A Woman’s Priorities

The other day I read another blog post addressed to women talking about priorities (it was a good post; read it here). In passing, on her way to make a different point, the writer mentioned the oft-repeated statement that if you're married, your priorities should/must be God first, then husband, then children.

That's been repeated so many times that it goes unchallenged and, truly, unexamined. But as I read it, I wondered:

Is it true?

Is it biblical?

Where does this “rule” come from?

And, more important, what does it mean in everyday life. How would we live those priorities?

Does it mean that if at a given moment our husband wants us and our kids want us, we always must respond to our husband's wants first?

Does it mean that we should spend more of our time doing things for/with our husbands than for/with our children?

Does it mean that if the house was on fire and we could only save one person, we should save our husband rather than our child? (Yes, I think about things like that.)

I guess it's human nature to try to rank things like this in a tidy order. We like to know the rules. We like to know where things stand. Maybe I'm missing the point, but to me, ranking people as priorities implies assigning relative importance — that is, deciding one is more important that the other. And that feels . . . wrong to me. 

What do you think? Do you agree with the idea of assigning priority that way? It's a “rule” I've generally seen only in Christian teaching — do you know where the rule came from? That is, is there a Bible passage that establishes it, or is this just a rule we've come up with on our own? And what does it mean, really? How exactly, practically, would we reflect that priority in day-to-day life?

Just one of those things I've been thinking about this week.

Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Dreams and God: Guest Post by Ann Lee Miller – with GIVEAWAY

I'm pleased to welcome novelist and speaker Ann Lee Miller as she shares some thoughts about dreams–our own, and God's dreams for us–based on her new novel, Kicking Eternity. Be sure to read to the bottom of this post for more information about Ann and about Kicking Eternity, including information about a GIVEAWAY.

Kicking Eternity focuses on wrestling with dreams, determining which come from God, what motivates our desires. Some of us desperately want to follow God’s dreams. Others want to follow their own dreams, even in opposition to God. And some have yet to discover their dreams.

Raine, my heroine, has wanted to teach orphans in Africa her whole life. It’s a godly desire, and she is fully committed to Christ. But it’s an unexamined dream. Even when her father opposes her, she does not pause to determine whether this is truly the path God intends for her.

My passion for a career as a novelist is powerful and never flags. I need to be attentive to God, willing to surrender even this consuming drive I believe God planted in me. Obeying God is more important than fulfilling my dream. Raine discovers this in Kicking Eternity.

Part of Raine’s motivation is the desire for escape from a co-dependent relationship with her drug-addict brother. I’ve known missionaries who have been spurred to leave the country to escape dysfunction at home. I don’t see this as a negative. Often when God wants to move us from one place to another, He allows us to become dissatisfied with our present situation. I don’t believe it is somehow purer to follow God’s lead by sacrificing all. Even when God has called me to do difficult things like taking in a troubled teen or moving across the country, He’s given me the want-to.

Another character, Cal, refuses to consult God and pursues his own dreams. Cal’s dreams crash on the rocks and the reader can’t help but think he would have been better off consulting God. Cal traverses an entire second book, The Art of My Life, to come to this conclusion. A lot of people in my life walk this path. I long for them to realize that God loves them deeply and has satisfying things planned for their future.

Rebels aren’t the only ones with incorrect views of God. A godly young woman close to me said recently, “I don’t want to do this, so I think it’s what God wants me to do.” But when we do what we were created to do, we are fulfilled. I want to tell this young lady that something inside her will leap at the thought of doing the thing she was created to do even if it is difficult or requires self-sacrifice. God designed me to write. When I write, my heart sings.

Drew, the hero in my story, plods through life until God taps him on the shoulder. Drew steps through every door God throws open. His life takes on purpose and he gets the dream and the girl God thought up especially for him.

My dream was to live as a hermit writer on the North Carolina coast, a place I’d never seen. But God’s dream for me was a life packed with friends, husband, and children, biological and of the heart, in the desert of Arizona. He knew better than I what would fulfill me. And I write.

