girl Meets God. If you get a chance to read it, drop me a line.

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. 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.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ebooks

Camy here, and today I have a question for you guys.

I know most of you are in your teens and twenties, so you’re a bit more technologically “with it” than, say, me. Most of my generation is only slowly being won over by the Kindle and Nook and other ereaders, but how about you guys?

Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

I personally have been completely won over by ebooks. Mostly because my house is very small and I fully admit that I am a book collector. I love having books even though I probably own more books than I can read in my lifetime. I just like having them and having the POSSIBILITY of reading them someday.

Let’s not go into the abnormal psychology of that statement and instead focus on what we all love, books!

Before the birth of the Kindle (yes, I was alive at that time) I bought lots of used books on ebay and at garage sales and at the Salvation Army. You can’t really beat the price, usually a book for a buck.

But now that I have thousands of books (yes, you read that right, thousands--I’m almost ashamed to admit that) I no longer have room in my little house for MORE books.

(Yes, I do need MORE BOOKS. We mentioned abnormal psychology earlier, right?)

I try to read the Love Inspired Suspense books each month to keep up with the line, since, well, they’re my publisher. But even if I give away the books after I’m done (which I do under extreme pain and suffering, but I do it because I have to--refer back to the very small house) I still don’t have room for the books I haven’t read yet since I don’t always read steadily. I usually read in spurts. (I know some of you totally relate to that, right?)

Enter the ebook. (Cue angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus!)

I now buy all the latest Love Inspired Suspense books on ebook and they’re stored neatly away in my Nook. They don’t take any shelf space. They don’t get dusty or dirty. (And as a sidebar, while I’ll read used books, I don’t really like doing it because they tend to smell and have nasty-feeling stains on the covers--yuck!)

Also, I can carry a variety of books with me wherever I go, so I can pick a book to read depending on my mood at the time. Before, I’d go on vacation and pack literally a stack of books to read because I wanted a choice depending on my mood. Now, I just pack my Nook.

Plus, I have my Bible on my Nook, which saves a little space in my suitcase since you all know your Bible is not a small book. And I can have a Bible with me wherever I take my Nook.

Okay, so that’s my gushing about ebooks. How about you guys? Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance Sushi series 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 quarterly newsletter for giveaways!

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

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I feel beautiful because ...

What would make you feel beautiful? Would it be to lose 20 pounds? Get a tummy tuck? A nose job? A hair cut? Would it be buying expensive makeup that you can't afford? Would it be new shoes or new jewelry to make you feel beautiful?

For many years I struggled with feeling beautiful. It started as a little kid. My friends were stick thin and I had a little more fluff to me. Looking back I was average kid size, but still--even at that early age of 9, 10, 11--I felt inadequate. It wasn't thin enough. I didn't have the right clothes. My teeth were crooked. As I grew older those things still bothered me. I wanted to be the one in fifth grade who had the boyfriend. I wasn't. I wanted to be the one in 7th and 8th grade to have a boyfriend. I didn't get one then, either.

When I finally found someone who told me I was beautiful I was willing to give everything to him--my heart, my soul, my body--only to be crushed. In highschool I looked pretty cute in my tiny cheerleading skirt, but still I didn't feel beautiful. Not really. There was always someone prettier, more talented, and who did the cheers with more gusto. 

Looking back, I don't remember a time when I could say, "I look beautiful at this moment." I felt pretty good at times, but it was never enough. I'm so glad I don't have to live through those days again. I'm finally glad that I do feel beautiful.

First of all, I feel beautiful because I have a husband who tells me so--even though I weigh about 40 more pounds than when we got married and have stretch marks. My husband tells daily how beautiful I am and how thankful he is to be married to me. More than that, over the years I've grown into a deeper and deeper relationship with God. God who created me and who gave the my hair color and eye color, my face structure and even my dimples. God knew me before the creation of this world and He loves me. He created me and He thinks I'm beautiful.

