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When Life Hands You Crumbs...

I saw this basket of cookies at a place called Mana Sushi Teriyaki Wok in Port Orchard, Washington and it made me smile. The "misfortunate" cookies are broken fortune cookies wrapped in plastic. 

Isn't that a perfect example of what we can do when life hands us crumbs? We can choose to get upset, feel discouraged, or quit. Or, we can turn it around into something clever.

That's a #repurposed and #upcycled life!


99-Cent Cyber Monday Sale on 'The Repurposed and Upcycled Life'

The Kindle version of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life is on sale on Amazon for Cyber Monday (December 1) for 99 cents.

It's a Countdown sale, meaning the price will increase in increments over the next few days until it returns to the regular price of $5.49.

Click here to download at the sale price


How Many States Have You Visited?

Have you ever calculated how much of the United States you have visited? I just returned from a long road trip, and thought it would be fun to do the math. I'm not certain if I traveled through additional states as a child, but these are the states I have visited as an adult.

Someday, I will visit the East Coast!

Create Your Own Visited States Map

 How about you? Where have you traveled?


I'm So Sorry for Your Loss...

Have you ever wondered what to say when someone has just experienced the death of a loved one? I'm not even sure what I would want someone to say to me, but here are some well-worn lines that often come to mind when words elude me:

  • I'm holding you in my thoughts and prayers.
  • We're praying for you at this time of great sadness.
  • I'm so sorry for your loss. 
Worn out phrases, but heartfelt, I promise!

That leads me to wonder; just how do the ones left behind express their experience to others? How can they begin to capture and describe the life-changing event?
  • My daughter passed away...
  • My mother went to be with the Lord after a long battler with cancer...
  • I lost my husband last year...
I once heard a well-meaning pastor give his analysis of that last phrase. His response to a widow who used that very expression was, "Oh, did you misplace him? He isn't lost! He has gone on ahead of you, but he isn't lost if he knew Jesus." 

He explained how we ought to avoid expressions that refer to death as a loss, and instead we should look for alternatives to express our sympathy.

An attempt at lightheartedness, I guess. No malice intended whatsoever. But...

I've thought about this often. He meant well, but I have to wholeheartedly disagree. After watching several close friends and family go through the painful process of outliving a loved one, I can't think of a better thing to say. 

I'm an outsider looking in. So, I could be completely off-kilter with my observations. However, death is a loss. Yes, I have hope knowing the truth of what the Bible says about eternal life. I know exactly where Jesus-followers go after they die. Of course, they aren't misplaced. 

But for the ones left behind, it's still a loss.

Death is a loss of communication. It's the end of conversations and tender words.

It's the loss of daily phone calls to mothers and sisters, and friends. Fathers, brothers, and sons. 

It's the loss of dishes done side-by-side and glances across steaming coffee cups and warm apple crisp.

It's the loss of mundane banter about weather and politics, newspaper articles, and reality TV shows.

It's the loss of potential resolution for tangled up relationships and harsh words.

It's the loss of possible restitution and redemption. For wrongs to be righted. For restoration.

For many it's the loss of the other half. The part so entwined with our own selves we can't tell where one begins and the other leaves off. 

It's the loss of future road trips, laughter, and family reunions. 

The absence of knowing smiles. 

The loss of plans. 

It is a loss. 

Let's call it like it is. When someone dies, we suffer a terrible loss. But in the midst of it, we have great hope. And that calm assurance is what makes the loss bearable. 

It's what makes it possible to smile even when everything is shaken. When hearts are broken. When we're torn up inside.

In the midst of the great emptiness of loss, there is also great possibility. For it is when we are the most empty we have room for God's love and hope to fill the void.

If you've lost someone dear to you, I can't begin to fully understand. I'm guessing you don't understand it all either. I care. I might not say the right things at all. But please know my heart breaks for you as you discover new losses each day. I'm so sorry for your loss.


