Thursday, January 15, 2015

Small Kindnesses are Better than Promising Words

I used to have a friend who seemingly was a very caring woman. She'd offer to extend kindnesses that made you feel ever-so-special. She'd tell you what she'd like to do for you . . .

But she never seemed to follow through.

After suffering through a few bouts of disappointment, I moved on -- all the wiser for my naivety. But also all the wiser for being careful of what I offer.

Being nice takes more effort than offering kind words.

I've discovered that often it's the small kindness that have meaning for me. I truly appreciate when someone holds a door for me or shares some excess from a summer garden. I have a friend who buys books by authors she knows at second-hand stores and either gives them away or leaves them to be picked up. As an author, that's a blessing. It's like a personal introduction to a new reader.

A few years ago my children were talking about things that they appreciated from their childhood. My youngest daughter recalled an incident when there was a book swap at school. She selected one of her favorite books for the project. Within an hour she had book-swapper's remorse. After lunch she rushed to the book room to find her book before someone else claimed it. She was too late. That night, cried herself to sleep.

The next day she when she returned home from school, her favorite book was sitting on her bed. After she'd gone to school, I bought another copy to replace the one she gave away. This small consideration meant the world to her, and she still remembers how happy and loved she felt to have that book again. But the thing is, I don't remember this incident at all. It was a small deed to me, but it meant the world to her.

We often don't realize how a small kindness, a simple deed, will impact someone. All it takes is a little consideration and a few moments of your time. It's worth it. And you never know what it might mean to someone else.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A 36-Year Adventure AKA Principles for Creating a Happy Marriage

What were you doing 36 years ago today? I was starting the rest of my life.

Yes, a Greyhound bus. The beginning of our adventure.
At the time, I thought I was all grown up. But looking back, I was so young, only 23 years old.

I probably wasn’t unusual in not realizing exactly what I was agreeing to when I said, “I do.” (Who knows what the future holds?)

I was in love. Still am.

I was seeking a grand adventure. Got that!

I was looking for a happily ever after. Got that too. However, since then I’ve realized happily ever after doesn’t occur without a bit of intentional living.

Yes, after living a day-by-day life with my husband, I’ve come to understand that I may not know everything, but when it comes to marriage—especially my marriage—I’m an expert. There are some principles that I’ve learned in the past three-plus decades that have helped to make my marriage work.

