Friday, July 30, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It is my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Something To Marvel At

Have you seen the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love? Here’s where I must sheepishly admit I’ve yet to read the best-seller, though it intrigues me—yes, it does. One line from the trailer struck me profoundly. Julia Roberts, playing Eliabeth Gilbert, expresses with sheer passion, “I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something.”

And so a new thought burst forth in me. Gotta love it when that happens.

What about marveling at something in the every day? How about finding something in the midst of the routine, the exhaustion and the ordinary to sample and extract beauty from? I know that’s how I feel when I write. Alive. Rejuvenated. As though every small thing has a place. And a wonder.

For this I 8 Wednesday I’m going to share eight everyday things I choose to marvel at:
  1. The burgeoning hibiscus in our front yard, fanning the wind and announcing their presence to the world with wine and cream boldness.
  2. The sky, as it holds seahorse clouds and storms adrift with a purplish-gray bruised horizon.
  3. My husband’s face. My face. The salt-and-pepper stubble rising from my man’s chin after a week of not shaving. The winged lines that shoot from the corners of my eyes—thankful wrinkles. Thankful for growth, for wisdom. I’m grateful for growing older together.
  4. I marvel at my children’s fingers. How their hands expand and stretch beyond the hand prints they created years ago.
  5. The way my youngest enunciates all words that begin with V with a W. Practicing V’s with her today and hearing her master V for the first time brought a smile to my lips. Language.
  6. My dog’s white eyelashes.
  7. How God orchestrates His will through His people. A glimmer of encouragement comes at such tender and knowing times.
  8. I marvel at those little nuts cracked in two (no idea the name) in the exact shape of a pig’s snout. There’s one in our front yard and every time I step by it I laugh.
There are things to marvel at all around us. My mom used to reassure me that I didn’t need to travel overseas to live out my ministry. Ministry happens in the front yard. While I’m holding my daughter’s hand, scratching my husband’s cheek, and calling a friend as soon as God prompts me to. Ministry is learning to marvel at the here. The now.

Can you think of something to marvel at?
*video courtesy of YouTube

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Rebellious Writer—Killing Clichés

Who wants to be ordinary? Especially when it comes to writing novels, we should seek the thrill of creating unique characters, original phrases or dazzling descriptions. We need to become killers of cliché. Because if we don’t slay the cliché our work becomes same old. Same old. And it holds no appeal.

I’m guilty of being a bandit writer. Slap up a Wanted poster with my face on it. I’m okay with that. In fact, sometimes I’m such a word outlaw that my descriptions get a little carried away in my first drafts. I try things. I’m unafraid. Some work. Some are laughable. I delete the ones that don’t. But ah, the imaginative ones that leap off the page…isn’t that what fresh writing is all about? Isn’t that where Voice is born?

Sometimes it’s difficult to discern whether a phrase is cliché or not. If you are in debate, it’s likely you’ve lassoed a cliché. Now what are you going to do about it?

Good questions to ask yourself when you are poised with sword in hand, prepared to slash the over-populated breed:

Have I heard this before?
Is this original?
Is any part of this overly familiar?
Am I bored when I read this?
Does this add to my work in any way?
Am I moving the story along or is this same old… same old?
Does this help paint a picture for my reader?

How do you feel about clichés when you write or when you read? Are they easy to spot? Do you find enjoyment out of being a bandit writer, challenging the status quo and killing off clichés?

*photos by flickr
**It's good to be back from vacation. I had a wonderful visit with family.

Friday, July 16, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It is my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

How old are you? (Feel free to get creative with your answer.)

*photos by flickr
**I’ll be like a frog on blogger next week, hopping on and off…mostly off.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chrystie Cole on Failure

Guest blogger, Chrystie Cole joins All in a Day's Thought today to share about:

Rejoicing in Our Failures

Recently, I had to make a decision to give up something I love. After months of wrestling, weighing options, looking at it from different angles, and procrastinating the inevitable, I surrendered to the fact there was no other option. It was simply the right thing to do. And even though I knew it was the right decision, I couldn’t help feeling as if I had somehow failed.

Days later I was still asking myself hard questions. I wanted to know where I had failed, how I could have handled it better, and what I could have done differently. It seemed I couldn’t shake feeling that if I had been a better woman, more efficient, not as lazy or selfish or weak, it wouldn’t have turned out the same way.

