The Gift of Story

Merry Christmas!

I am still on a bit of a blogging hiatus. I’ve been writing quite a bit, but for reasons I cannot explain, I haven’t been able to string together a decent post here…on my own site.

*sigh*

Truthfully, I miss blogging. I miss the days of yore when I could sit down and punch out a funny story in less than an hour. I think there will be time for that again some day.

Or maybe there won’t.

I’m not entirely sure just yet. But I do know one thing, I am as addicted to the written word as I ever was before. In fact, I’ve made it a point to spend more time reading these last couple of months.

I needed to lose myself in story again to remember why I loved it so much.

I’ve also been working on my second book. With very few moments to spare in my days, the down time I’ve had has been spent developing new characters. The process is a slow one, but my plan is to finish the manuscript by early summer.

*fingers crossed*

In the meantime, here are a few of my book recommendations for you all! Give the gift of story this Christmas (and, in some cases, your gift may just benefit others in need).

1.) Like a River From Its Course – Kelli Stuart

Come on, now. You didn’t think I’d compile a list of books and not include my own, did you? *wink*

I received a lovely review of my novel this week. I’m grateful for every review that comes through, but truth be told I love reviews from men just a little more. If I can win over a male reader with my writing, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

“This is the best historical novel I have read this year. It was moving, powerful, amazing. I have been on a mission trip to Ukraine and the people there remember the horrors of WWII. Thank you for telling their stories so eloquently.” Doc Kirby

Have you purchased your copy of Like a River From Its Course yet? When you do, a portion of the proceeds go to Hope House Ukraine, a ministry of World Hope Canada working with girls who have aged out of orphanages.

 

2.) Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom – Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart

My second book released in September, and this is the perfect gift for the creative moms in your life. Wendy and I have had so many sweet compliments about this book, and I am equally proud of it.

Purchase Life Creative today and bless a young mom who feels a bit lost in motherhood. A portion of the proceeds from this book are sent to Lulu Tree, a ministry that aims to “prevent tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.

3.) A Cup of Dust – Susie Finkbeiner

Susie Finkbeiner’s historical fiction novel set in the 1930’s Oklahoma was a beautiful, heart wrenching story. I had never heard of the Dust Bowl, and after reading her book I did a little research and was fascinated to learn more about this devastating time in our nation’s history.

You’ll get lost in the compelling characters that Finkbeiner has created, and what’s better is that the sequel, A Trail of Crumbs, releases in just a couple of months. I had the privilege of reading the second installment in her series early, and I can tell you it is as well written and researched as the first book.

4.) 7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness – Eric Metaxes

I’m about a quarter of the way into this book, and I couldn’t love it more. As the mother of two daughters, I love stories of strong women who leave a big impact. Eric Metaxes, the author of Bonhoeffer (one of my favorite biographies) brings the stories of some of the greatest female leaders to life in this book.

From Susanna Wesley to Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa to Joan of Arc, Metaxes gives readers a glimpse into the lasting impact of these strong women.

 

5.) The Tale of Despereaux – Kate DiCamillo

This book is a gem. It isn’t a new book, and many of you may have read it before, but I never had so I was thrilled when it was on the list of books for Landon’s literature class this fall.

The Tale of Despereaux is pure magic from beginning to end. Kate DiCamillo is a master at bringing story to life, portraying deep lessons through the most lovable of characters. The kids and I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane last year and loved that story just as much.

This is a must read for parents and kids alike!

6.) Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

I met Liane Moriarty this past September at the #ReadSavannah event in Savannah, Georgia. She was witty, gracious, and generous with her time as she promoted her new bestseller, Truly Madly Guilty.

I enjoyed the book (though admittedly, I liked Big Little Lies better). This is a book of secrets, connections, and the common event that changed multiple lives. It’s a page turner from beginning to end.

7.) All the Pretty Things – Edie Wadsworth

I love a good memoir, and my friend Edie did not disappoint with this beautiful book in which she shared the beauty and brokenness of her youth. You will be encouraged, blessed, and moved by Edie’s poignant prose, beautiful storytelling, and big love for all the pretty things.

8.) Carry On, Mr. Bowditch – Jean Lee Latham

Tia has been reading this book in her literature class, and she and I both love it. It’s a tough read for the younger kids, but the language is rich. At times, I’ve read out loud to her, and other times she’s read it herself.

