Monday, November 25, 2013

Real Moment in Time

There are certain moments in time that remain suspended in our minds as if they had just happened yesterday. Some of them tragic, like watching the twin towers fall.  Some are wonderful, like seeing the first man walk on the moon. Moments like these are memorable, not just because they change the world around us, but because of the change they create inside of us.

There are also those moments of change caused by things that are much closer to home. The moment you lost a loved one. Or the day you were married. Or the time you held your first child.

And then there are moments that aren't brought on by an external tragedy or joyous event. These moments aren't shared with the world, or perhaps even your family at the time. They are moments of realization and recognition, hope and understanding, or a decision that brings a very real change in yourself. And you know you will never be the same.

I had one of these moments last year. It was the moment I became a writer.

It wasn't in a workshop, or at a conference, or a book signing, or at my desk in front of my computer. It wasn't while listening to the encouragement of my husband, a friend, or a fellow writer. It wasn't when I finished the first draft of my soon-to-be rejected manuscript. And it wasn't when it was finally accepted.

It was before any of that.

It was while I was alone, swinging  on that middle swing, on a chilly, clear, fall night when, for the first time, I thought to myself, "I think I can really do this. I think I can write." And I believed myself.

That was the moment I changed. I shifted from a person that writes, to a writer. Everything that's happened afterwards has been wonderful, but nothing yet has been as dear to me as that one moment in time where I felt like I became real. Like the Veleveteen Rabbit. I was the Velveteen writer. And I was changed forever.

I wasn't changed because of the path my writing took me on. That certainly was the product of hard-work, a lot of luck, and even more divine intervention. I changed because I allowed myself to believe that I was something more than my doubts and fears had allowed me to believe. When I thought those words, that I really could be a writer, and I allowed myself to believe in those words--to have faith in and trust myself--that is when something settled inside of me and I felt it. 

I'll admit, it grates on my nerves when I hear people say, "All you have to do is believe in yourself and all your dreams come true." It's not true. Just because you want something, or even believe it will happen, doesn't' mean it will. Much of life is out of our control. We can be the finest artist, the best cook, or the funniest person in the world, but the world might never know it if circumstances out of our control don't allow.

But, what I do know is that when you allow yourself to believe in yourself, to trust have faith in yourself, and to trust yourself, even though the scenery of your life might not change, you will have changed.

Happiness doesn't lie in what happens to you, but in how you feel about yourself. I'm not just talking about self-esteem here. I'm talking about truly believing that you are capable of doing something. Whether or not it actually happens is different.  But you can know it about yourself, and that knowledge, that faith and belief in yourself, is what will bring you the greatest joy.

Belief is powerful.It makes things real. That's why, for me, the moment to believe I was a writer is so special to me. It stands out as a very real moment in time where I chose to believe in that part of myself, and it changed me forever.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Wizard was Wrong

I love the Wizard of Oz. When I was young I wanted to be Dorothy. She was brave and adventurous- mostly because she had three guys doting over here. (Yes, I know- a scarecrow, tin man, and a lion aren't marriage material- but they loved her so.)

As much I love the story, I have one beef with the wizard. When the tin man wanted a heart, the wizard said, "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others."

Even as a young girl, this ideology didn't sit well with me. I loved a lot of people. I simply loved love. But I wasn't loved by a large number of people.  So I doubted the worth and condition of my heart. And that led me to doubt myself.

Now that I am older, I am beginning to understand that a heart shouldn't be measured so much by how others feel about or perceive you. That is a classic case of misplaced power.  I believe that our heart can, and will, be measured by how, and how much, we love others.

To be loved by many isn't so much an indicator of the condition of your heart, but a bi-product of a good-hearted person who happens to have a large circle of influence.  Does that mean the heart of a good person who lives in a small circle of influence is any less loving and good? Of we delve deeper, we could probably point out a few very undesirable, even down-right bad people who seemed to be loved by the masses.  To be loved deeply by just a few is a great and noble thing, but that does not guarantee I am a good person, or that I have a good heart--just that I am surrounding myself with loving people.

We are told in the Bible that out of all things, including faith and hope, charity--which is pure love as Jesus Christ loves--is the greatest. We are commanded to love, not commanded to be loved.

I think I love more people than love me. I love my family (who love me back.) I love my neighbors, my friends, some acquaintances, and even some strangers. I even try to love my enemies (whom I know for sure don't love me.)

I'm pretty sure I do love more people than love me. Will my heart by judged negatively because of that? I don't think so.  My goal is to become like my Savior. He loved everyone. Still does. He wasn't loved by everyone. Still isn't. Some despised Him enough to kill Him.

He was not loved by all- but He loves all, perfectly.

