february 2017 goals

It’s the first Monday of February, so now is when the fun begins, right? I’ve been going through my Powersheets really slowly and deliberately to refine what I want to prioritize. So each month, I want to create a doable list with those bigger aims in mind.

I just returned from Christy Wright’s Business Boutique seminar in California AND had the chance to join an IF: Local gathering this weekend, so there’s a lot to unpack and many wheels to get in motion this month. Here’s what’s on tap for February:

Writing:

  • Write book proposal for next project(s)
  • Outline and begin writing next novel
  • Work through one craft book: KM Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel
  • Finalize pre-release marketing plan for spring
  • Create Goodreads author page
  • BLOG. Like I said, I have lots to process and share!

Work:

  • Set a regular work schedule and keep laptop in my office during the day
  • 5 pages a week of new web content
  • Set up accounting programs for business (including the Wave app, which looks amazing!)
  • Make a style guide and blogging/social media image template
  • Build a content database + content calendar template
  • TAXES

Personal:

  • Establish a better sleep schedule and morning routine: I’d like to be in bed reading by 1030 with my alarm set using the new(er) Bedtime app on my iPhone!
  • Read two books for fun
  • Start 5K training app on my phone and run outside on warmer mornings
  • Meal planning every Sunday night and prep on Tuesdays
  • Set up meeting for CityChurch college women’s book club
  • Creative nonfiction once a week

There you have it! It looks like a lot, but a lot of it will be ongoing and some of it will take no time at all. Here’s to better habits, changes in mindset, hard work, and healthy balance. <3

What do you have planned for February?

{2016 in review} highlights + discoveries

525,600 minutes. How do you measure the life of a woman or a man? (Two points if you started singing that song.)

2016 was a doozy for many of us. But I think it’s important to remember the good that happened and take it with us. Here are my favorite highlights and discoveries from the year:

2016 highlights:

  • My first book contract in June!
  • Realizing that rest/selah is important than hustle
  • Too many firsts and memories with my children to name
  • Learning how much I didn’t know about justice and developing a passion for reconciliation and rehabilitation
  • Exploring one of my new favorite cities (Seattle) with my husband
  • Eating the best meal of my life at Silo in Nashville with my sisters
  • Listening to Allen Arnold speak at the OKC Christian Fiction Writers Conference
  • Lake weekend retreat for quiet and writing
  • The Olympics. What? I was really into them!
  • Reading under an umbrella next to the ocean with my husband in Playa del Carmen
  • Celebrating my sisters’ book releases!

Favorite 2016 discoveries:

  • Trader Joe’s in Tulsa (!!!) + their arugula pizza + Tahitian vanilla caramels
  • Bullet journaling
  • The zen of deleting Facebook from one’s phone!
  • Hand lettering videos on Instagram
  • Rediscovering my love of reading
  • Instant Pot = gamechanger!
  • The Quill for novel composition
  • How much easier it is to wash dishes with the help of podcasts
  • Google Keep
  • That my hair apparently wants to be wavy now (Whaaaat?)
  • A peaceful trail by my daughter’s school for morning walks with my cub
  • Spindrift Sparkling Water
  • Shawarma + cider
  • Tombow Dual Brush Pens
  • Little Free Libraries!
  • The calm of coloring and painting

A good sign? Feeling like I’m forgetting something!

What will you remember the most about 2016? I’m still trying to narrow down all of the wonderful books and movies from this year, so I will have to share more later this week!

I found a #littlefreelibrary in the wild!

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Please tell me you’ve heard of Little Free Library (#littlefreelibrary), boxes filled with bookish goodness that you read and return on the honor system? I had forgotten about them until I saw one out in the wild!

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I think I assumed they were only in bigger cities (I changed that from cooler cities because I LOVE mine), but lo and behold, there are apparently 40,000 around the world and several in Tulsa.

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This is what I chose, Love Does by Bob Goff, a book from a sensational man that I didn’t get the chance to finish because I gave my copy to my sister-in-law. I have shared 2339230 of his articles on my Facebook author page and can’t wait to dive in!