The Christian Chick's Guide to Surviving Divorce

The Christian Chick's Guide to Surviving Divorce:
What your Girlfriends Would Tell You if They Knew What to Say

Imagine you are newly divorced, or have just been served papers. You are a solid Christian and never imagined you’d find yourself in this position. What do you do next? Where do you turn for help? Now, imagine you walk into a Christian bookstore hoping to find something that would help you. You hope no one sees the tears on your face, so you keep your head down. You don’t want the world’s version of coping with divorce, and you hope you can find something here…

This is exactly what happened to author Suzanne Reeves. She says she didn’t want “the usual version of surviving divorce—have a glass of wine, slash his tires, head to Jamaica, and party like you did in college. I needed godly advice from a woman who had walked in my shoes and lived to tell about it.”

Suzanne wants to share hope with other women who are just where she was. She’s lived to tell about it, and she wants to encourage other women going through divorce. The Christian Chick’s Guide to Surviving Divorce is the book to give a friend who needs help processing the pain, praising God in the midst of the storm, learning how to forgive, and moving forward. She addresses how to learn from the pain and grow into a better person from the experience of divorce. Instead of bitterness, she urges her readers to be teachable.

One of the most important topics this book addresses is that of children. Suzanne’s biggest piece of advice is, “You must love your children more than you hate your spouse.” Hurt, anger, bitterness, and sorrow over the betrayal doesn’t need to become the pain of the children as well.

The other important topic this book addresses that many won’t is how to reconcile divorce with being a Christian. Suzanne talks about going to Bible study and asking for prayer, and wondering in her heart if she would have to break her own beliefs about divorce. It wasn’t what she wanted, and she struggled with coming to terms with that loss. This book addresses divorce from a Christian perspective, with solid advice based on what scripture says about God’s love and mercy.

The book also addresses some practical questions that many hope they never have to face. What do you do with the rings? What happens with mutual friends? What happens when ‘your song’ comes on the radio?

The author’s raw honesty, conversational style, and her ability to find humor in her experiences make this book read like a letter from a dear friend who understands. Suzanne has repurposed her own pain into coaching other women through the emotional struggle, shame, and discouragement of divorce to find the courage to move forward.

Find Suzanne on Facebook.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author for my objective review. I also wrote an endorsement for the book. 


All My Belongings: A Book Review

Many Christian authors are off at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) this week, hobnobbing with all the names in Christian writing. Which means, it's the perfect 'cat's away, mice will play' opportunity for us to talk about their books, post a bunch of praise on social media, and stir up some new readers for them. Did I lose you at hobnob? Sorry. I love goofy words.

Author Cynthia Ruchti is among those happy ICRS hobnobbers, and I'd love to tell you about her new book, All My Belongings. It's won a couple of awards recently, including a first place Golden Scroll Award from the Christian Author's Network just this week. So, while she's off collecting awards, let me tell you about her book.

Back Cover:

Where do you turn when changing your name doesn’t give you the anonymity you want? When running hundreds of miles away isn’t far enough? When you search for a place to belong lands you right back where you began? 
One phone call destroys all the hope Becca Morrow has for a life beyond the shame of her past. Further discredited by the death of her elderly, ailing patient—the mother of the influential businessman, Isaac Hughes—Becca’s new life is shattered and her longing for love slips away. Working to clear her name, Becca must learn to see the beauty in the ugliness of dying , to accept the tenderness in forgiveness, and—at last—discover that where she belongs isn’t as much about her family history as it is about her faith in the One to whom she’ll always belong.

My Review
All My Belongings is about forgiveness, the longing to belong, the beauty of being loved, and the wonder of godly friendships. But the thread that ties it all together is healing from a painful past. Becca, the main character has suffered from loneliness and rejection embodied by her comment, “Sometimes parents give you away, but they make you stay.” In the midst of loneliness from a painful relationship with her parents, and the fallout of her father’s “occupation” as a Kevorkian-like mercy killer, Becca has found a dear friend, Geneva, who has taken a mother-like role in her life.

As Becca’s friend Geneva helps her change her name, relocate, and find work caring for one of Geneva’s relatives, Becca begins to open up a little about the pain she has experienced. She carries few belongings, but much emotional baggage when she moves across the country to start over. Why the name change? She doesn’t want people to know of her connection to her now imprisoned father, a connection that stands in the way of her desire to become a nurse. Without giving away the plot, I can summarize the rest of the book by saying it’s an adventure in caretaking accompanied by new friendships, a shot at finding love—at last, and some bumps in the road to starting over.

