{throwback thursday} 6 years ago…

It’s no secret that I’m in the business of love stories. I have been my whole life. So with my sixth anniversary just two days away, I thought it would be fitting to write the ultimate Throwback Thursday post and offer a glimpse of our wedding day.

My whole life, I imagined what the person I married would be like. I never could have fathomed that I’d meet a man while working for my university at a summer camp, that we’d be reacquainted when I moved after graduation, or fall hard and fast for each other.

And that, on one of the only days it didn’t rain in April 14 months later, I’d marry him. It was a perfect 75-degree day, surrounded by our family and best friends. Truly magical.

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wedding DONE

reception cake

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Our wedding may have been the stuff of fairy tales, but I’m most grateful that God has demonstrated Himself in our marriage time and again. That He created someone with the unique qualities to lift me up, be strong where I am weak, and serve alongside me as my teammate in the pursuit of dreams.

That when we give our desires to God, they are no match for His goodness.

Happy anniversary, JT!! 

giveaway winner! + the future of this website

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First order of business:

We have a winner of Surprised by Motherhood! Would the lovely Kerry Johnson please send your mailing address + any instructions to laurie {at} laurietomlinson {dot} com!

Thank you to everyone who joined the conversation this week. I love hearing each and every mama’s heart and sharing these experiences with my sisterhood. I hope it was enlightening for whatever role that’s shaping your life whether you’re a mama or not. :)

Next week, I’ll be finished talking about motherhood here. Probably.

I’ve been keeping up with my monthly goals this year, especially trying to choose joy more often. My goal for April is to blog more frequently because I have a lot to say! Even though I’m a PR girl, I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of scheduled blogging. So here are my rules because this is the way I think it should be across the board. But I realize I’m not the boss of you :)

1. I’d like Mondays to be geared toward inspirational tidbits/devotionals/whatever’s on my heart, Wednesdays to be writing- and book-related, and Fridays to be a free-for-all that can be Friday Favorites, #Friday5 (things I’m thankful for), or Five-Minute Friday writing prompts.

2. My goal is to post two of these a week, but I will never post if I’m scrounging or don’t feel like I have valuable information.

3. I will never {or at least try not to} apologize for not blogging.

My top priorities are my family, my work, and my writing. But I will work on choosing blogging over, say, binge-watching 2000s CW dramas on Netflix. Deal?

Any big plans this weekend? If you’re going to be binge-watching Netflix, I am the last person who will judge :)

 

surprised by motherhood {part 2} + giveaway!

In part 1 posted yesterday, I talked about the big breakthrough in my motherhood journey. How two years ago, God reached down and reminded me in a desperate moment that He would always be strong for me.

The next morning I discovered Lisa-Jo Baker.

At that point, she still went by The Gypsy Mama. I can’t remember which post I read first, but through the blurry haze of my first refreshing ugly cry on her behalf, I added her blog to my Google Reader (RIP) because she showed me that the messy equation of soaking soiled onesies, eating cold dinners, and feverishly typing work with one hand added up to something beautiful. Something I could be proud of. A purpose that requires a lot of bravery and comes with so many more honors than “just a mom” could ever do justice.

Two years later, when I found out Lisa-Jo was coming out with a book, I pre-ordered it immediately. Barnes and Noble sent it a few days before its April 1 release date, and I gobbled it up in a day. Surprised by Motherhood isn’t a story of an unexpected pregnancy like some may believe by the title. It reveals the hope and beauty of a role that gloriously can’t be predicted and requires always staying on your toes.

The book tells Lisa-Jo Baker’s story from a child growing up in South Africa to a motherless girl of 18 who swore she’d never have children to a fulfilling international career to the redemption she found in changing her mind about kids. She’s honestly one of the best writers I’ve ever come across, sometimes reading like a Toni Morrison novel but mostly like she’s translating sheet music directly from the deepest truths of the mama-heart in ways the mind couldn’t otherwise comprehend.

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She reminds readers that, whether working mom, stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom, blue mom, green mom, women have the tremendous capacity to love children intentionally and still have goals and dreams. That women whose dreams have always only been to have children are just as brilliant and brave.

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I love her story for the same reason I loved literary realism in undergrad — her descriptions bring magic to my parallel life in an encouraging, inspiring way. Because buried in the dishes piling in the sink, staring at the grocery store tile with a fistful of 3T cotton, and brushing out tangles are the milk-drunk smiles, whispered “I love you, Mom”s, and creative expressions of a huge, individual personality packaged in a tiny body you helped to create.

