Posts Tagged ‘books’

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Dragon Lyric: Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek!

May 22, 2017

As some of you know, I’m preparing to release another short story, a high fantasy tale called Dragon Lyric. It was originally part of the larger collection of shorts I’m compiling, but it grew to have a presence of its own that demanded to be shared individually.

Dragon Lyric releases a month from now, June 22nd!

Today I’m officially introducing it to the world: not just sharing what it’s about and a sneak excerpt, but also its gorgeous face cover – done by talented artist Julia Busko. 😀

First thing’s first!

About the story…

Her husband is a dragon. And the dragon is hungry.

Drawn by his allure, Theryn left everything behind to live with Roth in his mountain cave. But then her fiery-eyed husband transformed into something else: a monster of scales, claws, and wings. The dragon has only one use for her—to bear his dragon egg, now forming in her womb. After the egg is laid, she will be nothing but fresh meat.

But Theryn refuses to suffer the same fate as Roth’s former brides. For her own sake, and for the baby dragonshifter she carries, she must find a way to escape the monster, and break the enchantment of the dragon lyric.

And now for the cover…

Okay…

at long last…

the moment we’ve been waiting for…

Here…

it…

is…!

*squeeee* Look at that snarky dragon face!!

Julia captured Roth and Theryn so perfectly! I love the emotion she infuses into her art, and I’m very thankful to have this cover done by her. 🙂

And I can’t wait to share this story with all of you. It’s a tale of defiance and maternal courage, laced with dragonish snark, ferocity, and fire.

Here’s a tiny taste of the story within…

AN EXCERPT FROM “DRAGON LYRIC: A SHORT STORY”

by Bethany A. Jennings

The dragon rested his upper half on the end of the bed, and the entire bedframe creaked as though it would snap. His golden eyes smiled hungrily at her. You will have plenty of time to accept your fate – three whole weeks until the egg will be ready to lay. Did you know that you had dragonshifter blood in you?

She sat upright and gave him a sharp look. “That can’t be true.”

But it is! I see it in your eyes. I have searched for many generations to find a woman who can carry my young. We are a rare breed, almost gone from this land. I cannot find a true mate…alas, you only carry enough dragonshifter blood to form an egg.

“And after I do that for you, you are going to eat me?” she cried. “I thought you loved me. You wooed me! You showed me all the affection any man would show a woman. I left my family to live with you in a cave!

Your emotions are like morsels…the more I taste, the greater variety of flavor. I have tasted your trust, your passion, your affection. Now I taste your woe, anger, and fear. All the work merely makes my conquest more delicious, and the deeper I know you, the more control I have over you with my magic. The lightning of his laugh cracked through the chamber again. They say food tastes better when it’s prepared with love…

Theryn grabbed an iron candlestick off the bedside table and hurled it into the beast’s face.

Roth flicked it away with a swish of his massive foreleg. Try what you might. I am invincible. Seven furious fathers and brothers of my wives have come to make their revenge, and all have been destroyed. No wife has escaped me yet, either. You are a helpless, feeble woman. There is nothing for you to do but accept your fate, my dear – precious carrier of my egg – my love – my lunch.

Theryn grabbed fistfuls of the slick pillow and screamed a curse into the silk.

Hush, now…you must relax. All this worrying will do my egg no good. Roth’s huge, scaled form curled around the bed, head near Theryn’s face on one side, and tail swishing on the other. You have heard of dragonshifter magic since your youth, I am sure. Now you will feel it. Pride thrummed in his voice. I will sing you to sleep while I sing growth to my young. Dragonshifters may need a mother, but only their father can sing them the lyric they need to grow…

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Dragon Lyric releases June 22, 2017. To be updated when it’s available, sign up for my brand new newsletter below!

The newsletter will contain updates on new releases, writing projects, and secret sneak peeks into upcoming #WIPjoy events and other exciting tidbits – it only goes out four times a year (and on rare special occasions) and I promise I will never spam you! 🙂

CLICK HERE to sign up for my quarterly newsletter!

