Branch Out with Me — 2016 Reading Challenge

It’s a new year, and I love reading challenges. Or, at least, I like the idea of them. Not sure I’ve ever completely followed through. But I’m willing to try, and hope you are, too. Things are always better when you do them together. Quite a few of you responded to my blog survey. (Thank you.) ...

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It’s a new year, and I love reading challenges. Or, at least, I like the idea of them. Not sure I’ve ever completely followed through. But I’m willing to try, and hope you are, too. Things are always better when you do them together.

Quite a few of you responded to my blog survey. (Thank you.) What I learned is what I already suspected: You don’t have a lot of time—and you are tired of the conventional. You like to face doubt, explore, and find new, practical ways to live your faith.

Clearly, so do I. And what I have learned is that it is always good for me spiritually when I am challenged. When I face new thought and ideas (even if I don’t agree with them), I grow because it forces me to figure out what I believe. To read, to study, to research.

Don’t worry, though. You’re not required to do anything extra. But what I hope you will do is let this be your excuse to try something new. To hear other voices, ones you might not have encountered on your own. To keep an open mind in the hopes that it will enrich your spiritual life. That it will deepen your faith. That you will have a newfound respect for other people’s opinions, and that you will realize that different views don’t have to be threatening.

First rule: no pressure. I want this to be helpful, not another obligation you feel you have to endure. So here’s the deal: If you hate it, you don’t have to finish it. If you love it, you can take your time with it—read it all year long if you wish, and skip the rest. If you want to check off the challenge but don’t have a lot of time, skim your books. Read the first chapter, flip through the book, and read the last chapter. Maybe you’ll want to go back and read it all, maybe you won’t, but you’ll at least have some awareness of the approach, writer, or concept presented. Or read some reviews online. Or check out the author’s website or blog. Or take a break and join us again the following month.

Each month I’ll provide a list to help give you some ideas—but they’re just ideas. Insert your own. Let this be a reason to explore, to strengthen your beliefs, to start new discussions. To see what God will reveal, to be open to hearing from Him in a new way, to expect surprises and insights and revelation.

So won’t you join me? Please? When you do (even if it’s only periodically), I hope you’ll share your book selections in the comments. Each month, I will write something about the books I read. And if you have any “nuggets” from your book—a single quote that you’ll remember, your overall impression, or whatever—it would make me so happy to have you share those with me.

So how about it? Ready to branch out a little? I know I am.

If you’re planning to participate, please comment below with the name of the book you plan to read. And at the end of the month, when I tell you about the book I read, you can share your insights in the comments below that post. Thanks!


My pick for January: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. Why? Because I love her but I haven’t read any of her actual books yet (only her blog and social media posts). And because my book club is reading it anyway. (That’s not cheating—it’s simplifying to give me a better chance of success :-).) I also chose this because she’s part of the team of women who are speaking on the new Women of Faith Belong Tour—which, I’d like to add, is the organization for which I wrote my next book, Designed to Pray (coming out in August for their first event).

Some other ideas to consider (note: I’ve only read a couple of these so I have no idea what they’re like… all I know is they look interesting):

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily Freeman
Color the Psalms: An Adult Coloring Book for Your Soul (Color the Bible)
I Was Blind (Dating), But Now I See
by Stephanie Rische
Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey
Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul by Erika Morrison
The SuperMom Myth by Becky Kopitzke
The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns
Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong
Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty and Adventure—Right Where She Is by Sarah Mae
Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
by Rachel Held Evans
Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup
Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way
by Amber C. Haines
Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life by Carey Scott

The answer to your Christmas gift needs

The short answer: books. The longer one: My inbox keeps filling with more posts about Christmas gift ideas—last-minute ones, inexpensive ones, things to make, and so forth. So I figure why not add to the clutter with my own thoughts? Really, though, here’s the truth: I love to give books. And most people I know ...

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The short answer: books.

The longer one: My inbox keeps filling with more posts about Christmas gift ideas—last-minute ones, inexpensive ones, things to make, and so forth. So I figure why not add to the clutter with my own thoughts? Really, though, here’s the truth: I love to give books. And most people I know love to receive them (or at least they do a good job pretending). And what I love even more is pointing people to new authors, particularly when they’re friends of mine. So here’s a list of some of my favorites. It’s not too late to order them on Amazon or Barnes and Noble (or at your favorite independent bookseller). I’ve taken the liberty of stereotyping personalities and genders for this list, but most of these overlap and would be great for, well, everyone.

