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Coming to our {Summer} Senses // Friendships & A Giveaway!

Sheltering Tree

We have a sheltering tree. Its double-trunk supports wide-sprawling branches, offering respite on these sweltering days in the South.

 

Friends are like that, too.

 

When we feel we’re being bombarded by the unexpected, wayward children, or a million little things⎯all at once⎯we find comfort in a friend’s touch.

When we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to thinner, prettier, more successful, Mary-like women, our friends are there to pull us out of the muck and speak truth into our lives.

So, last week, three friends came over for lunch. There was no agenda other than to catch up, encourage one another, and offer respite through lots of laughter, good food, and raspberry lemonade.

Centerpiece

 

Friendships⎯like trees⎯grow, mature, and blossom in a variety of ways.

 

FriendshipsFor instance, when I think of Edie, the Lily-of-the-Valley tree, better known as Sourwood, comes to mind. This tree offers beauty in all seasons. In Spring, white fragrant pearly clusters of flowers bloom profusely. In Autumn, its red leaves gloss over like shiny waxed apples. Regardless of the season of life, she finds herself in⎯joyous or downright tough⎯Edie exudes Christ. But there’s one particular characteristic about the Sourwood tree that reminds me of her. This tree is a tremendous source of nectar for bees to produce honey. Over the last 9 years, I’ve seen her selflessly pour herself, her gifts, prayers, and talents into other writers, such as myself. As God brings her own hard work to fruition, the work of countless others who have drawn wisdom and insight from her help also bring Him glory. And then they, in turn, help other writers, creating a beautiful circle of life.

Vonda’s qualities, although too many to mention (truly!) remind me of a well-loved evergreen tree called the Southern Wax Myrtle. Like the Sourwood, it too puts on a show year-round with its lustrous green leaves in the summer months and bluish gray clusters of berries in the winter. The leaves release a very aromatic scent when crushed, that smell much like a bay berry candle. Although you don’t hear Vonda complain, she sometimes carries a heavy load behind-the-scenes. But like the Myrtle tree, when she is at her weakest, “crushed” beneath the weight, there is a sweet aroma released from her soul. It’s not the fragrance of bay berry, but that of Christ. And like the Sourwood, the Wax Myrtle tree also supplies nectar for the bees. God has used both Edie and Vonda to bless a multitude of writers over the years. {Thank you!}

And then there’s Pea, aka, Dee Dee Parker. She’s my Weeping Willow tree. Her sickness earlier this year had me shedding many prayerful tears but thankfully they’re now induced by laughter. Much laughter. One interesting fact about the Weeping Willow tree is that it’s often planted by streams so that their braid-like roots will protect the bank from erosion. In the same way, Dee Dee’s prayers are woven throughout her day as she too seeks a water Source⎯Jesus. He is the only One who can ultimately refresh, restore, and renew those she lifts in prayer.

All three friends touch my life and the lives of many others in ways they’ll only know once they reach heaven.

I could learn a thing or two from these women when it comes to being a sheltering tree for others. This hasn’t exactly been a banner year for me in that department. Partly because of the new distance between me and most of my friends back in our old hometown. And in all honesty, the struggle to discover the balance for needing long stretches of writing time and life in general, is real.

But isn’t that what sheltering trees are all about? When struggles, storms, and hard situations enter our lives, we know we can find refuge beneath their branches. It is there we also find refreshment.

 

A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9

 

Leigh Ann Thomas is a friend whose gentle spirit and tenacious love for Christ is evident in her life as well as her words. Her recent release, “Ribbons, Lace, and Moments of Grace…Inspiration for the Mother of the Bride” is no exception. I wish her book would’ve been available when our boys were getting married. Mothers of the Groom need a little inspiration (and a lot of coffee) too!

Today, I’m giving away a copy of Leigh Ann’s beautiful book to one blessed reader. If you are a mother of a bride {or groom} prepare to be inspired. If you know someone else in this role, inspire away by purchasing a copy for them. I can’t imagine a better gift.

Enter the drawing by simply answering the question below.  I’ll randomly select a name next Tuesday!

How has a friend touched you⎯refreshing your soul⎯in recent days?

 

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4 Books on My I-Can’t-Wait-To-Read Radar

4 Books on my Radar

I have a heightened sense of appreciation for brave souls who traipse through the what-if, who-me, and can-I-do-this type questions for the sole purpose of helping another through their story. Like, helping wives who desire to fully embrace their God-given role or mother of brides-to-be who long to cling to God while their daughters are preparing to cling to another. Or, perhaps those in uneasy in-between places who need to re-embrace God’s faithfulness or writers desiring to become super-productive.

