Friday, June 29, 2012

The Only Gift You Can Give ~ Life Lessons from a Lollipop

Today's post is by guest blogger, Regina Jennings.

We encourage giving. All giving. If a can of soup shows up in an empty pantry, we consider it mission accomplished. After all, it doesn't matter how it got there or who gave it, does it?

The other day I witnessed an exchange that I've seen a hundred times, usually with my own children. I was at a bank and the teller offered the little girl in front of me a lollipop. She accepted and then piped up, "Can I have one to take home for my sister?"

Charming, thoughtful, and sweet. But just as I was about to congratulate the mother, she corrected her. "Honey, if you think your sister would like a sucker, give her yours. Don't take from someone else and call it a gift."

Was This Woman Crazy? 

It sure sounded like it. Who corrects their child when they are being nice to their sister? By limiting the girl to one lollipop the mother was almost guaranteeing that her other daughter wouldn't get one. What would it hurt to take an extra home?

But the more I thought through her response the more I appreciated the principle she was advocating.

If You Think Someone Should Have Something ~ Give Them Yours

We used to have neighbors who borrowed our pick-up and tools frequently and we were glad to help them out. Then one day they mentioned that our pick-up had gone to a town an hour away because their family member had a job installing windows and needed a bigger truck to carry the materials. One day we learned that the tile saw they were borrowing wasn't being used in their own house but had been passed on to someone at their work without our permission.

I'm sure they meant well, but was it right for them to take credit for the generosity when it cost them nothing? If they'd wanted to rent a truck for their brother, they were free to do so. If they wanted to invest in their own equipment and loan it to friends, they could have afforded it.

And I'm Just As Guilty

How many times have I told someone about a great cause before I'd written a check myself? How many times have I passed on prayer requests when I'd failed to pray over the situation that day? Sometimes it's hard to judge our hearts, but if the teller at the bank is only giving you one lollipop, what you do with it is a good test.

The Only Gifts You Can Give are the Ones that Belong to You

Maybe if we'd stop trying to get our hands in other's pocketbooks... if we'd stop waiting on the rich, the church, or the government to step in... maybe we'd see the potential of the resources God has trusted to us. Ultimately, that's what we're going to give an account for - what we gave ourselves, not what we redistributed between two other parties.

Do you agree? Would you ever stop a child from taking extra to give to friends? How would you apply this principle?

Regina Jennings is the author of the historical romance Sixty Acres and a Bride and Love in the Balance (a Winter 2013 release). She is a homeschooling mother of four and a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustangalong with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. You can connect with Regina at

photo credits by and

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When Being Yourself Breaks the Rules ~ A Peek At A Writer's Life

I write this post with my tongue in my cheek. Figuratively speaking. If I actually stuck my tongue in my cheek I'd probably bite it and that would hurt.

Anyway, since I am as yet unpublished, everything I'm about to say could be a total load of bunk. A year or two from now I might be recanting this post. Oh well. I guess I'll just have to live dangerously.

The average reader would probably be surprised by the number of "rules" writers are forever being told to write by. I won't go into them because, frankly, they don't matter. If you like a book - great! If you don't, well, there could be a whole lot of reasons for it.

One "rule" is that you aren't supposed to use adverbs. You know, those pesky little -ly words that run rampant through all of my writing? Yeah, those.

I like adverbs. To me, they can change a sentence entirely. Now, I understand not peppering your book with things like this:

"I'm home from the market," she said cheerily. 
"Did you leave any for someone else?" he asked sarcastically.
"Of course not!" She smiled as she walked away jauntily.

There's so many things wrong with that little snippet of writing that I can't even begin to tell you. Rest assured, my book is better than that. But the point is that -ly words got a bad rep for being lazy writing because of examples like the above.

As I've started putting my writing out there in hopes of publication, I've gotten a lot of compliments on my "voice". (That's the general flow and feel of an author's writing.) I think -ly words are a large part of my voice because without them, I feel like a lot of my sentences get stilted.

