Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Where, O Death, Is Your Sting?

Dixie (2006 - 2014)
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Death is part of life, but it’s never easy to accept, whether it’s a friend, relative, or pet. This week, our beautiful Australian Shepherd, Dixie, passed away. As the verse above indicates, death doesn’t carry an eternal sting for Christians. But losing a loved one does sting our hearts during our earthly existence.

Dixie’s passing has left a huge hole in our lives. We’ll notice her absence even more in the spring when the weather turns warm, and she’s not here to go on bike rides or chase tennis balls or squeak toys (her absolute favorite). When we sit on the deck, she won’t be there to nuzzle under our arm to lay her head in our lap. Only memories and empty places remain.

God has comforted our family during this difficult time, and we have no doubt He’ll see us through what lies ahead. We take comfort in this promise of eternity from God’s Word:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 

Three months ago, three separate veterinary clinics assessed and diagnosed Dixie with hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive blood vessel cancer, with tumors originating in her spleen and metastasized to her heart. The tumor on her heart had bled, creating pressure around the heart and shortness of breath. We were told she could go at any time, possibly a day or two, a week at the most. One vet gave an optimistic decree that there is no rhyme or reason to life, and Dixie might surprise us and survive a month.

Hmmm. No rhyme or reason? I pondered this for a while. He was right in the sense that no one knows what the future holds. We don’t get to say who’s healed, who dies, who beats the odds, or who doesn’t live even the projected length.

Ironically, we’re comforted by seasons of good health and conversely, fear that ill health means a sooner demise. Reality is—we’re all terminal, and this could be the last day on earth for any of us.

When we hear of someone’s “early” death, we repeat the same words: Life is short. Any of us could go tomorrow…Then we go about our business, living as if we have forever.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

Some of us worry what tomorrow might hold, often more so for loved ones than ourselves. I’ll admit I’m guilty of this at times, especially where my kids are concerned. I’m a worry-wart by nature. But my faith tells me God is in control. He’s sovereign. Nothing catches Him by surprise. 

Dixie’s sudden illness and prognosis forced us to live in the moment. Just today. Not thinking about tomorrow and turning loose of the inevitable. 

I’m reminded of a line from the book “Same Kind of Different As Me,” that said something like: “We’re just thankful we wake up each day.” That became our mantra. We woke up each day thankful Dixie was still with us, even thriving. We ended the day with thanksgiving and a hopeful expectation for another blessed day tomorrow. Then we praised God when it happened!

The vets warned us Dixie would progressively deteriorate until her death. Remarkably, she rebounded. She went from being lethargic and short of breath to walking around again, trotting, yes, even running. She pounced on her squeak toy and begged to be thrown a ball to chase or go with us on a bike ride. And we struggled with giving her what she wanted—to live in the moment—and the knowledge that doing so could bring a sooner demise.

While there may be no apparent rhyme or reason to life events, God uses every trial in our life to teach us something—if we allow Him. We grow spiritually and emotionally, better able to bless those around us and to prepare us for our eventual earthly end.

Dixie’s illness has strengthened our faith by stretching the boundaries of our minds and hearts beyond what we imagined three months ago. She forced us into a single-day concept, a single reliance on God’s timing, and a turning loose of our own timetables. And when the end came, it was swift and merciful, as our prayer had been.

Today, I found myself humming this old song, as I often do:

I don't know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.
Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
(by Ira Stanphill)

Saying good-bye to a faithful family pet is never easy. We appreciate everyone who has lifted us up in prayer during this difficult time in our family. We love you all!

If you’re going through a rough time with illness or maybe a family crisis, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential prayer requests. I’d love to pray for you. There’s never a problem too big or too small that God doesn’t care about. If it matters to you, it matters to Him.

Would you take a moment to pray for others who leave comments or are on the prayer list at the top of the blog? Thanks!

Be sure to join me next week as I share a post entitled “All Dogs Go To Heaven?” I’m going to tackle the subject of pets in heaven. I look forward to everyone’s feedback on that subject. 

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Author Interview with Elaine Marie Cooper

Elaine Marie Cooper, author
I’m pleased to welcome novelist Elaine Marie Cooper to share her journey of becoming a published writer. Her latest book is Fields of the Fatherless.

