April 30, 2012

Creative Spark

I've been having creative sparks ignite periodically these past few weeks. It's an itch that needs scratching. It's a whisper that I find hard to ignore. And Pinterest is fueling my creative juices.

I've been wanting to craft things and give them as gifts.

I've been wanting to decorate my whole house.

Can you tell I love color? I love bold coloring, especially in the midst of neutral. Lately I've really been drawn to the bohemian look like so...

 Though I will probably never decorate my house in the boho look, it does appeal to my "wild side".

I think creative people must have some sore of a wild side...freedom and abandon that allow for imagination to grow big and express itself in various forms. Whether writing, crafting, or decorating the house, that wild side must be allowed room to breathe.

So how wild is your wild side? Do you find yourself wanting to stuff that side into the closet? Or do you make it come out to play on a daily basis? 

April 29, 2012

Winner of The Messenger

The winner of The Messenger by Siri Mitchell is...


Congratulations! I will contact you via email to get your snail mail address. Enjoy!

April 27, 2012

Your Words: In Life, In Writing

During our family devotional last night, we continued our reading of Proverbs. Here's the verse that hit me...Proverbs 3:19,20...By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. This is talking about the creation of the world.

In John 1:1, creation began with the Word (logos). This Word is so interesting in that  it means: collecting or collection both of things in the mind, and of words by which they are expressed. (http://www.bible-researcher.com/logos.html

The Word is more than the the words expressed to create life. It is the essence of who God is. It is His thoughts, His wisdom, His understanding, His knowledge that set creation in motion. It is the inner God expressed in outer words that made the heavens and the earth.

This truth has meaning for us in: 

Life: You are what you think. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34) The words we speak tell others who we are. It is what is deep within our heart, what we let our minds dwell on, that comes out in the words we say. If we are full of bitterness and negativity, then the words we speak will most likely be negative and caustic.

The words you speak are a witness to who you are and whose you are. The words you speak are a witness to the light or darkness inside you. As Christ followers, our words should express our freedom in Him. They should be full of joy and light and healing, so that others may hear and hunger after what is deep within us...Christ.

Writing: When we write our stories, we are not just spinning tales of entertainment. These stories come from deep insides us...from our wisdom, from our understanding, from our knowledge. Our stories come from who we are...our beliefs, our experiences, our successes, and our failures. All these things weave together to form our very essence, and from them come the stories we write. True, our stories may entertain, but they will carry truths that come from who we are...our very essence expressed in words.

What are the words that you are speaking? What truths are you sharing with the world, either through the words you speak or your writing?

April 25, 2012

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell - Review & Giveaway

My Thoughts:

Set during America's Revolutionary War, The Messenger by Siri Mitchell tells the story of Hannah Sunderland, a young Quaker woman who struggles between duty toward her parents and religion, and her desire to help her  brother imprisoned as a war soldier. She becomes embroiled in a spy mission with Jeremiah Jones, a wounded soldier and now Colonial spy.

Siri Mitchell tells this story in first person, which is not my favorite, but the way she switched the point of view between Hannah and Jeremiah at every chapter break made it easy to get deep into their character. I thought it a brilliant way to see inside their struggles, hopes, desires, and fears.

I particularly loved the spiritual journey of both Hannah and Jeremiah. Through her brother's imprisonment, she has to confront her religion's strictures and measure them against what Jesus taught. Jeremiah has his own journey of healing that he must walk and it was beautiful to follow his path and see the healing that Hannah brings him.

So far this is my favorite book of Siri's and I'm sure any reader of historical fiction will absolutely love it too!

Back Cover Copy:

Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith...until her twin brother joined the Colonial cause and ended up in jail. She longs to bring some measure of comfort to him in the squalid prison, but her faith forbids it. The Friends believe that they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. She is not allowed to visit him, even if she were able to secure a pass.

Jeremiah Jones, a Colonial spy, needs access to the jail to help rescue men important to the cause. Upon meeting Hannah, a plan begins to develop. Who would suspect a pious Quaker visiting a loved one?

