Friday, March 31, 2006

Living Out Loud Biz Report for March

Every so often I like to throw in a report of my editing/writing/speaking/singing business called Living Out Loud Communications. This keeps me accountable and allows me to have a record of my work. It is not to brag, but an organizational technique. If it is a brag, it is just to praise the Lord for what He has done in all of this.

Here's my report for March:
•Queried Spirit-Led Writer about four projects. One was rejected, and two were requested to write on speculation. I have submitted these two articles, and am awaiting word on acceptance or rejection. Tentative titles: "Top 10 Copy Editor's Nightmares" (the PUGS that bug you), and "How To Develop a Unique Interview Style."
•Submitted two articles for consideration with Blessed Lady. Melissa accepted, "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow" and is considering "In The Waiting Rooms of Life." Payment for the first article was received in Paypal before the article even appeared on her site.
•Wrote several articles for Mike at Grassroots Music/TrueTunes. Feature article "Confessions of a Concertgoer" will go up next week. Book review for "The Potluck Club/Trouble's Brewing" went up today. Also sent in book review for "Scimitar's Edge." Received payment for 2 previous CD reviews (Scott Grimes and Story Side B). Proposed an idea for a regular column, which is being considered. Proposed another feature article, which was accepted, but we are waiting on the interview subject to be available for comments.
•Completed my monthly column for Alyice at DabblingMum, "Grammar 'N Style." Received payment for said article. "Punctuating Around Commas."
•Wrote weekly inspirational column for The Paris News and my own mailing list.
•Read books for upcoming reviews.
•Launched two FCW online critique groups and my new manuscript editorial services. Picked up 9 clients who have secured my services for the year with Crit-Intense.
•Typed contracts for my new clients and signed a contract with Blessed Lady. Worked on other paperwork for the business (desk still needs tidied!).
•Wrote an article for The Ready Writer (FCW newsletter) and sent to Alice in Tulsa.
•Studied available markets to determine new query letters for April.
•Continued mentorship relationship with Carmen (you're doing GREAT).
•Kept up with two personal blogs.

Whew! I'm ready for a new month, and new challenges. Aren't you?

Top 10 Ways to Know It's Spring

10. Daffodils survived the late snow and proudly lift their heads to the sun.

9. School-kids are getting sassy. They are coming down with Spring Fever.

8. Toenails are painted bright colors-including my tangerine toesies.

7. Choirs are rehearsing Easter songs and Easter candy fills the holiday aisle.

6. Weather changes daily.

5. Cropped pants are coming out of storage.

4. Sandals too, to go with the cropped pants.

3. Trees are budding.

2. More smiles, less frowns.

1. Vacations are being planned; and diets are initiated, to look good for said vacations (think swim suits and class reunions!)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

American Idol

I predict Lisa will be going home tonight on American Idol. We shall see. Overall, the show this week was unimpressive. They were encouraged to sing songs that would represent the niche they would pick in the current music market. Allowable songs? Any song recorded in the 21st century. Unfortunately, most picked songs that, as Simon says, are unforgettable. Or the singers took on songs from icons, with no chance to match, let alone surpass the original.

I think Ace is getting more sappy each performance-playing up to the camera as musical Romeo. Bucky actually surprised me with how well he performed. I believe he is working to improve his craft each week, and may come from behind to stay until the mid-season rather than landing in the bottom 3. The judges said they could not understand Bucky's diction, but I believe their ears just aren't trained to hear "country drawl." Mandisa made her witness known, singing a song off the Christian charts. She belted out a few cool notes, but could have picked a song where she could really TESTIFY with her scats! Chris did so so with his song from Creed-screaming most of the song. Taylor did exceptional, and I *LIKED* his new fashion style. Paris was probably the best performer, both vocally, and stage presence. But her dance style was older than her 17 years-almost seductive. Elliott is looking less like a Amish farmer and more like a singer, and he is really working his craft. He's got good pipes! Katherine is the most glamorous singer on the show, and usually has excellent vocals, but I thought she bit off more than she could chew last night. Kelly P. looked totally overwhelmed by her environment last night, and her eyes and body language did not connect with the audience. Her song did not spotlight her voice. Besides, what I like most about her was gone-her zaney bubbly personality. She was singing about bubbles (soap) but lost the bubbles in her smile and eyes.

So, it will be interesting to see who goes home tonight, and what the others learn from this week's poorformance-er-I mean performance.

Nightlight Bright


Ever wonder why you even exist? I know, when the chips are down, and I'm on my hundredth mistake of the day, I ask God how in the world He thinks He can use little ol' me. Normally I don't struggle with low self-esteem and purpose, because God drives me with a vision and a passion. But there are still times, when my humanity shows the most that I have to scratch my head and wonder how God is going to get the glory from certain situations.

