There is something about the ocean…

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My family has been fortunate to have an all-girls ocean weekend for many years now. It is something we look forward to each year. Not only is it a great time of fellowship, food, and fun, I think the ocean revives my spirit.  There is just something about the sound of the waves and the smell of the salt air that brings peace and calm to the soul.  Is it just our Norwegian heritage to love the sea?  I know my dad felt more at home on the waters of Puget Sound than anywhere else.

Where do you go to restore peace and calm in this crazy world?

Lunch with Author Sylvia Stewart

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I had a lovely lunch date a few weeks ago with author Sylvia Stewart. I had just finished reading the first book in her middle-grade Mysteries in Malawi series.  Kondi’s Quest is a fascinating story set in the East African country of Malawi.  I was anxious to get to know Sylvia better and learn about her journey as a writer. kondisquestfrontcoverfinal

Sylvia’s writing is rich in descriptive language, with finely drawn characters.  You fall in love with twelve year old Kondi right from the start.  Kondi faces many of the same struggles that children encounter around the world. Sylvia tackles these tough issues with honesty, and shows the peace and joy that can fill our lives despite our trials when we live for Christ. This story will resonate with readers young and old alike.

Her insight into her characters and the setting of her book does not come from hours of meticulous research. No, Sylvia is intimately familiar with Malawi and it’s people, as she and her husband served as missionaries there for twenty-one years. Her love for Africa and especially the people of Malawi shines through her writing.  This is a wonderful book for children and adults.

The best thing is, the story doesn’t end with Kondi’s Quest!  There are two more books in this great series that you will want to read:  Kondi’s Joy, and Kondi’s Secret. If you want to expose your child to a different culture, open their eyes to issues that all children face, and show them the path to peace and joy during the trials of life, then this series would make an excellent gift for the young or young-at-heart.

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Sylvia also has a contemporary sweet romance set in Seattle called, Seattle Rayne.  I LOVE the cover on this book!

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Along with some of my other favorite authors, she is included in a newly released Christmas Boxed Set, Mistletoe Kisses and Christmas Wishes.  I love curling up with a cup of cocoa and a lovely Christmas story on a cold fall day.

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I so enjoyed my conversation and lunch with Sylvia, that I forgot to ask all my interview questions! That just gives me another reason to spend more time with her, which I look forward to doing soon.

To learn more about Sylvia, what influences her writing, and about her upcoming books, connect with her on her website, blog, Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.

 

 

Lunch with Author Lynnette Bonner

I first became acquainted with Lynnette Bonner in 2009 when I read her first book, “Rocky Mountain Oasis“.  I loved the book and knew I would be looking for more books from this author.  Thankfully, Lynnette is a prolific author with a total of eighteen books published to date.

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Equally fascinating as her book, was her author blurb on the back that informed me she lived in the Pacific Northwest (local!), was born in Malawi, Africa to missionary parents, and attended boarding school growing up.  I never imagined that I would one day meet Lynnette, let alone get to take her to lunch and learn about her writing journey.

Lynnette has been writing since her school days. After marrying her college sweetheart and moving to Idaho, she got the idea for Rocky Mountain Oasis while researching the history of the small town where they lived.  She wove her story from historical facts and her fictional characters to produce a compelling story that is true to the time period.  Her book was originally traditionally published by OakTara Publishing.

Lynnette has since become an indie author and her most recent publication is a serialized historical Christian romance set in East Africa.  “On the Wings of a Whisper” is the first installment in the Sonnets of the Spice Isle series. It is FREE on Amazon for Kindle, so click on the link and get your free copy today.  Much research into the time period makes this book a fascinating, historically accurate read.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the first installment, and look forward to reading the entire series.

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When asked about how she finds time to write, this busy mom of four and pastor’s wife, told me that she schedules time each day day to write. She uses an app called Freedom to block the internet, email, Facebook, etc. while she writes.  Otherwise, as we all know, it is too easy to think we will just check Facebook for a few minutes, and then look up and realize several hours have gone by and nothing has been accomplished.

Lynnette also shared with me a tidbit from James Scott Bell about writing 500 words first thing every morning, sort of like “priming the pump”.   James Scott Bell calls it “the furious 500“.  Too many times I think I need to pound out 2,000 words a day and some days it is too overwhelming to even start.  Small is better.  I am definitely going to apply the furious 500 to my writing.

