The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

Pretty much any book set in England in any time period has a head start in garnering my good graces. And a book that spins a good story in that setting gains even more ground.

Jody Hedlund’s debut novel The Preacher’s Bride didn’t disappoint. A good Puritan girl. A feisty Puritan preacher. An oft-neglected time period (Oliver Cromwell’s reign and then the return of the king.) Throw in a few cute kids, a lot of conflict and a surprising “Author’s Note” revelation of the historical inspiration for the story and you get a book that will definitely find shelf space in my house! (And no, I’m not going to tell you the historical inspiration for the book. You’ll have to read it!)

I also love the questions that get explored through this story, questions about the role of ministry in relation to a wife and children. I love the change that happens in both the hero and heroine. That neither one starts out nor ends up perfect, but that both are striving to obey and please the Lord. In the process, they learn and grow. They extend forgiveness and have forgiveness extended to them.

The Preacher’s Bride offers a great escape from the present, a great reminder of themes we wrestle with every day, and a great history lesson, all wrapped up in one memorable story.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of this book from the publisher.)


P31 Woman Magazine

I’m not really a magazine reader. Never really have been—except for Seventeen in high school. But just this week I got my first issue of P31 Woman in the mail. I received my subscription when I donated to P31 Ministries earlier this summer. I didn’t think much about the magazine part. As I said, I’m not really into that.

But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a small magazine. Just about 15 pages, 6 short articles and some ministry news. And I loved it! I loved that the articles were short and to the point. And that each one hit on a very day-to-day issue with a very practical application to consider or implement in my own life.

So now I have something new to look forward to each month. And maybe next time I can savor the issue instead of devouring it as fast as a pan of fresh baked brownies!


A Sunday Psalm

My prayer for you, dear reader:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
May He remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.
May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
    --Psalm 20:1-5


There . . . Then Gone

This might be the stupidest blog post I’ve ever written.

Or maybe not. 

On Saturday, I was trying to catch up on things—cleaning the house (well, at least the bathrooms), reading through my line edits of Wings of a Dream, answering a Writing Spa client’s email, trying not to stress over the fact that I was 2000 words short of my goal for the week (although I did revise the first two chapters, so that should count for something, right?), and thinking through the week ahead.

In the week ahead, I remembered blog posts. And something really great skated through my mind.

By the time I sat down to my computer again, it was gone. Poof. Completely. I have absolutely no idea what that great idea was even about!


Such is life. My brain is trying to keep up with too many things these days and so it (apparently) dropped the last (and least important) bit of information I tried to shove in. You know, like that closet you open just a crack, squeeze in the lamp you just replaced but one of the kids might need again some day, and lean your shoulder into the door to close it again before the mountain of stuff behind it comes tumbling down.

All that to say I have nothing to say today! Please tell me you can relate!


And The Winners Are . . .

Thanks, y'all, for taking the time to get to know Stacy Tomisser and for visiting her store at www.chicklingo.com. Bookmark her site for when you need that special something for yourself or for a gift. And thank you to Stacy for her generous gifts to my readers!

Now on to the winners. (Drum roll please!)

"Friends and Family" sign: Karen
"Moments" sign: Richard Mabry
"Sunshine" frame: Nanette

I have email addys for Richard and Nanette. Karen--please contact me so I can have your prize sent to you!


Meet Stacy of Chick Lingo--And Win Prizes!

I’m so excited today to get to tell you about a fun company and its founder—and to offer THREE really cool giveaways!

Stacy Tomisser is the founder of The Painted Word, a manufacturing company that sells decorative wooden signs to gift stores and has just launched a new online store, www.chicklingo.com, to sell her products, too. I have been pleased to be on both the receiving and the giving end of her products. They are so fun!

Let's meet Stacy:

So glad to have you here, Stacy. Could you give us a brief history of The Painted Word?

The Painted Word is our wholesale manufacturing company.  About ten years ago I began making decorative signs for my home and for friends, just for fun. I have always loved words, sayings and quotes and I wanted to decorate with them. But at that point there wasn't much available in my colors so I created what I couldn't find. Eventually I showed what I was making to a friend who owned a boutique and she loved them and made an order. A very long (juicy) story short - it blossomed into a manufacturing company.  My husband decided to leave his career to come take this on, we hired a handful of wonderful people and here we are, by the grace of God, still standing.

