Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where's Your Creative Space?

My one word for 2012 is CREATE.

Have you seen the Where Women Create magazine?

Where is your creative space? 

     Is it on a laptop?

     Is it in a kitchen?

     Is it behind a microphone?

     Is it at a sewing machine?

     Is it in a coffee shop?

     Is it on the dance floor?

     Is it behind a drum set?

For me the answer to all these questions is: YES! They are all creative spaces for me.

Although just to keep it real, I'm probably the least effective behind the sewing machine!

And yes, I actually love playing drums. I learned in grad school when I played on Sunday nights at my church.

(My drum kit is electronic-looks a lot like this one. Not the prettiest looking set but I can play it with headphones on and not bother the neighbors.)

Spence Smith used to think his creative space was behind a drum set too. He used to think that was his only creative space - until he starting thinking differently about his creativity. He blogged about that on Feb 9th, pop over if you want to read it. In fact, go read it because maybe its time for you to think differently about your creative space too.

So where do you usually do your most creative work?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Henrietta's Immortal Life

Last night I was at a lecture at the university with guest Rebecca Skloot. She's the author of the NYT best-seller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Who is Henrietta Lacks? And why is she immortal?

Henrietta is an African American woman - a poor tobacco farmer - who died decades ago.  But before she did, doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. In fact, they were spread around the world and they launched a medical revolution, spawning a multimillion-dollar industry.

More than twenty years later, her children found out.

Henrietta's cells became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t even afford health insurance.

This book a riveting expose on the history of “HeLa” – the first immortal human cells grown in culture, without Henrietta’s permission – and the inextricable dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Even if you aren't a science geek, this is fascinating stuff and the book reads like fiction.

Rebecca put her life virtually on hold for a decade to research and write this book - befriending, educating and helping Henrietta's family along the way. It seems that all great successes start with a sacrifical investment of time and passion.

What are you currently sacrificing for and investing in? 

And if that's too hard or too personal to answer, what are you currently reading that's good?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sanctifying Friends

I sit here today reading the section on "sanctifying friendships" towards the end of Mary DeMuth's newest release Beautiful Battle. And I reflect on my own connections with Mary.

Several years ago, maybe early 2006, I came across a blog by an American woman who had moved with her family to southern France to plant a church. (Little known fact about me, I am a bit of a Francophile.)

I was fascinated with Mary's stories of culture shock, language shock and spiritual shock. I loved how she chronicled everything from using European washing machines to the small town festivals. Plus, I could tell she was a foodie - a trait I appreciated. 

I just knew I'd like this woman if I were to ditch my American life, move to France's wine country, and share a community garden with Mary. Which, I would be apt to do if I didn't love our university life here in Wilmington.  And if I'd gotten better grades in my high school French class.

Mary and I sometimes trade emails in which I say "thank you" to her in French. She'll reply something like, "No problem; my pleasure," in French. And then I realize I am out of French phrases I both know and can spell, other than: "My hair is brunette," or "Excuse me, can you point me to a bathroom, please?"

So I email her back one of those phrases. She doesn't seem to mind my randomness.

Fast forward a couple years from 2006 and Mary is at the annual P31 She Speaks conference. Took me a while to connect the dots and realize that this Texas-dwelling writer is the former expatriate French church-planter I'd enjoyed reading about online the winter I was on my Peter Mayle reading kick.

Of course, before I even connected those dots, we had connected. And I liked her - she was interesting, passionate, intelligent and fun. She also had a depth to her. Over time I could sense that this woman sees the spiritual realm. Not literally, but more so than most.

One summer weekend a couple years ago, Mary flew from Texas to North Carolina to hang at the beach with me and several other writer friends. That weekend I learned of the experiences that lead to that depth I'd sensed in her. (Many are now chronicled in her memoir Thin Places.) And I gained a new level of respect for her beyond her writing, her work ethic and her commitment to Jesus and family.

Mary shares my passion for good food and powerful words. She laughs endlessly at my stories, asking me to tell them again every time we meet. Hardly a month or two goes by that she doesn't send me some encouraging note or compliment on Twitter or Facebook. (Hence my "merci" replies.) Plus, she makes killer crepes with Nutella spread and strawberries. What's not to like about a friend like that?