  1. Faith + marriage = happiness. We were in love but didn't really consider marriage until we got serious about God. Once our priorities were established, our life unfolded in a beautiful, blessed way I would have never imagined. Through better or worse, when you both serve the same God and have the same values, you've got a compass to keep you moving in the right direction, together.
  2. Your marriage must be a priority. You’ve got to place your marriage on a pedestal and keep it shiny and protect it against all the world throws at two people who are just trying to make a go of it. No one else (except your spouse) cares about your marriage. If it’s going to be a success, it’s got to be a priority. Give your spouse the best—the best of your time, the best of your attention, the best of your attitude.
  3.  Let it go. Don’t pick, pick, pick. Guess what? After living with someone for more than a few months you pick up on their quirks. Nagging is counterproductive, and no one wants to be around a nag. It’s a waste of time and a drain on emotions. The crazy thing is that we often want to pick on inconsequential behavior. Here’s my dirty little secret: I once was annoyed with my husband because after he did the laundry and put all the clothes away, he left the dresser drawers open by ½ inch! The nerve of him. I had to close those drawers! It took me about 15 seconds to realize how stupid my complaint was. Besides, I know I’m not perfect either.
  4.  Be nice. Of all the people in your world, you should treat your spouse best. Period.
  5.  Don’t flirt with anyone except your husband. Enough said.
  6.  Laugh together, every day. If you can find humor in the day-to-day business of living as well as the down-and-out moments we all have, you’ll make your day and your marriage brighter.
  7.  Respect one another. This is especially a biggie for men. They equate respect with love. Respect fuels and warms a relationship.
  8.  Don’t compare. No marriage is alike. Just because you friend’s husband buys her flowers weekly doesn’t mean they have a happier marriage. My honey is not a flower-buying guy, but at the beginning of the week he makes sure my car is fueled and I’ve got washer fluid in the reservoir. That may not be the grandest romantic gesture, but it does it for me.
  9.  Being right isn’t so important. Too easily little disagreements can blow out of proportion. No one is 100% right all the time. Not you, not your husband. So suck it up and button your lip. This falls under the pick-your-battle category. Give yourself a break, and give up stupid disagreements.
  10.  Never speak poorly about your husband. Never. Never. Never. This goes back to principle #3 and principle #4.
  11.  It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, and that’s okay. That’s life. Marriage, like life, has its ups and downs. Some days are just so-so, and that’s normal. Deal with it.
  12. Someone has to keep a cool head. When troubles come or a challenge presents itself, you both can’t let emotions rule. Somebody has to keep a cool head. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s your honey. Emotions fuel unexpected consequences. Cool it.
  13.  Hang out together. Find something to enjoy with one another. Go for walks. Do the dishes together. Watch a TV series together and chat about it. Keep talking and keep doing stuff together. Even if it's not the most exciting stuff, you're being a couple.
  14.  Express gratitude. No one likes to feel take for granted. Say the words, “thank you!”
  15.  Remember fun moments. Sometimes one of us will bring up a happy memory. It’s good practice to recall the good times, it gives you a warm feeling and a stronger connection to your husband. Shared good memories cement a relationship. 
  16. Expect the good times to continue. Find something to look forward to together. If you expect more happy moments to occur and more wonderful memories to be made, you’re moving in the right direction, together.
*This list would not be possible without the pleasure and honor of being married to my darling husband. 

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Forgiveness is possible

I saw this quote and knew I had to share it. What I want you to realize is that forgiveness is possible. Truly. And once you reach that place, you're the one who benefits.

Finally, after nearly 20 years, I'm able to admit to the pain I suffered when people I had loved and trusted no longer wanted me in their lives. 

For a long time it was my secret. I feared others would look at me and find me unlovable as well. Disposable. 

It took me nearly a dozen years to realize their treatment of me spoke to their character, not mine. 

As I've admitted before, I knew it was my duty to forgive, so I became a serial forgiver. Forgiveness was not a once-and-done experience. I had to continually forgive those who had hurt me. Each time I chose to forgive, it cost me. I had to give up, little by little, the desire for an apology and the longing to have my reputation restored.

Finally, I feel that debt is fulfilled. My forgiveness no longer costs me pain. There's no lingering shame or ache when those people come to mind. My eyes no long sting with unwanted tears. Well, maybe just a little. 

Many years ago I gave that pain to God. He knew what betrayal felt like. He understood. But it took me years and years to come to grips with it all. And if I did it, so can you. 

I pray you have a fully forgiving heart in 2015. Isn't it about time? 

Forgive, and set yourself free!


Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Publishing Industry News


Time to check out the January edition of Novel Rocket's industry news. There's some interesting news and some fun tidbits for book lovers. Find it here!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A precious Christmas thought -- Divine Humanity!

For as long as I can remember, my mother put this reproduction antique post card on the table next to our nativity set each Christmas season. The nativity set was passed on to me 20 years ago. In the box was the post card with a sentiment written by Phillips Brooks, a man known as the greatest American preacher of the 19th century and author of the Christmas hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem.

Each year when I read the post card, a thrill of joy bubbles up from my heart. At this beautiful time of year, I wish you a similar thrill of joy. . .

     “Lift up your eyes to the great meaning of the day, and dare to think of your humanity as something so divinely precious that it is worthy of being made an offering to God.
     Count it as a privilege to make that offering as complete as possible, keeping nothing back; and then go out to the pleasures and duties of your life, having been truly born anew into His divinity, as he was born into our humanity on Christmas Day.”

