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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Making New Years Resolutions that Work


New Year's Eve already! And time to think about those resolutions again. It seems that we always either break our New Year’s Resolutions or just plain forget about them. Why do they not work?

I think one reason is that we make them too vague. Something like: Be a better wife. Help my kids more. Read more.  Improve my spiritual life.

Part of the trouble with vague resolutions is that we never really know if we’ve accomplished it or not. How do you measure “better” or “more”?

Here’s a suggestion for making a resolution that you can keep: get specific. Start with a general issue, but then get specific in just how you will do this.

Here’s an example. Start with one issue you’d like to improve, and continue to get specific until you reach an obtainable and measureable goal. Suppose I want to help my kids more.  Here’s what my progressively specific list might look like:

Help my kids more
Communicate more with them
Call each of them once a week
Ask each of them one area they would like prayer for
Pray for the requested area
Pray for the requested area every day.
Pray for the requested area every day at 9 p.m.

As I get more specific, I reach an obtainable and measureable goal. If I cannot obtain it, what's the use? If I cannot measure it, how will I know whether or not I reach it?

You can do it with a project you would like to do too. Suppose I’d like to finish writing my book. I’d make another list.

Finish writing my book.
Writing one chapter a week
Work on the chapter every evening
Work on the chapter every evening at 8 p.m.

Finally, above all, take it to the Lord in prayer. He's the One who gives us strength and discipline to make changes.

How about you? What one thing would you like to accomplish or improve upon in 2014? Now give us your list! And many blessings upon you for 2014!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Power of One Word

by Beth K. Vogt

I call myself a "one word woman."

For years I followed the New Year's Resolution crowd. I wrote a list of do's and don'ts for the upcoming new year before I finished watching the lighted ball drop in New York's Times Square.
No more.
Now I'm all about one word -- that's right -- one word. 2014 will be the ninth year that I focus on one word for an entire year. Yes, I know what my word is for the upcoming year -- it's hidden in the quote in the photo at the beginning of this blog. But before I tell you what next year's word is, here's a review of my words for the past eight years:

  • 2006: gratitude - I kept a gratitude journal and found my "glass half empty" attitude revolutionized.
  • 2007: simplify - A severe illness turned this word into survival. I embraced simpler things in ways I never imagined.
  • 2008: content - as in "be content with such things as you have." (Hebrews 13:5) I bought a lot less that year!
  • 2009 & 2010: forgiveness - I had a lot to learn and unlearn about forgiveness.
  • 2011: hope - A word I clung to when life hurt or when my heart ached for others who were hurting. There where times I could have asked, "Why?" Instead, I asked myself, "Are you going to abandon hope? My answer: No.
  • 2012: trust - During a year of change, I faced doubting vs. trusting -- and chose to trust. I also began posting trust quotes on my Facebook page to encore myself and others.
  • 2013: confidence  - I feel so much stronger emotionally after keeping my heart and mind set on "not throwing away my confidence." (Hebrews 10:35-36) And yes, I continued the tradition of posting confidence quotes on my FB page. 
So why one word? For me, it's all about focus.

“Rather than making a list of all our faults, bad habits and regrets, then trying overhaul every aspect of our lives each January, what if we focused on God and just one thing at a time – trusting Him to do the work He’s initiated and promised to complete?” (From the My One Word Blog

CHANGE IS POSSIBLE, BUT FOCUS IS REQUIRED. 

How do you find your word for 2014? Here are the steps I use:
  1. Be patient. Listen and wait for God repeating himself to you through His Word.
  2. Wait for confirmation. Sometimes God confirms a certain word -- a focus for the upcoming year -- through a song or through a book I'm reading or through conversations I have with those who know me best (family/close friends).
  3. Consider these 3. I always like to have 3 things for my word: a word, a Scripture verse, and some sort of visual reminder. 
  4. Read these books: My One Word by Mike Ashcraft  and One Perfect Word by Debbie Macomber.
My word for 2014 is Think, based on the first few verses in Romans 12 where we are encouraged to have our thoughts transformed by renewing our minds and where we are told not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. I'd love to know if you do resolutions or if you focus on a word each year -- and how that works for you.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Come to Skye and Meet Carla Laureano's Celebrity Chef...

By Patricia Bradley

Today we have Carla Laureano on the Ponderer’s blog. Her debut romance novel, Five Days in Skye, was released by David C Cook in June 2013.

