Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

So this is it, everyone... the end of another year. And if there's one thing the Lord has worked overtime to teach me this year, it's to be completely dependent on Him. Not on me, not on others, not on circumstances... just Him. It's been a long, slow, sometimes painful process, and I'm certainly still learning. But it's been a journey worth taking.

A lot of us make New Year's resolutions - about anything from losing weight and quitting smoking to setting career goals - but I'm going in a different direction. If I could encourage you to do one thing this year, it would be to go before the Lord and just learn.

Learn about who He is and what He's done for us; what He wants to do for us every second of every day if we'd only back off and let Him. Learn about His words and His promises... and believe in them wholeheartedly.

It's a resolution you'll never regret.

Happy New Year, everyone! Here's to a wonderful 2011!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests'" (Luke 2:10-14).

"Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:30-33).

"Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, an man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him" (Isaiah 53:1-3).

"...By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:11-12).

Wishing all of you a Christmas and New Year blessed by the power of His presence and the miracle of His unfailing love.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fireflies in December freebie!

Sandwiched in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the beginning of a month of free Fireflies in December!

All you e-readers can download the book for free at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Catching Moondrops Nomination!

Catching Moondrops has been nominated for Best Inspirational Romance in the Romantic Times 2010 Book Review Awards!

Co-nominees in this category are Lynn Austin for While We're Far Apart, Liz Curtis Higgs for Here Burns My Candle, and DiAnn Mills for A Woman Called Sage. Congratulations, ladies!

Winners will be announced in April, 2011 at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Signing!

On October 23rd, I'll be signing at the Lifeway Christian Store in Glen Allen, VA, 9840-A West Broad St. Stop by between 11am and 1pm to celebrate Christian Store Day with me!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Save the Date!

October 1st is a big day for me as it's the official release date for Catching Moondrops! Don't forget to grab your copy!

It's also the deadline for entering the Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and you all know how worthwhile I think it is to enter. Don't miss out! You never know what might happen!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Encouraging Kids to Read for Fun!

It seems I can get writer's block about blogging, too. Who knew?! I've been stumped about a new topic for days so I asked Facebook friends for ideas, and they came through! Thanks to Tabitha S. for her suggestion of today's topic: How to get kids interested in reading.

Call me crazy, but I think reading should be fun. Granted, not all reading... who likes reading instruction manuals or service contracts? Some reading simply has to be done. But when it comes to reading books, especially for kids, I really do think it should be an enjoyable experience.

As you likely know, I'm a nanny as well as an author, and I've been working with kids for about 16 years now. The majority of them have had a love for books, but that doesn't mean they always nurtured it. At times I've had to figure out ways to get them back on track, and that sometimes started with figuring out what drove them away in the first place.

One of the most common things that I think pushes kids away from the process of learning to read or developing they're reading skills is having no freedom about what to read. Kids who are beginning readers get so frustrated by the stuff they have to decipher - "Judy sat down. Judy ate lunch. Judy ate lunch with Jane." If I'm bored stiff having to listen to it, imagine how the kids feel having to read it out loud! While the process of learning to read can be laborious and intimidating for a lot of kids, I wonder if it might not be a tad easier if they had some choices about what to read.

For instance, if they have a favorite character they like to read about - there's a beginner book for almost any character now, from Thomas the Tank Engine to My Little Pony. They may have their homework that simply has to be done, but if you give a child a book in their free time about something they're already interested in, they're likely to want to find out what it says.

The same can be said for older readers who are developing their skills. I never liked my assigned reading in school. Classics just weren't my thing, and it frustrated me so much having to narrow my focus like that, that I began to dislike reading. The fact of the matter is, however, that children will always have required reading so, then what?

Make reading fun! Be creative with it. When I was young, I always liked reading in "special places". Whether that was under a blanket tent or snuggled up on the front window sill, it felt more adventurous to read somewhere other than sprawled across my bed. Encourage your kids to find their own place. Maybe send them outside to read in a tree house or under a big shade tree. Even under the covers with a flashlight adds a sort of mystery to reading... so long as your child's not employing this method at midnight!

