Thursday, June 25, 2015

DIAMOND is Published!


Get it HERE: http://amzn.to/1e57RaG  
Hey readers!
I am beyond excited to tell you that my second novel, DIAMOND, is ready for purchasing in the Amazon store, in both paperback and kindle versions!  http://amzn.to/1e57RaG

Here's the back cover description again:

 Penny’s last love story ended tragically, so she hides among her paints and brushes while keeping a bubbly fa├žade firmly in place. Could a dashing realtor with a sidesplitting sense of humor be the first step of her fresh start?

Blake has always lived in the shadow of his older brother, using jokes to mask his insecurities and uncertainty. Searching for purpose and direction, he runs into a red-headed stop sign, and wonders if she might be the key to open his locked doors.

When calamity hits Cara, Penny’s best friend, and Bryce, Blake’s brother, they’ll have to lean on each other and race to the rescue, and a bitter billionaire planning a major terrorist attack on America might turn out to be the smallest of their problems. 

Let me know via the comments section if you're interested in getting a signed copy directly from me!




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Five Problems with Social Media - Post Prompt

Hey Guys!

Life's been good the past week, though I didn't manage to blog regularly. I promise I'm not going to leave you hanging again without advance notice - it's been so humbling to hear from those of you who have been following me for years and were sad when I stopped blogging for a really long time. :)

I found a little thing on Pinterest - a writing challenge with prompts for 30 days of topics. It looks interesting, so I think I'll give it a go along with my Singleness posts as they arise. :D

Day 1: Five Problems with Social Media.

*steps up on soapbox*


























#1 - Artificial Relationships
Social media can become a replacement for real-life encounters and experiences. Sometimes the friendships you have online are false, built on vanity and not really made of stronger stuff. Flimsy, even.
(However, I don't feel that way about my blog followers or facebook friends! :) But I only have about 150 facebook friends, some people have thousands! Can you imagine trying to keep track of all of that?!)

#2 - TIME-SUCKERS
Scrolling through Pinterest feed. Need I say more? I could waste hours on there having so much fun... and I have. And Pinterest certainly has its purpose, but it and Facebook are huge black holes where my time disappears. I don't want that to happen anymore - I think I'm going to set a healthier goal of more like 15-20 minutes a day on those sites and see how much more I get accomplished in real life!

#3 - Competition Arises
My baby is cuter than yours! Here, see? These 1,000,000 pictures will convince you. My vacation was better than yours. I take the best selfies. I have better friends than you, look how awesome my life is!!!!!! - Not everyone on social media is like this, but the trap is there to fall into! We present the best side of ourselves, and sometimes feel pressured to compete with friends.

The solution? I dunno. Only post 1,000 baby pictures? Especially if the baby really IS cute. :D Maybe encourage more honesty and sharing? Reach out instead of put on a show like everything's perfect?

#4 - Breeding Grounds for Arguments
Something bad about social media is that people feel more free to argue and 'debate' and rant and criticize MUCH more boldly, rudely, and outspoken-ly than they would if there was a real person standing right in front of them. We have to remember that these are real people, not just names and duck faces. ;) I haven't noticed this among my friends, but out there in article-land people tend to get vicious and vile really fast.

#5 - Misunderstandings. "Say WHAT?" 
Tone is so hard to convey with just black words on a white screen. It's far too easy for people to get mixed up or offended. Most of human communication (I think I read somewhere that it's about 90%!) is non-verbal. That means we're only talking with roughly 10% of our abilities on social media, and it's often things get taken the wrong way.

So there you have it! However, I am an optimist, and therefore I believe the benefits of social media outweigh the bad. How else could I keep in touch with friends in other states or countries? Where would I find all those amazing DIY projects, inspiring quotes, and wonderful info for my novels?

Speaking of novels, I have one coming out soon. And there's going to be a facebook party to celebrate! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Becoming a Woman of Worth | The Singleness Adventure

Huge thanks to a certain reader named Ashley Rose who left me a super-sized comment on the introduction to this series, because she totally sparked the idea for this post in my little head! :)

Have you stopped to think, in between adding more things to your "Future Husband's Must-Have Qualities" list... that perhaps there is work to do on YOU? That it isn't all on the guy's shoulders to make himself ready for your marriage, preparing and improving himself?