 If you haven’t read Five Days in Skye, you are missing not only a great book, but the exquisite feeling that you are in Scotland. Skye to be exact. Like I said yesterday on my blog, when I finished Carla’s book, traveling to Scotland went on my bucket list!

A little about Five Days in Skye from the back cover blurb:
Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she'll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she's sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she'd rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father's dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.


Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

Yesterday I interviewed Andrea on my blog, so today, it's only fair that I interview James.

Pat: When you first met Andrea, did you have an ulterior motive for not immediately revealing who you were?

James: Ulterior is a bit strong... let’s just say that I’ve never quite outgrown my mischievous streak, and finding out what she really thought about me was too good an opportunity to pass up. Besides, Andrea is stunning when she’s irritated. Why would I deprive myself of that pleasure?

Pat: Interesting. You also didn’t try to correct her impression that you were a playboy.

James: Mmm. Right. That probably wasn’t my shining moment. But in my defense, neither of us were exactly looking for a relationship when we met, and she was so confident she knew what kind of man I was. Had I told her the truth, she wouldn’t have believed me. Some things one just needs to find out for one’s self.

Pat: I noticed that you drove a battered green Subaru and that you wore a serviceable but not expensive watch. You could easily afford a Rolex, so why didn’t you have one?

James: Are you saying my two thousand pound Breitling doesn’t impress you? I think it’s rather nice. *slides up his sleeve to admire it* But in answer to what I think you’re asking, I’ve worked hard to get where I am today. I’ve earned the right to please myself rather than live up to others’ expectations. I don’t need to prove I’m successful by what I wear or what I drive.

Pat: Good point. In the book, you were a celebrity chef. What made you want to be a chef?

James: When my parents got divorced, our aunt Muriel came to live with us. Those first few months especially were difficult, and it probably won’t surprise anyone that I got up to a fair bit of mischief. She started teaching me how to cook as a way to keep me occupied. I realized fairly quickly that not only was I good at it, but I enjoyed it. I went to business school because it was what Mother expected of me, but I couldn’t make a career of it. I’m simply not suited to office work.

The celebrity part happened by accident. A BBC producer fell in love with my food at The Hart and the Hound and asked to speak with me. A couple weeks later, she proposed a cooking show and the rest is, as they say, history.

Pat: How did a celebrity chef get involved in helping high-risk kids?

James: I was fortunate. Had I not had Aunt Muriel and my father, had our financial situation been different, I might have ended up in as much trouble as those kids. Cooking was an outlet at a time when I desperately needed one, and I wanted to pass on that opportunity. I began my cooking program for secondary school drop-outs about five years ago, and all but a handful have graduated and gone on to work in the industry. In fact, one of them just began culinary school, and another one is working as a saucier in my Knightsbridge restaurant.

Pat: One last question. What attracted you to Andrea?

James: *grins* You mean besides the obvious? Well, she’s intelligent, she’s witty, and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind. That might be a negative for some men, but I get so much flattery as a celebrity, I never know what’s the truth and what’s just a stroke to my ego. Andrea is genuine, and that is a rare quality.

I hope this piques your interest in Five Days in Skye. It's one of the best books I've read this year. And like I said earlier, reading it has whetted my appetite to see Scotland. Check out Carla's pictures of her beautiful setting here.

Comment question: Have you ever been to Skye or Scotland and if not, is it on your bucket list?

Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for Five Days in Skye. Leave another comment on my blog and be entered twice. One lucky commentor will be drawn so be sure and leave your email address.

Author Biography:
Carla Laureano earned a degree in English from Pepperdine University in 1997. Since then, she has been a professional marketer, copywriter, and martial arts instructor, but her first love is telling stories that cause readers to look at their world and their faith in new ways.
Carla is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Her debut romance novel, Five Days in Skye, was released by David C Cook in June 2013. The first volume of her three-book young adult fantasy series, The Song of Seare, is due out from NavPress in May 2014.

She lives with her husband, two sons, and a menagerie of small pets in Denver, Colorado.

Five Days in Skye can be purchase at: AmazonBarnes and NobleChristian Books,comiTunesVyrsoBookshout!,and  eChristian.
She lives with her husband, two sons, and a menagerie of small pets in Denver, Colorado.
Connect with Laura at:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Right or Left Brained, which are you?


