Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Every December, we take a break from the blog to focus on our families and refuel for the new year. From the Brandenburgs--including Rizzoli--we hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Check back in January for new posts--and in the meantime, catch up on old posts:

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Holiday Giveaway - Sign Up Now!

Calling all subscribers! I am getting ready to send out my December newsletter in a few weeks. Are you signed up?

In it, I’ll share some writerly updates, AND I am giving away TWO fun holiday books—A Cliché Christmas, by Nicole Deese, and Falling like Snowflakes, by Denise Hunter.

I’ll pick two lucky winners from my list of subscribers, so if you’re on the list—you’re in the drawing! And if you’re not, trust me—my newsletters may not be awe-inspiring or earth-shattering, but these lovely authors are.

The drawing will be held on or after December 3, so be sure to sign up now by going to my website and entering your email at the top right corner. 

Monday, November 12, 2018


We talk a lot about different things you can do to improve your marriage, like communicating, developing good financial practices, and prioritizing marriage and family time. To tell you the truth though, none of those can be as powerful a force in your marriage as prayer. There is just no substitute. I want to address a few areas of prayer for you marriage today.

First, pray with your spouse. This sounds simple, but very few people make it a point to do this outside of praying for meals and true emergencies. I was inspired by one of my good friends and brother in Christ a few years ago who makes it a point to pray with his wife and kids every night before bed. At first it was awkward for him. He didn’t feel that he was “good” at it, but in reality, his family respected him immensely for it. I also didn’t feel that I was that good at it. I’m not great at using all the “Christianese” expressions in my prayers, but God hears them. I know He does. I see the results.

Next, pray for your spouse. Make this a priority in your life. You love this person more than anyone else on the planet. Pray for them! Pray they have a good day. Pray for protection. Pray for health. Pray for the things that you know need to change. There is no better way to see change in someone’s life than to pray for it. You don’t have to be eloquent. Just be fervent.

Lastly, and this is not repetitive: Pray for your marriage. God knows your marriage better than either of you. He knows what is needed to change it in a great way. Pray for that and believe it will happen. He will work miracles!

So, in case you haven’t gotten the message here, prayer is an important pillar of your marriage. I told Laura that would be a short blog because I could really sum it up in one sentence: Prayer will change your marriage. Period.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

When it doesn't feel okay...

I have had this quote running through my head for weeks: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” 

If it’s not okay, IT’S NOT THE END.

I am a sucker for happy endings. I like it when the guy and girl get together. When the family is reunited. When the team wins. When the hero succeeds and the enemy is defeated.

I love it all.

Sometimes the sad ending is the realistic one—but I’ve been thinking lately, even if it’s sad, it’s not over; it’s not the end. There’s tomorrow, there’s next year, there’s another season, another chance. Even in the face of death, there’s life for those who remain.

Isn’t that the truth of God’s redemptive story for us?

We have hope—always—because it’s not the end. And when it is the end, it’s going to be good, victorious, glorious.

That’s why His hope never disappoints (Rom 5:8), why it is an anchor for our soul (Heb. 6:19)—both sure and steadfast.

The other day, I feel like the Lord reminded me that anyone who is destined for greatness must have a good story. And any good story requires an obstacle, a conflict, an unfulfilled dream.

Maybe you need to hear that today. You’re destined for greatness in God’s kingdom—and He’s writing a good story in your life.

How can we be sure?

Because God’s word is true, and He’s promised His plans for us are good—to give us a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11).

What’s your obstacle right now? Whatever it is, it’s not permanent. 

Take heart, my friend, if you’re struggling today. It’s only for a season, a chapter, a section, a volume—but it’s not forever, and it’s not the end.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Marriage Is Like a...

I have a porcelain tea bag holder shaped as a teapot with a flower inside it that sits next to my kitchen sink to hold my rings when I’m cooking. A friend bought it for me in England because she knew how fondly I remember my semester abroad in London. Although the little teapot shattered once, I glued each piece back together with great care, and I like the imperfection of it so much that it still sits in its same place.

