GUEST BLOG: Jason Joyner, author of Launch

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I’m so excited to host my fellow Little Lamb author Jason Joyner in a guest post today. He just released his debut novel called Launch. It’s a YA superhero book and I must say that my 14-year-old absolutely loved it! Once she started reading, she could not put it down! Here’s a little Q & A about Jason and Launch . . . Why did you choose this genre? I’ve always loved superheroes. I used to daydream about saving the day in elementary school, so it was natural to write about teens getting superpowers. I had pictures of a guy running so fast he burned up his tennis shoes and a girl who could control light but it meant that she couldn’t dye her hair because it kept going blonde. From there Launch started to develop. Are you a science/sci-fi nerd? LOL We prefer “geeks”. I really enjoy science and sci-fi, but I’m not so hard core that I get upset over technical mistakes in movies (unless it is medical, then watch out). I would consider superheroes more on the sci-fi side, but Amazon has it categorized in the “fantasy” side, so go figure. Why did you choose this age group to write for? I wrote an adult suspense novel for my first book, but my writing style was too light for the subject matter. I had read a lot of YA, and decided writing for teens and young adults (and adults who like these books) would be a better fit. Why do kids/preteens need heroes? I’d argue adults need heroes as well. But kids especially need to see that the dragons/villains/monsters out there can be defeated. Whether their obstacles are bullies, family troubles, or school issues, I think kids can see that victory is possible vicariously through hero stories. And of course, the greatest hero of all is Jesus, so all noble, heroic stories echo his victory over death. What makes the heroes in your book (series) special? It may sound cliché, but the teens in Launch who develop supernatural powers are ordinary kids. Demarcus needs to keep buying new shoes because he burns them up running super fast. Lily knows more about social media than her computer industry father, but is depressed by loss in her life. Then when they get the opportunity at the Launch Conference, they must decide what they will do with their gifts. Want to be … Read More

What’s Your Quick Prayer?

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Was today one of those days? Maybe it started earlier than you planned and hasn’t slowed down yet. I know you meant to pray for your sweet babies. But, well . . . life happened . . . I know. Believe me, I know. You don’t always have time to pray for your kiddos like you want. Me, neither! I love to take my coffee out on the back deck and have a nice, long chat with God about life, children and more as the sun rises over the trees. But on some days, I oversleep. I overbook. I’m overwhelmed. That’s when my “quick prayer” comes in handy. Do you have one? My quick prayer is the result of 18 years of boiling down my greatest hopes for my kids for the day and sharing it with God. Every. Single. Day. The cool thing about a quick prayer is that it is so close to your heart that you don’t need your prayer journal . . . you don’t need a lot of time . . . you don’t need to make a big production about it. Simplicity and repetition in prayer is a good thing. Jesus said so! Remember in Matthew 6 when Jesus was teaching us about prayer? “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7 ESV). More words don’t make it better. In fact, The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus gave us as an example was under about 70 words, depending on the translation. So my take away is—keep it simple. Repetition is also pretty important when it comes to praying for your kids. Jesus taught about this, too. “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give … Read More

Letting Go

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When my son Ethan was little he loved to eat. (He still does.) But just one of whatever he wanted—let’s say Oreos—was never enough. So, he’d grab a chocolate and creamy wonder in each of his little palms and hold on tightly. He would not give them up! Then, when I poured a sippy cup full of milk for him, his mind was blown with a hard decision. He wanted the milk bad, but he DID NOT want to set down his cookies to take a drink. He needed both of his hands to properly operate that sippy cup. But what about those precious Oreos? “Ethan,” I’d say. “Just put them here for a minute and take a drink.” The soft curls on his head shook from the force of his repeated and adamant “no.” “Well, Ethan, you have to let go of one thing to get the other.” Wow. Isn’t that the truth of it all? At the time, I didn’t realize the wisdom of the argument. We have to let go of some things to get other things. Sometimes that’s hard. Real hard. Friends move . . . little ones go off to school . . . jobs change . . . children graduate . . . loved ones are gone too quickly . . . it seems we are always letting go. I must admit: I hate change. Just like Ethan, I don’t want to let go! Then I remember Ethan’s solution. He stared at that sippy cup for a minute with brows furrowed. Looked at his two fistfuls of cookies. And without another thought, he shoved both cookies in his mouth and grabbed the cup. Problem solved! The little booger trotted off to his room, cheeks bulging, cup in hand with a smile on his face. He devoured those cookies lickety split, took a long satisfying drink of milk and went back to his Lincoln log adventure. Hmmmm. I guess it wasn’t that tough of a decision after all. I remembered this moment the other day as I lamented life’s changes. Ethan was right. Yes, what I hold in my clenched fist may be precious. But if I hold on too tightly, I’ll miss out. I need to devour it, savor it, let it become a part of me and keep reaching out for that next stage of life God has poured for me. It’ll be good … Read More

