Thursday, October 31, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Meet the Parents

In honor of Throwback Thursday and a very special Halloween 8 years ago, I thought I’d share a funny story about how my husband met my parents, my brother, and all my friends for the first time.

Dressed like this!

So 8 years ago—college years—it all began when I became this baseball player’s math tutor. It didn’t take long for me, even with my jaded, on-the-mend heart, to see that my preconceptions about this jock named Rick had been way off.

After weeks of tutoring sessions that had also become bible studys/coffee dates, Rick finally asked me out on an official date. (I was about ready to give up on the lug. Apparently driving me crazy was all part of his strategy to win my attention.Pretty sharp--not sure he even needed a tutor!) 

But since he’d asked me out the day before Halloween, and my brother was throwing this big party for our friends and family and a lot of his youth group kids, we decided we’d attend and have our date the next night.

Imagine my surprise when my date (and possibly my new “boyfriend”) struts in to meet EVERYONE I know, including my DAD in a push-up bra, a dress, a wig, jeweled sandals, five-o’clock shadow, and some impressive guns!

Talk about an ice-breaker! My mom gave me a mouthed “Wow” and a thumbs up the second Rick turned his back, btw! (Love my mom!) And I’m happy to report my awesome dad actually laughed (And made no mention of his gun collection.)

Do you have a fun meet the parents story? Or Halloween story? I’d love to hear!

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Announcement and a BIG prayer request!

For the past several months I have been guarding a secret. A big one---one that has to do with something very little in need of some BIG prayer.

This summer we found out I’m pregnant

Yeah, yeah… a lot of you called it with my coffee strike. That was actually the day I found out. The likelihood of me being pregnant was soooooo slim, I’d been discounting all the signs. IMPOSSIBLE!

Well, God likes to work in the business of all things impossible. This baby had a .8 (point eight) percent chance from the start. If you all remember my miscarriage/pseudo-heart attack/kidney failure last year (You can read about it here) you might remember that they advised I NOT get pregnant to protect my one very unique kidney from shutting down---as it would have had I not lost the last baby. Without getting into all the nitty-gritty personal details, they expected I might lose this baby too.

But… this little fighter survived. They ALSO told me, that on top of the less than one percent chance of conception, and the subsequent possibility of another miscarriage, the medication I was on for my kidney (A BIG no-no for pregnancy---and the reason we were using such sure measures of prevention) should have also ended the pregnancy.

All that to say, this baby is a MIRACLE!  

You can plan your life down to the detail, you can do all you can to be in control…. But the plain, and AMAZING truth of it is, God is BIGGER! His plan is bigger.

And we are trusting in that plan, and in the miraculous work He started first when He saved my life as a baby, and again when He spared my life by taking my child home last year…

And NOW… since this pregnancy poses a lot of dangers for my life.

LONG story short and simplified---We’ve made it into the second trimester now. And we’ve been advised that we need to keep me healthy and get this baby as far along in the pregnancy as we can before my blood pressure rises too high and my kidney starts to fail, which could happen at any time. At that point, they will have to deliver the baby. We are already 16 weeks, and viability is 26. The longer we wait, the better it will be for the baby, and the higher the risk becomes for me.

So, we could really use some prayer in the coming weeks. We are not afraid. We know that God’s got this. That He doesn’t do things halfway. And we are standing on the promises in His word and the power of our testimony. We can’t wait to see what He has in store for this little one!!!

Warriors: Some specific prayer needs
-For the baby’s kidneys to develop normally and remain unaffected by the medication that was discontinued late.
-For my kidney function to remain in the black until at least 30 weeks or more.
-For my tolerance to the medications as they tend to have difficult side-effects.
-For my blood pressure (which is already on the rise and will naturally spike more as the pregnancy progresses) to be controlled by the meds and manageable until it’s safe for the baby.
-For wisdom for my team of docs.
-For peace to take it all in stride.
-For energy for me to continue to care for my rambunctious kiddos.
-And maybe.... for a girl!

Thank you! We love you!

