Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mudhouse Sabbath




Stephanie here. I just finished reading Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner, who I talked about a couple weeks ago in a post on Girl Meets God. I'm 27, but when I'm reading Lauren's books, I have the sensation of, "Oh ... I want to be Lauren when I grow up." (Really, I want to be a combination of Lauren and Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman. What about you?)

I thought Mudhouse Sabbath was wonderful read. Seven years before writing this book, Lauren Winner converted to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism. In this book, she talks about the practices she misses from her Jewish life, the traditions she thinks Christians could learn from.

She talks about a whole variety of spiritual disciplines, including ones that were familiar to me - sabbath, prayer, fasting - and ones that weren't, like mezuzot or "doorposts."

The mezuzah is a small roll of parchment tucked inside a tube or box. On the parchment are fifteen verses from the sixth and eleventh chapters of Deuteronomy, in which the Lord says: "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart ... You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Because of these verses, Jews hang mezuzot outside their homes, as well as inside, on the
doorposts of rooms where people live. (Basically, everywhere but the bathroom.)

I'm fascinated by Jewish culture, and whenever I take the time to study it, I find it enriches my understanding of Christianity. But I confess that when I started this chapter on doorposts, I really wasn't sure how Ms. Winner was going to apply this to my life as a Christian.

There were several things in the chapter that stuck with me, but the biggest was this: The mezuzah is a proclamation. It is a visible declaration to all who see it that this is a Jewish household. The people who live here are Jewish, and they are proud of it.

Lauren talks about how there's no Christian equivalent of a mezuzah, but that several years ago, on a door that was being discarded, she found a sign quoting Psalm 121: "The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore." Lauren took the sign, and due to a friend's prompting, posted it on her front door.

Lauren writes:

Every time I come home I see the sign, and I remember that I claim to actually believe in this God who will preserve my going out and coming in, and I remember that this home is supposed to be a Christian home. It is to be a home into which I invite strangers, and in which I organize my time through prayers, and in which I do work that might somehow infinitesimally advance the kingdom of God.

...I also remember the proclamation that I am making to others: the sign tells you that I am a person who is trying to be a Christian, and in telling that to you, I am inviting you to hold me to it.

I haven't put up my own sign or anything, but I have started playing a game. I have started pretending that everyone I interact with - the cashier at Starbucks, my fellow Target shoppers, the solicitor who knocks on my front door - knows I'm a Christian. Like it's stamped on my forehead or something.

I like the awareness this creates within me. Not only an awareness of how I am behaving and if my manners are pleasing to God, but it also makes me conscious of the fact that I am interacting with someone God loves. With someone in whom God has an interest. With someone God cherishes.

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, June 22, 2011

While you wait...Be Content!

A few thoughts from my co-author and I from our new book, Praying for Your Future Husband ... if you're already married, what does contentment look like for you?

Robin:

She found her true love when she least expected it. Seventeen years ago on a breezy September afternoon I stood as a beaming bridesmaid in a lovely southern California rose garden. The beautiful bride stepped forward and met her groom under a white lattice arch where they held hands and made promises before God and an intimate gathering of family and friends. My dear friend had waited well into her 40’s to experience this exquisite moment. Now that her long prayed-for day had come, it was clear this man had been worth the wait.

How had my friend, Catherine, spent those decades of singleness? She lived. She didn’t wait around for a husband to show up before she bought a home or traveled to interesting places she’d always wanted to see. She didn’t collapse her life. She expanded it. Contentment shows. It’s the best face-lift, spirit-brightener, heart-toner remedy out there.

As Psalms 131:2 says, “I've kept my feet on the ground, I've cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother's arms, my soul is a baby content” (MSG).

Maybe you're in your teens, twenties or thirties. Maybe you're still wondering and waiting, dreaming and hoping. Perhaps someday you'll be like Catherine and find the man you wish to commit your life to. Your future spouse may show up tomorrow. Or he may arrive five or ten years from now. Your contentment will show. Your romance with God will no doubt shine bright if you choose to seek Him first. As Wesley L. Duewel says, "Give Him time to do great things. The greater the work He plans, the greater the prayer preparation that may be necessary, including prayer for guidance. God often waits so that He can be even more gracious."



Tricia:

Also remember to pray that your future husband will be content.

As you wait, remember to pray for your future husband. Pray for his contentment as he waits for you. Pray for him to learn to have a content heart.

Every marriage goes through seasons of loss and gain. Every couple needs to make difficult decisions on how and where their limited finances will be directed, on when to start a family and where to direct their time and attention. Contentment in all situations allows room for flexibility. Contentment opens up new options. Contentment brings peace.