Welcome, Elaine!

Q: When did you first know you were a writer?

I’ve written stories and poems since I was a child but I suppose I understood that I might be a writer when a newspaper editor saw some of my work and she offered me an opportunity to do freelancing. Since then I’ve freelanced for another newspaper as well as magazines. I began to research for my first novel in 2007.

I still find it difficult to grasp the concept of being called a writer. Every time someone introduces me as an author, I have this uncomfortable feeling that I should be looking around the room for the real author!

Q: How long did it take from the time you started writing your first book until it was published?

Since I was working full time as a nurse when I started my research, it took over a year to get it written. Then the edits and getting it published took another year. At the time (2009), the publishing industry was in a crisis with layoffs and almost no new authors being picked up by traditional publishers. Because of the discouraging situation, I opted to self-publish. Much has changed since then including a huge number of authors choosing self-publishing. Were I starting out today, I would attend writer's conferences where you can meet with acquisitions editors and pitch your book ideas. But self-publishing through Amazon works well for many authors. The important thing if you self-publish, however, is to remember to hire a capable editor. :)

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing historical fiction?

The fact that history can be brought alive in a way that a textbook cannot. When you assign personality traits and dialogue into a story form, suddenly a character becomes a person, not just a name on a page. Suddenly, history seems amazing and real.

Q: Can you give us a brief synopsis of your latest release?

Fields of the Fatherless is historical fiction set in 1775 and is based on actual events and persons from history. Betsy Russell is an 18-year-old woman facing the unthinkable: War coming to their peaceful village of Menotomy, Massachusetts. Struggling to deal with fear, hatred and bitterness, Betsy’s emotional and spiritual journey takes unexpected paths.

Q: Fields of the Fatherless is a very serious book. What age reader did you write it for?

You’re so correct about it being very serious. I wrote it for adults and young adults. I believe it is far too intense for younger children, although several homeschooling parents recommend it for teens.

Q:  What do you hope your readers will take away from your books? And can you hint at any works to come?

I want my readers to first of all be drawn into the characters in my story, to feel their fears, joys, and hopes. But I also want my readers to come away spiritually awakened in some way so they feel closer to God. Since I write historicals, I definitely want my readers to be swept up in another era so they can, hopefully, understand life long ago.

Works to come? I am taking a one-book-break from historical fiction to write about my journey with my daughter through her battle with brain cancer. She passed away ten years ago when she was only 24-years-old. What I hope to accomplish in Bethany’s Calendar is to show God’s grace and mercy in the midst of my life’s greatest trial. But I also hope that my journey with my daughter will help other families going through similar circumstances know how they can be an advocate for their loved one. And how they can survive, with God’s strength.

Q: What word of encouragement do you have for other Christian writers struggling to get published, especially when rejection letters keep coming?

I would say, "Congratulations!" You've joined the ranks of true writers! At our Word Weavers meeting last month our mentor was discussing this very issue, reminding the group that rejection is part of the business. It doesn't mean that you are no good. It means that what you are pitching is not what they need for their current program. Keep trying. Keep perfecting your writing skills. Join a good writer's group. Buy "How To" books for writers. If God has called you to write, pray for His guidance—He will open the right doors. You just need to keep knocking.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your journey, Elaine!

Novelist Elaine Marie Cooper is the author of The Road to Deer Run, The Promise of Deer Run and The Legacy of Deer Run. Her passions are her family, her faith in Christ and the history of the American Revolution, a frequent subject of her historical fiction. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her novels. Fields of the Fatherless released October 2013. Visit her website at:

Back Cover Blurb for Fields of the Fatherless:

In the early months of 1775, war is brewing in the American colonies. Although frightened, eighteen-year-old Betsy Russell of Menotomy Village, Massachusetts, wants to be prepared in case of attack by the British troops.

Her father, prosperous farmer Jason, is the fourth generation of Russells on this land—yet their very rights as British Colonials are being stripped away one by one. Will the King of England take the Russells’ land as well?

Tensions are growing here in the countryside west of Boston and the outbreak of battle seems almost a certainty. Jason desperately wants to protect his family—his wife, children and grandchildren—and their future. Betsy makes every attempt to be prepared for the worst.

