I’m back. I think.

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

Last fall I attended the Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference on a scholarship.

While I learned a lot, made many connections and a few friends, I also returned home very overwhelmed. I was asked to work on a couple of projects. And didn’t. Basically, I squandered my scholarship. I took down my blog for a few months with the intention of revamping the look. [I'm still not happy with it, but can't afford a professional at this time.]

As the months passed, it was getting easier and easier to forget this site even exists. Easier and easier to deny the words that were building up within me. Easier and easier to bury the talent God gave me.

But. God.

God did the amazing. He provided me with yet another scholarship. This time to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference. I considered turning down the scholarship after the last conference. Then I was reminded by a friend that if this wasn’t from God, I wouldn’t have the funds. This is the second time God provided for me to attend a writer’s conference.

In church this morning, Dr. David Chotka told us that when God says something twice, it has been determined by God and He will quickly bring it about.

Twice God has provided a way to a writer’s conference. Twice I have been given the opportunity to glean from professionals in the business and make important contacts.

Once I buried this gift and it didn’t multiply.

This time I will use this gift freely given by God. I will tell my story. To quote Dr. Chotka: “If we want to grow, we have to let them know our story.”

Dead Man’s Hand Release!

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

Today, an incredible book for boys in the 9-13 age range is released!

Dead Man’s Hand by Eddie Jones is a mystery adventure with biblical principles.  The book is very well written and even I got lost in the story as I read it.

Instead of writing a review from an adult perspective, I had my 9 year old son read it and tell me what he thought. Thomas loves to read. He has read the first 3 Harry Potter books and is currently immersed in the adult Star Wars books. He was hesitant to read Dead Man’s Hand because it was “too thin and not hard enough.”

He obeyed his mama and did read the book. When he was finished his first question was, “Where’s the next book?” He told me about the dead body, the details of the investigation (you have to read it!) and every other twist and turn in the book. All with his eyes sparkling and excitement in his voice.

From Thomas:

This book was fun to read. I didn’t want to read it. But there are ghosts, chases and lots of fun stuff in the book. I can’t wait to read what Nick does next. This book is good for boys and girls. Girls may be scared. I don’t think my sister should read it. She’s too little. [mom note - she's 7] I really, really, really liked this book.

Gratitude Unglued

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

One cliche’ often heard is “Have an attitude of gratitude.” Yes. That is good, but most days they are simply words.

In Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst talks about how gratitude can change our perspective. But it has to be put into action to avoid being mere words. Perspective is each individual’s reality – even if it is not the true reality.

This week, I have been having a ton of trouble finding gratitude. One of my favorite aunts had a massive stroke on Sunday. Why God? She is 91, but still driving, independent, active in church. Then after she went to bed Sunday night, a bloodclot went from her heart to her brain. It’s not fair! Since Sunday she has not talked. Not been able to eat. Not been able to move her left side.

Being the excellent stuffer I am, I have not cried. Instead I have been short tempered at work and completely with drawn otherwise. I went to watch the sunset and read and pray. And God whispered to me, ‘Be thankful.’ For what??? 

Great Aunt Sarah, 90 and Chris – July 2011
Bonds Family Reunion, Rogers, AR

Then I started listing what I was thankful for in regards to Aunt Sarah:

  • She is 91 and independent until a few days ago.
  • The last time I saw her – near her 90th birthday, we had a lot of laughs.
  • She let Scott and I live with her – twice – when moving with the USAF.
  • I have nothing but very happy memories of her.
  • She got her college degree when she was 84.
  • She always gave to others, but knew how to balance her life and say ‘no’
  • She always shared stories of my Granny and the other siblings from when they were young. (There were 9 kids)

The list went on and the tears began to flow. A grieving over the loss of Aunt Sarah as I knew her. A wish to kiss her cheek one more time. Uncontrollable tears. Tears of gratitude unglued.  And a comfort to my spirit.

Thank you Lord Jesus for allowing me to know and love Aunt Sarah. Also thank you for this study so that I can handle this news by leaning more on you and trusting less of myself.

Eli,6; Great-great Aunt Sarah, 90; Thomas, 8
July 2011

October is ______ Awareness Month

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

October: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Everywhere you turn this month you are bombarded with pink. Pink candy, Pink football players. Pink milk cartons. Pink race cars. Pink. Pink. Pink. It makes me want to scream!!!

October is not just about breast cancer awareness. It is also domestic violence, Rett syndrome, dwarfism, lupus, world blindness and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month … among others.

