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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Thankfulness In Shadow and Light

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If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that thankfulness is a manner of being. It’s something you either shroud yourself in, or something you try and pull on like a tight pair of jeans straight out of the dryer. I find the former much easier!

All around me are posts about thankfulness—because at this time of year in the US, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving. I could list a thousand things I’m thankful for—but someone else might not have one of those, and I’d leave them feeling less. And confusing monetary and health advantages with being blessed by God is fraught with issues. So instead of being thankful for singular things, I’m going to encompass them. No…that’s not cheating!

The other day, outside of my bible study class (Bible Study Fellowship—if you’ve never attended, you need to!), I was waiting for my friend to pull her car up for our ride home. The sun, having been in hiding for well over a week, blazed down, blinding us all.

As I waited, enjoying the musky smell of fall leaves and wet bark dust heating in the sun, a grandmother walked by, holding the hand of her sweet toddler grandson. As soon as they left the shade of the building, the little one grabbed his face, covering his eyes from the blinding light. She gently pulled away one of his hands and led him from the building, across the parking lot.

His free pudgy hand still clumsily covered his clenched eyes, and she smiled down lovingly at him, encouraging him on with her kind tones, leading him. He didn’t peek in between those fingers. He didn’t pull back and ask what she thought she was doing leading him into traffic without his being able to see. He didn’t panic. He just toddled along, his hand in hers, completely trusting grandma to take him wherever he needed to be.

I was immediately reminded of the lesson I’ve been learning in Bible study (on my own and this class): God is completely trustworthy. Not only when I can see where I’m going. Not only when I’ve got an inkling of the future—but always. Even when I’m blinded by my circumstances. Especially then, I’d say.

So that’s what I’m thankful for most of all. My Father’s hand leading me and drawing me, with love in His eyes, compassion in His touch, and gentleness in His voice. He never lets me go.

The happiest of Thanksgivings to you and yours!

Psalm 139:9-12 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (complete passage here)

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Another Brand New Year

579297_3776472893353_1699285100_nWe’re wrapping up the old year and bringing in another brand new year. Goodbye 2014. You were a challenge to me. I had some of my greatest writing achievements (a second book published, up for some awards, won an honorary award) this year. I also faced a long bout of multiple illnesses–it was a very hard spring and summer.

People I’m close to faced some pretty unimaginable trials last year–many are carrying on into the new year. I’d like to say tomorrow is a brand new day with no problems in it–that it really is altogether new and spotless, that being a new year carried some guarantees of wellness and will be trouble free. But I can’t. This new year will have high points and low for everyone I know. But I take comfort we can face anything if we’re trusting in the Lord.

In my prayer time recently, I began to feel uneasy. Some of the things I’ve been praying for a very long time. Was I praying right? Did I have the right words, the right faith, the right posture? Was my heart right, my intentions good enough? At that point I was reminded that I could never pray right enough to convince God of anything. You see, I’m imperfect. I sometimes have selfish motives. I can’t see the big picture like God does (who planned our Lord’s birth over thousands of years down to the last detail). I don’t know if removing a trial from a loved one’s life will, in the end, be a detriment instead of what God intended using it for (drawing them closer to Him usually figures in that equation). In fact, when it came down to it, I didn’t know anything at all. Well, except one thing–these circumstances I prayed for, they all needed God’s hand of strength, of peace, of patience, of healing. The details were not up to me, they were up to Him.

Jesus said to pray. I pray. Jesus said to ask for whatever I need in His name. I do. He also prayed the night before his arrest and conviction: “Not my will but Yours be done. *

That removes a lot of pressure, doesn’t it? At the end of us and our ideas of how things should be, it’s enough to pray, “Not my will but Yours be done.” I know I can pray that with all confidence because I trust Him. I know His attributes: He is the God of love, of mercy, of strength, of peace, of comfort, of provision.

Trust comes in every relationship as intimacy deepens. You share, they share; you listen, they listen; you’re there for them, and they are there for you.

Do you trust in the One who hears our prayers? If you’ve never given your life to Jesus, if you’ve never admitted your sin and need of Him and asked Him into your heart, then that first step of intimacy is missing from your life. You’ll never learn to trust Him if you’ve never met Him. Relationship with Him begins with that simple prayer.

