Tuesday, November 11, 2014

FACEme Tour ~ Dare to Show Your Beauty

Are you ready to FACEme? The real me? The one without makeup?


My writing friend, Jaime Wright, asked me to participate in this blog tour. At first, I was a bit hesitant. Show a picture of myself without makeup? I've never left my house without applying my mascara. Seriously.

But I sensed God had something to say to me, so I told Jaime yes.

As I think about makeup, I don't just limit it to the cosmetics I apply on my face. Makeup can be worn in any area of our life where we see imperfections.

Generally, I don't wear a lot of makeup when I'm at home, because that's where I'm able to let my hair down and be real.

When I first met my husband, I wouldn't be caught without my makeup on! But it doesn't take long before you start revealing your true self to the ones you love, both your inner and outer self--imperfections and all.

I'm so thankful my family thinks I'm pretty, no matter how I really look.

The same is true with God. I've been downright ugly before Him--yet He thinks I'm pretty. He says I was made in His image. God is beautiful beyond description...doesn't that make me the same?

There's no amount of makeup on Earth that can cover up your true blemishes with God. He sees it all, and He still calls you his beloved.

I love being real with my family and with God.

Now it's time to take my makeup off and be real with all of you. My greatest desire is that it will cause you to feel comfortable being real with me.

I've had people tell me that my life looks perfect, and I feel that this wrong impression keeps them from drawing close to me. I'm not perfect--no one is. I think we make a big mistake when we look at someone else's life and think they've got it all together.

Some of us have just learned how to apply "makeup" to cover up the blemishes in our lives.

Have you ever had a fight with your spouse on the way to church, but when you arrive, you bury the fight behind a smile, and no one knows you've been fighting? Have you ever seen an unexpected visitor coming up the sidewalk, and you shove everything in the entry closet (or the oven, like my sister), so your house appears clean? Have you ever been on the phone, with your hand over the receiver, so the other person can't hear your children fighting, or the toilet flushing?

All of those things are forms of "makeup." A way for us to cover up the truth, because we don't want others to see our imperfections.

But here's the thing. I don't feel like I can bond with a friend unless she's real with me. If she's been in a fight with her husband, and actually admits it to me--I feel like she trusts me. When I go to her house, and it looks just as messy as mine, I feel like I can invite her to my house without cleaning for days. When we're on the phone, and I can hear her children fighting in the background, it makes me feel like I'm not alone in my mothering.

If a friend doesn't take off her makeup with me, she probably won't become a close friend. I want to see her true self, blemishes and all, so I'm not afraid to show her my true self.

And that's what I long to do today. Reveal the true creation God designed. No makeup. Just me.

I want to be real with you, so you can be real with me.

So here I am.


And since we're keeping it real, here is a picture of me after a day of cleaning, shopping, and breaking up fights between my children.

 
My daughter saw this picture and said I look happy--I think I just look tired.
 
Each of us needs to realize we don't have to wear "makeup" at all times. It's good to find friends who see us at our worst and still love us. God made us beautiful, exactly how we are. Let this verse be the cry of our heart: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:14).

You are God's creation and you are wonderful! Together, let's face the world without our makeup on!

I'd love to see you post a picture without makeup today! Use #FACEme and don't forget to follow the #FACEme Tour!!

Nick Kording
Lindsay Harrel
Joseph Courtemanche
Gabrielle Meyer
Jaime Wright
Carrie Wisehart

Emilie Anne Hendryx
Andrea Nell
Sarah Baker
Kristy Cambron:
Rachel Britz
Cara Putman
Stacy Monson
Laurie Tomlinson

Katherine Reay
Katie Ganshert

Your Turn: Do you wear makeup every day? What blemishes in life do you tend to "cover up" the most? Do you have a friend who keeps it real? What do you admire about that person?

I'd love if you'd "like" my Author Facebook Page. You can find it here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

ACFW, Writing, & More

It occurred to me that I haven't written a blog post in two weeks! I've been trying to stay consistent, and post on Thursdays, but the month of October has been a busy one.

I returned from the ACFW Conference in St. Louis at the end of September with so many amazing memories tucked away in my heart. I learned from some of the best in the industry, strengthened old friendships, and created new ones. I attended my first author reception with Barbour Publishers, went to my agency's reception in the hotel lobby restaurant, and pitched my story ideas to a handful of editors. I laughed until I cried, I talked about writing for hours and hours, and I watched some dear friends win important awards. I was encouraged by wonderful people who I respect and admire, I was inspired by writers who have paved the trail, and I was humbled by people who went out of their way to help me on my writing journey.

With my GLAM Girls: Lindsay, Alena, & Melissa.

Jeanne Takenaka receiving the MBT Frasier Award.

Two of my favorite historical romance authors (and teachers)!
 Jody Hedlund and Karen Witemeyer.