Be warned, the book is sad. Tia and I both have wiped our eyes several times while reading.

9.) Carrot Top Paper Shop Bookmarks 

Every reader needs a bookmark to hold her place, and adorable bookmarks make reading all the more fun. I’ve fallen in love with Carrot Top Paper Shop in recent months. Her prints of literary heroines are too cute, and she has bookmarks to match!

Buy a bookmark for the book lover in your life. They make perfect stocking stuffers!

10.) The Puffin Hardcover Classics Box Set

I’m hard core coveting these books right now.

And also this set.

Not only are they the classics we all know and love, but they are gorgeous, making bookshelves as visually appealing as they are emotionally appealing.

These would be a wonderful collection to wrap up under the tree as a family gift. Or you could just send the entire box set to me if you want. I won’t argue. 

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This is my personal Tep Ten list of perfect gifts for the bookworm. What about you? What would you add to this list?

*This post contains affiliate links

Making Space

There is a lot of noise in my house.

A lot of noise.

I do not have quiet children. I have the loud, gregarious type of children who enjoy being seen and heard, some of them more than others. And the more the noise ramps up, the more this mama feels like she is losing it.

It’s not just their voices, though. They’re into music now, so there’s always music playing in the background, which I love. I always dreamed of having a house filled with music and laughter. Only, and I’m revealing my age here, their music is loud and…dare I say annoying?

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And it isn’t so much laughter that’s floating through the halls of my home as it is a mixture of bickering, posturing to be heard, and the telling of silly jokes that I think are supposed to be funny, but 99% of the time I don’t get the punchline.

I think maybe I am the punchline.

It’s been an intense season around here. No one told method launching two books in three months would leave me feeling poured out in ways I didn’t know possible. I hesitate to say anything because it sounds like I’m complaining.

For the record, I am not complaining.

If I were to list the number of blessings to come out of the last five months, this blog post would turn into a short novella. It’s been a wild, but extremely exciting ride, culminating in the release of the books, both of which I am immensely proud.

I’m also immensely tired.

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I’ve felt all poured out the last couple of weeks. I sit down to write, and the words feel stuck. They can’t seem to make it from my fingers to the page, which is a problem when you make your living as a writer.

I think I just need some time. I need time to be with my family and not feel rushed.

I need time to exercise, coaxing my loose muscles back into shape.

I need time to let my neck heal, since I somehow seem to have injured it with all this rigorous book launching. (It’s ridiculous, I know. But I refuse to say my neck hurts because I’m getting old. I’m sticking with the whole “writing injury” thing.)

There’s this sense of angst that settles in my heart when I consider taking a break. Part of the business of writing requires that you build an audience. Know your people and talk to them. Publishers like that.

The truth is I like it, too. I like sharing my life with readers, and in turn I like them sharing their lives with me. But it’s time for me to give myself a little space.

I’ll be taking a blogging break. I just need to give myself the freedom to step back, not completely. I’ll still be sharing on Instagram, and on Facebook, and occasionally on Twitter. I would love to have you follow me in one of those spaces.

But I’m going to let this space breath for a little while. Because here’s the thing:

I’m working on a new book.

I’m really excited about it. I love the characters already, and I’m fleshing out the details. I’m ready to start diving in, but I need to give myself a break in other places in order to let my brain process. So I’ll be quiet in this space for awhile, but I do hope you’ll stay connected.

Because this journey is so much more fun with community.

If you haven’t picked up your copy of Like a River From Its Course, grab one today! Did you know the book made the CBA Bestseller list this month? It’s up there alongside Beth Moore and Francine Rivers, and WHAT THE WHAT?!

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And if you haven’t gotten your copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom, then I’d love for you to snag a copy of it as well. It’s being hailed as a beautiful love letter to motherhood, and that’s exactly what we hoped it would be!

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Happy Monday, everyone! I’ll be around, so find me and let’s keep connecting! Big love for you all!

*affiliate links provided

Profiting from Art: An Excerpt from Life Creative

As someone who has long desired, and worked toward, building a career out of her art, the struggle of charging for my work has never been one that I battled. It seemed only natural to charge for the time and effort I spent on projects, though perhaps I undercharged on occasion in an effort to gain exposure.

But whether or not to charge for creative skills offered is a surprising struggle for many women. I didn’t understand it until I started talking to moms about Life Creative.

