"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

7/30/12

To Quiet and Back Again

 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31


Coconut's in the foreground. Other one's Scooter.
As I compose this post on a Saturday afternoon, my son is sitting beside me, playing on my Kindle Fire, making most every squealing noise known to man. He just naturally makes sound effects when he plays games. Don't think he could stop if he wanted to.

Earlier today, he and his little sister were arguing. You know, as brothers and sisters do. It was not a quiet argument. It was, I might say, sibling rivalry at its grumpiest and whiniest.

And Coconut, my daughter's guinea pig, is chewing on the bars of her cage. Why? Not a clue. Just something she likes to do. And it's noisy.

Oh - and my email just pinged.
Good thing I don't need silence to get a blog post written. 
The older I get, the more I like quiet. And, it seems, the less I get of it.

 I used to always have/want the TV on in the background. I used to do my homework with the stereo on full blast (or as full blast as my parents would allow!). I NEVER drove in the car without tunes playing. Awkward silences were...well...awkward.

But now? If I'm alone in the car, the radio is off. Almost guaranteed. If I can find a place without noise, that's where I'll be. And awkward silences? No such thing.

This coming week just might be one when I have more opportunities than usual for quiet. You see, both my kids are heading to overnight camp. We're taking them up this morning, and will be getting them again on Saturday.

No squealing. No kid arguments. No backtalk. Just me, my wonderful hubby, and the pets.

This is the second year we've had a week like this over the summer. And if last year was any indication, it will be wonderful, but we won't be too many days into it before we start missing the kids. Missing their smiles. Their hugs. And even (gasp!) the noise.

Because, as much as I enjoy being alone with my thoughts (and my Lord), I was made for community. For connection. For fellowship. We all were. And those kids, no matter how much, or often, they drive me crazy, are God's gifts to me. 

And while I know I'll appreciate the quieter time, life (my life, anyway) isn't meant to be lived that way 24/7. How can we grow closer to one another in silence? Isn't laughter a fabulous way to connect? How can we share our dreams, our desires, our prayers with one another if we must keep our mouths shut?
And how will we ever function in this world, full of distractions and clamor, if we don't learn to work through the noise?
When He lived among us, Jesus left the masses to pray more than once (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, 22:41). He knew the value of time alone with the Lord, without distractions. But He always came back. For that is why He was sent (Luke 4:43) - not just to pray, but to be with people; to share the Good News; to act.

So, go ahead. Recharge your battery. Seek out the quiet. Avoid distractions. But don't forget to come back to the real world and share, interact, and act. That's what we're recharging for - more specifically, what God put us here for. (Ephesians 2:10)

**


How much quiet are you getting this summer? Do you find yourself craving that time alone, or do you find it uncomfortable? Do you sometimes avoid doing things for God because you haven't had that "alone time" you crave? Do you agree that we are made for community? Do you put feet to your prayers?





Comment below, and/or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!





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Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/27/12

Finds for Fridays: July 27

Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and I at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

Five Tips to Make Your Synopsis Stronger by Casey Herringshaw at The Writers Alley (about improving that dreaded synopsis - no matter its length!)

The Wounds of a Friend by Kristi Huseby at Broken and Redeemed (about the pain of betrayal and the hope of the Lord)

When the Going Gets Tough by Pepper Basham at The Writers Alley (about encouragement, and why we write)

How Does Your Publisher Make Money by Rachelle Gardner at her blog (about one difference between traditional and vanity publishing that I never thought of)

Hope these posts bless you!
 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/25/12

He Is There - Guest Laura Lee Groves - God Is So Good



Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b

I've been following Laura's blog for a while now. She often blesses me with her Friday's Fave Five, and other posts. She's definitely a "bloggy friend." So when life threw her a curveball (I know - cliche), I paid attention, and prayed. And when she offered to share God's workings in it, I absolutely agreed. I pray her testimony blesses you.
He is there; He is good

The jangling of the phone cut across everything that morning, neatly drawing a line between “before the accident” and “after.” It was the phone call no mother wants to receive; as a friend reminded me, “There is one worse.”

