I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Ponderers' Plans for 2011

Everyone's talking about 2011. Making plans for the next 365 days. Personal goals. Professional goals.

Those of us who write the MBT Ponderers blog are talking 2011 too. The word "resolution" has popped up in our emails more than once. If you want to find out why I abandoned the whole resolution rigmarole, check out my post on Monday!

Back to today's post. We want to give you a sneak peek at some fun changes coming to the blog in the new year. Watch for:
  • More author interviews. If you have a book coming out in 2011, let us know. We'll consider highlighting you on the blog!
  • Guest posts. We're compiling a list of potential guest bloggers. Want to suggest anyone? Maybe yourself? Let us know that too!
  • Interviews with blog followers who regularly comment on our posts. Lots of other blogs go for the big names. We decided we'd like to get to know the people who drop by and spend time with us.
  • Highlighting "Pondering Places." We all write somewhere. Maybe you're lucky to have an office all your own. Or maybe it's a favorite booth in a coffee shop. I wrote most of my first book, Baby Changes Everything, at my local Panera Bread! We'll share some of our writing places and we'd love to hear about yours!
And while you're making plans for 2011, consider attending award-winning author Susan May Warren's Deep Thinkers/Wordsmithing retreat. Join us February 25-March 1 in Clearwater, FL for an amazing time to go deeper in the art of crafting a novel.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Writer's Covenant for 2011

Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created ... "
John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

God is the master communicator, the great initiator. He shapes us in His image and imprints in us His same desire to create and communicate. He ignites the creative spark, which becomes the catalyst for our desire to craft stories that cause others to respond.

God also cares about what each of us writes, custom-tailoring our messages and stories to who we are--while teaching us life lessons as His inspiration flows through us.

As 2010 draws to a close, consider this Writer's Covenant for the coming year:
Since ancient times, God has used human language to reach men and women. God Himself first wrote His messages on stone (Exodus 31:18), then in His Son (John 1: 1-2), and now in our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2). We are indebted to both His written Word and to the writings of gifted men and women. Though we are imperfect tools, in God's hands and with his Help, we resolve that this year we will:
  • stir up God's gift within us
  • persevere when writing is hard, when we are tired, when our attempts are rejected
  • remember that when others seem to have greater gifts or natural ability, no one else possesses our combination of personality or experience
  • submit our talents and efforts for God's use and direction
  • seek to learn more of our craft while working to develop our skills so that we grow as writers and as God's keen instruments
To achieve these goals, we covenant with Him to:
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
Date___________ Signed__________________________________________

Lord, sharpen our ears to hear your thoughts and inspirations. When You speak, help us give undivided attention, so that we receive the full impact of who You are, producing results infused with the maximum of You, the minimum of us.

Open our eyes to see clearly, glimpsing your long-range cause and effects, identifying triggering story events and far-reaching consequences.

Open our hearts to change and grow through encountering You, through loving You as You deserve, and to give out of the overflowing abundance.

Open our mouths to praise You and to encourage others.
Strengthen our hands to write as your inspired and faithful scribes.


~Delores Topliff


(Covenant adapted from an unknown source)
Photo by ba1969/stockxchange.com

Monday, December 27, 2010

You Can't Fly Unless You Jump

I recall an adventure I took at Tallulah Gorge in Northern Georgia. Summer brought a breathtaking cover of rich, green foliage.

I climbed to the top of the gorge and gazed across to the other side, some quarter mile away. I imagined the rushing waters from the melting snows of thousands of spring times as they cut into the rock.
           
At the top of the highest tree on the far side of the gorge sat an eagle’s nest. Through binoculars, I watched as she surveyed her landscape. Soon, she rose up onto her strong talons, spread her enormous wings, and she jumped! Yep, she just jumped. Within seconds, this majestic predator soared over the gorge. Her shadow covered the width of the river below as she swooped down to pluck her dinner from the water. Truly remarkable.
           