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What do you think of Julia’s beautiful cover? The excerpt? Do you like stories about good dragons or evil dragons better? I’d love to hear what you think! 😀

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The Simmering Mind’s Awesomest (a.k.a. Very First) Giveaway Ever!!

September 28, 2015

YAY!!!  Here it is, my surprise!  I’m SO excited to finally bring this giveaway to you!

Awhile back my Facebook page reached 150 followers.  I’m continually amazed by the wonderful people who enjoy my posts (both here and on the page) and leave their comments in discussions, making this corner of the internet a fun and talkative place.  You guys are a blessing to me!!  So I wanted to do a giveaway to thank you all. 😀

But first, hugs all around!!

Okay!  Enough hugs now!  (*brushing off shirt and feeling kind of awkward because I’m not usually a huge hugger*)  😛  Let’s get down to business. And by business I mean FUN!

Giveaway Details:

There will be FIVE WINNERS!

And each winner will get to choose between SEVEN AWESOME PRIZES!

Many who follow my page are fellow writers, but not all are, so I tried to create a good balance of prizes that will appeal to writers and non-writers…a little something for everyone.  Winners may each pick ONE of the following gifts.

Without further ado, here are the prize options!

1. Watercolor bookmark

These bookmarks are designed and painted by me on heavy paper, and inscribed with one of the inspiring quotes about books that I’ve shared on my writer page in the past.  (I will create more as necessary! – with different quotes!)  If more than one option is available I’ll let you pick which bookmark you want. 🙂 This would be delivered by snail mail.

2. Sneak peek of one of my books

If you’re bursting with curiosity about my writing projects, choose this prize and I will email you a full chapter from either The Trusted: Book One of the Kraesinia Trilogy (my young adult portal sci-fi) or my secondary project, Absconders Series #1: Renegade (young adult dystopian sci-fi).  Blurbs for both projects can be found on my books page.  If you choose this prize, all I ask is that you don’t share the chapter publicly online. 😉

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3. A beautiful little notebook

Unlike the other prizes, which can be duplicated if several winners choose them, I have only one of these gorgeous notebooks with a clasp to give away, so this prize is on a “first come, first served” basis!  It will be mailed by snail mail.

4. An original piece of flash fiction

I’ll write it just for you!  You can choose to have me share it on my blog for everyone (with or without a dedication to you, the winner), or I can email it to you privately.  I’ll even take requests for topics, characters, or premises!…although I can’t guarantee what the muse will come up with in the end. 😉

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5. A blurb clinic

As many of my writer friends know, I LOVE to write blurbs (or “back cover descriptions”).  I love helping people make their own blurbs better, too!  For this prize, I will take any blurb you’re struggling to write and help you revise and polish it so you can put your best foot forward when you go on submission or self-publish.  My forte is speculative fiction, but I’m happy to help with other genres too!

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6. A thorough edit and critique of the first three pages of your work-in-progress

I’m a meticulous editor, both when it comes to my own books and the books of friends who ask for my edits.  The first pages of your book are the best opportunity you have to hook your readers!  If you choose this prize I will go over your first three pages with a fine-tooth comb and point out any problems they might have, as well as highlighting their strengths and making encouraging suggestions.

My green edits on a friend's manuscript - page blurred to protect the innocent. :P

My green edits on a friend’s manuscript – page blurred to protect the innocent. 😛

7. Your choice of one of these e-books from fellow Christian authors

I will e-gift this to you from Amazon – any one of the books from the list below.  I can provide you additional information about any of the books, if you need help choosing!

Time for Fun!

Now, I don’t like it when giveaways are clearly designed just to gather more followers.  So even though new followers are awesome (please, come one, come all – the giveaway’s open to everyone!) this giveaway is dedicated to my faithful readers and page followers, because I like you guys lots. 😀  You can complete any or all of the “tasks” below to enter – things most of you have already done.  Sharing is awesome, but totally optional!

This giveaway will run from the 1st to the 5th of October, and then I will announce the winners here on the blog and contact them by email!! *happy dance*

May the odds be ever in your favor! 😀

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Writer Wars: The Prolific and the Percolators

September 16, 2015

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Yesterday I read an article I enjoyed.  To me, the lesson was: take your time writing books, pay attention to quality, and don’t feel pressured to pump out multiple novels a year, but rather do what you know is right for your stories.  Since I don’t have much time to write, and I am committed to seeing books through even if it takes years to hit gold in revisions, I appreciated the message.

