Wednesday, October 29, 2014

No More Excuses

I imagine we’re sitting in a coffee shop, me with a caramel steamer in hand and you with a coffee or latte or mocha, because that’s what the grown-up world does. I’ll explain how I wish I liked coffee. How my mornings would probably be completely different because I might actually not despise the mornings any longer. Or maybe if I had a cup of joe (that’s what you savvy coffee drinkers call it these days, right?), the morning routine of getting kids ready for school and packing those blasted lunch boxes wouldn’t be as overwhelming during my caffeine high. We would chit-chat about our day, the weather, and through getting to know each other you’d find out that I write inspirational romance/suspense novels. You’re intrigued, and then you confide in me that you’ve always wanted to write a book.
Can I just tell you how many times that happens? Through book signings, random conversations and scenarios like above – I can’t count the number of times someone has told me about their dream to write a book. I’ve been asked by Bob Clary from the online learning company, Webucator, to share any words of wisdom or knowledge I’ve collected about writing for their new “Teach Your Talent” project. At first I hesitated, thinking, “What do I have to offer?” I may not have incredible writing/grammar skills to share or a heap of wisdom to bestow – but I can be your biggest cheerleader! To those of you that have a dream and desire to start writing a book … DO IT! No more excuses of...
I don’t have the time.
Even if it’s five minutes a day – DO IT! I’ve been known to carry a notepad wherever I go to jot down ideas or anything that pops up in my head. If you see me in the pick-up line at my kids’ school, chances are you’ll see me scribbling like a madwoman.
I don’t have the skills.
Learn. Take classes. Teach yourself. DO IT!
I don’t know how to start my story.
Just start writing, if it doesn’t flow, that’s what the backspace is for. How will you ever know, if you don’t try and just DO IT! If I can give any advice in this area, it’s to start with an outline. For me, it was so much easier to start writing once I had an outline and knew where my story was heading.
I have the fear of failure.
Don’t we all! DO IT anyway! I’ve learned through my process of getting published to grow some thick skin and that I’d rather fail than not try at all.
I don’t have it in me for the hard work.
I’ll be honest; it takes a lot of effort to write a book. It’s not for the faint-hearted. But trust me, hard work makes the success even more rewarding. So DO IT!
I can hear you say, “Natalie, you don’t understand. It’s easy for you to say that, you’re a published author.” Once I stop laughing, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Since I was a child, I always enjoyed writing and telling stories. I had often thought about writing a novel but never really pursued it because I have poor grammar skills (you, think I am, Kidding but seriously its, horrible?). Knowing I had this huge struggle, I just assumed I could never achieve writing a book. Back in 2009 life hit hard. I had two horrible miscarriages and my middle son came down with a very rare and life-threatening disease. It felt like all I did was grieve and take care of little people. I finally realized I needed a hobby – an outlet. One night my husband encouraged me to write a book – and hearing him say that sparked my desire again. So a few days later I sat down, wrote out a quick outline with detailed characters … gulp … and started writing chapter one.
I thought it was going well. Halfway through the book I decided to find an editor, because NO ONE was going to read this manuscript without first fixing my million grammar mistakes. I found an amazing editor and sent it off with high hopes, only to be crushed by the response. The manuscript wasn’t good. At all. It needed so much work the editor couldn’t even start editing. The subtext, the dialogue, the plot – you name it, and it was probably terrible. Pretty much the only way anyone is going to get their hands on that first manuscript will be over my dead body.
So what did I do? I cried. I didn’t tell anyone, and for three days I licked my wounds and cried. Then I sucked it up and got honest with myself. I could quit right there - only a handful of people knew what I was doing. I could save face and no one would be the wiser. Or I could pick myself up and do something about it. I had to ask myself what I really wanted. The answer? I wanted to write a book.
For the next month all I did was research how to write a fiction novel. I read article after article. I read self-help books. I went back through my favorite author’s books and gleaned from her words, style, and examples. And after all that, I found my own niche and voice - and started all over again. I sent the first chapter back to the editor. And guess what? She loved it!
I wish I could say from there on it was all smooth sailing until I signed my contract four years later with my publisher. I wish I could say I didn’t get rejected by twenty some agents that didn’t see my vision for a story. I wish I could say my books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list.
I can’t.
But what I can say is … I DID IT! I wrote a book.
Now, it’s your turn!
And yes, someone did proofread this…

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Truth - The Bitter Wake From Our Path

“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.”

