Tingling all over with the announcement of the second book in my Status Updates series, It's Over, releasing April 19!
Book cover for the sequel to It's Complicated, It's Over. Photograph by Kelci Alane Photography. Cover Design by Angela Llammas.
HOW CAN YOU MOVE ON WHEN IT'S OVER?
When four college roommates lose pieces of their lives, the pain isolates and the tension rises. Emotions are hard to hide and even harder to tackle. How can the girls move forward, when there is so much pain in letting go? Together, Claire, Kat, Palmer and Hannah learn to lean on God and each other, and through it all they learn loss is a part of life."In It's Over, Laura L. Smith confirms the truth we've been told that we are never alone in the midst of heartache and struggle. In fact, she takes us to a place where we not only get to see, but feel deeply the truth of the fact that every single one of us has a story. Every single one of has experienced pain. But more importantly, that every single one of us has great hope. Laura L. Smith's writing strikes a deep chord in my heart. It makes sense. It's real--and in my opinion, that transparency makes all the difference." ~Holly Starr, Christian recording artist
"Laura Smith speaks for the broken. With a voice that’s warm and true, Laura gives words to those rendered speechless by issues that high school and college girls should never have to deal with—but so many of them do. In writing that’s raw, relevant, and real, Smith goes where few authors dare to go: straight into the heart of today’s young woman." ~Amy Parker, bestselling author of Courageous Teens
"YA author, Laura L. Smith crafts another story that will appeal to all girls, because no one is untouched by heartache in all its forms. The grace Smith extends the four girls in It's Over will touch readers in deep ways, as they follow these characters through some of the worst parts of life. Best of all, they'll cheer when the girls lean on one another and find ways to be thankful in everything. This is a fantastic read, one that will resonate with teens, college girls and their mothers." ~Laura Kurk, author of Glass Girl
Celebrate EVERYLOVE heart on Starbucks coupon
I got this coupon from Starbucks last week and I keep carrying it around with me. Not because I want a Mocha, well actually I do, but because I love the idea of celebrating EVERYLOVE.
I know on Valentine’s Day we lean towards the romantic kind of love. But love is such a loaded word there are actually five distinct words for “love” in Greek.
I love this adorable hamster, but which kind of love would that qualify as?
I love God, my husband, my children, writing, in that order. But I love so many things. My list could ramble on like L.L. Cool J. introducing the Grammys. I love baking chocolate chip cookies and speaking French. I love listening to acoustic guitar and running in the rain. I love sipping dark roast coffee, wearing stacks of clanking silver bracelets and wiggling my toes on a sandy beach. And of course, I love you. I love you because the words of a writer are meaningless without someone to read them. So as is my tradition dear readers, I give you my annual Valentine’s gift – a recipe for something sweet and lovely that will hopefully make you smile.
Make these easy cheesecake cookie squares for someone you love (that can include you)
CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE SQUARES
1 (20 oz.) package Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough (for a gluten free version, prepare one package Betty Croker GF chocolate chip cookie mix according to directions, but do not put on pan or bake - yet)
3 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese
½ cup heavy cream
1-cup Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips (save the rest of the bag for snacking)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line 10x15” pan with foil and spray with cooking spray (like Pam)
3. Press cookie dough into pan and spread to cover
4. Bake 8 minutes
5. While baking cookie dough, mix cream cheese, sugar, eggs and cream in a bowl for about 5 minutes on medium speed with electric mixer.
6. When cookie crust is baked, spread with cream cheese mixture and bake 25 minutes longer.
7. Cool to room temperature.
8. Melt chocolate chips in microwave and drizzle with fork across top of dessert.
9. Refrigerate for at least four hours to set.
10. Share, eat, serve, and smile.
What’s something you love?
A rainbow streaking through the Smoky Mountains helps me slow down and be thankful.
There’s a scene in the movie, The Dead Poet’s Society, where the English teacher at an all boys’ high school asks his students to stand on top of their desks. Some boys pounce toR the flat surface, eager to do something quasi against the rules. Others hesitate. Why? Because they aren’t used to standing on their desks.
Have you ever stood on the top of your desk?
The purpose of the exercise is to get his students to look at things in a new way, to gain a different perspective.
This week of Thanksgiving, I’m doing just that, gaining a different perspective.
I’m on top of Rumbling Bald Mountain in North Carolina. My Internet service is spotty, there isn’t a Starbucks within an hours drive and I have a cold. Nothing serious, but the kind where it feels like my head is stuffed with cotton balls. Everything sounds muffled, tastes a bit bland, smells slightly metallic and my energy is low. But, I’m thankful, well except for the Starbucks part.
