Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Becoming Shiny

Oh man, I'm running late today! Sorry about that, gals. I was out of town for a few days last week for the American Christian Fiction Writer's conference. Since returning home, I've said, "Sorry, I'm running late" about 4 bazillion times.


Me with fellow Girls, God, and the Good Life contributor, Betsy St. Amant. We're still smiling because it's before we've seen what's on our breakfast plates.
In happier news, since returning home, I've been much more faithful in reading my Bible. At the conference, we were encouraged to make our alone time with God a priority, which sounds like a total "duh" thing when I type it, but when I'm living out my day-to-day life, it doesn't feel so easy.


You guys are balancing school and sports and arts and youth group, so I know you understand how free time can feel precious. On a good day, I have about 90 minutes of kid-free time, and my thoughts are usually, "I need to blog, send some emails, write, start the laundry..." They are NOT, "I need to spend time praying and reading my Bible before I hop into my to-do list." I'm trying to change that. If any of you guys have suggestions for how you keep God a priority in your busy lives, I'd love to hear them!


Last night when I was reading Philippians, I came across the words, "...so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." (2:15-16a)


At first I really latched on that whole part about shining like stars in the universe and holding out "the word of life," because it made me think of my original goals with writing Christian fiction, that I wanted my books to shine and to bring life to people.


Then I realized, "hey, this passage starts out with 'so that, which means there must have been some kind of instruction in the beginning." (Confession: Sometimes Bible sentences are so long, I have to read them a couple times.)


You know how Paul started that sentence? "Do everything without complaining or arguing." THAT is what we're to do to become blameless and pure, to acquire that great shiny quality.


Those instructions, at first glance, seemed too simple to me. I mean, obviously it's crazy hard to follow through on never complaining or arguing, but it's not a difficult thing to explain to someone. A part of my brain was thinking, "It must be more complex. That can't be all of it, because I really don't see how-"


Then I thought of a woman I know at church. A woman who raised 3 kids - two of them with developmental challenges - by herself, and who struggles financially, but does it all with a smile on her face. I've never heard her complain about the man who abandoned her. She's never griped about not having a fella around the house to do the heavy lifting. And she doesn't talk about the stress that can be involved with providing for her kids on such a limited budget. 


Instead, she always wears a smile, regularly serves those around her, and often pauses to say hello and compliment my children or my outfit or my hair.


She has much to complain about (and sometimes I complain on her behalf to God) but she doesn't. And it makes her shine like a star in the universe. I know her coworkers at the public school must look at her and see that she's different, that she's unique.


So I'm going to work on reigning in my complaints and my tendency to argue, because I want to be shiny too!


Hope you're all having a great week!


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, September 27, 2011

Need prayer

Camy here! Sorry I’m late posting today. I’ve been busy working on a manuscript due October 1st, but then I realized I could ask you guys to pray for me!

So, please pray I can get the manuscript done and in great shape before my deadline! I was hit with a couple migraines last week that really cut into my writing time and also made me physically really tired, which also cut into my writing time. :( So I could use prayer so that I can catch up.

Thanks! Also if you have prayer requests, please leave them in the comments so I can pray for you too!

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!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Conferencin' it up...

As you read this, I am at the 2011 ACFW CONFERENCE! (I scheduled this post early, can you tell? hehe) Probably right now I'm in the middle of a workshop or sipping my 4th mocha of the day (there is a STARBUCKS IN OUR HOTEL!!) or covering a yawn with my hand or getting dressed for the fancy banquet awards night.

I don't know if you've ever attended a writer's conference, but let me tell you, there is nothing more exciting, productive, exhausting, mind-numbing, and beneficial than a writer's conference for an aspiring author. Or even a well known, multi-pubbed author. That's the beauty of the conferences - no matter where you are in the writing journey, there is something new to learn, someone new to meet, someone new who needs encouragment...God has a place for all of us in each step of the way.

