(Insert Drumroll Here…) A Free Ebook for You!

Green Plastic Monkey free ebook

Dear reader, how I appreciate you. Without you and your willingness to read the random thoughts I type, I’d only be a lunatic pushing buttons on a little gray piece of glass and circuits.

But you, the reader, turn me into an actual writer and not just a weirdo. Because you are the far more important part of this little team (anyone can hit buttons on a keyboard– only super wonderful people will read what comes of it), I have a present for you.

Okay, it’s not really from me. A bunch of other people at the publishing house gave permission for this to happen. Discovery House is offering my first book, There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse, as a free ebook from now until March 30. EEEEKKKK! This is very exciting!

Here are three different places on the webernet you can find it. One of them should work for whatever device you have. Click on the links and you’ll be taken right to the Green Plastic Monkey page:

  1. iTunes
  2. Christianbook.com
  3. BookShout

All this free gift-giving is in anticipation of the release of my next book, If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do, which arrives in stores in early May. In fact, I got the first copy yesterday, delivered to my door. Here’s a little picture.

Plug My Ears Collage

Again, thank you so much for reading. I hope you’re excited about the next book and all the new adventures we’ll have together. In the mean time please feel free to share the first ebook with as many people as you can– word of mouth is the best marketing tools we authors have.

A final note– The book of Isaiah and I have had some quality time together this week as I’ve been seeking God’s will and words. These verses especially resonate with me today as I contemplate all God is doing through these books. I am so pleased it’s spilling out of me and into your lives. I pray his will for your life will spill out of you and bless those around you, and may he receive all the glory.

The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away. (Isaiah 50:4-5, NLT)

A Deep (not really) Spiritual Lesson from Modern Soup Cookery

One of these days I’m going to shock everyone and switch to one-word titles that make complete sense.

Today is not that day.

Today we have another long and relatively dumb title because that’s just what comes out when my fingers hit the keyboard. If you want one-word titles, go find Jon Acuff.

(He’s here and totally worth your time. Hilarious!)

But anyway, back to the soup. Tonight is small group night, so I made some soup. It’s Surprise Dinner night, which means everyone is just bringing whatever and we’re going to put it all on the counter, buffet-style, and eat it even if it makes no sense. We might have seven pans of brownies. We might have seven pans of roast chicken. I happen to have the ingredients for this soup we love so that’s what I made.

Here’s how I made it (trust me, this ties in to my point):

  1. Chop onion and garlic, then sauté them. (5 minutes)
  2. Open boxes of broth and dump into hot pot. (1 minute)
  3. Open 4 cans of beans and one can of hominy, rinse them, then dump into pot. (4 minutes)
  4. Dump in leftover rice and chicken from freezer. (15 seconds)
  5. Sprinkle chipotle seasonings over top. (3 seconds)

Even if you add in the minutes it took me to go to Aldi and wander the aisles for the ingredients, we’re still under twenty minutes. It took me less than twenty minutes to make a delicious pot of healthy soup– thank you, modern cookery. 

Now, let’s go back two hundred years and imagine I was making this soup for my family. Imagine I have a farm and a big old apron and a hatchet I’m not afraid to use:

  1. Chase chicken around yard. Catch chicken. Use aforementioned hatchet upon chicken. Do a bunch of other things I’ve never had to do (plucking, disemboweling, and beheading come to mind) and eventually cook the chicken, making broth from its bones. (2 hours? A day? I have no idea.)
  2. Plant beans. Watch beans grow, then harvest. Dry beans. Store beans. Rehydrate beans. (6 months)
  3. Skip hominy because I have no idea of how that comes into existence.
  4. Locate rice paddy and two oxen. Put them in a yoke and harvest rice. (I’m sketchy on what that entails, seeing as how rice is not a Midwestern crop. Might involve trek to Asia.)
  5. Grow all seasonings, harvest, dry, crush up, put in small plastic bottle that vaguely resembles a grill. (6 months, but we’re not going to count this as extra time because we can do all these things as we prepare the beans.)

Total time required: Six months and a day?

Certainly less time than the soup I made this afternoon. And here, my friend, is my point– we’re used to things happening fast. We want something and we get it, usually before we even register we want it. Immediate gratification is the standard of our times, and anything slower is infuriating.