I learned a lot from that eagle that day:
  • In order to see our entire world, we have to go to the top. She could have built a nest anywhere. She instinctively chose the top of the tallest tree at the highest point of the gorge. She was in control of her world because she positioned herself wisely.
  • In order to soar, we have to leave our comfort zone. Had she tried to fly while still in her nest, it would have ended in a tragic crash. Instead she intentionally stood above her surroundings, cleared the top, and then she spread her wings. By her own efforts, she became unhindered by her environment. She was free to soar.
  • Finally, even when a huge shadow falls over our world, we can still find a way to continue. She was able to pluck a nice, juicy trout out of the river below, even with her shadow announcing her arrival.

I’ll never forget my experience with Lady Eagle that day. She made me wish I had wings so I could freely soar above my world. Just as I did that day in the gorge, our readers and fellow authors are watching us through the binoculars of their souls. Every word we type is noticed. They silently record our commitment and writing habits. We’re facing a new year. The question is, what will we do with it? I hope you soar!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Blessings Of Friendships!

2010 has been a year of great obstacles in my personal life, as well as the family business. When I struggled, not understanding why we were experiencing the circumstances we were, God would send a friend my way. Sometimes my friend didn’t even know how God used them in my life. I’d show up just in time for church and try and duck out early. My friends noticed, and set out to make sure I couldn’t isolate myself. Thanks Robin, Thanks Vickie.

When I wanted to put on a pity party, my friend Laura set me straight. No pity parties allowed. When I started thinking about returning to college after a 15 year break, my friends encouraged me. My writing buddies, most of whom I’ve met through My Book Therapy, plotted, brainstormed and edited my work.

My family relationships are part of my blessings, as I’m sure they are yours. My mother-in-law was one of those blessings; she graduated to heaven this week. She accepted me into her family without reservation. Did I mention I was 19 and my husband-to-be was 35? See, I told you she was amazing! She taught me about dedication to family. She dedicated her life to first helping raise her siblings and then to raising her family. She was a devoted mother and well loved for it!

I’m blessed not just by the actual gifts my friends and family give me, but by the examples they set as they live out their lives day by day. Some of the women have held their marriages together, when I would have given up. All have taught me by their testimonies and their lives of the amazing grace and mercy of God.

This Christmas, give thanks for the many people that God has placed in your life and the gifts they bring to you. As you ponder those blessings, think about how you can add some of those very attributes to the characters in your works in progress!

Blessings!
Alena Tauriainen
Proverbs 3:5&6


December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Literary Gift

I love Charles Dickens. His works are the most quoted of all The Classics. It can’t possibly matter that the man seemed unacquainted with punctuation when he gave us such lines as:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

“Please, Sir, I want some more."

“Bah! Humbug!”

“God bless us every one!”

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”

“Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”

(Okay, so that last one was from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.)

It is hard to think of Christmas without thinking of Charles Dickens and his classic ghost story A Christmas Carol. It is one of my favorites to read (particularly aloud) this time of year. It is also a favorite of Hollywood, and while many classic English novels have been made into movies (think PBS), none have been done in as many different ways as A Christmas Carol.

I tend to be extremely critical of movies based on books and I rarely enjoy watching them. I would wager given that and the vast number of A Christmas Carol versions available to me, you could not guess my favorite. Here’s a hint: Scrooge is played by Michael Caine and Bob Cratchit is green. You guessed it…The Muppet Christmas Carol!! Yes, there are some major discrepancies between the book and the movie but for a movie aimed at kids, it is surprisingly true to Charles Dickens. Okay, so Jacob Marley has a brother named Robert (Bob, ha ha!) Marley to allow the use of the popular, yet cantankerous Muppets duo of Statler and Waldorf. Oh, and did I mention it’s a musical? But with Mr. Fezziwig (Scrooge’s old boss) renamed Fozziwig because he is played by a bear named Fozzi, it’s as if Dickens wrote it to be a Muppet production!

I’m a mother, a writer, and a lifelong fan of Charles Dickens. I especially love the language of A Christmas Carol, but it can be, for younger readers, a bit difficult to understand. What I love about The Muppet Christmas Carol is that it is true to Dickens' original story, including quoting much of the dialogue verbatim, and what the writers couldn’t fit into the script, Paul Williams wrote into the catchy soundtrack. In addition, the movie uses a Muppet named Gonzo the Great (as Charles Dickens) to recite some of the narration word for word and explain some of the more difficult words and concepts to younger viewers. It is oddly educational and at the same time, wildly entertaining. We have watched it every Christmas for the past decade and because of it, my boys have been quoting Dickens since they were small! All of this makes The Muppet Christmas Carol on DVD my favorite gift to share with friends and family every year.

