Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Ten Things I Could Have Lived with Less of in 2010

I secretly love the "Year in Review" or “Top Ten” lists the media puts out every December. No matter what the topic, there is always something there that makes me proclaim “Oh, that happened this year?” In celebration of the coming year, I decided to come up with one of my own.

[Insert drum roll here] Here is my Official Things I Could Have Lived with Less Of in 2010 list.

10. Ninety Degree days. This was one of the hottest year on record. I love the summer. But it’s no fun being stuck in the house with three restless children because it’s too hot to go outside. I’d rather it be cold than hot.

9. Non-Newsworthy News. Being so close to DC, I had my fill of stories about Tai Shan, the giant panda cub at the zoo. Especially when there were more serious things to report. The most recent: people are mad because all the tickets for DC newly-elected mayor’s inauguration ball are gone. Seriously?

8. Sports News. Americans are big on their sports, but I got so tired of a sports drama being the lead story on the news. So what Michael Haynesworth didn’t go to practice? Who cares that about Tiger Wood’s half-hearted confession? LeBron James? Really? Leave the sports in the sports section. That’s what we have it for.

7. Twilight. Being the mother of a teenage girl, Twilight has been the bane of my existence. Robert Patterson is not cute and Kristen Stewart looks like she’s drunk all the time. And don't get me started about the book. I think they were horribly written. I wished someone would kill Bella so the books would be over. And some of the plot lines were beyond credibility (a vampire, who has no liquids in his body, fathering a child. Uh, no.) Sadly, I have to suffer through two more movies.

6. Endless Talk About the Recession. I understand that some people had it tough this year. But seemed like most the talk about the recession was just that, talk. Most discussions were filled with speculation and fear. No one really offered feasible solutions, just more talk about how bad it was. The old saying goes “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Well, I’m going to amend it: If you don’t have something constructive to say, shut up.

5. The Tea Party. Yes, we need government reform but the Tea Party is not the way to do it. But they get an A for effort.

4. Politicians Backpedaling. More than once this year we’ve seen politicians say something really stupid, mainly when they didn’t think anyone was listening, and then trying to offer a heartfelt apology. I’m not fooled. You said exactly what you meant. There’s no explaining that away. How about you be the person of integrity you’re supposed to be all the time? Be consistent. I would rather you be mean and spiteful when you know the microphones are on and the cameras rolling if that’s who you really are. Don’t be two-faced.

3. People grieving more for pets than people. The backlash from Michael Vick was unbelievable, but what about all the unidentified victims of murder this year. No one picketed and protested about that. Not to mention that the deaths of American soldiers got a twenty second blurb but cases of animal cruelty went on for days. For instance, my local news covered a story about a stolen pit pull, accompanied with video footage of the thieves. But then they gave a casual treatment of the death of a teenage girl found in a dumpster in DC. I’m not saying people should care about the mistreatment of animals. I just think we should care about humans more.

2. Sarah Palin and Kate Gosselin. Please, please, I beg of you with all that is pure and decent, GO AWAY! I don’t understand why these two are still news stories. I know there are some die hard Palin fans in the world, but she wrote her interview notes on the palm of her hand! Any high school student knows that if you can’t remember your points, you write them on note cards. Do we want that to run the country? I would run for president before I voted for her. I’m not into folksy charm. I’m into intelligence and efficiency, neither of which I’ve seen displayed in any great measure in Sarah Palin. She quit her job to do what, tour the country, do a reality TV show and promote her books. If she’s elected president, how do we know she won’t bail on the job because something more exciting comes along.

And Kate Gosselin isn’t any better. I’ve only watched Jon & Kate Plus 8 a few times, but seeing the way she talked to Jon, I can’t say I blame him for flashing deuces. No, I’m not condoning his actions either, but she continues to put herself and those poor babies in the media spotlight and for what? At least Jon had the good sense to disappear.

1. Stupid People. I don’t know if there were more stupid people in the world or we just had the pleasure of knowing about more of them. And I’m not just referring to people in the media or entertainment, I talking about people everywhere. Seemed like every time I turned around, somebody did something proving that stupidity is alive and well in America. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “Did you think about that before you did it” this year. And I’m including myself in that, too. I’ve done my share of stupid this year. The slogan this year should have been: NO NEW STUPID! Maybe we can adopt it for next year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tea & Read: Called To Worship

Title: Called to Worship
Author: Vernon M. Whaley
Rating: Wall Target Practice

When I received my copy of Called to Worship by Vernon M. Whaley, I was in the middle of studying the principles of biblical worship. I was very excited about the possibilities of this book. On the cover, the author is named as the director of the center of worship of Liberty University. With the author's experience, and the book cover is claimed to provide a biblical foundation of worship, I thought this book would be the perfect supplement to my studies. Unfortunately, expectations were too high.

The book was a disappointment. I expected that the book will provide in-depth examples on our mandate to worship. Instead, it lacked a unique treatment on the subject. The book lacked the seriousness needed for a treatment on the subject. Most times, the author often told jokes or quoted poems. In instances where he gave used biblical examples, there weren’t more than a surface explanation.

I found myself struggling to complete the book. The text seemed more like a retelling of events connected to worship and not necessarily an instructional book on our mandate to worship. Also, the author unexpectedly includes a devotional reading plan.

On the plus side, the book was well written; the author definitely has a command on the English language. The author is clearly knowledgeable about the subject, even if his approach was less than to be desired.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, December 10, 2010

...But Our Toys Were Cooler

Tonight, I had the displeasure of watching an episode of Ben Ten with my children. I normally enjoy…maybe enjoy is too strong a word. I normally can pleasantly tolerate the TV shows my children watch. But tonight, my displeasure had more to do with the difference between my generation’s childhood experiences than the show’s unsatisfying ending.

Never before had I realized how big the difference is between the toys of my day and those available today. I guess the difference sticks out to now me more than normal because I’ve been shopping for Christmas gifts. All I have to say is that I’m glad I’m not a kid right now. The toys are senseless and random. The worst of the night was the fake hamsters you could dress up like princesses. Huh? And let’s not talk about the American Girl’s dolls. No, she is not like Barbie. At least Barbie had a job, house and car.

The toys of my day were so much better than now. Remember how much fun Operation was? How about hours upon hours of a cutthroat game of Monopoly? And I can’t forget Uno (of course you had to play pile-on. If you’ve never played pile-on, you haven’t lived). Throw in a game of Boggle and you had the prefect evening.

We didn’t have Silly Bandz. We had rubber bands that we streatched over of fingers and had a contest of who could shoot them the furthest. Or we made a sling shot out of them. We weren’t worrying about the buttons on our Wii remote not working; we were looking for spare buttons to play hopscotch with. Oh, the fun things you do with a piece of chalk and an open stretch of sidewalk.

Now I’m not knocking all the toys available now but I’ve noticed that most of them are lacking. Our toys were sneaky. You learned valuable life skills while you were playing. Uno taught you how to strategize. You knew how to count money after you played a couple of games of Monopoly and could calculate (in your head, might I add) how much rent someone owed you.

Scrabble taught you how to spell. Even something as bland as green army men stimulated your imagination. With our games, you had to think. Fun wasn’t about mindlessly pressing a button or having an electronic pet (that one still boggles my mind). Fun was about winning a game and knowing you honestly won because you were the best, not because you could press the button fastest.

