Books I Read While Writing a Book

My friend, Kristina, taught me that words are like water. Like a well that goes unused for too long, neglecting to use your words can dry them up. Often the way to get yourself out of writer’s block is to just write—anything—to unclog and let the words flow again. Her words two years ago at the Allume conference have effectively cured me from experiencing writer’s block. I know if I can’t seem to find the words for one topic, I move to another—writing about nothing and anything—until the flow begins again.

Another thing I’ve found that affects my ability to write is not reading enough. To use the water analogy again, a well will dry up if there is no rain. Other’s words rejuvenate my own, that’s why when I am writing a book, I am intentional about reading as much if not more than usual. I read widely, and in every minute I can find. I keep books near every seat (including the toilet, of course) and snack on words throughout the day. (It takes me a long time to read through a non-fiction book, but I’ve realized I prefer it that way—it gives me a chance to let the book change me.) Other’s words are like the rain, replenishing all the words I churn out in my writing sessions.

writing a book

While writing my last book I begged and borrowed and shopped my own bookshelf for the following titles:

(This post contains affiliate links because I’m techy like that. Not. Thanks for your support!)

Folks This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin

I’ve been a huge fan of Joel Salatin since my early teens when my family met him and used his pastured poultry model to begin our own farming venture. I love Joel’s humor and his vocabulary is astonishing. Also, his passion for his topic is obvious—his voice is both confident and comfortable. Besides resonating with his topic and being entertained by his writing voice, his writing inspires me to find the best words to tell my story and write from a place of passion. A blogging friend brought me a signed copy of this book a few years ago after meeting him at a conference—I appreciate it for so many reasons, and recommend it to anyone who gets excited about the ‘why’ behind eating local and living sustainably.

The God Dare

I was blessed to get my hands on an advanced reader copy of Kate Batestelli’s upcoming book, The God Dare. I will be free to say more about this book when it actually comes out, but I will tell you that if you’ve got something on your plate that feels slightly impossible (like balancing my role as mother with the call to write) this book will encourage you!

George Mueller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans

This was actually part of the kid’s homeschool curriculum this spring, but as we read the story of George’s daring to trust God for provision, I was glad I got to be a student, too. This book will require you to stand face-to-face with the fears you have (especially if they’re relate to finances) and realize how aware and powerful God is in those situations. When writing a book, there is always that nagging fear that it ‘won’t sell’. Reading the story of George Mueller allowed me to let go of that fear while I wrote, and just obey the call God has put on my heart, without fear for provision.

Delighting in the Trinity

Being raised fairly fundamentally, my first 20 years of instruction in the faith was a lot of do’s and don’ts and principles and application, and rather weak on theology, which left me feeling intimidated by the subject. Thankfully, I have friends who encourage me that it’s not as scary as it sounds to ‘study theology’ and even loan me books on it. Now I am learning the incredible depth to my faith—instead of being afraid of all I don’t understand, I’m refreshed and thrilled by depths I can dive into and never fear hitting bottom. I’ve been splashing around in a kiddie pool, and now I’m cavorting in the deep end. If theology has ever intimidated you, the easy style and gentle humor in this book will delight and refresh you. Understanding who God is and why He sent His Son takes a whole lot of pressure of this approval—oriented girl, which has a rather freeing effect on my writing voice.

Keep Your Love On

Where has this book been all my life?! Although it’s only August, I can almost guarantee this will be my top book this year. Never have I read a book that so clearly outlines the negative patterns we fall into in relationships, or so practically shows us how to move beyond dysfunction to healthy communication. I thought I was a good communicator because I talk a lot. Ha. I have a lot to learn! But since applying just what I’ve been able to grasp in my first read through, Jeremy and I are communicating better and experiencing more unity than ever in our almost nine years of marriage. Such a blessing since working on a book together requires a lot of communication!

If you wonder why there’s no fiction here, it’s because I don’t read fiction much when I’m working on a big project. The one book I’m dipping into when I have the odd space of time in which I feel free to indulge is actually a work by a fellow blogger and writer, Jessiqua Whitman, called Memoir of Love. If you like epic, futuristic tales with more than a passing nod to deeper faith themes, you should check out her work.

What have you been reading lately? I’m ready for some new titles—what have you enjoyed so far this year? And what helps keep your word well from running dry?

Two Weddings and a Book Tour

We headed north on Thursday. It’s my first time driving north since making Alabama my home. It’s crazy how attached we get to this world, isn’t it, considering none of it is really home? I’m leaving “home” to go “home” and always the journey tugs and prods at my heart like a good chiropractic adjustment. Hurts so good, you know? The blue hills fading into low clouds in Tennessee. The wide, welcoming shoulders of the Shenandoah valley. The thickly forested folds of Pennsylvania mountains. Each leg of the journey stirs up the memories we’ve made along these miles, and reminds me of how this highway has tied together so many seasons of my gypsy life.

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I was going to write the whole trip—un-interrupted writing time, me and my laptop, settin’ back in the passenger seat, nothing else to do—but I couldn’t. I just sat. I looked out the window. I talked to my man. I read. A bit. But was otherwise unproductive. The last hour of the two day trip I finally felt ready for a few words. I’m not sure what they will be, but like a pond settling down after a fish has jumped, the reflections are getting clearer, I’m beginning to see the world in words again.

 

I’ve been running myself ragged leading up to this trip. Determined that some things would be finished by the time we left. Determined I would purchase peace for myself by completing my to do list. I’m not saying that’s the right way to peace, I’m just saying that’s the route I took.  And by God’s grace, I finished the book. I packed the family. And we left by 5:05 Thursday morning. I didn’t leave the house immaculate. But I’m gonna let myself rest on this trip, because rest isn’t something you earn, it’s a gift.