But the best part? At the end of the movie, Gonzo says to the audience, “If you liked this, you should read the book!”

Do you have a favorite Christmas movie? A favorite version of A Christmas Carol? How do you feel about books being made into movies? Which is the best? The worst?

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year,

~Heidi Larson Geis


December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where do I Start in Writing?


As I pondered what to write about this month I starting looking over the lessons I have been preparing for the upcoming Romance Writers’ Retreat this spring, and decided I should share some of them here.
So here we go. Lesson One:

I. RESPONSIBILITY

We have a responsibility to seek God for our stories.

As Christian fiction writers, we have a greater responsibility to our readership than that of our secular counterparts. Though both writers from ABA and CBA sectors have the responsibility to write engaging stories, the Christian writer has a greater responsibility. That is, to reveal the heart of God in such a way that it allows the reader to connect.

It must first be inside of you before it can get inside of your stories.
In other words, the more time you spend in sincere worship before God, in prayer and Bible study, the more equipped you will be to bring understanding to your readers by way of your characters struggles, triumphs and dependence on God in the story. Or lack of dependence for that matter.

Pray for your characters.

Yes, I said pray for your characters. God will answer that prayer.
Remember, your characters represent real people in the real world. Someone somewhere needs to hear what God would say to that character.
Don’t forget to pray for your readers as well.

To obey or not to obey.
You will need to decide which characters are going to obey what God is saying and which are not and what are the consequences of either action.
You also need to decide if the character is going to misunderstand God’s directions at this time and how you are going to show God’s real intention toward the character.
Are you going to give God an actual voice in your story, usually written in bold italics or is HE going to be understood as speaking to the character through the character’s own voice. These decisions are just as important as any other in your book.
You may also wish to show a character’s growing ability to discern the voice of God.
As you can see, there is much to pray about.
All of this may sound like an overwhelming task and in some ways, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Most everything you write will come from the flow of your heart.
…For out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

Would you share an instance in your own writing when you realized that God was flowing through you?


~Ginger Takamiya

December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Like a Puppy


I’ve never had something depend on me for existence before. I’ve also never understood the expression “followed him around like a puppy”…before I had one, that is. The pitter patter of feet constantly in my shadow is endearing. The presents he leaves under my desk—not so much.

Sometimes my husband even gets jealous because that little guy’s love for me is so complete. Cooper will follow me around even if hubby tries to bribe him with a treat. He rarely wavers, well, unless he’s getting into trouble and chewing my shoes to pieces…then I bribe him with a treat.

It brings me joy to see that puppy happy. When he’s eating the food I provide for him. When little Mr. Tenderfoot appreciates the “spot” I shovel for him outside amidst the four foot high snowdrifts. When he’s licking my arm (gross…huge sacrifice, I know!) or when he’s finally sleeping peacefully, curled up with his downy head on my thoroughly-licked arm.

As I ponder how much I depend on God for my existence, sometimes I wish I behaved more like that puppy. God provides food for me. He has given me a spot to call home. He’s given me talents and hobbies I enjoy…and he lets me fall asleep in his arms every night. This month we are pondering gifts. God has blessed me beyond measure. He’s given me his Son. The gift I want to give to Jesus this Christmas is to follow him around a little more “like a puppy”.



December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

First Two December Contest Winners!


Drum roll please!

The first two winners of the mug and journal set are:
  1. Ava Pennington
  2. Jeanne Takenaka
We've got two more mugs to give away during December, so continue to post comments for a chance to win!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Priceless Christmas Gift



My nativity set is a priceless gift but in a way you might not expect.

I wanted to exalt Jesus to His rightful place as the focus of Christmas instead of the usual decked-out tree stealing center stage. I owned a small, plain wooden nativity that I allowed my young children to play with, but I longed for the fifty dollar crèche at Sam's Club. With six children and one income, the porcelain nativity scene was my only gift that year. But, other than enjoying it on Christmas Day, I kept it in the box until the following year.