The young folks may have better graphics on their TV shows, but we had cooler toys.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


This year, like last year, I went to the Outer Banks for Thanksgiving. There was a lot of work involved in packing up everything we needed for the week long stay, but being a block from the beach, at anytime of the year, was worth it. I was also in walking distance from a library and added another library card to my collection (I have one from Currituck County, NC and Beaufort County, NC).

Unfortunately, I caught a cold while I was there. I’ve spent the past two days in bed with headache, congestion and dizziness. I’m not happy about it since it’s so close to Christmas and I haven’t even gotten my tree yet. Not to mention I wanted to finish working two proposals I want to send out and a gift I'm knitting. Being sick severely decreases my productivity.

So today, I decided that I’d suffered enough and it was time to make a doctor’s appointment. I don’t even know why I bothered. Of course I didn’t get one. It is so hard getting an appointment at Tricare, the military health provider. I don’t understand how a clinic can have no open appointments for days at a time. The tech gave me three options. Call again on another day (so you can tell me that there are no appointments? No thanks.) Go to the emergency room (and sit for eight hours? I’ll pass). Or the worse of the three options: Urgent care. Ha!

Urgent Care is clinics outside the Tricare system available when there’re no more appointments. And if you use Urgent Care, there is an co-pay that the techs at the appointment line don’t tell you about. The biggest problem with going to Urgent Care is you have to turn around and go to Tricare anyways.

For instance, my right thumb has been giving me problems for a while and when it got particularly painful, I took went to an Urgent Care clinic because there were no appointments with my regular doctor. Boy, that was a waste of time. They examined my thumb and told me that I needed x-rays and a possibly a cortisone shot, but they couldn’t do either. They told me that I would have to make an appointment with my regular doctor. They recommendation was to get voice recognition software so I didn’t have to type as much as I did. Yeah, right.

The military has been in the news a lot because of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As a military spouse, I think that’s a joke. There are so many quality of life issues that need to be addressed, that need a public exposure. Like how about someone make sure that military families get the care they need, especially since we can’t afford any other health insurance?

So if you don’t ask me when I’m going to get a doctor’s appointment, I won’t tell you that I have no idea.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. For those who don’t know, that’s National Novel Writing Month, a challenged by the Office of Letters and Light to write 50,000 in 30 days. I batted around the idea of doing for a couple of weeks, but it seems like my life worked out so that I could do it. I don’t know how well I’m going to do, if I’m going to hit 50,000 words.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for the past three years. I actually reached 50,000 words the first year. Last year, I discovered a book already in print with the exact plot line as my NaNo story and I gave up. I expect to get really close to my goal.

My experience this year will probably be very different than past years. I didn’t have a plot or outline any of the previous years I participated. And I struggled to reach my word count goal each day.

This year, I’m writing the sequel to the book I wrote over the past year. I spent the past two years working out a plot, which much of it I already had an idea of what I wanted to happen. My characters are developed and I’ve already written out my calendar of scenes.

NaNoWriMo is a great experience and now, in my fourth year, I see how I could see how my writing has improved. I’ve learned how to disciple myself to write daily. I shouldn’t have any problem with reaching the daily word goal. I also have since realized that I write better at night, so I don’t have to fight against my body clock. I also know that I can sit down on a Saturday and write several days worth of words.

I think the biggest difference is that I have a more grounded view of the outcome of NaNoWriMo. In years past, it was stressful. I beat myself up about making the word count and deleting words. This year, I understand that the goal is 50,000 words, but I also realize that whatever I end up with at the end of the month will carry me closer to my word count of the novel. So if even I bomb, miss a couple of days or don’t meet the daily word count, I’ll still have a pretty good skeleton of my next novel when I’m done.

So I’m ready to work on my 2000 words for today (I modified the daily goal so I don’t write on Sundays) and this blog post doesn’t count.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I have a standard grace I say over my food. It’s lame but my brain sometimes goes on autopilot when I pray. My all-purpose food blessing goes something like this:

Lord, thank you for this food. Bless it and let it be nourishment for my body. In Jesus name, Amen.

But lately, I’ve been convicted about it and I’ve been trying to make sure my heart is in every grace I utter. For instance, this was one of my recent prayers for grace:

Lord, thank you for allowing me to have food when others in the world don’t. Thank you for not having to watch my children starve to death. Amen.

Now the moment I finished this prayer, the gravity of it struck me. My children have eaten almost day of their lives. I’ve eaten for over 13, 500 days (and I’m telling my age) but some people haven’t lived that many days, much less eaten than many days. I’m grateful that God saw fit that I wouldn’t have to live a life of extreme suffering but my gratitude sometimes feels inappropriate.

The root of my prayer is “Lord, I thank you that I’m not as bad as others,” which sound a lot like the prayer of the publican in Luke 18:11-12. The publican thanked God that he wasn’t like the sinner who prayed nearby. I don’t think I have the same problem with pride as the publican, but it does feel odd to be grateful that I don’t suffer like others.
Should I feel this way?

After a moment of consideration, I realized that it’s not that I shouldn’t thank God that I don’t have to suffer but I need balance. I should thank God for everything He does, like I Thessalonians 5:18 commands us to do. I should give thanks in the good times, when I have food but I should also thank Him when life breaks my heart. I should be as grateful while I’m suffering as I am when I’m not. I should be grateful for the hard times God allows in my life and grateful for the trials He prevents me from experiencing.

So in every thing, (food or no food, problems or no problems) give thanks; for his is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tea & Read: A Memory Between Us

Title: A Memory Between Us
Author: Sarah Sundin
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy!

I love a good book. As a matter of fact, few things make me happier than a great book…except a great sequel. If you’re in the market for a great book, check out. A Memory Between Us, by Sarah Sundin is the second book in her Wings of Glory series.

Sundin continues to amaze with her knowledge of World War II. Her description of England and conditions in the military during that time is so realistic I expected to hear bomb sirens and airplane motors every time I opened the book.

The characters also jump off the page, too. Jack and Ruth are well-rounded and engaging, which makes their relationship complex and provides for some great moments of romance. The rest of the supporting cast adds another wonderful dimension to the story.

The most praiseworthy part for me was the topic Sundin tackled. She covers a topic that I with more books would deal with the same upfront and frank matter. As the book progressed, I suspected the direction the book was going to take, but still the climax had me biting my nails.
Both of the books in this series are great reads. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series to see if Sundin can top herself again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Meditations: I Believe

For as the body without the spirit is dead, faith without works is dead also.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve read this passage or heard it quoted. I know this passage. But with each year of my life, I’m beginning to notice how dangerous “knowing” scripture has become. This is not the “I’ve written you word in my heart so I might not sin against you” type of knowing. It’s when scripture becomes so causal that the impact is lost.

It has come to my attention that I sometimes have a habit of “knowing” scripture like learning my multiplication tables. Once I’ve learned them, there’s no need to go back and review them. But like I said before, this is dangerous. God’s word “is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Romans 4:12). And alarm bells should ring if we can read the word and not get cut.

Lately, I’ve been studying the book of James and, praise the Lord, I got sliced deep from a seemingly dull passage, a passage I know like my multiplication tables. Namely, the portion of James 2 that describes how Abraham was justified by how he acted on what he believed. He was prepared to sacrifice Isaac because he believed that God’s promise would come to past. His works, or actions, made his faith perfect (James 2:22).

After I read this passage, (and in an attempt to stop the bleeding), I asked myself, if someone looked at what I did and had to guess what I believed, what answer would they give. What would they say I believed? Not that my actions are somehow creating faith, but everyone acts out of what they believe. Let me give you two extremely different examples.

