Jesus is here

God is over all things, under all things, outside all, within, but not enclosed, without, but not excluded, above, but not raised up, below, but not depressed, wholly above, presiding, wholly without, embracing, wholly within, filling. —from Walking on Water by Madeleine ...

Read More

[I shared this today at Internet Café Devotions. You may read it there or here.]

God is over all things,
under all things,
outside all,
within, but not enclosed,
without, but not excluded,
above, but not raised up,
below, but not depressed,
wholly above, presiding,
wholly without, embracing,
wholly within, filling.

—from Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle

This time of year, it seems there’s always some talk about the so-called war on Christmas, about people being upset if a store clerk doesn’t use the actual words, “Merry Christmas.” People read cards that arrive in the mail and roll their eyes if the sentiment inside ends with “Happy Holidays.” Many of these people react from a pure heart. They love God and want everyone to focus on the point of Christmas, to remember that it’s about Jesus coming to earth—about God drawing near. About His enormous love that prompted Him to come do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.

I understand where they’re coming from. I do. And in my heart, I want the same thing—an awareness of God, an understanding of the miracles we celebrate.

But I also know this: God cannot be limited. We cannot keep Him out of Christmas, no matter what we call the season. We cannot pretend He is not present, because He is in all things. Re-read the excerpt above. Over, under, outside, within, without, above, below, wholly above, wholly without, wholly within.

When we pretend God isn’t present in these holidays, we’re the ones who are deluded.

If we want to see more of Him, all we need to do is open our eyes. Open our arms, and our hearts, and our front doors. Open our pantries, our compassion, our communities. Lean on Him, call on Him, ask Him to reveal Himself. Ask Him to work through us, to shine light into the lives he’s given us, to let us be His hands extended.

And even if we don’t see Him, He is there. Because Christmas would not be miraculous if this is a temporary fix. It wouldn’t be a celebration if there were a time limit on His presence.

He is here. He was, and is, and is to come. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. The Lord God Almighty. The beginning and the end. The All in All.

No matter how other people celebrate, I know that this is reason enough for me to rejoice. To give thanks. To fall to my knees in wonder.

Because, Christmas or not, Jesus is here.

Amen.

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 ...

Read More

“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.

Taking my own advice (Be still, part 2)

This spring, I bought a convertible. It wasn’t because I was rolling in the dough from the release of my new book… or, really, from anything. No dough around here. Mid-life crisis, some might suggest. Maybe so. But I see it as a response to the fact that most days, it is only Bobby and ...

Read More

This spring, I bought a convertible. It wasn’t because I was rolling in the dough from the release of my new book… or, really, from anything. No dough around here. Mid-life crisis, some might suggest. Maybe so. But I see it as a response to the fact that most days, it is only Bobby and me in the car. Tim has a practical vehicle which holds our whole family. Both of my girls, who are in college, have four-door sedans. Tim works long hours, but when he’s home, we have his car. And when the girls are home, we have theirs. And why not? Why not enjoy all the time I spend running between point A and point B? OK, I won’t continue to justify it any longer, except to say that 1) I dearly love it, and 2) it cost less than the Volkswagen sedan I was considering instead.

Anyway… Saturday I drove two hours to Decatur, IL, to attend an art show of my dad’s. I got in the car, and it was dark and rainy so I couldn’t put the top down. But that’s OK. I plugged in my phone, set it to Pandora’s Third Day channel, and started driving.

And I took a deep breath. And another. I noticed the shapes of the trees and the geometry of the rows of crops. I pondered deep questions, sang really loud (and rather off-key), scribbled notes about future blog posts and (possibly) my next book, and prayed.

And then I thought (in a very profound and enlightened manner), Duh! All through my book, I say to keep your eyes open. To watch. To consider the unexpected.

But did I? Not so much. All this time I’ve been feeling like I haven’t had any quiet time this summer, but I was wrong.

No wonder I jump at every chance to run to the store. Or drive an hour to Indy. Or two hours to an art show. This might explain why I’ve never bothered to sync my phone through Bluetooth—I just don’t answer when I’m driving. Because I desperately need that alone time with God. It revives and rejuvenates, restores and replenishes. Am I sitting in my living room, eyes closed, communing with God before the rest of the world awakens? Not so much. But am I still communing with God? Absolutely.

It just looks different than I was expecting.

So thankful for this revelation. Does it let me off the hook? Not at all. I still need to always look for those moments. I still need that time with God. I need to try to be more mindful about it—not because it’s a requirement or because God is mad at me, but just because it is what I need. More of Him lets me find more of me. I am in Him and He is in me. How wondrous, how amazing, is that knowledge?

I sit and revel in the awe of it. Even if it’s from the driver’s seat of my car.


The book Walk Through Fire, written by Carly Bowers (the woman who guest posted here last week), is now available on Amazon. Click here to order and read this inspiring story.

 

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 ...

Read More

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.

Why am I surprised when God answers my prayers?

I read through some old journals tonight and rediscovered why I love keeping journals. Our memories are so fickle. But our entries are indisputable records of what we saw or knew or felt at a given time. In the middle of a bunch of angsty entries that made me roll my eyes, among lots of words ...