The next Christmas, I couldn't wait to unwrap Mary and Joseph from their tissue-paper cocoons and place them on the living room coffee table. Next, I uncovered the wise men and camel and set them to the left of the display. The shepherd, sheep, and donkey were positioned on the right. I carefully put Baby Jesus in the very center. For three days, I enjoyed cuddling my children on the sofa and glancing at the nativity scene in its prominent place.

On the fourth day, one of my children, whose age had reached double digits (so she should have known better), was playing where she shouldn't. She lost a grip on a "flying" beanbag reindeer, sending it across the living room and straight into the scene depicting Jesus' birth. The crash broke off the angel’s wings and Joseph’s head. I stared at the mess, knowing I couldn’t replace either figure without buying an entire set. Frustrated with the childish behavior, I wanted to toss the whole display into the trash.

Unbeknownst to me, another child—with a tender heart and more patience than I possess—spent hours painstakingly reattaching Joseph’s head and the angel’s wings. She used school glue—the only kind available to her, but not the best one for the job—and held the pieces together until they dried.

Now, each Christmas, I view the chipped angel that’s held to the roof of the stable with a rubber band and notice the cracks and chips encircling Joseph’s neck, but I don’t see defects. Instead, I see my daughter’s sacrifice. The one that transformed a couple of broken porcelain figures into a priceless treasure. I remember my daughter's gift which healed a fractured relationship between her sister and me, and I'm reminded of the greatest gift ever given—the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

I wish you a blessed Christmas!

~Roxanne Sherwood

December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Review: Priceless by Tom Davis

  • 1.2 million children are trafficked every year; this is in addition to the millions already held captive by trafficking.

  • The average age of a trafficked victim is 14 years old.
Author Tom Davis doesn't write light and breezy novels.

My friend Beth Jusino handed me a copy of his book Scared and said, "I'll be interested to hear what you think."

Scared is a riveting, I-wish-I-could-put-this-book-down-but-I-can't kind of novel that brought the harsh reality of the African AIDS crisis onto the page--and right in front of my face.


With Priceless, Tom Davis once again writes about a chilling reality, dragging me into the heart-wrenching, brutal world of sex trafficking. Yes, Priceless is a novel, but it is also Tom Davis' attempt to wake people up and motivate them to care and to act. As he writes in the "Afterwords" section of the book, "I want people to be educated, shocked, and motivated to get involved and make a difference . . . So if reading Priceless has disturbed you enough to do something, we've made it easy to get involved."

Without being gratuitous, Tom Davis' novel puts a graphic face on the horror of sex trafficking. He reveals the depravity and spiritual battles that must be confronted to rescue young girls from this nightmare.

Wondering how you can get involved to help save young girls--maybe girls the same age as your daughters--from being sold into the nightmare of sexual slavery? Go to SheIsPriceless.com.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I love music. I love the tapestry it creates using shades of harmony and melody, soprano and bass, pitch and rhythm. Since I was a child, banging away on a toy piano, sending off-key renditions of my favorite songs through our small bungalow, I have had a fascination with music – especially Christmas music.

However, there was one song that had me baffled…The Twelve Days of Christmas. Maybe it was my Protestant upbringing, but I struggled to make the connection between Christmas and drumming drummers, leaping lords, dancing ladies, Swans, Geese, and oh, don’t forget the Partridge in a pear tree…could someone tell me what happened to the traditional pine?

I assumed it had something to do with Christmases gone by, but I didn't realize its significance, until lately. Although there are numerous stories as to why it was created, and it could be argued how the cryptic jingle could be a memory aid to the associated gift - the gifts the song represents are very real.

• 12 Drummers drumming – the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s creed.
• 11 Pipers piping – The eleven faithful disciples
• 10 Lords a leaping – The Ten Commandments
• 9 Ladies Dancing – The nine fruits of the spirit
• 8 Maids a Milking – The eight beatitudes
• 7 Swans a Swimming – The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
• 6 Geese a Laying – The six days of creation
• 5 Gold rings – The first five books of the Bible, The Pentateuch
• 4 Calling birds – The four Gospels
• 3 French Hens – Faith, hope, and charity, the Theological Virtues
• 2 Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testaments
• Partridge in a Pear Tree – Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord

God has given us so much. He gave us his word, our guiding light – to show us how we are to live. Its message is just as relevant today as when it was written.

