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Home at Last Deborah Raney

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April 30, 2007

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do … I know that nothing good lives within me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Romans 7: 15, 18
(New International Version)

During the summer of my freshman year in college, a friend of mine shared these verses with me. I read the whole passage, from Romans 7:7 to 7:25, over and over again. How could Paul know exactly how I was feeling? That there was a constant battle going on within me. The War Within.

For the first time, I began to feel like the Bible became my daily Bread; I would die without it. At the age of 19, I devoted my life to studying God’s Word and to following His call on me to teach it to others. In college, I taught Bible studies in my dorm room. In my 20s, I taught the Bible in a Japanese Christian church. I started a ministry for international students that met weekly for prayer and spiritual growth.

In my 30s, I’ve been frustrated at my lack of time and energy. Being a mom is so consuming — especially when I have five little people who need me for everything, constantly. I’m so thankful for the ways the Lord has blessed me, yet the War Within never leaves me — as I battle so many issues.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve written less and less about myself as time has gone on. I’ve focused mainly on external topics: books, people, movies, culture. I’ve felt less comfortable lately in revealing my personal thoughts in this format. I can’t really explain why — perhaps it’s just the terrifying immediacy of reaching an audience. I often need time to process things I go through — and I also appreciate a “gatekeeper,” such as another writer or editor who first reads my work before it’s published.

I know that in order for me to really do the kind of writing I’d like to do I must take some time away from this blog. It’s not the posting itself that takes up time; it’s all the correspondence that goes on behind the scenes. I’m receiving more and more press releases and requests from authors, publicists, publishers, etc.; and since I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I spend a lot of my creative energy responding to people in polite, positive ways.

In college, I learned this spiritual equation:
Delayed Obedience = Disobedience.

I want to do what God wants me to do, yet I also want to do what I want to do! It really is a war within. I’m confused right now — and I wrote a friend last week that I’m dealing with most of my stress at the gym. Whereas it used to take me a mile of running to process my emotions and feel energetic again, now it takes two or three. Maybe I’ll be a size 4 by the time I get through this stress!

I’ve told a few people through email, but I’ll make it public here that I’m not going to be blogging after May 18th. At this point, I’m not sure if it will just be for the summer, or if it will be a more permanent change. I will definitely let you know.

Some of you who read here are old friends who only connect with me through this blog. And there are many of you who are new friends I don’t want to lose touch with. I’m sorry to disappoint you if you truly enjoy reading here, and especially if you’ve linked to me. I can’t tell you how much you’ve encouraged me!

I still have a couple of interviews to post, some more books and movies to share about … and then, I will log out of WordPress. Until further instruction.




April 28, 2007

Our family recently enjoyed seeing this adorable canine movie, Firehouse Dog.

I loved it because the main theme centered around the restoring of a father/son relationship — and the actor, Josh Hutcheson, is the same wonderful kid who starred in Bridge to Terabithia.

You can read my review of it here.




April 27, 2007

Christine Lynxwiler!

Trish Berg randomly drew a name from the comments in this post, and she drew Christine’s name. YEA! You’ve won a free copy of The Great American Supper Swap.

Enjoy it!

P.S. Christine, let me know what recipes you try and like. We’re loving these kid-friendly one-dish meals.




Don’t forget! If you leave a comment in this post by 5 pm today, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Trish Berg’s new book, The Great American Supper Swap, sent to you by the author.

This book is so fun! It contains details about how to start a supper swapping group, tried-and-true recipes that even kids love, and wonderful potluck activities.

Best of all, Trish shares how God can use a supper swapping group to strengthen families by helping moms simplify meals so everyone can eat at the table together.

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Cooking & Recipes,Family | Permalink | Comments Off on Win a Free Supper Swapping Book!



Terry Whalin at The Writing Life blog just returned from the national meeting of the AJSA (American Society of Journalists & Authors) held in New York. This is the leading organization of professional nonfiction writers, with nearly 1300 members. Every year, awards are given for the most outstanding pieces of nonfiction writing.

For the first time, this year the AJSA sent out a press release with links to the winning articles. If you’re looking for ways to improve your writing, read through some of these articles and see if you can figure out why they won awards.

