My Books

Monday, February 29, 2016

My Writing Space

I thought I'd tell you about my writing space on this Me Monday. It's nothing special, but I spend a lot of time here.

My writing space

I write on my Dell Latitude laptop sitting on my comfy reclining couch, feet up. Often, one of our two small dogs is snuggled up close beside me. Soft doggy snores are my background music along with the ticking of the clock on the wall and the hum of the refrigerator from the kitchen just a few feet away. I'm one who likes it quiet when I write, even finding music a distraction because I want to sing along.
Kobi, my first writing buddy.

Larkin, my newest writing buddy.

My messy end table.
My end table contains everything I need: A 24-ounce water bottle, which will be refilled at least once during the day. If this picture were taken in the morning it would be a steaming cup of coffee with sugar-free hazelnut creamer instead, but I digress. Also on my table is my Nook,  Kleenex, hand lotion, phone (both landline and cell), my Bible, an emery board, a tooth flosser, writing utensils (mechanical pencil and ball point pen, as well as a highlighter) and sometimes a hard copy of a chapter or two of a manuscript I'm working on. Oh, and my book lists journal where I write down books I've read. I try to keep everything I could possibly need within arm's reach so I have no excuse to get up until I've finished my writing for the day. I'm a master at procrastination and could easily wander from my spot for any little reason, so this is an exercise in discipline. It does nothing, however, for my need for physical exercise. Sigh.

I also keep a fleecy blanket close-by because my feet tend to get cold and I like to wrap them up in said blanket. Plus, the dogs like laying on it when it's not in use.

Cold feet.
Speaking of feet, just feet away is another couch, where I lay down when writer's block hits. So if you should happen to walk in on me, just assume I'm writing, not sleeping. When I get stuck in my story and can't figure out how to move forward, it helps to relax my mind. As soon as I close my eyes, new ideas start popping in. That's when I know it's time to get up and start typing again.

My Create heart
This is one of my favorite items on my end table that I failed to mention. My "Create" heart has a chime inside it, so when I pick it up it makes a beautiful sound. It inspires and motivates me to keep on keeping on.

My writing space magically turns into my evening TV watching and crocheting spot when my husband comes home. Honestly, it's my favorite place in the whole world, no matter how it's used. It's so comfortable and it's where I feel most at home.

Do you have a favorite place in your house? What do you use it for? Let me hear from you in the comments.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Lenten Book Recommendation

We're a week-and-a-half into the Lenten season. Most years I try to read a book that will take me deeper into the spiritual journey of the road Jesus walked to the cross. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't.

I was recently asked if I have any special memories of a cross. The only thing that came to mind was a book I read close to twenty years ago called On a Hill Too Far Away (Putting the Cross Back into the Center of our Lives) by John Fischer. Any time a book stays in my mind that long it's worth sharing with others. I'm rereading it now and loving every impact-filled word.

Fischer tells the story of a church in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. It is a simple church with cement floors and folding chairs instead of pews. But what makes this church different is the placement of a huge. ten-foot cross in the front. It's not neatly attached to a wall with slick lighting behind it. "This one is bolted down into the concrete floor in front of the platform, not more than three feet from where the preacher stands" (p. 15).

Every scripture the preacher preaches, every word the congregation receives, must pass through that cross. It's always in view and this cross isn't pretty. It's rough and unforgiving and one might get a splinter if they run their hand over to it. One's clothes might snag if they stand too close. It is an obstacle in every service held in that sanctuary. Brides and grooms must figure out where they'll stand and if the wedding dress will get caught on the rough wood. It affects everything that goes on in that building.

Isn't that what the cross of Jesus is supposed to do? Shouldn't it affect everything? The 2000 years since the crucifixion have softened the rough timbers, like a rock smoothed beautiful by sand and water. But it doesn't change the reality of what it was. An instrument of execution.

How can we bring the cross into the center of our lives? Do we dare let it affect us in its intended ways? The cross of Jesus is more than a symbol of Christianity. It's a game changer. An entire life changer.

I encourage you to read On a Hill Too Far Away. It isn't available in bookstores because of its age, but you can order a copy online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It's by far one of my favorite Lenten books and well worth the read.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Live Without Pretending

I saw these words of pithy advice on Facebook, from which all wisdom flows, right? LOL. But they hit me as relevant to today's ever-offended society.

These four guidelines could solve a lot of problems. Of course all four are way harder to implement than they sound. But let's break them down.

