"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

8/31/09

Moving into "Falltime" - an update/progress report

Yeah - I know. Fall doesn't start for a few weeks yet. But the kids are going back to school next week, so in MY book, it's Fall (or will be sooner rather than later!). Tomorrow is actually September 1. So, as I do every month right about now, it's time to look back at my writing goals for August, and set some new ones for September.

I'd have to say that this month has been a good one, and I'm looking forward to having more time to spend on Ailing Body, Nourished Soul once the kids are back in school (theoretically, anyway. We'll be putting our house on the market in VERY short order, so that could take up some time I'd normally devote to my book).

Anyhow, straight from my last update, here were my goals for August:
During the month of August, I plan to:

1. Work almost (see #2) every day (at least ten minutes) on showing/beefing up my book manuscript up, beginning from where I've left off and continuing until the end (planning to finish this edit this month!).
2. Concentrate on learning all I can from the Faithwriters' Conference on August 7 and 8, with a focus on what I need to make this book a success (these are the days I'm NOT working on my book manuscript this month).
3. Assuming I finish this showing/beefing edit before August is over, begin a read-through for repetition/flow and other such things.
So, how did I do?? Well, I DID finish the showing/beefing up "edit" of my manuscript as of August 9. I increased my word count to 54,208! And I DID work on my book every day I planned to, with one exception (but that's okay :D).

As far as the conference, I DEFINITELY learned several things I'll be able to apply to my book. Some, in fact, I already have applied. The conference is going to help me IMMENSELY with this book I'm working on.

The second read-through is going VERY well. I'm looking for repetition and flow, as well as making a list of people mentioned in the book (so I can change names and/or get permission) and highlighting possible "problem sections" (a la It's A Risky Business from the conference). I'm on chapter 15 out of 33, and it seems to be going quite well. Most days, I've worked 15 minutes minimum on it.

And so, for my September goals, I'm kicking it up a notch.
During the month of September, I'm planning to:
  1. Work every day on my flow/repetition/names read-through of Ailing Body, Nourished Soul - at least 20 minutes each day.
Yup. That's it - but it's a big one for me! I still have at least a couple more read-throughs after this one before I send it off for its professional edit, and I've set myself a deadline of November 30 to get it to Deb Porter's Finesse Writing & Editing Services so she can do her "magic" on it. Gotta keep plugging away!

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Thanks for your support and prayers. I truly appreciate it.

8/29/09

"Ailing Body, Nourished Soul:" What is it?


Yes - that is my question. And you are probably thinking "Why is she asking ME? I'm not the author. How am I supposed to know?"

Well - I'm asking anyway.

I'm getting closer and closer to being ready to send this thing out to be seen by people who can make a difference in what happens to it, and I don't know what my "genre" is. I'm guessing that would be a good thing to know, yes??

I'd like to be sure I can RESEARCH that genre, to see what my competition is. I'd like to READ in it, to be able to intelligently share how I'm filling a niche that hasn't been touched before (if, in fact, I am). I'm also guessing knowing my genre would be EVER SO helpful in determining which publishers/agents/whatever I should query, and which would be a waste of time.

I was thinking lately that maybe it's a memoir, but I'm having my doubts. All I know FOR SURE is that it is non-fiction, and it has an inspirational kinda feel - but I don't think that's specific enough.

So - this is where YOU can help me! I am going to post a synopsis I wrote a year ago when I entered my first chapter in the Faithwriters' Page Turner contest (I came in second!). It's less than 500 words - so not a huge reading undertaking. If you have even the SLIGHTEST inclination, I would so appreciate your thoughts on what my "genre" is. (Yeah - it's bugging me!)

Thanks a ton, folks!

Synopsis:
Ailing Body, Nourished Soul
By Joanne Sher

To some, it looked like a desperate, hopeless situation. Joanne Sher, five months pregnant with her second child, learned that her husband Marc, the family’s sole wage earner, had a brain tumor. Her nearest relatives were a five-hour plane ride away; his, 100 miles by car.

Yet, God was there. He prepared the Shers for the difficulties they would face. He worked out the details beforehand to provide everything they needed to get through. He protected them from countless “could-have-beens” that might have made the experience too much to bear.

Anonymous gifts. Supportive friends. Knowledgeable relatives. God used circumstances and people in their lives to sustain the Shers, give them hope, and make them more like Him. And, in turn, they have been able to encourage others by living out their story in faith. Through Marc’s ailing body, the Lord miraculously nourished (and continues to nourish) their souls, and the souls of those who know them.

The pages of this book are full of God’s hand in the Shers’ lives. Money miraculously appeared in their hands when it was needed most. Countless meals were provided and offers of rides to doctor’s appointments made. The miracle of medicine helped control symptoms. Even Marc’s preparation for a possible career change that began almost a year before any symptoms occurred was clearly God’s way of readying them for the struggles that lay ahead.

Yet, this book is not just about what God did for the Shers. It is, in essence, about what He can and will do for His people every moment of every day. Each chapter of Ailing Body, Nourished Soul includes thought-provoking and relevant questions that challenge readers to examine themselves and see how God has worked similarly in their own lives or the lives of those close to them. Relevant prayers follow each challenge, which encourage the reader to look to, and speak with, the Creator about the message of the chapter.

