ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS

I went into high school in 1992. My teen years were filled with note passing, talking on my phone in my room, and listening to CDs on my discman. But now I’m the mom of two teenagers. They listen to itunes on their phones and Bluetooth speakers, they’re constantly on their cell phones, and they’ve never passed a note in their life. I find myself saying to them often, “You have no idea how different my high school experience was.”

One day I was thinking about how weird it would be for a teenager alive now to suddenly wake up in the nineties. How would they survive without their phones and internet? Would things be better for them or worse?

I honestly didn’t love high school. Sometimes I think about how grateful I am that we didn’t have phones and social media. It might have made things worse for me. But other times I think it might have made it better for someone like me. I sing, I play music, I write, I believe in myself, and I’m not afraid to put myself out there. For someone like me, maybe having outlets online for all of those things would’ve helped make my teen years better. Who knows?

And that’s how ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS came about. I wanted to explore this thought. To see how it would play out.

ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS

I loved writing this story in two parts. I actually thought the nineties portion would be easier for me, but it wasn’t. When Remy was in 1993, I kept writing dialogue that was heavy in today’s teen slang. So I had to pull up a tab of nineties slang and keep it open on my computer while writing. I guess I’m more relevant than I thought! Haha

But Remy came easily. Her voice. Her thoughts. Her wants. Her desires. And I liked her right off the bat.

Nick was also so fun to write. I felt him distinctly from the beginning. He was a great guy, but also multi-faceted. There were a lot of layers to him, and a definite struggle to find himself. I appreciated the realness of him.

My daughter helped me with some of the plot points, so if you liked the ending you can thank her.

I hope you enjoyed this story. And I hope you fell in love with Nick right along with Remy.

 

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When Remy fell asleep last night, it was 2018. This morning she woke up in 1993.
She knows it’s her fault. Over the weekend, a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl was splashed all over social media. Talk about epic humiliation. It made her wish she could go back to a time when there were no smartphones.
But she never imagined it would come true.
Now everything is different, including her friendship with her neighbor Nick. He’d never noticed her before. But now he’s looking at her in a new way. Almost like he thinks she’s all that and a bag of chips.
But will he feel that way when they return to 2018?

To snag your copy, click here.

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When you’re stuck in the waiting room…

There’s a line in the movie ELF where Buddy says, “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.” Not only do I find the line hilarious, but I totally relate. Smiling’s my favorite too. I believe in the power of a smile. In general, I’m a super positive person. It takes a lot to get me down. I’m pretty scrappy. I’ll pull myself out of any bad situation and search for that sliver of hope, no matter how tiny.

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But sometimes life is hard. Like legit hard. And that sliver of hope becomes almost impossible to see. That’s the season I’m in. And I’ve been in it for around 2 years. Most days, I hold tightly to whatever scrap of hope I can wrap my fingers around, and I cling to it like a lifeline. But days like today, I feel only air. Weightless. Empty. Nothing to grasp onto.

My family is in a season of waiting. A weird in-between place. A  place not unlike the waiting room at a hospital. We’re confused at what’s taking so long, and we’re frustrated that the nurse won’t call us back. Doesn’t she see us suffering? Doesn’t she think we’re an important case? Doesn’t she sense our desperation? 

If this was the first time my family had experienced this awful waiting period, that would be one thing. But for us this has been some bizarre cycle. We have a few bad years, a couple good years, and then we’re back here again. Often, I wonder what I’m missing. What lesson I’m not learning that I need to.  

 I trust God. I believe in his promises. I know the things he’s spoken over my family. I know the dreams he’s planted in our hearts. But I have no idea when I’ll see them. And the waiting period sucks. This in- between period of praying and seeking and crying out is exhausting.

I’m tired.

Spent.

Over it.

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And I’m not saying any of this for pity. If you know me at all, you know this is how I process. Getting this on paper gets it out of my head. It helps me move forward. Same way I quiet my characters when they won’t shut up.

Also, I’m betting some of you are in this season. Waiting on something that isn’t happening.

Truth is, I don’t know what to say to help you. I want to have some super insightful, profound nugget of wisdom to hand you. But my palms are empty. My mind is a swirling mess of tangles and knots. I got nothin’.

Except this….You’re not alone. I’m in this waiting period with you. And I’ll do my best to make the waiting bearable. We can read magazines and tell stories to distract one another.  Even when I’m sad, I’ll tell you jokes and I promise you that you’ll laugh, if only because I will and my laugh is contagious. Also, it’s loud. Maybe too loud. Ha! But who likes a quiet waiting room, right?

