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Blog Takeover: Writing About Life

C_avatarHi there!

I’m Carolyn, a friend of Lisa’s, and I’m here as a self-invited guest blogger.

Lisa and I spend a lot of virtual time together. We discuss almost everything. How tired we are. How cold our feet have been this winter. How much I want to eat cookies and cupcakes. How much she loves to watch NCIS. We lift each other up. We complain to each other. We celebrate together.

For a few weeks we’ve been discussing blogging (amidst the cupcakes and the weather gripes). I recently had a blog makeover and upgraded my space. That motivation along with a few snow days that popped up during January and I think I’ve got my blog clicking along nicely. I scheduled a few posts, had ideas for a few more, and generally enjoy writing. I like blogging. In my line of work as a librarian I like to think that someone is reading it and getting at least one small idea from what I have to share.

On the other hand (as I confess for Lisa), her blog is not something she really enjoys. She likes the blog, but doesn’t love doing the actual blogging. Occasionally she has a post she mentions that she enjoys writing, but that hasn’t happened recently. When I ask her what she blogs about she says, “love and marriage.”

Oh boy.

It’s not that I object to love and marriage!

But when Lisa and I talk most days we discuss other things she is interested in. Did you know Lisa is a scrapbooker? That she’s knitted something for just about everyone she knows? I don’t know how she keeps up with her crafty nature along with her day job and her writing job.

And recently Lisa has a new puppy!! Which she is going to post a picture of right here…

photo (1)

See! Precious! Penny is adorable and Lisa is like any new puppy-mamma and has news to share!

I read a lot of blogs and Twitter and what I love about blogs is when the genuine nature of a person comes through. I don’t read a large quantity of author blogs, but I read a few. My favorite author blogger writes some about writing when it is a thought she has to share that she is passionate about. She also blogs dialogue her toddler twin nieces are saying when they are being silly, and shares about her experiences while taking trapeze lessons! What I love about my favorite authors on Twitter is when they post about their obsessions with bacon or how they’re surviving this chilly snowy winter and aren’t sure they can be around their school-aged kids one snow-day longer!

I don’t follow because they are writing about the same things their books are about. Maybe I’m the only one…but I doubt it.

I follow authors on blogs and Twitter because they are authentic about sharing whatever real moments in their lives they feel comfortable sharing in ‘public.’

I think Lisa has felt like her blog space here is an obligation as a writer. That she’s required to share wisdom and experiences directly related to writing or to her writing focus which is love and marriage.

Except…as writers the things we do outside of writing influence our writing the most. Otherwise writers would all be writing about writing. But instead writers are writing about life. About the little things that come together to make life exciting and meaningful. I’ve challenged Lisa to keep her blog updated but to avoid the pressure of writing about the same things she writes about professionally. Instead I want Lisa to have more fun writing about the little things that make life meaningful.

Like puppies!

Cheers!
Carolyn

Lisa here: Umm, so my blog was taken over by one of my all-time favorite people on the planet. Carolyn and I met online over 12 years ago when we bonded over a mutual interest. She read my first novel when it was still in the newbie writer stage…and we’re still friends. Man, that was some awful writing. 

In most realms Carolyn is an elementary school librarian who blogs at www.Risking-Failure.com and tweets at @carolynvibbert. But that’s all just an act because the real Carolyn reads a lot of YA lit, fluffy romance, and Christian fiction. She also whines about cold feet in the winter, and eats too many cookies no matter the season.

Your Turn: What are your favorite things to do, other than anything book related?

Lisa Jordan
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Guest Blogger Casey Herringshaw: Not Always Waiting Patiently…

Casey Herringshaw is one of the sweetest, most encouraging people I know. We met through My Book Therapy, then in person at ACFW–American Christian Fiction Writers. She has a heart for Jesus and celebrating others.

She is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people. Taking the words and stories God has placed on her heart and putting them on paper is one of her highest passions in life. Casey is a member of ACFW. You can connect with her through her personal blog, Writing for Christ and her writing related group blog, The Writer’s Alley

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I’m not a patient person.

Shoot, I just admitted one of my biggest flaws on the World Wide Web. But, I’m not. Never have been. My mom tells a story of me as a teeny bopper, cranking up the volume on the stereo between the silence before the next song.

Nope, patience is not my favorite skill and one I don’t employ often enough. But ask me about my publishing journey and I’ll gladly tell you I’ll wait as long as I have too. I’ll closet myself in the back corner, throw away the key, and edit until Christ comes back…instead of submitting, for fear I’ll send out an inferior product.