So, why am I blogging if my goal (or gift, c’mon, Trina, lay down your task orientated vocabulary for once) is to rest on this trip? When debating whether I would blog or be on social media while on vacation, I realized that to pull the plug while I was away would not be a gift, but a punishment. I’m a social creature, a writer, and one who processes life through words and conversation. I adore blogging and sharing online. I decided if it didn’t interfere with being fully present with my family, and didn’t keep be from the rest I need after a demanding season, then I’m gonna write.

So, I didn’t write for the first 48 hours of this trip. But now, here’s a few words. Explanation for why you may or may not see me in this space for the next two weeks. If there is time to write, I’ll be here, because I love to write. If not, well, it’s cause I’m on vacation. ;)

Why we went north

(other than that it’s a lovely time of year to vacation AWAY from Alabama)

Special friends are getting married. A sister is a bridesmaid. We used these celebrations as a very good excuse to travel back to the state we called home for 20 years. And, because we’re multitaskers, we’ll also take the opportunity to sign papers on our NY home (yeah, we got renters!), visit as many friends as can stand us descending on them for food, fellowship, and a place to pitch our tent, and…

(drumroll, please)

We’re gonna pretend we’re on a book tour. ‘Cause that just sounds all fun and official, right? (can self-published authors go on book tours? We’re about to find out)

Before I left I ordered a case of Advanced Reader Copies of my newest book to give as gifts along the way. No, the book’s not out yet, because I have a few more bits of awesomeness to insert, but these ARC’s are a just-about-perfect version of the book and I couldn’t wait another week to share it. I have no idea if seeing pictures of people with the new book will torture you or delight you, but you can follow the hashtag #realfoodjourneybooktour on facebook and Instagram. I’m already so excited about how this book is inspiring people I love to make steady progress on their journey to more real food.

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Take my sister-in-law—she just made her first batch of sauerkraut last week (with a cabbage she grew herself. Yeah!) I love how the book fits right into where she’s at on her journey—it contains six more sauerkraut/fermented veggie recipes so she can continue to explore her new found culinary interest. She’s also excited to try some new flavor combinations from the kefir soda section. It was just totally fun to share recipes and inspiration over the delicious pork and pineapple tacos she made us!

So, if you’re inspired by the idea that real food is a journey, not a destination, then go ahead and check out my Instagram feed. And if you wanna jump on the bandwagon and inspire others—share where you are on your real food journey with the hashtag I’ve chosen for the book–#myrealfoodjourney. You can post what you’re making for dinner, your favorite source for local, fresh food, an experiment that flopped or flew, that technique you’ve got down pat or the new thing you’re going to try next. Help spread the news that eating well isn’t a target we have to hit the first time, but an adventure we get to go on together!

realfoodjourneypromo

My new book, Your Real Food Journey, will be available for purchase at the end of August, Lord willing.

Bloom {Five Minute Friday}

My garden was two hopeful raised beds with some found dirt piled in and spread around. My hopes of starting a few Zinnia plants were dashed when the cheap packet of seeds I got at Walmart contained nothing but air. Yeah.

A few tomato plants, extras from a friend, showed up and settled in.

Then a neighbor offered me melon plants.

Melons. All I ever really wanted to grow, nearly impossible to ripen in my old home state in the North.

Yes, I said I’d take them. Even though I knew that transplanting melon plants as mature as these would be a gamble.

I dug them carefully, separated them from their neighbors, tried to keep the roots in tact, and trundled them across the field to my beds. Tucked them into the rough, first-year soil and gave them a good drink. Watch the weather and was thankful for overcast skies while my transplants adjusted.

Would they survive the transition? Would they thrive?

A month goes by. I hear of others already enjoying melons from their gardens. I smile. I don’t mind. My turn is coming.

My melon plants are a bit delayed, but they survived. They bloomed. Set fruit, and are thriving.

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We pulled up roots 7 months ago. Hoped to survive the transition, hoped to thrive. The days are long and nights too short, and parts of us are still a bit withered and showing signs of stress. But God’s given us sun, rain, and a place to put down roots, and we are beginning to bloom. I need to celebrate the moments that show our family is settling in–just like I celebrated the yellow blossoms on my melon vines–and trust that the Lord will bring a harvest.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday — join the fun here.

BeeYoutiful Mineral Makeup Review and Giveaway

If you haven’t tried mineral makeup yet, I’m excited to share one final review with you–because this one includes a giveaway!

Beeyoutiful Mineral Makeup

In my journey to more natural makeup choices, I made the surprising discovery that there are plenty of awesome, natural alternatives that preform just as well as conventional products, without any of the toxins. Mineral makeup especially provides solid pigment and great results. I’ve enjoyed Beeyoutiful products and their informative website and ‘catazine’ (catalog+magazine) for years, and was excited when they began developing a makeup line. I knew it would be pure and high quality, and I was right.

Beeyoutiful sent me a sample package of their mineral makeup foundation and eye shadow and I found myself once again in the bathroom applying makeup on a weekday so I had plenty of time to sample it and take pictures. An odd thing for me to be doing in middle of the afternoon, but such is the life of a blogger.

Beeyoutiful Skin Mineral Foundation

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First we tried a foundation color…hmm. Not quite the right shade, is it? Good thing I had 7 other samples!

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Most of the colors in the Medium Set were too dark for my skin, but I did find my perfect match–Florie.  (I love the names of all the colors–all pretty, female names like Anya, Jasmine, and Selina–so fun!) The foundation provided great coverage with a real natural looking finish just by dusting it on my face with the brush included in the kit, but I love the tip in the DVD to combine powder foundation with a dab of your moisturizer to make a heavier foundation when you need it.