For the men in your life who love cars:

The Detroit Electric Scheme (and Detroit Breakdown and Detroit Shuffle) by D.E. Johnson — great mystery series set in (you guessed it) Detroit in the early 1900s, based around the story of early electric automobiles. You don’t have to love cars to enjoy this mystery. I couldn’t put them down!

Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry. My friend Scott, who never read a single book (besides the Bible) after he got out of school, loved this. So much. (I did, too.) A fun, quirky memoir about rebuilding a 1951 International Harvester pickup truck… and so much more than that. Confession: I’ve met this author but he has no idea who I am. I still love him.

For teens or tweens:

It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah Schmitt — YA novel with a wonderfully snarky protagonist and a fun cast of characters…and a moving and heartfelt message underneath it all.

The Hunter Awakens and The Spirit of Steel by J.R. Roper — adventure for the middle-grade reader, especially boys. Ethan, the main character, is on a dangerous adventure, and he’s just the kind of kid you’d want your children to hang out with.

For people of faith:

When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman — truly one of my most favorite memoirs. Addie’s story is about carrying the baggage of growing up in the Christian subculture of the 1990s, and her search to find faith again on her own terms.

Found by Micha Boyett — a memoir about losing prayer and her Spirit-life, and then finding it again. Beautifully written and eminently relatable.

Praying Upside Down (sorry, I know it’s obnoxious, but I have to at least mention it) — part memoir, part practical advice, and not (I hope) ultra-gooey-religious. For men and women.

For women:

The SuperMom Myth by Becky Kopitzke — fun and practical, this book talks about letting go of preconceived ideas of perfection and embracing the role of mother without guilt or fear. She somehow manages to do this without preaching at all. It’s so good. Probably ideal for those with younger kids, but even for me (whose kids range from 15 to 22), I learned plenty and found it relevant.

Untangled by Carey Scott — such a good book about how we all feel as though we don’t measure up. Great advice about how to untangle your self-esteem from the world and find it in God.

For women who love mysteries:

The Manor House Mystery Series or The White House Chef Series by Julie Hyzy — cozy mysteries that are well-written and entertaining, with protagonists who are eminently likable (as is the author).

Soul’s Prisoner by Cara Luecht (or any of her books, because they’re all good) — a woman in Chicago in the late 1800s discovers something she shouldn’t. A great, suspenseful historical fiction book.

For women who love good stories:

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert — food-centered story (so, really, how can you go wrong?) about love and misunderstandings and Milwaukee. I loved it. (Pair it with a whisk or spatula or bag of coconut to make a themed gift.)

Anything by Elizabeth Berg — my favorite is Talk Before Sleep, but be warned: it’s sad and probably not the right book for someone dealing closely with cancer. The Pull of the Moon is another favorite, about a woman having a menopausal crisis. And Durable Goods, a story about an adolescent girl in the 50s, is lovely.

For anyone (thinkers, activists, or anyone else):

Where Am I Eating? and Where Am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman — a journalist travels the world to trace the origins of his food and his clothes. Fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who make or grow things we take for granted. Kelsey is a great storyteller and the books opened my eyes to so many things without making me feel guilty for my ignorance. (Add a bar of chocolate or pound of coffee to Eating or a pair of boxers to Wearing to make it a fun, themed gift.)

 

For the writer:

Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg — so good. That’s really all I can say.

And although I don’t know him personally :-), I ADORE Stephen King’s On Writing. And I can’t call her a friend, but I did get to meet her once, so I’ll also include Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Another must-have book for the writer.

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As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that the real gift I’ve been given is the gift of some amazing friends. So thankful. And honored to be able to share them with you.

Calling all SuperMoms. Especially those who aren’t [giveaway]

Today is the release day for my friend Becky Kopitzke‘s book, The Super Mom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood. I got to read it early, and I loved it. Even though I’m kind of tired of everything related to being a mom. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. And you never ...

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Today is the release day for my friend Becky Kopitzke‘s book, The Super Mom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood.

I got to read it early, and I loved it. Even though I’m kind of tired of everything related to being a mom. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. And you never stop being a mom. But I am past the “kid” stage so I wasn’t sure how I would relate, even though I knew I would love what Becky had to say, because she’s awesome like that.