Live without pretending. When I hear that I think of my grandpa. He was one of the most genuine people I've ever known. He was the same person with everyone, never putting on pretenses. What you saw was what you got, take it or leave it. He was always himself, never pretending to be anyone else. And he was respected for it.

Love without depending. This gives me mixed emotions. Isn't part of loving each other depending on one another to some extent? But I see what they're saying. Don't depend on others to meet your needs too much. That's downright irritating. Also, don't depend on others to make you happy, fulfilled, or completed. All that deep stuff has to come from within, not from someone else.

Listen without defending. It's commonplace to listen to someone while thinking of what you're going to say back. You build your defense while they're stating their case. Relax. Breathe. Listen. Try to see things from their point of view. Maybe they have a valid point. Try to empathize and see if you can agree more than disagree. I'm talking to myself here.

Speak without offending. Most people aren't idiots. We know what's offensive and what isn't. Why cross that line? Sometimes we do it to be funny. Mark my words. It's not. We may think we're smarter or more savvy than someone else. Doubtful. All we are when we speak offensively is offensive, which only makes us look bad, not the other guy. So let's try our hardest not to go there.

I bet you didn't learn anything new here. That's OK. I never said I'd provide you an education. But maybe it's good to remind ourselves of these principles from time to time. We really can change the world by the way we live.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Childhood Responsibilities

The most respectful children I know are those who are expected to contribute to the family in some way. They have chores to do and know their family is counting on them. Responsibilities give children a purpose beyond their own pleasure and show them where they fit in.

Responsibilities come in lots of different areas. While I didn't force a lot of household chores on our children, they were responsible to care for their pets and to help out around the house (without complaining) when asked. Sometimes we had chore charts or I'd make a list of things for them to do. But responsibility shows up in different ways for different kids. Some are great at getting ready on time and others might help a younger sibling with homework like a pro. All are signs of growing responsibility.

Making a kid do the same hated chore every day or week only makes them hate it more. Rather, teach him how to do it, let him practice it from time to time, and then assign him a chore he enjoys more. That way, you're teaching life skills, (because one does have to clean toilets, or whatever, in real life) while still respecting his personality. When you see your child shouldering some responsibility, let him know how much you appreciate it. People are naturally inclined to repeat behaviors people praise.

Help your child keep their feet on the ground by giving them some responsibility. It's a help to you and it's an important part of their growing up.


Monday, February 22, 2016

My Six Favorite Blogs

It's Me Monday, so I thought I'd share with you my favorite blogs, ones I read regularly and hate to miss.

Drumroll please...My six favorite blogs in no particular order!
1. Mrs. Gore's Diary - This blog has no particular posting schedule because it's author, Mrs. Gore, is a busy mother of four young children and a pastor's wife. But when she posts, it always speaks to my heart because she loves being a mother and is a pro at seeing God moments in everyday life. Besides that, she and her kids are hilarious! What's not to love about that? If her blog posts are too few and far between for you, may I suggest liking her Facebook page? She posts something almost every day about her sweet family and I simply can't get enough of them.

2. ARHtistic License - Written by Andrea Huelsenbeck, whose initials are the first 3 letters of the blog name, this blog focuses on all forms of artistic expression. You'll see posts on writing, photography, painting, woodworking, dance, sculpting, and lots more. It inspires me to see the world through artistic eyes and helps me notice beauty all around me. Andrea is a personal friend of mine and a member of my weekly critique group, Tuesday's Children.

3. Doing Life Together -  This is a joint blog written by my critique group mentioned above. With several different authors in different stages of life, we all support and encourage each other through whatever life throws our way. Our group has been meeting for over 20 years, so we've been through a lot together. I love the different writing styles, voices, and topics this blog offers.

4. Nesting Place - This blog is all about simple decorating and is authored by The Nester, Myquillyn Smith. I love it because it stresses being content with what you have and using things you already own to create the look and feel you want in your home. You don't have to spend a lot to have a beautiful home. The subtitle of the Nesting Place is "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." Now that's something that I can relate to.

5. Chatting at the Sky - by Emily P. Freeman is a breath of fresh air. It takes me deeper spiritually and doesn't guilt me into anything. As Emily says, she's "all about creating space for your soul to breathe." Genuine and down-to-earth, she writes about life, struggles, books, growing your faith, living more simply, and living your life as art. Her books "Simply Tuesday" and "A Million Little Ways" have made her one of my favorite authors. Oh, and she's the The Nester's sister (see #4), which is fun.