Throw in a bunch of awesome workshops by talented speakers, yummy hotel food, meetings with editors/agents, seeing author-friends face to face for the first time in a year or longer, a fully staffed prayer room and active praise and worship time, and VOILA! Amazing experience.

I think of the ACFW Conference as my spiritual "youth camp". You remember youth camps, don't you? Or maybe you're still young enough to go. I miss those days, those spiritual highs that completely rejuvenate your relationship with God. There's nothing like a bunch of like-minded, brothers and sisters in Christ worshipping together - and I get that at the conference like I don't get elsewhere anymore. Beautiful!

So prayers are much appreciated during this special time, for all the authors going, and for the plans God has for them to discover. For travel safety and health. All that good stuff ;) And I'll be eager to post about what I learn next time!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

If Jesus loved everyone, I should too...


Do you remember the childhood Sunday School song, "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world ..."?

I loved that song. It was one of my favorites, but sometimes I forgot that "all the children" really mean "all." And that if Jesus loved everyone, I should too.


In elementary school I was very much an ugly duckling. Lucky for me by the time I got to high school I transformed into a swan. I grew taller, slimmed out, and got contacts. But it wasn't so lucky for my friends. I used to hang out with the "unpopular" kids, and then seemingly overnight my social status changed. Looking back, I can't put my finger on the moment when I stopped hanging out with my old friends. In fact, I can hardly remember some of them being at the same high school. How sad is that!

A movie I watched recently reminded me of my "transformation." It's called To Save A Life and it's WORTH WATCHING. It's about a teen who forgot who his best friend used to be ... until he lost him.

I don't mean for this post to be depressing, but I do hope it'll make you think. God loves "all" the little children and "all" the teens too. Is there someone in your life that you've turned your back on?

