Hello, lovely blog subscribers. Some of you have been with me for over ten years now, long before I received my first book contract. Some of you (SandyT, waving!) have prayed with and for me as I’ve sought to follow God’s lead on this crazy, fun, hard, and sometimes confusing journey. So, it only seemed right that y’all got to see the cover for my September release first!


If I add enough enters here, will that create a “delay” affect? No? Okay, here it is. 🙂 What do you think?

Want to read the back cover copy?

She’s home again, but not for long…
Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

You can preorder a discounted copy HERE.

Have you ever wondered who decides what images to use on a book cover? How the publishers make this selection? Have you ever thought, “If I had a say, I’d choose/wouldn’t choose …”

Now’s your chance to be part of what happens behind the scenes when a book’s developed.

My publisher wants to hear from you, my readers. They created a survey with a few cover design options, and we’re inviting you to vote on your favorite. You can do that HERE!

ID-100264082They say, actually, I’ve said, blog titles matter. A lot. Most of you–like 89.7% of you, decided whether or not to read this post by my title alone.  I have a feeling this is doubly true for my subscribers. Fail. (Actually, I’m wondering if any of y’all are receiving my posts in your inbox because my hubby’s signed up but hasn’t.) Another 5% of you, well, of them because clearly if you’re still reading, you’re in the top 5.3%. … Or is that the bottom? Regardless, unlike that other 5%, you have not checked out after this long and rambling paragraph. And for that I applaud you. (Or pity you.)

But it’s the holidays, and my brain is saturated by a bit too much junk and random storylines (only one of them being my own.) Plus, I just learned from two sweet blogging friends, Renee Blare and Eileen Rife, that I’ve been nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers award.

How fun is that? I’m normally pretty bad about those types of things because well… I can be technologically lazy. But this one intrigued me, and like I said, I’m in a jing-jingaly (AKA goofy, adventurous mood), and I thought some of you might be interested in a pre-2015 update. (Is that a thing?)

Oh, but first, fun news! Book reviewer Julie Arduini chose my debut, Beyond I Do as her favorite fiction read for 2014. 🙂 You can read her review here. Here’s hoping she WhenDawnBreakspreliminary(and all of you) likes When Dawn Breaks even more! And if you’re up and looking for an encouraging message to motivate you toward spiritual greatness this New Year’s, visit Cynthia Simmons Heart of the Matter online show to listen to our discussion of surrendering our giftedness into God’s hands, enduring the often painful growth process, and allowing Him to use you and your uniqueness to minister to others and build His kingdom. You can listen live at 9:30 EST here, and I should have a link to the archive soon.

Now for the blog award. Having accepted, here are the rules I now must follow:

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the 10 questions they’ve sent you.
4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

So, here’s the questions Renee posed. I’ll post and answer Eileen’s after. (For those of you really up for massive amounts of Jennifer-randomness. ha!) Come back Saturday or Monday (I’m not sure when I’ll post yet) for a regularly scheduled yet rescheduled blog post. 🙂

1. How is your blog different today versus the day it began?

You know, I think it’s pretty much the same–Christian living based, mainly testimonial in style. I do have a lot more guests now than I did initially, and I love that. I feel that makes it more well-rounded. After all, we need each other. We all have unique insights into spiritual matters, unique experiences and unique yet universal challenges. 🙂 (Come back… uh… next time (maybe Saturday?) to read a great post from Stephanie Prichard on forgiveness. (Perfect timing post the holidays, maybe?)

2. If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?

Easy! Spur every Christian to live out what they believe. Can you imagine what our world would be like–how many hungry would be filled and hurting would be healed if we all got off the church pew and started BigLivetangibly showing the love of Christ? I’m seeing this happen more and more at my church, and it’s awesome. Truly beautiful. Life changing, like truly. We see life change every day.

3. Who or what would be your ultimate post?

Oh, this is hard, but if I could somehow write one succinct, clear, and powerful post on surrender that stuck with my readers, truly stuck with them, I think my answer to question 2 would happen naturally. Now, if I could find and maintain a position of surrender myself…

4. In 2015, what are your plans?

Oh, my, I have a lot! Were you wanting a novel answer, Renee? 😉 First, I’m working on an exciting fundraising project for Takin it to the Streets, an Omaha Metro ministry I serve with. I also have two books releasing this year (one that has already released, When Dawn Breaks, and the other that is scheduled to release in October). So, I’ll have edits and such to complete. I’m also working on a new story, one I recently realized I need to majorly gut and start over on, but that’s a good thing. A great thing, because I know the changes will be awesome. Necessary. I’m going to the Mt. Hermon conference in Northern California this year and hope to meet my editor in person. Yay! Then my loves will meet me in San Jose and we’ll head south to San Diego. Then in September my hubby and I will celebrate our 20th in Seattle, where my 4th novel (scheduled to release in winter of 2016) is set. Busy but exciting year. 🙂