*Nods* I'm sure you have. I have too. But all the grand intentions of the world come to naught if they're not followed up by actions.

For example, let's talk about becoming a woman of worth.

(absolutely no mention of that woman in that certain 31st chapter of a certain book in the holy scriptures will be contained herein this blog post. Ya'll have read that over and over again. We know, already. ;) I'll try to keep this fresh!)

When I think of a woman of worth, the person who instantly springs to my mind is my mom. She has incredibly desirable qualities and it's no small wonder my dad was instantly drawn to her like a moth to a candle flame. For one thing, when they met she was a slim beauty with a mass of golden hair and a dazzling smile.

But the real catch was her character. This lady is a go-to gal. She will GET THINGS DONE. Her attention to detail, organizational skills, born teaching talent, and selfless servant's heart are huge benefits in a helpmeet. She's also an inventive entrepreneur! Time and time again she has made our household flourish because of these many gifts.

If I can be half the awesome wife my mom has been over the years, I'll be doing well! No pressure, right?! ;)


Me, on the other hand - I still have work to do, although in all fairness I've been attempting my whole life to learn and do things that will benefit my present and future family. Just the other day my dad was enthusiastically saying "Mmmm!" over a meal I'd cooked (Lemon-Rosemary slow-roasted crockpot chicken) and told me the fellow I marry will be a blessed one. May those words be true!

I'm glad to be able to know how to plan a menu, cook delicious and healthy meals, clean + organize a house (We've got Dutch ancestry, so cleanliness is highly valued) and I can tackle any load of laundry with confidence that I won't cause something to bleed or shrink. All of these skills are things my own mom learned after she was in college. (Therefore, I have hope) ;)

But is there more? Oh yes! I am grateful for many talents that I've pursued with equal energy. Graphic design, photography, writing, jewelry-making (for profit) and several other hobbies have all had the nice side effect of giving me skills I can use in the future.

But no, I haven't really thrown myself full-steam into learning as much as I can while I'm still free and single. But I am now. 

These are some things I'm working towards.


  • Treat my body like a temple (Stay hydrated, active, eating well, and getting better sleep)
  • Draw closer to my Lord (earnestly seeking wisdom through daily morning quiet time)
  • Be a Christlike, uncomplaining servant at every possible opportunity
  • Earn more money to save for my future (and save more than I spend!)...
  • Start a wedding fund for someday
  • Make my writing career flourish, publish more novels
  • Blog regularly again (check!) 
  • Get into more graphic design projects
  • Run a successful Etsy shop for my jewelry (coming soon!) 
  • Take self-defense classes and get a concealed carry permit
  • Take regular voice lessons from my mom (instead of sporadic coaching)
  • Take photoshop lessons from my brother (Using photoshop is a valuable life skill!) 
  • Dance again
  • Crochet things to donate to worthy causes
  • Branch out, be social, make new friends


Be doing. Be learning! Don't be like me and excel in procrastination until you're of the age of 24! :D

I do have a small word of encouragement in the opposite direction. (Balance is everything!) NOBODY IS WONDER-WOMAN. (Except my mom. But she's the only exception.) You will not be able to learn 100% of all the great wifely skills out there by the time you get married. Unless you put it off to, oh, about age 75! But do this - give it your best shot!

Pray about what the Lord would have you learn to best assist YOUR future husband in your delightful future together. Not every man is going to need a woman who knows how to fix the plumbing, but maybe yours will find that a very beneficial skill for some reason we don't know now. (I do advise learning how to cook, though. I have two grown brothers and one father and they all very much enjoy their meals).

Get out there. DO things. Meet people. Forge new friendships. Share with the body of Christ, and be edified likewise by their heart-stories.

 But all that great work of polishing up your resume and everything on the outside PALES in comparison to the job of refining your character.

 To anyone who has read or seen Pride & Prejudice (the real version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) that ^ is a powerful kick in the gut. We do not want to be a Lydia, laughing and snorting and cavorting with any red-coated Officer that casts her half a glance. We want to be the witty, principled, courageous Lizzie Bennet, who captivated Mr. Darcy, a man of estimable judgment and high character.

I don't know about you, but I want to be a prize worth winning!