Ask God about this. Ask him to show you who to open your life and your heart to. You may be surprised. Then again ... you might not be. You may have a feeling deep down that's been telling you exactly who you need to reach out to.

~~~
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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Words Matter

First day of my sophomore year of college.
I was a sophomore in college. The summer before the school year started, I'd broken up with my boyfriend, a guy I call Paul. (It's not his real name.) He and I had dated when I was a freshman. The honest truth of it was that I didn't feel like the relationship was God-honoring, right, or even anything I wanted, so I ended the relationship over the summer. Or at least I thought it was the end.

When Paul and I got back on campus, he asked to see me, to talk things over. I agreed. We were friends, after all. I didn't consider it a bad break up and had hoped we could remain friends. We got together and talked about why the relationship didn't work. We went our separate ways. And then something changed. All of a sudden, Paul started talking to me online.

I don't know what it is about online stuff, but I think it makes you bolder...more able to say what's on your mind without worrying about the consequences. You might say what you want to say, and it might make you feel better in the moment, but the truth of it is...words are words. And they stick around.

I'll never forget the night Paul started calling me names. He was angry with me. Angry that I wasn't being the kind of friend he wanted, angry that I wouldn't be his listening ear anymore, angry that he felt alienated from our group of friends. He wished things had never changed between us, and he said so in many ways. He asked me to come back to the relationship. But I couldn't. The names got worse, the accusations got worse, and finally I decided the only choice I had was to cut Paul out of my life. So I did.

But the words. The names. They stuck around. Every once in a while I'd be looking in the mirror, and Paul's voice would pop into my head, telling me exactly what he thought of me. Or I'd be hanging out with a guy friend, and Paul's voice would hover through my thoughts, calling me all sorts of nasty things for spending time with a guy other than him. Even though I tried not to put any stock into the things Paul had said to me, the words were there. And even though the things he said weren't true, they started to knock me down.

Negative words matter. They stick with you even when you know they aren't truth. They come back to taunt you, maybe even years later, if you don't find a way to let go of them.

And that's why the positive words matter, too. When I broke up with Paul, when he started tearing me down, a group of my friends gathered around me. They called me and checked on me. They wrote me letters. When Paul said mean things, they refuted those things. They showed me what it means to be part of a group of loving friends. They prayed for me. My friends rallied around me, protected me, and poured truth into my life. The words they used were like ice packs on my bruised heart. They reminded me of my worth, of good things I'd done, of times I'd done the right thing.

And those words carried me through the rough times, the dark times, and the times when I questioned everything. The negative words from Paul hurt and, truthfully, they stuck with me for a long time. But the good things? The true words? The words my friends covered me with during that time...well, they're the words I remember the most.

Never under estimate the power of a kind word. You never know when someone might need it. :-)

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/.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Favorite genres?

Camy here! I was thinking today about my favorite genre. I read a lot of different genres, but I tend to gravitate toward Regency romances, contemporary romances, and romantic suspense novels.

I always wonder why certain genres appeal to me more than others. After all, it's not like I'm remotely British, but I love British settings. And I'm a complete wimp and would be the WORST romantic suspense heroine EVER. Yet I love those books. (I am a romantic, which I guess explains why I love romances. :)

So do you know why you like certain genres more than others?

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!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I am a girl who likes her rest.

I love getting plenty of sleep at night. I love the tradition of Sabbath, of taking a full day off to rest. I love going to church and hearing inspiring sermons, of getting filled spiritually. I love eating a big meal, especially if I can follow it with a big nap...

And - this is a little embarrassing - I turn nasty very quickly when my rest and comfort are at stake. When I have to miss a Sunday of excellent teaching. When plans of lying on the couch and reading get thwarted by a friend who needs me. When, for whatever reason, I'm in a pattern of going to bed after midnight and the kids are in a pattern of waking up before seven.

During those times I find myself thinking, "Surely I can find someway to organize my time so that I'm always getting the right amount of rest and relaxation." As if that's what life is all about, achieving great organization so I can be rested all the time.



At church on Sunday, the worship band sang while we took communion. They always put the lyrics up on the screen, which I'm appreciative of since I like the visual of the words. One of the lyrics was:

I know I am filled up only to be emptied again.

And the truth of those words settled into my chest.