Mother Theresa spent years of her life helping the poor and unloved in Cambodia. She lived among them, cared for them and was a walking example of Jesus’ compassion in the world. She believed that God loved all people and He wanted his followers to show compassion on the “least of these.” From what she did, it is clear what she believed. She was willing to give up everything, even things that others would consider basic necessities, to care for the sick and disenfranchised.

On the other hand, Andrea Yates, a mentally ill mother of five, believed that she should be punished for being a bad mother. Her belief drove her to drown all five of her children because she believed that she had somehow damaged them beyond repair. She, like Mother Theresa, acted on what she believed.

Both these women solidify the principal that actions come from belief, now comes the hard question: What do I actually believe? In taking a short inventory of my life, I don’t like what my actions are saying about my faith. I had to question lots of my actions and try and find their origin in my faith. Sadly, as I did this, it was easier to see what I didn’t believe than it was to see what I did.

So here is my short (but painful) list:
• I don’t believe Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If I believed this, I would be worried about so many situations in my life. If I believed all things works for my good, I would embrace both the good things in life and the bad with hopeful expectation.
• I don’t believe Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I don’t know if I don’t believe the strength part or the doing part. If I did, I do more of what I know He’s strengthened me to do.
• I don’t believe Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” If I believed that, then maybe I wouldn’t fight against His will so much and I would complain less.

I could go on, but in the interest of time (and pain), I’ll stop. And if this post cut you, add pressure until you figure out what you really believe.

Oh, yeah. I forgot to list one more thing that I beleive: I believe that God is greater than any problem I'll ever have and He is still working on me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Biblical Literacy

The recent scandal involving Bishop Eddie Long and four young men who claim they were coerced into a sexual relationship with him has troubled my heart. However, as heartbreaking as this issue is, it sounds familiar. Over the past couple of years the body of Christ has been riddled with a number of Abuse of Power cases.

I do not suppose to speak on guilt or innocence of any of the parties involved, but one particular element of this case has troubled my heart (not saying the other elements are less troubling). The young men claim that Bishop Long used scripture to justify his alleged actions. And if their claims are true, my heart goes out to them. But this particular claim left me wondering, “Didn’t they know that he was misusing scripture?”

I don’t ask this question to suggest that the alleged victims are somehow at fault, but to point out the high level of biblical illiteracy in Body of Christ. This is something that I’ve noticed over my life spent in church. It still amazes me that Christians don’t know that statement like “When the praises go up, the blessings come down” and “God helps those who help themselves” are not in the Bible.

Recently, a survey by Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life showed that the Mormons polled knew more about Christianity than Protestant Christians did (read the whole article here). This poll produced similar results as others conducted in the past. Christians don’t seem to know what’s in their Bibles. And because they don’t know what’s there, they don’t know how to apply the Word to their lives. Many Christians can quote a scripture and even have an emotional response to it but not have the truth written in their hearts through study and experience.

In the case with Bishop Long, the question arises “Who is at fault?” And the same question can be asked concerning the lack of biblical literacy. Who is to blame for this lack of scriptural understanding? Is it the pastors and church leadership and their lack of biblical instruction? Or maybe the ordinary Christian who refuses to apply the Word to his or her live?

Before we even address these questions, something else had to be addressed first: the habit of finger pointing. I’m sure it would be easy for lay members to point the finger at leadership and say “You didn’t teach us.” And it would be easy for church leadership to point their fingers at the pew and say “You didn’t learn.” I believe a more effective way is that each person should examine him or herself. Each of us should look at our own hearts to determine how we have contributed to the problem.

In essence, this will answer the question of biblical illiteracy. There is enough blame to spread around. If you are a leader, you add to the problem each time you teach something that is not biblically based, not matter how inspirational it sounds. As a lay person, each time you fail to study your Bible on your own and live according to the principals there, you add to the problem, too. Each of these actions creates an open door for deception to creep among our ranks. And when one member of the Body hurts, we all hurt.

Biblical literacy prevents deception in the church. When we understand that we have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, we understand that we will sense when someone teaches something other than the inspired word of God. Whether it is our best friend or a church bishop, the Holy Spirit gives us discernment. More than that, when we have the Word in our hearts and the Holy Spirit has illuminated that Word, it becomes a standard by which to compare other doctrines against.

I am saddened by the fact that the Body of Christ is facing yet another scandal supposedly involving an abuse of scripture. But can we prevent the next scandal by understanding and applying what the Words says? Can we curb deception by teaching the Bible, learning the truth of the Word and living as biblically informed people? That’s a question only you and I can answer.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ACFW Book Challenge

It’s time for another one of my wonderful reading challenges. As usual, my main reason for the challenge is that I have way too many books and attending the ACFW conference didn’t help. I bought eight books and got two free. And even though I’d brought a larger suitcase, I couldn’t get them all in there and had to ship them home. My husband wasn’t exactly thrilled, so I’m trying to read them quickly.
Here are the books I’m including in my challenge this time:
• Beyond Summer by Lisa Wingate
• Rooms by James L. Rubart
• Reinventing Rachel by Alison Strobel
• The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh
• Nightshade by Ronie Kendig
• Second Chance Bride by Vicky McDonough
• Almost Forever by Deborah Raney
• Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs
I’m starting with Nightshade and go from there. My goal is to read all eight before November 1st. Check back often and read my reviews.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Meditations: School Supplies

First day of school. It’s funny that even as an adult, I still get excited about it and it doesn’t help that I’m addicted to school supplies. Since my older two children are homeschooled (which gives a whole new meaning to back to school) I have to live out my excitement through my youngest son, a fourth grader.

This morning I went through the ritual that parent’s with school age children know so well: packing the backpack. But when I checked my son’s bag, he had already attempted to pack it himself. Of course he put all of his school supplies (including all six of his composition notebooks) in there.

That’s the funny thing about younger children. They don’t understand that their supplies are supposed to last the whole school year. Nor do they realize that they won’t need all their supplies on the first day. I can still remember the years of lugging all my supplies to school only to bring them back home because I didn’t need them. I mean really, would I actually need a protractor the first day of school?

I can also remember freaking out if I didn’t have all the supplies on my list the first day of school. The list was gospel and to not have every item on it was sin. I also learned that the first week of school was a sort of grace period. The most work we did for the first day of forth grade was organizing our notebooks, getting our assigned seating right and collecting a million forms to take home to our parents (and now, I have a million forms to look forward to filling out this week).

Before I drop my son off to school, I’ll have to give him the school supply speech. Which is basically me encouraging him not to be too generous with his school supplies. I’m always challenged with this speech because he is very thoughtful and helpful. After all, I raised him that way. But it’s important that he learn boundaries with his generosity.

You see, I can still remember in school the children who never had any pencils or paper and would troll the class room borrowing from everyone else until they were fully stocked. They would prey on the students we were prepared. There is at least one child like that in every class year.

The problem with teaching my son to set a boundary is that as Christians, he should be giving. He should care for his neighbor. But his generosity must have boundaries. In Jesus’ teachings, he made it clear that we are to take care of those in need, not those who are simply unprepared and irresponsible.

Yes, we are supposed to help of the "least of these", but think about the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-12. All ten knew that the bridegroom was coming, but only five prepared for his delayed arrival by bringing extra oil. When the five foolish ran out of oil, they begged the five wise to share their oil. And the five wise refused. They said if they shared, they would miss the bridegroom. This may seem cruel to Christians who I call the “Red Cross.” Red Cross people are those who go out of their way to help everyone, even to their detriment. Again, balance is needed.

