Tuesday, February 26, 2013

As Iron Sharpens Iron ~ Have you joined a group?

I'm going to take a minute to say how wonderful some of my friends are.

This past month, I did a serial story with the other ladies of Regency Reflections and I realized how much better I write now than I did when I plodded through my first draft a few years ago. A lot of that growth is due to the writers' groups I have joined.

If you have something you enjoy, be it writing, cycling, reading or anything else, I highly encourage you to find a group that meets about it. The camaraderie I have formed with these other writers is immeasurably valuable to me.

Why are these specialized groups so important?

[caption id="attachment_251" align="alignright" width="300"]Kristi and Lindi Me and Lindi Peterson at last year's M&M Conference.[/caption]

Let's say you love photography. You are perfectly happy spending twenty minutes taking pictures of the same thing, adjusting aperture, f-stops, and white balance until you get the perfect picture. Your non-photography enthusiast friends love your work, but couldn't care less about all the minute details you want to share and gush about.

Enter a group of other photographers. If you meet with other photographers, they will get it. Not only will they get it, they'll enjoy talking about it. They'll also have ideas on how to improve your pictures and you will have ideas for them.

Meeting with others that share your passion improves your own skills - and it saves your family and friends from desperately trying to appear interested in something they really couldn't care less about.

No time to attend meetings? Get online! There are email loops and groups and forums for everything! Some of my closest writer friends are only in my inbox. That doesn't make our connection any less valuable.

Do you belong to any groups? How have you benefited from hanging out with those that share your passions?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Have you been reading A Suitable Match?

Have you been reading A Suitable Match over at Regency Reflections?

A Suitable MatchI've been enjoying it so much more than I expected I would. The reader interactions are things I love. One of the reasons I want to be a writer and have this blog established when those books come out... someday... God willing...

But I digress. If you haven't been reading, you should go check it our right now! Today is the last day to place your vote for who you think should win the heroine's heart. That's right. We're leaving the ending up to the readers! I love it.

So skip over to Regency Reflections today and catch up. If you've been reading, don't forget to go see today's section. If you haven't been reading, feel free to start at the beginning. 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

God Is Love ~ Jacob's Journal

Jacob's Journal is a monthly theological post from my husband, Jacob. I love how much he always has to teach me and I wanted to share that with my readers.

Over the past several weeks I have been looking through the book of 1 John. There are many themes I've found in this book, but the main one I saw was love. The Greek word for unconditional love is agape or agapao. It appears in the book of 1 John 31 times (once every 70 words) and the Gospel of John 33 times (once every 473 words). This is nearly double the usage of any other book of the Bible. One would think that the Apostle John is trying to tell us something.

The Epistle of 1 John was written with two major objectives in mind. One was to give its readers an understanding of how they could be assured of their salvation. The other was to give the readers a clear picture of the nature of God. The answer to both these objectives is love. 1 John 4:8 “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (HCSV)

God is love.

Three words, infinite impact. What a powerful statement of whom God is.

It does not say that God loved but God is love.

It does not say that God loves but God is love.

It does not say that God is in love but God is love.

It does not say that God gives love but that God is love.

It does not say that God has love but that God is love.

It does not say that God possess love but that God is love.

“God is love” is a statement about the very nature of God. God existed in a state of love before the beginning of time. He is the eternal state of love. The trinity existed/exists together united in a perfect state of love. All love is from God. No love exists without God. God is love.

God’s love is unconditional. It is not based on anything. It is not based on what we have done or will do. It is not based on what we deserve or what we don’t deserve. God’s love is who He is.

We cannot have love without God. God defines love. Love has no essence or meaning without God. True love is God. Not what this world has depicted as love. That is a far cry from what real love is. There can be no true love without God. That is why John used true love as the litmus test for believers.  1 John 4:16 “And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” (HCSV)

Is the God of love, the God that is love, revealed in your life? Are we as Christians representing God with love one for another?  John, Peter and Paul all expound on loving one another as evidence of the presence of God in the life of a believer; John 13:35, 1 Peter 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:9.