Now, because -ly words can sometimes be an indication of lazy writing, God has blessed me with a critique partner that ruthlessly challenges every adverb I use, which means I'm left with only the ones that I am fully committed to. (Obviously, she doesn't edit my blog posts... )

But I've had to come to terms with the fact that part of who I am as a writer goes against some accepted notions. The feedback I've gotten around that seems to be working for me, even if I do break the rules.

So what do you do when who you are seems to go against the norm? I think you roll with it. Since the Bible doesn't outlaw adverbs, I'm good with using them. Everyone might not like my writing, but there's a lot of people that do.

Life is like that, too. There are "rules" about church, work, family, and everything else, but sometimes you just can't fit within the rules. I know pastors reaching hundred in churches that hold services on Saturday nights, or in a closed down bar, or with slamming rock and roll music playing.

I think some rules make fabulous guidelines and should never be broken just for the sake of being broken. But unless the Bible specifically speaks against it, don't be afraid to break those unofficial always-been-accepted rules.

Have you broken an unofficial rule? Did it work for you?

images by 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Handling Correction ~ Life Lessons from Moments of Moronity

Yes, I made up a word.

Lately I have been having a few of what I call "Moments of Moronity". Times when I do something and I feel COMPLETELY stupid when someone points out the very obvious solution. Let me give you two examples.

Example #1 ~ The Mysterious Air

I was driving home from dropping my daughter off at school. I was on the phone with my mom (hands free headset in place!) and I kept hearing this rush of air. I turned off the front and back vents, but I still heard it. None of my door open lights were on so I was beginning to get a little worried.

My mom asks if I have a window down.

Yep. Passenger window still down from where I rolled it down to talk to the secretary at the school.


Example #2 ~ The Dim Headlights

I'm guessing this pic is from England.
That or a WHOLE lot of people are driving on the
wrong side of the road.... 
We were on a long drive. The sun went down while we were on the road. I'm driving along (Usually on long trips I do better driving than riding. I seem to have developed motion sickness as I get older. Yech!) and things just seem dark. (Some of you are probably already laughing because you have guessed where this story is going.)

I check my headlights and the switch says they're on but I just don't see them. I remark to my husband that my headlights don't seem to be working right. He reaches out and, you might have guessed it, takes my sunglasses off.


The Common Factor

What these two hilarious but embarrassing moments have in common is that in both of them someone had to correct me for things that I had no excuse not realizing myself. I was so used to not having my windows down that I didn't even think to check them. My sunglasses had been on the whole time the sun went down so I just acclimated and didn't think to remove them.

Sometimes it becomes necessary for people we love to just bluntly point out the areas of moronity in our lives because we don't see them. It's difficult for both parties because you know it's going to be embarrassing and uncomfortable. You know that someone is going to be left feeling stupid or angry or defensive.

My examples are cute and, in retrospect, funny. But often we have things deeply embedded into our lives that aren't good for us. They are blinking neon signs to everyone else, but we are so used to them that we ignore them. How do we handle them?

Tips for the Receiver

Maybe because she couldn't see me, but the window thing didn't disturb me too much. I felt a little silly, but I got passed it. I almost cried about the sunglasses, I felt so ridiculous. So how should we handle when someone we love and are close to points out an obvious glaring flaw in our understanding.

Sometimes we just want to hide.
Realize that's not going to fix things.
Better to move on and deal with the embarrassment.
At least when it's over, life should be a bit better.
1. Realize it for what it is. Dear Hubby did not set out to embarrass me. Had there been any way to remove my sunglasses without making me feel silly he would have done it. Eventually things boil down to the point where you just have to say it like it is. Realize the correction for what it is - someone who loves you trying to make your life better.

2. Don't get defensive. I could have gotten all huffy and said something insane like, "Maybe I like driving with my glasses at night." All that would have done is make me look, well, stupid. Why would I knowingly choose to make things worse on myself? Just to save my pride? Pride is not worth wrecking your life.

