In Rememberance and Why Books Matter

This past Saturday a twelve-year-old boy in my Language Arts classes died unexpectedly. I’m heartbroken, I’m ripped apart, I’m still in shock. But I’m also comforted. I’m going to share this story to illustrate how fictional books CAN and DO make a difference, because I know what a lonely profession this can be sometimes.

My student drowned in a canal near his home. His brother and neighbor tried to save him but were unable to revive him. For those that know my novel, 18 Things, it’s about a girl who tries to save her best friend from drowning but can’t and the book is her dealing with the guilt over that experience. My student who died went through books like water, a rare thing for a middle school boy. In fact, the first day of school, after telling me to sit him in the front because he was very hyperactive and wouldn’t pay attention otherwise (HA! LOVED his honesty!) . . . when I introduced myself and told them I’m an author, he immediately asked where he could get my novel. Two days later, he proudly carried 18 Things with him to class and told me it was his new favorite book.

When 18 Truths came out a month ago, he quickly grabbed a copy to read. A couple of weeks later, he ran to class. I told him, “Slow down!” He apologized and explained he wanted to be the first one there because he wanted to ask me some questions about my new book. I said, Ask away! I expected an interrogation about the plot twist at the end (he was quite angry with me for not having book #2 out right away after the plot twist in book #1 . . . did I tell you this was a boy after my own heart?!). You can imagine my surprise when he started asking me all these questions about God. Book #2 takes place in the Underworld . . . a recent book reviewer called it the Christian version of Percy Jackson. My student wanted to know if I made all of it up or if it was in the Bible. I told him I made it up, that’s why it’s in the “Fiction” section in the bookstore.

B&N placement

But I told him I definitely focused on the goodness of God because I think of that as a universal truth. Yes, I know we’re not supposed to talk about God in public schools, but he brought up the subject and I can’t explain things any other way except that the conversation felt right. We talked about how a lot of books that take place in the Underworld don’t mention God at all. Or how many characters act like they don’t believe in God or don’t know if He exists, even ones that have angels and demons in the plot (City of Bones comes to mind, as that’s one of the 8 books our students are encouraged to read this year for school). It was a great discussion, and then the bell rang and that was the end of it.

Then two weeks ago I announced to my classes that we were going to study Romeo and Juliet. Of course I was instantly met with groaning and gnashing of teeth. But the discussion that followed about modern-day examples of groups of people not getting along got very heated.  My student mentioned the holocaust, and much to my surprise, not only did he know practically EVERYTHING about it, my other students knew virtually nothing. It was then that I realized he (the boy who died) is Jewish. The class was riveted listening to him. Anyway, at the end of class, he told me the lesson was epic, he’d never forget it, and that when he was older, he wanted to be one of those Jewish Christians but he didn’t want to tell his parents because he thought they might be mad. I told him I thought that already thinking about such things at age twelve was very impressive, and he said, “Well, I’m a very curious kid.” I laughed and agreed with him. Then he dropped this on me: “Actually, it was your books that got me thinking more and more about God.” Can you say tears? He thanked me for the lesson, told me to have a good afternoon, and was on his way. That was the type of boy he was. Well-mannered, kind, curious, generous, always a smile for everyone, an “underdog.” He classified himself as one since he was small for his age, but always said what he lacked in size he made up for with his big personality. I couldn’t agree more.

I’m honored to have been part of his journey, though I’m terribly sad tonight. When brainstorming ideas with his class about ways we can memorialize him, they mentioned naming one of my book characters after him in the last installment of my trilogy since he loved to read and loved my books. I thought the idea was perfect.

Today I attended his funeral. As I looked at the destroyed faces of his parents, I was humbled by how easily our babies can be taken from us at any time. Even though right now I’m still questioning God about why this happened, I’m comforted that in the midst of mourning, He comes to us. In the darkness, His spirit moves. At the point of our deepest despair, He is closest. If you pray, I’d ask that you keep his family, friends, classmates, and teachers in your thoughts this week as we figure out how to move on without him.

I will say I don’t question my purpose in being an author anymore. Yes, it’s tough work, but if the sole purpose of my books was to touch this young man’s life and draw him closer to God before he died, then that’s all the reason I need to know publishing this trilogy was the right decision.

The TRUTH Comes Out!

Last week I posted “2 Truths and a Lie” about myself as part of the blogfest I hosted in honor of my sequel, 18 TRUTHS, coming out.

Well, today is my book birthday! Yay! Putting on my party hat and doing the happy dance around my living room. Also, it’s time to reveal the LIES so we can celebrate the TRUTH today!

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The options were:

1) I met my husband when I was 14, heard a voice in my head that said I would marry him one day, then actually married him when I was 18 years old.