With this fun turn of events, I am going to read it and return it to the Little Free Library where I found it with a few additions from my personal library to introduce fellow Tulsa book nerds to some of my favorite authors! My children and I now have a new end-of-summer mission to visit as many as we can.

Check out this map of Little Free Libraries. Are there any near you?

If you see one in the wild, please tag me or hashtag #LFLinthewild so I can geek out with you! 

thoughts on privilege and the sacred miracle of each human life

In light of everything that’s happened this week, my post looks a little different today.

I spent yesterday absolutely devastated at the news. Fresh rounds of tears every time I remembered that my black friends are afraid because of the reality that, no matter where or how they live, things could go very wrong for them if caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Then I grieved for my police officer friends, GOOD, fierce, fair men I know would never use force against another human being unless their lives or others were legitimately in danger. Men who put their lives on the line and see terrible things to keep us safe, often with no recognition or overtime pay. And, yet, there’s a common thread. People just like them with families and futures have been murdered by strangers just for wearing a badge.

The police are trained to use their instincts, gut reactions from their hearts. The problem is, a select few who make the news — not all — have sick hearts or plain old bad judgment. And then the cycle of hatred continues with retaliation, maybe not on that street corner, but same story, different place.

This has to change. There has to be more reverence and accountability for the sacred miracle of each human life. 

I don’t identify as a liberal or progressive at all. But I don’t think the language of justice should be associated with any demographic or sociopolitical belief.

At its very root, it’s an issue of seeing others as God sees them and loving as He loves, with no “but” or “except” or “despite” in our language. With no room for overcompensation or withholding.

No matter what we believe, who we vote for, or what we look like, we can never let those who are different from us forget how loved and valuable and important they are.

Here in my South Tulsa home, I acknowledge my privilege. I’m white, college-educated, married to a man, and we never have to wonder where our children’s next meal is going to come from or how we’re going to keep the lights on this month.

I have often remained silent in situations like this, wondering what I can possibly say or do that won’t come across as empty and reactionary and purely driven by the emotions of the moment. I know many of you may feel the same way, sometimes hopeless in our inability to empathize. But after hearing the hearts of the kind, intelligent, brave, hard-working individuals who have directly felt the pain of recent events, here’s what we can do:

We can pray. When we have no words, we can bring it to the Lord and do battle that way. We can remember that our hope is in the Lord and how much all of this is a reflection of people who are hurt and sick and longing for eternity — even if they don’t know that’s what they’re missing.

We can NOT waste our energy on unproductive guilt. Guilt will do nothing but perpetuate the gaps between people. Same with being numb or desensitized. We can lean in, instead.

We can acknowledge that racism and prejudice are ugly, broken, very REAL things, even if we think we’re far removed from them or haven’t experienced them firsthand. We can acknowledge that all the senseless deaths we have mourned in America are a drop in the bucket compared to what’s going on around the globe.

No matter what we believe, who we vote for, or what we look like, we can never let those who are different from us forget how loved and valuable and important they are. 

No matter how big our sphere of influence may be, or how insignificant we believe our voices are, we can stand up for what we believe in our communities. Even a stay-at-home mom can make a huge difference by raising her children to be fiercely kind and discerning and brave.

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We can acknowledge that darkness exists in this world and not turn our heads away from it, but focus on the beauty and perpetuate the love instead of the hate. 

true #squadgoals: why I love my 30s (vol. 1)

At the end of the summer, I’ll be 31. Still a baby in the grand scheme of things, I know. Still so much to learn.

So many people fear 30, like it’s some space-time continuum that magically causes all metabolism and fun to close up shop. But I’ve had almost a year in this new decade and would pick who I am now over who I was at 20 any. day.

These are the reasons why. 

Why I'd Love

My people know how to celebrate well. Period.

A week in which I experienced the biggest outpouring of love ended with a party our community group threw for our big news and the journey leading up to it. This, after two of said friends left a gift bag with a rainbow of office supplies and a giant slice of Tuxedo cheesecake on our porch the day I announced my contract. (They speak my language, y’all.)

