Monday, July 28, 2014

July 2014 Movie Wrap-Up

By Andrea Renee Cox

Is summer flying by or what? This month has been a busy one for me. Between writing ventures, tutoring responsibilities, and playing tennis with my sister, I’ve barely had a chance to watch movies. Since I’m on a proofing deadline, I’ll keep this short and sweet. Here’s a couple of family adventure films I managed to squeeze into my packed schedule. Enjoy!

Available to Own or Rent:

Journey to the Center of the Earth

When Sean Anderson gets stuck spending time with his uncle Trevor, he knows he’s in for the most boring ten days of his life. But when they discover something in a box of his dad’s stuff, they’re launched on the adventure of a lifetime—a journey to the center of the earth. If they don’t learn to appreciate each other, they might not survive the trip based on Jules Verne’s classic novel. Will they pull it together in time to avoid being destroyed by the perils they find along the way?

Everybody in the family will enjoy this movie that stars Josh Hutcherson and Brendan Fraser. There’s adventure, great humor, and touching moments that come at just the right times. Not only that, but some pretty unique creatures cause trouble for the duo and their mountain guide on the quest to the center of the earth.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

The journey continues! This time, Sean Anderson travels with his stepfather on a search for Grandpa Anderson, who’s been missing for two years. Their adventure gets off to a rough start since Sean and Hank can’t see eye to eye. They meet a funny pilot and his daughter, who hesitantly give them a ride to the most dangerous part of the Pacific Ocean. Will the mysterious island be there, even though it isn’t on the map? And if it is, will they persevere through the dangerous surprises they encounter and find Grandpa Anderson?

Josh Hutcherson reprises his role as Sean. He’s joined by Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Luis Guzm├ín, and Vanessa Hudgens. With such a great cast, it’s no wonder my family kept laughing throughout the entire film. My only question is, will there be a Journey 3? I’d definitely be a fan of a third Vernian film, especially if Josh returned for yet another family adventure.

Readers, what are some of your favorite family adventure movies? What kind of adventures do you like to take with your family?

Would you like to be my guest? Here's how to submit an article.

Do you need a proofreader? Here are the services I offer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Be My Guest: Stacy Monson

This week I'm pleased to host my friend and critique partner, Stacy Monson. In her article, she gives us a glimpse of her writing journey. The hope really shines through, don't you think?

Hope Deferred

By Stacy Monson 

I’ve been writing literally all of my life. My younger brother says he thinks I was born with a pencil in hand. He’s pretty close – once I learned to write, I never stopped. I’ve loved writing papers for school (except for boring topics), letters, emails, blog posts, freelance articles, and most of all novels. I even enjoy filling out forms. Really!

However, even with my love of all things writing, my dream of publication was a secret - until six years ago when I felt the unmistakable call from God to write. It was as clear as if He’d spoken aloud.

I immediately signed up for a writing class, joined several national writing organizations, and started a Minnesota chapter for one of them. I entered and won lots of contests, made tons of new writing friends around the world. I was on my way. Even with the usual ups and downs (win a contest, tank a contest, etc.), I felt empowered, energized. Like a balloon soaring ever upward.

I signed with an agent. I received requests from several publishing house editors to look at some or all of my books. I connected with a local editor who taught me so much about writing and editing. I was flying high, teetering on the brink of realizing my dream.

But then a tiny pin prick developed in my balloon. Instead of continuing toward publication, I started to sink. I separated from my agent. The requests I’d received resulted in “no, thanks.” My mom and mother-in-law both died of Alzheimer’s. I couldn’t write. My balloon continued to sink.

Then, last summer, I signed a contract with a publisher who had started a fiction line. I loved her ministry, the work she’d done in the nonfiction arena, her heart for God. My debut novel was set to come out on June 1, 2014. My balloon soared. I’d made it!

