Sunday, July 31, 2011

Get Up and Serve Ideas and Your Community

Earlier this summer we talked about ways to serve your family. Today’s topic? Ways for you and your family to serve your community. Get excited, friends.
  • Project Linus provides new, handmade blankets, and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer "blanketeers." Check here to find a local chapter.
  • Your local hospital. Many hospitals allow kids as young as fourteen to volunteer. Duties may include organizing supplies, talking with patients, and transporting patients with a nurse.
  • The written word is powerful. Watch for someone in your community to praise, and then write a note thanking them. Need ideas? Your babysitter, a policeman, a special teacher, your pastor, or a friend.
  • Hop on an already established drive. You see organizations holding drives for canned goods, coats, school supplies, glasses…get involved. You have something to share.
  • Be a good neighbor. Introduce yourself to new people. Engage in conversation, even when you don't feel like it. Offer to get the mail when your neighbor is on vacation. Bake extra cupcakes and share.
  • Sell all your belongings, throw your two small children in an RV, and travel the US looking for ways to impact others. Sound crazy? Not for this family.
Your turn: Let's hear some of the ideas you have for serving in your community. Tell about a fun community activity you participated in.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Maybe You Could Catch Something

I teach high school darlings, and I start back to school on dum, dum, dum, dum...Wednesday, as in this coming Wednesday, as in August the 3rd.

As I savor the weekend before I report back to real-life, I also leap to capture last minute, summer moments. Maybe you could do the same.

Maybe you could catch a fish.

Or catch a view.

Or catch some waves.

Or catch a sugar-induced coma.

Regardless of what you catch, I hope you spend time enjoying the end of July because the dreaded school supply list will demand your attention soon.

What about you? Are you dreading "the S-word" or looking forward to it?

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Thanks for the pics, Sista Sara.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Info Snackers and Nine Other Writing Tips

I learned a bit over the weekend, and since I love sharing ideas with you, I thought I'd pass along a few favorites.

1. People are info snackers. This means people enjoy a little info here and there, but they struggle to commit to the long, complicated, and overwritten. In other words, get to the point.

2. Michael Hyatt is a big deal, and we need to read his words.

3. Ever wonder why things aren't falling into place for you? “Man’s rejection is often God’s protection.” —Renee Swope

4. The Writing Spa rules. If you need an extra set of eyes, an honest opinion, a writing question answered, or a prayer before your fifteen minute publisher meeting, Leslie Wilson is your girl.

5. When writing, stay away from saying the following: "God told me" and "my journey through". Yep, don't say those things, ever.

6. Many of us already follow Rachelle Gardner, but if you don't, you must.

7. Find a reporter you like, follow her, and comment on her work.

8. A couple posts ago, some of you said you struggled finding your place and passion in the blogging world. One of the authors at the conference discussed the following technique:
-List your top three movies.
-What common thread do the movies have?
-Any chance that common theme is something you are passionate about?

9. Twitter is not going away, sigh, and you need to join Google+. I can't force myself to tweet, but I did join Google+, which reminds me, apparently none of you are on Google+, so it is a smidge lonely.

10. You should start social media a year or more before you put together your book proposal. This means even if you just scratch out ideas on paper, blogging is not a waste of time.

Any thoughts on #8 or #9?


Monday, July 25, 2011

Because God Cares About the Trivial

I circle the tables and look for my name, again.

Before the conference, people prayed for attendees and typed each conference goer's name on a slip of paper.

Apparently, my name became lost or tossed or even worse, forgotten.

And my missing name played on my insecurities, more than a little.

I wondered if God forgot about me too. Many pressing needs fill His time. One girl, at one conference must rank near the bottom of His massive to-do list.

Such a trivial, little prayer.

Let my name be there. Let me know you You see me.

One more trip around the tables, and then, I glance down at the last sheet of paper, and my eyes are drawn to this.

It says, "The Who Sees Me. There are no circumstances in our lives that escape His fatherly awareness and care. God knows us and our troubles."

Attached to the upper right-hand corner and sandwiched between two others, I notice my name.

And I smile because God cares about the details, every tiny detail, even the trivial.

Counting blessings with Ann V. today.

103. Our God who cares about every facet of our lives.

104. A college kid named Trey and jumper cables.

105. Her and her, my new Asheville writer friends.

106. A bubbly and brave girl sharing her story and her life.

107. Inspiration and blue file folders.

108. A NC girl turned real-life friend.

109. A husband who supports dreams.

110. Kids who give squeeze-me-until-it-hurts hugs.

111. Interest from publishers.

112. The state of Texas. I guess it can't be that bad if people like her and her and her spring up from the Lone Star State.

113. A flower patch farmgirl.

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Be sure to click back tomorrow. I'm listing my ten favorite tidbits from She Speaks. Can't wait to share.

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Linking with Jen and Ann.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

On Being Vulnerable

People blog for different reasons.

Some blog as a way to share with family and friends. They keep an online record of life.