Since I was a very young woman, I have given myself, heart and soul, to my Lord. I offer each of my days to Him. And in a most humble way, I think of my writing as something so divinely precious that it is worthy of being made an offering to God as well.

Have a blessed Christmas!

*This is my annual Christmas re-post. I love it so much I trot it out every holiday season.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year! I'm celebrating with family, so my next post will be January 6th.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

When the Christmas season is not a joy -- OR -- How to make the best from the worst.

This is the season of joy, of perpetual hope! You only have to step outside, flip on the TV, or listen to the radio to be slapped in the face with the giddy happiness that is this time of year.

Right?

I'm not trying to sound cynical, but the unfortunate truth is that Christmastime is NOT always a happy time for all people. 

Life happens. Loved ones die. Jobs evaporate. Relationships fail. And yet, we're all expected to put on a happy face and press on. 

I've had a few unhappy Christmas seasons. The first was in 1996. That year we buried my mother on Christmas Eve. A few years later was another sad Christmas when it became clear that I was no long welcome among some people I had loved all my life. The concept of "betrayed and rejected" became sickeningly real. 

During those two Christmases my heart ached. I would have liked to run away from the pain. I recall watching my mother die, thinking, if only I could scoop her up in my arms and run away from death. Sometimes during grief our thoughts aren't logical. 

My children were young during those years. They expected and deserved a happy time, and so I dug deep and made Christmas. While I went through the motions, I prayed silently. I needed an anchor, a hope to cling to. And that's just what I received. 

I learned during the worst of times that faith sustains. And if faith could sustain me, it can do the same for you. 

Are you heartbroken? Does the season of joy feel joyless? It is the season of perpetual hope! God never promised to make your challenges and heartaches disappear, but He did promise to be with you, always. His promise can hold your world together. I know that to be true. 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! ~Isaiah 26:3

Trust God. You can rely on Him. 

If you know someone who is having a difficult Christmas, please look them in the eyes and tell them you're sorry for their pain. Let them know you see them amid the glitter and lights of a season that's mostly darkness for them. Squeeze their hand. Say a prayer over them. 

When your heart aches you can feel alone, even in a crowd. Reach out to the lonely and brokenhearted. Don't force them to act as if their heartache isn't real because grief is real. 

Sometimes the best gifts cannot be found beneath the sparkling Christmas tree. Let your gift be friendship, kindness, hope, and prayer. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good-book alert! Waking Up Joy by Tina Ann Forkner

I met Tina several years ago when we both rode the same shuttle from the airport to a writers conference. We've been friends ever since. She's one of the kindest, most encouraging women you'd be blessed to know. 

I've loved Tina's first two novels, and couldn't wait to read this one. It didn't disappoint! Tina's warm, southern voice creates worlds I can only visit in a book. Her writing is beautiful.

Here's the blurb about Waking Up Joy

When adored town spinster Joy Talley ends up in a coma after a peculiar accident, she is surprised and incensed to hear what is being said in her hospital room, including plans for her funeral. When she finally wakes, her family thinks she’s off her rocker, but Joy has never felt more alive. WAKING UP JOY is both a heartwarming love story and a humorous tale of family, secrets, and what happens when one woman decides once and for all to set the past straight.

When I invited Tina to my blog, I asked her a few questions so you could get to know her. 

What's your favorite season and why?

My favorite season is summer when I can get out and dig around in the garden or go with my family for a hike, but my favorite part of the season is when my daughter and I visit family in Oklahoma. We love being able to live in flip-flops and spend our days on the side of the pool or at the river, all while sipping on iced-tea and gossiping with the aunts and the cousins. It’s probably not all that surprising to my family that I set WAKING UP JOY in Oklahoma, since I spend so much time there.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

Receiving an endorsement from Chris Fabry has definitely been one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. I have long loved Chris’s books and he is one of my favorite novelists, both in terms of story and technique. His books have always given me hope as a person, but also as a writer. The way he writes a story without censoring truth in all its beautiful glory reminds me that I shouldn’t hold back in my stories. That he would take the time to endorse WAKING UP JOY meant a ton to me as a person and as a writer.
  
