Make a Joyful Noise

Beautiful strains of music filled our church building last night as the  York College Concert Choir performed. The fifty plus a capella chorus sang songs of praise that brought tears to my eyes.

I was blessed to once be part of this choir, as were my son and daughter, and Dawn’s son. Next year, our youngest, Emma, will be on their risers. All of this reflection made me think about how important music is in our worship.

In Col. 3:16 it says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Did you notice the types of songs are differentiated? I believe that’s because all three types of songs feed a different part of our souls. Let’s take a look.

 

Psalms: Psalms are scripture, and besides singing the Psalms in the Bible, I think this idea can expand to all scripture. Singing songs based on scripture helps us commit them to memory and recall God’s word when we need it. Many psalms are also songs of praise, and nothing is more important in our worship than praising our Creator.

 

Hymns: A hymn is song a praise, but unlike psalms, they were not written under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Hymns are filled with important spiritual truths. We might be singing about the power of God, the joy of our salvation, His amazing grace, or recalling the sacredness of a rugged cross.

Some people think of hymns as “old” songs, but that isn’t true. They are as relevant today as ever. They provide a depth and wisdom. They help put spiritual truths and doctrines into our hearts and minds that we will never forget. They touch us intellectually.

 

Spiritual Songs: Spiritual songs touch our emotional core. Whether it’s a praise song or needing the Lord, our modern praise songs “move” us. We can express our joy or praise or brokenness through these songs.

The Bible repeatedly encourages us “to sing a new song to the Lord” (Psalm 96:1, Isaiah 42:10, Rev. 5:9, Rev. 14:3). Our God is a God of creativity and He continues to bless His children through creative expression. Psalm 40:3 says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”

By singing all three kinds of songs–psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs–in our worship, music finds its highest purpose. It allows us to glorify our God. Nothing else moves us or lets us express our adoration and thankfulness like music.

And the best thing is that God doesn’t care whether your notes are pure or a little off key. He hears the song in your heart.

Let’s chat now. What’s your favorite hymn or spiritual song? What role does music play in your worship?

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Happy 75th Little Golden Books

I wrote a blog post in 2011 about Little Golden books, but when I saw that they were celebrating their 75th birthday, I thought it was time to do a little revisiting of these wonderful books.

Most of us probably had at least a few of these treasures on our book shelves since well over two billion copies of Little Golden Books have sold in the last 75 years. Before Little Golden Books, most children’s books tended to be expensive. They were also usually large volumes and didn’t fit well the hands of children.

Leonard Marcus wrote The Golden Legacy: The Story of the Golden Books.  He says the printers, publishers, writers and artists who brought Golden Books to the market had a lofty goal — they wanted to “democratize children’s books,” making them both affordable and accessible. To that end, they were sold in department stores, train stations, drugstores and supermarkets.

Monster Grover“Kids would come with their parents,” Marcus says. “And they’d be sitting in the shopping cart and they’d reach out to the rack and grab a book. And the mother, the father, would look at it and see that it was only 25 cents and they’d put it in the cart. And that would happen over and over again.”

So, let’s take a little golden quiz to see how much you know about your first book friends. (Be careful. The books pictures may or may not be the correct answer.)

1. In what year did Little Golden Books first hit the shelves?

a.) 1936

b.) 1942

c.) 1950

2. Who published Little Golden Books?

a.) Simon & Schuster

b.) Scholastic

c.) Penquin

3 bears3. Which of the following books were one of the original twelve titles released?

a.) The Poky Little Puppy

b.) Old Mc Donald’s Farm

c.) The Three Bears

4. How much did Little Golden Books originally cost?

a.) 25 cents

b.) 50 cents

c.) $1.00

Goodbye Tonsils5. Which Little Golden Book came with a bandage glued to the right side of the title page?

a.) Goodbye Tonsils

b.) Nurse Betty Gives a Shot

c.) Dr. Dan, The Bandage Man

6. In the 1950’s, many top-selling Little Golden Books centered around what topic?

a.) The space program

b.) Popular television shows

c.) Disney characters

baby animals7. In what year was a permanent exhibit created for Little Golden Books at the Smithsonian?