That is how I want my heart to be. I don't want to focus on being loved. I want to be able to love fully.

Do I want to be loved? Of course! Don't we all. But, we cannot control how others feel about us. We can only control how choose to love.

Love is a choice. And it is that choice to love that our hearts will be judged by.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Make it Happen

I just got back from a Ladies Night Out at a local LDS church book store. It's an evening of food, music, and great vendors and discounts. I went to promote my upcoming book. You know. The one about insecurity.

So what did I do for the first forty minutes? I stood alone, in my corner, next to my little sign, while every single woman passed me by. 

After I while I decided to walk around for a bit, wondering if perhaps that would inspire someone to come up and exclaim, "Hey, you're that new up and coming author!" Nothing. Though, I did get an, "Excuse me, you're blocking the way," from one lovely soul. So, I returned to my corner of the store. Alone. 

Talk about a reason to feel insecure. Oh, the irony!

I looked at my little pile of promotional cards I had made, still untouched, next to my lovely little display, and tried to hide my bummness. I say bummness, because I wasn't sad. I was bummed. Really bummed. (Okay, maybe I was a little sad.) My first author event so wasn't going at all like I had envisioned. I felt like a total nerd.

Then I remembered a very simple principle. Successful people don't wait for things to happen. They make them happen. And I knew what I had to do. I took a deep breath, grabbed the stack of cards and introduced myself to the first woman in my path. "Hi. My name's Michelle. I am an author." And I am so glad I did! 

Speaking those words breathed life into me. The bummness left, and so did my alone time. From that time on I was walking and talking, laughing and sharing. It turned out to be a wonderful evening. I met funny women, strong women, quiet women, and so one. But, one thing they all had in common: as we chatted, they all confessed they had issues with insecurity. I wondered if there was every a woman that hadn't. I know I still struggle with some feelings of self-doubt--even after writing a book about it.

In fact, after I finished writing this book, I allowed a few seeds of doubt to grow too big, and I cried to my husband one day. "I feel so under-qualified to be an author--especially one that writes a book about confidence!" My good husband simply said, "It's your insecurity that qualifies you to write about it."

I had to laugh! There's a term in the writing world, "Write what you know."  Well, I have known all my life what it is like to feel insecure. Some days more than others. As I've grown in my testimony, those days of debilitating insecurity are gone, but there are some situations, like tonight, where I allowed a touch of insecurity to creep back in.

Self-doubt is a battle that most of us fight on a regular basis. The key word in that sentence is fight. Notice how it didn't say confident people don't wait for things to happen? I didn't wait for a burst of confidence to come before I gave out my first card. It was only after I made the move and said those words that the confidence settled in again. 

Confidence comes from many sources, one of them being the simple willingness to put yourself out there and try.

As you read this, there might be something you want to do, you hope to do, or are even in the middle of doing, but things are going like you planned. You might be doubting yourself, feel insecure. I wrote this post for you.

I not only hope you remember that phrase--Successful people don't wait for things to happen. They make them happen.-- but I hope it helps to do what you know you need to do. Get out of your corner. Make a move. Be bold. Own what you want and who you are. You'll find that when you do, a measure of confidence will follow. You will be glad you did.


Oh- on a total awesome high-note, I was asked for my first autograph tonight. What?!?!  I know!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

You Are What You Think

I'm sure you've heard the term, "You are what you eat." Well, if that's true, than I am a ginormous piece of chocolate. Though, I hope I wouldn't look this matronly. Not yet, at least.....

Anyway -  there is a michelleism I want you to consider:  "You are what you think."

I love to think (even more than I love to each chocolate!) My mind is constantly swirling with thoughts and ideas about the world around me and the heavens above. There is so much to think about, so much to consider. Why we are here, what is my role in life, what's the purpose, where am I going? What is the best route/way, what direction should I take? How can I improve myself, be a better person/wife/mother/friend?  And on and on.
The apostle Paul loved to think, too. But, it wasn't just the act of thinking, but what we spent our time thinking about that was important to him. 

He said,  "Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

Why is so important what we keep on minds on?

The answer can be found in Proverbs 23:7 :"For as he thinketh in his hearth, so is he."

There is a term I love that says, "What you feed grows." If we turn our minds and attention towards the good and positive things, towards light and truth, towards things of a heavenly nature, that our heart will be turned that way, too. Our thoughts are the seeds of our character and actions. They are who we become.

Most, dare I say, all that we are and do stems from what we think. When I say think, I am including our thoughts, opinions, questions, doubts, and beliefs. We are who and what we think about.

If a man chooses to think only on the negative, he will become a negative person. If he, in turn, thinks and ponders on the positive, a change will come over him, and he will become a positive person. 