Talking to your kids about the stories they're reading can help, too. Sometimes I think kids don't get into a book because they don't understand the historical significance or the back story to the main characters. Maybe you could research the time period with your child (in a fun way so it doesn't feel like more homework!), or flesh out the setting of the story so they can feel more acquainted with the book. For instance, reading The Diary of Anne Frank can only be enhanced by having some idea what they, and others in their position, were facing.

Or you could try reading the story with your child, playing roles like you're reading a script. When I was young my mother would use different voices for different characters, acting the story out like a play rather than just reading words. You could assign characters to yourself and your child - even get other family members to join in if the story permits. It's a great way to draw your little reader in, and having them join in the fun gets them reading without it feeling like work.

And never forget the library! One of my friends commented on Facebook that she loved library day in her family, when she could pick out her own big stack of books. It's a great feeling to have so many books at your disposal, and I've never known a kid that didn't like filling up their own book bag to the brim. After all, if they spent time picking their books out, they're more likely to want to go home and find out what's inside!

As for what to read... that's subjective. Some of my favorite books have not appealed to the kids I've read to, but some of their favorites have made me feel like "accidentally" misplacing it somewhere. However, there are some that have struck a chord with both myself and the kids - a mix of classics and new reads that are destined to become classics, such as...

-Anything Dr. Suess. Who doesn't love the alliterative tongue-twisters that are Dr. Seuss books? And what kid doesn't like nonsense words? If your child's going to go around saying things that don't make sense, better they come from the genius mind of Theodor Geisel!

-The Berenstain Bears books by Jan and Stan Berenstain. I haven't been around a kid yet who didn't enjoy these books. And the Berenstains have written for many different reader levels. You can find books that have just a few words a page to much longer ones that focus on morality tales.

-The Scaredy Squirrel books by Melanie Watt. I absolutely adore these books! Who wouldn't love reading about a germaphobic, paranoid squirrel who asks his readers to use hand sanitizer before reading?

-The Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. These books are pure silliness, but in the best way possible. And they're simple enough that I've heard my four-year-old charge reciting the books to herself by looking at the pictures.

For the older ones, you can't go wrong with Nancy Drew(Carolyn Keene), Hardy Boys(Franklin W. Dixon), Choose Your Own Adventures(R.A. Montgomery and others) or Encyclopedia Brown(Donald J. Sobol). I'll refrain from calling some of these classics as that would mean I'm aging way too fast! But they're pretty solid bets, nonetheless. I've also seen kids eat up the Magic Tree House (Mary Pope Osborne) books with a spoon. My seven-year-old charge can tell you the exact numbers of the few books out of the forty-something in existence that he hasn't read. There must be something good going on there!

What about you? Any suggestions for frustrated parents? Or nannies?! No matter what people tell you in books, the best advice usually comes from those who are on the job every day!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Facebook Contest!

I'm having a Facebook Fans Only contest over on my Facebook page! Hop on over to join in for a chance to win a signed copy of Catching Moondrops and some coffee or hot chocolate (your choice) to sip while reading it! Hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

There's More to Life Than Cherry Garcia

Today is Saturday. I've been to four yard sales, bought a pillow and three hand towels at the mall and eaten a mini-sized Cherry Garcia. All the exciting stuff! That's the way most days are, right? Hours of monotony that keep repeating themselves so all the days start to run together. After a while, it all just begins to seem ridiculous, doesn't it?

But the other thing I did on this monotonous Saturday was watch Prince Caspian again. I love the way that story reminds us about destiny, about our particular individual purpose.

But what does destiny have to do with our world? Between work and school and house cleaning and grocery shopping, destiny sounds like something only found in fairy tales.

Maybe it doesn't exist.

Or maybe it all comes down to the fact that we don't pay attention. Maybe the Lord's trying to guide us down the right paths to our destiny every second of every day, and we're just too focused on the monotony to notice.

It doesn't mean we're going to end up fighting to save the world or staking our place in the history books. Destiny doesn't often add up to headline news. Life is still life, and we're responsible to lead it. But the real significance of destiny is the all-important fact that it's designed by God. God created us and placed us here for a very specific purpose, and if we spend our lives fulfilling that purpose by being obedient to Him, life gains added dimension no matter how many dishes you wash or customer complaints you field.

