Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yesterday I Turned 14!

Yesterday I turned 14. You read that right, 14 years old. One night all those years ago I started out to have a good evening with friends and ended the evening with a new friend. It was definitely an evening to remember and it started a journey of a lifetime.

These last 14 years have been some of the best and worst of my life. They were filled with hard times and starting over more than once. They have seen new jobs and lost jobs. There has been illness – mine and other family members. The years have encompassed life and death. Money has been flush and lean at different times. I’ve experienced tremendous joy and deep, heartbreaking sadness.

Life has happened in the last 14 years. Through it all there has been one constant. That rainy night in March in a little church in the middle of a farmer’s field provided something more than just a good evening and a new friend. That night I met Jesus.

Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, savior, friend, fully God and fully man. He is the constant in the last years. He has walked beside me through everything. Even during the times when I turned aside He waited patiently for me to come back. Since that night I have never been alone.

I’ll be honest; I don’t know exactly how to explain how I know that Jesus walks beside me. Unlike science, I can’t provide an absolute fact. There is no experiment that can be done to prove he is there. What I can tell you is about the times I have cried out to him and he has comforted me. I can tell you about the prayers that have been answered. I can tell about the peace that has enveloped the last 14 years. I know in my heart that Jesus is real and the he loves me.

I have faith and one of the definitions of faith is the belief in something that is not based on proof. That faith has sustained me through the tough times and has enriched my life. So yesterday I joyfully celebrated my 14 birthday complete with cake and, thanks to my Bible study friends, candles!

Monday, March 28, 2011

So Many Words....

Foxy is a word that you just don’t hear much lately. It had its heyday in the 70s. Recently, though, I read a new book that used the word no less than five times. I wondered if it was making a comeback. A query of my Facebook friends indicated that they didn’t think so, although some folks thought it should.

Do you have words that you use all the time? I think we all do. Lately I noticed I use the word cool a lot.

As writers, one of the things we are taught and that editors seem to catch is the use of words over and over. It can be a little disconcerting and can break up the flow of the manuscript. The reason I noticed the word foxy is because it was used so many times and it was used by characters that were between the ages of 16 and 19. The use broke up the story and pulled me out of the “fictional dream.”

The fictional dream is the goal of each novelist. It’s the sign of a good story that is well written. A writer wants you to slip into their created landscape and relate to the characters. Any little thing that disrupts that dream and causes the reader to lose the trail of the story isn’t a good thing.

Using the same words is something I struggle with in my writing. The tendency is strong. Our language has a robust vocabulary and so it seems I should be able to find new and fresh ways to say what I want to say. It just takes a little time to seek out different ways to get my point across.

After reading the book mentioned above I have a renewed desire to seek out new words.

Use the right word, not its second cousin. ~Mark Twain

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Vessel Project

Are you a reader? Do you appreciate good Christian books?

If you are, then you should check out The Vessel Project. The Vessel Project is a web site run by fellow writer and reader, Keiki Hendrix. She culls book reviews from reviewers around the web and highlights books that are meant to edify as well as educate and entertain. Along with book reviews Keiki has poetry, quotes, devotions, and listings of free books on her site. It's a lot of fun to visit and check out all the stuff she has available.

Go ahead, hop on over and check it out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What do you get when.... combine high heels, a chihuahua, singing and dancing, good friends, law school and a blonde? You get a totally delightful evening at the Broadway musical Legally Blonde. The only thing that would have made the night better was if we were actually able to see it on Broadway.

I have a group of friends who have been working hard to stop working so hard. Seriously, these women have demanding jobs that they love and pour their hearts into. However, when they realized that work was taking over their lives they determined they were going to reclaim their lives to achieve a more harmonious balance. Part of the plan was to purchase tickets to four Broadway shows that were making a visit in our city. So the four of us plunked down our money for a little bit of culture.

Legally Blonde was the third of the four shows. This book made into a movie made into a musical is the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl with a fashion degree who is about to lose the love of her life to law school. She decides to fight back and lands a coveted spot at Harvard Law. In her quest to restore the balance to her life by winning back her boyfriend she finds that there is more to life and to herself than she thought.