Take Galatians 6 gives great guidelines about helping others. In verse 2 reads, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This verse supports the idea that we should to reach out to those who are in need. But in verse 5 reads, “For each one shall bear his own load.” Just as we are supposed to help others, we should expect others to take care of their own responsibilities. Besides, always being the Red Cross to people who don’t need it only makes matters worse. They never learn responsibility. And they are responsible to carry their own load.

So share your supplies with those who are in need but be careful of those who are just irresponsible.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Conference Prep

Twenty seven days and I’ll be at the ACFW annual conference. Not my first conference but it has been a couple of years since I’ve been to one. This year is extra interesting because I’m a Genesis finalist. I’ve managed not to obsess about it (barely managed). The journey to becoming a finalist has been such a God-thing. Even if I don’t win my category, it’s been a life-changing trip.
My conference prep is a little rusty. I ran into a woman today in Borders and she asked me if I had a business card.

For right now, here is my conference prep list:
• Business cards. I have one now, but I want to update my picture. A photo on your business card can be invaluable. You collect so many cards at a conference but it’s easier to remember who’s who when the cards have pictures.
• Two proposals. This part is the most challenging. It can be done, but I’ll have to put some effort into it. The hardest part right now is deciding which two to take. Or if I can do more than two.
• A formal dress for the awards ceremony. I have a dress, but I would love to buy a new one. I did some window shopping a little while ago, but finding formal dresses this time of year is challenging.
• I adding a one-sheet to my list but I’m not sure if I’m going to do it. A one-sheet are basically a mini proposal. Some people swear by them but others don’t use them at all. I’m considering doing one because of a past experience I had at another writer’s conference. A literary agent (whose name I can’t remember) and Susan May Warren needed a ride to the venue where the conference was being held. I had my minivan so I offered them a ride. While I drove, the agent asked me to pitch her my novel idea. Talk about driving under pressure. But I didn’t have anything to give the agent once we arrived at the venue. For that reason, I may do a one-sheet, but that depends on time.

I’m sure as time passes, I’ll add more to this list (notice how packing isn’t on there yet). But I saved the most important item on the list for last:
• PRAY! There so much that happens a conference that I am going to need God’s help big time. There so much that happens, so many people to meet and so many opportunities for chance encounters. I need the Holy Spirit to help me navigate through all this and to help me NOT put my foot in my mouth. Amen.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Life in Stitches: Knitosis Craftitis

Tonight, as someone in my knitting group showed off their Knit Kit (more on that later), I realized something about myself. I am predisposed to crafting like people who are predisposed to alcoholism There are very few crafts I've encountered that I didn't love. And the only reason why I don't love a craft is because I haven't tried it yet (quilting is next on my list).

I realized something else tonight: I am at a crucial crossroads with my knitting. For the past year I've taken on simple patterns, scarves and wraps and that has worked for me. I'm right at the point that I can keep it a casual hobbit (do it when I can) or become completely submerged in it. Obsessed even. And the Knit Kit brought me to that point.

First let me explain what a Knit Kit is. The name says it all. It's a small plastic device that holds everything a someone would need for knitting on the go. It has scissors, tape measure, stitch counter, stitch holders, a crochet hook and more.

My reaction when I first saw it was "Oooh, I want one of those." Which set off a If-You-Give-A-Mouse-A-Cookie train of thought. If I buy the knit kit, then I have to go to a yarn store. If I go to a yarn store, then I'll have to look at yarn. If I look at yarn, I'll want to buy it. If I buy it, then I'll have to make sure I use it. And if I use it, then I'm going to have to become a serious knitter.

So the question remains, do I get a Knit Kit or not? At this point, it's not only an investment, it's a commitment. And I have to wonder do I want to go down that road. What road you ask? It's a very dark and scary road called Craftitis.

In my house right now, I have tons of crafting stuff that I don't use. I have bins of beads, crafting wire and clasps from when I used to make beaded jewelry. I have several sets of crochet needles and a couple of comforter bags of yarn. I have an extensive library of craft books. (As you can see, I have different variations of Craftitis).

If I buy the Knit Kit, I would be in essence accepting Knittosis Craftitis. Should I give in or get a second opinion? The jury is still out on that one.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tea & Read: She Walks in Beauty

Title: She Walks in Beauty
Author: Siri Mitchell
Rating: Two Cups of Tea

For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling. Yet Clara soon wonders if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her marriage at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

Siri Mitchell has proven herself to be a versatile writer. I was first introduced to her with her contemporary fiction, Moon over Tokyo, Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door. Chateau of Echoes gave me a glimpse of the fact that Mitchell could write historicals, and she delivered with A Constant Heart and I was hooked.

She Walks in Beauty, another historical, has several great things going for it. First, it is a Victorian novel, but it’s set in New York City instead of the traditional England. But the same traditions and customs rule. This story is just as Victorian, with all its beauty and grace. Victorian on American soil gave the book a unique slant that I’d not seen in Victorian novels.

Second, Mitchell captivates with wonderful characters. Clara is a striking character, the type of character I tend to gravitate to. She goes against the grain of what is expected of her. I love her reactions to social requirements, which are very close to what my own reaction would be. I also enjoyed the tension created between Clara and Lily and the unexpected character of the DeVries Heirs. And, in the tradition of overbearing Victorian women, Clara’s aunt plays her part perfectly.

Third, as in all her books, Mitchell has done her research and it shows. I often found myself just as perplexed as Clara in learning some of the social customs. I particularly found the custom of “cutting” (which means something totally different from a girl from Baltimore) interesting. Clara’s education in social graces proved amusing and gave great insight into Clara’s world.

My only complaint is that there were a couple of loose ends that I felt needed to be cleared up. I would have like to have heard more about Clara’s mother and her father’s work. There was also three other characters in the book, Katherine Mr. Douglas and Ms. Miller. But the book is solid and a great read overall.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Life in Stitches: Multitasking

I’m not a fan of audiobooks. I’m completely in love with paper books, the feel of the pages between my fingers. I always find it amusing when I read experts predicting that paper books will soon be a thing of the past. If given the choice, I’ll choose paper over audiobooks every time. I plan to singlehandedly keep print books in business.

Not that I’ve had listen to a bunch of audiobooks. As a matter of fact, I’ve only listened to one, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. My children and I were on our way to Corolla, NC for Thanksgiving. I needed something to keep me alert on the long drive. One of my sons had the book on his iPod and so I gave it a shot. It turned out to be ok, but it wasn’t an experience I wanted to repeat—the long car drive or the audiobook. But I had a change a heart brought on something totally unrelated to books or my paper preference: multitasking.

As much as I don’t like audiobooks, I love multitasking. It drives me crazy to only do one thing at a time. If I’m writing, I have to have music going. If I’m talking on the phone, I’m normally sweeping or folding laundry. But, when I’m knitting, that’s all I can do. I can watch TV but I’m bound to make mistakes. Of course I can listen to music, but that’s something I do all the time. Knitting, although I love it, requires single-tasking or lots of tinking (removing stitches by reverse knitting).

So when a woman in a knitting group I’m a part of mentioned that she listens to audiobooks while she knitting, a light bulb came on. Audiobooks would allow me to do multitask and combine two of favorite things: books and knitting. Also, it allows me to take advantage of the audiobook service my library offers. (And as a public service announcement: Please take advantage of your library services. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.)