There is great power in what and how we choose to think. And the great news is that power has been given to us. We can decide what and how we think, and in turn, who we become.  No one can make us think badly of ourselves, we choose to. No one can make us believe in a higher power. We choose to what we think, and that determines who we are.

So, next time you sit down to think, think carefully about what you think about. Think about who are you. Are you who you want to be? If not, consider changing your thoughts, and you just might see a change in you. Because you really are what you think.

What do you think about that?

Monday, September 23, 2013


I love doors. They are so cool.

Think about it. Doors are movable walls--they are the way to get in, through, and out of where you are.

Doors offer privacy and freedom, security and opportunity.

A closed door gives off the air of mystery. An open door invites people through. A creaky door speaks, and a old door creeks.

There is great power and possibility in a simple door.

There are also a great many quotes about doors:

"The door to happiness opens outward." Unknown

"Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith opens the door." Unknown

"Kind words unlock an iron door." Turkish Proverb

"Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom." George Washington Carver

Most of us are probably family with the saying, "When one door closes, God opens another." I've always love that saying. Sometimes door get shut in our face--or perhaps when we are even standing in the doorway!

I love the idea that God is looking out for us, that He knows what is being each door, where they lead to. There have been many times in my life when I have felt overwhelmed at choices before me, and sometimes discouraged at the apparent lack of choices.

I take courage that I am not only in house of life. He opens the doors that we need. In turn, He often closes the ones that we don't.  He opens doors that I am not strong enough to open myself--and doors that perhaps I didn't even see myself.

Sometimes it's hard with there is a particular door that I really want to go through and it's closed.

I pray and plead with the Lord. I tell Him all the reasons why that door is THE door for me. I push and push my ideas and my will on Him, and still it won't open. Doesn't He know what I want?

Of course He does. He wants me to be happy.  Fortunately, He knows best how to do that, and, when I allow Him, He helps lead me towards and through the doors that can bring me that happiness.

Even doors that I can't see.

My favorite quote that I've found is this one by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Every wall is a door."

With God directing our paths, there really are no walls--no obstacles that can stop our progression. There is nothing that can keep us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). Even when we cannot see the door, if we keep our eyes directed towards Him, He will show us the way--even when we can't see it ourselves.

He knows us. He knows which doors will bring us the greatest joy. He knows where we will do the most good. And He knows what experiences will offer the greatest growth. He knows just where to guide us.

Though the doors may not look like what we may have thought, we just need to have the faith to trust Him.

And go through the door.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Power of Sometimes

I registered for my first writer's conference February of this year. I was so excited! I also signed up for my first pitch session. I wanted my pitch to be perfect. So I did some research, a lot of research.

Then I got scared. What if I crash and burn? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I forget what my book is about and simply drool and stutter? What if I (gulp) get rejected?

All of these were major concerns of mine, so I turned to the internet for some relief.

I found some great hints and tips for the perfect pitch session, which I posted here. But I also found some really depressing statistics out there.

Most pitch sessions end in rejections, either on the spot, or after they receive (and maybe read) your work they requested.

"You'll never get a book deal through a pitch session,"  read many a writer's online lament, "but it's great for networking and practice."

"I've never picked up a book from a pitch session," wrote one agent, "but I continue to do them because someday I hope to."

I felt empowered by the tips and suggestions, but dejected still the same. Why would I pay $20 to get rejected? Didn't I get enough of that in high school? (Thank Kevin.)

But, I did it anyway. Even though the statistics were against me and I'd probably lose $20.

So, if pitch session hardly ever work, why even waste the money?

Because, sometimes they do work.

And I live for the sometimes.

'Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?' was pitched at that pitch session. My very first pitch session. At my very first writer's conference. 

I don't think I'm anything special- but the stars aligned just the right way. It was the right book pitched to the right person at the right time. I don't know how it happened, but it did. Like magic.

I've had more pitch sessions since then for another book of mine, and so far each one has ended in a polite rejection. And I know that I will have many more end that way, too.  But, I'll keep pitching, and writing, and pitching, though they hardly ever work because....sometimes they do. 

So, if you're about to throw out the pitch sessions, don't.

Keep pitching, and writing, and pitching. Because sometimes it does. One of these days your book will the right one pitched to the right person at the right time - and it will work. Like Magic.

Friday, September 6, 2013

This Is It!

Have you ever had to hold your breath for a looooong time? So long you start to feel light-headed and dizzy? Isn't it wonderful when you can finally let it all out and breathe?

Well, that's how I feel right now.

I've been holding in some news for a while--and the time has come to let it out.

I am happy to announce that my women's inspirational non-fiction book called 'Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?' will be released through Deseret Book on December 30th, 2013!

(You can pre-order your copy today by clicking the picture below!)

