Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Post for the Graduates . . . and Anyone, Really.

Today is my birthday! So I'm taking the day off. :o) But I sincerely wanted to post an encouraging word for all of the graduates out there. Recently, one of my dear writer friends, Teresa Lockhart, wrote a blog entry on SerendipiTee, her blog, that reminded me of the graduates in our school but also about my life personally. My daily goals - things I have to get done and things I want to get done - all require my FOCUS! Teresa said she'd be happy to share her blog post on focusing with us so I'm happy to had the reins over to Teresa Lockhart for today!

Quick bio: Teresa Lockhart's been a freelance writer for several years, interviewing celebrities about the way God is working in their lives. Her work has appeared in several Lifeway and Vox publications in addition to many others. She's a frequent writer for the Living Light News out of Edmonton (Canada). 

When she's not writing, she spends her time teaching high school journalism. She says, "I get my greatest inspiration and laughter from my students." She's been named an Outstanding Teacher of the Humanities, a Tennessee Regional Teacher of the Year, a Middle Tennessee Scholastic Press Association Media Adviser of the Year, and a Tennessee High School Press Association Media Adviser of the Year. She's just recently been named a Certified Journalism Instructor by the Journalism Education Association. 

For the last year Teresa's been writing, revising, and polishing her first YA novel. She says, "I have a strong passion to help my readers see how wonderfully and serendipitously God works in their lives." I think you will agree with me that Teresa is incredibly talented and as she shares her heart with us, you'll see just how amazing she really is. Now, without further ado . . .  

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.  ~  Mark Twain
I grew up a very creative only kid on a very limited budget, so I had to improvise to have fun.
I lived to play softball, league team, community team, tournament team, etc.  I played on multiple teams at one time. We didn’t have fast-pitch “back in the day,” and we didn’t have hitting facilities. I was one of the smallest kids both in my class and on my team, so I had to find something I could do to make up for my inability to hit homeruns like my superstar teammates.
I learned how to place hit.
Because I wasn’t strong enough or quick enough to hit the ball over the outfielders’ heads, I learned to do the next best thing—place the ball where the players weren’t.
The key to place hitting is having a good eye, good timing, and good position. All of those details require focus.
“Back in the day” my mom had a clothes line to dry our laundry. I rigged up my own hitting helper. I put a softball in an old tube sock and tied a shoe string around the end and then tied the shoestring to the clothes line so that the ball in the sock was about chest level.
I took my bat and practiced standing in different positions, envisioning the different angles where the ball might cross homeplate. I tapped the ball and watched the direction it went. If I put my right foot to the back of the box and turned my body so that my left foot was in front, I could make the ball go toward first base. If pulled my left foot to the edge of the box, I could make it go in the opposite direction.
I spent hours focusing on the ball. When I tried out my new skills at practice, I discovered I could put the ball pretty much wherever I wanted. My ideal placement was down the chalk of the right field line. This type of hit makes it extra hard for the fielders to throw out runners headed for second or third base. Even if they threw me out, I would at least advance the lead runners.
If I happened to hit several right field fouls, I then switched my feet and dropped the ball over the third baseman’s head. Surprise! I always got a kick out of the look on the faces of the opposing coaches after they adjusted their players to the right.
I was a pretty decent pitcher, much better than a hitter. But when you’re an only kid, it’s hard to practice pitching all by yourself.
Again, I came up with a way to practice alone. My little house had a concrete front porch with two posts. If I stood next to the road in my front yard, I could pitch my softball so that it would hit the post on my front porch and then bounce back to me. I had to be accurate. Otherwise, I might break my mom’s window.
After spending sometimes hours a day doing this, I developed a pretty accurate pitch. I could almost always throw the ball over the plate. I also learned a special backspin release that made the ball pop up when batters hit it.
My downfall was that I put such a high arch on the ball that sometimes I threw it too deep behind the plate. I had to find a way to remedy the situation. The only thing I knew to do was to put a glove on the ground and practice pitching the ball over and over so that I could drop it into the glove every time.
It worked.
I didn’t realize back then that I was fine tuning more than my softball skills. I was developing focus.
Focus is everything in life.
Without focus, we risk roaming and never reaching our goals. It’s great to have a goal, but no matter bad badly people want something, they may never achieve it unless that find out how they’re going to get there and what’s holding them back.
I came to this little epiphany when I was practicing my guitar the last week. It took a Beatles song to help me learn where I wanted to go and what’s holding me back. I realized that I could practice for hours and learn nothing unless I was focused on finding my own way to master a technique.
Over the past few months I’ve dealt with a lot of stress and sorrow, and if it weren’t for the music I’d probably be a basket case. As much as I live to write, I became so discouraged that I lost my focus on writing. Sure, I write every day. But I found myself writing in circles, going nowhere.
I finally asked myself again EXACTLY what I wanted from my writing, what I wanted from life. It sounds simplistic, but if I really I need to pinpoint my destination, figure out how I’m going to get there, and figure out what’s holding me back so that I can remedy the situation.
How about you? What is it you want? Where are you going? How are you supposed to get there? What’s holding you back? How can you fix the problem?
Ultimately, we can do all the right things and still find obstacles that are too difficult to overcome. That’s where our faith in and dependence upon God come along. I believe He wants us to grow, to be the best we can be, but I also believe He wants us to rely on Him and to give credit where credit is due.
In less than two weeks I will leave my classroom for a summer break. I have dreams that I want to come true. If there is anything in this world that irks me, it is to hear a person say, “I wish I could do that”—and then do NOTHING to make it happen, be it practicing or pushing beyond the comfort zone or praying.
Doing nothing leads to regret. I’ve already traveled that road one too many times.
It’s time to arise and go…in focus.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Face in the Clouds