But I loved it. Here is my official review:

As a mother of three, I am sick of all the messes, whining and complaining (mine, not my kids’). I try not to worry about all the ways that I have failed in this holy role God granted me. But in The SuperMom Myth, Becky Kopitzke pairs her stories with God’s words and wisdom to soothe, convict, and repair my tired, tattered soul. She somehow climbed into my head and heard my excuses, justification, insecurity, and guilt—and helped me leave them behind. She is real and relatable, and did I mention funny? Her gentle answers reveal Biblical truths and fresh insights that every mom needs to hear. She points us all to the only Superhero who is infallible, reminding us that, by ourselves, cape or not, we can’t save the day. I’ll gladly serve as faithful sidekick to the One who can.

If you still have children at home, you should read this. If you know someone who has children at home, you might consider this as a Christmas gift. It’s a fun read—the material has depth, but you never feel like you’re having to slog through. It’s in bite-sized pieces. And it’s real and loaded with wisdom and truth. It’s the book I wish I’d had when my kids were younger and I was struggling with learning how to juggle the craziness that is life. You can order it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

I like this book so much that I’ll tell you what: Leave a comment below before Saturday, December 5 and you will be entered into a drawing for a free copy. My treat :-).

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What you missed (Allume 2015)

Allume is a Christian women’s writing and blogging conference that was held in Greenville, SC. I posted about my insecurities earlier this week, but like I said, that has more to do with my messed-up brain than with the actual other attendees. In addition to gaining several new friends, there were plenty of good things. ...

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Allume is a Christian women’s writing and blogging conference that was held in Greenville, SC. I posted about my insecurities earlier this week, but like I said, that has more to do with my messed-up brain than with the actual other attendees. In addition to gaining several new friends, there were plenty of good things. Here are a few highlights.

The aforementioned friends. The swag bags—and oh my goodness were there lots of free books! A little bit of heaven. Seeing my book displayed alongside some truly amazing authors, and getting to meet a bunch of others. Late-night talks, and time spent with my agent. Dinner with some people from Tyndale.

allume collage 2A few random (but profound) tidbits from some of the people I heard speak (top left to bottom right):

Logan Wolfram, director of Allume—”Peace only comes through the whole body… Their differences paved the way for them to undertake their ministry together… We all end up at the foot of the same Jesus… Be curious about what makes you different, but more curious about what makes you the same.” Excited to join the street team for her upcoming book, Curious Faith.

Austin Channing Brown—”Doing nothing is no longer an option… Committing yourself to constantly entering the brokenness… Whites have been elevated beyond where they should be, and blacks pushed lower. Both are false identities and have interfered with the way we see God… Incredibly important to the work of justice is to follow the more marginalized… Reconciliation cannot be done alone. It must be done in community.” Her words really stirred up something inside me, showing me why I must care about racial issues.

The Museum of the Bible—being built in D.C. to open in fall 2017. An immense undertaking—and an exciting one, because they want to show people the history of the Bible. And it sounds amazing. I’ll be posting more about it later, but you can go to their site right now.

Tim Willard—spoke on the language of beauty with language and ideas too beautiful for me to replicate. A couple phrases from my notes: “What God creates communicates joy because there is an echo within us. He is echoing in you because he is alive in what you see… What connects with people in writing is that which comes from joy or tears… Beauty demands something of me because I have to first pause to see it… The embodiment of beauty in your writing is what actually makes it so.” I bought his devotional, Longing for More, and the intro alone brought me to tears. Something so beautiful and profound in his words.

Chrystal Evans Hurst—Author of Kingdom Woman with her dad, Tony Evans—and what an amazing speaker. “We serve a God who loves to interrupt us. Every interruption serves to introduce us to Him in a new way… Rest is worship. It’s trusting God. Believing He’s got this. Stop, beloved.”

Gwen Smith (not pictured)—you should listen to this beautiful song. Right now. And then listen to all her other ones.

Wendy Speake—such an inspiring session. “Your heart message usually comes out of your story. Not the first one, but the second story (the ‘I once was lost but now am found’ story). We’re just a reflection of that message. And until we understand our own stories, we can’t tell those of others.”

Esther Burroughs—reminded us of the power of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit whispers and He nudges—and if we don’t hear Him, we’re not still enough… When the Holy Spirit works, He always points to Jesus, not to you or to your book or your blog… A woman of God who trusts the Holy Spirit has to live this way: instant confession and instant obedience.”

Lots to chew on. Lots of thoughts whirring through my brain. So many people with so much to say… and a whole bunch of books to read, as well. Looks like my mind is going to be busy this fall and winter!

How I got my book published

“Hey, Kelly, have any advice for me about getting my book published?” I have no shortage of opinions (about anything, really). Whether they’re useful to anyone else remains to be seen. I’m always happy to share my experience, but I’m an expert only on my own experience, not on the industry in general. I know what worked for ...

