Friday, December 2, 2016

God Given Talent Isn't Enough...What He Expects



Photo by Mary Vee - Rocky Mountains, Montana
I met Angie Breidenbach at a Montana ACFW meeting held in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. She is a sweet friend who is always willing to help. A piece of trivia for you: Angie was Mrs. Montana. 

Driving through Montana you can't help but think about God. Rocky Mountains, vast flat ranch lands, rugged to the max. Breathtaking. Today we're talking about the talents God has given us. But possessing your talent just isn't enough. If we allow insecurities or other things to distract us from using these magnificent talents, then what good is it?


I asked Angie to share her thoughts...








God Given Talent isn't Enough...What He Expects 


I am a communicator, I talk a lot, write a lot, and connect.


There's irony in that statement because though we have natural talents and innate personalities, we still must learn the skills of how to use those talents to become who we are meant to be.

Coming from a home with a mentally ill mom, confusion reigned. Often I couldn't figure out who I was or what I was supposed to be. It seemed like the rest of the world understood how to interact in society and make friends. I couldn't even figure out how to talk to another person without being pegged an odd duck.

I learned to read and write at four. I'd journal, write poetry, and lyrics for songs. None of it done with any skill, just raw emotion. Emotion that had to get out to help me survive.

I married, too young, to escape.I didn't feel safe writing my thoughts or stories. I set all my writing aside, except for long letters home, for ten years in order to avoid arguments.

When my life changed again, I began journaling to ease my stress. For several months, I hid my writing. I still feared someone finding it and attacking me for my feelings or personal thoughts. About six months into being a single mom, I wasn't afraid any longer that someone would read it without my permission, but I still kept it hidden. My soul clicked back on. But I still had no skills, only the deep burning desire to write.

I searched for classes and support as a writer. I bought writing books and devoured them. I remarried and continued to take online classes while raising six kids and working full time. What I knew about me came from something I'd found in the Bible. I knew God knit me together in my mother's womb. He knit into me an all-consuming desire to write, speak, and share. I recognized one thing: A writer is who I am, who I was made to be. I still need skills, both in novel writing and in how to understand the publishing business world.

Friends materialized out of the fog. Friends that could bond with me on this road. I'd been so isolated, these special people helped me to build confidence, courage, and a sense of self. God poured into me through these beautiful friends at writing conferences and online. It started at the Idaho Writers League in 2004 where my contest submission actually won honorary mention. I wasn't a bad writer? 

There I found out about RWA (Romance Writers of America) and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter for Christian writers. More friends added a rich quilt of love in my writing life, all writers running the same race. Here's a picture of the FaithGirls.com blogging buddies from our 2008 conference. 

The Lord knew I needed mentors. It took many, many people to help me crawl on my path until I could walk on my own two feet. But still, I link hands with my friends, and hope I offer a hand to another as I was offered.

Tamela Hancock Murray with me
at ACFW conference

I met my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, because of another friend (Michelle Sutton). Tamela sold my first book, a non-fiction Christian living, Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life. 

Creative Cooking for Colitis and Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance  are books I'm also very proud to share.

Tamela called me a second time. My first novel, A Healing Heart, was accepted for publication. It released April 2013.





That last soul click taught me a missing link in my writing. Writing who I am is what I know and gives me a unique voice. I can write any genre, any location, anytime frame, any characters as long as I write from the depths of my soul, the depths of my experiences, the depths of my growth.

I have so much more to lean. But this late bloomer finally figured out that to live a fulfilling life, I have to be who God made me to be and write her into my books in order to make a ripple with my guppy tail in a great big ocean.




Interact with or learn more about Angela Breidenbach:


Website  |  Twitter  |   Facebook





Thank you, Angela, for joining us today. 


So, Reader, how can you break free and use those amazing talents God has given you? Is there something special you can do during this Advent season to let your talent sparkle? 



This post has been brought to you by the one word: SparklingAdvent

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Set Aside The Crazy and Leap Into Advent


Photo by Mary Vee



Advent 2016 has begun.

Set aside the crazy aspects that take place, you know what they are, and think of the heart meaning of Advent with me. 

Breathe in deeply. Hold the air. Slowly release. Ready? This is a time of wonder and preparation. Dedicate your thoughts for what is about to come: The celebration of the birth of Christ the King.

Feels good, yes?








For all the traveling I've done, I can't say I've set foot in every state from the extreme east coastal soil of the United States to the west coast. I've come close, though. 

Another thing I have not done was preach the Gospel in every state I visited. I haven't even eluded to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The gift of eternal life.