2) I’ve been on two international mission trips and on one in Jamaica, I randomly met Queen Latifah, and then met Chris O’Donnell in Ireland on the other one.

3) This is my 13th year teaching public school, and I once had to save a child’s life who was choking on a mint in my classroom.

And the lie is . . . *imagine dramatic drumroll*

#2! I tried to hide the truth in a half lie, like most talented pathological liars 😉 I did meet Queen Latifah in Jamaica when we took one fun day on our trip and went to a waterfall. It was a secluded waterfall, not a heavy tourist attraction, but that was exactly what Latifah was looking for. She was hung over, so wouldn’t allow pictures, but did indulge people with autographs when asked. Very nice lady!

And I did kinda ‘meet’ Chris O’Donnell, but not in Ireland, although I thought I’d fool you with his Irish heritage! He also has family in Michigan, just like me! Last time my whole family went to MI, he was on our departing flight! I kept telling hubs it was him, but he wouldn’t believe me b/c he traveled alllll the way in the back, right behind us, without any fanfare. So when he passed our seats, I asked him, “Are you Chris O’Donnell?” He nodded and said, “Yes, I am.” I then hit hubs on the arm and yelled, “Told you so!” like any mature wife would 🙂 Then hubs wanted to bother him for an autograph, but he was with his rather large family and I told him we shouldn’t. Our kids were excited since they love the American Girl movie, Kit, in which he played Kit’s dad. (RANDOM SIDENOTE: I’m watching Jimmy Kimmel now & Chris O’Donnell is on . . . I’m taking this as a good sign, right?! Too funny!)

We had some really good lie detectors in our group! I didn’t announce this before, but if you guessed my lie correctly, you’ve won an ecopy (Kindle or Nook) of 18 Truths. I think there were at least a dozen of you . . . just email me through the Contact Me button at the top of the page ^ with the email you’d like me to send the file to!

THANK YOU to everyone who posted, played, and donated 18 prizes . . . I counted 44 who participated through blogs or Facebook, but I probably didn’t see all of Facebook. I’ll keep the Rafflecopter going while I’m on my blog tour. It’s at the top of my page to the RIGHT. And the tour has already started! Yesterday, I visited our Head Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh to discuss what Darth Vader taught me about failure. Today I’m at Teacher Writer’s blog, posting about a book ending I wish I could change.

I will say this. If you already plan on purchasing 18 Truths, will you consider doing so today? We’re going to try and push 18 Truths to the top of Amazon with a book bomb!

A book bomb means coordinating hundreds of sales on Amazon.com on one particular day (January 28th) for one particular book (18 Truths). It’s a great way to get a copy for yourself (ebook or paperback) at a great price, while raising money for a good cause! Because all the money from opening day sales will go to Gulf Middle (the school where I teach–and our library is in desperate need of an upgrade) and the United Mitochondrial Foundation in support of a local 6-year-old boy named Gavin Lawrey suffering from Mito disease (you can also purchase Mighty Mito Superhero, written by 9yo Makenzie Lawrey, who is a former student of mine. ALL her proceeds from her book will also go to UMF).

Can an ordinary middle school Language Arts teacher make Amazon’s Top 100 Best Selling List?

Most Super Big TRUTH ever: YES! But I will need to sell at least 500 books in the first 24 hours to do so. If this happens, I’ll donate my royalties from the entire first week to Gulf Middle and the Mito Foundation!

I want the younger generation to break free from low expectations and believe in impossible dreams—like their ordinary teacher making the New York Times Best Selling List! I hope it’s your heart’s cry to inspire the next generation as well. I also think 18 Things (Kindle book on sale for 99 cents this week!) and 18 Truths contain a powerful message for today’s youth. The trilogy is my humble attempt to put into words the message of a powerful work God did in me. Yes, it’s a fiction book, but at its core, it celebrates our significance to God. We are not forgotten. He collects our tears in a bottle. And going through hell is worth it if it leads us to the place God has. I hope my trilogy will not only entertain, but serve as a reminder of these timeless truths during this generation’s teen years—and throughout life (my oldest reader is 96).

If you want to help, the most important thing you can do is to help us spread the word and download a copy of 18 TRUTHS for  yourself today!

Together we can do this! Let’s push 18 Truths to the top and believe impossible dreams!

And if you still don’t know what 18 Truths is about, here’s the synopsis:

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 Lying is unbearable, betrayal is inevitable, and choosing which path to take is impossible.

Olga Gay Worontzoff ended her senior year as an eighteen-year-old girl totally in love with Nate, enjoying their new romance and about to attend the university of her dreams. Now she’s spending her summer in the weird subculture of the Underworld, with charmingly witty and powerful angels, and problematic demons, trying to rescue Connor, the best friend and secret crush she was unable to save during a freak accident.