But more than any of that, she is a humble woman of discernment and integrity. And, I suspect, a good amount of prayer. And that makes her a sanctifying friend in my life. We all need those.

And if you've read It's No Secret, you know from chapter 8 that it's okay to need them. If you haven't read it - proceed straight to Amazon, or Barnes and Noble or Christan Booksellers and download a FREE copy of it this weekend. (Monday it goes back to regular price.)

Who are the sanctifying friends in your life? Go let those friends know today that you value them. I'm off to lead a retreat this weekend and make some new friends! 

Merci, Mary, for all you are, and for all you are to me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Running Creative

This year My One Word is CREATE.

Giving up my iPod for Lent has had an unexpected outcome - my time on the treadmill has become a boon of creativity. If I run without distractions, it seems the ideas begin to run as well. Like a flowing faucet.

Before I would usually run to music. I go faster and harder with the pounding beat in my ear. I'd work out harder, with less perceived effort, with my iPod. I knew I was going to miss that. I figured I'd just read while I jogged - but reading makes me have to go slower than I want. Or I figured I'd use one of these cool running videos from Virtual Active.

Then I hopped on the tread-deck the other day in complete silence. And nothing to read. I even darkened the room a bit. And let my thoughts go. They went to interesting places. They came up with useful solutions. And they dreamed new dreams.

Henry Ford once said he didn’t want executives who worked constantly. He insisted those who were always working at their desks were not being the most productive. He wanted people who would stop their work, prop their feet up and dream some fresh dreams. Henry believed that only he who has the luxury of time can originate a creative thought.

The luxury of time. That's what being on the treadmill gives me. I can't wash the dishes, or cook dinner, or write a devotion, or grade papers, or fold laundry, or declutter my office, or do my taxes while I'm jogging on the treadmill. So I don't. I just jog, and I find that I run into creative thoughts every quarter mile or so.

The same is true for me if I walk on the beach alone, or meander through a park - although there I can also become so engrossed in my environment that it dominates my thoughts. Which isn't a bad thing! But I'm interested to see if the treadmill can become for me a place of creative thought.

Can the sound of it starting up - like the ringing of the bell for Pavlov's dogs - trigger my creative juices?

The difficulty, I've found, is trying to jot the gist of my ideas down while on the treadmill so I'll remember them after my post-workout shower! 

What about you, where or when do you do your best creative thinking?

Do you afford yourself the "luxury of time?"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spilling Secrets

Have you ever written something in a fit of bravery, hit "publish," only later to exclaim, Yikes, what was I thinking?! Me too. I did that in my book It's No Secret.

If you've ever wanted to read It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know but haven't bought it yet, have I got a deal for you.

This week only - now through Sunday 3/25 - you can get a copy of the e-book (and learn some of my confessions) for the low, low, bargain price of FREE. That would be zero dollars and zero cents, with free shipping. :)

What's more, you can get it on any e-reader platform: Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo, etc.

To do so, click this link and then choose your desired platform.

Don't have an e-reader? Not a problem. Just download Kindle's free e-reading app for your computer (PC or Mac) or your iPad, or your smart phone (iPhone, Android, Blackberry). Get that for free, then you can get the book for free. It's super easy.

What's that you say? You prefer paper books you can hold in your hand and write in? I totally get that.  And you can get a bargain too.  Right now you can get a paper copy of It's No Secret for 60% off at Amazon. That's just $6.00! But it's first come, first serve until they run out, so I don't know how long that price will last.

UPDATE: They've sold out at 60% off, and now offer hard copies at 25% off.

My gracious publisher (David C. Cook) says they will allow the e-book to be free through Sunday, so act fast.

Once you read it, please keep my confidences, OK?  I confess a bit more in those pages than I really meant to. But that's alright because next to me, you'll probably feel sane. Or normal. Or like that natural woman Aretha and Adele are always singing about.

And once you read it, please come here and tell me your best recs for glowing skin. (That request will make more sense once you've completed the book).

You're welcome. Happy reading. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Do Nothing for 2 Minutes

My one word for 2012 is CREATE. And I'm memorizing various verses this year that contain the word.

Such as ...