Sometimes I forget this. Sometimes I get busy, going through my day. I spend too much time flipping through fashion magazines, and I feel frustrated when my jeans don't fit like I want them to. But when I spend time with God. When I get to know His heart. When I remember I'm His special creation, and when I listen to His whispers then I can hear it: "You are beautiful. You are my daughter. You are mine."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Letter to My High School Self

I graduated from high school eight years ago...tomorrow. I could tell you lots of stories from high school, but they'd probably all sound pretty much the same. Something like, "I got up, went to school, took some notes, some kids were mean, ate lunch by myself, took more notes, then went home."


Back when I worked for BRIO, we used to have people write letters to their high school selves. I know the girls from Point of Grace did it. Well...now it's my turn. :-)


First day of my senior year of high school (with my brother). "Okay, Mom! Stop taking pictures!"



Dear High School Ashley,
You are way cooler than you give yourself credit for. Sure, you're different from everyone else, but consider it a plus. Being different isn't a bad thing. It's actually pretty awesome. Sitting alone during lunch really isn't the end of the world. (You can get a LOT done during that lunch period anyways.) The friends you have now are pretty much stuck with you for life. They're worth it.

Also, those things other people seem to think are cool (like the drinking 'til the room spins and sleeping around and not studying due to the other previously mentioned activities) have some major consequences. You won't have to face those sorts of things. So, yeah, sometimes people will make fun of you, but you're going to turn out okay. High school will leave you fairly unscathed in light of the things some of your peers are going to have to go through. 

Hold onto your dreams. Yes, they're big. Like universe-big. But you follow a God who's way bigger than the universe. He's got you covered. High school is just the first obstacle on your way towards writing books for the rest of your life. (Also, that English teacher who doesn't want to sign your release papers for AP English class? You're totally going to prove her wrong.) Even though your books aren't really good now...what? they aren't...keep writing. You'll get there. Someday people will actually want to read the things you write.

Really, really, really don't worry about not having a boyfriend right now. You don't want to date any of the guys you go to school with anyways. Quality guys (and one not-so-quality guy) will come along in the future. You'll learn a whole lot about yourself through those relationships and eventually you WILL get married. Your first kiss...well, let's just say you should have waited until you were 20 instead of 19. Haha. But, back to the point here...being single is great. Just because you're single doesn't mean you're unloveable. In fact, there are a couple of guys across the classroom who are kind of interested in you. But you don't need to know that. ;-)

These four years are hard. I know you sometimes wonder if you're going to make it out of high school alive. It's not easy when people make fun of you and misunderstand you and put you in a box where you don't belong. But think of this as your time in the trenches. Use this bad stuff (and there's a good amount of it) to make you stronger...to make you better...not bitter. I know you don't see it now, but you're a strong girl. You're only going to get stronger.

God has some insane plans for you, shy girl. Don't worry too much about the specifics. They'll probably scare you anyways. ;-) Just know for now, He really does have the whole world in His hands. And you're pretty darn important to Him.

Oh, and high school has a finish line. It's May 21, 2003. You will never have to go back.

Love,

26-year-old Ashley

Ashley was the editorial assistant for BRIO Magazine until the magazine was shuttered in January 2009. Now she freelances, occasionally writing articles for SUSIE Magazine, and writing her own fiction. She also has a blog, which you can find at www.ashleywritesagain.blogspot.com. If you want to chat, look her up on facebook. Want to know more? Visit her website: www.ashley-mays.com.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Good Things

Today it would be very easy to focus on all that is wrong. A bad situation isn’t getting any better, my insecurities are running high, and the part of my brain that blows things out of proportion refuses to listen to the part that is in touch with reality. If I told you the whole story, you’d probably say I had permission to wallow. But I’m thinking I’d rather not do that today. I’d much rather share some good things that happened over this past year in the midst of the not-so-good.

• I accomplished some goals, including . . .
Reading Les Miserables (the unabridged version, and in one summer)
Learning to crochet
Blogging more often (I think I’ve even found a “focus”)

• I met 9/11 survivor Michael Hingson and his former guide dog Roselle (they escaped the World Trade Center together).

• I had some great singing experiences, including a solo on Good Friday that went much better than I expected, and performing the National Anthem at Little League Opening Day for the 2nd year in a row.