5. Do you have a favorite day of the year?

ID-100298323The one I’m in? haha. You know, when we first moved to the midwest, I hated winter. But a few years in, I’ve found I love every season. Though I probably love fall most. The colors, scents, flavors, activities. Valas Pumpkin Patch, Nebraska City with its beautiful, vibrant foliage.

Oh! Do you mean day-day? That’s Easter, hands down. My life would be devastatingly different if not for Christ’s death and resurrection.

6. Why and how did you start blogging?

I’m not entirely sure. I’ve often wondered if it’s just part of the writer’s brain, as if we need to someone include the ENTIRE WORLD in everything we think and do. It’s like I’ll be reading a Bible passage and God will speak to me through it, and I’ll think, “Oh! I need to write about this!” Or I’ll be having a fun day with friends and will absolutely have to chase down a random stranger to cajole into taking our picture so I can post it here. Or on Facebook. Most likely both. As to how, I just started. This blog is hosted by WordPress, and they make it pretty easy.

7. What do you like about blogging?

It gives me an outlet to share the 5,000 conversations zipping through my brain every day. 🙂 It also makes me feel more connected to my readers, well, when they converse back. 🙂

8. What have you discovered through blogging?

That God is amazing. Faithful. Loving. Gentle. Attentive.

9. Who or what is the one thing that means the most to you?

One thing? I’d have to say Christ, but can I add two more? My hubby and princess. Love them both to pieces. 2012-06-23 22.29.50

10. What do you want the readers of your blog to know about you?

That I have been dramatically changed by grace, and that that same grace is available to them. 🙂 Really, I hope they know less about me and more about Christ in me. Because truly, I’m a let down. But knowing Christ on an intimate level? Now that’s life abundant!

Now, for the 1.5% of you who have made it this far, you really deserve a cookie or something. Well, now, isn’t that a great idea! If you’ve made it this far, let me know in the comments what one thing you’d like me or perhaps others to know about you, and you’ll get entered to win a copy of my latest release, When Dawn Breaks. 🙂 Considering everyone else has long since closed out this window, you stand a great chance of winning. 🙂

Now for Eileen’s questions. 

1. What is your foremost prayer in this new year?
I’m not sure if it will remain my top prayer, but this morning I wrote down Psalm 105:1-4 as my first memory passage and have determined to make it a prayer. (I love personalizing and praying Scripture!) The verse is: Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
ID-10075996Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
I could expand on and camp out on each line indefinitely, but I really love verse four–search for the Lord and for His strength; continually seek Him. Each day, I long to do just that, asking the Holy Spirit to help me.
2. Name three goals that you’d like to shoot for.
To consistently memorize Scripture, to draw near to God at regular intervals throughout the day, and to follow a prayerfully planned schedule each day.
3. What is your current writing project?
I’m working on a sequel to Beyond I Do. Here’s the blurb:Sixty-one year old Angela Meadows is ready for a clean slate, to launch a career, and to embrace her new life in Christ. But self-loathing and remorse for a life forever lost hold her back. When she encounters a single mom married to an incarcerated felon and her children, Angela’s shame becomes swallowed by something greater—compassion. Her past draws her to them, but will it drive away the only man she’s truly loved?

