Friday, October 29, 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's my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Dish it out or Take it?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Page out of My Life—Teacher Call Home

Math used to be like the big bully waiting at the back of the bus to give me a wedgie. Let’s just say I’ve never been a huge fan of numbers. (This is not something I advertised as I calculated figures for the Microsoft Giving Campaign. I’m excellent with a calculator.)

Words. Words I can do, but numbers, well, they scare me. That’s why the following stuck in my memory.

During my junior year of high school, I’d spent almost every Thursday staying after school trying to master my favorite of the math courses—Plane Geometry. I’d received some Dogs and a few Frogs on my homework and some quizzes. I wanted my GPA to remain strong, but math remained my nemesis. I stared dreamily out the window as Mrs. Lippencott graphed and spoke the foreign language of numbers to me. Fellow classmates tossed Frisbees, lounged on the grass and chased each other to their cars to flee the school zone.

Not me. I was stuck learning about the thing I loathed most.

Our final exam counted for something like 98% of our final grade (you know how that logic goes). My face caught on fire as I hammered out theorems and made pretty shapes on the page. In my gut, I hoped all those hours of staying after paid off.

But then the bell rang. I left school behind and thoughts of the beach flooded my mind.
It wasn’t until later that day, after I’d finished my third bowl of ice cream, that I got the call.

In something like two hours I’d forgotten all about school. I washed all thoughts of the plane geometry out of my mind. But someone else hadn’t.

I snatched the phone when it rang. Mrs. Lippencott greeted me.

I felt like a dump truck slammed a load of parallelograms and rhombuses down on my head. I wanted to forget, I ached to scream. Let me forget. It’s summer for goodness sakes!

But this time the news was good.

I aced my final.

Aced it!

Made the Dogs and Frogs come up to a Bat. I was ecstatic about a Bat.

I remember thinking how cool it was she bothered to call (it was summer for her too). She could have waited for me to see the results on my report card. But my teacher wanted me to know I got an A, to see the results of my hard work. She started my summer with that and I’ll forever be grateful.

Did a teacher ever call your home for a positive reason?

*photos by flickr
**Thank you for your sincere responses to my last post!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good Morning, Brain Tumor Central

Warning: the following post is intensely personal. Read at your own risk of learning more about the author than you might be ready to know…


Answering Service: Good Morning, Brain Tumor Central.

Me: Hi. Am I going to get a brain tumor?

AS: I’m sorry, what did you say? The line is full of static.

Me: Will I get a brain tumor?

AS: I can’t answer that question for you. Only God can. In His time. Should I transfer you?

Me: No. Not yet.

AS: Excuse me, mind if I ask why you’re asking me that?

Me: I was talking with one of my sisters on the phone the other day. She’s a nurse and we got to talking about how many people in our family have had brain tumors.

AS: Which family is this?

Me: My maiden name is Paine.

(sound of flipping through stacks of paper)

AS: Oh, right. Yes. We know of that family here. Paine is in bright red.

Me: Figures.

AS: Says here your sister was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, an astrocytoma twenty years ago. It also says she’s still alive.

Me: Yes.

AS: Also indicates your grandmother had one. And you recently found out your father had one too.

Me: After his stroke, yes. The MRI revealed it.

AS: That does seem like quite a few. And I guess there’s question about your aunt. Didn’t do tests like that back then, but her history suggests that it could have been possible. (Long exhale) How is it that I can help you today?

Me: I guess I was curious whether you could tell me if my name is on that list.

AS: No can do. Sounds like this is going to be your thing.

Me: What thing?

AS: We all have a thing. Most of us have many things.

Me: What are you talking about?

AS: A thing we need to hand over to God.

Me: How can I hand it over if it hasn’t happened yet—if I don’t even know if it’s going to happen?

AS: It’s possible. You’ll have to figure that one out.

Me: You can’t give me any clues.

AS: Nope. But you’re welcome to call us back at any time.

Me: I don’t think I’ll call back.

