1000 gifts · giveaways · writing

Ordinary Graces (Book Review + $75 Giveaway)

I believe wholeheartedly in the glory of the everyday ordinary.

The morning light through the window on the hardwoods of my kitchen floor. The coolness of clean sheets after a long, weary day. The colors of peppers and onions caramelizing in a cast iron skillet.

In her new book of everyday devotions, Lucinda Seacrest McDowell distills the great ordinary graces of this world into one word a day.

Sleep. Flavor. Resource. Restore. Story. Weary. Carry. Baggage.

Sustain.

I’ve been reading out of order, choosing a word that suits my early morning, sipping my first cup of coffee, dark-thirty before everyone’s up mood. I guess you can tell some of my struggles just from some of those words.

But each day, Lucinda’s reflections speak to me. She pulls out a verse, such as Psalm 3:5–

I lay down and sleep; I will wake again because the Lord sustains me.

Then in only a few short paragraphs, she unpacks its simple wonder and reminders that first and foremost, I am God’s beloved, and He is mine. Sometimes there are statistics (apparently I’m not the only one whose anxiety rears up during sleep), references to movies, pop culture, or great theologians. Always, the reading closes out with a short prayer, a moment when I close my eyes, breath in my coffee’s steam, and open my heart.

A lovely devotion perfect for any one, in any circumstance, Ordinary Graces will bless your heart. In the good way of course.

Want to win a copy for yourself or a friend? How about $75 for Etsy? I’m delighted to be participating in this awesome blog tour giveaway with LitFuse Publicity. You can enter to win below.

Ordinary Graces Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Are you ready to receive gifts of ordinary grace and abundant life from God and His Word? Join Lucinda in focusing on one word a day through devotional readings and short benedictions in her new book, Ordinary Graces. God has given us many gifts, such as his grace—the gift we don’t deserve and can never earn. Promises from the One who declares we are already loved, already accepted, already created in his image. The question becomes, will we truly receive that gift? Will the reality of it actually change the way we think and notice and reach out?

Celebrate the release of Lucinda’s new book and grace your holiday season with a $75 Etsy gift card giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of Ordinary Graces
  • A $75 Etsy gift card
  • A grace bracelet
  • A set of Ordinary Graces greeting cards

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 24. The winner will be announced November 27 on the Litfuse blog.

Did you know Lucinda endorsed my novel? She called it a “brilliant debut”. I’m still smiling. You can get it right here.
I adore this book. It is wonderfully written and tells the story beautifully.

 

writing

Wildfires and Not To-Do’s

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On Monday I tweeted one of my favorite Bible promises. It was part of my daily reading in Dwelling Places and a flagship of my alma mater.

Today those literal hills I can cast my eyes and cares upon are shrouded in a bluish haze. We’d think a storm was coming, here, in drought-cracked North Georgia, but those aren’t thunderclouds on our horizon.

Smoke hangs lazy in the air, hovering over our pine tree tops and clinging to my big-baby-boy’s too short hair. They say it’s coming down the mountain, sweeping in from the wildfires burning not-quite out of control along the Appalachian Trail and in the Cohutta Wilderness. They say the land is so dry the fire catches quick and burns fast and when the cold finally realized it’s November and came to visit, that frost warning came with smoke.

My girls want to know why they aren’t fighting it–they’re looking for the helpers you know. Always believing in the safety of our servicemen and their daddy because they are children and all children deserve to believe they are in a safe place. I wish I could give that comfort to so many hurting and fearful right now.

I tell them as we bump over the subdivision’s private road that has a few ruts–a reminder that no place heeds perfection long–a fire can be allowed to burn and there’s nothing to worry. The underbrush must be cleared for new growth, and the fire will purify the soil and make everything come back brighter and greener and stronger.

I remind them green trees don’t burn, remember what Daddy always said about gathering wood for the bonfire? When the tree is alive, it takes an awfully big fire to bring it down.

I remind myself.

Green trees don’t burn. Life flows through roots and branches and scorch marks might be born for a lifetime, but in the spring, the buds will burst right open.

As long as we have life in us, as long as hope stamps out fear, we can endure a burning of the underbrush.


This November, I’ve made a not-to-do list.

  • I’m not getting on Facebook. You can follow me over on Instagram or Twitter or send me an email the old-fashioned way.
  • I’m not reading/finishing books I don’t like. There are a couple sitting open on my nightstand that aren’t feeding my soul right now. So, done.
  • I’m not eating all the junk like I have the last several days and weeks. It makes me feel bad and I don’t need that.
  • I’m not drinking coffee when tea will do. For much the same reason as above and because my girls like tea time.

Anything you’re not doing? I think we’re all in a place where we want to take a step back and breathe past the election and the drought and the hurricane and the fear.

Guest Posts · just write life · writing

Slow Down and Dwell

The first new friend I made at the Florida Christian Writers Conference this year was Lucinda Secrest McDowell. She beamed a smile and a southern welcome and gushed with excitement when she heard about my Edisto novel. Then she connected me with her Edisto friend who can help me get this book into the hands of readers.

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All before we finished a meal. Lucinda is genuine, faith-filled, and delightful. When we met up again at Blue Ridge for another conference in May, it was my pleasure to buy her new devotional book before the bookstore had finished unpacking the box.