a.) 1982

d.) 1992

e.) 2002

8. Which Little Golden book has become controversial and is also one of the most valuable to collectors?

a.) Little Mommy

b.) My Little Golden Book About God

c.) Little Black Sambo

9. How can you tell if your Little Golden Book is a valuable first edition?

a.) A letter “A” at the end of the string of letters on the books first two pages

b.) A Roman numeral on the title page shows the printing date

c.) The letter “R” appears on the back of cover

10. A lot of 510 vintage Little Golden Books recently sold on eBay for how much?

a.) $250

b.) $475

c.) $900

Bonus Question: What Little Golden Book is the top-selling children’s book of all time?

Answers:

1. Little Golden Books were first sold in 1942 (b) in department stores.

2. Simon & Schuster (a) , along with Western Printing, published the titles. In just five short months, they’d sold 1.5 million copies.

3. One of the original 12 titles was The Poky Little Puppy (a). Today nearly 15 million copies of the book have been sold.

4. Little Golden Books originally cost just 25 cents (a). This was a great bargain for families as most children’s books were $2 to $3 at the time. Today, a little Golden Book costs $2.99.

5. Dr. Dan, The Bandage Man (c) came with six Johnson & Johnson Band-aids glued on the title page. It’s first printing was 1.75 million—the largest first printing of any Little Golden Book up to 1951.

6. In the mid-1950’s, Little Golden Books centered around children’s television shows (b) like “The Roy Rogers Show”, “Howdy Doody”, “The Lone Rangers”, and “Captain Kangaroo”.

7. Little Golden Books received a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian in 1992 (b). It was the year of their “golden” anniversary—50 years!

Sambo8. The most controversial Little Golden Books was Little Black Sambo. (c) I had a copy of it as a child and it was one of my favorites.  However, the word “sambo” is considered a racial slur in some countries and the book has been one of the most controversial books in existence. In 2004, Little Golden Books released a new version titled The Boy and the Tigers. The boy in it is called Little Ranjani. Today, a first edition regularly brings values of $150 or more.

9. You can often tell if your Little Golden Book is a first edition by checking the first two pages for a series of letters. If that series ends in “A”, it’s a first edition, a “B” it’s a second, and so on. In 1991, they began using Roman numerals. (a)

10. The lot of 510 vintage Little Golden Books sold for $900. (c) Today, most vintage copies sell for $15 or less, so collecting them is still affordable.

Bonus: It’s The Poky Little Puppy, selling over 15 million copies.

Through my collection of Little Golden Books, I went camping with Tommy, learned to train puppies, read bedtime stories, and learned to mutter, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can” when faced with difficult times.

HeidiStill, my all time favorite Little Golden Book was Heidi. I absolutely loved the illustrations of the mountains, of Heidi and her grandfather, and of the floral wreaths Heidi made to drape around the necks of the goats. I read the book over and over.

But what made these books so popular? First of all was the cost. Mom’s could pop for them at the grocery or department store and bring home a surprise. Second, the bright colorful pictures drew you in every time. Many people say they remember the pictures better than the stories.

Third, you could collect them. Let’s face it. We all love a collection, especially when we’re kids. Fourth, they were short. Moms would take the time to read them to their children and when kids began reading themselves, they could easily master them. Last and most important, they told timeless stories, and story is the most powerful tool in the world.

So, which Little Golden Books do you recall? Which little golden treasures lined your shelves? How’d you do on the quiz? Curious minds want to know, and I’m very curious.

25 Ways to Say “I Love You” on Valentine’s Day

I’ve got a secret to share. Are you ready? We romance writers like romance.

Are you shocked? Probably not, but this time of year we are joined by the masses as Valentine’s Day nears.

However, for some of you, the very idea of forced romantic creativity is terrifying. You don’t want to disappoint your spouse or your family, but how do you say “I love you” in some special way?

I’m here to help. Below you will find 25 Ways to Say “I Love You” on Valentine’s Day to your spouse and your family. Please, feel free to add your own ideas in the comments. The more things to love, the better!