God's soup

Last week I posted about how I’m waiting for God and I heard back from several people about their own wait for him. We’re all sitting here at this proverbial diner, waiting for God to come and move in our situations/bring us supper, and sometimes we’re expecting modern-day soup and not the kind of soup that God’s people have been devouring for thousands of years. The kind of soup that takes wisdom and perception and a whole lot of waiting.

Our timing is not his timing. Our ways are not his ways. And I need to remind myself of that every time I think immediate soup is how he provides.

What about you? What’s your favorite modern convenience food, and how do you feel about God taking his sweet time with you?

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. (Isaiah 30:18, NLT)

 

The Frugal Decorator Discovers Rit Dye (or…Why My Husband Sleeps Under a Purple Comforter)

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you’ve realized a fact: The Lord is using me as a refining fire in my husband’s life. The man is daily forced to put up with my antics and neuroses, causing him to develop a Christ-like repertoire of patience, fortitude, wisdom, and forgiveness.

Pray for him.

This sixteen-year experiment on Eric’s ability to persevere under the severest of conditions explains why when I brought home a bottle of Rit Dye a few weeks ago and announced I was dying the curtains, he didn’t even twitch.

To be fair, I don’t know if I completely explained what I was doing. The curtains were down, I don’t think he noticed, and then the curtains were back up again and…whatever. He’s a man. Curtains aren’t really his thing.

But I was pretty darn excited. For a $4 bottle of dye I had brand new curtains. I’d purchased them two years ago with a gift card we’d received from our Visa reward points, so they were basically free. And while the color was a beautiful silvery-sage in the package, they were less than impressive hanging where I had to look at them every day. In real life they were more like the color of a piece of celery you’ve forgotten in the vegetable drawer for a month– washed out and pitiful. Possibly poisonous.

I couldn’t have hated them any more than I did, so a $4 experiment seemed like a good deal. The new teal color is a vast improvement so I set my eyes on new possibilities. (I wish I had before and after pictures to show you but I’m not that good of a blogger. I don’t always think to photo-document micro-minutiae.)

Fortuitously, an obvious spill on our cream-colored comforter a week later provided just the excuse I needed to run back to Hobby Lobby and buy a new shade of dye. I picked up a bottle of dove gray, scurried back home, and dumped it all into the washer.

I’m sure there were specific directions and suggestions for making sure the final color was going to be just right, but I didn’t read any of those things. What am I, a scientist? I’ve been dying Easter Eggs for almost four decades– I was sure I could handle a little cotton comforter.

This is probably why my project turned lavender. I don’t mean a nice shade of purple, I mean a hideous shade of lavender. Picture a very old, very cranky woman who has died. She is being buried in a lavender dress she bought in 1958. It is polyester. It is awful.

That’s the exact shade of purple we were forced to sleep under for three nights until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Eric, ever gentle when it comes to my decorating schemes, said, “Yeah, it’s a little weird.” Normal men would have pulled it off the bed and set fire to it in the driveway, but reference the first paragraph of this post and you’ll understand why he didn’t.

I had to do something, and a whole new comforter isn’t in the budget. So I went back to Hobby Lobby and bought a new package of dye. This time I went with a small box of black, thinking that I wanted it darker than the putrid lavender but lighter than Satan’s bedding.

And now we have a dark purple comforter. It’s far better than the lavender and works with the rest of the room, but it’s still quite royal in its purpleness. I kind of like it, and Eric doesn’t hate it. Close enough.

If you’re looking around your house and want to change something but need to stick to a tight budget, try some dye! Maybe you’d want to read the directions or something, but it’s fun even if you don’t. I feel like I have a whole new room and it only took me $10 in dye, a few trips to the store, and a few loads of laundry. You might have even better results.

TaDa!

TaDa!

Let me know if you give it a whirl, or if you’ve ever tried it before. I’d like to see how this works out for you.

 

Book Review and Giveaway! Our Daily Bread for Kids

This is an exciting day, my friends. I have in my hot little hands not one, but two copies of the brand spanking new Our Daily Bread for Kids. For years our churches have had those little booklets from Our Daily Bread tucked in random spots all over the building. You can find them in restaurants and next to the Bibles of adults across the world.

But never before has there been an edition just for the kids– until now!

If you could imagine me typing away at my kitchen counter while a fog machine billows out a lot of smokey air and I fling my arms towards the ceiling dramatically, that would give you a better feel for the excitement at the moment.

I am flinging my arms around, but I don’t have a fog machine. That’s an expense I can’t justify for the blog. Yet.