But then a light bulb came on, literally. Not in the daytime when I'm mentally coherent, but in the middle of the night when I stumbled to the bathroom. We have a nightlight to illuminate our midnight path. As my eyes acclimated to the dark, the light became brighter. And as I looked directly into the nightlight, I was almost blinded by the brightness. It was then that I realized just how bright a tiny nightlight could be when a person needs it most, in the darkest part of the night. In the daytime, when the nightlight is on, its little beam is barely noticeable.

What makes the difference? The need—darkness. The purpose—illuminate the path. The design—one small light to allow the sleeping to slumber and the awake to seek and see the way.

This might seem very simple, but it assured me that God has made no mistake in creating me. I just need to let His light shine. He will find the places where there are needs for the light, and He will design a purpose that best glorifies Him.

I need to make sure to let HIS light shine, not MY light. The song says, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine" but it really is the light of Jesus that radiates from believers, when they are not stifling the Holy Spirit with selfish ambitions. And when Christians beam His light, those who are seeking answers will see the way. THE Way.

I'm content to be a nightlight. To those in need, it's as powerful as a lighthouse or a searchlight.

"This little light of God's, I'm gonna let it shine!"

Friday, March 24, 2006

Grateful Gratitudes

Here are my Friday Grateful Gratitudes-things I'm thankful for this week:

*A beautiful cranberry colored suede softside briefcase/tote by designer Diane von Furstenberg-given to me by my pastor's wife-Sharon. What a great surprise—it will be perfect for my new manuscript editing business!

*Speaking of my new business, I'm grateful for the smooth launch of this new work. I'll be hired by the project to do overall critiques and copy editing for fiction and nonfiction works, articles, and even Web sites. And I've also been hired by the year by nine writers who want a Writer's Coach to boost them to the next level of their writing career. If you know of a ministry or business who needs an editor, be sure to recommend me!

*An excellent physical therapist who knows her stuff!

*Seeing Jazzy blossom-she cracks us up on a daily basis. Who knew this would be so entertaining? Oh wait-*WE* did-that's why we signed up for the ride.

*Getting news that one of my writing students has had a "maybe" by "Christianity Today," a very respected national magazine. Most writers rarely get this far with their query letters. We are going to work feverishly to polish the article to a shimmer and send it on with a prayer. One thing even better than when my own work gets accepted is when those I mentor gets good news in the business!

*Having a wonderful 72 year old mentor who pushes me towards excellence. We all pay it forward, don't we? (Or at least, we SHOULD)

I'm blessed!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

America Got It Right!

Last night, the American Idol results show was on. In my mind, I was hoping the bottom three would include: Lisa, Bucky, and Kevin. My wish for the one who needed to go home-Kevin. Guess what? America got it right! yes! Now we can move forward and have a REAL American Idol contest. The ones who are moving in the right direction: Chris, Paris, Mandisa, Katherine and believe it or not, Kelly Pickler. Taylor and Elliott are awesome, but they weren't as spot-on this week. And Ace? When he uses his falsetto, he is finding his groove. I'm rooting for Chris to win and Mandisa to come in second, but there is plenty of talent to make this anyone's game.

Speaking of reality shows, a new one was on last night. Unan1mous. For 30 minutes, a group of strangers were stripped of watches and cell phones and entered a bunker with artificial light and sterile decor. There was a circular table that looked sort of like a pod. The instructions were given AFTER everyone was locked in-they say no one had a clue what they were signing up for. There is 1.5 million dollars available to ONE contestant, ONLY if he/she gets the votes of every other player. Some are choosing to lie to get the sympathies of others (one even falsely said he had testicular cancer). There is a female minister on the show who unfortunately is only 50% right in what scripture says and in how she applies it. She is alienating the others already. It is going to be interesting to see how it plays out. Some are having panic attacks. Of course-how much is real, and how much is television? Who knows? But it makes for a fascinating show. Stay tuned...

Bits & Pieces

Some of you have asked if my blog is asleep right now. Nope-it's not. But it is very groggy!

So, here are a few bits and pieces of the last couple of weeks, just to get you up to speed in the life of Kathy.

*I'm taking physical therapy right now, so it is taking up some time, and also means I'm limiting my time at the desk. I told someone I'm just getting old, and I'm not taking it sitting down! (actually sitting down hurts too much for long periods-so go figure—)

*But-at the same time I'm launching a new manuscript editorial business. I have been hired by nine writers (and counting) who have secured my services for a period of one year. The Fellowship of Christian Writers is endorsing me. I will be their Writer's coach, and will provide some critiques, edits, market leads, and more. I have found one thing I do better than writing is bringing out the best in other writers. I will be getting paid by the year by some writers, while other writers will pay for each service individually. I look forward to seeing this business branch out into several areas as I pick up new clients.

*I got to sing at church Sunday, and enjoyed it so much. I sang "I Will Rest In You." It just felt right, if that makes sense. That is always a good place to be-right where you know you are supposed to be.

