April McGowan

Wonderfully Made by author Danika Cooley

9781781916780Most of you know I’m a homeschooling parent. Being such, I’ve read a lot of books over the years. I’ve read several age-appropriate books on conception with my children over the years. I have to say this is one of my favorites. It reinforces what a gift from God our kids are. I wish all children knew that deep sense of love the Father has for them and that they would carry it with them through their whole lives. If you have young people in your lives, please order this book. You can find it HERE on Amazon 
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1. What inspired you to write Wonderfully Made?
One of my kids’ favorite stories has always been the story of how God formed each of them in the womb, how they’re special and loved, and how anticipated their births were. They loved hearing about the day of their birth. I wanted moms in other families to be able to share that story with their children using science, Scripture, and beautiful illustrations.
  
2. What was your main goal in writing Wonderfully Made? 
I want children to understand that they’re individually and purposefully created by a loving God, and that there is a second birth into the Kingdom of Heaven available to them. Each child is unique and special, and each is loved dearly not only by their parents, but also by their Father in Heaven.
I also want a new generation of children to grow up understanding the marvelous truth of what happens in the womb, and when it happens. I want them to know what Scripture says about life in the womb–both the creation of life and the existence of life.Both of those goals were heavy on my heart while writing Wonderfully Made, and I’m overjoyed to see the book available to families around the world.
3. Which part of researching Wonderfully Made was the most personally interesting to you?
Did you know that a baby’s heart starts beating at four weeks? That’s actually two weeks after conception. By eight weeks, six weeks after conception, all of the organs–other than the lungs–are working! And babies dream in the womb three months before they’re born. How amazing is that? Learning about the development of babies in the womb was so much fun for me. I also loved going through the Scripture that talks about life in the womb.
4. What are you reading right now? What authors (living or dead) have influenced you most?
Right now, I’m reading Everyday Grace by Jessica Thompson, Pitchin’ A Fit by Israel and Brook Wayne, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, and the Gospels. Reading is definitely one of my favorite parts of my work–I read about a book a week for reviews, books with my boys, and bigger works on the side.
5. What was the book that most influenced your life — and why?
I was definitely a bookworm growing up, and I read everything I could get my hands on–some good, some not-so-good. This may sound cliche, but the book that has most influenced my life has been (and continues to be) the Bible. I’ve read it through many times, studied it, and it’s changed me. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God’s Word never returns void, that it accomplishes what He purposed it for. It has certainly changed me.
I also love reading biographies about Christians that have gone before us. I find it so encouraging to see how God has worked in and through their lives. I also find it really interesting to read their writings–it helps me get outside of my 21st century American bias when I’m thinking through issues with Christian living and theology.
 
6. Do you have a certain writing space, somewhere you go “just” to write your books? An office, a lake cabin, a hotel? What do you love about that space? How does it inspire you?
We have a library that I love to work in late at night, after everyone is asleep. It’s nice to be surrounded by biographies and great works while writing. Also, I just really love the room–it’s filled with artwork my kids have done, and we’ve stuffed little mementos into the open spaces on the bookshelves.
 
7. Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing a book?
I love writing. Research can sometimes be tedious or overwhelming, but it’s worthwhile to commit to researching well. I think it makes the story so much richer (and more accurate). 
 
8. Did you always have a talent for writing, or is it something you wanted and needed to work harder to achieve?
I’ve always loved to write. That said, writing is a craft, and like any skill, it needs to be developed with practice, and through criticism and study. I’ve studied writing, I read widely, and I’ve had a lot of excellent input from some amazing editors and writers.  
 
9. With all of the duties that you juggle, when do you fit in the time to write?
For me, finding time to write is the same as finding time to exercise, eat, or sleep. I consider it a necessity, so I work hard to make time for it. I’ve also sacrificed other activities to fit it in. I don’t watch television, I prioritize my time, and I often write when I might otherwise be sleeping. 
 
10. Is your writing style different now than it was when you first began? In what ways have you grown in your writing?
I think it’s taken me time to find my voice and hone my skills, and I suspect that I will continue to improve as a writer–we always get better at the things we practice. 
 
