Blogroll Book Mania (and a Giveaway)

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Sheetz Iced Mocha

Today’s Scripture: Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned the amazing blogs on my blogroll. It’s also been a long time since I’ve done a giveaway.Today I’m going to list some of the wonderful books authored by the writers who have caught my attention in the past couple of years, and all you have to do is comment to earn a chance to win one! In your comment, please tell me what the above Scripture means to you.

Click on Lysa’s book to learn more about a free online study of it beginning on July 28th!

The (in)courage blog features the faith-filled writing of many individuals including New York Times bestselling authors Ann Voskamp and Lysa TerKeurst. Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces and TerKeurst’s What Happens When Women Say Yes to God are both books you have a chance to win if you comment.

Michael Hyatt’s blog is always full of amazing advice for leaders, writers, and social media fanatics. His book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World is in the prize pool for those of you attempting to wade through marketing your brand in today’s short-attention-span society.

Renee Swope’s blog is full of insight and encouragement for the busy woman. Last year, I led a Bible study of her book A Confident Heart and watched God work miracles in the lives of those committed to digging deep in faith with me. Her book is a great resource if you’ve ever struggled with insecurity or depression.

Tricia Goyer is someone whose writing career I highly respect. I also love her personal story of victory. Available in the giveaway is her book, Night Song, a work of WWII fiction based on the real-life liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Night Song is in the top ten of my favorite novels ever written. (My top five are: Les Misérables, Anna Karenina, A Wrinkle in Time, Ben-Hur, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Watch for a giveaway of these sometime in the fall!)

Rounding out the prize pool is Wendy Blight’s book Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God’s Story. I’ve given Wendy’s book away on my blog before, but I also wanted to include it in this giveaway in case you’ve connected with me since then.

If you comment on this blog, you will have a chance to win one of these books. It’s up to you which one! Please click on the links I have provided to read the book’s description and then include your choice with your comment. Thanks for stopping by, and may God bless you as you reflect on Hebrews 11:1. (Comments will be closed for this giveaway one week from today at midnight on July 22nd.)

Wisdom is Found at the End of the Perseverance Path

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Sheetz Breakfast Blend (Sheetz coffee always makes traveling a little easier for me.)

Today’s Scripture:suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3b-5

I remember the moment when I decided I wanted to be a writer with poignant clarity. I was eight years old sitting in my mom’s favorite armchair. To a kid, it was this weird pink thing that made no sense. On this particular day, however, I was too engrossed in the book I was reading to care about my surroundings.

I was an avid reader when I was younger. I still am. Back then, I read everything from Laura Ingalls Wilder to Carolyn Keene (who is really a bunch of different authors) to John Bunyan. During my moment of epiphany, I was reading an author I had found at the local library a few weeks earlier: John D. Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald wrote a series of books based on the antics of a young boy nicknamed The Great Brain. I had nothing in common with the characters in his stories, but I was enthralled. As I sat in my mom’s unique salmon chair reading the first book in the series for the second time I thought: “I want to do that! I want to help kids relate to people they know nothing about and write a good story at the same time! I want to write stories they can escape into and lose track of time with.” After this, I have a vague memory of my mom yelling into the living room about the chores I hadn’t finished yet.

As I grew older, my future as a writer was shaped in both positive and negative ways when it came to my goal. One positive happened when I landed Mrs. Beaver for freshman English in high school. She was passionate about literature, and her unit on The Odyssey still remains one of the best literary learning experiences I’ve had in my life. When my parents suggested I take a more practical route while fulfilling my dream of playing Division I softball after I graduated high school, I settled on a major in English Education. They said my initial plan to major in Creative Writing wasn’t a well thought out one and that teaching would secure me a job. I also loved working with kids, so I went along with their advice and had a fantastic undergraduate experience.