*We went to a concert Saturday night that featured 3 singers/groups: Josh Bates, Nicole Nordeman, and Casting Crowns. I'm writing a feature article about it for Grassroots Music and TrueTunes so I'll wait for it to come out to share with you. Needless to say, it was awesome! I loved the light shows and multi-media effects as well as the singers and musicians. It was interesting to watch human nature too (not all were on their best behavior-but that's how we humans can be).

*I've been making plans for our Mother/Daughter Tea. The theme revolves around shoes. Always a favorite subject for women. The actual theme is: "Footprints of A Woman." I've been having fun coming up with the menu and the program.

*Jazzy is still keeping me busy. She is getting more disciplined, but still acting like a puppy at times. She is 4 months old now. See my other blog about her fun in the snow.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race

In the reality show, "The Amazing Race," contestants compete against each other by traveling around the world, accepting various challenges along the way. A team is eliminated each week, when they come to the pit stop last.

I love watching the show because the scenery and culture is breathtaking, and the stunts reveal the true character of each contestant. I cheer on certain teams and frankly, I make wishes that certain teams will run into problems to slow down their journey.

I get wrapped up in the adventure, as if I were along for the race. And there is one thing I regret for each team member (whether they are my favorites or not). I am sorry the contestants can't spend more time enjoying each country. There is not enough time to visit the typical tourist attraction type places. I never see cameras in their hands, to record their trips (of course there are t.v. cameras everywhere!). It is too bad there is not more time allotted for the teams to relish the process rather than race to the finish.

And that thought leads me to my life lesson for today. Many of us are just as guilty about racing through life, trying to get to the finish line successfully, rather than embracing the journey that leads us to our ending.

I'm very certain that God did not just leave us here to punch alarm clocks and time clocks. He didn't inspire all of creation just for us to rush past it on our way to what we deem is important. Creation is there for our enjoyment. And we are here to enjoy each other, as well as to spend time with our God in fellowship.

That old hymn has it so right:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.

Let's not run the amazing race of life so quickly that we miss the fellowship with God and others along the way. Let's stop to smell the roses, and the coffee, and everything else we call "good."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

American Idol

[I wrote this on Wednesday, prior to the results show. I'm posting it anyway-even though I was wrong about all 3 of the bottom 3! Unfortunately, either America likes different singing qualities than me, or they are voting based on their love for the person rather than on if they think they can be a future music star.]

Last Night, American Idol hopefuls sang songs from Stevie Wonder. The behind-the-scenes peak at the candidates gave us a much better look at their personalities than watching their onstage personna. To be honest, most had a difficult time singing Stevie's songs. If America is real, tonight Kevin will be going home. The other two filling out the bottom three should be Kelly Pickler (as much as I love her sweet disposition) and Bucky. Even though Bucky should be in the bottom 3, I must comment that I thought he did his best on the song "Superstition." My favorites from the night were Chris and Paris. Mandisa also did a great job, once she got past the opening verse and landed on the belt-it-out chorus and bridge. Taylor Hicks also did a great job, in spite of his awkward dance moves. My verdict for Season Five is that a soulful singer will steal the show.

On another note I have some possibly exciting news: I have pitched an article featuring Mandisa with and my editor, Mike Parker, is thrilled with the idea. One hitch in the plan: I am having a hard time getting contact information for Mandisa, to interview her. Her Web site was temporarily disabled this past week and who knows when the American Idol media group will return my request. Mike is going to see what he can do to find other inroads. If any of you know a way to contact Mandisa, please let me know. Use my "contact the writer" link on this site. Thanks!

Gated Community

Yesterday the gates went up. Temporary walls providing safety and barriers. This was not a great divide between two nations. We installed baby gates to block off the guest bedroom and the family room, two areas where our almost 10-year-old calico, Libby, hangs out. Why? Because our 3-month-old Boston Terrier has learned to permeate the smaller barriers we previously used. So, we brought out the big guns. These gates will also help us house-train Jazzy.

It has been interesting to watch the behavior of our two pets since the installation of the dividers. Libby acts more confident and seems to be rubbing it in the face of her housemate Jazzy. Now that Libby has secure areas she sits like a queen on her favorite pillow, taunting the puppy spying from the other side of the gate. Jazzy is making new habits and enjoys the times Libby comes to the great room for some interaction.

In biblical times, whole cities were contained within a wall of protection, with only a gated entrance to come and go. Citizens of gated communities felt secure and safe, like my Libby cat. Hedges were used as barriers between neighbors. Job had a hedge of protection around him, placed there by God. We should pray for God to put a hedge around us as well. There is more we can do, in our defensive plan.

Proverbs 25:28 says, "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls."

Before we put up the baby gates, there was no sense of discipline and order in our house. Proverbs is warning believers that without discipline, a life has no order. This leaves that life open for attack from within and from without.