Now, five years after learning about Marc’s tumor, the Shers continue to adjust to the changes these health issues have brought to them. Marc’s limited eyesight, regular doctor visits, a plethora of medications with their ever-changing side effects, and many other facts of life have become, for them, the “new normal.” It may not be the life they would have chosen, but through their experience, and the lessons God taught them, they are filled with hope, peace, and blessing in their circumstances.

It is Joanne’s prayer that by sharing her family’s journey, readers will discover that, no matter how much the body is ailing, or what trials life may bring, their souls will find the nourishment that can only come from God.

So - what do you think? Thanks a ton :)

8/28/09

Friday Fiction: "Strategy"


Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted by Julie Arduini at The Surrendered Scribe. Make sure that you head over to her blog and link up with your own fiction. Or, if you just want to read some great fiction (ALWAYS great in my opinion!), head over to Julie's blog and check out the links there.
This week I'm sharing another Biblical fiction piece from the FaithWriters' writing challenge. This particular Old Testament character is the only one I've written more than one challenge entry about. I have a fascination with this woman, and plan to write a novel about her (probably my next WIP when I finish what I'm working on now).

Hope you enjoy it!

STRATEGY

She sat, back to the wall and knees bent in front of her, her eyes closed. Her long skirt draped over her legs as she held them close to her chest.

She could have listened to that music--to that musician--forever. She loved the sound of the harp, and he played it beautifully. No wonder it calmed her father. She only wished she could watch as well as listen.

She could barely hear through the doorway to her right, but getting any closer was risky. Females were forbidden in the king's chamber unless summoned, no matter their relation to the monarch himself.

She sighed as she thought of the harpist's broad shoulders, boyish good looks, and that smile that practically made her swoon. But right now, she couldn't even look at him, much less speak to him. "Maybe some day," she mumbled.

"Some day what, little sister?" The deep voice of her eldest brother startled her and turned her cheeks bright red.

She opened her eyes and rolled them at Jonathan. "Nothing that concerns you."

He winked. "Sure. So, what's going on in there?"

Michal rose and spoke in hushed tones. "Dad had another one of his fits, so..."

"He called in David." Jonathan interrupted, smirking. "No wonder he wasn't there for our strategy session."

He peeked around the corner. "How long has he been in there?"

"A while. He's probably almost done." Michal's eyes glowed. "You do strategy sessions with David? I thought he was just a musician."

Jonathan shook his head. "Oh, no. I haven't known him long, but he's clearly a warrior at heart and in deed. He's definitely going to make something of himself some day."

"Oh." Michal smiled and her eyes glazed over.

"David." Jonathan's voice brought her out of her fantasies once again. She refocused, to see David, harp in hand, standing beside her brother.

"Sorry about that, sir, but you know where my primary responsibilities lie."

Jonathan patted the young man on the shoulder. "Of course I do. Not a problem. The king comes first. Are you ready now?"

"Yes sir." David smiled.

Michal, standing off to the side, watched from the corner of her eye. She cleared her throat.

"Oh. David," Jonathan said, a touch of merriment in his voice, "have you met my youngest sister, Princess Michal?"

David cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. "I've seen her around the palace, but I don't think we have been introduced." He knelt before Michal sheepishly. "It is my honor."

Michal forced the cheshire grin from her face in an attempt to look refined. "Thank you, David. The honor is mine."

"We need to get to planning." Jonathan tapped his foot. "How about the courtyard?"

David rose, smiled at Michal, and followed after Jonathan.

Finding her former spot on the floor, Michal watched the two as they walked away. Once they left, she leaned against the wall, a grin frozen to her face and her stare passing through everything before her.

She was still there an hour later when Jonathan returned. Her eyes widened as she rubbed her hands together and rose to her feet again.

"What did he say?"

Jonathan raised his eyebrows. "Since when are you interested in war strategy?"

She socked her brother on the shoulder. "No, silly, about me. Did he ask about me?"

"Men don't chat about things like that, Michal." Jonathan chuckled. "If you want my opinion, though, I think he'd make a good match. He's certainly a fine young man. I have a feeling David will do much for Israel, and that he and I will become good friends."

"So, talk to Dad about him for me." Her eyes were pleading.

"Michal, you know Merab must be married off first."

Michal sighed. "I hate being the youngest. I have to wait for everything."

Jonathan shook his head. "The Lord will provide in His time, Michal."

Michal sighed and nodded.

"Still, he does seem to be an upstanding fellow, and I do have my father's ear." He smiled at Michal. "Perhaps I will talk to Father about David for you; when the time is right, of course."

"Oh thank you, Jonathan, thank you!" She hugged her brother and danced down the palace corridor. She entered her own chamber and plopped on her bed.

Some day, when the time comes.

**

Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by The Surrendered Scribe for more great fiction.

8/27/09

With Every Step

Sometimes it's easy (relatively, anyway) to follow God's leading at the start. But as you get further into your struggle, going your own way gets more and more tempting. But it's never the right idea.