But not even the American militia could have predicted what was about to occur—right on the Russells’ doorstep. If Betsy loses everything she holds dear, are the rights of all the Colonists endangered?
(Based on a true story.)

You can purchase Fields of the Fatherless at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Friends—Sharing Pain and Touching Wounds

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” Henri Nouwen, Dutch priest and writer.

Last Saturday, I participated in a mission project at my church for Sole Hope. According to their website, this organization is:  
A group of passionate, committed people who are putting closed toed shoes on African children, one pair at a time…Along the way, we realized we could not only help African children, but we could help African men and women by teaching them a simple trade—how to make shoes. And so we began. Then we realized we could teach others—homeless, unemployed, recovering addicts, and nonprofits—how to make shoes, so they could earn a decent living and raise funds for their causes. So Sole Hope is touching lives in the U.S. and Africa, and we’re only getting started! (

Sponsors cut out shoe parts from what we normally would cast away: old jeans, cloth, plastic jugs, etc. to ship to Sole Hope for the shoes to be made.

My friend Cindy was instrumental in bringing this project to our church for the ladies to participate in. In fact, I’m almost certain she will blog about the experience, so go over and check out her blog, My Little Corner, this week. When I think of missions, she’s one of the first people who comes to mind.

As I sat at a table cutting out cloth shoe patterns with pinking shears, a lady took a seat across from me, and we introduced ourselves. She said, “I know you. You’re Cindy’s friend.” As I thought about this later, it struck me that I’m often labeled according to my role in relation to someone else. When my daughter was little, I was “Lindsay’s mom.” Then Josh came along more than a decade later, and I was “Josh’s mom.” J

Being a mom is special. There’s no comparison, but being associated with someone you respect because of shared beliefs and the way they pattern their life is what true friendship is all about.

Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:12-15 

Is there any better friendship than the one we have with Jesus? Especially because earthly friendships can be fractured—even to the point of disrepair, or so it seems. When this happens, it’s hard to trust again. The healing balm is found only in the arms of Jesus. Being considered His friend is the ultimate in relationships. He’s the one person who will truly never let you down. He’s the one who can mend broken hearts and relationships. As Christians, we are to demonstrate Jesus’ love by sharing others’ pain and touching their wounds “with a warm and tender hand.” When I think of Jesus’ friendship, I’m reminded of this old hymn:

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there. ~Joseph M. Scriven

Do you have sorrow or a broken relationship you’d like prayer for? If you don’t want to share in the comments section, please feel free to e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you.

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

When God Says No

South Sudan
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

Let’s face it. Many of us don’t react any better than our children when we’re told no. Sure, we don’t openly throw tantrums or show defiance, but when life doesn’t unfold as we envision, resentment surges in our minds and hearts.

We tell our kids no because it’s in their best interest. God tells us no for the same reason. Because we can’t see the big picture or the future, we often grumble to ourselves that our prayer was worth answering in the affirmative. Or we’re just so disappointed that we can’t fathom why we were told no.

For the past dozen years, since I first became aware of South Sudan’s troubles from decades of war and genocide waged against it from the North. I’ve prayed God would provide a path for me to travel there as part of a mission team. As I learned more and followed the country’s path to independence in 2011, my hope grew that God would indeed finally open the door for me to go. I researched mission groups, and God placed people in my life who’d done mission work there or had plans to go. The one piece of advice every overseas mission worker gave me was, “Find a reputable group with a solid mission plan for going into South Sudan.”

South Sudan isn’t a country you go into on a whim or with poor planning. Little to no infrastructure exists in the country. Bridges and paved roads are almost non-existent outside the capital, and the terrain is rugged in places and laced with rivers, one of which is the Nile. Personal safety cannot be guaranteed on any level. Basic needs such as water are often scarce, and forget about plumbing or electricity. Their humanitarian needs are so great, but as important, their spiritual needs amidst abundant witchcraft.

