“Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.” Psalm 147:1
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Psalm 150:6
Last week we talked about the heart–the seat of emotions. We discussed how important the Breastplate of Righteousness is because the heart is one way the enemy attacks us.  You can read about the heart, HERE.
Today, we’re talking about another innermost part of our bodies that needs protected.
The lungs. The seat of praise.
The breastplate of a soldier would cover this area of the body as well. One dart to the lungs can result in the very least, a puncture. At the most–a full collapse.
Lungs are vital to our survival. They take in oxygen and distribute it to our body, releasing carbon dioxide. Inhale. Exhale. No lungs. No life.
Why would the enemy want to strike so forcefully at our lungs–seat of praise?
I guess we need to know why praise is so important. We know God tells us to praise Him. We know we ought to. He’s good. He’s done good things for us. He’s the Most High. Creator. All good reasons.
He finds it beautiful, when done with purity. It’s a wonderful fragrance to Him. But what does praise do for us? Like oxygen benefits every part of our body, so does praise.
Praise is our way of personally acknowledging God and Who He is.
“I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness,
And will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” Psalm 7:17
“For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding.” Psalm 47:7
“To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy.” Psalm 59:17
Praise puts God and us in the proper place.
Exalting Him
“Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power.” Psalm 21:13
“For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:4
“Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven. ” Psalm 148:13
Humbling us
“Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed! Let the poor and needy praise Your name.” Psalm 74:21
So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, Will give You thanks forever; We will show forth Your praise to all generations.” Psalm 79:13
“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14 
Praise brings peace.
“But I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more. ” Psalm 71:14
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.” Psalm 42:5
“To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

Praise creates an atmosphere of worship and change.
“But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3
“He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:3
“Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious.” Psalm 66:2
Have you ever felt at your lowest? Wit’s end? I have. And I’ve found when I turn on worship music and I begin to open my mouth, let my lungs expand with praise something in the atmosphere changes. A holiness sweeps in, my words begin building an altar, and I know His Majesty abides within in.
My heart fills to the point of bursting, my eyes fill and overflow like a glorious fountain, my bones and muscle feel weak and I know it’s because the power of the Most High is enveloping me…I have nowhere to go but to the floor. Flashes of wondrous things He’s done for me flood my mind and gratefulness I hadn’t felt before overwhelms me.
Sometimes sobs are enough, I know He’s carefully bottling them. Sometimes I cry out and no words come, but He understands the language of the heart…He responds with lavish love. And I praise!
God, You are holy, majestic, wonderful in power and love. You love me like no one can, you’re with me when I’ve been abandoned by everyone else. You hold my life, my thoughts, my heart. You are mighty and glorious. I don’t deserve you.
A breakthrough happens within. I can’t contain it. I don’t want it to end. I might jump up and dance, alone in my living room, for my King. I may quietly lay out in the floor while I let His soothing balm cleanse me, cover me, love me.
And it’s then, I know I’ve changed. If only a little. It’s under the umbrella of praise, I know I can’t. But He can.
And He will.
That’s worth protecting.
Jesus has given us His righteousness in the form of a breastplate. To keep us strong. To keep us praising.
We can’t afford for the enemy to cease our praise–to puncture or collapse a lung. It does so much for us. Let’s fight back a little today.
What is one thing you want to give Him praise for today? Let’s flood the comments with glorious praise, for praise is a beautiful thing.
I’m hosting over at Living By Grace, the facebook online community and I’d love for you to pop over and engage in conversation! Lift a fellow sister up! 🙂 

Going Old School: Sweet Valley High

 Have you ever thought you had… say, sweet tea, in your glass–you’re craving tea–but you take a big swig and it’s lemonade? 

You turn your nose up because it wasn’t what you expected in the least. It’s a shock at first. It’s not what you wanted, but you drink it anyway because you like lemonade and you’re thirsty. 

That’s how I felt about Sweet Valley Confidential.

If you know me well, you know I loved the Sweet Valley High books growing up. While many girls were reading Babysitter club books, or Anne of Green Gables, I was all up in Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s business.

When my mom told me I could go to B. Dalton books, the only bookstore in our small town, I remember being giddy all day. I’d march straight back and buy 2 or 3 books. Sometimes, I’d get to purchase 4! I couldn’t read them fast enough. I’d trade with friends, if we were missing one of the consecutive book stories. 