Stop by Exemplify today, if you would. I've got a post over there from my Ponderings on the Pentateuch series on the importance of following God during every step of your journey with Him. Learn what the life of Esau has to teach us about Seeking Him Every Step. And while you're over there, check out some of the other posts. The writers over there are absolutely top-rate.

8/26/09

Blessed are... (WFW)

Welcome to my contribution to Word-Filled Wednesday, hosted this week by Susan at Forever His. Be sure to stop by her blog for more visual inspiration from scripture.

Yesterday, my church family, my community, and my country buried a hero. If you want to read more about it, check out my blog from Sunday. I barely (if at all) knew this man, but I know his parents, and his church family. This WFW is a gift to them, and to you.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:3-5 NIV

Thanks for reading. Be sure to stop by Susan's blog for more

8/23/09

A hero because...

Over the past week or so, a single thought has occupied a portion of my mind - sometime a back corner, and sometimes the very front. And I couldn't let it go by without blogging about it.

Those of you who also know me through Facebook and Twitter have heard, at least a few times, about Army Corporal Nick Roush, who was killed on Sunday, August 16 in Afghanistan when an IED exploded. He was a "local kid." He and his family have attended my church, First Baptist Church of Middleville, since he was a boy.

On Friday, the body of this 22-year-old man arrived back in West Michigan and was driven in a (very impressive) motorcade from the local airport to our church, a good 12 miles away. (Click here for an article from the local paper about it.) Hundreds, if not thousands, of local folks lined the streets to show their support and to welcome this soldier home. My daughter and I were among them.


One word that has been said quite a bit over the past week --by friends, family, strangers, the media--in reference to Nick was "hero." Signs up and down the route his body traveled used this word. It was on people's lips, in their Facebook posts, and in their emails.

It is certainly a much-deserved word for this young man. Yet, I don't think it really hit me what exactly it meant--and what the implications were--until I read a posting by another 22-year-old man, also from our church (and in the National Guard), about Nick's heroism. It truly and literally brought me to my knees.
Nick wasn't magically made a hero in death. He became a hero among heroes as soon as he decided to follow God's path for his life. And because of it, he has touched and inspired many people. So many people do things for personal glory, but he didn't do that. His only desire was to follow God, and if God called him to die, so be it. He truly lived the words, "Here am I; send me." His death didn't make him a hero...His life made him a hero. Christian Patterson
His death didn't make him a hero. His life made him a hero. Nicky lived for Christ, and believed that it was God's will that he be a soldier. According to letters home our pastor shared during this morning's church service, he was a bold witness of his Savior throughout his time in the military. And, he willingly put himself in harm's way for our freedom.

I don't have to die to be a hero. We have a multitude of heroes who, in Chris' words, "decided to follow God's path" for their lives--no matter the risk, and no matter the cost.

So, I honor Nicky Roush, as well as thousands of other believers who are doing exactly what God has willed them to do, for their Savior, no matter the cost.

Thank you.

Please keep Nick's parents, Bob and Donna, as well as his brothers, Bobby and Kyle, in your prayers - and the entire congregation of First Baptist Church of Middleville. We are rejoicing to know where Nicky is right now, but we are still aching. And if you are interested and local, visitation is at First Baptist Middleville today, Sunday, from 5 to 8pm and Monday from 12 to 2 and 5 to 8pm. The funeral, also at First Baptist, will be Tuesday, August 25 at 11am. His burial will follow, at Mt. Hope Cemetary in Middleville, with full military honors.

8/21/09

Friday Fiction: "Glad She's Crazy"


Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted by Lynn Squire at Faith, Fiction, Fun and Fanciful. Make sure that you head over to her blog and link up with your own fiction. Or, if you just want to read some great fiction (ALWAYS great in my opinion!), head over to Lynn's blog and check out the links there.

As usual, This piece was originally for the FaithWriters' writing challenge. I wrote it almost two years ago, and the topic was "Gifts(of the spirit or service)." The MC in this piece still fascinates me, and I'd like to think I would do the same thing she did. But I really don't know. (hope I've got you intrigued!)

GLAD SHE'S CRAZY

Yelena grabbed the hem of her ankle-length skirt at the seam and tore up about six inches. She then ripped horizontally around its bottom until she had a workable rag - and a calf-length skirt.

She turned toward her patient Samuel, who had already lost consciousness. She tore the rag in two, using one piece to wrap his bleeding arm. His knife wound was deep, and he had already lost quite a bit of blood. She continued to put pressure on the wound. After a minute or two, the blood flow slowed dramatically.

She wiped the sweat from her face and looked out into the distance. Other than the small oasis a few hundred yards east, all she could see was sand. There wasn't a soul in sight, and she had no way to communicate with anyone.

The heat was almost unbearable. The shortening of her skirt was a welcome relief to her legs. She grabbed the skirt's new bottom and tucked it into her clothing's waistband.

Samuel needed medical attention; of that she was sure. He also needed water. His breathing had steadied, but he was perspiring heavily.