AS: No?

Me: Neh, I have a more important call to make.

Ever call someplace and then it hits you there’s a direct line with a better connection?
*photo by flickr
**fictitious account with real history and fear

Friday, October 22, 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's my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

What is something you did, or wore, or watched in the 80’s you are embarrassed to admit, but will for the sake of answering my One Question Friday?

*photos by flickr

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Gospel According to Jesus by Chris Seay

Book Review

The Gospel According to Jesus:
A Faith that Restores All Things

My kind of book.

In The Gospel According to Jesus, Chris Seay fearlessly delves into why the church isn’t functioning as it should. The meaning of righteousness has become so clouded many of us can’t even pinpoint the true understanding of the word.

Throughout the book Seay offers hope.

By providing layered, detailed conversations with church leaders Seay highlights beautiful ways we can join together as a church and live out Jesus’s vision for our lives.

I underlined all over my copy of this book. It was hard to choose, but I wanted to give you a taste of what I experienced while reading The Gospel According to Jesus. Here are a few messages that spoke with such command; Morgan Freeman might as well have been dictating them into my ear as I read…

“Is it possible that we have ignored Jesus—our wild, messianic King–and chosen to re-create Jesus in the image of the Pharisees themselves?”

“What does it look like to collaborate with God? It means letting God wrap his heart around your own while letting go of the control of your own heart and binding to his passion. It is allowing yourself to be his pulse on the earth, to be filled with his desire to make things new. It is seeing and presenting his view of the world by reflecting his light into every place. Yes, every place, no matter how dark.”

“We cannot be pupils of Jesus unless we are willing to drop our own desperate attempts to fix ourselves, turn in acceptance and humility, and begin to truly learn, to take instruction.”

“The question is, what are we supposed to be doing in this world?”

If you believe we’ve misrepresented the foundation of what Jesus came to share, but also believe there’s hope for us to begin shining a new light, you’ll devour this book. Seay stirred my thoughts, jumpstarted my heart and reminded me how important it is to drop to my knees in prayer.

It’s a good book.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for this honest review
**Hop over to
The Writers Alley to see what I had to say about When Characters Surprise You

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

8 Ways Badmouthing Bites You Back

I’ve seen a good deal of slandering around the Internet within the past few months. It’s embarrassing to read. I’m embarrassed for those who, out of impulse, release their every emotion out into cyberspace.

If you’ve ever been tempted to use your blog to slander, vent, or rip someone’s reputation to shreds, this post is for you.

Badmouthing bites back.

Here’s how:

You Lose Trust
People visit your blog for a reason. Perhaps you offer insight into the publishing industry. Or maybe you are excellent with crafts. When you open a gushing wound and write a litany of curses at Whosit because they recently maligned you in some way, you enter a whole new ball park. And it’s an ugly place to play. Honestly, few people care about Whosit and what they did. They come for the publishing advice. They come for the crafts. If you are slandering Whosit for what they did, will you be quick to misinterpret Sensitive Sally’s comment? Will you trash talk Inquiring Inky next?

Words Travel
The Internet is a wacky land. A Merry-Go-Round of sorts. You say one thing over on one side and you never expect the people all the way on the other side to be gawking at you because of what you divulged. How did they hear? How do they know what I wrote? The thing spins, people. Not only that, it goes on and on and on. What you write now will still be accessible twenty years from now.

You Earn the Wrong Kind of Attention
Picture this. You crave someone’s attention—say an agent or an editor, maybe. So you start flapping your gums trying to get their attention. “They are so busy. They’ll never notice me. I’ll say something that will get to them like a fire poker to their slush pile. I’ll get ’em riled up.” You might as well be standing at a waterhole waving your arms frantically at the gator eyeing you. Know what the alligator sees? Fodder. He. Will. Eat. You. There is such thing as the wrong kind of attention.