I fell in love with the Wakefield twins and their lives. I was always partial to bad-girl sister, Jessica Wakefield, but I adored Elizabeth and her boyfriend, Todd’s romance and true love. When the series ended, I knew they’d be together forever. They’d endured so many things, for so long. 

I could relate to a little of each character. I was invested in their lives and what they went through. I knew what it was like to have a sister to occasionally…or often, fight with. Stealing clothes, shoes, and jewelry from a sibling made sense. I swooned over Todd and even Bruce. Which is really odd saying that last statement because my dad’s name is Bruce and something about the word swoon with his name in the same sentence freaks me out slightly.

When I found out that Francine Pascal was writing a ten-years-later book, I thought I’d come out of my skin, but so much was going on I didn’t have time to nab it. Last night. I did. Sent it right to my kindle, and it’s so odd how quickly it all came back as I started reading. Things I thought I’d forgotten, nope. All there. Right back into their lives and you know, it brought back memories of my youth that I enjoyed. 

But it was like drinking lemonade when I thought I was getting sweet tea. Can you be disappointed in something and yet still like it? I dare say…you can. Because it happened to me. Those teenage dreams of having true love, all those books that I sighed with satisfaction, gone. Doused with the ice-water of reality. Fictional reality. 

I was angry for half the book, yet I kept reading because I’d poured half my teenage life into those books and that young girl had to know what the heck was going on and why? 

Sweet Elizabeth wasn’t so sweet anymore. In fact, she made her away around men more than Jessica ever did. Friends with Benefits. That’s not Elizabeth! I did love reading what happened to everyone, especially the way Pascal did it at the end. I smiled because I remembered those crazy kids. Not all of them had happy endings, but let’s be honest. The stars sometimes don’t go on to do these amazing things we think they will. In fact, some of them do very little. She resolved the conflict, and while I was happy to see them sisters again and Elizabeth happy, I could still taste the lemons and not the sugary goodness of southern sweet tea. 

I did learn something new about my writing from this book. I have another author besides Nora Roberts to blame for my former head-hopping. LOL I had no idea that’s what she was doing all those years ago, but I caught it quick last night and I thought, “So you did this to me! You and Nora.”

Here’s a small peek:

The Wakefield Twins—and the whole gang from Sweet Valley High—are back!
What terrible secret has torn Jessica and Elizabeth apart?
Ten years after graduation, the Wakefield twins have had a falling out of epic proportions. When Jessica commits a complete and utter betrayal, Elizabeth flees to New York to escape the pain and immerse herself in her lifelong dream of becoming a serious journalist.
“A perfect storm of decades past, and we are LOVING it.” —MTV
Jessica remains in California, dealing with the consequences of her heart-wrenching choices. She’s built a full life for herself but dearly misses her sister. With Elizabeth as her enemy, Sweet Valley is no longer the idyllic town of their youth.

What series books did you read as a teenager? Did you read Sweet Valley? Who was your favorite character/s? 

Coffee with Jess: Vlog #2

Hey, everyone! It’s Friday and today is another vlog! It’s a little longer than 2-3 minutes, but I’m telling a story thanks to Lacie Nezbeth and her question so…

Also a thanks to Martha Ramirez for the Liebster Award! Yay!

See you on Monday! *I may have exaggerated a southern accent for the sole purpose of humor…just sayin!

Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Your Heart

“He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity.”  Psalm 10:6
“But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” Psalm 13:5
“The troubles of my heart have enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses!” Psalm 25:17
“The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart…”Psalm 34:18
“When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2
“So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.” Psalm 81:12
“For I am poor and needy, And my heart is wounded within me.” Psalm 109:22
 “Perversity is in his heart, He devises evil continually, He sows discord.” Proverbs 6:14
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad. ” Proverbs 12:25
“Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear!” Isaiah 35:4
Last week, I said we were going to pick apart the innermost parts to help us prepare for attacks from the enemy. You can read about it HERE.
Notice how many emotions come from our heart? These are just a few. Now, technically, in ancient times, people believed the seat of emotions were…wait for it…the kidneys. I have another lesson about that for another time.
But in today’s world, the seat of emotions lie deep within our hearts. Look at how much we feel within our hearts? Ever heard any of these lines?
“Follow your heart.” “Wear your heart on your sleeve.” “Trust your heart.”
Truth is, we can’t afford to do any of these. Not without the Breastplate of Righteousness to protect our hearts. Without it, we’re at risk. Roxette got it wrong with Listen to Your Heart. (I do like that song, though.)
 Our hearts take us places we don’t belong. Our hearts are shaky. And wearing our emotions for everyone to see is ridiculous and a fast way to become like lepers. (There’s a difference between wearing your heart on your sleeve and being transparent. Yes, yes there is.)
What we feel is fickle. And the enemy knows it. That’s why he consistently attacks our emotions. He’s got it down to an art.
God made us to feel…to feel deeply, passionately, tenderly, generously. He made us sensitive. To Him. To His glory.
The enemy twists the emotions of the heart to veer us away from God and His will. Some of the above scriptures are ways he messes with our hearts. For today, I’m picking the top 2 ways he strikes our hearts. In my opinion, of course.
Fear keeps us from moving forward. Paralyzes us into the mundane. Or even worse–into doing nothing. Jeremiah didn’t want to prophesy because he was afraid he was too young. Moses was afraid to speak. God’s people were afraid to cross into a glorious promise. Peter was afraid to stand up for Jesus at a crucial time.
And God told each one of them, I AM with you. That’s enough. You can’t. I can. God is always moving us forward. He has an agenda and it includes me. It includes you.
What do you fear? Failure? Success? Uncertainty? The unknown? A person, place, thing…a circumstance that could occur? Maybe it will. But, maybe it won’t. Here’s one: God? Growing closer to Him? Ever taken strides toward Him and everything seems to go to pot.
Do you fear the enemy more than you trust God?
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.” Psalm 9:10
I did a series on Doubt using an acrostic. If you’re plagued with it, you can read Part 1, HERE and Part 2 HERE.
Doubt is really a lack of trust in God. I think everything that keeps us from moving forward can be peeled back layer by layer to one thing. Lack of trust. Don’t believe me? What are you doubting, what are you afraid of? Peel it back asking why. Too afraid? Don’t believe it? Our hearts can deceive us. That’s why God tests them. Not for His sake. For ours.
The enemy throws fiery darts of doubt straight to our hearts. He wants us to doubt our identity in Christ, His love for us, doubt what God is asking us to do. He likes to use a double-headed arrow with this one: Fear/doubt.
Nothing puts you into cardiac arrest like an injection of fear or doubt.
If he can get us to doubt, he can put us at a standstill. Drop us like a fly. And chuckle while he does it. It’s not even his most fiery dart. It doesn’t take but a spark.
“And He (Jesus) said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Luke 24:38 Parentheses mine.
“Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”” Mark 9:23
“God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.” Hebrews 4:12-13 MSG 
When you can’t trust your emotions (heart) and your faith is shaky at best, you have to go with the facts. You can’t argue with truth. And you can’t afford to go a day without the Breastplate of Righteousness to protect your heart. 
God is God alone and there is no one besides Him. Psalm 86:10 Isaiah 45:5
He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
He has great plans for you. Jeremiah 29:11
You have nothing to fear. Nothing to doubt. Luke 24:38
He is doubtless about His ability. Isaiah 50:2
What are other ways the enemy attacks the heart? 

I’m hosting at Living By Grace, an online devotional community for women. Come by and chat or encourage someone who needs it! 