Ask me about any personal romance or love life and ooo baby, the patience flies out the window.  Suddenly I’m not so eager to refine who I am in Christ, not anxious to truly become the wife and child of the King I need to be, instead I want to jump in with two feet now…why have to spend all that time waiting?

As I sat here thinking about writing this post, I started comparing my two “goals” as you would have it. I would love to be published, but I’m willing to work and refine my craft until it becomes as good as I can make it—I’m willing to take all the time I need. But when it comes to romance and marriage, I’m not as willing to put in that patient work and effort. I mean seriously, at twenty-one, who doesn’t want to be snatched up and given a special new name? Suddenly I’m not so eager to spend as much time as I need.

Welllll…problem is God is saying wait. It’s not the right time. And if I’m not okay with that, I’m going to have a miserable existence. My question so often to myself, is why can’t I just accept His timing like I can with my writing?

If I’m willing to make my writing the very best it can, I should be just as willing to put in the time and effort to perfect my life in Christ.  Let’s face it, we are all works in progress, crafted by the Master’s hand, but we can only crafted as far as we allow ourselves to be sculpted to His will.

Maybe it won’t be this year. Maybe it won’t be next year, but like with my publishing future, I have to keep editing, keep revising and keep praying that God will mold me into the image of His love and perfect match for my future husband.

Will you join me? Revising, waiting, praying…patiently.

Your Turn: Is waiting a struggle for you? How do you get through it? What area of waiting are you in right now? How is God helping you?

Lisa Jordan
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Guest Blogger Pat Trainum: Foundation of a Lasting Marriage

Please join me in welcoming one of my writing support group friends–Pat Trainum. Pat is a woman of many talents. In addition to her writing, she is also a potter who crafts beautiful jewelry and mugs. I’m thrilled to have a one-of-a-kind Pat Trainum mug sitting on my desk. Pat writes romantic suspense under the name of P.T. Bradley. She is represented by the Mary Sue Seymour Agency. Her short-stories have been published in Woman’s World. Although she isn’t published (yet), her manuscripts have won or finaled in several contests, including the 2009 Maggie (Inspirational Category), 2nd Place in the 2011 Touched By Love contest, semi-finaled in the 2011 Genesis and bronzed in the Frasier. She is also an abstinence/healthy relationship speaker and have spoken to many students…and adults. When she’s not writing or speaking, she throws mud on a wheel and tries to make something beautiful. Learn more about her by visiting her site at www.ptbradley.com

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I’m one of Lisa’s unpubbed friends. We met at Susan May Warren’s very first Deep Thinkers Retreat in Melbourne, Florida. Right away I knew she was one of those Happily Ever After (HEA) types. She just gives off that sweet aura.

Now me, normally I kill people. Now don’t get me wrong, I love romances, especially Lisa’s Lakeside Reunion and Lakeside Family, but when it comes to writing, that’s what I write. Romantic Suspense. Actually suspense with a little romance thrown in. Before that, I taught teens how to have healthy relationships which hopefully would lead to healthy marriages. 

Huh?  I’m sure you’re asking how one goes from teaching how to have a HEA to writing about murder. I’m so glad you asked, but Lisa didn’t ask me to do a blog for her on murder. Her blogs are all about love and marriage and relationships and weddings. You’ll have to come over to my blog for the one on romantic suspense.  No, today I want to talk about some things you might not know about love and marriage and weddings.

First, I want to ask if you have any idea what couple currently holds the record for the longest marriage in the United States. I’ll wait while you Google it. …….Yep, if you found Marshall and Winnie Kuykendall, you’re right. Eighty-two years. Theirs is an interesting story.

I tried to find out about wedding costs when they wed back in 1929, but couldn’t find any statistics. I did run across a lot of interesting facts about weddings today. Like, did you know June is the most popular month for weddings, then August, followed by September and October? Or that 2.3 million couples wed every year in the US. And the average couple spends $20,000 for their wedding. That fact blew me away. When I got married, I didn’t know you could have that many zeros behind a dollar sign.

The average age of a bride today in the US is 25.3; Winnie was 20. The average cost of wedding rings for the bride and groom are $1,016. That’s considerably more than the thirty-five dollars Marshall paid for his bride’s.