It is a humorous and touching book about abandoning self-doubt and embracing your divine potential. I have loved writing it, and I hope you will love reading it!

I'll keep you posted here as I share tiny bits and pieces of the book, book signings, blog tours, etc.

Thank you for your support thus far, and I hope you'll join continue to join me on this amazing adventure! Like, share, and eat some chocolate with me to celebrate!


Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Ride of Life

A few weeks ago I headed out to my local trail for a nice 8 mile bike ride. I had been logging in the double digits before, so I figured 8 small miles wouldn't be a big deal.

It was a beautiful late summer afternoon. The weather was perfect, the scenery gorgeous, and one of my favorite songs, 'Sailing Away' by Styx, was blasting in my ears. I felt good, really good.

A few miles into my ride I started getting a big tired. That's when I came upon this in the middle of the trail. written by a chalk angel:

I couldn't help but smile and agree. Yeah, I totally got this!

I began to pedal faster and pushed myself, renewed and refueled by the chalked encouragement. Then I got tired again. It was as though my chalk angel knew what I needed to hear, because as I slowed down, and even considered stopping to take a break, I came across this:

I restarted my 'Sail Away' song and continued strong up the path. I looked down at my speedometer and realized I was riding at my fastest pace ever. The power of words and encouragement!

I didn't see another message from my chalk angel for a few miles, but continued to ride hard. So hard that I lost track of where I was, until I saw this:

Yes! The toughest part of the ride was almost over, and I was about the glide down a large hill--my favorite part of the ride! Then, a half mile from the end of the trail, my chalk angel left me one last message:

 And finish strong I did!

As I drove home my body tingled with the after-work out buzz, but my mind was still on the trail, and life.

Life can seem like a long bike ride. There are uphill climbs and downhill glides, tough corners to turn and straightaways to where we can enjoy the scenery. We have families to raise, church and community responsibilities to take care of, work and all the other things that come with life.

But God is always there, supporting us and cheering us on. Most times, however, He helps us through other people. And most times, the other people have no idea they are helping us. He uses us to help each other--and many times we aren't even aware of it. I'm sure the person who wrote those things on the trail had now idea I'd be biking that day, but the words impacted me nonetheless.

I often to refer to Him as the Great Orchestrator for that very reason. I believe that He is very aware of us, our want, and especially our needs, and is s constantly working on our behalf, coordinating and orchestrating people and opportunities and experiences for us

I believe He puts people and things in our paths to help us along, to offer strength, encouragement, support, guidance, and fun.

We are all here having the ride of our lives. How comforting it is to know that we are not alone, that He is helping us-through each other- to make it through. :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Life is Better When You're Laughing

I love a good laugh, perhaps even more than the next. It could be said that I love laughing too much. Most of my conversations are filled with jokes and witty (well, I'd like to think witty) come backs. I've always believed that life is better when you're laughing. 

I love to laugh and mess around--perhaps too much.

One day, at a writer's conference, a fairly new friend of mine asked what I was working on. I explained to her the idea of my current book--a light-hearted look at the power of perspective, but then went on to tell her I'd love to write books on the Atonement, or the House of Israel and its relationship to us, among a few other ideas.

Me and Tanya, my friend who thinks I'm not smart. Lol. I love her :) 
She seemed taken aback, and stared at me with an open mouth. Then conversation went something like this:

Me: "What's wrong?"

Her: "I didn't realize you were . . . smart." 

Me: "You didn't think I was smart?

Her: "No, I mean,well . . . You're always joking. I just didn't realize you were smart!"

How do you respond to something like that? You laugh! And that's what I did--what we both did!

My friend now knows I'm smart (at least that's what she tells me), but she's always known I love to laugh. 

Laughter truly is the best medicine. It's gotten me through tough times, and made the good times even sweeter.

I believe that God gave us the ability to laugh for our benefit. It's a holy mandate of sorts: "A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine" (Proverbs 17:22). 

According to WebMD (my go-to site for medical questions. Don't laugh.), laughter helps the immune system, blood flow, sleep, and blood sugar levels. Here's another great article about the benefits of laughter. 

Bottom line, laughing is good for you, and it feels good!

So good that pretty much everyone laughs:

It is shared by all ages,





politic party,


breed (sorry, couldn't resist!),

and me.

That's why, chances are, if you've attended a class I'be taught, a presentation I've given, or a something I've written, 9.9% of the time ( more like 99.9%)  you'll find humor. Laughter unlocks the heart and the mind to hear and accept truths and change. Laughter brings people together, and like I said before, it just feels good.

So, if you haven't laughed in a while, give me a call. We can have a good life together because, after all, life is better when you're laughing.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Learn, Do, Be

Learn, Do, Be.