In particular, if you’re a parent of a teenage daughter, you should read Lisa Collier Cool’s Rescuing Rosalie, Part I and Rescuing Rosalie, Part II, as published in The Ladies’ Home Journal. This is the traumatic story of how the Cool’s teen daughter ran away from home and what happened. Lisa writes, “For eight unbearable days after our 16-year-old daughter disappeared, we had no idea where she was or if she was even alive. Our frantic search introduced us to a strange and shocking teen subculture we had been completely blind to.”

I hope you’ll bookmark this link and take some time to check out Lisa’s award-winning story over the weekend. It’s very powerful.

By: Heather Ivester in: Parenting,Writing | Permalink | Comments Off on The Best of the Best Nonfiction Writing



April 26, 2007

Christy Scannell is visiting with us today to share about a topic I hadn’t given much thought to until now: the stressful role of being married to a pastor.

Although Christy isn’t a pastor’s wife, she and fellow author, Ginger Kolbaba, researched this topic extensively while writing their first novel together, Desperate Pastors’ Wives.

Christy is associate editor of The San Diego Metropolitan, a monthly business magazine, and The North Park News, a quaint community newspaper. She’s also a freelance editor and a featured columnist for the new magazine, Catholic Couples. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild and is a staff member of The Christian Communicator, among many other positions that keep her busy traveling around the country!

Hi Christy, and welcome! Can you tell us why you decided to write a novel focusing on the role of pastors’ wives?

There is no other role in our society that has the same kinds of pressures a pastor’s wife (PW) has. When a pastor interviews with a church, the PW is often brought in during the process.

Sometimes that is a friendly meet-and-greet kind of experience, but other times it is a grueling “what do you bring to the table” kind of interaction.

And it only gets worse from there at some churches — PWs are asked to lead every ministry imaginable, and meanwhile they are critiqued on everything, from how they dress to how their children behave to whether their chicken casserole is up to par. (Note that I said “some” churches — treatment of PWs obviously varies from church to church, and many are wonderfully loving to their pastor families.)

Are you or your co-author, Ginger Kolbaba, personally familiar with the role of being a pastor’s wife?

Neither of us is married to a pastor, but Ginger’s dad is a pastor so she was raised in a pastor’s home. Over the years, though, we’ve known many PWs through our work in Christian publishing and our attendance at various churches.

How did you go about researching your novel? Did you interview any pastors’ wives?

Yes, we talked to a lot of PWs personally and used some of their stories. We also drew from stories we’d heard in the past. And we read some PW websites where PWs post their stories anonymously. We didn’t use any of the stories we read on the websites, but reading them helped us know our characters were in line with what many PWs experience.

Wow. I had no idea that PWs have their own websites. Your book has really made me think more about the difficult role of being a pastor’s wife. Can you give us any specific examples of why these women might feel “desperate” at times?

There is no other role like the PW. The only role I can liken it to is perhaps the First Lady of the president or a governor’s wife. But although First Ladies are critiqued for what they do and how they look, it is not through a lens that is based in religion.

So while we might look at a First Lady and say she isn’t supportive of her husband, when we do that to our pastor’s wife, we are not only saying she is unsupportive, we are implying that she is somehow not fulfilling her role as a Christian. And that distinction gives the PWs’ hurts and sorrows much more impact than a First Lady’s.

That does sound like it can lead to feelings of desperation.

Some of what PWs experience is brought on by churches with extraordinary expectations, or churches that don’t recognize a PW is doing the best she can. Other bad situations for PWs arise from certain church members who, while perhaps well meaning, make a PW feel she is not living up to some unwritten standards.

According to one study, 80 percent of PWs feel left out and underappreciated by their churches! Another problem is pastor-husbands who are not supportive of their wives, many because they are under so much stress themselves from church responsibilities.

In another survey, the majority of PWs said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry. Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages end in divorce.

I had no idea! What are some ways we, as church members, can reach out to encourage our pastor’s wife?

There are two levels: small and large. At the small level, simply telling a PW she is loved or appreciated can make a world of difference. Give her a compliment. Drop her a card. Take her a plate of cookies or a bottle of bubble bath. Offer to take her kids to the park for an hour so she can relax.