Contentment is worth praying for. And while you pray for yourself, remember to pray for all those who are waiting along with you, especially your future spouse.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Power of Words

"You'll regret opening your mouth. You'll rarely regret keeping it shut." --Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name

I can remember word for word what my employer said to me almost ten years ago. I'd done what I thought was a great job. I knew I'd been trying my hardest. I put my heart into my work. And I felt good about the things I was accomplishing. So that's why I felt pretty blindsided when the words "immature" and "irresponsible" came from my employer's lips.

I spent the three weeks following that exchange depressed, watching my back, and overthinking every single thing I did. Nothing changed after those words on my employer's end. My employer continued on as though he'd never said those things. But the damage had been done to my heart. He'd said some things that really made me question everything I'd been doing. And even though we say "sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me", most of us know that's not exactly true.

You might remember a time when a kid on the playground called you fat when you were eight. Or maybe someone told you that you were stupid when you failed that one math test. Or when you think about hurtful words, the girl in middle school who made fun of your clothes comes to mind.

See, once we say things to other people, it's pretty hard to take them back.

Ten years from now, it's so much better to be remembered as the girl who was liberal with her encouragement than the one who always had something negative to say. Think about what you're going to add to the conversation and if it's not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8), then don't let the words leave your lips.

PS: My employer ended up apologizing to me a couple of weeks later. The words still stung for a while, but all was forgiven.

Has someone ever used powerful words to make you feel less-than-awesome? Or to make you feel on top of the world? How can you encourage someone with the things you say today?

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 http://www.ashleywritesagain.blogspot.com/. If you want to chat, look her up on facebook. Want to know more? Visit her website: http://www.ashley-mays.com/.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Real with God

I've been reworking an article this week and had gotten to the point of exhaustion.(Writing can be that way!) I was tired of it. Sick of it. Frustrated.

It felt like I'd worked the story a million different ways and it still wasn't coming together. Early Wednesday morning, I trudged to the computer and started chopping, reworking, doing it all over again--the whole time pushing down that still small Voice inside my heart.

I'm here. Come to Me.

On good days, I have my quiet time in the mornings. I sit in an Adirondack chair in my bedroom and usually light a candle. But some days I put it off. I'll jump on the computer first. Or I'll decide to have my quiet time later in the day. Or I'll totally skip it.

So, late Wednesday afternoon, the words still weren't coming together. I decided to stop. Do something different. Even shut down the computer. I did what I should have done to start with. I went downstairs and sat in my chair in my bedroom. I read Proverbs 15 for the 15th day of the month. I love reading from The Message. Nothing fancy or complicated.

Just listen to this..."God can't stand pious poses but he delights in genuine prayers." And down a little further. "A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song." And another. "Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed." One last verse. "God smashes the pretensions of the arrogant; he stands with those who have no standing."

That was me...miserable, arrogant (trying to write without praying first), being hardheaded.

So,I just started talking to God like I'm writing to y'all today. "I'm sorry, Lord. Help me. I need You. I can't do this without You."

No, I didn't finish the article on Wednesday. The right words didn't land immediately in my thoughts. I finished today, but more important that getting my work done was getting my heart right.

Love,
Julie

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weddings and Wasabi is finally here!

I'm SO EXCITED!!! The fourth book in my Sushi series, Weddings and Wasabi, is now available!

The print book is available now, but the ebook version won't be available for another 30 days. If you want to save a little money, you can buy the ebook version, which will be only $2.99, but if you prefer print book, it's ready for ordering right now!


After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work at her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family dispute, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life—a tall, dark, handsome biker in form-fitting black leather, who’s Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!

Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle—a Harley-Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out?

And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

Order from:
BarnesandNoble.com
Amazon
Winepress

Monday, June 13, 2011

Being Perfect vs Being Right


My husband and I are in the process of looking for a new church.

This has not been a decision we've made lightly. My husband and at met at our current church 15 years ago. We have many friends there and are surrounded by people who knew us back when we were awkward and making some questionable fashion choices. Many of the babies we used to care for on Sunday mornings have grown into teens, and they now care for my kids while I attend "big church." We are known and we know others. It's a very comfortable church for us to attend.


When my husband and I moved back to Kansas City after a couple years away, we decided to return to the church we'd grown up in. We knew it had problems, but we felt all churches did, and that we could accept these. Now, 3 1/2 years later, some other problems have come to our attention - glaring ones that we feel wrong ignoring. And after 6 months of wrestling with what God wanted us to do in this situation, we chose to look for another church.

When we've told our friends at church, their response has been very interesting. The first thing many of them have said is, "You know, there's no perfect church."

I've found myself feeling insulted by this. It's not like we're known church-hoppers. In some ways I think it's good that there's a general acceptance (at least among our friends) that there's no perfect church out there. It's good to realize that church is made of people and people are imperfect. But I also think it can become an excuse to turn away and ignore behaviors and habits and decisions the church is making that clearly go against what the Bible teaches.