I have an arsenal of favorite words and phrases. These three words that make this one phrase are at the top.

I like them because they are simple and empowering. It is the formula for becoming whatever you want to be.

Say you want to become more charitable. First, you LEARN what charity truly is. You study about it. You meet people who you feel are charitable, or have charity. Your thoughts will be filled with and directed towards the topic of charity. And we know that thoughts lead to action . . .

Then, you DO. You emulate what you've learned. You put your knowledge into action.

In time, your actions will become habit, and change and mold your character. We are what we think and what we do. You will BECOME charitable.

It's a great formula that can work for almost anything. That's the beauty of it!

When I first started writing, I wrote non-fiction. Then, a wonderful editor suggested I take a stab at fiction. I had never written it, but the idea of becoming a fiction writer intrigued me. So, the first thing I did was LEARN all about fiction. I read more books in my genre, I checked out every how-to book in the library and bought them online, I attended retreats and conferences, and talked to real fiction authors. I did all I could to learn the ins and outs.

I started to DO while I was still learning. I began to write a story. I let trusted people critique it. I edited. I pitched it. (I'm still editing and pitching it.)

Then, one day, I remember as clear as day, the moment I BECAME a writer. I was sitting on a swing, talking to my husband on the phone about what I was doing when, for the first time, I felt like a writer. I was a writer. I am am writer.

So, my question to you today is: What do you want to become?

Really. Think about it. What or who do you want to be? Kinder, tougher, optimistic, crafty? Think of what or who you want to be, then follow this formula and be.

Here's the fine print: Obviously if your dream is to be an astronaut, and you're a forty-seven year old man who is afraid of roller coasters . . . well, that probably isn't a realistic goal. So, be sure to choose your BE wisely and within reason. It is good to stretch your imagination- but don't kill it. :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Emancipation Proclamation Revisited

As I was reviewing old posts, I came across this one, called My Emancipation Proclamation. 

It was written two years ago during a time when I was really struggling. It is poorly written and raw (apparently my spelling and grammar take a back seat to sentiment when I'm feeling emotional.) And it is very real.

A lot has changed in two years. Though I have moments where I don't feel the greatest about myself (like today when a crown fell out of my mouth while snacking on a rice-crispy treat. So not feeling beautiful then!) On the whole, I feel good about who I am. In fact, I like who I am. And it's not because I look a certain way (in fact, I'm heavier and wrinklier than I was when I wrote the post). It's because I look myself through God's eyes now-- not the worlds, and not even mine.

My concern is that I please God. And that makes me feel beautiful.

But, for those times of weakness and doubt (because they still come), when I struggle to find my inner and outer beauty, this Emancipation Proclamation rings true.



I am apprehensive as I write.  There is a part of me that feels that I am the only one that struggles with this.  I must be, because everyone else looks so lovely, so happy, so sure of themselves. And yet, I know that there are others.  I have talked with them. They have told me they feel the same way.  But, in spite of shared secrets and fears, there still is a voice that tells me it is only me.

I am talking about feeling insecure. I want so badly to say that I am completely happy with who I am all the time, but it is a struggle.  Especially lately.

There is someone that I compare myself to.  Most of the time it is a subconscious haunting. It crops up when I walk by a full-length mirror, or stand next to someone that reminds me of her. I begin to look at myself, not for who I am, but for how much I am not like her.  I am not as thin as her, or as confident as her, or as eloquent as her.  I am not as good of a mother as her, nor am I as smart or beautiful as her.  I cannot cook as well as she can, and her house is always clean. There are times when I don't feel I am good enough- because I think I am not as good as her.

She is you. It is of no fault of your own.  You just have so many qualities that I wish I possess.  It becomes a problem with I begin to think I am not as good in whole, because I am not like you.

I give myself kudos for admitting that.  It takes courage to admit that I compare myself to you and other women. I like courage. It's cool.   I don't like insecurities.  And yet, I have them. I typically feel very grounded and happy, but lately the doubts and insecurities are cropping up more frequently. Not cool.

I have thought a lot about the genesis of these feelings, trying to figure them all out.  Here's what I've come up with.

1. I've been a little emotional lately. I am a woman.  Women are emotional creatures with high self-expectations and a desperate (albeit sometimes hidden) need to be needed, desired, and loved. When we (I) feel unattractive outside and/or inside, we  (I) doubt that we (I) are worthy to be loved, desired, and needed.  Granted, this is a blanket statement that may not apply to every single woman- but for the other 99% of us (me), I think it applies.

