Notice the Beauty

Do you ever get caught up in telling a story, or conveying an idea, and the ideas are coming fast and furious, so you just get the essentials? For example, you went to an exciting ballgame and you recite the play-by-play but leave out the way the crowd cheered, how you jumped to your feet and pumped your fists, or the unmistakeable emotion in the announcer’s voice when the home team scored the winning points?

Maybe you also left out the smell in the gym, or the aroma of the coffee you cradled in your hands in a vain attempt to stay warm at the football stadium. Were there posters displayed? Lights flashing? Music from the bands?

We don’t always equate sensory details with beauty, such as at a ballgame, but I believe we should. What a gift it is to be able to experience the events of our lives in “living color”. Maybe it’s the artist in me, as I’ve been told, but we tend to take so much of our surroundings for granted. Of course, an amazing sunset or outstanding flower garden will capture our attention, but these are the exception. (Although, I must say here, that the sunsets we’ve seen in Kansas this entire winter have been breath-taking, becoming the rule rather than the exception.)

But you get my point. We just usually have so much on our “to do” lists, that we dash from one to the next without taking time to notice what we pass on the way. This is one reason I am a fan of outdoor exercise. I walk, and these forays help me slow down and notice my surroundings.

My husband and I visited New York City several years ago. It was my first trip there as an adult and what I wanted to share with my friends at home the most was the hardest. The smells of various ethnic foods cooking, the sound of the crosswalk sign ticking the seconds until Stop, the lighted signs of Time Square. You just had to be there.

Or did you? As you read my descriptions above, could you get a hint of what it might have been like to be there?

I want to challenge you to think about all five of your senses and notice something in each category right now, wherever you are as you read this. Then do it again next time you go outside. Think about them as you drive to your next appointment, or chauffeur your kids to theirs.

Taking time to notice the beauty around you, whatever form it might take is one essential for living a full, beautiful life.

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A baby will capture my attention anywhere!                                  Photo: Kathryn Graves

Be Intentional

A couple of friends of mine choose a “word of the year” every January. This word is a theme they follow throughout the year, illuminating truth, guiding decisions, and helping them stay focused. I thought that was nice. And that’s about all the thought I gave it. I didn’t think it would make that much difference in the daily grind.

One Word Wordle

Until this year. As early as last December, I could not shake the sense that I needed to choose a word for 2017. The vague sense became more like an urge in early January. Although the idea seemed to hang on, I didn’t “try on” different words, or even actively seek one out. It came from the inside, more like a knowing than an act of obedience. Even at this stage, however, I didn’t have the exact word. I only understood the concept of it.

Until I opened the mail one day. The mail carrier had placed the letters on top of a magazine and folded it around them. I pulled the bundle out of the mailbox and flipped through the bills and such while I walked up the driveway to the house. As I stepped up onto the porch, I stopped. Holding the letters in one hand, I now saw the cover of the magazine as I held it in the other.

One word stared up at me. That’s all. The magazine was the Ouachita Circle and goes to alumni of Ouachita Baptist University. For this issue, the editors chose to use just one word as the focus. I knew as soon as I saw it that this was the word for my year.

Intentional.

You see, I have been living in a fog for the last five years. After my cancer treatments ended, I anticipated life returning to normal. I thought I would be motivated by the same things, enjoy the same things, and do the same things as before my diagnosis. After all, I had been happy and doing things that mattered. But I discovered I could not. Nothing seemed to hold the same interest. I felt almost apathetic about many of the things with which I had previously filled my life.

New things grabbed my focus. One of my sons experienced a major life crisis. Just after we got through the worst of the emotional fall-out, my other son became engaged, the wedding plans unfolded, and he got married. A few months after the wedding, my mother entered the hospital for something that seemed minor. But at the age of 85, her body could not cope and she began a downward health spiral. As her power of attorney, I needed to move her from her home three hours away to a place near me. That  12-month span was swallowed up in caring for her until her death. And then we built a house–for a year. Acting as our own contractors and building in a location five hours away created time and logistics issues. Before I knew it, years of my life had passed during which I did not do anything I set out to do. Life just seemed to happen and I reacted.