But Jeremiah is unprepared for Hannah, for her determination to do right, to not lie. How can one be a spy and not lie? Hannah, in turn, is surprised by Jeremiah...for the way he forces her to confront her own beliefs, for the sensitivity and concern that he shows her despite the wounds he still carries.

I'm giving away a copy of The Messenger by Siri Mitchell, so if you would like to be considered for the random drawing, please leave your email address in the comment section. If you do not leave an email address, you will not be eligible. Drawing will be held Sunday, April 29. I'm sorry, but only US citizens are eligible. 

This book was provided by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

April 23, 2012

My Story Theme Confirmed

God confirmed my story's theme while I sat in church yesterday. I've been working through My Book Buddy (a My Book Therapy product by Susan May Warren) and was able to make some great progress in my plot and my characterization.

One of the things I nailed down was the theme of my story. It is the truth that it is God who defines us, not what others think about us or say about us.

At church yesterday, we had a cross made of different colored scrolls. The congregation was asked to come forward and pick a scroll from the cross. Each scroll held one of four verses from the Bible. As I went forward to the cross, my eyes latched on a scroll and it was the one I took.

This is what it said:

1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.   1 John 3:1-3

God has called us children of God! That is what we are! Not what others say we are. Not what others think we are. We are children of God. His creation. He has made us who we are, and he takes great delight in us. The way He has created us brings Him pleasure and glory. And best of all, He loves us as we are...lavishly.

Don't you love God's confirmations? How has God confirmed something in your life? In your writing?

April 20, 2012

To Plot or Not to Plot

I've been working on plotting a new story and my heroine and hero and not speaking to me. I can't seem to get in their heads and figure them out, and I really can't figure out why. Why don't I have a passion for these two imaginary people? I have a great story idea, but these two are not cooperating in the least.

This story I've been thinking about is one of a series that I want to write. The series is about three sisters, one book for each sister. Maybe I am starting with the wrong sister? I don't know, but I need to do something about it. Maybe I should start plotting a different sister's story and see what happens. Or maybe if I plot them all simultaneously I would get a better feel for the story world as a whole. I don't know.

Has anyone ever experienced weirdness like this? Has anyone ever plotted several books at once? Or is it just me and my weirdness?

I'm hoping to spend some good quality time with My Book Buddy (an awesome MyBookTherapy product!) this weekend and see if I can come up with some stuff to work with. Wish me luck!

p.s. I lost .8 pounds at my Weight Watchers weigh in last night. Sigh...after being hungry A LOT this past week, I just knew I had lost more. Grrrr.....I may have to break down and exercise too.

April 18, 2012

Review: In Too Deep by Mary Connealy

In Too Deep by Mary Connealy is another winner. The second in her Kincaid Bride Series, In Too Deep follows the story of the second brother, Ethan Kincaid. He ends up marrying Audra Gilliland out of convenience and doesn't really know what he's got himself into. Both Ethan and Audra hold some deep seated hurts and fears that cause them to shy away from letting anyone breach the walls they've shored up.

Mary does a great job of throwing the two into various situations that force them to begin to trust and open up to the other. (Mary is awesome at getting her characters to face death every so often!) Their emotional journey was beautiful and tangible in a way that sucked me in.

Of course, the secondary characters in the book made for a well rounded story, and I cannot wait for book three - the one about the third brother, Seth. Now that will be an unusual story, I'm sure!

I love Mary Connealy's books. There is something about her writing that makes me smile. The snappy dialogue, the slap-happy humor, and the sweet love story that she weaves together makes for awesome books.

Back Cover Copy:

In 1866 Colorado, Ethan Kincaid agrees to a marriage of convenience with the same casual disregard he gives every decision. Audra Gilliland, young mother of two, accepts his proposal because she wants to stop being a burden to her newly married stepdaughter.

And suddenly both of them are in far deeper than they'd planned.

Ethan doesn't expect Audra to affect him so profoundly, and when she begins to, he's terrified of the pain he's felt before when someone he loved was seriously injured on his watch. He's determined that his new wife will do as he says so he can keep her safe from the dangers that lurk on their ranch.

