Thursday, July 28, 2011

What makes you matter?




Every weekday when my kids go down for their afternoon nap, I head down to my office in hopes of writing. Sometimes my schedule is too clogged to get beyond email and various other business aspects of being a novelist, and I don't get to write on that particular day. On those days, when my husband gets home from work, he'll say to me, "How was your work time?" I'll groan and say, "Horrible. I got nothing done."

It's possible I sent 20 work related emails, wrote 3 blog posts, did a couple interviews, and packed up a couple books to go in the mail. But it will still feel like I accomplished nothing because I didn't get to write.

Then there are days like last Friday, when I put my kids down for their nap, and then spent my alone time getting ready for a party we were throwing that night. While I shuffled chairs and worked on the spinach and artichoke dip, you want to know what was going on in my head? I could be writing ... I could be writing ... I could be writing.


In some ways, this burning desire to write has served me well. It's what helped me write 3 novels - from concept to completion - in the first year of my daughter's life and get them turned into my publisher before deadline.

The burning desire to write has helped me overcome obstacles like rejection and sluggish sales. It's helped me sit at my desk and work even on days I'd rather take a nap. It's helped me get out of bed early or stay up late or turn off a good TV show.

But the desire to write has also done something dangerous inside me - on days when writing goes well, I feel good about myself. I feel like I'm fulfilling the tasks God has given me, and like I'm being a good steward of my time. But on days I don't get to write, or when it goes poorly, I am a failure.

Not, "My day was good, except I only got to write 50 words."

Not, "There wasn't time for writing today, but I got a bunch of other necessary stuff done."

No. My mentality is I fail when I don't write.

But something occurred to me on Friday between shuffling chairs and the spinach and artichoke dip. As I was cooking, I wondered how women got everything done in the days before dishwashers and washing machines and grocery stores? And as I thought about it more, I was struck by the reality of life not so long ago when day-to-day life was consumed by the essentials. Food, shelter, and clothing. That's what you spent your time on. Finding, preserving, and preparing food for your family. Maintaining your house. Making clothes for your family.

And as dumb and basic as this may sound, this thought meant peace of mind to me - God loved them every bit as much as he loves me. Because they were His creation. And they were good. (Genesis 1:31)

I don't mean to diminish the importance of how we choose to spend the free time we're so blessed with. God cares deeply about how you choose to spend your time. And He has plans for you and has asked you to be a good steward of the talents He's blessed you with.

But God delights in you simply because you are. Because He called you into existence. He doesn't love me more on days that I write than days that I spend my time making goofy faces at my kids so they'll laugh. My value in His eyes doesn't fluctuate with my word count, so why do I let it in mine?

This is a new concept to me, that God loves me just because I exist. I mean, it's something about which I would have said, "Yeah, that's true," but it isn't something I knew how to apply to me. I'm working to get better and trusting God to help me on that. And I trust He'll help me not because I'm being faithful in my writing or because I'm striving to be a Proverbs 31 wife, but because He made me and He loves me.

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels 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, July 27, 2011

Prayer and Incense

Camy here! Thanks so much for praying for me a couple weeks ago. I finished my manuscript on time and thought it turned out rather well, if I do say so myself. :)

While I was writing, I totally could feel the prayers of people for me. I don’t know how to explain it. I just knew people were praying. I really felt God’s supernatural power working in me to help me get my book done.

In the Bible (in Revelation, I think), the prayers of the saints (that’s us!) are incense before God, and the smoke rises up to his throne. That’s a pretty nice visual, but what exactly does it mean?

I grew up Buddhist, and at temple, we’d pinch some incense, which was like fine powder (my brother and I would joke it looked like gunpowder and one day it would explode on somebody) and throw it on a smoking pile. The smoke rose up in a thin plume of white, then dissipated. But the scent filled the entire room, which was pretty large.

Our prayers are like those fine grains of incense (or gunpowder … :) and the more prayer, the stronger the scent. Which is why prayer is so AWESOME!

And then the smoke that rises reaches the throne of God. Now think about that for a moment--your prayers reach the throne of God. Most people will never see the Queen of England, let alone walk up to her throne and say, “Hey, Your Majesty, how’s it hanging?”

But our prayers reach God on His throne. That’s how much we rock! and that’s why our prayers are so AWESOME!