We ended the week deliciously full of grilled chicken, veggies picked fresh from the garden, and homemade blueberry bread pudding. Full from watching our kids laugh and play in the sprinklers with their friends until a summer storm rolled in.

To borrow a phrase from Taylor Swift, this is the definition of true squad goals. Friends that will create a five-person assembly line when a newborn who doesn’t belong to them has a diaper blowout. It’s dessert on your doorstep, a random text message, or a surprise package in the mail when you’re going through a thing. Celebrations for the significant and everyday wins.

You might think I’m getting all nostalgic about what I have at age 30, but it’s more about what was missing that night — what I thanked God was missing. 

In my teens and twenties, my people-pleasing gene was out of control. I had a deep fear of missing out and wondered why I didn’t connect with everyone — not because I wasn’t satisfied with my own people, but because I had this insecurity that I wasn’t enough for the others. That if they didn’t approve, there was something wrong with me.  I spent so much time on this archaeological dig, the mission of which revolved between trying to figure out what that was and trying to figure out who I should be instead.

The other night, as we drove back into the city during a lightning-studded sunset, I realized that ever-present twinge, the curiosity and fear of missing out wasn’t there. And when did that even happen? At 30, I’ve learned that it’s about quality instead of quantity. It’s about loving and serving my Ones well.

And also, it’s about getting over myself a little.

Though I believe there’s value in every learning process, I wish I could tell 20s Laurie that it’s so much less pressure when we stop trying to be all things for all people and not to worry so much because the only ones that matter are the ones willing to embrace our particular brand of weird.

I love this conglomeration of people from past and present, from work and worship and school and writing and parenthood. It’s an ebb and flow rooted in seasons and settings, but it’s imperfect people loving and celebrating well who I can invite through my door and trust with my mess.

Here’s to friendship at any age that shows up,
that feels like welcome,
sounds like grace, trust, and intention,
looks like meeting needs — even when it means calling each other out.
Friendship that’s never too proud to ask for forgiveness,
asks only the questions that matter,
and adds lots and lots of laugh lines to your face.

Maybe you’re reading this closer to 20 and already have this stuff figured out. I’m proud. Or maybe you remember learning this at 30 and are all, Oh, girl, you have so much to learn. 

Bring it. I can’t wait.

Read Part 2: Pink Lipstick here. 

welcome to my table: a manifesto

 

{Not my table. Too clean to be my table.}

If I could compare my dreams for this space to one thing, it would be a huge farm table surrounded by people I love with all kinds of backgrounds and stories. That’s the most beautiful place to be.

There would be food involved, of course. Probably a huge bowl of pasta since that’s what I feed my unsuspecting friends to create that magical, carb-induced conglomeration of happiness and comfort that makes the stories spill out.

The table image has been done a lot lately, I know. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few months, it’s that the most important part of that is listening. I don’t want to sit at a table set solely by my own hands, nor do I want this website to be the info-heavy drivel of a content machine.

I want my friends to feast on the salad she brought, drink what they picked up on the way, and break the bread he graciously provided from his perfected sourdough starter. The feast is so much richer — and, I think, such a more accurate picture of Jesus that way.

I want that for this space, too.

To be honest, I’ve been wrestling lately with how to do this right. I’ve been consuming all the podcasts and articles on brand, unsuccessfully pinpointing my ideal audience, and trying to reconcile all the strategies for building a fiction readership with the stories my fingers are itching to write. I’m trying to develop some sense of cohesion for this space when I’m balancing my small business, motherhood, my journey to novel publication, and what all of those things teach me against the backdrop of my faith.

I’m learning that I can’t write about everything — or at least not publicly.

That I need to listen and learn as much as I speak and teach. 

So much of the expert advice out there conflicts with itself and only leads to overthinking.

And taking care of the loves that I have is way more important than building a platform. That’s the only thing that’s worth anything.