After an onslaught of funerals of family and close friends in 2010, I finally sat down and started writing fiction manuscripts. I have two I’ve recently sent out to agents and editors to a very positive reception. I’m in a bit of a waiting game at the moment, but this crazy writing life is where I know I’m supposed to be. Writing has been the one consistent vehicle of growth in my life, and I’ve found a bit of a niche as a freelancer. The more I learn along the way, the more I realize I have so much more to learn.

This past weekend I had yet another opportunity to grow as a writer thanks to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The excellence and appreciation of writing as an art form I found at one of their local conferences was right up my alley. The conversations with professionals (including some very sincere, talented editors) blessed me so much and encouraged me to continue on the path I’m on.

The path I travel is one of perseverance. I’ll be the first to tell you I haven’t arrived when it comes to writing, or even the wisdom I need to be a good writer, yet. One thing I have discovered is the learning process is often more important than the end result. I know the proper journey yields an excellent end result, but it’s the people you meet and the places you go along the way which make the effort a joyful, fulfilling one.

What about you? What are some of the moments of encouragement you’ve had along the way in your journey as a writer? I’ll be giving away some goodies I picked up at the SCBWI conference to one random commenter who responds before midnight of April 1, 2013. They are pictured below.

SCBWI GiveawayIf you’re not a writer, feel free to also respond as it relates to your life as a parent or professional. You’ll also be eligible! I look forward to your comments.

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Leadership, Short and Sweet

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Homemade Coconut Mocha Latte with Hershey’s Kisses melted in

Today’s Scripture: Protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one. Taken from Jesus’s prayer in John 17:11 and my current personal prayer of unity for the Christian leaders in my life

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Coffee Talks on Leadership I’ve been posting lately. Today, I’d like to highlight several quotes on leadership based on my Five Cs of Leadership post and the books I’ve been reading. I’ll attempt to be short and sweet. Speaking of sweetness, I’ll also be giving away some chocolate from a fabulous place called Mid’s in honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day. Comment on this post before midnight on 2/10/13 for a chance to win! Now, get ready to chew on some quotes!

A leader strives to possess solid character.
“Instead of bossing others around, boss your heart around by reminding it to remember who God is– and how good He is at being God. Remember that more than simply serving Him, God wants you to seek Him.” – Renee Swope in A Confident Heart

A leader is committed to service.
“The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in so doing will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.” – Eugene B. Habecker; quoted from The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell

A leader communicates well.
“The spoken word is one of the triumphs of man….” – Charles Wallace in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A leader demonstrates competence.
“Never, ever, ever, ever quit.” – Sigmund Brouwer; quoted from 112 Christian Authors and Publishing Professionals Share Their Best Advice for Novelists compiled by C.J. Darlington

A leader models courage.
“Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the willingness to act in the face of fear.” – Nicole Braddock Bromley in Hush

Coffee Talk: Maintaining Emotional Strength in Leadership with Wendy Blight

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Starbucks Blonde Willow Blend

Today’s Scripture: You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. – Isaiah 26:3, AMP

I first encountered today’s guest during a Proverbs 31 online bible study with Melissa Taylor. As part of the study, all of the participants who purchased a book directly from Proverbs 31 Ministries received an autographed copy. This was before I was involved with Proverbs 31 in any way. I just happened to stumble upon Melissa Taylor’s site in a time when I couldn’t commit to any Bible studies through my local church. The book, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God’s Story, arrived with the author’s signature and a Scripture which became so meaningful to me at that time of my life. I found out later that Wendy Blight, the author, had prayed over each book sent out as she signed them.

As I’ve gotten to know Wendy better, I’ve discovered her to be one of the sweetest, most sincere Christian leaders I’ve met in a long time. Her heart to lead women to the feet of Christ is one I admire. She facilitates a very successful small group ministry in her home church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and, because of her heart to lead women and her powerful story of survival, has been featured on Oprah Radio, The 700 Club, Family Life Today with Dr. Dennis Rainey, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. Her book details her journey from fear to freedom and offers a step-by-step Scriptural path to physical, spiritual, and emotional wholeness. Along with being a writer, Wendy is on staff with Proverbs 31 as a speaker. She is also a wife, a mom, and, a former Texas lawyer. (If practicing law in Dallas, Texas doesn’t command respect, I don’t know what would!) I have asked her to share about an aspect of one of the “Five C’s of Leadership” I am always interested in: maintaining emotional strength while leading with character.