  1. Order food from a take-out restaurant or get a heart-shaped pizza and share it with all of your Valentines on the living room floor with an indoor picnic.
  2. Show up at your spouses office and take him out to lunch. Wear something “special” under you clothes and hint that he can see it when he gets home, and you’ll be waiting. I’m sure he won’t be late today!
  3. Put heart candies everywhere for your spouse and children to find–their pockets, their lunches, their shoes, etc. It will be fun for them to keep discovering your love all day.
  4. Take your honey on a scavenger hunt with the last clue leading to your final Valentine’s Day activities.
  5. Remember where you had your first date? Recreate the it. Go to the same restaurant or watch the same movie.
  6. Put fun notes around the house for your hubby like “Hey, handsome” on a mirror or “You drive me crazy” on his car’s steering wheel.
  7. Start our the day with an  “Why I love you” note. Give him more throughout the day. Deliver each with a kiss.
  8. Dip your own chocolate covered strawberries and enjoy them with sparkling grape juice in goblets. Don’t forget the candle light.
  9. Get foil wrapped hearts in enough colors for each of your children to have their own color. Leave a trail of the foil wrapped hearts to a special Valentine’s Day present like a stuffed animal or game.
  10. Buy Mylar balloons at the dollar store and put one in each person’s room during the night. The first thing they’ll see in the morning is that you love them.
  11. Text your spouse sweet messages throughout the day. You can text sweet messages to your children, too.
  12. Each of you take a $10 bill and go to Wal-mart, Target, or a dollar store. Divide up at the door, and after 30 minutes, see what fun, creative Valentine’s gifts for the other.
  13. Surprise your kids by picking them up after school and taking them out for an ice cream treat.
  14. Gather up a lot of blankets and build a family fort. Use flashlights, not candles, to create some ambiance and gigle while your picnic inside, read books, or eat popcorn No kids? No problem. All men love forts.
  15. Have a game night with your spouse, but adjust the rules a little. For example, Trivial Pursuit takes on a whole new meaning when you have to remove something every time your spouse gets an answer right.
  16. Fill your spouses car (or your teenager’s car) with red and pink balloons.
  17. Put a collection of red items in  your family member’s lunches. Red jello, strawberry applesauce, pasta in red sauce, and  fresh tomatoes will do the trick. Don’t forget a yummy red dessert like red velvet cookie.
  18. Fill a jar with nuts and give it to your Valentine with a note that says, “I’m just nuts about you.”bacon roses
  19. Make him a bouquet of bacon roses. You can find out how on the internet. It’s pretty simple and they are very cute.
  20. Buy matching aprons and cook dinner together.
  21. Get out the homemade ice cream maker and celebrate with the family. Provide Valentine’s Day themed toppings like strawberries, heart sprinkles, etc. Don’t forget a can of whipped cream.
  22. Snow on the ground where you live? Fill a spray bottle with water and tint it red with food coloring. Spray the words “I love you” in the snow. Too much work? Just make a big heart.
  23. Get active. Go for a walk, holding hands. Build a snowman. Bike ride. Hike to a special spot.
  24. Check out your city’s guide for special events and attend one with your spouse and/or family. For example, our local garden has a Lego display going on.
  25. Bake a cake, cookies, or cupcakes that fit the day’s theme and deliver them to him at work. Don’t have time to bake? How about bringing him a heart-shaped doughnut? You can make a special delivery to your children’s school or their teacher’s, too.

Okay, that ought to get your creative juices flowing. Are there any of these you’d like to try? Do you have any ideas to share? We’d LOVE to hear them.

When the Story Just Isn’t There

A writer sits down at her keyboard and stares at the blank screen. She prays. Her fingers hover over the letters, but the story just isn’t there.

It’s been that way for days. A sense of panic sets in. What if she can never find the words again? What if all the stories are gone?

I remember a very similar experience to this when I sat down to begin my second book A Great Catch. I called my friend and mentor Judy Miller and told her about the blank screen looming before me. “I’m afraid I can’t do it again.”

She laughed and said,”Yep, and it will only get worse.” Then she added, “Self-doubt is part of being a writer. It’s time for you to remember the stories are never yours. They belong to God. He’ll give you the story.”

I typed the words, “HELP ME. HELP ME. HELP ME.” I wrote a  whole paragraph of help me’s, before I felt a flicker of creativity. I captured the thought and quickly transferred it to my screen.