Every year, around the world, more than 2 million babies are still born. In the US alone – 6 in every 1,000 babies are born still. The is approximately 24,000 babies a year. Approximately another 24,000 die in their first year of life. Then there are the numerous miscarriages. So many little lives. Gone.

However, their deaths and the families grief goes ignored. Overshadowed by pink in the month of October.

I challenge you to take a few minutes today to reach out to someone you know who has lost a baby. Just a quick call or email to let them know they aren’t alone. Their baby isn’t forgotten. It’s ok to grieve. And God promises:

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn …

you will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.

John 16:20

…. in memory of Lucas David born still January 24, 2004 …

Let God Chisel

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

Last summer, I had the privilege of hearing Lysa Terkeurst speak at the 2011 She Speaks conference.  Her talk has been bouncing around in my head since then – over a year. I am currently participating in an online bible study focusing on Lysa’s new book, Unglued.

Simple tools for creating masterpieces

The current section is discussing letting God chisel. The same words that have been occupying space in my head for the past 14 months.  Let God Chisel. Let God Chisel. Let God Chisel. Chiseling isn’t easy nor is it pain free. Far from it. Chiseling is a complete separation from a piece of you that is not adding to the beauty. A piece that is hiding joy, peace, comfort. A piece that is trying to hide something from God. [Although he knows perfectly well what we're hiding. An elephant cowering behind a tree couldn't be more obvious.]

Have I been letting God chisel in my life these past many months? Honestly – not always willingly. He has taken away two volunteer opportunities that I loved doing. One was a blessing in disguise. The other still hurts more than I want to admit. Why did he chisel those away? I honestly don’t know. Yet. I have also had some of my hurts chiseled away. After too many years of a dark depression, I am seeing light. What was keeping me hidden in darkness is now gone.

Sometimes the chiseling is so fine that we can’t really see a difference right away, but in the Artist’s eyes, it made all the difference. Does it hurt to allow God to chisel? Yep. Will he chisel even when you aren’t willing? Uh-huh Is the end result worth it? Absolutely.

Let God Chisel

Compassion – Through the Eyes of a Child

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

“What does Compassion mean to me?” pondered the young man in Tanzania. “It saved my life. You see, I am a albino and in my country there are evil men who think we hold magical powers. They kill albinos in the dark. They cut off body parts and leave them to die. They even take the heads of babies.”

“To help me, my mother and grandmother made me stay in the sun hoping this would help make my skin dark. I would get painful burns and my eyes hurt so bad. I couldn’t go to school because I was albino. One day my mother took me to church and there were some nice people there. They told my mother I could go to school. I learned to read! They told my mother they would give us food. Everyday I had lunch at school and it was good,” he licked his lips as he looked into the memory.

“Every week I got a bag of rice to take home. Once they gave us a big bucket. My sister got water in it and we had the water go through a tube thing. The baby started to get better. He was no longer sick. Everyday I got up, gathered some firewood, and went to school. Some days I got letters from my sponsor in America. They had a boy who looked like me with white hair. My mother put all their pictures on the wall. They were our American family. They told me they prayed for me every day. They also sent money,” his eyes filled with tears and his voice cracked as he talked.

“The money. It was also from God and just in time. One rainy season, our roof was pouring water into the house and the floor was only dirt and mud was everywhere. Compassion helped use the money to get a new roof. One that does not leak. Our sponsor also sent money we used to get new beds. There were so soft. We were able to get a goat for milk and some chickens for eggs. We always had food.”

Tanzanian House by Shaun Groves

“But more important than school, I learned about Jesus Christ. He died for me. For me. A little albino boy in Tanzania. Now I am in university learning about wells and clean water. I want to make sure no babies die from water like my little brother. Without Compassion, I would still be scared of the witch doctors. Or I may be dead without Jesus. No school. No university. Nothing.”

“What does Compassion mean to me? Life. Compassion gave me life.”

If you want to make a difference in both your life and the life of a child, go to Compassion and begin the journey of a lifetime today!

Inspiration & Bonfires

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

Day 4 of the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference

My ankle hurts. Today was a one crutch day. More freedom meant a bit more pain. Especially after trudging through sand for the evening bonfire. But I am getting ahead of things.

Sand Dune and Grass on the shores of Lake Michigan

The conversations at every meal are one of the many highlights of this conference. You sit at a table with the speakers, publishers, editor, conferees and just share life. The writing world, personal celebrations and tragedies, life.  Everyone has a story and hearing other’s stories helps encourage me to tell mine.

All of us have words overflowing that need to be contained somewhere. Stories that need a listening ear. Repeatedly I heard, “Because you are here, you are a writer.” or “God gave you a message, don’t be afraid to share it.” or (speaking through a new friend, “We have hurts and we have made it through them. Now we need to share God’s grace and glory with others.”