Last week, I was doing dishes and thinking about what to write for this blog post, and I felt like the Lord told me that my porcelain teapot could be a metaphor for marriages.

Everyone’s marriage faces a chip or two over the years. Some end up with entire cracks and separation. Some get glued back together with care, restored completely.

I fully believe every marriage faces a moment, at least one, when both people are confronted with the decision—stay and fight for their marriage or give up. It may be a dramatic standoff, or it may be after years of passivity where the relationship has lost priority, and both people are just biding their time.

For Howell and me, our first year of marriage wasn’t the toughest. It was years two and three. I remember after one particular fight, I felt deceived and defeated. We seemed to be in the same pattern, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I was truly on the brink of giving up. We were young. We didn’t have any kids. Why stay?

The next morning, I saw a man whose red and puffy eyes matched my own, and I’ve never questioned our marriage since then—no matter what we have faced.

God was gracious to us in that season. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other and most of all about who God is and what He can do in our hearts.

He became the super glue that mended those broken places until they were stronger than ever before.

What about you, friends? Can you remember a time in your marriage that felt like a line in the sand? What compelled you to stay and fight?

Maybe you’re feeling cracked and broken even now, and super glue doesn’t feel possible. I can promise you, it’s worth the process to let God mend your marriage. It’s a supernatural feat only He can accomplish in us—if we’re willing.

Ask for help. Seek wise counsel. See a counselor. Whatever you need to do—but don’t stop fighting or your marriage.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Heart of Sacrifice

Last weekend I spoke at a breakout session at our church’s women’s event, and I wanted to share just a small part of my talk for this week’s post because God put this message on my heart—and I hope it’ll challenge you like it’s challenged me.

My message was about giving, and what I wanted to get at was the idea that giving is more about our heart than it is about money. Money is just the means, the tool that gets talked about the most. But a heart of giving is really tied to a heart of sacrifice.

Remember Abraham’s story—when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac?

The story is in Genesis 22 (read the whole chapter here). The summary version is God says, hey, Abraham, take your son, your only son whom you love, and offer him to me as a burnt offering. And Abraham rose early the next morning to do it. He didn’t wait. He didn’t delay. He just got up and went. And he doesn’t just go—he makes preparation for the offering.

I’m sure most of you have heard this story’s ending, right? God sees Abraham’s obedience, his willingness to sacrifice his son—his only son—and so God provides a ram instead.

Abraham calls this place Jehovah Jirah—which we translate as the Lord who provides. The literal meaning here is the Lord who sees to it. I love that. God sees to it that Abraham is provided for—but only AFTER he was willing to sacrifice what he valued. 

What do you value most in this life? Now imagine that God asked you to give it up, to give away the most precious thing in your life. And not just give it up, but literally sacrifice it on the altar.

Was your most valuable thing a person? Your children or your spouse?

I can’t even comprehend how hard it would be to sacrifice my husband. I literally can’t imagine my life without him. And we don’t have children, but like Abraham, we have promises from God. Abraham waited 25 years for his promised son. We’ve only waited 7, and it feels like a lifetime sometimes. What if God asked me to sacrifice my baby that I’ve waited seven, eight, ten years for?

Abraham didn’t question God. None of it makes sense. This is his promised son we’re talking about. But he didn’t argue. He keeps going—and trusting. 

We read this story already knowing the outcome, but HE DID NOT KNOW THE OUTCOME, y’all. He thought he was about to kill his son. And he was willing to do it because it was what God had asked him to do.

This story is all about Abraham’s willingness to give up something he loved and valued as an act of worship and obedience.

A heart of giving is more about surrender than anything else. And it’s not really surrender or sacrifice unless it hurts a little, unless it tugs at you—you know what I mean? Like ouch, that’s hard to give up.

But here’s the blessing when we do—remember God’s words to Abraham? He promised to bless him, to multiply his offspring, to give them the land of their enemies, to bless the nations through his children. That’s a pretty massive promise.