2. Lately I have lost  view of the correct definition of beauty. We are seeds of Deity- daughters of God- and because so, we have an innate drive to progress, to improve, to get better.  That is a good thing.  This good thing, though,  becomes distorted when we look someone beyond God in Heaven as the yardstick for our progress, our success and our beauty.  The media is a terrible God to worship and follow.  It tells us that if we are not a size 2 we are fat.  If we do not have perfect skin, we are ugly.  It tell us that if we do not dress fashionable (again- fashion according to the Media God) than we are frumpy and out of style.  It tells us constantly that we are not good enough.

The Media God tells us our chest is too small, our thighs are too big, our hair is the wrong color, and our face is too saggy. And we listen. Sometimes I listen.

The messages creep into our minds and breed self-doubt and unhappiness. We look at other followers of the Media God and compare ourselves to them, even try to keep up with them.  So we get cosmetic surgery, color our hair, take diet pills, get botox, have fake tans, and get fake nails--all the while denying the Media God's influence in our lives. We say it's not about comparing,  that we 'just want to feel good about ourselves.' But, that is not completely true.

So, I look at the celebrities in the magazine, then to myself - not the same.  I look at women around me, friends, then to myself- not the same.  I see so many beautiful and talented people, and I see me and all my weaknesses, and I allow myself to feel less.

This is not a new dilemma for us women (and men.) In the Middle Ages, women would concoct toxic treatments to remove all facial hair- eyebrows, lashes and even hairlines- all for the sake of their definition of beauty.  In 100 B.C. Greco-Romans women would bleach their hair using carbonized beechwood and goat fat. Women of the Han Dynasty in China would ingest a powder three times a day whiten their complexion. In 2,500 B.C. Egyptians applied a mixture of kohl and animal fat around their eyes as eye-liner. In 300 A.D. Japanese Women would lacquer their teeth black with iron filings. In Elizabethan times, women would painstakingly pluck their hairline back to make their foreheads appear larger.

Culture dictates what is beautiful and we conform. It has, and always will.  It is how the world works. But, we know that we are not of the world.  We have a divine lineage that did not begin, nor does it end, in this life. But, we allow ourselves to become immersed in it as it dictates who we should be, who we should follow, and what we need to be happy.  We all get caught up in it to one degree or another.  It is nearly inescapable.

So, the golden question is: How do we find the balance between feeling beautiful and secure in who we are - not comparing ourselves to others (or what we looked like in high school), all while staying beautiful according to God?

The answer.......... I don't know.  I don't know the formula for amazing self-esteem, impervious to outside influences and inside perception.  Otherwise, I wouldn't be feeling this way! But, what I do know is that I am done feeling this way.

So today I decided to make a stand. This is my personal Emancipation Proclamation (EP). Join in if you'd like:

I, (insert your name here),  hereby free myself from unrealistic expectations and guilt.  
I decree that I will love my muffin-top, embrace my stretch marks, laugh-lines, old clothes, and frizzy hair.  
I free myself from the oppression of comparison.
On this day, I declare myself free from pressure to be "perfect."
Today, I give myself the right to see me as He does - and agree.
I will hereforthwith recognize and find joy in my God-given talents and strengths without apology or dismissiveness.
I do not stand with the world and judge myself.
Today, I choose to stand with God and tell the world (Media Gods) to take a hike. 
Today, I love myself.
Today I am free.


Life Outside the Writer's Closet

I remember when I came out of the writer's closet. It was scary.

I had been working on my first fiction novel for a couple years. I had kept my writing to myself, only letting a handful of people know what I was doing. I was afraid to tell people I was writing because, well, first of all, what made me think I had something so great to say that I thought other people should pay to read it? And, what if I were really bad? I mean, I thought I was okay, but, what if I was a bad writer? I loved writing, and I was afraid I would be told I simply shouldn't do it.

So I was a closet writer. It was safe. And then I attended a writer's retreat. It was there that I met other writers. Some were published, some weren't, but all shared this love of writing that I felt inside. It was eye-opening and liberating. I realized there was a world of people and things waiting outside of my closet.

Soon after I returned home, before I even finished the first draft, I decided to take the plunge- to come out of my writer's closet and announce to the world that "I am a writer."

It was scary because, well, as a closet writer if I failed I failed in private. Out there in the world, if I fail, I might (notice how I didn't say will) fail in front of lots of people. And no one wants to do that. But, among the many things I learned at the writer's retreat was without risk, there is little reward in the writing world. And part of the risk is putting yourself out there. So, I waited until I was filled up with chocolate, and in the middle of the night last year, I left the safety of my closet and entered the scary world of self-promotion and marketing, and created an 'Author Facebook Account' and started friending people.

And guess what. People didn't laugh at me. In fact, the tremendous amount of support I received from old friends gave me the courage to make new friends and put myself out there more.

I created an 'Author FB Fan Page' and an 'Author Twitter Account,' too.