I love the Legally Blonde movies so I was thrilled to be able to see the musical. There’s just something about the singing and dancing that appeals to me. This night was a fun time with friends and I am eager to see the next show, which is another favorite of mine, Grease. That’s a jaunt right back to junior high school when the first movie came out. If you have the opportunity to see Broadway shows in your area, I do recommend them. Nothing like a little bit of culture wherever you live!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bound by Guilt by CJ Darlington

Today I’m participating in a blog tour for the new book by CJ Darlington, Bound by Guilt. I enjoyed her first book so when the opportunity came to read and review her new book I was excited to join. Tyndale House Publishers very generously provided the book for review.

Roxie Gold finally felt accepted. After years of being shuttled from one foster home to another she found a place with her aunt and cousin. It was everything she ever wanted.

The human desire to fit in and be part of something is strong; strong enough to cause Roxie to join her new family in a crime spree. In the beginning the thrill of conning unsuspecting book store owners while they stole thousands of dollars in rare books was exhilarating. Then one night everything goes horribly wrong.

On the run and without any money, things are looking dire for Roxie. In Elk Valley, CO she is determined to find a job to support herself. When she tries to sell one of the stolen rare books, she attracts the attention of police woman, Abby Dawson. With her life unraveling around her she finds she has no choice but to accept the help of strangers.

This book is a great story. As with her first book, CJ has brought to life believable, likable characters. She has a knack for drawing the reader into her world and making them feel at home.

CJ gently weaves the reality of God’s love and forgiveness through the story without beating the reader over the head. The ability to portray the truth of God in fiction is often tough, but CJ handles it well.

Bound by Guilt is CJ Darlington’s second novel. While not necessarily a sequel to her first book, Thicker than Blood, this book pulls settings and characters from her first novel. I enjoyed this approach and feel that it worked well for her story. It was fun to meet new characters while being reunited with characters from Thicker.

Overall, this book is a well written story that I enjoyed and read in a couple of sittings. It is definitely one I would recommend to friends.

About the Author:

C. J. Darlington won the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest with her first novel, Thicker Than Blood. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over twelve years, scouting for stores similar to the ones described in her novels before cofounding her own online bookstore. In 2006 C. J. started the Christian entertainment Web site with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Visit her website

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

15 Years, 17 Million Adoptions: Rescuing a Bundle of Joy

Hey! Have you heard? Petfinder is 15 years old and they have assisted in 17 million adoptions in those years. That's a whole lot of furry, wiggly, tail-wagging love being brought into existence.

Three years ago I used Petfinder to be united with my sweet Wilson. You can read about bringing home kitty here.  You can also read Wilson's thoughts (as interpreted by his cat whisperer mommy - me!) in this post about the game of life. Wilson has been the joy of my life these last three years and I am so grateful for the role Petfinder played in helping me find him.

If you are thinking about adopting a pet you should check out Petfinder. They work with rescue organizations all over the country. All you have to do is visit the Petfinder web site and use their search feature. You choose the type of animal and breed, type in your zip code and it will bring up a list of pets in your area who are looking for forever homes.

Happy Birthday, Petfinder! Keep up the good work!

Petfinder Adopt-the-Internet Day

Monday, March 14, 2011

“I’m giving up candy for Lent. What are you giving up?”

This oft asked question was prominent in our household in the springtime while I was growing up. The common “give-ups” were candy or soda, sometimes TV. I would have liked to give up washing dishes after dinner, but Mom said that you weren’t supposed to give up something you disliked. Bummer.

Lent is practiced by many denominations. It is the approximately 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Even though the emphasis can be on the giving up, there is really more to it than that.

The tradition of Lent is traced back to Jesus’ time in the desert when he spent 40 days fasting and praying before beginning his public ministry. It was from these roots that the church came to realize the importance of giving up in order to prepare for Easter, to grow, and to renew.

I have to admit the part of Lent that I often missed was the math that is involved in it. Yes, I said math. See, when you give something up for Lent it is meant to open time in your life for other things like prayer. In subtracting an item or activity from our lives we should then add the opportunity for growth, repentance, and renewal.