Wait, can we just talk about the DVD for a minute? I have literally spent hours online researching mineral makeup and application techniques. You can drown in all the makeup reviews and tutorials on You Tube (ask me how I know!) but I learned more on the Beeyoutiful Skin DVD than all of the hours I was up way to late on You Tube. I really appreciate that Beeyoutiful Skin has not only produced a superior, natural product I can trust, but has taken the time to teach me how to use it effectively. You can view all their Mineral Makeup Tutorials on their site.

Beeyoutiful Skin Eye Shadow

When I was picking out my eye shadow samples, I loved the wide variety of colors–45 different shades! I tried a deep plumb that has a lovely, subtle shimmer to it. I love the color, and the fact that I can use it as eye liner as well, thanks to the foiling technique I learned in the eye video.

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I was having so much fun playing around with all this natural, high quality pigments, I may have gotten carried away. I call this my European Model Look. Whaddya think?

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{Here’s a more normal shot, in case you needed to catch your breath}

I wore my new look to women’s Bible study that night to rave reviews. I came home and inspected my look in the mirror, 7 hours after applying it, and it was still there.

Mineral makeup continues to astonish me. I’m completely converted and will never go back to conventional cosmetics.

Beeyoutiful Skin has done an excellent job developing not just a product line, but an entire site that helps you learn how to get a great look with your new, natural makeup. Check them out, and be sure to enter the giveaway–the winner of which will receive one Foundation Sample Set of their choice, and an Eye Shadow Sample Set, with 5 colors of their choice!

Also, if you end up deciding to sample their product, be a dear and tell them I referred you? It’ll get me points toward my next purchase (I’m eyeing their brand new lip shimmer!) Just use referral code 2286977 when you create your account here. Thanks!

 Giveaway is open till Thursday, July 24th, 2014, and I will notify the winner via email. This giveaway is only open to those with a valid US address. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Beeyoutiful Skin sent me complimentary samples in exchange for this post, but the opinionated opinions are entirely my own. 

Cowgirl Dirt: A Mineral Makeup Review

{This post contains affiliate links, which helps keep the lights on around here. Thanks for your support!}

Ya’ll, I’ve been having so much fun trying out a few natural makeup companies this summer, and I’m excited to share with you my latest find: Cowgirl Dirt Mineral Makeup.

Mineral Makeup

I think the trickiest part about switching to a natural makeup was that to get the good stuff (all natural, no yucky fillers or chemicals) you usually have to mail order, and that is just weird for something like makeup, which you really want to try on, before you buy, right?

Say hello to samples! Most companies I’ve looked into offer a sample pack–usually something like 10 try-me size samples of any of their products so you can find your shade of foundation or see what the product feels like or how it preforms. The practical side of me at first thought of samples as a possible waste of money–like, what if I don’t pick the right color, or don’t like it? Well, I took the plunge with Cowgirl Dirt and ordered a sample kit, and was pleasantly surprised.

First, because even the foundation samples that weren’t exactly my shade are still close enough that I’m able to use them up. And second, because I LOVED everything I got!

Cowgirl Dirt Mineral Makeup

Here’s what I tried and what I thought…

Powder Foundation

Mineral Foundation–where have you been all my life??? It first I looked at the powdery dust in the samples and was like, “how do I get this on my face?” But after watching a few YouTube videos and being willing to experiment and make a bit of a mess, I think I’ve got the hang of it. If you pick just a little bit up on your makeup brush, and ‘swirl’ it rather than brush it on like you’re painting, it goes on evenly and doesn’t poof everywhere.

Evenly. Did you catch that? My past experience with foundation has all been about trying to get a natural look with something that wants to smear and smudge and get too thick in spots. Mineral makeup is different. It’s true what they say about it being a lighter coverage–you can’t get too much on. And that’s to your advantage, because you can quickly swirl your whole face, and not have to go back and get rid of smudges or thick spots.

I tried 4 different powder foundation shades, and while they were all close enough that I’ll happily use all my samples, the Cremelo 4 was the best fit for me. It goes on smoothly, doesn’t smell like anything (what a relief) and makes my skin look peaceful.

Cowgirl Dirt concealer, cream foundation, and lipstick

{clockwise from bottom: lipstick, concealer, and cream foundation}

Cream Foundation

I also tried one of the cream foundations, and though I got the color wrong, it was still very nice. Goes on smooth and didn’t dry my face out or look greasy. I think I’ll stick with the powder foundation because it is so simple to apply.

Concealer

I’m fond of concealer for the dark circles under my eyes. This went on smoothly and layered nicely under the powder foundation.

Lipstick

I’ve never been a lipstick gal. Partly because it gets in the way of kissing my babies, and then mostly because my lips hate all the junk in conventional lipstick–wearing it for special occasions inevitably results in the skin on my lips peeling for two days after. I’m not kidding. Do I have sensitive lips, or does lipstick bother your lips, too? I’m delighted to report that Cowgirl Dirt’s lipstick is so pure and natural, my lips loved it. I think I’ve converted. I tried the shade War Admiral and loved it.

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{eye shadow samples–although that doesn’t look like a lot in that little container, I’ve used it three times and I’ll get at least three more uses out of that little container! A little goes a long way with mineral makeup!}

Eye Shadow

I appreciated that Cowgirl Dirt’s eye shadow samples come in sets of three colors–this gives me a much-needed hint to what goes together well. (You can also order them singly.) I got the Smokey Eyes and the Arena Sands and love them both. Smokey Eyes was my first successful experiment with getting the smoky eyed look. I was really impressed with how easy it goes on, and how well it stays all day. I mean, it’s just dirt–how is this  possible?

