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!

Still having trouble being still

I could keep this post really short and sum it up in two words: SLOW DOWN. But since when have I ever kept it short? As I was trying to finish the manuscript for my second book, I had coffee with my friend Marcia to run some ideas past her. My new book will be a ...

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I could keep this post really short and sum it up in two words: SLOW DOWN.

But since when have I ever kept it short?

As I was trying to finish the manuscript for my second book, I had coffee with my friend Marcia to run some ideas past her. My new book will be a Bible study—sort of a prayer activity book, with eight weeks of prayer exercises. For Day 7 of each week, I titled it “A Day of Rest” and created short, quiet thoughts and activities for those days. Something simple, some way to stay connected and pray without ceasing, but nothing that was tiring or difficult. My thought process was this: On the seventh day, God rested. Maybe you should, too.

As Marcia and I were discussing it, I told her I was having trouble with the days of rest. Without hesitating, she said, “Oh, that’s ironic!”

I have trouble resting. Relaxation feels indulgent. I have too much to do. Not enough time. Too many things I want to do. People to see. Books to read (and write). Ask my husband—I don’t even really relax on vacation. It’s a problem.

And yet, I’ve been bombarded with messages about why we need to rest. Why we need time to be still and quiet with God. I’m the first to tell about an article I read once saying that kids need down time in order to be creative. Their minds need time to ponder, reflect, wonder, and imagine. When they’re overly busy, there’s no time to simply think.

I read this article today, 6 Reasons You Seriously Need to Slow Down: How a hurried life can destroy your relationship with God. Although I haven’t read her new book yet, I read Emily Freeman’s blog, Creating Space for Your Soul to Breathe, which is all about saying no to busyness. My go-to Bible verse is “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

And yet…I hurry. Always. I can’t go to a soccer game without a book to read and a notebook to jot ideas in. I can’t pick up my son from school without a book. I answer emails at stoplights (but not while driving, I promise). If I sit in front of the TV, it’s with my calendar and notebooks and laptop spread in front of me. I burn nearly everything I cook because I sit down at the computer to try to finish one more thing and I don’t hear the oven timer go off.

I’ve been starting to wonder why. Do I need to stay busy to feel important? Do I do a lot of meaningless stuff to avoid something else? Am I afraid if I slow down I’ll never get moving again?

I really don’t know.

But it’s becoming clear to me that I need to try.

I’m not exactly sure how. No idea what that really looks like. How do I not feel like I’m wasting time? How do I not worry about all that I’m not getting done? I don’t think I feel the need to earn God’s (or anyone else’s) approval. I know I’m loved by God first and by my friends and family, just the way I am. But I always think that if there is more that I can do, I should. If I have any talents at all, I should use them. If I have all these wonderful people in my life, I should spend time with them. And if I want to do those things, I have to cram it all in and rush rush rush through my days.

I’d love to know what you do to slow down—even if it’s just mentally slowing down. How do you justify it? Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about and it comes naturally to you. If so, I’d love to hear your insights.

I’ll start by signing off WordPress and picking up my journal. My house should be quiet for a little while longer. (See, I can’t even sit in quiet without something in my hands. My excuse is that it keeps me focused and I get less distracted.) But please, comment on this post and let me know your thoughts. Do you have these struggles too? How do you handle it?

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

The essence of creativity…

As I’m busy writing my next book, I’m also poring through all of my files. Stacks and stacks of papers. Printed blog posts and online articles. Handwritten notes scribbled over the years as I read books in bed, late at night. Scraps of paper and receipts with “brilliant” ideas that I scribbled as I drove, ...

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GRAPHIC essence of creativityAs I’m busy writing my next book, I’m also poring through all of my files. Stacks and stacks of papers. Printed blog posts and online articles. Handwritten notes scribbled over the years as I read books in bed, late at night. Scraps of paper and receipts with “brilliant” ideas that I scribbled as I drove, afraid the thought would vanish with the scenery. Bits of my own writing, bits of other people’s.