In all my research, I kept returning to the website of a particular group: Make Way Partners

When MWP founder Kimberly Smith arrived in South Sudan more than ten years ago, she discovered orphans sleeping in trees or in the bush to escape wild animals and those who would kidnap them for military or trafficking purposes. She succeeded in building three orphanages with medical clinics within the country, which was difficult because supplies had to be trucked from neighboring countries over 2,000 miles of rough terrain with bandits attacking them regularly. In addition to her travels back and forth with a core group of mission workers, she takes an outside group each year. The next scheduled trip was February 2014. Three weeks in two locations within South Sudan, and everything I needed to exist I would carry in—a tent, sleeping bag, food, clothing, water filters, etc.

On the Nile River
Elated when I read the lengthy description about the trip, I e-mailed back and forth with Kimberly’s assistant to answer some questions and then printed the eight-page application. Through the summer, I prayed about going. The application deadline was September 1, 2013. Often, I awoke in the middle of the night thinking about the trip. My only doubts were self-doubts. Would I be able to handle what I saw and experienced? Would I hold up under such extreme physical conditions? Would my presence make a difference? I never feared for my safety. (Perhaps that would’ve come later.)

As a side note, anyone contemplating foreign missions should ask themselves similar questions. Although Satan will seize every opportunity to needle your mind, honest self-scrutiny is important. I turned my fears over to God, knowing through intense spiritual and physical preparation, if it were His will that I went, He would equip me.

As it neared the application deadline, I wrestled even more with the decision, often awakening during the night and praying for direction. Finally, the answer came.

 “No, not now.”

To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Part of me felt like a failure. I’d prayed diligently, done my research, had begun physical conditioning, and for what? I knew God’s answer was final, and my faith told me it was for the best, but I didn’t have peace in my soul. I began to pray for that peace!

A few days before the application deadline, I actually slept through the night and awoke with peace. I wasn’t going to South Sudan, and it was okay. This was God’s will.

I climbed from bed, went to the kitchen, and poured myself a cup of coffee. After booting up my computer, I clicked on my email. Among the dozens of messages was one from Make Way Partners. For the first time in ten years, Kimberly had decided not to take a group to South Sudan. Her core group of workers and she would make the trip as they did several times a year, but they would not train or take newcomers. She said she didn’t understand God’s direction, but she had to follow it. It caused a small ruckus within MWP with some staff not agreeing or understanding how she could make such an abrupt decision with no reason. Hmmmm. No reason? God’s direction does not have to include reasons. (click to tweet) J

Yet…in less than three months, the reason became crystal clear.

Displaced South Sudanese
War now wages in South Sudan. More than a thousand South Sudanese have been killed. An estimated 180,000 have been injured or displaced. The cause of the war appears to be an attempt by the former Vice President to overthrow the government. He controls a faction of the military. As happens in many countries with multiple ethnic and tribal sects, the fighting has developed into sectarian violence. While other missionaries have been forced to abandon their projects, MWP’s indigenous staff ensures the orphans are cared for year round without the physical presence of Americans. Even so, the indigenous workers face ongoing threats.

UN Mission in Juba, South Sudan (capital)

Never second-guess a “no” answer to a prayer. God knows what’s best, despite how Christ-honoring you perceive the request to be. If you hear nothing else I say, hear this: Obedience is more important than anything else you can offer God. While He doesn’t need you specifically to accomplish His will in any given area, our obedience in seeking His will ensures a place inside that will. We must obey God in both the “no” and “yes” answers. Trust Him to get it right.

If it is God’s will that I ever go to South Sudan to participate in the Great Commission and to deliver humanitarian and medical aid to the most impoverished and human trafficked nation in the world, He will provide a way. Meanwhile, there’s much to do on other fronts to win souls to Christ, provide humanitarian assistance to the hurting, and encourage Christians in their daily walk.

I implore you to join me in prayer for the “least of these” in South Sudan, already displaced by decades of war. The missionaries in the trenches are pleading for prayer support. Though we’ll possibly never know why war wages in some countries more than others, as long as we live in this fallen world where evil abounds, we’ll have war. We must continue to pray for the protection of the innocent.

If you would like to share your own mission story or “no” answer, please do so. I’m sure my other readers would be blessed. Share your prayer requests, as well, or if have a confidential request, please e-mail me. I’d love to pray for you.