Old Wives’ Guide to Birthin’ Babies

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Psssst! Guess what? I recently learned my sweet niece and her husband are having a baby. Woohoo! Now, I would not be a proper Southern auntie without sharing a few tidbits of valuable info. Who needs doctors and modern medicine? Long, long ago when I became a mom, I had the benefit of expert advice from women who had been there and done that. With a wink and a knowing eye, they gave me the scoop on my baby’s sex, hair, and future without the help of ultrasounds, blood tests or bothersome modern technology. Nope. They had a better system—old wives’ tales developed from generations of . . . well, old wives. Now I’m the old wife. So, it is only fitting that I pass on the wisdom. Here ya go . . . no charge. How many children will you have? Boy or girl? The number of bows you break while opening gifts during your wedding shower determine the number of children you have. Watch it! Pluck out a strand of your hair. (Ouch! No one said seeing into the future was painless.) Tie it around your wedding ring and hold it above your palm. The ring will begin to mysteriously swing on its own. If the ring swings in an oval or circular motion that means you will have a girl. If it swings back and forth in a straight line, you will have a boy. Cut an apple in half and count the seeds to determine how many kids you will have. (An apple is so sufficient. You can also determine the letter that begins the first name of your husband by saying the ABCs and twisting the stem until it breaks off at a certain letter.) If your right eye twitches, there will soon be a birth in your family. Conceive on a full moon for a girl, and a quarter moon for a boy. If you carry the baby out front, you are having a girl. If the baby is mostly around your hips and bottom, it is a boy. If the baby rides high, it’s a girl. If it rides low, it’s a boy. Pay attention to those cravings. If you have an appetite for the cheesy or sweet, watch out for a little girl. Salty means a boy controls your taste buds. Acne problems? Are you moody? Get ready for a girl. If … Read More

How to Raise a Prayer Warrior

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If you are a parent, one question is never far from your mind . . . “Am I doing this right?” I know. I’m there, too. When your baby is little, you fret about how you lay them down to sleep, when to say goodbye to the pacifier, and the best method to potty train. As they grow, you worry how quickly they can learn the alphabet or why they don’t pick up their toys. Questioning everything from discipline to rewards continues throughout grade school, the dreaded middle school years, high school and beyond. And that’s OK. It means you care. You want to equip your child to thrive long after you are gone, right? Of course! Well, here’s one tool you can offer your baby to last a life-time: prayer. Equipping your little one to be a prayer warrior is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. The ability to talk to God will give them guidance, comfort, power and so much more when they are no longer in arm’s reach. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Consider these tips to empower your child for a life of prayer. Talk it out. Engage in an ongoing conversation with your child about prayer. “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19). It doesn’t have to be a long, involved lesson every time. Do whatever is appropriate for the age and situation. When they are small, you might talk about the reasons for bedtime prayers or prayer over meals. Share stories from the Bible about people who prayed and how God answered their prayers. Older kids can read and discuss Scriptures about prayer with you. Explain why we pray and when and where we pray as they grow in maturity. When they mention friends or others who might be struggling in life, chat about why it is important to pray for those who are hurting. During family Bible study discuss the different promises concerning prayer found in Scripture. And don’t forget to explore what Jesus said about prayer. Point it … Read More