Lynnette also recommends books on the writing craft by Randy Ingermanson, and a new video series called “The Creative Way” by author Ted Dekker.

Lynnette is not only an accomplished author, she is a great mentor and friend.  Looking for a good book?  You can’t go wrong with a Lynnette Bonner book.

Lunch with Author Dawn Kinzer

I recently had a wonderful lunch meeting with author Dawn Kinzer.  We met a few years ago when I first joined Northwest Christian Writers Association.  At my very first meeting, when I was standing there feeling out of place and awkward, she reached out to me and made me feel welcome. Don’t you just love people like that? Since then, we cross paths at monthly meetings and conferences, but I wanted a chance to get to know Dawn better as a person and an author.

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Like many of us, Dawn found a love for writing at a young age.  Her creativity with words manifested itself in many different ways through the years: from writing for her high school newspaper, to short stories, devotionals, full-length plays, blogging, and this fall, the first two historical romance novels in her series: The Daughters of Riverton.

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You can read more about Sarah’s Smile and Hope’s Design by clicking on these links.  I can hardly wait for the books to come out!  They are exactly the kind of story that I love to read.

Dawn began to take her writing seriously about ten years ago.  She has attended many writing conferences and belongs to several writing associations, to include the Northwest Christian Writers Association and the American Christian Fiction Writers.  She originally thought she was writing women’s fiction, but found she is greatly enjoying the research involved in writing historical romance.  Not content to just write a wonderful story, she wants to get every historical detail just right. As a reader, I love that attention to detail.

Dawn feels she writes in partnership with her husband, Sonny, who gives her support and encouragement.  They make decisions together.

Check Dawn’s beautiful website and subscribe to her newsletter for her FREE short story, Maggie’s Miracle.  Did I just say FREE?

Dawn recommends several books for writers: Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson, Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide, and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style.

She shares these words of wisdom for aspiring authors, “Don’t underestimate yourself. Follow the path to publishing that feels right for you. Although our writing lives may have similarities, no two journeys will be exactly the same, so try not to make comparisons.” On the dreaded writer’s block, Dawn recommends a healthy dose of daydreaming to chase it away.

Dawn’s life is busy and full as a mom, grandma, freelance editor and writer.  I asked how she finds time to write each day, and Dawn encouraged me to try to consistently write a page a day.

Look for Dawn’s books: Sarah’s Smile in October of 2016, and Hope’s Design in November of 2016. You won’t want to miss them!

Lunch with Author Sonja Anderson

Like many writers, I am a bit of an introvert (truthfully, maybe more than a bit).  I love people, but I am happiest at home reading a book or working on my own writing endeavors.

A few months ago, I felt God encouraging me to get outside of my comfort zone and connect on a deeper heart level with people. While I had been a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association for several years and attended three of their annual writing conferences, I had yet to really get to know anyone on a deeper level. I made the (somewhat scary) decision that each month I would invite one author from our group to lunch. My goal was to get to know them, learn about their writing journey, and ask for any words of wisdom that they had to share with me.

My first victim, er…guest, was the lovely Sonja Anderson, author of the wonderful children’s book, Sophie’s Quest. It is a charming story of Sophie the owl, and her mouse friend, Timley, as they travel the world on a great quest. The story of their friendship and adventure is enchanting and enlightening.  I recommend this book to parents and children alike.

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Sonja and I met at a local restaurant, and between bites of our meal enjoyed some great conversation. We connected over our shared love of books as children, and our dream to write books of our own.  She shared her love for the children’s classic, Heidi, and the Nancy Drew series. I confided that the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary were my refuge as a child. In a moment of vulnerability, I blurted out my lifelong dream of being the next Beverly Cleary for children. Gulp! (Did I actually just say that out loud?) Sonja didn’t laugh at my outrageous dream. She graciously encouraged me by telling me her own writing journey, which I will share with you now.

Sonja got the idea for her first book, Sophie’s Quest, many years ago. It took her six years to write it, doing copious research, and another six years to find a publisher. Sonja works as a school librarian, so I asked her how she found the time to write while raising her own children and working full-time. (Finding time to write is something I really struggle with myself.) Her secret was to commit to adding just one more inch of writing to her manuscript page each day. Setting such a small goal makes it easy to stay committed to your dream. I found this advice very encouraging.