With Barbour Editor, Annie Tipton, at the Barbour Reception.

With my editor, Becky Germany, at the Barbour Reception.

With my writing Fairy Godmother, Sarah Forgrave. :)

With Susan May Warren, my amazing writing mentor.
The 2014 ACFW Conference was one of the very best. I truly feel as if it could not have gone better.

Upon returning home, I saw my first cover, which was an amazing dream come true. I worked on my second novella, A Groom for Josette, which is due to my editor by November 1st. I also wrote two story synopses to submit for possible future projects, and I started brainstorming my next full length novel. Amidst all of that, I began revising my last full length novel, as well. At one point, I had five different stories bouncing around in my head, demanding attention!

Right now, I'm only working on one of them. All the other things have either been accomplished, or put on the back burner until later. This next week will be dedicated to preparing for my agency retreat in Monterey, California.

When I return from the retreat, I will be prepping to teach my first writing workshops! My good friend Melissa Tagg will be joining me in Minnesota on November 15th to present the workshops. The first is titled: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Publishing World and the second is: 10 Ways to Hook a Reader. I'll share more as the date approaches.

After that, it will be time to start my next full length novel! The one I plan to write has been on my heart for the past couple years. I have great hope for this story. It's unlike any other story I've written, or read. We'll see what God has planned.

Your Turn: What have you been doing this month? What season of the year tends to be busier for you?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

My First Book Cover!


I can hardly believe I'm writing this blog post today! Do you see that cover?!?! It has my name on it! And tucked inside the book, right in the midst of some incredible novellas, my first story will be printed. My story!

That's amazing to me, and a testimony to the faithfulness of God. He planted the dream, He watered it with His word, He sent sunshine upon the fertile soil of my heart, and He has made it grow.

Dreams really do come true, and this book is proof.

I began to dream of being a published author when I was nine years old, and twenty-five years later, I'm looking at my very first book cover.

Do you have a dream? I know you do. Is it dormant, or is it at the very forefront of all you say and do? Does your dream scare you, or empower you? Do you feel as if you'll never achieve what you've dreamed? Or are you certain it will one day be yours?

No matter where you're at on your dream journey, have hope. God placed the dream there like a tender little seed, and He wants to see it grow and flourish, until it produces fruit.

This book is the fruit of my dream--the first fruit. My dream is still in the process of maturing. But someday, with God's grace, I hope to bear an abundance of fruit from this dream.

Your Turn: I'd love to hear about your dream.

~ ~ ~ ~

The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection releases on May 1, 2015, but is available for pre-order here.

I'd love if you stopped by my Amazon Author Page and liked it! You'll find the page here.

And if you'd like to learn more about my story, Four Brides and a Bachelor, which will be a part of this novella collection, please go here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: With Every Breath


Today I'm sharing my review for With Every Breath, a novel by Christy Award Winner Elizabeth Camden.

First, I have to say I love this title! As you read the book, you realize it's perfect for the plot. It sums up the book in three simple, elegant words.

Kate Livingston is a young widow who helps her parents maintain their boardinghouse by taking a job with her former rival, Trevor McDonough. She and Trevor competed at almost everything in high school, until Trevor won the ultimate victory in securing a coveted scholarship that would have allowed Kate to go to college. Twelve years later, she's surprised when Trevor offers her a job as his assistant.

Dr. Trevor McDonough is passionate to find a cure for Tuberculosis. The work is grueling and heart-breaking, and he needs an assistant who is not afraid to fight alongside him. He's never forgotten Kate Livingston. But when he invites her to work with him, he knows he's taking a chance with his heart.

When Kate begins to unravel Trevor's intriguing past, will she lose her heart in the process? And when an enemy threatens their work with the Tuberculosis patients, will either of them withstand the assault?

This story was a wonderful, intriguing read. It's one of those stories that both entertains and teaches you at the same time. I had very little knowledge of Tuberculosis before I picked up this story, but now I feel as if I have a better understanding. Stories like this that make me feel in awe of the brave men and women who have come before us to fight for cures to make our lives better.

The bonus is that the romance is sweet and heartfelt. Both Kate and Trevor are well-developed characters with a lot of quirks! They're flawed, but loveable, and they have wounded pasts that make them relatable.

Elizabeth Camden always delivers a bit of suspense, and this story didn't disappoint. Wonderful historical novel.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Remember 9/11

This morning, I was in the minivan with my children when they rang the bell in New York City to commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11.

Thirteen years. I can hardly believe it.

After the bell, there was silence. When the radio went back to its regular program, I turned it down and looked at my ten year old daughter. She had her nose buried in a book. I asked her: "Do you know what happened on September 11, 2001?"

She nodded, her eyes still on the page.