Rick, Amy, Kael, Rafe, and Baby Simpson.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Welcome to the 18th Stop of the Perfect Clouds Virtual Book Tour

I am thrilled to be able to host these lovely ladies and am always excited when I get to give a boost to talented writers with amazing stories. Perfect Glass is on my TBR list for sure! But having already read Raj's debut I thought I'd preface this post with my personal recommendation. :)

This is not your typical light, summer peruse but Swimming Through Clouds is a spell-binding and somewhat terrifying story about a young girl tiptoeing around her father's abuse, trapped in a world where small mistakes have devastating consequences. Though an intense read, Paulus weaves a beautiful and charming tale about kindness and love covering even our deepest scars.This heart-rending YA novel for all, will suck you in, bond you irrevocably with the incredibly resilient Talia and the boy, Lagan, a Christ-like hero, whose patient friendship coaxes her out of her misery and into a world of hope with something as simple as post-it notes. A wonderful reminder that even the smallest pebble of grace can create a ripple strong enough to change someone's life. Even save it. 

Don't miss out!

Throughout the tour, you’ve learned a lot about Rajdeep Paulus and her debut novel, Swimming Through Clouds, and Laura Anderson Kurk, and her new novel, Perfect Glass.

Let’s get started with Laura Anderson Kurk’s “Behind the Scenes” for today---

Tennyson’s Closet

I love friends who invite me into their closets and tell me to wear whatever I want. Especially the ones who walk away while I linger and shop, giving me a gift with their detached acceptance and privacy.
In college, borrowing friends’ clothes was equal parts delirium and fear. My mother frowned on the age-old girl habit of loaning and borrowing clothes. It was kind of a sticking point at our house.
So when a friend would ask to borrow a specific shirt or dress, I would have a psychic war going on upstairs, finally handing over the item, but laying on the guilt. “Do NOT get anything on it!”
And when I worked up the nerve to ask a friend if I could borrow something, I would pick, say, a shirt, quickly and then spend the next twenty-four hours obsessing about protecting it.
This could be why, in Perfect Glass, Tennyson became a character who shares her funky clothes freely. Her mother is a bit of an out-of-control shopper, so Tennyson’s closet is stuffed with formal dresses, quirky outfits, and rack after rack of shoes. And she WANTS Meg to enter her magical world and spend hours finding perfect dresses. Nothing gives Tennyson more joy, to be honest.
For Meg, introverted and private, with a thirty-foot buffer of personal space, this is new territory. I like how this sharing between two friends, represents their friendship at-large. Tennyson is an open closet herself—as giving with her clothes as she is with her advice and her loyalty. Meg is the girl who must be coaxed inside and plied with pretty, shiny things to keep her from dashing away.
Are you the open closet loaner or the reluctant borrower?

Have you been keeping up with the Secret Letter of the Day for Perfect Glass? Here’s today’s letter:

Perfect Glass Back Cover:
Things get messy when Meg Kavanagh gets involved—first with Jo Russell, the eccentric old artist, and then with Quinn O’Neill, the intriguing loner who can’t hide how he feels about Meg. Her senior year isn’t turning out like she planned it, but sometimes the best parts of life happen in the in-between moments. And Henry will be home soon, right?

He commits to one year in an orphanage that needs him more than he ever dreamed. Thousands of miles from Meg and the new punk who has fallen for her, and absent from the ranch that’s in his blood, Henry Whitmire finds out what it means to trust. When you’re so far from home, it’s terrifying to realize you’re not who you thought. But the perfect glass of calamity makes the best mirror.

From YA author Laura Anderson Kurk comes the sequel to Glass Girl, a lyrical, multi-generational story about love that teaches, loss that haunts empty rooms, and reunions that feel like redemption.

Find Laura here—

And now, let’s take a look at Rajdeep Paulus and her debut Swimming Through Clouds!

Fun Fact from Rajdeep:

On Rain...

Rain is an ongoing metaphor in Swimming Through Clouds, often in reference to Talia’s tears or the weeping willow. I actually love the rain, the smell of the earth after a rainfall, and I remember this one summer rain on Northwestern’s campus when a bunch of us ran outdoors in front of Hinman Dorms and spun in circles. Till we were crazy dizzy. In the rain. Good times.

Random side note: When I was a freshman at NW, I had a friend shave the Swahili word “Mbura” under my hair at the back of her head. It took quite some time to etch the word, but my artsy BFF met the task with scissors in one hand and enthusiasm in the other. Hours later, her hidden masterpiece was finished, only ever seen by the few I trusted with the secret. Mbura means “rain.” :)

Have you been keeping up with the Post-It note reveal for Swimming Through Clouds? Here’s today’s reveal:

Swimming Through Clouds Back Cover:
I live in the in between. Between what if and what is. It’s how I manage. It’s the only way I know. Everyone has their way. This is mine.