It’s no wonder that the wedding industry is a 72-billion-dollar industry. In the US, that’s 72 with 9 zeros behind it. Another 19 billion is spent on wedding gifts and 8 billion on honeymoons. All this for one day. Or a week if you count the honeymoon. In my classrooms, I always told the students that the wedding lasted only for a day, but the marriage was for a lifetime.

When Winnie was asked how they’d been able to stay married so long, she replied that their elopement was a foolish act of kids. It was not great planning that built the foundation of a lasting marriage. (“We didn’t have a bit of sense,” she says.) It was the daily decisions they made for each of the 82 years that followed. “Being good to each other, I guess.”

Your Turn: If you’re married, how old were you when you said, “I do”? What advice would you offer to newlyweds…or even oldlyweds?

Lisa Jordan
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Guest Blogger LindsAy Harrel: Five Ways to Intentionally Connect With Your Spouse

I met LindsAy Harrel online through my blog hopping. She read my first book, but mentioned I misspelled my main character’s name–LindsEy. So since then, I’ve made sure to emphasize the correct spelling in LindsAy’s name. LindsAy is a sweetheart with a love for Jesus and her husband. 

Since the age of six, when she wrote the riveting tale “How to Eat Mud Pie,” Lindsay Harrel has passionately engaged the written word as a reader, writer, and editor. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication and an M.A. in English. In her current day job as a curriculum editor for a local university, Lindsay helps others improve their work and hones her skills for her night job—writing inspirational contemporary fiction. Lindsay lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband of five years and a golden retriever puppy in serious need of training.

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My husband and I have been married for five and a half years, but it hasn’t taken us long to figure out an important truth about marriage: it’s much easier to drift apart than stay connected. 

Oh sure, when you first get married, it’s easy to stay connected because you want to spend every waking moment together. But once the honeymoon is over, you simply can’t. There’s work (bummer!), maybe school, church, volunteer opportunities, you name it—and it’s easy to start drowning in the sea of responsibilities.

That’s how it was for us. Nine months after we got married, Mike started law school. Talk about busy! Pretty much the only time we saw each other that first year of school was maybe fifteen minutes a day when we scarfed down dinner so he could get to the library and study.

Then, during his third year of school, I decided to go to grad school in the evenings and work during the day.

Needless to say, we were busier than we’d ever been. And our relationship suffered.

No, we didn’t fight a ton and duke out our differences. Instead, we didn’t talk much at all. We were too busy. But that was the problem. Our goals were noble and our intentions were right, but we weren’t prioritizing one of the most important things in our life: our marriage.

With the encouragement of our mentors, we realized this and did something about it. Here are some things we did—and continue to do—to stay intentionally connected to each other:

Eat dinner together. It sounds simple but just taking 30 minutes out of your day to be a family and talk about what’s going on in your life is huge in staying connected.

Meet annually with mentors for a “marriage checkup.” We are fortunate to have a mentor couple we meet with once a year who ask us questions about all aspects of our marriage in order to get an honest picture of how we’re doing. It takes a lot to be vulnerable in front of someone else, but it also has helped to prevent some issues that could have blown up.

Plan creative dates—and put them on the calendar in advance. Mike and I alternate who plans the dates, and we do them once a month. These don’t have to be expensive at all. The emphasis is on creativity. In my opinion, date nights are one of the most vital things for a marriage. Fight for that time! Do everything in your power to make it happen. And once the dates are on the calendar, don’t let anything get in the way.

Do something special for your anniversary. Obviously, whatever you do depends on your budget and your situation, but whether you stay overnight at a hotel, cook a fabulous meal at home, or eat out at your favorite restaurant, do something special to commemorate the vow you took.

Pray for your spouse. Almost nothing I do makes me feel as close to Mike as when I pray for him. Nothing.

Last August, I finished school. Finally, we’re back to both “just working day jobs.” Of course, I’m still pursuing my dream of writing and we haven’t even had kids yet, so life has the potential to get really busy again.

But now I can say, regardless of how busy we get, we’ve got a plan to stay connected. And I indeed to stick to it.

Question For You: What tips do you have to stay connected to your spouse? If you aren’t married, what awesome examples have you seen from those you know who are married? 

Lisa Jordan
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Guest Blogger Wendy Paine Miller: Sickness & Health—Before the Vows

While visiting different blogs, I came across a blog called Thoughts That Move. The posts spoke to my heart and made me think. This writer had a powerful way with words. Imagine my delight when she became an agent mate! Wendy Paine Miller and I are represented by the fabulous Rachelle Gardner. I met Wendy in person for the first time at the 2011 ACFW conference. Meeting her was one of the highlights of my conference experience. I’m thrilled to have her as a guest blogger today. 