This quotation is one I stumbled upon again recently. I immediately fell in love with when I first read it—when Ann Voskamp posted it in 2012 in a post about why everyone needs to make art everyday. (Read that post here.)

Because of my new book, I’m thinking a lot about creativity. About risk. About finding the courage to seek God even when it’s not easy. To look for Him even when we’re tired and weary. To pick up the Bible even when we don’t know where to start. Wondering about how to keep up a life of faith, how to not burn out, how to push through anyway. And I’m pondering how to still my mind and relax into my relationship with God even as I try frantically to meet this next writing deadline.

Just because I’m writing about prayer does not mean I struggle any less than you do. But with each comment I receive, each message and question about prayer, I am more and more inspired to work on this book. I’m in love with the subject. I’m in love with creativity. And I’m remembering how much I’m in love with the Creator who inspires all of those things.

And I’m grateful for you. For that thing inside that won’t let go, the part of you that keeps reaching, keeps wanting to try again or find more of God or reach out to connect with others. The part of you that keeps hoping. We hear all the time that God is love. And oh, He is. We can rest in it, pull it around us, wrap ourselves in the warm cloak of God’s adoration.

But the word that makes my spirit leap is hope. Hope says there’s always something more. That the end is not the end. That somehow, some way, things will get better. Deadlines will be met, bodies will be healed, finances will balance, relationships will be restored, life will move forward, and God will prevail.

But allowing ourselves to believe? Letting ourselves feel that hope? It’s hard. And scary. It’s a huge risk. But if you look back at Ann’s quote, note that she doesn’t simply say that creativity is believing. She says it’s believing enough.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to believe everything you hear or study. You don’t need all the answers. You can still wonder, and doubt, and try, and fail, and walk forward, and fall back. But just believe enough to pick yourself back up. To take one more step. To reach out your hand, to tilt your face towards the sky. To dream. To create. To pray. To seek. To hope. And to find.

Because the biggest risks bring the greatest rewards.

 

 

Does your posture influence your prayer?

I’ve prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another’s shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. I’ve pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I’ve stood with both arms raised high above my head ...

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GRAPHIC The more ways I approach

I’ve prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another’s shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. I’ve pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I’ve stood with both arms raised high above my head with confidence and praise.

It’s all prayer. It’s all good. And however you approach it, I’m not here to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

What I know, though, is that so often we get stuck in a routine. Before long, actions that once held deep meaning no longer carry any weight. Emotion is replaced with familiarity.

Familiarity can be good. It comes with comfort and peace. You don’t want to lose that.

But I’d like to suggest that maybe you should shake things up once in a while.

Join me at the Internet Café today to find out how.

The problem with prayer

Probably not the topic you’d expect to read here, is it? I write about prayer. I believe in prayer. I’ve seen power and miracles and answers that would knock your socks off. Little requests fulfilled; major mountains moved. It works. I believe that. But the problem? You’re never done. I’m a list maker. I will ...

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Probably not the topic you’d expect to read here, is it? I write about prayer. I believe in prayer. I’ve seen power and miracles and answers that would knock your socks off. Little requests fulfilled; major mountains moved. It works. I believe that.

But the problem? You’re never done.

I’m a list maker. I will transfer items I’ve already completed to a sheet of paper just for the sheer joy of crossing them off. I line my computer monitor with post-it notes with check boxes beside each item. I have lists in my calendar. I make lists for my family when I’m not around.

I like to finish something. I don’t have the world’s longest attention span. I also am a big fan of instant gratification, which is why I can never seem to schedule posts here on this blog. I write it, and I want it to go live. So I never seem to stick to a schedule. But I’m trying. (And I’ve digressed.)

As I was saying, I like to finish things. I hate projects that go on for months and months. I have to break them down into smaller pieces so that I can check them off: Do initial layout. Get approval. Revise layout. Get approval. Prepare art for printer. Download high-res photos. Get printing quote. Send to printer. Send invoice.

