Monday, September 28, 2015

The Second Most Important Thing in Marriage...


It’s communication. I know, I know you’ve heard it before, but maybe there’s a reason you’ve heard it already. Communication is very, very important. In fact, we think it’s only second to a relationship with Christ in importance for making your marriage work. If you’re reading this right now and your marriage is in trouble, chances are you’re not communicating well.

Think back to when you were dating. You talked on the phone for hours, and you hung on to every word the other person said. There is no reason marriage can’t be a little like that. So many couples only really talk when they are arguing. Take some time to sit down without the distractions that usually go on around you and just talk. It doesn’t have to be about anything big, but just listen to what the other person is saying. I think you’ll find that you really do care about what’s going on in their life, and they really care about what’s going on in yours.

Laura and I both struggled with communication, especially while we dated long distance. I was a pleaser, so I never wanted to say anything that would cause conflict. Laura was an avoider, so she wouldn’t let me in. If she was upset, she wouldn’t say why. If I was upset, I tried to just get over it. None of that equals communication. It’s not real. Real communication starts with honesty, even when it’s not convenient.

So how do you start? For us, we literally schedule time in our week to share our feelings. (Men, it’s okay to have feelings and share them.) For both of us, we had a hard time knowing what we were feeling, much less how to talk about it. But it gets easier with time and practice, and it doesn’t always have to be about conflict. Now, if I’m stressed at work, I can share that and feel encouraged. If she’s having a bad week, she can share that and feel supported.

So, I would say first it takes time. A conscious effort because we’re all busy. But it also requires you to respect what your spouse is saying.  This is a lot harder than it sounds for a lot of people. You can probably see exactly why your spouse is wrong, but you still need to hear them out because you love them and that’s an important way to show them that you respect them. Listening is the hardest part of communication for a good portion of people, especially men. I’m a man, and I can tell you, it’s not a skill that comes naturally to most of us. It’s also difficult for a lot of women though. If you like to talk, you probably don’t listen all that well unless you’ve consciously worked on it.

If you have questions on listening and responding, please feel free to email Laura and me (Howell) through the “contact us” link at the top of this site. I encourage you to try really listening to what your spouse has to say. Schedule time to talk without distractions if you have to. You never know, you might learn something about your spouse that you never knew.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

My Top FIVE Moments at ACFW 2015

I got home on Sunday from my first ever ACFW conference, and let me tell you, it was an incredible, life-changing weekend. I felt so favored by God, and I know I was blessed because my experience could have turned out very differently. 

I could have been told by an agent that I have no talent for writing. But that didn’t happen. 

I could have been told by an editor that my story is uninteresting and won’t sell. But that didn’t happen. 

I could have sat next to Bill Meyers at dinner on Thursday, and I could have dropped my phone so far under the table that I had to literally crawl on my knees, in my brown slacks, to get it while Bill held up the table cloth. But that didn’t—oh wait, maybe that one did…

I guess if I’m making a list of top five moments, that definitely goes on the list.

Number Five: Embarrassing myself in front of Bill Meyers. Sure, it’s an embarrassing moment—but it’s a memorable moment nonetheless, and I’m pretty sure he thought nothing of it because in our hour-and-a-half dinner conversation, I found out he is the most down-to-earth, easy-to-talk-to guy. And encouraging. He gave me a word from the Lord before we parted ways, and it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

Number Four: Seeing Francine Rivers win the Lifetime Achievement Award. I was never brave enough to meet her (apart from the Gala, I actually only saw her for a millisecond in passing)—but Howell met her!! Her acceptance speech was beautiful and humble and reminded me why I have loved her and her books for almost 20 years.

Number Three: Meeting amazing new friends—many of whom were in my shoes. I’ve been timid about this process of calling myself a writer (read part one and part two here). But I’m so thankful to be a part of an organization that supports my dreams, and I believe God gave me divine appointments with new friends (especially you, Simone! :)).