Smokey Eyes with Pure Mineral Makeup

In this photo I’m wearing Cowgirl Dirt Smokey Eyes Eyeshadow Trio, Cremelo 4 Powder Foundation, and the eye-liner, mascara, and mineral-based bronzer I told you about in this post.  

Overall, I was really pleased with Cowgirl Dirt’s products. The packaging was cute and easy to use, the product performed well, and the samples were generous. I will get 6-8 uses out of everything I ordered–and since I only wear makeup once or twice a week, this means I got several month’s worth of makeup! I checked out all there ingredients and they are as pure as the driven…dirt. ;) If you’re interested in going natural with your makeup, check out Cowgirl Dirt.

{Cowgirl Dirt provided samples for this post free of charge, but the opinionated opinions are entirely my own.}

 

Behind the Scenes of the Writing Life (Spread the Love Blog Tour)

Ya’ll. The writing life is tough. The fighting off of lies and self doubt to get the words on the page, yes, but also fitting in writing amongst all The Other Things.

I struggle to keep up the blog when I’m focused on a big project, and I might have let it go entirely this month, were it not for you all—my readers–who keep commenting, emailing, and connecting with me, reminding me that this online thing is all about relationships, and that’s what I love about it first, and last, and even in the busy moments. So, today I’m pausing all my various work-flows to join in with a fun little blog hop, which gives me the chance to write just for the fun of it (instead of for a deadline) and gives you a peek behind the scenes of what this crazy writing life looks like at my house…

Thanks to my friend, Gayl, who invited me on to the Spread the Love Blog Tour. I’m honored by her friendship and grateful for the inspiration she is as a wife, mother (and grandmother!) pursuing creative expression as a way to grow closer to and glorify our God. You can read her post in the tour here, and here are my answers to the same questions:

What are you currently working on?

My latest project is a new book (that will be available in print and digitally!) called, Your Real Food Journey. This book has been on my heart and in my conversations for years, but only finally felt called to put it all on paper this spring. You know how you look around and feel like at least 14 other people have already said what you thought you might say in a book, so you chuck the idea? But then you have a conversation with a friend and they seem to really want your take on the subject? That was me when I thought about writing a book about real food basics, and it was my friend Laura who was peppering me with questions two months ago that made me realize I wanted to serve my readers and my friends by putting this content in book form.

Some of the content originally appeared in my 31 days series last October, which has continued to be a popular resource for my readers. I started there, and then ran with it till it caught wind like a kite. The concept in that series has matured into a book that guides you through what I consider to be 10 key steps on the real food journey, plus a collection of recipes and menu plans, and my best advice for continuing the journey–stress free and with steady progress. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about a project–I love offering practical help in a way that doesn’t overwhelm people, and this is my best effort yet.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

There are a lot of ‘entry level’ books out there for people who are just beginning the journey to feeding their families real food. I’ve read plenty of them. The challenge I have seen is that they often include so much information, and so many dozens of ‘baby steps’ you can take, that it gets overwhelming before you finish the book, much less step into your kitchen. I wanted to present the information in a sequential way so that people can look at it as a process, find where they are in the process, and then jump in and take the next small step.

So many people experience burnout when trying to master a new skill or reach a big goal. My message throughout the book is ‘this is a journey’ and I show you how you can make slow, steady progress that will have lasting impact.

Why do you write/create what you do?

I can’t not. I have these conversations about real food and baby steps and ‘you can do it! Here’s a tip to help you!’ every day via email and in real life. For a while I tried to get beyond that to a higher calling, something more spiritual or something. This year I finally came to grips with the reality that my gift, my thing I’m called to do for the glory of God, is to teach people how to fit more real food into their lives, because it’s what He’s made me good at. It’s not fancy. You won’t find ‘Cook’ on a list of spiritual gifts or church staff members. But it’s my thing. And I’m passionate about it because I’ve seen the difference that real food can make in quality of life–in giving us energy to live well and serve others.

A book is the most efficient and shareable way I’ve found to present the information. It allows me to hand out a book when I meet someone at a park, or send a download to someone on the other side of the world. (I just love making books!)

How does your creating/writing process work?

Ha.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Let’s just say this is the craziest, hardest thing in my life. I strive and stew and rant and wrestle and keep coming back, over and over, to the undeniable truth that I can’t do this–this writing a book while being a mother and a dozen other things. Not on my own. And that is the very reason I am called to it, because the call keeps me coming back, exhausted, terrified, needy, to my Lord. Who takes my face in His hands and reminds me yet again that I am not doing what I do to earn approval with man or points with Him. That I am not less if I fail or more if I succeed. That the only thing He has called me to is to faithfully follow and lean on Him.

So I set to again. I’m in a season of getting up early, despite nursing 2-3 times per night still with Lydia, because that 20-40 minutes of absolute quiet before the kids get up recharges me for the day even better than sleep. Despite an overweight inbox, a blog, a book, and my personal reading list, I give the first section of that time to God. Despite the temptation to get stuff done before the kids need me, I try not to rush my devotions, and instead try to sit quietly, read slowly through some passage of scripture, journal prayers, listen to some worship songs, and just be still before my God. This is so counter intuitive for me–I’m a get-it-done, check-it-all-off-the-list-as-fast-as-possible kind of person. Slowing down and just not…doing…hardly…anything at the beginning of my day is just not my thing. But the way He has met me in the mornings the last few months has been completely life changing. It equips me to face whatever task I have that day from a place of rest.

