Don’t know what to say? These writing prompts are for you

I’ve talked to several people lately about journaling, so I thought I’d share some prayer writing prompts from my book. You can also download a single-page PDF here to keep in your journal for those days when you need some inspiration. Not sure what to say when those blank journal pages are staring you in the face? ...

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I’ve talked to several people lately about journaling, so I thought I’d share some prayer writing prompts from my book. You can also download a single-page PDF here to keep in your journal for those days when you need some inspiration.


writing prompts handout previewNot sure what to say when those blank journal pages are staring you in the face? Pick a prompt, set a timer if you want (start with ten minutes), and start writing. Don’t stop to think. Don’t let your pen stop moving until you are done. Just write. In your heart, keep an attitude of offering, of openness. You can write about God, about your faith and beliefs, or—my preference—write to God. Talk to Him as though He is sitting there beside you. (He is.)

WRITE A LOVE LETTER TO GOD:

• I love You because . . .
• My favorite thing about You is . . .
• I feel closest to You when . . .
• Today I saw You in [this person/situation] . . .
• Ask Him questions or bring Him your doubts:
• My biggest doubt is . . .
• What can I do for You?
• One thing that doesn’t make sense to me is _________. Please help me understand.
• What’s troubling me today is __________. Help me work through it.
• What stumbling blocks am I facing? How can I get past them?
• I disagree with this interpretation of Scripture. Show me the truth.
• I’m upset that You haven’t answered my prayer.
• Why did you say _______?

REMIND YOURSELF OF ALL YOU KNOW ABOUT HIM:

• The aspect of You I am leaning on today is. . . [Provider, Counselor, Healer, Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd, etc.]
• The first time I knew You were there was when . . .
• When I picture You, I see ________.
• A miracle I’ve witnessed is . . .
• I know You are real because . . .
• What surprises me the most about You is . . .
• You are so good. You are ________ [fill in names, titles, aspects, characteristics].
• I remember when You . . .

TELL GOD YOUR STORIES AND RETELL HIS:

• What You have revealed to me
• A specific time someone prayed for me
• How I hear Your voice
• What I believed about You in elementary school. As a teen. When my kids were born. When I lost a person close to me. When You first revealed Yourself to me.
• Lord, You’ve changed me. Over the last year, I’ve noticed . . .
• My earliest memory of You is . . .
• My favorite gift (or talent) You have given me (and what I’d like to do with it)
• I’ll never forget the time You . . .
• Sometimes You feel far away from me when . . .

OR SIMPLY EXPLORE AND RECORD:

• The person who taught me most about prayer is . . .
• Ways to open my life to You
• Someone whose faith I admire is . . . (and why)
• What I would like my children to know about my faith is . . .
• A Scripture that means a lot to me is . . .
• I sometimes hide the fact that I am a Christian because . . .
The thing I wish I could change about myself is . . .
• What I’ve learned from watching others (both good and bad)
• Thank You for giving me the strength to . . .
• A temptation I’m struggling with is . . .
• Forgive me, Lord, for . . .
• Thank You, Lord, for . . .
• I can’t seem to forgive myself for . . .
• Help me to let go of my anger about . . .
• Teach me to forgive people who hurt me, like . . .

Sometimes taking stock of our current situation can bring with it feelings of frustration, sadness,
or anger. But it can also lead us toward gratitude, and focusing on feelings of thankfulness can help us let go of those ugly feelings.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

  As part of my Branch Out Reading Challenge, I chose as my pick for January (“a best-selling Christian book, something new and/or popular”) For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. Just from reading her blog and various other things, I knew I loved her. And I’m excited that she is one of the big-name speakers for the ...

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As part of my Branch Out Reading Challenge, I chose as my pick for January (“a best-selling Christian book, something new and/or popular”) For the Love by Jen Hatmaker.