As I pondered this revelation, and wondered what to do about it, I discovered that I was really only interested in a few things: relationships– with other people and with God, health, and creative pursuits.

The thing that has been the most difficult to do is engage in creative pursuits. I didn’t understand this until I realized it is the area in which God has a great purpose for the rest of my life. So of course, it is the area in which I encounter the most resistance in terms of interruptions and focus.

Then along came that magazine.

This is the right time for intentionality in my life. God has engineered my circumstances in such a way that I have some new opportunities to both write and speak.

Will you join me in being intentional about your writing, in your relationships, and about keeping your body healthy enough to do what God has called you to do?

Devotional Essentials, Part 1

Sharing this great info for devotionals writers with our StoryWritingStudio Studio readers. Thanks, Paul (Kent) Muckley and WordServeWater Cooler.

WordServe Water Cooler

devotionals

A well-written devotional can remind readers of key truths of the Christian faith, spur thinking that leads to a positive life change, actually draw people closer to God. A poorly-written devotional? Well, God can use anything for His purposes . . . but let’s consider some ways to “do devotionals right.”

Just think how popular devotionals are—they comprise some of the best-selling and longest-lasting books in the Christian realm (for example, Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling), and they represent entire ministries (like Our Daily Bread, The Upper Room, and Living Faith). It’s no exaggeration to say that new devotional material releases every single day, in books and magazines, on-line, and in outlets like church bulletins. How can we best meet the needs of this hungry readership?

I’d like to propose a TEST for you—that’s Topic, Example, S

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What is Beautiful?

I wanted to share this beautiful post with our friends in the StoryWriting Studio. I know you’ll enjoy “Chasing Beautiful” with Kathy Graves!

Kathryn Graves

Name Change. I changed the title of my blog to Chasing Beautiful because I want it to reflect what I think we’re about as human beings. Don’t we surround ourselves with things we think are beautiful? We decorate our homes with colors and furnishings that please our eyes. We plant flowers, trees and shrubs to enhance our yards and outdoors spaces. When we go on vacation we like to go places where the scenery is breathtaking. Our closets are filled with clothes that we bought because we thought they looked good. We fix our hair and put on make-up to make ourselves appear more attractive. Reaching for beauty infuses a huge part of our lives.

Why Now? Five years ago my life was fantastic. I had a loving family, nice house, we all enjoyed good health, and we were financially stable. As empty-nesters, my husband and I could – and…

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Pressing On in God’s Grace

Today, Nancy Kay Graceauthor and speaker, shares about her new devotional/Bible study book, The Grace Impactin the StoryWriting Studio. Nancy’s biblical teachings revolve around seeing God’s grace in everyday life.

BookCover/GraceImpactMy writing journey began in 2007, when my stories were published in a couple of devotionals and Chicken Soul for the Soul books. This encouraged me to forge ahead in the unfamiliar territory of writing.

GraceNotes. Wanting to share my publishing news with friends, I wrote a short devotional in an email, adding my good news at the end. This was the first issue of GraceNotes, my email devotional, which became the seed for a book. GraceNotes has been sent each month since then, even through some very difficult seasons of life. My collection of devotions increased, and I learned more about grace. Eventually, I hoped to have enough devotionals to compile them into a book.

The Grace Impact. In 2012, I started on a different book project, but it abruptly ended. I was depressed and discouraged with writing. Needing to hear from the Lord about my next step, I attended a Christian writer’s conference. I hadn’t planned on talking with any agents, but God had a different plan.

A small Christian publisher had an open appointment; I timidly showed up. I pitched the idea for this book to CrossRiver Media for a compilation of my devotions called GraceNotes: Thirty Days of Grace. The publisher was interested and asked for a proposal.