3. Accept the solution and move on. Some things are easier to do this with than others. Removing my sunglasses, easy. Trying to figure out how to stop yourself from constantly gossiping because it's ruining your friendships? Quite a bit harder. The point is, that if you realize the person is coming to you in love and you realize the problem and don't try to defend it, the next sensible thing to do is solve the problem. The person who loved you enough to say it is probably ready to help. Take them up on it.

Tips for the Pointer-Outer

Sometimes you are the person who sees the neon sign in someone else. What should you do then?

1. Weigh the significance of your relationship to the severity of the problem. Anyone could have pointed out my sunglasses without much backlash from me. My embarrassment would have been greater had it been someone else, but it wouldn't have been a huge deal. Other times, you have to decide if you are close enough to the person for them to see you are coming in love and not judgement. You may have to sit back and pray for a while or enlist the help of another trusted individual such as a pastor or someone MUCH closer to the person.

2. Don't judge. If you judge the person, they will have an incredibly hard time avoiding getting defensive. My husband took off the sunglasses and just sat there, not laughing until I started laughing. My mom never mentioned the window thing again once I confirmed that that was what it was. Everyone has Moments of Moronity. Don't judge someone else's because one day you will have your own. Examine your motives before you speak.

3. Be patient.You may see the problem for a long while, but wait for the right moment to bring it in. I think this usually happens when the other person notices some result of their issue. At that point, it is easier to point out the problem because they have already noticed the result.

Wrap Up

Some situations are much harder than others. Some have much more significant consequences than others. You will have to adjust things according to where you are and who the other person is. The point is that we all have those moments in life. Those moments when we just miss what is, sometimes literally, right in front of our face.

What about you? Have you ever had a Moment of Moronity? Who helped you fix it?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pony Rides and Pinatas ~ Birthday Memories Revisited

What is the best birthday memory you have?

My kids' picnic table cake from two years ago.
Everything is edible except the little people.
And the candles. 
Here at my house we're in the process of planning my children's annual joint birthday party. This always makes me think about the birthday parties of my childhood. My brother and I frequently shared birthday parties growing up since our birthdays were a mere week apart.

I remember having a tie-dye party where we all made t-shirts (in the eighties of course). Sleepovers were always popular insanity. My mom was a great cake artist. She would spend hours each year creating edible masterpieces for us to tear into and celebrate another year of life. One year I had unicorns and rainbows spilling across a cloudy sky.

My desire is that my kids have similar memories to look back on when they grow up. I spend a lot of time making their cakes and planning our annual cookout to make the most of each opportunity.

Now it's your turn! What are some of your favorite birthday moments?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Suspense Cake with Romantic Icing ~ Book Highlight #2

Confession Number One: Summer hit me like a... a.... thing that hits people really hard. I started to say blender but that makes no sense. Then I thought of a category 5 hurricane, but that seems irreverent to people who have lost everything in one. So... yeah. Come up with your own cool analogy and insert it here.

That's really showing my chops as a writer, isn't it?

What it really means is that I still didn't get time to interview the amazing Jillian Kent. I'm going to tell you about her new book anyway because today, and maybe tomorrow - I'm not sure how long the sale is - you can get the eBook version for just $2.99! (Nook link here.)

Jillian was over at Regency Reflections a couple of weeks ago, so you can read that interview and get to know her a bit. The book give-away is over, but the interview is still good.

Confession Number Two: When I first started reading Chameleon,  I had to stop and put it down for a while. The villain really gave me the willies. I was reading it before I went to bed at night and I discovered that was such a bad idea. I dreamed of menacing black birds for three days.

I did finish (I had to! Can't leave bad guys running around willy-nilly.) and I can confidently say that if you like your cake made of suspense with a thick coating of romance icing, you'll want a big slice of Chameleon. 

The plot is intricate and a bit twisted. I was confidant I had discovered the identity of the bad guy (although it was pretty late in the book), but the book still managed to surprise me. (If you have read the book, please make sure not to reveal the ending in the comments!)