So right now I’m listening to In Search of Eden by Linda Nichols. So far so good. And I’m making progress on the baby blanket. And for the sake of multitasking, I’ll deal with not holding a paper book.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Life in Stitches: Back in Stiches

I’ve picked up knitting again. Miss Ola, my two best friends’ grandmother, taught me how when I was a child. I remember sitting days in their kitchen, trying to knit and purl and talking to my friends. It was one of those experiences that you have but your young mind can’t comprehend its importance.

As far as I was concerned, Miss Ola was my grandmother. I didn’t get a chance to get close to my grandmothers; one of them died when I was still in my early teens and the other lived several states away. I didn’t realize how precious that grandmother time with Miss Ola was or how much it would mean to me later in life.

Knitting was the first craft I learned. As an adult, my husband taught me how to crochet, which turned out to be very valuable while I was on bed rest with my second son. But I always found myself daydreaming about picking up my knitting skills again, always commenting that knit patterns looked better than crochet.

Finally, about a year and a half ago, I pulled out my knitting needles and started working on a scarf. And I’m glad I did. It’s been very rewarding and I’ve taught my family how to knit. Remember I said I didn’t realize how meaningful my moments with Miss Ola? Well, now I do. She, even though she’s gone to heaven now, is still impacting lives and making my family better. Thanks Miss Ola.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tea & Read: A Tailor-Made Bride

Title: A Tailor-Made Bride
Author: Karen Witemeyer
Rating: Spend The Day Sleepy

When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!

Jericho "J.T." Tucker wants nothing to do with the new dressmaker in Coventry, Texas. He's all too familiar with her kind--shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothes, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.

Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner, while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?

When Hannah decides to help Jericho's sister catch a beau--leading to consequences neither could have foreseen--will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?
I have a soft spot in my heart for novels set in the Old West. Cowboys, marshals and hard working, rugged men appeal to me. I’ve populated a list of my favorite cowboy/US Marshal/Old West books over the years and A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer has rightfully earned its place on that list.

I think the thing that stuck out me the most is the freshness of the storylines. I’ve read a lot of books like this and after a while they’re storylines seem to run together, but not this one. Witemeyer tells a unique tale of a profession not normally highlighted in Old West historical. Most stories tell of heroines trying to secure the right fashions so it was refreshing to read a story from Hannah’s, a seamstress, point of view. Another element that makes this book unique is that in includes an exercise fitness angle, not common to western historicals. It’s another small touch that makes this book stand out from the rest.

Hannah’s occupation isn’t the only thing that makes her interesting. I really enjoyed that fact that Hannah is a tough girl, but not in a “farm girl” kind of way like in other historicals. Hannah has grit, smarts and the drive to run a business. Witemeyer doesn’t just stop with Hannah when creating believable characters. JT, Cordelia, Ezra and Tom are not simply placeholder characters; they add to the tale. I also love the way the relationship between JT and Hannah forms.

If you want to read an Old West historal that different than others you’ve read, this book is for you. I’m looking forward to reading the next book from Witemeyer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tea & Read: So Over My Head

Title: So Over My Head
Author: Jenny B. Jones
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

When the Fritz Family Carnival makes its annual appearance in Truman, Bella's keen reporter instincts tell her the bright lights hide more than they reveal. Her suspicions are confirmed when one of the stars is murdered. Though the police make an immediate arrest, Bella doubts this case is quite that simple.
She needs her crime-solving boyfriend, Luke, more than ever. Problem is, his ex-girlfriend has moved back to town, giving Bella some murderous thoughts of her own. Then again, there's no time for a relationship crisis when Bella's doing her best to derail her father's wedding and stay one step ahead of a killer.

Is God sending her a message in all of this madness? With a murderer on the loose and her boyfriend's ex on the prowl, this undercover clown has never had more to juggle--or more to risk

There is nothing I dislike more than a book series that gets worse with each installment. Like the author ran out of steam after the first book. But that is not the case with the Charmed Life Series by Jenny B. Jones. Each book in the series is better the previous one and the third book of this series, So Over My Head, is a great read.

Jones has a way with character development. I greatly appreciate the way she has metered out Bella’s personality changes over the series of the books. Bella is a very different person than the first book, but her changes are realistic. She changes in the right areas but stays the same in others. Her quirky outlook on her life in Truman and her sense of style are just as strong as they were in the first book. I like the fact that Bella remain the same in the areas that made me fall in love with this book series in the first place.

Trouble finds Bella despite her attempts to avoid it and Jones does a great job of making Bella’s penchant for drama believable. Even some of the stranger personalities, like Ruthie are endearing. Ruthie’s character brings funny and enjoyable new perspective of Bella’s crime fighting exploits. And Cherry, the new addition to the cast, provides a good balance between Bella and Ruthie.

Great pacing is another one of Jones’ accomplishments in this book. The book flowed smoothly from scene to scene, quickly sucking you into the plot. And even though this book is considered YA, the mystery angle is solid. Jones accomplished something that I enjoy when I read a good mystery: she had me guessing about the “whodunit” until the end. And when the protagonist was revealed, it wasn’t a complete shock, but it was a believable surprise. Jones did a great job of hiding the clues in plain sight.

So Over My Head brings to mind the Nancy Drew books I loved in high school, except with a little more spunk and a lot more fashion. And I renew my position that I’ll take Bella Kirkwood over Bella Swann any day.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tea & Read: The Anonyous Bride

Title: The Anonymous Bride
Author: Vickie McDonough
Rating: Two Cups of Tea

Check yourself into the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series by Vickie McDonough, where you’ll meet Luke Davis, marshal of Lookout, Texas, who flippantly tells his cousin he’d get married if the right woman ever came along. When three mail-order brides are delivered to Luke a month later, he’s in an uncomfortable predicament. How will he ever choose his mate? Rachel Hamilton’s long-time love for Luke is reignited with his return to town. So when three mail-order brides appear, she panics. Will she find the courage to tell Luke that she loves him? Or take an anonymous part in the contest for his hand?

This book was extremely cute. I’m a sucker for old West stories (blame my father for making me watch John Wayne movies instead of girly stuff). I’m also a sucker for novels with mail order brides. This book fit both of those loves perfectly.

The story is full of interesting characters. Luke the type a man I would want as the marshal of my town. Rachael and Jack also are well rounded and complicated, moving them beyond the stereotypical standard of women and children in the 1800’s. McDonough gives us an interesting look into the minds of the mail-order brides. Living in a time so far removed, it’s hard for me to fathom marrying someone I’d never met and my only idea of which they were came through letters.

The plot flowed easily and McDonough provides credible historical details. I enjoyed the theme of second chances that McDonough weaves into the novel, each character adjusting to starting over. This is a definitely a good summer read.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Meditations: Rededication

As a former altar worker, I’m normally on high alert when that time of the service comes, even when I’m in my seat. It’s a serious time (not that other times in the service aren’t important) and I am normally praying that God touches someone’s heart.
I’m also searching my own heart to see if the altar call applies to me.

The past two Sundays, the call for rededication has caught my attention, despite the fact that I’ve heard it made hundreds of times. I believe it’s often overlooked. I must admit that sometimes I’ve viewed it as either the Part B of the invitation to salvation or an attempt to get more people to respond to the altar call.

But recently, I actually stopped to think about the purpose of rededication. It’s normally worded like this: “If you have backslidden, come and rededicate your life to the Lord.” And most of us are like, “Nope that doesn’t apply to me.”

But does it?