IMG_3888It’s above all, a story of hope and encouragement. A glimpse of wholeness and holiness in the imperfection. I’d give it away to all of my friends if I could, but for now, I’m giving away one copy. It was snatched out of my mailbox less than a week ago, gently read by appreciative eyes, and you can find out if it’s yours on Friday! Here’s how:

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

surprised by motherhood {part 1}

Motherhood

The hardest thing for know-it-alls is being in unfamiliar places. Especially when others expect them to come up with answers fast.

Trust me. I’d know.

No matter how many books and articles I read or friends I tried to paduan, I was a driftwood in a vast ocean at times when I became a mother. No matter how deeply I drilled into my own mind to go into this thing without any expectations, there were moments of desperation as I held onto the ledge of my comfort zone with a shaking, one-fingered grip.

Even two and a half years in, I still learn something new about motherhood every day. I’ve learned how selfish I am. That I don’t like people (even tiny ones) telling me what to do very much. I’ve learned to appreciate my own mother more — and how!

And I learned that I’ve been going about the whole prayer thing entirely the wrong way.

I was blessed to become a mother in the social media age. A team of friends were navigating the whole motherhood thing at the very same time as I was — camaraderie and encouragement at my fingertips without ever leaving the plush depths of our powder blue rocking chair. But there as a period of time I distanced myself from them when their babies all slept and I was alone in the middle-of-the-night wasteland. Left for dead, according to my delirious, chocolate-deprived theatrics.

My baby had eczema. She ate at least every two hours until her eighth month of life. It was about that time that my spirit became as worn as the stretch of wood floor and staircase between our room and hers. When this first-time mom with no frame of reference believed the smoky whispers that this would last forever.

To survive, I had to whisper back.

Hillsong released their God is Able album that year. When my baby was full and dry and still didn’t want to sleep, I’d hum a soft version of the songs as my anthem. Swaying in the arcing rhythm my body was created for. Arms full of the tiny, sacred being God placed in my charge.

The lyrics were a constant soundtrack to drown out the desperation of those dark early morning hours when I knew I had to be awake and coherent very shortly to squeeze a stressful full-time job into the cracks of caring for a child. I repeated mantras of optimism and tried to find some positive twist to cover every doubt. But most of the time, I was pleading and bargaining and wagering to God. That I’d do anything to restore some shred of predictability in my life.

And one day, I heard a whisper that breathed warmth into my bones:

What if you stopped praying, “Please make my baby sleep,” and started praying, “Please help me function no matter how much sleep I get”?

After that, I saw God in a completely different way. I got a small, earthside, limited glimpse of His omnipotence. That little things like time and sleep and productivity and circumstances don’t matter when you’re doing His work. He operates on a completely different, miraculous currency that makes a way and helps you cross lines off the checklist and gives you energy when it doesn’t make sense.

Whether you’ve danced this dance or not, this sweeping truth applies across the board. Never forget it for one minute when you’re committed to doing the work of God, no matter how tiresome or mundane or glamorous.

He will be there when you’re clinging to your last thread of patience. His whisper of hope will echo in all of your dark, empty places. He’ll breathe joy into your lifeless, tired bones.

His arms are the ones you’ll feel in the gritty, agonizing moments. Pointing to something refreshing and new when you’ve been down the same road a million times. The same arms that shake you into consciousness when the sun’s out and the rubble has settled but you’re too scared to open your eyes to His promises. Remember this, friends:

When you are doing His work, He. is. always. faithful. Shattering-expectations faithful. 

This is part one of my Surprised by Motherhood series celebrating the release of Lisa-Jo Baker’s new book. Check out part two for my review + a giveaway that ends midnight CST Friday, April 4!

a convergence of perfect conditions

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Greetings from the past! I’m writing this post on Thursday night, at the tail end of the convergence of several perfect conditions.

First, this couldn’t have happened without a husband who supports my introversion and writing enough to suggest eating dinner out to remove two things from my to-do list, then takes over bedtime duty and sends me off to my happy place for the night.

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I’m thankful for my happy place period. My favorite coffee shop is currently empty of loud college kids who are on spring break. The chai is delicious. The music is spot-on. Everyone here is contributing to a quiet, creative energy. 

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For every new book project, I like to find the perfect writing and editing music that helps me get into a really good groove. I know I’m late to the game, but I just discovered City and Colour. There is a brand new playlist on my Spotify app waiting for continuous play. Just in time. Here’s to knocking these book two edits out of the park with its help!

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Grateful for writing sisters like my SisterChucks (Anne, Halee, and Jaime). Jaime and I stayed up past our bedtimes, keeping each other company across many, many states with giggles, snippets of what we were working on, and arguing over which of each other’s scenes were more swoon-worthy. Just read the synopsis for her latest project. Divine!