"What do you know?" I asked her.

"What you told me."

I've only told her the basics: some bad people crashed airplanes into buildings, and innocent people died.

This morning, I decided to tell her about my day on September 11, 2001.

As I spoke, her eyes lifted off the page of her book and she stared at me. I had her complete attention, just as New York City, Washington, D.C., and a little field in Pennsylvania had our attentions that day.

I was married on June 8, 2001, just three months before the attack. My mom had just had a spinal fusion five days before, and was in a halo. I had come home from Ames, Iowa, where my husband and I had just moved for him to attend Iowa State University, so I could help my mom.

On the morning of September 11th, after an emotionally difficult weekend at the hospital with my mom, I was sleeping on their couch when the phone rang. It was my aunt, telling us: "Turn on the news! Something is going down."

My mom came from her bedroom, and my younger sister from her bedroom, just as I flipped the television on in the living room. At that point, both of the towers were already smoking, and the newscasters were frantically trying to keep up with what was happening.


I remember being very confused and frightened. My husband was five hours away, and all I could think was: "Last time America was attacked like this, we entered WWII." Was WWIII about to start? Would I see my husband? What did all of this mean?

Before our very eyes, the first tower collapsed and we sat in stunned silence. All I remember about that day was sitting in front of the television, feeling numb. I remember the newscaster saying: "After today, our lives will never be the same."

That afternoon, I finally left the house to get the mail. I remember the sky being a brilliant blue, with not a single cloud to be seen. As I looked around me at the beautiful Minnesota fields and swaying grasses, I couldn't comprehend what thousands of other people were feeling at that moment. The suffering, in mind, body, and spirit, was staggering. Lives were being irrevocably changed. Thousands were lost.


I told my daughter about the brave men and women who took over the terrorists on the flight headed for the White House. How they all made calls home to their families to say goodbye, and then crashed the plane in a field in Pennsylvania, sacrificing their lives to save countless others.

I didn't know I was going to cry, but my heart broke all over again, and I couldn't stop the tears.

My daughter continued to stare at me, and I thought: "She may read about 9/11 in a textbook, but there is no greater understanding than to hear someone talk about their own personal experience." I may not have been at Ground Zero in person, but I was there in spirit. I may not have witnessed the atrocities in person, but I saw more than I could handle on the television. I didn't lose a loved one that day, but I mourned with all those that did.

I was an average American that day, and I was profoundly changed.

As the days and weeks after 9/11 progressed, we learned all the chilling details. We watched the funerals, heard the heroism of those who sacrificed to save others, and we asked ourselves: "Is this the wakeup call that will get our country back on track?"


For the first few months, that's what it felt like...but then slowly, we returned to our daily lives and 9/11 began to fade.

My prayer is that 9/11 will never fade completely. That we'll remember how our country came together to mourn the great devastation, and become fully united.

I pray we remember what we learned thirteen years ago: our enemy is not each other. Our enemy is the outside forces who want to destroy one of the greatest nations on Earth. Our America. The land of the free, and the home of the brave.

As I finished, my daughter's gaze drifted outside the minivan's window and I could see her thinking about a day before she was even born. I knew she was thinking about the people who sacrificed, and how America suffered. I could see the sadness in her eyes.

After a few moments, she turned back to her book, and started reading again.

But for just a moment, my daughter understood why 9/11 is so important.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review: Love's Fortune, by Laura Frantz


May I just stop and sigh? As soon as the book covers appeared above, that's exactly what I did! Wrapped up in these three breathtaking images are journeys, relationships, and wonderful memories that have become a part of who I am, truly. I feel like I should be recognized as an honorary member of the Ballantyne family.

Over the past three years, as each book released in Laura Frantz's series, I devoured them like I would a decadent treat. I ached with the Ballantynes, I celebrated with them, and I fell in love over and over again, until their story became mine.

That's how much I love The Ballantyne Legacy and its author, my dear friend, Laura Frantz.

I'm thrilled to be sharing the third and final review for this series. You can find my reviews for Love's Reckoning here and Love's Awakening here.

But today is all about Wren and her Jamie, in Love's Fortune.


Love's Fortune is the story of Wren Ballantyne, the granddaughter of Silas and Eden from Love's Reckoning, and the niece of Ellie and Jack in Love's Awakening.

Wren grew up in the peaceful Kentucky woods, far away from the prestige and responsibilities of her Pittsburgh family. When her father is called back to Pittsburgh to help with Ballantyne business, Wren is thrust into a society she abhors, and finds herself a pawn in her aunt and cousin's scheme to marry her off well.

James Sackett is one of the Ballantyne's most trusted steamboat pilots, and a close friend of the family. When he is asked to act as an escort for Wren's debut into society, he is reluctant, but agrees. He finds Wren to be enchanting, but out of his reach. Embroiled in the Underground Railroad, his life in danger, James is in no position to take a wife--and even if he was, he has nothing to offer Wren Ballantyne.

