Friday, May 31, 2013

Addicted to Hurrying

© Velkol | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Last night my oldest came to me and said: "Mom, I was just watching Joyce Meyer and you need to listen to her show today."

First, if you don't know who Joyce Meyer is, she is a preacher on television. I am a big fan of Joyce. I've seen her in person twice and we DVR her program. She's an amazing teacher with a no-nonsense approach to Christianity.

Second, I love that my eight-year-old daughter chooses to watch a preacher on television! Of all the things she could choose, it makes me smile each time she tells me she's going to watch Joyce.

And third, I asked what Joyce said that I needed to hear. My oldest said: "She's talking about being addicted to hurrying."

Hmmm...if your eight-year-old told you that you have an addiction to being in a hurry--you'd stop and think. A lot.

Why am I in such a hurry all the time? Is it because I'm trying to accomplish too much? Is it because I give myself X amount of time to get things done, but inevitably my plans are changed by a dirty diaper, a sick dog, a spilled bowl of cereal, a phone call, a broken wash machine, a (fill in the blank). Is it because I expect too much? Want too much? Say yes too much?

Yes.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10.
 
Be still. Why is it so hard to be still?

I never do one thing at a time. I'm ALWAYS multi-tasking. Even when I'm doing morning devotions, the time I'm supposed to be focused on God, I'm thinking about a hundred other things that need to be done.

I have an excuse. I really do. I'm a busy mom, wife, daughter, friend, sister, cousin, aunt, writer, volunteer, etc. I don't want to give any of those roles up. So how do I balance it all out?

I believe the answer comes by sacrificing in these areas:

1. I'm called to offer God a sacrifice of my time. When I take time in the morning to seek His face, and set all my other responsibilities aside, I'm giving God the first fruit of my day. It truly is a sacrifice...but God delights in our sacrifices. It's amazing how much I can get done when I've devoted that first part of my day to Him.

2. I need to be disciplined. I can't flit from one project to the next, not getting anything done. I need to stick to one thing at a time and accomplish it. I know I'll feel less hurried. I also need to give myself more time to accomplish my tasks--allowing room for the unexpected.

3. I need to recognize that I can't have everything I want, when I want it. I have to practice the fine art of patience.

4. I have to learn how to say no more often. What's up with saying no, anyway? That's a whole other blog post, but it's a serious problem for a lot of us.

5. I need to be more realistic. I need to look at my schedule and recognize that there are few people in the world who could accomplish all the things I have on my to-do list. God only gives me grace for the things He desires me to do...the rest of the things I "want" to do, I won't do well.

With all that said, I've decided to take a little blogging break. This next week my family will be leaving our electronic devices at home and heading to a fishing cabin further north. It's a rare summer vacation--but we've decided to sacrifice some time and devote it to being still--well, as still as you can be with three-year-old twins.

I'm also on a deadline for my book, so when we come home from fishing, I will be working on the last round of edits before handing it in to my agent. I plan to be back on Monday, June 10th with Minnesota Monday pictures from our fishing trip.

It's your turn. Are you addicted to being in a hurry? How do you break the addiction?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Passing on Our Passions

When I met my husband, one of the first things I learned about him is his love for the game of golf. His first two jobs in high school and college were working on golf courses. He decided to go into the landscaping business because it meant working outdoors.
 
When we bought our house two years ago, one of the biggest selling factors was the close proximity to the golf course. We live close enough to walk to it.
 
I love passing on our passions to our children. For my husband, that's passing on his love for golf. Two Sundays ago, we took all four kiddos out to the driving range after church. We had a blast! Here are some pictures from our adventure.
 

Pulling everyone together while Dad got the clubs ready.

Walking to the golf course.

Leaving the club house.

Buying the range balls.

Yes, one of our boys wore his baseball cap. Came in handy
when he wacked himself with his club.

You can never start too young!

Giving pointers.

Showing our oldest the proper way to grip a club.
Daddy showing how it's done.
He figured out how to balance his club on his shoulders.
What passion do you enjoy sharing with your children? What did you parents share with you?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way...

© Ryzhkov | Dreamstime Stock Photos
& Stock Free Images
Today my mom watched my three-year-old twin boys while I had a doctor's appointment. As a treat, I decided to bring her lunch from Subway--a chopped salad with chicken.

I ordered my sub, and one for the boys to share, and then I ordered my mom's salad. She usually requests that they lay down a piece of parchment paper under the chicken breast before they cut it. She's very conscious of bacteria and feels more comfortable when they don't put the chicken right on the cutting board. I expressed this request to the lady behind the counter.

And I was given one of "those" looks. She said: "The cutting board is clean."