Taking time to honestly assess motives, strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures, can be very healthy. I learn much about myself during times of self-examination. However, sometimes it can be carried too far and it becomes a jumbled up concoction of self-centered analysis paralysis resulting only in self-condemnation.

Sometimes, I find myself caught in this cycle for weeks, even months, never moving forward, only finding more evidence of my failure. This time, however, after only a day or two, that still small voice pierced through the noise, asking, “The right question is do you believe that God is sovereign over the affairs of men and that He can and will take your flawed human efforts and redeem them in a way that glorifies Himself, advances the Kingdom, and helps you look more like Christ?”

That one question halted my self-analysis dead in its tracks. It eradicated the self-doubt and self-condemnation that had plagued me for days. Because the truth is, if I believe that, the other questions don’t tend to matter so much anymore. What does matter is that God, in His Sovereign grace, takes even my failures and turns them into something beautiful.

Look at the lives of Moses who killed a man, David who committed adultery and then had a man murdered, and Paul who persecuted Christians. These men failed miserably. Yet Moses led the Israelites out of the land of their slavery; David was a man after God’s own heart; and Paul played a vital role in the early church and preaching Christ to the Gentiles.

We, like these men, may have made some poor decisions resulting in what seems like irreparable damage. But, just like these men, God will use even our bad choices for our ultimate good and His glory. Our God is one of restoration, reparation, redemption, and reconciliation.

Romans 8:28-30 NLT assures us that, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.”

He knew us in advance. He knows our hearts and our thoughts. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. He knows every good and bad decision we will make before we make it and He’s already working it all to our good. But even more than that, He has given us right standing with himself, in spite of our failed attempts. And being in right standing with Him, he has also given us His glory. Isn’t it amazing that a righteous and holy God shares His glory with a flawed and broken humanity?

I love the way Frederick W. Robertson puts it, “In God's world, for those who are in earnest, there is no failure. No work truly done, no word earnestly spoken, no sacrifice freely made, was ever made in vain.” So whether we are facing failures in our marriage, career, writing, finances, in our leadership of others, or any other area, we have hope.
Our hope is in a merciful, gracious, and Sovereign God who brings beauty from ashes. And because of that, we can rejoice in all things, even our failures.

Chrystie is a fellow writer for Exemplify. To find out more about Chrystie check out her blog, Path from the Head to the Heart. I'm honored to call her friend.

*photo by flickr
**Thanks to Debbie Maxwell Allen for posting my article, Color Wheel Characters. If you missed it several days ago, check it out on Debbie's

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hungry for the Story

I’ve been told stories. Stories of renewal, loss, abuse, redemption, betrayal. This list goes on. Ever since I was a young child people have sensed something around me—call it a sonar comfort. A force field inviting them to divulge. They open up. Strangers and friends alike verbally unfold the maps of their lives. They let me in. I sit. I listen.

But I’m going to confess to you as I’m listening an invisible thing happens. And I like it. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. Right after the empathetic nod and the tissue pass, transference takes place. As though in the form of molecular droplets, born of tears or sweat, the story makes a leap from the teller to the told.

My brain absorbs those wee molecules and the story lands in a Matrix-like pod in my brain…waiting. Stationed.
Soaked with just the right character or thought the story will become. It will become mutated into an occurrence in one of my novels, a seed for a character flaw or the perfect ending.

Your story becomes my story.

I Mr. (or Mrs., no need to be chauvinist here) Potato Head your tangle of emotions poured out in progressive waves of relief, sadness, contemplation and make my own creation. I pop a measured amount of anonymity here and add adequate discernment and masking there so no one will know it is you. No one will be able to guess where the story came from.

But I know.

I remember.

I thank all those in my real life for helping me develop such a phantasmagorical imaginary one.

I think I now know what that welcoming sonar; force field of invitation is all about. I have an overabundance of empathy and…and I’m hungry for the story.
What are you hungry for?

*photo by flickr

Friday, July 9, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It is my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Okay, I’ve had my fun asking you question after question for these One Question Fridays. Today I want to know your thoughts about the following:

Several weeks ago I had a luxurious time in Barnes and Noble spending a gift certificate I’d received. Here are the three books I selected.
I showed them to my husband when I got home. First words out of his mouth, “What’s up with the same girl growing older?”