 My third son, Andrew, had just completed his first semester of teaching high school math and was loving it. He was traveling to his job that morning, and his car was hit head-on by a much larger vehicle. The phone call informed us that Andrew had been cut from his car and airlifted to a trauma hospital. Since Andrew lives in the middle of the country, far from our sunny Florida, my husband and I ran to the airport.

How can you say “God is good” on such a day? I can say with all confidence that His grace shone through the hardest of situations—and that was just the beginning. We frantically approached the ticket counter with the reservations we had just printed, only to be told these tickets were booked for the wrong day and today’s flight was full. I crumbled. “I don’t know what happened. My husband just booked them. Are you sure? Our son was in a serious car accident and we’re trying to get there…” The agent clicked a few more times and printed the strangest-looking boarding passes I’ve ever seen. She reeled off some special instructions and sent us on our way. Each attendant that eyeballed those passes just gave us a cursory look and rushed us on.

As we traveled, our oldest son reached Andrew’s side and was able to speak with doctors and nurses and give us a firsthand report. Soon Andrew’s principal and superintendant showed up at the hospital, staying all day with our oldest son as he waited, picking us up at the airport, and even loaning us a car.

 From offers of housing to a home-cooked meal served in the hospital room, we were surrounded by love. God’s people came out of the woodwork and quickly became His hands and feet.

We stayed through two surgeries, a hospital stay, and a rehab center stint, sometimes switching off so the other could go back to Florida to juggle jobs. And back in Florida, an army of servants was gearing up to provide meals, build wheelchair ramps, and scout out wheelchair transportation for us.

Since Andrew was single and wheelchair-bound, he chose to come to Florida for his rehab. The house was readied, meals were cooked, and the transition to a doctor here was seamless as a Christian doctor stepped forward to take on his care. Since then, God has placed Christian physical therapists in Andrew’s path, too—what a blessing.

Life has been a bit hard since January, full of ups and downs. But God has been there always, in the midst of it all. Andrew’s hard work has paid off, and he has progressed from wheelchair to walker to cane and brace.

I have felt God’s presence from the first moment forward, and I have wondered more than once how one faces such a thing without Him. I’ve learned so much, and my challenge now is to live in the light of those lessons, taking them back with me into the days that are tinged by ordinary. It became clear to me very early on that when the clutter of life is pushed away—all that we deem so important—He shines even more brightly. He is good. Yes, we live in a fallen world full of broken people; that’s why we need Him and His goodness!

In the midst of our need, He is there. He was there in the emergency room physician who stopped and helped at the accident scene. He was in the loving hearts and hands that cooked and built and in the ears that listened. He was in prayers from one coast to the other, from people I don’t even know, and He was in the scripture texts sent daily from my sweet daughter-in-law. He was in those who covered our jobs for us and helped ease us back into them once we returned. His love flows from the hearts of those who continue to pray for us and our son, even though months have passed. And in the dark of the night in a hospital room, He was there, holding this mom’s heart.

Laura Lee Groves survived the raising of four redheaded sons, and all those years of mothering convinced her that boy moms need some help and encouragement. She bundled all that into I’m Outnumbered! One Mom’s Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys, published by Kregel.  

A high school English teacher, Laura has written for Focus on the Family’s Focus on Your Child, Book Lover’s Devotional (Barbour, 2011), Always There (Revell, 2012) the Mother of Boys Society at www.themobsociety.com and My Teacher’s Lounge at www.the-teachers-lounge.com/blog/. Laura loves to inspire readers with her blog, www.OutnumberedMom.com, and through her monthly newsletter. 

**
It is in these difficulties that we truly see - and experience - His blessings. He is SO good.
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!  
 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/23/12

Believing Is Seeing

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even 
though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are
 filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. 1 Peter 1:8 NIV 

It was a surprising sermon title. Turned a "famous phrase" on its head. But I probably shouldn't have been shocked. After all, it is Jesus who says the last shall be first and the first, last.

Still, this was one I'd never heard of. And the more I thought about it, the more I wondered how it could be true.
How could BELIEVING be SEEING, instead of the other way around?
And then I listened to Pastor Pike a week ago yesterday, and I thought about my own experience. And I got it.

Before I was saved, the gospel was foolishness to me. Everything that happened was, in my mind, either my own doing, the action of someone else, or coincidence.