There’s a song called TRAINWRECK by James Arthur, and it speaks to my soul.

In the chorus he says,

Unbreak the broken

Unsay these spoken words

Find hope in the hopeless

Pull me out of the trainwreck

Unburn the ashes

Unchain the reactions

I’m not ready to die, not yet

Pull me out of the trainwreck

Pull me out, pull me out, pull me out

 This is the cry of my heart. That God will pull me out. That he’ll pull you out.

In this waiting room, I’ll stare at that door with you, anxious and hopeful that it will open. And it will. It has to.

When it does, I’ll hold your hand. And we’ll walk through together. We’ll be braver. Stronger. Prepared. Ready.

 

The stranger I know

BREAK FREE is the most personal story I’ve ever written. Most people think ENGRAVED is and that’s partly true. ENGRAVED had actual stories from my own life. But BREAK FREE was something so much deeper. It was my love song to God who pursued me even when I felt like I was too ugly; too damaged to chase. He had grace for me when I was certain I was unworthy of it. When Kyler found Jade in his barn and looked at her face full-on, not even acknowledging that half her face was burned and mangled, he stole my heart. Their story was achingly beautiful to write. I bawled through the scene that has been quoted by every reviewer of the book to date – when he scolds her for talking bad about her own appearance. Jade is certain in that moment that he’s just like all the others. She thinks, “I’m steel. I’m brick. I’m iron. I’m metal.” She’s putting back up her walls. But when she asks him what he’ll do if she says it again, he says, “I’ll tell you you’re beautiful again and again.” And that’s when she says the most famous lines in the book -“I was ice. I was glass. I was fragile. I was breaking. I was his.” Even typing this now I tear up. I can still remember the day I let down my walls with God, and with my own husband. The day when I finally believed I wasn’t ugly to them. That I wasn’t unworthy of them. I loved walking this journey with Jade. She’s a part of me. Kyler’s a part of me. I carry them in my heart always. There’s also a sweet scene where Kyler says a line that I actually took straight from my husband’s mouth. It was what he said to me the day he stole my heart for good.

I always have a hard time articulating how much this book means to me. And I’ll probably never be able to adequately explain it. But I’ve heard from many of my readers, and I know how much it means to them too. I love that this book resonates with so many. I also love that almost no one has guessed the plot twist. Ha!

I recently decided to change the title and cover for BREAK FREE. I’ve never thought the title did the story justice or that the cover really fit. So, while I was at it, I changed the cover and title for BREAK THROUGH as well.

These were designed by my beautiful and talented friend Megan O’Connell Squires!

THE STRANGER I KNOW (formerly BREAK FREE) –>http://amzn.to/2DNypd6

Two strangers meet in an abandoned barn – Kyler, a reclusive writer, and Jade, a woman on the run.

Both are alone and in need, and they decide to help one another. But when Jade stumbles upon Kyler’s latest manuscript, she is shocked to find that it is her story. One she never told him. One he couldn’t know.

Not if he truly was a stranger.

THE GIRL FROZEN IN TIME (formerly BREAK THROUGH) ->http://amzn.to/2IIaC1Y

At the age of eight, Aspen is kidnapped. Five years later she escapes, vowing never to trust another man. Now she’s an adult and she’s kept the promise she made to herself as a child, keeping men at a distance.

Carter Johnston is a well-known photographer. When he’s assigned to photograph Aspen for an article in a prominent magazine, the connection between them is undeniable.
As they grow closer, the walls Aspen has built around her heart for years begin to crumble. Until she finds a photograph in Carter’s house which links him to her abduction.

 

 

Verse of the day #fail

Today I failed at the verse of the day. In my defense, I didn’t log onto my bible app until this evening, so that put me at an unfair disadvantage. By that point I’d already epically screwed up.

Let me stop for a second to make sure we’re all on the same page. Do you know what the bible app is? It’s exactly like it sounds. It’s an app on your phone where you can read the bible. I’ve pasted a picture below. Also, yes, that is my husband’s shirt. The one that he’s wearing in almost every picture I have of him. Must be his favorite.

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Anyway, whenever I log onto my bible app the first thing I see is the verse of the day. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that some days that’s the only verse I read. Most days I at least read through one of my daily plans. But not today.