So why am I harping on prayer? Because I could use more. :) Pretty please. My left arm and left leg are painfully tingly and I could use a bit of healing (and maybe a new mattress).

But also, I want to challenge you this week to pray a little more. Find some paper and a pen (or use your computer) and write down your prayers this week. Pray/write each day for a little bit. Pray about anything and everything--remember, we have access to the throne room, so nothing’s too small or too big to bring to God.

I think you’ll find you really enjoy this week, praying to God. It’ll make Him seem closer to you and it might help you with things going down in your life.

If your prayers end up helping you, be sure to comment and let me know!


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, July 24, 2011

Confessions from a Newbie

Hello out there in blog-land!


I'm SO excited to be a new contributor to GIRLS, GOD AND THE GOOD LIFE - because seriously, isn't that what it's all about? Loving God, loving our sisters in Christ, and loving life? It's an honor to be here, truly.

Here's a few random facts (or maybe confessions) about myself:


1. I'm totally addicted to Nerds, preferably cherry flavored. (and I know...you are what you eat...)


2. If it's polka-dotted, I probably have it.


3. I'm the girl you'll see ordering a milkshake and cheeseburger...with a Diet Coke.

4. I'm a neat-freak, usually to a fault.


5. I'd do anything for a cupcake.


6. My middle name is Ann, but it probably should be "organized" or "detailed" or maybe even "OCD".


7. I can't stand roller coasters.


8. I can't whistle or blow a bubble with gum to save my life.


9. I'm a bookworm. (that's probably not a secret)


10. I have a bit of a crush on Mr. Darcy.


And here's my more "for real" bio:

I'm 27, have been married for 7 years this August (I know, we were babies) to a hunky fireman named Brandon, and we have a 3 year old daughter that's pretty much the cutest thing in the world - SEE -




and I fear she's already smarter than me. I've been writing since I was 7, (wow - there's lot of 7's in this bio...) but got serious about publication at the age of 18. (started attending writing conferences and learning the craft) I'm a proud member of the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and I have a BA in Communications from Louisiana Baptist University. I'm currently multi-published with Love Inspired in contemporary romance, and have my first YA novel coming out January 2012 via Barbour Publishers. It's called ADDISON BLAKELY - CONFESSIONS OF A PK and I am just a TAD bit giddy over it. ::wink::




Good news - my upcoming August 1st release through Love Inspired (FIREMAN DAD) was selected to be one of the ACFW Book Club novels for the month of November! Woohoo!

Let's see. What else?


I hang out on FB pretty regularly, Twitter not so regularly, and maintain my website and blog quite regularly (http://www.betsy-ann.blogspot.com/ and http://www.betsystamant.com/)


So that's me, in a little bitty nutshell. Can't wait to get to know you guys better! :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Productive Waiting

When I was seventeen I had a list three pages long of things I wanted in a future husband. I dreamed about him all day, and all night, and I primped before I went anywhere. You know, just in case I might meet him as I sampled a chicken wing at Costco or accidentally brushed his hand if we both reached for the same pair of scissors in craft class where we might be helping at VBS.

Some of the things I listed were:
  • Enjoys spending time with children.
  • Intelligent, enjoys learning.
  • Is always doing something to grow his relationship with the Lord.
  • Knows why he believes what he believes.
  • Self-motivated.
  • Good leader.
And then I waited. And waited. And waited. :-) It's not like I made that list and my future husband just showed up. I had a lot of time to sit and think about the things I'd written down. And to be honest with you, I wasted a lot of time. I mean, I'd pine for my future husband and pray for him and write letters to him. None of those things were bad things, really...but I could have been working on myself while I was doing all those things.

A few weeks ago, Michael Hyatt wrote about how to become your spouse's best friend, and therefore make your relationship stronger. I read it, and took notes.  And then I thought...this could really apply to all my friends who aren't married, too. You might not know who your spouse is...yet. But that doesn't mean you can't do anything to make your future relationship all it can be now!

Michael's advice is this: Make a list of all the things you like in a best friend. (Easy enough, right? Write down all the things you want in your spouse.) Then take your list and become the person you've written down. And keep growing and becoming better with every day.

Sure, some of the things won't exactly apply (if you write down "doesn't have facial hair" like I did...well, you don't have to worry too much about not growing a goatee over the next few years...also, you'll see in the picture below facial hair kind of became a nonissue...haha). But if you want your future husband to be a man of integrity, work hard now to do the right thing in all circumstances as a woman of integrity. If you want your husband to be a man who loves the Lord above everything else in his life, do everything you can to put God first in your own life. If you want your husband to manage his money well, use what you have wisely and try to stay out of debt.

