Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RELEASE DAY!!! The Plans I Have for You

Today marks the long-awaited (by me, anyway) release day for The Plans I Have for You, a manuscript that sat in my Ideas folder for years and was in publishing production for a couple more. 

But from the beginning, I knew that this was a message God wanted His children to hear. One day, I just began to hear the words, 

Hey YOU! I’ve got big plans for you!
Yes, you, and you, and you over there too!

I've been doing this long enough that when I hear that Voice, I grab a laptop--or a pencil or a lipstick!--and begin to take it all down. So I wrote down the verses and then saved it away in my Ideas folder.

About a year later, my teenage son was sitting in my office when I came across it again. Now, teenage sons are not necessarily the ideal audience for sharing tender, new ideas. But I began to read, 

Hey you, I’ve got big plans for you!
Yes you and you and you over there too!
I’ll need you in a hospital and you in a zoo 
and you’ll be an entomologist in a forest in Peru!

When I finished, he looked at me and said, “That is good.” 

I was just as surprised as he was. “It is good, isn’t it?”

A couple of years later I was in a workshop at Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. When the subject turned to God’s plans for us, I dug up my manuscript and began to read, 

Hey you, I’ve got big plans for you! 
Yes you and you and you over there too. . . . 
Oh, it’s no little purpose. I don’t do things small. 
Yours is the most humongous purpose of all!

And as I was reading, I saw this little children’s book shine a ray of hope on the careers and dreams of these adults. One author loved it so much that she asked the leader of the conference if we could read it at closing ceremonies!

Those experiences all showed me why that little Voice gave me these words. This is not only a picture book for kids. It’s a message vital to the hopes and dreams of kids and teens and adults everywhere

We all ask those questions: Does God have plans for me? Do I have a purpose on this planet? Am I doing something that matters? And the answer is YES

Open your heart and listen real close. 
You’ll find that one thing that you love the most.
. . . . . 
Remember that I, who made the whole world, made YOU.
There’s nothing that with My help, you cannot do.

This is one message that we can't afford to miss. We want this message firmly planted within the hearts of our kids so that they carry it with them throughout their lifetimes. And it’s my hope that through this book, kids and teens and adults will walk away empowered with the plans that God has for them. 

The whole world will be better, thanks to little ol’ you . . .
All because you did what I created you to do.

So while I'm celebrating the release of The Plans I Have for You, let's also take time to celebrate--every day--the plans He has for YOU!

Amy Parker Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Friday, August 7, 2015

How to Survive That First Week of School

Joe Fox, You've Got Mail 
(via Pinterest)
No amount of denial will stop the inevitable. 

Schedules will change. 

Supplies will be bought. 

Children will whine. 

Who am I kidding? It's already begun.

But as a seasoned back-to-schooler, I've learned through trial and error (okay, mostly error) a few things that make it easier to get back into the swing of school things. 

  1. Bacon. Seriously. At my house, the guaranteed way to start a morning happy is to wake the bears with the aroma of their favorite breakfast. I (not even kidding) walk through the house with a sizzling skillet of bacon, and suddenly my kitchen table is surrounded with sleepy, smiling faces. Let your kids pick what they want (eh, within reason), remind them the night before of the yumminess that awaits, and let the aroma gently nudge them awake the next morning. It sure makes a smoother transition than that blaring alarm clock.
  2. Keep it simple. To reduce plastic consumption, I usually pack school lunch items in reusable containers, but for this first week, to shave off some seconds and to reduce the number of synapses my brain will have to make in the mornings, I bought individually wrapped items. That one simple substitute may just keep the straw from breaking this camel's back. If you can simplify--even the smallest things--during that first week, I'm giving you permission: do it. You can get back to saving the world once your survival is secured.
  3. Shop the sales. Back-to-school time can also be financially stressful, so take the time to shop around for the best deals. Most stores have free or almost-free promotional items, so plan ahead and stop in to pick up those items when you're close by. And don't forget to save the bulk of it, including your big-ticket items, for Tax-Free Weekend, if your state offers it. Conversely, don't stress yourself out trying to save 37 cents; your sanity is worth at least 50.
  4. Shop for next year. The best deals on clothes are in July and January. I always try to buy a few pieces of next year's sizes for at least half the price. Boys fashion doesn't change much from year to year, but girls may be a little trickier. Still, even if you stick to the basics, you'll take a load off the back-to-school shopping spree. When that time rolls around, you'll not only be prepared, but also will save tons of money and time in crowded stores.
  5. Spend a little extra time with your kids. The onslaught of supply lists and open houses and sign-ups can be quite demanding on a parent, but make it a point to take care of your first priority first: the children causing all of the chaos. All of this transition is tough on them, too, so dedicate some quiet, one-on-one time talking about their day, their new teachers, and their own anxieties. It'll help you both to gain some perspective and maybe even a little peace.
  6. Pray for your kids . . . their teachers . . . their principals . . . the other mamas . . . and yourself. The most powerful thing you can do is to cover everyone in prayer. Pray that your child and his new teacher will get along great. Pray that his principal will lead with integrity. Pray that you will make it through without imploding even once. Prayer is a powerful tool--your most powerful weapon against the back-to-school crazies.
  7. Soak it all in grace. When your kid has a meltdown over a mechanical pencil, when the cash-register lady is snippy, when you're running late for the first day of school (guilty). . . take a deep breath, and give it some grace. It's tough on them; it's tough on you. But together, with a hearts full of patience and understanding, we're all gonna make it through.
Hang in there. I'm praying for you all. 

