Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ready or not, here it comes…

I have a confession to make, and it’s not a pretty one. I’m not ready for Christmas. I’m not ready for it to BE Christmas. Is it really only three days away?

I can’t believe it’s really been a month since I’ve posted. Working full time, learning a new job, studying…it was all beginning to bog me down. Actually, it still is. I have two final exams this week, after I take six quizzes and two chapter tests, and then I have to jump right into class number three.

But that's only part of the reason I'm not ready for Christmas.

Traditionally, at our house, we don’t start preparing for Christmas until after my son’s birthday, which is the 8th. And even though he lives halfway across the country, this year was no exception. Sadly, the morning after my son’s birthday, my father-in-law passed away. What a shocking blow to our family. It’s been a very sad time at our house.

So I haven’t sent out any Christmas cards. I’ve bought a few presents, but didn’t go shopping at the mall. I don’t have the heart to brave the crowds this year. And what’s worse, I don’t have a Christmas tree. That’s right. Here it is, December 22nd, and I don’t have a Christmas tree.

But that’s okay. Because last night as I was driving home from work, my favorite Christmas song came on the radio.

O Holy Night
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of Our dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world
In sin and error pining,
'Til He appeared
And the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

As I listened to these beautiful words, they gave me comfort and I realized something. It doesn’t matter whether we’re ready for Christmas, it comes anyway. And even if we aren’t ready, aren’t we glad it does?

I’m so thankful Jesus didn’t wait for us to be ready before He was born on that holy, long ago, night. I’m so glad He didn’t wait for us to be ready before He hung on the cross. We’d still be waiting for our Savior!

So now, after listening to the words in that beautiful song, I feel ready for Christmas. My heart is still sad about my father-in-law, and I may not have a tree decorated, but I feel spiritually ready. And isn’t that the most important part of Christmas?

I wish you and your family a very blessed Christmas.

Candle graphic courtesy of: http://www.christmas-graphics-plus.com/

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love Finds You in Holiday Florida

Romantic comedy is one of my all-time favorite sub-genres, and today I want to introduce you to one of my favorite writers of inspirational romantic comedy—Sandra D. Bricker and her newest book, Love Finds You in Holiday Florida.

In case you’re not familiar with the Love Finds You books, they are inspirational romance novels all set in real towns across America. So far I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve read, but none more than Sandie’s, because she never fails to make me laugh out loud. That doesn’t mean her books are full of slap-stick, nor are they light on emotion. Not one bit.

In fact, Love Finds You in Holiday Florida has just the right blend of comedy and deeply-touching emotion.

Disappointed that her daughter finds her predictable, Cassie Constantine decides to do something different for Christmas and go to Florida, to the vacation home she shared with her late husband. She also plans to remodel and sell the house before she returns to Boston. But Cassie’s trip to Holiday Florida turns out to be a trip of self-discovery.

Once she arrives at the vacation home, Cassie is faced with a bittersweet array of memories. Saying goodbye to this close-knit community and her goofy neighbors will be difficult.

Then Cassie meets Richard, a man who turns out to be full of surprises. Though he appears as predictable as Cassie imagines herself to be, he is anything but. Can he be the man to help Cassie realize she’s not so boring after all?

During the process of becoming unpredictable, Cassie is trying to work on a crossword puzzle her late husband gave her on their 25th anniversary.

Author Sandra D. Bricker makes clever use of this crossword puzzle by including a clue in each chapter of the book. Will the answers help Cassie discover who she is?

Love Finds You in Holiday Florida is fun, sassy, romantic and heartwarming—all the ingredients necessary for a great romance. In fact, the book is as lovable as the author herself. Readers won’t be disappointed. After you read it, you’ll want to order a copy of Sandie’s previous book, Love Finds You in Snowball Arkansas. My review of this book is posted below.

If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Love Finds You in Holiday Florida, please leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random tomorrow night (Sunday) at 6pm PST. Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from getting your e-mail, please use this format with the brackets—you [at] yourmail [dot] com—or something similar.)

To visit Sandie’s blog go to: http://sandradbricker.blogspot.com/ and to visit her website, go to: http://www.sandradbricker.com/.

And be sure to stop by Inkwell Inspirations today, where I’ve posted an interview with Sandie and her co-authors of the devotional book, Be Still and Let Your Nail Polish Dry.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Love Finds You In Snowball Arkansas

Some women will do anything in the search for Mr. Right. Full of sass and spunk, Lucy Binoche takes her quest to the great outdoors. Readers will enjoy following along with Lucy as her journey for the perfect man turns into one of pitfalls, humor, and self discovery.

