{summer favs giveaway}

Can you believe it’s almost the end of July? Me neither. But to celebrate, I’m hosting a giveaway!

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Enter below to win a prize bundle that includes:

I’ve been posting regularly on The Writer’s Alley, but I’m excited to get this website up and running again! You can check out the Rafflecopter to see how you can win, share the love about one of my favorite authors, and support my journey as an author at the same time.

Thanks for entering, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{valentine’s day 2015} my heart is full

a great way to end a great day {pictured: my yellow puppy Valentine}

This morning, I posted something super cheesy on Facebook. Not my normal M.O. at all. It went with an engagement picture taken 7.5 years ago.

I thought about how that girl had a vision of what love and romance looked like in her mind. Happy and hopeful and pretty low-maintenance, but a very limited scope on the subject.

She might have envisioned her eighth Valentine’s Day with her husband to be spent dropping the kid(s) off with a sitter for a romantic, adventurous night on the town. Taking advantage of the chance to dress a little nicer than usual and cementing affirmations of love over a nice meal at a new restaurant.

But you know what? Our eighth Valentine’s Day looked nothing like that. It was less bubbly and chocolatey and red, but better than the girl in that picture could have ever imagined.

Sometimes February 14 equals Braxton Hicks and work emails and rambunctious puppy-sitting and doing homework and flour-bombed kitchens and staying in sweats all day.

But my heart is full because of a man who took our girl to the gym so I could write this morning, made me Mac and Cheese for dinner, and held hands with me during a rental movie.

My heart is full because of a little girl whose excited little feet shuffle as fast as they can to get her stepladder the moment I start assembling ingredients to bake.

My heart is full because there is just as much festivity in soft pink accent nails and homemade sprinkle sugar cookies as in roses and chocolates and dimly-lit restaurants. Just as much love poured into a pan of elbow noodles from a box as there is in a $20 plate of salmon.

My heart is full not because of a calendar day designated for grand, sweeping gestures, but because of this day’s image stamped into my memory.

The practical reminder that love endures the other 364 days of the year, too.

 

 

 

my survival plan for 2015

I wasn’t going to do a Word of the Year.

Even though I did one in 2014, putting 365 days in a neatly wrapped box seems limiting. Daunting, even. Life is full of so many different, constantly changing, unexpected, beautiful experiences. And to be honest, I mostly don’t like the feeling that the #oneword idea is just a social media gimmick :)

But as I thought about what 2015 would look like for me, the word SURVIVE kept coming to mind. Adjusting to life as a work-at-home mama of two littles. A perpetual planner and administrator with a huge dream and no idea of what my daily schedule will look like.

Well, SURVIVE, I see your uneasy intimidation and raise you a swift kick in the jewels.

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Yep. I’m not just going to survive in 2015; I’m going to thrive.

2015 won’t be represented by one word for me, but an entire lifestyle. I want to enjoy mothering a baby — this little boy for whom we’ve waited and prayed for so long — even more than I did the last time. I want to be intentional about my faith and life and work and writing in ways that maximize their potential to make me come alive and enable me to give best to those around me.

What does this look like? I’m not sure exactly. But here are a few ideas when it comes to work and writing:

  • Read at least one book a month with a goal of 15 in 2015. I think my total was, like, 5 in 2014, and that’s not okay. Books are just part of who I am. My brain needs the exercise. My fingertips need to feel the grain of pages.
  • Write in short increments every weekday with the end goal of finishing Jake and Adriana’s story. First draft and edits. I normally write about 1.5 books a year, and I’m confident I could do that even with the changes 2015 will bring. But I’d be content with one book. One ridiculously good one :)
  • Work a month ahead of time. It should come as no surprise to you that I’ve separated my regular work and writing-business tasks into things that can be done in advance + things that require daily or weekly maintenance. I’d like to get the majority of the next month’s work- and writing-related blog posts finished one weekend at the end of every month and then complete weekly tasks at the beginning of each week. This system is more sustainable and conducive to protecting creativity. Days will be freer for writing, spending time with my family, other creative endeavors, and more life-giving things!
  • Anticipate how I can spend my time most effectively to make sure everything gets accomplished, but realize that things aren’t in my own control but God’s. Or at least they should be. It’s absolutely best that way.
  • Don’t overthink things. My SisterChucks (writing sisters) and I have a motto and promise to each other not to overthink things. So I want to work on diverting unproductive thoughts before they can consume, sabotage, and steal my joy.
  • Enjoy. Above all enjoy it. To thrive in the John 10:10 “rich and satisfying life” God intended when He gave me freedom — even in moments the thief intends to “steal, kill, and destroy”.