Rededication is for people who’ve committed some huge sin, right? Or for people who haven’t been to church for a while. We may have been hanging on by the skin of our teeth, committing some of the lesser sins and coming to church every other Sunday, but we’re not so bad that we need to rededicate ourselves. That’s for the real sinners.

Truth is we should probably rededicate ourselves more often than we do. Rededication is a reaffirming of our salvation. When we received salvation, we confessed that Jesus was our Lord and Savior. But when we try and rule our own lives, we move away from Him. We should rededicate each time we "slide back" into our human nature and stop seeing Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

(I want to say a side night about Jesus being our Lord. Many people confess that He’s their Savior because they see Him only as some supernatural Santa to rescue us from our problems and give us stuff. Yes, His saving work in our lives did rescue us from the penalty of sin and death. But we can’t overlook the fact that He needs to be our Lord. Meaning, He rules over us. Once we are saved, we relinquish our right to be in charge of our lives. Jesus is our Lord.)

Am I saying go down to the altar each time the rededication invitation is made? No, you’d drive your pastors crazy. But each time the invitation is being made, search your heart. See if there are any areas that you’ve moved away from God, maybe taken too much responsibility for your life. And right at your seat, pray and rededicate yourself to God.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tea & Read: Blood Ransom

Title: Blood Ransom
Author: Lisa Harris
Rating: Two cups of tea

Natalie Sinclair is working to eradicate the diseases decimating whole villages in the Republic of Dhambizao when she meets Dr. Chad Talcott, a surgeon on sabbatical from a lucrative medical practice now volunteering at a small clinic.

Meanwhile, things are unraveling in Dhambizao. Joseph Komboli returns to his village to discover rebel soldiers abducting his family and friends. Those that were too old or weak to work lay motionless in the African soil. When Chad and Natalie decide to help Joseph expose this modern-day slave trade—and a high-ranking political figure involved in it—disaster nips at their heels.

Where is God in the chaos? Will Chad, Natalie, and Joseph win their race against time?

It’s not everyday that you find a CBA book about such difficult subject. The human slave trade is a real occurrence and so this book gets cool points simply for tackling such a horrific subject. Harris doesn’t give us the sugary, dressed-up version of the slave trade. She makes it realistic and I appreciate that.

The novel introduces us to Chad and Natalie, both doing humanitarian work in Dhambizao. Both struck me as authentic, God-fearing people. I like the way they struggled with their decisions to do humanitarian work, and their feelings of being overwhelmed with the needs they witnessed. But I did have a problem seeing them swept up into such a huge adventure like they had. I had to suspend my disbelief, but once I did, the story swept me away.

Harris does a wonderful job of drawing you into the setting of the story. I felt like I’d been transported to Africa. Harris’ descriptions of the landscape are incredible. She also does a great job of portraying the helplessness and fear of the citizens of Dhambizao. Their plight definitely tugged on my heart strings even though they are not real people.

The reason this book did not receive the top rating is that I lost track of the characters several times. I had a hard time remembering which person did what and often had to go back and reread sections of the book. I’m not sure how Harris could have clarified who did what, but that fact did slow down the reading a bit. Flow is very important to me as a reader, so I have a hard time enjoying novels that cause me to go backwards. But for those who don’t mind that fact, this novel is for you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Meditations: Life is Too Short

Life is too short.

How many times have we heard this saying? Personally, I’ve lost count. And I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve said this to others, often preceded by “let it go....” It is my go-to phrase when someone is obsessing on a petty issue in his or her life.

But did you know the concept of this thought is in the Bible? Psalms 90:12 reads, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” This psalm was written by Moses as prayer. I enjoy reading the prayers of Biblical characters. Those words can give great insight into their state of mind (just as our prayers reveal where our hearts really are. But that’s for another day).

We can sense the gravity of Moses’ words. God’s sense of time, he says, it very different than ours, a thousand years being like one day to him and as brief as a night watch. Moses also compares human life to new grass that grows in the morning but is withered by the evening.

That grass, according to Moses, is exactly how sinful people end up. Under the heat of God’s wrath, they wither. Even more sobering, Moses laments that, if our lives last to seventy years, eighty if we’re strong, most of that time is spent under God’s anger. After all this, Moses asks the Lord to teach us to number our days. In essence, life is too short to spend it under God’s wrath.

I’ve read Psalms 90 before and I can’t say that I fully grasped the truth of verse 12 before now. I never made the connection between wisdom and numbering our days even though it’s there, loud and clear. Most of us would think that considering the brevity of life is depressing, and that it’s not wise to spend our times thinking about it.

But there is wisdom in this practice. If we understand how short life is, then we will wisely decide what to spend our precious few days on. I don’t want to be like Moses, feel like the majority of the days are lived under sorrow because of my sin.

Who wants to spend their entire life withering under God’s wrath? That’s simply not wise. It is wise, however, to consider how our actions effect the few days that we have. Even more wise would be not to waste not one of those days.

Sin is a waste of time. Yes, God can use the sins we’ve repented from and allow us bless others with our testimonies, but who wants to intentionally live life that way? Think about all Moses witnessed. He watched a whole generation over the age of 40 die in the wilderness because of their rebellion and unbelief. What a waste.

It may be tempting to look at the Children of Israel and say, “They committed a big sin but not trusting God and believing the report of the spies. I’m not bad.” But what about unforgiveness? Talk about a colossal waste of time. And pride? Spending day after day thinking you’re better than everyone else, when in truth you’re just as bad, if not worse? Waste. And what about all the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19? Sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, fractions, envy, and drunkenness? Is that the way you want to spend your seventy, maybe eighty, years?

What are you wasting your days on? What sin is eating away minutes from your life clock? Ask the Lord to teach you to number your days so you can learn how to wisely spend your time. Life is too short.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tea & Read: Not a Sparrow Falls

Title: Not a Sparrow Falls
Author: Linda Nichols
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

In this powerful story of redemption and love, a prodigal young woman from the hills of Virginia flees the men who had lured her away from a godly upbringing into a life of desperation. Taking on a new identity, Mary Bridget Washburn escapes to the quaint city of Alexandria, Virginia, where her path crosses that of a widowed minister with three young children and daunting problems of his own. Can Mary Bridget and her tainted past stay hidden long enough for her to bring hope to a family falling apart?

I discovered Linda Nichols a few years ago when I read At the Scent of Water. It was at a time that I was desperately seeking books from Christian authors I’d never read before. The book impressed me, but I hadn’t read anything else by Nichols. But she wasn’t far from my mind because Janice Lowery, First Lady of National Church of God, had discovered Nichols and fell in love with her books, too. Mama Janice and I had a few conversations about At the Scent of Water. I was really excited when she told me she’d let me borrow In Search of Eden. Mama Janice was the first person I thought of when I received my copy of Not a Sparrow Falls.

Now, I must admit, I’m a bit critical about the “Christian” message in books, mainly because it’s often heavy-handed. Most of the “conversions” are contrived and the characters have to twist into some awkward positions in order to see Jesus. In this book, however, the theme of redemption is woven in each scene. Each character discovers God’s redemptive power in their own way. Also, Nichols has a way with finding a scripture and creating a moving story around it. She beautifully illustrates the promise of Matthew 10:29.

The pacing was great, also. I only found myself skimming twice, mainly at the end of chapters because I was eager to know what happened next. Some parts of the plot seemed predictable when I began the book, like Samantha’s life as troubled teen and Jonah’s situation. Nichols, however, takes these time-honored roles and made them interesting enough to keep me turning the pages.