**Next Wednesday, we’ll talk about the lungs: the seat of praise

Meet Sarah Forgrave

When I see pictures of Sarah Forgrave, I think sophisticated, savvy, and fun. Sarah and I are agency mates and while I haven’t had a chance to meet her in person, I’m looking forward for that day. I like her blog because I get to meet new people, smile when she talks about being a mom to young kiddos, and she gives great health tips, that I never take, but should. 🙂
Sarah writes contemporary romance for the inspirational market and is represented by Mary Keeley of the Books & Such LiteraryAgency. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and was a runner-up in the 2010 Genesis contest. She’s also a regular contributor to The Writers Alley and the webzine Ungrind, and maintains a blog on her website, where she hosts monthly giveaways. When she’s not in front of the computer writing, she enjoys being a self-proclaimed health and fitness nut and stays busy chasing the bundles of energy that live in her house–her husband and her two young children.
JP: You’re a busy woman when it comes to the writing world. What one thing other than writing are you passionate about?
SF:I have a really strong passion for health and fitness and viewing our bodies as the temples that they are. I struggled with extra weight after my pregnancies and going through medical struggles. Regaining my health has been such a blessing in giving me more energy and strength to be the wife and mother God wants me to be. It really is possible for everyone to achieve! I believe so strongly in it that now I’m studying to become a certified fitness instructor. (Now I just have to pass the exam. Yikes!)
JP: Congrats! I’m sure you’ll pass the test. You’re very knowledgeable! And since you’re so healthy, you won’t need to worry about getting a bug to keep you from the test…speaking of bugs, when did you get the writer’s bug?
SF: How much time do you have? J I’ve had an unconventional path to writing, for sure. I think I’ve always had a writer’s gene tucked away somewhere, but in college I chose a more practical career choice and became an accountant. It wasn’t until after the birth of my son when I faced difficult medical issues that God got my attention. It took a year and a half of the medical journey before I finally heard His voice, but it was so loud and clear, I couldn’t have missed it!
JP: I admit, I’m jealous of those who can write and add. Numbers hate me. They really do. I think you just proved God speaks to us in difficult times and it’s always sweet and wonderful promises! Tell us one favorite line in one of your WIP’s and tell us why?  
SF: Hmm, I’d have to go with the opening line of my second book. “There comes a time in every woman’s life when her heel breaks and her backside meets concrete.” It took me forever to come up with a line that really grabbed me, and I remember it popping in my head while I was watching a movie. (Evidence that time spent in front of the TV is not a waste for writers. J)
JP: Honey, you ain’t just whistlin Dixie! Some of my best ideas come from something I see on TV! And that line? Um, fabulous! So perfect. I’d definitely keep reading, especially if the book came with a trip to the a private island. Ah, sigh. Name one place you’d like to go that you’ve never been and why?
SF: Oh goodness, it’s impossible for me to narrow this down. My bucket list includes wanting to visit all 7 continents, so can I choose the 5 that I haven’t visited yet? I don’t care what order…I just want to go. J
JP: What else is on that bucket list? I love reading them! If you were on one of those continents, what genre do you like to read? Do you write that genre? (Cause you’d also need your laptop while you’re there!)
SF: Mostly contemporary romance, which I also happen to write. I also love a good historical romance or women’s fiction that really brings the characters to life.
JP: Hey, we read some of the same things. I knew I liked you for more than your good looks! Okay, time to see the darker side of Sarah. If you could pick one villain from a book to be for a day, who would you choose?
SF: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I guess I’d choose the mean girl from Anne of Green Gables (I forget her name…Was it Josie?), simply because I’d get to visit Avonlea and meet Anne.
JP: I confess, I don’t think I’ve read Anne of Green Gables. Maybe one of them. It was a cartoon though, right? I’m almost certain, I saw a movie or show about it. But enough of how much TV I watch. It’s cold outside and Old Man Winter is beating us with his cane, what one thing do you love most about this season? What one thing do you like least about this season?
SF:I love watching the snowflakes fall, especially when I’m tucked away in my house with nowhere to go. The thing I like least? Ice storms and trying to chink off the layers from my car when I have to drive somewhere.
JP: Snow is pretty if I can stay behind the glass to watch it. The only thing pretty about ice storms is the trees. Like glass! Okay, I’m getting chills, let’s move on. Do you hunt down pictures of your characters from the internet? Care to share what your hero and heroine look like with us from your current WIP?
SF:I don’t usually hunt down pictures because I have such a vivid picture in my head…It’s hard to match it exactly. I did stumble across a picture of one of my heroes in a catalog. It’s an exact replica, including the dog. J
JP: I really ought to read catalogs more often! What would your characters say about you if they had the chance?
SF:Well, the characters from the book I’m editing would probably say, “When will you finally leave us alone?” LOL. I’ve been editing this thing for what feels like forever, so yeah, they’re probably ready for a break from me.
JP: Hilarious! I feel your editing pain. Really. I do. Can you give us a peek at your WIP?
SF:I would love to, but I’m still polishing this stuff for my agent, so I should probably hold off. I will say that it takes a unique twist on contemporary romance since it’s set in an Amish-centric town (but it’s not straightforward Amish fiction by any stretch). I grew up around the Amish, so I thought it’d be fun to explore the setting through the eyes of someone like me who interacted with them every day.
JP: Very interesting! I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks so much for coming Sarah! I’ve had a blast. Before you go, tell everyone how they can connect with you and feel free to ask them a question. They’re awesome about chatting in the comments!
SF: I’d love to connect with readers on my blog. I do weekly author interviews and lots of book and Amazon giveaways. And I also blog about motherhood, health, and anything else that strikes my fancy. J 
You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.
Going with the health theme, what’s the craziest diet you’ve ever tried? Any orange juice fasts or garlic and onion diets? J Or even if you’ve done traditional diets, how did they go?