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest road block is probably self-confidence. When my first book came out, it just seemed to flow, probably because I didn’t think it would ever be published. Writing for publication causes me to freeze up at first. I’ve been reading Claire Cook’s new book, NEVER TOO LATE, and she talks about how she has to psyche herself up before writing a new novel. When I read that, I thought, “It’s not just me!” Getting started is difficult, but once I discipline myself to sit down and write, the story finally starts to flow. After that I rewrite the first 50 pages or so over and over, which takes time, but I’m finally learning to trust my process. It might not be how every other writer writes, but we can’t be like all the other writers. We need to be ourselves, and that’s the only way we will produce unique stories.
  
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

WAKING UP JOY is my “coma book.” I wrote a little bit about that over at Novel Rocket back in October when the novel first came out, and Joy’s time in her coma continues to be one of the most intriguing aspects of the book for many readers. I think most of us find it interesting to hear stories from people who have been through a coma, and especially if they’ve had any kind of a near death experience. We want to know what it’s like to have glimpsed the other side, but for Joy, the experience ends up being more about waking up and changing her life. For me, the miracle aspect of the book is my favorite part, and I think readers want to believe miracles are possible, or they’ve witnessed a miracle themselves and are able to relate to Joy, even though her family doesn’t believe her.

 
How can readers find your book on the Internet?

WAKING UP JOY is available in paperback and eBook at these links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iBook.

Connect with me at www.tinaannorkner.com

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Choices, consequences, and the wonderful!

I'm feeling so very grateful for my blessings. I hope you are too!
This Christmas season we will not be celebrating out of abundance, but with a budget in mind. I'm certain that many, if not most, do that yearly. This Christmas will be more simple, and for that I'm grateful. We won't be passing out as many "things," but the things we've bought have been considered more thoughtfully. 

Actually, "things" have become secondary. Perhaps this is an extension of aging, maturing, growing wiser. Things are stuff you can do without. It's the people, the relationships that are the treasures. 

I can't think of my most treasured relationships without putting God at the top of the list--this time of year and everyday. What about you? Do you believe in God? If so, do you serve Him? Shouldn't you have some kind of response to acknowledging an all-powerful God? When I wrestled with that thought (36 years ago!) I came to a decision that changed the course of my life.

That decision changed everything. I get a lump in my throat thinking about how blessed I've been for the choice I've made. My kids have grown, and had I not raised them to honor God, I would never have known the joy of having my children pray for me when I've gone through difficulties. I would never know the joy of hearing simple prayers come from the heart of my three-year-old granddaughter. That's blessing! 

A few weeks ago, a friend shared the quote, "It's a wonderful mystery how God lets you create your favorite people in the world." That thought stirred my heart, and I've taken it a step further. It's a wonderful mystery how God has allowed me to create this beautiful life--with joys, hardship, challenges, and through it all, an amazing sense of peace knowing that He's right there with me. 

My Christmas wish for you is that you treasure the right things. Relationships, and the most important relationship of all, one with Jesus who waits eagerly for you to invite Him to share your life -- and eternity. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

What Christmas should NOT be about

Friends, remember what the coming holiday season IS about: celebrating Christmas--the birth of our Savior.

Christmas is also a season to enjoy friends and family. The end of the year is a time to be introspective as 2014 draws to a close and a new year is upon us.

Please don't allow busyness, stress, or striving for perfection ruin a beautiful season.

Enjoy the beautiful light displays, and think about the Light of the World.

Step away from a gathering of friends and family and just listen to the voices and laughter of loved ones. That's a memory you can cherish all year round.