On the larger level, churches need to build stress-relieving benefits into their pastors’ compensation packages. Ninety percent of pastors work more than 46 hours per week and rarely take vacations.

Churches should help their pastors plan for two or three vacations per year by providing pulpit supply, paid time off, and even a paid location. Also, at least once a year, the church should pay for the pastor and his wife to go on a retreat, either on their own or at a pastoral retreat center, where they can relax and renew.

Finally, every church should provide their pastor with a list of counselors he can contact in confidence should he or his family need assistance (there are many pastoral counseling centers where pastor families can receive help without their churches knowing).

These are great ideas, Christy. Can you tell us how you and Ginger Kolbaba got started writing a novel series together?

Ginger and I were born exactly ten months apart (Feb. 28 and Dec. 28). We were both “only” children who were raised in Akron, Ohio. We grew up in the same small church denomination, although we did not attend the same church (Ginger’s dad was the pastor at her church).

Then we both attended and graduated from the same, small Christian college. She was a year behind me, and we knew “of” each other because she was a theater standout and I was editor of the college newspaper. But with all of that in common, we were not even acquaintances.

Fast forward to around 1999. Ginger was working for a Christian magazine, and I was working for a Christian book publisher. We were both on staff at the Florida Christian Writers conference, and when we saw each other we did the “aren’t you…” questioning and found we were indeed those campus co-eds from the late 80s. During that conference, we enjoyed finally getting acquainted and reminiscing about our college years. As we parted, we exchanged contact info.

Well, as it turns out there were many more of those Christian writers’ conferences in our future, because that’s where editors go to find writers to edit. At most of the conferences, the staff has to share rooms due to tight quarters, so Ginger and I chose to pre-select each other as roomies. Over the next few years, we grew to be great friends during our little junkets.

In 2005, we were back in Florida for that same conference where we originally met. By that time, we had started coming into the conference towns early so we could have dinner and catch up before our duties began. It was at this dinner in Tampa that we started talking about writing a book together.

Neither of us really remembers how the topic of pastors’ wives came up, except that we knew we needed to write about something that hadn’t been done a million times. First we tossed around a non-fiction treatment, but then we decided fiction might be more fun (neither of us had written it before) and allow us liberties that non-fiction wouldn’t.

The title — Desperate Pastors’ Wives — was just a natural for what we were proposing. I don’t know which of us came up with it, but we knew right away that it would be our marketing tool.

At the conference, we met with an agent who liked our idea and said to mail him the proposal. Encouraged, we stayed up every night of that conference outlining our characters and plot (I apologize to whomever was rooming next to us for all the giggling!). We also devised a way to split up the writing.

When we returned to our respective homes (she in Chicago and me in Southern Cal), we emailed and phoned until we had the book figured out. Excited, we mailed our proposal to the agent. He was thankfully quick to get back to us.

Thanks, but no thanks, he said.

Oh no! I bet that was a disappointment after all of your hard work!

We were crumpled but not crushed. We knew we had a good idea — we just needed someone to help us finesse it a bit.

That same week, Ginger was having lunch with a fiction editor friend, and Ginger mentioned our floundering proposal. The editor loved the idea and said she would take a look at it and let us know how we might “fix” it. She also said Howard Books, a publisher for whom she freelanced, was looking for a new fiction series, and they might be interested in ours.

She did, we did, and they were. Within weeks, we had a contract not only for one book, but for the three-book series we proposed. We were floored that a publisher was not only taking a chance on unpublished fiction authors, but agreeing to three books.

A few months later, Howard was bought by Simon & Schuster, so we lucked into the extra panache of publishing an S&S book.

What kind of an impact do you hope your novel will have on readers?

First of all, I hope it lets PWs know that they are appreciated and understood. We’ve already received e-mails from some thanking us for writing about them (or what they perceived to “be” them!) so I am confident that ministry is already taking place.

Second, I hope churchgoers realize how difficult it is for PWs to juggle church responsibilities and private life. Perhaps more people will approach their PWs with compassion after they read the book.