Wendy Paine Miller’s works have been published in anthologies and on numerous websites. Having completed eight women’s fiction manuscripts, Wendy is just getting started. She feels most alive when she’s speeding in a boat, reading, writing, refurbishing furniture, laughing, running, and trusting God. Wendy lives with her husband and three children. She’s represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency. Wendy appreciates connecting with readers. She’d love for you to visit her blog: http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ or follow her on Twitter @wendypmiller.

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If you were to ask me the moment I knew my husband and I were going to be in it for the long haul I’d tell you it was not at all when I expected it to be. Not when he got on one knee. Not during the ceremony. Before all that…

Picture this: I’m sitting in an impressive well-polished boardroom in Bellevue, Washington, receiving official news of my promotion to a corporate account manager and instead of beaming, I’m sinking on the inside. Two minutes before the meeting I’d heard from my OB/GYN’s office. They wanted me to come in that afternoon for another ultrasound.

“Can it wait?” I urged, whispering into the phone, thinking about my wedding less than a month away. Wondering what could be so pressing.

“No. We found a tumor and we need you to come in today.”

Stop here. Tumors and me, see, we don’t get along so well. Ever since I was thirteen and I learned of the cancerous astrocytoma in my sister’s head, the word kind of freaks me out to no end.

But they had—found a tumor that is. A big one. And it needed out ASAP. Which meant I needed major surgery within a month of my wedding. Which meant my stomach would be sliced and I’d have to endure a lengthy recovery process.

Confession: Above all things I was most scared to tell my fiancé, Steve.

In follow up consultations we were told we might not be able to have children. A month before our wedding. We were warned of the consequences. He knew all he was getting into.

And I feared he’d think it was damaged goods—I was damaged goods.

I’d been informed going in I’d either have a laparoscopic surgery or a more invasive one, depending on what the doctor found as she operated. The drugs kicked in and I slipped into la la land, only to wake up and immediately ask Steve, waiting by my side, “Was it the big surgery or the little one?”

He smiled at me. “The big one.” Smiling? After I regained full consciousness I could feel it, the ache in my lower abdomen as though someone carved at me like a pumpkin. The big surgery meant increasing our risk of being able to conceive.

I began my arduous recovery, feeling an overall pervasive embarrassment. Embarrassed to be so weak. Ashamed to have lost such control of normal functioning (God bless the nurse who cared for me. I’ll never forget how kind she was). Afraid Steve would no longer want me.

I began this post saying there was a specific time it registered that my husband and I would grow old together. That’s not entirely accurate. There were moments and many of them came in these days of learning about my tumor and during my recovery.

The second I woke up and saw his face.

The grin he gave even though he was well aware of what my surgery could mean for us.

How he took my hand and helped me walk the room.

How not once, not even once, did he look at me with a defeated look, but instead, through every painful second he held the same adoration in his eyes for me. For me, maimed. With a long road of healing ahead. For his wife to be.

Steve also demonstrated his love by all he didn’t say or do.

And I knew.

I knew we could make it through anything.

Your Turn: If you’re married, what challenges have you faced with your spouse to know you’re in it for the long haul? If you’re single, have you faced a similar situation with a loved one or significant other? How did you handle it?

Lisa Jordan
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Guest Blogger Matthew Sheehy: Changing Your Expectations

I met Matthew Sheehy through My Book Therapy. He’s one of the nicest (and funniest) guys I know. We work together on the Voices e-zine where he writes A Manly Mindset–a column for female writers from a man’s point of view. When I started blogging about romance and marriage, I thought it would be great to have a guy share every now and then. Matthew gives us a wonderful perspective from a happily married husband and father. 

Matthew is a 2012 Genesis finalist in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. He writes from Northwest Indiana, just outside of Chicago. He is a graduate of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University, Duke University, and Hyles-Anderson Seminary. When he’s not working on his stories, he’s working a full-time job in the environmental field or writing and editing Sunday school material for the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.

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My enthusiasm for my sixth birthday party butted with my mom’s sanity as she cleaned and baked and stuffed party bags. To get me out of her hair, my dad took me to the store where I used birthday cash to buy my first four Star Wars figures.

When I got home, the party was awesome. When my best friend’s mom picked him up and said, “See you later, Dotty,” to my mom, the gears of my young brain cranked as I assumed she meant later that day. I thought, “Why will she see my mom later today?”