Two of the four I-can’t-wait-to-read books are recent releases. And two are now available for pre-order. There’s something for those who enjoy the anticipation of a good read as well as those who prefer immediate gratification.

 

Four Books on My I-Can’t-Wait-To-Read Radar

 

Kaitlyn E. Bouchillon // Even if Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the In Between

Even if NotI’ve recently had the pleasure of getting to know Kaitlyn as a fellow Hope Writer. She is a young woman brimming with sage advice.

Why I can’t wait to read this book: Kaitlyn is the real deal and frankly, the book description hooked me from the get-go: “In Even If Not, Kaitlyn Bouchillon invites you to let go of trying to figure out the ending of your story and instead lean into the faithfulness of God. With honest and vulnerable storytelling from her own in-betweens, Kaitlyn encourages you to say – no matter what page of the story you find yourself on – that although you believe God could come through how you’re asking, you’ll trust Him… even if not.”

 

C. S. Lakin // Crank it Out! The Surefire Way to Become a Super-Productive Writer

Crank it outCrank it Out! finds itself on my list for both noble and selfish reasons. {Don’t judge} Noble, because I’ve read her work in Writer’s Digest as well as a poetry forum and love it. Selfish, because after working on my e-book {more info coming soon!} Brian said we would need to hire a housekeeper if I wrote another one. Turns out, I actually plan to write several more so it’s a must that I become more super productive. #bringonthehousekeeper

Why I can’t wait to read this book: I savor C. S. Lakin’s voice. It’s unique, succinct, and I’ve yet to read anything she’s written without learning something valuable for my own writing journey. And, I obviously need to crank out future books in a more timely and orderly way. Oh, and did I mention it’s only $.99 on Kindle?

 

Leigh Ann Thomas // Ribbons, Lace, and Moments of Grace…Inspiration for Mothers-of-the-Bride

Ribbons, Lace, and Moments of GraceRibbons, Lace, and Moments of Grace will release on March 28th but you can pre-order now.

Why I can’t wait to read this book: I had the pleasure of getting to know Leigh Ann a little better last year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She is lovely and oh so gracious. As a fellow contributor to Almost an Author, I can attest to the fact that she’s quite the cheerleader as well. I’m not Leigh Ann’s target reader for this book as I was a mother-of-the-groom⎯twice. But her Barnabas-like way of encouraging others makes this book a must-read for all mother-of-the-brides.

 

Jen Weaver // A Wife’s Secret to Happiness: Receiving, Honoring, and Celebrating
God’s Role for You in Your Marriage

A Wife's Secret of HappinessOnce again, the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference played matchmaker. Dee Dee Parker and I had the pleasure of meeting Jen back when she was expecting her sweet boy. We had no doubt that God had major plans for her writing.

Why I can’t wait to read this book: Jen is spunky, engaging, and approachable⎯as is her writing. And regardless of how many anniversaries I’ve celebrated with Brian {27 this October!} I want my role as his wife to be one that brings God glory.

Here’s a quick blurb on Jen’s book by Latan Murphy.

 

Do you have a favorite book your reading radar? Or is their one above that sparks your interest? Please take a moment to share in the comment section. I always enjoy hearing from you!

 

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How to Bless Those You Met At The Writer’s Conference (and 4 Highlights From Blue Ridge)

BRmtnsNow that the dust is settling from last week’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, highlights {and ideas} are beginning to surface.

First, the highlights:

 

 

 

 

{ONE}

BRHelenrevised

Highlight: Meeting Helen McIntosh

Forging new friendships and celebrating established ones. There was a time in February when I considered not attending Blue Ridge this year (gasp!). I didn’t have a particular project to pitch, and with us prepping for a move I thought the money should be allocated toward that goal, but it was Brian who insisted I go — “if for no other reason than to re-connect with friends you only see once a year”. Yep, that’s my hubby! Turns out, this was a defining year at Blue Ridge when it came to meeting new friends and deepening established ones. Rosie Williams (fellow Hope Writer!) Robin Luftig, Leigh Ann Thomas, Tammy Van Gils, Jodie Bailey, Meredith Mills, Donna Nabors, Karen Friday, Jean Wilund, Nan Jones and sweet Helen McInstosh, author of Messages to Myself, Overcoming a Distorted Self-Image, are just some of the new friends I met last week, and look forward to establishing relationships with in the coming years.

