O - Will You Go or Will You Stay Now?

Ordinary Lives. From a 2 z 4 u & me

Now, for this week's installment of our a 2 z 4 u & me meme,
the letter O.

The letter O is brought to you by Orpah.

Orpah and Ruth were in the midst of something huge in their lives. Was it pleasant? Nope. Were they where they wanted to be, doing what they wanted to do? Not a chance. Their husbands were dead and they were with their mother-in-law on the way to The Promised Land. The land of promise. The land of blessing. But all Orpah saw was all she was leaving behind her.

But who's the one we always remember in this story? Orpah? No, it's Ruth. Ruth, who stepped out in obedience. And look at the blessing she stepped into--a people who loved her and adopted her, a husband and a son who went down in history as being King David's grandfather.

Can you tell I've been reading genealogy lately so Old Testament names are fresh in my mind? LoL.

The letter O is also brought to you today by Oholiab, the man God appointed and equipped to help craft the furnishings and ornaments of the Tabernacle. I love stories (Biblical accounts) of when God not only called people to a work, but equipped them! And thank goodness, Oholiab obeyed, and look at the outcome: the Tabernacle was built and "decorated" as God wanted. Oholiab was used by God.
My daring, outrageous cat, FlufferNut.

Oholiab gives me courage. Ruth gives me courage and reminds me to take the steps of faith and to obey. So when given the choice to go or stay--go with God. He'll lead you to The Promised Land.

If you're joining us for the a 2 z 4 u & me meme by posting on your blog this week about the letter O, be sure to add your name and the link to that particular post in the linky gadget here.

How to Set Up Google Alerts

Blogging Tips and Tricks at Ordinary Lives

From time to time I'll be posting blogging tips and tricks. Just little things I've learned along the way. There's a quick link to them in the menu above, under the Blogging Stuff tab. ;-) To get us started, here's a question I'm often asked, so I thought I'd post it. It's one of those tools I use, and it can be encouraging! Unless of course the other person or people with your name is into some...nefarious things. LoL

Google Alerts are useful as a writer to find who's mentioning you, who's using one of your articles (Faithwriters has a Free Reprint section, which is really great for writers and those looking for free articles to use in newsletters and such), and someplace you might've submitted an article to and forgotten about (it happens quite easily when you have a memory like mine!). Have a tagline? Set up an alert for that too!

As a reader, Google Alerts are handy if you enter book giveaways--or any giveaways for that matter. If you win, there's a good chance the post and link will land in your inbox so you can claim your prize. And that's always good!  ;-)

Of  course, you can set Google Alerts for anything and everything you want, making it so you don't miss those things you're really interested in--although you might occasionally be a little to the party.

Here's how you set up a Google Alert:
  • Sign in to Google.
  • In the upper left corner click the drop down menu for More.
  • Select Even More.
  • In the the Specialized Search section select Alerts (look for the gold bell).
  • Type your name in the box inside quotation marks
  • Make your selections as far as type, frequency and email addy

That's it! Set up two alerts—with quote marks and without. You can always edit your alerts or delete them. It's a great tool! You can always edit or delete your Alerts by going into the Alerts area of Google and clicking "Manage your alerts".

So tell me, what do you use Google Alerts for?

Authentically Transparent

Authentic is a word that I've run across many times in the last month. It's surprised me how often I've opened my inbox and found it there. People are looking for authenticity. They want the genuine article, not a reproduction. Not a facade. And that seems to be counter-cultural at times.

A way to be authentic is to be transparent—and to be honest, transparency is scarier to me. Maybe because I can visualize transparency so easily. All I need to do is look out my front window and I see transparency in the sheers that cover my window, allowing light to come in and allowing me to see out without the world seeing in. Usually. At night, when the lights are on here in the house, those sheers are transparent. They offer very little protection from people looking in. If I weren't surrounded by cornfields, if I had neighbors, I would have more than sheers on my front windows because
I don't like living in a fish bowl. In fact, I have a huge aversion to life in the fish bowl.

But, greater than my aversion to living in a fish bowl, is my desire to follow hard after God. God has called me to authenticity and transparency, and that path has put me in the fish bowl. Or so it feels. Often I feel like Namaan. You want me to do what, Lord?? Or like Gideon. How can I?