I believe that when He creates each one of us, He crafts us in such a way that we will only be truly fulfilled by living out His plan for our lives. Sure, we can find substitutes that will make us relatively content, but there will be something missing. Somewhere, deep down inside, we'll know we were made for more than this.

So I suppose it's up to us to see past the boredom and monotony of the never-finished laundry, the daily carpools, reoccurring workplace dramas, and the dust that lands where dust was just removed. Because somewhere out there is our own personal destiny, our purpose for being sent here in the first place. We may not know all of it at once - we'll likely only see it in bits and pieces - but all of the particulars are up to Him.

Don't go out there seeking to find your destiny; seek to find Him and all the rest will fall into place. If we keep our eyes focused on our Creator, He'll guide our feet, one step at a time, onto the path we were meant to travel.

"For You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be" Psalm 139:13-16

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Classic Inspiration... and Junior Mints

One of my favorite movie memories is going to see a special screening of "Arsenic and Old Lace" at a local historic theater. I was a kid seeing Cary Grant on the big screen for the first time, and I ate up every second of it, nearly ending up on the floor when Cary Grant's "brother" pops through the window. (Haven't seen it yet? Watch it and see how you react when it happens!) It has since become one of my all time favorites, and there's a very clear reason why: It's a fantastic story brought to life by fantastic actors.

Aside from that early trip to the theater, I grew up on these films at home. Whatever I could catch on television as a kid, I watched. Mostly that meant monster movies or Jerry Lewis comedies, but it didn't matter. I loved them. I remember being balled up on the couch watching "The Invisible Man", scared to death that somebody could be sitting on the couch next to me without me being able to see him. I jumped like a cricket during a 3D "Creature from the Black Lagoon", staring at the television through paper 3D glasses we picked up at 7-Eleven. Most of all, I couldn't wait until the Easter time showing of "The Wizard of Oz". I swear that movie is the reason I'm so fascinated by weather - that tornado still stands in my book as the best film depiction of a twister. And then when we got a VCR (Yes, I remember a day without being able to pop in any ol' movie any ol' time!), I picked up every classic movie I could find that I hadn't seen yet. I reveled in the golden age of film and watched my favorites over and over again.

So it's a thrill for me to have found a local theater that shows classic films every weekend. There's nothing like seeing these stories in a larger than life fashion while munching a handful of Junior Mints and sharing the experience with an audience that laughs, jumps and gasps right along with you. It just goes to reaffirm how memorable these films were. A little melodramatic? Maybe. But those screenwriters and directors knew how to put on a show that would stick in a movie goer's mind long after they'd left the theater.

That's what real stories do - they draw you in time after time. I'm not talking special effects, risque scenes and childish dirty jokes... I mean real stories. Once upon a time, those good old films brought charm, genuine witty humor, class and - above all - a good reason for making the film in the first place. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of clunkers back in the good ol' days, too. But think about the films that everyone's heard of: "Gone with the Wind", "On the Waterfront", "Casablanca". Those stories stick in our minds, the lines are repeated in our conversations. We mimic Brando's "Stella!" in "Streetcar Named Desire", and "Badges? I don't have to show you no stinkin' badges!" from "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

Strong writing takes root in our culture, and I for one appreciate that back in the day the roots they laid down had meaning to them. They were cast into immortality with classy, intelligent skill. That's my goal as a writer, to put words down on paper that stick and stand the test of time... for all the right reasons.

If you're feeling uninspired in your writing, check out some of those famous classics. Watch how the story is crafted, how the characters come alive. Pay attention to the crispness of the dialogue. You can't help but learn some lessons and get some ideas.

Those stories have stood the test of time because they're timeless.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Upcoming Releases...

Here's a fantastic ad for upcoming Tyndale fiction titles, and I'm proud to be a part of it! Keep an eye out for all of them!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Summer Reading!