What brings all of this up?

Well, I heard an intriguing talk about the Apostle Paul this week. In Romans, Paul said the Gospel had been preached to the world. He had preached to the area from Illyricum to Jerusalem and had plans to head to Spain via Rome.


I had no clue where Illyricum was to grasp the amount of land he'd covered. I assumed the city was no longer was called Illyricum, but I had no idea what it was called today.

Do you know?

I had to look it up, too. Here is a map. The area that is now called Croatia is where Illyricum was located.



The land inside the red circle above covers a little more than the width of the continental United States. 

Paul's mode of travel included sailing and walking. No trains, busses, cars, subways, or taxies. And sailing on the Mediterranean was not easy. Winds kicked up storms more powerful than many striking the oceans. Paul ended up ship wrecked more than once.

Still he pressed on with his task, all year long. In the blazing heat, freezing weather...all weather, teaching, discussing, and showing the men and women who lived in that space as wide as the continental United States there is a living God who loves them very much.

So much, this same one and only living God sent His Son Jesus Christ to live in our world for thirty-three years teaching, discussing, and showing us the ways of God. And when the right time came, God's Son, Jesus Christ, offered Himself as payment for all the sins.. 

As a gift to us.

Because He loves us.

And this Christmas, a time for gift giving, is the perfect time to share God's gift with someone who we know.


This post has been brought to you by the one word: Advent




If you have questions, please feel free to email me, maryveewriter@gmail.com 





Friday, November 25, 2016

Childhood Stories for the Holidays



I met Michelle through My Book Therapy. She is a regular instructor for the Monday night chats. I couldn't wait to meet this wonderful lady in person at the conference. She manned the My Book Therapy booth, reaching out to writers to encourage them. At the MBT Western Theme Pizza party she wore her duds and had fun, even took a pic with me. She is a cheerleader, a supporter, an encourager, and someone who knows how to make you smile...and today Michelle shares this with us:


Childhood Stories

Photo by Mary Vee
If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you might understand how I began to love stories. Small town folk are required to have an active imagination if they're going to stay busy. 

As a pastor’s daughter, I spent a lot of my years in small towns. I saw the stories of families told at local cafes and the exaggerated tales of giant fish, 12 point bucks, and big foot. 

People can light up the room when they tell a story. Everyone is drawn closer to hear the tale and enjoy knowing the adventures of each others lives. I lived those adventures in my imagination taking me places a young girl could never go. Words poured out onto my journal pages full of thoughts and funny things that happened to me.

There was the time we got snowed into a hotel while driving to our cousins for Christmas. We used my Dad’s fingernail clipper to remove the legs of our jeans so we could swim in the pool.

Our kid contests on vacation testing who could jump into the freezing lake in early May or chasing June bugs, catching Cray fish, or sitting on boat cushions while motoring faster than we should have to stir up the water.

Going fishing with my dad early in the morning on a smooth, glass-top lake only to be startled then soaked by the angry otter that belly-flopped next to our boat. These images and sensations are as real in my mind as it was when I was there. 

The environment around me sparked ideas that turned into complete stories. We all have the ability to find stories or good memories to tell others in our world around us.

Whether you are inspired by people, settings, or an amazing idea, share them this holiday season with those you know. 

What is your favorite childhood story?

Mary here, I'll start us off. Well, I can't say I have one favorite, I was known as the rascal in my family and managed to find myself in interesting problems many times. My mom also tells me stories I must have been too young to keep in my memory...or have chosen to forget. So, the one I'm sharing isn't the typical fond memory you might expect, but it is one that makes me laugh at myself. 

One year at college, I was attending a big event. My date took me to a fancy restaurant beforehand. You know the kind. Reservations. Corsage. Etc. I wore my sister's gorgeous, floor-length dress, (I was number two and rarely had my own). Dressed up fancy, at a ritzy restaurant. I'd never been to one with so many forks! Yeah. 

I ordered tea. Soon after, the waitress brought sizzling hot tea in a delicate, Chinaware cup  set on a saucer. So elegant. 

I gestured with my conversation and...yep. The tea splashed across a sparkling white tablecloth. Thanks to my date's quick response, he cornered the puddle with the dazzling white cloth napkins before any went on my dress. I was mortified and as red faced as my fair completed date. Yes...these are the memories made for retelling.  

Okay...Your Turn

and by the way...


Michelle Lim is the author of the new book Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel. Also a romantic suspense author whose manuscripts have earned recognition in The Rattler Contest 2012, the Genesis Contest 2011, and the Frasier Contest in 2010. Michelle is the Brainstorm/Huddle Coach at My Book Therapy and serves as Vice President of MN N.I.C.E., a local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers.







Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel, gives you tricks and strategies to up the conflict in your stories with new ideas and specific methods. It is designed to be a resource you pull out time and again to find a strategy to apply to your manuscript.












Thank you Michelle for joining us today. What a treat to have you with us.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

One Corner



Not all that long ago, men and women were hired to keep the light/candle burning in lighthouses. 

They couldn't leave.

If the light went out a ship might crash on the rocks and all on board perish. 

Fog, storms, night all provided reason for the lightkeeper to maintain the lights. Many keepers lived with their families on the main floor, some lived in a home within a short walking distance. 

Each one understood the severity and urgency of their job. Keep the light burning and save lives.

Captains and sailors used each lighthouse for navigation, or ticked of completed portions of the journey . . .closer to home.

In some cases the spouse would go to town for groceries. In others, the lighthouse was so remote groceries had to be brought by boat by those on the mainland.

It took a special personality to be a lightkeeper. Enduring the quiet days and long winter nights, entertaining children who didn't have neighbors, no clubs or social events nearby, etc. Yet I don't remember reading about many who quit.

At times we feel alone. Even in the middle of a crowd we can feel alone. 


God has given us a corner of the world to keep the light, shine His truth, yet loneliness can creep in and make us feel unworthy, insignificant, unimportant.

In our corner of the world we leave a footprint for each day. Footprints that serve as a means to guide those around us. No we aren't perfect. Some prints are shallow, some deep. Some distinct like our toes, and some vague like the instep. God knows. And for that reason, He chose us. He loves us and wants us . . . and only us to to light our world and leave impressions for others to see.

He doesn't expect us to light the whole world . . . just the corner where we live.

Footprints. Deep. Enduring. Memorable. 



This post has been brought to you by the one word: Footprints

Friday, November 18, 2016

Survival


I first met Cynthia..wait, I can't tell you, she is grabbing the keyboard away from me. It was a funny moment, one I will let her tell. Since that moment we have encouraged each other in writing and our personal lives. I am thankful for Cynthia, you'll see why in her words:

Survival

I initially met Mary Vee at the 2011 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in St. Louis

Mary and I couldn’t help but notice each other; you might say we had a “meeting of the minds.” The very last night of conference, right before the awards gala began, our eyes fell upon each other in a mutual “I can’t believe it” moment. Yep. That’s right. We’d unknowingly committed the social faux pas that’s driven many women to the brink of horror: we were both dressed alike! We’d chosen the same lovely white and black sequined jackets and color-coordinating black attire to accompany them. Some gals might have stalked away unhinged, but blessedly, we saw the humor in the situation and laughed. I think I made some off-the-cuff remark like “You have great taste. Dillards, right?”

Thus, a friendship was born. Thanks, “twin,” for inviting me to guest post today!

My writing journey began when I was a small child. I loved Dick and Jane and the many worlds they visited. At recess, while other kids swarmed the teeter-totters and merry-go-rounds, I’d grab my Big Chief tablet and pencil and head for the nearest shade tree. I’d write tales of my own, convinced that I’d eventually be an author, too.

Little did I realize that it would be decades before God would open doors down the publication path. 

After graduation from college, I worked for a time in a helping profession. It was an intense time of seasoning and preparation for future stories to come. 

When I eventually married, and my husband and I began a family, my writing dream was shelved temporarily as I focused on home front adjustments. 

I always kept a notebook handy for ideas, and as anyone who has children knows, there’s always great story fodder when you have little ones. Each day melds into the next, and rarely is there a dull moment, especially when the iron catches fire or your toddler gets his head stuck in the spokes of the coffee table. 

On our son’s first day of Kindergarten, I gathered my idea notebooks and began crafting stories once again. 

I met with some measure of success, penning short stories and poems in a locally owned (now defunct) regional magazine. Over the next several years, I took writing classes and joined local groups and national organizations to further my craft. I was getting back into my writing groove when, in March 2003, our family faced every parent’s worst nightmare: our son almost died.

For the next four years we lived in and out of hospitals, clinics, and emergency rooms. Our son endured myriad I.V. treatments, blood transfusions, multiple medications, and surgeries. 

Needless to say, when your child is ill, everything else takes a back seat. Including writing. (Though, I must add, I still wrote to a degree. Sometimes, it was just a glimmer of a thought on a cafeteria napkin, but it was a way of keeping my sanity and connecting me to a world other than illness.)