Audra has been cared for all her life by one man or another--and they've done a poor job of it. Now she's planning to stand up for herself. And her new husband had better agree or get out of her way! 

What will it take to transform two wayward hearts fearful of getting in too deep into two trusting hearts ready to risk falling deeply in love?

You can purchase In Too Deep HERE.

* I was given a copy of this from the publisher for my honest review.

April 16, 2012

A Writer's Prayer Life

I was going to talk about my foray into plotting this past weekend, but it sounded boring even to me. So I began reading blogs in my Google Reader this morning, procrastinating like a good Queen of Procrastination does, and I read a post by Paula Boire at the MBT Ponderer's blog.

Paula Boire talked about faith and the writing life, but it wasn't the faith part that struck me. It was when she talked about her prayer life. She spoke about praying over her writing life. She mentioned specific verses she prayed over her writing, bathing the gift that God had given her with His words of promise, peace, and strength.

I was convicted.

Big time.

I think because I've questioned whether God has called me to write, I feel guilty praying over it. I kinda feel like I'm saying "Lord, this is what I want to do, now please bless it." instead of "Lord, you have called me to write for Your glory, what is it you want me to write?" That is a simplistic way of looking at it, but I wonder if that is what I'm doing.

This morning I've come to the conclusion that whether I've been called to write or just want to use some of the creative gifts He has given me, I should bathe my writing journey in prayer. Not just a "bless me, Lord" prayer, but specific prayer, using scripture to direct my prayers.

How has God convicted you lately?

p.s. Here is a prayer for writers I found by Mary DeMuth. May it bless you like it did me. A Prayer For Writers.

April 13, 2012

Listening Close

When I have decisions to make and choices to decide between, I tend to listen with my heart attuned to God more. I seek His direction and try to pay attention to what He is saying.

Do you ever have decisions you have to make and you don't know which way to go? Either way you go would most likely be good, but you must weigh different aspects of the decision to find the best way.

I've been praying about something and I've been listening.

And God gave me a word.

In my devotion book today, this was the first line I read (written as if God were speaking) ...

"When I give you no special guidance, stay where you are."...Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. 

Don't you love it when God speaks and you know without a doubt it was Him?

Is it hard for you to be patient and listen for answers to your questions? When was the last time you heard from God in a direct way?

p.s.  My Weight Watchers weigh in last night was a dismal failure. I gained 2.2 pounds over the last two weeks. I knew I was off track, but it is still frustrating to see those numbers on the scale move in the wrong direction. Here's to a new week of downward spiraling numbers on the scale!

April 09, 2012

The Bloom of the Cross

Yesterday was a beautiful reminder God's love. As Christians, Easter is THE day. It's the celebration of life - true life in Jesus.

It's the day we are reminded that Jesus has taken our crosses...our burdens, our failures, our sin...and nailed them to the cross. It's the day we are reminded that because of Jesus' resurrection, we have new life, a beautiful life.

Jesus has taken the ugly cross of our sin and failure and replaced it with beauty and life. Real life. Joyful life. Life with meaning and purpose.

Yesterday our church came to the front of the sanctuary and placed carnations upon the cross of failure that we created last week. What was once a cross of thorns and ugliness became a cross of velvet beauty.

That's what Christ does for each and every one who believes in Him. He takes our failure and sin and turns it into success and beauty. He transforms us, loving us into becoming a person for His glory. A person of beauty. A person of joy. A person who oozes God's love.

What has the bloom of the cross done for you? Are you experiencing His transforming power or are you struggling under the weight of the thorny cross?

April 06, 2012

My First Maundy Thursday

Our church, Plymouth Park Church of Christ, joined with the Presbyterian church down the street for a Maundy Thursday service last night. Maundy Thursday, otherwise known as Holy Thursday, is a day to remember the Last Supper that Jesus spent with his disciples. It is a time to reflect on the holiness of Jesus and his directives to us.