I swung my head to look again. What? How did it not register I’d bought three books with the back of a female head on the cover?

Now for your fun...other than the obvious intrigue of the stories, why did I buy three books with eerily similar covers? Psychoanalyze away.

*My story, Beware of Barracudas on Bikes is in Love is a Flame.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Keeping the Spark Alive by Cassandra Frear

What does it mean to be God's witness? How does it manifest? Where do I see it bearing fruit? How does the light in my soul, planted there by faith, shine when other things are stripped away? A life pared back to the bone is a great calling.

How closely I am being watched. My friends want answers. They want evidence of God's care and oversight in our trials. But lately nothing has happened as they expected. I can give them no reasons for this. I just don't know why.

They wonder aloud if God is using this to make me more like Christ. They ask about what we are doing. Have we done all we can? It doesn’t make sense. There must be something we have neglected.

Heads shake. We should not have taken such chances. See? This is what happens. It falls down, the life we try to build on a vision.

I can give them no defense. God is mysterious. He doesn't always explain to us the reasons for our battles. Not here, not in the middle of our story.

The last two years have shown me how we tend to treat God as a paradigm. Follow Biblical principles. Make good choices. It will all work out. Blessings come to those who obey and trust. Blessings look like this: a good life, marked by health and abundance and happiness, which touches others.

What happens to the paradigm when nothing fits it?

I'll tell you what happens. It's here that I've watched God shine like the first evening star when day fades into darkness. The glow rests in the heart – more striking against the deepening gloom. God’s presence fills us and spills into our night like lamplight from a door flung open into a long wilderness. It fills because it is, it always was, and it goes on forever.

I've moved from paradigm to Person, from method to mystery, from performance to praise. And here, in mystery and awe, I have at last embraced the Holy, the One Lord and Creator of All, as someone completely other than myself. It's made me more alive than I've ever been.

I still send up a prayers. But not for deliverance. He will deliver us when he thinks it best. Now I ask, I plead, that
my life may be a light -- that when all is stripped away, the glow in my heart spills across the long wilderness, filling it up with a life that is truly alive.
Thanks to Cassandra for this beautiful guest post. Whenever I visit her blog, MoonBoat Cafe, I feel led to read her words aloud. She chooses stunning quotes and flowing prose to express her poignant thoughts. Really, she had me at Donald Miller. When I saw her review of "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" I knew we'd made a connection.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Color Wheel Characters

Did you get your fill of red, white & blue this weekend? If not, I’m going to discuss the trio, in addition to an entire color wheel of hues. I’ve noticed more and more lately authors are getting gutsy with increasing POV’s. I enjoy reading a book fashioned with several strong voices…that is if it’s done right.

Today I’d like to share the importance of making color wheel characters. Do colors blend into one another on a color wheel? Nope. In nature, absolutely. When painting, sure. But when you look at a primary color wheel one thing you’ll notice is the separation of one color from the next. They are distinct. You can tell which color is which.

This is imperative to accomplish as you write characters. Few things can be more frustrating than reading and experiencing confusion about which character you are reading about.

Even when you’re not writing in multiple POV’s, but are hoping to delineate one character from the next it’s essential to pay attention to the behavior, quirks and defense mechanisms of each character you write. Do you have a hot-headed red character quick to spit angry words? Or how about a cool-tempered blue one, slow to speak, a lip-licking wise soul? Do you have a feisty orange or a mellow yellow? There are so many ways to have fun with individualizing the people in your neighborhood (scratch that—I mean novel).

Perception is one of my favorite modes of tackling this. Take one instance and play with how each of your characters would respond. How would they perceive the event? For example: A player in the World Cup match wrongly receives a red card.

Does one character get up from the couch, arm flailing, swears flying while another sits cross-armed, hmphing while shaking their head? Does one insist, “He deserved it” while another starts to cry? Is one character sleeping, missing all the action? Are you aware why they react the way they do?

Can you calculate how your characters would respond to that?

Off the top of my head I can think of three books that handle multiple POV’s with skill.

The Help. The Poisonwood Bible. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.

As a reader, do you enjoy when you can easily tell the characters apart? What books do this well?

If you’re a writer, what are some ways you like to Skittle your characters?
*photos by flickr
**check out my articles in
Exemplify and Sage this month

Taking Time

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