I recently found out that Fireflies in December is on one of the summer reading lists here in Virginia. So happy to see the book cross generations! If you're a student reading one of my books, or if you know someone who is, stop by my mail page and let me know about it. I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Christy Part Two

Okay, so I've finally gotten my thoughts together long enough to let you all know how the Christy's went. It was an exciting trip, getting to see people I hadn't seen in months and having the chance to meet new ones.

I was particularly excited to see some of the Tyndale family there. Tom Pawlik, winner of the Operation First Novel contest in '06 and '09 Christy winner was there with his lovely wife, Colette. Tom was also a nominee this year in the Visionary category, his second nomination for his second book. If you haven't read his first two, Vanish and Valley of the Shadow, check them out. You won't be disappointed!

It was fantastic meeting DiAnn Mills and her husband, as well. DiAnn won the Christy for her novel Breach of Trust, so there was plenty of rejoicing at the Tyndale table!

And, of course, it's always wonderful to see fantastic editors Stephanie Broene and Karen Watson. It was the first time my parents had been able to meet some of the people who have made these books come to life, and I was so thankful they were able to join me in St. Louis.


It was also the first time I'd been able to meet in person my Facebook friend and co-nominee in the First Novel category, Christina Berry. I was proud to be nominated alongside her and so happy to be able to experience such a wonderful event with her.

The room was full of faces I'd seen on the backs of books: Angela Hunt, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn... fun to point them out and remember which books of theirs I've read! It was part reunion, part meet-and-greet, and I had a truly lovely time.

Each winner was initially announced by having the first line of their winning book read, and it took me a second to be certain I was hearing my first line when it was being read. Can't tell you how weird it felt to hear my name announced! But there's one thing that has been profoundly evident to me... anything's possible if you leave the details in the Lord's hands. It's amazing the blessings He'll bring your way!

So I came home with a wonderful reminder of how much I appreciate being able to do what I do, and I want to thank all of you who read and support my writing. If it weren't for you, I'd have a bunch of words sitting on my hard drive with no place to go.

Happy reading!

Monday, June 28, 2010


Fireflies in December received the Christy Award for First Novel Saturday evening in St. Louis... and yes, I'm still absorbing it!

The dessert reception, keynoted by Lisa Samson, was a wonderful evening filled with incredibly talented writers. I'm still coming down to earth, but I'll post more details when I do!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wanted: One Lost Idea

I'm officially in writer's limbo, hanging precariously between my last book and the one I figure is supposed to be languishing in my brain until it gets its own turn to jump onto a Word document. And yet, I can't seem to find any of it - the characters, the setting, the plot lines. Who knows... maybe they escaped the asylum of my busy mind and are running around town as we speak. But trust me, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding my next book, I'm thinking about it.

And thinking, and thinking...

I go to sleep thinking about it, I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it, I watch TV thinking about it. I'm like a broken record! (If you're younger than me, don't make this worse by asking what a record is)

So then it occurred to me... maybe I'm over thinking this.

Ya think?!

After all, I'm not a writer who comes up with plot lines ahead of time; I write on the go, letting the story come to life as I type. I've even had people ask me for advice on what to do to discover their story, and I've often said something to the effect of, "just sit down with your characters and setting and let it all develop as you write." Then when push came to shove, I blanked on my own advice.

But now it's come rushing back to me, and it's time for me to settle in and just do what I do, knowing that the words will eventually come.


In the meantime, I'll be hanging around at my computer most days seeing if any ideas land on the screen.

And if you see any of them running around town, send them my way.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Those Summer Days

Okay, so this post has nothing to do with writing or personal growth or what I hope for the future. It just has to do with sunscreen, Slurpees and bubbles in the asphalt.

I love summer! Always have, except when we had 100 degree temps with no air conditioning. But then, that helped me write novels about hot Southern summers in pre-air conditioning days, so there's a reason for everything, right?

My point is, I have been particularly itchy for this summer. For whatever reason, my lovely Virginia turned into a block of ice this winter, and it started getting icy all the way back in the fall. I'm not used to this! My poor lily white skin has been covered in goose bumps wayyyy too long. I just want warmth! (remind me of this if the dreadful heat kicks in sometime)

This week has been another one of those slaps in the face cold weather has dealt us this spring; like Lucy whipping the football out from under Charlie Brown. I keep thinking the warm weather is here to stay and then Woosh! There it goes!