I’m out of my routine – off track – on top of my desk.
So, I’m sitting more. Gazing at the sky, listening to the laugher of my family and drinking home brewed coffee.
Since I’ve been on my trip I’ve stared at a rainbow, bright and daring, as if God grabbed a handful of Crayola markers and sliced right through the sky with a burst of color. I’ve gazed at zillions of stars, dazzling bright and white through the vast blackness of night. I’ve watched the sunset, which is more like a swirl of colorful clouds dancing around the mountain peeks. As I write this as 2:33 in the afternoon, I see the moon peeking out early. I’m up so high; I feel like if I stretched just a little further, I could grab it.
“If we want to stay on the road to faith, we have to hit the brakes, pull over to a rest area and stop.” Michael Yaconelli
In my typical day, my busy schedule I am productive and healthy and happy, but if I do the same thing everyday, all the time, I miss out on some of God’s beauty, His gifts. And in the midst of missing His creation, I also miss the chance to say, ‘thanks’.
This year I am thankful for a cold, and a view not from the top of the desk, but from the top of a mountain. Because I have no emails or tweets or Facebook to distract me, because my cold forces me to take things slowly, because I’m up where things look different, I’m gaining a different, deeper perspective. And I am thankful.
How about you? What are you thankful for this year?
Glasses on an eye exam chart, showing in and out of focus letters of the alphabet.
75% of the United States wears either contacts or glasses, including me.
Most of us struggle to see the world we live in more clearly, sharper, brighter.
I had an eye check up last week, you know the kind where they dilate your pupils with drops and everything is blurry for hours and hours afterwards? It was that kind.
Due to the dilation drops, I spent the rest of the day wishing I could see more clearly. I wished my computer screen wasn’t so bright, so I could write the chapter I’d been plotting for my new manuscript. I wished the words in the book I’m reading weren’t so blurry. I wished I could respond to an email, flip through my latest copy of In Style or even get some early Christmas shopping done online. But nothing smaller than a chocolate chip cookie would come into focus.
How often do I wish I could see God’s plan for me, His vision of me, the way He sees the world -- better, sharper, brighter, more in focus? But sometimes His ways are too bright for me to stare into. Sometimes His plans for me are too far away for me to see clearly. Sometimes, I let the lens of the world distort and twist God’s vision, His plans. So, I beg for clarity like the blind men outside of Jericho:
“Master, we want our eyes opened. We want to see!” Deeply moved, Jesus touched their eyes. They had their sight back that very instant, and joined the procession. Matthew 20: 33-34
When I pray, when I actually lean on Him to see how things truly are, I get my sight back. Not always the way I want things to look, like no writing after my eye doctor appointment, even though that’s what I’d planned. But always something amazing, like the wonderful phone call I had with my mom instead.
Lord, I really need to stop right now
Stop now and focus on you
Even with the chaos all around
Stop now and focus on you.
“Focus” by Holly Starr
When friends, magazines, TV shows, work, and other worldly voices try to fill our eyes with drops of advice and expectations and pressures to dilute His view of us, all we have to do is call out, “I want to see!” and everything comes back into focus.
How has God helped you see something more clearly this week?
Neon bracelets glowing in the dark.
Saturday night I went to a glow in the dark party. Long story, but suffice it to say I came home wearing one of those fluorescent bracelets – you know the kind when you pop and crack the plastic tube, a mysterious glowing liquid fills the chamber in either hot pink, cool blue, acid orange or neon yellow.
I was tired. It had been a full week, a cram-packed week, and although I managed to remove my mascara, brush my teeth with minty paste and run my Clarisonic over my face before falling asleep, I did not take off the bracelet.
In the middle of the night I woke to an enormous thud. My subconscious tugged me semi-awake for a second to make sure everything was okay. And as my brain registered the loud thump was only a particularly heavy walnut falling from our tree onto our roof, I saw through fluttering eyes my glowing wrist. It surprised me. I’d forgotten about it. Yet, the bracelet still glowed, still cast a lovely soft pink light about my room.
Did you have a nightlight as a child? I did. It was shaped like a little wooden birdhouse. A colored bulb sat inside like an egg. When my parents thought I outgrew my nightlight and threw it away, I switched to sleeping with my closet light on. There is something extremely comforting about a light in the midst of darkness.
My sleepy brain, comforted by my cozy covers, the realization that I was safe and my built in neon nightlight bracelet turned to the permanent nightlight that is with me wherever I go – Jesus.
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
Jesus is my comforting light in the midst of darkness. He is the One who reassures me that the loud noise is only a nut, that the to dos on my list don’t all have to get to done today, that no one else’s opinion of me matters except for His, that I will always be safe in His loving, capable arms. Even when my eyes are closed to Him. Even when my brain has tuned Him out or temporarily forgotten all that He is and all that He offers, He shines on.