So for the sake of some cohesiveness and takeaway, my writing/craft-related posts will now mostly be found on The Writer’s Alley, and for this season of life, here you’ll find:

  • Table Talk: Inviting my favorite friends to share how far they’ve come, what going after their dreams looks like, and anything else that’s inspired me so hopefully it can inspire you! Sometimes this will just be important things I’ve learned from other people.
  • Intentional Living: This encompasses all things time management (planners and lists!), accomplishing goals, making dreams happen no matter what, and living the rich and loving life God intended for us.
  • Book Reviews: Only the books I absolutely love! I mostly read clean contemporary romance, YA, and some sci-fi/fantasy here and there.
  • The Friday Mixing Bowl: Weekly updates, treasures from around the web, and other lately discoveries.

If you look at my website, the tagline is Stories of Grace in the Beautiful Mess. That’s the image I want my writing to evoke. If we go by the table metaphor, it means empty plates on the table of full and nourished people, stray noodles under the high chair because everyone is welcome, and proverbial crumbs of hope, that if God can work in this unlikely situation and orchestrate dreams in the most unexpected ways, He can do the same for you.

Pull up a chair, where the drinks are always fizzy and the cupcakes always have extra sprinkles 🙂

{friday mixing bowl} a very mindy reprieve + a little fancy in the mess

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How are the weeks flying by so quickly? I have no idea! As you will see, I’ve been very boring this week with client projects to work on + spending lots of time with my little family! To me, boring is never a bad thing. So here goes.

<< I’m currently >>

enjoying perfect spring evening walks with my little family

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The tree in this picture, when we were walking up to it, looked rose gold because of the way the sun was filtering through the white blooms next to it. Wish I could have captured that in a way that did it justice with my measly little phone!

loving the work I get to do every day…

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…even if it can get a little crazy sometimes. is that a theme around here?

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trying to add a little fancy here and there to make even a Wednesday lunch with my kids more special

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fitting in some reading…

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…in the middle of taxes and other adulty things!

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plus somehow watching…

via Bustle

The Mindy Project on Hulu when my brain is crammed to capacity and needs a little reprieve. Enough people told harassed me it would be the perfect show for me, so I tried it and can’t quit it as a little refresh button for my brain. Confession: I can confidently say that 94% of why I stayed is because Mindy’s nurse Morgan makes me wheeze-laugh.

<< link love >>

source: Bakerella

  • I don’t care who you are or what you’re currently eating or eliminating, you need a good chocolate chip cookie recipe that unites all people and soothes all that ails. This one from Bakerella has been my go-to for years. My daughter and I made them this week when her friend came over to play, and they are magical.
  • Loved this article from Canva on font pairing in their newsletter. For one, if you don’t have Photoshop and are not using Canva to make images for your social media and online marketing, you need to check them out now! And use this article as a guide for professional looking images. It  has exactly what I’ve been looking for to take my online marketing game to the next level!
  • My feedly might self-combust for being way behind on my blog reading this week, but my inner Hermione Granger geeked out at these 12 dozen places to educate yourself FO FREE, compiled by Marc & Angel Hack Life!
  • I also was floored by this post on getting dumped from Bob Goff on the Storyline blog. Love him! >> “God’s grace comes in all shapes, sizes, and circumstances as God continues to unfold something magnificent in me.” YES!

<< in case you missed it >>

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  • I wrote THE END on my third manuscript this week and threw a party! Still lots of work before it’s ready, but just having the bones of a story in place (for now) feels so good!
  • On Tuesday, I’ll be sharing my self-editing checklist on The Writer’s Alley —  unless a more timely topic hijacks my plans.
  • I’m also compiling an April Reads post that will go up at some point next week, along with my manifesto for this blog, if I ever figure out what that looks like 🙂

Do you ever have packed, boring, adulty weeks like this with a little fancy and loveliness squeezed through the cracks? Just me?

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

{friday mixing bowl} almost to THE END, two references to cake, and more

{friday}

Hi, y’all! This week’s Friday Mixing Bowl is coming to you on Saturday 🙂 I’m getting back into the swing of things after a whirlwind (and AMAZING) trip to Seattle, solo parenting for two weeks while husband is away on work, finishing a book, and finalizing my client line-up!