You might be waiting for your man right now, but that doesn't mean you can just sit back and do nothing. Use your time waiting to grow and become the woman he's looking for!

PS: Here's a picture of me and the guy I waited for!


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/.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mom, Listen to This

Last week my almost twenty-year-old son was on the computer. "Mom, come here. Listen to this."




"This guy's playing the words and the melody," my son said. "I've never heard anybody do that before--play them both at the same time."

As I sat there listening, something pretty amazing struck me. This guy is incredibly talented.

And then another thought came.

I'm talented too.

Sometimes I feel ordinary and average. Nope, I can't play the guitar. I can't draw. I don't paint. Or sew (although I'm learning to knit). I'm terrible at math. A lot of times I lose my car in the grocery store parking lot. And I really, really can't sing.

But I write with my heart. I work hard at it. I asked my husband what talents he sees in me. He said, "You're kind. You're a good listener. You're a really good cook. When we have people over, you make them feel at home."

I smiled.

I'm praying that the Lord will use me and my talents (and spiritual gifts) to bring Him glory.

How about you? How are you talented? If you're not sure, ask someone who loves you. I think it honors Him for us to go ahead and admit the our talents, even though it feels a little bit awkward (at least for me).

Love,
Julie

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Prayers please

Camy here! Sorry today's post is late, but I have a good excuse--I'm on deadline. And while I was sweating bullets today, writing to get my manuscript done, I realized that I'm not alone, and why aren't I asking for help????

I think I get too caught up in trying to do things on my own and not wanting any help, and that's just wrong. Jesus talks about us asking people to pray for us. There's no shame in it--He asked his disciples to pray for him.

So I'm here to ask you guys to please pray for me to finish my manuscript in time. I'm on schedule right now, but I don't want to trust in my own abilities, I want to trust in God. So please pray God will help me finish my manuscript in time, and that it's brilliant, and that my editor loves it. :)

Thanks, guys! And if I can pray for you, please don't hesitate to leave your prayer request in the comments.

Camy


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, July 13, 2011

A tangled Life



Facebook has made me a more authentic person.

Even before the days of social networking, I would occasionally complain that my life was too connected. My coworkers at my 9-5 job included family members and people I went to church with. Moms of my friends did stuff with my mother-in-law or my mom. Sharing news sometimes felt complicated. "If I tell so-and-so, then I need to tell this person too." Or, "If we invite this person, we'll need to invite that person as well."

My life felt very tangled. And that was before Facebook.

I'm constantly amazed by how far my Facebook statuses reach. By which I mean, how the same statement is read by people from different parts of my life. Anything I post on Facebook might be seen by:

My husband
My best friend
A variety of ex-best friends
My in-laws
My brother-in-law's girlfriend
My brother-in-law's ex-girlfriend
My grandfather-in-law
My literary agent
Authors I love and respect
Girls who have read my books
Fellow writers who hang out on Go Teen Writers
People I used to go to church with ... including my pastor and his wife
People who go to church with my parents
Teens who babysit my kids
My daughter's preschool teachers
Kids of former coworkers
People I went to elementary school with
People I went to middle school with
Girls I went to high school with
Girls who go to my alma mater, who heard me speak at career day, and follow me on FB
And many, many more ... including a bunch of people I don't really know.

One time I posted something about my favorite sweatpants. (From which you might correctly gather I'm not the most interesting person to follow.) I said something about how my new Aerie sweatpants were so comfy, I may never again wear anything else. That night at a party, my mom - who at the time was on FB - joked that she was surprised I didn't have on my sweatpants. At church the following Sunday, a woman whom I'd never met approached me about what brand of sweatpants I'd bought.

And that was the moment I realized something very basic and, really, pretty obvious - Whatever I put on Facebook can be read by anybody. I already knew that on some level, but the sweatpants situation really drove it home. Like anything I say about my mom might be read by friends of hers. Anything I say about my new church will be read by people who attend the church we've left. If I felt inclined to publicly gripe about my husband, it wouldn't just be read by my friends. It would be read my his parents, his brother, his best friend, a coworker, people he leads in Bible study.