But unlike the glow of the neon bracelet that had fizzled out by the middle of Sunday afternoon, Jesus’ light never goes out. Ever. No matter how jarring the bumps and thumps of life, no matter how dark our nights. He is always there, providing His soft, peaceful glow of love. All we have to do is open our eyes, for just a moment, to see Him and remember He is there.
Have you ever had a nightlight? What did it mean to you? I’d love to hear.
Roses my six-year old picked for me, giving me the best driving lesson of all.
The trickiest moment for me each day is pulling into my garage. Due to some optic issues (three eye surgeries as a child) I have no depth perception. Both sides of the garage seem to be closing in on me, or maybe they’re really far away – impossible to say. After nine years of driving my old car, I’d figured out the angle to head in, the timing of turning my wheel, the exact second to rotate the steering wheel counterclockwise to straighten out. But my trusty Mazda finally gave up, and I got a new one.
After enjoying all the fun new gadgets of a new car for four weeks (like heated seats on a chilly morning and being able to stream all my favorite tunes from my iPod through my speakers) I heard the noise - the sickening, shrill scraping, sound of metal on wood. I felt the pressure of the car against the frame of the garage as if it were pushing directly into my chest. And in this instant I was frozen, but I couldn’t stay there. I could not leave the car half in and half out.
How often in life do I get stuck – halfway between happy and sad, between starting and finishing, between resentment and forgiveness, between selfishness and selflessness, between letting go and holding on, between doing it for my good or for the good of God’s kingdom? Frozen in place, afraid to move forward or back.
If I pulled out, my car would scratch and smash its way out of its predicament. If I pulled forward I would scrape and bang my way in. Either way was guaranteed to cause even more damage. Yet I was forced to move.
Sometimes moving can be more intimidating than getting stuck.
I pulled the car the rest of the way into the garage, cringing as the wood continued to gouge my car’s side. Once in park, my kiddos jumped out to play in the yard, and I disembarked to assess the damage. Thick white streaks of garage paint scarred the black shiny veneer of my new vehicle. But I was safe. My kids were safe. The car still ran. And, I was no longer stuck.
While I was examining the scratches, my six-year old son came running to my side. He held three spectacular ruby red roses, sweet and fragrant. “These are for you, Mama.” He smiled.
Most of my life I’m driving along, happy, busy, content. But, when I’m wedged halfway between where I was and where I’m supposed to go, do I put 100% of my faith in Him? Am I willing to grind a little more, scrape my sides, take another gouge or two, sacrifice some time or comfort or success to get out of life’s traps?
If I come out of a mess with a few scars, isn’t that okay? Isn’t the important thing that I come out holding God’s hand?
Pulling my son close and feeling his warm little body in mine, I remembered what truly matters. Not cars. Not my ability to park or drive, not my determination to do things my way, to stay where I’m comfortable or to cave into the in-between.
When the going gets tough, sometimes it takes a few more scratches to come out of that tight spot. But once out, there is safety and peace and beauty and love. These lyrics from Holly Starr’s song, “My Cry” are the perfect prayer in these moments. “I will not stay here anymore. I’m not the way I was before. I need your strength. I need your help, Oh Lord.”
What do you need to grind out today to pull through the place where you’re stuck?
Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker Lego figures battling with light sabers.
Is there anyone in your life who makes you angry? You don’t want them to. You wish they wouldn’t. But either because of something they’ve done to you or someone you care about, they make you cringe or cry or both.
The answer for me is yes. There is someone in my life who loved me and betrayed me. Someone who cared for me and emotionally battered me. There is someone who has scarred one of the people I love most in this world, and in turn hurt me. I struggle with this. I pray about this, but I continue to tussle with this relationship. Jesus teaches us to love one another. So I try to continue to love despite the hurt and the fear of being hurt again. Jesus says to forgive someone seven times seventy times. So I try to forgive, but the memories still haunt me and the scars still ache.
While reading Everything by Mary De Muth I came across a passage that challenged me. It made me stop reading and get up and doodle around on Facebook. Not because her words made me think of a friend I needed to touch base with, but because I wasn’t ready to face what these words meant to me.
“In that painful space, we have a choice: punish those who hurt us through control, or lay our hurt at the feet of the One who understands. Our task shouldn’t be punishing the villains in our lives, but enlarging the God who heals us from all wounds.” Mary De Muth
Most of us are familiar with the Star Wars story. In the final episode Luke Skywalker faces his father, Darth Vader. Darth used to be a powerful Jedi fighting for good in the galaxy. Greed for power turned him into an evil leader using “the force” for wickedness. Luke has reason to be angry. Vader’s boss, Emperor Palpatine, urges Luke while watching this confrontation in Return of the Jedi, “Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.”