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“Hey, Kelly, have any advice for me about getting my book published?”

I have no shortage of opinions (about anything, really). Whether they’re useful to anyone else remains to be seen. I’m always happy to share my experience, but I’m an expert only on my own experience, not on the industry in general. I know what worked for me, but it might be completely different for you. However, I’m asked this question enough that I wanted to post some answers on my blog.

There are many, many helpful resources online for writers. My first go-to source is Jane Friedman. Her site is full of accurate, realistic information and she is a master at curating helpful resources for writers. This post covers all the basics of getting a nonfiction book published. You can go there, explore and read for days and days, and never need to look back here. You can also find information on Michael Hyatt’s website and in The Christian Writer’s Market Guide—or a million other places.

But, in case you’re curious, here is how it worked for me.

I had a quirky idea for a colorful gift book called Praying Upside Down. Various circumstances and comments led to me realizing it could be more than that. I spent nearly a year (working on it a little bit here and a little bit there) preparing a nonfiction book proposal, which contains information like summaries of each chapter, marketing ideas, competitive titles, my qualifications, and anticipated audience. I also wrote several chapters to get a feel for how the book would all come together and to establish my voice. I planned to pitch my idea to an agent who would be at the Midwest Writers Workshop that July. (She liked the idea and asked me to send her the full proposal, but eventually got back to me and said it was “out of her wheelhouse” and she wouldn’t be able to help me.)

In the meantime, I Googled “Christian literary agents” and found a list compiled by Michael Hyatt. I visited each agent’s website, printing out information about what types of books they were looking for and who else they represented, which I then alphabetized in a three-ring binder, complete with tabs. (OCD much?) After choosing the agents that seemed to be good matches, I narrowed it to my top three choices. Two of them asked for electronic submissions, and one requested a hard copy by mail. I sent off the emails and then, when I got together with a couple friends to pray over a house one of them needed to sell, I took the envelope with me and we prayed over it, too. I also submitted a shortened version of the proposal to Christian Manuscript Submissions, a website I’d read about online.

And then I felt like I really wasn’t in the place to be writing about prayer. I was floundering spiritually and emotionally, and I wanted to try something new. So I did the practical, obvious thing (not) and decided to go to Italy for a writers workshop with Elizabeth Berg and learn about fiction. Instead, I learned about myself, and God started healing my broken heart. I wrote this essay about it, and then came home. Six weeks later (almost four months after sending my queries), in one weekend, I heard from the acquisitions editor at a small publishing house and from the agent who received the prayed-over envelope, wondering if the book was still available.

A while later I signed a contract to be represented by that agent, Blythe Daniel. She helped me improve my book proposal and sent it to seven publishers. I got an offer on the book from the small publishing house I mentioned earlier, and then got one from Tyndale. Eventually I signed the contract, agreed to a pub date almost two years away, and got to work writing the rest of the book. (For most nonfiction that is not memoir, potential publishers only see a proposal and sample chapters up front, and you write the bulk of the book after you’ve accepted an offer.) After a year or so of writing, and several months of editing, and numerous hours building my platform (developing my blog and increasing subscribers, establishing a presence on Facebook and Twitter, reaching out to writers I’d met over the years at conferences, and so forth), and a few more months of waiting, Praying Upside Down came out in May of 2015.

It sounds fairly easy. It isn’t always. I was fortunate—it’s unusual to get an agent and publishing offers so quickly. But in a way it wasn’t quick—I had attended workshops for years to improve my writing and I didn’t send anything out until it was the best I could make it. I had worked hard to polish my query letter and book proposal, and I was deliberate about where I sent it. Later, I found out that I hadn’t quite followed the rules. I wrote each of the chapter summaries in my “voice,” and they were too long. (Ideally, they want a utilitarian, short paragraph explaining the content, not a beautifully-crafted, ultra-condensed chapter.) I did a terrible job of selecting comparable titles. My overall proposal was way longer than anyone really wanted. The agents and publishers didn’t get back to me in the timeframe I expected.

But it worked. And I have some ideas about why. My background is in marketing, and I had lots of ideas about ways to promote the book, ways to merchandise it and extend it into a line of books. I also had a quirky, catchy title and an unusual approach. And it just so happened that I had chosen to write about a topic which interests a lot of people and answers a “felt need”—in other words, even if they hadn’t articulated it to themselves, people want to know how to pray. How to do it better. Why they should do it. Because so many people feel inadequately equipped to pray.