4. What do you enjoy doing for fun?
Spending time with my hubby, daughter, or amazing friends. And if I can get them all in the same room, it’s even better!
5. Other than the Bible, name the book that’s had the most impact on your life and why.
thProbably Living Proof: Sharing the Gospel Naturally. It’s really helped me understand nonbelievers more, has greatly shaped my evangelism efforts, and has had a tremendous impact on how I do ministry. It’s a phenomenal book!
6. What will you do in this new year to reach out to someone else other than your family?
Oh, my, this could be a long list. 🙂 I serve in numerous ministries, so I have plenty of opportunities to share the love of Christ. Our church does a great job of facilitating events designed to get our church family off their pews and out into the community. Our next one will be an epic Easter celebration. 🙂 In addition, I’m part of a women’s connection leadership team that plans monthly events designed to facilitate closer friendships, spiritual growth, and to help each of us reach out to nonattenders. (You can read more about some of our events here.)
7. Explain why you like to write.
Writing is and has always been how I process my thoughts and feelings and dig deeper into learned truths. That God could use something He’s used to grow me for years to grow others is simply amazing.
8. What legacy do you hope to leave behind when you die?
The hope of Christ.
9. Do you consider the local church important? Why or why not?
Oh, my, yes! God has placed us in a local body for a reason, and that is to be interdependent. Our gifts can build others up, and theirs can do the same for us. The local church is also God’s action plan for bringing the world to Christ. So yeah, the local body is a big deal.
10. How can women who feel alone overcome isolation?
Hm… I know the pat answer–draw near to Christ, but even so, we all need human connection. It’s how we were created. Sometimes God places us in a period of isolation for our growth, but most times, I believe He longs to see us in deep and authentic community. I think getting connected with a local body, focusing on the needs of others, and finding ways to get plugged in (most often through serving) are great ways to form authentic, healthy connections.
So now for my questions…
1. What is the best thing that happened to you in 2014?
2. What is one thing you’d like to do differently in 2015?
3. What is one thing you learned in 2014?
4. In what ways do you grow your most important relationships?
5. What one verse has stood out to you most in the past year?
6. In what ways did you see Christ this past year?
7. In what ways did you try to reveal Christ this past year?
8. Has God given you a word to focus on for 2015?
9. How has your view of grace changed this past year and why?
10. If you could be known for one thing, what would that be?
I nominate my Writing Buddies: Carole Towriss, Marji Lane Clubine, Joanne Sher, Mary Watson Hamilton, Ginger Murphey Solomon, and Lillian Kohler.

Last night I helped out at an area youth rally ran by the Fellowship Christian Athletes. Sweaty, giggling, bouncing teens swarmed the halls, filled the auditorium, and clamored around the concession stand, while others, faces hard with scowls, lingered on the outskirts. As I passed one couple in particular—a tall guy in high tops and a red jersey followed by a blonde at least two feet shorter, face caked in make-up—my heart rejoiced to see God’s grace trickle over these broken teens. Which is what they are. Sure, they look angry. They act angry, and their mouth may spew a thousand ear-blistering, hateful words, but that’s all a mask.

As adults, its easy to watch them from afar, lumping them all into one “rebellious heap”, but those who take the time to dig a bit deeper catch a different picture. A picture of isolation, of trying to fit in, of hearts broken from rejection or abandonment, of hearts crying out for a Savior.

Praise God that He sees past the exterior to broken heart hidden beneath. Praise God for His patience, as He woos these precious children to Himself, breaking through their defenses and winning their trust with His faithful love. Praise God that He not only sees the pain, but provides the soothing balm able to set them free.

I’ve heard one of the greatest barriers to accepting Christ is the feeling of being unforgivable. One of my favorite songs is, “Love Me” by J. J. Heller, and although all the words are beautiful and reveal God’s amazing, initiating, redeeming love, it is the final verse that threatens tears every time.

It says, “I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied. I’ve watched you suffer all of your life. And now that you’ll listen, I’ll tell you I will love you for you. Not for you have done or what you will become. I will love you for you. I will show you what love, what love really means.”

That verse reveals God’s heart. Grace doesn’t say get your act together, then I’ll love. It says come as you are, I’ve always loved you. Grace says there is nothing you could ever do to make God love you more and no matter what you do, God will never love you less. But my favorite part of grace is the promise that when I turn to God for forgiveness, He washes me clean and makes me knew. Every sinful stain, eradicated by the blood He shed for me, leaving me clothed in radiant white.

As you read Paula Petty’s story below, let the grace of God wash over you and hold tight to what you know is true–what He says is true. If any man is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come.

Forgiving Yourself by Paula Petty

I stepped out of the car and into a wad of gum. I went to the edge of the concrete and stroked my foot back and forth in an attempt to scrape the sticky residue from my shoe.  That didn’t work.  The gum stuck to the asphalt with each step and made a snapping sound that aggravated me.  I spent the rest of the afternoon walking on my heel.

My life was much like the gum on the shoe. I didn’t feel forgiven. With each step I took, I felt the weight of the sin sticking to me like the gum on the shoe. Confusion and doubt settled in my mind causing me to lose focus. Each mess in my life brought me before the Lord in repentance, and the weight of my sin brought me further down until my life spiraled out of control and sent me into depression. I wanted to feel forgiven.

As I moped around the house one day, a song popped into my mind about being redeemed. I started singing with barely a mumble. Then I suddenly realized that my Father had forgiven me. It was time that I forgave myself and let it go so that I could move on. I uttered another prayer to the Lord then forgave myself. Immediately, I felt a peace like nothing I had felt before.