Give to a charity or a friend in need.

Be grateful for all the gifts you receive.

Be generous in your conversation to someone who needs encouragement.

Read scripture, and let the words nestle into your heart.

Get enough rest, nap if you must.

Give a smile to a stranger.

Remind yourself, I'm too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed.

Be blessed!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Publishing Industry News

Time to check out the December edition of Novel Rocket's industry news. Some interesting news, some fun tidbits. Find it here!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we pause at the beginning of the holiday season to give thanks, I hope your heart is full of goodness, joy, compassion, and generosity. I hope God blesses you with riches that can't be stored in a bank account and that your prayers will be answered in delightful ways!

If you're surrounded by loved ones today, bless you. If you're lonely and without those dear to you today, bless you! Know you're very important, and people who don't even know you are praying for you. I'm one of them.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Prayer, faith, and hope!

Yesterday I had the honor to sit with and pray for a dear woman who is facing surgery for cancer for the third time in four years. Tough stuff. Learn about it here in Michele's words. 
The quote, "Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading," perfectly sums up my friend. Michele Cushatt is a gracious, Godly woman full of faith. That was never more evident than yesterday when she talked about the overwhelming peace that is embracing and carrying her as she faces 10 hours of surgery and months of recovery.  

I was one of several woman who met to laugh and pray and love on Michele. Isn't it funny that when you extend yourself to minister to another person you're the one who is blessed? I was blessed tremendously to offer my friendship, prayers and support to Michele, and I was also blessed to be among such mighty women of God. Powerful, loving prayers were voiced yesterday.

Please, join the many others who are praying for for Michele and her family as they face this challenge. They're facing a long, hard road.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chase your dreams, and create the life you desire!

Do you have an unfulfilled dream? Go for it!

No one will drop your life's dream into your lap. You've got to work for it.

Since I was a little girl, I wanted be a published author.

I was too afraid to tell anyone my dream, so when the time came to go to college, I took the safe path and studied communications instead of creative writing.

It served me well, I worked in broadcasting, journalism, and marketing most of my adult life. If I hadn't made that decision, my life would not have taken me to where I met my honey, so I don't regret my choices. I'm blessed.

Yet, I still longed to see my name on the spine of a book. My dream would not fade. So one day about a decade ago I decided to take a run at my dream.

By then, I'd been writing a novel (or two!), but I never submitted it to a publisher. Actually, I didn't know how. So I joined a writers group. Then I went to a writers conference. Then I joined a critique group and began to enter contests. I continued to write, continued to learn, and started submitting my work.

One magical day I got that email dreams are made of--the one from an editor requesting to see my full manuscript. The rest is history. I had two books published. My dream was realized.

I've thought of how lucky I am, but honestly, much of it was disguised as hard work. I didn't sit around daydreaming. I did all I could to make my dream come true.

You shouldn't give up on your dreams either. Do you have a dream? Here are 12 steps to take to make your dreams come true:

  1. Set a goal. Really. Write it down, if you must. 
  2. Make a plan. What do you need to learn or what certification/degree do you need to acquire to meet your goal?
  3. Find others on the same path. The writing community helped me to stay in the game until my dream was realized. 
  4. Become persistent in striving for your goal. For me, I wrote 1,000 words a day. 
  5. Continue to learn. Go to school/seminars, read books that will help you learn. 
  6. Go out on a limb. I entered contests to see if I was progressing in my craft. 
  7. Tell others about your dream. Yeah, I know this one's hard. It was a long time before I didn't feel like a phony when I said, "I'm a writer."
  8. Accept that challenges are difficult. Don't beat yourself up when you don't "get it" right away. 
  9. Enjoy the process. One day you'll look back and be proud that you started, continued, and succeeded. 
  10. Be grateful for any assistance given to you. 
  11. Be generous in helping others along the way. 
  12. Be gracious when you reach your goal.

Most importantly, take that first step!