He gives us gifts through the comforter, the Holy Spirit.

And, best of all, he gave us his son. Without Jesus, without his sacrifice, we have no hope. He is our Lord, our Savior.

Our Salvation.

So during this Christmas season as we think of the small child, the babe in the manger, I for one will be thanking God for his infinite wisdom in sending us . . . A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

May you have a blessed Christmas, enjoying the gifts of our loving God.

Jennie Atkins

December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Unexpected Treasures

This year my sister-in-law and I decided to do something different for our gifts to each other. We're going secondhand. Yard sales, antique stores, thrift stores, ebay--it's all fair game. But all the gifts we buy for the other's birthday and Christmas must be used.

It's been fun...for me, at least. Apparently we have better yard sales in South Florida than she does in Alabama. :-) I picked a theme (the four seasons) and have tried to find things that fit. I'm at about half my budget and have filled up one of those rolling storage cart things. It's a good thing she's driving down, not flying! A gorgeous candleabra, a pretty fall pitcher, a Christmas runner, darling Easter ornaments and a little burlap bag with a rabbit on it to hold them, a summery purse perfect for the beach or a picnic, and so much more. (Holly, you better not be reading this!) 

Other people's junk--my treasures that I'm so excited to share. 

Sometimes the talents--the gifts--that we have look worthless to us. I don't write like Charles Martin. I'm not gorgeous like Tosca Lee. I could never speak like Liz Curtis Higgs. I can't sing like Rachel Hauck. There are so many things I can't do, or can't do as well as someone else. So maybe I should just give up altogether. Throw this junk away.

But no. If you clean it up, set it out where people can see, do what you can with it...someone may come along and find it priceless. That word of encouragement--exactly what they needed. That article--spoke to them and they changed something in their marriage to make it better. The look on your face as you worshiped--the motivation they needed to seek to know God more. That situation in your novel--showed them how to get through a similar situation in their own lives.

What's that saying--God don't make no junk? (Beth, don't cringe too hard.) It's true. He knew what plans He had for you when he knit you together. Those gifts He gave--big or small--are not to be wasted. Turn them over to Him and see how He gives back, filling your cup until it overflows. 

~ Jenness Walker
http://www.tandjbooks.com/

December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Um, wow, that's exactly not what I wanted. (i.e. The Gift of God Being Smarter than Me)

We're having weekly giveaways during December.  Read more about it below.

I made a crucial mistake the other day. Like, a putting-a-metal-travel-mug-in-the-microwave kind of mistake. (Yes, I've done it. Yes, there were flames.) My most recent misstep: saying, "I would never shave my head.


Warning! Saying those words probably made my eventual Mr. Clean look a sure thing. I’m serious, anytime I say, “I would never blah-blah,” it’s only a matter of time before I do indeed blah-blah.

Exhibit A
Melissa, sophomore year of college: “I never want to study abroad. I love campus life too much to leave.”
Melissa, junior year of college: “London rocks! Studying abroad rocks! Even tea rocks!”

Exhibit B
Melissa, senior year of college: “I will never work in a small-town newspaper. I need more excitement.”
Melissa, upon graduation: “So, it seems I'm now working at a small-town newspaper."

Exhibit C
Melissa in 2007: “I really never want to move to a larger town. Small-town life is so quirky and fun.”
Melissa in 2008: “Welp, looks like I’m moving to Des Moines.”

It’s like God takes some kind of pleasure in giving me exactly what I didn’t ask for…or want…or think I wanted. Thing is, I almost always end up loving whatever I-didn’t-ask-for-this thing comes my way.*  

Well, if you haven’t noticed, we’re talking about gifts this month at the MBT Ponderers. And as I “pondered” what to write about, it struck me that some of the best gifts God has ever given me have been a direct result of His knowing me better than I know myself. The same has been true in my writing, actually. Believe it or not, there was a time when I insisted I did not want to write a romance. But as Georgia and Case’s story came to life on paper, I eventually had to admit that what I’d written was indeed a romance – a contemporary, humor-laced, hopefully fresh one, but a romance all the same.