• I made some new friends who have become precious to me.

• Through all of it—both difficult and exciting—God has surrounded me with love.

What kind of day, week, or year are you having? Challenge yourself to list some good things that God has done recently, even when circumstances were hard.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Keep Hoping

 “Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping – believing that he would be the Father of many nations. For God had said to him, ‘That’s how many descendants you will have!’” Romans 4:18 (NLT)

—-

I lay in the damp grass and let its scent envelope me. It didn’t seem fair… me here, him there. Alone… hooked up to life-monitoring machines.

Katie sensed my worry.

“Look at the sky,” she said, trying to ease my pain. “There are your future children!”

We both looked up. It was then that we realized…

There was only one star.


The irony of the moment hit me head-on, and suddenly what started as a tickle in the back of my throat grew into a snort louder than Aunt Agatha’s loudest. Soon Katie and I held our sides as we tried to catch our breaths between laughs.

There was some guilt in that laughter. Dad was still hooked up to machines, fighting for every breath. I still wondered if he would be okay… if things would ever be the same again. But when the laughter finally ended, I realized something:

Katie had pointed me toward the stars. I could only see one, but the truth was, there were many, many more. I simply couldn’t see them at that moment. It was my job to believe despite what my eyes told me.

Maybe your life is dark right now. Maybe like me, someone you love is sick. Maybe your parents are fighting. Maybe you’ve been abandoned. Maybe your heart aches every time you see your ex with that other person. Maybe the teasing and the bullying just won’t end.

I don’t know what you’re going through, but can I encourage you today? Find someone who will help you see the stars. Don’t do this alone. Be like Abraham – even when there is no reason to hope, keep hoping! God will not let you down.

“For He has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5b (KJV)

****
For more encouragement, please connect with BJ at realteenfaith(at)gmail(dot)com.
****
Photo source: Microsoft Clip Art

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thank You Ashley Mays!




In April, Ashley Mays blogged "I Like Me." It really hit home. I sent it to a friend and said, "Does this touch your heart?" She said, "Oh, yeah. Big time."

I couldn't forget Ashley's words. I knew the Lord wanted to do some work in my heart, so I gave Him permission. What is it? I prayed. Why does this post get to me?

Even though I'm 50, (51 tomorrow) there were a few things about myself I didn't like. God brought back a couple of not-so-nice comments that were said to me years ago--things I thought I'd forgotten. But it seems they must have buried down deep in my heart and taken root.

I asked Him to remove the yucky feelings from so long ago. And He did!

In May, I spoke at a Mothers' Day Garden Tea, which explains my hat and overalls. With Ashley's permission, I opened by sharing her blog (and gave her Web site). So many women/ladies/teens identified! I could see it in their expressions.

If there's anything lingering from your past--trying to hold you back, tell you you're not good enough, that God can't possibly love you, I'd be glad to pray for you. There's another way to live!

Thank you, Ashley for your post. Your words are changing lives.


Love,
Julie

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Grace Livingston Hill

Camy here, and today I’m a bit nostalgic because I’m reorganizing my bookshelves, which is actually a fun thing for me to do (I think I should have been a librarian rather than a biologist).

I’m on a shelf that has all my old Grace Livingston Hill books, and while I haven’t read all of her books, I’ve read a good number of them.

I’m not sure exactly why I like them. They’re a bit cheesy and quite evangelistic, but there’s something about them that’s magical, romantic, and uplifting. They’re a complete escape from real life.

It helped me appreciate them more when I first looked at the original copyright date. Grace Livingston Hill wrote these novels from the late 1910s to the early 1940s (?) so when I saw the copyright date, I knew that the book was set in that time period.

My favorite is the book cover pictured, Crimson Roses. It’s just really romantic and a bit of a Cinderella story. It’s very sweet and something nice and light to make me feel good. It’s set in the 1920s, so I can imagine the characters dressed up in twenties outfits and the dialogue itself is so authentic to the time period.

Have you read any Grace Livingston Hill novels? If not, why not give one a shot? Some are available on ebook, or you can buy a used copy from BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon.com.