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." ~ Psalm 51:10

Sometimes I use scripture-typer to review the verses I'm learning. Sometimes I just write it out a lot in my journal. But lately I've started closing my eyes and repeating it to myself over and over as many times as I can in two minutes. I do this a couple times a day.

And sometimes I use this website to "time" me as I speak it out loud for two minutes:

The site counts down from two minutes to zero. You cannot touch your computer or mouse for those two minutes. Well, you can, but the goal is not to. Meanwhile, ocean sounds play in the background ... I've been known to leave it on after I'm done with the two minute review just to listen to the waves.

Pick verse and give it a try today.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lent and my iPod

I'm a little late coming to Lent. 

Easter is only about four weeks away. But I was rather immersed in a huge project for the first couple weeks of the Lenten season.

So you probably know the Lenten drill - give up something you love, something you would miss, something that would cause you to feel sorrowful to be without - for the 40 days leading up to Easter to identify with the sufferings of Jesus. And to position yourself to draw nearer to Him.

Specifically, Lent links up with Jesus' time in the wilderness when He fasted for 40 days and was tempted three times by Satan but resisted.

Historically, Lent has been a season of fasting.  From meat or foods. My daughter decided to give up Ramen Noodles for Lent this year. Are you giggling at that?  She LOVES noodles. She's been eating a pack nearly every day after school for months. (Yes, that panics this nutrition-focused mother.) But on her own she decided to give them up for Lent. 

Contemporarily, people give up all kinds of things for Lent. TV. Shopping. Chocolate. Facebook. You name it - whatever makes them happy. One thing that makes me happy on a daily basis is my iPod. So I am giving up my iPod for Lent.

When on the treadmill for the next several weeks I will forgo the music that makes me run faster and longer. And focus my thoughts on Christ instead. When working from a coffee shop, I will not have ear buds in. I'm not giving up music per say, but use of my iPod.

I realize this is no earth-moving sacrifice, but it's a start.  And it's what I came up with today when I began to think about how I could demonstrate to Christ my sorrow and appreciation for what He endured for me. Thomas A. Kempis wrote, "Nothing, how little so ever it be, if it is suffered for God's sake, can pass without merit in the sight of God."

Besides, those who know me well, know my affinity for my favorite music.

Lent is intended to be a season of soul-searching and repentance. It's observed mostly by Catholic and Orthodox churches, but it's also observed by individuals looking to draw closer to Christ in the Easter season through prayer, repentance, giving and self-denial.

What about you, are you giving anything up for Lent?

Friday, March 9, 2012


Wednesday night, around midnight, I turned in the 50,000 word manuscript for my next book. Finished feels good. It's kind of ironic to write 50K words for a book titled My One Word. I am so stoked for its release in early December!

This consumed most of my days for the better part of 2012. And I remember pushing a lot of stuff to the back burner during that time. Can't think about that now. That will have to wait. I'll do that in March...

I got up yesterday and dealt with the overflowing laundry basket. Then I went to the grocery store. I could finally begin cooking for my family again. Not just spaghetti marinara out of a jar with a box of angel hair and a bag of salad. Only I stood there in the grocery store and couldn't think of a single thing to make besides spaghetti.

I know I know how to cook lots of things  ... but what were they??

I came home with a pot roast because that's what was on sale. While on the phone with my girlfriend Marybeth, she asked me how I make my pot roast. I had to laugh because once I got home yesterday and put it in the crock pot with the carrot, onion, celery and potatoes, I couldn't remember what to drench it in.

After figuring that out I cleaned the kitchen and the living room. And thought, Now what?

Finished feels good but it's a little disorienting!

I knew there was a ton of stuff I needed to do, and other stuff I wanted to do - I'd been shoving it all aside for months. But nothing came to mind. I just kept feeling like I should be writing.

Isn't it interesting how we go for so long suppressing things - reality, dreams, projects that need doing that we don't want to do, projects we want to do but we're scared of - that we eventually forget about them. We know they are there, but still we don't remember them.

Slowly, today, it's all starting to come back to me. And the list of stuff I need to do is long! Not 50,000 words long, but long.

What have you suppressed for so long that you've forgotten? ...You know it's there, yet it's forgotten. Go do it. Deal with it. Dust it off. Finish it!