Have some tips or survival stories of your own? Share them here. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

* Free Bookplates for Preorders! *

If you somehow haven't heard, my latest, most favoritest book, The Plans I Have for You, releases on August 25. And right now preorder prices are cuh-razy! Amazon has it for HALF OFF. (CBD 47% off, B&N 42 % off.) That is eight dollars and fifty-five cents, my friends, for an 11" x 9"*, jacketed, hardcover picture book that hasn't even released yet! (And the cutest one on the planet, in my totally biased opinion.)

If that isn't incentive enough, I'm also going to mail a bookplate, signed by yours truly, to everyone who preorders a copy (before August 25). If you've preordered a copy or ten, just email me here with your mailing address, how many bookplates you want, and how you want them inscribed, and I'll send them out lickety split!

Bookplates! Bookplates! Get your free bookplates!
But really, all sales spiels aside, the #1 reason to buy this book (preorder or not) is what's inside: a message of hope and purpose inspired by God Himself. Based on Jeremiah 29:11, this book was meant to remind us--young and old--that God has big plans for us all. 

Wanna sneak peek of the trailer? Okay. . . .

I hope you'll love this book as much as I do. Young or old, successful or just getting started, we all need to be reminded of that everlasting purpose so much larger than ourselves.

What?! You're still reading?! 

Preorder Plans from Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, from Walmart, Target, from CBD--from WHEREVER!--and then email me for your free bookplate. 

Oh, and help me spread the word!

Infinite thanks . . .

* The dimensions are incorrect on Amazon.

Amy Parker Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Let's Hydrate the Homeless

Miss Debbie with her new water bottle
Raise your hand if you've noticed that IT'S HOT OUT THERE. I can tell you for sure: my homeless friends have noticed.

Consider how long you spend outdoors each day (me, not a lot) and how much refreshment you're taking in to ward off the heat. (I always have a glass of water by my side.)

But what if your home were outside . . . and you traveled by foot . . . and you had little to no funds for refreshment? 

That's a very real scenario for my friends on the streets. Think of them every time you take a drink.

I took one of those friends out for ice cream this week. Although he enjoyed the ice cream, he showed considerably more excitement when I told him there was a water fountain in the back. He popped up, grabbed his old Dasani bottle, and made a beeline.

And Miss Debbie had guzzled down half the bottle, water pouring out the sides of her mouth and down her shirt, before the camera was ready. (We asked her to take another drink for the photograph. She happily obliged. :)

I know you've heard it before, but it is so relevant here:

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in. . . . Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me (Matthew 25:35, 40 NASB).

That's what I'm asking you to do: quench the thirst of the least of them. (And note that little phrase: "to the extent.")

We need various forms of hydration for various living conditions. For some, a cold, disposable bottle of water is the best solution. For others, sturdy, refillable water bottles would be treasured. (They can refill at the library and the Greenway.) And for some areas, a water cooler with disposable cups would be most efficient.

Some ideas: 
  • Rolling coolers (to stay with a nonprofit)
  • A portable water cooler/tank (to stay with the nonprofit)
  • Something like THIS would be so helpful! (to stay with a nonprofit)
  • Cases of bottled water
  • Gatorade (or other sports/electrolyte drinks)
  • Gatorade mix/powder/liquid concentrate (or other sports/electrolyte mixes)
  • Refillable water bottles (New, please. The one pictured above came from Dollar Tree.)
  • Paper/disposable cups
  • Gallons of filtered/spring water
  • Carabiners (to hang bottles on backpacks, etc.) 