Some blog as a way to connect with others who may be experiencing something similar. Adoption, a chronically ill child, a wandering heart, addiction.

Some blog because they are writers and poets and photographers and lovers of life.

Some blog with a purpose. They want people to get a long, hard look at something they feel passionate about.

But regardless, I admire all of you who make yourselves vulnerable and toss out the hard stuff for all to read.

That’s not an easy thing for me. Not online. Not in real-life.

See, I never viewed blogging as a free ticket into my head. There is that balance of sharing enough to develop relationships and feel connected, but at the same time, leaving space for your life to be yours. It's tricky.

My questions for you:

What kind of blogger are you? How do you decide what to share? What will make you follow a blog? What types of posts turn you off?

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Image credit.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Prepare to Brag

For from him and through him and to him are all things.
Romans 11:36

God made billowing clouds, glowing bugs, flowering cacti, and our crazy, trillion-celled, complex bodies. When we see these magnificent mysteries, we think, yes, that’s God, but why do we struggle to buy into the idea that God created us with special care, and planned each of our gifts and abilities?

Do you know Heifer International began with one man and seventeen cows? I wonder what would have been if Dan West thought farm animals unimportant.

Do you know by the age of eighty-seven, Clara Hale raised more than 1,000 children? I wonder what would have become of those kids if Clara thought mothering unworthy.

Prepare to brag. Tell me one thing you do well. It can be silly or serious. I'd love to hear about your talents and if you find them worthy or worthless.

*Post inspired by Brad Meltzer’s Heroes for My Son

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Linking with Jen and some other fab people today, and also, Michelle's back (hooray!), and so, I'm linking with her, too.


Monday, July 18, 2011

New Shoes and Old Shoes and What to do with Stinky Shoes

Let's talk about new shoes.
First up, an organization that is passionate about creating closed toe shoes for children in Africa, Sole Hope. Not only does Sole Hope create shoes, but Sole Hope teaches men and women of Africa this trade as well, and it doesn't stop there. Sole Hope also works with the homeless, unemployed, recovering addicts, and nonprofits right here in Asheville, North Carolina, so people in my community are able to learn a valuable trade.

Moving on to old shoes.
Your closet overflfows with shoes you don't wear. Consider donating to your local Goodwill or to Soles4Souls, a Nashville based charity that collects one pair of shoes every seven seconds.

And now for the ever, popular stinky shoes.
Nike reuses athletic shoes to help create running tracks, pad basketball courts, and provide materials to surface tennis courts. Your athletic shoes don't need to be Nike, and you don't need to send them off in the mail (although you can!). Click here to look for a drop-off location near you.

What about you? How do you creatively get rid of your family's hand-me-downs?


Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Second Theory of Thermodynamics in Physics

A short message from one of the greats on how to be great.

May your "heart be full of grace and your soul generated by love".

Enjoy the weekend, friends.

*Comments are turned off.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Post in Which I Come Off as Insecure and Math

She Speaks Conference

She Speaks commences in nine days.

But instead of writing, I decide to do some math.

Six hundred and forty-nine attendees + one me = Well, I’ve never excelled in math, but if I round up, which I think you are supposed to do, it comes out to somewhere around super overwhelmed.

Oh, and six hundred and forty-nine talented women, with rocking ideas and a passion for God + one me = slim chances.

Then, since my summer income, hovers somewhere around $ 0.00, and that is actually a smidge less than the required conference fee, you multiply the registration cost by my guilt, which has been uncharacteristically high, and I think the product = What the heck am I doing?

In addition, when I peek at my thirty-nine pairs of shoes and subtract the ones I feel don’t make the sassy-enough-to-be-worn cut, I come up with a resounding zero shoes available for conference wear.

Plus, I know my roommate through blogging, and there is a high percentage that when she meets me, she will think I am much nicer online, and she will say, “Wow, I didn’t realize you were so sarcastic and tall and that you wore such unsassy shoes, and therefore, I need to switch rooms.”

I realize my thoughts are spiraling, and that this whole shindig isn’t about me. So, I stop with the math, and instead, I pray.

I pray that through this experience I learn more about God, learn more about myself, and learn more about writing.

Oh, and I would really appreciate any prayers you could toss my way too.

When is the last time you stretched yourself? What strategies did you use to get you through a time when you felt a little less-than?


Monday, July 11, 2011

She Earned Thirty Cents

by folding laundry, a chore she despises.

And so,

she walked up to a beautiful, little girl in a wheelchair, pulled the change from her red, paisley purse, and then, handed the girl’s mom two dimes and ten pennies.

“This is to help you with her.”

And when I heard, I wanted to








because of embarrassment.

I worried about offending.

But as she sat on a folding chair in an overcrowded sanctuary and created a happy face from watermelon and blueberries, I began to think Matthew was right.

I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:3

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Linking with the girls at Jen's.

Image credit.