I think those surprise, completely contrary to what we thought we wanted gifts can be some of the most wonderful blessings in our lives. I’m so thankful God takes my “I would nevers” and turns them into “wow” experiences.

How about you? Ever find yourself being blessed by the very thing you said you didn’t want?

Melissa Tagg
www.melissatagg.com


*Notice: I said almost always. I’m not sure I will love it if I really do end up sporting a Daddy Warbux no-hairstyle.

p.s. Wondering about the photo? That's me hanging out with a monkey at the top the Rock of Gibraltar during spring break of my semester abroad. Monkey and I never would've been friends without God ignoring my "I will never."

December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Gift of Being Special

Photo Credit
We're having weekly giveaways during December. Read more about it below!

Last week I asked my Sunday school students what makes them so special in God's eyes. One twelve-year-old girl said, "I'm special because God created only one of me."

I absolutely loved her answer!

Mary was special and highly favored in God's eyes. He chose her to carry His son. What an amazing blessing! Mary didn't come from royalty or come from an extraordinary family. She was an ordinary young woman whom God favored to bear his Son. She had a humble heart and chose to obey God.

We may feel like we're ordinary, nothing special. Who would want to use us? We can't make a difference.

Wrong.

God's plans for our lives may be unknown, but when we approach His throne with humble hearts and remain obedient to His will, He can work through us to do extraordinary things.

I'm constantly moved by Susie Warren's testimony about My Book Therapy. She had a vision and trusted God to make it happen. When she started writing, Susie was basically unknown. Not even a decade later, her books are winning amazing awards because she remains obedient to God's calling in her life. Her teaching spirit inspires and encourages other writers to strive for the brass ring. No wonder she won ACFW's Mentor of the Year award. So well deserved.

God made only one Susan May Warren. None of us can write exactly like her. Bummer. :) However, we can apply the principles she teaches to strengthen our own writing.

We don't know what God has in store for our writing. But if we surrender our lives to Him, he will give us the desires of our hearts.

During this Christmas season, take time to listen to God's voice to hear what He may be laying on your heart. Ponder the peace that resonates deep within you, and then thank Him for his unconditional love and the abilities He gave you.

Like snowflakes, we are one of a kind. We are special and highly favored in His eyes.

Question for you: What makes you special? What unique abilities do you have?

Lisa Jordan
www.lisajordanbooks.com

December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What is a real gift?


We're having weekly giveaways during December.
Read more about it below!



It’s that wonderful time of year! Christmas is coming and excitement rings in the air as we search for exactly the right gift for our loved ones…and not so loved ones.

As I pondered this post, the question of exactly what a gift is arose, so I consulted Webster’s for the definition.

Gift: present, endowment, natural talent, empower, bestow, bequeath, invest.

Invest. Hmmm. Hadn’t really thought about a gift being an investment, but it got me to thinking about the difference between a casual gift to someone and a real gift. When we give someone a real gift, a part of us is attached—we’ve invested something of ourselves in the present. That involves risk and can be a little scary.

Have you ever spent time picking out just the right gift? Agonizing over the color or style, maybe even spending too much? Only later to discover that gift in the recipient’s yard sale. Hurts, doesn’t it?

I wonder how God, the Supreme Giver, feels. Do we get it when we see a baby laugh, or a beautiful sunset, or a flaming red maple tree, or snow falling softly and blanketing the countryside? These are all gifts from the Creator of the universe who loves to bestow gifts upon us. Not only does He want us to enjoy what He gives us, but He also wants to offer Himself to us. And He did just that in the form of His Son.

So, as the Christmas season approaches, let’s remember God’s gift of His Son and share Him with others.

Pat Trainum
lovefaithandmurder.com

December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away fun prizes! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story. To see a photo of this week's prize, go here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review: Nightingale by Susan May Warren & Contest


Given a different day, a different hour, she might have jumped with him. That thought, perhaps, shook Esther most of all.