I love that story! So after a few years of wholesale, how did the Chick Lingo online store come into being?

Chick Lingo came about after a long and lively conversation with my fabulous mother-in-law, Jan. She said "Why don't we open an online store with all of your decorative signs and frames?" (from The Painted Word - she and Jim's dad are our business partners in both companies.) I loved the idea of having a retail store filled with my products as well as other things that women would love. Our niche would be products with words, quotes, sayings - I love words! In addition to decorative signs and frames we would also include jewelry, mommy necklaces, etc.  And we needed a name that was different and fun but also described what we are selling: voila! Chick Lingo!

Very fun name! So your family is all involved in the business and I know you often work from home. Do you have one fabulous secret to juggling an at home business and your family?

I don't really have one secret - though I wish I did because that would sound really cool! I guess if I were to pass on some advice it would be learn to step away from the business, computer and phone - unplug sooner than later. It's easier said than done but the work will always be here, my children won't. The balancing act doesn't get any easier, but I've become more creative in how I balance it all because my family means the world to me...they are my motivation to make it all work.

Shoot! I was hoping to find out that one thing that makes it all work! Ok, so to follow up on that, on your craziest days, what do usually end up feeding your family for dinner?

Well on my craziest days I usually make a phone call and have dinner delivered. Sad but true!  But if I know I am going to have a crazy busy day I usually put on a pot of something delicious in the morning.  It's those unexpected crazy days that can throw me for a loop!

I completely understand! So, back to business. What is your favorite product you've ever created?

I love everything that has the "You are my sunshine" lyric on it - I sang it to all of my babies.

Any last words about why you love what you do (because I know you do!)? 

I love being creative, meeting fascinating people, making others smile, hearing someone's story, learning something difficult and new, it's all a gift. I feel God's pleasure when I dream up something new, am kind to a customer or tuck one of my kids in bed.  All my work, as an entrepreneur, mom or homemaker is ultimately for His glory and that makes me truly love what I do.

So isn’t Stacy awesome? Check out her store at www.chicklingo.com but be sure to leave a comment (and email address!) to be entered to win one of the fabulous signs or picture frame pictured in this blog post. Yes—THREE winners will be chosen!

Leave your comment by Monday, Sept. 20 at midnight CST. I’ll draw three names from those leaving comments and announce the winners here on Tuesday!


Making Some Sense of It

It’s good to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, our giftings as well as those things that are clearly not. In these past six weeks I’ve had the opportunity to do two things I never imagined I’d do: mentor writers one-on-one and teach writing to a group.

Both took me way out of my comfort zone, stirring the nerves in my stomach. Both threw me into an utter dependence on the Lord to accomplish the task. Both gave me the opportunity to share about something I love—writing. But I came away from only one experience with a desire to do it again.


Even though my hands shook every time a new woman sat across from me. Even though I sat terrified I’d have nothing to say—or that I’d say it wrong. Even though at the end of the day I was physically and mentally and emotionally exhausted. The satisfaction, the gratitude, the amazement broke through the tired, leaving me to bask in joyful peace.

As I taught the writers group, I felt none of those things. In fact, my words slogged out of my mouth as if through chocolate pudding. My thoughts tangled around themselves until I couldn’t tell where one began and another ended. If I read from my notes, it was better, but I hadn’t been asked to give a speech. I’d been asked to teach. When it was over, I just hoped I didn’t sound as idiotic out loud as I did in my own ears. And I rejoiced that the moment was over, never having to be repeated again. (Sorry Mary and Leslie!)

It isn’t surprising, really. I’ve always been more comfortable relating to people one-on-one. I avoid standing before a crowd unless it is as an actress in a role. But I gave it a shot. And I learned more about myself and my God in the process. And I guess that is really the point after all, isn’t it? 


Can You Hear My Knees Knocking?

Both of my parents are teachers. My two sisters, also. Good teachers, all of them.

I am not.

It’s why I didn’t get a teaching certificate along with my history degree and why I don’t homeschool my kids—a very good decision based on how well (not!) I’ve taught my youngest son to drive! (He tells me he’s learned more from his older brother, who is, by the way, a natural teacher.)

The only time I’ve tried to formally teach anything was a Precepts Bible Study that only my best friend faithfully attended. (She couldn’t exactly bail because it was at her house!) After that, I swore off teaching at any level.