Taglines: Do we need them?

So…my website isn’t quite ready and that’s okay. But with the website comes my new tagline. 

If I’ve emailed you recently, you’ve seen it. 

What is a tagline? It’s kind of a guarantee. It’s the “what and who” you are or what your product is all about. 

In a few short words. 

Less is better. 

“Coke is it.” 

“Just Do It.” Easy to remember and easy to associate with the product or person. “Have it Your Way.” “The Un-Cola.” All tags to products. I bet you recognized them didn’t you?

Now, many will say our name is our brand and I agree. I know names and don’t know all of their tags, if they even have one, but when I visit a site, especially one I’m not familiar with, in a few words, I want to know what it is I’m getting or who I’m getting. That’s a personal thing–that’s me. What I want. So a tagline is important for me because I look for them. 

My tagline was romantic suspense…overflowing hope and thus the waterfall on this blog. I liked it.  But I don’t just write romantic suspense. I’m not a steam-punk, historical fiction, paranormal YA cross-over or anything like that. 

You will get romance in all of my novels, but they aren’t all suspenseful (50/50).   So I had to think about me. Who am I? I’m not just a writer. I’m a speaker. I need a tag that fits both.

What can I promise to audiences and readers–whether a book, article, or blog post? 

I prayed about it. Beat my head against the wall, trying to come up with something clever. Waiting on God, as usual. I’m always waiting around on Him. 😉 

I didn’t want to lose my “overflowing hope.” I loved that line. And that’s when I realized what I give readers. What ALL writers want to give readers. An experience.

What is an experience? Webster’s dictionary says,”the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation.”  

What can I guarantee people? What am I all about?

HOPE. “A wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment.” 

So my new tagline:

Experience Hope

Flashy, clever, witty? No. But it’s who I am. It’s what I say. And it’s what I write.

I will also have a melt down if someone tells me, “Oh so and so has had that for 10 years.” 

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos

What’s your tagline? Do you have one? Why or why not? Need help brainstorming? Do you think they’re even necessary?

Protect Yourself

DH playing in the sand
with DD 10 years ago
…notice how she copies
his stance and moves?

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children…” Ephesians 5:1

If you have children, you’ve noticed them imitating you. This is where half of you smile and half of you groan. Jaws is one of my favorite movies. I love the scene where the little boy copies Brody (his father and really…do I need these () because everyone should know who Brody is b/c surely everyone has seen Jaws. Tell me you have. Please. For the love!) It’s a precious scene. Child mimicking father.
So what does this have to do with the Breastplate of Righteousness? I’m glad you asked.
“God looked and saw evil looming on the horizon—so much evil and no sign of Justice.
He couldn’t believe what he saw: not a soul around to correct this awful situation.
So he did it himself, took on the work of Salvation, fueled by his own Righteousness.
He dressed in Righteousness, put it on like a suit of armor…” Isaiah 59:15-19 MSG 
If God Himself dressed in righteousness, like armor, and then in Ephesians 6:14, tells us through Paul, to put on the Breastplate of Righteousness, and we know from Ephesians 5:1 to imitate…then I think it would be wise to figure out what it means and do it. It’s part of our Strong Suit.
I’m still working through Donna Pyle’s, Your Strong Suit, Bible study. This past week she talked about the Breastplate of Righteousness. She says, “Righteousness (Greek, dikaiosune) refers to the character or quality of being right or just..with Christ giving us His righteousness, our actions (as seen through our values of integrity, virtue, and uprightness) reflect God’s righteousness dwelling in us.”
“not a soul around to correct this awful situation.” “So He did it Himself.” 
The breastplate is a piece of armor that, as Donna says, “protects neck to navel”.
I read about several different kinds of Roman armor, all of which could have been worn during the time Paul was in prison–when he wrote to the Ephesians, using the armor of a Roman soldier as an example. I sure love analogies!
Listen to this:
The Lorica Squamata, which translates into “scale armor” was worn early on by important Roman soldiers. It was worn with a belt to help take off the heaviness of the metal breastplate.
Isn’t that what the belt of truth does for us? When we feel we have to be righteous on our own. Can we do enough good things? Act right all the time to earn God’s graces…the belt of truth takes that heaviness from our shoulders, revealing it is Christ in us that makes us righteous. There is nothing we can do on our own. That’s why the belt and the breastplate go hand in hand.
The belt of truth lifts the heaviness of self-righteousness. We wear Christ’s righteousness to protect our innermost parts.  So what are those innermost parts that need protecting from the fiery darts of the enemy?
The Heart
The Lungs
The Stomach
What do they represent spiritually?
The Seat of emotions
The Seat of praise
The seat of appetites
Next Wednesday we’ll begin picking apart each innermost part and talking about ways the unseen enemy tries to take us out by destroying them. If we are aware of his tactics, we can see him coming. We can plan for attacks. We can defend ourselves. With the Breastplate of Righteousness. Join me next week when we talk about the Heart–the seat of emotions.
Today I’m hosting at Living By Grace and I’d love for you to stop by and “like” the page and share some encouragement or join in the discussion with a community of believers who have the same goal as you do. To live a life pleasing to  God. 