I wasn't a sinner - because to me, there was no such thing as sin. Sure - there were things that were bad. Morally wrong even. But God's standards were not mine, and I saw no need to make them so.

If someone could prove to me God's existence - let me see Him with my own eyes, perhaps - maybe then I could believe in Him and the standard He had for me and mankind. Then, seeing would be believing.
But that's not how it happened.
On that day in February thirteen years ago, I BELIEVED that I was a sinner. That Christ died for me. That He rose again and was preparing a place for me in heaven. That I could have eternal life if I trusted His work on the cross to be payment for all the sins I had committed and had yet to commit.

And it was then, and only then, that I could SEE my sin. SEE God's hand in my every circumstance. SEE God's love in those who love Him.  SEE how lost I once was. SEE the spiritual battles that were around me - in fact, right in front of me - since the beginning of time. SEE the truth in God's Word. SEE His orchestration of events.

And now that I can see, He fills me with an inexpressible and glorious joy that I would never have without Him.
So, I guess believing is seeing after all.
**


How often do you need to see something to believe it? How has your faith in Christ given you eyes to see Him? Is seeing believing, or the other way around?



Comment below, and/or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!




Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/20/12

Finds for Fridays: July 20

  Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and I at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

Four Basic Steps for Research by Michelle Ule at Books and Such (about research methods for all that stand the test of time)

How To Identify E-Reader Addiction by Jeannie Campbell at The Character Therapist ( I may be in denial. Are you?? hehe - TOO funny!)

Ten Tips for Better Characterization by Maureen Lang at the ACFW Blog (about just what it says)

An Open Letter to the Buried by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today (about what God's doing through us when we're overwhelmed)

A Writing Lesson From the Movies by Terry Burns at From the Heart (about putting on the "director's hat")

Hope these posts bless you. I know they did  me! Thanks for stopping by.
 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/19/12

Where You Can Find Me Today

First hint - it's not here. Second hint - it's more than one place ;) Yup - I'm actually posting in TWO different places today, and neither of them is here (though, of course, this IS a post - but you know what I mean)



I'm sure most folks who know me even a little know I'm an optimist. I see the bright side of just about every issue. And there's a verse in the Bible I used to think supported my position. Until I looked at it a little closer. Stop by JoE to see why this verse in Philippians is Not Just Optimism.




And when you're done up there, stop by the Cafe, where I've got a post/devotional that may sound like a doctor's visit, but is so much more important than that - it's a check of your consecration. Come learn a bit about my recent Ear, Nose, and Toe Check - and find out if you need one too.

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/18/12

The Fight - God Is So Good



Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
Sometimes I think that this piece, that I wrote (totally inspired, by the way) a bit less than three years ago, shares the key  to making it through difficulties. Cuz we want to do what we can to make things easier. We want to do our part. To DO what we can. But it's not what we're called to do. It is He who overcame the world. Not us.

The Fight

My shoulders are sagging, my arms aching, my knees buckling. So very, very tired.
Photo credit

The task before me is enormous. The result is far from sure. I have made but scant progress. The weight of this battle is heavy on my back; heavy on my mind; heavy on my heart.

But I must plod forward. It is the work I must do.

I lift my arm. It falls back to my side. I place my foot out. It falls to the ground once again. I crumble to the floor and weep.

I can't do it, Lord.

I know.


I wrinkle my brow. You KNOW, Father?

Yes, My child. I know you can't do it.

I lift my eyes and arm to the heavens. Then why have You put me in the middle of it?

Because, My child, while you cannot do it, I can. When you work on your own power, you work against me. You must stop striving and let Me do the work. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Tears well in my eyes. Yes, Lord. You do it. I will be still. I will rest in You and allow Your power to accomplish what I cannot.

Good, My child. For that is the only way you will win this fight.

Yes, Lord. How I wish I had known this sooner.

So do I, My child. So do I.

**

He IS there for us. And he does NOT want us to do it. God will. He is sooo good!
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!  

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/16/12

Leading with Praise

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord,for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 2 Chronicles 20:21-22 NIV

The enemy was formidable. An army composed of the men of three of Judah's greatest foes were closing in. Judah's army was puny in comparison. They didn't have a chance.