All that to say, sometimes I get some work done before breakfast. Often, not. Often, I try to finish up an email or a blog post or a chapter I’ve had on my mind while the household wakes up around me and chaos begins to ensue. Not the best way to start the day, I’ll admit. My next possible window of time is around 11am, when we’ve finished breakfast, housework, and school (we homeschool year round). But Lydia is usually awake by that time, so I’m nursing again, and fixing lunch and thinking about dinner, etc. etc. I might get some emails done then.

Finally, if we have nothing going on and I’m not going grocery shopping or taking my kids to the park or the pool, or I don’t have a chiropractor appointment for that persistent knot in my back, I sit down around 2pm and get to work till 4pm. This is not un-interrupted time–it’s just less-interrupted. And it only happens maybe 2-3 times a week at this point. No wonder I struggle to make progress on my goals! And yet, He reminded me the other day “Steady plodding brings success.” I love to take huge steps forward, getting big chunks of work done at a time, but this project has mostly moved forward in 30 minute increments. And it has moved forward–this week I can see the finish line!

With the time I’m actually able to sit down and focus being so small, I am in gathering mode all day long so that when I do sit down, I have everything I need to move forward. I have a large, graph paper journal I got at Wal-Mart (here’s a similar one on Amazon{affiliate link}) and I jot stuff in it all day long. I process life through fellowship, so often a phone call, email, or in real life conversation actually moves me forward on a concept I want to write about. Being a writer is an all-day affair for me–so many of my activities ready me for the moment when my fingers settle onto the keyboard.

I no longer work in the evenings. Though there may be 3 hours available after the kids are in bed before my own eyes shut, I’ve realized it’s just not my most productive time, and screen time of any sort before bed really affects my quality of rest. I quit checking email or scrolling instagram (my favorite online indulgence) by 8pm most nights. I read in the evening, connect with my husband, and write snail mail letters to friends. this makes me sound terribly disciplined–I’m not. I’m just desperate to thrive despite this challenging season, so I do what I know I have to do to be able to breath.

As writers we’re told to give our best, most productive hours to our craft, and for many people that’s first thing in the morning. As a wife and mother, those hours are already committed. I’ve had to work with second best–stolen moments during nap times or car rides or random moments of quiet, but the One who called me to the writing life has proved faithful to meet me and give me words during those times. It’s an exhausting, thrilling, adventure, most accurately compared to a day at a roller coaster park.

And I’ve never felt more alive.

Your Turn

I’m supposed to tag three friends to keep this Blog Hop going. My friends Shannon and Jessica agreed to be a part…

I’ve known Shannon for two years now (which is, like, forever in computer time) and her story and blog remain one of the most impactful I’ve ever found online. I’m not going to spoil the surprise of what I know she’s working on, just know this: it’s gonna be amazing.

My friend Jess is in an interesting season of blogging–they’re remodeling their house to accommodate their very full life with a 4 year old and 2 1/2 year old triplets. Somehow she’s still finding time to blog which is super inspiring to me. I know you’ll be encouraged at a glimpse into her life right now.

I just need one more–how about you? If you’d like to join this blog hop, simply post your answers to these questions on your blog, linking to me, and three of your blogging friends! Do leave a link to your post in the comments so I can pop by and say hi! I’d love to see what you’re up to!

 

Lies Writers Believe {And 3 Steps to Set Your Words Free}

Every time I begin a new project, doubts gather like June thunderheads in Alabama. Even as I collect the words I feel called to put on the page, other ideas and statements begin to pile up in my mind, eventually and effectually blocking the creative flow like flotsam in a drainage ditch. By the time I find a moment to sit down and open a word document, I am ready to cry at the tension between the undeniable call to write and the overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and the pointlessness of my task.

I bet you feel that way sometimes when you write, or do whatever it is that you feel is your ‘calling’. So I thought I’d just remind you of something:

Lies. They’re all lies.

lies writers believe

Yeah, those voices in your head that tell you you’re not good enough and that you will never succeed so why try? They come from the enemy of our souls, who hates when we take the grace God has given us and turn around to use it to bless others.

You would think that after one has written and self published three books, the voices might quiet down a bit. I thought the same thing once. That once I’d achieved success with the first book, I’d forever and always feel adequate for future tasks of that sort. Alas, it just isn’t so. The voices still come–like a mutating virus, they figure out a new angle to get under my skin and have their paralyzing affect.

Last week, as this post was stewing in my mind, my pastor preached a sermon on fear that kinda blew my mind. I got so excited about how it applied to the writing life, I could barely sit still, and took 4 pages of notes. The following ‘formula’ for facing our fears comes directly from Pastor Ryan Limbaugh of Redeemer Church in Oxford, Alabama. The applications to writing are my own. (I highly recommend listening to the whole sermon, which can be found as a podcast on our church website.)

How to Kill the Lies Writers Believe

We’re all guilty of giving to much time and mental space to the lies writers believe–here’s how to quiet them long enough to get your next blog post or book written.

1. Identify your fears.

When you sense doubts or have a vague feeling of anxiety when you even think about writing, pick up a pen right then and make a list. Like a sketch artist outlining a suspect’s features, we need to flesh out and identify what exactly we’re afraid of. Go ahead and look your fears in the face, and write down the top five. Maybe they’re something like mine:

  1.  I’m afraid my writing isn’t good enough–maybe I only think I’m a good enough writer to attempt this book/blog post.
  2.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to produce a perfect and professional end product–what will people think?
  3.  I’m afraid of all the work involved, and if the fruit of writing will be worth the effort.
  4.  I’m afraid what people with think about this use of my time and assumption of my own worthiness as a writer.
  5.  I’m afraid I’ll do all this work and the blog post won’t even be noticed, or the book won’t even sell.