Walls are not always divisive. Sometimes they are there for protection and discipline. A person with boundaries has self-control (empowered by the Holy Spirit) to be victorious over anger, lust, greed, and other emotions. Emotions that can get out-of-control without discipline. These kinds of walls are for our good. Just as a walled city is good defense against enemies, a disciplined Christian can fight against the enemies of destruction.

Victory is ours!

Monday, March 13, 2006

My Dad

Yesterday was the 19th anniversary of the passing of my father, Charles Edward Carlton. He was only 52 when he died, and I was only 24. It's hard to believe that it has been that long since he breathed his last breath. Life certainly does go on, even when we sometimes believe it never will.

One thing I had to learn, and which took me about a year or two to realize, is that it is better to remember the 52 years my father lived rather than replaying in my mind the last month of his life-the time when he was fighting to survive. The first couple of years, to be honest, all I could do was rewind the tape of that last month, and there was a lot of pain attached to it.

I'm sure Dad would rather us focus on his good life. So here is a brief description of my dad, with more memories to come later:

-good shower singer, hummer, and whistler
-hard worker
-could learn to do anything he set his mind to
-often quiet
-enjoyed good music
-loved nature, and being out in it-a devoted hunter and fisher
-not afraid to sweat!
-good friend to others-always helping others out
-handyman at home and for elderly women
-melancholy personality
-loved old cars-could see the potential in them and kept them running
-enjoyed going visiting-to friends and family around the area-mostly in Pike County
-but DIDN'T like to leave the area-too stressful
-proud of his biscuit recipe
-attended all of our musical concerts and plays
-taught us how to deal with the stress of getting along with others and how to fight when necessary!
-curse words were in his common vocabulary
-almost always wore khaki slacks and plaid shirts, untucked
-very predictable in some ways, very unpredictable in other ways (odd, huh?)
-always smelled good, hair always in place

I was glad to be his Lil' Gal.

And I still miss him.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

This Week In Reality Shows

I'm a reality show junky. I admit it! Here is my brief comment about 3 shows I watched this week:

-American Idol
The four who were not chosen to go on to the final 12 by America were in my bottom 6. I would have probably sent Kevin home and kept Gedeon another week, but he would have been sent home soon enough. My comments move on to discuss the Christ-believers on the show. Mandisa is a servant of the Lord. On Tuesday, before she went on stage she did the sign language for "I'm believing God" as taught in a Beth Moore study. That special sumpin-sumpin she has is the joy of the Lord rather than a new illegal drug. Gedeon, when told he was going home, said he was victorious in the blood of the Lamb, and gave God the glory. He had the sweetest spirit, no hint of bitterness. I'm guessing Paris is also a believer. She was brought up in a Christian home (I know that doesn't automatically make you a believer). Her behavior points to having a loving heart. She is a hugger. An encourager. It isn't all about her. So sweet.

-The Amazing Race
I love watching this show because the stunts are interesting and the scenery along the way is breathtaking. There are a variety of personalities showing up. This week two sisters from Texas went home. One of the sisters had a cruddy attitude for most of the episode, and that attitude could have been their defeating factor. Her sister, on the other hand, was all about encouragement and staying positive. You could tell they have a special bond as sisters, but it was not enough to keep them in the race. I haven't learned their names yet-sorry. But the couple who are known as the geeks on the show displayed a true love for each other. I hope they stay on for a while. The two guys who are as goofy as all get-out should stay around for cornball entertainment factor. I'm already DONE with the two guys who are more interested in how much sex they can get along the way than the stunts and the bonding between the two of them. I like the Latino mother/daughter team. The couple consisting of a dentist and his assistant (are they married or just dating?) are not getting along well. He treats her like trash. The older couple are endearing-she has been victorious over cancer and they are both very determined, in spite of their weak physical status. There will be more teams that show themselves to me as we go along the race.

This week Dan went home. His alliance partner, Terry had to vote a different way because Sally was immune and Dan was the weak link in the tribe. He was right to make this decision, and he handled it like a gentleman, discussing it with Dan prior to tribal council. Dan showed over the past few weeks that he was weak physically, and this week he was their downfall mentally at the challenge, so he was the obvious pick to go home since Sally was immune. My favorite part of this episode was watching the other team get to go to the village and enjoy food and entertainment together with the villagers. The children of the village were special. I've noticed each year on Survivor, the team who gets to go to the village ends up having a special strength from having this experience. I was hoping the other team would have been the team to go. At first, I wasn't a big fan of Cerie because she was a wimp with the elements, and because she voted out Tina the first week. But, Cerie has grown on me as I watch her deal with her tribe in a way that is keeping her from being voted off. Shane will be the next to go from his tribe-he alienated his own alliance. Not good. Of course, he has an ability to sweet-talk his way back into their good graces, so who knows? My first pick to win it all is Terry. My second pick is Austin. But they are both underdogs now that their tribe is so much smaller than the other tribe. I'm looking forward to this next week.

Until then, let's keep it real!