This morning I woke up knowing it would probably be safer for everyone if I just crawled back into bed. You have those too, right? Please tell me I’m not alone. From the minute my feet hit the floor, I felt off. Not sick exactly, but also not totally healthy. Not exhausted, but definitely not wide awake. Not angry really, but not super happy. I thought for sure I was nearing that time of the month, but unfortunately I’ve been slacking on my monthly tracker (yes, another app). According to it, I’m months late and probably going into labor any minute. (Ha ha. No thank you.)

But I also felt something awful. Something I hate more than anything in the world. I felt vulnerable. And the truth is I’ve felt like that a lot lately.

Some days it’s seems so much easier to stay home. To keep to myself. To not have to leave the house or get off my couch if I don’t want to. When I’m home I can protect myself. I’m safe. I’m in control.

I LOVE people. Talking with them. Laughing with them. Being with them. Loving on them.

Nothing makes me happier than making someone smile…or laugh…or feel loved and accepted.

I feed off the energy of others. Large groups of people are my jam. Eddie Murphy totally wrote that song about me. This girl does like to party all the time, party all the time, partay all the ti-ime.

But as much as I’m a people-lover, I’m not a people-truster. I’m not good at being vulnerable.

As my reader, you’re probably shocked. I open up to you all the time – on this blog, in my books, in my fan club, on my facebook page, on my instafeed. But that’s not true vulnerability. Not the kind where you bleed out. Where you show someone what’s truly inside – the wonderful and the “oh, dear god, that is so not wonderful.”

I get to choose what I share with you on here. I can measure my words.

I can be in control.

Out there in the real world things can get messy. I’m not always in control.

And that means, I can get hurt.

It also means that I don’t always measure my words. I’m not always poised and grace-filled and joyous and loving. (I know you’re totally shocked right now, huh?)

Today’s verse of the day was Galatians 5:22-23

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And I failed at it.

I didn’t live up to this verse today. I was impatient and short-fused. I was over-sensitive and frustrated.

But, guess what, I’m not perfect. I’m messy and broken, and sometimes insensitive and mean. I wish I weren’t like that. Sometimes my feelings get hurt and I lash out without taking the time to think; to pause; to hear the other person out.

I wish I could be as thoughtful and poised in real life as I am on this blog. If only my words always came out measured, and full of grace. If only I always responded in love and truth.

When I first opened my bible app today, I felt like God was pointing his finger at me. I felt shame. I felt guilt.

And then I said, “oh, no – not today, Satan,” and I opened this laptop. I’m processing my feelings as I’m writing, so thanks for coming along for the ride.

God is teaching me a lot about identity this year. I think that may be why I’m feeling so vulnerable and exposed. It’s all part of the process. And I won’t let this setback get me down. I will keep moving forward. I will keep loving and allowing others to love me. I will continue to force myself to be open and vulnerable even when it’s scary. And I will continue to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.

And guess what? Tomorrow is a new day.

And that means a totally different verse. So maybe I’ll win at that one. 😉

 

 

 

My strange collection

I was late to the social media game. I never had a myspace account, and most of my friends had been on Facebook for a year or so before I joined. The first time I heard about twitter, I thought it was silly. I was a thirty-something year old woman with a husband, two kids, and a minivan who lived in suburbia. How interesting could one of my tweets or posts really be?

But one day at work a friend talked me into joining Facebook, and it wasn’t long before I had twitter, Instagram, tumblr and snapchat. This week I even joined a new site called Vero.

I tell people all the time that I’m on social media because of my job. And that is “mostly” true. Being an author means I have to promote myself constantly. I spend at least 3 hours every single day on marketing. Much of that is creating, tweaking and analyzing my ads. But some of that is creating and constructing myself – my brand. Posting videos, pictures, blog entries, facebook posts, Instagram posts, stories, tweets. Then there’s the time I spend interacting with my fans, whether it be in my fan club or in facebook and Instagram messages, emails or snapchat pictures.

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I love my life. I love being an author. I love interacting with my fans. I love that my readers allow me to live my dream.

But sometimes I forget to love myself. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am.

I spend my days collecting likes, comments, messages, sales. I gather them, holding them close and allowing them to speak to me. To whisper into my heart, determining my worth. Some days I’m on top of the world, standing on a giant mountain of my likes, sales, impressions and clicks. Other days, I’m wallowing in an empty pit.

It’s hard to be okay with myself when I live in a world of likes, comments and views. It’s even harder in my business. Validation is something I crave, but often it’s hard to come by.

I hate that I reach for my phone a million times a day to check posts, sales, comments, views, clicks, stats, impressions. But it’s reality. It’s not going to change. At least not right now.

But my mindset can.

I am more than the amount of likes I get, and so are you.