As the Season progresses, and Wren wins a place as the most sought-after debutante in Pittsburgh, will she follow the plans carefully laid out for her--or will she embrace her heart's desire?

Love's Fortune is set in Pittsburgh in the early 1850s, when political turmoil, rapid industrial growth, and distinct societal roles add suspense and drama at every turn. The historical details in Love's Fortune are impeccable, and both educating and entertaining all at once. Laura artfully weaves three generations into one sweeping series, and includes secondary characters seamlessly throughout all the books.

As always, Laura's beautiful prose and lovely descriptions paint a captivating picture. The colors, smells, tastes, and textures are almost tangible. She adds enough detail to set you firmly in her storyworld, but leaves room to allow your own imagination to roam across the Pennsylvania and Kentucky landscapes.

From the steamboat, bringing Wren up the river to Pittsburgh, to the castle-like mansion being built by a neighbor, this beautiful story dances to life, and offers a fitting end to an exquisite series of books.

Your Turn: Have you read any of Laura's books? The Ballantyne Legacy spans many decades in American history. Which is your favorite decade, and why?

Be sure to check out Laura's Pinterest board for Love's Fortune here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mayo Clinic, Historic Fort Snelling, and My Son

As a mother of four, it's a rare treat to spend an entire day alone with just one child--but that's exactly what I did yesterday. Sadly, it was at the cost of a doctor's appointment, but we made the most of it.

Our three other children went to Grandma's house, and I took our youngest son to a follow-up appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Thankfully he's a healthy, happy little boy. I blogged about his surgery at Mayo two years ago here. When we received the letter from Mayo telling us it was time for his two year appointment, I could hardly believe it!

This picture was taken two years ago
on the day of surgery.
Here was his thumb before surgery.
Our son was born with a "double thumb," or bifid thumb, which means he had two fingers growing out of the middle joint on his thumb. He had surgery to remove one of those bones, and besides a scar, it's almost impossible to see that anything was done to his thumb.

The two of us left our house at five in the morning to make it in time for his appointment. It was a long drive, but he slept some of the way and when he wasn't sleeping, he asked about a hundred questions. The questions were about life in general, which I answered as best as I could. His favorite question lately is: "How do you know?" To which I answer: "Because I'm much older than you."



He was fascinated by the whole process.

Part of his appointment required taking pictures
of the thumb to watch its progress as he grows.

As we waited in the children's waiting room to be seen by the doctor, I was reminded of all the children who suffer in this world, and their parents who suffer along with them. It breaks my heart every time. There were children curled up in wheelchairs, children with no hair, children with oxygen tanks, and so many more. There were moms and dads holding thick file folders, and ones who were called back by a doctor to hear a prognosis, and others just sitting there holding their babies tight against their chests. When we go to Mayo, it reminds me to be so thankful for my healthy children and to pray for those who are battling for their lives.

He loved looking down on the "little" people
from the 16th Floor of the Mayo building.

After my son's appointment, we met with a fellow Minnesota author, and friend, Erica Vetsch! Talk about a treat. :) Erica's stories will be included in the two novellas with mine next year, so we had a lot to talk about. My son did an amazing job being patient while we chatted--probably because he was allowed to play with my phone. :)

Here we are at Newt's in Rochester.
After our visit with Erica, we left Rochester behind. But I didn't want our day to end there, so my son and I stopped at Historic Fort Snelling in St. Paul. We had fun working at the fort, and watching the cannon and muskets fire. We also had fun climbing stairs and looking out peepholes. The fort is amazing, and every time I go there, I discover something new.

Fort Snelling in St. Paul. The round tower is the oldest
building still standing in Minnesota, built in 1820.

Musket drill

Showing my son how they would have made his favorite
food in the 1820's: waffles.

And where they would have cooked them.
Playing checkers in the Sutler's Store.
The Soldier's Barracks. The men would have slept two men
on top, head to foot, and two men on the bottom, head to foot!

Married Soldier's Barracks. Two families would have shared
this room.

Officer's Barracks

Married Officer's Barracks

His biggest smile of the day came when he was allowed
to beat the drum.

Preparing for the cannon drill.



He was determined to wear the yoke. :)

Beautiful day at one of Minnesota's favorite
historic sites.

Showing off his Minnesota Historical Society
Membership Sticker! It says: "I'm a Member!"
We left Fort Snelling and visited Dairy Queen before we headed home for open house at his new preschool.

It was a fun, looooooong day, but I was so happy to get this one on one time with him.

Your Turn: Have you seen a cannon or musket fire? Ever been to a historic site? What's your favorite thing to do when you have one-on-one time with someone you love?