I left the conference with a new assignment from the Lord. Writing the proposal forced me to think through my project. The Lord brought to mind a theme scripture as the foundation of the book, helped me choose which devotions to include, and motivated me to complete it by the deadline six weeks later. The proposal and the manuscript were later accepted.

At the beginning the editing process, the publisher suggested I consider retitling my project, as several other books had similarities. I prayed and researched; The Grace Impact was chosen.

The book went from being a devotional about God’s grace to becoming a book teaching about God’s grace that happens to be a devotional. This change challenged me to do deeper in writing, researching, and showing God’s grace. The Grace Impact released in April 2015.

Any writing journey detours from what we as authors expect, as the Lord reveals His plan for each of us through the process. Wherever you are at in your writing journey, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Be faithful to your call to share God’s word of hope.
  2. When you get discouraged on the journey, pray. God is with you.
  3. Release any fears to the Lord before they grow larger,
  4. When delays occur, learn to trust the Lord in a deeper way. God’s timing is best.
  5. Take the next step. Persevere.

Remember the promise of Philippians 1:6: “ … being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

We are challenged to go forward on our writing journeys instead of becoming discouraged or yielding to fears. Press on in God’s grace.

Photo/NancyKayGraceNancy Kay Grace is speaker and author who is captivated by God’s grace and loves to share about embracing it in everyday life. She has contributed stories to several anthologies and published magazine articles. Nancy is married to her best friend, Rick, who is a senior pastor in northwest Arkansas. They have served the Lord for more that forty years, seeing His grace at work in many countries. Now they enjoy the stage of life with two married children and an increasing number of grandchildren. To learn more about her ministry, please visit www.nancykaygrace.com

Nancy’s devotional/ Bible study study book, The Grace Impact, is published through CrossRiver Media released April 17, 2015

In a few months, Nancy will be hosting an online Bible study using The Grace Impact. If you are interested in more information about this opportunity, please sign up for her GraceNotes newsletter at www.nancykaygrace.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nancykaygrace
Twitter: @nancykaygrace
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/nancykaygrace

The Writing Sisters: Going All Out For God

The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers tell us about their new book, The Shepherd’s Song in our guest post today. These award-winning authors and speakers believe in the power of story, “When we hear stories or tell our own story we connect, heal, and grow. Each of us is part of a bigger story – the story of God’s love and work in the world.”

BookCover/TheShepherdsSongIt was early one Thursday morning at the Perk Avenue coffee shop. We had been meeting weekly, writing together for a year, and were praying about what to write next. We had each prayed earlier that morning and had written down three ideas each that we would consider.

Five of the ideas were similar to what we had been writing. We had been writing children’s books for twenty years, we knew how to reach that audience. The five ideas made perfect sense. We have contacts in the world of children’s books. It’s what God had equipped us to do…at least it seemed so.

The sixth idea was different. The Shepherd’s Song, a book for adults showing the power of scripture to change lives.

Writing for adults had always seemed way too intimidating. But as we sat and looked at the small sheet of paper we felt drawn to the idea. Were “big people” so different after all. And a larger question surfaced, was the Holy Spirit calling us into a new work? Something different? We had always written from a Christian perspective, but what would it look like to surrender the work? To go all out for God.

As we joined in this work with God we learned along the way. Here are some of our lessons:

What God uses he reduces first. A true call to write for God comes with an honest look at our own impotent humanity. The first sign that this calling might be of God came as we sat at the coffee shop looking at the ideas written on the paper. Evidence was against us. We had never written anything for adults.  We did not know the market, the publishers how it worked. We doubted our knowledge of theology and the Bible. In hindsight we were perfect vehicles for God to use! We could not do it on our own.

God gives us a passion for the work. Not writing the book was impossible. From the moment we said yes, God created in us such a passion for the 23rd Psalm that we never stopped writing long enough to wonder if we should be writing the book. God gives us a “burning” within us to share like Jeremiah. We were living and breathing Psalm 23 from that first moment.