Sounds like someone else I know. Someone nagging in my head, urging me to cave to anger to make bad choices, hoping I’ll turn away from Christ, the force, which brings me life and love. I find solace and strength in Luke Skywalker’s response.
“Never. I'll never turn to the Dark Side. You've failed, your highness. I am a Jedi.” Luke lowers his blade and chooses love.
Do I have the strength to say it?
“Never. I’ll never turn to the dark side. Satan – you’ve failed. I am a Christian.”
Wow. That feels good. Just typing it here with you today. If you’re feeling gutsy say it out loud.
In Holly Starr’s song, I Love You Anyway, she sings, “There will be times I remember the things that you’ve done to me. But I will choose love and forgive you for everything.”
Words to live by. Choose love.
May God’s force be with you.
Two boys playing violin outside San Luca in Bologna, Italy
I’m a planner, an organizer, and a calendar maker extraordinaire. I have four kids, which means a fun-filled crazy, busy life. If I don’t stay on top of all the practices, assignments, to-dos and errands they crawl on top of me, and smother me.
However, despite all of my color-coding and lists, I have to remember that I am not the one in control.
On a family trip to Italy we needed to check out of our apartment in Florence prior to the proprietor’s arrival to make our train to Venice on time. We dutifully took out our trash, stripped our sheets and dropped our keys in the drop box.
We rolled our suitcases thumpety-thump down the cobblestone streets to the metro, took the metro to the train station and boarded our train, surprised to see an entire class of Italian school children filling our car and our seats. I spoke with a lovely teacher whose English was even worse than my Italian. We exchanged tickets, but couldn’t figure out how we all had the same seat assignments. Together we searched for a conductor, who just as the train began its departure told us to sit tight. We’d sort it all out en route.
We situated ourselves in corners and nooks, plugged in our ear buds and flipped through books until about an hour into the ride when the conductor came to punch the tickets I’d ordered months ago on the Eurorail website.
“Ecco.” Here you go. I presented ours to him, proud of my Italian expression.
He shook his head with a sneer. “These are for tomorrow.”
“Today is Wednesday. These are for Thursday.” He said briskly, not feeling my panic, my pain, and my well-executed plans in a tangle.
“How- how could that be?” The words tumbled from my mouth. My brain churned. He pointed to the date on the tickets, which were indeed for the next day. I grabbed my travel file and frantically flipped through the itineraries. I turned to my hubby and gasped in a stressed whisper, “How did this happen? I don’t understand? Where will we stay in Venice tonight? We’ll be a day early.”
“You cannot continue to Venice.” The conductor’s voice was freakishly flat for an Italian.
Silently he pulled out his calculator and typed in seemingly hundreds of numbers. Eventually he turned the display to me. “This is your fine for riding the train without a proper ticket. You must depart at the next stop - Bologna. You may use your ticket tomorrow to get you from Bologna to Venice.”
A lengthy list of questions from me to the train worker didn’t clear up any of my concerns. The fine was enormous. We knew no one in Bologna and had no hotel booked for our four children, my mom and ourselves. We’d forfeited a prepaid night in Florence. Not to mention the blow to my ego that I’d majorly botched our travel plans and let my family down!
My stomach was like a pulverized pizza. My face hotter than the Tuscan sun. My hands shook like our train car on rickety tracks.
We paid our fine, gathered our group and got off the train in Bologna, the beautiful city of Bologna, home of robust spaghetti alla Bolognese, one of the oldest Universities in Europe, an active political community and ancient basilicas.
In Bologna we stayed in the nicest hotel of our trip, complete with luxury air conditioning and an all you could eat breakfast buffet piled high with Italian pastries and made to order cappuccino. We witnessed a heated protest by impassioned university students, noshed on zesty pizza margarita (for a fraction of a price of what we paid for it in Florence) strolled through the historic university and visited the crowning jewel, San Luca.
San Luca, named for Saint Luke, as in the gospel writer, sits at the top of approximately 300 steps covered by romantic porticoes supported by 666 arches and overlooks the lush city of Bologna from its hilltop perch.
On a 70 degree, sunny day breathing in the architecture, gazing at the sapphire blue sky, marveling at history dating back to the gospels, intoxicated by a strong spiritual presence and surrounded by the people I love most in the world, I couldn’t imagine anything lovelier. Then, two young boys pulled out their violins and played an impromptu hauntingly beautiful concert in the grassy area outside the church, providing the soundtrack for my moment.