But even if I’d done absolutely everything else right, I wouldn’t be here without Him. This book wouldn’t exist if He hadn’t wanted it to. Because one thing I can tell you for sure: this book wasn’t just about prayer. It was prayer. It was my act of worship and sacrifice and thanksgiving. My whole life’s story. A love letter to God. My church prayed over it at every stage. Friends “took” a chapter apiece to pray over as I revised. I enlisted people to be involved in a prayer campaign leading up to the release. My pastors and friends (and even some near-strangers) prayed that God would inhabit my words, that He would prepare hearts, that He would make Himself visible in the process and in the product.

Whether or not anyone else ever thinks the book was in any way divinely inspired, I know He was with me as I wrote. Because He changed me, taught me, and molded me as I wrote. Maybe He did all of this just for me, and having the book published is just a bonus. The book has opened up conversations with family and friends; built relationships with people I’ve never met who live all across the country (and even overseas); and made me stronger and bolder in my faith. I have no idea what God will do with that book, or with the next one coming out next year, but I’m absolutely giddy that I get to write.

I guess it all comes down to one final piece of advice, then. Ask God to inhabit what you do. Ask Him to use you, teach you, and prepare you for whatever He wants to do. And if you think He wants you to write, then by all means, write—with all of your passion and ability and heart. And if He doesn’t want you to write, that’s OK, too. Whatever He has in mind for you is the right thing. Our part isn’t to decide how God should use us. It’s to be open to exploring the opportunities He gives us…and then to give it all you’ve got. What you get back in return is so much better than what you had to offer in the beginning.

When prayer was all we had left: the Bowers Story

Let’s give a special welcome to my friend Carly today. She and her husband have an amazing story to tell about the way God carried them through a tragic accident. Their lives and attitudes inspire me (that sounds cliche, but I don’t say that lightly). I asked her to post here as they’re gearing up ...

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Let’s give a special welcome to my friend Carly today. She and her husband have an amazing story to tell about the way God carried them through a tragic accident. Their lives and attitudes inspire me (that sounds cliche, but I don’t say that lightly). I asked her to post here as they’re gearing up to release the book (very soon) that tells their story. When it’s available, I’ll post a link here. But in the meantime, here’s a little taste…

My name is Carly Bowers. Sixteen years ago, I received the phone call that each one of us fears to ever get. As I was working in our home office, the phone rang. I impatiently grabbed the receiver, thinking it would be another telemarketer asking me to dish out money.

“Hello,” I said, not even trying to fake chipper.

“Is this Carly Bowers?” a woman on the other line asked.

“Yes, can I help you?”

I would have never been prepared for what came next, nor will I ever forget those life-changing words.

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“My name is so-and-so. I’m a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital over in Port Arthur. Your husband David has been in an accident, a serious explosion at work. You need to come down to the emergency room as soon as possible.”

That day, our family began the journey through refining fire when my husband David was severely burned in an explosion at work. Our “perfect little world” was turned upside down in a flash as we were told that he wasn’t expected to survive his injuries. At the time of the accident, our daughter was just days away from her ninth birthday, and our son was two years old.

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For the next four months, friends and family members would care for our children as we focused on David’s physical needs at a burn unit that was almost three hours away from our home. Each day was a rollercoaster ride- a nonstop rollercoaster ride full of twists and turns. Some days David would wake up and be coherent, by lunchtime he would be fighting off a life-threatening infection and be heavily sedated and then by bedtime he’d be lucid again. Then we’d repeat the ride the next day. It was physically, mentally and spiritually exhausting.

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The healing process for our family has been an ongoing battle, but through it all we have grown closer to God and to each other. Even in our darkest moments, we’ve been blessed with reminders that God has a plan, a purpose, and hope for our pain.

Our family has witnessed, firsthand, the power of prayer. There were many days that I would find myself curled up on the tile floor in the hallway just outside the double doors of the burn unit. As the doctors and nurses worked diligently to save my husband, I felt helpless. The only thing I could do was pray. At the time, it felt like such a small gesture, but over time I realized the powerful impact of my simple pleas to my heavenly father.

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Within hours of David’s accident, prayer warriors from our church began sending out emails, telling people of our story and asking for prayer for our family. A community prayer vigil was organized the very night of the explosion. Within weeks, the email prayer list grew to include hundreds of people from across the nation and spanned the globe. We felt overwhelmed by the fact that complete strangers were praying for us. We felt so undeserving.

A dear friend from church wrote, “They faced a battle for life, armed only with prayer, and WON!”