But we're not picky--they're not picky. Any method of hydration will do.

Will you help us? And will you ask your church, Sunday school class, youth group, and friends to contribute in whatever way they can too?

If you're around Murfreesboro, supplies can be dropped off at WGNS. You can donate online here (note "Hydrate the Homeless"). If neither of those are convenient, comment below or email meWe will find a way!

Of course, in doing so, we're also providing a taste of living water, water that never will run dry.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Losing My Religion

I’ve got a little hothead in my blood.

My dad was a hothead. His dad was a hothead. And I’m sure you could scan through our Scottish bloodline and find a few others to add to the list.

But thank God, one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control: "The Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NCV). 

I love loving on people. I’m pretty good at patience and peace. But self-control, that last-listed fruit of the Spirit, is one that I’m still growing.

And when someone attacks my kids or my Christianity, well, that fruit rots and falls flat off the vine.

Like recently.

It doesn’t matter who did what. But I lost it. I said things I shouldn’t have. Loudly. Angrily. Lacking self-control.

Sure, I stomped back over there and apologized. But it was too late. I couldn’t erase those words. No matter how truthful they were. (Okay. See. I’m still working on it.)

When things cooled down, my husband turned to my ten-year-old son. “What were you doing while we were over there?”

He slowly shook his head and smiled. “I was praying.”

“Ethan, really. What were you doing?”

The smile disappeared. “I was praying! Praying that everything would turn out all right.”

And that’s when the fruit of gentleness knocked me in the head. Those sweet words from my living, breathing, ten-year ministry were a much needed, grace-soaked reminder. Even in those moments when I completely lose my fruit, the seeds that I’ve planted will stand strong and continue to grow.

And maybe, just maybe, the occasional rotten fruit will help to fertilize those seeds.

Because our God gets it. He’s amazing like that.

What fruits are you trying to grow? And when does your fruit fall flat?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Being a Woman Is . . .

Being a woman begins with one little chromosome that sets a swirl of miracles in motion.

Being a woman is entering a world that carries you a little gentler, speaks to you a little softer, then throws you into the real world and expects you to succeed.

Being a woman is overcoming that world in stilettos--or sneakers--and a smile.

Being a woman is learning from an early age to hide regular, crushing pain, and still march on in spite of it. 

It is learning to love that pain because it gives us the ability to carry new life.

It's having the superpower to grow humans in your belly--and being held responsible for that power every. single. day. of your life.

It's having to defend the choice not to exercise that power. 

And it's mourning the emptiness of the loss of that power.  

Being a woman is having the ability to create the purest nourishment for your child, both inside the womb and out--and being held responsible for that ability every. single. day.

Being a woman is a life of giving, listening, caring, nurturing. Wiping noses and kissing boo-boos. Stroking sweaty hair and cleaning puked-on toilets--even when you feel like dying yourself. It's giving until you feel you can't possibly give any more, until you look in the mirror and see smeared mascara and a ratty sweatshirt and gray hair and crow's feet and laugh lines and beautiful memories molded into your face.

It's helping your dad on a bedpan. It's giving your mom a bath. 

It's watching the woman who taught you to be a woman suffer and die from the very parts that defined her a woman--and knowing that it was worth every magical moment.

Being a woman isn't about rewards for service or bravery or heroism--because that's just what we do.

Being a woman is not now, nor has it ever been, about the sum of the parts you see on the outside. It is the ugly, beautiful, individual, vulnerable, powerful, inimitable, phenomenal creation of God.

It is all of those things. And so much more.

Don't ever let this world tell you differently.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Judy Blume on Writing

On Tuesday, I was tickled to stumble upon a Twitter feed, #lunchwithJudy, where followers and fangirls (ahem) were given the opportunity to sit on the other side of the screen from the living legend of kid lit that is Judy Blume

Who hasn't read a Judy Blume book at some point in her childhood?

In fewer than 140 characters, Judy Blume fielded questions with wit and guidance and inspiration that any writer would appreciate. So I grabbed some portions of that #lunchwithJudy, put them in a to-go box, and brought them home to share with you. 

On inspiration . . .

On second-guessing . . .


Advice for ANY writer . . .

Digital vs. Longhand 

On writer's block  . . .


On editing . . .

On characters . . .

On book sniffing :) . . . 


On trying new things  . . .

On Sally J. Freedman . . . 


Want more? Her website offers a generous section on writing.

Happy writing!