How’s that for summarizing more than 300 pages in a paragraph or two? Speaking of plot, let me tell you what I liked without giving it away. When Geneva meets Geneva’s handsome nephew, Isaac, I had more than a sneaking suspicion of where the book was going, and I thought it odd that the foreshadowing of the ending would be so strong in the first third of the book.

Wrong! Just about the time I had the ending of the book all planned out, an unexpected twist caught me off guard. Halfway through the book, it seemed as if the whole story was wrapping up, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Again.

A whole new development led to several additional twists that kept me riveted to the plot. And near the end, when I again figured the story was winding down, and additional twist made this stand out from other fiction. 

Many stories end with a happily ever after and leave readers with an unrealistic picture of life and relationships. In this book, the author ventures headfirst into confronting the pain of the past, rather than smoothing on some icing and calling it cake. Again, I can’t explain what exactly this means for Becca without giving away the plot, but let’s just say that she learns what real sacrifice and real forgiveness look like.

The realistic solutions to some of life’s nasty problems make this book stand out from other fluffy fiction. There’s nothing fluffy in true forgiveness and sweet freedom from regret. Ruchti engages the reader with a touch of humor and a delightful writing voice. Her unconventional—and not the least bit cliché—descriptions will satisfy the reader who enjoys a more literary style. I highly recommend the book, and Ruchti’s other books.


7 Elements of a Great Nonfiction Book Proposal: A Guest Post from Nick at Grammarly

Today,we have a guest post from Nikolas Baron at Grammarly. Not sure what Grammarly is? Watch for a review post coming soon. In the meantime, if you've ever thought about writing a nonfiction book, you'll find Nick's guest post below helpful.

7 Elements of a Great Nonfiction Book Proposal

Writing a nonfiction book isn’t as simple as sitting down to the typewriter, pounding out two- or three-hundred pages of brilliant work, sending it off to a publisher, and waiting for the checks to start rolling in. In fact, most nonfiction books aren’t written until the idea is sold to a potential publisher. The book is sold on the strength of a book proposal. The book proposal greatly streamlines the writing process, allowing the editor to make any required structural changes early, before the author has invested a great deal of time and effort into the writing.

The book proposal is the author’s opportunity to sell the idea of the book to the publisher. Proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar are critical, as the proposal presents the publisher with not only the idea and details of the potential book, but also a sample of the author’s writing skill. A quality proofreading software should be used to go over the proposal with a fine-toothed comb before submission, to help ensure that the presentation is of the highest quality, increasing the chances of acceptance.

There are as many opinions as to formatting, order, and parts of a book proposal as there are blogs and books on writing, but most agree that there are seven basic elements to the average book proposal. Formatting is generally accepted as double-spaced, in a 12-point classic, easy-to-read font like Times New Roman.

1) The Cover Letter
The cover letter should include a very brief but compelling selling point, also known as a “hook”. The query letter is the writer’s chance to present the editor with the “elevator pitch”. Imagine stepping into an elevator with an editor, and having only a few floors’ ride in which to sell him or her on an idea. There is no need for extensive detail, but a few compelling statistics or other points should be included if applicable.

2) The Title Page 
The title page should include a paragraph strengthening the sales pitch, along with an approximate estimated word count of the finished manuscript. The title itself should be brief, informative, and attention-getting. Unique, one- to two-word titles are usually best, depending on the subject matter.

3) Synopsis
The synopsis gives an opportunity to expand upon the subject matter, but should cover no more than two single-spaced pages. This is the author’s opportunity to delve deeper into the subject matter and sell the book based upon the more detailed points.

4) Author Information
The author biography is not a history or resume. The focus needs to be on the sale - this time, the sale of the author themselves. This is the opportunity for the author to highlight expertise, blogging experience, number of followers reached, speaking engagements, or other selling points. Years of experience as an expert in a particular field, consulting work, or a blog which has a solid following and daily unique view counts in the upper thousands are examples of strong points for a bio. Personal experiences that don’t include professional expertise, or plans to blog are irrelevant, unless the personal experience is extremely unique and interesting, or relevant to a wide audience.