Yes, it's important to rest our bodies and minds. Yes, we should eat well and fill up our minds with scripture and good teaching. But the point isn't to never feel tired because we've organized our time so well that we're always getting 9 hours of sleep at night.  We "fill up" on rest and food and spiritual nourishment so we can empty ourselves. So we can bless others. 


I heard a speaker say that one of the great keys to life is found in the pattern of our breathing - we inhale deeply, only to give it all right back. The air is key to our existence, but it's not ours to keep. And so it is with rest. We are intended to rest. We are also intended to hand our energy, whatever there is of it, over to God for His purposes. Trusting that when we are emptied, He will refill us.

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.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You Are What You Eat? Oops



As a young woman still trying to figure out this adventure named "Motherhood" (does anyone EVER figure it out?) one of my constant concerns is what my child is eating.

Is she getting enough nutrition? Is she tiny because of metabolism and genes, or because of lack of nutrition? Is she eating too much sugar? If she refuses to eat any vegetable besides green beans, will she grow up to be obese?? If she eats one more candy corn, will she actually explode?? Can a child live on hot dogs and mac-n-cheese alone????

She eats like a 13 year old boy, despite being a 3 year old girl. She constantly has a snack and juice or water at hand. And she eats it! Yet she remains 25th percentile for height and weight. My Little Miss :) I know she's proportionate and healthy and balanced but I still worry and think. (it's what moms do best)

And she does get her sweet tooth honestly...

Thinking about her diet today (which pretty much consists of chicken nuggets, pizza, burgers, hot dogs, mac n cheese, green beans, fruit, goldfish crackers, ice cream, cheezits, Saltines, gummies, Lucky Charms and string cheese) made me remember the phrase "You are what you eat".

This week, I'm apparently a candy-corn-flavored-white-chocolate mocha-with-a-side-of McDonalds.

OOPS,

It's important to take care of our bodies and our health, and make good food/drink choices (unlike what I did this week), but you know what's even more important? Spiritual health. Spiritual food.

Are you getting enough nutrition from the Word of God? Are you filling your mind and heart daily with heaping portions of mercy, forgiveness, and love? Or are you starving for guidance and peace and grace?

It's okay to eat pizza and chocolate (some days, you just gotta!) but if that's all we ever ate, we'd be fat and miserable and unhealthy and inactive and unmotivated.

The concept is the same - we should eat healthy every day (and read the Word every day as Christians) If we miss a day, will it kill us? No. But how much better do you feel when you exercise and eat right? Why NOT make the right choice when it's so easy and obviously good for you?

Today, when you eat breakfast, or lunch, or have a snack after school, or cook dinner for your family, think about whether or not you got any spiritual nutrition today. If not, make time for it. Put on a praise CD while you cook. Read a chapter in Psalms before you start your homework. Lock yourself in your room and pray for a few minutes before you pick up a fiction novel to relax. There are plenty of ways to grab healthy bites through out your day if you try!

And, umm...if you have any more candy corn, could you pass it this way?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

My Script


Looking back at my drama-filled teen years I now wonder … What was I thinking?

The truth? I wasn’t. I lived from day to day on every wave of emotion. Some days excitement and passion partnered up, pattering wildly within my heart.

Other days, depression and anxiety were my silent friends. I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart.

I lived my life completely unscripted … and, well, it didn’t go well for me. Teen pregnancy and a broken heart were only two consequences. There were more. Even after all these years I still struggle with insecurities with pained memories. Looking back I wish I would have had a better grasp of my future. It would have helped me make better decisions for sure!

What do you want for your future? Here's an exercise to help you figure it out. Write down your answers in your journal. Think through your dreams and goals. Pray about them.

Your Name:
Today’s Date:

3–6 Months

What is one way you can improve yourself over the next few months?
What is something you need to commit to pray about?
Who would you like to build a better relationship with? How can you start?
What can you do in the next few months that will help your future?

6–12 Months

How do you imagine yourself in a year?
What can you do to prepare for that "improved" person?
What one Scripture verse can you memorize to help you in your growth?
What relationships do you need to walk away from? Who is holding you back from becoming the person you want to be?
What can you start today that will help you plan for your career path?

Beyond 12 Months

How can you become a more positive impact in your church over the next year?
What does God desire for your future?
Who can encourage you on your path?
How can you improve your relationship with your parents?
What friends will help you grow in your faith? In what ways can you help them grow?

5 years from now

Where do you see yourself? In college? On the mission field?
What steps can you take to get there?
What type of person do you need to be to attract the man of your dreams?
These are just a few things to get your started! Feel free to talk about these to your friends, your mentors! The more we think, plan, and pray, the closer we will get to achieving God's dreams--wonderful dreams--for our lives!