Ultimately, our son was healed. Not in the way we’d prayed, dreamed, or hoped, but in God’s own way and through His provision.

I began writing full-time again, and despite many stops and starts along the way, I’m now at a point where I can look back and think, “Wow…if I made it through that, I can certainly make it through anything!”

I think we must continue our march forward and not worry about our own designated agenda. God’s timing is perfect. Age and life moments are all just relative because the One who’s in control has a plan. And His perfect plan usurps anything else we might possibly envision. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Here’s to much success on your whatever your journey is! 
*Clink* (That’s the sound of my Starbucks mug to yours.)
******
What’s the biggest obstacle you've faced during your journey?
What has God taught you?
******

Author Bio:
Cynthia Herron lives in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks with her family and pens heartfelt, homespun, contemporary Christian romance novels. She has a degree in psychology, a background in social work, and she is a member of ACFW and RWA. Cynthia is represented by Mary G. Keeley of the Books and Such Literary Agency. She has a fondness for gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple.
She’d love to connect with you here:



Thank you Cynthia for joining me today! The Starbucks was good, too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Peaceful Way to Say Your Peace


The last few weeks, words have been spoken in incredibly selfish ways.

Opinions have blurted from lips without any respect to those listening or even the bystanders. 

Bullying. Violence.



Sigh. 


Once upon a time two men living in two different countries in two different periods of time had a problem with the actions of their government.

Each man thought through the problem and constructed a plan. They had a charisma, not good looks so much, instead, they each had a strong, creative mind and a devoted spirit to see their cause through to the end. This created an infectious following because their words rang true.  

Thousands of their countrymen followed them in peaceful demonstrations, giving up time and devoting what they had to promote the cause. 

Both men emphatically called for continued peaceful demonstration. A gathering to proclaim their issue with civility. No fighting. No killing. No looting. And if any of it sparked, the two men spoke heavily against it, squelching the behavior.

Where are the Gandhis and Martin Luther King Jrs.? 

While these men strongly impacted their countries for the issues they raised, there is another to be remembered. One who calls for reform for all. Every country. Every generation.
Jesus, God's Son. He came to point out issues both in each person's life and those in power. His cause mostly revolved around false doctrines, ridiculous rules, self exalting, hoarding, stealing, lies, and much more. He walked among men and women teaching them the truth. He lived the truth. He was and is the truth. He demonstrated the life God expects us to live because He is God. He patiently explained answers to questions to all who listened, questions like what does it mean to be born again. 

Jesus didn't promote violence. Bullying. Vengeance. He offered Himself, His perfect, sinless self as a sacrifice to pay for every person's sin. He gave a gift to each person who would accept it. The gift of life. A gift for all who choose to follow Him.

Saying the truth in a peaceful way is not wimpy. It is the tower of strength that brings results.

So, what will you say to others? 

And how will you say it?

Will you live your cause?

Will you stand strong. Never wavering. And demonstrate Peace?

This post has been brought to you by the one word: PowerInPeace


Friday, November 11, 2016

American Veterans Buried and Honored Across the Sea


Today we give honor to all veterans
by talking about those who fought 
in Italy the day before Normandy.




Photo by Mary Vee


The day before the final battle to end WWII, American soldiers fought with other nations to oust the Nazi regime from Italy.

The battle is little remembered because the great focus on Normandy.

But the Italians haven't forgotten this sacrifice.





Our guide stood before this field of crosses and passionately shared how these soldiers, most in their young twenties, never had a chance to go home and get married, kiss their girl, see their baby, go to college. They never had another Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Valentines Day. Instead, they gave their lives for a desperate cause.

His vivid words brought tears to every man and woman in our group. 

But the sacrifice of these soldiers came one day before Normandy and so isn't remembered. So I am sharing today. This was the battle the Nazi's were forced to leave Italy. A day the Italians remember.

Family members had the option to let their loved one be buried with his friends in arm or to be sent home. Those in the video are the ones who opted to let their loved one stay.

The sacrifice was great.

We received the benefits.

I think you'll enjoy this video I captured in Italy, only seconds long. 




Not everyone enters the military with the intent to give their life for their country, yet many find themselves in this position. Bullet whiz by. Land mine explodes. One soldier sees another injured and helps him. Another signals danger.

There is nothing glamorous about war. Soldiers from the past didn't know me, neither do soldiers who serve today.

Yet the result of their service is a gift to all Americans. One that allows us to go about our daily lives in peace.