But prayer? I don’t get to cross that off.

Don’t get me wrong. I like to pray. I really do. But sometimes, because I’m so driven and obsessive and overscheduled (my own fault), I wish I could draw a nice big checkmark next to it.

I may be an overachiever in many ways. But I am severely lacking in discipline and longevity. I get tired. And bored.

July 2015 prayer prompt previewWhich brings me, finally, to my point: July’s prayer prompt calendar is ready to download. If you struggle like I do—if sometimes prayer seems too abstract and on-going, too lofty and heavy—this may be just what you need. It’s one simple prompt for each day of the month. You’re not required to stop there—let your mind wander. Open your eyes to whatever God brings before you. Keep watching… and waiting… and praying. Because just like our responsibility to pray never ends, our God never ends. We will always get answers. We will never cease to be changed.

And all it takes is just a few minutes a day. One small item on your to-do list with a monumental impact. And one mighty God. After a while, it won’t feel like a task to be crossed off a list, but a treat. A joy. A way to soften your heart, slow your mind. And connect. Amen.

 

Look around

Ask God to show you where He is in anything you witness, study, or participate in. Inspiration—creative and spiritual—is everywhere. ~Praying Upside Down Anyone willing to share with the rest of us? Where have you found inspiration lately? What are you reading? Listening to? Learning? Absorbing? Watching? Discovering? It’s not too late to download this ...

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PUD book quotes-12Ask God to show you where He is in anything you witness, study, or participate in. Inspiration—creative and spiritual—is everywhere. ~Praying Upside Down


Anyone willing to share with the rest of us? Where have you found inspiration lately? What are you reading? Listening to? Learning? Absorbing? Watching? Discovering?


It’s not too late to download this June calendar to use as a daily reminder to pray… or to help you pray for something different. It’s free to all blog subscribers!

 

Interview, review, and a giveaway

Courtney DeFeo is a friend of my agent, and that’s how we connected, but it seems we have lots in common. One of her creations is Alphabet Scripture Cards, which are pretty cool. Her bio describes her better than I could: Courtney DeFeo believes our kids can light up the world. As a former marketing ...

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Courtney DeFeo is a friend of my agent, and that’s how we connected, but it seems we have lots in common. One of her creations is Alphabet Scripture Cards, which are pretty cool.

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Her bio describes her better than I could:

Courtney DeFeo believes our kids can light up the world. As a former marketing professional, she lives in a constant brainstorm with herself and suspects it’s the route of her migraines. She wants her little light to shine so that her family knows Jesus intimately and others might see His love in the process. She is the creator of ABC Scripture Cards, Light ‘Em Up and Conversation Cups – and author of In This House, We Will Giggle. Her house is a wreck and she hates to cook. She adores her hot, patient husband. She posts entirely too many photos of her girls on Instagram. Connect with Courtney anytime: TwitterWebsiteFacebookInstagram.

I was so happy to be interviewed for her site. Head over there to read our conversation—or leave a comment on the post on her site in order to enter for a giveaway of a copy of my book.


I was so moved by this review of my book, and blown away when I realized the author is 15 years old. I can’t imagine being so…well, amazing…at that age. (Or any other, quite frankly!) I hope you’ll hop over there to read her lovely review and check out the rest of her blog while you’re at it. Besides, you’ve gotta love this pic.

 

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I’m supposed to be a word person, right? So why can’t I find words to describe how it feels to hear other people talk about Praying Upside Down? Why can’t I figure out how to convey my sense of awe? How can I express the humility I feel, coupled with giddy exhilaration that someone got it, that someone heard from God or turned towards Him in a new way? I’ve known all along that if anyone hears God through those words, it’s because God is drawing them, not because I’m anything remarkable. But just to be able to be a part of that process? As I said a whole paragraph ago, I just have no words to describe it. (Apparently, though, I have plenty of words to describe the ways in which I cannot describe it. Go figure.) To all of you who have reached out in some way to share your experience,  T H A N K   Y O U . xo

Messy Prayer

God has an amazing way of connecting us with each other. Becky Kopitzke and I share the same agent. During the reach-out-to-everyone-you-know phase of my book promotion, I wrote to her. Turns out, she lives near where my daughter Anna goes to school in Wisconsin. And attends the church that Anna had hoped to check ...