Author Sandra D. Bricker excells in adding a little extra something in her books to grab the reader's interest. In this book, readers gain insight into Lucy's character through her honest and refreshing letters to God.

And as for her search for Mr. Right? Is Lucy looking in the right direction, or should she stop and reassess her situation? Not only will readers enjoy the added bonus of the tasty recipes sprinkled throughout the book, they'll turn the pages in anticipation of what might happen next.

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas is the perfect book to chase away the winter blues.

Sandra D. Bricker is a delightful voice in Christian romace. This book is great fun, and I can hardly wait for her next one. Keep writing them, Sandie, because I can't read them fast enough.

To visit Sandie’s blog go to: http://sandradbricker.blogspot.com/
and to visit her website, go to: http://www.sandradbricker.com/.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Beginning of the Blues

Some people, like my husband, take immense pleasure in the shift from summer to fall. He loves the crisp air, the colors of the leaves as they change. My son loves the winter and snow. But for other people, like myself, when the days are shorter and the sun barely makes an appearance, the blues creep in.

Blue is my favorite color,
but not my favorite season.

My blue season started to hit me last week—dark when I get up, dark shortly after I get home from work. There’s a little sliver of light on the drive to and from work. But in another couple of weeks I’ll be driving in the dark. The only daylight I’ll see during the work week is through the cafeteria windows for half an hour at lunch time. I’m so thankful there was sunshine this weekend.

Within the next couple of weeks, the blues will hit me full force. No daylight. No sunlight. Dark when I leave for work, dark when I get home. And the weekends will be dark and overcast more often than not.
It doesn’t help that baseball season will be officially over in a few days. Every year, I jokingly blame my blue feeling on the end of baseball—especially if my team doesn’t get to the play-offs.

Of course, I’m only teasing about the end of the baseball season being the culprit. In all seriousness, it really is the lack of sunlight that affects my moods. There’s a name for it: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Some of the symptoms of SAD are:
 Depression
 Hopelessness or sadness
 Anxiety
 Loss of energy or interest
 Withdrawing socially

If, like me, you’re affected by SAD, there are ways to battle it.

First and foremost, though, if you experience feelings of depression and sadness for more than a couple of weeks, I would highly suggest you see your doctor. Seriously. A day or two here and there when you feel sad or depressed can be manageable without medication. But if it goes on for any length of time, seeking medical help is a must. Especially if you have any thoughts of harming yourself.

One of the best things you can do is to get plenty of exercise. Exercise boosts your mood. If you can take walks outside, even better. You’ll be getting a double benefit. Exercise relieves stress, stress increases symptoms of depression. Since lack of sunlight seems to be one of the main factors in SAD, walking outside in natural light is better than walking indoors on a treadmill. Even though the sun might not be out, some of those rays that stimulate our mood will hopefully get through. Plus, there’s always something truly invigorating about fresh air.

Find things that interest you. When baseball ends, I start watching figure skating. The season actually started a couple of weeks ago, and with the return of Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko, and the excellence of Japanese skater Nobunari Oda, it’s shaping up to be a great season. It soothes my soul to watch these talented skaters jump, spin and glide on the ice.

Try not to shut yourself off from your friends and family. This is one of the fastest ways to give in to SAD and sink into an even deeper depression. While it can be hard to socialize with others when you’re feeling this way, it’s vital to your mental health. Talking, laughing, simply being with others can lift your spirits.

Do things that stimulate your mind and make you happy. Reading a good book serves both purposes for me. (If you need a recommendation, just let me know!) Writing, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and weekend drives are all great activities. If I could take a vacation to sunny California every winter, I would. But since I can’t, I try to get outside as much as I can during the weekend. The days I don’t are the days I feel the worst.

Talk to a doctor before trying any herbal medications. Many herbal drugs interact with other medications you may be taking.

I don’t know a lot about the full spectrum lights that are available, other than they are supposed to help by exposing you to the natural light you’d normally get on a sunny day. They’re a bit pricey, but they’re supposed to work, so I’m going to try and buy one this year.

Last, but in no way least, pray. Talk to God. Sometimes when we’re depressed, it’s hard to even summon the words. But God knows what’s in our hearts. The Holy Spirit interprets for us when we can’t find the words. So don’t ignore this most important and wonderful resource.