But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea — whether fantasy, love story, science fiction, human interaction, tragedy, thriller, family saga, memoir, non-fiction — in a way that raises hairs or gets someone shouting “YES!”; if you’re compelled to tell that story so beautifully, so irreverently, with such power and prose as to make a reader stop to read a line over just to have the opportunity to roll those words around one more time, then don’t listen to that advice [to write 4 books a year]. – Lorraine Devon Wilke (emphasis hers)

I posted the article in my writer’s group, not noticing that the article was somewhat condescending in tone toward those who do put out many books a year.  She implied (perhaps unintentionally) that writing many books a year means your books will be sub-par.  I heartily disagree!  Some of my favorite authors are extremely prolific.  But I failed to notice that overtone while I was appreciating the other aspects of the article that reinforced how I tend to do things.

Others drew my attention to a response article (be aware if you look it up – there is coarse language), in which Larry Correia tore the original one apart sentence-by-sentence, taking the opposite tack…that writers who take their time are the real hacks, not the other way around:

For most authors our first book is crap that probably doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. I’ve seen them referred to as books with training wheels. Pragmatic professional types stick that piece of crap in a drawer, move on with life, and write more books. Maybe they’ll come back to it and pick out all the good bits to use in other projects later, or they’ll try to edit it again once they have more experience (or your heirs will wait until you are dead and then publish it to cash in on your name), but the important thing is they move on.

Idealistic, literati artistic types will waste six years polishing that turd. At the end of it, the turd might even be so shiny it no longer looks like a turd, and they’ll publish it to rave critical reviews, and rejoice in their whopping $1.75 an hour they made from writing before going to work their shift at Starbucks. Meanwhile, the “hack” will chuckle, cash their royalty check that pays all their bills, and get back to work on book #15. – Larry Correia

Reading the second article was difficult for me, partly because I’m no fan of mocking sarcasm and rude language, but mostly because it was an extreme example of the mindset that made me appreciate the original one! 😉

At the same time, it also had good points.  Going slow doesn’t guarantee quality either.  It’s important to actually write and not just think about writing.  Etc.

At the end of the day, I was disappointed at the writer world.

Clearly there aren’t just “Mommy Wars” – there are “Writer Wars” too.  We can’t just disagree with each other.  We have to call each other “hacks.”  We have to call each other’s books “turds.”  We have to make fun of people who put out fewer books than we do and accuse them of being unprofessional.  We have to tear down the people who put out more books than we do because clearly they aren’t doing it “right.”

At the end of the day, we’re all doing the same work.  We do it at different paces, for different reasons, by different methods, and with different results.  Of course we do, because we are individuals!

But we all care about our stories, right?  We care about our characters, our worlds, and our readers.  We want our books to be the best they can be, and we search for ways to accomplish that.  We’ve all felt the sting of rejection, and celebrated the joy of a beautiful review or positive feedback.  We know what it is to get lost in a fictional universe, and try to balance that work/fun with “real life.”  We’re all human beings with feelings, and life is hard for all of us.

We have much in common.  And the important thing is to give the world good stories.

Doesn’t the world have room for both kinds of writers, the practical prolific ones and the dreamy dilly-dalliers (and all the ones in between)?  The world needs all kinds of stories, from all different personality types and backgrounds.  We need plotters and pantsers, literary and genre writers, indies and traditionally published, and yes, the prolific and the percolators.

Can’t we appreciate each other’s strengths and learn from one another without sniping at each other’s perceived disadvantages?

I don’t get it.  I truly don’t.

All I know is that the world of Christian writers and publishing should be different.  (And all praise to God, we usually are!  The thread in my group of believers was gracious and polite, even though several didn’t appreciate the article I shared.)

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits,impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:13:-17

If you like to write fast and hard and earning lots of money is your goal, go for it!