But back to the point– a few weeks ago Our Daily Bread Ministries contacted me and asked if I’d like to review the book here on the blog. And since Josh (employee of said ministry) and I have known each other for many years, I cheekily demanded giveaway copies too. (Full disclosure– ODB is the parent company of Discovery House, which publishes my books.)

Our Daily Bread for Kids Giveaway

Because I love you, my loyal readers. I want you to join the fun, too! So Josh and Denise (another ODB employee) stole (or maybe borrowed/begged– I don’t know how these things work) copies and mailed them to my house and then I eyed them with distrust as they sat in my kitchen.

Because here’s a little backstory for you. I don’t trust children’s devotionals anymore after a little incident we had a few years ago when a well-known Christian children’s show put out a book of so-called devotionals. It started out okay, right at the kids’ levels, but then I realized that many days didn’t actually have anything to do with the Bible. We were reading inspirational thoughts and quotes from famous people who did nice things.

If I wanted to teach my kids nice thoughts from famous people we could simply watch a Saved by the Bell marathon and let Screech and Kelly Kapowski teach us important lessons.

I’m going for eternity here, people. I want these children to know and love the Bible and know and love the Savior who fills its pages. I don’t have time for nice thoughts and moral lessons because in a few short years these kids are out the door and I’m out of time to teach them.

I threw that other book right in the trash. I didn’t even want to give it to friends. So, therefore and thus, you see why I was eyeing Our Daily Bread for Kids with a little skepticism. I handed it off to my son, who’s at the upper level of the recommended age range (six to ten years old), before I read any of it. I said, “Honey, I need you to read five of these pages.”

He was almost done with his homework and was trying to beat his sister to the TV, so he wasn’t super happy about the assignment. A little struggle ensued, but I won because children don’t win struggles in this house.

(Usually.) ((Unless it involves an extra cookie and their father isn’t around to protest.))

But after he settled down and started reading he looked up and said, “Mom! This is good!”

“What are you learning?” I asked/demanded.

And then he listed off few things about sin, and taking a bath, and lying. For a nine year-old boy who was dying to get to his video games, it was pretty impressive.

I picked up the book where he abandoned it and gave it the hairy eyeball, still expecting little. I grew more and more excited when I realized many of the devotions are simple, age-appropriate retellings of actual Bible stories. Some days have a little visual illustration built in or an explanation of biblical culture, which is pretty crucial for kids who only know the modern way of life.

I couldn’t be more pleased. The authors, Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley, have done a wonderful job.

I leave us with a little quote from the December 26th entry:

People make their own plans and try to take control of things– but nothing can stop God from doing what He wants. God is bigger than anything people try to do to change His plan. You can trust that God will save you through Jesus. You can always trust in God’s power and love to protect you.

Amen!

GIVEAWAY UPDATE: We have two winners– Deb W and Susie F! I’m mailing out their copies this week. Congratulations, ladies. You’re the best!

What To Do While You Wait for God

Are you waiting for anything? More specifically, are you waiting for God to do anything? Maybe you’ve had a prayer request hanging out there for a few weeks/months/decades. Or maybe you’re waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.

I’m waiting for three things right now. The first thing involves my writing career–I’m waiting to hear news about a manuscript, good or bad. The second thing is none of your business. The third thing involves the sale of some property, because maintaining two properties is going to be the death of us. 

Yes, I own two washing machines and two refrigerators, three living rooms and six assorted bedrooms. I’m living the American Dream.

Except it comes with two tax bills, two mortgages, and many hours of strain. I am currently covered in paint from painting trim on windows in a house where I haven’t lived in more than two years. So, yes. The American Dream.

It’s time to sell one of these houses, and also I’d dearly love to hear whether the manuscript my agent submitted is gaining any traction, and also I still can’t tell you about that other thing.

I’m sorry. I just can’t. It’s barely my business, let alone yours.

I started out waiting admirably. I was patient. I was prayerful. A halo followed me around while I waited.

This lasted about two days.

Then I was done with the waiting, except the waiting wasn’t done with me. It’s dragging on, and on, and oooooonnnnnnnnnn. I’m not sure what’s going on with God’s timing. I know for a fact he could POOF and KABOOM and all these things would be cleared up within minutes. He could fix this, but he isn’t. Or, perhaps more accurately, he isn’t fixing things on the schedule I think most efficient.