God has been dealing with me on this message—are there places in my life, areas of value that I hold back, dreams I haven’t given Him?

If he asked me to sacrifice my greatest desire, would I do be willing?

What about you, friends? Is there anything you are holding back? Anything closed fisted?

I pray we would open our heart, be generous, and be willing to say yes.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Important Moments

I’ve talked before about being present in your marriage, but it's on my mind right now. In the days of smartphones and Facebook, it can’t be emphasized enough. Our society is heading in a direction where quality time is just not a priority. I want to be specific in encouraging you to be present today. Be present in the moments that matter. Be present when it’s most important.

This week, I was spending some time with Laura when we had a long drive, but it seemed like everything was going wrong at work without me there. To be honest, I worked more than I had to. To be even more honest, I didn’t help solve the situation at work very much either. I just wasted an afternoon. This wasn’t one of those important-times-that-I’ll-remember-for-the-rest-of-my-life moments, but it got me to thinking about them.

As I’m writing this, we are at a family retreat for Laura’s family. It’s one of those times when we’ll make memories that actually do last a lifetime. We have nephews and grandparents and everything in between. I got to thinking about times in my life when I haven't been present for those moments. A phone call comes in or a work emergency presents itself. Has that happened to you?

Every day, there are moments with our spouse or family to cherish. These are times we’ll never get back, and we may never get to have again. Only God knows what tomorrow holds. Don’t be the absent dad, mom, husband, or wife that only got to see the video. There is no replacement for the best of memories. Be there for all the “remember that one time” that you can.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Letter to the Not-Yet Mom

To the Not-Yet Mom from a Not-Yet Mom:

I’ve been on this not-yet journey for seven years, and I was thinking recently about how much pressure I have felt—and sometimes still feel—about all the things I could “do” to make this desire in my heart a reality. (As if I am sovereign, and He is not.)

Do you ever feel that way?

Well-intentioned people will have plenty of suggestions about what you could or should do, like stay away from plastic, gluten, dairy, sugar, diet drinks, and so on. Or they'll suggest a variety of products, vitamins, regimens, etc. because of someone they know who did X or Y, and SHE got pregnant.

That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the fertility conversation—what doctor to go to, what hormones to take, what procedures to do.

Here’s the truth: People mean well—they really do. And for the most part, they don’t know what to say or how to help, so they fall back on what they know or have heard, especially if they haven’t actually walked through infertility.

But friends, can I be real with you?

It’s way too easy to get sucked into the “if I do this, then” trap.

Bottom line?

Women get pregnant every day—because God opens their womb and causes them to carry a baby.

The Bible is very clear that God creates and sustains life. No one else. Nothing else. Period.

Read your Sarah stories and Rachel stories and Hannah stories and Elizabeth stories. Want to know why they conceived? Because God opened their womb at the exact moment, at the exact time He said He would.

I’m not saying you can’t take the pills and eat the diet—or even that those things don’t help. (Trust me, I've done them—and am doing them.)

But what I want for you, and for me, is FREEDOM from the pressure that we have to do or be or say just the right things to MAKE this happen in our bodies.

Be prayerful about what you do or don’t do—but the only voice of wisdom you have to hear from is God’s. And fortunately for us, He’s promised to give us wisdom anytime we ask for it (James 1:5).

Rest, my friend, in God’s goodness and in His perfect plan. I know the LAST thing you want to hear right now is to wait on His timing. Believe me, I went through a season where I loathed the phrase. But it’s the truth—He knows what He’s doing.

I’m here if you need me. And I’m always praying—for you and for me.



Monday, October 1, 2018

Brag much?

Do you want to make your spouse feel loved?

Of course you do! I think most married couples desire to demonstrate their love to each other, but sometimes the problem is knowing how to make your spouse feel loved. That's why books like The Five Love Languages stay on the bestsellers lists (and if you've never read it, I'd highly recommend you do).

