Change of plans

Don't you love Christmas? I do. I love preparing for over-nighters, dinner guests, and surprise visits. I love decorating, wrapping presents, and helping my husband with the meals. He bought smoked turkey and made an outstanding cheesecake.

This year we planned to have fourteen people at our house for Christmas. We bought food and spiffed up the house. We knew who would be sleeping in each of our beds and sleeper sofas - with kids on the floor.

Christmas is usually fun. But this year we had a tripple whammy.

My mom's cousin, on the mend from cancer, died of pneumonia during the holidays. After that, my grandma, 89 years old, passed away. A few days later, my mom's uncle died.

On December 26th, my family and I put our hats on and went to honor my grandma at the funeral. She was known for wearing hats in church and on many special occasions. Other than baseball caps, hats aren't generally worn in my hometown, so we stood out in church, as she sometimes did. She was used to getting compliments about her hats. We got a few, too, in the reception hall that day. She always said, "A woman should wear a hat."

We didn't have any guests spend the night at our house this Christmas. We took all our presents and food to my mom's on Christmas day. Even at her house, we had every bed and sofa filled, with kids on the floor.

We will drive from Texas to Arkansas for my great-uncle's funeral and then to Kansas to bury my grandma. It's a sad trip, but we'll be surrounded by loved ones.

When plans change, it's good to have God's love in the family.

Thank You, God, for Your peace.

Making Memories

Here it is... my birthday week.

This year I'm celebrating the birthday of Jesus - and my birthday - and twenty-five years with my husband.

He asked me out for our first date on my birthday twenty-five years ago, and somehow, we've been happily together ever since. We've been through our ups and downs and stayed together in ministry and in parenting. We've had our stressful moments and blissful moments. Through it all, love has been the bond.

Milestone moments are great times to remember who you once were and thank God for personal growth. Hopefully, as we get older, we get wiser. God gives us His wisdom, and then He gives us a family to keep us from thinking we're wiser than we really are.

I thank God for my family. They keep me laughing. I can't take myself too seriously because of them.

This week is my play time. The work gets done, but it's not really work when you're having so much fun. I'm hosting my family at my house this Christmas, and that by itself will liven up things.

The writing is on PAUSE this week - and maybe next week, too. It makes sense to cherish kids when they're small and family when they're here. I'm anticipating my joyful return to writing. But, for now, I'm seizing the moment and making memories.

The Sound of Words

I love to hear
the mourning dove's sweet wake up call outside my window,
the clink of a spoon in a mug,
the wind composing new melodies on the wind chime in the backyard,
the whine of a dog as his master leaves,
the steady rhythm of the jogger's feet,
the constant in and out of his breath,
the lapping of small waves on a sun-sparkling lake,
the whisper of the wind through the trees,
the crunch of dry leaves under old boots,
the crackling of the fireplace,
and the creak of an old recliner leaning back.


I love being with my family at Thanksgiving. God has blessed me with a very loving family and many good friends.

There are many things for which I am thankful. Most of all, I'm thankful for God's patience with me. He's helped me develop a relationship with Him and He's taught me about Himself.

That relationship has helped me in other relationships. I've been able to see through the anger to the hurt beneath it in some people. I don't take things as a personal attack if God is able to make me see beyond the immediate emotion. If I allow God to guide me, I can speak words of peace. I can be used by God if I'll keep my eyes on Him.

God has shown me love and expects me to show His love to others.

I'm not perfect, but as long as I remember that God is my Teacher, I can continue to learn. I can have patience with others because I've seen His patience with me. I ask for patience from others because of my weaknesses and failures.

There is a situation in my family that has family members sitting at the edge of their chairs waiting for a happy resolution. We all want the hearts healed. We all want the rebirth of joy.

Other families have situations that call for a cover of love, a show of mercy, and a flood of patience. We all have moments when we must forgive or ask forgiveness. It is our job as God's people to go beyond who we think we are. We must be the people God created us to be.

We must reach beyond ourselves and allow God to strengthen us in our weaknesses.