When high school, cell phone disruption forces a classroom ban, the words on a Post-it note spark a sticky romance between two unlikely friends. Transfer student Talia Vanderbilt has one goal at her new school: to blend in with the walls. Lagan Desai, basketball captain and mathlete, would do just about anything to befriend the new girl. One Post-it note at a time, Lagan persuades Talia to peel back her heart, revealing her treasure chest of pain—an absent mother, a bedridden brother, and an abusive father. In a world where hurt is inevitable, the two teens search for a safe place to weather the storms of life. Together.

Come Hang out with Rajdeep Paulus on:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Extra, Extra! Review and GIVEAWAY for Candace Calvert's Rescue Team

If you’ve ever read a Candace Calvert novel you know that there is just something insatiable about them. With a supporting cast of characters that are always quirky and fun, to heroes that I would challenge any living-breathing female to deny to love, all wrapped up in gripping stores that will keep you glued to the pages late into the night.

As I have come to expect from one of my favorite authors, Calvert dishes up a Texas-styled medical drama in Rescue Team that puts Grey’s and ER to shame.

Jaded Kate Callison, interim ER director at Grace Medical, is running from her past and desperately seeking a place to belong. She might come off a little stiff at first but Kate’s journey of redemption will have you in tears.

And then there’s Wes Tanner. Insert swoon. Selfless and tender. Macho and funny. This guy is the hero you want fighting through the woods to rescue you. The guy you want to dance with you under the stars. He’s almost too good to be true, despite the wounds that keep him from being truly free of the past. And if I can picture him with that twinge of a southern accent I just melt into a happy little puddle.

What I love most about Candace Calvert, aside from her obvious talent for weaving descriptions, points of views, and storylines with a seamless and effortless elegance, is that she not afraid to tackle tough issues. Rescue Team will challenge your view of forgiveness, inspire you with the astounding truth about grace, and literally entertain your socks off!

Don’t miss out on this irresistible read by real-life trauma nurse Candace Calvert. And if you haven’t read book one Trauma Plan drop what you are doing and run to your nearest bookstore! It’s my favorite! Though, I suppose, since the hero looks almost exactly like my husband I might be a teensy bit partial!

Well, what do you think? If you're not sold read the book. :)

I can not wait for the next installment in this series. Fair warning: If you pick up a Candace Calvert novel prepare to get hooked!

YOUR TURN: Since there are so many good looking books hitting the shelves, what's on top of your to be read pile? 

Maybe it should be Rescue Team!

Leave a comment AND your email address before 12 P.M, CST on Friday May 3rd and you could win a copy of this fabulous read! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

As I’m certain all of you know by now, life is, well . . . hard. Busy. Hectic. Stressful. Exhausting.

There are countless distractions that steal my time and my focus away from my Source. And often enough, my Source starts to feel like a side dish, and then maybe a dessert, or just an occasional splurge. It’s much more difficult to notice just a pound or two. Most often it’s only when you’re completely out of shape that you start to realize how horrendous your diet has become.

As a mother of two wild-child toddlers, most days when I catch my reflection in the mirror I have one of those “Whoa!” moments. As in “Whoa, sister, what the heck happened to you? You used to be kinda cute and, well, skinny, with unlined skin and an almost perpetual grin. 

When did I lose my focus? When did I become complacent? How did I get so out of shape?

With everything in me I want to be desperate for God. But am I? And how, with the kids and the bills, and a marriage, and relationships, and writing, and blogging, and facebook, and church, and missions, and . . . (you get the idea), do I find time to indulge in Him?

In my heart I’m not trying to simply perform or look good on paper so that others might commend my holiness. Ick! Even just thinking that makes me all itchy with the hypocrisy of it all. Legalism. Empty works. Going through the motions.

That is not how I want to glorify the God that is my very breath. The God who has blessed me with this wonderfully exhausting home and family. The God who has never abandoned me even in my darkest, desert nights.

So why do I feel like a snail wiggling inch by inch up an endlessly long and treacherous mountain when, in reality, I know that I will never reach that ideal peak. There is no perfection to be had here. There is no earthy destination where I will have done everything God has for me to do and then I can just dust off my hands, kick up my feet, and wait to see his Glory face-to-face.