The question of whether to charge, and how much to charge, is a real struggle for many women, particularly Christian women who view their work as an extension of ministry. With this is mind, Wendy and I set out to write a chapter in Life Creative that speaks specifically to this struggle.

Maybe you find yourself hashing through this very concept. You believe you have a discernible skill, and you’re offering beauty back to the world, but you’re unsure of whether to charge for it. This book is for you!

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The following excerpt from the book offers just a glance at the encouragement offered to the creative who wants to make a business out of her art. I hope it will encourage you as you move forward.

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When Art Turns a Profit: An excerpt from Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom

Art is a valuable thing. Collectors of great masterpieces have bet their wealth on it, and if this is true, then we can naturally deduce that art- ists are valuable as well. We create beauty in a world that often feels ugly. When fires burn and terrorism reigns, we bring the healing light of hope through our artistic contributions.

Before we even talk about price tags and profit, let’s just grapple with this core component—we have something of worth to contribute to this world. Whether you create simply as an overflow and give your creations away freely, or you create with a long- ing to profit from your art, you, dear mom, bring value to this world. Rejoice in that! Yet for some reason as creatives, particularly creative women, we’re quick to shrug our shoulders and dismiss these gifts as frivolous, thereby undervaluing them before we even open shop. In this age that idolizes big platforms, bright lights, Internet fame, and viral success, these feelings of inadequacy lead us to question our small place in the online marketplace, and our worthiness to make a profit.

Dear creative friends, this must not be the case! You are a steward of talents. You may be familiar with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30, where one servant is given one talent, another two, and another five—according to their abililites. Knowing that their master is a hard man, the first servant buries his coin in the sand, so that he doesn’t lose it. The man with two talents invests his money wisely and makes an impressive return.

And the servant entrusted with five talents yields his master five more, due to his shrewd stewardship. Of course Jesus is talking about talents, as in coins, but we’re talking about artistic talents too, because isn’t everything He gives us ours to steward wisely for the greatest return? So all of this leads me to ask: What will you do with what the Master has entrusted to you?

Bury it?
Invest it?
Use it?
Charge for it?
Give it away?

In all labor there is profit,
But mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23

Regardless of the choice you make, the gifts you possess, along with the hours in your day, are entirely yours to steward, so steward them well. If you’ve offered your dreams back to the Lord, and you’ve given Him your surrendered yes to follow where He leads, then the banner of His grace now rests upon each decision you make. And if you long to make a profit from your art, then this is what I want you to take away: attaching value to the hours you spend laboring over each handmade treasure isn’t unbiblical for the creative Christian.

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LC-BookCoverIf you haven’t yet grabbed your copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom, now is the time to do it!

Currently Amazon is (most unfortunately) out of books. We’re trying to figure out why and what we need to do to rectify that situation. You can still purchase the book from Amazon, but it may be several days before you receive it.

In the meantime, if you want to receive the book quicker, you can purchase it at Barnes and Noble.com, and ChristianBook.com.

Grab your copy of Life Creative today and see why women are calling it one of the most encouraging books they’ve read this year!

When the Past Touches the Present

Twenty years ago, I graduated high school.

I realize I’m dating myself a bit with that revelation, but let’s face it – you all know I’m not 29 anymore. I’m not fooling anyone.

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Saturday night, I walked into the Doubletree Hotel in Chesterfield, Missouri, and I saw a sea full of familiar faces. Half of those faces I couldn’t connect with a name, but thanks to Facebook not every conversation was awkward.

(Try introducing yourself to someone who says “Yeah, I know who you are. We ate lunch together every day for a year.” That’s fun.)

The entire evening was a pleasant as old friends caught up, and new connections were formed.  As the music of our youth blared over the loud speakers, we all talked like grown ups, because all of us are grown ups, and that puts us on a much more level playing field.

It’s really too bad we can’t be 38 when we graduate high school, because I have decided I like the 38 year old version of myself so much better. In fact, I liked the 38 year old version of all of us better.

I had lengthy conversations with several people who don’t share a single memory with me from those angsty high school days. In a class of several hundred, there’s bound to be several  with whom you never connect. I had vague memories of these people, but that was it.

I thoroughly enjoyed them as adults, though.