If you like to write slow and gently, and prefer to prioritize ideals, that’s cool too.

Basically, “You do you,” as Chuck Wendig wrote in a third article I just saw this morning.  Do what you feel called to do.

Reading Jeff Gerke’s The Irresistible Novel (click that link for my review) primed me to take the writing advice I like and leave the stuff I don’t.  This controversy reminds me that the same goes for publishing advice too.  We should all be teachable, and yet remember that God didn’t make us to walk the same paths.  We are all members of one Body, and we fill different purposes in His world.  We all have different processes, and that’s not only okay, it’s GREAT!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a battle scene to write.

Slowly.

As inspiration comes to me.  😉

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

What’s your style?  What are some of the best things you’ve learned that help you write better in your own style?

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5 Best TV Shows on Netflix for Toddlers and Preschoolers

August 28, 2015

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My two oldest children are 4 and 3, and have sampled many of the children’s TV shows on Netflix.  Here are my five favorites of the shows currently available (as of August 2015).

1. Octonauts

This is hands-down my favorite kids show on Netflix right now.  It reminds me of an undersea children’s Star Trek – a team of cute animated animals live together in an underwater station/submarine, and travel around helping marine creatures.  There are two stories in each half-hour episode, and each story features a new sea creature or fish.

I love that the show is NOT centered around interpersonal conflict.  The characters care about each other, help each other, and rescue each other.  Each has a distinct role and personality, too, such as Peso – a Mexican penguin medic who is fearful of everything, but always summons up his courage once he realizes that someone needs help.  There are some moments of (very tame) peril, but even scary sea creatures like sharks are animated in a cute, harmless way and their voracious hunger is played for humor rather than fright.

And at the end of every episode is an adorable, fun theme song called the “Creature Report” which recaps everything they learned about the featured sea creature (along with a photo or video clip of the real-life animal).  My son, especially, has retained a lot of what he’s learned from this show.

Potential cons for some parents may be: occasional use of burps for humor’s sake, and some talk of “ghosts” and “monsters” (which of course always turn out to be perfectly normal sea creatures).

2. The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That

This is essentially The Magic School Bus for the toddler set!  In each story, two neighbor kids named Sally and Mick find a new conundrum to solve, and the Cat in the Hat shows up to whisk them away in his “Thing-A-Ma-Wigger,” a contraption that – like the Magic School Bus – can transform itself in all kinds of ways.  (They always get their mothers’ permission before leaving, too, which is a nice change from the Dr. Seuss books where things are done behind the mom’s back.)  They learn about animals, habitats, insects, and sometimes processes like how chocolate is made.  At the end of each episode is a random collection of animal facts and songs.

Potential cons: I can’t even think of any, except for the extreme catchiness of the theme song, which can be a bit annoying at times! 😛

3. Curious George

The Curious George show is very different from the books.  I have a major beef with the books – he always disobeys and makes all kinds of trouble, but never gets any consequences and is portrayed as a hero by the end!  But the TV show is NOT like this.  George still gets into mischief, but we see him try to right his mistakes and get reprimanded for them, and he always realizes that what he did comes with consequences to the other people around him.  By the end of each story things are made right again, and rather than learning he can get away scot-free, George has actually learned the importance of listening and staying out of trouble.  The result is that the show is a just a sweet, cute romp through an adventuresome monkey’s life as he learns new facts about the world around him.  It’s all about learning and exploration.

Potential cons: sometimes George imagines people crying in response to whatever trouble he made.  These “thought bubble” scenes (and other scenes where George or side characters are afraid) are disturbing to my son, who is rather sensitive to characters’ emotions.  I doubt most children would have a problem with it, but it’s a con for me.

4. Stella and Sam

This show wins the prize for “sweetest!”  It’s about a big sister who leads her brother in fun imaginary adventures, using ordinary, everyday things like leaf piles, sweaters, chairs, and rainbows.  It’s a very gentle, happy show that portrays and models kindness and affection toward your siblings, which I greatly appreciate.

Potential cons: unless you are opposed to discussion of imagination and pretend “magic,” I really can’t think of any!

5. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

There is a lot to like in this show.  It’s modeled after Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, except it’s about an animated tiger and his family and friends.  It’s like Mr. Rogers meets Blue’s Clues (which is not on Netflix – but it is free for streaming on Amazon Prime, if you’re looking for another great kids’ show and you are a Prime member!).

Every episode follows Daniel through a new experience, situation, or adventure…picking strawberries, going to the doctor, first day of school, trying new foods, first sleepover, etc.  One of my favorite things is that each episode teaches a short, simple song to help kids remember things like saying please, keeping your temper, or what to do when you’re afraid.  These are simple, helpful ditties that might actually help kids cope with new situations or unpleasant emotions.  There are also frequent interludes about using your imagination, in which Daniel imagines inanimate objects coming alive to sing with him.  At the end of every segment is a live-action portion with a child experiencing whatever Daniel did during the story.

Potential cons: again, unless you are opposed to the hefty use of imagination, there’s not much to critique here.  There are some episodes about fear, which might be something to consider if you have a sensitive child like my son.

A few short reviews of other shows you might check out:

Chuggington – This show follows a team of anthropomorphic trains who are “trainees” (get it?) learning to do their jobs.  There are lots of episode themes like responsibility, following directions, including others, and so forth.  Recommended!

 

Magic School Bus – This show is great, but it’s better for the older set, who will get more out of it.  There are also a few episodes I prefer to skip at this point because they focus on haunted houses or I’m concerned about other aspects of the content.  When my kids are a little older I’ll love it for them!  If you have a more advanced or older preschooler, this is still a great show to check out for them.

Mighty Machines – This is a cool show that just uses live footage of construction vehicles and adds voice-over vocals to make them talk about what they do.  A new type of machine is featured in each episode.  I’ve found my son adores this show but my daughters are disinterested.

Thomas the Tank Engine – I suppose most of us are familiar with Thomas.  It’s not a bad show!  Aside from some grumpy or ill-tempered characters, and the occasional supposed “ghost” (which isn’t real) I don’t know of many cons for it, but my kids don’t find it incredibly engaging.  They rarely ask for it.  Worth checking out especially for a younger toddler boy who loves trains.

Kipper – This animated show about a dog and his friends is very, very tame and quiet.  It’s visually minimalist, with quiet British voices.  I would like it more if it were not for the strange obsession with aliens…  For some reason every other episode is about Kipper encountering something that came from space, with spooky music.  Also, I’m pretty sure there are some episodes with a ghost.  I’m not a huge fan.  (Also, Netflix lumps the episodes into hour-long collections, rather than bite-size episodes by themselves.)

Clifford – My daughter asks to watch this occasionally. The characters can be so catty, and all the lessons it teaches are about doing the right thing – which, of course, means that they show the characters doing the wrong thing first, a concept that can be great for older viewers but for toddlers just seems like a great way to teach them bad behavior.  It’s not my favorite show.

Sofia the First – I saw a few episodes of this at a car dealership once.  They’re cute stories, but like Clifford, characters can be very catty and mean to each other (no need for my kids to learn that sort of behavior), and there was also an evil magician who was portrayed in a way I wasn’t comfortable with.

Trotro – The first time I saw an episode of this, the donkey was hiding his food under his napkin so he could go outside to play faster. Thanks for teaching my kids that cool new trick, Trotro!  Bye forever. *clicks back to main menu* 😛 There are so many cute shows for kids – I don’t want to spend time on TV that teaches my children new ways to misbehave.

Bob the Builder – Cute animated show about an architect/builder and his team of anthropomorphic construction vehicles.  Some shows have live-action segments with real builders, explaining how they construct homes, train tracks, or other structures.  Most of these on Netflix are “collections” of episodes, so they are over an hour long each, but definitely worth checking out, especially if your child is into construction vehicles.

LeapFrog educational videos – There are several of these short movies on Netflix, so it’s kind of like a short TV show season and worth including here.  They teach skills like counting, math, letters, and phonics.  The older ones are a bit annoying (terribly corny dialogue and music), but the newer ones with the digital animation style are much better.

Do you know of any other good shows for toddlers and preschoolers that can be streamed online?  Let us know in the comments!