11. How did you get your start in writing/getting published?
I attended a writing conference for beginners at a local Christian college six and a half years ago. A children’s author graciously sat down with me and explained what I needed to do to write for children, and directed me to a local writer’s organization. I began attending conferences with Oregon Christian Writers four times a year, and writing for Christian children’s magazines. My first acceptance letter came three months after that first conference.
 
12. What do you recommend for others who are getting started?
It’s a good idea to find a local writer’s organization and learn about the business. I think writing for magazines is a clarifying process, which I highly recommend. Also, if you want to reach people for Christ, writing for magazines can really extend that reach. 
 
13. What would you say to a young person who aspires to be a writer? What advice would you give? Also, what would you tell his/her parents in order to help them be supportive in their child’s efforts to pursue writing as a career?
The most important thing you can do is learn how to write. It’s also important to learn about the industry. Find writer’s conferences and workshops, attend, take notes, and really learn from the authors there. Don’t let rejection letters stop you–just keep working on your craft. I’d also suggest finding a mentor–someone who is already writing for publication–and humbly following their advice. Also, read widely. Read many genres, from different time periods. Practice writing, but as you do, think about what you’d like to say, and who you’d like to say it to.  
 
14. Would your advice be any different for an adult who would like to break into the business? How?
My agent, Chip MacGregor, always says a successful writer should have great writing, a great idea, and a great platform (the people who read your work, or listen to you speak). It’s important to work on all three.
As far as platform goes, serve your readership. For my Christian friends, really work unto the Lord and glorify Him in all you do. He is sovereign over all things, and will open the doors He wants opened.
Really, writing professionally is a lot of work, but it’s also a great opportunity to communicate, to practice your craft, and to get to know some amazing people. I feel humbled and blessed to be writing professionally.
15. What else do you want readers to know? Consider your likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies, your favorite ways to relax — whatever comes to mind.
I love to play board games with my kids, hike, paint (I majored in art), garden, and cook. I love my family, and I feel so blessed to be able to spend time with them. I homeschool my younger two, and that’s just a gift. Teaching children about the Bible, theology, and Christian history is my passion–I hope to be a lifelong student, and a lifelong teacher.
Author Bio:
Danika Cooley is a married mother of four, a grandmother, a blogger, a curriculum developer, and a writer. She homeschools her two youngest children in Oregon. Danika’s three year Scripture survey for preschool to high school, Bible Road Trip, is used across the globe.  Website:   ThinkingKids
Connect with Danika here:

 

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A Psalm a Night – Journal Through the Bible

Journal through the Bible

20160322_080551-1I’ve kept a journal for years (my favorite are the Leuchtturm 1917 for paper quality and construction). I would jot down my rambling thoughts, things that had happened throughout the day and finish with a prayer time. Before I sit down to write anything on my blog or on my latest novel, I always prayer journal. I want to make sure my motives are right, my words come from a place of honesty and point back to the Word Himself. Writing is my prayer language. I know for some it’s worship music and singing; for others, their prayers are spoken aloud; for another, theirs are quiet and said mentally. There’s no one way to pray, just as there’s not one right way to carry on a conversation. As long as we come humbly and respectfully, it’s all good. God calls us all into a relationship with Him–and we can’t go further in that relationship if we don’t spend time with Him. It’s like I’ve taught my kids: how well do you think you’d know me if we only spent five minutes or less a day together? Not very well. How much more does God want to know you and want you to know Him? You’ve got to spend time with each other to do that.

About ten months ago, I felt the Lord calling me to get to know Him on a deeper level. Reflecting on a couple Bible studies I’d done where I’d copied the chapter of the Bible being studied, I thought that would be a good way to refocus my journal ramblings. So after much prayer, I began with the book where the authors were praying, singing, and crying out to the Lord in very honest and transparent ways: Psalm. Who wrote the Psalms? The most prolific author was David, who wrote over 75. The rest were penned by Asaph, The sons of Korah, Solomon, and Moses.

