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, November 30, 2012

Choose to Celebrate Your Life!


http://www.dreamstime.com/love-bulb-imagefree244790

Merry Christmas! 

I know it’s not here yet, but it’s oh so close. 

All the things that bring Christmas closer are beginning to happen.  The leaves are changing color, it’s a little bit chilly, and the stores are playing Christmas music.

Oh, and I bought my first Peppermint Mocha today.  Yumm. Yumm!

As you start decorating the tree, baking and shopping for the perfect gift for your loved ones, remember to celebrate this life you’ve been blessed with. Celebrate life. Every Day.

Seriously.  Sometimes my husband has to remind me to be positive.  Being the number cruncher in the family as well as for the family business, often I get the unhappy task of communicating what finances actually are available.  That can be especially hard at Christmas time.

But you know what?  There is always something to celebrate when I choose to.

Choose to celebrate your life. 

  • I got up this morning on my own, in a warm house with healthy kids.
  • I took my daughter to the eye doctor and with glasses she’ll be able to see clearer.
  • I am able to write using a laptop not pen and paper or a typewriter.
  • I have loads of laundry to wash and I can use a washing machine not a scrubbing board with a barrel of water (Yeah…think about that one).
  • I have the most fantastic family around even when we argue till we are blue in the face.   Hey, we are passionate people!
  • We have an extremely busy Christmas season which means I’m blessed with people that want to spend time with me.

How about your characters?  We as writers, can take our characters through serious turmoil but oh’ when they get the happy ending, isn’t it great?

What awesome thing can you write about your life today?

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:8-14 KJV
Blessings!
Alena T.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lessons From Black Friday

Every Black Friday, my family would head a couple hours south to one of the largest indoor outlet malls in America. We’d eat an early lunch, circle the parking lot a few times looking for a space, arrange a meeting time, and head into mass chaos.

It was a blast.
Crazy, I know. I don’t even like crowds! But for some reason, on this day, I always managed to dart through the sea of people, zero in on the best deals, lug bags heavier than the Thanksgiving turkey, spend all the cash in my wallet, and love every minute of it.

This year I shopped locally…and shopped so much that I woke up sore on Saturday. (Come to think of it, I can still feel it a little in my left arm.) Many of you, I’m sure, are shaking your head, and knocking off a few points from my sanity chart. But even for you, I’m sure there are lessons to be learned from the most-talked about shopping day of the year.
1. Do your research.

Thunk. Hear that? It’s the sound of the Thanksgiving Day newspaper...if there actually is a paper under all those ads. But that's okay. They're essential for a successful mission. :) I map out a plan of action when it comes to shopping. Bell-ringers, coupons, bonus buys…Gotta keep all those straight, along with what store has the best price for that perfect gift. Without those ads, I’d be lost. My shopping would take three times as long, which means I would have arrived back home sometime…yesterday?

2. Waiting is a whole lot more fun with friends.

I’m a loner when it comes to shopping. But I met up with a friend at Kohls…just in time to wait together in the longest line of the day. Instead of standing there, shuffling forward and wishing I’d brought my Kindle, I laughed with my friend as her daughter told me for the twelfth time about her new nightgown with the matching pjs for her doll.
3. Enjoy the moment! The journey itself is part of the fun.

Last year I spent Thanksgiving at my parents’ home…which meant I could look through the trees and across the highway to a Walmart. So when most of the family was still awake near midnight, we decided to pile in the van and see what damage we could do. I think I walked away with only a cheap mp3 player, after spending way too much time in line. But it was worth it. Not because I got an amazing deal, but just to people watch. Wow. We were there when the clock struck twelve, and it was a feeding frenzy in the electronics section. A sight to behold. And a fun memory we now share.

Your turn! Need any help applying these to the writing life? Anyone have another lesson to share from Black Friday?

I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for you!

~ Jenness Walker

Friday, November 23, 2012

An Interview with Susan Sleeman


 by Pat Trainum writing as Patricia Bradley

I first met Susan Sleeman a couple of years ago when I read Nipped in the Bud. Susan is a gifted writer who will keep you on the edge of your seat with her newest release from Love Inspired. But let her tell you about it...