She said it because I was having a second birthday party! At least, that’s what I figured.

For the rest of the afternoon and evening I dropped hints that I knew something big was going to happen that night. However, I cried as my mom tucked me into bed. She was frustrated and asked, “Why are you crying? You’ve had a great party and got lots of presents!”

Through my water-logged eyes, I whimpered, “I didn’t get my second birthday party.”

Mom was right. It had been a great day, but my expectations didn’t allow me to savor its quality.

You evaluate the quality of your relationships based on the standards of your expectations. Someone could treat you like royalty and throw you a party every day, but if you’re expecting two parties out of them, they disappoint you and you question the relationship.

Have you ever considered if your relationship problems stem from unrealistic and selfish expectations?

My wife and I were married ten years before we had a little girl. When we got married we planned to have our first at three years and to have four total kids. After a few tests the doctors determined that my wife had fertility issues. For the next few years I wrestled with the thought, “Maybe I made a mistake marrying her.”

I felt cheated.

Sometimes seeing moms with their kids triggered a smothering grief.

I eventually had an epiphany: I didn’t love my wife like I should.

My struggles stemmed from my expectations. I made new expectations, putting aside how many kids I should have, how much money I planned to make, what type of car I’d drive, or how big of a house I’d live in. I expected myself to love her as is, without expecting anything from her. I expected to struggle, to not get my way, to see what good God would do with the hurts.

Don’t aim for nothing. Expect yourself to reach for the stars. However when it comes to relationships, maybe you need to change your expectations and treasure whatever others give you instead of demanding something from them.

Give yourself without expecting reciprocation.

If you did, you might realize that your life is a fun party. It might even be like two birthday parties…in the same day.

Your turn: Share a time when you felt cheated because of your expectations. How did you overcome those expectations?  

Lisa Jordan
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Guest Blogger Michelle Lim: Couches Are For Sitting – Resolving Marital Arguments Before Bed
I’m so excited to have Michelle Lim, my brilliant critique partner, as my guest blogger today. 
 
Michelle started writing as a journalist for a college newspaper. She was a category finalist in the Phoenix Rattle in 2012, a Genesis semi-finalist in 2011 and a bronze level finalist in the MBT Frasier Contest in 2010. She has completed three romantic suspense novels. She currently serves as Brainstorm/Huddle Coach for the My Book Therapy and coordinates the Genre Java Column for the Voices e-zine. Michelle and her husband Hui Hong are the proud parents of four rambunctious children who keep their life full of laughter and suspense. To learn more about Michelle, visit her wonderful blog Thoughts on Plot
 
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The people you love are the ones that have the greatest potential to make you crazy. Who else knows how to annoy you without even trying? 
 
Toilet seats, laundry, mowing the lawn, garbage disposal…all things that bring out the worst in us. How is it that leaving the toilet seat up can create a war so intense that it leads to arguing about mothers-in-law and mortgage payments? 
 
Thankfully there are Valentine’s Day, Christmas, anniversaries and birthdays. Chocolate, roses, and a beautiful restaurant. All have a way for making the small things unimportant. We are reminded of how much we love one another and learn to act on it.
 
Being in love is wonderful and terrible all at the same time. Building forever takes a lot of work and somehow people forget to mention that in the midst of all the happiness.
 
My husband and I have been married for twelve wonderful years. We’ve had ups and downs like everyone else, but we see that we are building forever, not just attempting to make each other happy.
 
Marriage is meant to last forever, but we often sabotage our efforts with short term dynamite. Dynamite can demolish what you are building together.
 
So what is the dynamite in marriage? Anger and resentment demolish relationships like dynamite does buildings. We are going to get angry with each other once in a while. But there is a difference between getting angry and letting things simmer til they get to boiling range in the aftermath.
 
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:26–27
 
Bottom line:  COUCHES ARE FOR SITTING!
 
What do I mean? Once you have disagreed with one another, you shouldn’t choose to separate and let your anger fester. 
 
No sleeping on the couch. Is the couch that evil? No, but it is a symbol of your inner turmoil and choice to hold on to your anger. Don’t go to bed angry with each other.
 
You may not agree and not everything can be solved in a short time, but commit to one another that you will work it out when you’ve had some time to think about it. Communicate that you still care for one another.
 
Remember that you are building forever. 
 
Your turn: What tips do you have for resolving arguments in your marriage?
Lisa Jordan
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