<< I’m currently >>

working on…

Blacey

the last stages my third manuscript, an inspirational New Adult story. Technically the first draft is finished, but it was too short! This is a “sequel-turned-prequel” to my first book, but I decided to strategically shelf it several months ago to start a new series with my second book instead. So I’m currently reading through it, filling in some holes with new scenes, and editing as I go. My lovely critique partner is shredding it up in 100-page increments, so I will get to those edits next.

listening to…

This Spotify playlist, a compilation of some of my favorite powerful worship songs right now. There is a lot going on in my headspace right now, and these songs keep me happy and sane. It’s very female-centric, which I don’t mind one bit 🙂

reading…

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I read an amazing book while I was in Seattle, Sway by Amy Matayo. It’s an inspirational new adult novel like the one I’m currently writing, basically the unicorn genre of the CBA and one that’s very close to my heart. This was my favorite of hers yet! OR if you’re looking for more of a straight-up contemporary romance, The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson is beautiful and poignant. Check them out!

still stuck on…

credit: theartofsimple.net

this article on The Art of Simple website. “Those of us who choose to walk a path with intention through life can be a little prone to overthinking. (Wait. Is that just me?) We know we want to live lives connected to our communities, our neighbors, our friends, but sometimes we get so bogged down in good intention that we collapse under the weight of our own standards and do nothing at all.” The author learned that making a difference can really be as simple as putting a chocolate cake on someone’s porch. The idea of community and its ramifications has been heavy on my heart lately, so this article was timely and inspiring.

<< link love >>

source: iambaker.net

  • I did it again, y’all. I talked about cake twice in one blog post. But my tiny little baby is turning ONE in less than two weeks, so I have been researching frostings. Keep these recipes in your back pocket the next time you need to whip together an impressive cake, okay?
  • Ten TED Talks from Authors. I haven’t listened yet, but my dishwashing time is about to get a lot more interesting!
  • I’m very proud of my friend, Teresa, who wrote about  the importance of being teachable and doing whatever it takes to make your work better — even if that means starting over.

<< in case you missed it >>

Join us on The Writer's Alley!

  • I hosted author Liz Johnson on The Writer’s Alley on Tuesday, where she talked about why launching her career with Love Inspired Suspense prepared her for the release of her contemporary romance, The Red Door Inn. This is a subject I’ve always been curious about, so I was grateful she obliged me!! 🙂
  • Author Hillary Manton Lodge invited me to be a part of her author roundtable discussion about good writing/story music. So much fun to be featured with talented published author friends!
  • I also shared contest tips last week. Hope those come in handy during this busy contest season, whether you entered the Genesis or not!

Hope y’all are having a great weekend!

What are you up to?

the holy intersection of art & busy

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I walk past this office every day, an inviting and not-always-tidy place that reminds me something magical will happen there later that night.

It’s littered with evidence–like my son’s toy drum in the corner and my daughter’s handwriting practice on the hearth–that, yes, important things happen here. But I get the privilege of being surrounded by story all day: creating them, helping others tell their own, and living grand adventures with my family at the same time. The lines of balance are always shifting, sometimes pulling painfully. Yet I’ve realized the importance of making it work, of curating this beautiful intersection of worlds that almost feels HOLY in its broken, life-giving wholeness.

An article I read this week on Medium.com, “Real Artists Have Day Jobs: Your Job is Just Your Side Gig,” discussed what defines a person as an artist. Major, major fist pumps and hallelujahs ensued on my end–and a little mourning for the people who don’t see themselves as true artists for whatever reason. Artists with asterisks of some kind.

The truth it took me ages to see is this: Your art is legitimate and important whether it’s your sole income or free therapy tucked into the best corners of your day. I wish more people would see that, even if you’re only doing it 15 minutes a day, your art is a vital part of who you are and deserves as much space and energy as you can give it. The people in that boat have been on my mind so much lately.

Whether you have time to work whenever inspiration comes or–like this blog post–it’s broken into the moments between crunching someone else’s numbers and wiping butts and driving all the places you need to go, I hope you’ll make space for what you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you were created to do and celebrate the holy, messy, beautiful intersection of all the parts of your life.

Your art is legitimate and important whether it's your sole income or free therapy tucked into the best corners of your day.

 

{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.