My planner said I should be in Florence that day. I thought I was supposed to be in Venice that day. But God knew, there was no place on earth better for me on that day than in Bologna.
I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
Tell me below - where are you planning to go this week? Where will you let God take you if only you let Him?
Cover of my book HOT - it's free on Kindle this week
My book HOT is FREE on Kindle this week:
This is the main character's, Lindsey's, blog:
I haven’t been to youth group in a while.
There. I admitted it.
I feel so guilty about skipping; I’m not sure what to do, or how to get back into my routine.
I love youth group. I really do. Our youth pastor is young and goofy and totally gets it. The band rocks. I mean it. I would rather sink into the squishy giant pillows on the barn floor where we meet on Sunday nights and jam to that band than listen to my iPod! But here’s the deal. I’m in the middle of some stuff -- big crummy, confusing stuff.
My sister’s life could be an episode on 90210. My parents are all tuned into her station and her station only, even during commercial breaks. And my boyfriend, I mean my ex-boyfriend, Noah, well I still secretly adore him.
I’m still crazy about him because, mmmm, because Noah smells like minty gum, and his hand feels so warm and strong and safe when it holds my tiny hand. Did I mention he has these dark forest green eyes and he’s so tall I have to stand on my tippy toes to look into them? He’s also one of the kindest and sweetest people I know, and he completely understands me.
I broke up with him. I know. It sounds crazy. But, I had to for now. Things got too out of control, and we needed to slow down. I needed to slow down and get back to who I am, to who God made me to be. I know it’s the right thing, but it is so hard.
This brings me back to youth group, because Noah goes to youth group too. And the real reason I haven’t been going, is him. It’s one thing to see Noah across the cafeteria at school. But in the barn? It will be so awkward. I won’t know where to sit. My best friend, Emma, and I used to always sit with him and his friends. Emma hasn’t been going to youth group either, which has made it easier to skip. All Noah’s friends will make comments under their breaths. The people who don’t know we broke up will ask why we’re not sitting together. And I’ll have to look at him and not feel his warm leg next to my leg and not smell him or hear his smooth, soothing voice. I’m not ready.
The voice in my head, which I know is God, says it’s time. He says he’ll be there for me.
Really? How cool is that? But is that enough God?
There will be a whole lot of other people there too. And they’ll make it hard. He says to remember that youth group isn’t about who sits next to who or who wears what but about getting closer to Him. He says His grace is enough.
Right. I knew that. Sometimes, I just forget. Okay, I just need to stay focused on God. Easier said than done, but possible. With God’s grace I can do this. I think I’ll call Emma and try to con her into going with me.
2 Corinthians 12:8 My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Purse exploding with mints, lip balm, wallet, make-up brushes, Visine, iPod, etc.
Where did you go today? What did you wear? What did you take with you?
I started the day with yoga. Wearing my comfy gray yoga pants and stretchy gray and black tank, I grabbed my mat, my rec center ID, my hot pink water bottle and slid on my flip-flops.
After a trip home for a quickie shower and a wardrobe change into a black sundress and a zillion bracelets, my next stop was a writing session at my local coffee shop, Kofenya. I packed my MacBook, extension cord, cell phone, wallet and of course my coffee cup for the excursion.
This afternoon I’ll head to the pool. I’ll need to slip on a bikini, pack my sunscreen (both spray and Neutrogena face formula), a towel, my Kindle, my U2 cap (to prevent sun damage), my straw cup full of H20 and a snack.
We, as a society, carry around so much stuff. And it’s even more fun when we get to carry it around in cute bags!
But Jesus challenges us to do something different. He sent the disciples out on their life’s work with a walking stick and the clothes and shoes they already had on.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Mark 6: 8-9 NIV
I’ve changed shoes three times today! IS His call to all of us exactly the same?
Not exactly, but kind of.
He might call you to teach or nurture or share a smile. You might be called to sing or paint or score or hug or listen or lead or follow.
He has a plan for you.
But do we need all this baggage we carry around to live out this plan?
Jesus still calls us to spread His word – every day, everywhere we go – whether that’s shopping or hanging out with friends or going to class or working out with our team or working or spending time with family. He calls us to be His light. So what do we need to bring?
That’s the easy one.
If I forget my sunscreen, I can sit under the shelter when I’m not in the pool. If I wear a normal t-shirt to yoga I’ll still be able to do my best downward dog. If I forget my travel cup at the coffee shop, they have mugs.
So where are you going today? Where has Jesus called you to go?
I’d love to hear about it. And don’t forget to pack the most important thing – Jesus.