Photo credit
At least, you might say, they had an army. No matter how outnumbered they might be, there was still a chance. Right? So,the army strategist plans, you put your best fighters in front with the hopes of scaring off the other army - doing enough damage that they leave. A long shot, but it's something to try.

Or maybe you run. Surrender. Give up.  Hopefully they'll be nice - let you off with your lives. Better than losing everyone. Slavery is better than death, right?

But that's not what Judah, under the direction of their king Jehoshaphat, does. After seeking the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:1-13), he gets his army together and puts the most powerful folks in front. 

No - not the mighty warriors or the brilliant military strategists. He sends the praise band to lead them.
 Did you catch that? Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army. So they met the vast army with praise in the front.

So counterintuitive, don't you think? But it worked - because nothing is stronger than the Lord. And how often do we forget that?

We give it our all, but we still fail, because we put OUR strength ahead of His. We take the lead, when it is the Lord who should be in front. We try to be the copilot, but God doesn't just want to help. He wants to do it all for us.

He used singing to defeat the Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites. He used 300 men with trumpets, torches, and jars to destroy the Midianites. And of course, marching and shouting took down the walls of Jericho.

Logically, none of these examples make sense. And that's the point. If they were logical, why would we give God the credit?

We didn't do it. He did. That's what happens when we lead with praise to Him.

**

How hard is it for you to let God take the lead - to not depend on your own skills, talents, and/or power? How well do you do with praising Him in the midst of struggle? Turning to Him, and letting Him do it (whatever "it" might be), is the wise decision.


Comment below, and/or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!




 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/13/12

Finds for Fridays - July 13

  Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and I at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

 Sense Is Worth More Than You Think by Michelle Griep at WordServe Water Cooler (about incorporating the five senses into your writing)

Defining The Target Audience for Your Novel by Randy Ingermanson at Advanced Fiction Writing Blog (about just what it says)

The Waiting and The Moment by Ashley Clark at The Writers Alley (about pressing on)

Praying that each of these posts blesses you. Thanks for stopping by!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/11/12

Proof My Husband Has A Brain - God Is So Good

I'm over at the Barn Door today, talking about a very fun, "hometown" thing my family did a couple days ago. Why don't you stop by and find out exactly what It's A Beautiful Day For?
 

Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
I know some of you have read this before. It was on my blog about four years ago, and it's one of my most popular/most read FaithWriters Writing Challenge articles. It's also appeared, in various forms, in several other places. This is the first thing I ever wrote about my husband's health issues. And every once in a while, I need to read it again. This, I think, is one of those days. Praying it blesses you.

Proof My Husband Has a Brain

"There’s a mass on his brain that shouldn’t be there."

Those words echoed in my mind. How could they not? I’d heard them last Friday, and here it was, the following Monday morning, and we knew little more.

Next time, could someone remind my husband not to develop a serious illness on a Friday afternoon?

The ordeal had started less than a week earlier, with a migraine. Marc stayed home from work Tuesday, hoping to sleep it off. He felt better in the morning and tried going in, but the pain came back with a vengeance.

He came back home and went to the doctor, who gave him a shot. It helped, but not for long. The migraine returned - this time with vision issues. We went back to the doctor Friday, and were sent to the ER for a CAT scan.

That’s where we first heard that haunting proclamation. They immediately transferred him to a different hospital, where the best neurosurgeon in the area was on call. A lot of good that did, as it was now Monday morning, and we hadn’t seen him! Other doctors had come by, but not Dr. Stern.

An MRI had confirmed the mass was a tumor, but gave us no further information. So my husband and I sat in a hospital room waiting for news we were fairly confident was NOT going to change our lives for the better.

Marc and I didn’t talk about what was going on. We chatted about our son Andrew, my pregnancy, hospital food, and Marc’s lack of solid sleep (they had to wake him every two hours to test his blood). The light conversation stopped us from dwelling on the possibilities too much.

Finally, two unfamiliar faces entered the room - Dr. Stern and his nurse, Jen. Dr. Stern got right to the heart of the matter. Marc needed brain surgery - and soon. The tumor was likely one of two different types, and benign. The surgery should last four to six hours, and would be performed that Wednesday. The plan was to remove the tumor completely.