While I used to gripe about how tangled my life felt, I now find I'm grateful for it. The tangles hold me accountable. The tangles hold me back from the temptation of being one person with my cocktail loving coworkers and another person with my conservative in-laws. From being one person with my atheist friends and another with my Jesus-lovin' friends.

What about you? Have you ever been surprised by the reaches of Facebook?

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.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Make Christ Real ...

Time and meditation are necessary to allow the Holy Spirit to make Christ real in your life. If you could develop one disciple in your life I'd encourage you to take time every day to read God's Word, to sit and ponder it, to write down God's truth in a journal and keep track of how the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and what He has to say. It has completely changed my life. I mean COMPLETELY changed my life.

When I wake up in the morning usually my first thought is to think back over my dreams. I'm a dreamer and each night a story plays out in my mind. Most of them involve me caring for children—watching them or bringing them into my home. My “sleep job” is a nanny or a mom of about 112 kids.

My next thought is … I need to get my coffee, my Bible, my journal. It's my morning ritual. Before I'm concerned about a shower, or tending to my youngest, or before my to-do list starts spiraling through my mind, I consider spending time with God first.

It's a habit that started when I was a very young mom of two kids and living in a low-income apartment with my husband. The apartment was 600 sq ft. and we had one car that my husband used. I couldn't “go away” to meet with God. (Not that I could ever get away if I wanted to with two with small kids.) So instead, I set my alarm clock and got up early. Then I'd go into the living room to read my Bible, write in my journal and pray.

You must know that just setting the alarm was a risk in itself. My toddler and baby slept on the other side of a thin wall. If they heard the alarm then EVERYONE would be awake. Thankfully on most mornings I was able to turn off the alarm before everyone awoke, and after a few months something amazing happened … I started waking up on my own without the alarm. For this former night-owl, it was a miracle.

It was during that time I developed a love for God's Word. The more I read the more I wanted to read, and God's truth became ALIVE to me. I started writing down special verses, and I'd jot down prayer requests too. I'd also get on my knees and pray for my husband and my kids. I'd pray that we could have a house some day. I'd pray that God could use me—even though at the time I had no idea how He could. I was 20 years old and had two kids and a husband in college … still I prayed.

I'd also think about what God's Word was telling me. That was the “meditation” part. You see making time for God in my morning was only half of the equation. Thinking about how His Word impacted my heart and my life was the other part. Christ became real as I gave Him my mornings … and soon I was thinking about Him, His Word, and His truth all throughout my day.