I like to be in charge. There I’ve said it. I like being the boss. I like having things my way. I like to control things. Not a bad thing on the surface, but it’s the reason that underlies my desire to control that makes it bad.

I’m a lot like Kat Justice in Dead Wrong, my November release. Kat lost both her birth and adoptive parents to violence. She fears losing her four siblings, too. So, she thinks she has to keep an eye on them to make sure nothing bad happens to them. If someone comes into their lives that she fears will hurt her siblings, she warns that person off. In her own life, she tries to control every little thing to make sure nothing bad happens to her. And she feels as if she must worry about them as well.

I never lost family members like Kat, but I was bullied in school. So, I learned that if I could preempt the bullying by taking matters into my own hands, then I wouldn’t have to go through the pain. I transferred this to my life as an adult by thinking like Kat. If I could control things, then I wouldn’t have to experience any pain.

But you know what? No matter how hard you control things, pain is an inevitable part of life. One that the Bible tells us to expect. One that helps grow our faith and spiritual maturity. And if you are in charge, then you’re responsible for the outcome which sets up the perfect opportunity to worry.

Through the years, I have worried with the best of them over little things and big things. But when my husband lost his job, we had zero income and had spent all of our savings on my medical bills, I knew I could do nothing about it and worrying about it wouldn’t improve my life in any way. As the Bible says, worry certainly didn’t add an hour to my life. In fact, all worrying accomplishes is to tell God that we don’t trust His timing. We don’t trust Him to work things out in His way. Point blank, we don’t trust Him to know what’s best for us. He does of course and He doesn’t want us to step ahead of Him or worry about things that are out of our hands.

So what did I do? I stopped focusing on the problem and left it in God’s hands. Of course, He not only took care of the problem, but gave my husband the best job he’s ever had. A blessing far beyond income.

Have I given up worry for good? No, but every time I am tempted to worry, I remember that whenever I focus on anything, be it good, bad or indifferent, it will grow in my life and take over everything else. I made a commitment to myself that as soon as I realized I was worrying that I would turn the thing I was worrying about over to God and each time it came back up, I’d recommit it. It took time and lots of effort to let it go, but the ensuing peace was well worth the effort.

So when you have that feeling in the pit of your stomach, your hands start sweating, or maybe you just don’t feel peaceful, give it to God in prayer. Leave it with Him and wait with expectation for Him to solve your problem.

Have you been dealing with a problem lately? Leave a comment and tell how you handled it.

Dead Wrong –
A KILLER’S CLOSING IN…
When her client and old college friend is murdered, P.I. Kat Justice knows the killer will come for her next. Her survival depends on finding her unknown enemy first…and working with homicide detective Mitch Elliot, her onetime crush.
It’ll take all her professional skills to ignore the sparks between them, but Kat can’t allow the handsome cop to get close. She’s seen too many people she loves die, so she vows just to do her job without getting emotionally involved. Yet keeping her distance may not be the best way to protect her heart—or their lives.
For more info about and to read and except for Dead Wrong visit Susan’s website at about http://www.susansleeman.com/books/dead-wrong/


BIO -
SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of inspirational romantic suspense and mystery novels. Her first romantic suspense title, High-Stakes Inheritance earned a spot on the ECPA bestseller list and her Garden Gate Mystery series, which features Nipped in the Bud, and Read Between the Tines has enjoyed time on Amazon bestseller lists as well. And The Christmas Witness was named a finalist in the 2011 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. In addition to writing, Susan hosts the popular internet website TheSuspenseZone.com.

She currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law, and an adorable grandson. To learn more about Susan stop by any of these locations on the web.

To learn more about Susan stop by any of these locations on the web.
Website           www.SusanSleeman.com
Facebook        www.Facebook.com/SusanSleeemanBooks
Twitter            www.Twitter.com/SusanSleeman
Review Site     www.TheSuspenseZone.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tomorrow is a Special Day!!



Every year, my family gathers during the third week of November for a special celebration. We share a meal and give thanks for another year together. We’ve done this every year since 1968, and even though it’s a holiday that is kind of unique to our family, the nation celebrates alongside us for the whole month of November. Tomorrow is our 45th annual celebration, and this year, our special day falls right on Thanksgiving!!