Less than two months before my book was to launch, it was reassigned to release in October, then the publisher closed her fiction line. It was a good move for her, but devastating for me. It seemed God had punctured my balloon permanently. Maybe I’d misheard His call. Or maybe He’d never meant I’d get published, just that I was to write.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.  Proverbs 13:12

My heart certainly was sick. I spent hours seriously considering if I should stop pursuing publication. I needed to assess priorities, desire, energy. Was this the time to set my dream aside? Or should I patch up my balloon and keep trying?

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.  Psalm 27:14

The words are a balm to my battered heart, an answer to my cry of “what now?” It doesn’t promise I’ll ever realize my dream, but it does promise that God is working on my behalf. It doesn’t tell me to write harder, find an agent, or leap on the self-publishing bandwagon. It tells me to hold fast to my God. To stay strong in my waiting as He does His work.

So I’ll continue to write because that’s the gift He’s given me. What He chooses to do with it is up to Him. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m praying it’s not over yet. But while I wait to see what He’ll do next, I’ll stay strong in the faith and keep my heart and mind on Him. My balloon is lifting slowly toward the heavens once again.

What are you waiting for? How are you coping?

Stacy is a freelance writer and novelist, and posts regularly on Inkspirational Messages, The Barn Door, and InspyRomance. Past president of MN-NICE, the Minnesota ACFW chapter, she’s the Area Director for Minnesota.

You may visit Stacy Monson at her website or on her Facebook page.

Thanks for hanging out with us today, Stacy. Our journeys certainly are roller coaster-y sometimes, aren't they? Keep at it, girl! No matter how it ends up, God is with you... and we here at Writing to Inspire will be praying for you.

Readers, do you have any questions for today's guest, Stacy Monson? Or please answer her question: How are you coping with the ups and downs of your journey?

Would you like to be my guest? Here's how to submit an article.

Do you need a proofreader? Here are the services I offer.

Monday, July 14, 2014

July Celebrations... and a Recipe!

By Andrea Renee Cox

The first week of July is always exciting for me. My sister celebrates her birthday, and our country celebrates its independence. Cake and fireworks. Celebrations don’t get much better. Since we live in town, we decided to try something new this year. On the fourth, we drove out to the country and found a great spot to pull off the road where we had a great view of several different bursts of fireworks. It was practically a panoramic view. Oh, they were beautiful! We were far enough away where we couldn’t hear the loudness of them, which is my least favorite part, but the variety of colors took my breath away.

On the fifth, my family had a barbecue and invited a family who are great friends of ours. Chicken and hot dogs, pasta salad, healthy cheese-less mac & cheese (trust me, it’s delicious!), fruit salad, and several desserts were laid out and enjoyed. Conversation flowed through our living room, along with laughter. We had a great time.

The reason we had our party on the fifth was because our town held its fireworks show that day. After we ate and the sky grew dark, we sprayed with bug spray (crucial in this summer of chiggers!) and sat in chairs in the grass by the railroad tracks. (Don't worry. There weren't any trains coming.) From there, we had a great view of the fireworks the city shot off from the high school. It was another beautiful show. There was a new firework I hadn’t seen before. It appeared to be a small white cloud when it burst. Very cute but kind of puzzling.

Getting together with friends for any celebration, or even just because, never gets old. Fun times and happy memories are always to be had. I like this new tradition we’ve started, having a barbecue for the Fourth of July (this year, on the fifth) with another family in town. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue these fun times for many more years to come.

I tried a few new dessert recipes this year. I’ve already shared my root beer float cookies with you. Here’s another one that my family and friends really liked. It’s definitely a keeper. Not only that, but it may be adapted for nearly any celebration with just a few alterations.

Red, White, 'N' Blue Salad

1 (3 oz.) package berry blue gelatin
2 cups boiling water, divided
2 ½ cups cold water, divided
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons sugar
2 cups (16 oz.) sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (3 oz.) package raspberry gelatin
1 cup fresh raspberries
Whipped topping and additional berries, optional

1. In a large bowl, dissolve berry blue gelatin in 1 cup boiling water; stir in 1 cup cold water. Add blueberries. Pour into a 3-quart serving bowl (a clear bowl works well so you can see the beauty of this dessert). Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, sprinkle unflavored gelatin over ½ cup cold water; let stand for 1 minute. Add the cream and sugar; cook and stir over low heat until gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Whisk in sour cream and vanilla. Spoon over the blue layer. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

3. In a large bowl, dissolve raspberry gelatin in 1 cup boiling water; stir in 1 cup cold water. Add raspberries. Spoon over white cream layer. Chill until set, about 1 hour. Garnish with whipped topping and additional berries, if desired.