Proverbs 11:3

"The integrity of the upright shall guide them; but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them." ~Proverbs 11:3

I just completed a book for review by Marvin Olasky called "Scimitar's Edge" to be released in June of this year. I won't do my review now, since it is scheduled for first rights in another publication, but I will say the book could have used this Proverb as it's guiding theme. One of the issues discussed by the characters in this book is if there is good in this world, and there is, then we must acknowledge that there is also evil, and there is. And there are varying degrees of goodness and evil.

Those who have integrity of spirit and virtuous character will allow those strengths to be what motivates them in life. But those who are motivated by evil will be destroyed by that evil. We might see them as successful now, but in the full scheme of things, they will not obtain ultimate reward.

These are true statements, but there is one missing element. We all have some degree of evil in us because we were all born with an imperfect human nature. We will not have what it takes within us to overcome that human nature. We need supernatural intervention in the form of a Savior, Who paid the price for us to obtain ultimate reward, but also indwells His followers so we might grow in integrity. It's not about how good we can get on our own, but on how yielded we are to His guidance in our lives.

Either way, it is a matter of discipline. But that discipline is sweet when it is motivated by the love we have for our Savior, rather than the guilt and fear we have for failure. Love will be the guiding force to victory.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

My Brother

Every so often, I want to write about the people I'm closest to in this world. Today, I choose to write about my brother Wade, in tribute to his birthday this week. Wade, I don't mean this to embarrass you, I've just always been taught it is better to give your flowers when folks are this side of the grass, if you know what I mean!

Wade was born 15 months after I entered the world. I was a high maintenance child, I admit it. Fortunately, Wade was happy-go-lucky and self-entertaining. Of course, he also had ME to entertain him!

Wade and I shared a bedroom until I was a freshman in high school. Nowadays, child protective services would say this was damaging to our psyche. I disagree. It caused us to be very close-knit. Of course, there was probably other things in our family unit that CPS would raise their eyebrows about (namely-discipline). We survived!

Wade was somewhat quiet, and always was a good friend to others. He was a good student, and loved to read-still does! We often tormented each other. I would kiss him to bug him, and he would stick a freshly licked finger in my ear. Funny how kids show they love each other!

We shared some of our bigger toys, such as a bright red tricycle. That trike led us to meet Jimmy Pennock down the block, so it was a godsend.

Wade loved sports, especially baseball, and collected baseball cards. When we purchased the lot next to ours, it became our baseball field. It was fun playing with the Rubemeyers, the Atteberrys and the Hendersons. Wade also had a basketball hoop on a poll in our graveled parking area. He has a good mind for sports, and can analyze the entire game.

I enjoyed sharing friendship circles with Wade in high school. It was fun to go to some of the same parties. We were also involved in some of the same things in school, especially music.

I hate it that I moved away so early in my adult life, and then he moved even further away. We have not gotten to develop an adult friendship as much as I would like. I have watched him develop into an upstanding man, with a sense of values and a passion to educate and be educated. He loves children. I see his eyes light up when children are around. He is involved in his son's life to a degree I rarely see in fathers. He is comfortable in any setting, and cultural diversity is an added bonus.

It's hard to believe that 2 siblings who started out sharing a room the first 14 years of their lives are now so far apart. We may have gone our separate ways, but our hearts still have a heart for HOME. That is one thing that never leaves us, no matter how many miles separate us.

Happy Birthday, Brother. I miss you!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Coincidence or Godincidence?

Coincidence or God-incidence?

Have you ever had a divine appointment, and knew 100% for sure that God's hand was on the situation? I've had several of those in my lifetime, and each time, I am amazed by the power of God. This week, I asked a friend to add an e-mail link to my online blog, so that readers could contact me. During the same moments she was setting it up, an old friend of mine stumbled across my blog on the internet. Not knowing how to contact me, he left a comment on the site, from David R. I read the comment and my heart pounded with excitement. I couldn't help but wonder if this was a childhood friend of mine. Confirmation came in the form of an e-mail from David Rubemeyer, within minutes of when Carmen had placed the e-mail link on the site. I'm not sure what made me want to place the link on that day. We had been toying with the idea for a month or so. And who knows why Carmen found time at that exact moment to add the link. But the end result was the reunion of two childhood friends — a brother was found!

It wasn't a coincidence for each of those elements to be in play that day. Who can orchestrate a man to check out a blog, a woman to request an e-mail link, and another woman to add that link, all within minutes of each other? Only God. This was a God-incidence.

That same God sent Philip along the path of the Ethiopian Eunuch at the very time the eunuch was attempting to understand scripture. It was no coincidence for Philip to be at the right place at the right time, it was a God-arranged divine appointment.

I read a quote that said, "One more coincidence, and I'm going to have to believe that God is in control!" I like that. I'm not saying every traffic light, every weed that pops up in a yard, and every paper cut I get are preordained by God to take place. He allows certain things because there is order in this world. But there are times He says, "I'm not just going to allow the normal order, I'm going to step in and cause a certain situation." That is a divine appointment.