Yikes, that’s a lot of fear! But lining them all up in a row and getting a clear sight on them is the first step to slaying them. So go ahead–make that list.

2. Examine your fears.

Take each of your fears and cross examine them. Look at them from every angle–from ‘why do I fear this?’ to  ‘what’s the worst that could happen if this fear comes to be?’ That last one is key. Go ahead and look at the worst case scenario with that fear, and ask yourself if will really be The End of The World.

  • Your book doesn’t sell. Not one copy. If God called you to write it, can you trust that He has other purposes than financial success via your book?
  • You blog contains a few imperfections, and people criticize your lack of skills. Is God big enough to manage your reputation when you’re doing what He’s called you to do? And can God use imperfect people and books to do His work?

When we look at our fear’s ugliest future, it’s amazing that we can always find that God is bigger than the worst case scenario.

3. Repent of your Idolatry.

Oy. Getting serious here. I just called my fears–and yours–what they really are. Sin. Pastor Ryan said,

“When we lay aside a wisdom and a critical attitude toward our doubts, and instead succumb to introspection and negative emotions, we dethrone God. Fear exposes that we have an idolatry problem.”

The key to slaying the writer’s fears is to repent of bowing down to them and turn to God and speak truth. Praise Him for being great and glorious and all powerful. Ask forgiveness for your distrust of Him and rejection of His providence. Ask for His help to cling to Him during your writing process.

Writing Without Fear

What if you could sit down at your computer today and not be afraid to write–at all?. Does that sound glorious? Freeing? So exciting it takes your breath away?

Then what are you waiting for?

“This I know, that God is for me…In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56: 9b and 11)

I hope that you’ll slay your fears today and write your heart out. If you do, would you leave me a link in the comments so I can have a peek at the words God gives you? Next week I hope to find the time to tell you a little about my next project–meanwhile I covet your prayers as we enter the ‘wrapping it up’ and editing stage!

Ya’ll know that I believe community is a huge part of walking forward in your calling without getting sidelined by fears and lies. That’s why I’m so grateful for my mastermind group. They care about God’s call on my pen, and have been known to speak truth into my calling when I can’t hear it myself. Have you got someone to speak truth into your writing?  Check out these pages for how to start your own mastermind group

 

My Journey to More Natural Makeup

OK, so natural makeup has been a step on my real-foodie, crunchy-mamma journey that I’ve been longing to take for years. Especially after I realized that the expensive ‘natural’ makeup I’d chosen to invest was not actually a very natural product at all.

Marketing is such a tricky thing to discern truth through.

Then there was the money. Not only did natural makeup seem to get more expensive the less toxic it was, but I had spent good money on what I had, and wasn’t about to throw it out.

(I’m not gonna tell you what I used to wear because I don’t intend for this post to become libelous. Let’s just say that of the 515 chemicals the average woman applies to her body on a regular basis, I was carrying around my own share.)

So, I used it up, and thanked God He gave me a liver. (You know, that cleansing organ somewhere in your torso? Got to give that thing something to do, right?)

(I’m full of parenthetical statements today. Here’s another one for you–if your struggling with your health, you should lessen your toxic load wherever you can, and I wouldn’t recommend you using up a product that contains chemicals. Ditch it. But I’m also not a doctor, so, ya know, this isn’t medical advice or anything. I’m just telling my story.)

I used up what I had, then I ran out. Of makeup. For months.

I do apologize to those of you who to whom the thought of not wearing makeup makes you twitch. I meant no harm, and I think ya’ll look gorgeous! But I am a minimalist with my makeup anyway, so in some ways, there wasn’t much to miss once I ran out.

Except, you know, that makeup makes me feel pretty, and feeling pretty makes me feel happy!

Beauty is a gift from God and I believe He designed the act of embracing beauty as a source of joy. It’s an area busy mommas neglect far too often. That’s why I wrote a book about embracing beauty last year–to remind us not to forfeit the joy He intended for us to have in this area.

This spring it was high time I reminded myself of my own good advice and put some time into my appearance again. But where to start?

I started by asking friends.  I posed the question “what do you use for natural makeup?” on a crunchy/mommy/blogger group I’m a part of, and the ladies responded back with some great recommendations, and two of them even offered to send me samples! So, in today’s post I’m gonna share a few of my discoveries for you, in case you–like me–just need a review from a real live person to help you make progress in the area of natural beauty choices.

NYR Organics

NYR Organics is the US branch of a company out of England. Neal’s Yard Remedies has produced organic skin care and cosmetics since 1981. They recently brought their product line to the states with a social marketing approach (consultants and home parties). My friend, Annejanette sent me samples of their bronzer and eye liner. Here’s my review:

NYR Mineral Bronzer–Golden Bronze

Natural Makeup--NYR Organics Mineral Bronzer

 

This was officially my first experience with mineral makeup. It took a little bit of trial and error, but mineral makeup is a great choice for going natural because, well, it’s usually just ground up, um, rocks. (Who first thought of doing that?) NYR’s bronzer also has a few other ingredients besides minerals–but I googled them and they’re all basically various types of oils or oil by products that are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). In other words, I feel totally fine with putting this on my skin. Woot!

So I did.

delighted to be sporting natural makeup finally!

I have the greatest respect for those who regularly review beauty products. I was seriously challenged to find time taking pictures of me finding time to put on makeup. Plus there’s the added challenge of trying to get a photo that shows the makeup off when you’re going for a subtle, natural application, and the only camera you have is a smart phone. Yeah.

