Tuesday, August 04, 2015

One way to be a blessing to others

ilybox is a brilliant concept—a way to brighten a friend or loved one's day and a way to also pass on a blessing and some encouragement to someone in need. It's the perfect way to share the Good News! Brilliant!

Have you heard of ilybox?

It's the brilliant idea my friend Crystal came up with. Ilybox is a way to bless friends and loved ones AND bless a stranger who really needs a touch of love. 

Do you have a friend or loved one who you want to surprise with a nice gift? Maybe a college student or a someone across the miles comes to mind. 

Ilybox is a monthly subscription box filled with cool goodies. But what's so cool about the ilybox is that with each gift, you bless someone who really needs something nice in their day with an ilygoxo box. The ilygoxo box helps you to meet the challenge in the Great Commission: Mark 16:15, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." What's nice is that you get to select the destination for your additional box: a jail, hospital, or a women's shelter.

The box pictured included:

  • Bright Bands: Wrist bands that remind you to BeBright for Christ. 
  • Divine Chocolate: Chocolate, 'nuff said.
  • A Bath Bomb: Who doesn't love that stuff??
  • A waterproof journal: The perfect place to jot down your thoughts.

Additionally, all boxes include:
  • Monthly Theme/Scorecard: To tell you all you need to know about what's in the box and why.
  • ilychallenges: Daily mini-challenges to keep your life moving in an upward motion.
  • ilycard: Sweet notecards with inspiration to fuel your life. 
* The ilygoxo boxes are slightly different that the ilybox because they're curated for outreach, discipleship, and bringing more people to Christ.

Check out the ilybox here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Guard your thoughts, they have the power to determine your reality

My previous post discussed the power of words to wound or to heal. 

Friends, kind words benefit both the hearer and the one who speaks. 

Before words are spoken, they're thoughts. A favorite Bible verse tell us to "take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5)."

Our thoughts create our reality. 

Depending on the situation, we can be joyless curmudgeons, or we can squeeze past difficulties and find the good in the dark, dark circumstance. 

I know that's easier said than done, but is possible. 

We've all been around those who tarnish the mood of everyone in the room with their negative, hurtful words and careless comments. I truly believe the words folks like that say tell us more about themselves than they do their targets. It must be awfully dark in their little world. 

I used to have a negative, judgmental person in my life. I'm sorry to say that her attitude affected me. It caused me to see life though the lens of her POV. I eventually made a decision to be kinder in my thoughts toward others, and it revolutionized the words I chose to share in the world. It made me feel lighter and more in control of my environment. I became more relaxed in my own skin.

The thoughts we cultivate are choices we make. 

You can look at people and situations from a negative POV (I don't suggest that), or you can assume the best. You can reign in your thoughts and spin them to be more kind toward others and yourself. It takes a while, but you can change the way you think and ultimately the way you respond to the world.

And if you do that, it will change the way the world responds to you!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Guard your words, they have power to wound or heal

Words have power.

Too often we forget about that when we're deep in conversation or making an off-handed comment. 

Words can be a blessing, but they can also be a curse. Or at least they can cause pain. Create misunderstanding. Break a heart. Ruin a relationship.

I've regretted careless words that have hurt others, and I remember careless words tossed my way from 40 years ago. 

Once hurtful words land in your heart, they're not easily discarded. Sure, you can move forward. You can be brave and pretend that you're not hurt. But words do hurt us. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about being the best I can be--in all areas of life. I've decided one of the best things to do is to be mindful of the words I use, and to be mindful of only dishing out kind words, encouraging words, and to bite back words that could cause someone to stumble or be hurt. 

Here's something I learned as a child: the first rule of etiquette is to never make someone else uncomfortable. If we think about that, we might press our lips together before we say the wrong thing. 

**The poison of coarse words hurts the speaker as much as the recipient.**  

Don't return insult for insult. It makes you the small person. The temporary pleasure you might get from tossing a barbed comment will pale when you realize the poison of coarse words hurts the speaker as much as the recipient.  