Ken and Pam Larson were married on Veterans’ Day in 1961. Like most young couples, they wanted a big family, but after several painful losses, they realized they might not be able to start their family the traditional way. Meanwhile, across the state, a 19 year-old single nursing student discovered she was pregnant with a baby she knew she could not raise on her own. She chose life, and in October of 1968, she delivered a seven pound baby girl. The young woman decided giving her baby up for adoption was the best gift she could give her little girl. A few days before Thanksgiving, Ken and Pam got a phone call from their social worker at the adoption agency and within hours, they were picking up their new daughter.  

My adoption day has always been a pretty big deal at our house. It is the celebration of the day God used the amazing sacrifice of one woman to create a family that could not have existed otherwise. With November being National Adoption Month and my adoption falling so near to Thanksgiving Day every year, it sometimes feels like the whole world is celebrating with us. Sometimes people ask me if I’ve found my “real” parents, and while I know what they mean, I also know Ken and Pam Larson could not be more real.

So on this Thanksgiving Eve, I am giving thanks. I am thankful for the unselfish choice of a single young woman in Nevada. I am thankful God chose Ken and Pam to be my parents. I am thankful they were willing to consider adoption and that they chose me. But most of all, I am thankful that God chooses each of us and adopts us into His family as His sons and daughters.
Happy Thanksgiving!! (And Happy National Adoption Month!!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

How's NaNoWriMo Working for You?



 It’s either good news or bad news, but we’re officially halfway through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). How are you doing? Have you written 25,000 words yet? (Or more, if you’re planning to take off for the holiday?)

If you’ve met your goal so far, hooray! Keep it up! We’ll all do the Snoopy Dance and celebrate when you reach the 50,000-word mark. (By the way, I hope you’re reading this during your coffee or lunch break.)

For those who haven’t met your goal, what’s stopped you? Look into a mirror and say, “I'm a writer. I deserve time to discover whether I really can achieve my dream.” If you haven't done this yet, then you need to—right after leaving a comment at the end of this post.

Some common problems:

Time management. Even if it's a struggle, please carve out some writing time in November as a gift to yourself.  Enlist your family to do a little more. Arrange with your boss so you can write during your lunch hour. Lose a little more sleep. Many writers get up before the roosters or stay up with the owls after the rest of their family has gone to bed. Use whatever pieces of time you can to write.

Distractions. You’ve carved out writing time, but you’re not using it to your advantage. Eliminate time wasters. Make a rule you can’t login to Facebook, check the headlines or play Spider Solitaire until you reach your daily word count. I know it only takes a minute, and you’re dying to read your email, but be a grown up. After all, it’s your dream. You’re the problem here.  
Why you're distracted. Most of the time, you distract yourself when you don’t know what happens next or you’re struggling with a scene. Sometimes it helps to walk away, so go do something productive, then come back. Or call a friend to brainstorm. Just don’t resort to your usual time wasters. You won’t find the solution while reading “Dear Abby” or watching the most popular YouTube video. You’ll just lose ten minutes of your life you’ll never get back—time you could've spent writing!

Circumstances. Are circumstances beyond your control? Please leave a comment and we’ll brainstorm ways to help improve your situation.

Progress. Even if you haven’t met your goal but if you’ve written, then you’ve made forward motion, which is something to celebrate. So keep writing until the end of the month—and beyond!

Your turn. What’s your best tip to being successful during NaNoWriMo, or any time you’re on a writing deadline? What are your favorite writing snacks? What’s your best energy booster? How do you keep distractions at bay? How can someone improve that situation (examples left in the comment section) that feels beyond her control? Share what’s working for you. Maybe it will work for us.