God burdens our heart for our readers. As we worked and prayed and reflected on Psalm 23 we became burdened for the people that might need this word from God. In the book the psalm travels around the world and we began to pray that the book would travel around the world taking the psalm with it.

The Holy Spirit provides just enough for today. We had to stay so close to God during the writing a publishing because we had no idea where we were going. The book came together in about six months, amazing for us. We never quite knew where it was going. Every time we made an outline or a spreadsheet we ended up throwing it out as God directed the book in surprising ways.

Where God is at work there is opposition. Difficult times in our personal lives threatened to distract us and pull us off course. Medical challenges with our families took our attention away but we kept coming back. Over the course of writing the book we prayed for each other daily and enlisted a prayer team to pray for us.

Where God is at work there is joy. With all the hard work, the frustration, the questioning there was fun. We loved our weekly meetings at the coffee shop. The work was punctuated with laughter and excitement. Even in the difficult times the work was a gift and a pleasure for us.

Where the Holy Spirit is at work there is fruit. Already we can see the fruit in our own lives. God has grown our faith as we trusted Him and obeyed this call. The Shepherd’s Song has been translated into German and Bulgarian and was acquired by a publisher UK who took the book to New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Letter and reviews have come to us from around the world as readers have been changed by the words of the Psalm.

When we work for Him, God controls the results. One more lesson that we are learning every day. We show up. We work hard. God controls the results. This requires patience and discernment as we go forward and continue to write for Him.

Duffey:Myers300The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers were born into a writing family, and began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner, Betsy Byars. They went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults, The Shepherd’s Song, is being released in paperback April 2015.

You can connect with Laurie and Betsy on their monthly newsletter where they send out updates and their popular free devotional books. Contact them at WritingSisters.com and find them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Grab your copy of The Shepherd’s Song here.

Follow the incredible journey of one piece of paper—a copy of Psalm 23—as it travels around the world, linking lives and hearts with its simple but beautiful message.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…”

Shortly before a tragic car accident, Kate McConnell wrote down the powerful words of Psalm 23 on a piece of paper for her wayward son. Just before she loses consciousness, Kate wonders if she’s done enough with her life and prays, “Please, let my life count.”

Unbeknownst to Kate, her handwritten copy of Psalm 23 soon begins a remarkable journey around the world. From a lonely dry cleaning employee to a soldier wounded in Iraq, to a young Kurdish girl fleeing her country, to a Kenyan runner in the Rome Invitational marathon, this humble message forever changes the lives of twelve very different people. Eventually, Kate’s paper makes it back to its starting place, and she discovers the unexpected ways that God changes lives, even through the smallest gestures.

With beautiful prose evocative of master storyteller Andy Andrews’s, The Butterfly Effect, this story will touch your heart and remind you of the ways God works through us to reach beyond what we can imagine.

4 Powerful Strategies for Claiming Your Promised Land

I hope my post from the WordServe Water Cooler encourages the readers of the StoryWriting Studio to step out and claim their own promised land. Blessings!

WordServe Water Cooler

” … Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving …” (Joshua 1:1)

Photo/AnitaBrooks Photo/AnitaBrooks

Standing on the banks of the Jordan, I look across to the other side, gazing at my “promised land.”

Perhaps you’ve been here, too. You’ve been given a vision. And you’re waiting to see your dream become a reality.

I remember the years that I spent wandering through the wilderness on the road to publication, wrestling with my doubt, fear, and unbelief. I recall the first time that I considered writing a book. It seemed impossible, doubting that I would ever see my dream fulfilled. Now, I find myself on the shore, looking across to my promised land.

But wait! How can I navigate the rough waters in front of me? The manuscript deadline? The marketing? The on-going platform challenges? What other obstacles will I face as I try to ford…

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