I joined a wonderful online writer's group, and attended my first writer's conference in February of this year, then another in May. I survived pitch sessions, took classes, and met lots and lots of amazing people.

I created my own website (this one), and even printed up business cards to pass around.

I didn't just come out of my writer's closet; looking back, it seems more like I slammed the door open and jumped out of the closet with ninja-speed. It's been an amazing journey since my closet liberation! No, I'm not published (yet) but I am better educated, more confident, and having a blast.

Some writers I've met along the way dread the marketing thing--the FB pages and accounts, Twitter and websites. Yes, it can be intimidating and even overwhelming. But, it is necessary.

During one of the classes at my first writer's conference, a publisher said, "The first thing we do when we get an unsolicited manuscript--even before we read it--is Google the author. If we can't find you on Google, there's a good chance we won't read your manuscript."

What! I know, right?

That's not the only reason to get your and your name out there, though. Through this whole experience, I have met some amazing and inspiring people--many of whom have become dear friends. I came blasting out of the writer's closet, and my life is better for it. I'd like to think that I am better for it, too.

So, don't look at marketing and self-promotion as selling yourself to others--think of it was opening yourself to people and opportunities that lie beyond your closet door.

There is also something to be said in the power of self-declaration. "I am a writer." There, I said it (typed it, really. But you get the picture.) At first I was sheepish in saying it, almost apologetic. But now, I own it and I love it. That came from saying it over and over in all these different ways.

So, are you still in your writing closet? Does your family know you write? Your friends? Co-workers, acquaintances? If a publisher were to Google you, could he/she find you? Would you want to be found?

If you are ready to come out of the writing closet, I say, "Go for it!" Take the plunge. I'll be your FB friend, your Twitter follower, your supporter, and your fan.

Blast those doors open and see what people and opportunities await.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Six People Every Writer Should Have in Their Circle

When I first started writing, I though it was a solo endeavor--just me alone with my thoughts a a keyboard. I naively thought I could write something brilliant the first time and send it to the perfect person and it would get published. So not the case for me, and for most writers.

Writing is a group effort.  

Over the years I've written a few books. One of these days I hope to get one (f not all) published.
But, regardless of the end result (published or not,) or even the type of book (fiction or non-fiction,) I have come to not only appreciate the role a handful of people have played in my life, but come to depend on them being in my circle.

Funnily enough, I came across an article that shared some of my same sentiments here, though I have one more person on my list.

The Cheerleader

I've got a few of these in my circle of support. The more the merrier! These are the ones that think you are just awesome, and are eager to tell you so.  I have one particular cheerleader named Marianne. She loves me and my writing, and I love her for it. She has read all of my manuscripts, and even called me at 10:30pm on the night she finished my fiction MS because she couldn't wait to tell me how much she loved it. Oh, how I love her!!  Whenever I begin to doubt my ability and/or work, all I have to do is call her and the shower of compliments begin *deep cleansing breath* and my confident soon returns. Cheerleaders are necessary to balance out the other people in your corner. I love my cheerleaders. They help me write with confidence. 

The Avid Reader

This person is a friend that reads a lot . . . A LOT. They should be honest and forthcoming in their opinion of your writing. They give you great insight into how your book stacks up against all the other books they've read. They are great at telling you if your book is too similar to something they've read before, etc.  They are able to look at your book in a holistic approach: is it satisfying, predictable, does it follow a trend in the market, etc. They help you be a better story teller.

The Editor

This is the person that can it like it is. Do you abuse semicolons? Do you neglect commas? This person has the ability to not only read for content (does it make sense, etc.) but for spelling and grammar. They have an eye for mistakes, and actively look for them. I'll admit, at first, I didn't want any of these people in my corner. They would mess up my beautiful MS with red ink, or comments and changes in Word. I did shed a tear or two the first time my MS came back a different color, but now I not only appreciate it, I come to love the correction. They help you be a better writer.

The Brainstormer

This is the person you can turn to when you're stuck in your storyline. They have the ability to ask you the right questions and offer suggestions that get you back on the right track, or send you on a completely different track. They are often writers themselves, and love the creative process. They help you keep the story fresh.

The "I Know a Guy"

In the world of writing, if you don't have a big name yourself or a big name backing you, much of your success will depend on the connections you make with others. It's great to have a friend who has his or her hands in a lot of places. They know writers/authors, they know small publishing houses, writer's conferences, free-lance editors, book review bloggers, etc. This is the guy that "knows a guy" who can help you in the pursuit of your dream of getting published. They help open up opportunities for you and your book(s).

The Stranger

Okay, maybe not a total stranger, but I've found great value in finding a person or two that don't really know me personally to read my stuff.  Without any personal connection they can read the book for what it is, not for who I am. They can read without the distraction of our personal relationship. They'll read your book the same was as any person would who just happened to pick it up at the book store. They have an insight that is invaluable: the insight of a true critic/fan. They help you keep it real.