So, I just took pictures to show you how happy I am that I’m wearing makeup again. I’m sporting the bronzer in the above photo–can you tell how delighted I am to have something to use for contouring my cheekbones again? You can see that? OK, good.

I’m also wearing the eye liner in the above photo…

NYR Organics Eye Liner in Slate

Natural Makeup--NYR Organics Slate Eyeliner

I chose the slate which was a nice shade of grey with a lovely shimmer to it. Although it was fun to try a new color, I found it a bit too light to provide the pop I want for my eyes. And, despite the ingredient list  appearing completely above board, this eye liner made my eyes water for an hour or two after applying. Maybe I have sensitive eye lash follicles. Who knows.

Anyway, NYR is a great option for more natural makeup, with the added benefit that you might be able to find a consultant in your area who could help you get to know the product in person and maybe even have a party with your friends. You can visit Annjanette’s NYR store here.

Lemongrass Spa

The next samples I tried were from Lea Harris, a Lemongrass Spa consultant. Lemongrass Spa is a national Home Party Plan company offering natural bath, body and skin care products as well as chemical-free mineral makeup.  I was impressed with their ingredients list–everything was organic, recognizable, and completely natural.

When Lea asked me what I was interested in trying, I told her eye liner was my Main Thing. (You have a Main Thing, right? What you put on when you only have 30 seconds? Lipstick, mascara, or concealer maybe?) I really wanted a natural product for my Main Thing because it’s the product I will use the most often, and it’s right by my eyes.

So she sent me an eye liner pencil and mascara.

Lemongrass Spa Natural Makeup

Lemongrass Spa Eye Liner in Brown

This eyeliner was the right color for me, it wears well and didn’t irritate my eyes at all–it was like I wasn’t even wearing makeup–but I was! The application was not as smooth as other (chemical laden) eye liners I have used, but thing is, non-toxic is a higher priority than application for me. The eye liner goes on nice and solid, and I can smear or blend it with my finger if I want.

Lemongrass Spa Brown Eyeliner

Lemongrass Spa Mascara in Black

Again, this product worked for me and didn’t bother my eyes at all. It also seems to last well and hang on good, if you know what I mean ;).

This is me wearing the eyeliner and mascara. These two products have become my go-to this month for a quick beauty fix!

Sporting my natural makeup look

Lea also sent me a sample pack of sugar scrubs and tinted lip balm. I was delighted that all their scented products are made with essential oils and smell SOOO good. I get easily irritated by artificial perfumes–it was refreshing to find a company that uses essential oils for perfumes.

If you’d like to check out their products for yourself, visit Lea’s Lemongrass Spa website here.

I’m really excited at the progress I’ve made toward natural choices for makeup this month! I’ve also gotten samples from a few other companies–I’m hoping to share with you what I’ve found for foundation, concealer and eye shadow sometime in the next few weeks!

What about you? Have you gone all green and crunchy in this area yet? What’s keeping you back?

Where Two Or More {Why Everyone Needs Discipleship)

It surprised me every time, until I finally figured out what was happening.

Long day. Little sleep. A thousand small worries and of course, the usual big ones, my bad attitude chief among them. The only reason I was gathering my Bible and journal and a pen and laptop was because Katie would be calling me in 4 minutes for our time in the Word together.

I’d sit down in front of the computer, open Skype, and wait for her call. I’d wiggle around on the couch trying to get the light to be not-so-focused on the dark circles under my eyes. I’d doodle a few words in my journal half-heartedly. The day didn’t feel worth remembering. After all, who wants to remember failure?

Then Katie would call. I’d accept the invitation to Skype, and there was her beautiful face. We’d chat for a few minutes, or 30—about our day, week, and just why we were both so grateful for this time together in the Word because, boy, did we need it. Then one of us would remind us that it was time to actually open the Word, and we’d begin.

Always with prayer. Always feeling desperate and unworthy, and always, always…He showed up.

Suddenly the words would jump of the page just like they did that morning in North Carolina when I was 21. Something Katie would say would ring in my ears, the ring I knew was truth. Sometimes, as we talked, I would hear myself proclaim truth which I knew came from His spirit—because I’m a firm believer that every good gift is from Him and there is nothing good in me. Every single time we met together, He was there with us.

Finally I quit being surprised by this, but I never got tired of it.  He made a promise when He was down here on this ground we walk around on that where two or more of His disciples would gather in His name, He’d be there. In the midst of them. He promises to be there when we come together for the purpose of seeking Him.

And so we did, and our time often looked something like this…We would read–sometimes a whole chapter, but more often just a few verses, and study the passage inductive-style where we explored the meaning and message of each verse with other parallel passages to give us insight and perspective. Sometimes Katie gave me homework–a question to explore further during my journaling time, or an assignment to seek God in a certain area of my life. And she always asked me what God was saying to me, challenging me to not just hear the words, but open my heart up to what God was saying to me personally in the passage.

That’s what discipleship looked like in my life, in that season. It has looked different at times since then. And I have had a chance to disciple others in ways not so scheduled or structured. But my point is it’s not so much what it looks like, but that it should be happening in every believer’s life.

Why Everyone Needs Discipleship

Discipleship changed my life–permanently. Although at the time I thought I was just in a season in which God felt closer, and I was expecting it to fade at anytime, that’s not what happened. Discipleship–having another believer walk along side me, helping me hear the truth and apply it to my life–had  a permanent affect on my walk with God.

First, it helped me to see God more clearly--and once you’ve seen Him, you are changed. I needed Katie in my life because although I’d been reading my Bible for 25 years on my own, my perspective was warped. I needed someone who stood at a slightly different angle to help learn to see truth and walk in it.  In the past my relationship with Him had been based on emotion and circumstances–I felt close to Him when life was good, and lost when life got rough. Now my relationship with Him is based on what I have learned about His character and what I have seen of His heart.