Lord, I need to go to that oasis, but I don't know if I should leave Samuel, even for a few minutes. Guide me, Lord. Give me the wisdom to know what to do, for I certainly don't have it on my own. In Your Son's precious and holy Name I pray.

She opened her eyes and looked at Samuel. The corners of his mouth were turned up slightly, as if trying to grin.

Yelena closed her eyes and sighed deeply. "I guess that means you'll be okay for a bit."

Yelena picked up the other portion of her torn dress, put Samuel's empty canteen over her shoulder, and trod toward the oasis. Every several steps, she glanced back at Samuel. Her gait quickened the closer she got to the haven, until she practically ran into the water.

She stopped when she was ankle-deep in the cool pool, kneeling down and splashing water on her legs, arms, and upper torso. She smiled for the first time since she had arrived in this desolate place.

Removing the canteen from her shoulder, she filled it with the pool's water. She drank the canteen dry, refilled it, and closed the cap. Next, she held the rag in the water, allowing it to saturate with fluid. Without wringing it out, she exited the water and looked back out into the desert.

She could see them from her vantage point. Her smile immediately disappeared. Lord, help me keep my focus where it should be: where You want it to be. Breathing deeply, she walked back, her eyes fixed on Samuel as she approached.

Arriving at his side, Yelena knelt beside Samuel and rubbed the wet rag on his forehead, along his cheeks, and under his neck. She unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt and placed the cool cloth there as well.

The canteen, hanging from her shoulder, swung as she worked, coming within inches of striking Samuel's temple. Noticing this, she took it off and placed it next to him. At that moment, he opened his mouth a bit. Yelena opened the canteen and put a few drops of water into his mouth.

Samuel's uninjured arm shifted slightly, and his head moved toward Yelena. She backed away somewhat as his eyes cracked open.

"You!" Samuel was clearly trying to yell, but his voice barely reached a whisper.

"Don't exert yourself, Samuel." She looked down at him somberly. "You must conserve your strength."

His eyes ablaze, Samuel attempted to lift his arm, groaning as pain shot through his body.

"Joseph?"

Yelena pursed her lips and glanced off to their right, where a lifeless body lay in a pool of blood. "Dead by your hand."

"And you did this?" Samuel glared at his knifed arm, and then at Yelena.

"I bandaged and tended to your injury, yes. The wound, however, was inflicted by Joseph, in self defense."

Samuel's look changed to confusion. "I killed your husband, yet you cared for my wounds?"

Yelena nodded. "You are his brother."

"His brother who wanted him dead for being an infidel to Allah. I don't understand."

"It is what Christ would have me do. My gift to you."

"A gift for your enemy? This Christ is an odd man, yet you follow Him. Are you crazy, woman?"

"Perhaps. But today you are glad I am crazy, are you not?"

**

Thanks for reading. Be sure to stop by Lynn's blog for more great fiction.

8/19/09

Word-Filled Wednesday: Trust and Acknowledge

I've got a guest post over at the INCREDIBLE blog Adding Zest to your Nest today. Check out my fictional piece Rise and Shine. It might just give you some food for thought on confidence in your marriage.

Welcome to my contribution to Word-Filled Wednesday, hosted this week by the lovely Christy at Critty Joy. Be sure to stop by her blog for more visual inspiration from Scripture.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Often when I'm following my own understanding, all I can see ahead of me is a huge drop into the unknown. So, I want to turn back and try another way, thinking that maybe I missed a turn, or I was following the wrong voice. My lack of trust in the Lord makes me doubt the path He has put me on. It's easier logically to trust my eyes and my own thought processes. But that's not what God asks us to do.

Don't trust your eyes - trust ME. Don't acknowledge your fears and doubts: acknowledge ME. Don't walk on paths of your own making: stay on MY path.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to stop by for more .

8/17/09

It's All Him: Monday Manna

Welcome to Monday Manna. The purpose of this meme is to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word. On the first and third Monday of each month, anyone who wishes can post their thoughts on a verse I introduced at my blog the Thursday before. It doesn't have to be a long post -- just a few thoughts, a picture you feel helps express it, a poem, a short story, a devotional.

Anyone is welcome to participate. Just put a link to your Monday Manna blog entry in the MckLinky gadget below, and check out others' thoughts.

This Monday's verses are very familiar ones to many of us, with, I think, lots of "anecdote potential."
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,a]"> neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NIV
Looking forward to reading your thoughts on these verses. Mine are below.

**

Sometimes, I can be incredibly arrogant. I look at this unsaved world (especially my Jewish friends and family) and wonder how they could possibly miss His message. They must be so dumb to look at these same passages of Scripture I read daily and not see Christ throughout the Old Testament. If only they were intelligent, like me!

And then I realize that I'm the stupid one.
Because my salvation has absolutely, positively nothing to do with how smart I am, anything I have done, or even how much I do for Him.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
It is one of the most basic and fundamental beliefs that I hold. I did absolutely, positively nothing to earn God's favor, love, and protection. It's all Him. Any other thoughts on this are simply arrogance.