Just from reading her blog and various other things, I knew I loved her. And I’m excited that she is one of the big-name speakers for the new Women of Faith tour, Belong. (In case I haven’t mentioned it—ha—my new book, Designed to Pray, is being published by Tyndale and Women of Faith for that tour.) Shamefully, though, I had not yet read any of her books. But now I have, and so should you. Because A) she gets it. She gets all of it—motherhood, being a wife, writing, struggling, loving Jesus, being real. And B) she may be the funniest person on earth. I exaggerate not.

I realize she’s a few years younger than I am, but I want to be her when I grow up. Besides her amazing talent for writing and speaking, she also has great style and loves food.

I read a review once that criticized this book, saying it was too light and fluffy—the reviewer wanted to read about how to live as a Christian, not discuss yoga pants or leggings. I disagree. I would argue that there is room for both, and in all of my favorite friendships, we can easily segue from one topic into the other and back again, seamlessly. When I read this book, I found depth in the more theological thinking, the stories of how to live this life and share it with others and not beat ourselves up—and relief when, for a few pages, the topics got lighter and she made me laugh. As a writer, I’ve often said that I write to make myself known, because then others will reciprocate and open up. But this time, I got to experience that from the other side. Reading this book made me feel known and understood. Jen spoke truth to this phase of my life, both as a mom and as a writer.

Besides, even from the very first page, you can see that she is not all about herself. Her endorsements are purposely not from celebrities, but from her readers (with qualifications like “introvert, blogger, Jesus-follower, lover of free swag” and “harmonica collector, embracer and contributor of awkward situations, guacamole lover”). Jen is kind of a big deal, but she doesn’t act like it. You gotta like that about a person.

There is no way I can include all of the nuggets that I will carry with me, so I’m going to include a few of the sections I underlined from the first few chapters. (On a side note, recently I gave a copy of a book I was reading to my friend Vickie. She brought me a new book later that day to replace it, but kept mine, because her favorite part were the notes and underlines I made. So that’s sort of what I’m sharing with you here today.) 🙂

“Folks who thrive on God’s grace give grace easily, but the self-critical person becomes others-critical. We ‘love’ people the way we ‘love’ ourselves, and if we are not good enough, then no one is… [God] is good at being God. Hooray! We don’t have to be saviors and critics for each other; we’re probably better as loved people beside one another. We aren’t good gods, but we can be good humans.”

“I fretted and agonized and vacillated before I remembered to pray. (I am a delightful choice for your spiritual advisor, yes?)… People will take as much as you will give them, not because they are terrible humans, but because they only want this one slice of you. It doesn’t seem like much to them. On paper, it’s just that one thing, that one night, that one commitment. Plus, you’re probably good at their pet thing. But they don’t observe the scope of your life and all the other tricks on your beam. They just want that one dip/scoop/lean, but only so many tricks fit into a day… Gracious noes challenge the myth of Doing It All. When I see another woman fighting for her balance beam, I am inspired because if she has permission, then I do too. Wise women know what to hold onto and what to release, and how to walk confidently in their choices—no regrets, no apologies, no guilt.”

GRAPHIC jen hatmaker quote

“Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere. If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true… We get to labor over our “calling” because we are educated and financially stable, so many of us eschew the honor of ordinary work and instead fret over the perception of wasting our lives….Your career may not involve ‘Christian-sanctioned’ labor, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t walking in your calling… Every goodness God asked us to display is available to you today. Through ordinary work, people can be set free, valued, and changed, including yourself. God’s kingdom will not come in any more power elsewhere than it will come in your life today.”

“God created an entire package. It all counts. There are no throwaway qualities. In fact, those qualities might point you in just the right direction. Nothing is wasted: not a characteristic, preference, experience, tragedy, quirk, nothing. It is all you and it is all purposed and it can all be used for great and glorious good. Maybe your best thing won’t draw a paycheck, but it is how you shine and glow and come to life and bless the world.”

“The best I offer the world is the truth—my highest gift. What the world does with it is not up to me. I am not in charge of outcomes, opinions, assessments. I am not in the business of damage control. When I present a fabricated version of myself—the self who knows it all, is ever certain, always steps strong—we all lose, because I cannot keep up with that lie and neither can you.”