Sonja also recommended a book on writing: Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication, by Ann Whitford Paul. Sonja shared her belief that anyone who uses this book from beginning to end while writing their story will have a publishable manuscript at the end. Of course, I went home and ordered the book right away, and I am finding it just as helpful as Sonja described.

We talked about self-publishing and traditional publishing. As a librarian, Sonja believes that traditional publishing is the best way to get your book in front of children. She explained the difficulty of getting a self-published book into school or even public libraries. This was something I had never thought about before.

Sonja is hard at work on a sequel to Sophie’s Quest, called Sophie Topfeather, Superstar!  It should be out in October of 2016. I can’t wait!

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Make sure and visit Sonja’s website: www.sonjaandersonbooks.com to learn more about Sonja and her writing.  Don’t miss the free online Bible Study for children called Sophie and Timley’s Bible Time, a great resource for parents and teachers alike.

When Opposites Attract and Marry – 7 Tips for Making Your Marriage Great

My husband Dan and I are two very different people.  He likes to tell people, “She is like the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and I am more like Full Metal Jacket.”   I like Antiques Roadshow and he prefers The Walking Dead.  He is very social and needs to connect with people to feel energized.  I am more introverted.  I need quiet, alone time to recharge my batteries.  So how do such opposites make a marriage work?  Glad you asked.  I have a few tips for you garnered through our 37 years of marriage.  I am writing this post to wives, but the same tips apply to husbands.

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#1.  When those moments come that cause you to look at your spouse and wonder why you ever married, make a list (write it down!) of all the qualities that attracted you to them in the first place.  They must have many great attributes because you chose to marry them, right?  Sometimes in the busyness of life, we forget to appreciate our spouse.  I have been guilty of this many times, especially as a young mom.  

#2.  Think of at least one thing each day that you appreciate about your spouse and TELL THEM.   Write a note and put it in their lunch or briefcase.  Send them a text or email.  Praise them in front of your children or others.  BUILD THEM UP!  Men especially eat this up.  They crave the love and respect of their wives.  That is the way God made them.

#3.  Encourage your spouse in their hobbies.  My husband loves guns and going to the shooting range.  I was not raised around guns and I did not feel comfortable around them when we first married.   I have gone to the range with him several times through the years (kicking and screaming) because he wanted me to learn to handle a gun.  It is not for me.  The last time we went I told him, “This is a man’s sport.  It is loud and dirty and no one picks up after themselves.”  We laughed.  Now, while I don’t enjoy shooting, I want my husband to be able to enjoy his hobby.  I encourage him to go to the range and have fun.  I even introduced him to a co-worker of mine who has since become a good friend and shooting buddy.   You have to, at least, try your spouse’s hobby a few times, then if you don’t enjoy it, you can still encourage them to pursue it on their own or with a friend.  The good news is that once your spouse sees how you encourage their hobbies, they will begin to encourage yours, too.

#4.  Accept that there is more than one way to do things, and your way (or your mom and dad’s way) is not always right.  This one tip will save you so much heartache in life.  I grew up with a dad who could fix or build anything.  When I married, I just expected that Dan would have that same ability.  It took many years for me to realize that growing up without a dad around meant Dan didn’t have the opportunity to learn those skills.  It was unfair of me to expect him to be something he was not.  I have learned that it is better to pay someone to do the things that Dan cannot do rather than impose impossible expectations on him.  My husband is happier and knows that I respect him for his many other fine qualities.

#5.  Learn to embrace imperfection.  Learn to laugh at yourself and your silly expectations.  I wish I had learned this long ago.  I’ll never forget a Christmas dinner with my husband and young children sitting around the table.  I put on some beautiful Christmas music, Nat King Cole singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”  It was going to be the perfect Christmas dinner, just like my mom used to make.  But Dan, with his silly sense of humor, started singing, “Rudolph roasting on an open fire…”   I was so angry!  Of course, the kids loved it, but at the time, I thought he had ruined our special holiday dinner.   In truth, the only thing that ruined it was my bad attitude and silly sensibilities.  Ugh.  Sure wish I could go back and change that.