6. Christian Children's Authors -  Because I write children's books and love children's literature, this site makes my list of favorites. I contribute to it every second and fourth Thursday. Here you'll find book reviews, articles on reaching children for Christ, children's ministry, and miscellaneous other topics. Written by published children's authors, this blog has a good variety of posts and is a fun read.

I could list others, but these are the blogs I read most often. Do you have blogs you enjoy reading? Post a link in the comments so we can check them out.


Friday, February 19, 2016

My First Crocheting Project - Completed!

I started learning to crochet a little over a month ago. I blogged about it here. I'm happy to say I finished that first project about a week ago. It didn't turn out beautiful, but that wasn't the intent, though that would have been an added bonus. Instead, it turned out wonky, the edges wide in some place and narrower in others, sort of a Dr. Seuss look, if you will. The stitches were uneven at first, some tight, others loose. About two-thirds of the way through, I realized I'd been doing the single crochet stitch incorrectly, though the way I did it seemed just fine, too.

This was a learning project, and to that end it accomplished what it was supposed to. Here's what I learned from it.

1. How different yarns feel. Because I used yarn I already had, I got to experience that some yarns are nicer to work with than others. I found I preferred crocheting with big, soft, chunky yarns like the multi-colored one in the middle. The peach one right beside it was not at all soft, but more scratchy and firm. I didn't like it a bit and couldn't wait to finish that color. The pink and blue variegated yarn was wavy and super soft, like for a baby's blanket, but it wasn't as thick as I liked. I had no idea yarns were so different!

2. How to turn your project to start a new row. Actually, I'm still learning this and I still tend to drop or add stitches along the way, making my edges wider or narrower instead of even. But I'm getting better. I'm becoming more familiar with how stitches are supposed to look and how to choose the right one to poke my hook through when I turn it at the end of a row.

3. I've learned three kinds of stitches. Single crochet, double, crochet, and triple crochet, though the project (I can't quite bring myself to call it a blanket) in the picture only used the first two.  I simply put the stitch name in the Google search window and up popped videos for me to watch  that taught me how to do them. Three cheers for technology!

4. I love to crochet. This might be the most important thing I've learned. I love it! I'm just as happy crocheting as I am reading, and that's saying something!

5. Dogs don't care how their blankets look. I actually had to keep shooing the dogs off my lap when I worked on this because they always wanted to snuggle up on it. That's why you'll find this project inside the newest dog's kennel for him to sleep with at night. He's thrilled.

6. Unexpected bonus lesson:  Crocheting helps me lose weight. I kid you not, I've lost a couple pounds. Why? When my hands are busy as I watch TV in the evening, I'm less likely to snack. I don't even think about it most the time. Imagine that!

So there  you have it--my finished project and what I learned along the way. My next project, which I've already, started is a prayer shawl. I'll post a picture when I finish it. I'm hoping to make several of these to have on hand to give people who need the comfort of a warm, crocheted hug to get them through a tough time.

Thanks for reading and following along with new things I'm finding the gumption to try . You're the best!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Making Sense

I love this picture, don't you? Often, our actions, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes resonate with people. Most of us share similarities in the human experience.

But there are other times when you're misunderstood. People question you and think you're nuts for one reason or another. If they're people who genuinely love you, their words may merit consideration. But after self-evaluating, if your course of action still makes sense to you and doesn't fly in the face of your deepest values, maybe that's OK.

Nothing great was ever achieved without stepping out of your comfortable box. That's how dreams come true. It's always a bit of a risk, but don't deny yourself the joy of stretching up high and snatching that star. Some may think you crazy for trying, but they've never held stars in their hands and seen their sparkle. It won't make sense to them because that thing deep inside you that makes your heart beat isn't inside them. God put it in you. Nor would their God-given heartbeat make sense to you.

Let's give each other the freedom to not always make sense. Let's support one another in our dreams, whether we have the same ones or not. Even if they don't come true, valuable lessons can still be learned in the process. And that's something we all benefit from.

Dream on!


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Soul Beauty

What could be more lovely than inner beauty of a life well lived, developed through years of experience? Think of all the funny stories, the heartaches, the worries, and the triumphs that reside in the hearts of older folks. I once had an older friend who used to say, "We're all the same age on the inside." It's true. As I get older, I realize I still feel the same as when I was a teenager. Sure, I'm not physically able to do all the things I could then. But I can do some things now that I couldn't as a younger person, like listen with more empathy because I've already walked in those shoes. I can hold things more loosely because I know there's infinitely more value in things that can't be held.