If you love GLH as much as I do, which one is your favorite and why?

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 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, May 11, 2011

You Are Loved


Just this today, a whisper of encouragement for someone who needs it.

Even the best fathers make mistakes, and some fathers fail in ways that deeply wound their children. But God loves with a gentle, compassionate love, inviting you to nestle against His heart with perfect trust. He will never leave you or forsake you.

How deep the Father's love for us. How vast beyond all measure. Lean into Him today and know that you are loved.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A student of God's Word.

My two girls, Leslie and Alyssa, share a room. They're 18-years-old and .. 13 months old! Yesterday when I was putting by baby down for a nap I picked up my teen daughter's Bible for a few minutes of quiet time. I opened her Bible to the Psalms and found the perfect verse:

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces
. Ps 34:5

It was just the Scripture I needed and it popped out to me as I flipped through the pages because Leslie had highlighted the Scripture verse in orange. In fact, as I looked through the Bible I found that most pages has Scriptures highlighted. Some pages had more than one verse marked with notes written in the sidebars. Seeing this filled my heart with joy. The highlights and notes showed me that my daughter was a student of God's Word, not because I demand it (I don't), but because she loves Jesus, and hopefully because she's seen me and her father doing the same.

How often do you spend time in God's Word?

God's Word will ...

give you hope
provide you with peace
point you to the answers
remind you Jesus is with you
open your eyes to the goodness of God

and so much more. Every minute you spend reading the Bible will change you on the inside. It'll also transform how you look at everything and everyone around you.

And who knows, maybe someday your highlighted Scripture verse will encourage someone else at just the right time.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Scars

I have a scar on my chin. When I was four, I'd been in a "big girl bed" for a couple years, but was apparently having a rough night. I fell out, knocked out two teeth, and busted up my chin.

I also have a scar on my knees. Fourth of July, somewhere around seventh grade. I fell in the street while playing with some friends. Now these quarter-sized scars are with me for life.

There's a scar on my nose from a couple of years ago. A dog bit me. Yikes. Those scars will probably stick around, too.

And then there's the scars on my heart. A scar from the time a boyfriend told me he was excited about the future he thought we might have together and then broke up with me a week later. Over email. A tender mark from the very unexpected loss of an extremely dear friend. A soft spot when I think about the miles that stretch out between me and my family, and most of my best friends.

The scars on my body are easy to see, especially if you know they're there. The ones on my heart? Not so much. But they make a difference. Those "heart marks" are the kind of things that have shaped who I am now, in good ways and in bad. Healing takes a long time.

I'm not the only one walking around with scars. Everyone has a few. It's a part of being human. Lately I've realized how much those things play into how we're able to interact with others. They have scars. Just like I do. Sometimes they get in the way when we forget other people could be going through a difficult situation. It's something I'm trying hard to learn this week. Instead of being someone who pokes at other people's tender spots, I'm hoping to be more sensitive to what others are going through so I can be a help.

It's hard, and I definitely don't get it right all the time. Or even most of the time, really. But it's something God's been whispering in my ear lately.

What's He been whispering to you?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Happy Birthday from God


Sunday was my birthday. I turned . . . actually, how about if we skip that part. I had every reason to believe that this would be a difficult birthday. My family had just experienced a difficult change and an important member of our family would not be with me to celebrate. But I knew that my friends, my parents, and my kids would want to see me have a good day, so I made up my mind to have one no matter what.

God, I don’t want to just get through the day. Help me come up with a way to celebrate.

I got busy doing my usual routine of planning my own party. (You start doing that when you’re a mom.) My oldest son and I would make dinner together then we would walk somewhere for dessert and watch a movie. Well, God had a different plan.

He put it on one friend’s heart to take me and my son Nathan out to lunch after church. Then I got a call from another friend who wanted to take me and both boys out to dinner that night. I found so many Happy Birthday greetings on my Facebook page that I had to put off reading them until the next day. Between meals out, Nathan declared a fun-only afternoon and got me playing Wii. The only catch was that I had to try games that I’d never played before. I caught onto golf pretty quickly. I got a humiliating score on wake boarding. And sky diving? I’m just grateful that my life didn’t really depend on my ability to operate a Wiimote. But I could care less, because I was having a great time. In fact, it was the best birthday that I’d had in years.