~ Roxanne, along with all the Ponderers, wishes you success in reaching your writing goals this November.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Election's Over--But Freedom of Expression Never Stops


By Delores Topliff
The election is over. Balloons have drifted away and the confetti has fallen. It’s time for those elected to roll up their sleeves and work on sobering tasks.
For me, the brightest spot in this election was being a ballot box judge in a small Minnesota town. I loved seeing 94% of 2400 registered voters turn out to vote because they cared. That alone was great. They came in all shapes, sizes, and manner of people. Our 15 voting stations were divided by red, white and blue protective canvas curtains down to knee level. At times people stood one to two deep waiting for their turn. We saw all kinds of dress including three sets of pajamas with slippers. What else?
  • mechanics and carpenter coveralls 
  • farm overalls
  • smocks
  • scrubs (complete with stethoscope)
  • fluorescent road worker suits 
  • sweats
  • a police uniform with loaded belt 
  • all varieties of military and hunting camouflage 
  • more unique hats than I can count—you name it, we saw it. 
And footwear ... below the curtains we spotted super-high heels, moccasins, massive snow pack boots (on a girl with pencil-thin legs), walking shoes, every kind of tennis shoe, clogs, crocs, work boots, casts, braces, canes, wheelchairs.
Mostly smiling people exercised their choice—although some looked concerned. We heard friendly tones of neighbors saying, “My vote cancelled out yours,” or “I just saved our country.”
If people flubbed their ballot, they had to choose to take the time to complete a new one—or not. No one left without doing so.
The election is over. Votes are counted. Booths folded and ballot boxes stored away. Whether we agree with the outcome or not, we have to love the system and the people involved in the process.
Clothes, shoes, hats--these are all examples of people exercising choice, of a free people expressing individual uniqueness and preferences through personal choices.
We also exercise choice in the words we speak—or don’t.
And in the words we write for NaNoWriMo and MBTWrimo—or don’t.

How about you? We are freely given nearly endless opportunities to exercise choices. Share some of the favorite ways you exercise and express yours.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Freedom


By Jennie Atkins

Last week we elected a president. For some, it was their candidate of choice, for others, not so much.  Through it all Americans ranted and raved about the pros and cons of the system, the electoral college, and the candidates that ran for office. In fact, you could be guaranteed a heated debate in any corner of this country when the topic of politics was discussed.
But that is the essence of what makes this country great. We are allowed to voice our opinion. We are allowed to say “we voted for the other guy”. We are allowed to disagree. And only one word can describe it accurately…
Freedom.
            We live in country where we have freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and the privilege to vote as we please.  Our freedom, proclaimed in our constitution brings pride to every American heart and propels men and women into service for our country.

            And for that I’m truly thankful.
            I am thankful that these young people have the courage and the strength to step onto foreign soil to defend our country and what we believe in. I can’t imagine, nor do I want to, the atrocities these young men and women see and experience daily. Some don’t come back while others come back broken in body or spirit.  
            I thank God for these soldiers daily.  Without them where would we be?  I shudder to think.
            Thank you to all that have served.  Thank you men to the men and women in the Army, Navy, Airforce, and Marines.  Thank you for defending our freedom in World War I and II, Korean War, Vietnam, and Desert Storm.  Thank you for your willingness to go into the jungles of Vietnam and the desserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.
            Thank you for your bravery.  Thank you for serving.  Thank you

 

 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Is Fiction Unscriptural?


Someone posed that question to me a couple of years ago. After all, the Bible says “whatever is true, whatever is honorable…dwell on these things.” Phillipians 4:8.

So what about Christian fiction?

Now if anyone has attended Susan May Warren’s seminars, you’ll remember how she teaches you to consider the lie your characters believe and the truth that sets them free. Watch for this in Susie’s books, and you’ll find a lot of depth woven in the story.

But we still haven’t addressed the question. Does fiction, for the Christian, go against God’s Word?

I first thought of the stories Jesus told to illustrate a point: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. But who’s to say those stories weren’t true? A sheep really could get lost.  A woman might sweep to find a coin, and sons go astray every day.

Is there any place in the Bible where God used fiction?

Then one day, buried in the Old Testament, I found it! 

In Judges 9, a man named Jotham tells the story of the trees who went out to anoint a king.

 Seriously? Trees choosing a king?

Yep. And they talked to each other too! The olive tree said one thing, the fig tree another. Even a bramble bush joined the conversation.

Now, I don’t think anyone would argue that trees actually talk. But Jotham used the story, a fictional story, to illustrate a point.

Whether the stories about the sheep and coin were true or not doesn’t matter. God does use story to illustrate something He wants to bring home to us.

Does this confirm to you that Christian fiction has a place on your shelf? Can you think of another place in the Bible where a fictional story is used for illustration?