Also, it never hurts to have your friends and family pray for you. If you want me to pray for your, if you want to pray for me, send me an e-mail and we can support each other.
(glorybooks [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Knowing the problem, recognizing the problem, is the biggest part of the battle. When we’re armed with knowledge and a plan, we have the ability to fight our way through it.

Please be aware that this is not medical advice. This is merely my experience, my opinion, and my offer of moral support.

God bless you, and I pray we can all get through these fall/winter blues and rejoice and take pleasure in these darker months. Then, before we know it, it will be spring again.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Is Fear Holding You Back?

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (New International Version)

For most of my adult life, I’ve let fear keep me timid. There were times when I would take a step forward and be bold. But most of the time, I didn’t. It wouldn’t matter how excited I was, or how much I longed to be a part of something special. Fear would hold me back. I would often ask myself, “Am I good enough? Am I smart enough, interesting enough?” And sometimes I’d even wonder, “Am I spiritual enough?”

If you’ve ever given in and let fear hold you back, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Fear will crush your dreams. It can cripple you, and keep you from doing the things you want to do most.

Then something changed. Something happened in my life a couple of years ago and I had to face some very frightening realities. I knew the only way I could face them was with Jesus by my side.

A dear and wise friend told me God did not give us a spirit of fear. She’s absolutely right.

The Bible is full of wonderful, hope-filled scriptures that I pray will help us all come through our fears with the peace that only He can give us.

If you’re hampered by fear, I would encourage you to pray about it and remember this scripture.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? Psalm 27:1

Know that you aren’t alone. Who knows what can happen when you let God be your wings. You can SOAR!

I wouldn’t presume to say nothing bad will ever happen, or that you won’t experience pain along the way. But Jesus can give you the courage to face your deepest fear and come out the victor. I know He did for me.

We all have something from our past to explain why we let fear get the better of us. But there comes a time when we have to conquer it. At least, that time came for me. I made the commitment to overcome my fears, and with God’s help, I’m doing fairly well. I won’t lie and say I’ve been able to obliterate all fear from my spirit. I still have this little germophobic thing I’m trying to deal with. But I’ve come a long way. Just a couple of months ago, I did this:

And this:

And I’m so glad I did. I had the best day with my son, a day I’ll treasure forever. If I had let my fear get the better of me, I don’t think my memories of that day would be as precious as they are.

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1

God gave Abram the best reason of all not to fear: He promised to be his shield, and He promised to be his very great reward. He’s promising the same for us.

So take a chance. Spread your wings and fly, knowing you won’t be alone. God is with you, and He’ll bless you.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ooh, La La. Seattle, France, Romance, Pasteries...and Whidbey Island, too.

I was so excited when I came home from work yesterday. Not because it was the end of the work week—an intense week where I started three classes and wasn’t able to write a single word on my manuscript—but because a cardboard carton from Amazon was wedged in my mailbox. I love boxes from Amazon, B&N, and Overstock. They always contain my favorite things…books.

Hooray for books! My husband says I have way more than I need. But I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many books.

As I scrambled to get the carton out of my mailbox, scraping my fingers in the process, I realized it was too small to contain both of the books I ordered. Only half my order had arrived. But my disappointment quickly faded when I pulled the book out of the box and saw the delicious cover. My treasure? An inspirational novel, Pièce de Résistance by Sandra Byrd. Book number three in the French Twist series featuring an adorable heroine, Lexi Stuart.

If you’ve read the first two books in this series, then you’ve probably been waiting for this book just so you can feast your eyes on the drool-worthy cover. Each book cover in the French Twist series is enough to make the most dedicated dieter waver.

If you haven’t read the first two books, you’re in for a treat. Let me recap them for you.

Book One: Let Them Eat Cake
Lexi Stuart is fresh out of college and unable to find a job. Her love life isn’t so great, either. But the course of her life changes when she accepts a job at her favorite French bakery. The inner-workings of the bakery are enough to keep the reader engaged, but author Sandra Byrd mixes romance with an inspirational journey amidst a bustling Seattle setting. Oh, yes, and Lexi visits Whidbey Island, too.

Book Two: Bon Appétit
This book follows Lexi to a small village in France where she will apprentice in a family owned bakery. Your mouth will water over more than the cover since the author has included several recipes. I found this to be my favorite of the first two books because I could so easily imagine myself in Lexi’s place as she struggles to please everyone around her. Things get difficult for Lexi as she finds herself torn between the man she left behind in Seattle and the French single dad who is her boss.