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God has an amazing way of connecting us with each other. Becky Kopitzke and I share the same agent. During the reach-out-to-everyone-you-know phase of my book promotion, I wrote to her. Turns out, she lives near where my daughter Anna goes to school in Wisconsin. And attends the church that Anna had hoped to check out at some point. Becky graciously welcomed her in and has met her at the coffee shop. I’m blown away by the ways God shows His love to us, by the people He places in our lives at the right times. Today I’m honored to post at Becky’s blog about when prayer is messy. Leave a comment on her blog for a chance to win a copy of Praying Upside Down!

Prayer-Messy

Surely I’m not the only mom who’s cringed at the unavoidable (but unsavory) task of accepting the artwork being held out by her small child. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? A soggy piece of construction paper, drenched with runny paint, dripping in rivulets across the page. And down your child’s arms. And into your purse, if you’re not careful. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there might even be glue. And glitter. You just know that if you touch this glorious bastion of creativity, it’s going to rub off on you, too.

Being creative can be messy.

So can prayer.

Then again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If prayer is, in its simplest form, communication with God—a way of reaching hold of a greater power, the greater power—then wouldn’t you want some of that to rub off?

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Behind the cover

“So, did you design your book cover?” I hear that a lot. The answer is no. “But you’re a graphic designer!” I know that. But people say this often enough that I thought I’d briefly explain. If you self-publish, you can design your own cover. And from what I’ve seen, sometimes with smaller publishers, the ...

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PUD cover with drop shadow

“So, did you design your book cover?”

I hear that a lot. The answer is no.

“But you’re a graphic designer!”

I know that. But people say this often enough that I thought I’d briefly explain.

If you self-publish, you can design your own cover. And from what I’ve seen, sometimes with smaller publishers, the author can choose a designer. But the more traditional publishers have whole teams dedicated to marketing and design. And although I’m a professional marketer, I’m not a professional book marketer or designer.

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve put so much into this book. I’ve poured out my heart. I’ve written and rewritten and edited and struggled over word choices and theology. I’ve reached out to everyone I know, begging for favors and help. If I’d had to design the cover, too, I think it would have been too much for me to handle.

As a designer, too, I know that the hardest person to design for is yourself.

Because Tyndale is an amazingly awesome publisher, they gave me a lot of input into my cover, though. They had me fill out a survey and provide samples of other covers I liked and why. They asked about visual metaphors for the book’s content. And then they came back to me with a presentation of four possible cover directions.

I was blown away at the conceptual thinking behind it. They had me at “rationale.”

Believe it or not, this cover is not the one I picked at first. But my team felt strongly about it—strongly enough to put it in front of me when I met with them in person and explain why they thought it best represented the book. And they were completely right. I was hung up on one small detail and hadn’t wanted to be difficult so I’d picked a different direction—but when I got up the guts to ask for that change, they readily complied and I felt silly for worrying about it.

The more I look at it, the more I like it. I love the colors. I love that the fabulous designer, Nicole Grimes, hand-painted the image and hand-drew the type. I love that the image representing the whole book shows that there are two different ways to view the same thing, because it’s something I say over and over. I LOVE that I have a blurb from the amazing Elizabeth Berg on the front. How cool is that?

But most of all? I love the idea of the two faces for a book on prayer. The book is about drawing near to God—coming face to face with the Almighty. And when we do, the cup of His purpose is poured out between us. But I say it better in my book. Check out chapter 6… in just a few more days!

 

 

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