But I was thinking this morning about one way to make your spouse feel loved that is perhaps a universal love language:

Brag on your husband or wife--in public!

This is something I think Howell does really well. Last week, I shared with you about my experiences at ACFW. I've had some people ask me if I knew I was going to win the award beforehand because Howell was already filming before they announced it.

Nope, I definitely didn't know. And neither did he, except in his gut.

Not only did he capture the moment on video, but he started sharing it with all our friends and family--and eventually on Facebook.

On Monday, he came home and was talking about how he'd showed the video to his coworkers.

Y'all, my heart floated right out of my chest.

He was bragging about me? And my Christian fiction romance book? To a bunch of men? At work?


I know this demonstration of love goes both ways. When I brag about Howell to my friends or in front of him, it makes him feel loved and respected.

It's a small thing, but it means so much. This week, be mindful of moments when you're in a group with your spouse--and then take a second to brag.  You'll fill your spouse's love cup. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

That's a Wrap - ACFW 2018

Another great ACFW conference is in the books. I will try to hit the highlights like I do every year post-conference (see 2015 and 2017), though I am not sure I can do them justice this year.

1. Debbie Macomber delivered our keynote sessions, and y’all she is as cute as her Hallmark movies. While I’ve read a few of her series, I did not know much about her personally, and I so enjoyed her transparency and humor and heart for the Lord.

2. Liz Curtis Higgs received the Lifetime Achievement Award and led part of the workshop track I attended on Friday AND showed up at our Hartline Literary Agency dinner on Friday night (her hubs is represented by Hartline). I tamed my fangirl feels (I think), but I did manage to sneak not one but two pictures with her! Ha!

3. As always, I learned A TON! But my two favorite sessions: getting to hear from the editors at three different publishing houses talk candidly about expectations and preferences and attending Julie Gwin’s session on proposals. I still have much to apply, but I’m grateful for the knowledge!

4. Every year, I make new friends, and this year was no exception. I’m grateful for the catch-up time with my critique partner and the new friendships formed—some of which were social media friends I finally got to meet in person.

5. The Gala must be mentioned because it was so fun! My agent won Agent of the Year, and the shock on his face was priceless. He is a humble man, but so very deserving! Tamera Alexander sat at our same table, and I got to see her win not one but two Carol awards. And I’m still pinching myself two days later that I won the Genesis for the Short Novel category. What a dream come true!

My hubs went with me to Nashville, and even before we left, he kept asking if I was going to prepare an acceptance speech. I dismissed the idea, thinking there’s no way I actually will win. I was pleased to just be a finalist this year. But he continued to say, I really think you should write something down.

When I went to the rehearsal on Saturday afternoon, I was chatting with a fellow finalist, who had won Genesis in a previous year, and she asked if I’d written anything down. When I said no, she said, you really ought to because when I won, I hadn’t prepared anything, and once I got up on stage, in front of all those people, I wished I had.

So, you know, an hour before the Gala, I’m getting ready and jotting down some notes. No time like the last minute, right?!

When the announcer called my name, Howell leans over to whisper “I knew it!” in my ear. He captured the entire speech and had texted it out to everyone we know before I could even get back to my seat. I sure love him and love his support for me. (If you want to see the video, it's on Facebook here).

I’ve been overwhelmed by the congratulations I’ve received, the videos and text messages and social media comments. God really does get 100% of the credit in my mind. It’s His gift and all for His glory!

If you attended this year, what are your favorite moments? 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Complementary Strengths

As I write this, the ACFW conference is only a few days away, and Laura is preparing pitches and finalizing one sheets. This is always an exciting time of year for us, with optimism and anticipation abounding. It also reminds me of our differences, though. I am not a brilliant writer, and frankly, I don’t want to be. But I’m so glad she has found this thing that she is both passionate about and very talented at. As her husband, I get to use my business and management talents and have the chance to help her network and make career turning decisions. That is very exciting for me! I’m thankful that we have different strengths and weaknesses so we can complement each other.