I don’t remember if I kept what I wrote that day–I sort of think I did–but I do remember the story God gave me flowing through me.

 

So what can we do when the stories just don’t seem to come?

  1. Pray.  As in all things, turn the dry spell over to the Lord.
  2. Self-Care. Are you taking good care of yourself? Are you getting enough rest? Are you writing during your best time of the day?
  3. Feed your story craving. Read a book or binge on a Netflix show. Good stories feed the muse.
  4. Plot. Now, no booing. Honestly, if you know where a story is going, it’s much harder to hit a dry spell.
  5. Do something else creative. Whether it’s coloring a page in an adult coloring book, scrapbooking, or crafting, doing something creative engages the creative side of your brain. This could be the wake-up your mind needs.
  6. Breathe. The stories are still there. Phil. 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” Trust God, not yourself, to finish the story He put on your heart.

Now, it’s your turn. Have you hit any dry spells in your creativity? What did you do to get going again?

 

What’s Your Texas Ranger Nickname?

Last week, I had the chance to be part of a super fun Release Party for Seven Brides for Seven Texans. We had over a hundred guests at our party, along with games and prizes. It was such a fun way to kick off this book!

Seven Brides for Seven Texans is beginning to appear on the bookstore shelves and at big box stores. If you see it, snap a photo and post it on Facebook. It’s fun for me to see where it’s showing up.

For my segment of the party, I made up a little game called “What’s Your Texas Ranger Nickame?” My hero, Chisholm Hart, is a dimpled Texas Ranger with wit, grit, and charm. In the words of my friend Shannon Vannatter, “Y’all might like to piddle around with the game, too.”

Oh, by the way, I described Chisholm with “dimples as deep as canyons.”

 

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Y’all need Ranger nicknames.

tx-ranger-nickname

 

And here’s the bookmark that we ended up choosing, mostly because the one with the seven riders ended up being a screen shot from the Magnificent Seven. Ooops.

bookmark-final

So what’s your Texas Ranger nickname? Do dimples make you swoon? Oh, I sure hope so. And if you’d like some book marks to share with friends or place in your local library, leave me a note below. I’d love some help from my “posse” in spreading the word about this fun novella collection.

Which Hart Brother is Right for You?

My palms are sweaty. My heart is racing. I’m holding my breath.

Why?

The Seven Brides for Seven Texans romance collection will be gracing the shelves by Dec. 1. I know there are a lot of novella collections out there, but I promise you there’s none quite like this. I am so excited to share this book with my readers.

7-brides-2This collection features seven Hart brothers who’ve been told to find a bride within the year or lose their share of the ranch. Each of us authors had a different brother to write about. Some of the brothers served in the Civil War and have physical or mental trauma from that experience. One is doctor, some are ranchers, and mine–well, he’s a Texas Ranger. We authors collaborated on their backstories and their lives, so these stories are more interconnected than most novella collections. If you enjoy a good television series with an ensemble cast, this is the collection for you.

And did I mention these are some ruggedly romantic men?

Amanda Barrett put together a little quiz so you can find out which heart brother is for you. I think you’ll find the selections truly yummy. You can take the quiz here.

As this holiday season gets going, pamper yourself with a little Longhorn Love, and pre-order Seven Brides for Seven Texans today.

Christianbook.com

Amazon

 

Sweet!

I scream! You scream! We all scream for ice cream!

I’m sure you’re familiar with that little saying. There are very few people who don’t have a weakness for the cold and creamy concoction.

That’s why I decided to base a new Bible class event at our church on ice cream. I wanted to call it “Tis so Sweet”, but my son said, “Mom, not catchy enough. Just say, ‘Sweet!'” So, that’s what we named it.

Our Bible class event is four weeks long and has topics like “Life Lessons from an Ice Cream Sandwich.” It’s based on

Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.”

Preparing the lessons has given me a lot of opportunities to mediate on this verse, so if you’ll stick with me for a moment, I promise to get to my point. Yesterday, I brought a container of Kemp’s Pumpkin Pie ice cream. I held it up for the kids and told that I just wasn’t sure I wanted to try something new. What if it didn’t taste good?