Many thanks to Ann for sharing these thoughts with us. What do you think of Ann's notes above regarding dreams and God's will? When you think of following your dreams, what thoughts come to mind? What would you attempt today if you knew you could not fail? Feel free to share your reactions in the comments below. Giveaway: Anyone who leaves a comment with an e-mail address will receive a free e-book copy of Kicking Eternity

Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her husband or meddling in her kids’ lives.
Connect with Ann at:
Twitter @AnnLeeMiller
Facebook Author Page 
Kicking Eternity, by Ann Lee Miller

First Place, Long Contemporary, 2009 Romance Writers of America Faith, Hope, and Love Contest

Fresh from college, Raine scores a teaching job at New Smyrna Beach Surf and Sailing Camp. She’s a plane ticket away from fulfilling her dream of teaching orphans in Africa, so she socks away her camp paychecks and worries about her druggy brother, but a crush on the camp rebel/art teacher threatens to derail her plans. The broody recreation director, Drew, spots her brother's meth addiction and Raine's enabling. Raine believes she is helping her brother–until lives are threatened. Will she figure out what to fight for and what to flee before it’s too late?

Endorsements for Kicking Eternity

“In Kicking Eternity, Ann Lee Miller masterfully weaves the delicate web of emotions experienced in that turbulent ‘twenty-something’ stage of life. Powerful family dynamics, intense loyalty challenges, and tender new loves find their niche in your heart as this story unfolds layer by lovely layer.”
Mesu Andrews, author of Revell titles Love’s Sacred Song and Love Amid the Ashes, winner of the 2012 CBA Book of the Year, New Author Category
“Ann Lee Miller writes stories straight from the heart with characters who'll become friends, remaining with you long after you turn that final page. You won't want to miss Kicking Eternity!”
Jenny B. Jones, author of the Katie Parker Production Series from Think and
The Charmed Life Series, and other single titles from Thomas Nelson
“I've lost hours of sleep reading Ann Lee Miller's work due to her uncanny ability to yank me into a story with authentic, lovable, yet challenging characters.”
Lynn Rush, author of Wasteland, Awaited, and Prelude to Darkness
from Crescent Moon Press

Summer Fun: Recent Reads and To-Be-Read (Plus a GIVEAWAY)

I've seen a lot of discussion in the blogosphere lately about summer reading. As a devoted and lifelong bookworm, I confess that I've never distinguished summer reading from any other type of reading, except back when I was in elementary school and summers meant participating in the local library's summer reading program. Remember that? You'd keep track of the books you read and perhaps earn a sticker for each book or some prize at the end of the summer.


No such program for . . . ahem . . . women of a certain age. But I read year-round and my reading list is eclectic, to say the least. If you're a summer reader and are looking for suggestions, here are a few of the books I've read and enjoyed recently. In addition, I'll list a couple of the titles in my to-be-read pile. You can click on any of the titles to go either to the Amazon.com page for that book or to the author's website to find out more. Be sure to read all the way to the end of this post for information about how to enter for a chance to win a free copy of a recent Christian fiction title.