Oh my! How has it already been 2 months?! Well, now that school is almost out for the summer, I'm going to attempt to put together a schedule . . . AND STICK WITH IT!!! Some of you have given me ideas of what you might want to read about on here, so that helps. Sometime the first part of June I'll update the blog with a schedule and let you all know how it will go. Cool???

One great thing, is The Heart's Lullaby is going great! Funny how the Lord works things out for us. I never intended it this way and heavens knows I'd trade this book in a heartbeat to have my Patty back, but it's really turning into a tribute to her and the wonderful mother that she was. I hope I make her proud with this project. But more on that later. This blog post I want to introduce you all to a new author friend, Marianne Evans.  

Welcome to From My Heart to Yours, Marianne! I'm so excited to talk about A Face in the Clouds, but first let's get to know you a little better.

Q. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

Back in middle-school, when I wrote stories, and handed them out to my friends a chapter at a time. They kept coming back for more, and I loved, loved, loved the process, so I kept at it!!

Q. What other books/short stories/articles/poems have you written, whether published or not? 

My writing career began with Kensington Publishing and their Precious Gem line of contemporary romances. For Kensington I published: Friends & Lovers, Right Hand Man, and Hannah’s Heart. My writing life took a several year hiatus, but the muse came back with a vengeance, and I contracted another contemporary romance with The Wild Rose Press titled With This Kiss.

That’s when tides turned in my writing life, and I began to write in the genre of my truest heart, Christian fiction and romance. I won a writing contest with White Rose Publishing that earned publication of my debut Christian inspy, Hearts Crossing. From there, a four book series was born and contracted. Hearts Crossing followed as book 2 in The Woodland Series, Hearts Communion will be out later this year, and Hearts Key will see publication in the spring of 2012. 

My work in progress is a mainstream Christian fiction title called Devotion. Devotion explores the issue of temptation and a marriage on the rocks. What happens when a picture-perfect Christian marriage begins to falter and crack, how do a loving and committed couple find their way back to one another?

Q. Do you have an all time favorite book? Which genre do you prefer to read and why?

I love Christian romance and Christian fiction – so I’m a fan of anything by Karen Kingsbury. She’s an amazing talent. Beyond Christian fiction, I also very highly recommend the book “Tell me no Lies” by Elizabeth Lowell – such a wonderful suspense/love story!!

Q. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I don’t even bother to try.  LOL!!! Seriously, it’s a day-to-day thing, but I think the best thing I do is make sure to spend time in prayer, especially when I feel overwhelmed. When I rest, and go still for a few minutes, I find the tensions ease away and I receive a re-charge. Sure, stress issues still need to be dealt with, but I emerge with a fresher mind-set, and a calmer, open attitude.

Q. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

MY FAMILY. I absolutely love my kids, and my husband, and consider them my pride and joy!!!