Saw this on Pinterest and had to share it. It's so true. Great guys are looking for girls who have hearts of gold and are doing wonderful things. 

Also, girlies, I have a Pinterest Board dedicated to the topic of "Becoming" - everything inspiring in any way that molds me into a better version of myself. I thought some of you would enjoy perusing it! Find it here. :D

I hope this post encouraged and challenged you today. I tried not to "slap you upside the head" with the thoughts I was attempting to share. But I know for sure I needed a little fire lit under me, so here I come with my matchbox to help my fellow fair maidens! :D

Now - get thee to the comment box and fire away! Is there a particular point of The Singleness Adventure you are curious about/struggle with/want my perspective on? What are some new goals you'll be working on?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cover Reveal - DIAMOND!

Hi lovelies!

Here it is, the cover for my upcoming novel, DIAMOND, book 2 in the I.C.E. Agency series!




























The proof copy CAME and unfortunately the spine image got squashed by Amazon because the image I'd uploaded was too wide, so I'll have to alter that. But the rest of it is *singing voice* FAAA-Bu-Lous!

Thankfully the edits are all done - I tweaked a few things here, changed one character's name, added an extra scene, and generally made sure there were no missing punctuation marks. I am a typo bounty hunter, and I believe I've caught every single one of the little beasts!

So tonight I'm going to be uploading the revised document to Createspace and ordering another proof copy. As soon as that arrives and I give the final thumbs-up, the paperback AND Kindle versions of DIAMOND will be ready to purchase!

*SQUEE*

So tell me, what do you think? Do you like my cover design? How does it compare with its older sister, my first book? :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

In The Day-To-Day Moments | The Singleness Adventure

We've ALL had them. Days where you wake up on the wrong side of the bed - late, because of course your phone didn't get plugged in and your alarm didn't go off. Or you awake feeling excessively groggy because you were up late reading a mystery because of course you had to find out whodunit before you could possibly get a wink of sleep. There was no other option.

I feel ya.

Or perhaps you've had this situation - When Good Days Go Bad. *insert scary music* "du-duh-duuuuuuuuh" SOMETHING happens to throw this day completely off the track. You were having a perfectly fine time, going about your daily routine, when Something Horrible and Terrible and really, really bad occurs.

Like a papercut. (OH the pain).

So all you want to do is put on this shirt and hide in a quiet, dark place.


Because, after all, you are UNDERappreciated and OVERworked and NOTHING is going right! Nobody understands you and you are taken COMPLETELY for granted!

"The cruel irony of housework - people only notice when you don't do it!" 


Life is just plain nuts now and then. And when you're right in the middle of it and snapping at your family left and right it's extremely difficult to rise above it all. But there is another way. There is hope. You have not one, but two choices.

Choice #1: Freak out, and make everything even worse

Choice #2: Choose JOY.


Joy? When we are completely out of ketchup because certain people use too much of it?! When I'm tired and cranky and hungry and grouchy and ugly and sick and worried and stressed and and and........ *stops for breath*

Yes. Because you can. We really don't have an excuse, girlfriend. We are called to be living examples of Christ in the flesh, and trust me, Jesus dealt with the same exact things we did. Frustration. Annoyance. Insults. Hurt. Stress.

This song by Mandisa is really encouraging when you're having a day-gone-wrong.

If you're too busy (or your papercut-shredded finger is too sore) to click and watch the video, this is the chorus:

So I'll learn to love these days
Laugh along the way
In the middle of the crazy
God, your love is so amazing
Through the ups and downs
You're the only hope I've found
Lord, you meet me in the madness
So I'll learn to love these days
                                               ~These Days by Mandisa

Send up a prayer to the one who does understand you, who knows exactly what you're going through. (be it a papercut, or something more serious.) The innermost parts of your heart are seen and known by God above.

He will lift you up and give you the strength to carry on. :)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a day before me to enjoy. :D

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Summer Party {and where to get Tissue Paper Flowers on the cheap!}

So if you're interested in having your own summer party, you might like to see how I did my Spring birthday party.

I had a color palette I worked from, with a few slight modifications. :D
I added a little lemony yellow and hot pink to the soft peaches and creams and light pink.