If we want to show God then we must show love.


Friday, February 15, 2013

A Case for Quality ~ Life Lessons From Melted Crayons

We melted crayons for my daughter's valentines this year. In the wonderful world of Pinterest inspiration, we made molded heart crayons for her to give her class.

[caption id="attachment_233" align="alignright" width="300"]circle of crayons photo: freedigitalphotos.net[/caption]

The first batch was a learning experience. We used bits and pieces from all the scattered crayons and broken bits in the crayon box. Some of them were the big fat crayons from the dollar store, a few were Crayolas, some were from restaurants, and still others were from a old art kit.

We put them in the oven (in the mold. Go here if you want instructions.) I kept an eye on them, wanting to remove them from the oven before the wax started separating.

An interesting thing happened - all the crayons didn't melt the same.

The first batch ended up a bit lumpy on the bottom because some of the crayon chunks stayed intact. So I left it in a little longer. No change. Eventually I look them out and decided that would have to be good enough. They ended up a bit muddy because the good crayons had melted and begun to separate. The final product was usable, but not what I was expecting.

We had to make a second batch to have enough for the class. We'd used up all the broken pieces in the first one, so I broke up a box of new crayons, all the same brand, and those hearts turned out MUCH better. The melting was even and I was able to take them out and maintain the mottled look.

Sorry I forgot to take any pictures of this adventure.

But I think life is like those crayons. Things are going to heat up and get crazy. Eventually all the parts of your life start to mesh - nothing really stays separate. If you have things of poorer quality or corner cutting substitutes in your life, you'll be left with bumps.

When you fill your life with things of God, things of quality and purity, then when things heat up, they'll mix better, giving you a final product you can be proud of.


My section of the Serial Story is posted on Regency Reflections today! Come on over and join the fun. We have a scavenger hunt, reader poll, and an awesome prize package. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

To Win Her Heart ~ A Peek at My Bookshelf

I'm very excited to welcome Karen Witemeyer to the drawing room today! She's here sharing with us about her book To Win Her Heart.

When I read my first Karen Witemeyer book, I fell in love. With the hero, the heroine, and the author.

If you read a lot of romance, you're familiar with the large, handsome hero with a great deal of physical prowess and the ability to protect his woman from everything from a spider to an overzealous admirer. You've never seen him the way he's done in Karen Witemeyer's To Win Her Heart.

Levi Grant is a man trying to live down his past after coming to know Christ as an adult. Combined with his ... flaw - you'll have to read the book to find out what that is - and his charming humility you will be rooting for him from page one.

The heroine, Eden Spencer, is a woman who's always known who she is and what her world is made of. But her world is thrown into a tumult when everything she knows is questioned by the people and changes around her.

To Win Her Heart is a captivating story that will touch your heart in so many ways. There is one particular scene where your emotions are pulled in so many directions that you really don't know what you hope will happen. I won't ruin that part of the story by telling too much about it. Be prepared to lose some sleep with this one because you won't want to put it down.

About To Win Her Heart:

Having completed his sentence for the unintentional crime that derailed his youthful plans for fame and fortune, Levi Grant looks to start over in the town of Spencer, Texas. Spencer needs a blacksmith, a trade he learned at his father's knee, and he needs a place where no one knows his past. But small towns leave little room for secrets...

Eden Spencer has sworn off men, choosing instead to devote her time to the lending library she runs. When a mountain-sized stranger walks through her door and asks to borrow a book, she steels herself against the attraction he provokes. His halting speech and hesitant manner leave her doubting his intelligence. Yet as the mysteries of the town's new blacksmith unfold, Eden discovers hidden depths in him that tempt her heart. 

Levi's renewed commitment to his faith leads Eden to believe she's finally found a man of honor and integrity, a man worthy of her love. But when the truth about his prodigal past comes to light, can this tarnished hero find a want to win back the librarian's affections? 

And now please welcome Karen Witemeyer!

First, I have to ask, how do you pronounce your name? I've heard white-my-er, witt-a-my-er, and witt-my-er. Which is right? 