Dwelling Places offers a one word pondering for each day of the year. Categorized by seasons, and so very timely for my own life right now, it is my honor and pleasure to share Lucinda’s words with you today.

 


 

Driving through Pebble Hill Plantation I saw the road sign that caused me to grind to a halt.

            “Slow Down. I Mean It!”

And Pansy Poe, the owner of this beautiful estate outside my Georgia hometown, had signed her name to give it more authority.

Actually, God could have authored that sign as well.

I believe He sends signs warning me to “Slow Down” all the time, but I’m usually running by too quickly to notice. Missing what God has for me – “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” (Isaiah 32.18)

Or, as one seasoned pastor advises, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry.”

When was the last time you really rested? Hard to do, isn’t it? Our environment is constantly depleting us with noise, distractions and the compulsion to always be in a hurry. We are just too busy to rest.

“Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means that you are busy, just like everyone else,” claims Kevin DeYoung, a pastor and father of six who struggles with finding true rest. “It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”

Do you want more of Jesus and His rest?

I believe our greatest threat is distraction. Did you know the root of this word is the Latin word distractus which literally means “to draw or pull apart?” No wonder we feel torn in every direction!

The author of “Sanctuary of the Soul” says that we have noisy hearts. “The fact that our schedules are piled high and we are constantly bombarded by multiple stimuli only betrays that we have succumbed to the modern mania that keeps us perpetually distracted. The moment we seek to enter the creative silences of meditative prayer, every demand screams for our attention.”

How can we quiet our hearts and discover these “undisturbed places of rest?”

Unplug. Sign out. Turn off. Hang up. Be ‘Closed for the Weekend.’ Clean up your surroundings so fewer projects call out your name. Put sleep and ‘nothing’ on your agenda and then keep those appointments. Determine your greatest distractions and energy-drainers and decide to be proactive about curbing their power over you.

And then go to Jesus and rest in His care. “Faith means resting – relying – not on who we are, or what we can do, or how we feel or what we know. Faith is resting in who God is and what He has done. And He has done everything.”

Slow Down. I Mean It!

LucindaSecrestMcDowellDwellingPlaces1

Lucinda Secrest McDowell is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she offers “Encouraging Words” to all on the journey. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, Cindy is the author of twelve books, including Dwelling Places, Live These Words, Refresh!, Amazed by Grace, Quilts from Heaven and Role of a Lifetime. Whether co-directing the “New England Christian Writers Retreat,” mentoring young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Cindy’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things. She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at EncouragingWords.net

just write life · Margin Mom · motherhood · writing

Definitely Not All That and a Bag of Chips

Let me tell you one of my absolute favorite reasons for attending writers conferences. Not only do I get to hang with my awesome friends whose minds work a good bit like mine, not only do I get to take classes from really smart people who become awesome friends, and not only do I get to network with awesome industry professionals who encourage and give me guidance,

I get respect.

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Some of my people. Aren’t they fun? Hannah Hall, Hannah Brock, Lyndsey Hulen, and Janet Surrette.

I’ve got a few bylines, great connections, and a job in publishing which means people approach me as a professional. Newbies ask me for advice and they want to talk this motherhood-writing-publishing-loving Jesus gig with me as if I know some secret they don’t.

Here’s what I know. I’m not all that and a bag of chips.

I’m a harried mom who has never really learned the art of simply playing with my kids.

I’m a stretched writer because I want to fulfill my creative endeavors and pay my bills.

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With Bruce Stewart, one of our prolific Splickety writers.

I’m a published author because of grace and maybe a little raw talent, but mostly a whole lot of right place at the right time.

Yeah, definitely not as together as I’d like to appear.

Two Saturdays ago I taught an online class about finding time to write. I had tried and true tips, funny anecdotes, and good connections to pass on to these writers.

But this past Saturday afternoon I cried hot streaming tears so hard and so fast, my daughters rubbed my shoulders and told me to just take my computer into the bedroom and close the door and work.

Because I had run out of time to finish edits to my never-existing satisfaction and my morning had not gone as planned and it’s the first week of summer and I’d gotten up early every day to work and I was so, so tired.

When I spoke with my editor she gave me some beautiful advice. “God doesn’t want your perfection, Lindsey. He wants your excellence.”

There’s a difference.

Perfection doesn’t exist for flawed, broken people. We can’t be perfect because that unattainable quality is reserved for the great Creator God. What we can be is givers of excellence, strivers of offering only our best, lovers of good works that resonate with souls.

And perfection actually doesn’t resonate with mine.

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The lovely Lucinda McDowell who is helping me market my novel and wrote my current favorite devotional, Dwell.

So I quit fiddling for now and sent in my manuscript. And I got a lot honest with myself. I’m terrified of the expectations I’ve heaped upon this book. But all I can do is the best I have right now, at this moment.

And that might not be good enough for some people. Everyone’s not going to love this novel that’s getting birthed from a small publishing house with a lot of wise people helping me along this journey.

Sort of like, everyone doesn’t read this blog. Everyone doesn’t think I’m all that. Everyone doesn’t believe I really have it all together.

And those might be the people I’m most grateful for. Because they push me to strive beyond my “good enough” and find that place where I can be excellent. And then they challenge me to find it over and over, again and again.

But never expect perfection. That’s a death trap of comparison and joy-stealing and self-hatred.

Perfection belongs to Christ. And we belong to Him.