Here's my list of party supplies:

Hanging Tissue Paper Flowers and Lanterns

Mason Jars for drinking glasses and lights
(already had those on hand!) 
With lids and pink-and-white striped straws.

And I found those at JustArtifacts.com

If I were a proper blogger I'd be getting some kind of compensation for telling you about this website, but nope, I am just sharing a great resource with you because I'm nice like that. :D 

So here's what it looked like!



We decorated our carport with the tissue paper flowers and lanterns and set up tables all around for the guests to sit at and enjoy the party food. Later we cleared them out of the way for the games. :)


The Lemonade Stand! :) My dad helped me make this a cute photo booth! We used scrap wood we already had, a plastic folding table, a plastic tablecloth and chalk from the dollar store. :)


Here's one of the flower bouquets on the tables. I got the silk peonies and roses from Hobby Lobby.





The set-up...

Already having fun serving ourselves some yummy punch and strawberry lemonade!


Here's what the glasses looked like - super adorable.


Since I have a bajillion beads on hand, I made a little game with some that matched the party colors.
Any idea as to how many there are? Oh all right - there were 224 beads! The closest guess was 235 and the guesser won a prize of a big box of starburst candy. :D



The photo booth was really cute. The backdrop is a vintage sheet I found for $5 at a little shop in town, and the photo props I found on sale at Hobby Lobby and customized myself. :)

There's Victoria!! She was invaluable as my set-up assistant, could NOT have done it without her! :)

My cake! The candles are from walmart (as is the dotted tissue paper beneath the cake stand) and the cake I bought from the deli in town - it's strawberry, my favorite! And it was so delicious. Totally worth blowing my THM plan for, just this once. :D


The strawberry lemonade and the fizzy peach-lime-kiwi punch were a big hit! 


Mama and Mark helped light all my two-dozen candles and then I blew them out in one breath. :D

Besides the cake, we also served:

  • Mini Quiches
  • Lunch Meat & Cheese platter, and bread & sandwich condiments
  • Pasta Salad with cherry tomatoes
It was all very tasty! :) I was having so much fun that I didn't take as many pictures as I should have, but the memories will last forever all the same. :)


Hope you enjoyed that little glimpse! Do you have any plans for parties coming up this year?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

But - What If I NEVER Get MARRIED?!? | The Singleness Adventure



Deep breaths, girlfriend, deep breaths.

I understand the feeling of raw panic and despair that may tear at your innards when  you have that thought, of not getting married - the dread that you may be left to wither, a wallflower whose bloom has faded. But you know what? That's not gonna happen. You will only shrivel up, a crisp dry dead thing, if you become a bitter old maid.

Repeat after me. "I WILL NOT BECOME A BITTER OLD MAID."
There. Problem solved. :)

You know what you can be instead? Right now? A vibrant, beautiful princess, serving her people. Or a dynamic, determined secret agent, delivering the information of the gospel. Or anything! Pretend this is one of those role-playing games and create your own character! :) You can be anyone you want to be.

Honestly, the thought of not getting married used to terrify me. Right up until last month. Until God got ahold of me and I had a heart-change. I let go. He took that fear away and whispered "Daughter - I am enough."

And he is.

Matthew 28:20 - "I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." 
James 4:8 - "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you." 
Isaiah 26:3-4 "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord, is everlasting strength." 

It took me a long, hard walk to get to this point. I went through difficult times and learned painful lessons. It wasn't easy. Kind of like my hike up Yonah Mountain. But now... the view is incredible. :D

I realize how tough it is to be honest about this point. Of not being afraid to let God have complete control in how things play out. Of not getting married when YOU think you should get married. And I always knew I should be okay with the thought of staying single if that was what God had for me.

But I wasn't. OH no. I am an extreme case. :D I have wanted to get married and have a family since I was fifteen. I remember lying on my bed, sobbing my heart out, because I wasn't married yet and it would probably be five long years until I turned 20 and could FINALLY get married.

Imagine what my reaction would have been if I could have looked into a portal and seen that I would still be single at 24!!

Can you guess why I wanted to be married so bad? Because then I'd have a husband. Husbands were perfect, magical beings who brought home money and showered you with hugs and kisses and gave you sweet babies and met your every need and never failed you once. (any married ladies out there, laughing yet?)