Most of all, I think I enjoyed the book because it touches on the topic of ministerial burn-out. It is something that happens in church often but no one really seems to offer any solutions. The book, even thought it’s a fictional account, shows a pretty realistic picture of how ministers get trapped in doing the Lord’s work but not hearing from Him. I found myself going from rooting for Alistair to turn things around to being angry that he couldn’t see how far he’d gone from what God intending.

More than once while reading this book, I had to force myself to stop reading in go to bed. Only a great book will make me do that. And of course, Mama Janice will be getting this book from me soon.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Meditations: Words for Water

A few Sundays ago, I found myself watching something that I never expected: a news program on Nickleodeon. It was geared towards kids, but the subject matter was quiet moving. The program, hosted by Linda Ellerbee, focused on the clean water crisis in the world. After that program was over, I was very thankful for clean water, which is easy to take for granted. The stories featured there horrified me. Children in India, Ethiopia and Honduras drinking the same water they bathed in.

As I watched the story, the Lord reminded me of something I’d done years ago. I’d vowed to the Lord that once I get a publishing contract, a part of that money would go to providing clean drinking water in a place were there was none. I don’t really have a specific place in mind, but I knew that’s what I want to do.

I did this to give my writing a purpose. I don’t want to just tell meaning stories, but I want to impact the world. That vow can out of a time when I felt challenged by the Lord to live out my faith in a meaningful way. I asked Him what He wanted to do with these words bottled up inside me. And almost immediately, the answer came from an interesting place: a book.

At the time I was reading The Hole in the Gospel by Richard Sterns, the president of World Vision. My heart broke as I read stories of children dying of diseases they would have never caught if they only had clean drinking water. I felt like it wasn’t much, but I could make that vow to God, and continue to let Him direct my words.

That vow has helped me more than I ever imagined. It keeps me focused. When I want to give up, I remember that someone in the world is waiting for my help. Someone in the world will rejoice when they get clean drinking water. And the Nickleodeon program spurred me on a little more. My words for water. That is the purpose for my writing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tea & Read: Never Say Never

Title: Never Say Never

Author: Lisa Wingate
Rating: Two cups of tea

Blurb: Kai Miller floats through life like driftwood tossed by waves. She's never put down roots in any one place--and she doesn't plan to. But when a chaotic hurricane evacuation lands her in Daily, Texas, she begins to think twice about her wayfaring existence. And when she meets hometown-boy Kemp Eldridge, she can almost picture settling down in Daily--until she discovers he may be promised to someone else. Daily has always been a place of refuge for those the winds blows in, but for Kai, it looks like it will be just another place to leave behind. Then again, Daily always has a few surprises in store--especially when Aunt Donetta has cooked up a scheme.

I discovered Lisa Wingate at the library. My local branch often sneaks in Christian authors under the radar. I often have to go to the library with my CBD catalog to find them. Something to Talk About was the first book in the Daily, TX series that I read and immediately fell in love with Wingate’s storytelling style. Never Say Never is more of the same great storytelling and memorable characters.

I loved the way Wingate captured two very different personality types, overprotective grandmother and orphaned drifter, and how beautifully the two types intertwine in this story. I love Kai longing for family and Donetta longing to know the truth about her family. Their longing keeps the story moving. And of course, who could forget the Holy Ghost Church members. It was amazing because they collectively seemed like one person, but the ones Wingate focused on were quite unique and memorable.

Another thing I loved about this story is how real the hurricane felt. I’ve never been caught in a hurricane or tornado, but I can imagine how it would feel. Wingate did a great job of capturing the panic and desperation people escaping the storm. But I must admit, if I’m going ride out a storm, the characters in her book would make some great companions.

The pacing was great and I love Wingate’s feel for Texas slang. Part of my family is from North Carolina, so I know southerners can come up with some odd sayings and this book is full of them. It’s also full of downright laugh out loud moments. If Donetta, Imagene and Lucy had their own TV show, it would be called “Old Ladies Behaving Badly.”

I’ve got one more book to read in this series and I’m looking forward to it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Meditations: Quirky and Thankful

My middle name is Jeanette, but is should be Quirky. I have so many odd traits that I stand out wherever I go. For instance, when I eat cream-filled sandwich cookies, I have to pull them apart and place perfectly divided portions of cream on each of the sides before I eat them. That’s weird. I eat my macaroni and cheese with mustard. Strange. How about the fact that I talk to my Bible? Now if that doesn’t earn me the title of being quirky, I don’t know what will.

Sadly, I talk to my Bible much like talking to myself. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but sometimes, I have a running dialog with whatever I reading. Like, while reading the miracles of Jesus, I may whisper, “That’s amazing.” Or if David’s laments in Psalms 3 touch my heart, I’ll say “Dude, I know exactly how you feel.”

But sometimes, my dialog gets a little on the snarky side. Like, I may yell at Solomon, “Ok, I get it. It’s all vanity! Please don’t say it again.” Paul often incurs my sarcasm because he says things that boggle the mind.

For instance, Paul says in Ephesians 5:20, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” To which I said “You’ve got to be kidding me. Everything? Really, everything?”

How in the world am I supposed to do that? Talk about quirky behavior. Imagine walking around saying, “I’m broke. Thank you, Lord.” Or “I’m going to be evicted next week. Thank you, Lord.” How about “Thank you, God for this pink slip. I appreciate being unemployed.” Now that kind of talk will earn you a psychological evaluation.

As much as I think it would be challenging to live out that commandment, Paul admonishes us to do so loud and clear. But since were talking about being weird, what if we actually tried? Most of us would think being thankful in difficult situations is utterly ridiculous and we don’t even try.

But I think that if we do one thing, which is follow the instructions in the previous scriptures, it may be easier than we think. Ephesians 5:18-19 reads, “Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts;” When we are filled and controlled by the Spirit, we can give thanks in everything.

This passage shows a clear picture of joy. The Holy Spirit fills and controls us, and we go around singing like drunken people. Because being under the control of the Spirit means that bad things aren’t really bad things. If we are controlled by the Spirit, whatever situation we find ourselves in, we are in the will of God. And when you are walking in God’s will, all things work together for the good.

So you can say, “Lord, I thank you that I’m broke because You’re going to supply all my need.” And you can say, “Lord I thank you because I may be evicted from this physical house, but I dwell under Your shadow.” When you’re filled and controlled by the Spirit, you rejoice in trials, celebrate when people persecute and you can give thanks in all things.

Yes, join me on the quirky side. Give thanks in everything. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tea & Read: Beguiled

Title: Beguiled
Author(s): Deeanne Gist, J. Mark Bertrand
Rating: Two cups of tea

Blurb: Rylee Monroe, a dogwalker in Charleston's wealthiest neighborhood, never feared the streets at night. But now a thief is terrorizing the area and worse, someone seems to be targeting her. Reporter Logan Woods is covering the break-ins with the hope of publishing them as a true-crime book. The more he digs, the more he realizes this beguiling dogwalker seems to be at the center of everything. As danger draws ever closer, Logan must choose: Chase the girl, the story, or plunge into the shadows after the villain who threatens everything?

I’ve read several of Deeanne Gist’s books and I must admit I was a little nervous about this one. Each book seemed to slide downward on my enjoyment scale. A Bride Most Begrudging stole my heart, but Courting Trouble made me angry. One thing to Beguiled advantage was that it had a co-author, J. Mark Bertrand. I am glad to report that Beguiled has put Gist back in my good graces again and put Bertrand on my list of writers to watch.