But Nate has other things on his mind, mainly Grace. She’s their first assignment as joint spirit guides, and Olga’s feeling hurt and jealous. His mysterious behavior has Olga questioning everything she believed about him and now she must decide whether to stick to their plan, or follow her heart. Unfortunately, a series of mistakes threatens everyone around her and plants Olga in the center of cosmic events much larger than she ever imagined.

Only one thing is certain: the chilling truths uncovered during her journey will leave no one untouched.

Can’t wait to see how many lies I guessed correctly! See you around the blogosphere and THANK YOU for your support 🙂

Books I’m Most Thankful For This Year

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Thanksgiving is tomorrow! How’d that happen?

I LOVE seeing all the ‘what I’m thankful for’ blog posts. But ya’ll know how I like to put my own spin on things, so I picked out the books I was most thankful for this year for my Thanksgiving post because books make me happy–duh! 🙂 I picked out several novels across different genres  . . .  and because I also LOVE quotes, I picked out a few to go along with each pick.

The Book Thief: Historical Fiction

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

“It kills me sometimes, how people die.”

“Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.”

The Power of a Positive Mom: Nonfiction

“Focus on the hope in each person and every situation. God has not left you.”

“God allows certain unplanned adventures in our lives for reasons we may never know. He also provides the help we need to make it through.”

“Your kids are reading a book every day. Now wait a minute, you may be thinking, My kids aren’t even reading age yet. Or, My kids don’t like to read that much. Let me assure you, your kids are reading a book every day. The title is Life’s Living Lessons and you are the author. Our children are watching our actions and hearing our words every day. They are learning how to act and how to live as they read us. You are possibly the most influential book they will ever read.”

Clockwork Princess: Paranormal/Fantasy

“Sometimes one must choose whether to be kind or honorable,” he said. “Sometimes one cannot be both.”

“Life is a book, and there are a thousand pages I have not read. I would read them together with you, as many as I can, before I die -”
She put her hand against his chest, just over his heart, and felt its beat against her palm, a unique time signature that was all its own. “I only wish you would not speak of dying,” she said. “But even for that, yes, I know how you are with your words, and, Will- I love all of them. Every word you say. The silly ones, the mad ones, the beautiful ones, and the ones that are only for me. I love them, and I love you.”

“Gabriel’s green eyes sought Will. “It was demon pox, wasn’t it? You know all about it, don’t you? Aren’t you some sort of expert?”
“Well, you needn’t act as if I invented it,” said Will.”

Through the Ever Night: Dystopian

“Love was like the waves in the sea, gentle and good sometimes, rough and terrible at others, but that it was endless and stronger than the sky and earth and everything in between.”

“We lose and lose, but we’re still here.  Shaking in place, afraid of doing something.  I’m tired of settling for this because I don’t know if something better exists.  It has to.  What point is there otherwise?  I can do something about it now.  And I will.”

“Love is a rebellious bird that nobody can tame.”

Firefly Lane: Women’s Fiction

“That was the thing about best friends. Like sisters and mothers, they could piss you off and make you cry and break your heart, but in the end, when the chips were down, they were there, making you laugh even in your darkest hours. ”

“Thoughts – even fears – were airy things, formless until you made them solid with your voice and once given that weight, they could crush you.”

“Of course you can fall in love. You just have to let yourself. They don’t call it falling for nothing.”

Turtle in Paradise: Children’s Literature

“Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I’ve lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten. The only difference between grown-ups and kids is that grown-ups go to jail for murder. Kids get away with it.”

“Almost dying is awfully easy. It’s the living that’s hard.”

18 Things: Contemporary Coming of Age

*It may seem strange to pick my own book, but 1) I AM STRANGE! 2) It’s the one I’m most thankful for (outside of the Bible) because it reminds me of how far God has brought me to arrive at this place.

“Some days my grief only hurt a little, like being electrocuted by a tiny spark when plugging in something. Other days, my sorrow used a jackhammer to excavate my heart.”

“I can’t believe I spent most of high school stereotyping you as a simple-minded, snobby, backstabbing cheerleader.” Tammy took one last drag, then stomped out her cigarette on the ground. “Girl, neither can I. I mean I only stole your prom date, threatened to light you on fire, and slapped you in the face.”

“Dr. Judy crossed her arms over her chest. ‘There are no do-overs in life once you’re dead. All your friends have that YOLO saying backward. It should be YODO because really, you live ever day, but . . . You Only Die Once.’ I looked at Nate. A grim expression twisted his mouth and I wondered if he was thinking what I thought. Where’s the candid camera, because this had to be a joke.”