Recent Reads

  1.  Desert Gift, by Sally John (Tyndale): I can't summarize it any better than the back-cover copy does: “A nationally known marriage expert, Jillian Galloway is at the pinnacle of success. Her syndicated talk radio show is a hit and her first book is about to release. But just as she's leaving for her West Coast publicity tour, Jill's faithful husband of twenty-four years drops a bombshell: he wants a divorce. . . . From best-selling author Sally John comes an insightful and inspiring story about the unexpected detours our lives can take, the lies we sometimes tell ourselves, and the hope that God is always at work, even in the desert.” I recommend this one highly.
  2. Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds (New Riders): Subtitled “Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery,” this is a fascinating and informative look at how speakers and teachers can better reach their audiences through simplicity and storytelling, rather than following the conventional approach of bullet-point PowerPoint slide shows. Loaded with examples of good, great, and terrible slides, this book is an easy read that I strongly recommend to anyone who might be called upon to give a public presentation, whether using PowerPoint or not.
  3. Bandit's Hope, by Marcia Gruver (Barbour): When her father dies in the night, Mariah Bell must conceal his death until she finds a weak and spineless husband so she can keep her ancestral lands and the inn she loves. Tiller McRae is neither weak nor spineless, so when he shows up at her door she quickly dismisses him as not the man she's looking for. Unfortunately, her heart has other ideas. Although not a genre I normally would have picked up, this novel caught me from the first sentence, where the author's masterfully chosen words pretty much forced me to keep reading. One of the best-written books I've read this year. Gruver has an artist's touch with dialog and creates characters you believe and care about.
  4. Paperless, by David Sparks (self-published): Are you ready to wage war on the piles of paper in your home and/or office? This book will give you the tools to become, as the author calls it, a “paperless ninja.” Sparks, a lawyer, outlines an approach to capturing paper into electronic form and setting up a simple system for storing it electronically in such a way as to easily be able to find any piece of information you need within moments. Paperless is an ebook with embedded videos and all sorts of cool interactive features that let you easily see and understand how to use the tools and processes that Sparks recommends. Love this book, and just started reading it a second time. As far as I know this is available only through the Apple iBookstore or on Sparks's website (click on the title above). It's meant to be read on a Mac or iPad to take full advantage of the interactive features, but if you don't have an iPad, you can order a PDF version of the book and still get the benefit of the great information. 
  5. You Are A Writer, by Jeff Goins (self-published): Another ebook, this one is by one of my favorite bloggers (I've written before about Jeff's blog). A quick read, this is full of Jeff's encouraging words for those who dream of being a writer but perhaps have been waiting for somebody else to give them “permission” to call themselves one.
  6. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster): I listened to this one as an audiobook over the course of a couple of weeks during my long daily commute. Really a fascinating inside look at a man whose brilliance–and temper–were legendary. Love him or hate him, most who pay attention to these things acknowledge that Steve Jobs changed the world through the companies he founded (Apple, NeXt, and Pixar) and the products they created. The book goes beyond just talking about the man and gives a really interesting chronicle of the science, technology, and artistry that have gone into the products of those companies.

 To Be Read

My to-be-read pile is always huge, but here are just a few that are next on the list:

  1. Platform (Get Noticed in a Noisy World), by Michael Hyatt (Thomas Nelson): If you've read my blog for awhile, you've heard me mention Hyatt before. Chairman and former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, Hyatt is a nationally known speaker and writer. In Platform, he writes that book that he's spent years field-testing. He shares the “secrets” to building a platform that will help you get your message heard — whatever your message might happen to be. I'm looking forward to this one; Hyatt definitely knows whereof he speaks.
  2. Love in Disguise, by Carol Cox (Bethany House): This one was offered to me in exchange for my agreement to write a review of it. I was intrigued by the description: Set in the 1880s, an aspiring actress, out of work and desperate, decides to exercise her acting skills working with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie travels to Arizona to begin her investigation. When the need arises, she also transforms into the dazzling Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk. But when thieves come after both Lavinia and Jessie, Ellie isn't safe no matter which character she plays. Should she give up and reveal her true identity? And what will happen when the man who's courting her finds out the woman he's falling in love with doesn't really exist? Set in the 1880s, this one promises a blend of romance, humor, and mystery that should make the perfect summer read. I'll let you know what I think!
  3. Plot Versus Character, by Jeff Gerke (Writer's Digest Books): This has been on my shelf for a couple of months, and I'm looking forward to digging into it. It comes highly recommended by several writers I admire and promises “a balanced approach to writing great fiction.” 
  4. How to De-Stress Your Life, by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD (Spire): The title says it all, right? Not a new book, but I haven't read it before, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity when the Kindle version was available for free.
What are you reading this summer? Any recent reads that you recommend we should check out? Leave a comment below with your recommendations.
Fiction Giveaway: If you (a) subscribe to this blog via email (easy signup box at the top right of the home page – but be sure to confirm the subscription when you receive the confirmation email) and (b) leave a comment with both a recommendation AND your email address and a note that you've subscribed to this blog, I'll enter you in a drawing to receive a free copy of one of the following books. Don't wait, though. I'll do the drawing and announce the winners at the end of June. Be sure to check back to see who won.
  • Bandit's Hope, Marcia Gruver
  • Desert Gift, Sally John
  • Love Amid the Ashes, Mesu Andrews
  • Out of Control, Mary Connealy
  • White Pearls, Shannon Taylor Vannatter
  • Among the Magnolias, Diane T. Ashley & Aaron McCarver
  • A Necessary Deception, Laurie Alice Eakes
  • Who Is My Shelter?, Neta Jackson
  • Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Melanie Dobson

Happy reading!
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

How Memoir Writing Can Change Your Thoughts About Yourself – Guest Post by Dawn Novotny

I'm delighted to welcome today's guest blogger, Dawn Novotny, as she shares her thoughts about the impact writing a memoir can have on your self-image. See below for more information about Dawn and her memoir, a fascinating (and at times heart-wrenching) tale of abuse, regret, and redemption, from her troubled childhood through her marriage to Marilyn Monroe's stepson.