The message last night was a simple one. The events of the Last Supper were beautiful symbols of God's greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

When Jesus broke the bread and passed the cup during this supper, he was giving us a ritual to remember him and his holiness. We are to remember his sacrifice, his love, his holiness. We are to love Him and the One who sent Him.

When Jesus took off his outer garments, wrapped a towel around his waist, and began to wash his disciples feet, he was giving us an example to follow in expressing our love for others...the second greatest commandment.

When Jesus is Lord, he is not just the "boss" of our lives. He is Lord because he is our Savior. He didn't just tell us how to live - he showed us how we should live.

The One who is above all became the servant of all! When we fully understand this and take it to heart, His words, His "rules", His directives become joy to us. They become living water to our thirsty souls and bread to our hungry hearts.

At the end of the message last night, the church was asked to stand and make their way to the front of the sanctuary. When we got to the front, the pastor pour water over our hands, reminding us of Jesus's example to serve. We then were given the sacraments of communion, reminding us of God's love for us and His desire for us to love Him.

Have you experienced a Maundy Thursday service? How has God spoken his love over you lately? 

April 03, 2012

Review: The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck

The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck by  Kathleen Y'Barbo was a sweet Christian romance that really hooked me from the first. Charlotte Beck is an independent woman with a stubborn streak who wants more than anything to go to school. Alex Hambly is a British astronomer whose family is in need of money or face financial ruin. Thrown together, these two are like oil and water, but when Charlotte's father throws out an offer neither of them can refuse, they get married. Sparks fly between the two as Charlotte's free spirit clashes with Alex's proper upbringing. While they struggle to get along, each learns to value the other and end up finding themselves drawn to the other.

I enjoyed this book and it's sweet plot and romance. I enjoyed both the hero and heroine and their journey of discovering love with one another. There was a turn toward the end that surprised me. For me, it slowed down the story a bit, but it ended well and I came to the end satisfied with a happy ending. Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good, sweet and sassy romance.

Back Cover Copy:

Unlikely romance is sometimes just an inconvenient marriage away…
Charlotte Beck may be entering adulthood, but she can’t seem to keep to her stubborn, independent spirit from bucking social protocol. Fed up with her behavior, Charlotte’s father Daniel pressures her to settle into a nice marriage despite knowing she is set on going to college.
Then Daniel sees Charlotte with the handsome but annoying English astronomer Alex Hambly, and everything changes.
Though Alex and Charlotte can barely stand one another, Daniel offers them a deal they can’t refuse: if they agree to marry, he will save Alex’s family from financial ruin and grant Charlotte the freedom to go to college. Reluctantly the couple agrees, but in private they plot to annul the marriage as soon as possible.
But when Alex’s feelings change and he refuses to dissolve their contract, will Charlotte find a way out of her vows? Or will she discover that maybe this marriage isn’t so inconvenient after all?
You can purchase The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck HERE.

* I was given a free ebook for my honest review of this book. 

April 02, 2012

My Cross of Failure

We had such a a beautiful worship gathering for Palm Sunday yesterday. Of course we had palm branches to wave as we sang, but what was really poignant was what we did after the sermon. We were given bamboo crosses, about a foot long. They were tied together with twine, crude and yet lovely in its simplicity. At the front of a church was a wooden cross, covered in chicken wire. The whole church was asked to stand and then make their way to the front of the church, where they stuck their cross into the chicken wire covering the big cross.

What was a simple cross wrapped in chicken wire became a cross of thorns. The small cross in our hands was a symbol of our failed attempt at life. We never measure up. We miss the mark continually.

But the good news is we can take our cross to Jesus. Because He died for our sins, he took all our failures, all our mistakes, all our crosses, on the cross with him. They were nailed on the cross with Him. They are gone, now and forever.

My cross held countless failures. Whether is was failure as a wife or a mother, or failure to do the good I knew to do, I placed those failures on that crude cross in my hands. Those failures were taken to the cross of Jesus, and placed  upon it. They are gone. Now and forever.

What do you need to place on the cross of Christ?

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