It’s the Antithesis of Humility
Self-pity likes to dress up as Humility for Halloween. Don’t be fooled. It’s just a costume. Self-pity and bitterness look nothing like humility. Humility is taking a hard look at yourself and confessing you have hurt others as well. It’s searching for and finding a way to extend the forgiveness and grace God gave you. This is Holy Spirit work.

Your Words Carry Less Weight & You Lose Respect
Once you wield your slingshot of insults, every word out of your mouth will be assessed. This goes hand in hand with losing trust. You also lose respect. People have to ask themselves, “Do I believe this?” Your credibility is weakened and your sincerity scarred.

You Show You Don’t Know How to Discern When to Be Quiet
Was it Duran Duran who sang about shouting and letting it all out? Um, no thanks. I’m beginning to understand that the moment of our greatest anger is the best moment to pray. What, you think God doesn’t get anger? Oh, He got angry. But Jesus didn’t hike from town to town going off about what the people did to him in the town before. He knew about the spinning world. He also knew how to go to the One who had the power to do something about it.

Your Insecurity is Showing
You might think writing an obnoxious comment or posting a list of ways you were offended strengthens you in some unfathomable way. It doesn’t. It’s actually like someone has cut you open and your guts are hanging out (there’s an image for you). Really. Your own desperate need to be filled up by others, and to have them hold a high opinion of you is dangling outside of you like a warped gall bladder. You are insecure. We all are in our own way. Why broadcast it by bringing someone else down?

You Cheapen Your Witness
You want to shine God’s light to others and to come across loving. There’s nothing loving about detailing your anger in Roman numeral format. No light is shining when you’re calling names as though you’re on an elementary school playground.

Can you think of other ways badmouthing bites back?

*photo by flickr
***For the record, as I wrote this I kept thinking how my blog followers are the last group of people who need to read this post. You’ve been kindhearted, thought-provoking, and sincere with your comments. For that I thank you. Yeah for class!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Have a Teacup or a Dumbo in Your Life?

I swear I’m surrounded by people who exemplify the exact traits and temperaments of rides at Disney World. Let me explain and you tell me if you don’t have similar folks in your life.

The Teacup

This is the friend who’s always disorganized, frazzled, and has a million plates spinning. She forgets birthdays, class field trips and her day to bring oranges to soccer. Teacup friend has wonderful intentions, but she’s clearly overwhelmed. She needs an extended vacation to anywhere but Disney World.
Pirates of the Caribbean

This person is guaranteed to come out fighting. She craves drama, looks for a brawl in every conversation and spends a little too much time guzzling a pint or two (or three).

So not right, right? But we all have someone in our lives with that happy-go-lucky, bouncy personality. They’re easy to be around. Just looking at them makes us feel like a kid again.
Space Mountain

This person is always on the go. So electrified with vision and planning, they might as well be living ten years from now. There’s no stopping them. On. A. Mission.
It’s a Small World

It’s uncomplicated to discover like interests with this person. They give you that peaceful, easy feeling (thanks, Eagles). You admire their love of travel and how they appreciate getting along with everyone. The only negative trait you find in this person so far is that they’re a little too quick to reach out and grab your hand, hoping to sway to inaudible music. And sometimes they say good-bye in languages you don’t understand.
Swiss Family Robinson Tree

Okay, not a ride, but certain people in life are climbing up. They’re intrigued by what they find, taking in the sights and enjoying their way to the top. A lover of the outdoors, this friend serves as a motivator. They encourage you to work your way to the top so you can enjoy a whole new view (which reminds me of the Aladdin ride, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan…the list goes on and on).

Does anyone in your life demonstrate personality traits that resemble a Disney World ride or attraction? Do share!

*photos by flickr

Friday, October 15, 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's my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Here’s a first, instead of reaching into the endless tunnel in my brain, today’s question is from the book our small group is reading (The Tangible Kingdom Primer). I loved it and thought about it for hours after I read it. So I’m sharing.