I'm ready for popsicles, sprinklers, summer thunderstorms, shorts, going barefoot, and trips to the pool. I look forward to the moment when air conditioning actually feels good to me rather than just making my bones ache even more because they haven't recuperated from the long, cold months.

Sure, I'm not too fond of feeling sweaty, having a sunburned nose, being bitten by mosquitos, and burning my hand on the seatbelt. But we take the bad with the good any season, and though I'd prefer a perpetual warm springtime atmosphere, I'll gladly settle for the summer months I can have.

The weather tells me today is expected to be well into the 80's, and after yesterday's rainy high 50's/low 60's, I'll take it and gladly so.

Which brings me to an abrupt end of this post. I'm off to enjoy it!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Christy Award nomination for Fireflies in December!

There are plenty of things I consider reliable pick-me-ups, chocolate being high on the list, and now I've found a new one... being nominated for a Christy Award!

The awards nominations were announced Thursday morning, and Fireflies in December has been nominated in the First Novel category. It truly is an honor to have my work recognized alongside so many wonderful books, and I just can't stop smiling about it.

My appreciation goes out to Tyndale House Publishers for believing in this book as they have. It's been such a wonderful experience to be part of their family of authors.

Congratulations to all of the finalists. I can't wait to see everyone in St. Louis!

The complete list of 2010 Christy Award nominees:


Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills • Tyndale House Publishers

How Sweet It Is by Alice J. Wisler • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group

Stand-In Groom by Kaye Dacus • Barbour Publishing


Who Do I Talk To? by Neta Jackson • Thomas Nelson

The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth • Zondervan


June Bug by Chris Fabry • Tyndale House Publishers

The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson • Thomas Nelson

Veiled Freedom by Jeanette Windle • Tyndale House Publishers


The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry • Moody Publishers

Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent • Tyndale House Publishers

Scared by Tom Davis • David C. Cook


A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group

The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey • Revell Books: a Division of Baker Publishing Group


Beyond This Moment by Tamera Alexander • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group

A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group

The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander • Thomas Nelson

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group


Intervention by Terri Blackstock • Zondervan

Lost Mission by Athol Dickson • Howard Books: a Division of Simon & Schuster

The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group


By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson • Marcher Lord Press

The Enclave by Karen Hancock • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group

Valley of the Shadow by Tom Pawlik • Tyndale House Publishers


Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma • Thomas Nelson

The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason • David C. Cook

North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

†Historical Fiction includes four nominees due to a tie in scoring.

Monday, April 26, 2010

More Adventures in Editing

This past trip down editing lane, I had one very distinct problem: continuity. The thing just didn't flow.

One of the most important aspects about telling a story is finding the smoothest way from point A to point B. It can't just be a bunch of vignettes without a goal. It has to tell the story from beginning to end with a reasonable progression.

Think about one of those connect-the-dot puzzles kids do. If they don't follow the dots in the proper order, it'll turn out to be a bunch of criss-cross lines. But following the proper path makes a perfect outline of an elephant.

Continuity in a novel is just like that... without the elephants. But then again we're talking fiction -maybe it does have elephants! Anyway, without the proper flow from beginning to end, the wires get crossed and a reader starts to wonder how they got from here to there... or why, for that matter. If the story doesn't follow a clearly marked path, the reader gets lost - whether in time, plot line or character development.

With Catching Moondrops, I realized, with the help of my fantastic editor, that my continuity was a bit out of whack. Addressing the problem seemed a bit overwhelming at first, but it was time to go back to the drawing board. I added a couple of scenes, swapped a few around and then went back to fill in the blanks.

No doubt, it's time consuming. But it's so worth it! A little bit of monkeying around with scenes takes a novel from off-kilter to spot on, giving the writer a sense of satisfaction and the reader a great ride.

So if you're finding yourself mixed up in where to go next with your work-in-progress, step back and eye up that scene order. Look closely at your characters and scenes and see if they match the ebb and flow that you're looking for.