Even though there were plenty of days that my strength weaned and I felt like I was running on empty, I was able to continue to put one foot in front of the other, day after day. I felt an indescribable strength, a sense of peace and I felt like God’s arms were actually wrapped around my shoulders, comforting me in ways that simply weren’t humanly possible.

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David and I have felt nudged to write our story many times over the years and we’re excited that our book, Walk Through Fire, is finally completed, and releases in early October. We have come to realize that how we respond to the unexpected trials that God allows us to go through can greatly impact how successful we are in our quest to move forward and start living again. Pain is unavoidable, but we can choose to overcome suffering with a positive outlook and we can seek ways to find joy amidst our circumstances. We have come to realize that how we respond to the unexpected trials that God allows us to go through can greatly impact how successful we are in our quest to move forward and start living again. I am currently writing our family’s story in order to share personal insights on how to use prayer, faith, humor and joy to find hope in whatever situation you may find yourself in. Pain is unavoidable, but we can choose to overcome suffering with a positive outlook and we can seek ways to find joy amidst our circumstances.

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We hope Walk Through Fire will encourage others who might find themselves in the middle of an unexpected tragedy by focusing on the power of prayer, faith, humor and joy.

We are so honored to have the opportunity to encourage others who are facing hardship. We believe God can use our story to serve others, and I pray that you are encouraged.

We believe in laughter, we believe in hope, and we believe in a God who brings light even into the darkest of places.

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Reaching the end

I’ve been kind of busy, you know… what with FINISHING the complete first draft for book #2. Yes, you heard me correctly. Finished! I’ll tell you the truth. Since this wasn’t a novel, I didn’t really need the words “The end.” But it just felt so good to type them. Over the next two months, I’ll ...

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I’ve been kind of busy, you know… what with FINISHING the complete first draft for book #2. Yes, you heard me correctly. Finished!

I’ll tell you the truth. Since this wasn’t a novel, I didn’t really need the words “The end.” But it just felt so good to type them. Over the next two months, I’ll be working on edits with Bonne, the same magnificent editor I worked with on Praying Upside Down. That gives me great pleasure, because she’s something like magic. She makes me look good. I’ll keep you posted on things like release date (next spring) and the cover and so forth, but for now all I have to offer you is the title: DESIGNED TO PRAY: Creative Ways to Engage with God. It’s an 8-week-long prayer journal/activity book filled with creative prayer exercises, stories, Bible verses and quotations, and lots of fun artwork. And I’m really excited about it. But I’m also quite tired. I’ll be sending this to my editors Sunday afternoon after asking everyone in my church to pray over it first. And now? I’m going to indulge in reading a good YA novel and watching TV with my son. I may also find some chocolate.

Here’s the link to download the new prayer prompt calendar for September. Hope you enjoy!

Sept 2015 prayer prompts

Why my posts have been erratic this summer

Sorry my blog posting this summer has been so erratic. This post will be, too, but wanted to send a quick update and ask you to please hang on because I will be back soon! I’ll sum up recent events in just a few short categories—most of which seem contradictory. And yet, I guess that’s simply ...

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Sorry my blog posting this summer has been so erratic. This post will be, too, but wanted to send a quick update and ask you to please hang on because I will be back soon! I’ll sum up recent events in just a few short categories—most of which seem contradictory. And yet, I guess that’s simply life.

Grieving/Celebrating Our lives got a bit topsy-turvy this week. In the interest of time, I’m pasting my Facebook status about it below:

100_1071They say that if you want to know what kind of man your husband will become, look at his father. So I did, and I saw a strong, handsome man with beautiful blue eyes and a ready laugh. I watched him grow deeper and deeper in his faith. I saw how he loved his family. I saw a good, good man.

So this is heartbreaking to report.

Last night we lost Tim’s dad. He’d been fighting cancer, but this was pneumonia taking over his compromised body with a vengeance. Every hour the news became more and more devastating, and he passed away around 6:30 pm. Coincidentally (if you know me, you know I don’t believe in coincidence), Tim was off work and the girls, Tim and I were already in Indianapolis for an appointment, so we were able to be there.

As he lay in bed fighting to beat the blasted infection, I prayed this Psalm over him: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) Sleep peacefully, Loren Stanley, and enjoy eternity walking beside your God. We will miss you, sweet man.

Visitation is Sunday afternoon and the funeral on Monday. As sad as we are, we’ll be celebrating a really beautiful life.