Psalms 139: 13 reads:

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

God valued me long before I opened my facebook account, started this blog or published a book. And he called me “wonderfully” made.

Recently, God’s been speaking to me about identity. He’s been gently reminding me of all the times he’s been there, cheering me on, loving me, elevating me, holding me. And he’s been doing this in many ways – through others, through his word and through songs.

As you know, worship is my jam. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with this song by Cory Asbury called Reckless Love.

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It’s been speaking to my heart more than any other song has in a long time. It goes like this:

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me”

There is nothing more true in my life than God’s unconditional love for me. He loves me if my writing is beautiful or if it’s crap. He loves me when my books are selling and when they’re not. He loves me when my singing is on point or when my harmonies royally suck.  He loves me when my post gets 100 likes or when it gets 2.

That doesn’t mean I won’t work hard.  I will strive to do my best for him because he’s worth it.

But I’ll remember that I’m worth it too.

And so are you.

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HOME RUN HEART released!

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HOME RUN HEART is live!!

 

Abby befriended me, took me in off the streets, and gave me a place to live. But I’m betraying her by sneaking around with her older brother.
It wasn’t planned. I didn’t mean to fall for him, but it was impossible not to.
Cameron is unlike anyone I’ve met before. He’s the first guy who’s looked at me like I’m a person, not a charity case or someone to use. I’ve never had a home, but in Cameron’s arms I finally know what one feels like.
But if Abby finds out about us, I’ll be back on the streets. Is Cameron worth risking everything for?

HOME RUN HEART includes forbidden romance, love from across the tracks, a shy heroine, a sweet hero, and all the feels.

 

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Fans of my Playing for Keeps and Make the Play series will love HOME RUN HEART!

 

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The season finale of The Amber Show

For years, my parents have shared the story of the first Christmas pageant I participated in. According to them, the Wonderland Preschool Christmas Program should have been called The Amber Show. I sang all the solos, danced all the dances, and had all the speaking parts.

In kindergarten I was always in trouble for two things:

  1. Reading entire books to the class every time it was my turn during show and tell.
  2. Writing in cursive.

I was put into GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) early in elementary school.

Growing up, I got the lead in every school play I tried out for and every solo I auditioned for.

As a child I believed I could have anything I wanted, and that I could achieve anything I set my mind to.

But in high school, things started to unravel for me. Suddenly, there were things that didn’t come easily to me. There were moments when I wasn’t number one.

It was hard to come to grips with, and I’ve struggled with it ever since.

Recently I heard a message by one of the pastors at my church. In it he said, “You are not what you produce.”

It hit me hard.

I am not what I produce.

I am not my books. I am not my songs. I am not my voice. I am not my talent. I am not measured by my success.

In some ways this is so freeing. In other ways it’s incredibly difficult.

When my parents tell the story of my preschool pageant, I hear the pride in their voice. I know that my family has always been proud of the fact that I talked at an early age, read at an early age, tested at a higher grade level than I was in. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

What was wrong was my need to always be on top. My need to always please everyone. My need to be seen. To be heard. To be in the spotlight.

To be number one.

It’s set me on a path of constantly comparing myself to others, and constantly searching for approval.

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If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that the last five years have been rough for me emotionally and physically. I won’t bore you with the details since I’ve blogged about it so much in the past. You probably already know that my mantra for the last several years has been, “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.”

I began 2017 praying for breakthrough in the area of fear and anxiety. After several years of being sick, I had experienced major physical breakthrough in 2016, but I was still dealing with some of the after-effects emotionally.

God answered my prayers: In the past six months I’ve only had a few panic attacks. After having daily ones for years, this is huge. Fear doesn’t plague me the way it once had. I’m not a slave to it any longer. I know this for sure. That’s not to say that I don’t deal with it sometimes or that I’ll never deal with it again. But I’ve experienced major breakthrough, and it no longer has me bound.

So I’m starting 2018 asking for breakthrough in the area of identity. I want to truly believe that I am not what I produce. That I am not measured by my talent and success. That I don’t have to prove myself. That I don’t have to be the most talented or smartest or richest.

That I don’t have to be number one.

Of course I will keep working hard. I will keep reaching for the stars.

But above all I will seek God.

Years ago, God directed me to this verse:

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
I didn’t fully understand what he was trying to tell me until now. This year I want to know Him in a way I never have before. I don’t want to seek man’s approval. I only want to seek the approval of the one who has always given it to me – freely and without expectations.
I know I will find Him, and in the process I hope to find myself.
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