But one of my favorite quotes of the day was, “Writers don’t have bad experiences. We just gain new material.”

The night wrapped up with a bonfire on the shores of Lake Michigan. The beach here is filled with deep sand (fun to traverse on crutches!) and has a fire pit near the water. We made s’mores and introduced the international conferees to this treat. Then we went around and told a one sentence at a time story. Oh the laughter – and instant critique and editing! I won’t see peaches in the same way again.

Sunset at Maranatha Conference Center, Muskegon, MI on Lake Michigan

God’s touch has been evident all week.

But that is a story for another time. However, if you want to attend an amazing writer’s conference where you don’t get lost in the crowd – consider the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference next year during the last week of September (25-29, 2013) You will grow in your craft and faith.

Focus & Feedback

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

Day 2 at the Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference.

Another day filled with teaching and tears. The tears started this morning during devotions when the speaker seemed to be answering questions I posed to God last night. I am here because I am a writer. God has given me a passion and a purpose, I just need to listen to know what it is.

Workshops ranged from hands on – learning about a writing technique, practicing it, reading our samples and having the presenter critique it – to hearing about published authors’ journeys. Interspersed in the day were 1:1 conferences with various publishers, editors, writers, etc.

I was able to meet with two folks. One helped me look at a direction to take my writing and the steps to get started. He provided me with publications, editors and offered to help edit. He also gave me tips on ways to break my story down into smaller chunks to make more stories. I gained focus for my writing when looking at publication.

Another appointment was with a person who wrote and edited devotions. She read the few I have written for my book and gave constructive feedback about some issues I had already noticed. It was a very affirming appointment.

The evening ended with Troy Evans and Marvin Williams. One grew up as a gangster and spent time in prison. The other went to Christian schools. Both are now pastors. One has a church geared to the hip-hop lifestyle, the other is on staff at a predominately white church in spite of his dark skin. Both are filled to overflowing with love for Christ and the desire to share this with as many people as they can. These two brothers in Christ were an inspirational way to end the evening.

Unconditional

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

I recently received a copy of the new book by Eva Marie Everson titled Unconditional.

The book is based on a movie by the same name and tells the story of two childhood friends who reconnect as adults.   But it is about so much more. A struggle to fight through the dense darkness of depression. A battle with a chronic illness. Saving children. Saving themselves.

Oh – and it is based on a true story!

When I initially started reading the book, I was surprised by the writing. I am accustomed to seeing this style on blogs, but not in print. But I liked it. A lot. It fit the story and the mood in that section of the book.  The author also captured the dark depths a person reaches when living does not seem like an option anymore. When there is no hope left. Those scenes hit me in my core and I was reeling from the memories for days afterward.

That is a sign of a well written book. Unconditional is a quick read, but the powerful message will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

The Palace Guards

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

Day 1 of the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference and my brain is swimming.

Not swimming from too much information (yet) but with doubts. Self criticism. Lies. Why am I here? These people are ‘real’ writers. What am I? One of the first questions everyone asks is, “What are you writing?” My answers vary from ‘I blog.’ to  ’I have a proposal written for a devotional.’  The honest answer, though, is ‘I don’t know. I am here to learn and hopefully get some focus and direction.’

Cec Murphy talked today about the palace guards. The holy spirit talking to us. As the negative criticisms have bombarded me today, there has been a quiet comforting voice telling me those are lies. Reassuring me that this is exactly where I need to be and now is when I need to be here. Throughout the sessions today, we were told to be ourselves. To not compare ourselves to others. To not let jealousy get in the way. But that is so hard!!

How long have I been a writer? That question was asked of me tonight. Immediately I thought, “I’m not yet.” But the palace guards escorted that thought away and I responded, “Ever since I could remember.” A truthful answer that felt strange to say aloud.

I am here. The why doesn’t matter at this point. My job now is to empty me of myself, my doubts, my fears, my criticism and allow God to reveal his plan for me … even just a small hint of what he has in store. The palace guards are standing firm and ready to keep me in the truth.

Pride goes after a fall

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

Last Tuesday I fell at work and was initially told my ankle was broken. Later I was told it is only a bad sprain. However, this unexpected trip has definitely fractured something besides my ankle.

I have been forced to immerse myself in humility. And it is uncomfortable. I never realized just how stubborn and prideful I am. Since the accident, I have had to rely on people to help drive me to and from work, get an appointment with a specialist, hold doors, carry things for me while I hop on crutches. I don’t like asking for help. I tend to be independent to a fault. The exact phrase I am avoiding is, ‘I have always been proud of my independence.’