~~~
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

Monday, September 05, 2011

"Watch Your Language!"

The waiter had just set baskets of chips and bowls of salsa on the table in front of us. Mom, Dad, my two sons, and I dove in, ready to enjoy a final lunch before Mom and Dad headed home from their Labor Day weekend visit. In the booth beside us, a man ranted about some recent frustrations. My family was having such a good time that ignoring him would have been easy—if not for his vocabulary.

Let’s just say that he favored a particular word that begins with “f.” My 9-year-old kept giving me looks out of the corner of his eye, his way of communicating that HE knew that man was using bad language. The rest of us covered our desire to remind the guy “Excuse me, but there are kids present” with normal conversation. I considered asking the waiter to move us somewhere else. Thankfully, the man and his family left.

Finally, we could enjoy our lunch.

This incident reminded me why I don’t like swear words and why God’s Word tells us to avoid unwholesome speech. Swear words just sound ugly. Everything that angry man said sounded angrier thanks to those superfluous adjectives and verbs (or whatever parts of speech he considered them). The mood at our table immediately changed when we heard them, from upbeat and fun to uncomfortable and tense.

Later, God prompted me to examine the impact that my language has on others. While I might not use swear words, how often do I bring down the mood at surrounding restaurant tables by complaining, carrying on about all that is wrong in my life, or being critical? Do I consider how I sound to strangers who overhear what I have to say? When I heard that man’s language, I immediately made assumptions that may or may not be true about him. So what assumptions might strangers make about me based on my words?

In a way I’m glad that I overheard that man in the next booth. I’m not glad that my 9-year-old had to hear language that couldn’t be bleeped out; I’m thankful for the reminder to think about what I say, both in public and in private, knowing that others hear.

What have you learned from overhearing someone else’s language? Why do you think it’s so important for us as Christians, to watch what we say in public?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

virginity, abstinence & the lost art of denial

Many times I come to this blog after reading something that compels me to want to comment. Maybe get on a soapbox. And occasionally shout from the rooftops.

Today is a rooftop day.

My friend Mary shared this quote on her blog*:

“Eighty-two percent of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year. Even though, according to a recent Gallup poll, 76 percent of evangelicals believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong.”

Sex is meant to be shared with a husband and wife. Period. But if I just quoted a couple of scriptures, it would probably make some just shrug their shoulders. Let me just say that if you call yourself a Christian, what the Bible says should matter. Not just a few scriptures taken out of context. Not just a couple of memory verses. But the Bible as a whole. The story the Bible tells us of the nature of man, the nature of sin and God's plan for redemption. The whole thing should matter. If it doesn't matter all that much, then maybe....just maybe...you haven't fully surrendered to God in the first place.

The Bible is not simply a list of suggestions for good living. It is a manual for life that shows you how to overcome the war inside of you. Yes - there is a war inside of you - and it's talked about regularly through the Scriptures. It's the war between the flesh and the spirit. The new man and the old man.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

Deny himself. Deny himself from engaging in the pleasures of the flesh. From engaging in sin. When we deny our flesh, our spirit is able to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit. We can focus in on how He is shaping and molding us - changing us. And we must be changed. We are not "okay" in any sense of that word. We are fallen. We are sinful. And we need a Savior because we cannot change on our own.

Sex is pleasurable. Many sins are. How do you think people get addicted to drugs or end up drinking alcohol or eating too much food? Engaging in the sin gives them pleasure - but only short-term pleasure. That is sin's greatest lie. The pleasure we gain from sin is fleeting and ends so quickly that just like an addict, we keep going back for more.We become a slave to sin. We end up serving sin - and not God.

When we get mad or fight against God or get frustrated with the "rules" - well, we are missing the point entirely. Everything that God asks us NOT to do, is for the pure reason of keeping us in relationships with Him. Sin separates us from Him. Sin makes us deaf and blind to what He wants to do to shape us. When we deny our flesh, we are then able to follow Him instead.

Saying no to sex is not going to be easy. It's hard! And our bodies are designed by God to want it when we engage in certain behaviors. But if you're not married. You absolutely should be saying no to sex. I don't know anyone who regrets being a virgin on their wedding night, but I know plenty who regret NOT being a virgin on their wedding night.

If you're serious about saying no to sex - and you should be - then you need a battle plan. You need to know - beyond any shadow of doubt - that you will be tempted to have sex. And you will be shocked at how convincing the arguments your flesh will give you to try to convince you to sin.

But we're planning on getting married

I know he/she is the one

It's okay because I love him/her

It's not that big a deal

When God says "no" and we go ahead and say "yes" anyway - we've already lost the battle. And denying ourselves? Well, that's not just about sex. The Christian life is about laying down our desires, and choosing God's desires for us instead. Saying no to sex - well, it's just practice for all the times you'll have to say no to something you want in order to live the life God has for you.

We humans often have many big dreams and desires. But God's desires for us are far better, far greater, and far more than we could have ever imagined. But to get to His desires - we must be willing and able to say no to our own.

We can't afford to be apathetic about sin and we can't afford to be apathetic about following God.


~sarah~

Sarah writes teen fiction and screenplays and directs musicals when she's not driving her three kids around town. Find out more about her books at her website. (Re-posted from "a naked faith")



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