*What books are  you thankful for having read this year? Oh, you don’t all have to point to 18 Things at once 😉 HAPPY THANKSGIVING . . . or as it’s come to be known this year, The New Black Friday. Personally, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Dollar Tree is just up the street and keeps their prices at $1 allll year-long–right, kids?! Gobble, gobble!

Suffering IS NOT Failing

There’s many different cups of suffering . . . in physical aches, emotional pain, motherhood, friendships, loneliness, marriage issues, financial hardships, rejection (writing has dealt me an overflowing cup of this one), abuse, divorce . . . we don’t deserve these cups of suffering, but even though God loves us, He doesn’t take these sufferings away.

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Oh, how I wish a cup of suffering meant Starbucks getting my order wrong and therefore, ending up getting coffee wasted which results in a massive sugar withdrawal incident that has me sprinting across  eight busy lanes of traffic chasing after SpongeBob (you don’t want to know).

Our pastor’s daughter, Kristy Turner, shared the message, “Suffering Is Not Failing,” at the Women’s Retreat I attended for our church at South Seas Plantation this weekend. She shared from Matthew 26:36-46 when Jesus asks his Father to take the cup of suffering from him because he knows he’s about to go to the cross. It’s because of the anguish Jesus went through that he can relate to our suffering. Ultimately, it’s our sufferings that mold us in life . . . it keeps us humble, reminds us of our constant need for God, and benefits those around us as they see God at work in our lives.

I thought a lot of my sufferings during this retreat . . . I felt God whispering to me during her message that I’ve always been so self-sufficient because of the sufferings I endured as a child. I HAD to be independent for survival, and now it’s a difficult habit to break. I don’t admit weakness or ask for help easily. This wouldn’t be so hard if I just sat back and relaxed, but my adult life has been filled with one big project after another. Hubs often feels the need to ask me, “Why do you have to take on the world?” I just thought I liked activity, but this weekend I realized that deep down in my soul, I felt the need to prove something to myself and to the people who ignored me and made me feel insignificant growing up. Jesus reassured me that even if I didn’t do allll those things, he still loves me and I was worth dying for *wipes tears from eyes*

So will I still “think big”? Sure I will! It’s a part of me, but I’m gonna ask for more help along the way and believe my husband when he tells me that sometimes “less is more.” I’m going to take more time to enjoy the simple things in life . . . things I got to enjoy this weekend. The smell of coconut scented sunscreen melting into my skin as I relaxed on the beach, the whispering of the waves, laughing with my friends, the horizon of a sunrise, the treat of a cold Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino from Starbucks, the warm breeze and water washing over my sandy toes as I read a good book.

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Keep calm and carry on!

It’s easy to get caught up in the suffering, the “failing,” and the busyness of life. But it is possible to have peace with God in all things. To end with another cliché (hey, don’t give me that judging look that says you’re a writer–you have no business posting a blog filled with clichés), “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Take a deep breath, and know that God loves you!

What about you? Have there been times in your life when you felt like you needed to think small instead of big? Have you drank from the cup of suffering and thought it was because you failed in some way?

My Bipolar IWSG Post . . .Nah, I don’t need no stinkin’ encouragement this month! Oh, wait! Who’s that knocking on my door at this hour? My good old friend REJECTION!

Uh-oh! Guess what day it is? Huh? Anybody? Oh, come on! I know you can hear me! It’s . . . Happy*Over*The*Hump*Day! Are you happier than a camel on Wednesday, because I am . . . or I was until an hour ago . . . but more on that in a moment.

The first Wednesday of every month is also officially known as Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Our mission via Head Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh: Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer.

Buccaneer Blogfest and IWSG

This past month I was feeling pretty encouraged with all the feedback I received from four of my Beta/CP’s over the sequel to 18 Things, 18 Truths (if you’ve read book one, I put a sneak preview up top ^ for book two, so go check it out and tell me what you think, if you’re so inclined). Here’s what some of them had to say in their email comments:

Beta Reader #1: “JAMIE! What are you doing to me! I already finished 18 Truths!!!! I got to read it all day long…best day ever! I have so many thoughts swirling through my brain about it, but I just want to say this…..I’m dying here! If I had book three, I would pick it up this instant and start reading! The ending was absolutely perfect! It made my “Nooo” moment in 18 Things all okay ….  I just wanted to say another great read. And seriously, just as soon as you get book three done I’ll happily beta read for you again. You wrapped the second book up so well, in addition to leaving us hanging just enough that I’m salivating for the final book!!!!! You know I want you to send it JUST as soon as you write The End! I can’t wait to read it!!! ”