How about you? Do you make time each day to spend with God? Do you read His Word—drink the Truth? Do you take time to think about how His Word applies to your life? Do you consider the changes you need to make? Time and meditation are necessary to allow the Holy Spirit to make Christ real in your life. And once you discover how real Jesus can be that 15 minutes, 30 minutes or hour of extra sleep each day will be the last concern on your mind. I guarantee it.


~~~
About Tricia: Tricia Goyer is the author of thirty books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. www.triciagoyer.com

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

You Don't Define Me

To my past:

You and I have been through a lot together. Some things have been wonderful…graduations, friendships, dreams come true. And then other things. Well, to be honest, I kind of wish I could forget them. Deaths, dangerous relationships, and dreams flushed down the toilet.

I used to depend on the good things to make my life. When things were going well, life was great. And I let those things define me and make me who I was. It's easy to do that, you know. Every article I published in a magazine or every A I earned in school became another brick in the wall of my life. With every relationship or homework assignment, I felt better and better about myself. The more awesome things that happened to me, the more I felt like I could accomplish. It was like everything great in life lifted me higher and higher. When people would ask me about my life, I talked about the things I had done to get me to where I wanted to be in life. Things like, "I graduated with a great degree from a good school because I worked hard and I studied hard." Or like, "I've worked hard to get fit. Of course that super-hot guy asked me out." It was like some sort of chain reaction: the harder I worked, the better things could be.

But then, of course, there are the more difficult things you and I have shared, past. I kind of had hoped you'd be kinder to me than most. But that's a silly thing to hope for. I mean, I'm not any different than anyone else. But still, it was a low blow when I slipped into depression after that one relationship ended. And the time I kissed that guy and I didn't even like him? Yeah, that's something I'd kind of like to forget, too. And when I lost one of my dearest friends to death, I really thought I would never be able to live like normal again. That latest rejection letter? It hurt. Like it or not, those hard things have been more building blocks of my life, too. There are times when I've tried to forget those things ever happened. Kind of like if I pretended they never existed, they'd never have an effect on my decisions today, now. That's kind of silly to pretend, though. No matter what I do, you're always going to be there.

I guess it's my choice as to how you affect me, though. And that's why I'm writing you this letter. I can't depend on you to make me the best I can be. (That's God's job…) I can't "break up" with you. You are my past, after all. But I am not made up of the good things, or the bad things, I've done before this moment. I am not made up of "good enough" or "not good enough".

It's true that you'll always be a part of my life as my past. But I can learn from you. I can grow from you. Instead of re-living the glory days of how things used to be (to the point where I can't function now), I can trust that God has even more wonderful things in store for me. Instead of letting my past sins grab me in a choke hold, I can remember the redemptive love of Christ. And when I'm stuck between right and wrong in the future, I can think back to my past mistakes and make the right choice. Instead of allowing myself to sink under the pain of loss and becoming a bitter person with a heart of stone, I can choose a better life. I can choose the better things the Lord has placed in front of me.

See, past, you don't define me. I'll never get rid of you. And I guess I wouldn't want to get rid of you. You've taught me a lot over my lifetime, anyways. You don't define me, but you are a part of me. And I'm going to do my best to learn from you and to work with you…but not be consumed by you. After all, God's got a lot in store for me. He's got so much in store for me, in fact, that I can't spend a whole lot of time worrying about you. So thanks for being there. But don't expect me to visit much…


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: www.ashley-mays.com

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

"It Was the Best Day of My Life!"


I’m just getting settled after a two-week visit with my parents that included a trip to Disneyland. My youngest son and I, my youngest sister Kristy, her two boys, and my niece Haley all joined Mom and Dad in their eight-passenger van and drove down to Anaheim to celebrate Mom’s birthday at the Magic Kingdom. What better place to turn . . . the age mom was turning . . . than the place that transforms us all into children?

The best part of the trip was watching Kristy’s kids experience Disneyland for the very first time. At almost nine, Kai saw the trip as a dream come true. Five-year-old Devon was literally mesmerized! He applauded his way through the Small World ride, waved at every character he passed, and couldn’t take his eyes off the sky during the fireworks. We had a two-day pass and at the end of both of those days, we had to hold back laughter as we exited the park and watched Devon fighting to keep his big blue eyes open but still smiling, not wanting the experience to end.

On the drive home we all thanked Mom and Dad for the wonderful vacation.

“It was the best day of my life,” Devon shouted from the back seat.

Kristy and I looked at each other and chuckled. A week before that, he’d declared his preschool graduation the best day of his life.

I couldn’t help wondering if something else might take Disneyland “best day” spot by the end of summer. Or maybe graduation and Disneyland will remain in a close tie for months or years to come. Either way, he has pictures, a few small toys, and a mind full of memories to commemorate both best days of his life.

If you had to pick a best day, or even a few that you’d have a hard time choose between, what would they be? What made them wonderful? What do you have to commemorate them? How do these “best day of my life” days keep you uplifted on not so great days?

Thank God today, for those special days that He has used to bring you joy and provide you with precious memories!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Almost Twenty Years Ago....



My stomach turns somersaults when I dig through old pictures of my children. This is from the summer of 1992, our family vacation, Panama City Beach, Florida. It's my husband and children. Back then, we hadn't heard of blogs or facebook photo albums.

During the 80's, I was busy having babies and lots of perms. We had a daughter born in '81, a daughter in '84, we lost a son in '89, and had another son born in 1991. People tried to warn me how fast time passes and to cherish the days. I should have listened.

I stressed over packing for vacation when they were little--what to bring, how many outfits do they need, does this little shirt match these shorts, and on and on.

A couple of weeks ago Katie, our middle child, invited us to go to South Carolina with her and her husband for the 4th of July. As a child, she wasn't particularly organized. She was more free-spirited and a little silly, as you can see in this picture. She just emailed me a list of things to pack for our trip--specific grocery items, a big umbrella, beach towels, etc.

I couldn't believe it. Katie organizing vacation necessities. How fast it all goes.

I can't tell you how excited I am to be vacationing with my grown-up children and my son's girlfriend! May God slow me down this weekend so I can see the beauty of each moment.

I'm praying Psalms 90:12 ...that God will "teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom."

Love,
Julie

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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