Without the math, lent is just a time of depriving ourselves of something we want. Often times when it’s just deprivation we go right back to the thing we sacrificed to begin with. As a child it was common to find any one of us who had given up candy begging Mom for just one piece of the Easter candy before breakfast. I found for me that was because I was more focused on the subtracting than on the adding.

Our sacrifices during this time can never equal the ones he offered when he left the glory of heaven. Or when he hung on that cross and breathed his last. They can never be of the same magnitude to his spending 3 days in hell before ascending to heaven. Our offerings are minor compared to his, but they teach us a little more about the incredible love that endured sacrifice for us. They encourage us to lean into him and rely on his strength and not our own.

That really is what Lent is about, allowing the preparation to change us and learning to appreciate the magnitude of sacrifices that God made through Jesus. He did so because he loves us that much. In light of that, doesn’t the TV or the chocolate seem like a minor thing to do without? Our love for him should drive us to want to give up so we can be more of the person he created us to be. It should cause us to want to sacrifice in order to be closer and more in tune with him. It should grow our relationship to new levels of intimacy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Adam and Eve Made their Bed, Now We Have to Lay In It

Things have happened recently that seem incomprehensible. I'll be honest, as a person of faith, I don't have any answers to the question of why evil and death are part of our world.
The pat Christian answer is that way back in the day Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden and ruined it for us all. They made their bed and now we have to lay in it. If it hadn’t been for that first sin we would never have had to deal with death or evil. It is a fact of life in our fallen world. I have used this answer and I have to admit that it doesn’t really make it better and it certainly doesn’t make it easier to understand the incomprehensible.

On this side of heaven we won’t ever be able to explain why bad things happen to good people. I know that God is good. I have seen it for myself. Still, this world and the things that happen break my heart. Somehow we just have to keep trusting God and loving each other through the tough times.

As I was working on this, Katie over at The Journey posted this amazing post. Katie writes of a woman who has seen more years and more misery than I have. This woman has a deep faith and knows that whatever God allows has purpose and she continues to smile, love, and live. Katie openly admits she doesn’t understand this, not yet. And all I can say after the last few weeks is, “me neither, not yet.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Broken Heart

I had a post all written to post today, but things have changed.

Today I attended the funeral of a three year old boy. Yes, you read that right; he was just three years old. This came suddenly, out of the blue. He'd had a cold or flu and his mom took him to the ER on a Sunday afternoon. While there he stopped breathing and despite the best efforts of the doctors and nurses they weren't able to bring him back.

His grandmother is a dear friend of mine and has supported me in so many ways over the years. She was there for my family when my mom fell and then passed away nine days later.

When I heard about this sweet boy I knew I had to be there for his grandmother, my friend. My heart broke as I sat in that chapel and looked at her Stinka Boy's smiling face. Tears flowed freely as I witnessed the outpouring of love for a little boy who was called home to heaven way too soon.

I am a basket full of emotions right now. Sadness, love, anger, grief all mingle together. I can't imagine how hard this is for this boy's mom and dad. I hurt for them as they face life with a piece of their heart missing.

The post that I wrote started with the words "the incomprehensible happened last week."  After attending this three year old child's funeral I walked away thinking we shouldn't have to have funerals for three year old children. They should grow up and live long lives.

The question asked at times like these is why? Why would God take someone so young?  I don't have answers for that question. But, the Bible says our ways are not God's ways. We can only trust that His ways are best. Someday, when we all get to heaven, maybe we will understand this better.

Until that time this family chooses to go on loving and living. Hard as it is right now, they are choosing to believe in life and the faithfulness of God. I join them in that choice and I pray for strength for them.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller

I remember years ago that a friend read the book Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. She was blown away by it and talked about it quite a bit. I didn’t read it at that time. More recently Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing tweeted several links to Donald Miller’s blog which intrigued me so I visited his little home in blogland.

I loved his easy writing style and the way his posts made me think. He writes much about his faith and his journey to find why he believes. So, wanting to read more, I trekked to the book store and purchased Blue Like Jazz. It was definitely money well spent.

In Blue Don takes the reader through his own walk in faith. The subtitle on his book is “nonreligious thoughts on Christianity spirituality.” Don doesn’t tear down the long held traditions and rituals of Christianity, instead he encourages his readers to delve deep into their beliefs.