Here are some thoughts to ponder:

  • You don't have to agree with someone to treat them kindly.
  • A kind word costs you nothing, but can mean the world to someone else. 
  • Kind word have the power to create a force for good in someone's life. When I was a child I was struggling with a task, ready to give up. My sweet Auntie saw me and took a moment to praise me for my patience. I've tried to live up to those words for 50 years.
  • Kind words spoken to others reflect well on the speaker. 
  • An encouraging word can propel someone toward success.
  • A gentle word can soothe a wounded spirit.
  • Speak kindly when you get the opportunity; an unspoken kindness can be a regret forever.
  • A gently spoken truth at a difficult time can be the kindness someone needs to hear.
Bless others with your words, you may never know what a well-crafted sentiment can mean to someone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wise words

Wise words from a wise, Godly woman. 

It's all or nothing, this trusting-God thing. 

Either you commit or you skirt the issue and flirt with religion, which will not serve you well, in my humble opinion. 

I made a commitment to the Lord in 1978, and I was--and still am--all in! I couldn't imagine life any other way. 

It's a grand adventure where I simply must follow His lead, act upon the nudging of His spirit, and trust, trust, trust.

I hope you've made a similar commitment, friend. It make life that much richer, and then in the end, you get heaven too!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Clean your house or . . .

Are you keeping your house in pristine condition, or are you enjoying a good book?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Strive toward realistic, attainable goals

Creative types seem to push themselves to do more, more, more.

I know. I've done that. Unfortunately, the results of my efforts were not up to my usual standards. So, if my novel writing takes a bit longer than other authors', then that's just the way it is. I'm more concerned with outcome over process.

I recently ran across an article that I found quite encouraging, The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors.

Turns out I'm pretty normal. I write more than some famous authors and less than others.

Personally, I've been a lot happier when I don't push myself to create goals that my writer friends have for themselves. I've stepped off that treadmill of comparing myself to others, and I'm a better person for it.

Still, it's important to set a schedule. You need to find time to churn out words. One of my tricks when I seem to be slowing down is to set a timer for 15 minutes with the goal of writing 500 words. I've always met that goal.

I've come to a time in my life when I'm more deliberate and thoughtful of my efforts. Setting realistic goals is just one area that I work on.

Keep moving forward, friends. Slow and steady still finishes the race.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Character traits that cause admiration!

Excuse me while I get a little introspective. I’ve been counting my blessings lately, and most of them all of them are people, not things. 

No surprise there, but what I truly value about those who are a close to me are the attributes of their characters.

As I thought about my loved ones and friends, I compiled a list of what I admire most about them. 

My little exercise nearly brought me to tears, I’m so blessed to have remarkable people in my life.

Yes, this is what's needed in excess in our world:
  • Kindness
  • Generosity
  • Courage
  • Integrity
  • Humor
  • Confidence
  • Humility
  • Gratitude
  • Honesty
  • Compassion
  • Commitment
  • Resilience
  • Love

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Each year there comes a day when the sun shines with a delicate hue, and its warmth rests on my shoulders like an encouraging hug.

Here in Colorado, it's as if joy pulses from the earth, and a gentle green ripens the hillsides. Verdant shade upon soft, glorious shade rolls out toward the spiny horizon of the Rockies.

Each year it surprises me. Delights my senses. Fresh thin air, like a soft kiss, sweeps across the prairie. 

Trees bloom delicate flowers showering the roads with pink and white petals, pastel tears of joy.

One ordinary day dawns, brightens, and slides into eternity.

And I'm left breathless by the beauty of it all. Not for any big reason, but for a million little delights. 

Blessings, ordinary and simple overwhelm me with gratitude . . .

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Be successful, and here's how . . .

Did that title catch your attention? 

I have a not-so-secret secret to share. If you want to be successful, you have to make it happen. Sure, it sounds like a tall order, but let me tell you, I've found some successes in my life, and they didn't happen by accident. 

To find success, you have to make a plan. You have to know where you are and where you want to go. When I decided to become a published novelist, I began by joining an online writing organization (ACFW). I joined an online critique group. I read books on the craft of writing novels. Then I got brave, and I went to my first writers conference. Then I wrote and wrote and wrote, and I entered contests, and I went to more conferences/seminars. Then I began to submit my work to agents and publishers.

Don't let me fool you, it wasn't as easy as it sounds. BUT, it wasn't impossible. If I attained one of my dreams (I still have plenty more!), then you should try to make your dream come true as well. 