Which was apparently my downfall. Does that ever happen to you? You insist some task or role is beyond your capability and then—maybe right away or maybe farther down the road—the Lord asks you do to that very thing?

I am teaching tonight. Teaching writing. Teaching “Show, Don’t Tell” to be specific. In front of the monthly writers group I help lead. Can you hear my knees knocking? I’m terrified. But my cohorts in crime—my critique partners and writers group co-leaders Leslie Wilson and Mary DeMuth—insist I can do this. And I feel the Lord behind me blocking the exit and cheering me on.

We’ll see.


A Sunday Psalm

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever.
I will praise You forever for what You have done;
In Your name I will hope, for Your name is good.
I will praise You in the presence of the saints.
      --Psalm 52:8-9


Scripted Freedom

Now that the time has come to write my next novel and to read through the various edits required for my first one, along with the occasional freelance editing and the small responsibilities at my kids’ school, I’m finding myself in a new place of faith. Now my “work” is no longer built around personal deadlines, no longer able to be set aside when life crowds in. I knew this would happen. It didn’t take me by surprise. I even understood that it would hurl me into a world of greater communication with and dependence on the Lord.

But I didn’t know it would be so freeing.

In the past few years, I’ve often found myself lying in bed in the early morning hours, before I am even quite fully awake, praying, “Lord, order my day.” And then I lived my day almost whimsically, taking what came, setting aside this to do that. It was good. A place of learning for me. A new place of faith.

These days, I still pray that same prayer, but I’ve added to it. Instead of just “order my day” I hear myself petitioning, “Give me the discipline I need to accomplish the tasks I’ve committed to do.” Talk about a steep new climb! Now it isn’t just about trusting God, it’s also about changing me—my habits, my patterns, my whole lifestyle—to do what He’s given me to do.

My life is more scripted right now, less wiggle room. And yet I feel so incredibly free. How does that happen? I guess it’s just more of the upside down nature of the kingdom of God. All I really know is, I like it!


Jesus' Words to Peter

“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
      --Luke 22:32

It struck me as I read this verse the other day that Jesus’ perspective of our lives is so very different from our own. Can you imagine what Simon Peter thought of these words spoken to him by Jesus? I can only think his response would have been much the same as mine. He would have heard “I have prayed . . . that your faith may not fail.”

That’s it. Over. Done. Jesus prayed my faith wouldn’t fail, so I’m good to go. We know His prayers get answered. Always. Because He and the Father are one. So while Satan will sift, I’ll be fine.

Maybe, as I imagine I would, Peter completely skipped over those “when you have turned back” words. Because, frankly, who really knows what those mean. After I’m tempted and my faith overcomes the temptation? That’s probably it. Then I can strengthen my brothers with my strong faith. Got it. I know where this is going.

But as so often happens in my life and yours, Peter didn’t know where that was going. And it took him to a place he never imagined he’d be—denying Christ. Not just hedging around the question. Not keeping silent when he should have come to His defense. But out and denial. Not once. Not twice. But three times.

Peter was devastated over what he’d done.

At some point did he remember the rest of Jesus’ words to him? They were such certain words.

When you have turned back.” Not if.

“Strengthen your brothers.” A command. A task to do. Even after such a monumental failure of faith.

And yet hadn’t Jesus prayed Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail?

And that’s where perspective comes in. My guess is that if Peter was anything like me, he assumed his faith had failed in his denial of Jesus. And that meant Jesus’ prayer for him had failed, too. But to Jesus, Peter’s faith hadn’t failed, His prayer was answered—because of the “when you have turned back.”

Faith is so much more than one moment. It is the path we choose to walk or bypass in the course of our lives. Occasionally we stumble off the road. But faith gives us the will to get back on track, believing we can confess our sin, receive forgiveness and walk on, and that God can use us to strengthen others with our stories of failures and restorations.

Jesus’ words to Peter give me hope. How about you?


My Kind of Quiet

Many people I know love the quiet of the early morning before anyone else in the family awakens. I don’t know that quiet. For one thing, to rise before my husband would mean being up at an earlier hour than I could possibly fathom. But on the rare occasion that I’ve been up—say if he is out of town and it’s just me and the kids—that quiet does nothing for me. I’m in constant anticipation of it being interrupted.