– Genesis 30: 1-3
When reading this passage and taking a good look at Rachel, one word sticks out to me. Jealousy. Rachel became so jealous of her sister Leah because she could give Jacob children while she remained barren. So jealous in fact, that she took matters into her own hands and had her maidservant sleep with him so she could have children through her. And it didn’t stop there. It actually got worse. Then Leah couldn’t conceive, so she had Jacob sleep with her maidservant. And for years this went back and forth between them. Finally the Lord heard Rachel’s cry and she gave birth to Joseph. Joseph then became Jacob’s favorite and his brothers became extremely jealous of him. So jealous, that the brothers ended up selling him into slavery – but that’s a story we will cover next week. Let’s take a look at a couple scriptures that tells us about jealousy. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 we have Paul sharing his concerns to the Corinthians. “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. Did you notice in that list you usually have jealousy with at least one of the others? Now flip over to Galatians 5:19-20, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious; sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and factions. Hmmm, are you seeing a theme here. I am. God compiles jealousy with some pretty ugly sins. It also makes me think about how ugly my heart looks to God when I store jealousy in it.  The thing with jealousy is that it never just stays in our heart, it leaks out and causes destruction around us, a bitter wake from our path, and another stepping stone to more sins. It alters our actions, words, and perspective. Let’s take a serious look at jealousy and how it can corrupt us. Often times when we compare ourselves to others, it births a seed of jealously that quickly grows. We become jealous over how people look, their positions, someone has what we want, the loss of another’s affection/time, others getting the blessings when we feel like we only get the leftovers – the list could go on.  Often times when we harbor jealousy in our hearts, we can’t see what God has right in front of us. Rachel let her jealousy ruin her relationship with her sister. Rachel let her jealousy become self-destructive and consume her. Rachel had a husband that loved her deeply, despite whether she could conceive or not, and she dismissed that devotion for her own selfish desires. Take a moment to pause and reflect on your life. How are you struggling with jealousy? We all do – we just have to find the source and look to Christ for the freedom over it.
Heavenly Father, as water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man. Lord, I do not want my heart to reflect jealousy. Please help me to identify those areas that I struggle in this and help me break free. Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Truths - Where Do You Find Your Worth?

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.

– Genesis 29: 31-32

Lately I’ve been reading about Jacob/Rachel/Leah - and I think my jaw has dropped quite a few times. I’ve read their story before, but never really grasped the amount of sin, jealousy, revenge, deceit, pride and lack of acceptance it held. And as you continue reading how it affected all the brothers and ensued generations of hatred. There is so much to learn from their situation, so I will be splitting it up and covering different topics today and the next couple weeks. Today, we are going to talk about Leah. My heart went out to Leah. I’m a huge sports fan and if I’m watching a game that my team isn’t playing in, I always cheer for the underdog. When reading this scripture, that’s what Leah felt like to me - the underdog of this story. How hurtful for her to experience not being wanted or chosen and it wasn’t even her doing. Her father gave her away to Jacob. A man that didn’t want her, a man that wanted her sister and made sure everyone knew it. Leah begged God to give her a child in hopes it would help Jacob fall in love with her. Heartbreaking, isn’t? Have you ever felt unwanted? I have. It’s not a good feeling. When I look at Leah and examine her life, I can’t help but notice that she looked to others for her self-worth and favor on her life. But God tells us in Proverbs 8:35, “For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” Makes me pause and examine my life a bit. Where am I finding my worth? In my husband, kids, writing success, my home, who my friends are, what strengths I have to offer? How about you? Let’s backtrack a bit in Proverbs to 8:17-21, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.” A couple things I took from these verses. 1. Leah thought she needed a son to have worth and be accepted (notice she kept having children, but it never filled that gap, that longing to be accepted). But in God we find our riches, worth, and prosperity. God doesn’t love us because we have or haven’t done something. He simply loves us because WE ARE HIS. 2. God says that His fruit is better than fine gold. What God pours into us will always be enough. Always. We should never have to look beyond God to others or “positions” to fill any holes – God wants to make our treasuries full with the love of Him alone. The great thing about being a follower of Christ is that we are always wanted by the King. We never have to wonder. So on days when my heart is hurt and I try to grasp onto other things for my worth, I can rest in the joy that I am wanted and loved and in God I find where I belong!
Heavenly Father, you have created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139: 13-14). Amen.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Truths - The privilege of suffering!

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’”

– John 9: 1-3

Suffering. We’ve all dealt with it. Some of us have just walked through it. Some are in the midst. Some days the pain is almost too much to bear. Some days it’s easy to lay it at Jesus’ feet. Our sufferings are not meant to make us weak, but to build us up, teach us, give us insight, strengthen our faith. Many times through my struggles I ask God – “Please don’t let me be the same at the end. Change me. Mold me. Strengthen me. And help me not to go through this and miss what you are trying to teach me!” Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-4, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Rewind back eight years ago and you wouldn’t recognize that Natalie! My second child, Brayden, had sleeping problems (and I use that phrase loosely) – I think it could be used as a means of torture.  For the first two years of his life, he was up screaming for hours almost every night. On top of that, my husband was gone on many trips (he’s a pilot). Then Brayden got infected with a very serious and life threatening disease. During which I had two very difficult miscarriages. All the while in the thick of my marriage falling apart and stressed over unending medical bills to pay. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. I had nothing left to give to my family, friends, and especially God. That was a very dark time for me and I often cringe when I walk down memory lane. But I stand as a witness that God refined me through that fire. I also stand serving a God that understands my pain. In Isaiah 53:3 it says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Jesus understands physical pain. The loss of a loved one. The deep wound of rejection. I don’t know about you, but I never want to stand on the other side of my suffering and realize it was all in vain because I didn’t let God work IN and THROUGH me! Through Paul’s ministry he considered it a privilege to suffer for Christ. What better testimony can we give than our strengthened faith, trust in God, strong character, deeper compassion and the work of God in our lives.