Wednesday morning, bright and early, Marc’s parents and I were in pre-op with him, along with our pastor. His wife was home watching Andrew so we could all be at the hospital.

Pastor’s words, in conversation and prayer, were encouraging and comforting, and his presence helped me keep my thoughts away from the "what ifs," and focus on God’s promises: to always be with me, to uphold me, to work everything out for His good. While I was certainly nervous, concerned and, at times, frustrated, panic did not take me over.

I kissed my husband goodbye, squeezed his hand, and went to sit in the waiting room with my in-laws. Jen had said she would give us updates as the surgery progressed. I sat, read, ate, watched TV, chatted, and prayed. I rarely left the room.

The one time I did go out for some air, I returned to find out I had just missed Jen. She had told Marc’s parents that the tumor was deeper in Marc’s brain than originally thought, and the surgery would likely take longer than expected.

Dr. Stern finally came in to talk to us about the surgery - an operation that had ended up taking eleven hours. The tumor was neither of the types he had originally thought, and was actually part and parcel of Marc’s optic nerve.

The doctor, therefore, was unable to remove it completely, as cutting through the optic nerve would have left Marc blind. Instead, he took out only as much tumor as he thought he could remove safely, then closed Marc back up again.

It had been a very long day, but I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over.

"Can I see him?"

"He’s in deep sedation, but yes, you can if you want to."

My in-laws tried to convince me to just go home, but my mind was made up.

"I need to see him."

Marc’s parents headed for their car, and I headed for Marc’s hospital room, where I found him hooked up to more wires and machines than I’d ever seen. But he was breathing, and appeared to be resting fairly comfortably.

I felt the need to touch him. I caressed his cheek, then put his hand in mine.

"I love you, Marc, and we will get through this together," I whispered, tears streaming down my face. I kissed his hand, lingered a bit, then walked out.

**

Even when we have NO idea what's going on, God is there. He is SO good!

Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!  

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/9/12

His Requirements

Generally, I'm not too fond of requirements, especially if I don't meet them. I can't tell you how many times in the past I considered applying for a job, but then looked at the requirements and realized I was underqualified.

I had a similar problem with my desktop computer. In fact, one of the reasons I got my laptop way back when is because none of the free spyware or anti-virus software would run on my old operating system. I didn't meet the system requirements, so I got a newer computer so mine could be safer. I have to admit that my not meeting the requirements that time was a positive (though somewhat expensive) situation for me.

Yet, these requirements are for our own good and benefit. If I had gotten hired at one of those jobs, I would have likely never gotten my work done well, and if I'd installed those "high-tech" programs on my "low tech" computer, they probably would not have worked, or might have totally messed up my computer. So, as much as I may not like requirements, I have to admit life would certainly be more difficult and confusing without them. Life is easier and more orderly and less haphazard because of these types of requirements--at least, when we follow them.

Did you know that the Lord has requirements for His children? And they probably aren't what you're thinking. Some are found, not in the gospels--or even in the New Testament--but in the short prophetic book of Micah.
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:7-8 NIV (emphasis mine)
First of all, I need to preface this by mentioning these are not requirements for salvation. Doing these things will not give you a "free pass" to heaven. Paul said in Romans 10:9 that "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Nothing else you can do will give you eternal life.

No, these requirements are what the Lord expects from His children. These are what we can do to please our Heavenly Father. And there are three of them:
Act justly: do what is righteous and fair to all
Love mercy: act with and value lovingkindness and compassion
Walk humbly with your God: follow the Lord, putting His needs first and giving Him credit for all He does through you.
Now these are requirements that I think I like--and there they are, in an Old Testament book that many barely give a glance. And I'm not sure I can think of anything that isn't covered there. Some requirements, it seems, are blessings.

Can you picture what our world would be like if every person (or even "just" every Christian) followed these three simple principles? There would be no theft, no attack ads, no price gouging at the gas pump. God doesn't give us requirements like this for nothing. God has shown us "what is good." All we have to do is follow it. It may not be easy, but it is certainly what He wants. And isn't seeking and doing His will our goal?