Book Three: Pièce de Résistance
That brings us to Pièce de Résistance and Lexi’s return to Seattle, (notice the Space Needle on the background of the cover?) where she’s put in charge of a new high-end French bakery. She only has a few months to prove herself and make the business a success, but it won’t be easy. Romance proves to be a challenge as well, since both men are still in her life, but Lexi is relying on God to show her the way.

I started reading Pièce de Résistance last night, and was thoroughly hooked—especially after the author mentioned Lexi’s vacation on Whidbey Island. Since I can’t wait to see how Lexi’s romantic dilemma untangles, I’m headed the beach where I can spend the day reading and soaking up the last of the bit of sunshine.

The French Twist series is the perfect recipe for a satisfying read: Seattle, France, pastries and romance. Oh, with a dash of Whidbey Island, too.

I suppose you don’t have to have read the first two books to read Pièce de Résistance, but for purposes of personal pleasure, I would highly recommend it.

Okay, I’m off to finish this yummy book. But before I go, I want to know, have you ever been to Whidbey Island?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review: A Texas Ranger's Family by Mae Nunn

A couple of months ago I received my score sheets from a writing contest I’d entered. Judges don’t always sign their names on the score sheets, but one of my judges did and she included her e-mail address in case I wanted to ask her any questions about her comments.

This was a wonderful opportunity, so I sent her an e-mail full of questions—after thanking her, of course. Not only did she answer my questions and offer me encouragement, her comments helped me strengthen my writing. In fact, when I tweaked a scene based on her advice, it sent my mind in an entirely new direction and I ended up with three new scenes and a much stronger opening. Oh, and I like my book again. For a while I was beginning to have my doubts. Now I’m happily working on it once more, with a goal of finishing the book before the year is over.

But enough about me.

This is about my superjudge, Mae Nunn.

I'm ashamed to say this, but at the time she signed her name on my score sheet, I hadn’t read any of her books. Then after her kind words and constructive input, I decided to watch for the next one. A couple of weeks ago, while out shopping, I was delighted to come across her September inspirational romance release from Steeple Hill's Love Inspired: A Texas Ranger’s Family. I didn’t waste any time grabbing it off the shelf, and since it was a nice sunny Saturday, I took it with me to the beach where I spent a wonderful afternoon reading and soaking up the sunshine.

Injured in a bomb blast in Iraq, photojournalist Erin Gray is brought back to the United States to recover. After three weeks in a medically induced coma, she wakes to the sound of a familiar voice: her one-time husband, Daniel Stabler—the man she ran out on when she found herself unable to deal with the nightmares of her past. Daniel isn’t alone at the hospital, though. At his side is his—their—sixteen year old daughter, Dana. But when the bandages are removed from Erin’s eyes and she finally sees the daughter she abandoned, Erin realizes she must still face the pain of her past.

In A Texas Ranger’s Family, readers will find an unpredictable story with layers of depth—a truly inspirational story of love and the many ways it can heal the human heart.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was excited to find out it’s the first of a three-book series. The next one is due out in April. I may have missed the first several of Mae’s books, but you can be sure I won’t miss another one.

To learn more about Mae Nunn and her inspirational romance novels, check out her website at: http://www.maenunn.com/

Saturday, September 12, 2009

“Thank you. Have a nice day!”

When I was in high school I worked in a hobby shop. It was my first experience working in a store, dealing with people, offering customer service. My boss, Marge, taught me from the very beginning, “The customer is always right.”

Even when they buy a model airplane, break it on the way out the door and then want to exchange it for a new one?

“Yes,” Marge would say. “Even then.”

And so I learned to smile even when the customer was mean or grouchy.

A couple of years later a popular burger chain opened in my town. I was hired as part of their very first crew. Before opening day, there were several evenings where we all went in for group training. Not only did we learn never to put hot fries in the same bag as a milkshake (yes, if you can imagine it, they really used to put the drinks in a bag), but we also spent entire evenings going over different customer-relations scenarios and learning those all important words: “The customer is always right.”

Even when they ordered extra pickles on their burger and then insisted they really wanted a chicken sandwich?

"Yes, even then," Bob or Wally would say. "You smile and thank them, no matter what."

I don’t know about where you live, but here in my hometown that notion is no longer in existence. Where did it go? Is it really so difficult to smile and act friendly even if you don’t feel like it? Or are they simply too busy to take just a few seconds for courtesy?

Apparently so. The fast-food restaurant I worked at all those years ago is still here, along with several others that have sprouted up over time. In spite of the varying menus, they all have one thing in common: The fancy headset that lets them take your money while taking someone else’s order.