And the party continued the next night, when the mom of two of Nathan’s friends had us over for pizza and cake. She even put candles on the cake and had the kids sing to me! Then a friend treated me to lunch today after Bible study.

The best part was that God planned the entire extended party. He knew I needed to not just enjoy the day because I’d made up my mind to, but truly have a happy birthday. He recognized that I needed to feel special for a day—make that more than a day. And I needed to feel this outpouring of love from others.

This was my birthday gift from God, my reminder of His great love for me. How has He shown you love lately? Who has He sent to make you feel valuable and precious? What needs has He met that you didn’t realize you had until you were reveling in His surprise? Thank Him for being a Father who wants His children to have happy, memorable days.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Big Dreams

At the age of six, I promised God my life. The whole thing. No reservations. I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.

Some of you already know what happened next. Life did not feel like an adventure. In fact, life hurt. (If you don't know the story, you can find it here: http://realteenfaith.com/2006/06/28/real-devo-go/#more-48)

Somewhere along the way, this little girl stopped believing in big things. I still believed in a big God, but I didn't believe in big dreams.

Not anymore.

Then something changed.

When I turned 17, I met a journalist. She told me I could write. I didn't believe her, but writing gave me something to do on nights when I couldn't sleep. Nights when the pain was so great I wanted to die.

That journalist introduced me to an author. That author introduced me to an agent. That agent is in the process of introducing my writing to publishers.

This was not my original dream.

If you had told that six-year-old girl that she would be a writer, she would have frowned. She would have told you she was going to live in Romania with the gypsies. She would have told you she was going to do exciting things.

I mean... who wants to sit behind a desk all day?

I hate it when people say they know why God allows difficult things into our lives. I don't know why I spent the better part of 11 years in bed. But I do know there were pretty much 2 things I could do there: sleep, and write.

And I did a lot of sleeping. And a lot of writing poetry. Mostly death poetry.

Who knew one day I'd write humor?

'Cause after all, who wouldn't need a sense of humor to see how crazy it is that this Romanian Gypsy at heart is now working with the wildest bunch of teens there ever was?

Maybe this dream wasn't so far-fetched after all.


****
B.J. Hamrick writes for you and for Real Teen Faith.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Not Afraid

Have you ever noticed when you're struggling with something, if you pray, wait, and listen, God will send you help in unlikely ways? My biggie in life is fear. Usually, it starts as a tiny thought. But if I allow a smidgen of fear to stick around, it grows like kudzu. One fear connects with other random thoughts and starts new fears. Pretty soon, I'm covered up. Smothered. Consumed.

But, with God's help, I'm changing. Change takes a lot of hard work.

Daily, I'm putting a guard around my mind. I get to decide what kind of thoughts come in. And I get to tell fear to scram, in the name of Jesus.

This is a new friend, David Dalton, and his new single. I couldn't listen to it without dancing in my chair.



"Don't be afraid for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will hold you with My righteous right hand." Is. 41:10

So much love,
Julie

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Guess What??

Ever have people do that to you and you have no idea where to even start your guessing? Well, I won't make you do that - I'll just tell you!

I've been busy behind the scenes here working with a fabulous designer to get our Girls, God & the Good Life blog a whole new look! I'm so excited because I've been wanting to do this for a very long time!

So while I'm working on that - would you do me a favor? I want to hear from you!! One of the sections I want to work on having is a fabulous resource section! So today I want to know what your favorite websites are! They could be informative, inspirational or just plain fun - I want to hear about them all (tell me why you like it too!)

And if you're a teen or twenty-something that blogs, let us know that too!

♥Sarah

Sarah Anne Sumpolec writes, speaks and blogs for teens and twenty somethings. Find out more about her and her YA book series, Becoming Beka, at her website!


Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
Designed by Munchkin Land Designs. Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.