I'm just now embarking on a new dream. I want to speak to and share a powerful message with others -- message that took me nearly 15 years to crystalize, a message that I never thought I could share with others because of the shame involved. But I took control of my life and my emotions, and I found my voice. I'm braver now. I've shared my message publicly, and I've helped others find their brave voice and claim control over their fragile hearts. I've seen a hopeless woman become hopeful again. And that's where it's at!

But first, I have to make it happen. I have a plan. I attended speakers conferences and seminars, I have honed my skills by speaking for free. Now I'm a part of a speakers mastermind group, I'm practicing before more audiences, I'm reading articles on speaking, and I'm attending seminars and webinars. I'm putting my plan into action. 

And if I can do it, then so can you!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Counting blessings and being thankful for what I have

This is one of my special places. I love to spend quiet time here thinking about life, about my darlings, about my blessings. I love to read in that chair or to put my lap desk over the wide arms and tap away on my computer. I love to sit in that leafy shade and read sweet words of hope and pray for loved ones.  

Right now I'm counting my blessings, and one of them is the pleasure of sitting in this little spot in the coming months.

~Wishing you a quiet spot to count your blessings and feel joyful abundance!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's okay to be sad

"How are you?"

"I'm fine. Thanks for asking."

--- Really? ---

When asked how we are, most of us have a knee-jerk reaction and parrot the I'm-fine response. And honestly, most people really don't want to know how we are. They're just being polite. 

But there are days when we're not fine. There are days when we're stuck in in the grip of pain, either physical or emotional or both. Days when our heart just hurts. For me, days when grief creeps up and ruins a moment . .  or more.

Regardless, we put on our happy faces and march out to the world. Which more or less is as it should be. Otherwise we'd all be sobbing over the avocados at the grocery store or weeping at the mailbox. Society couldn't handle that. 

But, friend, if you have faith in God you can be totally honest with Him, and it's more than okay. He understands. He didn't live in a world of rainbows and unicorns. He was a Man of Sorrows. He wept.  

It's a relief to be able to pour out your heart to someone who really understands and loves you. That's what I do. It helps to give my concerns to God. It's what we're told to do, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7. 

I'm not going to elaborate on my heartache. It's personal, and I'll be fine. Grief is a weird thing. It lays in wait for you, and on days when you least expect it, it rises from the shadows and grips you in a crushing embrace. 

I understand that. I travel through the experience without the need to battle my emotions. I come by them honestly. 

And because I understand that, I believe it's okay to be sad. It's life in all its messy authenticity. 

Tomorrow the sun will shine. I'll lift my face to the sky and feel its warmth. I'll keep marching out to the world, and eventually the grief will fade again. For a time. 

In the meantime, if you ask me how I am, I just may answer honestly. And that's okay. After all, I am a prisoner of hope. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Good-Book Alert! The Crimson Cord (Rahab's Story) by Jill Eileen Smith

I love to share books by favorite authors. Have you read any of Jill Eileen Smith's books? She writes beautiful Biblical fiction, bringing to life Bible stories we all know. I recently read The Crimson Cord, and fell in love again with Jill's writing and Rahab's story. I know, the details aren't revealed to us in the Bible, but Jill's imagining of what could have been Rahab's life brings a richness and depth to a story we've all heard time and again.

I met Jill several years ago at a writers conference, before we were both published. When she told me about her Biblical fiction, I was intrigued. I'm delighted to still be friends with her and thrilled to introduce you to Jill and her novels.

Here's the book description:

Wife to a gambler who took one too many risks, Rahab finds herself sold as a slave to cover her husband’s debt. Forced into prostitution by Dabir, counselor to the King of Jericho, Rahab despairs of ever regaining her freedom and her self-respect. But when Israelite spies enter Jericho and come to lodge at her house, Rahab sees a glimmer of hope and the opportunity of a lifetime.

In one risky moment, she takes a leap of faith, puts her trust in a God she does not know, and vows to protect the spies from the authorities. When the armies of Israel arrive weeks later, Rahab hopes they will keep their promise, but she has no idea what kind of challenges await her outside Jericho’s walls–or if she will ever know the meaning of love.