#6.  Recognize that God brought you together for a reason.  Your spouse has strengths that you don’t have.  You have strengths your spouse doesn’t have.  God brought you together for this very reason, to compliment one another.  It is a very good thing my husband and I are not alike.  I have often thought how blessed my kids are to have Dan for a dad.  His gentle, loving presence soothed many stressful moments.  He taught them (and me!) many lessons on forgiveness and grace.  He truly is a gentle giant of a man and one of God’s greatest blessings to me.

#7.  Learn to laugh at yourself.  Don’t be so sensitive and easily hurt.  One of the joys of a long shared history is that we can look back and laugh at some of the silly things we have done, or mistakes we have made.   We are secure enough in our love for one another, that we can laugh at ourselves.  Sometimes all it takes is a word to make us crack up laughing, or a song on the radio to bring us to tears.

#8.  Pray, pray and pray some more.  Make your spouse your prayer partner.  It is hard to be angry when you are praying together.  Keep God at the center of your marriage and make it your goal to serve and honor Him.  God will bless your marriage!

If you are married to your opposite, don’t give up on your marriage!  Learn to recognize and appreciate each other’s strengths and build on them.  God brought you together for a reason.

Dan and Anita 2014   Are you married to your opposite?  Let me know how you are doing.  What lessons have you learned along the way to help you in your relationship?  I look forward to  hearing from you.

The Longings of a Daughter’s Heart – I Never Knew my Father

The relationship between a father and a daughter is crucial to her emotional well-being and self-esteem.  I don’t need to read any research studies (of which there are many) to tell me this is a fact.  I see it reflected in my life and in the lives of women around me.

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Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The lack of a strong emotional bond with her daddy can have a life-long effect on a woman.  That relationship is so important that it affects a woman’s view of her relationship with God.

I grew up with a father who was a frustrated perfectionist.  He liked things to be “just so” and his way was the only right way to do things. Having seven children, you can imagine that rarely were things done to his specifications.  This led to much disappointment and frustration for dad.  He had a difficult time forgiving others and letting go of past mistakes.  He struggled to express affection verbally or physically to those around him, including his family members.  This combination of unforgiveness and lack of affection led to deep feelings of shame and unworthiness in his offspring.  His children loved him and would have done anything to win an encouraging word from him, but he was incapable of communicating praise.   It was a mark of his own brokenness, and I only bring it up to warn parents of the consequences to their children if they are modeling this kind of behavior.

You can imagine that my view of God was skewed for many years.  I knew God loved me and offered forgiveness for my sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world (that means you and me!), that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever (anyone!) believes in Him (Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life.”   I understood that in my heart and I clung to that truth.  Yet for many years, the slightest mistake or failure on my part would send me running in shame from God.  I knew He must be disappointed in me and that I had proved myself unworthy of His love.  Of course, that is a lie from the pit of hell, but I battled those thoughts for many years.  Truth be told, I still battle those feelings sometimes.

My life radically changed at the age of 17 when I accepted Christ as my Savior and finally found peace and forgiveness.  Almost immediately God gave me such a love and understanding for my father.  God graciously showed me what a broken person my dad was inside.  He didn’t know to behave any different than he did.  Dad was from that generation of men who did not express their feelings.  He was the strong and silent type.  Even if he had recognized that what he was doing was wrong, he would not have known where to go for help, or dared to ask for it.

With God’s help, I was able to let go of past hurts and resentments.   I worked hard for the rest of my father’s life to build a relationship with him.  I called several times a week and traveled twice a month to visit for probably the last twelve years of his life.  I wrote letters and notes.  It took tremendous courage, but I began to hug him and tell him I loved him.  He was stiff and uncomfortable at first, but slowly, he began to respond.  I confess that for years, I cried each time he put his arms around me.  We had many conversations about his life and work.  I am thankful for every moment.

You may be wondering, “How can you say you never knew your father when you spent so much time with him?”  You see, there is a difference in spending time with someone talking about their work and their life and having real conversation.  Our conversations revolved around my dad and his work.  Topics he was comfortable talking about.  He did not initiate conversation.  He did not ask about my life, my work, my passions, my kids. He didn’t really take the time to know me.  It is a loss I feel to this day, but I chose to accept the relationship that my father was willing to give to me. I treasure the knowledge that in heaven our relationship will be the way God intended it to be.

If you are a father, please hear me when I say your relationship with your daughter is vital to her spiritual and emotional well-being.  Let your relationship with your little one be such a reflection of God’s love and grace that she can’t help but be drawn to relationship with her heavenly Father.