The thought occurs to me that maybe God isn’t as obsessed with efficiency as I am. Huh.

obsessed with efficiency

I can’t be alone in this waiting. I’m sure you’re waiting for something, too. So what should we do while we wait? I have a few ideas:

  1. Pray. I have been talking God’s ears off the last two months. Seriously. He’s probably gone deaf in the left ear since the middle of February. I vacillate between two positions– on one hand I believe he knows all my needs before I even ask him (Matthew 6:8) so I shouldn’t keep babbling like a pagan (Matthew’s phrasing, not mine– sorry, pagans). On the other hand, Luke 18 tells the story of the persistent widow who harassed a judge until he was so tired of her he gave her what she wanted so because she was driving him crazy. Jesus said this: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:7) I’ve decided to try both ways willy nilly– some days I pray with fervor and passion and other days I’m more like, “Hey, God. I know you know this, but I’ve got these things…” once in the morning and then I leave Him alone. I’ll let you know how they work out.
  2. Find something else to do. Just because we’re waiting for big things to develop it doesn’t mean we don’t still have things in play. Right now I can parent my kids well and take good care of my husband because that’s a huge part of my calling. I could clean the bathtub because hygiene is still important. I could go for a walk to get my butt some exercise. I don’t have to sit around doing nothing while God’s plan takes some time.
  3. Find something else to think about. Even while I’m doing all those other things, my brain keeps playing through possible anxious scenarios on an endless repeat. It’s exhausting! Sometimes I have to actively choose to give my mind something else to play with. “Here. Here’s a nice meaty novel, two stupid movies, and an Italian dictionary. Go play somewhere else.”

What about you? What do you do while you wait for God? If you’re bored you can come over and help me paint the trim on my other house. I have the upper floors to do still. Should be a wild time!

 

When the Mighty Mountain Shakes, the Villagers Are the Ones With the Real Problem

An earthquake can rumble through a mountain, shaking the rock so hard that it crumbles, then topples down the slope. I know this in theory. In reality I live between two cornfields and my knowledge of mountains is spotty.

But I hear that rock + earthquake = big mess. Seems legit.

While earthquakes are interesting to scientists who like to study rocks and how they quiver, the rest of us really don’t care unless we’re the villagers living at the bottom of the slope or in the next town where all the refugees come to live after the mountain attacks them.

Most of us don’t care two toots about mountains or earthquakes until the human element comes into play and actual people are hurt or homeless.

True, yes?

Now I’d like to discuss Family Christian Stores filing for bankruptcy, and that isn’t the abrupt change of subject it might appear to be. I follow business law and finances never. When I need something I call my friends Dale and Donovan (an accountant and a lawyer) and say, “Please explain this to me simply because I am a dullard.” And they do, usually without comment on my brainpower.

Of course, they both know I blog and they probably live with a little bit of fear of this, so they’re polite to save their public image. Also, they’re very nice men.

Anyway, I tell you all this so you don’t expect me to have some profound thoughts on the mechanics behind the bankruptcy or the company itself. I’ve only followed the articles for the past few weeks because, as a writer, I have a vested interest in how this evolves. I’m the villager living at the bottom of the slope and I sense my mountain is about to have a very big problem, in other words.

Family Christian Stores bankruptcy

On a personal level, FCS is a customer of my publisher, and I hope to sell books there this spring. I was (am?) excited to have products in their store. I have friends and family who work at the local shop and in the corporate office and I know there’s a human element here that can’t be ignored. Good people are working very hard for FCS, good people who are hoping to honor God by offering biblically based books, music, and curriculum.

And yet the mountain is shaking and we can’t very well ignore that, can we? I don’t know what the judge will decide about FCS’s bankruptcy, but I do know they owe millions of dollars to different creditors, many publishers included.

It turns out I’m not the only villager living on this rock. If the publishing houses don’t get the money they’re owed, it has to come out of somewhere. It’s going to come out of salaries and benefits and reduced expenses, I’m guessing. As a writer who hopes to publish more books in the near future, that doesn’t bode well for me or the employees at these houses.

We’re all in this mess together. If the publishing houses are cutting back on staff and expenses, new contracts might not be offered. No new contracts, no new books. How will the world know of my comedic genius if I’m not offered new book contracts?

No, I don’t have a slight ego problem developing. But thanks for asking.