So what am I to do? Paint on a smile and act like everything is always fantastic? No. That wouldn't be obedience.

Monday evening, after an emotionally hard day wrestling the nonsense and naysaying voices in my head, I knew I had to come up with a blog post for the letter N for the a 2 z meme we're doing. It's a responsibility I committed to and skipping a week wasn't an option. I scanned through my picture collection and saw nothing. I brainstormed words that start with N and could only come up with Nothing. I've had some pretty lame a 2 z posts in the 14 weeks we've been doing this, and I really, really wanted a fun, quirky N post. But I honestly had nothing, which only served to add to the naysaying voices in my head.

In my flipping through things, (desperately) looking for ideas, I came across the word 'authentic'. Again.

Authenticity isn't always fun. It isn't always quirky. Sometimes being authentic is admitting you have nothing but nonsense and that you're so busy wrestling, and even overwhelmed by the nonsense that you need help.

It's not the upbeat portrait I wanted to paint to people who stop by. That's when God reminded me of my fish bowl. He also pointed to the sheers across the window of my life, allowing people to see in without seeing all the vivid details.

By allowing God to turn on the light—His light—on Monday night, I allowed others to look through my windows and see my struggle with the nonsense and naysayers in my head. Did they see the cause of the struggle? No. The real issue wasn't what someone said to me that kick-started the wrestling match. The real issue was that it was happening and how I was dealing with it.

It meant admitting I wasn't all I wanted to be. It meant letting people see me when I was down. It meant letting people see me wrestle. Things I'd rather not do.

In being transparent, I found friends who were struggling with similar things. We shared the verses that were helping us, and in that joining of hands, the nonsense was stilled within me and the naysayers quieted.

Namaan's leprosy was healed when he did what God told him to. Gideon's strength against the enemy was God's presence. Guess what? On this side of the struggle, and on this side of the transparency, I still feel like Namaan and Gideon. Healed and strengthened with God's presence.

Thank you, my friends.
As we live transparently and authentically, Christ shines through us.

So tell me, do you think we can live authentically without transparency?

N is for Nonsense

Ordinary Lives. From a 2 z 4 u & me

Now, for this week's installment of our a 2 z 4 u & me meme,
the letter N.

Sometimes, despite my best efforts, a lot of nonsense goes on inside my head. The kind of nonsense that steals my focus and my joy.

With the nonsense comes all those naysaying voices in my head, insisting there's no way I can write. No way I can teach. No way I can do anything good or anything right.

The nonsense and naysaying becomes a net that traps me and drags me down. 

So this week I'm working hard to keep this verse before me...
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ...
~2 Corinthians 10:5 NAS

Sometimes only Christ can deal with the nonsense in our heads.

So tell me, what are some verses that help you fight the nonsense when it attacks?

If you're joining us for the a 2 z 4 u & me meme by posting on your blog this week about the letter N, be sure to add your name and the link to that particular post in the linky gadget here.

When There's Nothing Left to Give

Times come in life when living drains you. Family. Home. Work. Church. Everything takes a piece, not even leaving you crumbs. The thought of adding even one more thing into the mix is enough to make you cower in the corner.

Physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion can exclude us from many things because we have nothing left to give. There are seasons in life when we're too exhausted to even look around and find a way out of the pit we've fallen into.

So what do you do when you're run dry and have nothing left to give? The only thing I've found that works for me is to immerse myself in God's Word. Every bit of spare time and even time I can carve out from other things is spent in reading my Bible. I don't stop with just my daily Bible reading, I keep reading. Sometimes I just read, other times I'll do a lot of cross referencing, but I stay in the Word. Other times, sleep needs to accompany the times of Bible reading, because not only am I spiritually run dry, but I'm physically wrung out.

When I feel like I have nothing left to give, my soul is like a hard, dry sponge. It takes a lot of time to recover from being that dry. A lot of soaking in God's Word. If I just quickly dip into the Bible and then run off, it's not enough and in a matter of moments I find I'm just as parched as before. Immersion and soaking is the only thing that restores me and gives me something to give to others.

