Setting Goals

I don't know about you, but I'm still having a hard time believing 2013 is just hours away! Do you have any big plans for the new year?

I've never been much for new year's resolutions because they seem hokey and almost always get broken. But this year, I'm doing something different. I'm going to take some time to write down my goals.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to procrastinate open-ended goals? Now that my work, mainly my writing, has shifted to fewer deadline-oriented tasks, I've decided it needs to be a priority for me to quantify those tasks into achievable goals. So this year, I'm making lists! Some of the items may not be realistic. Some of them may be dreams. One of them will definitely be getting a three book contract with a respected traditional publisher. (Hey, I said they would be dreams, didn't I?) But others will be things I can break into chunks. Writing five chapters per week. Spending two hours per day outlining on certain days of the week. That kind of thing. It's so easy to let our focus shift from the important things when we have too much "noise" in our lives.

What about you? Are you making any resolutions this year? I know that many of my writing friends like to choose a verse or a particular word to focus on each year. Have you ever done something like that? I think it's a really neat idea but don't know how I'd choose just one!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Merry Christmas!

I'll be taking a week off from blogging to spend time with my family. I hope you all have a great Christmas, full of many happy memories yet to be made! You can still find me at The Writer's Alley this Thursday, talking about the movie my husband and I watched on our first date... It's a Wonderful Life.


A Compassion that Weeps

I didn't want to write a blog like this. I generally try to avoid adding yet another voice to already-congested conversations in which people are so apt to become socially aggressive. But I feel I would be remiss not to acknowledge a problem I've been seeing in the church's response to the horrific tragedy of the school shooting last week. And that problem is this. We are trying to hard to "solve" all the problems and not trying hard enough to just simply grieve.

John 11: 32-44 (my emphasis)
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

When we face tragedy, we have a natural desire to want to explain it. We think that if perhaps we could just catch a hold of some deeper reason or motivation for the act, we would find peace. That's why everyone's so obsessed with finding the motive of the shooter and why the Jews in this story want to know why Jesus didn't keep this man from dying. When we can't find clear answers, we start to make up our own. We politicize events to form a commentary on things like gun control, prayer in schools, and parenting skills. We post clip art of God holding little sheep on social media websites and argue with each other on Facebook.

But we're missing something very, very important.

Jesus wept.

This passage never really made much sense to me before this week. I mean, I appreciated that Jesus had compassion, that He was capable of feeling such grief for his friend. But I was missing something.

Jesus knew all along He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet still, He wept.

Thus the grief of Jesus takes on a whole new dynamic, as does His compassion for us. It's so easy to dismiss real problems in life, real pain, by saying those children are in a better place. And they are--please don't misunderstand. But their being in a better place does not negate the horror of the situation, nor does it keep from moving the heart of God.

If Jesus knew it was to raise Lazarus back to life, and yet He still took pause to grief with those He loved, how much more ought we to grief with those who are hurting in this life? Grief, in this way, becomes a very holy act. In the church, we're all to quick to dismiss the realities of our fallen world and point heavenward. While we mustn't lose sight of the coming resurrection, we also must keep tender hearts that feel as deeply as the heart of God. How will this world catch hold of the hope of salvation, of the peace of God, if we don't demonstrate God's love meeting people right where they are?

In order to do that, we must first feel. The Bible says we should "weep with those who weep." This is a heavy calling and not something that is fun, for keeping a sensitive heart also means subjecting yourself to great pain. But if we don't know pain, can we ever know true healing?

What if, instead of spending our energy fighting over possible solutions or answers for tragedy, we simply stop, as Jesus did with Mary, and weep?

The resurrection is coming. But the death is just as real. May we never neglect the powerful hope of the resurrection by neglecting to face the reality of the fall.


The Very Inspiring Blog Award

These things are always fun! Thanks, Amanda Fanger, for giving me a nod at her own blog, which you can find here. Amanda is a reporter for her local newspaper and an aspiring novelist who blogs about her writing journey. Definitely keep your eye on this gal!

 As part of this blog award, I have to share seven things about myself. So in no particular order...

  • I love milkshakes.
  • I love Hawaii, particularly Waikiki. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon and have been back two times since.
  • My favorite band is Switchfoot.
  • I'm passionate about animal rescue and have two of the most adorable rescued Cocker Spaniels. You never would've dreamed I found them at the Humane Society and animal shelter.
  • When I was young, my mom used to keep a "diary" for me before I knew how to write. Many of the entires involved stickers and references to everything being my "best friend." I'm so thankful to have parents who have encouraged my calling from such a young age.
  • I love milkshakes. Oh wait, I already said that. I'm also a vegetarian.
  • When my head hits the pillow each night, I think to myself, "I am living a dream." Some days I still can't believe that all of this--all of you readers and the relationships I've established with those in the writing industry, even my heroes like Rene Gutteridge-- is real. And for that, I continue to be so, so thankful, and so very in awe of God's purpose.
Now, to spread the love around! I nominate the following gals for this award:

  • Angie Dicken--my fabulous critique partner, now agented by Tamela Hancock Murray!
  • Casey Herringshaw--who you no doubt already know-- because let's face it, she's adorable
  • Gabrielle Meyer-- I had the privilege of meeting Gabrielle at ACFW this year, and let me just say, she scatters sunshine all around. LOVE her. Definitely check out her blog if you haven't already. This gal is going places.
  • Kristy L. Cambron-- As if being the most gorgeous pregnant woman in the world (who now has a new baby) weren't enough, Kristy has an equally adorable blog. She writes vintage romance... isn't that a cute tagline? Love it, and I love her. Definitely stop by her blog.
  • Lindsay Harrel-- Who doesn't love Lindsay? I was SO happy we finally had the chance to meet at the ACFW conference. Lindsay is an incredible writer, and I expect you'll see great things from her sooner rather than later!
  • Rene Smith-- Don't let Rene's easy-going demeanor fool you. This lady is a Genesis winner and has nabbed a superstar agent. She's a stellar person and writer. Don't miss the cool stuff she's doing at her blog!
Hope you enjoy browsing through these blogs and "meeting" some of these ladies. Do you have any other favorite blogs you frequent? Would you share the links with us?


