Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Writer Mouse

Several years ago, a few days after Christmas, I dropped my youngest off to spend a few hours with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. While I waited for her, I visited a coffee shop with my laptop in hand. I’d been fiddling with writing a novel, and on that day I took the plunge and decided to take the possibility of publishing a novel seriously. Before I settled in to write, I spied an after-Christmas sale. The larger mouse you see in the picture caught my eye. I’m not terribly fond of real mice, but the stuffed variety is rather cute.

When I picked the little guy up, I read his tag and found he was called Writer Mouse. Of course I bought him. He’s reminded me to keep writing, ever since. I call him Nutmeg. Some might say I’m silly, but after spending years as a children’s librarian, I developed a good imagination. Plus, I like stuffed animals. (The bear was a gift from friends who encouraged me to write and the little mouse is from Greenville, SC.)

I’m hoping Nutmeg inspires me to write many more stories.

How about you? Do you have a favorite stuffed animal? Or something or someone who reminds you to keep writing?

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Need an Umbrella?

Hosea 6:3

Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.

“Sometimes life just calls for an umbrella.”-Unknown

January rain poured outside and annihilated the snow from last weekend. For a few days, the ground was covered with beauty and calm, then the rains came and mud stirred. I’m not a fan of mud with a dog to walk, but we manage, as long as she doesn’t lie down and roll.

I’m not troubled by the dark days of winter, but I know many people struggle with the dreariness. We all need sun to balance the rain.

Dreary days may not come from the weather conditions, but from illness, too much debt, missing someone, making mistakes, sinning against God, or any other difficulty. It’s easy to curl into the sorrow and sadness of hopelessnessbut with Godhope is as sure as the sun rising.

I’m thankful God holds the umbrella for me. He stops the rain from drowning me and shines His light on my situation. When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I knew I’d live the rest of my life in pain. At times, the pain gets me down. I hurt physically and mentally, but spiritually, I hold on to the hope of brighter days. Thankfully, my husband and family understand. With my hope in God and my support system, the struggle lessens, and I can store the umbrella in a basket.

Hosea reminds me that no matter my situation, God comes to me like he did the Israelites. They struggled for years, but God hung with them, reminding them to turn away from their sin and sorrow and follow Him.

Let God pour over you or let Him hold the umbrella against the rains. Whatever you do, seek Him.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Snowman's Story

Everything looks magical when it snows.-Lorelai Gilmore

I've met Will Hillenbrand at several book festivals and rode on the same plane with him to a library conference, years ago. On the plane, as I witnessed him sketching illustrations, I realized how privileged I was to experience one of the great talents in the field of children's books creating his art. 

One of my favorite Hillenbrand books is Snowman's Story. There are no words, but the illustrations depict a beautiful tale. As you share this book with your children, let them tell you the story of this delightful snowman and the rabbit family.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Rejoice With Singing

Zephania 3:17

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Music is a piece of art that goes in the ears, straight to the heart. – The Minds Journal

Music played, in the home I grew up in, most of the time. My mom listened to what is now classic country, Elvis, and gospel along with music from the forties. I heard rock and roll and fifties classics on my siblings record players. Of course, I had my own stack of popJohn Denver, James Taylor, Carole King, and Carley Simon. My forty-fives (remember those?) lived in a black and white checked case. I’m not sure what happened to them, but I remember sitting on the floor and sorting them into favorites, which changed every week. I can’t forget the cassette player and recording songs from the radio. We seventies teens had our own way of making a playlist.

I mostly listen to contemporary Christian music now and enjoy the occasional foray back to the seventies. But the best music in my life doesn’t come from a radio, or Amazon music. I love to hear my children and grandchildren sing, and I adore the worship service at church when we all raise our voices together to praise God, as we sing to Him in one voice.

When I read Zephania 3:17, I paused and considered the last part. God will rejoice over me in singing. What? I thought singing came from believers to God. What a joy to know God sings over us. As I consider what that means, my heart rejoices. When I walk outside and hear the wind, the birds, the rustle of the trees I’m reminded God sings over mebecause He loves me. He cares about my comings and goings. He delights in me as I delight in Him.

When you feel down, stop and listen to God sing over you. He’s there.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Books for Kids

I’m reviewing books for Zonderkidz this week.

I picked Faithful Friends: Favorite Stories of People in the Bible because of the delightful handmade dolls used in the illustrations. Marcy & Michael Kelleher created this beautiful book that tells the stories of forty-two heroes and heroines of the Bible. Each person has a page written by Michael with Bible references and an illustration created from fiber arts by Marcy. This would be a wonderful read for children ages eight through twelve. I enjoyed each well-told story.

I also chose God I Feel Scared by Michelle Nietert, LPC-S and Tama Fortner, and illustrated by Nomar Perez. This is part of the Bringing Big Emotions to a Bigger God series. I love how the authors explain fear and what it is to be scared. It’s the perfect book to share with little ones to help them understand their fears. The authors share practical advice on the things the child can do in way children can understand. There’s also a Dear Parent page at the end that shares calm-down skills. The colorful illustrations will delight young readers. This is a great book to have in your personal library to share with your children.

I received free copies with no expectations. Opinions are my own.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

One in Heart & Mind

Acts 4:32-35
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile of creation, but look what they can do when they stick together.” -Unknown

I had the privilege of attending the OMEA Middle School band concert. Our grandson, Zeke, was selected to play his baritone with students from all over the tri-state. His band director, Mr. Glader, has done a great job encouraging his students to learn their instruments and try out for this wonderful experience. The students had two days to learn four to five songs and then perform them for an audience.

They met at a local school and worked, for the first time, to bring harmony from what could have been chaos. On Sunday afternoon, I sat with my daughter and several hundred other folks and listened to the seventh graders perform and then the eighth. The music brought joy to my heart as the kids hit all the right notes.

I love the verse in Acts 4 that says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” He’s talking about the church, the group of people who love and follow Jesus. Yes, as an individual, I can serve and love Jesus and tell others about him, but as a group of people with the same beliefs and goals, we can encourage one another and stand together.

Like those students who came together and didn’t know each other, but had the same goal, we can work in harmony and share God’s love and His message of grace.

Seek folks who love Jesus and lift up one another.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Picture Book Fun

For Christmas, my daughter, Maggie, gifted me with books. Not just any books—picture books. I love picture books. You not only get the story in words, but in illustrations.

I had added four of the books to my Amazon list, so she knew I wanted them. Kevin Henkes and his wife Laura Dronzek created four beautiful books about the four seasons. As a seasonal person, I appreciate the gorgeous paintings and the melodic words. Henkes is in my top five author/illustrators. He often illustrates his own books, like Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. I have to say, his wife’s art fills me with joy. You’ll have to check out, Winter is Here, When Spring Comes, Summer Song, and In the Middle of Fall.

Maggie surprised me with Just Because by Matthew McConaughey. I had no idea he’d written a picture book. Humorous and thought-provoking, he talks about having two feelings at the same time and how life is full of possibilities. There is a video of Matthew and Jimmy Falon reading the book. It’s great!

Whatever you read, choose something you enjoy. Even an adult can have fun reading a picture book, and even better, read to a child.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

The First Step

Psalm 40:10a
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (NIV)

“Sometimes we have to let go of what we think we know and trust God.”-David Rimarski

Every year, I look forward to January, and if I’m being honest, I hope for snow. I love the quiet of the winter months and the peacefulness of snow. I view this time as a period to reset, get back on track, and rest.

Although I don’t do resolutions, I like to pen a few goals for the year. Some are things I need to complete, such as the next novel in my series, while others are items I hope to accomplish. It’s not a long list, but it’s a jumping off point for the year. The one thing I’ve learned through the years is to consult God and trust Him to guide me through the year.

I’ve read several blogs that offer advice to Christian authors and the number one call to action is alwayspray. Isn’t prayer the perfect first step in everything?

No matter what I have in mind as a goal, if I haven’t prayed over it and offered it to God, I will fall on my face and fail. Seriously, in my sixty plus years of life, I can attest to this. Sure, I might squeak by, but I’m missing the amazing blessings and lessons from God.

I bought a journal this year that has Be Still & Know embossed on the cover. I like this reminder of the providence of God and His love for me. As our student minister spoke Sunday, I have to let go of what I think I know and trust God with everything.

He has a plan and purpose for each of us. Pray over your desires and goals and allow yourself to be blessed with His guidance. Be still and know.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

My 2023 Favorite Reads

I’m a reader. In 2023, I read so many books it’s hard to pick favorites, but I’m going to try.

The number one story that I enjoyed the most is a children’s literature book called Odder by Katherine Applegate. The story focuses on the life of Odder the otter and the path he takes. “Inspired by the true story of a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that pairs orphaned otter pups with surrogate mothers, this poignant and humorous tale told in free verse examines bravery and healing through the eyes of one of nature’s most beloved and charming animals.”

I found the story delightful and inspiring. To read my review, go to: Odder

The adult fiction I enjoyed are part of a series and inspired by the beloved classic,Little Women, a childhood favorite of mine. The Orchard House Bed and Breakfast series by Heidi Chiavaroli focuses on a different family member in each book. They are light romance and quite enjoyable. "Contemporary Romance with a Little Women twist."

I look forward to reading a lot of books in 2024. I started my first one, Hidden Names by Bettie Boswell. I’ll let you know more about that later. 

What was your favorite book in 2023? Do you have a reading goal for 2024?