I can’t think of a single couple whose strengths and weaknesses even come close to aligning. We all have different things we are good and not good at. For a big part of our dating and then early marriage relationship, these opposing strengths and weaknesses really seemed to make our lives more difficult. We each had expectations of the other to do and think like we did. Guess what, folks?! We didn’t. I see this all the time in other relationships, and sometimes it evens tears them apart.

If you are reading this, have you recently thought this about your spouse: “Why would he/she say/do that?! It’s infuriating and makes no sense!” Well, your spouse is different from you. They see things differently, and they may just not be as good as you at certain things. For example, I have a terrible memory. If I’m going to remember something, I have to write it down. Laura remembers just about everything. It was really hard for her, for a long time, to understand how I could forget that we had this or that event coming up or that I needed to take care of this or that. Once she realized that remembering wasn’t my strength, and I realized that I needed to try to write things down more, we rarely argue about that issue. I have other strengths that she finds really helpful, and we balance each other out.

Looping back to ACFW, we are a team. Each of us has different talents and strengths that offset one another, and hopefully, someday, we'll get to see Laura share her incredible stories with the world. As her husband, that teamwork makes me very happy. So, if you find yourself bothered by your spouse’s differences, try teaming up by aligning your complementary strengths. I think you’ll like it much better.



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Any #ACFW2018 First Timers?

My first experience with the ACFW conference could best be described as 90% terror and maybe 10% excitement. I’ll never forget when Howell dropped me off at the airport. Maybe because it was some ungodly hour in the morning or maybe because he wasn’t going to be with me for the first two days of the conference (and he is my security blanket!)—it’s hard to say. All I know is when I made it through security, I stopped to set my stuff down in a chair and re-group. And then out of nowhere, my eyes filled with tears, and I couldn’t stop crying.

I won’t call it a full-blown panic attack—that might be a bit overdramatic, and I know those are a real thing for some people—but let’s just say, my breath was caught in my chest. Here I am, in front of God and everyone, bawling my eyes out. I fumbled my phone before typing in Howell’s number. He hadn’t even left the parking lot, and already, I’m telling him I can’t do this. It’s too hard. Too scary. Too much.

Meet with agents and editors?

Show my work that has been only closely shared with friends and family?

Small talk with strangers?

Step into massive rooms with large crowds?

Blend in and stand out among a thousand other conference-goers?

No. Nope. Not me.

I will be FOREVER grateful that my sweet hubs talked me off the ledge. I boarded the plane. I took great, huge gulps of breath. And I attended my first ACFW conference.

The relationships I formed that year cannot be measured. I made great friends, some who were exactly where I was at that stage and others who were ahead of me in the game. Both sets of contacts have become invaluable to me.

Because of ACFW, I have learned more than I could have without their resources. The conference workshops and sessions have taught me so much about the craft of writing and the publishing process.  I’ve been in critique groups, met my WONDERFUL critique partner, and found an agent. And I've discovered mentors and friends I might not have met otherwise. 

This year I feel so honored and humbled to be a Genesis finalist, and I know that while God gets 100% of the credit for anything good I write, ACFW gets a smidge on top of that too.

If you’re new to ACFW this year, what are you most afraid of?

If you’re a veteran member, what was your first experience like?

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Power of Two

In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon writes,

Two are better than one,

because they have a good reward for their labor.

For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.

But woe to him who is alone when he falls,

for he has no one to help him up.

Again, if two lie down together,

they will keep warm;

but how can one be warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered by another,

two can withstand him.

A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

I have long believed that the enemy attacks marriages because he knows the power of two.

Two have a good reward for their labor.

Two can lift each other up.

Two can keep warm together.

Two can withstand the enemy.

You put God in the center of that marriage, and you’ve got a threefold cord—the kind that ties down massive ships or anchors airplanes. Solid. Sturdy. Strong. 