Photo from istockphoto.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Top 10 Most Under Appreciated Things I'm Thankful For"


Every November I reflect on the things I’m thankful for. The typical things usually top my list: my husband and daughter, family, friends, our health, my puppy, warm house, and food.

So, to spice things up, I decided to list the "Top 10 Most Under Appreciated Things I’m Thankful For":

10. Sweatpants. Seriously, there's nothing like a pair of sweats on a Saturday morning. You can pretty much wear them as pajamas or in public and it’s all socially acceptable. If only my place of employment would embrace sweatpants as much as I do, I’m sure my productivity would seriously skyrocket. 

9. Saturday morning. No further comments necessary.

8. Inflatable rafts. My Challenger 3000 raft floats my best childhood memories from the cabin each summer. My brothers and I “sailed” through more adventures in that thing than I can count.
 
7. Sanitation collectors. Props to them for doing an underappreciated job. If my garbage didn’t magically disappear each Thursday morning, my life would a much stinkier story.

6. Language. I had to throw in a semi-serious one. How often are you thankful we can communicate effectively with one another? This allows us to pursue our passion of reading and writing novels.

5. Ice. I love ice. I can’t help it. I love to skate on ice. I love to chew ice. I love that it makes my fizzy beverage chilly. I even love its smell. Yes, ice does have a smell.

4. Mittens. They make a Minnesota winter worth living through.

3. Facebook. Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, we can share what we are doing at any given second with 500 of our closest friends who probably don’t care. Luckily, there are probably at least 10 of them who DO care, which is why Facebook works.

2. Ketchup and antacid medication. Ketchup goes with just about everything (except perhaps antacid medication), and makes it better. It is the universal condiment. And when you need antacid medication, you are pretty thankful somebody invented it.

1. Fingerprints. God didn’t have to bother, really, yet he took the time to give us each our very own set.

So, what about you? What’s on your  "Top 10 Most Under Appreciated Things You're Thankful For" list this month?

Blessings,

Amy Lindberg

Monday, November 5, 2012

Where was God in the storm?

Photo Credit
by Lisa Jordan

Last week Hurricane Sandy unleashed a fury of destruction and devastation in its wake from the Caribbean to the New England states. Homes and businesses were destroyed, leaving families crying out in anguish. 

Where was God in the storm?

As Sandy pounded the coastal regions and moved inland, marrying the cold front coming down from the north, she birthed a weather phenomenon known as Frankenstorm. Areas in the MidAtlantic states had feet of snow, causing more havoc on an already weary area. 

Where was God in the storm?

In the months ahead, rescue and relief crews will work tirelessly rebuilding homes and businesses to help the suffering put the pieces of their lives back together. These people will be changed forever as they grieve lost loved ones and sift through the ashes and debris to find fragments of their pasts. 

Where was God in the storm?

The Bible is filled with stories of people who cried out to God in times of trials. King David was no stranger to misery--some of it of his own making. In Psalm 22, he cries out to God, asking, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest." (Psalm 22:1-2 NIV)

Where was God during David's storm? 

So many people may feel they have nothing to be thankful for during this Thanksgiving season. After all, their homes have been destroyed, loved ones' lives taken, businesses ruined. They're homeless, jobless, discouraged. What do they have to be thankful for?

Where was God in the storm?

And you know what? Storms aren't simply weather-related. They come in many degrees from job loss, health issues, marriage crisis, straying children, family strife. 

I've had several storms in my life. I'll admit I was like King David crying out to God and asking why He had forsaken me. I was focusing on my present circumstances instead of having faith that God had things under control. Once the rain had cleared and the sun came out, I could see Him more clearly, but I'm learning to cling to Him during those storms. 

Despite the wreckage and devastation that will take months and years and millions of dollars to restore, God was present during every raindrop and gust of wind during Sandy's fury. When we acknowledge God as our Anchor in the storm and keep our focus on Him, then He will provide an amazing future for us beyond anything we could possibly imagine. That's not to diminish the trials and tragedies we endure. Moments of shaky faith are bound to happen. Thankfully, God remains faithful and steadfast.  

Where is God in the storm?

Holding our hands and walking beside us every step of the way.

Your Turn: How do you cling to God during the storm? Do you thank Him for the trials? What lessons have you learned?