I pronounce it Wit-a-my-er. Although even within our family, different versions arise. The most common mispronunciation is White-my-er. But I'll answer to anything. I'm not picky.

Your fifth book is coming out this summer, but you already have some amazing credits to your name, including a Carol award for To Win Her Heart. Does it still make your heart flutter to open the box of author copies? What was it like the first time you held one of your own books in your hands? 

Holding my book for the first time is always a thrill. In fact, my favorite part is flipping it over to see the back
cover. That's the one part of the book I never see until I have it in my hand. I've seen the cover (usually months ahead of the release), I'm intimately acquainted with all the words inside, but the back cover remains a mystery until I'm actually holding the book in my hands. It's the last little surprise, and it's always sweet.

With my first book, I did a little dance around the kitchen and showed it off to my kids. My daughter grinned and hugged me. Then my oldest son took one look at the cover and said, "That's great, Mom, but they don't have any heads." LOL. My cover models were only shown from the torso down. But it was my youngest son who made the biggest impact on me. He was only 8 at the time, and he knew I was writing novels. But when he saw an actual book with my name on the cover, just like the book he saw in the school library, it finally sank in, and awe swept over his little face. "Mom, you wrote a book." It mimicked my own wonder.

To Win Her Heart was the first book of yours I read and it was actually recommended to me by someone who doesn't normally read Christian fiction and doesn't even affiliate herself with a religion or church. What sorts of ministry experiences have your books created for you? 

How wonderful! I love hearing stories like this. It is amazing to me how God can touch lives through stories. I write primarily for a Christian audience, but God finds ways to put my books in non-believers hands as well, and it is humbling to learn about what comes from those encounters. Any growth that occurs is not because of me. I'm just the farmer scattering seeds, praying that some find fertile soil. God is the one who gives the increase. And when he does, I rejoice.

What has been your favorite "author moment" since you started writing books? 

It's hard to pick. The first time I saw my book on the shelves in Wal-Mart? Or there was the time a random stranger came up to me in a restaurant and asked if I was Karen Witemeyer, the AUTHOR. That was a thrill. And of course, last fall when they called my name as the winner of the Carol Award, I could barely contain my excitement. But truly, my favorite author moments are when I hear from readers who have been touched by my stories. Those are always the best and most satisfying, for that is why I write--to glorify God and encourage his people.

It you could go back to before you were published and give yourself any piece of advice, what would it be? 

Don't stress. Trust God to work things out in his timing. Before I was published, I put so much pressure on myself. I had to learn everything right then, perfect everything right then, be the best right then. This drive did help me grow in my craft and become the author I am today, so I wouldn't wish for it to disappear. However, all the worry and anxiety still creeps up from time to time, even as a published author. I worry that the book I'm writing won't be as good as the last one. I worry that I won't come up with any more fun story ideas. I get stressed as deadlines approach and marketing demands kick into gear. Yet, little-by-little, I'm learning to let go of more of the stress, only bite off what I can chew, and trust God to get me through. He's been faithful time and time again. It's the wisdom I would pass back to my younger self as well as to any unpublished writers who are still struggling to find their place in the publishing world.

Thank you so much, Karen, for stopping by! It's been a joy to have you. You can learn more about Karen by visiting her website, www.KarenWitemeyer.com.

You can buy To Win Her Heart  at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Christian Book Distributors, and many local bookstores.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Never Clean Enough ~ Life Lessons from Laundry

A few days ago, I did laundry.

Lots of laundry.

And after I'd done nothing but laundry for an entire day, I looked around and realized three things.

1. I was much more behind on laundry than I realized.

2. My family owns WAY too many clothes.

3. You couldn't notice that I had done laundry at all when you looked at the hampers.

Basket of LaundryAs disheartening as that thought was, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would never actually be able to catch up on laundry. Even if I got to the bottom of every hamper, there would still be the clothes on my back.