I'm glad to know God didn't just create the universe and then sit back and watch how it turns out. He intervenes and participates in our lives in an intimate way. Look for Him today.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Monday-Grateful Gratitudes

Here are a few of my many blessings this week:

1) Lynnette L. and Megan came over to help me clean house. What a blessing!

2) A knowledgeable physical therapist, named Joy, to help me with my lumbar spondylosis and bone spurs.

3) Getting a doggy door installed, as well as a door in our garage to the backyard, and 2 electric garage door openers. Life will be much more convenient now!

4) Getting my van, which has no car payments left, repaired.

5) Being loved-on by church members. They are the BEST!

6) Getting e-mails from Mom and reading Wade's blog to keep up with their busy lives. I get to feel like I'm a part of their lives even though we lives many many miles away.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Time Machine Memory Tour-H.S. Sophomore 2nd. Half

(continuation of post regarding my sophomore year in high school)

By the time we returned to school for the second semester after our winter break, I had decided to date Rusty exclusively. He had not ASKED me to "go with him" but I just knew he was the one, or at least wanted to give it a good try to make for sure.

He asked me out to his church youth group functions. At the same time, my own Sunday School teacher was teaching doctrine different from the Methodist church doctrine, saying all roads of faith lead to Heaven. He said it was the act of faith that saves a person, not the object of that faith. If you were to just believe in yourself, it would be enough to get you to Heaven. He also owned the tavern in town, and profited from the most heartbreak our town knew-men throwing their paychecks away on strong drink (the town prostitute also frequented his locale). Don't get me wrong, I loved this Methodist youth worker, I just didn't agree with him. He was a confused man, who obviously loved youth, but was giving mixed signals to the very ones he wanted to mentor. His day job was as a teacher/coach for our school system, but in the evenings he was providing a "stocked refrigerator" to minors.

The good thing about having my own youth director teach confusing doctrine was that it caused me to question everything I believed, and to search scripture to find out the answers. I knew, deep down, that the Bible was the ultimate authority of truth.

One glitch on this road to my personal relationship with Jesus Christ was when Rusty invited me to a Revival meeting at his storefront church when a prison preacher was speaking. This guest preacher was rough as a cob and very confrontational. In your face. Literally. I will never forget those pointy cowboy boots climbing the pew in front of me and his long accusing finger pointing down my equally long nose. (Rusty always sat in front of his parents, near the front of the church on the left side of the building at that point.) This dignified Methodist girl almost peed her pants when that prison preacher hooted and hollered and nearly spat in my face due to proximity. I really thought I would never darken the doors of that church again.

But God had another plan.

I continued to attend the youth group events with Rusty's church, going for the social element rather than the spiritual lessons. Regardless of intent, the message was penetrating my heart, and making sense. Rusty gave me a brochure (he called it a tract) that explained some spiritual truths. At the same time Teri Wilhoit was doing what she called "witnessing" to me. She told me she was concerned for my spiritual wellbeing and wanted me to fill that emptiness in my life with the right thing, with a relationship with Jesus Christ. She showed me why she always had nighttime prayer and a devotional reading, even when I was spending the night. Her life lived out me a real active faith, not just a stuffy Sunday tradition to which I was accustomed.

I saw something genuine and unique in Rusty, and in Teri. I also noticed a spiritual peace and maturity. A sense of purpose. I wanted what they had. I made no big deal about my decision. No walk down the aisle or altar prayer. Alone in my bedroom I made my own altar out of a bed-top bolster. I put it on the floor by my bed and did what the tract explained. I prayed to God, telling Him about my emptiness and admitting my sinful nature. I told Him I realized there was no way I could have a relationship with Him, or enter His perfect Heaven, without a perfect substitute. I accepted the free gift of salvation paid for by Jesus when died on the cross in my place. It was the most liberating moment of my life. What Teri and Rusty said was true, an inner peace was mine to enjoy.

One of the first big changes in me was that I quit going to dances. I don't think all forms of dance are wrong, but there was a great deal wrong with teen dances. Probably my family thought I was just going through a phase, but it was a real conviction of my heart. Rusty did not tell me, "don't go to dances." He just suggested that I go to a dance, and ask God if He was pleased with what I was doing there, and what was going on around me. The first opportunity to do this was at a dance I attended during a leadership conference. I realized my actions on the dance floor were sensual, and that I was using my body as an instrument to cause the guys to desire the wrong things (lust). The music was not godly music, and the lighting was low, which encouraged all sorts of different sexual activities. The dances were not chaperoned well, with adults either wanting to be cool and accepted by the teens, or off in another section of the building talking with other chaperones about the latest gossip and gripes in their own lives. Drinking and drugs were flowing faster than the punch and cookies. It was as if a light bulb went on and I realized teen dances were all things opposite of purity. For some, to quit dancing would be a minor ordeal. But for me it was a lifestyle change. Before this moment of realization, I was attending dances of some kind on almost a weekly basis, and was one of the unofficial "dance champions" on the dance floor. But this decision felt right. It was a minor sacrifice to learn to DO RIGHT, compared to those who were sacrificing their lives for the gospel. It became no sacrifice at all, because in exchange I was given much more than I ever gave up.