Name one person in the Bible you would like to do an in-depth study on. If you use Jesus/God, be specific. Jesus and His compassion, as Teacher…God as the Father/Healer/Judge…etc.

Meet Kimberley Gardner Graham

Okay, before we even begin, let’s all take a deep breath and push the envy down. I know. She’s gorgeous. And not just on the outside. Kimberley has one of the most beautiful insides! She loves Jesus with every part of her being and it shines like a beacon. 

I rode on a plane with her to Denver last year for the Writing for the Soul conference–and never knew it! We’re from the same area.  It was at the conference, where she finaled, that we met and discovered this. 

Since then we’ve kept in touch and even had coffee at the fabulous bookstore she likes to write in. She’s witty and clever and so much fun to be around. I’ve had the chance to read the book that she’s finaled with AGAIN! It’s a beautiful story. Truly literary fiction at its finest. The winner will be revealed this Thursday! 

 Kimberley Gardner Graham grew up in Madison, Mississippi. She’s always been fascinated with the art of storytelling, but for most of her life she studied the visual arts, not the literary arts.
Before earning her BFA in Graphic Design and Photography from Memphis College of Art, Kimberley studied design at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and photography at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon.
She now lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and three wonderful children and believes that through writing, she’s able to use the creative gifts God’s given her to tell stories that bring glory and honor to the Lord.
The Rocking Horse of Tuscumbia is her first novel and is a two-time finalist in the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. The results of the 2011 contest will be announced at the Writing for the Soul conference in Denver this month.
JP: Tell us a little about your book that finaled (again yay) in OFN!
KG: The Rocking Horse of Tuscumbia is a novel about a spiritually blind and deaf woman who confronts her long-buried past after returning to her hometown; the birthplace of Helen Keller.
JP: What inspired you to write about Helen Keller’s hometown?
KG: The, short but very true, answer is that the Holy Spirit inspired me to write about Tuscumbia. Before I started writing the book, I’d never been to Tuscumbia, Alabama and I’d never written anything longer than a three-page paper (and even three pages didn’t come easily). It wasn’t until after I visited a friend in Birmingham and drove through the foothills near the Tennessee River that I began to feel the first promptings toward this story, its characters, and that amazing little town.
Finally, after wrestling with the Lord for several weeks, I crawled out of bed one night and started writing in my journal what would later become the first chapter of the book. That journal entry was written on July 30, 2006 at 1:20 in the morning.  At the top of the page, in bold print, I wrote the words, “OK FINE.” That was just the first of many times throughout this five-year journey when I’ve had to open my hands, surrender, and trust God to do the rest. I stopped writing and researching after about a year and tried to remind God of my inabilities. 
Thankfully, I serve a King who doesn’t see my failures. He’s kindly continued to push and encourage me, despite my stubbornness. We’ve had a lot of “okay, fine” moments when He’s graciously helped me accept His glory-filled guidance. I’m beginning to see that it’s a whole lot easier to do what God’s prompting me to do than it is to ignore Him—go figure.
JP: I can totally see you writing “OK FINE”! I can relate to those kind of moments. And I’m praising God every day because He doesn’t see me the way I do. Love that. I think we’re getting an idea here, but what is one thing you’re passionate about, besides writing? Why?
KG: I’m passionate about my family and the work God is doing in and through my husband and each of our three kids. I’m passionate about a lot of things, and sometimes that causes me to get sidetracked and thrown off balance. 