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

For those of you seeking a tangible, hands-on way to help the displaced in South Sudan, most of whom are widows and children, MWP offers a chance to provide a "can of life" for those coming to their orphanages seeking help. Click here to learn more. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

How To Prepare For A Writers Conference

I’m honored to welcome Christian writer and social media guru Edie Melson as our guest blogger today. Edie also is co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She brings a lot of experience to the conversation about preparing for a writers conference. Check out her blog, The Write Conversation, for more in-depth writing tips.

Welcome, Edie!

Prepare for a Writers Conference

Previously, on my blog, I posted a tongue in cheek Top Ten List of Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference. Then I gave a rundown of how to Choose a Writers Conference. Today I'm going to get a little bit serious and share some of the things you may want to prepare before you go. I've written about reasons to attend a conference on this blog, and I'll address what you'll need for two of those.

Networking is the easiest to prepare for. If you're just going to meet other writers and professionals the main thing you need is a good business card. Please take note, I said, good, NOT expensive.

These are the things a good writer’s business card includes:

·    Your picture - I know, I hate to have my picture taken and I always hate how it looks. But, in this business you need to be remembered and recognized and your picture is the best and easiest way to do that. If someone has a card with your picture on it, they'll remember who you are months longer than if it's just got your name. Also, it's harder to throw away a card with a picture on it than a card with just text on it.
·    The name you use when you write - If you use a pseudonym, be sure it's on the card. Here's an example (I just made up the names - they're not representative of a real person): Susie Stone, writing as Catherine Milo.
·    Your email address - This is going to be the main way others will contact you.
·    Your website or blog address - Never pass up the opportunity to encourage new visitors to your sites. Also, many people will follow up on what you've told them and this will be a way for them to get to know you better.
·     Cell phone number - This isn't absolutely necessary, but it helps if your email goes down and someone has a hot lead for you.

Please take note of what is NOT included on a business card now. You do not need your physical address on the card. Actually, it's a liability. It can be dangerous to give out your home address, so if you feel you must include an address, invest in a PO Box.

It is possible to make your own business cards, using Avery brand sheets that go through your ink jet printer. The trick to successfully printing your own cards is to keep them simple! Another inexpensive way to go is by using VistaPrint. This online company is very reputable and I personally know a lot of writers who get their cards through them.

Bring some writing samples:
These are good to have simply because you'll probably find yourself in a group, or at a table, where everyone is sharing something they've written. It might not happen, but chances are, if you don't have anything to show, you'll be disappointed.

This is when you attend a conference because you have something you want to sell to a publisher or if you want to get an agent. The things below that you'll need are specifically for those wishing to sell a fiction or non-fiction book.

It's important to keep in mind that everything you prepare for the conference to pitch a project is incremental in nature.
·     Your tag line or hook should make the editor or agent ask to hear more about your project (this is the time for the elevator pitch).
·     The elevator pitch should lead them to ask for your one sheet.
·     Your one sheet or pitch sheet should lead them to ask you to send them a proposal when you get home.
·     Your proposal should lead them to ask you to send them your entire manuscript.
·     Your entire manuscript should lead them to offer you a contract.

These are the generic steps in publishing. God can step in at any time in the process and something completely different can, and often does, happen. But, until that happens, I try to take it one step at a time.

Now let's look at what's involved in each one of these components.
·     tag line or hook - This is one sentence, preferably 15 words or less. It should NOT be a synopsis of your book, but rather it's to intrigue the editor/agent and make them want to know more.
·     elevator pitch - This should be short, around 45 seconds. It will sound a lot like back cover copy or what is on your one sheet. Again, it's to make the editor/agent ask to see more.
·     one sheet or pitch sheet - This gives the blurb about your book, information about yourself (bio) and general info, like genre and audience for your project. If it's fiction, it states that the project is finished. If it's non-fiction it gives a completion date if the project is unfinished.

You won't need a full proposal or manuscript for the conference. If an editor or agent is interested, they'll ask you to email or snail mail them one when you get home.

Again, as with networking, you'll need to bring some samples of your writing.

This is just a general overview of what is needed. If you have specific questions, feel free to contact me at You can also post your question in the comments section below so others can learn with you.

Don't forget to join the conversation!


Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the Social Media Mentor at MyBook Therapy. She’s also the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Just Do It!

Don't think--just do!
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Have you ever started out to do something and then got sidelined, either by your own attitude or by life events? According to, only 46% of people who make New Year’s resolutions stick with them beyond one month. I see this at my local YMCA where I work out. It's packed with people in January, but by February, the regulars have free run of the equipment again. J

Why are resolutions so hard to keep? Our intentions are good. Most of the time, we desperately want to change certain areas of our lives. So why don’t we? (click to tweet) Fear, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, or others tearing us down? Maybe. Sometimes financial reasons stand in our way. But perhaps the underlying reason is more simple—we overthink the changes we want to make. 

I’ve watched Biggest Loser off and on for several seasons. One of the things the trainers say when the contestants whine and make excuses is—“Quit thinking about it. Just do it!” Of course, Jillian Michaels also threatens to kill them and other such nonsense if they jump off the treadmill one more time! J

But there’s merit in that advice. I don’t think about going to the “Y.” If I did, I wouldn’t go. I simply get dressed and drive there. That’s all I allow myself to think about. Not the workout. Not how hard it is or that I don’t feel like doing it, especially when it’s below freezing outside or over 100o in the summer.

One of the things I decided to do this year is read through the entire Bible. I read through it in 1999-2000, but I didn’t accomplish it all in one year. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but this time I want to try to read it in a year. I printed a chronological schedule from Joni Eareckson Tada’s website and have been checking off as I read a section. I’ll admit I’ve missed completing a day here or there, but I always go back and catch up. Like the Apostle Paul, I press on toward the goal. A great way to do this is online, especially since I need bifocals and haven’t gotten them yet. Book print is increasingly hard for me to see, but I can read several chapters at the time online.

One of my favorite online Bible resources is Bible Gateway. If you don’t think you’ll keep up with a chronological list to read through the Bible, why not get chapters delivered to your e-mail inbox daily? Or if you want to start with a smaller goal, perhaps read through the New Testament in 2014. This can also be delivered to you via e-mail. Click here to access these resources on Bible Gateway. While you're there, take a few minutes to peruse the other free resources they offer. There are several devotional programs to choose from, as well.

Whatever you choose to put your hand or mind to this year in service to Christ, or in other areas of your life you've set goals, I pray you’ll find the spiritual, emotional, and physical stamina to do so.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV

What goals have you set for 2014? Do you have a good plan to fulfill them? I'd love to hear about them.

If you’d like prayer to stay on task to reach a goal or for another issue, please share in the comments or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you.

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Top 12 Fantastic Writer Resources

Great news! I’ve updated my annual list from 10 to 12 resources. So whether you’re an aspiring Christian writer who longs to be published—or a published writer who wants more opportunity—you’ll find something in the list to help you.

Skills and talent are important, but it’s also imperative to be educated in the publishing market. This includes knowing current acceptable grammar usage, how to write queries, and subject trends. As important is knowing where to submit your work, whether you’re seeking to build writing credits or for pay. If you don’t have the means to attend writers’ conferences, these resources are a great way to become more educated to help achieve your publishing goals. We all want to be published, right?

The following comprehensive list covers all of the above and then some.

Story Sensei - If you’re looking for a Christian writer with a heart for aspiring writers, acclaimed Christian writer Camy Tang would rank high in that group. Her website offers an extensive list of articles on every writing subject imaginable. She also offers an array of paid services including worksheets and coaching.

The Write Conversation - Are query letters confusing? Difficult? Make you want to pull your hair out or throw something against a wall? You’re not alone. Most published writers have been in your shoes. Here’s a great article (and writer’s website) written by Edie Melson, editor and writer with hundreds of articles and books to her credit. You’ll find many writing topics in her website’s archives.

Open Submissions - So you want to be published and don’t know where to look. How about a list of 200+ Christian magazines and book publishers with open submissions? This list should keep you busy for a while. 

Vonda Skelton - This website is filled with encouragement, writing opportunities, and writing support services such as critiques. Vonda’s heart for helping others shines through all aspects of her ministry.