It's time to connect those dots!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Adventures in Editing

This past week I've been working hard on editing Catching Moondrops, and even though this is my third time around with editing, I'm still learning. But I suppose that's the way everything is... there's always something new to learn no matter what we're up to.

But there's one thing I'd already learned in the past that I've had to employ yet again this time around: Be willing to cut. In my writing career there have been plenty of scenes, and even characters, that I've written and then ended up leaving behind at some point, knowing full well that the integrity of the plot would be improved by doing so.

And it can be tough! When I write something in the first place there's usually a good reason for it, so it's hard to just scrap the idea. Not to mention the fact that I've spent time working on it, and it's never fun to just get rid of something I once spent an hour or more creating.

Then again, it's tougher to watch the novel suffer due to self-indulgence. Maybe I wanted to see a particular event or conversation take place, but ultimately it's the overall project that I'm most concerned about. I figure I'd rather throw some of these things to the cutting floor if it means a better book in the end.

So if you're working on something, don't be afraid to do some trimming when necessary. Always look at the big picture, not just one narrow angle. It may hurt to say goodbye, but in the end you'll be glad you did.

  • Completely off the subject, I'm excited to announce that Fireflies in December is a finalist for general fiction in the Retailers Choice Awards. I'm incredibly honored by the nomination! Winners will be announced later this week.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

His Unfailing Love

It's amazing to me how busy I can get with nothing. Life just gets like that. After a while I realize that my hours floated away on a breeze of to-do lists and Google searches.

But every now and again I'm reminded of why I'm really here. Yesterday, I watched a documentary about the Shroud of Turin, which many experts and religious leaders believe to be the shroud Christ was buried in. No one knows for certain if it really is what they think it is. But the shroud is marked with human features and blood, and what it exposes is horrifying.

The traces of blood themselves indicate that the man who once lay in that shroud was beaten so severely that nearly his entire body was covered in wounds. His head had been lacerated, his hands and feet pierced and his side gashed open.

The man who once lay in that shroud was brutalized.

So whether or not it was Christ who was laid to rest in that cloth, it stands to reason that we can all learn something from the evidence gathered from it. Because that is exactly what happened to Christ. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

For us, He was betrayed, humiliated, beaten, bruised, bloodied, stabbed and nailed to a cross to die an agonizing death. All so that we never have to pay the ultimate price for our sin. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

All He asks in return is that we believe and dedicate our lives to Him.

So I remind myself... why am I here? I'm here to glorify the Lord with my life. To live in such a way that my obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit testifies to the unfailing love with which He gave His life.

Why do I ever think my to-do lists can top that?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Calendar Update

On March 17th, I'll be presenting the keynote speech at the Enriching Minds Series sponsored by Literacy Volunteers - Pitt County at the Greenville, NC Hilton. For more information you can call 353-6578 or email Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

He Told Me So

As a nanny, I can't count how many times I've had to say, or at least think, "if only you had listened to me." It seems like no matter what the sense behind my instructions most kids, at one time or another, will test me by trying exactly what I told them not to do. It's as though they are compelled to find out just how stupid it really was.

And as many times as this has happened with my kids, it's happened with me. I am endlessly feeling the Lord say to me, "Why didn't you just listen?" After all, if I think I know how to help my kids navigate through life, certainly the God of all creation knows how to get me through mine.

I've just had the pleasure of re-reading Phillip Keller's amazing book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. It's a compelling look at the familiar Psalm from the view of someone who knows just what a shepherd is to his sheep... and what the sheep are to the shepherd. There is nothing like getting to know our Lord and Savior better, and this book gives such insight into His character.

I keep telling myself I should only have one singular focus - getting to know Him. The more I know Him, the more like Him I'm bound to become. And as I become more like Him, I can't help but be a better person, and a better witness.

And I'm realizing more and more how spectacular it is to see the peace that comes from focusing on Him. When I realize that He is there to guide me in every single aspect of life, and that He has promised to provide all I ever need, I'm filled with an amazing sense of peace. It's the difference between becoming anxious about life and walking through it with the knowledge that all will be well. Whether it measures up to what I had hoped for or not, I can trust that if I walk in faith, all will turn out as it is meant to be.