Little did I know, this would begin a new kind of prayer life for me. Since that first night in June 2015, I’ve filled some five journals, and just ordered my sixth. I would write a whole Psalm, if not too long. If it went over six verses, I’d break it up. The point wasn’t to rush through, but rather meditate on the words, the author, their intent and getting to know the heart of God on a more intimate level.

Have you ever watched a movie where the actors have a significant accent and walked way with you using that accent? Writing does that, too. And as I copied the Psalms, I found myself praying in the tonePsalm 6 2 to 9 of the author–and of the ultimate Author of them all. I learned how much our Father wants to hear from the depths of our hearts, how He longs for us to cry out to Him and rejoice with Him in a beautiful synchronicity of petition and worship.

I’m a lover of taking verses that mean something deeper to me and applying them to photos and keeping them on my phone for study and easy access. So, as I went, I made note of those. Before I knew it, I had so many I had trouble keeping track of them and was running out of memory on my phone, so I made a Pinterest page to gather them in one spot. Check them out here April’s Pinterest. Feel free to download them and save them to your phone.

Psalm 1

Since I began this journey with my Bible studies, I’ve copied James, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Now with my prayer journal, I’ve copied the Psalms, Ephesians and I’m currently prayer journaling through Philippians and Revelations (concurrently with a study I’m doing through Bible Study Fellowship). Through this, I’m getting to know the Lord on a deeper level, and see Him in yet another dimension of personality and intimacy than ever before.

Psalm 112 6 to7

Have you ever journaled through the Bible? What was your experience like? Did you keep up the habit of spending time regularly with your Lord? I’ve only missed once because of illness in the past ten months. This wasn’t out of a mundane routine–but because this time with Him has become so special to me. I find myself turning to Him more through the day, staying in that place of communication and worship so much easier than before. Because the more time I spend with Him, the more time I need to spend with Him. The more time I want to spend with Him.

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Fighting For Rest

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Fighting For Rest

For the past few months I’ve been learning to rest. Or fighting for rest. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference!

Our society teaches us to fight. Fight for freedom. Fight for your rights. Fight illnesses. The best publicized battles have to do with cancer. Having that positive attitude of overcoming with cancer can oftentimes make the difference between life and death for the patient. It’s good advice. However, resting is also good advice, so your body can recover.

Rest is not looked upon positively in the US. We’re to push through, get stuff done, and overcome. But you can’t overcome chronic illness. There’s no cure. There’s no end. So, what do you do with that???

There’s not a lot of advice out there for the chronically ill. When all the info out there says FIGHT and push through and your body can’t do that then fighting is often counterproductive.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean roll into a ball and give up. I mean not forcing yourself to keep going when you know you shouldn’t. Not fighting against your shell. Against your illness. Against your limitations.

Fighting is Hard Work

Fighting, mentally and physically, taxes your energy reserves. When you are chronically ill, you only have a small allotment of energy every day–and there’s no daily consensuses on what that amount is. You could do four small tasks. You could do one big task. You might not be able to do any. For days.

But if you are fighting, you will do less. Trust me. I’m living it.

So for the past couple months I’ve been laying low. I’m recovering from years of this battle. I’m learning to rest. Which strangely enough also takes a fair amount of mental energy. Because at first, it felt like giving up. At first it felt like quitting. At first it felt like losing. Lazy. Worthless. Nothing. Sometimes it still does.

Lies.

I’m learning to let things go that don’t matter. I’m worrying less about other people’s expectations.

I’m still working on my own self-expectations. An ongoing theme of this blog! That’s a tough one. That’s harder than everyone else’s expectations all put together. But I’m getting there. I might never arrive–baby steps! This has taken a lot of prayer. A lot of submission. A lot of reliance on the Lord.

Do you know what I’ve learned? Sometimes it’s harder to NOT FIGHT than to fight.

I thank the Lord that He’s there, guiding this process and as I lean on Him, I’m learning more about His amazing providence, His loving supply for all my needs, and His wonderful grace.

Through Him, I can do abundantly more and less.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (read here)

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