This Thanksgiving, I thank God for letting me know that I'm not expected to do everything right. But I do have to do my best.

Thank You God, that You have invited me to have a relationship with You. Thanks for giving me the desire to write. Thank You for the love You've given me through my family and friends.

Have a happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Getting Active

In August, I wrote about my plans to start a regular practice of exercise. I'm reporting now that I'm currently involved in regular exercise.

No, I'm not jogging four miles each day. I'm not ready for that yet.

I'm walking twenty minutes to a friend's house, walking around her neighborhood, and walking back. It's approximately an hour of exercise for that day. Last week, I did a separate walk which brought my weekly total to one and a half hours of exercise. I'll try to maintain that schedule and gradually build on it until I'm satisfied with my new healthier body.

My daughter wants to join me on Friday mornings. I may try that in the next few weeks to see if I can keep up with her.

I'll report on my progress.

The Seminar

Last weekend, I attended a writing seminar that really opened my eyes to some things. I loved it.

You know how a person can know something, and then it somehow sinks in and pops into place in that person's brain? Well, I had one (at least one) of those moments this weekend.

I write my way. I try to learn from others, but I have my own writing style. And I like it.

But if you stop what you're doing and look at it from a different perspective, you learn things. I could compare it to sitting on the opposite side of the church from your "normal" seat. Or maybe sitting on the opposite side of the dinner table.

People sometimes get in a rut, doing the same thing the same way. When you inflict change upon yourself, it shakes up the brain enough to have to sort out why you're doing it that way.

Change is good.

I've already sent a thank you note to Donald Maass and his staff for an enormously encouraging seminar. I just had to tell about it here so other writers (the few that don't already know) can know about his great seminars.

Thinking of God

I went to an awesome concert recently. I knew most of the songs already so I, like most in attendance, sang along with the performers most of the night. It wasn't a concert in the traditional sense: listen to the song and clap when the song is over. It was a church service in a large auditorium: people standing, hands raised, eyes moistened with emotion. The energy level in that place was great.

I believe this concert's goal was not to draw people to the performers, but to draw people to God. I felt like the whole room was leaning in to God, pressing in to His presence, asking to be closer to the God who is absolutely... Indescribable.

I want my writing to be like that.

When someone finishes one of my books, I want their first thoughts to be of the God who gives good gifts and who stirs up those gifts by His Spirit.

Praise, Glory, and Honor to God, for He alone is worthy.

And thanks, Chris. I enjoyed the concert.

Stand and Walk

Ever make a mistaek?

I've made plenty. But after receiving forgiveness, it's time to stand and walk.

God didn't create us to be groveling dirt-eaters. We were created to walk with God. It's all about Him.

When we see His hand reaching out to us, it's not for our glory, but His. He's trying to help us. If we'll accept His help, we'll be more effective in what He's called us to do. If we help each other through His strength, everyone is blessed.

I'm rewriting one of my stories in preparation for a writing seminar in a couple of weeks. It's not a Christian writing seminar, but I expect God to be there. I hope to learn a lot. But I also will be wearing my inner armor in anticipation of "helpful" criticism that might strike a nerve. I'm a big girl. I can take it.

Maturity is something that develops over time. Practicing self-discipline also helps. This applies to maturing as a writer too. All writers start "young" and have their own development speed. I want to have seasoned writing skills before my physical age gets too high.

Just because I strive for maturity, doesn't mean there's no immaturity in me trying to bubble up to the surface. I fight back the Three Stooges inclination in me. I stiffen my arms instead of shadow boxing as an "Ol' Meanie" walks away from me. "Oh, yeah?" "Yeah."

I have to walk away from temptation and walk toward the goal God has placed before me. When I arise from bended knee, I must stand and walk.


Judging people is wrong. Right?

But we judge people all the time. We tell others that this person is helpful or friendly and that one is a sneaky little thing.