From the very first line of Nightingale, RITA award-winning author Susan May Warren grabbed my attention and never let go.

Set during WWII, Nightingale tells the story of Esther Lange, trapped in an engagement after a mistaken night of passion. Even though she doesn't love her fiance, she grieves when he's lost in battle.

The letters sent to her by Peter Hess, the medic who was at her fiance's side when he died, give her comfort. Esther begins corresponding with Peter, who is hiding a secret--something that could cost them bother their lives.

A compelling storyteller, Susie develops complex characters facing difficult choices. For Esther and Peter it's not a question of choosing good or bad, it's a question of choosing between to things of equal value.

I often flipped back and reread pages because of Susie's vivid storyworld. She weaves strong verbs into her sentences and paragraphs to strengthen the overall emotional impact of each scene. No word is wasted, be it dialogue or description.

Flip Nightingale

This is the last day to enter The Letters From Home Giveaway!

Enter the Contest: Nightingale is about letters, the power of written correspondence to convey thoughts and emotions to those far away. And sometimes near. Letters are forever, they are something we savor and pull out to read again and again. They are often cherished and kept in a special place.


To celebrate the release of Nightingale, Susan would like you to write a letter. One grand prize winner will receive a Flip HD Camcorder. Five runners-up winners will win a signed copy of Nightingale. There are two ways to enter the contest by writing letters:

1. Write a letter to a soldier. At the end of the contest we’ll print out and mail your letter for you.

2. Write a letter to a friend, loved one, family member, enemy. Tell them something you wished you’d told them before. Tell them you love them, or maybe how they touched your life. Perhaps an apology is in order or a thank you. Or perhaps you'd like to relate a funny tale or just share life. Whatever it is, submit it here along with your email address and we’ll send it for you.

Enter here or at the SHARE page on the Brothers in Arms website. Or simply click on the button above.

Read what others are saying about Nightingale here.



*I received a complimentary copy of Nightingale to review, but was not compensated in any way to write a positive review.*

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Unexpected Gifts


We're having weekly giveaways during December.

Read more about it below!



Ten years ago, God flabbergasted me with a you-have-got-to-be-kidding gift.

And I wasn't so gracious about accepting it.

I sobbed. Pulled the covers up over my head and stayed in bed. But can you blame me? I was taken down by all day long morning sickness.

Forget about reciting, "Children are a gift from the Lord." (Psalm 127:3)

At the time, I had three teenagers. Having a baby wasn't even penciled in on my calendar as an optional activity. I had my life planned out--and God had interfered.

Yep, that's how I felt. God's unexpected gift was an interference, not a gift.

My surprise pregnancy delighted family and friends. Some of them laughed out loud, but more in an "I'm glad you're pregnant and not me" kind of way. I moped. And talked to God. My conversations went like this:

Do you realize I wasn't planning on getting pregnant?
Yes.
Do you know how this is messing up my plans?
Sometimes my plans trump your plans.
Do you understand I can't do this?
What's that verse about my grace being sufficient? The one you like to tell other people to cling to in tough times?

My unexpected gift was born on Christmas Eve 2000. As I held Christa, I had no idea all the hidden blessings God wrapped up in my newborn daughter.

About a month ago, my daughter Katie Beth said, "Can you imagine how bored we'd be without Christa?"

Truer words were never spoken. Christa brought childhood back to our family. Increased the laughter. And all those "I can'ts" that I threw at God? Like I can't get up with a baby again. I can't potty train a toddler again. I can't do teen angst again. God's grace has been sufficient. Actually, teen angst is looming. But God's grace was sufficient for the first three kids, so I'm optimistic!

Christa taught me that the unexpected gifts--the ones we try to push back into God's hands--are the absolute best.





December Contest: We're having weekly contests during December and we're giving away the fun prizes that my daughter Christa is holding in the photo! Leave a comment this week and you could win: a journal and a mug containing 3 Starbucks Christmas flavored VIA packets and 3 flavored tea bags. The mug has a photo of an old-fashioned typewriter on it and says: Write your own story.

*Photo at the beginning of the post is by Lenda Jay Messina of LJM Photography and is used with her permission.*