Writing/Not Writing My second book—which I’m very excited about but still haven’t talked much about—is due to Tyndale on August 30. It was a fast turnaround commitment, and as you can imagine, I haven’t been able to do much writing. So please pray for me as I head towards the finish line. And give thanks for the amazing editors they have, because they’ll be able to take my words and make them coherent and engaging. (I’m counting on it.) And I’ll tell you more about it then :-).

IMG_0380Talking/Listening One of my favorite interviews about Praying Upside Down is now available. I haven’t met Ryan Huguley in person, but I SO enjoyed talking with him. Hope you’ll enjoy it too—listen to it here.

Praying I’m excited to announce an upcoming prayer workshop. If you can be in the Lafayette, IN area on October 10th, I’d love to have you join us! We’ll meet from 10-2 that day. Fee of $25 includes a copy of Praying Upside Down and lunch. Get the registration form and info here. If you can’t come to that, I’d love to talk to you about setting one up in your area. I’m also available to speak at retreats, small groups, book clubs, Sunday school classes and Bible study groups.

And now it’s your turn. Any topics you’d like me to explore? Anything you’d like to read about? Any questions about prayer or faith? I want to give you what you are looking for here, so please, reach out to me if you have any suggestions. And now I must get back to my writing. Have a great weekend.

Summer reading list: Books I’ve loved (and expect to)

I just got back from the 2015 Midwest Writers Workshop, which is always my favorite event of the entire year. Perhaps it’s because some of my favorite people are at MWW with me, staying up late to talk and laugh and eat fried pickles at Scotty’s. Or because I designed our new logo this year and got ...

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mww collage

I just got back from the 2015 Midwest Writers Workshop, which is always my favorite event of the entire year. Perhaps it’s because some of my favorite people are at MWW with me, staying up late to talk and laugh and eat fried pickles at Scotty’s. Or because I designed our new logo this year and got to see it all over the place, including on our bright green shirts.
It could have something to do with meeting even more incredibly talented authors and connecting with people who share my passion for writing. It might be because I always come home with a bag of new books, most of which are signed by the authors. Or maybe it’s because when I get home, my kids are usually already gone for a week of church camp and I can write in peace.

(On a side note, this year I got to see Julie Hyzy again, one of my favorite authors—and got to sign a copy of Praying Upside Down for her. Me. Signing a book for her. How cool is that?)

1373878_p_21078334_rpaThere is a limit to the time I can write by hand in my journal before my arthritis kicks in and my elbow and thumb begin to throb. But I have not yet tired in any way of signing the title page of my book. And it’s not just because of my awesome pens.

But it might be partly because of them.

Hyzy and Reichert covers

BTW, check out Julie’s newest book, Grace Cries Uncle, which just released a couple weeks ago. Yes, I’ve already read it. Yes, you should, too.

And while you’re at it, order The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by another friend, Amy Reichert. I was giddy with excitement and knew I would love it. I mean, really, isn’t the title enough to make you fall in love? And the cover? And if you’ve ever met Amy, you know how fun and vivacious she is, so you just know the book will be fabulous. It’s her first novel, it’s only been out for a little over a week, and I’m already desperate for the next one. It would be a great book club pick. Just sayin’. (What I actually mean by that is order it. Now. I’m serious. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Since I have books on my mind, let me share some other books I’ve really enjoyed recently:

and a few I’m dying to read (but I can only get to one at a time, so there’s always a waiting list):

Isn’t that just like me—now that summer’s practically over, I decide it’s time to give you a reading list. I haven’t had a moment to sit on a beach anywhere and do the mythological beach reading I hear other people talk about, but I guess I read every day anyway, right here in rainy central Indiana. The busier I am, the more I read. So I’ve been reading plenty.

Only ONE MONTH until my new manuscript is due. I could use some prayer. I love this book concept, but there are a lot of pieces that have to come together, and I’ve been doing things like going to MWW. And eating.

11800093_10153468229767246_3135773914899023324_nSpeaking of which, look what my sister got me for my birthday last week. (Hint: There’s a theme.) You’d think I liked chocolate or something. There’s an eye shadow kit hiding in there (my “real” present, as she said)—but really, I think this should come with a “part two.” In the form of extra-large yoga pants. Because that’s a lot of chocolate. And the photo didn’t even include the chocolate cherry cake she baked me, too.

In the next three weeks, Bobby starts two-a-day soccer practices (with one at the insane hour of 6:30 am). Anna and Katie will move in to new colleges (if they manage to finish unpacking from moving home from the old ones). Bobby will start high school. And I have a little bit of writing to do. Right now, though, sleep sounds best of all, so I’ll schedule this post for tomorrow and sign off. (Sorry for the extreme randomness, but my mind is all over the place after writing for about 12 hours today.)