When I read books, I judge them according to how I feel when I read them. I notice if the book makes me laugh, cry, or pound the arm of the chair while shouting, "No! No! Don't go with him. He'll just get you into trouble!" Okay, I don't actually shout. But I feel like it sometimes.

We have to judge the situations we get into, or are about to get into, as to whether we are safe in that situation. We have to judge people who give advice before making the decision to take their advice. Are they trustworthy? Are they only trying to sell something?

We judge others all the time, but do we judge ourselves enough?

If a woman has a poor opinion of herself, it may be because she has not listened to the right voices around her. If she listens to the voice that says she'll never amount to anything, she won't. She might have a poor opinion of herself and overcompensate, causing others to see her with a "too high" opinion of herself.

How do we judge ourselves with a good attitude?

I look in the mirror of the Bible. When I read it, I can see myself according to how God sees me. He sees my potential. He sees the truth of how I live - better than any advisor on earth.

I can ask God to make up for my weaknesses with His strength. I can ask God to help my foolishness with His wisdom. It seems odd to go to The Almighty God for something as little as me. But the funny thing is, He wants to help me. He cares for the little people too.

God wants us to use good judgement - His wisdom - every day. He wants us to judge ourselves correctly, not too harshly. He also wants us to use His wisdom when we think about judging others.

The fear of God (the great respect for God and the deep desire to obey Him promptly and completely) is the beginning of wisdom.


To me, writing is fun. I've been enjoying my training for a few years: reading "how to" books, reading novels, writing, listening for God's guidance.

There is so much to learn. I have to get all of the various pieces working together to create a cohesive whole. I work on point of view, narrator's voice, logical reactions from the characters, setting details, plot flow, weaving the subplot, taking out extraneous details, etc. There's a lot to do.

When I focus on one part of the book, I must go back to previous chapters and make sure the story leading up to that part makes sense. Will the reader expect this to happen? Will the reader be disappointed by the character's action, attitude or speech? Should the reader be disappointed at this moment in the book - because they're involved in the character's emotions?

Sometimes my first draft will leave out something important. Something that is necessary for the reader to understand before moving on to the next chapter. Normally, I go over each chapter several times before others read it. Occasionally, it takes a critique partner's eyes to catch something I overlooked.

I wish I could write a book by myself, but I can't. I must listen to God for His input. I want a critique partner to catch mistakes and omissions. When a publishing house wants to produce my book, an editor will make changes to my words again.

The first draft isn't as good as it could be. That's why God invented rewrites.

I can easily relate this to my spiritual life. God created me to be special. A unique individual. But I sometimes make mistakes. That's why He sent Jesus. I need complete forgiveness from a Perfect God. An Almighty God. And He forgives completely.

When I delete a wrong sentence or word, I don't have a record of how many times I've made that same mistake all through the story. It's ridiculous to think someone would keep track of how many times the delete key has been struck per story.

God has no record of how many times He has forgiven me. He has a great memory, but Love keeps no record of wrongs.

When I rewrite part of a chapter, my my story gets stronger. When God helps me rewrite my life mistakes, the memory of the mistakes is still there, reminding me what I've done. If I'll learn the lesson, I don't have to keep making the same mistake. Eventually, the memory of the mistake fades into the background, no longer recognizable.

My actions, attitudes, and speech aren't as good as they could be right now, but God forgives - and allows rewrites.

Falling in love

I love the feeling of falling in love.

I love reading the sweet parts in Christian romance novels. Sometimes, I giggle at the characters' reactions when they realize they've fallen in love and there's nothing they can do about it. So they might as well stop fighting it. Just accept it and enjoy it.

When the whole "head over heels" feeling hits, it's sigh time. That's so fun to write. Butterflies. Dizzy spells. Rubbery legs. Stammering speech. That incredibly wonderful awful feeling.

The good part is: I've experienced it in my life. But I know how if feels to lose that momentary feeling too. Some say that feeling is just a chemical reaction. The feeling doesn't last forever, but the romance can if you work at it.