Third, I hope readers, regardless of church affiliation, come away with a feeling of sisterhood. No matter what kinds of lives we women lead, we do face many of the same trials. It helps to support each other.

There are two more novels in the series — will these be coming out soon?

The second book, A Matter of Wife and Death, will be out in March 2008. We are really excited about this book because it allowed us to go further in-depth with the characters. And we took the big leap of killing off one of them! A third book will follow, probably in March 2009.

Thanks so much for visiting here! I’ve learned a ton from this interview, and I’m going to send my pastor’s wife a card this week and tell her how much we appreciate her. Your book makes me realize how stressful her role can be.

Thank you for this opportunity!

You can learn more about Desperate Pastors’ Wives co-authors Christy Scannell and Ginger Kolbaba through visiting their websites. And look for their novel out in stores now or check it out here on Amazon.




April 25, 2007

It arrived last week.

Green ink, black “Panther” paw prints running up the page, and a yellow sticky note inscribed with words that made me almost faint in fear:

Heather,
Can’t wait to see you at our reunion —
Can’t believe it’s been 20 years!
Should be lots of fun!
Hope all is well.
— Kim

Yes! It’s true! My husband and I BOTH have our high school 20-year reunions this summer, a week apart.

This means I’ll need to be dancing the night away to 80s favorites like “Jungle Love” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Actually, my reunion is a whole weekend-long thing! What am I going to do when it’s 10 pm and I can’t stop yawning? I’ll look pathetic taking a nap in the corner!

The panic is beginning to set in — I’ve got to get in shape. I’ve blogged about this today over at Writer Interrupted. Let’s encourage each other to get moving!

P.S. For you writers out there, don’t you think this would make a funny plot for a mom-lit novel? The mom trying desperately to get in shape for her 20-year reunion? Dropping off her kids in the nursery at the fitness center, hauling her behind over to a spinning class, emailing her high school friends and wondering how they’ve changed …

By: Heather Ivester in: Wellness | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)



April 23, 2007

Did you know it’s National TV Turnoff Week? Now you have a GREAT excuse to tell your kids why they can’t watch TV this week. YEA! You have a ton of support, so join in the FUN!

Click here to learn everything you need, including information about essay and poster contests.

Be brave! Be bold! DON’T TURN ON YOUR TV THIS WEEK!!! You can do it!!!

P.S. Books and board games make nice alternatives to TV.

By: Heather Ivester in: Parenting | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)



Author and speaker Trish Berg is here today to show us how to simplify our mealtime routines. She has a passion for encouraging families to get back to the dinner table, which she shares about in her new book, The Great American Supper Swap.

Trish is a mom of four who lives on a 200-acre beef cattle farm in the heart of Ohio, just north of Amish country. She’s an avid reader, scrapbooker (when she finds time!), and has been a MOPS mom for over a decade.

Her syndicated weekly column runs in The Daily Record Ohio newspaper and Christian-mommies.com, as well as several regional parenting magazines. And she also teaches part-time at a community college! Trish is one busy mom, and I’m so glad she’s made time to stop in for a visit.

Trish, welcome to Mom 2 Mom Connection! Can you tell us how you got started supper swapping?

Almost five years ago, I was struggling with my daily to-do list, like most moms, and running myself ragged in the process of trying to get dinner on the table.

One of my girlfriends, Carla, had heard of supper swapping, and asked me if I wanted to give it a try. I figured I had nothing to lose except that “4:30 and nothing’s in the oven” panic.

I knew dinner was important to my kids; I just didn’t know how to make it happen. So I gave it a try with three girlfriends and was amazed at how it blessed my life.

I didn’t set out to write a book. I simply want to simplify my family supper. But when I discovered the simplicity and adaptability of supper swapping, I knew I needed to share this with other moms who could be blessed by it like I was.

Why do you think this idea of swapping meals is helpful for busy moms?

Today’s research shows that only 50% of American families eat dinner together regularly. That is an amazing loss of family time, time to communicate and connect with each other.

Even when families are eating together, 34% of those meals are fast food or take-out. That is so unhealthy, with added fat, sodium, and cholesterol; not to mention how expensive it is.