She has some great, down-to-earth parenting advice (“The best parents can have children who self-destruct, and the worst parent can have kids who thrive.” And “Popularity is a terrible goal, because you have to lose yourself to find it.”).

And she recognizes the life-sustaining value or good friends. “It’s tricky, this new online connectivity, because it can become meaningful and true; it has given way to actual friendships I treasure. But it can also steal from friends on porches, the ones who truly know you, who talk about real life over nachos. Online life is no substitute for practiced, physical presence, and it will never replace someone looking you in the eye, padding around your kitchen in bare feet, making you take a blind taste test on various olives, walking in your front door without knocking.” She also says, “Nothing can happen—no tragedy, no suffering—that cannot be survived through the love of God and people. This is holy territory: a loyal friend on the other end of the line, a companion on your doorstep holding King Ranch chicken casserole because sometimes that’s all there is to do. When you say to me, ‘I will see you through this,’ I can endure. Between God’s strength and yours, I have enough. We are not promised a pain-free life but are given the tools to survive: God and people. It is enough.”

And to top it all off, she includes a recipe for Beef Bourguignon that includes an entire bottle of pinot noir. Which I’m making tonight. And which, as she promised, smells heavenly. Wish you were here to eat it with me and tell me all about whatever you read this month! Will you tell me anyway? (Even if you just read one chapter. Even if you didn’t like it. This is a guilt-free zone.) Looking forward to reading about the books you read (or didn’t) in the comments below.


On February 1st, I’ll share my selection for February and offer some choices for you to consider.

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!

A letter to the women at Allume

Haughty eyes, a proud heart,
 and evil actions are all sin. Proverbs 21:4 Can you forgive me? I don’t like to admit this, but the reality is that I judged you. I looked at your skinny legs in your skinny jeans, at your fashionable tall boots, at the stacks of bracelets wrapping your slender wrists, ...

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Haughty eyes, a proud heart,
 and evil actions are all sin.
Proverbs 21:4

Can you forgive me?

I don’t like to admit this, but the reality is that I judged you. I looked at your skinny legs in your skinny jeans, at your fashionable tall boots, at the stacks of bracelets wrapping your slender wrists, at your taut, luminescent skin. I listened to your gracious southern drawls talking about intentionality and living life in grace and nurturing your precious babies and the holy calling of being a mama. I looked at your popularity—how many people you know, how many followers you have, which publishers you are with, what you have accomplished. You sang popular worship music and knew all the words and I made assumptions about your churches and faith.

In short, I walked in with a judgmental, divisive spirit. You came in to the conference as empty vessels, preparing to be filled up. I lugged in bushel baskets of ugly. I looked through lenses of envy and jealousy. I let my longing to be better ignite my insecurities about my weight and age and the church background I come from. I assumed you weren’t interested in anything I might have to offer, so I held tightly to myself.

I pride myself on my ability to look for similarities, to focus on what people have in common rather than dwelling on the differences. So I’m feeling especially appalled and ashamed that I fell so far and so quickly.

True, I may be in my late 40s and you might be 23. I may have a muffin top and no excuses while you wear a FitBit and manage to work out even with a little one (or two or three or four). You may be especially stylish and I may feel frumpy. But since when has surface stuff mattered to me? And why did I let it consume me?

Maybe it’s this: I sense that you are genuinely that selfless and gentle and kind, and I’m just not as nice as you are. And I don’t like it when I become—what was it Logan said?—Judgy McJudgyPants? And the more I didn’t like me, the more inferior I felt next to you.

But when I took the time to fight through my feelings, when I turned again towards God and away from the master liar, I rediscovered the beautiful truth: We’re not that different. We both love God—love Him so much that He has become our source. We’re not in competition. We’re on the same team, and we’re representing the same Kingdom. We’re inspired by the same Source, and even so, we’re not meant to be exactly the same.

What you’ve found with God does not in any way diminish what I have found or what remains available to me.