And this weekend, as I was pondering how to approach the verses I'd picked for Monday Manna, I realized that disbelief of Paul's thoughts here is also boasting.
For if we can do nothing to earn God's love, why should we believe we can do anything to lose it?
If we believe we can turn God's affection from us, we must believe we earned it in the first place. And that is the ultimate in arrogance.

That I, a "pot," can bring glory to the Potter without His help. That I can BE anything besides a useless lump without Him.

So, I can look at these verses in Romans with new eyes. Not only are these things unable to separate me from His love, but they can't earn it for me either.
  • death
  • life
  • angels
  • demons
  • the present
  • the future
  • any powers
  • depth
  • height
  • or anything else in creation
Only the Lord Himself can grant me His incredible, eternal love, and nothing can separate me from it. I can't lose it any more than I can earn it. What an incredible gift.

**
Thanks for reading! Looking forward to reading your thoughts as well. Just link up below, and read your friends' thoughts as well. Blessings!



8/15/09

A Risky Business: Lessons from FW Conference 2009

As soon as I saw the workshop description months ago, I knew I had to sign up for it.

You see, I'm an optimist. Some may say annoyingly so. I'm also an open book (no - the name of my blog is NOT a coincidence). And, I almost always assume the best.

Of course, these are good thing. Yet, even I know they can be dangerous. I've been taken advantage of before. I've lost because I've assumed the best and got the worst. So I knew I needed to be knowledgeable.
So, it was a no-brainer when I signed myself up for "It’s a Risky Business – Or How Not to End Up in a Thai Jail," presented by the amazing and EXTREMELY knowledgeable Deb Porter.

Here's the workshop description.
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but as with any weapon, it needs to be handled with care. In this session, Deb Porter will not only look at the responsibilities of the writer in this modern world of instant communication, but also highlight some of the risks and pitfalls writers may face if they let enthusiasm and passion run rampant over caution and wisdom.
This one had my name on it - and it lived up to its title and description. It ended up being the most important, eye-opening, usable, needed session I attended during the two-day FaithWriters conference. It has already caused me to see my WIP with new eyes, and to consider every incident I describe in it in a different way.

I, like many, had assumed that if I just change folks' names, I can write just about anything I want. And who would go after little old me anyway? But it really isn't true. If someone can recognize themselves in your book, and you say something that is offensive, etc. about them, there can be legal consequences.

OH - and don't assume that just because something has been out there forever, and/or that everyone and their dog can recite it from memory, that you can put it in your book.

Deb summed up her session with two mantras:
If in doubt, leave it out.
If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.
She reminded us that once a book is out there, it's out there forever. There is NO statute of limitations on what you say and/or write. So be very careful about what you discuss, whether it be about your family (if, of course, you want to be welcomed at family reunions), or, in my case, doctors or other professionals. You may think they'll never read it, never recognize themselves, or never try to sue, but don't count on it. Either get their permission, or cut it out.

And it's not just others' legal rights. As Christians, we also need to take their moral rights into account. We certainly do not need our character questioned, or to tarnish Christ's name through what we write.

As I read through my work in progress this time, I am looking for statements that could be taken the wrong way--and for anything that might make me an unwelcome guest at family reunions. I may not leave them all out - but I'll definitely be weighing my willingness to "do the time" as I contemplate whether to "do the crime."
I'll be back with more thoughts and recaps on the conference later. Praying this post was a benefit and blessing to you as well!

8/14/09

Friday Fiction: "Just The Other Day"


Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted by Rick "Hoomi" Higginson at Pod Tales and Ponderings. Make sure that you head over to his blog and link up with your own fiction. Or, if you just want to read some great fiction (ALWAYS great in my opinion!), head over to Rick's blog and check out the links there.
Confession: I really DO know the difference between a fiction piece and poetry. But, I'm posting this anyway. I very rarely write poetry (only when the Lord is dragging me by my toes out of my comfort zone and when NOTHING else comes to mind), but it generally seems to be very well-received when I do. I like this one - it's actually one of my very early Faithwriters' Challenge entries (it's from nearly three years ago!). And it's NOT long. (oh - and it is NOT a true story - so I guess it's still fiction. Right??)

JUST THE OTHER DAY

Just the other day
I saw innocence speed by
in 3T overalls
a bright yellow shirt
Bob the Builder tennis shoes
and a fireman's helmet.

His blue and white tricycle
(with superhero trading cards
stuck in the spokes)
raced down the block,
bicycle bell ringing,
to come to the rescue
of cats stuck in trees
(do firemen still do that?)
and damsels in distress.

His fire hose twig
and boymade sound effects
triumphed over the flames
in grandiose fashion.

He was the hero
to his little sister
his stuffed dalmatian
and his imaginary friend Bud.

He was my hero too
for his reckless abandon
for his innocence
for his love of a pursuit
that had robbed him of a father.

As he napped on my chest
two years ago
(seems like yesterday)
his dada entered the flames
and entered heaven.

He wants to be like
the daddy he doesn't remember
to save the damsel in distress
to protect the world from the flames.

My little firefighter
showed me how to love
how to embrace a memory
how to honor a legacy
just the other day.

**

Thanks for reading. Be sure to stop by Pod Tales and Ponderings for more great fiction (and probably not MUCH poetry - but no promises!)