My favorite part of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 is the verse that if one falls, the other is there to lift him up. What a beautiful picture. I can look back at seasons of my life where Howell has stood in the gap for me spiritually, and I thank God I didn’t have to fall by myself or stay down with no one to lift me up and point me back to Jesus.

The enemy is no dummy. He knows how powerful a couple can be in His kingdom, which is why he works so hard to destroy our marriages.

So this is what’s on my heart, married friends:

1. Be grateful for two. You’re not alone. God has given you a partner in life—and if, for whatever reason, there’s a tear in your rope, do all that’s in your power to mend it. You need each other. God designed us this way. Your spouse is a gift. So if you feel alone, if you’re feel like you’re doing it all by yourself, ask God to change your hearts and to restore the relationship so that you can work together.

2. Protect the cord. Whether we’re talking about a big expense or a parenting decision, you've got to be on the same page. Don’t let something or someone wedge itself between you and your spouse. Be a team. The enemy wants to divide. Don’t give him the victory in your marriage—whether it’s a small skirmish or a giant battle. Pray for God to give you a unified heart and vision because you’re stronger together.

3. Fight the enemy. The beauty of two is they can withstand the enemy. One alone may be overpowered, but not two. Be proactive in spiritual warfare. Pray over your husband or wife on a daily basis. It’s hard to have unforgiveness or bitterness in your heart when you’re lifting your spouse up in prayer. We need to be aware and alert to guard our marriages by being actively engaged in resisting the enemy. He only has the authority we give over to him. Ours is the victory.

I pray you’ll be encouraged to appreciate the value of two—and if you’re struggling to see that value, reach out to someone and be honest. Don’t stay in the dark. Seek wise counsel. The enemy wants to keep us silent about marriage struggles, but sometimes you have to verbalize them to bring about freedom. Decide today that you’ll fight for your marriage.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

When the Words Won't Come

I've learned something new about myself this summer: when my mental capacity is full (i.e. I'm stressed), my creativity is completely stifled.

I don't suppose this is earth-shattering to most of you. It seems logical, right?

But what's a girl to do when she can't write?

I thought writing might work like this:

But the reality looks a little more like this:

And this:

The truth is, sometimes I just have to write--whether it feels particularly creative or masterful or whatever. There's a certain necessity to just get words on the page.

The other side of that, though, is to stop and reflect on whether I'm writing with God or just striving with my own effort to get this new book written. (A great reminder I recently ran across while reviewing my notes from the 2016 "Write in the Springs" session with Allen Arnold. Wow--what a weekend!)

Too often, if I feel like the words won't come, it has more to do with the state of my heart, my connection to my Creator, than the state of my mind.

And when I get connected to my Creator, who gives me all the inspiration I'll ever need, I realize something else too.

These things that occupy my mind and have me stressed out--yeah, those. Did God put them on my plate or did I? What can I say 'no' to? What have I prioritized--and is that in line with my life's purpose and calling?

Most likely it means some things may have to go. And what stays must be surrendered to Him.

Then my mind is free, my words ready, my page eager and fresh.

How about you, friends? Do you write well under stress? Or does it paralyze you? What wisdom might you share with me? 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Lessons Learned in 10 Years