Then I pointed out that I was familiar with the brand and I knew they made good ice cream. But did that mean for sure I’d like this ice cream. We looked at the picture on the front and admitted it sure looked good, but did that guarantee I’d like it. Finally, I read the ingredients and told them that they sure sounded delicious.

“But how can I know if it’s good?” I asked.

By then the kids were yelling, “Taste it!”

ice-cream-chase
My grand nephew Chase tasting the pumpkin ice cream.

I asked them to taste it with me and my niece passed out little cups to each child and then we all tasted it. It was really good, and most of the kids loved it.

Then, I was able to make my point. We can know all about the Lord. We can look in the Word and learn about it, but until we have a relationship with the Lord–have Him in our hearts and lives–we can’t really taste Him.

Of course, the kids don’t completely understand, but hopefully, we are planting a truth in the heart. God invites us to “taste and see” that He is good. Think about it. He wants us to have personal experiences with Him. Over and over, He wants to show us how good He is.

When we understand and experience His goodness, we can’t keep it to our selves. It’s just too exciting. A SWEET message to share about a good God and His SWEET BLESSINGS.

When have you “tasted” God’s goodness lately? What happened? Let’s encourage each other and share.

Where’s Your Treasure?

Do you have any collections? Teapots? Shoes? Gold coins hidden in your basement?

For the last month, I’ve been sorting through my parent’s rather extensive antique and collectible collection. Comic books, primitives, jewelry, Union Pacific china, depression glass, cut glass, pressed glass, and toys–oh, the toys! And did I mention the 150+ Campbell soup collectibles?

img_0190I’m cleaning, sorting, cataloging, and pricing these treasures in preparation for an antique estate sale at the end of October. Of course, the family will also take some of the antiques as keepsakes, but none of us could possibly house this collection.

My father, a railroad employee and farmer, was a savvy buyer, and he saw buying antiques as an investment. When they started collecting, they changed the garage into an antique room. Since we had a farm with other buildings, we didn’t need the garage. Collecting was something he and mother enjoyed doing together, and it fostered a great appreciation for history in all of us.

362As I’ve gone through these items, the memories have flooded in. Seeing what my mother loved at 50 now through my own 50 year old eyes, made me appreciate her anew. She loved beautiful plates. They were pieces of art to her. As a teenager, I remember thinking it was strange anyone would stare at a hand painted plate, and yet now, I find myself doing the same thing.

My siblings and I have talked about how we know that these things don’t hold the memories; our hearts do. Still, it’s hard to let the treasures go. Then I remembered that my parents also knew where their real treasure was. It was in Christ Jesus, and the beauty they are seeing today is so much greater than can be captured on any plate. That’s the real treasure they left us.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”–Matt. 6:21

 

Where’s your treasure? What is going to last? What items do you own that belonged to your parents or grandparents do you cherish?

Inksper Wins Genesis Award

Saturday night, I sat glued to my computer screen watching the ACFW Awards Gala in Nashville, TN. Sure, I knew several of the finalists in both the Genesis and the Carol Award categories, but I there was one person’s name I couldn’t wait to hear called.

The Genesis Awards are for unpublished authors and the Carol Awards recognizes published authors. The gala starts with dinner, then gives away some special awards, and finally gets to the Genesis Awards.

After what seemed like forever, her category came. “And the nominees for the Genesis Speculative category are . . .”

I didn’t breathe, and I knew she wasn’t breathing either.

“And the winner is–Dawn Ford!”

I screamed. My daughter came running downstairs. I watched her take the stage and give her acceptance speech with such poise and grace.

Rom. 13:7 says to “give honor to those to whom honor is due,” and it’s certainly due Dawn. She has stuck with writing, and she’s prayed and sought God’s direction. She has worked hard at honing her craft, working and reworking stories, and sticking with the category of heart. We couldn’t be more proud.

It's hard to see everyone at once, but here's Dawn's flat posse.
It’s hard to see everyone at once, but here’s Dawn’s flat posse.

Her husband called me a little while after the gala concluded. He hadn’t be able to watch the whole thing because of work, but I was able send him this link. You can check it out, too, and see Dawn at the 36:40 on the counter.