Husbands are hard work! They leave piles of laundry to take care of! They eat all the time and want dinner every single night! ;) Yes, they can be awesome, but they all have flaws, and are NOT perfect!

A husband is not Jesus. A husband will NOT be able to meet your every need. ONLY GOD CAN. And he needs to be your everything now before you are married, or you will be disappointed and depressed instead of living your happily ever after.

Almost two years ago now, I almost got married to the wrong man. I shudder to look back at that brief experience, but it's always accompanied by a prayer of thankfulness to the God who brought me through with as little pain as possible and taught me a valuable lesson through it.



Marrying the wrong man and being miserable would have been ten thousand times worse than staying single and living a happy, busy, productive, creative life!

Marriage is meant to be a comfort while we walk this earth. But it actually isn't for forever. (I never liked this thought either.) Men and women are created to help each other in an equal partnership of matrimony through the difficulties of this life.

I was reading this verse this morning:

Matthew 22: 30
"For in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels of God in heaven."

In heaven, marriage doesn't matter anymore, because we are all with God. Can you imagine looking right at God? Being in heaven? I can't wrap my mind around it. But it will be so.

We desire marriage so much because we were created to do it. Get married. Be helpmeets. Bear children. But you know what? I serve a God who does miracles. Anything is possible with Him.

We are created to eat, too, right? (Honey, I know I am.) God has miraculously sustained people who are fasting and praying, time and time again. In the same manner, he will supply your need for love and companionship. In Himself, firstly. And if you stoop dabbing your tearful eyes with tissues and look around - in many other people who love you as well. Your family. Loved ones. Friends, even!

But what if you're thinking "I STILL WANT TO GET MARRIED!"

ME TOO. :)

But if I never get married, that's okay. Because I have a God who is more to me than an earthly husband ever could be, and that will never, ever change, throughout eternity, when we're in his glorious presence.

Thank you for being patient and reading this gigantic post! I hope it was helpful or encouraging. And feel free to share with your other single friends. :)

And if you want a laugh, go read this charming post by Amy Dashwood. TRY not to laugh at that girl's humorous wit! You will not succeed! ;)

While on the topic of marriage, I would also like to take the opportunity to wish my parents a very happy anniversary! 
They have now been married for 26 years!
*applause*
*confetti*


And they're such cuties. So blessed to have them in my life. :)

Love & Hugs,

Monday, June 8, 2015

Wanna Win $100 on Amazon.com??

I mean, if you don't, that's fine. But who couldn't use that kind of money for a place that sells practically anything you could wish for? :D

The details... ah yes...


Read all about it over on HomeschooledAuthors.com  - there are a whole bunch of neat authors participating, including yours truly. :D


For ASHBURN is on sale for only .99 cents during the second week of June! Isn't that FABULOUS? Trust me, now is the time to take advantage of that price. It'll be the best almost-dollar you've ever spent. :) And writing a review of it earns you a chance to win $100!

So hop on over there this minute to check out the contest and snag a kindle copy of my book! :)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Pearls are More Amazing Than You Thought


Via Pinterest
Pearls are the 'birthstone' for the month of June.

I love wearing pearls, don't you? So shimmery and sleek - classic and chic. (hey, that rhymed) ;) I think they glow like tiny moons. They're unique in the fact that they're the only "gem" that is actually a material created by an animal - a pearl oyster. All the other gems are rocks and minerals. Oh right, except for some rare corals.

I kinda have a thing for jewels. ;)

Treasures of the sea have always fascinated me. I grew up near the beach, you know. When I was a little homeschooled girl, we had a large library of books in our house, and one of them was all about treasure that had been brought up from the ocean - loot from shipwrecks. I don't know how many times I read that book, over and over again. I stared at the pictures of the emerald-encrusted gold cross, the Spanish doubloons, the ruby-studded dagger.

But anyway, where was I? Talking about pearls, that's right.

You've heard about how they're made a thousand times, right? So often that it's become a little tired-out, I would imagine.
Pearls are formed when a tiny irritation enters the oyster, like a grain of sand. (Poor thing. Imagine having something like that in your eye and you can't blink to get it out!) The oyster coats it with layers upon layers of pearly 'nacre' as long as it remains inside the shell. After about five seconds on Google I found an article that details the process a bit more here. To a jewelry-maker that works with pearls often, it's even more interesting.