Same with relationships. I have often put up with toxic relationships much longer than I should have because I told myself there were no perfect people. I have watched others marry simply because they were scared they would never find someone else. "No one's perfect," they say. "There's no reason to think I won't be as happy with this flawed person as I would any other."

Again, it's good to be mindful that people aren't perfect, that you'll never find the "perfect" friend or the "perfect husband" or the "perfect" church. But I think by staying in open communication with God you can find the right friends, the right husband, and the right community of believers for 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.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

What are your thoughts?

My latest book, Praying for Your Future Husband: Preparing Your Heart for His has recently released.

If you've ever been to my blog, It's Real Life, you've heard my two cents here and here and here. Now I'd like to hear from you.

Are you praying for your future husband? Why or why not? What do you pray for? Have you lost hope? Do you think it matters?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment and on June 22, I'll choose one winner to receive a copy of Praying for Your Future Husband.

More about the book: Have you ever thought about praying for your future husband?

Will it make a difference?

There's only one way to find out…

From when we were small girls, most of us dream of “The One,” our future husband. We think about what it would be like to be a bride. We wonder who that special guy is and when we'll find him. The great news is that what you do now can make a difference in your life and the life of your future husband!

Authors and good friends Robin Jones Gunn (Christy Miller series) and Tricia Goyer (author and former teen mom) believe God answers women's prayers for husbands—even husbands they may not meet for years. They invite young women to pray boldly for their future mate … while also asking God to prepare their own hearts.

In Praying for Your Future Husband, Robin and Tricia share their two vastly different experiences, including the things they did right and the mistakes they made on the path to meeting and marrying their husbands. Each chapter includes helpful Bible verses, prayers, and practical application, along with true stories of women who prayed for a husband and how God answered in remarkable ways.

God has a beautiful romance prepared for you. Prayer is the key to unlocking the love story … with your future husband and with God, the lover of your soul.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Everybody's Different

When I got my first "grown up" job (ie: no more summer breaks or Christmas vacations), I quickly found out I would need to venture into the world of personality tests. I know some people who hate them, but I actually enjoy them quite a bit. Understanding personalities seems to make the world a more interesting place for me! Well, last year my team started to read a particular book called StrengthsFinder.  And the insights this book (and personality assesment) gave me were priceless...

But wait, let me back up a minute.

I've always been different from other people. In elementary school, I wasn't very interested in hitting a badmitton birdie around the gym or running relays on field day like the rest of my peers. In middle school, instead of having heart palpitations over the Backstreet Boys, I had my nose in a book. In high school, I didn't go to prom because I simply didn't want to. And in college, I found myself differing from most of my friends because I didn't drink alcohol when we went out. So yeah, I've always been different. And...I've kind of liked it.

I've got friends from all walks of life. One of my close friends really, really, really loves Disney movies. I think she's fabulous. But I'm not at all a Disney fan. (Just not the princess-y type, ya know?) My husband is a big fan of anything Sci-fi and likes to play video games to unwind. Guess what things I don't particularly enjoy? Haha. My brother is a great runner, whereas if I'm putting on running shoes it's because I think they're cute.

We're all different. And I love it.

But sometimes other people don't. Sometimes other people have pulled me aside and said that I really should like such-and-such, or I really shouldn't be doing such-and-such because it wasn't normal, or it wasn't what the rest of the group was doing. Sometimes people have told me I'm  judgmental because I did things differently than they did. And I always had to scratch my head and wonder. Aren't we all supposed to be different and unique?

Anyways. Back to this StrengthsFinder thing...when I took this quiz it told me some things I already knew about myself. Things like, I'm an achiever! Well...duh. I make lists every day of my life and I sincerely enjoy checking things off. And this test told me I'm also very empathetic! (Guilty as charged. If you cry, I cry.) But the third one...it was new for me.

My third strength was individualization. And I'll admit, I had to look it up to see what this test meant.

Come to find out, it meant I like the differences in people. I enjoy getting to know people who aren't the same as me. It meant I think the different things about other people are strengths!

So no wonder I've spent all these years being different and having an array of different friendships. I felt relieved! There was a word for my kind of different. And now I use it all the time. Because it's true...no two people are alike. And it's a beautiful thing! It's how God made us...each in His image, but totally unique.

So next time someone looks at you sideways and says, "What do you mean you'd rather read your book than go waterskiing? Reading's not nearly as cool." or, "What do you mean you don't shop at insert-super-expensive-trendy-store-here for all your clothes?" you can just smile. And you can tell them that you're happy being you.