“Rahab’s story is one of the most moving redemption accounts in Scripture. The Crimson Cord perfectly captures all the drama of the original, fleshing out the characters with care and thought. Jill’s storytelling skills kept me reading late into the night. A beautiful tale, beautifully told!”–Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night

MD: Jill, what's your favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.
JES: This is more of a scene in a movie that is my favorite:

At the end of “Fellowship of the Ring” Frodo stares out at the water and holds the ring in an open palm and says, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

And he hears Gandalf’s voice in his mind replying, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

So applicable on so many levels!

MD: What's your favorite season and why?
JES: Any season except winter. While winter has a certain sense of beauty, I do not handle cold well. I dream of sunshine and palm trees and hope someday we can winter in such a place away from the cold.

MD: Societal pet peeve…sound off.
JES: There are too many to name. But here are a few:

1. Too many people in power abuse that power. And people in power seem to have lost common sense. When we make political allies of our enemies and enemies of our allies, something is very wrong. King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, yet in all his wisdom, he ended up thinking himself immune to foolishness. If the wisest man can become the biggest fool in his actions, perhaps we shouldn’t think we are incapable of falling.

2. Greed has created untold number of atrocities against people made in God’s image, against animals we were commanded to care for, against the earth that groans under the weight of our sins. Greed is behind so many things, from abortion to our food supply to the plight of the poor to the sex slave trade to pornography…the list could go on for pages, but at the heart of so many sins against humanity is either pride or greed. Interesting that God hates both.

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting (greed), wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:21-23 ESV (Emphasis mine)

3. Tolerance is too one-sided, and everyone wants to fight for his or her own rights instead of caring for the needs of others. Anger flares at the slightest whim and whole cities can fly into an uproar before facts are known. Whatever happened to right and wrong, grace and forgiveness? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty – on both sides of every issue – with true justice for every person?

4. Lastly - Truth is lost in a culture that embraces self-centeredness. How easily we lie to one another and think nothing of it! How often I have fallen for the snake-oil salesmen because I expect people to tell me the truth. But truth has been relative in this country for so long now that no one knows what truth is. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Perhaps we should go back and see what He had to say if we say we are really seeking to know that truth.

MD: Jill, what would you like to tell us about the featured book?
JES: The Crimson Cord, Rahab’s Story is a story of risky faith and a beautiful picture of God’s mercy and grace. Some people don’t see grace in the Old Testament. All they see are wars and laws and they don’t understand a God who could command the destruction of entire cities. While I don’t claim to understand every detail about Almighty God, I do understand from Scripture that He has always, always been a God of love, mercy, patience, and forgiveness.

Countless stories in the Old Testament show us His grace. They also show us that to have a relationship with the God who made us, we must come by faith, not by keeping the law. This was true from the very beginning. Abraham was commended for his faith. As was Rahab. She is cited in the New Testament on at least three occasions, once in the lineage of Jesus Christ. If God can take a prostitute from a city condemned to utter destruction and make her a new person and set her among His people and make her a descendent of His Messiah, is there anyone who is beyond God’s reach? I don’t think so.

MD: Thanks for sharing your heart and your talents, Jill. 

Email Jill or visit her website. You may also connect with Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

I'm ba-a-a-ck!

I took a hiatus during Lent to let all the "noise" in my life fade to the background. It was a delightful break, but I'm glad to be back. 

I hope you enjoyed the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It's been lovely here in Colorado. I can't recall when spring entered so gently and brought so many warm days. 

I feel recharged from my break and have lots of plans and ideas moving forward into 2015. I've got a better writing schedule to (finally) finish my novel, I'm starting to fiddle with a screenplay, and I'm resurrecting my speaking career. 

I hope you're feeling bold and optimistic about the rest of 2015 as well. 

Also, please check out this month's Industry News over at the Novel Rocket blog. It's an article I write and publish the 1st Tuesday of each month. I include hard news and some interesting (for writers!) tidbits. Here's the link.

This flower photo is one of my favorite. It's a hollyhock in my back yard. It's not blooming yet, this is an old photo, but it gives me a sense of peace. It's doing just what it was created to do--look beautiful. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Good-book alert! Meek and Mild by Olivia Newport

My guest today is Olivia Newport, another Colorado author. She's here to discuss her newest release, Meek and Mild, and give us a peek into her writing world.