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Of Books and Babies

August 4, 2015

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As a writer, I know the importance of beginnings.

Everything hangs on the first few pages of your novel.  If readers don’t enjoy those, they probably won’t move on.  There are lots of books in the world, so unless someone else told them it was a good story, why should they spend time on a book that confused them, bored them, or offended them right off the bat?

You have to foreshadow everything right.  You have to lay the foundation for the story and its themes, introduce your main characters and setting (in an interesting way!), and put your plot in motion.

Beginnings are HARD!  I can get so fixated on how my book starts that I don’t move forward, perpetually rewriting and revising my opening scene.

I tend to carry this attitude over to my mothering.

These little years are all-important.  I’m forming human beings!  It’s my job (I think to myself) to make sure they don’t grow up malformed, like a tree that was bent into an awkward shape while it was a sapling, and keeps growing crookedly.  It’s my responsibility (so I fear) to dot every “i,” and cross every “t,” so they have the best possible, perfect, ideal foundation for life.  Sometimes I feel like someone is standing over me, putting negative tally marks for every time I do something that is less than ideal for my children’s foundational years.

Oop, too much TV today. Bad mom.  She lost her temper again.  Bad mom.  What, no veggie with dinner today?  Bad mom.

Some people brush off worries about the little years with thoughts like, “Eh, they’re little.  They won’t remember this stuff anyway.”

But! But! I splutter inside.  They might not remember, but they’ll be irrevocably shaped!

They are shaped by my words, attitudes, and fears.  They are shaped when they see me crying over a poop mess, and when I yell about spilled milk on the carpet.

It can’t be done again.  I can’t rewind time, erase my progress, and start over with a stronger opening – my kids’ life, 2.0.  Their childhood thus far is set in stone.  And that’s a scary thought.

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In the world of fiction, there is a writing rule called “Chekov’s gun.”  It states that if there’s a rifle hanging over the fireplace in the first scene, it needs to go off by the end of the novel.  There should be no loose ends, no details that are not relevant, because all details tie into the plot.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of guns I’m hanging here, over my children’s heads.

(Is that…is that a nuclear missile???)

What part do I play in this opening scene of their lives?  Am I a loving mom?  A sweet mom?  A mom who languishes on a sickbed and weakly entreats her child to “have courage and be kind?”

A lot of the time I worry that I’m more like the wicked stepmother.

You had a potty accident on the couch AGAIN??

But I tell myself these things:

God is the ultimate Author of their stories, not me, and God’s stories always have perfect endings, no matter how messy their beginnings.

However I shape my children, His hands are around them (and me), far more powerful and purposeful than my clumsy little fists.

God’s stories are simultaneously first drafts and finished products, full of crazy, unexpected twists and concluded with every plot thread in place.  All His guns go off, and they all go off at the right moment – even if the characters were only fooling around and fired them by accident and hit somebody in the eye.

And my children are shaped by far more than my flaws!

They are shaped by our Bible lessons, even when I think they’re not listening because they’re busy giggling and smearing cinnamon toast on their faces.

They are shaped when my hubby kisses me in front of the kitchen sink.

They are shaped when I play Christian music on Pandora.

They are shaped by my hugs and kisses, that cup of water I bring them at 2 A.M., those many hours reading Beatrix Potter.

It just isn’t as simple as, “You’re either doing everything perfectly or YOU ARE FAILING AT LIFE.”

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We are all a crashing, colliding, crazy, messy crowd, mixing our good acts with bad attitudes and our worst mistakes with our best intentions.  We are saved in Christ, yet struggling sinners.  We aren’t perfect, but we rest in Perfection.  We are flawed and fallen, and yet He does His good works through us, and appoints us as His representatives in the world and His members in the church.

He didn’t just put me on the earth to make my children grow up well.  He also put them here to make ME grow up well.

So I can’t be paralyzed by these first pages.  I have to keep moving forward, working out my part in my own story and in theirs.  For praise be to God! – I pen imperfect novels, though I may write the beginnings a million times, but He never needs revisions, and He is creating a masterpiece.