But then it goes on. It has to or you’ll never get to know Him the way He’d like you to. Think of it this way: It’d be as if I met you on the street, we had an amazing bonding experience, and then you never spoke to me again.

I pray this new year will be full of blessings, but especially full of intimacy with our Lord. I pray for Him to work out His full, perfect will in your life.

* Verses used Luke 22:42 John 15:7 Luke 11

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God Of Wonder–Thankfulness

Tree3I’m always struck by the offerings of gratitude and thankfulness at this particular time of year. In the US we’re readying for Thanksgiving, a day we ponder and feel thankful for all the gifts and blessings we have received in our lives. In Christian homes, there is prayer and thanksgiving to God for these gifts. This makes sense to me–being thankful in general to a non-sentient universe (as the media portrays thankfulness) always leaves me wanting.

I enjoy reading daily posts of what people are thankful for on Facebook as they take a daily census: their God, their family, their freedoms, their health, their abilities. All in all, good things. I’m also thankful for other things: struggles, obstacles, hardships, because through these things I am learning what it means to persevere. I’ve learned that the Lord is my strength (truly) and my shield. I have learned He is my protector, my King, my worthy Savior.

I love this time of year, when the mountains are emboldened around me turning golden, red and orange. I gaze in wonder as the sun blazes bright through the last lingering leaves on the maples outside, striking my window and filling my bedroom with the warmth of color and heat before winter arrives full-force. I open my living room window and watch the wild finches flitting from branch to branch, scrambling for seed we’ve left outside as they prepare for cooler temperatures. Their lilting chirping sounds full of expressions of contentment—and sometimes warnings when the scrub jays arrive unannounced—fill my spirit with sweetness.

Today, I’m thankful especially for nature, for God’s fingerprints on creation that remind me of His appreciation of beauty, His authorship of our world, His mighty love for us.

Psalm 100: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.Enter his gates with thanksgiving,and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good;his steadfast love endures forever,and his faithfulness to all generations.

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This Land Is Your Land

30011-2Happy (nearly) 4th of July! I’m feeling very introspective today. Do you ever have those days when memories  just kind of hang around you like a cozy cloak?

When I was a kid, I’d spend the summers with my dad1 and mom2 in Idaho. Most of the time, July 4th would come as part of that visit. We’d often go into town (a 45 min drive or so-my folks lived in the sticks…er…country) and watch the parade. Floats would all reflect local businesses and this one guy with about a hundred Corvettes in his collection would have them all driven through town. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it seemed like a hundred! Then we’d go home for our meal and company. My mom2 would make all kinds of yummy food, she’d set out all the 4th decorations and we’d usually have friends over. In the evening, though, we’d drive into town once again, park near a baseball field and lay out blankets for the show. If felt like the whole countryside turned out. There was this all-inclusive feel. We’d see people we knew, we’d visit for a while. I remember heat and mugginess. And killer mosquitoes.  As the night fell, and the sky darkened, people would tune their radios to the same channel and patriotic music would play as the pyrotechnician (read crazy folks who may or may not have been professionally trained) set off fireworks.

The part that most sticks in my memory, though, is the bonus show. More often than not, God would show up for the fireworks. Or, at least, that’s what it felt like to me. The clouds would roll in, and off in the distance, we start to see another kind of show. One of lightening, and as it got closer, booming thunder. Bright lights would flash against the silhouetted backdrop of the surrounding mountains like a ginormous flashlight being flicked on and off in rapid succession. It would grow closer, but not dangerously so *usually*. It was just enough to create drama, excitement, and cool the air down a bit. The techs would light off the finale and we’d scream and cheer. Sometimes the rain would come–or hail, and we’d all drive home. On the years when the storm was missing, I always felt a bit cheated. And lonely.

I’m reminded that Romans 1:20 says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

What special things did your family do for the 4th? Or for my international readers, your national holiday celebration? I’d love it if you’d share a memory below. I hope you feel the Lord closely this celebration, thanking Him for the freedoms we have, and praying He’ll continue to hold us all tightly in His mighty hands as He continues to reveal Himself to us.

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