 

{TWO}

Eva Marie Everson’s Visual of Nehemiah’s Wall. I admit I was tired and ready for my evening pick-me-up (which usually consisted of peanut butter crackers and a soda) when Eva Marie told everyone to get up at the end of her keynote speech and stand around the room. Four hundred + people lined the walls as she read from Nehemiah, exhorting everyone to take their place at the “wall”, much like the 44 separate groups of people who had specific tasks to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. There was a job for every group, each person, to fulfill — and our calling is no different, regardless of what it is. I can’t do what you do in exactly the same way and vice versa because God handcrafted each of us. We literally broke the mold! You have your place at the wall, and I have mine. Now let’s get to it!

 

{THREE}

BRcoffeeIt’s not just about the coffee. It rarely is, right? Starbucks sells an experience, and it’s no different for the Clouds Cafe on the Ridgecrest Conference campus. Yes, it’s newly renovated but the polished floors and expanded menu are not what makes this gathering place memorable. It’s the people who serve/volunteer there. Women like Loretta and Linda (lovingly known to Marcia Moston and me as the “froth queens”). Seeing their smiles is an experience I look forward to every single year.

 

 

 

{FOUR}

God Stepped Up When I Stepped Out…of My Comfort Zone. Two friends made this clear at Blue Ridge. One quietly offered me a hand to join in the adventure. The other threw me overboard to sink or swim. I love them both and God used both approaches to reveal Himself.

BRDDmerevisedDee Dee Parker, while staying in my room Saturday night, came up with the brilliant idea (at 2:00 AM)  to do a fun video the next morning on the subject of snacks at Blue Ridge, or the lack thereof, in our nearby vending machine. Now I’m the girl who doesn’t even like to have my picture taken but something inside (perhaps it was the lack of sleep) said, “Go for it!” And we did. {2Peasin1LittlePod…Productions! #wejustwanttobeablessing} We proceeded to do two more videos that were also well received. (Thank you!) But what touched us most was the feedback from those who shared how our friendship was so evident on the video. Some even said they wanted to attend the conference next year to be a part of the fun. “Comfort zone” Cathy would not have dared to shoot a silly video but because Dee Dee invited me to join in the fun, and I was willing to step over the proverbial line between silly and serious, new friends were made and from what we’re still hearing, many were blessed. To God be the glory!

BRLoriresizedbLori Roeleveld, sweet friend and mentor in many ways, scooted shoved me out of my comfort zone a little differently. After I shared how I’ve never liked being called out in a class setting with Lori over lunch, she promptly stood up, shouting to Jim Rubart, one table over, how he needed to put me on the spot in the next session. Really? 🙂 It wasn’t until I actually began considering skipping that class the next day that I knew this was much bigger than my insecurities. Feeling certain that Jim’s class was one I needed to attend, it was no surprise the enemy would try to use an innocent and well intended shout-out to prompt my fears into action. Not only did I attend the final class, I thanked Lori for the outburst that initially had me shaken because it led to an opportunity to stand steadfast, stomping my fears into smithereens.

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blessing fellow writers-1

Edie Melson, our fearless leader and Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, encouraged us to exchange business cards with one another again this year. While there’s an array of reasons for doing this, there is one I’ve overlooked in the past⎯the opportunity to pray for fellow writers. Now, as I begin to write each morning, I will lay my hands on the piles of cards and pray for them, for us. Prayers like:

  • business cardsKeep our motives pure, Lord. (Psalm 139: 23,24) Flesh pinches the tenderest of places, tempting us to put the spotlight on ourselves, our name, our brand, when our greatest desire is to reflect You, Your name, and Your kingdom alone.
  • Keep our priorities aligned in a way that is pleasing to You, Lord. What do we gain if our name is on a book but find it no longer written on the hearts of those we love?
  • Keep our eyes fixed on You, Jesus. For You are the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Let the things on earth grow strangely dim as we rejoice and write in the light of your love.
  • Help us run this journey as companions, not competitors. There is no room in the kingdom for competition. This is not Your desire for us. We are on the same team: Team Your Glory.
  • Infuse our writing with divine creativity for You are Creator! Your Spirit indwells within us, equipping us to write beyond our means. As Al Gansky said in his keynote speech, “Creativity Begins With The Creator.” Amen.
  • Help us to release our work for Your glory. Some are called to plant, and some to water, but You alone, God, bring growth, landing our work in the places of Your choosing. We don’t need to manipulate, beg, or sulk. Help us to embrace truth — that You are for us, not against us, even when we cannot see, hear, or feel You at work.
  • Help us to find our validation in You alone, Jesus.

Now it’s your turn! Please take a moment to share one of your highlights from last week’s conference (or another one!). Or, feel free to share which of the above prayers you will begin praying for yourself, as well as fellow writers.

 

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