Proverbs 5:3

"For the lips of a strange woman drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil." ~Proverbs 5:3

The father is giving the son a warning the passages of Proverbs 5, that to resist the temptations he will face in life, he must be equipped BEFORE the temptation ever comes. Equipped with what? Moral stability.

-Wisdom (vs. 1)
-Understanding (vs. 1)
-Discretion (vs. 2)
-Knowledge (vs. 2)

Some are not sure if the strange woman here refers to immoral women who seek to lure the innocent, or if the strange woman represents all evils that tempt us.

Either way, best to be on guard. Our reputation and God's testimony is at stake.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Living Out Loud-Weekly Biz. Report

I keep track of my Living Out Loud business each week, by writing a report here. It isn't so much to pat myself on the back, as it is to be accountable for my work, and to praise the Lord for what He has allowed to be accomplished.

This week, you will see my goals first, and the results in all caps after each goal.

1. Write inspirational column for The Paris News and my mailing list.-COMPLETED


3. Read book for book reviews. Write review. Find multiple markets for review, and send out queries or submissions. (If you know of additional paying markets for reviews, please let me know)-FINISHED READING BOOK, AM CURRENTLY WRITING REVIEW, HAVE FOUND SEVERAL MARKETS TO SEND QUERIES TO FOR THIS REVIEW BESIDES TRUETUNES.

4. Gather letters of recommendation for freelance writing business expansion. Put more detailed plans into place.-HAVE COLLECTED TWO MORE LETTERS-MY OLD EDITOR SENT AN EXTRAORDINARY RECOMMENDATION-WRITE ME OFF-LIST IF YOU WANT TO READ IT.

5. Send out at least 3 queries this week.-SENT OUT 4, 2 HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED ON SPECULATION, 1 WAS REJECTED, AND 1 IS PENDING.

6. Rewrite crit. group submission, using advice from critique group critiques.-HAVE NOT FINISHED THIS.

7. Write 2 more critiques for groups before end of month.-COMPLETED.

Other writing related reports for the week, that were not in the goals:

8. I also found two more markets to send submissions, and will work on that this coming week.

9. I wrote my monthly Grammar 'N Style column for The Dabblingmum, and submitted.

10. I continued to interact with the writer I'm mentoring, and we are both getting "jazzed up" by the process as well as the progress.

Proverbs 4:3

"He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments and live."

The "he" in this verse refers back to the father. In verse 1, children are encouraged to hear the instruction of their father. In verse 2 it says fathers give good doctrine (teaching), so it is wise not to go against their instruction. Verse 3 mentions that the father was taught by his father, so we have 3 generations mentioned here.

This all points to the need of families to pass on good teaching, wise counsel, and good character building tools to their children. Wisdom is passed down from generation to generation. It can be assumed that lack of wisdom can also be passed down. Personal influence is the best way to pass along wisdom, whether to your children or someone else in your life.

Friday, March 03, 2006

American Idol-Season Five

I've been watching American Idol since the first season. Even though they don't always sing the type of songs I like or wear appropriate clothing, they all teach me something. I love watching each one grow as a singer and performer throughout the competition. They teach me to be a better singer/performer and I also pick up pointers as a vocal coach for others. Throughout the competition, I'll giving you my opinions of American Idol. Take them or leave them.

So far, America has voted spot on. You never know how the vote will turn out, because they don't call to vote off the weakest pop star. They call to vote for their favorite. So you just never know who will be eliminated. I looked over the names of who was voted off last week, and even though I watched the show, already I had forgotten their faces/names. What Simon says is correct, they were truly forgettable. Their names and ages: Bobby (19), Patrick (27), Becky (25), and Stevie (19).

This week, again, America picked the correct ones to leave. Brenna Gethers, age 25, swore America would vote her as their favorite. Her over-confidence lied to her. Heather Cox had a sweet disposition, but at age 16, just didn't have the life experience to equip her for the competition. David Radford, age 17, had a beautiful retro voice, but crooning isn't as popular as other music styles. He said goodbye last night. And Sway Penala, age 28, was sent home for his Stevie Wonder impersonation. I found his song this week to be better than the song he sang the week prior, but still, he was not of the same caliber as the other male singers.