Times when I try to press on through the desert, I've found that I quickly reach the burn out phase. One thing about burn out—it takes longer to recover from that scorched place, and sometimes recovery isn't forthcoming.

If there's one thing I've learned, diving into God's Word before I hit burn out is crucial.

God's Word is crucial to weathering the droughts in our lives.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose rust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. ~Jeremiah 17:7-8 NAS

When you feel like you've nothing left to give, let God and His Word restore, refresh and fill you up. Nothing else will do.

Faux Pa-tty?

Last weekend was the Faithwriters conference and when I say that it was the best one yet for me, I mean it. In years past I was trapped so firmly in my shell that I couldn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to, but this year was different. This year I let the other side of myself out of the cave and I enjoyed being with people—something that is very unusual for me. Oh, don't get me wrong, I love people, it's interacting with people I don't know well that's difficult. In past years, I quickly reached my limit and went into people-overload, turning me into a jittery mass of nerves. This year was different, and I'm so very thankful.

What I learned at conference this year was not about writing, it was about myself and what I can do. I'm still amazed at how God's worked in my life—because it's God in me that's making the difference and helping me grow beyond the limits I set on myself.

Teaching at the conference, in spite of extreme nervousness.
This year I was able to teach two classes at the conference, Clearing the Blog Fog, about the benefits and basics of blogging, and Let it Shine, about platform and persona. The blog class was a re-run from last year and a class I teach online a few times a year (you can find more info about that class here) but the Let it Shine class was all new and was a challenge for me. That class encapsulated much of what I've learned in the past year-and-a-half, and am still learning, about pulling on my persona—much as an actor would on stage.

After that class, Di asked a great question, something that was really bothering her, and I know it bothers other people too. If I have a persona I step into at times, then who is the real Patty? Am I putting on a front and deceiving people? Am I being a fake, a fraud?

No, I'm not. Here's why...
After spending years being a wall-flower I realized that often (but not always) it was fear that was holding me back. I wanted to be involved, I wanted the freedom to talk with people, I wanted the freedom to goof around, but fear kept me in lock-down mode. Other times I just truly loved watching what was going on. I'm a people-watcher at heart and gladly spend hours watching them, so fear was not the only reason for staying on the fringe of things, watching.

Me and Di as we talked about my two sides.
But there's another side to me. An outrageous, goofy, bratty side. Family friends called me Bratty Jo (instead of Patty Jo) when I was younger. In fact, a couple years ago they reminded me that I'm still very much Bratty Jo with my family, and they're right. That side of me is often the peanut gallery and running commentary inside my head as I watch people. That side is more who I was in high school—Peej (which is PJ, slurred into one syllable). So when I needed help stepping out of the fearful, too-quiet Patty I had become, I drew Peej out of the cave and let her step forward.

Just as Peej helps Patty be able to teach (which would be terrifying for Patty) and talk with people, Patty helps Peej by refining her, softening the stupidity Peej often spouts.

The two sides both reside in me—the highly introverted Patty and slightly extroverted Peejers. Combined, they are the real me who lives inside my head and heart. So it's not that I'm being a fraud and that I'm not being true to myself when I step into my persona, it's simply pulling out the more outgoing side of me.

In the upcoming months I'll be posting occasionally about how I built this persona that has helped me become the person I feel God wants me to be—the person who is able to do the things it seems He is calling me to do—things far outside my comfort zone. My reason for these posts is that too many of us are kept from doing what God has for us to do because we feel we could never do those things. From experience I know we can, but often it means a lot of work on our part learning tricks and skills that will help us and free us to be and do what God has called us to do. My goal is to show you what has helped me and worked for me. If you'd like to join me for these posts, won't you follow my feed or better yet, sign up to receive them by email.

So tell me, what are the two sides to your nature?

*Pictures of me taken by Lynda Schab. Thank you, Lynda. LoL, I think.

A Great Catch is a Great Read

A Great Catch by Lorna Seilstad

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was hooked in under 50 words. 

Lorna Seilstad had me smiling and turning pages from beginning to end. Little bits of humor are sprinkled throughout the book, making for a very enjoyable and relaxing read.