Imagine if Jesus were to walk into the room you’re in right now and say, “Come on, get up, and come with me.”
Where do you picture him taking you first?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Page out of My Life—Muppet Mayhem

I’m going to try something new to alternate on Wednesdays. Every other Wednesday I might give you a page out of my life. And of course, it will trigger a question so I can learn about a page from your life.
You probably remember vacations when you were a child. Sticky fingers from ice cream. Harbors perhaps. It’s A Small World one hundred times over. Maybe even a historical landmark or two.
I’ll never forget the summer we went to Nantucket. I have a few typical Nantucket memories. Pedaling bikes to the beach, smacked with luscious whiffs of honeysuckle along the cobblestone path there. Tossing a Frisbee on the beach for so many hours I developed a sunburn. Singing “Back in the High Life” and “Mad About You” at the top of my lungs with my older sisters. You know, the usual.
But another memory floats to the surface of my thoughts whenever I think about that Nantucket vacation.
Muppet Mayhem.
To the pig and frog it must have seemed we’d trekked to their biggest nightmare. Me and my older sisters claimed several high ceiling loft rooms upstairs. Awesome sleeping arrangements. Miss Piggy did not find them so awesome when a bat kept circling her and finally landed. In her hair. It tangled around her fat curls. I don’t think the bat or Miss Piggy were happy campers.
As if that wasn’t enough for the Muppets.
The next evening Kermit decided to sit a little too close to the light bulb. His left eye, bulging and glossy white no longer appeared to be either of those things. It was fried. And it smelled. Charred and sunken in.
It wasn’t a good summer for the Muppets. But it was a great summer for me. A great vacation. (That could be because Miss Piggy and Kermit didn’t belong to me, but to my sisters. I wasn’t so calm when one of our Norwegian Elkhounds chewed off my Cabbage Patch Kid’s nose.)
Don’t you find it odd what gets stored in the memory bank?
Do you have any unusual family vacation memories you’d like to share?
*I’m excited to join the team over at The Writers Alley. Check out my introduction there tomorrow.
**photos by flickr

Monday, October 11, 2010

Enhanced Perception

This is my screensaver. I took this picture while walking Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine, easily one of my favorite places on earth. Why do I keep this picture as my screensaver? Because of what I perceive within the picture. Because of what’s beyond—the story within.
Look at the berries. There’s a grouping of vibrant ones clustered to the right. And then there is one lonely shriveled one. See it? This picture serves as a bold reminder—every day I have a decision to make about who I choose to be. Will I surround myself with other thriving people or will I remain off to myself in an unhealthy, dying state of pity? There is always a choice no matter what we are going through.
So one person might see this screensaver and say, “Oh, pretty berries.”
And I look at it, express the same sentiment but am also deeply thankful for an enhanced perception.
I’m convinced that is the unique blessing writers are given—enhanced perception.
Check out a snippet from one of my favorite poems by William Blake
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

I have a theory about creative folks. It’s a test, actually. I’m willing to bet most creative thinkers, writers, artists, etc. look up at the clouds and drift back to a child-like wonder. Clouds transform into something more. They are no longer about precipitation. They become shapes of perception.

If you consider yourself a creative person, am I right? Do you often catch yourself seeing beyond—in relationships and in clouds?

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund


Switching up this One Question Friday to review my friend, Jody Hedlund’s debut book,
The Preacher’s Bride.

The Preacher’s Bride. The beginning hooked me. The middle swept me off my feet and the end left me with an overall feeling of contentment. Now that’s the definition of a good book. My friend, Jody Hedlund orchestrated a beautiful story, creating a rich cast of characters with deft attention and intentionality. I flipped pages quickly. My mind was transfixed as I read the entertaining and tension-building plot.
And I’ll be honest with you; this is not the kind of book I ordinarily read. But I’ve read enough of Jody’s blog posts to trust her writing skill. I was not at all disappointed. The Preacher’s Bride delivered. My heart fluttered with Elizabeth Whitbread’s, a young Puritan woman feeling called to help care for motherless children. Jody handled the romantic elements of the story gracefully. John Costin, a preacher in the throes of grieving his wife, is portrayed in a realistic light. I admire how through the vulnerability and conflicting moments, Jody evidenced her research of England and its inhabitants in the mid 1600s.
One of my favorite parts of the book doesn’t occur until the end in the Author’s Notes. I love what’s revealed in these notes. It added to the satisfying impact of The Preacher’s Bride—a book I’d highly recommend.
Well done, Jody!