Let’s face facts — moms everywhere need help to re-claim dinner. I think most moms would easily agree that the family supper is important; they just don’t know how to make it happen.

When a mom begins to swap suppers, how is her life impacted?

Supper swapping is ideal for busy moms not only because it simplifies dinner, but it also reduces stress and adds deeper friendships to their lives at the same time.

Supper swapping:

* Cuts cooking time 80%
* Saves families up to $4,000 a year
* Reduces a mom’s stress
* Helps families to eat healthier
* Creates a greater sense of community
* Adds deeper friendships to your life

If we wanted to start our own supper swapping group, what steps would we need to take?

I always tell moms to start simple. Ask one girlfriend or neighbor to begin swapping supper two days a week. See how it goes. You can always add another mom to your group down the road.

In other words, don’t stress about getting four friends to swap with to cover the whole workweek. Don’t put off trying it because you can’t get that many. Just start with who you have and see where God leads you.

Here’s how you can get started:

* Get Organized — Ask a few close neighbors or friends to form a supper swapping group. Use a 3 month trial period to see how it goes.

* Plan Meal Calendars — Plan meals for three months and mark who is bringing what meal on what days and times. (You can print free calendars at my website.)

* Be Honest — Be honest and up front about food likes, dislikes, and even possible food allergies to avoid problems down the road.

* Have a Back-up Plan — Try to have a back-up plan for meal delivery if you can’t be home to receive the meal when it is delivered.

* Use Recipes That Work — Choose recipes to start with that are your family favorites.

* Cash in at the Check-Out — Buy in bulk and plan your grocery trips to save money.

* Pan-Damonium — Either buy identical 9×13 glass baking pans with blue snap on lids or use disposable pans to swap meals in to save chaos.

* Enjoy the Ride — Relax and enjoy the ride. Remember to cherish the friendship above the swapping group when someone chooses to leave.

What do we have in store for us if we pick up a copy of your book?

The Great American Supper Swap has so much packed between the pages.

Of course, I share some funny and touching stories about my own supper swapping experiences. Like the time Carla spilled a gallon of Taco Soup in her minivan, (and how to avoid that yourself!).

Or how my supper swapping girlfriends fed my family during the weeks when my newborn was in the hospital with RSV.

There are also tips in each chapter like how to get started, cash in at the check out and save up to $4,000 by supper swapping, and advice to help moms along the way.

There are also practical things like a pan formula so you know how many new pans to buy depending on how many moms are in your group. It’s a lot less expensive than moms think!

But supper swapping is also about family and friendship. At the end of each chapter there is a Potluck Activity, a fun game to play with your girlfriends.

And there is also a chapter with kid-friendly, fun mealtime prayers you can say or sing at the dinner table.

And, of course, our BEST supper swapping recipes are included to help you get started.

Do you have a favorite recipe?

Oh, wow. That’s a tough question. I love Teri’s Autumn Soup, Carla’s Mandarin Salad, and yum, Grape Delight for dessert. Sorry, that was more than one!

Thanks so much, Trish. You’ve given us so many great ideas! Do you have a last bit of advice for us?

Though I have been a supper swap mom myself for almost five years and LOVE supper swapping, my passion is to get families back to the dinner table. Supper swapping is just one great way to do that.

Each family needs to find what works for them, whether it’s once-a-month cooking, buying meals from Dream Dinners, or simply eating Mac & Cheese. The food is secondary to the importance of gathering around the dinner table as a family.

Each and every mom out there needs to know that your family dinner is vital to your kid’s success for their lifetime.

Studies have shown that children who eat dinner with their family on a regular basis are 60% less likely to smoke cigarettes, 50% less likely to use drugs, and 66% less likely to drink alcohol.

So I guess my advice would be to find a way that works for your family and get back to the dinner table however you can.

I hope and pray that The Great American Supper Swap does help families gather around their dinner tables again. That’s my biggest prayer for this book.

Trish Berg offers a bounty of goodies at her website, TrishBerg.com, where you can read some of her articles, blog posts, and sign up for her free “Trish’s Tip of the Week” newsletter that is packed with fun ideas and recipes for busy moms. You can also read a great article by Trish in Today’s Christian Woman

P.S. If you leave a comment here by Friday at 5 pm, you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win a FREE copy of The Great American Supper Swap, mailed to you by Trish!