You will have stories I won’t, and you will use them to reach people I can’t. That’s good. It’s how it’s supposed to be. Forgive me for succumbing to the falsehood that there are not enough pieces of pie for each of us. Please grant me forgiveness for my ugly—and unfair and unfounded—thoughts.

We all know the story of the woman at the well. She went in the middle of the day, alone, because she was an outcast. But Jesus met her there. He saw through her charade and spoke truth to the innermost part of her heart, and she discovered something in the water He offered that she had never found anywhere else.

When I picture the women who taught us, I can’t shake this image: Women who draw their strength from the well of life, which is the Word of God. The idea that won’t leave me is that of each of you casting your bucket into the well with abandon—and withdrawing life-sustaining power. You don’t drink of the leftovers or rely on others to bring it for you. You lower your buckets and when you draw them back to you, they’re overflowing with living water, and you bathe in the overflow. Even more impressive, you go back again and again. And again. Because you can’t get enough. You’re not content to merely survive. You long to grow, to thrive. To live.

I spent so much time dwelling on this idea that I missed something. Apparently, I am the woman who walked alone to the well, certain that I would be judged, and I almost missed taking a drink because I made such an idol of who I thought you would think I was.

But you? You welcomed me with kindness. Your face shone with the reflected glory of God as you shared your stories. I spent a lot of time feeling like an outsider, but that’s not your fault. I could have gone to the well early in the morning, like the other women of the village. But I chose not to.

The beauty of it all, though, is that Jesus still met me. He still waited and He still had something to offer.

Because He always does. He whispers the truth of who He is, and who we are when we belong to Him. He reminds us that this life has nothing to do with other people and everything to do with Him. Period. I need to look upward, not sideways. I need to ask Him to change me, to help me learn to be content, to instill in me such a confidence in His love for me that I no longer measure myself against others. He sees me—with all the ugly on the inside—but He doesn’t run away. He pulls me closer and tells me the truth about myself. And reminds me what I already knew: I am forgiven.

So now I need to forgive myself. I hope you will forgive me, too.

I went into Allume focused on promotion and meeting people who could help me further my career. And boy did I miss the boat. Because this conference wasn’t about success, or even really about publishing. It was about nourishing the souls of women who write about God, about feeding the desire we each have to connect more deeply with Him through knowing others.

And it was a learning opportunity. A place where God could show me my weaknesses in His ongoing efforts to prune me, to refine me, to redeem me and mold me into His image. I have a long way to go. But you know what? I’m feeling a surge of gratitude in my heart that I have the opportunity to walk alongside you on this path.

I’m finally feeling what I should have felt from the start.

I’m thanking God for the beautiful women He allowed me to connect with—in spite of my insecurities and inner turmoil. And I’m asking God to nurture you, to open doors and allow you prominent platforms from which to tell your God-stories. I’m praying for your success in publishing, and I’m trusting that God will reveal new things to you along the way. I’m in awe of your authentic relationships with Him and I’m inspired to renew mine. I’m pledging my help to you, in whatever ways I can, from a genuine desire to see you go forward, to see you change lives.

It’s how I’m turning my prayers upside down today. With each pang of insecurity I feel, I’ll pray for all of you. And I believe that in the process, God will transform me. Because He’s good like that. Oh so good. And I’m so grateful.

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.

What punctuation marks your faith?

Today I’m at the Internet Café with a back-to-school post… sort of. Here’s the beginning of it, but you can read the rest of it there. It’s back-to-school time, so let’s do a quick review of the basics. We can skip the multiplication tables and sentence diagrams. But I thought we could take a few minutes to examine punctuation ...

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Today I’m at the Internet Café with a back-to-school post… sort of. Here’s the beginning of it, but you can read the rest of it there.

It’s back-to-school time, so let’s do a quick review of the basics. We can skip the multiplication tables and sentence diagrams. But I thought we could take a few minutes to examine punctuation marks—and see what they can teach us about our relationship with God.