Do you have any 2015 goals or big events coming up this year? Tell me what you hope your year will look like.

monday morning rescue

It’s the Monday after Christmas.
Many of us are getting back into our normal routines. 
Confronting real life things without the cushion of hope and light from Christmas. 
I’m listening to this song this morning as I catch up on work.
It’s worth at least six cups of coffee but without the crash :)
It’s like God’s words whispered into my heart —
(( and to be honest, sometimes human-penned words & lyrics like that don’t sit well with me. ))
But I hope the truths in this song will encourage you and sustain you this Monday morning!

“Come to Me” – Bethel Worship (You Make Me Brave)

(( Written by Jenn Johnson & John Hendrickson ))
I am the Lord your God
 I go before you now
 I stand beside you
 I’m all around you
Though you feel I’m far away
 I am closer than your breath
I am with you, wherever you go
I am the Lord your peace
 No evil will conquer you
Steady now your heart and mind
Come into my rest
Oh let your faith arise
Lift up your weary head
 I am with you, wherever you go
Come to Me, I’m all you need
Come to Me, I’m everything
Come to Me, I’m all you need
Come to Me, I’m everything
I am your anchor
 In the wind and the waves
I am your steadfast
 So don’t be afraid
 If your heart and flesh fail you,
I’m your faithful strength
 I am with you wherever you go
When the storm rages
 I won’t be afraid
I have locked eyes
On You face to face
Your voice I will follow
 Your eyes I will see
 I’ll come a little closer
Come close to me
You are my anchor
 In the wind and the waves
You are my steadfast
 I won’t be afraid
Even in the darkest night
I know You are there
So I press into You, Jesus
And lose all my doubt
You are my anchor
 In the wind and the waves
You are my steadfast
I won’t be afraid
If my heart and flesh fail me
 You’re my faithful strength
 You are with us
 Wherever we go
We come to You
You’re all we need
We come to You
Our everything

friday favs: fun gift ideas for writers

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Shopping for the writer on your list? Unsure how to spend your gift cards? Here are a few ideas!

I’ve been seeing prettified pages from this ESV Journaling Bible all over Instagram. Since writers like to process and interpret through their pens, this could be a meaningful gift for the writer in your life. Valerie Wieners, who took the above picture, has an excellent FAQ page about hers!

Technically this one isn’t available yet, but isn’t this Hemingwrite Distraction-free Digital Typewriter such a cool concept? Looks like it will be out soon!

The Passion Planner. How to describe it? It’s an extremely practical way for the busy writer to track priorities and tasks and break it all down in a feasible way. I watched the video for the kickstarter campaign and adored the format of it! If you’re the try-before-you-buy type, you can download PDF copies of the weekly spread, but the actual planner has more resources to help with goal-setting and the like. Check out all of its features here.

Honorable Mentions: You can never go wrong with an Amazon Gift Card, impersonal as it seems. The writer in your life has plenty of comparable titles, craft books, and writing supplies to buy, so an Amazon card may give him/her permission to get something fun. Pens and office supplies are always high on my list. My favorites are here and here and here and here.

Writers, what ranks high on your wishlist?

#FACEme blog tour

 
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I promised I’d never have a little girl who loved princesses. What was I thinking

She took to them with no influence from me whatsoever, and suddenly I was invited to an unfamiliar magical realm of tiaras, gowns, and sparkly jewelry. This glamorous epitome of a three-year-old girl’s ideal.

It soon became clear (when she asked to wear dresses and costume jewelry every day) that she believed one couldn’t be a princess without wearing those things. But it’s been our mission to engrain a requisite association between princesses and traits like kindness to others and unconditional love and bravery and joy. Fortunately there are many illustrations of these qualities threaded in her stories.

When Jaime suggested the FACE.me blog tour, it got me thinking about some of the engrained requisites women have. While my three-year-old daughter’s stories illustrate positive, enriching values for the most part, I think teenagers and adults aren’t so lucky. Just look at the ideals communicated by pop culture and the multimillion-dollar beauty industry. The fact that plastic surgery is about as common as going to the dentist these days.