My favorite singers are:
-Mandisa (Christian praise & worship singer with a beautiful spirit, age 29)
-Paris Bennett (larger than life voice, inherited pipes from Grandma, age 17)
-Chris Daughtry (my pick for American Idol with the total package of voice, stage presence, and style, age 26)
-Taylor Hicks (most soulful, very Ray Charles-like, awesome harmonica player, age 29)

One more comment about American Idol. Has anyone else noticed that Paula Abdul seems to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol the past two shows? I'm guessing she is hooked on prescription pain medications. Her body language, slurred words, and unfiltered statements all point to a woman not in control of self. I hope she will get the help she needs, if there is in deed a problem, because she brings a lot of life to the show. Randy has the best input to the singers regarding vocal coaching. And Simon, although rough around the edges, is the most accurate at spotting a winner. He knows what he is talking about!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Proverbs 3:2

"For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee." ~Proverbs 3:2

What does the THEY refer to? Look at verse 1, "My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments."

So, we may deduce from this that if we are a students of the Word of God, the Bible, that we will have a greater chance of having a longer peaceful life than those who do not study/heed the Bible.

Obviously, death comes at all ages. But think about it. If we heed biblical principles, we are not going to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, putting us at risk for premature death. We are not going to expose our bodies to things that could cause a disease process. We are not going to be a part of a gang and be at risk for gang related violence. These are just a few examples of how obeying God's Word will protect us from dangerous and unhealthy situations.

But-this conditional promise gives us hope of one more thing. Not just a longer life, but PEACE during the life we do have. No matter how long we get to live, those days can be filled with peace. How to get peace? Be in God's Word. Don't forget it. Keep it in our hearts.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Dreams Coming True!

At the beginning of the year, I made a goal to be more in touch with extended family and old friends. I prayed over this goal, and God showed me just how important these relationships are. By phone and my e-mail, before this week I had already connected more with my Aunt Deanna, my Aunt Verna, my friends Amy & Larry Mills, Stephanie & Mark Stokes, and Greg & Megan James. Not to mention the time with Mom and Wade, just by sharing blog entries and that sort of thing.

I have to mention just how special the e-mails from Aunt Deanna have been to me. She has such a gift to encourage others and build them up, as well as a wonderful sense of humor. A beautiful balance of GRACE.

And my friendship with Amy feels as good as it ever was, for the first time in years. Time and miles had caused us to have some hesitation or distance in our relationship for the past few years. But now, it seems like God has brought us back into each other's lives at just the right time. Do you feel that way too, Amy?

Well, this week, two more friends from my past have popped back into my life. Sandy (Reid) Bassett has been a lifelong friend-we go back as far as back is! And today, I heard from a David R. on my blog comments, and hoped to myself this was the same David R. from my childhood. Then, an e-mail from him confirmed it. Joy unspeakable! David Rubemeyer was like a brother to me, growing up across the alley from me, and attending the same grade of school. I'll never forget, he was one of the special ones who took my hand the day of my father's viewing (pre-funeral visitation), and walked to the casket with me. Not many of those types of purely platonic relationships exist. And to my joy, he is serving the Lord. We have so much to catch up on. Thank you, David, for writing!

I'm sorry for all of the exclamation points. I know they are not professional, but they are necessary. I can hardly contain myself!

See what happens when God puts a goal on your heart, and then helps you bring it to pass?

Reject or Accept?


This week finds me writing query letters. The word query sounds —well— queer. Such and odd word to describe a sort of birthing process. Queries are actually letters inquiring whether an editor of a publication would be interested in considering a proposed article or book. It can be a daunting process. I am humbled when God gives me a story lead. When He does, I know He expects me to take the idea and run with it.

A query begins with a seed thought idea. The idea develops into the bare-bones skeleton of an outline or bulleted main points. Research discovers possible markets. The concept is described for the editor, allowing a sneak peak into the story potential. Finding just the right words is sometimes excruciating. The letter also must include why I should be the one to write the article. It feels uncomfortable to toot my own horn, but that is how the business works. Finally, the letter is submitted for consideration. Then, like anticipating a child's birth, the pacing and praying (and more pacing and praying) begins. Until the editor replies, the writer moves on to the next project.

The market I chose to target this week posted a need to one of my writing groups, and I responded. I presented 4 article ideas. The Web site said it would take 6-8 weeks for a reply. But within just hours, I heard back on 3 articles. For two, the editor requested to see the article on speculation. One more idea was rejected. I'm still waiting on the results of the fourth query, but until then, I must get busy on writing the two articles the editor wants to see. You can probably imagine my excitement to get such a quick response. And a positive one at that!

Sometimes, nonwriters do not understand my passion for the process. When I come up with a story concept, others look at me like it is some pipe dream. Talking to other writers is different. They get it. They provide support and accountability.

Being a Christ follower can be like this. Those outside of the faith just don't understand why we would trust in a God we can't see. Some might even think we are a bit delusional. But other Christians get it. They understand the process. Those further in their journey can offer advice and instruction. We support and pray for each other. The end product is much like getting an acceptance letter from an editor. We have persevered no matter what rejections have come our way. And finally we hear the words every Christian longs to hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." - Philippians 1:6