Wendy, thank you so much for being here with us today. Your perseverance and heart to reach out to women is such an example to me. I know you have learned a lot about what it means to have strength in leadership, particularly emotional strength, and I want to talk about that today. Let’s start off our discussion by talking about the difficulties involved with this. What do you see as the single most difficult emotional aspect of being a Christian leader?
So much of ministry is a blessing, but I do experience times of great weariness. The time I invest in writing as well as studying, praying for Bible studies, and ministry planning takes much out of me mentally, physically and spiritually. But God is so faithful. He always provides encouragement and rest through His Word and through precious friends He has stationed around me to be my Aaron and hold me close in prayer.

When you are discouraged and still have to follow through on leadership responsibilities, how do you push through to accomplish everything those you lead depend on you for?
Spending time in God’s Word and in prayer is vital. Calling upon godly friends to pray alongside me is also essential in this process. There is no better way to overcome discouragement. When women are counting on you, when deadlines are looming, you need a “sure thing.” Prayer and “the Word” are always a “sure thing!”

I love your focus on prayer and Scripture! I’m sure you have seen many benefits of maintaining these priorities. What have you found to be the most rewarding aspect of Christian leadership?
Investing in women’s lives for eternity! My single most favorite part of leadership is raising up leaders to walk alongside me so that together we work as a team to bring God’s living and active word to broken and hurting women. This is one of my favorite things about being a part of Proverbs 31 Ministries. I love the incredible stories of transformation that come from these relationships. There is no greater joy!

I agree with you, Wendy. Seeing women’s lives transformed from darkness and brokenness into what they were really meant to be is one of my favorite things to witness also! How have you been able to use personal emotional victories to enhance these vital relationships with the women you lead?
Sharing stories of God’s great provision is one way I use these victories. For a leader to know she is not alone helps her get through difficult times and emotional lows. Hearing how God brought someone else through gives just the encouragement a leader needs. Although it is not related to my “emotional victories,” I feel the time I spend every week in prayer for the women I lead definitely enhances our relationship and encourages them in their role as a leader.

Wendy, I appreciate you taking a few moments of your time to share your perspective with us. I keep your book on hand when I need to brush up on my own “emotional strength,” and I also like to bless others with it as well.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of Wendy’s book, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God’s Story, please comment on this blog. I will give away one copy to everyone who comments by midnight of 1/31/13. Please make sure you include a valid way of reaching you so I can get you the book. I will not use your information for anything other than this giveaway. Thanks for reading my blog, and God bless you!

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Choosing Hope, Part 2: A Call to Pray

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Dunkin’ Donuts Medium Roast with Peppermint Mocha Creamer

Today’s Scripture: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

What do we do when we are at the end of ourselves? Where can we turn when all else seems to fail? What can we do when we can’t be physically present in the lives of those who are hurting? One way we can choose hope is to join others in prayer. On this, the one week anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, please join Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries and New York Times bestselling author of Made to Crave and Unglued, over on her blog to pray for all who have been affected by the tragedy.

Christmas Giveaway Update

On Wednesday I posted a giveaway at the bottom of my blog. Here’s a reminder:

Christmas Giveaway 2012

If you comment on that post or on today’s post, you will be entered for a chance to win. If, by some sad turn of events (I know it’s a busy time of year), I don’t receive any comments by midnight tonight, I will choose one winner at random from my list of blog followers. May God bless you all, and may you choose hope in everything you do!