Wearing makeup is like a revered rite of passage for young girls. And once they cross that threshold, it’s hard for them to go out in public without it. Without their best face. I think that, instead of allowing it to accentuate their existing beauty in a fun way, which I’m all for, many allow the mask of makeup to create overshadowing flaws. To alter the lens of how they see themselves in the mirror. Without a few coats of mascara, they believe their eyes disappear. Without blush, their complexion is ghastly. Without a daily application from their proven assortment of tubes and compacts, they’re not beautiful. Not worth a second glance.

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I don’t ever want my daughter to feel that way. I want her to see in herself the beauty I do, untouched in those big sapphire eyes and creamy skin and little petal smile that has the power to turn the darkest of days on its head. And more importantly, I want her to appreciate the innate kindness and generosity that radiates from within her. To know that every time her first reaction is to compliment someone she meets or comfort someone who’s hurt — those things are way more important to the blueprint of her identity than the shape of her eyes or the color of her hair.

And she, the first person who sees me after I drag myself out of bed in the morning, has helped me appreciate my own beauty in its raw and rugged form. Her mind doesn’t differentiate between my made-up face and this one. She’s looking for comfort, checking to see if she’s made me laugh, and measuring my delight in her. There are far more important things that matter to her than color and lines.

Isn’t that the way God looks at us, though? I think He completely sees through any attempt to dress ourselves up, to embellish any aspect of our life. He sees the real version of us and redeems us anyway.

And I think He wants us to know that there’s nothing we can do (or not do) to make Him love us more or less. Like a three-year-old, He is enraptured by us — bedheaded, broken, and blemished — just as we are.

Faceme

For more thoughts on true beauty and God’s love, check out the rest of the FACE.me blog tour by clicking the links below.

Nick Kording: http://nickkording.com/thoughts/
Lindsay Harrel: http://www.lindsayharrel.com
Joseph Courtemanche: http://www.commotioninthepews.com
Gabrielle Meyer: http://www.gabriellemeyer.com
Jaime Wright: http://coffeecupsandcamisoles.blogspot.com
Carrie Wisehart: http://www.carriewisehart.com
Emilie Anne Hendryx: http://eahendryx.blogspot.com
Andrea ‘Dia’ Nell: http://andrea-michelle-wood.blogspot.com/
Sarah Baker: http://godbooksandchocolate.blogspot.com/?m=1
Kristy Cambron: http://www.kristycambron.com
Rachel Britz: http://www.rachelbritz.com
Cara Putman: http://www.caraputman.com
Stacy Monson: http://www.Landof10000words.wordpress.com
Laurie Tomlinson: http://www.laurietomlinson.com
Katherine Reay : http://www.katherinereay.com
Katie Gansherthttp://katieganshert.com/blog/

 

{giveaway} end of October favorites

It’s almost time for my favorite month to come to a close, so I’m ending it with style.

What would you think about a GIVEAWAY? 

Good. I’m glad we can agree.

There are two things that inspired this: 1) Because I just love this social media community and always feel the more the merrier! And 2) because this week is the arrival of something I have long been anticipating, the release of Lizzy & Jane, the follow-up to Katherine Reay’s first book, Dear Mr. Knightley.

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Just in case you haven’t heard of Katherine Reay, let me fill you in. Her first book recently won TWO Carol Awards in the same night to add to its proverbial mantle of acclaim. It’s intelligent, raw, compelling, and—get this—written in epistolary form! I love that format. So different, especially in the inspirational romance market. Plus, in case you couldn’t tell by the titles, there are plenty of nods to Jane Austen in these books :)

If you haven’t read Dear Mr. Knightley, rest assured. I’m giving away:

  • A good old-fashioned paperback copy of Dear Mr. Knightley
  • UPDATE: The super sweet Katherine Reay has added a copy of Lizzy & Jane to the loot! Woo hoo!
  • A $25 giftcard to Barnes & Noble or Amazon
  • An assortment of my favorite things that will probably be decided based on who wins, but will likely include a copy of the CD I’ve been listening to nonstop plus the impulsive favorites that land in my Target cart

There are plenty of ways you can win in the Rafflecopter below, a variety of ways you can help me out a lot on my journey to publication! For example, I recently created an email list to be used only for the most special of announcements. (If the direct link doesn’t work in the Rafflecopter, click here to sign up!) Apparently those are pretty important to have :)

May the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{tagged} 20 random questions

My lovely, sweet Casey Herringshaw tagged me in a 20 Random Questions post. So, since it’s been a minute on my blog and it’s Friday, I thought I’d share my answers!