Since my efforts very often fall short and leave me filled with frustration, am I bringing Him any glory at all?

A few weeks ago at church my uber-awesome Pastor said something that stuck all over me like winter static. He said:

God is most glorified in you when you are satisfied in Him.

Man, it really got me thinking  . . . Am I satisfied? My life is great, but am I so caught up in my daily struggles that I’m left wanting more without the energy to even cry out for it?

This profound thought has been tooling around in my brain for a few weeks, and yet, I'm not convinced I know how to be fully satisfied with where I am at. Every day is a battle. From the unique struggles that we are facing with our children, to the constant financial battle of getting ahead, and the challenges of my husbands dreadful job, I feel like we are simply pushing through the junk in hopes of the day when things won't be quite so difficult.

But that really just means that we are missing out on what God is trying to teach us right now. Missing out on time that we will never get back. And failing to see that regardless of our circumstances, we are called by God to be a light today. To show his love, joy, grace, and compassion today. To seek him with everything we have, not tomorrow, or when life finally settles down (as if that will ever happen), but TODAY.
What do people see when they look at me? Do they see the snot-crusted mommy who hasn’t had a good nights sleep in almost four years? Or do they see a joyful servant of the Most High, blessed beyond belief and satisfied with the God that is always more than enough?

What about you? Are you shining with His Glory? Or are you so worn out that you can’t even reflect His goodness?

Regardless of your struggles, are you satisfied?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ahhh-mazing Grace

 As Christians we all seem to think we have a handle on grace but very seldom live like we do. I have been on a journey these past two years and though I know I am just barely grazing the surface, I wanted to gush about what I’ve come to realize.

During this process, first I decided that I really had to tame my ego and humble myself—nothing I do can merit God’s grace, his love, his favor, or forgiveness. If I could earn it with good works and obedience, doesn't that belittle what Christ did on the cross? It is His righteousness that saves us… it really has nothing to do with me or how holy I am. How many commandments I can follow and how sinless I can be. 

The Bible very clearly states that we ALL fall short, and yet His love is greater than our sin. Pretty awesome right?

So the big debate on this is if we run wild with this idea of grace, what is to keep us from embracing sin and lawlessness… after all, he’ll forgive us. It seems like grace would give us a free pass to sin, but in fact, if you can grasp what that grace really means, it’s quite the opposite.

For example, because I grew up in the church and was saved very young, I didn’t really have those dark, wild years as a teen. My testimony isn’t a tale of great transformation, it is a love story about God’s faithfulness.

And my obedience wasn’t rooted in fear of the consequences. Let me explain…

I remember this one conversation I had with my dad. He told me, kind of out of the blue, that if I ever found myself out somewhere, drunk or otherwise compromised, that all I needed to do was call him—no questions, no repercussions—he would come get me and bring me home.

I have one heck of a good daddy! While to some this might seem irresponsible, but in truth it meant that . . . he knew me. Knew that though I wasn't the type to cause trouble, I wasn't above temptation.

None of us are.

This security, this grace that he showed me didn't inspire me to recklessness, it overwhelmed me with love. It told me that he cared more about my safety than the rules or his expectations.

True grace inspires us to obedience.

Never once did I have to call in that favor from my dad—not that I was any thing close to perfect. But I respected and loved my daddy enough that I didn't want to disappoint him.

How much more does God want to shower us with his grace to show us his love?

We're missing the boat when we focus solely on our conduct, because let’s face it—we are gonna screw up.  Probably daily. But following Christ isn't about the rules, our sin, and facing the condemnation for our failures.

And I’m not implying that there is no discipline. As a parent I am learning when my two little handfuls of insanity need a firm hand and when they need a big hug.

It’s just simply… no matter how much junk we just waded through, no matter how deep or numerous the stains, he still throws his arms around us, calls us pure and blameless. You see it isn't about my sin, it’s about HIS LOVE!

It is both a liberating and impossible concept to fully grasp.

If you reduce Christianity to a moral code, you are totally missing the point! His love isn't conditional. Let go of that bondage and get free! 

Talk to me: What have you been taught about grace? Do you feel like it is dangerous to embrace that level of freedom? And do you find it hard to not measure your faith based on how well you control your sin?