I’m savoring the last half-hour before closing time, so euphoric that this post has essentially become an Oscars-style speech. An acceptance of something beautiful.

So thankful to God for little glimpses and convergences to breathe energy into us and restore our souls, something that’s especially essential for anyone who creates things.

What’s your happy place? Where do you create and exist the best?

a story he doesn’t want you to hear

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If the mind is a battlefield, mine was host to a full-fledged war this weekend. Cannons, trebuchets — everything in the arsenal. After weeks of going back and forth, I finally decided to submit my second book to the same contest I entered last year.

And that’s when things started going wrong…

“It’s almost like the devil doesn’t want this story to get out there,” I told my critique partners, even though I don’t believe the devil has that kind of power or authority.

But I’m not about to let him win. Today, I’m going to share the message of my second book with no character specifics. Rather, I’m going to share how I learned it in my own life.

Many of you know that I was diagnosed with an autoimmune-type illness when I was sixteen years old, the effects of which forced me to make a decision:

Am I going to sit here and mourn that this changes the way I live? Let it debilitate me and limit me? Or am I going to find a way to cope with this and let it make me stronger?

I became focused on the idea of a “new normal”, which helped my attitude a lot. I mean, I could have something much worse. And even though there’s no cure, my symptoms can go into periods of remission with just the right roulette of treatment. So I settled into my new normal, bracing for each rise and fall of the roller coaster until, after 12 years, something changed.

My book ideas are often inspired by Bible verses and songs. This one was inspired by a question.

When was the last time you asked for healing?

More people than you think are suffering from chronic symptoms. Disease, depression, injury, temptation, addiction, guilt, grief. It’s hard on people’s faith. It’s hard going through the fire, and it’s hard deciding to emerge stronger. But when you’ve adjusted to a new normal for many years, it’s also easy to focus so much on coping that you forget the possibility of healing.

Here’s the deal. This is obviously a multi-fold issue. I don’t know why good people suffer. I don’t know why some people don’t experience healing until heaven. What I have seen firsthand is that God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), that trials produce perseverance (James 1:2), and that the way you react to your problems can impact others in powerful ways.

The message in my second book focuses on not losing sight of the hope that circumstances can always change by the infinite power of God. That sometimes healing doesn’t happen in some miraculous moment. Sometimes it’s a daily decision, something that takes hard work.

Hopefully my characters will remind people that God created us to have a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10), not just to barely cope. And that full life is worth fighting for.

Hopefully my own life will say the same.

fangirl tuesday!

If you know me, it’s no secret that I’m a totally unashamed {read: maybe a little obnoxious} Fangirl. When I like or appreciate something, or if someone’s work resonates with me, I will shout it from the mountaintops — not because I’m trying to be a brown-noser, but because I genuinely believe people should know about them and love them, too :) Maybe it’s just naturally ingrained from my PR background?

Anyway, just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’m suggesting three “gifts” to get for yourself. Or I guess they would be good for the moms, sisters, daughters, in-laws, significant others, and friends in your world. But I’m all about the occasional self-pampering!

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Today, the electronic version of my lovely friend Becky Wade’s book, My Stubborn Heart, is FREE on Nook and Kindle! We’ve been over this before: I love Becky Wade’s work. This is the book I accidentally purchased twice during a long absence from reading {when I was working full-time from home with an infant + writing my first book} because the premise excited me so much. And what a way to return to the world of reading! Since this book is such a great deal, while you’re there, you might as well order her other books, Undeniably Yours and Meant to be Mine {releasing this spring}. Just do it. You’ll thank me later :)

I just got back from the bookstore where I purchased Kitchen Confidence, the long-awaited first cookbook from TV cook and former Food Network Star fan favorite, Kelsey Nixon. This is the perfect title that encapsulates Kelsey’s approach to cooking: breaking down the basics so you can build on the essentials in your own kitchen. And goodness do I wish she’d been on the scene when I was a new cook. My very first recipe I made as a newlywed was the Barefoot Contessa’s spring vegetable risotto, which would have turned out okay had I not dumped a huge container of pepper in it at the very end. So sad. I so needed a friend to show me the ropes in the kitchen. But now that I’m a more experienced foodie, I’ve still been a longtime fan of her TV show and real-ingredient recipes that turn out delicious every time. Plus, she seems so fun and lovable that I wish she were my next-door neighbor! Here’s the Amazon link.