Ten years goes by in the blink of an eye, and yet it feels as if we’ve been married forever. I can’t imagine life without Laura, and I love the life we’ve built together. Ten years ago, this month she made me the happiest man in the world by saying “I do.” I wanted to share four things that I’ve learned in ten years that you might find helpful.
  1. Set realistic expectations. When we got married, the only marriage I knew up close was my parents. Naturally, my vision of marriage was theirs. While they have an incredible marriage that stands as a testament to their love and maturity, I didn’t see all of it. I never saw them fight, so I didn’t think they did. Now, years later, I realize that they do, and I just didn’t see it. I didn’t know how often it was okay to argue and what it was okay to argue about. You’re probably thinking, “That’s silly Howell, do what feels right,” but I was genuinely worried when we even had the most minor spat. Now, years into this and having talked to many couples, I know that my expectations were ridiculous. Don’t set crazy expectations. I wouldn’t even set expectations for your spouse and how they will act until you know them in the intimate setting of marriage. We all have to find what fits us and what we are willing to give to put this life together. High expectations only make that harder. 
  2. Listen first, talk later. My mouth has done far more damage in our marriage than I would’ve believed possible. I’m a pretty quiet guy, but I’ve learned that I’m much quicker to draw conclusions than I thought. I’m also not a mind reader, and neither are you. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to listen first about a dozen times. 
  3. Don’t hold it in. Be open. Laura and I have found so much freedom in sharing everything. When there are no secrets, life is much simpler. So, if you are upset and keeping that from your spouse to protect them, you are only making things worse. I know this from experience.
  4. Never walk away in anger. It seems like everyone says this, but it is so true. Laura often jokes about how I want to deal with things right now and not later. That comes from experience. Walking away to “cool down” or “catch your breath” usually just gives you time to think about why you are right and your spouse more time to be hurt. Storming off never helped a marriage.
Hopefully this has been helpful. We have been more blessed than I could’ve ever hoped for, and I pray the same for you. May you have many happy years together!


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Who's the Leader?

My best friend and I like to joke about who is the leader. We've been friends a long time, and over the years, we have bragging rights about who discovered a certain restaurant first or introduced us to a certain pop-culture icon, like a media platform or Netflix show or an artist (FYI - I still get dibs on Snapchat and Adele ;)).

When we're deciding what to do while hanging out, one of us will joke that we should go with X or Y plan because "I'm the leader."

More recently, we were hiking in Palo Duro Canyon over the summer with our husbands, and we were in front with the boys behind us. We'd playfully edge in front of each other and say, "No, you're following me. I'm the leader."

Of course, our running banter is all in good jest, but the Lord reminded me of it, especially our silliness while hiking, as I've been mediating on Mark 8:34, where Jesus says to take up your cross daily and follow me.

My friend and I at the Canyon that day no doubt provide a picture of my heart sometimes, wrestling with Jesus to be first, to be in control, to be the leader.

But you know what the Lord gently whispered? You can't lead when you're following.

The very principal of following Jesus means I'm not leading--He is. 

He is the King of this Kingdom, and yes, I am His daughter, and yes, He has given me an inheritance and status and all the riches of His glorious hope.

But I'm still to be submitted to Him. He's in charge.

This verse says to take up our cross daily, I think, because we need to remember to choose submission to His authority every day, every moment.

The Lord always amazes me. Even when I'm trying to be in control, and it's falling apart, I can usually look back and later see how He actually orchestrated an even greater plan.

So, Lord, let me--let us--remember today: there's only one leader in this relationship, and it's You.

May we choose to follow you daily.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Decade of Love, Laughter, and Lots of Travel

Howell and I celebrated ten years of marriage last week. Ten years since we said "I do," and without a doubt, I'd say it all over again.

We've experienced joy and loss in various stages of our journey, and I am so very grateful for the man God gave me all those years ago. He is my greatest gift. My go-to for advice and a listening ear, the one who lets me unload at the end of a long day. My bed hog, who sleeps as close to me as possible despite our decade of graduations from small beds to a king. My laundry partner and the best dishwasher-unloader on the planet (thanks, babe!). My encourager, who never stops telling me I can do this--this job, this book, whatever 'this' looks like today. My prayer warrior, who covers me in words of faith every night, regardless of how I feel. My partner for golfing or hunting or hiking. And my best friend.

Traveling has become one of our favorite things to do together. And while this season of life has been child-less for us, we've taken advantage of the time to go and do and see all that we can. 

17 states. 6 countries. 2 cruises. And countless hours on the road. 