Pride. The proverbs tells us that pride goes before destruction. The destruction is caused by pride. The fall is caused by a haughty spirit. After the accident, I could have clung to my stubborn independence. I could have let my pride take over. But I didn’t. I allowed others to help me. If I had not opened up to help, I would have been stuck in my apartment. Or worse, I could have a worse injury from carrying too much and falling again.

As I was traveling several airports, I had to request wheelchairs. When checking in, I considered just being tough and hopping. But common sense prevailed and I requested the assistance. At one airport, I landed in concourse A and my flight left from concourse C. There is no way I could have made that trek on my own without frustration and tears. But with a skycap and wheelchair, it was a fun journey.

God wants us to rely on him for help. Not just in times of greatest need, but all the time. He has a wheelchair for us and is waiting to take us on the journey. We just have to be humble enough to accept his gift.

Compassion – Pin It!!

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

Compassion is have a contest and who doesn’t love a good contest???

For this contest, all you have to do is Pin It! Pin it good. Pin it real good.

Ok – enough of my 70′s throw back …

Click on the image to find out all the rules and details.

The goal for kids sponsored this month is almost half way there. Please help change two lives – yours and theirs by sponsoring a child.

Click here to go to my pinterest board for Compassion

Water for Life … providing clean water to families in need.

Heart vs Mind

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

“What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind.” 
― Ravi Zacharias

When I initially read that quote, I thought, “Yes. That is exactly how I think!” Or is it??

I tend to spend more time in my head than in my heart. I think too much. I love to learn. I like logic. I want things to make sense and be tidy and wrapped up with a bow. But God isn’t always like that. He asks us to trust. To have faith. He doesn’t tell us it will make sense.

I spent years thinking that everything needed to make sense in my mind. And years searching for true peace. Searching for answers. Trying to make this life make sense. I have finally accepted that not everything will make sense in my mind. Much of life is illogical.

But I have to believe in my heart that God loves me in spite of myself. God forgives me. He showers me with grace. I don’t deserve any of that. The fact that these are his gifts to us baffles me. In my mind it will never make sense. In my heart I accept these gifts and believe his truths.

What do you believe in your heart that doesn’t make sense in your mind?

Compassion – A letter to God…

I am just a gal who is trying to untangle the mess. Trying to know God in my heart and believe he loves me so much. Trying to be a wife to my amazing man and mom to my incredible kids. There are so many words inside me and so many images to capture. Here I can share a small portion of that.

Dear Abba,

Our Compassion Blogger’s assignment this week is to write a letter to you about sponsorship. Where to start? You are so holy and mighty and the care for these kids – the poorest of the poor – is something only you could do. I am thankful for the opportunity you have given me to be a small part of their lives.

Anmut is a young man now. I worry about him living on the street in Ethiopia, but trust you to care for him in adulthood as you did through childhood. You comforted him when his parents died. You kept him healthy despite all the diseases. Thank you for loving Anmut and sharing him with me.

Paola is somewhere in Peru. She was so much fun to write. Her letters were full of joy and a bit of mischief. I pray that she is still learning about you and getting good food, health care and education. Hold her safe, please.

Rabina in India. She was requested after we adopted Tom. We wanted to sponsor a child with albinism because we understand the struggles they face with their vision and skin differences. Rabina seems to be a quiet, studious girl. Please open her heart to your teaching and love. Also give patience to everyone around her because of her vision. She is a beautiful girl.

Gashaw in Ethiopia. What a smart little boy. When I received his report card, I was surprised at how well he is doing. Please keep him healthy and challenged. Maybe one day he will grow up to be a leader in his country.

Ibrahim in Tanzania. What an incredible miracle sponsoring him is! A special request for a child with albinism in Tanzania where witch doctors murder and butcher people with albinism for body parts they believe have ‘magical powers.’ Only a couple of weeks passed and then the call. We have a little boy if you are interested, he isn’t officially in the system yet, but you can be his sponsor. Yes. Yes! Only you could have brought us together. Now Ibrahim is safe. He is loved. He is healthy. He is amazing.

God, you know all these kids. You know their hearts, their hurts, their dreams. You also know mine. You have matched me with the kids you know are just the ones I need and I am just the sponsor they need. I look forward to meeting them one day…here or in your kingdom.

Thank you so much for allowing us to be parts of each other’s lives. The other side of the world is not so far away as I once thought that it was … I love you! Your daughter, Chris

ps – I am also praying for others to know the joy of sponsoring. Tell the go to compassion’s website for more info. You have a much better marketing system than I do!