5 Promises Every Parent Can Cling To In Tough Times

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Your toddler drops to the floor screaming in the store because her brother looked at her.   You walk in the bathroom to see your grade schooler sitting amid clumps of hair, new safety scissors in hand.   Your teen driver returns home with a speeding ticket and excuses.   Parenting is not for the weak of heart, right? No matter what your child’s age or personality, there will be challenges. Maybe you are struggling with even more serious parenting issues. And you may not handle it well all the time. As a mom of three, I sure would like a few “do-overs” here and there.   Thankfully, God’s Word offers a few promises for parents to cling to in the tough times. Here are five of my favorites that I depend on daily!   If you plant seeds of faith in your child, God is faithful.   “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV). What good news! Introducing children to my faith is the most important parent job I have. Whether you read Bible stories, pray with your child, take your kiddo to church regularly or just walk out your faith in front of them, you are planting seeds with eternal impact. Keep going!   God hears prayers about your child (and other stuff, too!).   “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14 NIV). Prayer is every parent’s secret weapon. As parents we can pray about everything from their safety to their friends to their future. Talk to God about your children every day and see how He moves miraculously in their lives. I’ve seen it happen!   God has a great plan for your child.   “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). Throughout Scripture, we learn that God does nothing haphazardly. He has a master plan and your baby boy or girl is part of it. In fact, the Bible also tells us that He has given special talents to your Lovie to carry out that purpose. So cool! Trust in His plan.   God can do a lot with a little.   Remember the … Read More

Guest Blog: Author Amberly Kristen Clowe

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I’m so excited to share a guest blog from my friend Amberly Kristen Clowe, author of the soon-to-be-released Teeny Sweeney and the Mustache Cash. I must admit, I got a sneak early read and LOVED it! I can’t wait to get a copy. (You can order your advance copy online now.) But until then, here’s her Ten Favorite Children’s Books to keep us busy: What a Wonderful World by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss. This book is based on the song by the above lyricists. Many of us can hear Louis Armstrong’s strong, raspy voice in even the title alone. I so enjoy singing this story with my kids at bedtime, and Tim Hopgood’s whimsical illustrations are the perfect compliment to such timeless lyrics. The Bubble Who Would Not Pop! By Shelly Roark Shelly’s book is amazing for many reasons, but the one that is so meaningful to me is the dialogue it prompted from my children. They immediately wanted to discuss God and prayer and the determination of beloved Billy Bubble. When the words of a book do this, you will forever hold them close to your heart. Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson Good ol’ Hank equals childhood to me. I grew up eating this series for breakfast. Erickson’s voice is amazing, full of wit and humor. I’m totally aware that I pretty much picked like fifty books for a single place, but come on. How do I not! Fallen series by Lauren Kate Again, with the series. I am definitely not immune to the swoon that often accompanies YA fiction, and Lauren Kate knows her swoon. This series has such an epic feel. She pulls you in with the characters, and I found myself immediately scrambling to find the next page-turner in the series. Itsy Bitsy Christmas by Max Lucado I love a good Christmas book. Don’t you? And Max Lucado does not disappoint with Itsy and Bitsy in this lovely retelling of the Christmas story but through the eyes of two adorable mice. I cry. Every. Single. Time. The Boy and the Moon by James Christopher Carroll Carroll just seems to get me. When his hilariously quirky animal pals are unable able to save the moon, a boy is so brave and so determined, that only he can save the moon, and with bright, ripe apples, no less! Sigh. The Little Bear series by … Read More

Last-Minute Ideas for Your Class Valentine’s Party

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Two days until the class Valentine’s Day party. You’re hosting it and don’t have a plan! Oh dear! Sound familiar? This was my situation before just about every homeroom holiday party of my children’s elementary school career. And with three kids, I was either a homeroom mom or volunteer quite a few times. I knew the drill. Why did it always catch me off guard? A great mystery. (I think it has something to do with my personality and/or career choice. I thrive on procrastination and hot deadlines.) However, the “night before” mad rush to get Valentine cards, goody bags and party plans together just might have scarred my children a little. I know it did my husband. So . . . why do it, you ask? Hey, just because I was terrible at it didn’t mean I didn’t love it! What a blast to hang out with my kids, and their friends and teachers for happy events. The hugs and high-fives were definitely worth the stress. And along the way, I picked up a few tricks that helped with my procrastinating ways. If you find yourself in charge of a school Valentine Party or a Wednesday night kids’ class at church THIS February 14 (that’s TWO DAYS FROM NOW), here are a few activities that you can pull together at the last minute with minimal stress. I borrowed them from different websites and resources and adapted them for different themes many times: Who doesn’t love a piñata? No time to order a fancy piñata or even run out to the store. You can make one that the kids will love from items in your cabinet. (I did this for more than one holiday class party and it was always a big hit.) Start with a large brown paper bag. Cut strips of tissue paper (red/white/pink for Valentine’s Day). Glue the strips in overlapping lines all around the bag until it sports a new fun, festive, colorful look. Stuff it with candy and roll down the top, stapling to close. Punch holes for the string to hang it up. Don’t forget to grab a stick or long ruler for smacking it and a bandana to cover the hitter’s eyes. Depending on the goodies in the bag and the tissue colors you use, you can make a piñata for Christmas, Halloween or other holidays. A puzzle race . . . calmer, but … Read More