Don has questioned his faith and in that questioning it has grown. His writing shows a moving past the rote of Christian life into a real, life changing relationship with the living God. Don openly discusses his quest and the way it has changed him.

One of my favorite parts of the book was his chapter on worship. Worship is one of the buzz words within Christianity these days. It is used to describe both the Sunday morning service as a whole or a musical time of praising God. But worship is so much more.

Worship is about living a life of wonder and awe of the amazing God we love. Worship is an everyday thing that may or may not involve music. It’s watching the sun rise in brilliant colors across the sky. It’s listening to the sound a baby’s laugh. It’s loving someone through a tough time. It’s about looking for God in everyday life.

Don knows this. He writes, “Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little is spent allowing our hearts to fill awe. By reducing Christian spirituality to formula, we deprive our hearts of wonder.”

Nonreligious thoughts are Don’s way of making sense of his spirituality. His book is an invitation to the reader to really make their faith their own. God is big enough to handle our questions. It is in our questioning that we grow and become more of a spiritual being and not a little Christian robot.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Five for Friday

Today is Friday so I decided to share five fiction books/series I really enjoy:

1. The Stand by Stephen King – There is something about this story of the apocalypse and the resulting battle between good and evil that appeals to me. The book is over 1,000 pages and the uncut version is even longer. I have read both versions more than once. Some people think Stephen King is messed up and that may be true, but the man can weave a story like no other.

2. Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard – Hurnard has created an allegory of the Christian journey. When Much-Afraid starts out to meet the Shepherd in the high places she is joined by two traveling companions, Sorrow and Suffering. Their journey leads Much-Afraid through dangerous territory and scary situations, but Much-Afraid finds it was all worth it when she reaches her destination.

3. The King Raven Trilogy by Stephen Lawhead – This wonderfully written retelling of the Robin Hood legend drew me in just like that. I love the way Lawhead creates incredible scenes that come alive in my mind as I read.

4. In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez – A beautiful, sad book based on the true story of the Mirabel sisters during the time Rafael Leónidas TrujilloMolina was in power in the Dominican Republic. The sisters fight against the injustices created by the dictator. In the end they give their lives in an attempt to make a better life for the people of the Dominican Republic.

5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – A classic horror story that captivated me. Dr Frankenstein just wants to create a being. When the monster begins to feel human emotions he strikes out on his own but is soon overcome by loneliness. He attempts to assuage his loneliness by forcing Dr. Frankenstein to create another monster to be his companion.

What fiction books have you really enjoyed?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Turtle Girl: Learning to Give Love to Hurting People

Once there was a girl who had been hurt by one, two, a lot of people. She tried to grow a shell thick as a turtle’s to keep out the hurt, but the hurt lived with her inside the shell.

The hurt mocked and taunted her and she searched for ways to drown it out. She tried drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and even hurting herself, but nothing worked.

People prayed that she would know Jesus and they prayed that she wouldn’t be so mean, but no one prayed that she would be able receive love. That would mean giving love first even while the hurt filled up her shell and spilled out on them. No one wanted to give her love because she couldn’t give love back.

She was afraid to receive love because so many had let her down. She was afraid to trust Jesus because so many preached fire, brimstone, repentance but forgot to preach love. They forgot that Jesus is love and so she never saw his love and never opened herself to it.

Then Jesus spoke into one heart that they should pray for the turtle girl to be able to receive love. That’s what Jesus does; He calls us to give love first.

Jesus calls us to love those who live in turtle shells. He calls us to love them until their shells crack open so that the hurt runs out on the ground and dries up in the light of the Son. It is only when we have done this that the turtle can learn to receive love and be changed by that love.

This post has been inspired by the book Blue Like Jazz written by Don Miller. Don writes of praying that people are able to receive love. This thought really niggled its way into my brain and made me think about giving and receiving love.

I think what Don was trying to get across in this book is that faith is rarely lived out in perfect churches with just the right worship, or perfect little Bible study groups. Rather faith is lived out in the nitty, gritty daily life. It’s easy to love Christians because they understand and know how to receive love. It’s the rest of the world that needs to be loved until they can receive the love of Jesus.