In case you miss the One Question Friday, I’ll hit you with one. If you’ve been blessed to know Jody through social networking, what have you learned from her?

I’ll go first. I’ve learned when I become published to maintain humility and grace in the process. Thanks, Jody for bestowing those qualities. And I also like how Jody often uses her blog as a resource to help other writers grow.

If you don’t know Jody, well it’s about that time. Head here and introduce yourself.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review
**Click over to
Jill Kemerer’s blog today for a party
celebrating Jody’s launch

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why I Allot 10 Min. Prep Time Before I Write

I 8 Wednesday. I don’t do jumping jacks, but I could. Exercise has always worked well to get my synapses firing.

So I’m not running up and down my stairs, but here’s what I am doing before I sit to write:

I clear my mind of distractions

Are you laughing yet? I know, impossible in a home with three young children. I can work with distractions, but I try to minimize them. I turn off my phone. I keep a piece of paper near me so I can jot something that crops up I might need to throw on a list. And oddly enough, though music pumps in my veins, I cannot write with it so I make sure the TV is off and no music is playing.

I get into character

I would be a sad, sad actress. I can’t bluff. But I throw myself into my characters. I want to feel what they’re feeling. I want to remember details of their backstory before I touch down on the page. I climb inside my narrator’s head before I type a single word for the day.

I set the scene

I close my eyes and visualize where I am in the book. The setting. The scene. What is happening. I watch it in my mind like a movie.

I pray

Yep. My words are no good if I haven’t taken a moment to dedicate them.

I send signal to my girls (if they’re in the house) that Mommy is entering the zone

Time for quiet time. When I write I make sure it’s at a convenient time (whenever possible—this gets tested a lot). I protect my time and instruct my girls not to interrupt me (and because I parent with an expert Mary Poppins skill, they never do).

I read over my notes

Sometimes I review and edit the prior chapter, sometimes not, based on time. But I do read notes I’ve made about the character, scene additions, and new discoveries.

I remember my audience

I take a moment to remember who I’m writing for and who I’m writing to.

I gather

I gather tea, pens, and all of my supplies so I don’t need to stop writing. I’ve been known to grab three pens in case one loses ink, then the next one loses ink. As most writers know slipping out of the zone is a crashing experience.

What do you do to prepare before partaking in something you love?
*photo by flickr

Monday, October 4, 2010

We Are All Pinocchio

The nose is one of the few body parts that never stops growing. (I think I got this from Grumpy Old Men—not sure it’s true, but it certainly got my attention.)

This nugget of wisdom is important to remember.


It serves as a great reminder lest we all think we are greater than Pinocchio. Lest we forget we all fall short of God’s glory.

Because my thoughts multiply faster than things found inside a Petri dish, this made me think of how tempting it is to categorize sin. To classify one lie as greater than another, spending time dwelling on which one is worse. Reminder folks: not our job. Besides, God sees differently than we do. He has a bird’s eye view of our growing noses. We only need to look at our own noses in the mirror to be reminded we need a Savior.

We are all like Pinocchio. May your growing nose remind you each and every day of your need for Truth.

Any interesting findings you'd like to share?
*photo by flickr
**wanted to expound upon this, but we had a long car trip yesterday, we got home late, and some of us are battling a stomach bug. I plan to win.

Friday, October 1, 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's my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

What energizes you?

*My story, What She Gives, is in Christian Fiction Online Magazine this month
**What’s Listening Got to Do With It? Find out what I think over at
***photos by flickr

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...