Instead, my favorite quiet of the day is in the morning after everyone leaves for school or work. It’s the quiet after the hustle of morning and before the bustle of evening. It’s quiet that I know will stretch uninterrupted for a period of time, depending, of course, on my plans for that day. Even when someone or something shatters this quiet, it’s an unanticipated interruption. I hadn’t been rendered immobile waiting for the interruption to come. Instead, I’ve absorbed the quiet and then dived into projects and activities I desire to accomplish.

Maybe this is why summer unsettles me. I rarely get that consistent quiet when everyone leaves the house at around the same time for an extended absence. I don’t get my quiet. Then again, maybe it’s good to have my world shaken up three months out of every twelve!


A Sunday Psalm

Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in You.
Show me the way I should go,
for to You I lift up my soul.
Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord,
for I hide myself in You.
Teach me to do Your will,
for You are my God;
may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
    --Psalm 143:8-10


We have a title!

Wings of a Dream
by Anne Mateer
Releasing September 2011

Now it feels real!!!

Exposing My Selfish Heart

In Phillipians 4:12 Paul says “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.”

After 43 years of living on this earth—23 of them with a household of my own—I can identify with this statement. Days of scraping together pennies to split an ice cream as a treat when my husband was in law school. Years of scrimping to pay off student loans. Breathing easier, only to have him put aside a regular salary to form a small firm. Months of zero income with three small children. Suddenly enough to take a modest vacation on occasion, to visit our out-of-state family. Overflow for other things—including 4 trips to Africa for our daughter. And now squeezed in again, letting go of little luxuries we’d come to enjoy.

We’ve always been frugal, even in the good times. We’ve been savers, knowing life can turn on a dime. And yet as I consider the journey of these last two decades I begin to see a pattern. We have little, so we trust God to provide for needs that arise. God grows our faith. He also blesses in ways that allow us to get ahead a little, grow our “emergency” fund. But funny thing about those funds—when they are there, so are the needs that require them!

Why has all this been on my mind lately? Because I’ve been selfish. You see, when I got my book contract, it came with a bit of money. Not a ton, but enough that I breathed a sigh of relief, of space between my husband’s new salary and our expenses. But I didn’t count on the fact that Lord continues to prod me to rely on Him instead of money, to not hold those dollars so tightly in my fist. So, reluctantly, my money went toward a new furnace that we weren’t expecting to have to purchase. It wasn’t the way I wanted to spend “my” money. But I’m reminded again of the rest of the verse in Phillipians.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:12-13

I certainly haven’t attained to the level of Paul, but I’m learning. I’m learning not to rely on the size of my bank account, big or small. I’m learning that in want and in plenty He gives me His strength to live on. He provides what I need. Always. I just don’t always need what I think I do!

As I type this, the cool air blows on my feet. And I am grateful. As I will be in the winter when warm air cuts through the chill. I have plenty. I always will. For I have Jesus.  


Gleaning from the Gospels

I’ve been reading through the gospels again lately. Just reading. Observing. Nothing profound, I don’t think, but new thoughts to me. I love how the Holy Spirit functions as my Teacher, breathing life into words.

So here are a few things I’ve gleaned from Matthew, Mark, and the first half of Luke:

  • When Jesus performed miracles or spoke amazing, powerful words, people tried to give Him glory. But He always deflected that praise back to the Father, even though technically He could have accepted it for Himself. For He was still God. And yet He was man. With the temptations of the flesh. And the temptation to accept for ourselves the praise that belongs only to God is a powerful temptation!
  • After twice reading the story of Peter and James and John at the transfiguration of Jesus, it struck me that even when I dwell the presence of the Lord I can get off track. Right there in the midst of His glory Peter threw out an idea that God the Father immediately shot down. I remain fallible, able to mess up in any circumstance until the day I shed my body of flesh. Not before.
  • Even Jesus grew in wisdom. So why do I think I’m any different? Or my children? Growing in wisdom is a process for us just as it was for Jesus in His earthly life.
  • “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” It occurred to me that this should be preached at every wedding! So many ways we can be a house divided as husband and wife. But to be conscious of this, to work together to pull in the same direction even when that requires sacrifice and submission on both our parts would be to have a house united. A marriage that stands strong.

Ok, lots of other stuff in my journal and in the margins of my Bible, but you get the idea. Have you been wandering the pages of your Bible lately? If so, try reading through the gospels and observing the life and words of Christ. I guarantee you will come away changed.