Also releasing today on DVD/Blu-ray is the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in ages, AustenlandNormally I’m an adamant read-the-book-before-the-movie kind of girl, but when I found out about this movie, I made an exception. And I’m so glad I did! I’ve long believed there’s been a drought in the chick-flick scene. But this one had all of the good, clean elements that give you that warm, dreamy feeling when it ends. Don’t tell my lit professors, but I’m not a huge fan of Jane Austen. Her only book I got into was Northanger Abbey, which she wrote as a gothic parody, so that says something in itself. But this movie was amazing whether you’re an Austen fan or not!

IMG_3148Bonus splurge: Pens are always, always a good thing! My top recommendation is the Paper Mate Flair felt-tip pen, but I bought these Paper Mate InkJoy regular ballpoints to get me over the cabin fever of our recent round of sickies. What can I say? If we’re being honest, I was totally lured in by the commercials on Hulu :) Even though this happens maybe once a year, my husband doesn’t understand how someone with so many pens can want more. But they do the trick every. single. time!

Bouquet of roses or bouquet of pens? Are you a spa/pedicure kind of person or do you prefer to get lost in a book? 

What are you gifting yourself this year for Valentine’s Day — or just because?

writing the end, sickies, and sandcastles: february goals

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I reached my January goal of finishing my latest manuscript’s first draft! Hooray! My goal was to make it to 72K with the knowledge that I still needed a few scenes to fill in some gaps, and I usually add about 10K of “muscle” in later drafts anyway. I made it to 74K!

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So for the first few days of February, I’ve been taking it easy. Allowing myself to unwind so I can approach editing with fresh eyes. After I finish this post, I’m going to spend the rest of naptime diving into edits.

My top priority today has been taking care of this little sickie (pictured here with her tenderhearted giant guard dog).

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And helping me make this all happen is this treat:

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Major props to Whole Foods for carrying my favorite brand of chai in the world! Everything’s better in this magical, magical land. I found out it was going to snow (again) and ran to the store on my way home from the gym. Normally, I’m armed with a meal plan and grocery list, so this was a new experience for me. But never fear, I came out with three cases of LaCroix, some thai soup, chicken, naan, and this chai. Weirdest snow grocery haul ever!

Okay, focus, Laurie. Didn’t this post have a point?

My goals in January were to finish the remaining 25K of my draft and translate the remaining 30K of my book that was still in first person. Done!

In February, I’ll be focusing on:

  • Completing the second draft to send to critique partners.
  • Writing my proposal for this book–well, to be more specific, my synopsis. (Ugh.)
  • Being more consistent with blogging.

What are your goals for this month? Don’t mind me. I’ll just be building sandcastles :)

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the one where I find out what I’ve been missing

I’m going to share a little piece of trivia that I don’t advertise often because it gets me shunned from the writing community:

I’m not a coffee drinker.

Never have been. My caffeine of choice is Diet Dr. Pepper, which I only indulge in as a treat, and my long hours at coffee shops are fueled by chai or herbal tea. I know.

But yesterday, I discovered what the buzz is all about. (Pun very much intended.) After a skinny vanilla latte, 3000 words = done. Wow. While I don’t think I’ll make this a habit, it’s nice to know there’s a Millenium Falcon Hyperdrive out there to jumpstart my productivity. (Star Wars nerd reference also intended.)

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Moving on, there’s good news! Today marks the soft launch of InspyRomance.com, a brand new website for inspirational contemporary romance authors, which I’m privileged to be a part of!

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Check it out for the latest in inspirational romance and some great giveaways!

Okay, y’all. I’m crawling back in my writing cave for awhile. I can see THE END of my first draft, and these scenes aren’t going to write themselves!

 

lessons from an {I-now-am-found} blue notebook

bluenotebook As a writer, I always keep a notebook close. (And chocolate chip cookies closer.) Just in case, like this morning, I awaken with a fleshed-out YA fantasy story that has manifested itself into a very vivid dream and I have seconds before it disappears into the black hole of forgotten thoughts. (Does this happen to anyone besides mothers of small children?) But imagine my anguish when my blue notebook went missing, taking with it various important sermon notes, lists (huge list maker –> this girl), and the plotted outline of my second manuscript, which at that point, only had about 30,000 words written. Here’s what I learned when I found it months and months later: 1) Sometimes it’s not the end of the world when plans don’t turn out the way you envisioned. I love this story way more now than the direction I’m reading in the blue notebook. In fact, I’m a firm believer that in life, when things deviate from plan, God ALWAYS has better. 2) This is what I get for cleaning and organizing my desk. Never. again. (Just kidding…mostly!)

The weekend is almost here, y’all! Any big plans? I’m visiting my friend Halee for a weekend of writing and fun. Hope you have a great one!

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