The other day I went to a drive-thru for an iced tea. When I arrived at the window, the girl was talking into her headset. She reached out for my money then handed me my change and my tea, all without ever saying a word. I thanked her, but she just turned away and kept talking into her headset.

The next day, my husband and I went to the fast-food place where I’d worked all those years ago. Our experience was almost identical to the one I’d had the day before. The exception came when the girl looked at us and said something. My husband answered her, but she just looked at him like he was crazy and continued talking…into her headset.

It's painfully clear the customer is no longer right because the customer isn’t even worthy of a simple, “Thank you. Have a nice day.”

Or so I thought.

The next evening we decided to forgo fast-food and went to our favorite Mexican restaurant. (Yes, I know we eat out too much. That’s a problem to be solved another day.) While we were eating, we heard the waiters and waitresses singing “Happy Birthday” to someone nearby. No big surprise. People have birthday celebrations in restaurants all the time. But this time when we turned around to see who was having a birthday, we were surprised to see them singing to the owner. Looking a little shy, but pleased, he blew out his candles before he and his staff disappeared with the cake. A few minutes later he came back and set the table across from me with a stack of plates, forks, and napkins. Then, with a huge grin on his face, he put the cake on the table. He turned to me and asked if I’d like a piece of cake. Then he proceeded to serve everyone in the room.

Clearly, customer service is alive and well. Just not in the fast-food restaurants where I live. Now I’m not saying they have to give cake to all of their customers, but is it really so hard to thank them for their business?

My radio station likes to encourage people to make a difference in the lives of others. They call it the drive-thru difference. The idea is to make another person's day a little brighter when you're in a drive-thru line by paying for the order of the car behind you. Then when they get to the window, they receive a flyer that you've given the order-taker, letting them know their order has been paid for and why. I haven't tried it yet because I don't think the person taking my money would know what to do. I don't think they'd give the flyer to the person behind me. And given their preoccupation with their headsets, I think I'd have a hard time even trying to pay for the person behind me.

I realize the purpose of the headsets is to push as many cars through as possible. Keep ‘em moving, don’t hold up the line.

But really, where are we more likely to spend our money? At the drive-thru where the girl reaches out the window to slap a bag of fries into our hands all the while never acknowledging our presence? Or the cozy restaurant where the owner is always happy to see us and is so thankful for his customers that he generously shares a slice of his yummy birthday cake?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Inspired Writing Places

or ... Have Writing Tablet, Will Travel

Like most other writers, I can usually pick up a napkin and pencil and write anywhere. And I’m certainly never without a pen and a writing tablet. My purse is always filled with odd bits of paper with indecipherable scribble that was important when I wrote it down.

But a writer’s office is their sanctuary—a peaceful environment where their muse feels safe to come out and play. The special kind of environment that’s conducive to creativity, someplace inspiring.

I’ve done everything I can to add inspiration to my office. It has plush carpet, freshly painted walls, pretty curtains, a basket of rocks, a huge sandstone from the beach on the Oregon coast, and a picture of an Orca whale. Perfect. All the things I need to feel relaxed and comfortable while my muse comes out to play.

But there’s something else in my office. Something that can derail my thought process before I’ve even realized what’s happened. I know I’m not the only writer who struggles with this.



Spider Solitaire.

Oh, that last one is bad. I can click away two hours in less than fifteen minutes. When I go to my office to write, I’m forever saying, “Really? It’s 8 o’ clock already?” Then the wail heard around my neighborhood sounds something like this: “But I was only going to play one game while I work this scene out in my head!”

Back in the day of “dial-up” and before they started putting Spider Solitaire on every computer, I was much more productive and would go wash laundry or vacuum while I worked out scene related problems. Now, however, Spider Solitaire is sabotaging my new book.

Hence my need for a new office!

So every Saturday, and on Sunday after church and lunch with my mom or my husband, I take my writing tablet and favorite pen to my new office. There are no electronic distractions here. And if I get to a point in a scene where I’m stuck, God knows exactly what I need because he knows where I get my inspiration.

I just take a little walk along the beach. Writing problems have a way of working out here. Inspiration is all around me and I tend to accomplish a pretty decent word count. Not only that, but some of my best work is done here.

There’s just one problem. When I finally sit down at my computer to type in all I’ve written, I can’t read my handwriting!

But with an office like this…

…can I really complain?

God’s creation is so inspiring, and I’m so blessed to be able to experience it in this special way.