Secondly, discipleship provided that essential ingredient for growth: accountability.  As a young mom in a very demanding season, I didn’t have enough self discipline at the end of the day to engage practices that were crucial to my soul health. Just like a jogging partner, or a health coach, involving another person to reach a certain goal significantly increases your rate of success. I sat down and made it happen because it was more than just me I’d be letting down if I gave up.

Finally, discipleship should be a part of every believer’s life because of the joy that it brings. John says in his first letter, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His song Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (John 1:3-4) God designed us for community, and He created us to thrive when we are living authentically along side other believers. Fellowshipping with our Father, sharing with others what He shows us, and receiving encouragement and inspiration from other believers is a cycle designed to complete our joy. If we’re not partaking in this deeper sharing and fellowship, we’re missing out on a joyous gift from our Father.

Katie and I now live in different time zones, and our schedules preclude regular discipleship sessions. But my season of seeking God alongside my sister in Christ has given me a taste for gathering with others in Christ’s name. Sometimes this is pulling out my Bible in the middle of a conversation, more often it’s a willingness to go deeper in conversation, beyond the “fine and how are you” to asking how a friend’s heart is doing, and sharing my own struggles and glimpses I’ve had into the Father’s heart. Discipleship has become a way of life for me, and I’m so grateful for the gift that it is.

If you have never actually studied Scripture in company with one or a few other people, I pray that this glimpse into my experience with discipleship will inspire you to seek out opportunities to go deeper with the believers in your life.

Next time I’ll share how a conversation with an older mentor broke chains and finally set me free to fully embrace the work God was doing in my life. (For the full story of how God wooed a stuck-up pharisee into a joy-filled grace-clinger, read the whole All Is Grace series.)

Embracing Seasons and Teaching From Rest

We played hookey from school last week. Ha. I feel like such a rebel.

But the other side of me feels like I’m doing the right thing.

Let me explain.

Homeschooling went well this year. It’s seriously the highlight of my day. I love that I get to read great books to my kids on the couch for an hour or two and that’s school. (We use a literature-based curriculum so that the majority of our schooling at this point is me reading aloud to my 1st and 2nd grader with my Kindergartener playing or listening as he desires.) The kids have retained so much of what we’ve read about this year, it astounds me, and confirms that we are doing the right thing for them, for their learning styles, for this season.

But this month the weather in Alabama reached a peak of perfection. Crisp mornings turned into sunny days that were warm enough to get out the pool. Evenings stretched longer with family walks after dinner in the cool of sunset. The weather was so inviting, we were outside all day every day and even did school out doors a few days, but then I lay the books aside entirely. It just felt like we should embrace this gorgeous weather and not force ourselves to sit down for two hours every morning to get a certain number of pages read.

I knew this was right for me and my students for this season, but I was still carrying a little bit of guilt (guilt loves to sneak in wherever it can, you know?) until an older, wiser, homeschool mamma I’ve met down here said to me,

Enjoy these lazy warm days with your little ones before the scorching days of summer get here.”

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{trying school outside}

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{setting school aside to learn to swim}

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{What happens when we don’t do school for a few days…they crave books and dive in on their own}

Oh, yes. Yes, this does make sense. This is what’s right for me and my babes. We have till August to finish this year’s curriculum, and there will be plenty of scorching hot days in the next few months in which we will want nothing better than to relax in the AC with a good book. Embracing the seasons of our new locale has allowed me to be Peaceful Mamma this week, instead of Stressed-Out School Marm.

Teaching From Rest

Maybe you are feeling the pull that the change of weather has on your schedule but are not as free, due to your children’s ages or curriculum requirements, to set stuff aside. I get that. I know that’s probably the case for many homeschooling mammas this month, especially if you have older children. The good news is, you can still be Peaceful Mamma, teaching from a heart of rest. If you have no idea how it could be possible to find peace in the midst of these last, crammed days of the school year, you need to meet my friend, Sarah…

Sarah Mackenzie is a homeschooling mom of six (6!!!) who recently wrote a most encouraging, inspiring book about this very idea of teaching from a place of rest.

 

Sarah sent me a copy of her book last month and I drank it up and just have to share it with you. Here’s my official endorsement…

“Teaching From Rest is a gentle voice of reason in that area of motherhood that so often overwhelms us: homeschooling. Sarah reminds us that even curriculum choices and scheduling challenges are places we can lean into God and find rest for our souls. In her beautiful ebook we learn that the life and joy we infuse into our homes when we are teaching from rest is the best gift we can give our children. The book offered me both spiritual and practical inspiration in a concise format I was able to fit into my limited reading time. I’m intrigued by new ideas like loop scheduling and integration, and inspired by the reminder that God’s definition of success is not completion of a particular curriculum, but rather, faithfulness to what He’s called me to.”

The great thing about what Sarah has created is it’s not just an book. There are also recordings of interviews she conducted with people that have inspired her journey of teaching from rest. You have access to a resources that feel like nourishing conversations with mentors who are a bit further down the road from you. I’m really glad that Sarah gave me the chance to share her words with you, and hope you’ll check out her book, blog and the free samples and be encouraged as you finish out this homeschool year (and look ahead to the next one!).

P.S. We’re back to school this week and all the better for our unscheduled break. We like a year-round approach, how about you? Are you finished yet?

P.S.S. If you want to hear more about our homeschool day/style/philosophy well, you know, just leave a really sweet comment and say pretty please and all that and I might, just might have time to blog about it in a bit…