Period (.) End of sentence. Factual. True. When God speaks, it’s usually a simple, declarative sentence. Go. Stop. Trust. Follow me. Our culture has tried to make us believe that our faith isn’t strong enough unless we reside in a place of certainty. And sure, that’s a great place to be. Sometimes our beliefs are absolute and sure, and we’re strongly rooted in our faith. We simply know what we know. But do you know what else I know? It’s OK to not remain here all the time.

Exclamation point (!) Wow! God is amazing! I see Him! I want you to know Him! The best way to approach God is with thanksgiving—by noticing all that He does, all that He is, and letting ourselves feel the awe and wonder He inspires. And the best way to get someone else excited is to express yourself genuinely and enthusiastically. It’s hard to maintain this level of excitement over the long term, though—we get tired, other worries crowd their way in, and so on. It takes sustained effort to remain here and it’s a wonderful place to be, but I spend more time with the next one…

Read the rest of the post here.

 

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.

Writing lessons from my saxophone (guest post by Terrie Todd)

At the age of 53, I took up saxophone playing and, surprise-surprise, I gained insights for my writing life as well. #1. Practice pays.                      This may seem obvious, but by the time we’re in our fifties, most of us figure we’ve mastered whatever skills we’re going to master and everything else is status-quo. When I ...

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GRAPHIC frail attemptsAt the age of 53, I took up saxophone playing and, surprise-surprise, I gained insights for my writing life as well.

#1. Practice pays.                     

This may seem obvious, but by the time we’re in our fifties, most of us figure we’ve mastered whatever skills we’re going to master and everything else is status-quo. When I first picked up the saxophone, practice times were torture because I was puffing, sweating, and squawking. But the worst of it was my lips. They just couldn’t hold up through an entire song.

But I’m greedy enough that if I’m going to cough up money for lessons, I’m going to make sure I’m getting the most bang for my buck—and that means a half hour every day with my sax. Gradually, I noticed I could hit the high and low notes I couldn’t hit before, I wasn’t panting, and my lips didn’t give out. How did that happen? Practice. What was true when we were kids still holds.

Think what might happen if we practiced our writing skills with the same diligence.

#2. Everybody has their unique style.

It took a year for my teacher, Ritchard, and I to notice the uniqueness of our hands. He couldn’t understand why I was having so much trouble “rolling” my thumb from the thumb rest onto the octave key and back, like he does. When I watched him do it, I pointed out that my thumbs don’t curl backwards the way a lot of thumbs do. Mine are the “one-way only” kind, and no amount of practice will change their tree-stumpiness.

“Would you look at that,” Ritchard said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.”

It was a relief to know I’m a freak of nature. It provides a great excuse to develop my own way of compensating.

Every writer has their style, strengths, and weaknesses. Ask God to help you develop your own voice and compensate for your unique limitations, and never give up merely because you can’t write like your hero.

#3. A deeper purpose means everything.

I spent the first several weeks playing ditties like Hot Cross Buns and Jingle Bells. I was having fun. But when Ritchard set a book of worship songs on the stand and I heard myself playing the melody of I Love You, Lord, something shifted. Though no one sang along, the familiar words rang in my head and suddenly I was so moved, I could hardly read the page for tears:

“Take joy, my King, in what you hear, may it be a sweet sound in your ear…”

How this can be true I don’t fully understand, but the God of creation was hearing my frail yet heartfelt attempts and taking joy in them.

As Christian writers, we have the priceless honor of worshipping God with our words and bringing him joy. Let that truth flood your heart as you write for him today.


TerrieTodd-2Terrie Todd writes from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada where she lives with her hubby, Jon, and is a part-time administrative assistant at City Hall. An eclectic writer, Terrie is a published playwright, an eight-time contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul, a weekly faith and humor columnist for the Central Plains Herald Leader, and a two-time finalist in the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. Her first novel, The Silver Suitcase, will be released by Waterfall Press in January, 2016. She is represented by Jessica Kirkland of the Blythe Daniel Literary Agency. Terrie and Jon have three adult children, three grandsons, and another grandson arriving this fall! You can catch up with her latest shenanigans at www.terrietodd.blogspot.com.

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?

 

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