By Jennie Atkins
 
I’ve been going back through some older articles on writing.  I found one I’d ripped out of the Romance Writers of America RWR, March 2012 edition called “Left Brain or Right Brain”, that I found quite interesting.

From the time I started writing, there seemed to be a difference of opinion between writers on the best approach the writing process.  You have those on one side who claim plotting out their work is the only way to write a novel, then to the far left are the pansters, those who write the scene as it comes to them uninhibited by the structure of an outline. It often left me wondering, which way is right?

Both!

It’s all in our genetic makeup.  Left brainers tend to be logical and make lists, including a detailed outline of their work in process. And they’re satisfied with knowing the path of the story.  Every detail is planned down to the delivery of the novel to the editor, which by the way, is usually on time!  The down side is they’re afraid to take a chance and deviate from the outline.

Right brainers are spontaneous, they can write the scenes out of order, and feel like they’re on a wonderful adventure with their characters.  They let the characters lead the way, even if it gets them in trouble.  The downside, is spontaneity will often lead to disconnected scenes and a lot of rework.

So if you’re wondering where you stand, here is a brief list taken straight from the article.


Left brained writers:
  • Like to plan out most aspect of their life
  • Don’t work well with distractions
  • Tend toward step-by-step learning
  • Zero in on details rather than the overall pattern
  • Like a structured environment
  • Make decisions based on logic, facts, and reason
  • Like to do one thing at a time
  • Enjoy learning when facts and numbers are presented
  • Learn best when new information is presented in sequential form


Right brained writers:
  • Have only the most general of ideas of where their story is going
  • They are spontaneous in how they live their life, as well as how they write
  • They make decisions based on intuition and emotion
  • They expect your characters to explain what they’re going to do next
  • They don’t mind if the story diverges from what they expected
  • They learn best when information is presented in anecdotal or story form
  • Respond better to lessons that can relate to on a personal level rather an an abstract level
  • Respond well to visual learning
  • Can work with distractions

After reading this article I’ve decided I am definitely left brained with some right brained tendencies. By understanding how we think, we can take advantage of our strengths and plan for our weaknesses.

Your turn:  What are you?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's Christmas Already?

Hi Friends! 

We've celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas is knocking on our door. Already?  

Where did the year go? I mean it's not like we're busy trying to care for our families while juggling work along with a host of other obligations. I don't know about you, but I carefully plan and pray about goals for the new year. I even chart my course out on a calendar but a couple of items drop by the wayside. It’s kind of like that important note you pin up on the refrigerator but it gradually get’s covered by kid’s artwork or school notices. Ever have that happen?

Around this time, I tend to look at my goals and wonder what went wrong? How did I get so side tracked? Did I accomplish my Goals for 2013?

No.

I’m trying not to beat myself up about it. Instead I’m working on focusing on the positive. For every negative, I'm striving to find a positive -- even if I have to pull out a magnifying glass to find it.

Makes me think of King David. When his back was against the wall and he felt defeated he asked himself,

“Why so downcast oh my soul? Put your trust in God.”

Sounds so simple, yet so difficult. I know God can do the impossible and when I put my trust in Him I have peace.

That’s what I’m striving for as we wrap up 2013--to trust in God and not worry, to be at peace. To know He who began a good work in me (and YOU!) is faithful to complete it.

Just for grins, here were some my 2013 Goals:

1. Pitch at the 2013 ACFW Conference – Check!
2. Spend more time with my children – Check!
3. Give full-time job my all and with a good attitude – umm, okay maybe I get ½ a check for this one.  
4. Lose 10 pounds - okay definitely a minus.
5. Daily Devotional – better than before but not where I want to be, so definitely a ½ check.
6. Finish editing my wip ---minus, but I haven’t given up!

How about you?  What were your successes and your challenges in 2013? What are you trusting God for as you wrap up this year?




Tuesday, December 3, 2013

That unforgettable je ne sais quoi


Delores E. Topliff
 
 
Packing to move, tucked in the back of a kitchen cupboard, I found a prized jar of spices bought in Israel from an Arab storekeeper at the base of Mt. Tabor. Its fragrance carries me to where dark-eyed olive-skinned boys shove wheelbarrows piled high with hot fragrant bread loaves down cobblestone streets in old Jerusalem. After I pay four shekels, the smiling boy sprinkled green spices onto a newspaper square, telling me to sprinkle it on the hot bread, and twisted it into a cone. Delicious. Unforgettable.
 