I will admit that there seemed to be an awful lot of people stupidly riding off by themselves down dark roads and into dense groups of trees, but it wouldn't be very suspenseful if everyone did the safe thing. That's why you can spend half of a suspense movie yelling, "Don't go in there!" You could yell it through the second half of the movie as well except that you'd have been kicked out of the theater for yelling in the first half.

But I digress. Chameleon tucks romance and spiritual truths around the structure of a compelling life or death race to find a menacing killer. It is the second book in the Ravensmoore Chronicles, but you can easily read Chameleon without having read the first book. Although you may find yourself hunting Secrets of the Heart down later.

Prefer physical books? Chameleon is available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and many of your local book retailers.

Special thanks to Charisma House for my copy of the book.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Give-Away on Regency Reflections!

Louise Gouge is visiting on Regency Reflections today! There's an interesting interview and a chance to win her new Regency novel.

Check it out!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pulling Out A Classic ~ A Peek At My Bookshelf

The best laid plans... I hoped to share with you a brand new book this month. However, I neglected to get the interview questions to the author in time, so... that post has been slightly delayed. Looks like you'll get two book highlights this month. Consider it your lucky summer.

Instead, I take you back to my bookshelf to pull out the only classic residing on my re-read shelf. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

First, A Confession

Don't like this cover?
This webpage picked the top ten
Pride and Prejudice book covers. 
I am not Jane Austen's biggest fan. I can't tell you the ins and outs of all her different characters. In fact, aside from Pride and Prejudice I can't keep straight which characters go in which book. Except for Emma. I'm pretty sure she belongs to the book Emma. Just a hunch.

The story in Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorites, though. The growth and interaction with the characters is a timeless look at the human condition. As evidenced by many movie renditions and written variations, the story is easily adaptable to just about anywhere.

The Book

Pride and Prejudice was Jane's second published full length novel. Letters to her sister indicate that she thought the book was a bit too light and breezy, but she liked it well enough. That lightness may very well be what has allowed this book to transcend time and remain a favorite of so many people. Had she included a treatise to Sir Walter Scott in the middle, it might not be as appealing.

Original Title Page
The book follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet, the second daughter of a country gentleman, as she traverses the ins and outs of society and family in rural England. As the name implies, the main characters develop incorrect ideas about each other at the beginning of the book and then are unwilling to bend enough to let them go. Mr. Darcy of romantic fame is the eventual love interest of the witty Miss Elizabeth Bennet. He is very well off and his nose is tilted high enough to prove it. Life continues to throw them into each others' path until they finally learn about each other and about themselves.

There is a great deal of wit and sly humor that may fly over a modern reader's head, but there is still plenty to enjoy about the book. Elizabeth endures ridiculous and silly relations, snobbish machinations of those "higher" in society, the misleading charms of a rogue, and countless other relatable encounters.

The Legacy

While all of Austen's novels have been adapted into movie and television versions, none has had so much screen time as Pride and Prejudice. Movie versions set in different time periods and cultures abound. My personal favorite is the 1995 mini-series adaptation with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. There is even a book and a movie that portray the classic story with a Zombie twist. I shudder to think what that entails. I must admit I have no intention of reading or seeing it.

Spin offs of the story are even more plentiful. Multiple authors have put their spin on what they think happened after Austen wrote "The End". Several years ago a mini-series called Lost in Austen plugged into every Jane Austen fan's dream and put a modern day woman into Elizabeth's shoes. While I found the show to be okay for the most part, the end was worth watching the whole thing.

There's even a children's board book version.

If you plan on watching the mini-series, don't view this clip which is near the end of the show. Darcy has just declared his love for Amanda (the modern day woman). She has an interesting response. If, after watching the clip, you aren't doubled over laughing you either A) haven't seen the 1995 P&P with Colin Firth, or B) have forgotten this scene.

The Take-away

Jane Austen
In my opinion, if you're new to Austen's works and want a place to start, Pride and Prejudice is a good place. The characters are unique, the writing is funny, and the story is a well-loved classic.

And, if you haven't watched the 1995 movie version, find yourself a rainy afternoon and enjoy. And it will take you all afternoon. It's about five hours long.