This part sounds super scientific, but bear with me: "The nacre is not just a soothing substance. It is composed of microscopic crystals of calcium carbonate, aligned perfectly with one another, so that light passing along the axis of one crystal is reflected and refracted by another to produce a rainbow of light and color."

I'm sorry, but that's just beautiful. I'm freaking out over here. Pearls are actually tiny worlds composed of millions of rainbow-reflective crystals. How awesome is that?!

I was sitting on my bed, holding my Bible, thinking about pearls, after reading three verses the evening before with my family. (They're in Matthew, chapter 13, if you want to go read 'em yourself in your own preferred translation, but really, KJV, people, it's just so rich)

The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls

Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it

Um. Wow. I can't begin to imagine giving up every single thing I own for one pearl, even if it was gorgeous and bigger than my head. But this guy here, he didn't hold back. Not one bit.

These verses are in red letters in my Bible, which means Jesus said the words. He was actually talking to the disciples in this scene, because after he'd come back from preaching to a huge crowd from a boat they started asking him what the heck he meant with all those parables. ;) So Jesus starts to patiently explain to them what they meant.

They he hits them up with this pearl story. I believe the field represents believers, as a whole. Jesus sacrificed everything for those who would accept the price he paid for them on the cross. The pearl of great price?

That's me.

My hands fly to my cheeks and I almost blush, thinking about it. Jesus gave his life for me. He thought of me as he hung there dying for my sins. Sins that, at that point in time, I hadn't even committed yet, because I hadn't even been born, nor had my great-great-great-grandparents.

I can't even begin to fathom it. I'm just grateful that I've accepted his beyond-generous offer.

Have you?

If your heart answers "Yes, I believe it, and I've said it - Jesus is Lord. And he died for me." then - WOOOOOOHOOO! We'll be dining together at the most glorious banquet ever, in heaven, and worshiping the one and only GOD. There's no way I'm not accepting that party invitation! :) In fact, I already have!

When your heart is looking forward to something so incredibly beautiful... it's easier to let the day-to-day irritations become softened and covered in grace. forgiveness. love. mercy.

Like pearls.

I'll never wear pearls again without thinking about the fact that I'm treasured by the creator of this world (and the little pearl-worlds of rainbowy crystals - still can't get over that) more than anything.

And guess what? So are you!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

{The Singleness Adventure} Introduction

It may take him two-dozen years, but eventually, God will get your attention one way or another. :) The past few weeks have taken me completely by surprise, as the Lord has revealed some amazing things to me. I'm going to try to put it into words - I'm a writer, after all, it's what we do. (Or try to do!)

Picture this: I'm sitting in our living room, which is alive with the presence of some good friends of ours. We've just had a Bible study taught by my dad, and now we're taking prayer requests and praying for them. And then I get this thought - I need to ask for prayer for my Future Husband. Ooh. Things just got real. I'm a really outgoing, bubbly person, but in certain areas I prefer to keep things to myself. I actually got trembly as I waited for my turn to talk.

So then the moment comes, and when I speak, it's a croaky whisper.
Oh dear. The trembling hasn't stopped, either. The good people around me could sense my emotions just under the surface. And here I'm thinking Where in the world is this coming from? One minute I was just fine and the next I'm all teary-eyed.

God was softening my heart.

Some of the ladies started asking me questions and it took an unexpected turn - suddenly we were talking about me. Not my future husband. ME. My plans. (Nebulous and vague at best) My goals. (Umm, what goals?) My ambitions. (Ha. Nonexistent.)

Something became painfully clear. Something I didn't want to look straight at and see, but when the spotlight shone on it, there was no avoiding it. I have nothing that I'm working towards.




So the men adjourned to the porch, where they prayed over another topic that had come up, and the ladies and I stayed in the living room and formed a tight little circle and prayed... for me. And something finally cracked through my walls and set my heart aglow. Or rather, someone.

As we prayed, and after we prayed, all these wonderful, astonishing, why-didn't-I-think-of-this-sooner ideas exploded around me. The women had some great suggestions - and I believe they were hearing from God and sharing it with me. Things were dropping straight into my mind as well. It's hard to describe exactly what it was like, but the closest thing I can compare it to is a dried-out little sponge getting sprinkled, splashed, and then doused with water until it swells full to bursting, fresh again and dripping.