Q. What was your greatest roadblock in writing this book and others, and how did you overcome it?  

I’d have to say the biggest frustration comes in the form of those moments when I have a block of time to sit down and write and the words just won’t come. Instances like that leave me gnashing my teeth, because it feels like such a waste. But then I remember, the words may not flow ‘on demand’ – but my mind is still working the plot, and the characters, and ultimately, once the percolation episode passes, the words start to pour out.

Q. What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

Never, ever, ever give up. EVER. Don’t let rejection have the last say. Stack up the rejection letters/e-mails, toss a nice linen cloth over the top and use them as an end table. That’s what I did.

Q. Tell us about the featured book, A Face in the Clouds, - back cover blurb plus what this story means to you.

A Face in the Clouds is a bonus short story to my award winning Woodland Series. You meet the heroine, Sandy Pierson, in Hearts Crossing. She’s the hero’s ex-fiancĂ©e, and several readers asked me about her, wondering if she’d get a Woodland story of her own. This story is the answer to that call. This story is also a precious ode to my sister-in-law’s art ministry, which is a highlight of this book that I hope readers will explore even further! Here’s the blurb!

Reporter Paul Hutchins is all about finding facts and uncovering the truth. Verification, authenticity and quantification are the fuel of his spirit…Until he falls in love with producer Sandy Pierson.

Sandy sees Christ alive in every aspect of her life. No need for quantified facts. Faith is the fuel of her spirit. But her love for Paul puts her at odds with God's call toward faith and all of its mysteries.

Paul considers Christianity to be well-meaning myth—hyperbole. To Sandy, it’s everything—and she can accept nothing less from the man she loves.

Can a miracle happen? Can the touch of God Himself keep their relationship from shattering?

(This is Jen talking now.) This mini-book (only about 50 pages) was a wonderful, touching read. Here is my review of A Face in the Clouds: 

"An Easter release for was perfect for 'A Face in the Clouds', though this is a story for every day of our lives.

I, personally, could relate with not being able to make sense of it all, something Paul struggled with. I can also understand desiring to know more about our loved ones' top priorities. God was Sandy's top priority, a priority Paul just could embrace because he didn't understand Christianity. To him, Christianity was not practical because it was not factual.

Through this story, so eloquently told by talented author, Marianne Evans, you see how the Lord uses people OTHER THAN SANDY to illustrate to Paul His love and His constant presence. His realness. Gradually, the clouds in front of Paul's eyes are lifted as he sees A Face in the Clouds.

This story was powerful to me because this is real life. People are touched by the Holy Spirit every day the way Paul was. Miracles like this really do occur. This story has the ability to give hope to the hopeless and strength to the weak. For Christians, reading this book will challenge them to look deeper, try harder to see God in everything around us. Thank you, Ms. Evans, for obeying the Holy Spirit's promptings and writing this quick, yet life-changing read. I will certainly do my best to look a little deeper in my own life to find . . . A Face in the Clouds."

Q. How can readers find the book and where can they find you on the Internet?

I love connecting with readers, so, please, don’t be shy!!  J

Bonus question: Tell us one interesting fact about you that your readers would find interesting, and maybe even surprising. 

I collect antique salt cellars. These are small, bowl-shaped pieces crafted of glass, porcelain, or metal and they come with small spoons. Back in the era before pourable salt, these were placed on the dinner table and you chipped off a bit of salt from a block that was placed in these bowls and you could then season your food. They’re beautiful, and I have fun shopping for them! 

That is very interesting! Thank you so much for sharing about you, your life, and your books. I know my readers will find your stories every bit as compelling as I do! To purchase your copy of A Face in the Clouds, Kindle Edition from for only $1, click on the title, grab a cup of coffee, and get ready to be inspired! And guess what! Marianne's going to give away a PDF copy of Hearts Crossing, mentioned above, the novella that started it all for her as an author of Christian fiction, and actually introduces the heroine of A Face in the Clouds, to one of our lucky readers! Yea! All you have to do is leave a comment here and I'll draw a name ON MY BIRTHDAY, May 26th! FBing this contest will give and extra entry and so will tweeting it. Also following Marianne's blog and subscribing to my blog will give you TWO extra entries! Don't miss out! Thank you again, Marianne, for stopping by my blog today and for helping to change hearts and lives with your wonderful stories!