To celebrate a decade of trips, I thought I'd pick ten pictures from my absolute favorites: 

Honeymoon Cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cancun (2008)
In Bath during our London trip (2011)
Five-Year Anniversary cruise (2013)
Santa Fe (2014)
San Diego (the first time!) (2015)
Hot Air Balloon Festival (and ride!!) in Albuquerque (2015)
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado (2016)
New York City (2016)

Browns Game in Cleveland (2016)

Redwood National Park, California (2017)

This year, to celebrate our tenth, we went to Charleston for a week in June. Amazing sunsets, historical buildings, and FOOD.

Who knows where the road will lead us during our next decade, but I know who will be by my side. <3 p="">

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Break it Down...

...Stop! Hammer time...  :)

You know what? Breaks are good for our soul, so Howell and I are taking July off--as usual--from the blog world. Every year, we take December and sometimes July off, which gives us a chance to catch up and get refreshed and hear new words from God for this space.

As I was thinking about our break, I was thinking about you, readers. Maybe this is a busy season, and you need a second to stop, to slow down, to sit on the beach--whether that's literally or metaphorically.

I know it's where I'll be, if only in my heart. Til August, friends....

Monday, June 25, 2018

Taking an Interest

Today, I want to talk about something that I’ve touched on before, but I think is really important and often overlooked, so I’m bringing it up again. I really believe this is one of the dividing lines between “okay” marriages and great marriages. What is it? It’s supporting your spouse’s interests and endeavors.

What do I mean by these? It’s easiest for me to describe how it works in our marriage, and maybe you can apply it to yours. Laura supports me by taking an interest in things I like or participating in personal projects that I’m attempting. She goes to see comic book movies with me, she watches sports teams I like, she goes to historical sites, and she even goes on long hikes with me to help me toward my fitness goal of rucking events.

This isn’t how most couples function, and I don’t think you have to share every single interest in your life. But I do think you need some overlap. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have gone to see Justice League on her own, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t watch all those Hallmark movies at Christmas time on my own. That’s the beauty of it, though. We truly do enjoy those crossover things. Not because we would do it on our own, but because seeing someone you love find something they really like and enjoying it with them is a really good feeling.

This is quality time I’m talking about here. I see so many husbands and wives say things like, “I don’t care about antiquing, she can do that with her friends” or “I could care less about going out in the woods and sitting in the cold.” There is a new level of friendship, which is important in your marriage, that is achieved when you just do things together.

Try it out. I really think you’ll find it makes a difference. I don’t think diving head first into every interest or activity that your spouse is into is a good idea. It will probably overwhelm you both. Start with their favorite thing. Take an interest. Go participate. See where that leads you. I think you’ll be happy with the time you get to spend together.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Recommended Reading--June

We're halfway through the year. Hard to believe, huh?

I've shared with you already how reading is changing my writing. Books have always been my thing. In fact, as a kid, I was grounded from reading--the only consequence my parents could think of that removed what was dearest to me.

But now I'm reading as a writer, and it's rocking my world, in a good way. :) I set a goal to read 50 books this year, and I'm already at 35 books--70% of that goal. (Time to up it?) I've read all five of the books on my "can't wait to read in 2018" list, and they did not disappoint.

It'll be hard to narrow 35 books to my top five favorites, but here's what I'd recommend so far:

1. Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay. I am so glad someone recommended Reay to me. I am in love with her books and am tearing through everything she's written. So, so good. Unique. Clever. Well-written. If you have any affection for Jane Austen or British literature references, you'll love these books.

2. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay. Read this one with a Kleenex, but the emotions are so worth it. My family has experienced breast cancer, and Reay captures this journey well.

3. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. I loved the way this plot was presented with two story lines. I couldn't put it down. Heart-wrenching, especially that it's as much fact as fiction. But a powerful ending.

4. Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter. I loved both of these characters immediately and wanted them to make it. A great message of hope for marriage, even when it feels hopeless.

5. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner. Similar to the Before We Were Yours contemporary / historical flashback style, the plot for this book is brilliant, weaving one thread through 100 years. My heart ached for the 9/11 connections, but beauty despite tragedy is a powerful message.

What about you, friends? What are you reading right now? What's on your "to be read" list?