Friday, July 8, 2011

How Children Look After Orphans and Craft Hope

You know I adore Craft Hope, the "love inspired project designed to share handmade crafts with those who need them".

Craft Hope allows both the crafty and the not-so-crafty to participate in real ways and help people around the world.

Recently, Theresa Miller, author of Heavenly Glimpses, posted about a bracelet party her family hosted for Craft Hope. Read on for a little inspiration.

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Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

I tell my oldest son to look after his brother and sisters all of the time. It might look something like making sure they know what they are doing, remind them of what they need to be doing, help them, defend them, show kindness to them. Ultimately, looking after his siblings requires an act of love.

So what would looking after orphans in another country look like?

This is what about a dozen children made today, at our house, for the Craft Hope, Project 12 - Orphan Outreach in Russia.


According to Craft Hope, more than one million orphans are waiting for a home in Russia. Craft Hope is partnering with Orphan Outreach to take bracelets, handmade by our children, to the orphanages in Russia this coming August.

This is our part. This is how children today, at this house, look after orphans. By putting hands to beads. Selecting and thoughtfully creating - a bracelet that they may just cherish themselves, but then put in the pile for that orphan in Russia, who may cherish it instead.

These children look after orphans through this simple act of love.

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Thank you, Theresa, for allowing me to Share Your Story here. Also, the Orphan Outreach Project is now closed, but be sure to check in with Craft Hope and discover information about upcoming projects.

Last July, our family participated in a fun Craft Hope Project. Click here to check it out.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Imaginary Stapler and Sexual Performance

Did you know there is an app to rate your sexual performance? Oh, yeah. It involves the use of a microphone, but it’s a real thing.

And did you know, there is an app that allows you hit an imaginary stapler over and over and keep score of how many times you’ve stapled a pretend object? Imagine the fun.

And did you know, there is an app that blows out your birthday candles because really, who wants to blow out their own birthday candles?

When I think of these goofy things, I also think of the complaint that so often rolls out of my mouth, “If I only had more time. . .” Imagine a really whiny voice.

It’s not that I’m spending all my time on crazy apps, but reading about these apps pushed me to think about where I spend my time, and what I long to do when I capture free moments.

The idea of teaching a creative writing class to kids at a local shelter. Now, there’s an idea that won’t leave me alone.

What about you? What distractions keep you too busy to start or finish things you long to do? What are you working to eliminate from your life?

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A good read:

Too many distractions! Along the same lines, I’m in the middle of Chapter 2 of Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families by Ann Kroeker, and I’m actually agreeing with her aloud. Loads of great information and easy-to-implement solutions. Practical, practical.

If you want some "slow-down" ideas for you and your family, check it out.

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Image credit.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Regaining Awe

Ann Lamott, says that as writers we need to help others regain a sense of “wonder, of seeing things anew, things that catch us off guard, that break our small, bordered worlds.” She encourages us to follow a child around, and to take note of what they see and the enthusiasm in which they notice.

So I did.

I followed her.


I forced myself to listen.

And this is what she noticed.

  • “Oh, I woke up this morning. I woke up this morning!”
  • “Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast! Breakfast is dish-us!” (Translation: dish-us = delicious, and don’t be too impressed, breakfast was cereal).
  • "I love you little, little, poor guy. I do!" (Picture tiny ladybug struggling for its life).

  • "Look! Look! A bird flying high. Catch it! Catch it! Catch it!" (Random bird bouncing around in the neighbor's grass).
  • "Eeeek! A shoe! A shoe! A shoe! This orange shoe is my favorite!" (The shoe is actually yellow, and it is a Polly Pocket shoe, and there is only one because I happily vacuum up any Polly Pocket gear I see).
Yes, regaining awe. Love it. Love all of it.

What do you want to jump and show your readers? If you could grab them by the hand, and lead them somewhere amazing, what would you show them? What does your writing scream?

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Counting each of these as big blessings with the other Ann, the one who makes us search out and appreciate the little stuff.

Also, linking with my friends at Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood.

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Did you check out June's list of Serving Your Family Ideas? If not, you must! How goes that quality time? This weekend we held our first book club meeting, Peter Hatcher style. Do you remember Peter and his toothless brother, Fudge?


Sunday, July 3, 2011

The F Word

No, no, dirty bird, not that f-word.

The f-word I’m talking about is forgiveness. In my off-line writing, I'm attempting to scratch out ideas about being generous with forgiveness, and let me tell you, it is harrr-d.

I guess that’s why I hunger for stories about people who understand the cost of this important gift. People who stare in the ugly face of big time hurt and unthinkable atrocities and refuse to back away.

The F Word exhibition is a collection of stories and photos involving people who get it, who live it, and who find the courage to forgive. Lately, I find myself lost in their stories. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself a little lost there too.

I know time is very important to all of us clickity, click bloggers, and I know any video over thirty seconds seems like an utter waste of time, but if you give up even the standard thirty seconds on this one, it will so be worth it. Promise.

Your thoughts?


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