"Yes, I know," I said kindly, "but she'd feel more comfortable if you used a piece of parchment."

She frowned at me. "I don't like cutting meat on the parchment. It rips and chunks get in the meat."

I smiled, trying to be as nice as possible. "I'd appreciate if you could try."

She picked up the chicken, plopped it down on the parchment and then literally began to SAW the chicken, tearing up the parchment on purpose! She cocked her head at me, lifted her brows and said: "See?"

At that point I was too flabbergasted to know what to do. The only thing I could think to say was: "I don't appreciate that!"

She just stared at me.

I almost had to pick my jaw off the floor. I said: "Fine, forget about the salad."

I moved down the line, totally at a loss at the woman's behavior. To see a grown woman act so childish was shocking.

There was a bit of a commotion behind the counter when a second lady came up. I didn't listen as the first lady complained...I just told the next employee down the line what I wanted on my sub.

A couple minutes later the second lady came down the line, a smooth parchment in front of her, filled with perfectly sliced chicken. She said (very kindly, I might add): "What did you want with this chicken?"

I smiled. "I wanted a chopped salad."

She closed her eyes briefly, nodded her head and communicated her apology with her eyes. She made a beautiful salad, which I was able to take to my mom.

As I drove away, contemplating why I was almost in tears, it dawned on me. My heart hurts when I see people acting so terrible. It should be our great pleasure to go out of our way to serve others. I wasn't upset because she had treated me that way, it was because there are far too many people who act this way in our world.

Kindness goes a long way, but sadly, anger and selfishness can go further. Had I not been aware of the need to forgive, I could have frowned my way through Subway, spoke rudely to the cashier, got in my car and been rude in traffic, walked into my mom's house and been in a bad mood with her (making my gift to her a waste), treated my children poorly and ultimately had a bad day...but I didn't. Because I understand that everyday we're given the choice to respond to both the good and the bad. And I chose to not let the Subway lady ruin my day--or my attitude.

If she would have done what I asked, with a smile on her face, even if it was difficult, the blessing would have followed me through the day. I've had many people do kind things for me, and I feel so good afterward. The reverse is also true. When I go out of my way for someone, whether they know it or not, it feels wonderful. Everyone benefits from kindness.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31. 

I pray my actions will propel people to peace, kindness and joy, giving God all the glory when others feel blessed. I don't want people to experience strife, anger or pain because of me. I want them to walk away from me with a smile on their face.

What about you? Don't be bashful, share a time when you've gone out of your way to help someone--doesn't it feel good?

*By the way, I love Subway--just to make that clear. :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Way Back When-sday: Visting Maud's Home

My daughters and I are busy planning a special trip this summer. We're going to travel to Mankato, Minnesota, to the home of one of our favorite literary characters, Betsy Ray (a.k.a. Maud Hart Lovelace).
Maud Hart Lovelace's Home (Betsy's House)
Mankato is about a three hour drive from our home. We plan to drive there early in the morning, go to Betsy's House and then cross the street and go to Tacy's house. Tacy was Betsy's best friend.

Frances "Bick" Kenney's Home (Tacy's House)
I've asked the girls what they want to do while we're in Mankato and their answers surprised me! They said they want to do what Betsy did. They want to play in her yard, go to the library and walk up the Big Hill and sit on the bench where Betsy used to sit. I told them we'll have to find somewhere to eat, and one of my daughter's eyes lit up. She said: "Let's take a picnic up to the bench, just like Betsy did!"

I told her it is a splendid idea! We soon discovered what Betsy brought on her picnics. She brought a sandwich, a boiled egg and a piece of chocolate cake--so that's what we'll bring.

The Mankato Carnegie Library
After we tour the homes, eat lunch on the bench, and go to the library, we'll use the self-guided driving tour to see other homes and places mentioned in the Betsy-Tacy books.

I can't wait to bring this story, and history, to life for my daughters. What better way to cement these books in their minds and hearts? I set out to read the Betsy-Tacy series to my daughters because it's my favorite series. But the rewards have been unexpected. The greatest reward so far is watching my daughters grow in their own friendship as they share a common interest. I also love how reading these books has strengthened my bond with them. It's the highlight of our day. It's also fun to find times throughout the day to say: "What would Betsy and Tacy have done?" or "Do you think Betsy and Tacy would have fought like that?"

One of my greatest dreams is to see my girls become best friends. I can't wait to bring them to Mankato and watch their friendship continue to grow through the wonderful life of Maud Hart Lovelace. It reminds me how important books are for all of us.