Then, the opportunity opened up for me to visit McKenzie for a week! It was exactly what I needed. A chance to get away from it all for a little bit, clear my head, climb mountains, breathe the fresh woodsy air, swim in their pool, laugh - and learn. I was opened up so God could pour new inspiration and encouragement into my spirit.

Want to hear from God? Go stand on a mountain and listen. :)

Oh. And while I'm sitting at McKenzie's kitchen table, she just happens to mention this book - Preparing to be a Helpmeet - which I, on a whim, began to read that night. HOLY COW. Mind. blown.

I've heard this stuff for years, darlings. All my life. "You need to be a woman of God if you expect to marry a man of Godly character", yada-yada-yada-blah-blah-blah..... but this time it was like...
"BAM!" 
It wasn't so much the words, it was that they came at exactly the right moment. I was so full of zest to get started on applying everything I was learning anew, that the night I got home I grabbed a brand-new blank notebook that a sweet girlfriend had given me for my birthday and scribbled in it for upwards of two hours.

I'm on fire. I can hardly sit still. There's SO MUCH I want to do with my life now - my focus has changed entirely from what it used to be, which was along the lines of:

"Sigh, I, the princess, will try my best to be content and wait here, quietly, in my tall tower,
 until my prince arrives on his white horse, 
and I can finally decorate my own castle and have beautiful royal babies".

Now, I feel like I'm a secret agent and I've been handed a mission. To reach my objective, I've got to go out and get some things done! It's extremely important that I train myself accordingly - learn all I can learn, be all I can be. Time is short! This season is only a brief interlude of freedom, in which I can do these things without the added burden of a husband and family to care for.

I have to use it wisely.

Not only do I want to learn everything I should know, and do great and wonderful things and finish cool, amazing projects - I desire to cultivate a heart that is so sweet, so tender, so giving and so thankful, that it sparkles in a beautiful example of Christlikeness. Grow a character that is pure, righteous, and faithful - until I am the woman my man needs. 

Rome wasn't built in a day, folks. If I want to be all that, I'd better get a move on!

When that man comes along (white horse or not) I'm hoping he'll find a prize worth winning - a queen, who has benefited the lives of so many others within her circle of influence, highly skilled and fit for a king, to reign in splendor by his side - but is the picture of Christ, and the first to get her hands dirty and leap to someone's aid if she is needed.

I could go on, but I'll save the rest for another time - I think this is the first in a series of adventures in Singleness that need to be shared! :) Hope you enjoy following along!

Love & Hugs,

Monday, June 1, 2015

North Georgia Adventure | May 2015

Intro: If you still remember that blogger called "Julia" - I'm honored! No blog posts all year, and here I am again, popping into your blog feed! Well, it's crazy how fast time flies these days. It seems like the older one gets, the faster the ride. Pictures become more valuable, because they're frozen moments you can always look back on. :)

I had a lovely winter and spring. Some of the things I did (after publishing my novel, of course) -

  • Traveled up to Michigan for my grandparent's 60th wedding anniversary party, where I reconnected with a sweet friend named Victoria G. (who blogs HERE)
  • Went down to Florida to visit my other Grandma and saw the beach in November - chilly!!
  • Had fun at the Rock Ranch Staff Christmas party
  • Steadily babysat an adorable blond tot (and now he has a baby brother!)
  • Worked for the month of January at the deli in town (such fun!)
  • Started Trim Healthy Mama (more on that later!!)
  • Professionally photographed and staged our log home for sale and listed it online (Pray about it for me? Still waiting on a buyer)
  • Celebrated my 24th birthday in style with a spring-themed party :) Victoria came to visit me!! We had a blast. 
  • Went to Florida again, and celebrated my Grandma's 90th birthday!! Wow! We had a birthday shopping trip and I found a fabulous dress. 
  • FINISHED WRITING the second book in my Agency series, DIAMOND, which is due for release mid-June (eeek! So excited about that!) 

And then... I went and had an amazing adventure and stayed for a whole week with my sweet friend McKenzie (whose wedding I was in as a bridesmaid - first time in my life I was one!)

And this is what we did...