Heavenly Father, help me to please You by acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with You. Help me to do what is good in your sight. Thank you for showing me your righteous requirements, and guide me in following them always. In the name of Your Precious Son I pray. Amen
**


Do you find yourself uneasy when you find requirements you can't meet? Have you ever gotten a job you weren't qualified for? How was the experience? Do you appreciate God's commandments from Micah? How are you doing? Which of the three do you think is easiest for you? Hardest?

Comment below, and/or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!




 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/6/12

Finds for Fridays: July 6

  Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!


Woolworth or Tiffany's? by Janelle James at the ACFW Blog (about the power of a few words, and leaving clutter out of your writing)

Summer Memories: The Secret Garden by Sawa Harricharan at In Shades of Scarlet (about a classic and the magic of reading)

Showing C.A.R.E in Your First Chapter by Pepper Basham at The Writers Alley (about necessities in the first chapter)

Will Reading Fiction Turn Men Into Sissies? by Sharon Lavy at WordServe Water Cooler (about the benefits to men of reading ficiton)

Should I Quit Writing? by Terry Burns at From the Heart (about time for writing)

Some great posts up there - hope you stop by and check them out. Have a great weekend!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/5/12

Writing Craft Recap for June

I have declared 2012 my year to learn the writing craft better. And once a month, generally on the first Thursday of the month, I will share some of the highlights of what I've learned.

So, here I go. Much of my learning came from Randy Ingermanson's class on the Snowflake method, given free by ACFW last month. But I also got some gems from a few writing magazines.

So here I go!

From the July issue of The Writer and the July/August issue of Writer's Digest:
  • There IS a difference between deep third person point of view and deep first person - besides the pronouns.
  • "A line of dialogue cannot just be doing one thing. It has to be characterizing, it has to be atmospheric, it has to be informative and provide exposition." ZZ Packer
  • Plot twists are TOUGH - but totally worth working to get right.
  • A great plot twist is more than just believable - it is, in retrospect, the only possible ending to that scene, act, or story.
  • When creating a rivalry between characters, the two should be evenly matched, though in different areas.
From The Snowflake class, taught by Randy Ingermanson:
  • I am absolutely, positively a PLOTTER/PLANNER.
  • Less is more
  • It's crucial to be able to boil your story down to one idea that can be communicated in a few seconds.
  • More people will dislike your story than will like it - and that's okay (even J.K. Rowling has only sold her books to 7% of the population).
  • Your characters need to be both comprehensible and unpredictable.
  • Character's motivations (a combination of their goal, ambition, and values) make it possible for characters to be both comprehensible and unpredictable.
  • The three-act structure is a good basis for a one-paragraph summary of your story.
  • The first act ends with the first disaster, which forces your lead character to commit to the story.
  • The first half of the second act ends with the second disaster, which forces your lead character to change direction.
  • The second act ends with the third disaster, which forces your lead character AND your villain to commit to a final showdown.
  • The third act includes the final showdown and brings the story to a satifying conclusion.
  • Writing character synopses is a great way to learn more about your characters and how they fit into the story.
  • I absolutely, positively NEED TO work through all ten steps of the Snowflake Method on my current WIP.
I hope you learned something as well! Watch this spot next month, where I'll share, among other things, what I've learned from Jeff Gerke's class on Description, Dialogue and Dirty Words, as well as the Savvy Authors class on writing and researching historical fiction.

Questions? Comments? Observations? What was most interesting/helpful to you?

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/4/12

Old Glory's Tears - God Is So Good


Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
In honor of Independence Day, I thought I'd run this piece of "patriotic" fiction I wrote a few years ago for the FaithWriters writing challenge (the new quarter starts tomorrow, by the way!).  I hope you find the hope in this difficult situation, and see His goodness. (Tissue warning, by the way)

Old Glory's Tears
By Joanne Sher



It was sideways. This just wouldn't work.

Daniel sighed. "Can I put it on the floor, Mama?"

"Put what on the floor, DJ?" Mrs. Harris looked up from the newspaper she was reading and turned toward her son.

Photo credit
"The paper." He pointed at the easel in frustration. "I have to paint it wideways, and it's hanging longways."

Mrs. Harris rose slowly and grabbed the pad of paper off the easel. She turned it ninety degrees and hung it back up.

"Does that work?"