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Here goes:

1. How tall are you?

5’6″ since I was 12 years old. Somewhere in the middle of average, and I’m okay with it. :)

2. Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what is it?

I like to sing, but that’s not really a secret. So I’m going to go with trashcan basketball. I am oddly good at landing wadded-up trash into a wastebasket from a distance, but only with my left (weak) hand. The more you know.

3. What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?

Mine is the opposite of Casey’s. I don’t like it when people feel they have to stick to a schedule so much that they are constantly apologizing for not blogging when life gets in the way. Life > blogging. Every time. I say be consistent, but you have no reason to be sorry when something comes up. :)

4. What’s your biggest non blog-related pet peeve?

Well, it all sounds kind of silly when I type it out. But I live in Oklahoma, and I don’t like it when people interchange words like “hill” and “heel”. I also don’t like it when people ignore the double verb infinitive rule with the verb “to need”. (When someone says “needs fixed” instead of “needs to be fixed”.)

5. What’s your favorite song?

Ask me again in five minutes. It will probably be different. I’d say my all-time favorite song is “With Everything” by Hillsong. I always go back to it. But right now, the entire You Make Me Brave album by Bethel Worship is getting worn. out. in my Explorer :)

6. What’s your favorite Etsy shop that isn’t yours?

I’m not on Etsy much, but I love prints and follow a lot of hand-lettering artists on Instagram. I’ve also really been into gold foil lately!

7. What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?

I like reading, watching old shows (i.e. House, MD) on Netflix, and writing or drawing :)

8. What’s your favorite junk food?

White cheddar popcorn, Tostitos Hint of Lime chips, Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and anything with Heath Bar.

9.  Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?

My favorite animal in the world is our four-year-old yellow Lab, Sampson Hamish. He’s the best dog ever and definitely like our first child.

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10.  What are your #1 favorite fiction and nonfiction books?

Hard to pick fiction. I’d say the Harry Potter series and the Christy Miller series. Both were most engaging to me and always stick out in my mind! Nonfiction is much easier. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning changed. my. life.

11.   What’s your favorite beauty product?

I am not much of a beauty product girl, but since I’ve grown my nails out, I love Essie nail polish. I also LOVE Philosophy combo bubble bath/shampoo/body wash because they smell like cake and leave the skin oh-so-smooth!

Philosophy - Ooey Gooey Cookie Fresh-Baked Cookie Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath

 

12.   When were you last embarrassed? What happened?

Ohmygoodness. It happens so often that I don’t notice anymore. It’s just ingrained in my DNA and part of everyday life.

13. If you could drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Diet Dr. Pepper. No, that’s so bad for me. Let’s go with chai tea. Oregon Chai, if we’re really specific.

14.  What’s your favorite movie?

Love and Basketball. Yep.

15.  What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?

I think I was kind of a mix between a choir nerd and drama geek who got good grades and played a few sports.

16.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

My favorite cities are Colorado Springs and Austin. But I wouldn’t complain if, say, a beachfront property in Playa Santa Teresa, Costa Rica fell into my lap :)

 

17.   PC or Mac?

Mac. But not a Mac snob.

18.  Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?

My husband surprised me with this gorgeous new office this week!

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19.  Favorite celebrity?

That’s a tricky one. Talent-wise, I love Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Plus everything Greg Kinnear has ever done. Oh wait, the question was favorite celebrity not favorite actor. I don’t think I have one.

20. What blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?

Now this is definitely more up my alley! I want to be best friends with Jessica from How Sweet Eats and Rachel Khoo, who is more of a celebrity TV chef than a blogger nowadays!

If you’re still reading, I love you. Please tell me something about yourself and how you would have answered the question that most stuck out to you! <3

fear is not the boss of you

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I’ve been thinking about fear a lot over the last few years as I’ve dealt with it in my personal life and made it a major theme in my second book. It’s one of those things that, if you don’t keep it in check, it can consume you. It can manifest itself in unhealthy ways and become an enslaving force in your life. It can trap you and keep you from living your full potential in freedom.

And I’ve wrestled with it at different times. I’ve wrestled HARD.

As my writing friends are preparing for ACFW Conference — an integral part of our year as writers, a major stepping stone in our careers — there’s been a lot of talk about fear. Well, it turns out I have a lot to say on the subject.