Forgiveness is being set free from sin. Jesus sets us free from them. It does me no good to ask for forgiveness if I don’t forgive myself. When I ask for forgiveness, I am laying my burden down—all of it—at the feet of Jesus. I leave it with Him. He frees me from the guilt so that I can focus on a life filled with His love.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for whatever I have done that has not brought glory to you. Empty my heart of the bondage of sin and free me. Fill it with the peace that comes from being free. Guide me so that I can focus on a life dedicated to you. Amen

*     *     *

I’d like to close out Paula’s story with a promise God made to each of us: 1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness.” (NLT)

Paula Petty has had articles and poetry published in several magazines such as Christian Woman. A former vacation Bible school director for ten years, she coordinates the ladies’ ministry at her church and speaks at ladies’ conferences in this country and Cuba, Jamaica and Honduras and is currently working on her Christian living book In Need of a Compass. Paula can be reached on her blog http://www.paulaspocket.blogspot.com or on her website www.paulapetty.com.

As an FYI, we’re getting some work done on our house starting today, which will interfere with our internet connection. Therefore, I may not post anything for a while. Have a great week!

Normally, I stick with devos and other life applications, but this has been quite the topic swimming around the ACFW loop lately. I’ve also noticed this topic appear on numerous blogs within the past week, so…yep…I’m jumping on the bandwagon. And since about 70 percent of my subscribers are writers (intimidating, yes), I thought this might be a topic of interest to you.

This morning as I was critiquing a manuscript sent over the scribes loop, I realized about half of the first page could be cut. It was all telling–recapping. So how do you explain the difference between showing versus telling? I love the illustration one author provided. She encouraged us to think about a theater production. In drama, you don’t have the luxury of explaining how the character feels and there’s no way to provide background information except through action (via flashbacks) and dialogue. So, when we write, it helps to envision our characters as actors on a stage. If you were directing them, what would you tell them to do? How would you encourage them to reveal the desired emotions?

When you write, you want your reader so involved in your characters they feel exactly what your characters are feeling. They see as if through the eyes of the character and draw conclusions as they would if they were watching the story unfold on the screen. (Meaning, we must resist the urge to spell out the conclusions for them. Example, if your character slams their fist on the table, there’s no need to say, “He was angry.”)

Allow me to give an example. In my Operation First Novel finaling manuscript, Breaking Free (formally known as Impossible Choices) a big part of the story revolves around Alice’s insecurities. She feels unattractive and blames herself for her husband’s emotional withdrawal. Unaware that her insecurities are the result of wounds inflicted early in childhood and that her perception of the present is based largely on those insecurities (and the lies she’s come to believe about herself) she assumes her feelings are caused by events in the present. This may sound a bit confusing, and I don’t want to venture too far off topic here except to say we will act in accordance with who we believe we are and will often interpret the present based on past experiences and our beliefs about ourselves and our role in this world. Meaning, if you assume people are out to get you, perhaps because you were mistreated as a child, you will see injustice in day-to-day encounters. Similarly, if you have experienced a steady dose of love and acceptance as a child, you will likely assume people like you. When they behave inappropriately, because you assume you yourself are likeable, you draw the conclusion that the issue must lie with them.

Okay, so how does this translate to showing vs. telling? Back to my example. In my story, Alice (my heroine) struggles with insecurity, and believes she is unworthy and unlovable. So, when her husband pulls away, she assumes it is because of something she’s done, or hasn’t done. If only she were prettier, more exciting, more alluring, her husband would stay home, wouldn’t drink, all those things.

Yet, my reader doesn’t want to hear all that. That’d be like sitting through someone else’s therapy session. Ugh! But if I design scenes to show this, perhaps by having my heroine join a gym, tug at her clothes in an attempt to hide her stomach, and pop Lean Cuisines in the microwave, the reader begins to feel what Alice feels. Hence, there is no reason to tell them.

Similarly, when revealing emotions, I don’t want my reader to know Alice is scared. I want to make them scared with her. I want to make their pulse race, spine tingle with adrenaline, and their muscles tense.

But how do I do that? First, by telling an excellent, vibrant, and descriptive story. This involves carefully selecting details that set the desired tone. For example, if I want my reader (who has become my main character) to feel joy, I can weave enticing or comforting aromas, sounds, and images into the scene. Perhaps children giggling on a sloping hill, or a hummingbird flittering among fragrant rose bushes.