Heavenly Father, today I’m really hurting. I feel alone and as if no one understands my struggles. But you do. As you comfort me Lord, help me to turn my eyes off of myself and on to you. Give me hope, when I feel hopeless. Speak your truth, when I believe the lies. Guide my life, when I feel lost. And take this broken heart and heal it. Amen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Truths...and a little of "It Takes A Church"

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” -Proverbs 18:24

Back in February I had a one-of-a-kind experience. My husband and I, along with our pastor and some friends from church, filmed a reality TV show episode on the new show called, "It Takes A Church" on Game Show Network. Yes, you read that correctly. It still feels a little surreal even to write about it. During those days of filming, God had been pressing and speaking to me so passionately about being aware of the words I speak. For three days I had a microphone strapped to me – we referred to it as “My Holy Spirit” – but oh how true. Shouldn’t we all walk around with a constant reminder to be watchful of our words! It has been years since I’ve felt this submerged in “the world” by being with Hollywood crew and producers, trying to speak truth and life – and not making an idiot of myself on national television!! What a challenge and eye-opening experience! So take a minute and think about the people around you, your circumstances and your opportunities that can be affected by your words. Those hurting and in need a word of encouragement – “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24. Or someone that needs to hear something God has placed on your heart – “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25-11. Maybe there is someone that needs or deserves your praise – “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2.  Then I think about the times my words have caused damage – “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18. Or when I am upset about something or with someone or one (or all) of my children – “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19. What a great reminder that we have the power of life and death! How are you using your words today? Join me this week and let’s all strap the Holy Spirit to us as we use our words to bring life around us! Heavenly Father, you tell us in your word that the lips of the righteous know what is fitting – help me Lord to stay in tune with your Spirit so that I can acknowledge that very thing. Bring me so close to You that I know immediately what words to use and the words to hold back. Amen.

Our episode aired on June 12th, so for months I had been holding my breath, nervous on how they would edit and praying, “God, if I’m going to look like a fool, let me look like a fool in love with You!” We loved the episode – and I might be a bit biased, but I’m pretty sure my husband stole the show. I’m so happy that his humor shined through. Boy, I sure love that guy! Here are a few pictures with the cast, crew and producers from the show!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

It never gets old...

I still can't believe that my second book, A Rescued Hope, has been released! I tell ya what, this excitement, nausea that gets caught in my throat from the anticipation of wondering if people will like it, and the joy of once again reaching a dream ... never gets old! It's wonderful and I am so humbled that God would use me in such a fun and rewarding way.

The book has been out for a couple of weeks and reviews are starting to come in!! Here are a few...

"After reading "A Rescued Heart", I was super excited about getting my hands on the sequel, "A Rescued Hope", and it did not disappoint!!! I could NOT put it down!!!! I love getting to know some of the other characters while still getting to read about Matt and Ava! This book takes an unexpected twist that had my saying out loud, "Oh my word!!!!" This will be a re-read book just like the first one, and can't wait for the 3rd book already!" :)

"Loved this book! Very easy read. Gets you hooked in from the start. Love it when a book starts right in with the action. I can not wait for the next one to continue getting to know the characters."

"Loved it! Such a great story, I couldn't put it down! Enjoyed the first book too and can't wait for the 3rd book!"

"I read Natalie's 1st book, "A Rescued Heart" in three days. The sequel did not disappoint! It was so great to see where Matt & Ava were and to learn about some new characters, as well. There was love, action and adventure. Definitely some parts that had me on the edge of my seat! By the last page, I was ready for the 3rd book! I can't wait to see what happens next!!!"

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sleep is for the birds...

"When is the second book coming out?"
Can I just say how much I love this question!!! The goal is early next year, so I am working like a mad woman in my spare time to finish up my last few chapters in the second book. I have now entered the world of deadlines - and I love it. I had four years to write the first one...I have four months to write most of the second one. Holy pressure, Batman! For the first book I just wrote whenever I felt like I have to make time in my schedule and plan writing days! One Saturday my hubby took our boys on an all day hiking trip and a friend took my little princess for the day, so I devoted my day to writing. The picture below shows where I parked my behind for the entire day and created over 4,000 words.
Despite feeling like I needed to make a chiropractic appointment, it was a great day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am LOVING the second book and have enjoyed watching my characters' relationships unfold as twists and turns keep them on edge all while they search for hope, direction and God's will for their lives!