8/13/09

Convinced - Monday Manna for August 17

Be sure to stop by Exemplify today. I'm posting over there in my Ponderings on the Pentateuch series, giving you a bit of a different perspective on a VERY well-known tale from Genesis. Don't miss Halfway to Heaven.


Monday Manna

The purpose of Monday Manna is to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word.

On the first and third Mondays of each month, anyone who wants to participate can post their thoughts on a specific verse--posted here at my blog on the Thursday before, to allow you to chew on it over the weekend. It doesn't have to be long -- just a few thoughts, a picture you feel helps express it, a poem, a short story, a devotional. Just post it on your blog on Mondayish (early OR late is fine, by the way!), then come back here and link up in the MckLinky gadget that will be at the bottom of MY post at o'dark thirty that morning.

This coming Monday's verse is a powerful one, from the incredible book of Romans.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NIV
My pastor was teaching from this verse last week Wednesday, and I realized how very deep and "anecdote-friendly" it was. I'm sure EVERYONE has some sort of story to share related to this passage. Hoping you will write yours up and share it with us on Monday.

Hope to see you then!

8/12/09

Word-Filled Wednesday: White

Welcome to my contribution to Word-Filled Wednesday, hosted this week by Lori at All You Have To Give. Be sure to check out her blog, and the links below it, for more visual inspiration from Scripture.

We all need this cleansing, don't we? Praying the picture - and verse - are a blessing to you.

Photobucket


Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7 NIV


Thanks for checking out my post! Don't forget to stop by Photobucket for more .

8/11/09

So, how was it, you ask? :D

If you read my blog with ANY regularity, you know that I spent this past weekend at the FaithWriters' Writing Conference in Livonia, Michigan. After all, I only did eight posts about it over the past two months.

There really is TONS to cover. The sessions were INCREDIBLE. The fellowship was amazing. The time was way, WAY too short. I was absolutely blessed beyond belief.

I'm thinking this is going to have to be another series. If I wrote everything I want to share in this post, it would be way too long. So, today I'll start with pictures and my thoughts on them. I'll get into the incredibly valuable information I received from the fabulous presenters in my next post on this topic, and I'm sure several other thoughts.

There are TONS of pictures of this particular weekend, thanks to some very prolific photographers on Facebook. Of course, most of my favorites are pictures that OTHERS took. Regardless, here is a link to all the pictures that I took myself (you should not need to be a facebook member to see these!): http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=112493&id=722127135&l=eefd298480

And, of course, a few other fun ones from other friends' pix (as well as a couple from my own) are below.
Left to right: Scott Lindsay (Mr. Faithwriters himself--the man behind the curtain!), Josh Janoski, Leah Orcutt, Shari Armstrong, Amy Wiley, me, and Noel (CAN'T remember his last name - but he came all the way from AUSTRALIA!)
We played a LOT of fun games on both Friday and Saturday nights. What a WONDERFUL way to get to know folks better. In this picture, Leah and I tied for first in bananagrams (SUCH a fun game!).

Left to right, Scott Lindsay, me, Deborah Porter.
Okay - this IS my blog, right? I'm allowed to toot my own horn here a bit, correct? The ONLY thing that made me nervous about going to this conference was that I would have to stand in front of the whole crowd and receive my plaque for being the runner up in the Faithwriters/ Finesse Editing Services Page Turner Contest from 2008. I am SO glad they didn't make me give a speech! I was truly shaking the whole time. Such an inspiration for me to keep up my momentum on my book!

Left to right: Yvonne "Vonnie" Blake, Sara "Sawa" Harricharan (whose last name I STILL can't remember how to pronounce!)
It is absolutely amazing to touch the people you have only spoken to virtually. Needless to say, hugs were incredibly prevalent throughout the weekend. And every one of them was precious to me. I could probably share dozens and dozens of pictures of people hugging, but this one is meant to represent them all. Just look at the joy on their faces! (and I like the one of me and Sawa better, but I figure you're tired of looking at pictures that have ME in them!)

Back row - left to right: Sunny Loomis, Patty "Peejiepoopers" Wysong, Yvonne "Vonnie" Blake, Dee Yoder, Laury "Hally" Hubrich, Beth "Beffy" LaBuff. Front: Sara "Sawa" Harricharan, me (aka Jo, JoMama, JJ)
I don't know quite what to say about this picture. These seven ladies (plus our one missing soul, dear LauraLee "LaLee" Shaw) are my heart and soul. These are my incredible jewely sisters, most of which I had NEVER spoken to, much less touched or spent skin time with before Friday. Being in the same room with them was absolutely, positively the absolute BEST. I didn't think it was possible, but I love each of them even MORE now than I did before.

Well, I think I'll leave it at that for this post. I promise to be back (within a week!) with more stuff.

8/7/09

Friday Fiction: You Can Count On It


Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted by Stina at Scroll Bag. Make sure that you head over to her blog and link up with your own fiction. Or, if you just want to read some great fiction (ALWAYS great in my opinion!), head over to Christina's blog and check out the links there.
This is one of those rare stories that I actually DID NOT write for the Faithwriters' Writing Challenge. I actually wrote it for possible publication (which didn't happen). I think it's been a couple years, and I still like it.