The first thing that hooked me in this book was the characters. In previous books, Gist’s characters were always well rounded, even though their actions seemed a bit inconsistent. Not in this story. Rylee’s girl-next-door wins you over before the end of the first chapter, but she has just enough spunk to make her stand out from other “sweet” characters. Logan is a man’s man, but with a tender side and a very amusing phobia.

Second, Gist and Bertrand manage to create a good solid mystery. Normally, I have a pretty good idea of who the bad guy is by the end. But this time, I must say I was a little surprised when the villain was finally revealed, and not in a bad way. I also loved the villain’s motivation for what he was doing. It was the perfect balance of credibility and wickedness needed for a bad guy.

The only issue I had with the book was the setting, and I admit, I’m being a little nitpicky because I’m a writer. The authors never said where Charleston was (there’s one in West Virginia and South Carolina), although I got the feeling it was in SC. Whether Charleston, SC or not, Gist and Bertrand nailed the feel of old southern money.

Great book. I would be willing to read another book from the Gist/Bertrand team.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Meditations: AM or FM?

My husband told me tonight that I’m tuned to the wrong frequency. A good description for me. You see, I don’t always have an appetite. Some nights I eat dinner solely because I know my husband is going to harass…I mean, gently remind me that I need to eat something. In his family, food was the cure for everything. Not eating is like a cardinal sin. My husband said that maybe my body was sending me the hunger signal but because I was tuned to the wrong frequency, I didn’t hear it.

I laughed, mainly because I think he’s totally wrong about that. But after a moment, I realized his words applied to another area of my life. Sometimes, I don’t pick God’s signals. Now, I know the scripture “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me.” I cling to it as proof that God speaks to me since I’m one of His sheep. But there are times and seasons that I feel like we aren’t on speaking terms.

And of course, I do what all good Christians do: I blame God. I turn my tear-stained face to heaven and cry “Why did you stop speaking to me? Why haven’t you shown me the answer to my problem?” What arrogance. Why is it so easy to believe that God broke His promise and stopped speaking instead of checking my hearing?

In the end, the problem is me. I’ve tuned from His frequency to my own. I want Him to speak on my terms instead of zeroing in on His voice. Almost every time, I was tuned to FM and He’s speaking on AM. I think we all wish God would speak on FM where it’s loud and clear, but He don’t always speak that way. Remember Elisha? God definitely spoke to him on AM, the still small voice. All those loud noises were FM, but Elisha had to tune in to God’s frequency.

And once I realize that I’m the one off frequency, it makes perfect sense that I haven’t heard anything. How did I expect to hear from the great I AM on FM? And as soon as I flip the switch, there He is jabbering away. Then I have to repent for accusing Him of going off the air.

Do you feel like you’ve tuned to the wrong frequency? Turn to I AM. He’s on the air and He’s got something to say.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Meditations: For All Saints

I’ve recently rekindled a rewarding habit I used to have: my prayer journal. It’s a little different than the traditional journals. It’s just a record of what prayers I’ve prayed (when I remember to write them in the book). Some entries are only one line long and some are more than a page long. I also like to record what the impressions I get while I’m praying. I also use it to encourage myself. I read through the prayers that God has answered, particularly helpful when I feel like my prayers are bouncing the ceiling and hitting my head.

As with many things in life, my journal started out of adversity. My husband and I were going through a terrible season of persecution. God used Ephesians 5:18 as a call to action. It reads:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

I committed to pray for this particularly trying situation. Each night, I would get the journal, my Bible and put on my purple socks (to keep my feet warm so I wouldn’t get distracted) and bombard heaven.

I wasn’t shocked at how fast my prayers got answered, but I was surprised. It seemed that God was simply waiting for me to pray so He could go to work. The wonderful response encouraged me to pray for some other situations in my life with the same amount of fervor. Not only did God answer, I rediscovered that I could really take everything that burdened me to Him. All the situations in my life looked better after I’d prayed.

One day, I was sitting reading through some of my pervious entries and something troubling struck me. All the entries were about me or my family. Funny since the scripture God used to motivate me to pick up the journal again included praying for all the saints. I’d been praying but my prayers were a little selfish. With the same fervor that I’d had for praying for my situations, I endeavored to start praying for others.

Shortly after I started, I realized the enormity of this little command from Ephesians. There are millions of believers in the world. How was I even supposed to pray for them all? I’d grown so accustomed to praying very personalized prayers that praying in general for all saints seemed overwhelming.

So I started small. As I prayed for my vindication from the persecution I was suffering, I prayed that God’s justice would reign on the earth. As I petition for guidance about my life, I prayed for the guidance of other believers. As I prayed for my children, I prayed for all Christian children facing the same struggles mine do. It ended up being a lot simpler than I thought. Pray for everyone else as I pray for myself.

No, I don’t know exactly what situations every Christian in the world is facing but God does. And the chances are pretty high that someone else on this big world is experience similar situations as me. It wasn’t hard to look beyond myself and pray for all Christians. Not hard for you either. Try praying for someone other than yourself. In that simple act and it connects you with other Christians all over the world. And get yourself a really big prayer journal.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Medications: Calluses

My daughter is learning to play the guitar. My husband and I bought her one for Christmas and she’s excited about taking more lessons. She even offered to play one of the songs she’s learned in front of a group of people, a grand feat for a nonplussed teenager. I’ve been trying to adjust to the fact that my very girly daughter wants to be a rocker chick, but it’s true.

During the process, I’ve watched her adjust to the realities of learning guitar. She had to trim her nails and learn how to sit properly so the weight of the guitar didn't cause shoulder pain. Her teacher warned her that she will probably develop calluses on the tips of her fingers. As a mother, I had a slight issue with the calluses. Call me sexist and old fashion but I think women should have soft hands. Besides, calluses decrease sensitivity. I don’t think I like that but she accepted callus as a part of the process.

As I fretted about this, the Lord impressed on me that He doesn’t like of my decreased sensitivity and of course He wasn’t talking about my fingers. He was pointing out the condition of my heart. He gently pointed out several areas in my heart that I’d grown callused. And as if to prove that I’d decreased sensitivity, He poked me with His Spirit and His word a couple of times before I really felt what He was saying.

He drove the point home with Ephesians 4:17-19:

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

Now I know the Lord wasn’t saying that I was still living like a heathen, but He used this scripture to beautifully illustrate the effects of a callused heart. Our understanding gets darkened and worse of all, we are separated from God. That’s not a place I wanted to be. I want to be sensitive to His touch.

When I delved a little deeper into this issue, I realized that the callus on my heart happened the same way natural calluses do. Our bodies protect themselves against overuse by building up layers of skin to prevent injury. Callus is a defense mechanism. I’d tried to protect my heart by building up a tough layer. Unfortunately, this tactic had made my heart less sensitive to God’s touch.

I should have committed my heart to God and let Him be my protector. Isn’t it funny that we as God to protect us from physical injury but we won’t commit our hearts to His care? We quote scriptures about God being our shield and our buckler but we constantly try and protect ourselves. Of course, each time we try, we fail miserable and a few more hard crusty layers end up on our hearts.

No matter how tempting it is, we can’t build up calluses to protect ourselves. We have to trust God to protect us. We also have to trust that He has enough power to heal our hearts when pain comes. If you want to play guitar, calluses are a part of the experience. But callus on the heart is not acceptable.