And here’s one that somewhat makes me laugh. You want to demonstrate surprise, so you tell the reader, “The sound of a slamming door surprised her.” Or, “Her thoughts were disrupted by the sound of an approaching car.”

How about you immerse the reader in the thoughts of the character, then jolt them out with the sound of an approaching car? Meaning, reveal the thoughts, then, bam! Reveal the sound, “A car door slammed. She turned…”

See, you don’t need to tell us her thoughts were disrupted because our thoughts are disrupted as well.

I’d love to hear you thoughts on this, and perhaps I will address it more later. But for now…back to that critique I told you all about.

Tomorrow I’ll route you to a friend’s blog so you can hear a bit more about Alice, her story, and why I wrote it.

If you were looking for something profound, inspirational, or comical, sorry. You’ll have to come back next time as we continue to examine our hearts. (I’d like to stay on one topic for a week, mainly because my skull’s so dense it takes awhile for things to sink in. Then, it takes even longer for real change to occur.)

You might remember Gail from my top 20 of 2010. She wrote the wonderful devotion entitled, “Oh, To Be Magnetic,” reminding us of our need to shine for Christ all the time, where ever we go. After I asked her to share her devotion here, she sent me a request to visit her site. So…I’m sending you all over to her blog where you can here a bit about my “work-in-progress”, With Reckless Abandon. Yep, it’s an inspirational romance. Never thought I’d be a romance writer, until this story infiltrated my brain. At first, it surprised me. Could this story idea really be from God, or was it just a temporary creative respite in between some of my other projects? But then I remembered, the Bible is the ultimate romance! Page by page reveals God’s pursuing love for us, and our human romances give us but an imperfect glimmer of the Divine romance.

Marriage is an illustration of the relationship between God and the believer, which is why it is imperative that we do everything we can to strengthen our marriages. Each Friday, you can join me on Reflections as we explore potential marriage busters as well as marriage strengtheners. But beginning this Friday, I’ll be addressing the entire family unit. My new column is called, “Heart and Home.”

And as a friendly reminder, for those of you who are joining me in my intentional living series, don’t forget to pray for your heart today!

“Create in me a pure heart, Oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  And may we all be steadfast, diligent, and intentional in our walk with Christ today.

Today’s going to be short and sweet because:

1) I’ve slammed enough posts on my subscribers over the past few days–which should have been a holiday. (But you know, if it spins through my head, it’s gotta come out eventually. Normally, sooner than later.)

2) It’s only Monday–7:30 am central time–and I’m already behind. lol

3) I don’t really have much to say, (wow, that’s a first!) but I do want to introduce you to my upcoming blog post challenge.

I’ve been on this intentional living kick for a while now, hopefully long enough to form new habits. With the new Year approaching, a fun idea started brewing. I wanted to close the year out with a bang to get us ready for a New Year–a year of change, intentionality, and continual forward progression as we walk hand-in-hand with our Savior.

So here’s the deal. During the month of December (starting tomorrow) I’m going to repost 20 of my favorite blog/devotions from 2010. These are not posts I’ve written, although you’re welcome to peruse my archives. These are articles written by others that have impacted, encouraged or challenged me in some way. Each day I invite you to share your thoughts. The top three article or devotion with the most comments, tweet, fb shares and “likes” will be announced, in descending order, on January 31st.

See you tomorrow!

My husband and daughter have been conspiring again, and I’m soaking up every last drop. And because this proud momma has a blog, you’re going to have to suffer through as I share what I woke up to this morning. If you’ve read, Because They’re Watching, you’ll remember my husband takes my daughter momma-shopping quite often. Especially when I’m not around. Last week I was gone from Thursday through Monday, which gave them five days to conspire.

They started at a Pondora knock-off to buy new beads for a bracelet they gave me last Mother’s Day. I can envision the two of them together sifting through countless beads, all giggles and smiles, as they try to find the one mom would like best. (I warned you this is a proud momma post.) Then my daughter wrote a poem and designed a four page booklet with lots of hearts, flowers, and smiley faces, using Microsoft Publisher.

From them to me:

We love our mom and could not of asked for a better one…

She feeds us every day

And makes sure that everything is okay

We love her very much and she is the best there could be

She may bug us

But oh, how she loves us

Without her there would be emptiness

And not much happiness

She cheers us when we are sad

And calms us when we are mad

And this is why we love her so

The mother God gave us to love and know

She feeds us and makes us grow

To us she is very dear

And we miss her when she isn’t near

If not for what she has done

My life would not be near as fun

She has been here for me all my life

And she is an excellent author, mom, and wife!