DJ nodded, licking his lips and staring at the angle of the paper.

"Thanks," he mumbled.

He went digging through the art box, pulling out a paintbrush and two containers of paint: red and blue.

"What happens when you mix blue and red, Mama?" He held the paintbrush up in front of him and stared at the blank canvas.

"You get purple. Why?"

"There isn't purple on the flag, right? Isn't it Daddy's favorite color?"

"The American flag? No, there isn't, hun." She wiped her eyes. "And yes, it was Daddy's favorite."

"I shouldn't mix the colors, then. Or it won't be a real American flag." DJ chewed on the end of the paintbrush and furrowed his brow.

"I think a little bit of mixing would be okay, DJ." She rested her hand on the top of his head and tousled his hair. "Like you said, purple was his favorite color. I think he'd like it."

DJ whipped his head from side to side. "It needs to look like a real American flag, cuz daddy's a real American hero." He looked at her, eyes blazing. "That's what you said, right?"

Mrs. Harris nodded, her eyes shut tight. "That's what I said, DJ."

He nodded himself and turned back toward the easel. He uncovered the blue paint and dipped his brush in. He slowly and meticulously painted a large blue square in the upper left corner.

Dropping the brush in water, he looked up and licked his lips. He opened the red canister, picked up and shook off his brush, and dipped it into the paint. With careful yet childlike brushstrokes, he painted each of the seven red stripes, glancing occasionally at a picture on the table. As the paintbrush got closer to the blue field, DJ slowed his strokes and stared, his tongue peeking out from between his closed lips. Not once did the colors mix.

Finishing the last stripe, he put the brush down, stepped back, and looked over his creation. He picked up a pencil and wrote on the white stripe below the blue field "my daddy is a hero" in uneven block letters.

He grabbed a sheet of star stickers and carefully placed them, one by one, in the blue field, just dry enough to touch. As he placed the 50th star, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"We leave for the cemetery in about ten minutes. You about ready?"

DJ nodded.

"Why don't you go wash your hands and change into the outfit on your bed? I'll be up to help you in a minute." She kissed him on the head. "And that's a beautiful flag, Daniel. Your father would be honored to see what you made."

A few minutes later, Daniel entered the car. Once buckled up, he held the flag across his chest.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
"I miss him so much, Mommy."

"I know, sweetie, I do too."

Tears dripped down his face and further, a few landing in the flag's blue field. He glanced down a moment later and sighed, his crying increasing.

"There's purple, mom. The red stripe under the blue part has a purple smudge. My crying ruined my real American flag!" DJ bowed his head.

Mrs. Harris pulled over to the side, turned her body, and shook her head. "It isn't ruined, Daniel." She lifted his chin with her hand. "It's perfect. It has your own tears of love on it. Daddy is looking down on it right now, so glad you made it for him."

Daniel sniffled and looked into his mother's eyes. "Really?"

She nodded. "I think your tears will remind people of the tears we all cry when a hero dies for our country. A crying flag makes sense to me. Don't you think?"

DJ cracked a smile. "Yeah, I guess you're right." He closed his eyes. "And purple tears are kinda special too."

"They sure are, sweetie. Especially when they come from a special boy and his special flag." 

**

Even in loss, God is there. He is SO good!

Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!  

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/3/12

You Won't Find Me...

here on my computer, texting with friends, OR playing on my Kindle fire.


Yup - it's my monthly tech-free Tuesday. Looking forward to it for sure. My daughter will be having a FABULOUS time at zoo camp most of the day. I'll do some grocery shopping, cleaning, and probably dig into Platform by Michael Hyatt. (no worries - I have a HARD COPY) Perhaps some writing (longhand!) as well. And maybe relax.

Anyhow - have a great day - and see ya tomorrow!



Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/2/12

Free Servants

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-
up for evil; live as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16 NIV

 Did you read the verse up there? Well, read it again.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

It seems like a contradiction when you first look at it, doesn't it? The first part of this verse, and the last part.
Live as free men
Live as servants of God
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Free men are indentured to no one: how can someone be free AND a servant?

What is the freedom that God gives us? What are we freed from?