Maybe you see yourself having made some of the same mistakes as my dad.  It is never too late to begin a better relationship with your child.   It may take time and work to build the relationship, but start today.  Spend time with her.  Offer encouragement and guidance.  Listen.  Pray together. When she disobeys or fails you, correct her and offer forgiveness.  Your words and actions will have a life changing effect on your daughter and may determine her eternal relationship with God.     

There is an old song that always makes me think of my dad.  It is called, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew”.

I am linking this week at Word of God SpeakGrace & Truth,  Coffee for your Heart,  Looking Up Link Up,  Sitting Among Friends and Faith ‘n Friends.

Letting Go Of Perfectionism At Christmas – 3 Tips

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I learned perfectionism at an early age.  The quest to prove myself worthy of love by doing everything perfectly (or not doing it at all) was learned at my father’s knee.  It has taken a good portion of my adult life for God to break me of it and for me to learn God’s love for me is not performance based. He loves me even when I fail Him, which I do often and in spectacularly public ways.

Christmastime can be hard for frustrated perfectionists, especially if small children are involved.  Years before artificial Christmas trees were invented, my dad would spend hours drilling holes in the trunk of our Christmas tree to “fill in the bald spots” with branches taken from the bottom of the tree.  Once he got the bald spots filled in, he would put the tree in the stand.  However, it never stood perfectly straight, so more time would be spent stringing guy wires from the tree to nails in the wall to keep it perfectly aligned. Only then were his six frustrated little girls allowed to approach the tree.800px-Christmas_tree_with_presents

Years later as my husband and I began our tradition of going to a tree farm with our young children, I frustrated everyone (myself included) by searching for the perfect tree.  Nothing was ever good enough for me.  I could always find some fault with any tree they found: not big enough, bare on one side, too spindly, etc.  It was not a fun excursion.  I finally decided that picking out the tree was better as a tradition the kids shared with just their dad.  They had a great time and no matter what tree they brought home, by the time it was decorated and the lights were on, it looked beautiful.  Here are a few other things I learned through the years.

Tip #1.  If you find yourself stressing about everything being perfect this holiday season, take a deep breath and walk away.  Take a moment to yourself and think, “Is it worth taking the joy out of Christmas because I want everything to be just so?”  Let your children’s memories be of the joy and happiness of the holiday season.  Teach them to embrace the imperfect and to encourage those who are trying, no matter the result of their efforts.xmasdinnertable                                                                                                                  photo by flickr_NC intoruth

Tip #2.  Stop comparing yourself to others!  No offense to those of you who have your house perfectly decorated, your holiday baking all done, and every gift exquisitely wrapped and under the tree, but your super capabilities make us “normal” folk feel inadequate.  I no longer torture myself looking at Pinterest or magazines that give me unrealistic expectations of what the holiday should look like for me, and I am happier because of it.   Looking at pictures of things that are beyond my means makes me discontent.  I choose to be thankful for the life and home that God has provided for our family. Christmas_presents_under_the_tree_(11483648553) Tip #3.  It isn’t about the presents.  Repeat after me, “It isn’t about the presents”.  Children, especially small children, will not know that you did not find the perfect gift.  As the parent, you are responsible for helping them to have realistic expectations.  If you are joyful, no matter how few gifts are under the tree, then your children will be joyful, too.  You set the tone of the day for your children.  Don’t let the lack of money determine your enjoyment of the holiday.  Teach your children the joy of making a gift for those they love.  Teach them to serve others as their gift to Jesus.  There are many free activities to enjoy as a family.  All you have to do is seek them out.  Your children long for your presence and time with you, even more so at the holidays.  Treasure these moments as they are all too quickly gone.FullSizeRender (33)

Tip #4  Learn to love the imperfect gifts in your life.  This is our sad little Christmas tree.  Yes, I know there are all blue lights at the top and multi-colored lights at the bottom.  I know the ornaments are old and tired.  But you see, every year my sweet husband gets out the tree and decorates it for me while I am at work.  It is a gift to me. I have learned with God’s grace to love the perfectly imperfect gifts in my life.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do yourself and your family a big favor this Christmas.  Let go of your unrealistic expectations.  Give your heart and home over to Jesus as you celebrate his birth.   Your holiday season will be full of joy.

I am linking up this week with Grace & Truth  and Purposeful Faith.