You have to work at anything you want to keep in your life. If you want to keep your teeth, keep them brushed and flossed. If you want a pretty garden, keep it watered, fertilized, and weeded. If you want romance in your life, keep your mate in suspense about how you're going to show your love next.

I've fallen in love with my husband many times. This December, my husband and I will celebrate the 25th anniversary of our first date. To God be the glory - I think He's the one that set us up.

If you're continually working on keeping love in your life, that feeling will come back.

In Training Mode

I want to be the very best writer I can be. I'm not going to be "as good as" or even "like" someone else. I'm going to be what I was created to be.

The only way I will achieve that is to continue learning. I have been in training mode for many years. I don't have a university English degree, but I have the desire to learn.

I feel like a piece of undeveloped film. You can't expose it to the light too soon or you'll ruin it. It has to be developed first. After it has spent time in the dark at the hands of the Master, the beauty contained in that film will be revealed.

I know there's more to my writing than I can see at this point. I'll stay in training mode until the Master reveals the pictures on the film. He knows what He's doing.

Write Well Right Now

Write well. This is the goal of every writer. To get through a page of prose without error is a fine goal, but most authors make a few mistakes along the way.

Some writers have a goal of writing a certain number of pages each day and some strive for a certain number of words. I've heard authors tell that they write the heart of the message without a thought to correctness and go back later for editing. I try to write a scene in my story while thinking about how it flows from the previous chapters and how it will lead to future events in the story. But I also correct mistakes as I go. I want to write well right now.

I've told someone recently, "I don't want you to like my story. I want you to love my story." I intend to write about interesting characters doing wonderfully unusual or difficult things. I enjoy writing the feelings these characters have.

I told that same person, "My family always comes first."

I have a deadline of "ASAP" imposed on me through a conversation with someone who wanted to see some of my writing. I let that person know that I plan to do a great job of sending her my best work, but if I want my kids to wear clean clothes, I also have to do laundry.

Everyone has to strike a balance between things they love to do and things they have to do. I want to write 2000 words every day. I haven't been doing that. I am working on the balance between writing and household chores and fun with the kids.

If I can focus on my story in between laundry loads during school time, I can spend time with the kids after school and pick up my writing again at bedtime.

While I'm writing, I have to focus on the current scene and correct mistakes as I go. Editing is done after a few chapters have been written. I can go back to reread a few scenes, rethink the order of events, and begin retelling the story in a better way.

Patience is something I work on during periods of frustration. I can't write a blockbuster novel when I'm spending all my time cleaning house, helping with homework, and reminding kids to practice the piano. But I can do some writing, some housework, some instruction to kids, and some kid-hugging - according to my time limitations.

When I'm raising kids, I want to raise them well. When I'm writing, I want to write well. (sigh) And I want to do it well right now.

ACFW conference

I get to go to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference this week. Oh Boy! I can't wait! I can't wait!

I've been looking forward to meeting like-minded individuals face-to-face. I've been looking forward to learning from respected established authors in the workshops. I feel like a puppy hearing her Master turning the key in the lock. A door is about to open. It's hard to sit when my tail is wagging so hard.

I can imagine that after I get home - with oodles of new ideas about how to change my stories for the better- I will be very busy. I can see my characters rubbing their hands together in anticipation. Some are rolling up their sleeves, ready to get to work.

This will be the first time I've been to an ACFW conference. Probably not the last.

How will I be able to hold a decent conversation? How will I be able to stop stammering with excitement? I don't know.

Lately, I've been working on a two-sentence description of my current story. My office walls aren't adept at giving critiques, but I think it sounds pretty good. I can have my two sentences handy either on the tip of my tongue or on an index card. I can read it, if necessary. I just know someone will ask me what I'm working on.

I'll pack light and save room to bring home a couple of autographed books.

Can you see my smile? Nashville, here I come.

I can't wait.


Oh, how a storm can change lives.

A week has gone by since Katrina viciously visited America's southern states. Many are making plans to relocate permanently, others are still just trying to find all of their family members.

Many from New Orleans have come to Houston to recuperate. They are allowing the Houstonians to bring them food, water, clothing, and other necessities of life. They are grateful for the help.