April 20, 2007

A few weeks ago, Active Christian Media sent me a pre-release of a new film to review, Hidden Secrets, produced by Pureflix Entertainment. It will premiere nationwide in over 200 theaters on April 30th, then release on DVD in late August.

When I received my screener DVD, I had no idea I’d be able to have it signed by the star of this movie, John Schneider. Yet that’s exactly what happened last night!

I grew up in the 80s watching “The Dukes of Hazzard” on TV, seeing John Schneider play the role of Bo Duke and shouting “Yeee-HA!” along with my siblings when the red General Lee flew high over a ditch. A good many of my classmates carried Dukes of Hazzard lunchboxes to school.

Since his Dukes’ days, Schneider has starred in several more films and popular TV series, including a recurring role on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and the role of Jonathan Kent on 100 episodes of the hit show, “Smallville.”

For the past few months, Schneider has been touring the South promoting his latest film, Collier & Co., which we saw in a special premiere last night in our small Georgia town.

He wrote, directed, and starred in this good-ol-boy comedy-action film (which was a lot of fun to watch!).

The most exciting news about John Schneider is that he’s a born-again Christian and the married father of three. Before the movie began last night, he explained to our packed theater of all ages, “I want to help make movies that you grandparents can watch while sitting next to your grandchildren.” He said nothing makes him happier than seeing families enjoy a film together.

It’s not often that a movie star who lives in Hollywood makes a guest appearance in our town, so it was fun to be invited to attend as a media guest. I brought my “Hidden Secrets” DVD for John to sign, and he asked me what I thought of it. I told him it had a positive, uplifting message, and that I hoped Pureflix would keep making more movies like it. (My mouth said those words, while my brain was screaming, “You’re standing next to John Schneider! Movie star!”)

Hidden Secrets deals with some weighty issues that may not be suitable for children under 12. The plot of the movie is this: in the first scene, a man writes a suicide note and then shoots himself (it doesn’t show the violence). Then we see a woman grieving and learn this is his sister, Sherry, who is played by stunning “Bold and Beautful” actress, Tracy Melchior.

Nine friends come back to their hometown to attend the funeral of Chris Hayden, who was apparently a strong Christian influence in their lives. They end up staying at his sister Sherry’s home, which has been turned into a bed-and-breakfast.

Most of the action takes place in or around this gorgeous home, except for a couple of poignant scenes in a church and at a bar/restaurant where the Christian band, Building 429, plays live.

The soundtrack also includes songs by Rachel Lampa who makes her acting debut playing the role of Sally.

There’s an interesting love triangle that heightens the tension: ten years ago, Sherry broke the heart of Jeremy, played by David A.R. White (who also co-wrote the script and produced the movie). Now Jeremy is one of the house guests (along with his new flame, Rachel, played by Stacy Keanan).

Each character represents a different stereotype, and having them all together in a “Big Chill” fashion brings their past secrets to the forefront where they discuss things in the light of their faith. There were a few lines of dialogue and two characters I found a little unbelievable, but despite the quirks, the inspirational message is clear.

The DVD version includes candid interviews with the actors and those involved in directing and producing the film. I really enjoyed learning more behind the scenes.

In a recent interview with the Christian Examiner, David A.R. White said, “Christ forgives and there are second chances. There is hope at the end of the tunnel and God is waiting there. He’s just waiting on us.” In a nutshell, this is the main message viewers take away from watching Hidden Secrets.

The first time I heard about Pureflix Entertainment was in Christian Women Online’s interview with Candace Cameron Bure. She starred in another Pureflix film called The Wager, along with actor/singer, Randy Travis.

Today’s parents are trying to raise children in a lost world, with school shootings, suicide bombers, and people trapped in addictions. I want to support the efforts of Pureflix and others who are more interested in producing films with a positive message than in grossing millions of dollars at the expense of our children’s innocence.

Getting to meet John Schneider last night was fun, making me one happy mom blogger today.