To the tune of the good old Sesame Street song, I happily sing, "These are the people in my cir-ircle. In my cir-ircle. In my cir-ircle. Oh, these are the people in my cir-ircle. They're the people that I need each day, when I'm filling that white sheet, they're they people that I neeeed each daaay!"

Hopefully you've got at least one of each of these in your circle, too. If not, go out there and get 'em. I promise you, you won't regret it!

Thanks Scott, Debbie, Marianne, McKenna, Stephanie, Bonnie, Wendy, Christine, Laura, Heidi, Tanya, and more! 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Why Do I Love It?

I have this weird thing--I love to teach. Not math or science--but eternal spiritual truths. And the bigger the crowd, the better. Public speaking has been heralded as the number one fear among people, so I'm not surprised when people come and ask me (and many do) why I love it.

I've given many answers over the years: I love to see the light of understanding in the eyes of those I teach. I love the Spirit I feel when I teach about eternal truths. I love the feeling of saying something I hadn't planned on, but felt impressed to, only to have someone come and say that that particular thing was just what they needed to hear. I love using the talents that God gave me for His purposes. I love the people I teach. I love the energy of a good lesson. I love to bear testimony of what I believe.

But still there was another reason that I love to teach that I couldn't quite find the words for. Until yesterday. It is a quote by S. Michael Wilcox, an author an avid public speaker. I realized when I read this that yes, I love to teach for others, but my love of teaching comes from the fact that when I teach, that is how I am filled. 

He said:

Sometimes I start a class or talk feeling my souls 
is as empty as a dry lake bed 
and I have nothing to offer, 

But when I rise and begin to speak, 
the water of truth seeps in and fill me, 

and I know that I know. I am strengthened by my own voice. 

 The memory of hearing the water flowing into me stays and sustains me even in the driest periods.

It is when I teach the things that I have studied and prepared that God confirms to me they are true. My own doubts and fears tell me I have nothing to offer. But when I speak, He reminds me I am not offering myself, but Him. And that is what fills me. 

What fills you?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Faith, a Many Splendored Thing

Faith is a many splendored thing.

Faith is hope in action. We hope in something so strongly that it becomes faith, and compels us to do something. We go to work because we have faith we'll get paid. We send our kids to school because we have faith they'll learn.

Faith can move us towards a goal, but the loss of faith can be debilitating. I've met many who refuse to love again because they've lost faith in love. Some won't pray because they've lost faith in God. Some won't live because they've lost faith in themselves.

The key to understanding faith is to realize that faith is a choice. Rather than waiting for proof that our hopes are valid, we can choose to have faith that they are, and act accordingly.

I think that's one of the reasons I have enjoyed writing and getting to know other writers so much. They hope they can give the characters in their heads life, and so they write. Through hours of typing, editing, then a slew of rejections, writers act on their faith in their stories, their abilities, and their dreams.

Most writers never get published. Their faith is not fueled by a history of successes, or even good odds at success.  Their faith is fueled by the hope that they can make a difference, and they choose to act on that hope, in spite of the odds they face.

Of course faith isn't monopolized by writers. Anyone can have faith, if they choose to.  It is easy to see in the father that visits his comatose son in the hospital as he whispers their plans for their next family vacation. Or the newly single woman who accepts a date. Or the scientist who dares to look beyond the science. Or the inner-city school teacher who tells her students they can make it, because she believes it.

Faith is a power. Power to turn hope into belief. Power to act. Power to do.

Faith does't always lead to success, however. Some dreams don't come true. Some people don't make it. Some relationships don't last. Sometimes things don't happen they way we hoped they would.

That is when the deeper faith comes in--faith in something bigger than ourselves. It could be love. It could be another person. It, hopefully, is God.

When we have faith in something greater than us, we recognize that there are powers at work in our lives and the world around us that we can't see. And these powers, if we let them, can bring us joy.

For me, I have a hope that God is real. I hope so deeply He is, that I choose to act as though He is. That is how I live my faith. I seek His will in my life. I look for His hand in the world around me. I turn to Him for answers, for comfort and for strength.

And though sometimes I feel like there is a two-way mirror between us, blocking my view of Him, I know He is there, and He sees me. I know He is real.

My faith in God brings me peace and direction. His faith in me gives me courage and motivation. Our combined faith drives me to try new and scary things, seek purpose in hard things, and find joy in life where there might not be otherwise.

Yes, my collective faith drives me to get up in the morning, work and serve all day, and fall asleep each night knowing that, even though I can't see it, tomorrow will come. And that is a very good thing.