Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolution, Revolution

I'm going to hold myself accountable in 2010 by blogging about my resolutions. No need to be legalistic, but here's what I'd like to do:

Healthy lifestyle--start by 1) eating less--back to measuring portions and calories
2) eating nutritiously--get the junk out of the house and change one bad habit at a time
3) exercise 10-15 minutes daily--elliptical trainer, walk, dance with the cats, whatever!

Writing: Either 1) write 10 minutes a day
2) write 100 words a day

Spiritual: Spend 10-15 minutes daily reading the Word and praying

Household: Spend 10-15 minutes daily decluttering

Lord, give me the strength. Friends, hold me to it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Book of Your Heart by Virginia Smith

Viriginia Smith's January 2010 release of Third Times a Charm, is the sought after conclusion of her Sister to Sister series.

Putting up the Christmas tree at my house is a very special event. I relish the ritual of hanging the ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Each one holds a memory. The shiny silver bell engraved with our wedding date. The brightly painted teddy bear with the year of my daughter’s birth painted on his hat. The skiing Santa I bought on our first ski trip. As I lift each treasure carefully out of the box where it has lain hidden from view all year, a precious memory emerges from deep within my heart and finds a place on my tree.

I imagine stories are like those ornaments, each one a treasure nestled within the heart of a writer, waiting to be brought out and displayed. Perhaps that’s how we first recognize that we are writers: fictitious people walk and talk and breathe within us, and we burn with the desire to show them to others. A story unfolds with startling clarity in our minds, and we know—just know—that we won’t have a moment’s peace until we’ve set it down on paper and shared it.

That burning desire is exactly what enables us to tell a story that stirs the imaginations of others. It is our passion for the story and the characters that causes us to spend hours striving for the precise word or the perfect phrase to relay the vivid images in our heads. For some, the stories conceived in our hearts burst from us full-grown; others hold a story inside, nurturing it in the deep places until it ripens into the thing of beauty we’ve envisioned.

Many years ago, a story bloomed in my heart. It was full of adventure and love, and infused with hope—truly, a thing of beauty. I wrote the first draft feverishly, the words pouring onto the page as the plot unfolded in my mind. The characters were so real, their struggles painful and vivid. I studied the craft, intent on telling my tale with artistry. With each new skill I learned, I revised and polished until the story sparkled. If ever a story was born from the heart, it was that one.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an editor who shared my passion. Whether due to my lack of skill or the uncertainties of the market for that genre, the story of my heart was rejected over and over. I mourned. I raged. I cried out to God, “Why did You give me this story if You don’t intend me to tell it?” After my rage died, I revised and polished the manuscript again. Finally, when there was not a single word that hadn’t been scrubbed until it shone, I gave up. After all, if there was no place for the story of my heart in the publishing world, maybe there was no place for me there either.

That’s when I heard God’s whisper: Do you think I have only one story to give?

A few days later, a character waltzed into my mind and began telling me about her life. She became real to me, as real as the characters in my first story. I discovered that there was room in my heart for her, too. In fact, this new tale took on a glimmer and shine all its own. I employed the skills I’d honed on my first, and eventually, God placed a published book in my hands.

And then He said: I have more stories to give you.

Can you imagine anything sadder than a Christmas tree with only a single ornament? Or a life with only a single precious memory? Or a heart with only a single story?

I am convinced that good stories are born in the heart of God, a heart immense and overflowing with creativity. He carefully selects an author for each one and bestows a precious gift – straight from His heart to ours. We write it and polish it and, when the story has become as beautiful as we can make it, we must hang it on the tree and reach into the box for another treasure.


Virginia Smith is the author of a dozen Christian novels including Stuck in the Middle, a finalist for the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year award, and A Taste of Murder, a finalist for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Her newest,Third Time’s a Charm, the third and final book in her Sister-to-Sister Series, will hit bookstore shelves in January. Learn more about Ginny and her books

Check Out Ginny's Big Prize Bonanza Giveaway, Going On Now!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Kay Marshall Strom on Cooking and Walking

from author Kay Marshall Strom

This warm mellow soup from Senegal, West Africa can easily incorporate any extra turkey you have on hand. Just substitute it for the chicken.

You will need:
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup diced chicken or turkey
1 cup yogurt
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
fresh chives, washed and snipped

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry powder and flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually blend in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, continuing to stir. Add diced chicken or turkey.

Remove the kettle from the heat and cool the soup slightly. Gradually stir in the yogurt, a small amount at a time. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half and add the juice to the soup.

Garnish each bowl of soup with a dash of fresh chives.


The Women at the Well
Kay Marshall Strom

In Senegal, West Africa, I sat beside the community well, because that’s where the village women gathered. Out of the dusty wasteland they came, from every direction, their babies tied to their backs and their water containers balanced on their heads. They were glad to rest beside the well, for they had to walk many miles to get there. The average woman in the world, we are told, walks seven miles a day in her quest for water. When you factor in those of us who only walk to the kitchen to turn on the faucet, you can see that some must trek much farther than seven miles!

At the well, the women have a chance to catch up with the goings-on in neighboring villages, to air their complaints with one another, and to share their own news. And so I sat by the well with Obei and Helene, two Christian women in a country 98 percent Muslim, and waited to meet the women as they came for water.

And come they did.

A young woman came, sobbing over her baby son who was burning with fever. We prayed together in Jesus’ name that her baby would be healed.

A girl came and whispered her wish to learn to read, but said she could not because the walk to the well and back took her all day. Obei offered to teach her a little every day when she came for water. She started with: “For God so loved the world….”

A woman came with terror in her eyes and confided that her daughter must surely be a witch. Helene prayed for the girl, but also for the mother. “Do not believe what others tell you,” she warned the distraught mother. “Believe in the power of God.”

And Songa came. Obei and Helene had prayed with her before in Jesus’ name, and Songa had seen a miracle as her seriously ill son was healed. Now she too, was a follower of Christ. “My husband ordered me to renounce Jesus,” Songa told us. “When I would not, he threw me out of the house, but he kept my children. Please, please… pray for my little ones. Pray that they too will know the God of mercy and love.”

This holiday season, I am thankful for the women at the well in Senegal—all three of them, for Songa has joined the other two. I’m thankful for the lives they are touching in the name of Jesus. Most of all, I am thankful for the Living Water that flows freely for every one of us.


Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books, numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim.
Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers’ conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations. Learn more about Kay at her website.