What a relief to realize I'm not responsible to make every decision and choose every path - He is!

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Snowy Farewell

All this snow has been ridiculous! As a Southerner, I'm definitely not used to this. However, if I'm going to be snowed in, it can't be better timing than when I have a book deadline to meet.

And I did!

This weekend I finished up Catching Moondrops, and as great as it feels to have it taken care of, I have to say it's really sad to say goodbye to these characters. It's crazy how attached you can get to people who don't even exist! But they've been with me for years now, and it seems strange to think I won't be writing about their lives anymore. It's been quite an experience taking Jessilyn from just-turned-teenager to full grown young woman, and I truly hope all of you will enjoy the final chapters of her journey.

So what's next? I honestly don't know! I've got some ideas, but we'll see what plays out. For now, keep an eye out for Catching Moondrops. It should be popping up in stores by September!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Artistic License vs. Artistic Responsibility

Ever hear a song, read a passage from a book or watch a film that leaves you feeling refreshed, worshipful or inspired? I imagine we all have. It's an amazing facet of creativity - that it can be used to nurture those who are exposed to it.

There's a song by Jeremy Riddle called "I Am Redeemer" that absolutely makes me feel like I'm sitting at the Lord's feet. There's something about the intensity of the words and the way he sings them that immediately makes me want to worship my Savior. What an amazing gift, to be able to affect someone so deeply!

When the Lord gifts people in that way, it's a gift they get to share with everyone who is willing to listen, and one can only hope that those gifts are used to edify. That's what I hope to do with my writing. It's a responsibility I feel I have, that if I've been given a gift I should use it to glorify my God who provided it.

Do I feel that means that no Christian artist should ever write or sing or film anything that doesn't directly have a Spiritual message? No, I don't. The first books I ever wrote were romantic comedies that had very little focus on my faith. However, they were clean books that didn't in any way compromise Scriptural morality and that encouraged godly lifestyles.

I've seen some discussions of late pertaining to the way in which some books in the inspirational market have started to push the boundaries, to include more descriptive tales of immorality and question the basic facets of Scripture. Certainly, I don't believe that Christian fiction needs to be dumbed down to unreality. We are human beings living in a sinful world, and in order to write realistically there are going to be bad things that happen in our books. There will be unpleasant characters living unpleasant lifestyles, portrayals of Christians who have slid into sin. But do we need to explore the depths of it all?

I grew up on classic black-and-white films. I still love them to this day, and one of the things I love most about them is that I never have to sit uncomfortably waiting for something to be said or done that I'll regret having heard or seen. All the same, if you watch old movies, you'll definitely see some that portray the seedier side of life. Just pick up a James Cagney movie sometime. Cagney very often played a murderous thug, a tough guy who didn't give a dime about anyone's life, including his own. In White Heat there's a scene where he's stowed a guy in a trunk to keep him out of sight, and when the guy asks for a little air, he walks up to the trunk and shoots it full of holes. Clearly, he's a bad guy! And yet, throughout the film there was no foul language, no sexual innuendo, no nudity. They just knew how to portray evil without spelling it out letter by letter.

When Rhett Butler carried Scarlett O'Hara up the stairs in Gone With the Wind, did you really need to see more to figure out what goes on next? I don't think so. We're pretty smart people, we don't need the nitty-gritty details to know the facts.

So why shouldn't we, as authors, be able to do the same with what we write? Why do we need to fill our readers minds with muck in order to communicate our objective? The answer is, we don't. We should have enough skill in our writing to accurately portray the characters and their situations without dirtying things up.

As Christian artists, if we're going to push the limits, let's push the limits of our faith. Let's let it shine out of every word we write, every song we sing, every film we create. Even if we don't always shine the light directly on Christ, let's put out work that abides by His principles.

That's the reason the Creator of all things gave us our creativity in the first place.

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."
Ephesians 4:29 (NAS)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Latest Interview

Stop by Finding Hope in to read my interview with Nora St. Laurent. And while you're there, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Fireflies in December!