The first evening I was there, we went for a drive and saw not one, but two gorgeous mountain views! And there were blooming flowers everywhere, Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons. Gorgeous!




























I know, right? WOW.

And here are the two cuties who put up with me for a whole week:
Yes, there was considerable newlywed mushiness - I didn't mind! Research for one of my novels!! ;)

Then the next day, McKenzie and I mustered up our girl power and hiked Mount Yonah... only the second highest point in Georgia. Uh-huh. And even stopping for breath on occasion, we made it to the rock face in about an hour and a half. Boo-yeah!

This isn't even the top, more like halfway up. So blue. And serene. *inspiration galore*




























Did I mention the gigantic boulders studding the mountainside yet? Here ya go:
That little human is me! 































I will never forget the feeling of exhilarating triumph as I took the last few steps onto the top of that mountain. I actually screamed "WOOHOO!" at the top of my lungs and pumped a fist in the air. There were very few other hikers around to notice this momentary display of craziness - so I started singing "Top of the World" by Anthem Lights for good measure. :D McKenzie found it amusing.

Here is a terrible picture out the car window so you can see what I'm talking about:






















Ah yes, and here we have a specimen of the delightful Mountain Laurel, with blooms that bring pink peppermints to mind.





























The next day, we took it rather easier (My muscles didn't complain overmuch of the terrible trial I'd put them through - perhaps they were appeased by the very rare treat of strawberry cheesecake ice cream) McKenzie and I went shopping in a darling, bigger-on-the-inside antique mall full of unusual and curious things. I found a complete matching set of all the Winnie-the-Pooh originals by A. A. Milne and snapped them up.

But anyways, McKenzie is a master at hair. Even my mid-thigh-length slippery silky tresses. Look what she did!

Oh, and their little garage apartment (which is dollhouse-esque in its sweetness and layout) also happened to enjoy the privilege of sharing the landlord's pool. We took advantage of it all week. :D


And then on Wednesday we took a day-trip (In Kenzie's gorgeous white Camry) to Helen, GA and strolled around like tourists and I took about five bazillion pictures,

The horse-drawn carriages were a big draw!
We didn't try it out, being content with our own on-foot mode of getting about. 




^ That, my friends, is my first cup of coffee. EVER. And from what I'm told it was very mild for coffee and full of cream and sugar and some caramel flavoring. I still thought it was really strong, but it tasted like the coffee place smelled and the experience was fun. Don't think I'll adopt it as a habit, though!




























Speaking of the coffee shop ^ It was SO cute, and honestly smelled amazing. (Not quite as amazing as the fudge-shop, but it was a close second!) McKenzie was in heaven. :D The bartender (barista just sounds so wrong to say about a guy!) was friendly and helpful and looked so much like a hipster we were both holding back laughter. :)




























Downtown Helen, you were charming. I'll come back one day! I'd been there before as a child, but seeing it with fresh eyes was wondrous. Also walking to Anna Ruby Falls - which were just as loud and crashing and pretty as I remembered.

The last full day I was there, McKenzie and her husband Daniel took me down to an unassuming place called "Panther Creek". The trail was ten times rougher than Yonah Mountain (which was plenty rugged) - I mean, in places we were literally climbing down tree roots and picking our way along a path SO STEEP, each foothold was about three feet down apart from the next.

But it was worth it because at the bottom awaited us a glorious, raw, wild view of THIS WATERFALL...


It was like encountering a majestic beast that just waited for you, and let you come right up close to it. The water streaming through the huge pool at the base was not very deep and we waded right out to the rocks that the water tumbled over.


I actually went barefoot, in the rough-sandy river. Ya'll, I wear flip-flops in the house. That gives you an idea of how free I was feeling at this moment. :D

This last photo, McKenzie snapped of me with her phone as I sat perched on a rock after we'd ascended a branch of the trail that led us to the very top of the falls - I was looking off down the river. I think it captures just a hint of the grand and overwhelming inspiration that infused the whole trip.


More on that inspiration later, but for now - I'm blogging again! I'm going to shoot for a Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing and I already have a month's worth of posts scheduled in advance. So here goes! Hang on for the ride with me! :) Julia's Journal is not done yet. This is the 500th post, and I still have more stories to tell!

Love & Hugs,