I do have a slight panic attack developing, though. As I think through the implications of this looming bankruptcy, I get nervous. A little sweaty. A little prone to Plan B thinking– as in– maybe this was all a mistake and I’ll never write another book again. Maybe I should give it all up and find a new hobby, like weaving macrame pot holders. I don’t have enough of those. 

I could go with Plan B. I could wring my hands in despair and cry a little and then go buy a lot of rope to start my macrame habit.

Or I could remember that I serve a God who saw this day coming a long time ago. He knew Family Christian Stores was going to run into financial trouble and writers would want to write and businesses would need to be paid. He saw all the villagers running for their lives from the crumbling mountain and, quite frankly, I don’t think He’s all that worried about it. I’m pretty sure He’s got it covered, and this new development doesn’t have a lot of impact on His final plan.

Maybe you don’t give two toots about earthquakes or bankruptcies or the publishing world, but you still might be facing a shakeup of your own. Maybe you’re coming up with your own Plan B in case God is asleep on the job. Let’s not. Let’s live in faith, not fear.

Will you join me?

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?…Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:30, 33-34, NLT)

Here are two excellent posts on the subject, by the way. These are the ones that got my little brain juices stewing:

Poopsie and Beanie Get a Tooterhorn

Back by popular demand (two people asked for more) ((yes, one of them is my mother)), today we have our second chapter in our Poopsie and Beanie series. Enjoy!

Many, many years ago it was the late 1980s and Poopsie was a sixth grade student at a little school in rural Michigan. She decided to play an instrument in the band because all her friends were going to try it. Poopsie got a flute and it was pure mediocre bliss for three days.

Then the flute seemed like a lot of pressure, what with Poopsie’s parents having to rent it and Poopsie actually having to practice it.

Also, the band director at Poopsie’s school was a tall, rotund, and crabby man whom she did not like one bit. One day the band director yelled at Poopsie and that was the end of that. No more band for Poopsie. She was a 1988 band dropout and proud of it and her parents didn’t try too hard to stop her. Poopsie is guessing they probably didn’t feel like paying for an instrument and also probably knew the band director was a putz.

He totally was a putz.

Anyway, fast forward twenty-six years and now Poopsie’s Beanie is a sixth grader in the band.

No, wait. We’ve gotten ahead of ourselves. Beanie’s father is a fine man and a good example of a Band-Not-Dropout, and he has many fond memories of playing the clarinet at his own school. Sensing an opportunity to foist the parenting duties off on the father, Poopsie pointed out that Pop is a band graduate and she is merely a band dropout, so it would be best if he attended the meetings and learned the things.

Poopsie doesn’t have the emotional bandwidth for this new educational opportunity, it turns out.

So Poopsie was quite surprised when Pop and Beanie returned from the first meeting and informed her that Beanie was officially a trombone player, because her lips can form the right shape and also she has the wingspan of an American Bald Eagle. (Beanie approved the writing of that last sentence.)

Audrey and Tooterhorn

While Poopsie thinks it’s awesome to be the mother of a trombonist, there are some difficulties. First of all, she can’t ever remember what the dang thing is called. She sorts through all the instruments before she lands upon the right word, which is why she now simply refers to it as the “Tooterhorn.”

Beanie rolls her eyes and silently wishes for a normal mother.

But there are other problems. The Tooterhorn case is huge and the bus is very crowded and Beanie hates dragging the thing home after school, so Poopsie picks her up pretty often.

But then, taking after her mother, Beanie isn’t actually a fan of practicing. So the Tooterhorn takes up residence under the little side table and collects dust most days.

And then (and this subject must be approached with the utmost delicacy), when Beanie is nagged into practicing and finally drags the Tooterhorn out of its case, the volume it produces is deafening. A deafening instrument in the hands of an inexperienced sixth grader is a fearsome weapon, dear reader.

This is why you must speak loudly and clearly into Pop and Poopsie’s ears. They have suffered permanent hearing damage and their skulls shall eternally vibrate with the noise of that weapon. Pheanie, Beanie’s little brother, has not experienced auditory damage because he always has a pair of earbuds jammed into his ears.

The moral of this story is this: if you are lucky enough to have your children’s father handy, send him to the band meeting.

And always have earplugs handy if the Tooterhorn is near.

P.S. Here’s the link to the first Poopsie and Beanie episode, iffen you’ve got nothing better to do than read blog posts all night: Poopsie and Beanie: A Short Story About a Mom and Her Girl