Beta Reader #2: “Truth: I LOVED 18 TRUTHS! 🙂 Now, I have to be honest with you, because A.) I consider you much more than “just” a writing friend, and B.) I really love your writing. 18 THINGS blew me away. The story was such an emotional journey for me, and I’m assuming anyone else who’s ever picked it up shares those feelings. My heart was wholly invested in Olga and the rest of the cast from the very first page. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that immense connection with 18 TRUTHS until I’d read a good chunk into it. So, what I think happened, is that some of the deep emotional connection we had to Olga in the first book, was lost in this second book. I think that in 18 THINGS, you concentrated on Olga’s emotional and spiritual journey, but you focused more on the story as a whole in 18
TRUTHS. . . 18 THINGS was powerful and profound . . . 18 TRUTHS was just a really good book. I guess I was missing that emotional and
spiritual journey aspect a little bit. But I am just one person, and my thoughts might be one among a million opposite perspectives, so take what you will, or don’t. 🙂 You truly have a gift, and I am so happy to be able to read such God-centered stories because at times, I really need the reminder.”

Beta Reader #3: “Brilliant! That’s all I have to say, love. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  My comments are very, very few. Take them or leave them.  Thank you for letting me be a part of this incredible read. This was an un-put-downable book, filled with twists and turns and while I was hoping for the ending you gave us, I didn’t really think you’d go there.  I am thrilled you did.  I love the way you weaved the stories, linking them all together in unexpected ways.  The complicated relationships between the characters were expertly told with just the right about of passion, sizzle, and pure love.  I have chosen my one and only for Olga, but I will gladly wait until book three to find out if my wishes come true or if God has other plans. Beautifully told story, strong characters, well-thought out plot, expertly written.  A true storyteller. Bravo.”

My other beta reader also sung praises for 18 Truths, but she’s totally old school and printed out my entire novel and left comments all over it, and I’m too lazy to hunt through my pages and retype comments at this late hour (anyone else usually still up around 1:30am?). I always take the path of least resistance (A.K.A. letting my computer do most of the work), so I’m in awe of  her ways!

So anyhoo, I was thinking I may not need any of that encouragement stuff this month, until I read an email tonight from Curiosity Quills, my publisher, that said Barnes and Noble turned down their pitch to stock 18 Things in stores nationwide 😦

Hear that sound? That was the SOUND OF MY HOPES AND DREAMS BEING CRUSHED!!! Anyone else ever feel like they can’t be too happy over something because bad news is just around the corner? *raises hand* Truth is, there are sooo many events in our lives which we have no control. It’s all up to chance, luck, and timing. However, we do have control over whether we press on or give up. The secret of survival is in fact trusting in God’s perfect timing for our lives (yup, you may recognize a line like that in 18 Things). I can sit here and question and whine about why other novels got chosen over mine, or I can trust in God’s plan for my life. Maybe he’s taking me in a different direction . . .maybe the whole nation isn’t ready 18 Things yet . . . maybe my writing just isn’t good enough. All I know is I’ve had the longing to be an author from a very young age, and I believe with my whole heart that it was divine inspiration.

So yeah, I got knocked down tonight, a dramatic power-bomb slam that put my lights out for a good hour while I cried on the couch. Then I blew my nose, took a deep breath, and remembered that it’s all in God’s hands, not mine. Even in this small room, sitting still, I am moving closer to the plan he has for me by holding onto faith.

Anyway, before I go, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to another fellow author in need of some help. My dear friend, Jessa Russo, re-launched her debut novel this week. If you haven’t read Ever yet, you seriously need to! And stop by Jessa’s website because she’s giving away some totally A*W*E*S*O*M*E prize packs!

What about you? Do you find it hard to surrender things to the universe? How do you find your peace when things don’t go your way? Have you ever had a setback that ended up being a blessing in disguise? I could still use some encouragement after all . . . . ❤ Jamie

~xoxo

It’s my B*I*R*T*H*D*A*Y and I’ll blog if I want to!

Okay, so I’m not really sitting in front of a laptop and blogging on my 29th (cough, cough) birthday. I composed this post on Sunday night, suckers! *shakes fist in the air* hahaha 🙂

So I went into my 33rd year of life pretty pumped. After all, I’d just signed a book deal last summer and I figured since Christ gave his life for me when he was 33, he’d expect me to do some pretty big things with my life this past year.

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Monster Bday Cake my kiddos made for me last year–Num Num!

Well, life is full of trade-offs. My debut novel came out in January to instant best seller status on Amazon, but that quickly died down. Most people I talk to say it’s had a profound impact on them, that it was more than just a “good book.” That makes my heart swell, but I also wish it’d reach those thousands of rabid fans I was ready for, but still don’t know I exist. I can’t help but think maybe that’s how Jesus feels about the message of his love and grace too. The good news is . . . I ADORE a challenge, so don’t be surprised if 18 Things shows up on the New York Times Bestselling list someday 🙂 Now I am frequently misunderstood, so please don’t interpret that statement to mean I think I’m allll that and a bag of chips (What? I am a child of the 90s, heehee). Anyway, I have a banner hanging in my classroom that says, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.” So, I’m staying positive and holding onto faith!!!