I didn't plan to write about the sad stories surrounding the hurricane victims. I wanted to express how encouraged I am at the hearts of the Houstonians responding to the need that was brought to their doorstep.

I have watched reporters on TV delivering stories and pictures of the victims. It almost seemed like a photojournalist's prayer request. But the background of most of these stories and pictures is filled with feet running to help, hands lifting the head of the discouraged, and ears attentive to broken-hearted.

The men and women focused on helping do not stand in line to get their time on TV. They don't wave at the cameras. They don't want the limelight. The only thing these volunteers expect to gain by serving their fellow man is the satisfaction of knowing their effort made someone's day better.

I've heard about the anonymous customer who secretly paid for the meals of the two families from New Orleans. When the families finished sharing stories and tried to pay their own bills and go their separate ways, they found there was no bill to pay.

Generosity can be contagious. It has been spreading throughout the country as organizations coordinate their own individual contribution plans. Many Americans are praying for the healing of the victims. Hundreds of homes have been opened to the new homeless. Even those who are only able to give money do so because they want to participate in lightening the load of those in need.

Most of the stories show God's hands in action. I've seen strangers come together bound to each other only by the love of God. He has created us to love. It's what we're supposed to do. Those that are more interested in their own business than their fellow man on normal days have stopped to show compassion, surprising even themselves.

I believe God is using this horrible disaster to bring people to Himself. The victims in the southern states are calling out to Him, the volunteer helpers are calling for His help, and the suddenly surprised compassionate givers are recognizing God's presence in all of this. I expect many lost sheep to come back into the fold.

When we allow God into our lives, we become more fruitful and more of a blessing to others. One cannot do everything, but we can each do our part.

To God be the glory.


When storms come - and they will, a writer will notice the details and write them. When a writer has high emotion (either joy or depression), that writer should allow themselves to feel the feeling for a moment and write it. If depressed, don't stay there. Write it and leave it behind.

People need an outlet from their stress. Some people jog for stress relief, some use other forms of exercise. Writing can be a good form of stress relief. Writing it when the feeling is still there, even writing through the stress, will help a writer call on those details later for use in a story. A writer knows that high emotion always dwindles to a mellowed form. When we write the journey back to normal, it helps not only our writing, but also our souls.

No two people experience emergencies the same way. But there are usually enough similarities for people to identify with the same feelings that someone else felt in their emergency.Writing the feelings, the details of the emergency, the journey back to normal, and remembrances of that event in later years will be a tool a writer can use to help themselves deal with the stress, emotion, or maybe the pain of the event. People who are not trying to develop a writing career can use the same method to help themselves deal with a traumatic event.

Any emergency can be dealt with appropriately, and then remembered and written down. This is called obtaining valuable research from life experiences. Don't waste any of the important moments of your life. Use them to help others get through their storms.

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Recently, I was able to visit Seattle with my husband. We had a wonderful time. He was there on business, and I joined him for sightseeing when he wasn't busy.

Seattle is rich in fun activities for the family. Scouting for a family vacation site for later, we enjoyed the Aquarium, the Skyneedle, and the Harbor Cruise. We also rode the monorail and a streetcar. We caught the Mariners playing in Safeco Field and walked the many, many blocks back to our hotel.

I'm tired, but happy. I was told there are only about 50 days in a year that you can see both Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker from the Skyneedle. It was clear enough to see both when I was there.

I took in as many details of the city as I could, but when I asked questions of my husband, I noticed he saw things differently than I did. Our perspectives differed, but when combined, it made our total experience richer. Maybe I'll use Seattle as a setting in one of my stories. Enjoying the city with my husband made it a little more romantic.

We enjoyed the market along the water. I saw colorful bundles of fragrant flowers, but we ended up buying the cherries that he noticed. We ate in a great seafood restaurant that he picked out, but sampled food from each other's plate.