It’s a pretty cool thing to be sitting in church with no idea what you’re about to hear until the pastor starts speaking about a topic that’s been on your heart. That’s what happened to me yesterday, helping me flesh out some of my thoughts. So here goes.

Fear may come from the sinful nature in us, but it still comes from us. 

In Romans 7, Paul talks about sin’s control over our lives. “So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.”

I think people give the devil way more credit than he deserves. Fear is a product of the lies we’ve chosen to believe. The programming we’ve conditioned our minds to compute. The influences around which we’ve surrounded ourselves.

Sometimes even the comfort that comes with the familiarity of fear.

But if fears come from our own nature, we can actively fight it. 

Romans 8 offers hope for our sinful condition. “So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.”

Fear doesn’t hold a candle to the power of Christ in us. Not even a flicker. But it’s our choice, an active decision to reprogram our reactions to the things that normally trigger fear. The thoughts we choose to give our energy and attention. We can decide what to believe as truth in our lives, what chances to take to move toward all the possibilities of bold, unapologetic freedom.

We can surround ourselves with positive influences and media that fills us with truth instead of negativity. We can divert unhealthy ideas instead of dwelling on them. We can focus on freedom one decision at a time and not abandon our efforts completely if we fall short a few times.

If you’re headed to the ACFW Conference, don’t let fear be the boss of you. 

Something is bound to go differently than you’ve expected. It’s inevitable. But know that there is nothing that can happen that will be an ultimate deal-breaker. No worst case scenario that’s as bad as you think it will be. Nothing that can ruin your entire trip unless you let it.

You’re surrounded by people who get you and want you to succeed. Remember that, if God has given you this passion and message to share, no fear can derail that unless you let it.

I’m going to leave you this song, one of my favorites lately, and encourage you to be brave, whether you’re going to ACFW Conference or facing something else.


You make me brave

You make me brave
You called me beyond the shore
Into the waves

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now 
The promises You’ve made

 

 

 

 

my first ACFW conference experience

Last year, I was a brand new ACFW member. I was still new at even considering myself a pre-published author, and if it weren’t for finaling in a contest and the encouragement of a few persistent friends, I probably would have talked myself out of going.

But when I looked at the ACFW, I saw this big fellowship of people with an unreal camaraderie. And even if it took years, I wanted to be part of it.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t take years.

I dressed like I was going to a job interview and wheeled my suitcase to the terminal at the Tulsa airport, kissed my husband goodbye, and embarked on what I felt was a grand adventure. Because it kind of was.

And I had my first (in-person) experience with the ACFW earlier than planned. My connecting flight at the DFW airport was soon after landing, so I hurried to my gate. There I found a group of women talking and laughing. I didn’t know a soul. But I recognized one, author Betsy St. Amant.

So I inched closer. Casually. Gathered up the nerve to ask if they were going to ACFW. They immediately opened their circle to me and asked me what I write. Can I tell you that it was weird answering that question for the first of many times that week as someone who normally shrugged it off? But it got much easier, I promise. Then we exchanged business cards and went around introducing ourselves.

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I don’t remember everyone who was at the airport gate that day. But I remember that, when I said I was flying standby, Lena Nelson Dooley offered to pray for me with the whole group. Wow. Me, a person she had just met minutes before.

When we touched down in Dallas and dispersed to get our luggage, I realized that in my frenzy to get all of my materials ready, I had no way to get to the hotel from the airport. Rookie mistake. But sweet multi-published author Elizabeth Ludwig had pity on me and took me into their taxi. Another WOW moment of unhesitating kindness.

I think that’s the whole point of this post. The members of ACFW are your people. Individuals with whom you can unleash your full writerly self without fear of condemnation or strange looks like the “Muggles” give us when we talk about our characters as if they’re living, breathing people. The Muggles just don’t understand :)

At conference, I encourage you to introduce yourself to people — even that multi-published author you’ve been fangirling. Respect people’s personal space. Be courteous, professional, friendly, and especially gracious. But take that step closer and introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and exchange business cards. Learn somebody’s story. Not everyone will become your new best friend, but you never know what connections you’ll form.

Or who will become your fabulous new critique group. :)

Conference CPs

Laurie Kara

PS: If you’re new to the ACFW Conference, Mary Vee put up a fabulous, informative post today on The Writer’s Alley. It will help you prepare with peace and confidence!

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