Perspective and life are the great equalizers. The social hierarchy of life is much less pronounced when you’re pushing 40. Most of us are simply trying to survive parenthood and job changes, and we’re all completely baffled by the election.

There’s no time to worry about the nonsense of our youth. How refreshing and so completely freeing. I suppose a crystal ball into the future would have been helpful 20 years ago, but probably not. One only gets to this place of freedom by walking through life.

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Everything about this weekend has been a breath of fresh air. Touching home base makes a soul feel settled. From catching up with old friends to soaking in the crisp, fall air, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a weekend away in St. Louis with my daughter.

I even got to do my first TV interview this weekend, and how apropos that I did it in the place I call home.

My creative journey began here in the shadow of the arch. I wrote terrible poetry as a conflicted teenager who desperately wanted to fit in, but didn’t yet understand that fitting in is a nebulous concept.

I had my first taste of the Russian and Ukrainian cultures when traveling with groups outside of St. Louis.

Yesterday, I spoke to the youth at our former churchabout creativity and Christianity, and how the two blend together so nicely. It was a sweet moment to share with these grown up kids who were all so little when I moved away.

After the morning ended, I thought back on the whirlwind 48 hours I’d just experienced, and I realized that everything that is my today stems from my yesterday. And all of it connected this weekend.

I know a lot of people who desperately want to escape their pasts, and I get it. Sometimes the pain of the past is too hard to revisit.

But for many of us, revisiting the past is actually a good thing. There’s a sweet contentment that comes when we turn around and look fondly at that from which we came – the moments that shaped us, for better or worse.

We touch them and say hello, and then turn back to the present and the unknown future feeling somehow stabilized.

It’s been a wonderful weekend here in my home. But now it’s time to go home.

I’m ready, once again, for tomorrow.

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If you haven’t yet grabbed your copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom, now is the time to do it! Click here to see the clip from my time on Great Day St. Louis explaining why you want this book.

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Currently Amazon is, unfortunately, out of books. We’re trying to figure out why and what we need to do to rectify that situation. In the meantime, you can purchase the book at Barnes and Noble.com, and ChristianBook.com.

Grab your copy of Life Creative today and see why women are calling it one of the most encouraging books they’ve read this year!

Life Creative: IT IS LAUNCH DAY!

My goodness, it seems like it’s been a long time since I made the big announcement that I’d signed a book contract with my dear friend Wendy, but alas here we are, and you know what?

I am exhausted.

Whose idea was it to launch two books in three month’s time?! I just used the word “alas” in a sentence. Friends, it might be time for an intervention.

BUT NOT JUST YET!

Because today book baby two heads out into the world, and I want all of you to get yourself a copy of it because you will be incredibly blessed.

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Well, actually my male readers might not be so into it given that this is a book written specifically to moms. But I bet you guys (all four of you) know some moms who could use a little encouragement, so go ahead and buy a copy and give it away!

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom is a book for every mother who’s ever felt overwhelmed.

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It’s a book for the mom who once teemed with creative ideas and dreams, but now can’t seem to find the time to fit those dreams back into her life.

It’s for the woman who discovered a wealth of creativity that she never knew existed after she became a mother.

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This is a book for the writers and the bakers, the photographers, home decorators, painters, crafters, scrapbookers, jewelry makers, hair dressers, song writers, party planners, graphic designers, and everything in between.

This is a book for the mom who longs to make some income from her creative passions, and for the woman who simply loves her hobby and wants to share it with others.

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This is for the women who are raising wildly creative children, and for those of us who once upon a time were those children ourselves.

This is a book for the weary mom and the mom who leaps out of bed each day ready to go. (Does that woman exist? Can I meet her and get all her secrets?)

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Life Creative tells the stories of over 30 creative moms who are walking the sometimes messy line between motherhood and art.

And it is available TODAY!

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This book is the perfect Christmas gift…or the perfect Happy October gift! (That’s not a thing, but I think it should be!)

I hope you’ll take a minute today to read about Life Creative, and the messages of hope and encouragement in the book.

And then hop on over to Amazon to snatch up your copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom today to get your own copy of this lovely (it really is beautiful) book!

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Also – join us on Instagram as we celebrate the beauty and art of Renaissance Moms online! We will be offering fun giveaways and challenges over the next couple of weeks that you won’t want to miss!

Order your copy of Life Creative now!

*affiliate link included

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