So if you're on the aging end of the timeline, celebrate all you've gained through the years, like a deeper faith, an understanding heart, more patience. And if you're just getting started on that timeline, look up to and admire the older folks in your life. They're beautiful and timeless in ways you can't be without living all those years.

Happy Timeless Tuesday!


Monday, February 15, 2016

Share Your World - 2016 Week 1

In response to Cee's Photography Share Your World Challenge, which I should have begun in January, but am starting five weeks into the new year. Oh, well.

Me and Marsha, 1962
As a child, who was your favorite relative?

My favorite relative was, and still is, my older sister, Marsha. She was my best friend, playmate, confidante, and fellow dreamer. Nothing has changed except that we live in different houses now almost a half hour apart.

Me and Marsha, 2007

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

I would be a rose bush. They come in so many different colors and the petals are so velvety soft. Their fragrance is sweet and lush and their thorns keep most people at arms length, except those who really love them. Roses, by their colors, represent different relationships, which is what I love most in life. yellow=friendship; red=love; white=marriage. I have a rose garden in my back yard.

What would be your preference, awake before dawn or awake before noon?

I'd much rather be awake before dawn when the house is quiet and no one else is up. I'm not a late night person, so the day seems too short if I get up late. Actually, I like to think of myself as a middle of the day person, since I'm not terribly friendly first thing in the morning or late at night. Leave me alone until after I've had my coffee, please.

Would you like to sleep in a human size nest in a tree or be snuggled in a burrowed spot underground?

I'd definitely rather sleep in a human size nest in a tree because I'm terribly claustrophobic. That's something new I learned about myself in the last year or two. Thank you, MRI. And doesn't sleeping in a nest just sound dreamy and cozy? Hold the worms for breakfast.

Bonus question (which is always the same): What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? Because we all need to be reminded that there are many things in our lives to be grateful about.

I'm grateful for a life I love to come back to after a vacation. It's nice to get away, but it's equally nice to get back to my routine and regular life. I'm looking forward to my volunteer work at Choices Pregnancy Center where I am a peer counselor. I talk one-on-one with women who come in for a free pregnancy test or to get information about their options if they are pregnant. It's an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with them by just listening without judging, educating them about pregnancy, abortion, adoption, and parenting, and supporting them through a potentially difficult time in their lives regardless of what choice they make.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Me and My Fitbit

I got a Fitbit Charge last week and I'm still learning how to use all its features. Or at least the ones that are important to me. I'm hoping it will help me move more and show me when I need to step it up in the exercise area. I expect that will be all the time at first. :)

In addition to being a watch, my FitBit tracks my steps, miles walked, stories of stairs climbed, calories burned, how much sleep I get and the quality of that sleep. It also allows me to enter the amount of water I drink each day, log my exercise, and even choose an eating plan if I want (I don't).

I love knowing all that info without having to enter it all in. I was especially impressed with the sleep feature. It not only clocks how many hours of sleep I get, but how many times I wake up and how many times I'm restless, so I can see the quality of sleep I'm getting.

I also entered a weight goal on my FitBit and it tells me how many pounds I have to go to reach it. Still waiting for that number to change. LOL.

Bottom line, I'm hoping this little gadget will get me moving more. Writing is a sedentary life and I tend to sit more than I should. To up the motivation, my hubby also got a FitBit, so we're constantly comparing our numbers. I can't wait until the day my numbers beat his. Hasn't happened yet.

Are you a FitBit user? What are you doing to stay or get fit?


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday

What are you waiting for today? Will you wait quietly, hopefully? You can when you trust God for the outcome.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Making Waves by Being Yourself

I love this meme that I hijacked from Facebook. The thing that strikes me most about it is that the moon doesn't seem like it does much. Sometimes that's how I feel, too. I'm just there, but am I making a difference? But the moon is important. It lightens the darkness and yes, it causes waves in the ocean. You can read the scientific explanation here

I like the way the moon goes about its business quietly. It does its thing and doesn't make a big deal out of it. Yet, every day people look into the night sky and admire it, especially when it's full. That's when it's being most like itself.

The same thing can be said about people. When they do what they're created to do, (and that's different for everyone) without making a big fuss about it, people are drawn to them. It's obvious when they do what's deep in their hearts and it's mesmerizing and admirable. Waves start lapping around them, so to speak, because their passion inspires others to do what they were created to do, too.