As you read this, I'm either getting ready to go to, or at the Faithwriters' Conference in Livonia. Watch for a post some time soon (probably Saturday!) with at MINIMUM pictures of the fun. SOOO excited!

Anyhow, without further ado...


You Can Count On It

"What do you think, Steve? Can you do it?"

Steve's smile was big and wide. "Absolutely, Max. Don't give it another thought."

Patting the taller man on the shoulder, Steve walked toward the door. "See you tomorrow, Max. Nine o'clock, right?"

Max nodded. "See ya - and thanks again."

Steve gave Max the "okay" sign and strode out of the office building.

Max glanced at his watch, then shuffled back to his cubicle. He had one more project to finish up and he'd be out the door too. Nancy needed it on her desk by 9am Monday morning, so he had to finish it before he left.

No way I'll make it in early Monday - not with the big move over the weekend.

His cubicle was soon filled with the sounds of rustling papers and the tapping of fingers on the computer keyboard. After about 10 minutes, Max looked up and sighed.

"Where are the O'Malley stats?"

Scanning his email inbox, he found a note from Tim Lenson with the subject line "re: O'Malley statistics." Opening it, Max sighed once again.

Max - will have the figures to you in an hour tops. Tim

The email had been sent two days earlier.

Grabbing his phone off the hook and putting it to his ear, he dialed Tim's extension, only to be transferred immediately to voicemail.

"You have reached Tim Lenson. I am out of the office from Friday, March 17 through Wednesday, March 22. I will return all calls when I return on the 23rd. If this is an emergency, press star one to reach the receptionist."

Max slammed the phone back into the cradle and tried to catch his breath. He closed his eyes for about two minutes, until his fists had unclenched, his face's red tint had dimmed and his breathing had slowed.

Guess I'll have to do as much as I can with what I have. Do I ever hate this!

Finishing up what he could, he sent Nancy the report, attaching a note about the missing info.

Not much else I can do. That's what I get for counting on people.

**

Max sat in his kitchenette, surrounded by packed boxes, tapping his fingers rhythmically on the table. Looking up at a circular spot on the wall where his clock used to hang, he snickered, then glanced at his watch.

Forty-five minutes. Sheesh - I can't even count on the pizza delivery guy to get me my food in thirty minutes or less.

Just as he picked up his cell phone to call the pizza place, the doorbell rang. He headed for the door, to find a pimple-faced teenaged boy with a white box in his hand.

"Fifteen bucks."

"Hope you're not expecting a tip."

**

The sounds of Justin Timberlake suddenly burst from Max's clock radio, waking him from a sound sleep. Groggily looking at the clock, he slowly lumbered out of bed, unplugged the clock and put it in an open box on his bedroom floor.

Steve should be here in half an hour; theoretically, anyway.

Dressing, he mentally planned out his day, both with and without Steve. It would definitely take him longer without him, but he figured he could get it done if he had to. He'd probably have to skip work Monday, but he had to move, and there was really no one else he could ask for help.

Grabbing a protein bar from atop the kitchen counter, he opened every cabinet and drawer, double checking that he hadn't left anything behind. As he packed up a couple of lids and cups, the doorbell rang. He looked through the peephole and saw Steve. Opening the door, Max smiled for the first time since the previous afternoon.

"Hey there. You made it."

Steve chuckled. "Sure did. You seem genuinely surprised I showed up. Did you think I was gonna flake on you?"

"With the couple days I've had, I wondered. Can't count on anyone these days, it seems."

"You can count on me, man - always. When I say I'll do something, I'll do it."

"It's sad, Steve, but that's pretty refreshing. You're a rarity these days, and I really appreciate it."

"No problem. God wants me to be faithful, so I am. Easy as that."

Max chuckled. "Maybe more folks need to listen to God - including me. So, you ready to get started?"

**
Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by Scroll Bag for more great fiction.

8/5/09

Word-Filled Wednesday: Pant

Welcome to Word-Filled Wednesday, hosted this week by Penny at Pennyraine. Be sure to stop by her blog for more visual inspiration from scripture.

I love this psalm, the song that's inspired by it, AND the image. We sometimes get deer at the pond in our back yard (this is NOT a picture of one of them, by the way). Glad we can help quench that thirst--but only the Lord can quench ours.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. Psalm 42:1 NIV

Be sure to stop by Pennyraine for more .

8/4/09

The Queen Mother Goes Grocery Shopping

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Romans 1:16
Yesterday was a fun, silly day. But in all the fun, I got terribly convicted about a huge issue in my life.

You see, it was my birthday yesterday. And when it's your birthday, and you have two elementary-aged children, celebrating is less about you and more about them. I'm not one to want to pass up my birthday (or even "pick an age and stick with it"), but even if I were, it just wouldn't work. They KNOW it's your birthday, and those cute children are going to make a big deal about it no matter what. SO, you might as well go along with it.