Tell them that you're happy being an individual. And you love them in spite of (or because of!) how different you are from each other.

The world's much more interesting with all our differences anyways. :-)

Has anyone ever criticized you for being different? What kind of things make you different, and what do you like about you that's different from everyone else?

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 http://www.ashleywritesagain.blogspot.com/. If you want to chat, look her up on facebook. Want to know more? Visit her website: http://www.ashley-mays.com/.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Win a Free Red Backpack!

We need your help in spreading the word about Girls, God & The Good Life! We'll give away five of our ladybug backpacks each month. All you have to do is send us an e-mail HERE and let us know how you are spreading the word about this blog! Include your e-mail and snail mail address to be eligible. Enter as many times as you like!

A Chance to Be Thankful

Yesterday the kids’ choir that my son participates in at church visited the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. Their last musical had a harvest theme so they asked everyone to bring canned food to the performance, then we all drove down to deliver it and take a tour. The opportunity for a bunch of 6-12-year-olds to give to those less fortunate doubled as a learning time for all of us. At the Food Bank we discovered that . . .

They delivered over 8,000,000 pounds of food to needy families last year and expect that number to reach 10,000,000 in 2011.

Volunteers put in over 26,000 hours last year.

The majority of those suffering from hunger are either elderly or under 16.

The gigantic warehouse of donations was overwhelming. We watched a group of men and women—who also happened to be from our church—fill box after box. Those boxes would get families through the week.

I benefitted as much as the kids did, as I considered how many in my own community go without basic necessities like food. My family has experienced humbling seasons when the kindness of others helped us pay bills, stay in Christian school, and even stock up on groceries. But I can’t think of a single time when we went hungry. Once I had $25 to spend on food and enjoyed the challenge of seeing how much I could buy between the Dollar Store and bargains at the grocery store. It was only fun because I didn’t have to do it every week.

I left thankful that our community has such a valuable resource, and equally as grateful that I didn’t need to rely on it.

What opportunities have you had to reflect on God’s goodness and provision in your life? When has a glance at someone else’s need prompted you to thank Him for all He has blessed you with?

Guideposts Writers Workshops



Back in 2004, I entered the Guideposts writers' contest which includes an all expense paid trip to Rye, New York. I was chosen to attend! It's held every other year hosted by Guideposts.


After winning a spot to the intial workshop, writers are invited to submit a story yearly (some years spring and fall) to attend refresher workshops. I'm so excited. I fly to Portland, Oregon on Friday for another workshop. This picture shows the winners from the 2009 refresher workshop. I'm surrounded by writing friends, including my mother.

The next Guideposts writers contest will be in the fall of 2012. Watch for details on their website.

If you're a writer 21 or older, you should consider submitting a story.

Love,

Julie

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Real Story: The Boy



We interrupt our usually scheduled sarcasm for this brief announcement: Four years ago, my life was forever altered by someone I didn’t know. Someone I thought didn’t exist. Someone I swore had died at birth.

Until I met him.

“Mom,” I announced .2 seconds after I laid eyes on the boy, “I’ve found the man I am going to marry.”

If this seems fast to you, imagine how my mother felt. In one brief second I went from spouting math equations like, “Singleness = happiness and marriage = bondage”, to asking, “Where’s the church and the white dress?”


I had no idea this story actually began nine years earlier.

He told me about it that day, on our first date. The air was chilly and crisp, the smell of fall hung thick in the sky.


“I met you once before,” he said as we walked. “Nine years ago.” 

Then he said something that made me reel: “I had a crush on you.”

Wait a second. Nine years ago. Was he kidding? That would make me… 14 years old. Do you know what I looked like when I was 14?

Skinny. Scrawny. Sick. Relentless seizures. Mind-numbing medications. Barely able to put a sentence together.

He had a crush on that? 

It sealed the deal in my mind.


“Will you marry me?” I asked.

Not really. Not out loud, anyway. But my heart was in awe. This boy looked beyond my skinny. My scrawny. My sick.

And he loved me. Just the way I was.

It’s been four years, and I love him more every day.


Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Is it true? Is this is the man I didn’t know? The man who didn’t exist? The man I once claimed had died at birth?

I guess you can see how happy I am to be a fan of the new math. It goes something like this: Singleness = sadness and marriedness = happiness.

But only when you’ve found the person who loves you from the inside out. Happy anniversary, Babe. I love you. 

****

B.J. and Ethan are the editors of RTF and The Bare Naked Truth Project. You can send them your relationship questions at real[teen]faith[at]gmail[dot]com.

****

REAL QUESTION: What do you hope for in a mate?

****

Real Reading: Praying for Your Future Husband, by Tricia Goyer and Robin Jones Gunn

Girls, God, and the Good Life

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