What about you? What fun plans are you making this summer? What books impacted you as a child?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Minnesota Monday: Field Trip

Springtime means school field trips! This past week I had the privilege of going with my oldest daughter's class on a wonderful field trip to St. John's Arboretum in Collegeville, Minnesota. The arboretum is over 2,000 acres of land near St. John's University.
 
The arboretum has many different land types, with lots of insects, animals and plant life. Spring has been a little late this year, so everything is still brown. Within a week or two, all of this will be green.

The boardwalk through the swamp
 
A stream through the swamp

A lake
My oldest with her friend looking for insects and animals in the lake
 
The prairie (very brown at this point!)

The woods

This structure was built last fall by an artist in residence at St. John's
named Patrick Dougherty. It's called a Stickwork Structure and is
put together with sticks only. There are five separate buildings.
We had so much fun going through these buildings.

Looking up, from inside one of the structures

And, finally, a picture of the lake outside my in-laws' backdoor.
The ice finally went out last Tuesday! Looking forward
to making more memories at the lake this year!
What about you? What is your favorite school field trip memory?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Minnesota Monday: The Dam on the Mississippi

I love spring in Minnesota for numerous reasons, but especially because the Mississippi River comes alive! My hometown, where my stories are set, was founded on the largest waterfalls north of St. Anthony Falls (now a part of Minneapolis).
 
The falls were first dammed in 1849, but the dam washed down river...as did the second one in 1860. The current dam was built in 1887-88, and has had many updates and repairs.
 
Right now the dam is open full force because of the spring thaw. Eventually the water will slow down, but it remains a powerful force all throughout the year.
 
This is a favorite place for people to stop and enjoy the Mississippi. I come here often to get inspired, dream about my stories and feel refreshed.
 
What about you? Where do you go over and over to feel refreshed?

 
 
video

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Lesson for My Oldest


Last night I heard my oldest daughter say something that shocked me. We were at church and it was the last night of AWANA.

My oldest is like any other little girl her age. She's sweet, charming and extremely goofy when she's with her friends. Sometimes her goofiness can go a little too far and she can become rude. When I see this behavior, I'm always quick to remind her to be respectful.

Last night I came around the corner and heard her being goofy, but it was at the point where it went too far. I heard her talking to a little girl we'll call Lexie. She said: "Your name is Lexie, right? I've never liked the name Lexie."

My eyes almost popped out of my head--and she saw me at that exact moment. I could see the terror on her face. Poor little Lexie looked crestfallen. I immediately made my daughter apologize and I told her we'd have a talk later.

When we were home, and all the other kiddos had been put in bed, I took my oldest to the couch and I said: "You know what we're going to talk about, don't you?"

She nodded and sat down facing me. Her big green eyes stared at me as I talked. I asked God to direct my thoughts and my words, because I want to teach my children lasting lessons that they will take to heart. I don't want my words to go in one ear and out the other.

God gave me a message for her and this is what I said: When she asked God into her heart, He planted a seed there--a seed of the Holy Spirit. When the seed grows, it gets stronger and stronger, until it's like a beautiful tree with branches and leaves. When it is fully matured, it begins to grow fruit. And inside the fruit, are more seeds.

The Bible tells us in Galatians 5:22-23 that the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. When we operate in these character qualities, we are giving that fruit away to other people, and the seed inside the fruit is being planted into their hearts and minds.

Mark 4:3-8 tells us that we sow the seed, but some seed falls on the path, where the birds come and eat it up, some falls on rocky soil, some on thorny soil, and some on good soil. It's not up to us to decide where to sow the seed, we just need to keep sending it out there.

I told my daughter that when she is kind to Lexie, she is planting God's seed in Lexie's heart, but when she is unkind, she is planting weeds in Lexie's heart, which will choke out the beautiful plants God desires to grow.

As I talked with my daughter, I could see in her eyes that she understood. We prayed together and I reminded her that she is a beautiful young lady. I also told her God allowed me to see this behavior, because He loves her too much to let it continue.

Today, as she was walking out the door to school I said: "Don't forget to bear some Fruit today!" She smiled and nodded. And when she came home from school, I asked her what Fruit she bore and she was quick to tell me how she had been patient and kind with a friend.

I love how God uses created things to show us His eternal characteristics. And I love that He planted His seed inside our hearts and He desires for us to bear His Fruit. It's a great honor and privilege.

What about you? Have you ever come across your child saying, or doing, something when they thought you couldn't see? What aspects of the Fruit are harder for you to bear? What aspects are easier?

*Photo Credit. © Mauhorng | http://www.dreamstime.com/">Dreamstime Stock Photos http://www.stockfreeimages.com/">Stock

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Genesis Competition


On Monday afternoon I picked my girls up from school and was driving in the mini-van with my mom and kids when I received a text from my friend Lindsay Harrel. She wrote to congratulate me on being a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Competition for unpublished authors.