When we accept Christ as our Savior we are saved. But saved from what?
SIN - the guilt of our sins, the power of sin over us, and, once we're away from this earth, even the presence of it.
And because of that, we are free to do what is good and right: what is pleasing to God and in His will.
But we don't have to. And often, we don't.
We keep committing it. In fact, we often do exactly what the middle part of this verse says. We use [our] freedom as a cover-up for evil.

We figure we can ignore God's will and desire for us, since we're already saved and we can't lose it. We use our freedom as a reason to judge others. We even sin, while in the back of our minds we figure it's okay because we're already forgiven.

And this is NOT the life our Lord wants us to live. He sent His Son to die for us. Is this any way to show our appreciation?

When someone does something nice for you, you are often motivated to return the favor--not necessarily because you feel like you "owe them," but out of gratitude.

Is it too much to ask for us to do the same for Someone Who gave His life for us?

And the freedom to do right, and to please God, when acted upon, is doing His will and serving Him.
Not such a contradiction anymore, is it?
Heavenly Father, as we celebrate our country's independence this week, help us to remember the most important freedom Your children have - the freedom to reject sin and accept Your way, which is infinitely better every time. Help us to be the free servants You want us to be. In Jesus' name, Amen.

**


Are you living as a free servant? How hard do you find it to do God's will? Do you FEEL free from sin? Do you serve Him through your obedience to His best - through doing His will?

Comment below, and/or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

7/1/12

Pushing Forward - A Goal/Progress Update

We're halfway through the year. NO- I can't believe it. It can't actually be July, can it?

Yup - that's "The Nile" for real (photo credit)
I know - denial is a river in Egypt.

ANYhow, I guess I should look through my yearlong AND monthly goals (hope you agree).

I have four 2012 overarching goals: to 1)learn a lot about the writing craft and apply it, 2)restructure Ailing Body, Nourished Soul and get it out, 3)work on planning, etc., the second tween bib fiction devo book, and 4)continue to build my name recognition/platform.

I've taken a LOT of classes so far this year, and am learning tons (check out my writing craft recap posts - another coming this Thursday!) AND am beginning to apply it to my writing. As far as ABNS, I've JUST submitted it to a contest whose first prize is a publishing contract and some cash (it's still open - check it out here). We've worked a bit on the second tween bib fiction devo book, but are waiting until we sell the first before we do much work (and speaking of, I'm planning to send a proposal to the same publisher who's hosting that contest :D). And for building name recognition/platform - I think I'm doing pretty okay there.

Okay - enough of the overarching stuff - how about goals for June? How'd I do?

And here are my June goals, right from last month's  goals/progress post:
  • Keep up in the FREE ACFW online course, The Snowflake, by "The Snowflake  Guy" himself, Randy Ingermanson. I have heard SO much good stuff about this method for planning a novel, and I read his wonderful post about it - and am TOTALLY intrigued. Looking forward to working through this with him. I know I will learn TONS!
  • Work on what I've learned in my classes this year to Handmaiden to A Princess, "fixing" another 60 pages of the manuscript. That brings me very, VERY close to the end of what I've got written so far.
Photo credit
 I DID keep up in the Snowflake class, though I must admit that first week was a doozy (over 1,000 emails). I learned a TON - mostly that I'm DEFINITELY a plotter, and I need to go through EVERY STEP of Randy's method (he covered four, and there are a total of ten) to get my book idea , etc. in shape. I WILL work on that - eventually. And you can pester me if it's been a while and I haven't mentioned it.

As far as editing - I made it  through ALL the pages I had left in Handmaiden to a Princess - Just out of those 60 plus pages, I cut at least TEN PAGES out. And it's tighter. We'll see if I'll actually be able to use any of it once I have my story REALLY figured out.

So, how about my July goals? Check them out below:
  • Keep up in the FREE ACFW online course, Description, Dialog and Dirty Words by Publisher Jeff Gerke (sound intriguing, doesn't it?)
  • Keep up in Writing and Researching Historical Fiction (runs July 9-August 5) at Savvy Authors - sounds like one I can use. Yathink?? ;)
  • Fix up and send out the proposal for Jennifer Slattery and my tween bib fiction devo book to Write Integrity Press.
Considering it's summer, I'm thinking that's plenty. Thanks for reading, and cheering me on!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

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