Everyday Heroes

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You see some strange sites in the airport, but this one caught my attention right away. I spotted a young man carrying quite a burden. Not one, but two bags hung from his shoulders. One hand held up a car seat—home to a floppy-eared stuffed rabbit and a pink and purple sippy cup. The other half-dragged, half-carried a collapsed stroller behind him. Here and there a toy peeked out from the folds as it shook and bumped its way down the hall. Occasionally, the heavy-laden man glanced back with a smile and a wink at a woman who followed closely and the giggling cherub she carried. He didn’t seem the least bit concerned that he was juggling an impossible load that looked like it would crash down around him any moment. They continued on in search of gate who-knows-what and I smiled and looked back down at my newsfeed. “What a hero,” I chuckled to myself. Wait a minute. Hero. Absolutely! That’s exactly what he was . . . an everyday kind of hero to his wife and little girl. Here I was reading the latest about men behaving badly when right before my eyes was a man at his best. Enough of the news! Bored and stuck at the airport for a couple of hours, I decided to look for other everyday heroes. Here are a few observations: When I stepped onto the Sky Rail, a tram that speeds around the airport as you hang on for dear life, most of the men automatically stood up, leaving the few seats available for women. Heroes. When a card slipped out of my magazine to the floor, a young man wearing the latest technology on his ears noticed, grabbed it, and returned it to me before I hardly realized it fell. (And he had twice as far to bend down he was so tall!) “Thank you,” I said. “Yes, ma’am.” Yes, ma’am . . . how wonderfully polite! Hero. Two rows up from me on the flight, an elderly man sneezed. A teen nearby with a very suspicious haircut said, “God bless you.” Manners are always a great idea! Hero. As we were preparing to exit the plane, a petite woman struggled to find her carry-on bag in the overhead bins. She wasn’t tall enough to see. However, she didn’t have to wait long before a fellow traveler came to her assistance. … Read More

Oh. My. Word

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Well, 2018 is almost a week old and I don’t have my “word” yet. I’m freaking out a little. As we drew near the end of 2017, friends and wise people I heard on the radio began declaring their word for the year . . . a word they would strive toward, keep in mind when dealing with life issues, and be encouraged by over the next 12 months. What a good idea! I especially liked that it replaces New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve always stunk at that. I could never find just the right Resolution to make my life better. And, when I do, I don’t even make it through 24 hours. I’m weak. Maybe “strength” should be my word! No, that sounds like I might have to lift weights or something. Anyway . . . a word. A single, amazing word. Just one. It needs to be all-encompassing, inspiring, fulfilling. One word huh. Really? Committing to one word is pretty daunting. Ooooh . . . maybe “commitment” should be it! Nah, sounds a little confining. I mean thinking about one word the whole year? A lot of pressure. Meanwhile, others have chosen such great words like “grace,” “joy,” “contentment,” “forgiveness,” and so many more. Should I take one of those? Ugh. I feel like that would be cheating. I must make it my own. (You can’t hear it, but crickets are doing their thing right now.) Three cups of coffee later . . . Why can’t I think of an amazing word? I’m a writer for heaven’s sake! How hard can it be to produce a single, life-changing word? Please understand, I’m not trying to be irreverent. I really have a problem here. My husband always tells me that I’m the most indecisive person in the world. Could he be right about me? Sometimes I think he is . . . sometimes not. Well, he could be. But I don’t think so. Hmmmm. I’ll show him! “Decisiveness” will be my word! Wait. Is that really the best word possible? I might have to make more decisions. I’m getting a headache. As I write this, words and thoughts are popping into my head. Suddenly, an idea that sticks! Why not choose the Word . . . you know, like the Bible? As I ponder it, I’m thinking about the verse “the Word was made flesh” . . . Now that’s … Read More