Monday, November 28, 2011

A Starting Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then these guys appeared on the scene...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Please pray for me

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Can you help?

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

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

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

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

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

You're the best!

Sarah

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Girls have Always Loved to be Girls


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Make your own facial lotion and toner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Oil

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Run Your Race plus a Giveaway

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


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


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


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


Saying so triggered the words from Hebrews 12:


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


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


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


Sometimes I do well.


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


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


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


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




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


Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.





Thursday, November 10, 2011

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




Betsy here.


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


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

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

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

You want to know a secret?

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


Today, I'm blinking.

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

Saturday, November 05, 2011

"Let Them Help"

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

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

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


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


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

So I did.

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 04, 2011

Talking Mean


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

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

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

End of story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because there's so much more to be discovered.

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

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

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

*Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art



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