I’m involved in several ministries in my church and in my city, but I have to be careful not to put them before my mission to glorify the Lord. When I get overly passionate about the project, I sometimes forget about the people or the call to serve. My husband keeps me in check and reminds me that my writing (like my painting, photography, parenting, etc.) is a secondary calling.
JP: Balance. That’s tough for me too! Let’s stray away from writing for a minute. If you were stuck on an island with one villain from a book or movie, who would you pick and why? 
KG: I’d have to pick the wolf from Three Little Pigs. If the third, musically-inclined, piggy can outsmart Big Bad Wolf then hopefully I can too…and wolf probably doesn’t taste too bad either.
JP: I’d guess it’d taste like chicken…like every other odd meat. Speaking of food, what food could you never live without? 
KG: Ask me after a few days on the island–I’ll probably say wolf.
JP: ROFL! You should have starred in the movie The Grey with Liam Neeson. Okay, back to writing before I bust a gut laughing at your answer. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
KG: Write what’s inside and screaming to get out…
and then go back and change all of the -ing words to -ed words.
JP: Ain’t that the truth! Great advice for all of us. Words. They make us or break us…not really–well sorta, that just sounded good at the moment, but since we’re on to words, are you working on a new project? Can you give us a peek at what it is?
KG: Yes, I’d LOVE to tell you about the project I’m working on now. The Rocking Horse of Tuscumbia is the first novel in a non-sequential series I’m calling The River Cities Series. The second book tells the story of one of the characters from the Tuscumbia book and is set in a neighborhood in Memphis called Binghampton where my family has been serving for about seven years now. I’m thrilled to be writing about a place so close to home.
JP: Me too, because we have the same home. Not literally. I do not live with Kimberley and her family, people. I’m talking area. A-re-a. And I’m so glad because it’s nice to have a writer friend so close. Our busy schedules don’t allow us to get together quite as often as we’d like. We really should remedy that, yah know?
Thanks so much for spending some time with me at my online home! Tell everyone where they can connect with you and before you go, would you like to ask a question.
You can connect with me through facebook, or follow me via my poor, abandoned Twitter account
After years of studying Helen Keller and the amazing life she lived despite being blind and deaf, I’ve become fascinated with how Christ graciously unveils the eyes of those who seek Him. I’m still trying to understand that God doesn’t JUST want me seek Him with my eyes and ears, but also with all of my heart and soul (see Deuteronomy 4:29).
So, my question is this: 
What are some of your most valued eye-opening, heart-clenching, soul-stirring moments—times when the Lord has shown Himself to you?

***Thanks everyone for all the encouragement and questions this past Friday on my first vlog! You can watch it HERE! If you still want to ask questions or throw out a topic for me to ramble about it, email me at jrpatch(at)yahoo(dot)com, twitter me a DM, or leave me a message on FB (links at the sidebar)

***Wednesday, we’ll pick up with our series on strength! Talking about how to protect yourself from an unseen enemy. 

Oh, and Happy Valentines Day tomorrow! 

Coffee with Jess: A vlog

First of all, thank you to Cheryl Linn Martin for awarding me the Irresistibly Sweet blogger award! Glad you did it before today’s episode!

Yep, I took the plunge. I’m vlogging. Thanks to Katie Ganshert for her brilliant suggestions. If they didn’t work it’s all on me. Oh, and at the end, it keeps saying “My Movie”…ignore it. I haven’t worked out all the glitches. Whatever!

 Join me on Monday when you’ll get to meet the amazing woman and writer, Kimberley Gardner Graham–an Operation First Novel finalist! (and my friend) 

Smooching Jesus

Today, I’m over at the hilarious and wonderful Melissa Tagg’s blog, Ta(g)glines! (click on “Ta(g)glines” link…it’s red. LOL) It’s romance month over there, and I’m talking about a kiss. 
It’s not just a kiss. 
Especially when 
you’re smooching Jesus. 
Yeah,come find out! Oh, and she’s introducing me by Vlog. 
How cool is that?
***Next Wednesday we’ll pick up with our series on strength and talk about piercing the heart.