Years ago, God sent his Son, Jesus, to go to battle to rescue us. We'd fallen into a mire with no hope or way of rescue. Jesus fought the fierce battle at Calvary and clearly had the edge. His victory gave us the freedom to choose heaven.

Jesus understands the hardships of battle. He knows the meaning of sacrifice and loss of life. And despite our sins, He listens and helps. Warns and protects. Comforts and encourages.


The earth continues to turn, gravity functions, the sun maintains the temperature at a level we need, the water cycle and web of life functions for our survival as God designed them. 


To all the men and women who have and are serving in the United States military: Thank you for the freedoms you have insured for us.

To God, Thank you for taking care of us, listening, and providing the way for our eternal life.


Do you know someone who has served or is currently serving? Please honor them by putting either their first name and branch of service, or their connection to you in the comment section.


I'll start:
My dad - Army
My husband - Air Force
My brother - Marines
My brother-in-law - Navy

Let's honor those you know, too:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Stifling Apathy



Election Day.

A freedom so many have fought to give us.

So many in other countries wished they could free do with secret ballot.






I know, the choices are mind boggling. This year, more people have toiled over who to vote for. Both major party candidates have serious flaws creating problems for party alliance and independent voters.

The mud slinging has escalated to a new high leaving the people of America without clear ideas what the candidates will do in the office. Sigh.

Still. 

We need a president.

And God can and will accomplish His plan with whoever is elected. The next four years are already known to Him.

So, if you haven't yet....

Please vote.

It is our right.

It is our duty as American citizens

To vote.

Please make a choice and cast your ballot today if you haven't already.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Beyond the Nothingness


I can’t explain what happens when you know you’re living the life you’re supposed to be living, only that it’s the best kind of freedom imaginable...Ashley Clark



Ashley Clark is my dear friend from the Writer's Alley. Her smile and bubbly spirit could lift any grumpy heart and brighten a day beyond the nothingness. Today, Ashley is opening her box of pure encouragement. Enjoy! 

The Best Kind of Freedom Imaginable

First I want to thank Mary for having me on her blog today! I feel so blessed to know her as a fellow Alley Cat and as a friend.

I guess you could say I have always been a writer. I can remember watching through the windows of my parents’ car when I was young, dreaming up stories about the people who passed by.  I’ve always loved language, thoughts, and ideas. And who can forget library story time?

But fiction writing? For a long while, I never thought that was something I could do. Academic writing? Sure. Article writing? You bet. But creative writing? Heart writing? That was another thing entirely.

Then one day, out of the blue, God put this story on my heart. It was similar in tone to a couple of my own favorite books… Miss Invisible and My Life As a Doormat. I took it to my very liberal-minded creative writing class, expecting them to hate it. I was shocked when that was far from their reaction.

That was seven years ago. Since then, every time I have begun to doubt myself, God has faithfully pulled me deeper into His plan, reaffirming His purposes in my life.

I can’t explain what happens when you know you’re living the life you’re supposed to be living, only that it’s the best kind of freedom imaginable. I am so very thankful to be called to such an extraordinary ministry.

After attending the ACFW conference one year, I signed with my agent, Karen Solem, and have already learned so much from her. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would someday share the same agent with Denise Hunter and many of my other author heroes. To this day, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it sometimes.

But something different happened to me one year at ACFW. I sensed God moving in my heart in a whole new way. And that’s exactly what He was doing: moving. Those of you who are writers are familiar with this feeling:  you sit at your couch, day in and day out, your only company a couple dogs, a vanilla soy candle, and a handful of Peppermint Patties. You think your story is good, and then you think it is awful. You think it will be a bestseller, and then you doubt it will ever sell at all. Before long, your spirit begins to grow weary, and you feel like you have stalled.

I want to encourage you that if that is the place you find yourself right now, keep keeping on. Just because we don’t see the next step in our lives doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I love the ACFW Conference because I feel like every time I attend, I step out into thin air. It’s terrifying. But each year God meets me right there. It’s the most incredible thing. He puts the next step underneath me when all I could see was nothingness.

Sometimes we have to move before the next step appears. Have faith in the calling God has placed on your heart. He has put it there for a reason. I don’t know which publishing house I’ll end up with or when I’ll finally sign a contract, but I know this. God is faithful. To you, and to me. And isn’t that really the most exciting thing? 

I would love to connect with you! Find me at http://ashleyclarkwrites.blogspot.com or Facebook and Pinterest.


Romantic Comedy with Southern Grace
http://ashleyclarkwrites.blogspot.com


Thank you, Ashley. You have truly brightened our day!

Ready to plunge into the next task, friends?