This recipe will quickly become a favorite among your family and friends. To create a similar dish for holidays or parties other than the Fourth of July, simply use different flavors of gelatin with fruits that compliment them. Examples: grape gelatin with halved grapes or whole blueberries; orange or lemon gelatin with mandarin oranges; strawberry gelatin with quartered strawberries. Play with it and have fun!

If you’re not making a mess, you’re not really cooking.

Readers, it’s your turn. What are your family’s Fourth of July traditions? Do you ever try new recipes for your family get-togethers, or do you stick to your favorites? Care to share any?

Would you like to be my guest? Here's how to submit an article.

Do you need a proofreader? Here are the services I offer.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Broken Kind of Beautiful

By Andrea Renee Cox

After reading Katie Ganshert’s first two novels, I’ve come to expect brilliance in the form of broken characters struggling to discover a way to live life again. What took me by surprise in A Broken Kind of Beautiful was the new depth Katie found. Her characters weren’t only broken; they’d been completely shattered like a dropped snow globe. Ivy Clark in particular was lost and desperate for everything that was wrong for her. The journey she had to take to climb out of the dark, cold cave was beautifully written and so true to life. Figuring out that you’re broken and alone is sometimes the hardest, most frightening process, and Katie captured that with such raw vulnerability that I often found myself either breathless or in tears. Not many books have moved me so powerfully lately, but that might be because I could identify so much with the tagline of the book: “Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong.” My own situation isn’t nearly as bad as all that, but I did discover something along the way that changed my perspective on my life.

Even though figuring out how broken and alone you are is so difficult, once you discover the God who can mend you and breathe new life into you… there’s no other feeling in the world like it, and there aren’t enough words for me to describe the freeing joy that comes with it. There’s not a safer, more comforting place to be than in God’s arms. He’s big enough and loving enough to take every shattered person and heal them until they’re better than they were before. He loves us so much. If you haven’t yet discovered His love, I hope you’ll dive into His Word and find Him. He’s calling you now. Won’t you answer Him?

“It took darkness to show me truth.” Sara’s words from chapter twenty-two couldn’t be more true. As sinners, we live in darkness. It isn’t until we realize how big we’ve messed up that we can appreciate and find the truth of God’s love and sacrifice. It’s books like A Broken Kind of Beautiful that remind me just how huge Jesus’s dying on the cross was. He freely forgives our worst mistakes when we ask Him. He mops up and erases our biggest messes. His forgiveness and grace overwhelm me because I know I don’t deserve them; no one does. That’s why they’re free gifts. There’s nothing we can do to earn them. But if we ask for them with honest, humbled hearts, God gives them to us, adopting us into His family and assuring us eternal life on the other side of this mortal one we’re living now. It is my prayer that you will discover the beauty in His gift. It’s quite amazing to behold.

About the book: A Broken Kind of Beautiful tells the story of Ivy Clark, an out-of-work fashion model who must go back home to a small town that holds her haunting past, and Davis Knight, a man who set aside his dream of being a fashion photographer to live a quiet life in that same small town. When they join forces to create multiple advertisements for a relative’s wedding dress boutique, will they help each other heal from their broken pasts? Or will they continue to live with the shards of mistakes and regrets poking them at every decision? Will God’s truth reveal that each of them is a broken kind of beautiful?

Thank you to Blogging for Books, who provided this book to me for free in exchange for my honest review.

Readers, how do you deal with your brokenness? Do you try to make up for it? Do you play the martyr and punish yourself, when no one asked you to? Or do you accept God’s forgiveness and move forward, toward His calling on your life?

Would you like to be my guest? Here's how to submit an article.

Do you need a proofreader? Here are the services I offer.