I immediately pulled into a parking lot to read the text, and as I absorbed the information, my phone started going wild with email notifications! My phone was dinging so much, my mom and I had a good laugh about it. I received over two hundred emails in two hours after the announcement.

What better way to hear that you're a semi-finalist in one of the industry's leading contests? I wasn't home to receive the phone call from my category coordinator--but listened to the message as soon as I walked in the door.

I'm honored and blessed to be one of the ten semi-finalists in the Historical Romance Category, and one of eighty-five semi-finalists in all categories. For an entire list of semi-finalists, go here.

The semi-finalist entries will go on to a second round of judges, and the finalists will be notified after June 15th. The winner from each category will be announced at the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana during the Gala Awards Dinner in September. Last year there were over seven hundred people in attendance. It's a beautiful awards dinner, honoring the best in Christian Fiction.

I'm still in awe to be named one of the semi-finalists. I'm especially thankful to see so many of my friends on this same list. I'm praying for each of them, and the judges who have a lot of hard work ahead!

This past year has been one of the most remarkable years of my life. I'm humbled by the journey God has brought me on. When I was a little girl, I asked Him to place His desires in my heart so that I would pursue His will and please Him. Among my desires to be a wife and mother, He gave me the desire to write, and so it has become one of my greatest pleasures.

Every blessing, gift and talent I possess is all His. He gave me the desire and He has equipped me for the job. He gets the credit for every milestone I achieve on this journey. When I receive a compliment, I know people are only complimenting God in me. On my own, I am nothing. It's only His grace that has brought me this far.

I don't know what the future will bring, but for now, I'm thanking God for this amazing honor. I will be cheering for the winner of the Historical Romance Category regardless of who wins, because I know God has placed the same desire into the hearts of each woman listed. It's a joy to see God at work in our lives, and it's amazing to watch the Christian community work together to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world through our stories.

Congratulations to the 2013 Genesis Semi-Finalists! God's best is still to come!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Zumba and Writing

I love Zumba. Actually, I love dancing in general. So when Zumba came along, I had to try it.


For those who don't know, here's the definition of Zumba from Wikipedia: "Zumba is a dance fitness program created by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto "Beto" Perez during the 1990s. Zumba involves dance and aerobic elements. Zumba's choreography incorporates hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, merengue, mambo, martial arts, and some Bollywood and belly dance moves. Squats and lunges are also included." It also says approximately 14 million people take a regular weekly Zumba class in the United States alone.

As I dance each week, I'm reminded how Zumba is like writing. And here's why:

1. When you first start out, you have to learn the basic moves. When I first started Zumba, my instructor had to show me each move, one by one, and then she showed me how to string all the moves together in a dance. The same is true for writing. When we first start out, we have to learn all the basic elements of a plot, one by one, before we can string them together into a story.

2. You don't get an optimum workout until you know the dances well. When you first start Zumba, it takes quite a few classes before you have the dance figured out and you don't flail around like a windmill (or, as my sister-in-law says: an epileptic monkey). In those first few (or dozen) classes, you aren't getting an optimum workout, because you haven't mastered the moves. The same is true for writing. Until you have the "moves" mastered, or have a complete understanding of the elements of a story, you aren't going to write at your optimum skill level.

3. It takes a little while to find your "flavor." You have to learn the steps, and then master them, before you can add some "flavor" to your moves. That's when Zumba gets really fun! The same is true for writing. After you learn the elements, and then master them, you find your "flavor" or your "voice" and that's when writing becomes fun!

4. Each dancer has a different "flavor." I always laugh when I watch my instructor and think to myself: "I finally have this dance figured out! I bet I look as good as her!" And then I look at myself in the mirror and think: "Darn it, I don't look anything like my instructor." She has style and a flavor all her own--and because of her skill level, she can really showcase that "flavor" well. I might watch her and follow her movements, but I definitely have my own "flavor"!

5. When you're having fun, it doesn't feel like a workout. Zumba is popular, because it's fun. Who wouldn't have fun dancing to Latin music for an hour? The same is true for writing. I have so much fun with my characters and plot! Some days I look at the clock and I'm shocked that four hours have passed and it felt more like thirty minutes. It's amazing! Now that I know the story elements, and I've found my "voice," writing a 100,000 word manuscript is a ton of fun. Yes, it's still work, and yes, sometimes I have to wipe my figurative brow, but at the end of the day, I've had fun and I've produced something tangible.

What about you? Have you ever done Zumba? If you have, what did you think? If you haven't, what holds you back?