Meek and Mild by Olivia Newport
The leadership in an Old Order Amish community requires shunning friends and family whose only offense is to embrace the new Protestant practice of Sunday school among the Mennonites, but teaching Bible stories to children is one of Clara Kuhns’s great joys. Clara's on the verge of saying yes to Andrew Raber’s marriage proposal, but now he flagrantly refuses to submit to the bishop's authority by owning a car. When the lot falls to Moses Beachy to become the new bishop, the community waits for him to take bold steps toward change. Clara and Andrew step together into a more progressive Amish faith as the Beachy Amish take form.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I always loved telling stories. I can remember being four years old and using flannelgraph pieces in the preschool Sunday school room to tell a story about a little girl looking for Jesus. In fifth grade, a weekly assignment was to write a story using all the spelling words. I did really well at it. I’m thankful that my teacher told me so. But growing into that identity can take decades. Though I had several jobs where organizational-based writing was a big chunk of the position, I was 35 before I transitioned from “I like to write” to “I am a writer.”

What other books have you written?
Thanks for asking! The Avenue of Dreams series, set in 1890s Chicago, includes The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, and The Invention of Sarah Cummings. The Valley of Choice series, set in contemporary Colorado, includes Accidentally Amish, In Plain View, and Taken for English. Hidden Falls is a 13-episode digital-only contemporary small-town series available in e-book and audible formats. Wonderful Lonesome, which came out last year, is the first in the Amish Turns of Time set of historical Amish novels. Meek and Mild, the new book, is the second in that set.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I often think I am not doing a very good job of that! I am a creature of habit, and that helps. I don’t resist doing what I need to do when I need to do it, and never have. But in recent years I have become more attuned to listening to both body and spirit. I try to pay attention both to what is abundant and what is needful. I believe a healthy life doesn’t come down to just what I eat or what health condition I might or might not have. It comes down to a balance of the major dimensions of my life. When I feel them swinging out of balance, I know it’s time to make some adjustments.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
The task I took on with the Amish Turns of Time stories is exploring some true historical episodes in Amish history and looking at how Amish history took a turn because of what happened. In Meek and Mild, I look at the circumstances that led to break-off of the Beachy Amish, who eventually became more progressive than the Old Order. Because the district that experienced this break spanned the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, family members on both sides were caught up in divisive opinions and consequences. My characters are fictional, but they face the struggles we know real people faced in the historical circumstances.

How can readers find your book on the Internet?
Meek and Mild is available at all the major Internet retailers, in print, audio, and e-book formats. Here are some quick links.
You can find Olivia at www.olivianewport.com, @OliviaNewport and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/OliviaNewport?ref=hl

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The world's harsh, be kind!

We never know what others are dealing with. On the outside, we all look pulled together and ready to take on the world. But a broken person hides their wounds, carrying them deep inside. You can't look at someone and judge their behavior off the cuff. Often deep, personal issues guide a harsh action or cutting words.

We never know what hurts have motivated them. You can't imagine some of the awful things that have formed a personality. I prefer to think all my friends and all the people I come into contact with were raised in a safe, happy home and are in a loving marriage where they're cherished and respected. But that's not always true. You don't know, you simply don't know. 

A smile or a small kindness can make a huge difference in someone's day. I saw a story about a man who smiled and waved at strangers as he drove down the street. He'd heard that a kind gesture can save someone considering suicide. Isn't that amazing? On a smaller scale, just giving a kind word can brighten an otherwise ordinary day and provide someone a needed lift.  

Give others the benefit of the doubt. Go out of your way to help someone. Sure, you might not be appreciated, but that's not the point. Being kind is the point. Sometimes it might seem you're unappreciated, but perhaps the person doesn't know how to react in an appropriate manner. Do the right thing anyway.

Overlook a slight. Forgive a gaffe. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek (Luke 6:29). That's about one of the most difficult things to do. You want to defend yourself, you want to repair the damage to your reputation, but there are circumstances where that's not possible. If you hold on to the anger and resentment, you're the one who pays the price. Truly. When we forgive it doesn't mean the pain never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.

The world's harsh, be kind! After all, nobody's perfect!