The main characters, Emily and Carter, are easy to relate to, fun to be with. They made me evaluate the things I believe about myself, my tactics to avoid things I don't want to deal, and how much time I'm spending with God. Very valuable things all dealt with in a gentle, fun-loving way.

The secondary characters are charming and full of their own life and color, without stealing the show. Lake Manawa brings to life a by-gone era, making me wish I could visit and stay awhile. Women's rights and baseball made for a great combination and I loved the details included in A Great Catch.

Over all, I found this to be a truly delightful read that I hated coming to the end of, and I highly recommend.

Interested in some other thoughts on A Great Catch? Check out The Hang of Humor in my (new) Reading to Write Right series.

View all my reviews on GoodReads

Mmm Mmm Michigan

Ordinary Lives. From a 2 z 4 u & me

Now, for this week's installment of our a 2 z 4 u & me meme,
the letter M...

This last weekend I was in Michigan at the Faithwriters' Conference and it was wonderful! For me, I think this was the best one yet--and no, I don't say that every year. I was able to relax more, be myself more, and the things I learned had very little to do with the sessions and workshops I sat in on and everything to do with what God taught me as I taught two classes. Only God could work the change in me to help me through a people-packed weekend like that, and come out of it shaky but energized.

I'll tell you more about it in another post (yes, it's started) but I want to share a few pix of the weekend highlights today.

My girls went to conference with me this year and they added SO much! It was wonderful having them along! We took a short side trip so I could show them Lake Michigan. For these land-locked girls, it was cool seeing all that water. I loved, Loved, LOVED heading the waves wash ashore--it brought back so many memories for me.

We got to spend the night at Joanne's house before continuing on to Livonia where over half of the Jewels of Encouragement blog team were together. It was so fun to MEET these wonderful ladies who have blessed me so much this year! So incredibly special! They have no idea just how much they've blessed me. Hugs to each one of you--those who were there and those who weren't. =)

Another special thing about Michigan this year was my agent, Linda Glaz. Fun, savvy and sassy, too. Love her! This picture was taken after midnight on Saturday night, when exhaustion had settled in.

The trip to Michigan was well worth the exhaustion. It was so much fun being with people who understand having voices in your head and understood the jolt I had last Sunday when I turned around in church and saw "Spider," one of the main characters for an upcoming novel, standing in church. Complete with long brown hair and tattoos up his arm. I now know the end of his story and cannot wait to get writing it!

Yesterday was spent in my cave, decompressing, and today it's back to work, and to be honest, I'm anxious to get rolling again! Woot for recharging in Michigan!

If you're joining us for the a 2 z 4 u & me meme by posting on your blog this week about the letter M, be sure to add your name and the link to that particular post in the linky gadget here.


Ordinary Lives. From a 2 z 4 u & me

Now, for this week's installment of our a 2 z 4 u & me meme,
the letter L...
as in lalalala.

That's what I'm doing this week.
No, not singing--unless the song is in the key of panic (which of course always sounds OFF key, making it so I could actually pull that key off).

Last week and this week I'm tuning up for the Faithwriters conference this weekend!

I. am. soooooo. excited.
I get to see friends I only get to see once a year and be with people who understand about voices in my head. *grin*

But I'm also running LATE. Late on reading last week's posts, late on life, late on preparing, and late to bed!

So, that means a LITTLE post this week.(Don't cry too hard. *eye roll*)

It also means no blogging last week and this week. But I'll be back after conference, ready to roll.

Have a Luscious week!
(told ya I was late to bed, LoL)

If you're joining us for the a 2 z 4 u & me meme by posting on your blog this week about the letter L, be sure to add your name and the link to that particular post in the linky gadget here.

My Friend, the Queen

I've been excited about this Friendly Friday visit since the idea hit me--today my friend is "the other half of my brain", Joanne Sher. Her birthday was this last Wednesday, so this post from her is spot on. It also shows you who Joanne is at heart, a totally incredible woman. There's not many moms that I know who would do this while grocery shopping. Join me welcoming Joanne...

The Queen Mother Goes Grocery Shopping
By Joanne Sher (written August 4, 2009)

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Romans 1:16
Yesterday was a fun, silly day. But in all the fun, I got terribly convicted about a huge issue in my life.