Number Two: Getting to meet Kristen Heitzmann. She hugged me. She sat next to me at lunch. She got to meet my husband. And although Howell told me I wasn’t allowed to gush when I met her, I may have swooned a little. She is my all-time favorite author, y’all. And I’m not just saying that because she was there, and I met her. I’m saying, ask anyone who knows me. She’s my favorite. I’ve read all her books. I think she does amazing work with dialogue and character perspective.

Number One: Learning invaluable information for my fiction writing career. I learned so much about story writing and honing my craft, and I gained new knowledge about the publishing process, working with agents, and building my platform.

For now, this introvert is happy to be back in farm country...

...But my work is certainly cut out for me as I begin polishing my manuscript before I send it to potential agent contacts I made.

Check back next week for the top FIVE pieces of advice I received at ACFW, and if you want to share your TOP FIVE moments from the conference, please comment below!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Calling Myself a Writer - Part Two

So, I wrote a book. A work of fiction actually. And it's a little known fact about me because I've been timid about saying so and especially about calling myself a writer. (Need proof: see THIS post five years ago or THIS post six years ago!)

Last weekend I went to a writer's conference where (in addition to meeting my all-time favorite author!!) I got to meet with agents and editors and learn so much about the publishing process. To call it a life-changing weekend only scratches the surface.

One of the things I learned is that I need to create a platform for myself. I had never heard of this term, which is probably why I could safely say I didn't have one. A platform is a big thing for nonfiction, but it's becoming a thing for fiction too. And it's a catch 22. You kinda have to publish a book to get a platform. But editors at traditional publishing houses want to see that you have a platform before they buy your manuscript.

So I'm working on my "platform," which means I'm going to be blogging more regularly. Y'all have been so supportive of my blogs about infertility, and I'm still going to blog, but it'll look a little different. Howell and I will blog about marriage on Mondays. To be honest, this has been our heart for over five years. We actually kept a marriage blog for a while (another little known fact. :)) And I'll be blogging personally on Thursdays. Sometimes about writerly stuff. Sometimes just about me.

I promise I won't spam your Facebook newsfeed with my blogs, especially my writer blogs. I am going to keep Facebook for me personally--not as a "platform."

BUT if you are interested in following me on this journey as I work to publish my first manuscript (yes, I actually had people who wanted to see it! Eeeek!) and if you want to help me build my "platform," here are some ways you can help:

  1. Subscribe to my blog, even if all my posts aren't interesting to you. You don't have to always read them, but it shows I have readers. :)
  2. Follow me on Twitter (@Grace2Write), even if you don't tweet or look at Twitter or get it. I don't either sometimes, but if you have an account, follow me!
  3. Follow me on Google+ (Laura C. Brandenburg), even if I don't get what Google+ is! Ha! The app is new to me, but if you have it and you use it, Follow me? Friend me?  Put me in your circle? Whatever the wording is--do that. :)
All of the links to subscribe (follow by email) or follow (on Twitter or Google+) are on the right sidebar of my blog site. (Over there! --->) (Note: If you're viewing the mobile site, you may have to click the "view full site" link at the bottom.)

Follow and share and share and share--especially if you have reader-friends who like feel-good romantic fiction (think: Charles Martin, not Danielle Steele :)).

I aspire to write about life events that are real and relatable. Life is not always pretty, but God is always good. I have experienced the pain of loss and the heartache of unexpected outcomes. I know what anger and bitterness and unforgiveness look like. But I have found freedom in Christ, and I hope, through the stories I tell, my readers can encounter the grace and the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Thank you for your support! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Welcome to Marriage Mondays


We believe that God has blessed us with an extraordinary marriage. No, we haven’t been married 30 years. But over the last seven years, we have experienced the fullness of God in our marriage—through trials and joys, through lessons learned, through roads less traveled, and, above all, through God's grace. Our heart is simply to share what we have learned, to share what we feel so many marriages are missing. Our lessons may be simplistic, but we truly believe that when we put into practice the things we’ve learned, we begin to see God transform our marriages from ordinary to extraordinary.