 
Like Israelites first tasting honey-sweet manna, I kept asking, “What is it?” until the Arab shopkeeper placed a jar in my hand.
“What’s in it?” I asked next. I saw toasted sesame seeds, smelled oregano, tasted salt, but blanked on other ingredients. Its Arab name is Za'atar. It also contains cardamom, thyme, basil thyme, savory, and sometimes dried sumac. It’s like no other blend I’ve tasted.
I don’t use it often, but one whiff returns me to Jerusalem. Or Mt. Tabor. Or Joppa where Jonah boarded a ship to avoid Nineveh--only to have a whale carry him to its nearest shore and spit him out.
Spices are magic carpets. Good writing is just as distinctive. Pat Trainum recently asked what we like in heroines. I prefer gutsy, even atrocious, Scarlett O’Hara, to Gone with The Wind’s Milque Toast Melanie. The spice analogy works in considering literary characters. Too bland? Tasteless? Lacking identifiable flavor? We spit them out like infants refusing pablum. But give us good memorable flavor, and our families request that recipe, restaurant, author--they become family favorites.
Like Susan Warren’s unforgettable characters, especially P. J. Sugar, whose antics resemble someone we know and love. Or Rachel Hauck’s winsome characters in great natural settings. Or Beth Vogt and MTagg offering holy grail plots where protagonists discover inner truths helping them learn who they truly are, and which goals matter most. Others of us are still blending and stirring writings in our literary kitchens.
Gifted writings? Unforgettable spices! They possess that certain je ne sais quoi that makes us rush to book stores to enjoy delicious flavors again--and add more great books to crowded shelves in our homes--or give to friends.
Tell us your favorite spice? How and when do you use it? Enjoy!
 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Mother's Black Box


Recently I inherited a black jewelry box from my mother. I treasured it simply because it belonged to my mother who recently went to heaven. The box contained only a few buttons and safety pins. It was black and not especially pretty…until I noticed a bit of dark silver along the edge.
        The first chance I got, I purchased some silver polish and began polishing the black box. It wasn’t long before the black rubbed right off and exposed a beautiful silver finish.  I still don’t think it’s highly valuable, but it’s a great deal more beautiful with the silver shining instead of the tarnish.



It reminded me of the verse in Proverbs 25:4, “Take away the dross from the silver, and it will go to the silversmith for jewelry.”

How about that prodigal son? The wayward daughter? The aunt or uncle who is an embarrassment to the whole family?

Is there simply some dross that, when removed, will shine brightly? Have you given up?

Remember the Lord may be in the process of polishing the person who distresses you now.  That person many soon glow like a shiny silver box instead of a black one. Give the Lord time. And give the troublesome person a chance to sparkle.

(Note: due to technical difficulties, this is not the actual box. The box I inherited is much more beautiful.)





Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Productive Writing


By Jennie Atkins

I am always busy making something.  Currently, I am working on Christmas gifts for my family. My office floor, covered with scraps of material, resembles Joseph’s coat of many colors.  It used to be I’d make at least one gift for everyone on my Christmas list. To do so, I either had to start my Christmas projects early—which I often did.  Or learn ways to improve my performance.  I learned short cuts to eliminate rework, keep my quality high, yet get things done in record time.  I use these same principles at my job, so I’ve tried to examine my writing to see if they’d work there.
I recently picked up a book called 2k to 10k: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What you Love by Rachel Aaron.   It had a lot of great tips, small improvements that I had already begun to realize in my own writing journey prior to reading the book.  So I thought I’d share them here.
Understand your scene before your write it.  No need to let your fingers do the walking aimlessly across the keyboard on their own.  Give them some help by scoping out the scene beforehand either in your head or a list of cryptic notes on a napkin.  Some go as far as to pre-write the scene.  I don’t like double work, so I’ll stick to the notes.
Time is a big issue.  Find your best writing time and protect it.  This may mean finding a quiet spot somewhere else other than your home to write. It may also mean discovering the time of day you’re more productive and trying to squeeze in time to write during that timeframe.
Then lastly, make sure you are enthusiastic about what you’re writing.  If it’s boring to you, it’s boring to the reader as well. So next time you’re struggling with a scene, stop and ask the question…why?  It may be you need to start back at square one and rethink your scene.

I'm not talking about assembly line, cookie cutter type writing, just small ways to make your time at the computer more productive. And some of these things may only work for me. 
So now its your turn:  How have you learned to be more productive?