We were there for the annual Seafair parade. We saw the Motorcycle Police drill team. These men in uniform drove their motorcycles in tight patterns, weaving through each other's lines. An amazing sight. We saw the Chinese community's dancing dragon, Seattle's mayor, and the parade's Grand Marshall - Darth Vader (complete with a selection of his white-suited clone army soldiers).

Having someone to enjoy this with made the experience more fun. I highly recommend marriage. It's a good thing.

Strength for Today

Like everyone else, I have a lot to do. I must prioritize if I plan to get the important things done. But sometimes, I lack the motivation to do the things that need doing. I need a strong hand giving me a gentle push in the right direction.

That hand is God. According to Psalm 28, He is the strength of His people. He will help if I call on Him, but He won't do my work for me.

When I get the blahs I can curl up in my Heavenly Father's lap and complain away. When I've finished, I can look into those loving eyes and know that I still have to do my own work.

He's always there for me. He won't let me get by with doing less than my best just because I flash a smile at Him. He watches over me, just like my earthly father did when I had to clean my room.

Sometimes I need strength for today. God comforts, heals, and motivates me to press on. Although many people have greater needs than I do and I have been blessed greatly by God, I still need to be wrapped in His arms and let Him carry me from time to time.

We all have much to do so I will pray the last verse of Psalm 28 for all of us. "Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever."

God, I thank You for Your abundant love for all of us and for giving each of us strength for today.

Who are you?

I am a writer.

Part of what I write is determined by who I am. If I had a medical background, I might add nurses and doctors to my stories. Many writers add the atmosphere of their day job to their stories. They are simply following the instruction to "write what you know".

My stories will have characters who already have a relationship with God and characters who don't. I know God wants to draw us all closer to Him.

Many of my characters will attempt to do something that seems good, but they will fail. We all fail at times. We all strive to make our own lives happier, but we don't always go down the right road. The road to success may take a turn here or there, but if we stay on the road - no matter what it looks like - we will eventually get there. I know persistent obedience works.

Sometimes, it isn't the road that is taking the turns. It is we who are turning. Jesus told us the road that leads to life is narrow. If we step off the road, there is mercy. God wants us to stay on that narrow road for our own good. I know God's guidance helps me to walk straight.

I am also a parent. Through my relationship with my children, God has taught me many things about my relationship with Him. God is my Heavenly Father and I am His child. When I look at my children, I see through the eyes of love. I don't see a face covered in chocolate, I see beauty. When I see a broken crayon on the window sill and lines of color on the window and window sill and wallpaper, I am willing to show mercy. I know that's how God sees me.

He shows mercy when I confess sin. He sees beauty when I'm a mess. He sees me through the eyes of love and reminds me that His love is everlasting. I am a writer and parent and child of God. I am who God has created me to be. And I will write what I know.

Summer is for reading

What are your favorite books? What do you plan to read this summer?

I have a bookshelf full of unopened books. Mysteries still unsolved. The magical tingle of romance yet undiscovered. Characters call to me and I turn away. I'm reading something else right now.

I try to alternate between non-fiction and fiction. Study, then study and enjoy. I love to compare the emotional levels in fiction. Opening a new book affords the opportunity to ask, "Where will this one take me?"

The non-fiction often helps me enjoy the fiction even more. With non-fiction, God can bring me to a higher level of understanding and apply His instruction to my heart in a new way.

I like several different authors. They are like toes on my feet. Each is different, yet I need them all. Authors blend their voices as in a choir. A thrilling soloist is not a choir. Although I appreciate the beauty of a single voice, I need more than that.

I am only one member of the Body of Christ, but I am a needed and relevant part of that Body. I know God counts me as important just as he counts every hair on my head.

I enjoy being a member of God's family. My brothers and sisters share with me their wisdom and experience as I do to those entrusted to me. I love the fun of a big family. Never a dull moment.

Christian writers have called me one of their own. They have encouraged me to join their ranks. I accept the call given me by God to listen to His instruction (sometimes less detailed than I would like) and obediently write.

Please join me this summer in a light discussion on books and writing.