Read More

GRAPHIC God can use fumbling

I read through some old journals tonight and rediscovered why I love keeping journals. Our memories are so fickle. But our entries are indisputable records of what we saw or knew or felt at a given time.

In the middle of a bunch of angsty entries that made me roll my eyes, among lots of words and questions and awkward play-by-plays of my spiritual growth as I saw it at the time, I found this.

I don’t remember asking God for this, at least not twelve years ago. I always thought I started asking God to use my writing about five years ago, and that I had never really thought that my focus would be on prayer. And yet look what I wrote on July 13, 2003. If you’re in a hurry, just read the bold parts.


I want so badly for God to use me, to keep working through me. I feel him doing that, and I am so honored and touched and moved by it that I cry whenever it hits me. It overwhelms me and scares me. I want to be a servant but I don’t feel like I know how to serve. I’ve always thought of myself more as a leader. I feel like I’m out of my element, a beginner, fumbling along towards the light. Sometimes I feel so close to God, and sometimes I feel like I know nothing.

…I need to be open and willing so that people will continue to turn to me, and I keep praying for God to give me the words. I never feel like I know what to say—but God can even use an awkward, fumbling person like me for good. I thank him for that! The days when I feel like I’m being used in that way are wonderful, and I wish I could serve like that all the time.

I never would have believed there would be some kind of ministry role in my life, but there is. I feel so moved to pray and to help. If my role is to somehow lighten people’s burdens, I take it gladly. Lord, please help me. I pray that you will continue to let me feel useful and good, but more important, that you will use me to make a difference, to show other people how brightly your love shines in my life. I love you and want to worship you, and I want people to see and feel your touch in their lives. Thank you for finding ways to let me do that.

I thank you, Lord, for all these things and more. I thank you for this time I have spent talking with you, and I thank you for caring enough about me to take the time to be with me. I’ve basked in the glow of your presence long enough, seeking the good feelings and chills down my spine, but not really offering anything back to you. I pray that this is just the start of it. I pray that I will find new and more ways to offer my life back to you. I love you, sweet Jesus. I love you.


 

Oh, Lord, You have been so good to me. Thank You for knowing the desires of my heart, even before I knew them myself. Thank You for letting me write, pray, and help people pray—and for allowing me to tell them about the things You have done. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to write Praying Upside Down. For accepting my offering to You, my whole-hearted act of worship. For being in the middle of it and showing me the fruit of my labors through sweet messages and encouraging notes from readers. Don’t ever let me stop worshipping and praising and offering myself to you. It would be impossible for me to ever thank You enough. In your sweet name I pray. Amen.

Don’t do it

Don’t ever fall into the trap of believing that God won’t come through because of your current (or past) failings. Or that what you have to offer isn’t enough. ~Praying Upside Down Remember this: Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Romans 8:38-39 in the NIV reads, “For I am convinced that ...

Read More

PUD book quotes-19Don’t ever fall into the trap of believing that God won’t come through because of your current (or past) failings. Or that what you have to offer isn’t enough. ~Praying Upside Down


Remember this: Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Romans 8:38-39 in the NIV reads, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Which is amazing. Wonderful. Right?

But read it in The Message: “None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

That’s right. Nothing. Maybe today we can all sit back for a moment and let that sink in: There is nothing that can get in the way of our finding everything. Thank You, Lord!


Remember the giveaway I posted a couple weeks ago for those who wrote reviews of Praying Upside Down? First, I want you to know how grateful I am for each one of you who took the time to post a review. It means so much. And second, here are the prizes and the names of the winners. Please email me your mailing addresses so I can get you your prizes!

Where are you?

When I pull farther away from God, His size, importance, and abilities seem smaller. But when I draw in close, He becomes magnified. He becomes everything to me. ~Praying Upside Down   Have you seen this play out in your life? What did you do to draw in close again?  ...

Read More

PUD book quotes-11

When I pull farther away from God, His size, importance, and abilities seem smaller. But when I draw in close, He becomes magnified. He becomes everything to me. ~Praying Upside Down


 

Have you seen this play out in your life? What did you do to draw in close again?

 

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 ...

Read More

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!

 

Facing Stories with Kelsey Timmerman

In which I yell at Kelsey and he looks very afraid. Even if that’s not exactly what happened. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, and this one seems to tell its own story. But if you have lots of time, click “play” because we talked about story, and community, and writing the book ...

Read More

In which I yell at Kelsey and he looks very afraid.

Even if that’s not exactly what happened. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, and this one seems to tell its own story.

But if you have lots of time, click “play” because we talked about story, and community, and writing the book Praying Upside Down. And, based on the length of the video, it seems we talked a lot. But it was fun for me—as long as I don’t have to watch or listen to myself. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

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 ...

Read More

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.

1001559_637968502894338_918442941_n-1

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.

 

0508151042a


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

This website and its content are copyright of Kelly O'Dell Stanley  | © Kelly O'Dell Stanley 2018. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red