So don't hesitate to make waves. Be yourself and light up the darkness.


Monday, February 8, 2016

I Love Rocking Babies to Sleep

Having recently returning from a trip to visit my seven grandchildren aged fifteen months to fourteen years, I'm having a bit of withdrawal from holding little ones. One of my favorite things on earth is to hold a baby, swaying, rocking, singing, until he falls asleep.

The softness of his tiny body curved against mine, his milky breath on my neck as he nestles on my shoulder is intoxicating. I stroke his downy hair, listen for his rhythmic breathing, feel his muscles relax. Ahhh. There's nothing like it.
My grandson, Henry, 15 mo.
The next best thing is reading a child to sleep. There's something so soothing about falling asleep with a good story in your head sitting on the lap of someone who adores you. I remember it well from my childhood. I got the chance to enjoy that with my littlest grandchildren, too.
Me reading grandson, Solomon, 2 1/2, to sleep.
Apparently, I have "the touch." Or maybe I'm just that boring. But either way, I'll take it, because I'll gladly hold a little one as their eyes grow heavy and they drift off into slumberland. It's definitely high on my list of favorites.

Happy Me Monday!


Friday, February 5, 2016

Five Benefits of Letting Your Married Children Live With You (Temporarily)

There comes a time for most parents when their married children ask if they can temporarily move in with them. The kids may be between leases or houses. They might need to save money for a particular reason. Or maybe they're out of work and can't afford their own place. Whatever the reason, you may be tempted to say no. It would disrupt your life and schedule and cramp your space. It might strain your relationships. It may mean extra work cleaning up after them. I get it. Really, I do.

But may I urge you to say yes?

Tyler and Bonnie
We allowed our son and his wife (That's them in the picture. Aren't they cute?) to move in with us about a year after they married. None of us knew for sure how long they'd be there, but it ended up being ten months. We had all the concerns I mentioned above, as do most parents in that situation. But we were wrong.

Here are five benefits we came away with that I didn't anticipate at the onset of this living arrangement.

1. We grew closer to one another.  I didn't see this coming, but it became a joy to work together in the kitchen or sit around and watch TV together. We truly enjoyed one another's company and that has benefited our relationships.

2. We got to witness up close and personal our son as a husband. It was awesome to see this "kid" as a thoughtful husband. He was kind, gentle, funny, loving, helpful, understanding. I'd only had glimpses of him in this role before, but living with them immersed me in the wonder of it every day. It was spectacular. And it was just as fabulous seeing how equally wonderful his wife was to him.

3.  We learned to work cooperatively. We tried to stay out of each others' way in the kitchen or when doing laundry. We parked our cars so the other could get out when they needed to. We let each others' dogs out or fed them when the other couldn't. We were glad to help each other, and didn't do it begrudgingly.

4. We loved our daughter-in-law in a deeper way. Don't get me wrong, we loved her before. But there's something about living with someone that brings you close. You get to see each other at your best and worse, and have the opportunity to support and love each other through life's ups and downs. I am much closer to my son's wife now than I ever could have been had she not lived with us. She feels more like my own daughter now.

5. You appreciate each other all the more when they move out. Obviously, living together isn't an ideal situation, no matter how great it can be. When the kids moved out, they were thrilled to have their own space again and so were we. We were so happy for them and they were so grateful to us. You count the blessings of living together, and then count the ones of living apart. I miss the close time we had and am so happy when they drop in to say hello.

Living  with your grown kids can be challenging. I offered tips on how to do it successfully in a previous post "11 Tips for Sharing Your Home With Married Children." I'm blessed with kids I love and enjoy. They're thoughtful and respectful, so we chose to let them live in our home for a while. I realize not all family situations are like that. Naturally, every parent needs to decide what's best for them and their kids. But if you have a good relationship with your kids already, I encourage you to let them move in if they need to for a time. Set a time limit on how long they can stay if needed. But don't let fear cause you to say no. You may miss out on a huge blessing.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gentle Treatment

It's easy to judge without thinking about people's back-story. In our instant gratification society, we want things to be taken care of now, problems to be solved yesterday, people to change their ways pronto. We sigh in frustration at the child screaming in the store instead of thinking about the issues behind the cries. Is the child tired, the mother frazzled, the finances tight, the husband abusive? We don't know. But if we did, we might offer a hand of help, a smile of encouragement, a heart of love, patience, tolerance, and care. Treat each other gently, friends. Isn't that what we all want and deserve?

Have a good, thoughtful Thursday.