Life is like that. We can work and labor, plan and plot but we will never be able to fix all of the problems in our lives. We might make considerable progress, but there's still another dirty towel, another hidden habit, hiding in the corner.

While dirty clothes require hard work and maybe a trip to the laundromat, my life requires only a trip to my knees. How wonderful that Jesus came so that the dirty laundry in my life could be replaced with His perfection.

Don't forget to go over to Regency Reflections and participate in the anniversary celebration. Serial story, scavenger hunt, prize package, and reader poll.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I'm Going To Be Published... Sort of... Kinda... Okay, not really, but it's still cool!

Confused by the title? Let me explain.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know I've been a little quiet for the last week. It's because I've been getting everything ready for our anniversary celebration at Regency Reflections!

As part of the celebration we wrote a serial story. That means I will have fiction writing put out for all the world to read. Which is sort of like being published, but not really. 

The event is going to be fun. We've hidden prizes throughout the story for readers to find for a chance of winning all eight prizes. I have to say I'm having some serious thoughts about getting myself a copy of the Bible in the prize pack. (I didn't donate it, but I saw the picture and it's gorgeous!) 

I would love to have you swing over to Regency Reflections and join the party. The story is a lot of fun, and one of the best parts is that we're letting the readers decide how it ends! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

More Than a Wildflower ~ Life Lessons from Hand-Me-Downs

I have a lot of nieces. That has translated to having a lot of clothes passed down.

And I do mean a lot. Three of my nieces are near the same size, so when they out grow those clothes, they filter down to my kids. That's three wardrobes worth of clothes. Believe me - it's a bit overwhelming, but it's a wonderful problem to have to figure what to do with all those clothes. I haven't had to buy much.

As my oldest child grows, the hand-me-downs become a little less. When kids get older they actually wear out some of their clothes, so there's less to pass down.

I had to go buy a pair of jeans the other day because several of the previously-loved pairs chose to become trendy and rip holes in the knees, thereby relegating themselves to the play-clothes drawer. As I bought the jeans, it occurred to me that when we moved up the next size, I was going to have to buy more jeans. There weren't many in the box in the closet.

Having to plan on buying more jeans meant having to plan for an adjustment in the budget for kids clothes. Right now, our budget is tight (who's isn't?) so that wasn't a happy thought.

But you know what is a happy thought? My God loves me.

Field of Wildflowers and a sunset
San Carlos Wildflowers, via Wikimedia Commons
I posted a few weeks ago about realizing the connection between the verses Jesus spoke about God caring for the sparrows and the verses about seeking first the Kingdom of God. That connection floored me and adjusted my thinking and prayer life since.

And God came through.

I'll be honest, it didn't occur to me to start praying for jeans when she's still several months from needing that next size. There were problems that seemed much closer that needed my prayer and focus more than my daughter's wardrobe.

But God is so big that He can hear me on all of those looming issues and still take care of the little ones that I've forgotten.

Romans 8:26 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

I've always considered this passage as dealing with more spiritual things. Like when we don't realize what we really need to pray for is boldness or humility or something like that. But I think now that the Spirit also prays for jeans. Or a sunny day. Or a flat tire so that you miss getting caught in that big pile up on the way to work. He knows exactly what we need in our lives even when we forget or don't know in the first place.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We have a friend at church that occasionally gives us dresses her granddaughter has outgrown. Last week she gave us a huge box of clothes. Inside were six pairs of jeans in the exact size my daughter will need next. It's not a size that is all that easy to find either.

I am humbled by this tangible example of Jesus' promise in Luke 12:22-34. As my family has made a very conscious effort lately to seek more of the Kingdom of God, He has seen our need before it even arrives and He has provided. He has demonstrated that He loves me more than the wildflowers. And when it comes time to put those jeans in the drawer, I will remember His provision and tear up all over again.

God loves us. More than we can ever know. He loves you. Run to Him. Seek His kingdom and His righteousness and you will not be disappointed. He doesn't promise everyone a big box of hand-me-downs. Your miracle will look different than mine. But never fear, He will show up with exactly what you need, even if you don't know what that something is.