The book, Pride and Prejudice can be found at nearly any book retailer. Used copies are pretty prevalent as well.

The Lost In Austen mini-series is available for instant view from Netflix and Amazon Instant Video Download. Some people love it, some people hate it, I thought it was okay.

Movie versions are available in a plethora of places. From Netflix the 1980 mini-series is available for instant viewing. (I don't have DVD subscription so I don't know what's available there.) Amazon Instant Video Download has the 1980 mini-series, the 2005 Keira Knightley version, the 1940 Laurence Olivier rendition, and my personal favorite, the 1995 mini-series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Technically, it's still Friday...

I went to the zoo today. Somewhere between the elephants and the penguins (or ping-ins as my daughter called them) I remembered that today was Friday.

I'm supposed to post on Friday.

I had forgotten to finish and schedule the post.


So, while technically I am getting a post up while it is still Friday, it's not a normal type post.

I suppose the life lesson there could be that everyone makes mistakes?

Anyway, since I have nothing else to share, here's some interesting things I learned at the zoo today:

GIRAUD Patrick via Wikimedia Commons
- The giraffe's leg is taller than my 6-foot father. Its heart weighs as much as my son.

- The bald eagle has made a sufficient comeback and is no longer an endangered species.

via Wikimedia Commons

- It is not a good idea to take three small children to the zoo and forget your stroller. Fortunately, they rent them there.

- Sheep poop in a scattering of little tiny pellets.

Sogning, via Wikimedia Commons

- The manatee has some of the densest bones on the planet.

- My son has no fear of animals. Two goats butting heads in the middle of the petting zoo? Bring it on. He'll placate them and feed them hay.

Ikiwaner (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
- A rhino is capable of standing in the exact same place and position for more than four solid hours. (For some reason we kept passing by the rhino and he was always in the same spot.)

- Zebras are cuter as babies than as adults. I suppose this is true of many species, humans included sometimes. But it seems surprisingly true of Zebras.

André Karwath, via Wikimedia Commons
- 25 families in a single row of the parking lot pulling strollers and children out of  hatchbacks looks bizarre. We turned into the row and it was hatchback alley and the families were all pouring out at the same time. So weird looking.

What's the most interesting thing you've ever learned at a zoo?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Funny Wedding Story on Regency Reflections today!

I'm posting over at Regency Reflections today. I'm talking about the funny things can happen at weddings. I even share a story from my own marriage ceremony.

Go to Regency Reflections now to read it!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For...

If you follow a lot of pre-published author blogs (such as this one) you've probably seen a scattering of posts about contest results and what they learned from them. Because it's that time of year, when the big contests start eliminating people from the running for those coveted awards.

Let me say that I had no intention of writing such an article until Saturday night.

If you haven't read Friday's post, take a moment and go look at it. In it I talk about how I want to shift my writing goal from being enormously popular to having someone fanatically like my writing. That was the essence of it anyway.

On Saturday, I got my scores back from the ACFW Genesis contest. I had advanced to the second round, which meant six sets of judge's marks and comments. They were everywhere. I ranged from pretty low to very high.

It was rather discouraging. Having made it to the second round, I was expecting relatively high scores across the board. The comments were very constructive and helpful and I am truly grateful to every judge who gave it their time and attention. But I wanted better scores. I wanted them to like me. I wanted them to adore my writing.

Then God called me on the carpet. He made me go back and reread what I had written on Friday.

You see, there was one judge that really liked my entry. She loved my style, story, and characters. She thought it was fabulous. Interestingly enough, she had several improvement points in the comments despite the very high score, but at the end of the day she just liked it.

It hit me that I had gotten exactly what I asked for. Suddenly, everything was better. I was able to read the other judges' comments with a different viewpoint. With an eye toward improving what I write without losing what makes me uniquely me. (Interestingly enough, that was the core of the comments from the lowest scoring judge. Which is really pretty cool.)