Then, today in church, Dawn’s son was our song leader. He had to brag on his mom and lead a song of celebration in her honor.

And did I mention she took all her Inksper and writing buddies with her? She called us her Flat Posse, and she took us to meals and even to listen to the speakers. What a commitment to the learning of her peers!

Speaking of learning, another big surprise that occurred at ACFW was the announcement that Minnesota’s N.I.C.E. chapter was the Chapter of the Year. Our own Brenda Anderson is the president of Minnesota N.I.C.E. and this group was truly blessed by her leadership.

Lots of our Inksper friends took home awards, too, and we congratulate all of the finalists and winners in each category.

 

15 Things to Do to Make the Most Out of Summer

Summer stepped on stage this last week with its warm temps, sunny skies, and expectations of fun. Already, the pace of life has picked up in my world. We’ve been to 14 graduation celebrations and three weddings in the last three weeks!

Since  4-H camp is on the horizon, too, it got me to thinking about things I want to do this summer that could easily get overlooked in the frenzy of fun. Here’s my summer bucket list:

  1. Watch the sunrise. Yes, I know that means getting up at zero-thirty, but there is really no better way to start the day than to see what God paints for us. Grab some coffee and your Bible and start your day with Him and His handiwork. My father, who worked midnight to eight in the morning for years, used to say most of us missed the best part of the day because we slept through the sunrise.
  2. Catch or watch the fireflies. We have a lot of fireflies in our area and there is something magical about the little flickering creatures. They make me smile.
  3. Check out the newest exhibit at the zoo. I am blessed to live near Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, voted number one zoo in the world by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards (2014). They just built a $73 million African Grasslands exhibit. Along with that, elephants have returned to the zoo after a long absence. I can’t wait to see the new additions at our zoo. What’s going on at your local zoo?
  4. Fly a kite. We have a nice little nylon kite collection. Usually, a couple of times a year, our family goes kite flying and our spirits soar along with the kites.
  5. Spend time in nature. Summer should be a time to reconnect with nature. Douse yourself in bug spray and venture into the wild. Take time to marvel at God’s creation. Not a hiker? Getting your hands in the dirt in your own garden will provide a nature fix, too.
  6. Watch fireworks. Summer wouldn’t be summer without watching an explosion of color against the dark summer sky. Fireworks are amazing!
  7. Sneak out in the middle of the night for pancakes. When our kids are at camp, my husband and I love to do this. It feels so decadent and its’ fun.
  8. Make homemade ice cream. Homemade ice cream tastes like summer. Try new flavors or go back to an old favorite. It doesn’t make a difference as you enjoy every spoonful.
  9. Visit a local farmer’s market. Not only are farmer’s markets fun, they offer the freshest produce for excellent prices and allow you to support your local economy.
  10. Surprise someone with an old fashioned picnic. Wouldn’t your spouse be surprised if you showed up at his work with a picnic basket and a blanket? How about a breakfast picnic with your kids? It just spells summer.
  11. Go stargazing. Usually, we have to go outside of the city to get a good look at the stars. There’s nothing like lying on a blanket and soaking up a night sky.
  12. Create some new summer traditions. When our kids were little, we had Park Day, where we spent the whole day going from city park to city park. Another family did family night once a week with each person in the family determining what low or no-cost activity the whole family would do together. For example, they had sleepovers in the family room. Since my family is older now and scattered this summer, I need to put on my creativity hat and come up with a new tradition.
  13. Be a tourist in your own area. Where can you go within a day’s drive? What could you discover? Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a museum or festival near your home.
  14. Find the best_____________. You fill in the blank with a favorite food. One year, our family decided to find the best pizza, so every time we went out to eat, we tried a different pizza place. You could do the same with bakeries, cupcakes, shakes, or hamburgers. Make a rating scale and set your other “scale” to the side.
  15. Read a book on a beach. Oh, you knew it would be on here somewhere, didn’t you? Honestly, this is one of my favorite things to do. Summer wouldn’t summer without it.

Well, that’s my summer bucket list. Do any of those sound fun to you? What’s on your list? Let’s share some ideas to make this the best summer ever.