Seasons of Preparation

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the seasons we go through in life. Some seasons seem obvious . . . planting and reaping, birth and death, love and loss . . . but there are also so many seasons in between.

I tend to be a worrier. I worry about all the could be’s and what if’s. Sometimes I try to look too far into the future and try to see clearly through the cloud that seems to be ahead.

But here’s the thing. God never promises to show us the future. He just promises to prepare us for it. But we can be assured that if we allow His preparation in our hearts, we will always, always have what we need.

Think about how Noah must have felt whenever God told him to build the arc. So often, this story is looked at through the lens of faith, and that’s definitely a valid take-away. But what about his peace? His decision to trust God with his future by trusting Him with his present?

Imagine God tells you to start building an arc. Not exactly an easy task. He could’ve said, “Uh, an arc, God? Really? How about a regular sized boat? That would still take faith. That would work right?” But what Noah didn’t know at the time is that God had MUCH bigger plans all along. Plans that, through Noah’s faith to commit his future to the Lord and follow through with a season of preparation, God would essentially save creation from destruction.

Think about that. The power Noah had. What if Noah had said “no”? What if he’d said, “Maybe tomorrow, God. I’m busy today with real problems. Can’t you find someone else?”

God knew all along how He wanted to use Noah, even if Noah didn’t see it himself.

God also knows how He wants to use you.

Maybe you’re going through a season of preparation right now. Maybe God’s told you to “build the arc,” so to speak, with no sign of the flood coming. It can be so easy to put the purposes of God to the backburner as we pursue things that seem to be more pressing. But imagine what would’ve happened had Noah given up on the arc. Imagine how he would’ve felt when the flood arrived on any ordinary day of the week. Imagine what could happen if you give up on your own calling.

If you find yourself in a season of preparation right now with no end in sight, I want to encourage you. Things generally change when we least expect it. Your time could be sooner than you think. Embrace your calling.

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 3:13-14


A Good Friend

Found this on Pinterest... How true is this sentiment when the stories are fictional! I'm so thankful for all of you writing friends, and especially my crit partner Angie Dicken, who really have lived these stories with me.


Christmas Greetings

Finally got my house decorated for Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving just seemed so early that I put off the decorations, but I didn't mean to wait so long! Figured I better get them up before Christmas is over. Have you decorated yet?

I love Christmas time. The sparkles, ornaments, and of course, Merry Christmas Charlie Brown

Here are some pictures from our house...

My grandfather made the snowman and angel... aren't they the cutest? I love how they light up and make the house feel cozy.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Do you have any particular decorations you love to bring out?


Tuning In

Yesterday I had a headache, so I was laying down on our loveseat, about to drift off into sleep, when it hit me. My hero needs to be much more involved in encouraging my heroine to believe her dreams.

Has this kind of thing ever happened to you? It happens to me all the time. Around two o'clock in the morning, I find myself reaching for my cell phone on the nightstand and typing out somewhat-incoherent notes to myself so I won't forget the flow of ideas. By the way, more than once have I awakened in the morning to realize that these notes were totally unreadable. Guess I need to work on my sleep typing skills.

I used to think quality writing was mostly about the skill writing well. But the longer I've worked to craft these stories, I've realized there's so much more to it than that. To craft a truly great story, we have to learn to listen, tuning in to the stories around us.

Source: via Gilt Edged on Pinterest

 Stories are all around us. As writers, God has gifted us with the ability to see beyond the surface layers of the world. I often catch myself daydreaming and wondering about other people's stories. I used to think that was just my personality, but when I grew connected with other writers, I realized it really is a "writer" thing.

Don't let the rest of the world stamp that impulse out of you. Just as we tend to lose our childlike creativity as adults, we also tend to lose our sense of imagination. We get caught up in the have-to's and responsibilities of the day. We must work so hard to keep these things from snuffing out our desire, our interest in the deeper story.

Sometimes this means taking a time out from life to take some deep breaths, put on a Billie Holiday song, and dance around the living room. Sometimes it may mean eavesdropping at Panera. Sometimes it may simply mean listening to the whispers of your own heart, the whispers of God's voice to you.

But whatever it takes, we have to come to a place of tuning in to the story behind the story. These deeper layers shape our writing voice, our plot, and even the various shades of our characters' motives and goals. It's so easy to skip past this aspect of writing because it seems "fun," and we often feel like we just have to push through writing-exhaustion to get that elusive word count. Yes, sometimes we do. But other times, the thing that's keeping us back from development in our story is actually our own need to take a step back and let the story, the characters, breathe. 

Learn to privilege the whispers of dreams and imagination. If you get an idea in the middle of church, that's okay. Scribble it down. If you're half asleep when inspiration comes, don't roll over and hope you'll remember the idea in the morning. The more we feed the muse, the creative voice in our hearts, the stronger it will be.

So I encourage you to give it a try today. When a creative idea breaks through your mind, interrupting what you're "supposed" to be doing, welcome it. Doing this consistently will help us remember the joy of story.