As I was working on my memoir, Ragdoll Redeemed, I discovered that writing a memoir changed my psyche first and my heart second—and I believe it can have this positive result for everyone.

First, your mind has to dig around like you’re scavenging through an old treasure chest. Some of the “treasures” are pretty, some are ugly and worn, some are very badly tattered and some are even stinking from being concealed for so long.

But if you rummage long enough, writing a memoir is healing. While not meant to be therapy, the process of writing or revealing one's story can be quite therapeutic. Writing slows down the telling of one's story like watching a movie in slow motion.

For example, I was in a writing group with a friend that I had been close to over thirty years. I thought that she knew everything there was to know about me. Over the years, having told her all of my “stories”, I worried that the re-telling would bore her, but as we continued in the writing group she would remark, “Wow, Dawn, I didn't know that incident was so heartbreaking for you. You always seemed so strong when talking about those situations.”

I was taken aback that she didn't know how much I had been hurt back then. Yet, looking back, I could see how glibly I used to convey my stories. I would truncate my feelings, but other times, I abbreviated my words so I would not have to feel the depth of my sorrow. How could she have known?

Through writing and sharing my memoir, I came to understand that my previous accounts were like showing the previews of a major motion picture without connecting the story lines. Writing slows down the narrative beyond just the bold captions. Through writing, one has to add and expand on the colors and the textures, and supply details that create a coherent, integrative life story. This slowing down process changes how you think and how you see yourself in the context of what happened.

Untold stories can imprison memories, creating a lack of coherence and an ongoing sense of not being seen or heard. Writing a memoir — telling our stories creates a sense of integrative coherence and connection.

After all, we are talking about our life. It is our life and our unique story. If we don't honor that exclusive story, the story that can only be produced by our remembrances, then who else will? Who else will honor you?

When we write our memoir, we journey to our heart, which changes us in unexpected ways—how we think, feel, and react to the past. We grow and expand with each memory that we pluck from the treasure chest regardless of its condition.

The pieces we find in our memory chest are part and parcels of the who that we have become. If we are lucky enough to be supported through our memoir journey by a writing group, we will be held, nurtured and witnessed in unimaginable ways. Start your memoir journey now, and reap the riches of self-discovery.

Dawn Novotny.jpgDAWN DELISA NOVOTNY, MSW, LCSW, MTS, CDP, CP, is a clinician, teacher, author, spiritual director, and national workshop leader with a private practice in Sequim, Washington. Novotny holds a master’s degree in clinical social work. She completed a post-graduate program in Spiritual Direction sponsored by the Jubilee Community for Justice and Peace and the Vancouver School of Theology. She was an adjunct professor at Seattle University and past instructor at Peninsula Community College. She is a nationally certified psycho-dramatist and completed the advanced Internal Family Systems training in 2004.
Have you considered writing a memoir? The stories and lessons of your life matter — certainly to you, but perhaps also to others who can learn from your experiences. There are tons of resources available to help you with the process of memoir-writing. If you're interested, email me and I'll share some suggestions. In the meantime, consider picking up Dawn's Memoir, Ragdoll Redeemed, available at bookstores and at Amazon.com. Here's the back-cover description of the book; click on the cover image to buy at Amazon:
In 1963, Dawn Novotny was seventeen. She thought God had finally come through for her. Out of nowhere appeared her dashing Prince Charming. Married within three months, she was sure this was redemption for her rag doll beginnings. Though she had lived in the shadow of illegitimacy, poverty, and physical and sexual abuse, she was sure she would prove worthy to her groom. After all, she had remained a virgin. How was she to know that he expected her to be an aggressive sexpot, or “whore,” as he put it, modeled after the persona of his famous stepmother, Marilyn Monroe? Thus began Dawn's ill-fated effort to compete with the sexual image of Marilyn. Divorced after two years, she though of herself as “used goods.” Ironically, she reacted by becoming exactly what Joey had wanted her to be–an alcoholic and a sex object, not only in men's eyes but in her own.

Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me