You see, it was my birthday yesterday. And when it's your birthday, and you have two elementary-aged children, celebrating is less about you and more about them. I'm not one to want to pass up my birthday (or even "pick an age and stick with it"), but even if I were, it just wouldn't work. They KNOW it's your birthday, and those cute children are going to make a big deal about it no matter what. SO, you might as well go along with it.

My lovely 5 1/2-year-old daughter, Annika, with no guidance, made me a birthday crown out of some of my old scraps of scrapbooking paper. She worked hard on it - even used scalloped scissors on one edge to make it look more "crowny." She was very proud of her creation, and I was thrilled to wear it.
I was the birthday queen.
Only one issue. Monday is the day we go grocery shopping. And when I say "we," I mean all of us. For a minute, I debated what to do with my birthday crown. I could easily just place it on the kitchen counter and put it on when we return. She hasn't even asked me if I was going to wear it to shopping.

But then I realize that I would rather make my daughter beam and be a bit embarrassed than make her sad and save face. So the crown stayed right on my head. And she was so proud.

So, here we all were at Meijer, me with an obviously blue circle of paper on my dark brown hair. It was interesting how people reacted to me. Most, to be honest, either were purposely ignoring me or just didn't see me. I got a couple "this woman should be in the looney bin" looks, too. Several (most who had children with them) smiled or laughed when they saw me. And a few actually asked about it.

The "askers" were, by far, my AND Annika's favorites. Cuz, of course, when they asked, she got to tell them it was my birthday--and I got to share that my beautiful daughter had made the crown for me. And did she EVER glow. It made the embarrassment MORE than worth it.

And that's how it should be in our Christian walk. When we follow Christ's commands, we might look odd to others. And sometimes, we'll try to "tone it down" so we don't get too embarrassed standing out in the crowd. And I hate to admit it, but I do this way too often.

But it's amazing what simply being willing to live for Him, and risk the embarrassment of being different, can do for His Kingdom.

Sure, some may completely ignore you. Others may even give you a hard time. And some will look at you and smile, knowing exactly why you're acting the way you are.

But the best ones are the ones who stop you and ask why you are the way you are. And then, you can tell them why you're a bit different from the others, and Who you are serving. And just maybe, you can make your Savior beam--and maybe even gain Him another follower.

And that is nothing to be embarrassed about. Even if you are a Queen Mother (for a day).


Joanne Sher is a Jew by birth, a Christian by rebirth, and a writer by gift. A native Southern Californian, she now lives happily in West Michigan with her husband and two school-aged children.

Her first book, still seeking a home, explores God's preparation, protection and provision through her husband's serious health issues. She is also working on a biblical fiction set during King Saul's reign and centered around the handmaiden of Saul's daughter Michal.

She is also a blogger, not only at her own site, but at the FaithWriters blog, where she posts daily. She also posts monthly at Jewels of Encouragement, The Barn Door, and Internet Cafe Devotions.

Joanne on:

Kant Spel

Ordinary Lives. From a 2 z 4 u & me

Now, for this week's installment of our a 2 z 4 u & me meme, the letter K...

How letters look in my scrambled brain right now.  --->

ROFL There's TWO Ks in there... upside down, but hey, it fits! Kewl!

Kan someone puhleeze tell me whose Kookie idea it was to do this meme? Although it's been a fun lifesaver, I hafta admit that I've hit a wall this week. I think I used every scrap of Kreativity I had for the week... before the week even began. Which means I'm sunk. Every word I kome up with starts with a C, so I'm konverting them for today. I kan't think klearly kuz my brain is klogged with fog. You know what I mean don't you? (Just smile and nod your head if you don't. Really.) 

So rather than drive you krazy with my loopiness and konfusion, I'll let you enjoy everyone else's K posts this week. =) Aren't you relieved? LoL

(Maybe this kondition is hereditary... my youngest just asked if candle is spelled with a K.)

If you're joining us for the a 2 z 4 u & me meme by posting on your blog this week about the letter K, be sure to add your name and the link to that particular post in the linky gadget here. 

*I sure hope I haven't scared anyone off!*

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