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Brief Musings and Blogroll Highlights

Coffee of Choice: Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Spice, straight up

Today’s Scripture: I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. – Ephesians 1:18-19 (HCSB)

No matter where you are in life, the above verses are my prayer for you! For me, the “perception of my mind” has been stretched in the past couple of weeks as my freelance writing load consumed much of my time. Thank goodness I’m very in touch with the “hope of my calling!” I really do enjoy working with people to help make their goals reality by putting them into print, whether personally or in business. This week I am also excited to get back to my regular fiction writing routine and gear up for NaNoWriMo with my own goal of finishing my second manuscript.

Enough about me, however. As promised, here is the winner of last week’s drawing followed by last week’s blogroll highlights, which I procrastinated on due to two huge freelance projects.

Congratulations to: Luanne J.! I’ll be in touch with you to get you your wonderful prize pack!

Blogroll Highlights for Week of 10/7/12

“Dream bigger. Start smaller. Ignite God’s vision for your life.” Interested? Melissa Taylor’s awesome Online Bible Studies site will be starting a study on the book Greater by Pastor Steven Furtick. Click on the picture below to hop to the announcement detailing all you need to know!

I love this post by Michael Hyatt where he details how to “Become More Productive by Reengineering Your Morning Ritual.” Not a morning person? Well, you may want to consider becoming one. Click below to learn more.

Join my Proverbs 31 sister, Donna, as she shares part of her life story about “Living in the Light of Forgiveness” on Renee Swope’s blog.

Wendy Blight interviewed author Tom Wheeler on her blog this past week. Click below to read all about Tom and his book, Second Wind.

Finally, I loved this post on “When to Tell Your Inner Editor to Shut Up” by Melissa K. Norris. Maybe it’s because I’m heavy into the editing process on several different projects this week. Maybe it’s because I just love soaking up the humourous encouragement for writers often posted over at the WordServe Water Cooler. Either way, it’s worth your time.

Until next time!

Coffee Talk: Ripping the Page with Karen Benke

Today’s Hot Drink of Choice: Orange, Passion Fruit & Jasmine Lipton Green Tea

Today’s Scripture: Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. – 1 Timothy 4:11-12 (The Message)

As many of you know, I have a background in English and Secondary Education. That foundation has opened the doors for me to work with many talented youth over the years. Times when I’ve been blessed enough to see lightbulbs flashing in the brains of a room full of tomorrow’s leaders have sustained me through a lot. People tend to look at me weird when I tell them I love working with and speaking to teens. Yes, teens can be challenging, but so can a three-year-old who refuses to potty train. I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

With that being said, let me introduce you to someone I stumbled upon when her book came out back in 2010: Karen Benke. She’s an educator, lover of kids, and encourager of right-brained thought. (If you missed my series on right-brained plotting, check out the concluding installment with links to all six episodes here.) For today’s Coffee Talk special, I thought I’d let you hear Karen’s personal story behind her wonderful, practical book called Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing.

You won’t regret it if you’re still engaged in this blog. I’m giving stuff away again. Bear with me as I really do enjoy doing this and want you to be blessed. This time around, the grab bag is an educator’s delight. Whether you homeschool or brave the halls (and random wads of chewed gum) of a public school, the resources I’m giving away will bless and encourage your journey. Included are Karen’s book; Writing with Confidence: Writing Effective Sentences and Paragraphs, Seventh Edition (which includes a two-year membership to Pearson Education’s My Skills Lab website); and The Compact Reader: Short Essays by Method and Theme. Since my background is in Secondary Education, all three books can easily be applied at the secondary level. All three are also very interactive and geared toward holistic teaching, which I’m a huge fan of.

From an advanced writer’s perspective, these three books are invaluable for their practical writing exercises, which help strengthen fundamental concepts of the English language and spark creativity. I’ll also be sending a surprise hot drink with all of my giveaways from now on. Please leave a comment below to be entered to win. I will close the comments eligible for the drawing one week from today at midnight. Thanks for stopping by my little section of the web world!