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At the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. Look! I have 2 fans 🙂

I also recently made the transition from teaching elementary school for the past twelve years to teaching middle school Language Arts. Hopefully, we’ve all had those conversations with ourselves where we ask, “Who am I? Why am I here?” After two weeks of teaching at my new school, I think that question has been answered for me! There’s a quote by Thomas Carlyle that states: “Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness. He has a work, a life-purpose; he has found it and will follow it.” That sums up my feelings on teaching middle school. I was created for this job! If you don’t know me personally, you probably think I sound insane. If you do know me personally, then you know I am insane!!! (and I love to use an insane amount of exclamation points, smiley faces, and hearts!)

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My classroom . . . home away from home ❤

The other big thing that happened to me this past year is our house going through the foreclosure process. We can be kicked out of our home at any moment, but surprisingly, I am not living in fear. Sure, my heart will have a hard time letting go of this house when the time comes. We’ve had so many wonderful memories here as our kids have grown-up (wish they’d stop growing!). But you know that saying? Home is where the ❤ is. It’s true! My 13yo is probably the most sad over it, but I told her we’ll take the memories wherever we go. A home is so much more than just walls, floors, and rooms. Once again, I’m looking at the silver lining. From each of life’s misfortunes comes a new beginning, an opportunity to renew my faith. I love that I don’t know what the future holds. For everything there is a season, its own time and place.

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Good times . . . NY’s Eve party at our house

My Birthday Prayer: Father God, another year has passed so quickly! I’m so thankful that the God of angel armies is a friend of mine. Even though lots of activities pull me in every direction, you show me every day what’s truly important. Thank you for your presence in my life. What a wonderful gift this past year has been! There were some not-so-good days along the way, but with you by my side, I was able to experience your grace and know that your mercies are new every morning. I’m looking forward to the next one! ❤ Jamie

If My Life Were A Book . . . Confessions of A Failure

This past week held two big milestones for me–my 15th wedding anniversary with my Prince Charming and my new adventure into the world of “Middle School Teacher.”

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My Classroom

This afternoon I skipped (yes, skipped–I do that sometimes just to scare the students) down the hall to obtain a large sheet of white butcher paper so I could start my “Character Traits” poster with my classes. As I walked back to class, I started thinking (and yes, smoke did blow out of my ears), if I was the main protagonist in a book, what kind of character traits would my students, and better yet, my own family, write down for me?

I’d like to say my list would look like this: loving, joyful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, compassionate, forgiving, grateful, honest, helpful, well-mannered . . . or anything halfway close to my own protagonist in 18 Things. The best time to catch me displaying some of these traits are after a few cups of coffee in the morning 🙂

Reality probably looks more like this: frazzled, frustrated, angry, busy, grumbling, bi-polar, worried, brutally honest (to the point of being insensitive to others), oversensitive (when comments are directed toward me), a “yes person” (most can see that “YES” sticker plastered across my forehead from a mile away which is why I get roped into too many activities). This Jamie appears after working all day without chocolate because she’s trying to be a healthy role model for her students and is therefore now suffering massive sugar withdrawals.

Not a pretty picture, aye? I’d say that’s more of the “home” Jamie than the “Mrs. Ayres” at school. If I acted like my real self at school, I’d probably get fired! Luckily, my family hasn’t figured  out a way to get rid of me yet.

It’s not like I want to be this way. So it’s funny when I opened up my book to do my bible study tonight and read the words of Paul in the book of Romans, chapter seven: “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it . . . What a wretched man I am!”

Yep. Luckily I believe in a very forgiving God who gave me a very patient husband 🙂

wedding kiss

Our wedding kiss *don’t everyone aww at once*

My faith has taken me through 15 years of marriage with two beautiful daughters and no doubt will take me through my years as middle school teacher!

At the end of my Bible study today, I had to write a description of a good role model. I simply wrote this:

Someone who always loves. Without love, actions are empty. A role model’s criterion for their actions isn’t based on what they like best, but what’s best for those around them.

While I’m on the subject of love, Ima gonna break down dat definition for ya like it’s 1990 and it’s Hammertime at my middle school dance:

Love isn’t a feeling *Gulp* I don’t think I could ever “fall out of love” with my husband. Instead, love is a decision to meet the needs of others before yourself. It’s not a natural inclination past those first days of marital bliss. Love is something we must choose to live every day.

Now, as a writer of love inspired stories and a teacher, I’m an expert on definitions, so there’s no need to confer with Webster *steps down off pedestal*

I’m taping my role model definition to my bathroom mirror as a reminder of the type of person I should be each day, not just on the days when I feel like it and not just at work. There’s a quote by Erma Bumbeck that goes, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything that you gave me.”