My lovely 5 1/2-year-old daughter, Annika, with no guidance, made me a birthday crown out of some of my old scraps of scrapbooking paper. She worked hard on it - even used scalloped scissors on one edge to make it look more "crowny." She was very proud of her creation, and I was thrilled to wear it.
I was the birthday queen.
Only one issue. Monday is the day we go grocery shopping. And when I say "we," I mean all of us. For a minute, I debated what to do with my birthday crown. I could easily just place it on the kitchen counter and put it on when we return. She hasn't even asked me if I'm going to wear it to shopping.

But then I realize that I would rather make my daughter beam and be a bit embarrassed then make her sad and save face. So the crown stays right on my head. And she is so proud.

So, here we all are at Meijer, me with an obviously blue circle of paper on my dark brown hair. It was interesting how people reacted to me. Most, to be honest, either were purposely ignoring me or just didn't see me. I got a couple "this woman should be in the looney bin" looks, too. Several (most who had children with them) smiled or laughed when they saw me. And a few actually asked about it.

The "askers" were, by far, my AND Annika's favorites. Cuz, of course, when they asked, she got to tell them it was my birthday--and I got to share that my beautiful daughter had made the crown for me. And did she EVER glow. It made the embarrasment MORE than worth it.

And that's how it should be in our Christian walk. When we follow Christ's commands, we might look odd to others. And sometimes, we'll try to "tone it down" so we don't get too embarassed of standing out in the crowd. And I hate to admit it, but I do this way too often.

But it's amazing what simply being willing to live for Him, and risk the embarrassment of being different, can do for His Kingdom.

Sure, some may completely ignore you. Others may even give you a hard time. And some will look at you and smile, knowing exactly why you're acting the way you are.

But the best ones are the ones who stop you and ask why you are the way you are. And then, you can tell them why you're a bit different from the others, and Who you are serving. And just maybe, you can make your Savior beam--and maybe even gain Him another follower.

And that is nothing to be embarrassed about. Even if you are a Queen Mother (for a day).

8/3/09

Monday Manna - Imitate...Me?

Welcome to Monday Manna. The purpose of this meme is to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word. On the first and third Monday of each month, anyone who wishes can post their thoughts on a verse I introduced at my blog the Thursday before. It doesn't have to be a long post -- just a few thoughts, a picture you feel helps express it, a poem, a short story, a devotional.

Anyone is welcome to participate. Just put a link to your Monday Manna blog entry in the MckLinky gadget below, and check out others' thoughts.

The verses this week (you can comment on one, some, OR all) are below - and some of my very favorites.
(4)Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (5)Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (6)Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (7)And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8)Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (9)Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)
My thoughts are below. Looking forward to reading yours!

**
I have been on this earth for 42 years (today, actually). For ten and a half of those years, I have been a Christian. And I can say with confidence that I am more like Christ today than I was ten years ago. And I am more mature than I was 42 years ago (at least I hope so!). Every moment of my life, from the day I was born until today, was orchestrated and/or allowed by God to make me into the person I am today--a person who is growing more and more into Christ's image through His power.

Yet, I'm definitely not there yet. And sometimes I wonder how close I'll get before God takes me home. I look at people like Paul, and pray that at SOME point before I enter glory, I'll be able to have the confidence and peace to say what he said in the ninth verse of the fourth chapter of Philippians.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9
Could any of you imagine saying these words to your friends? your spouse? your children? Are you so in the center of God's perfect will for you, so in tune to and attentive to His guidance that all people can see is Christ in you? Do you think that you are a "powerful sermon?" When people imitate you, would they be imitating Jesus Himself? Do others receive the God of peace when they put your words and actions into practice?
It is with regret that I would have to say "no."
Don't get me wrong. I have my moments. There definitely ARE times when, overrun by His Spirit, I am an excellent witness for my Savior. Sometimes, all people can see is Christ. But much of the time (perhaps "most" is a more appropriate word), my selfish, flawed, sin-laden self pushes to the forefront, and I am anything but a proper reflection of the God who saved me: who is living within me.

No, I'm not to the level of holiness that Paul was when he wrote this letter. But I'm closer than I was yesterday. That's what progressive sanctification is about. As I read and study His Word, communicate with and listen to Him in prayer, and stay open to correction from Him and His people, God empowers me to leave me behind and take up Him. And every time I rejoice in Him (verse 4), show my gentleness to the world(verse 5), give prayer and thanksgiving instead of worrying (verses 6-7), and keep my mind focused on the right things (verse 8), I am in fact making my reflection of Him more and more clear. And as I do, as Paul reminds us, the God of peace will be with me.

Heavenly Father, on this day, when I am so tempted to celebrate me, help me to focus instead on Christ in me. Help me, Lord, to plan my 42nd year entirely in Your will, and to follow your guidance in each area of my life. Help me, Lord, to show You more clearly to everyone I meet. And allow me (for without Your guidance it is impossible) to grow in Your grace to the point where I can be a true living example of You in every area of my life. Let me be like Paul, Lord--but even more, make me into the image of Your Son. In Jesus' precious name I pray. Amen.

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to link up in the gadget here - and check out the posts of others who are playing along!



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