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers: How To Edit Yourself Into Print - If you can only afford a few writing books, this should be at the top of your list. Many fundamental writing errors can be eliminated by utilizing the concepts outlined in this book.

Pelican Book Group Blog - There’s nothing better than advice directly from the staff of a publishing house. This blog is staff written and posts in-depth self-editing tips through their weekly “Tactical Tuesdays” posts. 

Characteristics Of A Hero - Most fiction storylines involve a hero and/or heroine. They should possess characteristics like bravery and courage but also quiet characteristics like humility and selflessness. They also need a flaw. It’s imperative that you nail these characteristics for your hero. Many can also be applied to the heroine. This is a good website to get you thinking about how to flesh out your characters.

Editorial Freelancers Association - Are you considering hiring an editor or ghostwriter to assist you in a project and don’t know where to look or how much you can expect to pay? Or maybe you’re considering getting into this line of work. This is a reputable website to aid your research.

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) - I can't begin to list all the resources available by signing up for a membership. First year is $65, and it drops to $45 for subsequent years. Members have access to critique groups, networking, contests, conferences, and more. This is one resource I’ve utilized that has pushed me to a higher level in my writing career.

Writer's Digest - This magazine is the first writing resource I used, even before I had Internet! It is chock full of writing market information, current trends, and writing lessons for all genres. In addition, if you can’t afford $20 for a yearly magazine subscription, the website archives is overflowing with educational articles. Reading through them is like attending a free writers’ conference right in your own home.

2014 Writer's Market - Hot off the presses with the latest writing market information available! It’s worth the investment because you can utilize it several years by going to the website for each publisher listing and checking their updated writer’s guidelines. In addition to current writing markets are contest listings. Contests are a great way to get feedback and get your work noticed. The front section has sample book proposals and query letters, articles on how to pitch your work, and multiple other writing topics.

The Christian Writer's Market Guide 2013 - Like Writer’s Market above, you can utilize the information in this book for a few years by going to the websites for the individual listings to find current submission guidelines. (The 2014 version is set for February 1 publication.)

Okay, that should keep you busy for a while! If you've used one of these resources, how did it work for you? Do you have a favorite writing resource that’s not on this list? I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Writing!

(Disclaimer: I’m not guaranteeing success if you purchase any products listed above. Only you can decide what’s best for your career, including expending financial resources for services offered on any website.)

© Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Word For The Year

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV 

Happy New Year! Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I decided once again to choose a word for the year. Last year my word was organization because I figured if I got organized, many other goals would get accomplished. I succeeded some, I think. J

This year my word is: DISCIPLINE

According to the Google dictionary, self-discipline means “the ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.

Wow! Just reading that definition is overwhelming. Can I do all that? I’m going to try, with God’s help.

No matter what area of my life I apply discipline to, my goals have a better chance of succeeding. In the Bible verse above, many other character traits come out of the ability to exercise self-control. Conversely, not exercising self-control can impede accomplishing goals.

Like many writers, I have a bad habit of checking my social media accounts when I get writer’s block. In switching gears, I often come across interesting articles to read, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but my attention is diverted from writing. Instead, I’m determined to push through the block and increase my daily output, thus increasing my published work and ability to reach others for Christ.

Discipline applied to my exercise regimen and diet would improve those areas, and my health, as well.

While researching the word discipline, I came across a blog post entitled "7 Self-Discipline Techniques." One line in particular jumped out at me: “Life isn't some waiting room in which to 'kill time' with repetitive self-amusements.”

Sounds a little like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media amusements, not to mention Farm Town, Candy whatever-it’s-called-that’s-so-popular, and other games to amuse us while on Facebook.

Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. They all go together. I’m excited about the New Year and what God’s plan is for my writing and other areas of my life.

Now it’s your turn. Share a resolution you’ve made or a word you’ve chosen for 2014. Franklin Graham’s daughter, Cissie Graham Lynch, blogged about choosing a prayer of the year. Another great idea! You can read her post by clicking here.

Meanwhile, if you have a prayer request or need prayer support to meet your goals, please feel free to share it in the comments section below or email me confidential requests. I assure you, I write down all requests in my prayer book and keep them in my prayers.

Have a blessed New Year!

Laura J

©Laura Hodges Poole