Or as Master Yoda puts it: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Talk is cheap. Words without action=failure. When I look back at the chapters of my life, I want my traits to resemble the characters in the books that inspire me.

What’s  your definition of a good role model? (Lord help us if anyone says Justin Bieber, lol. Thankfully, I don’t think any of my middle school Language Arts students have found my blog yet! *looks around with crazy eyes*

Until next week, Live~Laugh~Love!

Leaving My Comfort Zone and Awkward Middle School Photo

You might be facing a decision forcing you to choose between the easy and the adventurous. If so, this blog post is for you!

Sooo, a few months ago my pastor posted a pic on Facebook holding up my novel, 18 Things. Someone from my church, who I didn’t know, commented, “Who is this? I keep hearing about this book!” He responded, “It’s a local teacher who got a book published, who happens to attend our church and volunteer with the youth ministry.” She commented back she was going to read it, I thanked her, & that was the end of it . . . or so I thought.

She contacted me the following month (we still hadn’t met) & said her entire book club read 18 Things, loved it, & invited me to attend their meeting.  All the book club members were teachers at a middle school, which happened to be the same one I attended & even won the Language Arts award for our graduating class . . . which earned me the right to have my picture on the wall, and it was still there several years ago when I attended an event there. I’m curious to know if it’s still hanging now, and I’ll be able to check soon, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Awkward Middle School Photos

Awkward Middle School Photos

In May, Kelly (the lady from my church) asked me if I’d be interested in applying for a 7th grade Language Arts position opening up at the middle school. My initial reaction was YESSS! That quickly got overshadowed by all the potential dilemmas . . . I’ve taught elementary school for 12 years. I know the curriculum and the standards and everyone at my school family . . . my youngest kid still has 2 years left there & I’d have to pay for after school care for her if I switched . . . my oldest volunteers in my classroom & she’ll be sad she has to volunteer somewhere else (she goes next door to the middle school but volunteers for 2 hours in the morning first).  So I sighed heavily, said teaching my favorite subject at a new school to older students sounded nice, but I’ll just stay where I am for now. After all, it’s what I know. It’s where I’m comfortable.

So I let my feet tread easily on the well-worn path the rest of the school year, but the thought of teaching middle school kept nagging me in the back of my mind. But I had a sequel to finish. As soon as school ended at the end of May, I was writing 18 Truths. I gave myself a deadline of June 30th and by the 29th I’d emailed it to four Beta readers (Kelly included). Anyone who knows me well knows I can’t sit still for long. So of course, I immediately thought of that middle school job and looked at the county’s website for job openings and didn’t see it posted. I didn’t expect it to be since 6 weeks had passed, but I did see some other middle and high school Language Arts/English postings. By the time I went in for a school meeting the next morning, I made up my mind. I told my principal (who I also LOVE so much, which was another reason leaving my school was so difficult) I was going to seek another position, so she might get some calls. She said she understood, knew I wanted a change, and had a feeling I might switch schools after interviewing to take over the media specialist position at our school and not getting it *more on this later*

When I left school, I sent Kelly a text saying I was kicking myself for not saying yes earlier b/c I was now looking for a middle school job. She immediately called and said they hadn’t filled the spot yet b/c the school was in the middle of changing principal’s, and the interviews were being done the next day (Friday) and Monday morning. She called to see if they could fit me in, and the interview was soon set for Monday at 11:15a.m.

You want to know the COOLEST part?! I’m actually taking over for MY 7th grade Language Arts teacher! Mrs. Williams had a profound influence on me. I’m kinda back to being scared again b/c I have such HUGE shoes to fill.

What’s funny is I’m doing a Bible study with some of my elementary school co-workers titled The Power of a Positive Mom. You may recall this blog post where God used the book to speak to me while succumbing to depression over my book sales (which I’m happy to report have been up for some reason . . . trending in the top 100 for Coming of Age category for the past 2 weeks). Anyway, one of the assignments for the study was to read the story of Ruth in the Bible. Basically, the story boils down to choosing safety or surrendering to something different, trusting God has something better in mind for us if we’ll simply step out in faith. Staying where we are for too long brings very little fruitfulness in our lives. If you’re feeling vaguely depressed with life, then it may be you haven’t “gone” anywhere in a while.

Yesterday I packed up twelve years of elementary school stuff. I was crushed in April when I didn’t get the media specialist position at my school. Everyone thought for sure I was a shoo-in for the job. Funny thing is, when I went for my middle school interview, they were excited I had recently gotten my media specialist certification. It’s a position they’d cut and are very interested in bringing it back! Oh, and they’re also thinking of making 18 Things a required read for their “One Book One School” program this year, which I’ll also add was started by a dear lady named Polly who attended my church, but sadly passed away from breast cancer a few years ago. Interesting how God tied that all together, isn’t it?

“Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”–Philip Yancey

So, what about you, dear friends? Have you ever encountered a divine intervention in a new plan for your life? Where it seemed like one looong string of coincidences was actually God leading you to a bold adventure?

Also, who do you think my friend is talking to on the phone in my awkward middle school photo? I think she’s probably saying, “HELP! There’s a tiger and bear in the room and my friend showed up for picture day with a hairdo that totally says D-O-R-K!!!”

Yep, some things never stay the same 😉

Never Surrender?

During the second week of June–that’s the 11-16thElana Johnson is hosting the Never Surrender blogfest to celebrate her new book release this month. All you have to do is blog about a time you didn’t surrender!

This post should be easy for me. It’s been the theme of my whole life. I’ve faced many challenges and it all started from the time when I was very young and was sexually abused. That’s just too depressing to blog about so as I searched my brain about the other things I could post . . . and realized the best moments of my life have come by not surrendering, but doing the opposite.

“WHAT?!!?”

Yep, you heard me right.

Throughout my life there were people I thought were my friends. Family I thought I could trust. There were times I felt like surrendering, even attempted suicide twice between the ages of 11-14. But I couldn’t go through with it. I knew I owed it to myself to see what all the fight was about. I figured my best days would be ahead of me because it couldn’t get much worse. Even if I didn’t understand much about God then, I sensed he had a master plan for me. When I finally surrendered my life to him when I turned 18, I knew I was right.

God says he has collected my tears in a bottle. I wonder how many bottles they filled while I was growing up? But trouble=triumph. I’ve never seen someone be triumphant without being in trouble first. Romans 8:28 says we know, not hope, not wish, not pray . . . that all things work for the good of those who love him. All those atrocities I survived I use as a catalyst to pour into my writing.

So never surrendering to me means surrendering it all to God. If I didn’t get something (during the past 3 years, that usually meant an agent or editor), it’s only because God has something better for me down the road. Going through hell and high-water is worth it if it leads me to the place God has for me. One of the hardest things to do is to believe God in transition and that’s where I am now. Transitions are difficult because you’re letting go of everything you’ve held onto. It’s a great feeling of vulnerability. Worry happens. But when it happens, I make the choice to let go and let God. I surrender.

What about you?

*This is a blog hop so be sure to make like a bunny and jump over to Elana’s page:):):) 

 

Angels Among Us

Once a month I’m trying to blog about how my love of books relates to my love of God. When I got the Kreativ Blogger Award a couple of weeks ago I had to write 10 random things about myself. Some of you may recall this one:

When I was 11 yrs old I prayed to God to show me a sign that He loved me (I was severely depressed) . . . and when I woke up the next morning, an angel was in my room, on his knees, with his hands folded in prayer, smiling & looking up at me. We stared at each other for a moment, then I closed my eyes & said, “Thank you, Jesus, and please don’t ever show me that again” b/c ok, it was kinda scary? And then he was gone, but I KNEW there was a purpose for my life:)

Welllllllll, that’s not the end of the story. At the time, I never told anyone about it for fear that I’d be taken away in a little white van, strapped to a bed. I finally told my husband and his best bud one night when I was 17. They laughed hysterically, making fun of the fact I saw him dressed in blue (didn’t mention that above) & was I watching Smurfs before I went to bed, and yada yada yada. At the time, none of us were Christians but I knew what I saw was fo real yo. Flash forward a year later, Dan & I are married & attending the University of Central Florida. One day while I was bored in-between my 2 classes, I stopped at the on campus Barnes & Noble & perused their Religious section, picking up a book called Angel Power & flipping to page 100 (for some reason, I’ve always like to read the first page and page 100 of a book to see if I want to buy it). Here’s a quote from page 100 of that book, talking about the diary of a German woman who saw angels:

“The Guardian Angels of children are exquisitely lovely. They are dressed in blue and always are seen with their hands folded in prayer.”

Got goosebumps yet? I know I did. Of course I bought the book! I was amazed at how personal God can be, that out of 6 billion people on earth, he brought me full circle, leading me to a book that described my experience, on page 100 no less!! Needless to say, hubby never doubted my sanity again (joke’s on him b/c I’ve truly lost my mind since then;)

So, what about you? Do you believe in angels, or are they just another book character? One fellow writer I know who believes and writes about them is newly published author Heather Burch. Stop by here next week to hear her perspective on the whole process, & earn a first page critique from her & maybe even her book! Sidenote: For the first time, I’m writing a fantasy YA & angels are in it, baby! It’s been a lot of fun.