But I touched one person in a major way, and that is what I felt God calling me to desire. What He wanted me to focus on. In less that twenty-four hours I had gotten caught back up in the obsession of status and across the board achievement.

Do my writing have a ways to go? Probably. Did I learn a lot from the judges notes? An incredible amount. But the main thing is, God told me what He wanted me to focus on and strive for. And then He gave me a taste of what that might look like in the real world. And I learned more from that then anything else.

Had God taught you a lesson lately? When was the last time you had to be reminded that you had gotten exactly what you asked for?

Free images from

Friday, June 1, 2012

I Want To Make Someone Miserable ~ Life Lessons from A Sleepless Night

When you're starting out on a new venture, in the back of your mind there's always this niggling dream to be the next big thing. As a romance author there's the dream of being the next Karen Kingsbury or Francine Rivers. Or if I'm feeling ridiculously ambitious the next Nora Roberts.

Row of trophies
By Danado0ona via Wikimedia Commons
A Christian musician might dream of being the next Chris Tomlin or want to cross over and be the next Adele. A computer programmer wonders is his pet project will be the next Facebook or Google. There are people aspiring to be the next Donald Trump or Stephen Colbert or Barack Obama.

My aspirations changed over the past week.

The Articles That Planted the Seed

Desmanthus4food, via Wikimedia Commons
Earlier this week, I came across this article by Jon Acuff. In it he talks about a band that many of you have probably never heard of. A group called Seryn. He went to two different concerts by this group - one with about 12,000 attendees and one with 60. The group gave the same effort, energy, and amazingness to both groups.

Last Friday, Laurie Alice Eakes wrote an article about avoiding pride and arrogance while promoting yourself and your books. The fine line between being prideful and being confidant is difficult to walk. What should our aim be? What should we strive for?

The Moment Of Agony

Also this week, a new book by one of my favorite authors came out. I have a lot of authors I like but only two are on what I call Auto-Buy. I pre-order their books just because it has their name on the cover. I know when they're released. I wait in agony for the Kindle download (or in this case the UPS guy because I accidentally pre-ordered the paperback version instead of the Kindle version).

Until recently there was only one author on my auto-buy list. For years I have looked for her book every summer. And I have yet to be disappointed. The problem is that every year it comes out, I buy it, and then I tell myself to read it at a normal pace.

I never listen. I stay up insanely late, telling myself "just one more chapter" until I either pass out from exhaustion or finish the book. The next day I'm tired, cranky, and miserable because I didn't get enough sleep AND I have to wait a whole year before I get to read anything new by that author. While I had every intention of savoring and drawing out the pleasure of reading the book, I devoured it in a matter of hours.

The author I recently added to my auto-buy has a book coming out today. I'm guessing another sleepless night lies in front of me. Both of them publishing in the same week - they're cruel.

A New Goal

While it would be great to be the next Karen Kingsbury (seriously, who doesn't want that many sales?) I've set myself a new goal. A new dream.

I want to make someone miserable.

I might not ever make hoards of people agonize over the release of my next book, but if I can make one person yearn for it, then it's worth putting my heart and soul in it. If someone is yawning at work the next day because they "just one more chapter"ed their way through my book the night before, that will be my trophy.

Lynn comments on nearly every blog I write. Lynn, you have no idea how it makes my day to see that email telling me there's a new comment on my blog. If she is the only one who reads it, then it's still worth putting all the effort and thought and time into these posts. I'm assuming she comments because she likes them and gets some benefit out of them.

Finding Your Goal

In whatever you do there is the apex goal and then there is the true reward. Figure out what the true reward is for you. Maybe it's having one person use your song as their alarm song. They want you to be the first thing they hear when they wake up in the morning.

Don't measure your success on it's size, but on it's quality. While it'd be wonderful to be the next Steve Jobs or Billy Graham, it's also great to be a manager that helps employees grow, the pastor of a small town church that's winning souls, or the singer on the corner that brightens someone's day every time they pass by you on the way to work.

Define your quality goal and then seek it. If fame and fortune comes with it, great. But don't make that your target.

Photo Credits: