THE IMPORTANCE OF GATHERINGS

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:25)

This is a scripture that Christians are more than familiar with. We gather together at church on Sundays or Wednesday nights, or in our homes for Bible study and fellowship. Relationships with other Christians are important so that we can pray, share each other’s burdens and talk about the commonality we share—faith in Jesus Christ—and we should have a deep abiding love for one another. Meeting like this brings encouragement and keeps us marching forward, holding our heads high in the midst of a brutal world.

The same can be said for writers, and especially Christian writers. I recently moved to Minnesota from Texas. Most of my life I’ve lived out in the country, or in a region that made it difficult to meet with other like-minded people with any meaningful frequency. But now I live close enough to meet with other writers. And not just any writers, but Christian writers, many whom I’ve known from online writer’s groups and conferences. Through virtual meetings and once-a-year conferences, I’ve developed deep friendships, and grown as a writer.

But nothing can compare with meeting with others in person. Face-to-face.

Now I understand the meaning of the scripture from Hebrews completely. Meeting with Christian writing friends in person since I’ve been in Minnesota has bolstered me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Encouraged and inspired me. I believe that I will grow as a writer like never before. (I hope)

And this is the whole point of the scripture in Hebrews. Gathering together for encouragement and prayer and talking to people who understand you like no one else is an essential part of a Christian’s walk. An especially important part of a Christian writer’s development.

So if you’re dreaming about writing the great Christian fiction novel, I implore you to meet with others. It’s vital to your spirit, Christian walk, and your work as a writer.

Blessings,

Elizabeth Goddard

I AM WHAT I SAY by Vicki Hinze

I am what I say by Vicki Hinze, Christians Read

I AM WHAT I SAY: The Power of Self-Talk

 

What is the power of words? Our words? What we think and what we say?

I’ve been listening to people talking about everything and nothing, and what I’ve heard has captured my attention and is troubling. It’s what’s being said by people about themselves, about others, and about challenges, and even about their successes.

We know from the Bible that our words have power. Speaking them carries power and creates the reality. We’re warned:

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs: 18:21 (NIV)

 

Mark 11:24 tells us: “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Over and again, we read throughout the Bible that the spoken word has come to pass, and we’re encouraged to guard our minds and our mouths because what we say will direct the course of our future.

 

Maybe because I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve noticed more what we’re saying and how we’re saying it. Maybe we’ve always spoken negatively about ourselves and others because, well, it’s human. But whatever the reason, we would, in my humble opinion, be wise to pause and consider the consequences of our words on us and on others.

Let me share a specific example:

A writer friend and I were conversing and I shared something with her. Later it was mentioned, and she didn’t recall our conversation. “I am losing it. I keep forgetting things.”

Weeks later, she repeated that—“I can’t remember anything anymore.”

Now, she’s saying that same thing far more often—and it appears to be true. She does seem to have a lot more trouble remembering.

That benign example got my attention, and what’s happened memory-wise got me to thinking. We’ve all heard, “I am that I am.” And we know what it meant. What we might not have recognized—at least, I didn’t at the time—is that we are what we are, too.

If we believe we have a poor memory, we’re accepting that as real and valid and a part of our nature. It’s part and parcel of our personal, I am. And believing it—when we speak it, we voice our belief for better or worse—we grant it authority. We’re saying it our thought that our memory is poor carries our conviction that our memory is poor. Therefore, our memory is or becomes poor because that’s what we’ve deemed it. We have exercised our free will choice on the matter.

We’re all going to have negative thoughts from time to time. They’re human, as natural to us as breathing. They are attempts to influence our spiritual selves. But thoughts are fleeting. And if we don’t act on them, they flee, fade and fall away.

If we don’t voice them (with our focus or our spoken words), then we deny those negative things authority. They’re powerless without the authority of our free-will choice.

My point is we should exercise care what we say we are because, if we believe it and grant it authority, we will become it. This makes the way we see ourselves and how we talk with and about ourselves extremely important.

The Proverbs verse tells us the tongue has the power of life and death, and if we love it, we’ll eat its fruit. It doesn’t say we’ll eat the good fruit and not the bad fruit. Or we’ll eat the positive fruit and not eat the negative fruit. It says we’ll eat the fruit. All of it.

To me, that’s good and bad, which means how we talk about ourselves is directly relative and it impacts our future.

I’ve long said we need to guard our minds. You can’t fill your mind with trash and pull out treasures. (You reap what you sow, right?) I think we should extend that to our mouths.

What comes out of our mouths about ourselves and others should be constructive, positive, honoring us and respecting God. Good fruit bears good fruit.

Will we always do it? No, we’re human. But we should try. Hard. Our futures, I am convinced, rely on it.

Blessings,

Vicki

________________________

VICKI hinze, reader group news online community

Vicki Hinze is a USA Today Bestselling Author. She has written over 30 novels, 4 nonfiction books and hundreds of articles in as many as 63 countries. She is also a columnist for Social N Global network and a former radio talk show host.

 

 

 

A Spark Serves by Vicki Hinze

vickihinze, a spark serves

 

 

A Spark Serves: Soul Food and the Heart-Weary Christian

 

 

It’s almost Easter. A revered time for people of faith. The most revered time for Christians. Today, I need to chat. That’s right, to chat. I need to talk with like-minded people—people who believe. My soul needs food.

 

Most Christians go through times of sheer weariness. We tire of the faith struggles in our own lives and in our society. Our freedom of religion is being interpreted by some as freedom from religion, and we’re frustrated by it and weary of it.

 

How can we not be? We look around and see children exploited, young girls being programmed that sexy is better than virtuous (look at the magazine covers targeting teens). We see a barrage of attacks against even Christmas trees with governors wanting to call them holiday trees, and Christmas break being tagged winter holiday. We see our leader insist that Christian statues be covered during a speech at a Catholic college and yet he speaks beneath a banner that includes a photo of the father of terrorism. We know important things seem, well, upside down, and now comes a push to rename an Easter Egg Hunt a Spring Egg Hunt.

 

What? We have Christians being crucified for their faith (literally and figuratively) and we (as taxpaying citizens) are giving them billions of dollars. Why?

 

All this is just the tip of the heap, as you well know, but it’s sufficient to relay the reason for the weariness.

 

We trust God, we celebrate Easter. We do not waiver on it being the holiest of holidays in Christendom. The Resurrection… It’s awe-inspiring and humbling. And even those who are not Christians should respect that.

 

If they did, I doubt we’d be living in a culture of deep corruption. In a society where half—yes, half—of the children born are born to unwed mothers. Our values have eroded and our ethics along with them. We’ve buried our moral compass. Allowing it to happen, doing nothing to prevent it, condones it. And what we condone, we own.

 

I’m not an idealist or standing on a soapbox or suggesting we become raging zealots, but I am suggesting that I’m weary and I know other believers are, too. For me, I’m battling it, determined to follow our beliefs and to refuse not to support them. In other words, the PC police can forget it. They have their vision of PC and I have mine, and this weary soul is opting for faith.

 

The weariness is not to the bone. Close, but not to the bone. In part, I thank Roma Downey and Mark Burnett for that. Yes, the star of Touched by an Angel and the reality show guru. They did the five-part series The Bible that aired on the History channel.

 

Okay, so there’s been a lot of controversy on the show itself. Of course, there has. But considering how many don’t and never have read the Bible, and considering that this series is the only exposure they’ll get to the Bible, can’t we see the good in it? The series is like a missionary to the U.S. And if you’ve seen the religious decline (which has been actively sought by factions within and outside this country), you know we need a revival of spiritual matters and food for our spirits. Give us that and the other problems decline. We know it. Our country was built on the premise of putting God first. Through diligent effort, particularly in the past forty years, we’ve had our identity muddied and now we’re muddled. For that reason, while some might find fault with The Bibles production, I’m celebrating it.

 

It’s said to have been #1—most watched. The Examiner had an article on it that said Hollywood didn’t understand why the series was so popular. It confounded them. We, of course, know exactly why it’s popular and why other films or series like it will be popular, too. People are three-dimensional—physical, emotional and spiritual—and our spiritual selves are starving!

 

Simple. So very simple. We need soul food! We don’t just want it, we need it.

 

So I watch the fourth part of the five-part series, and I notice the commercials. Christianbooks.com had one. Walmart had one. Advertising the Bible. I’m sure there were others, but these were on when the advertisers caught my attention and snagged my thoughts. And I sat there feeling extremely emotional. An ad for the Bible. The BOOK. The Word of God. I’m choking up again now.

 

This is good. Even if you disagree with exactly the way this or that is done in the series, you’ve got to see that this series and these kinds of commercials (which are wholly suitable for viewing by all ages [and that certainly can’t be said for many, many ads or shows]) are good.

 

I hope that this series continues to spur an avalanche of films with spiritual themes that get people to thinking and talking and exploring and searching. I hope it spurs a mountain of ads that are constructive and respectful. But most of all, I hope it touches hearts. The weariness and emptiness and longing that crushes so many in our society can be filled by faith. We know it can, and I pray soon those who didn’t know that discover it, too.

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to watch an early evening program with your family and not have to change the channel because of inappropriate content? To have shows with content that is constructive and inspiring to viewers?

 

I boldly dare to dream that this starts a trend. One that renews faith, depletes weariness in believers, and offers all who want it a path out of the darkness and into the light. Wouldn’t it be terrific to see a swell of enthusiasm that leads to truth and contentment replace the current destructive behaviors that assure the absence of both? Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, that spark will ignite a flame and those who choose to walk and live outside the light will at least respect the rights of those who choose to walk in it. That would be refreshing, and constructive.

 

What I know is this. I write books to help the broken heal. I read books that inspire and enlighten. I view films for the same reasons. And I know that this morning my heart is less weary. A series and some commercials and because of constructive, faith-filled content, my soul is less weary.

 

And I know that without a spark, there is no flame. A spark serves. And if you think about it, doesn’t it kind of remind you of the mustard seed…

 

Would you read on?

My topic for the mini-conference is writing compelling stories. Thought I’d take this chance to see if I practice what I plan to preach. So be honest now…would you read on?

WRITERS’ QUARREL © Kristen Heitzmann

Devin Bressard scarcely blinked when Grace Evangeline Pratt stood and emptied her icy sweet tea over his face.

His eyes went flat as hammered steel, his tone even flatter. “Feel better?”

“Waste of a good sweet tea.”

“Sorry for your loss.” He took a napkin from the arm of a server instantly beside him.

“But a fitting end to this fiasco.” She snatched the calfskin clutch that matched her ecru sheath.

“You’ll excuse me if I don’t stand,” in his dampened condition.

“That’s the only thing I’ll excuse.” She raised her chin and stalked past the gapers and cell phone cameras. Oh, get over it.

Throwing a drink in Devin Bressard’s face had not been on her things-to-do-before-thirty list, but she inserted it and dragged a line through. She did not expect him to appreciate her prose, or connect with her flawed yet valiant characters. But to scorn the tragic twist in the plot? To say it gave him the best laugh of his week, the bellyache kind of laugh he hadn’t experienced since elementary school?

Her fans lined up for new releases, anticipating plot twists that plunged her characters into the predicaments he’d found amusing. She gave the maître ‘d a nod, accepted her faux fur shawl from the coat room attendant and slid a twenty into his palm.

He caught her hand. “Can I buy you a drink, Ms. Evangeline?”

“Thank you no. I just disposed of my last one.” The cubes had nestled in Devin’s lap like a toss of the dice.

Best laugh of his week? Her tales had a comedic snap—in the repartee. Her readers laughed out loud and cried in sympathy, triumph, and satisfaction. She knew from the email, blog posts, and tweets how her stories touched people. Why should she care what one snob thought?

Encouraging Young Writers by Julie Arduini

One of the things I promised God I would do as a writer is encourage others along the way. My take is if I can give information and resources to help accelerate their journey, why not?

I’d rather view this business as a family rather than a competition.

Last month I was able to spend time with junior and senior high school students at Youngstown Christian School as part of their literacy week. I shared my story, that I wasn’t in honor classes nor was I encouraged to write for a living. I was told to make safe choices and understand I was weak in grammar. Although I entertained friends with my daily fiction, I listened to the voices that told me to put that stirring on a shelf. I made sure the students knew that if God put that passion in them, nothing can take that away.

I then distributed a writing prompt and gave them ten minutes to choose one and craft a story around it.

The choices included:

  • A teen eating dinner while watching the news receives personal instruction from the anchor.
  • A student closing up a store at the mall encounters a mom with a stroller begging to enter the establishment.
  • A young man who opens an envelope and learns the results to…
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Three of the five Youngstown Christian students featured on the Write Integrity Press website. Photo: Shelley Murray

We had so much fun with this. The school is a melting pot of suburban and inner city experience and the kids reflected their reality into their writing. I saw humor that you can’t manufacture, it came straight from their gifting and made me laugh. The creativity really impressed me.

I shared on Facebook how much fun I was having and Tracy Ruckman, publisher at Write Integrity Press, read that and offered to feature my favorite prompts on the WIP website. I love that Tracy believes in building others up as much as I do.

The student prompts are available for reading and I’d love for you to take a look. Who knows? You might be reading something from a future bestselling author.

Read the writing prompts here.

Following God’s Directive by Camy Tang

I am not perfect but I really do try to do what I think God wants me to do, no matter how scary, or crazy, or unpleasant that seems to be.

However, I’m not the best at hearing when God’s trying to speak to me. It could be because I am just bad at listening, although I’ve worked at it to get better over the years.

But about two and a half years ago, I heard a really clear message from God about a book He wanted me to write. It’s a different genre, and a different audience, and I bobbed my head and said, “Yes, Lord, no problem. I’ll finish the contracts I have and then work on it.”

And I never did. I got more contracts, which seemed like blessings from Heaven considering how much we need the money to pay the mortgage. But they distracted me from the book He wanted me to write.

Well, lately I’ve been feeling God gently reminding me about that book. It seems every Bible study I do and every passage I read is talking about fulfilling God’s purpose for you and following His instructions.

Yes, two and a half years is a really long time for God to wait for me to start work on this book. God’s been pretty patient with me, all things considered.

So after a lot of prayer and talking it over with my husband (who, ironically, has been nagging me for two years about the book God asked me to write), I’m finishing a contracted manuscript due this month (in a week, actually) and not submitting proposals to my publishers, so that I can have contract-free time to write this book that God wants me to write. It’s super scary but also super exciting because I’m looking forward to writing the book!

By the way, the genre is dystopian. It probably won’t be for the Christian market, but it’ll be a clean read. Pray for me!

The Promise of Spring by Tara Randel

While the parts of the nation are digging themselves from an especially snowy winter, the temperature is rising in Florida. After watching the news and seeing piles of snow in the Boston area, I remember why we moved to the Sunshine State years ago. The sun is shining and the days are warm enough for short sleeves and shorts. Azalea’s are blooming, which means other plants are starting to bloom as well. Before you get envious, let me just say; blooming plants…cue in the allergies.

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I’ve always loved the beginning of spring. I know we celebrate new beginnings around the first of the year, but as spring brightens up the world around me, I can see what the new year has to offer. I’m filled with expectation and ready to take on the new projects. There’s a spring in my step, if that doesn’t sound too cliché. (Blame the writer in me.)

 
But sometimes before we celebrate the spring, we have to get through the downtime of winter.

 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: Ecclesiastes 1:1

 
Over the last few months, I filled much of my time studying the Word of God. I’m probably like most people. When I’m not consumed with a project I have to make time for one-on-one with the Lord. I took this winter to get my priorities straight and enjoy the wisdom the Word shares with me. Sometimes I’d tackle subjects that are personal, other times I’d do a Bible study. No matter what I did, it always brings me to an new place in my relationship with God.

 
I love the image of the bride waiting for the bridegroom. I view my study time as preparation for the days to come. The beauty of the spring days remind me of the things God has in store for me. Anticipation for the wedding day.
I encourage you to take time out of your day to read the Word. Spend time in the presence of the Almighty. If you have done so, even the weather won’t bother you. It’s all about perspective and keeping your eyes on what is important.

 
After a dry spell, I’m excited to have been offered new writing opportunities. There is nothing better than knowing I can take the talent God has given me and share it with others. I’ve never considered writing a job. No, I consider it a precious gift.

 
….but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:2-3

I’ll Come Back When You’re Over It by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, over it, Christians Read

 

A few years ago, I went through an experience that resulted in me re-evaluating my life and what I was doing with it. It wasn’t a fun process, but it was a worthy one.

 

I culled things and, frankly, some people from my life. Those who sought to build themselves up by tearing me down. Those who looked me in the face and lied to me. Those who deceived me and betrayed me and felt no remorse for doing so—even felt justified in doing so.

 

It wasn’t easy. It was difficult, but it was necessary. With the gift of hindsight, I see how much joy and balance these people were draining from my life. It wasn’t their fault, by the way. They didn’t take a thing that I didn’t give them. I recognized it and stopped giving, and I am a better person for it.

 

One of the most difficult things I changed was what I was writing. I’ve always had a writing rule not to write a book I didn’t love. I’ve always written books with suspense, romance and mystery in them—in just about every genre except horror. I love thrillers. I love suspense, mystery and romance. And if I put all those elements in a book, then I’m a really happy writer.

 

The other thing I did that many didn’t realize was include a spiritual element in my books. I’ve always been a spiritual person, and after this experience, I wanted to bring that element out of the background—the motivating factors for characters’ actions—and into the foreground. And so I did in the Crossroads Crisis Center series.

 

It was a scary move. I had a strong career going in the general market and frankly I wasn’t sure how I’d be received in the inspirational market. I did the Crossroads three books and then three more in the Lost-Inc. series. They all did okay. Reviewers and Readers were for the most part positive. But there were some who were not happy with reading more about the spiritual element.

 

I received one note that sticks with me. In it, the reader had a bit to say about this “change” and that she loved my writing and when I got over this phase, she’d be back.

 

That letter sort of encapsulated the whole of the responses. Some liked it, some didn’t, some saw very little difference from what I’d been writing, and some absolutely, positively hated it.

 

This created challenges but also blessings. I had to evaluate my reaction and my resolve. It was, simply put, a test. What I discovered during the process was that I am—and really always have been—a bridge walker.

Most haven’t heard that term and there’s a reason for that. I kind of created it to describe what kind of writer and person I choose to be.

 

At one end of the bridge is the secular or general market. At the other end is the inspirational market. In the middle is where I am. Not fully accepted on either end, but doing what I’m called to do, walking the bridge.

 

At first, this troubled me. I felt alone. But in the years since that experience, I’ve discovered that most of us are on that bridge. We have faith, we believe, and we do our best to walk in faith. But we live in a secular world, and many in that secular world are lost and wounded and seeking something. They gravitate to us because we’re not “over the top” or so far removed from them in their lives that they feel getting to a spiritual place is impossible for them. They fear they’re so far removed from the spiritual that they’ll be judged and found lacking.

 

Some believe that people of faith are all about being judgmental and harsh and their own experiences have left them feeling they’ll never measure up or being accepted much less find their place. With very few exceptions, that’s not been my experience, but many have experienced it.

 

I see now, these folks too are on the bridge. They seek more, want more, need more from and in their spiritual lives than they have now, but they can’t seem to find a place where they belong and feel valued.

 

That’s proven the case in my life and in my writing. And it’s why I’m writing series like the Shadow Watchers. Those characters were born in Crossroads Crisis Center and continue in their own. THE MARKED BRIDE is the first book in Shadow Watchers. It’s a Bridge-Walker book and hasn’t been out long enough to gauge whether or not it’ll be accepted by readers. So far, feedback has been good from inspirational and secular readers. One secular reviewer commented she hadn’t realized it was inspirational until it came up that the protagonist prays on everything important in his life. That’s been about the only remark on this end, and it kind of surprised me. Until I read that comment, I honestly thought all spiritual people prayed on things important to them. So I learned something important to know there.

 

Anyway, my point is that a life-altering experience isn’t something you get over. One day, I hope my writing will enjoy the secure footing it once did. I can’t believe that I was brought to this kind of writing and I won’t be brought through it.

 

Either way, the spiritual demands that we do what we believe we’re called to do. I am on solid ground on that front, and the rest will work out as it’s intended. Your prayers on this would be greatly appreciated.

For these reasons, notice is hereby given that, until directed otherwise, I’ll remain on the bridge, doing what I can to help others heal, and hoping it’s enough.

 

Book Release-UNTRACEABLE by Elizabeth Goddard

Hi Friends!

Today is release day for UNTRACEABLE, book 2 in my Mountain Cove series for Love Inspired Suspense. UNTRACEABLE is the story of survival under extreme pressure, and the resulting spiritual battle when we wonder where God is during the struggle.

While UNTRACEABLE can be read as a stand alone novel, I hope you’ll start the series with BURIED and meet the characters there first to get the most powerful emotional experience.

NO WAY OUntraceable CoverUT

On a daring mission, search-and-rescue specialist Heidi Warren and her team step onto an icy Alaskan mountaintop. . .and right into a trap. A stranded gang of thieves holds them at gunpoint, forcing them to serve as guides along the treacherous path. Menaced on all sides by dangerous weather, deadly terrain and murderous criminals, Heidi desperately needs someone to trust. But her rescue partner, Isaiah Callahan, is keeping secrets from her. Secrets that ended their chance at a relationship before it could even begin. Yet her survival depends on finding a way to trust Isaiah when a blizzard starts closing in and her options start running out.

Mountain Cove: In the Alaskan wilderness, love and danger collide.

Order you copy today at:

AMAZON!

HARLEQUIN

Or Visit my website for more purchasing options: ElizabethGoddard.com

Many blessings!

Elizabeth Goddard

Marriage, Romance and Unconditional Love

WeddingDayYesterday, I celebrated twenty-six years of marriage to my wonderful handsome, husband from Montana, me being a Texas girl and all. I posted lots of pictures on my Facebook page and had some fun sharing with friends and family there. I also asked the question—twenty-six years ago, who would have guessed I’d be writing romance?
Some commented that at least I have inspiration—my marriage.
That started me thinking about the romance genre. In general, my romances happen quickly because I write in the romantic suspense sub-genre. So either the characters have known each other in the past or they are just meeting each other when the story begins. From there, the action and story world draw them in and compel them forward to run for their lives or solve a mystery together. They must rely on one another and trust one another like they have never trusted anyone else in their lives—and for their lives. The crucible, if you will, forces them together under pressure and no matter how hard they fight it, they fall in love, or at least admit they know there is a connection and they each want to explore a future together. Now that general formula can happen in many different ways, and I’m only generalizing my stories here as I’ve written them for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense line.
Some readers prefer a long, drawn out romance that happens over a period of months, and that seems more realistic to them because that’s how it happened for them personally. But there are those of us who fell in love quickly and married quickly. My husband and I had only known each other a couple of months, then dated for five weeks before he proposed. From that point we planned the wedding that took place three months later. That’s pretty fast. So for me, whether a romance happens quickly or grows slowly over time, I’m all in.
But here’s another thought. How much more romantic is a marriage of decades where two people have grown together and they know all the good, the bad and the ugly about each other, and they still love each other? In fact, they love each other more. From experience I can tell you there is no deeper lover, no more romantic love, than a lasting, unconditional love.

goddard-LR-2 (2)Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than a twenty romance novels and counting. A 7th generation Texan, Elizabeth graduated with a B.S. degree in computer science and worked in high-level software sales for several years before retiring to home school her children and fulfill her dreams of becoming an author. To find out more or sign up for her newsletter, visit her website at ElizabethGoddard.com.

Join the Mountain Cove adventure, get BURIED (book 1) in an avalanche of romantic suspense. BURIED cover

When Moms Have a Winter Meltdown by Julie Arduini

Yesterday on Facebook I shared my random thoughts about what it’s like to be a mom in the northeast with multiple days off of school thanks to the weather.

My own experience is honestly not that bad. I write from home so I make my own schedule. Although I’m staying up later to write and enjoy my own television shows, I often do that as I love to soak in the quiet. My kids are older and we’re kind of a quiet family, so for the most part it’s just ranting over the disruption to routine. My precious routine.mom pulling hair out photo: mom pulling out hair veryangry.jpgimage courtesy photobucket

For those who live near palm trees, snow days and the subsequent cabin fever might be hard to understand.

If you follow moms on social media who live in a snowbelt, here’s why they might be going a little crazy this winter.

We are on cold day off from school #4 in a row, 10 or more total this year.

For those that don’t live with snow/cold and wonder why mom status updates from that region are getting angry, we need routine, and that’s a basic complaint. I have it easy and I get it. I make my own schedule and rely on few for the running of my household.

Imagine the moms who work outside the home and have young children. They need to make arrangements. They might be paying for childcare they didn‘t plan for in an economy where every penny counts. When the kids are home, they are bored. The bickering most likely escalates between siblings and when bored, they believe they’re hungry. Turn your back for a minute and suddenly a week’s worth of groceries is on a kid’s plate. Just because. There goes the budget. This I know from experience. I busted one of mine for having an obscene amount of junk on their plate purely out of boredom when they thought I wasn’t looking.

As an adult, and a woman, we need meaningful conversation. To be nurtured. Cleaning up extra spills, and if you have pets, their extra crap because they literally can’t perform outside because of the cold, is not nurturing. Before long, after 10+ snow days, four in a row, mind you, the moms get a glazed look in their eye when those cheap airfare commercials to Florida come on. They get through the sticky stuff on the counter by imagining their suitcase packed and their trip for one a done deal.

Here’s the thing, we’ll get that routine back and peace will be restored to the kingdom. While the darlings are at school, we’ll miss them and almost forget the winter drama.

Almost.·

Do you know a mom experiencing a winter like this? Ours is a bit harsher as far as days off because we don’t have delays. It’s all or nothing, and lately, it’s been nothing. It’s thrown everyone off to the point where my youngest isn’t even setting her alarm. Basically her attitude is, “Wake me when there is school.” Most nights before she goes to bed she already knows there isn’t going to be.

If you know someone with young children having a tough winter, you’d be surprised at how little the moms need to be encouraged and refreshed.

Here are things you can do to take the chill off their relentless winter:

  • Get mom out of the house and listen to them. They are craving adult conversation and someone actively listening.
  • Get their kids out of the house and let them release that energy. The kids are bored. Take them to a play place, whether a Kid museum or a fast food play area. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If the temps aren’t crazy cold, take them outside and build a fort or have a snowball fight.
  • Have money and no idea how to spend it? A high end way would be hire a cleaning company to come in and take care of mom’s job. With extra days off I assure you, there are more messes and many moms confessed, as have I, we’ve quit trying. The floors are tracked with snow gunk and we know with 2 1/2 feet outside, it’s not going anywhere. It feels like a losing battle. Living in a messier-than-usual house makes mom feel like a loser. Trust me, I know. Having someone come in will lift her spirits.

Other money ideas:

  • Gift cards for groceries. I know our budget is off kilter because with the kids home more, we’ve gone through more food than I planned.
  • Money for childchare. Again, with days off of school a lot of families have had to scramble/pay extra for childcare they weren’t planning on.
  • Gift cards for movies, kid friendly museums, restaurants. Even if mom and kids go somewhere together, they are at least getting out of the house. That’s half the battle.

Once school is back in session, then its the teachers we need to remember. They are way off pace and especially with younger kids, will have to spend time reminding kids the routine and behaviors they had mastered in October. Start thinking of ways to encourage them!

How about you? Are you a mom enduring an endless winter or know someone who is>

What’s in a Name?

One thing I love about storytelling is the malleability. Rewriting my historical series has become an exercise in this. My intention was to spruce it up, minimize things like punctuated dialect, and bring it sophistication that comes from growing in the writing craft and simply living. It’s been a journey of discovery, envisioning and re-envisioning this project. While retaining the general structure of the story arc, I began to polish, develop, and deepen what was there.

Then I made a decision that required more change–to leave the make-believe town setting and use actual places like Colorado City, Colorado Springs, and Charleston and to incorporate the historical narratives of those places. Lots of research but worth it, I believe, for the richness it brings. I’ve had to adjust the plot for accuracy, and it’s yielded new directions as well. Still I felt bound up in what was on the pages before me–events from the original stories that I want to keep, and of course the people.

Everything I do in storytelling revolves around the characters. Even though this was my first venture in published fiction, I like these people. I want to do them justice. The first rewrite developed relationships between the leads and side characters that I’m very excited about. New conversations revealed aspects of these people who were there but not to this degree. And still I felt this friction between the old and the emerging.

So I took a bold step. I’m renaming the characters. My intention was to set this version apart from the former. But something else occurred. The new names unlocked the scenes in a fresh retelling. Yes, some of the dialogue and events remain–coexisting within the new. And I like that. Maybe I’m crazy and all of this is much ado about nothing.

You may be scratching your heads and saying why are you rewriting something old if you’re changing it so much? I’ll add the question: How much can something change and still remain? Clearly my answer is endlessly, though I do hope for a satisfying culmination.

The stories are different enough now that I want to avoid confusion with print copies of the original series that some of you have on your shelves and that are still circulating secondhand. Some have expressed disappointment and loss at the thought of these changes. But think of movie remakes. Each is its own thing, the same and different. One doesn’t wipe out the other. How many ways has Beauty and the Beast been told? So here I am telling my own tales differently. I hope this adaptation will not only find new readers but be a welcome variation on a theme for you precious diehards. Trust me?

 

 

Old Dog, New Trick by Camy Tang

Once, a long, long time ago (in a galaxy far far away), I took Japanese classes. They were fun, although to be honest, I had absolutely no one around me who spoke Japanese on a regular basis to practice with. Most of my Japanese conversation was limited to anime cartoons with English subtitles. My parents speak perfect English and hardly speak Japanese at all, except a few words here and there (although they do understand quite a bit of it when other people speak to them, they just respond in English).

After college, I didn’t speak Japanese again for years since I didn’t need it for work and I didn’t watch as much anime. I wasn’t living in Hawaii, where Japanese programing was more prevalent, and I didn’t have cable TV. And this was actually before the internet got so big, if you can believe that. (I guess I’m dating myself.)

Well, now that there are actually websites where you can watch anime through streaming, I’ve started watching it again. And it’s motivated me to pick up my Japanese language learning again.

Let me say, it’s HARD. I haven’t been in a studying mindset in decades and just going through my old Japanese textbooks is like reading them for the first time.

But I have to admit that technology is WONDERFUL. There’s flashcard apps now that I can put on my smart phone and my tablet so that I can quiz myself on vocabulary. There are also Japanese language apps so that I can learn kanji much more easily than I did when I had to make my own flash cards and practice writing on scrap paper—instead, I can practice writing right on my smart phone or tablet. This is awesome!

It’s slow going, but it’s nice being able to review my old textbooks on my own time rather than on a class schedule. But eventually when I get caught up, I think I will enroll in classes in my local community college so that I can get some college credit.

Because who knows? This old dog might go back to school for another degree!

How about you guys? Any of you got a degree later in life? Any tips and tricks for someone thinking of going back to school?

Why Brian Williams is Fair Game by Julie Arduini

I’m a strong believer of building others up instead of tearing them down. It’s a principle I use as a mom, mentor and friend.

That said, the dull roar and many memes I’m observing regarding Brian Williams doesn’t bother me.

I think by his own choices, he’s fair game.

Image: Twitter

Image: Twitter

In case you missed the news about his news, Brian recently did a feature on a story he’s been telling for years. He recalled during the Iraq war he “was forced down after being hit by an RPG.” Over the years he added details to the story even though there were servicemen who were there who were crying foul. They were on the flight and recalled him not being on that flight, but one that showed up later. In other articles I’ve read NBC reportedly went as far as to tell him to stop telling the story because he was going to get caught one day. In this article from the Business Insider it’s reported that NBC was warned Williams had a reputation for stretching the truth.

Finally, the servicemen and their calling him out caught traction and it made it through social media and is now news. There were too many people who were there telling the same story for Brian to continue with his version. Instead of opening up and admitting he lied, he instead took the route of “I misremembered.” The backlash from that is so intense he is now saying he has taken himself off the air. True or not, I can’t discern. NBC news isn’t great at following through with scandal, from Matt Lauer’s role in firing Ann Curry to Dr. Snyderman being seen all over town while she was supposed to be quarantined, both are still on air getting paid well.

The internet is abuzz with Brian Williams memes and I don’t feel bad that they are out there. He grew up 20 miles from where I did and he was a hometown hero. I loved telling others that Brian Williams came from our area. I loved journalism and was headed in that direction when I realized I couldn’t be objective. News is too important to me so I left it before I would get caught in a situation where I’d share my views instead of facts or something in violation of the ethics that are so basic. Brian violated our trust and kept going when he was warned to stop. When he got caught, he failed to repent and ask forgiveness. My sense is he’s hoping we all simmer down and move to the next news cycle so he can get back to work and we all forgive and forget.

Is he the only anchor out there with issues? No. They lost their objectivity the day Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw retired. The anchors today share their opinions or what’s being fed to them but to my knowledge, they aren’t sharing heroic stories they were never a part of. For that, I think NBC needs an overhaul. Forget the ratings Williams used to bring and be about the news. Bring a trusted face and voice like Lester Holt and start over with an evening news program people can rally to watch because they want the news and know they are getting it.

And Brian, take your time wiping the dirt off yourself. Find that place deep within that wants to make a difference, a real one, and be a game changer for the world.

Not the butt of jokes as you ran headfirst into.

Vicki Hinze’s Thoughts on Character Makes a Difference by Mike Huckabee

thoughts on Character Makes a Difference, Mike Huckabee, Vicki HinzeI’ve been reading a book. Mick Huckabee’s book, Character Makes a Difference. 

Let me disclose that I’ve been a political junkie my entire life, but these days, I’m pretty much maxed out on the absence of character evident in politics. Spin is the operative word and I have been wondering lately if most of the people supposedly leading us would recognize the right thing or the truth if it hit them in the head.

 

In other words, I’m weary of the games, the posturing, the diversions, the manipulations. I’ve had it with lies and misstatements put forth to us as inadvertent when they are in fact by design and those speaking them are counting on us, the people they’re supposed to represent, to remain unconscious, disconnected and so sick of it all, we just tune them out and permit them to go on their merry way without comment or interference. In a huge way, that’s what they’ve gotten for years sans periods of brief discourse in reaction to things like the president’s comments last week at the National Prayer Breakfast.

 

My point is that I wasn’t in the most receptive frame of mind to read a book about character written by a politician. But the American in me, the woman in me, needed to read on the topic. I’ve been wallowing in Proverbs, hungry for character and to see it living and breathing and active in lives. I hoped but didn’t count on seeing it living and breathing and active in a life being lived today.

 

So it was at this point that I saw and picked up a copy of this book, Character Makes a Difference, and I warned myself not to expect too much. Politics is a dirty business. It doesn’t have to be, but when the people don’t demand otherwise, that’s where moral decay and the absence of character being required lead us, and that’s what we get.

 

I read, and wasn’t surprised at the events the author faced as Lt. Governor of Arkansas, but I was surprised by his reactions to those events. He didn’t leave God or morals or common sense at the door. No, he brought them with him into office and better yet he kept them front and center while in office.

 

I won’t spoil the book for others, but I will say we have at least one man politically connected who doesn’t attempt to foist rose-colored glasses onto us, to distract us so he can push a hidden agenda. Who speaks plainly about what is and isn’t right, and why, and what he can and cannot or will not do. His moral compass appears intact.

 

Perhaps it’s that he’s a former pastor. Perhaps it was the way he was raised. Perhaps it’s that he’s made past mistakes and suffered the consequences of them and decided he doesn’t want to go there again. I suspect it’s all of that and more that makes him face his job and life morally grounded.

How refreshing it was to read commentary by a man who doesn’t think responsibility is a coat you can put on or take off when it’s convenient.  That it’s a coat we all must wear all the time.

 

There are some welcome quotes in this book. At least, welcome to me, as a reader. Here are a few I highlighted:

 

“Loving others is not the same as performing according to the demands of others.”

 

“True love must draw the line and say ‘no.’”

 

“Without able and honorable competition, victory in any endeavor is meaningless.”

 

“Loving our enemies does not mean giving in to their demands or compromising our values.”

 

As I look through the book, I’ve highlighted a lot. And I hope you will, too.

 

There’s a lot worth reading here. A lot worth being reminded of about the type of conduct we should expect in those we elect to represent us. And a lot to remind us of what we’re missing because we aren’t.

 

Perfect? Absolutely not. Like the rest of us, flawed to the core. But this book is about character, and that is one thing in short supply in too many and the one thing we most sorely need for a civil, constructive and productive society.

 

Character isn’t seated in relativism, this book says. It makes a strong argument, and that makes it worth reading.

 

____________________________

 

Vicki Hinze, My Imperfect Valentine, New Adult novels, Valentine's romance novels© 2014, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is My Imperfect Valentine. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com.   Subscribe to Vicki’s Newsletter.

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