5) Market and competition 
The writer needs to demonstrate knowledge and familiarity with the audience to reassure the publisher that he or she understands the potential reader. The marketing section should contain research and statistics on the market, as well as a brief synopsis of 3-5 competing titles, with a brief explanation of the differences in the proposed book.

6) Table of Contents and Chapter Outline
This section lays out the blueprints for the book so that the editor can get an idea of how the ideas will be presented and in which order the information will be laid out in the finished book. Each chapter should be represented by a paragraph detailing the major points to be covered.

7) Sample Chapters
Typically, three sample chapters are included with the proposal to give the editor a “taste” of the book and provide proof of concept that the writer is, indeed, capable of producing quality work. Three chapters are usually a sufficient number for the editor to get a feel for the writing.

Bio: Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.


The Turning: a Review of Davis Bunn's Latest Book

Have you ever had a sense you ought to do something, but didn’t know what it meant? Perhaps a pull to go somewhere or say something, but you weren’t sure if you should dismiss it, or listen to it. Was it the voice of God? Or another voice? How do you know?

In The Turning by Davis Bunn, five people from different place in the world come together when they sense a divine command. Once they “randomly” meet up, they realize they have a job to do. At the same time, one individual begins a media campaign to brainwash American young people into believing there is no hope. Together, the five individuals wage war against the forces of darkness to show America that there is still hope. As they obey God’s direction, they see the supernatural continuously at work as God proves that he prevails in their weakness.

I happened to read this book the same week I saw the movie “God’s Not Dead.” Both were powerful reminders that God is still at work. 

This book is different from Davis Bunn’s last few books in that there is less thriller action and more supernatural power at work. I enjoyed the book very much. There is plenty of action, but instead of violent physical attacks, the main characters experience more spiritual attack. When they do experience a physical attack, God proves he’s at work. 

There were so many themes underlying the story here, but one that I loved was seeing how obedience could lead to restoration. Obedience to God was the very thing that proved there was still hope. When the group listened to him, they saw miracles happen. 

The other theme that I loved was a parallel to the story of Moses. God gave him a message, but he had no confidence in his speaking ability. In the book, a character named John is given a big message to share, but he has no confidence in his ability to deliver. Until he surrenders to God. Where naysayers point out his lack of seminary training or speaking experience, God empowers John to carry out the task to which he called him. 

The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt like the book left me hanging at the end. Although there was some resolution to the plot, it left me wanting the rest of the story. I won’t spoil it, but something on the very last page tells me the author intended it this way, and I’ll have to wait and see.

Some aspects of the book remind me of the television show “24.” On the show, each episode is one hour of a day, and a whole season of the show is just 24 hours, one day. The whole book spans only 13 days. Chapters a grouped into sections that are subtitled for each day. The pacing of this intensifies the action, and I liked the technique. 

All in all, I found the story captivating and relevant to today. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes some mystery and adventure without all the violence and gore of some other genres. 

I received a copy of this book from the author’s publicist for review purposes. I was not compensated for my review, nor was I obligated to write a favorable review.

Want to know more about the author, Davis Bunn? Check out his website.  


Blessings...What Does that Really Mean?

How do you sign your e-mails or your letters to people?

I sign many greetings with "Love, Michelle." That's because much of what I write is to family and close friends. Business correspondence, I sign with "Regards," or "Sincerely." But what about the in-between communication?

Sometimes "love" is too familiar, but "regards" is too stuffy. Then what? Warmly? Maybe. Best? That could work. 

Often, I sign my greetings with "Blessings." What does that mean? Do I use it too flippantly, without giving it enough thought? I hope not. To me, it says:

  • An abundance of peace to you.
  • May God bless you with his favor.
  • I pray God protects you from harm.
  • I wish you much happiness.
  • I care about you.
  • I hope good things come your way.
Our world is so full of negative words. We hear self-serving words, cutting words, and harsh words on a daily basis. It's on television. It's in the checkout lane. It's around us in conversations we overhear. And it's even in our own written communication and conversations. 

In a world of negative, I want to speak something positive. Lord, help me not to take my words lightly. Let my words be full of meaning that would genuinely bless others, and not empty words I toss on a page or in the air. 


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