Now it’s your turn—what’s new with you? Did you discover any new books, foods, or other things this summer that you would like to share?

 

Finding peace in just the right place

I feel like I’m constantly saying the same old thing on these guest post intros… I met this lovely woman through the Facebook group my agent set up for clients of her agency, and I haven’t met her in person, but I love her… yadda yadda yadda. The thing is, though, it continues to be ...

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jayme_mansfield-069I feel like I’m constantly saying the same old thing on these guest post intros… I met this lovely woman through the Facebook group my agent set up for clients of her agency, and I haven’t met her in person, but I love her… yadda yadda yadda.

The thing is, though, it continues to be true. They’re all interesting and talented, kind and generous—all-around lovely people.

But I think Jayme Mansfield is really something special. Maybe because she wrote this incredible review of Praying Upside Down on her blog. Maybe because I love the name of her blog—The Blank Canvas: Fill it with Him. Maybe because she’s an artist. Or perhaps it’s because her book, Chasing the Butterfly, is really, really good.

Or maybe I should stop trying to define it and keep it simple: She’s really awesome and I hope you enjoy this guest post.

GRAPHIC spinning in circles

The Colorado Rocky Mountains are calling my name today. I’m fortunate—only a short drive from the west side of Denver will soon find me surrounded by forests of pine, valleys blanketed in wild flowers, high and fast-moving rivers from summer’s abundance of rain, and the remnants of last winter’s snow still capping the highest peaks.

But wait…though the allure of trading the city for a few days for a slice of mountain tranquility shouts to me to wrangle the dog into backseat and race the car out of town, it’s really God whispering to my soul to come rest with Him—“to be still, and know that I am God.”

He knows me well. Anxious thoughts have been brewing—my teaching job, although wonderful, has tiptoed closer than when vacation began. The myriad of home and garden improvements waits impatiently on the “to-do list.” Best intentions to meet friends for coffee, wheedle away at the stack of books on my nightstand, and re-start my long neglected Pilates regime, now wait like bored spectators—hoping for even a bit of action. Worst of all (for us author peeps), is my next unfinished manuscript with the self-prescribed, ambitious, end-of-summer birthday—which will not happen. Sigh!

Ah, yes, He knows me well. I could spend another weekend spinning in circles like my rooftop weather vane in a windstorm—heading north to the grocery store, south to the basement laundry room, east to mow the lawn, and then west to walk the dog. A momentary pause, when the wind is merely catching its breath, may allow me pause at my computer.

Or, I could stop and breathe. Close my eyes, and pray—Lord, what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to be? And let His words play over in my mind, “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20).

Regardless of what I am doing, I do know this—He wants me with Him. Sometimes it’s among a whirlwind of people and activity—a beehive life. Other times, it is in solitude, quietness, and stillness—nestled in His presence.

Yes, He knows me, oh, so well. Today, He’s beckoning me to spend time with Him alone (okay, Gracie will tag along as I’m convinced she is one of His favorite dogs.) I’ll turn the music off while I drive, hike to a favorite vantage point to gaze upon one of His many creations—and then I will listen, soak in the inspiration, the calm, and the peace that is essential before I write.

But most importantly, I will be with Him so that I can hear the what—the answer to my prayer to be reoriented, to have my physical, emotional, and spiritual compass be recalculated. After all, I’m convinced that is when the views are most glorious.


To spend more time with Jayme, visit her at: Her website | Facebook Author Page | PinterestGoodreadsTwitterInstagramJayme’s Art Studio website

5119HhoZ9aLAuthor Bio: Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator. She provides vivid imagery as she melds her inspiring writing and artistic talents. Her debut novel, Chasing the Butterfly, released in late summer 2014, by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Recently, she was awarded the 2015 Christian Small Publishers Association Book of the Year in Historical Fiction and the novel is a 2015 Inspirational Readers Choice Award Finalist for Women’s Fiction. Her passion for weaving stories about women who find their strength in the Lord continues in her upcoming novel, Rush, a historically compelling tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush in the late 1800’s. Jayme owns, paints, and shares the joy of creating visual art with children and adults at the Piggy Toes Art Studio in Lakewood, Colorado for the past twenty years. After a career in both the business and creative sides of advertising, Jayme received her teaching and Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and Creative Arts. For many years in elementary education, she has shared a passion for literacy and the writing process with her students. She teaches at Aspen Academy in Greenwood Village, Colorado. She is married to James and has three teenage boys.

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