Sunday, December 14, 2014

Merry Christmas - This Holy Story

This Holy Story

I love this holy story,
this broken image of a woman
shattered reputation scattered,
saved from stoning by a man
willing to see God's hand
in a hopeless moment, a faithless wife.
He didn't let her go, this man,
and another holy story falls,
words written in loose sand.

I love this woman's story,
her cloth robe worn thin by
so many eyes, so many hearts,
so many generations born and held
in her arms, her God
alive and suckling at her breast.
The man who reconciled
and the baby sent to reconcile
a world.

I love this mother's story.
She is heart and womb and blood,
milk, and flesh, and mud,
human birthed and breathing,
humility of the humblest kind
covering a royal throne.
Mary, here, advent of Christ
His home.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Don't Recycle Trash Theology

Sometimes, old ideas about God persist in hanging about. I'm sure I got rid of them, tossed them in the trash bin and put them by the curb, but then I discover I actually just recycled them. And, recycling is great for physical waste, but harmful theology should never be recycled. That junk needs to be incinerated.

One of those harmful ideas is that I can’t have my dreams. If I hope for it or want it in any way, it must be bad and selfish. If I gain something I wish for, God will ask me to sacrifice it to prove I love him.

No one told me this in that black and white kind of way, but it is a belief I picked up over time. Again and again, respected Christians praised those who turned away from what THEY wanted and instead pursued what God wanted for them. And that is not a bad thing. The problem is no one ever told me that what I want and what God want might be the same… that when God plants a dream in my heart, it could well be because THAT is the dream He wants for me.

In other words, dreaming dreams isn’t selfish.

Even typing this, I cringe, like someone is going to shove me down and tell me I’m wrong. Instead of waiting for them to do it, I mostly shove myself down and then sit in the mud, wallowing in self-pity.

I have dreamed, since a little girl, of being an author. Traditionally published, signing books, traveling for research, dreaming up characters and stories… And lately, that dream has been inching toward coming true little by little. But the evil voice whispers, “Selfish!”

There’s one voice in my head that insists I won’t ever achieve my dreams because I don’t write Christian fiction. This is the most ridiculous voice ever, because I don’t even like to read Christian fiction. Maybe if the voice stuck to calling me selfish, it would get somewhere, but it insists on throwing this whole Christian fiction barb at me.

Let me tell you who reads Christian fiction… Christians. I don’t believe following Christ is about serving other believers only. Jesus told stories to anyone who would listen. And I don’t believe telling stories is all about evangelism. If that is your calling, please answer it. *

My calling is different. My calling is stories… to make people think… to put a person inside another person’s life. Nothing in my life has built empathy in me more than reading fiction. 

Secular fiction. 

So there is my calling. Tell stories. Share ideas. Love people with word and action.

And toss that trash theology to the curb where it belongs.

This is not the blog I sat down to write today. But I suppose it needed saying. Turns out, until my fingers hit the keys, I am never entirely sure what I think… what I believe. Sometimes, God speaks to me through my own words.

Does that ever happen to you?

* Disclaimer: I'm serious. There are some great writers writing Christian fiction, and they are feeding a group of people who need feeding. Just because it isn't the group of people I feel called to feed or the method of feeding people I feel called to use or the art form I am most gifted at creating does not make those writers or those books bad. Like any category of books, they ran the gamut from formulaic and shallow and blah to deep and beautiful and amazing. Writing GOOD Christian fiction is not easy and I salute those of you who do it and do it well.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Currently: December is Here Before it's June

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Current Books: I started A Farewell to Mars with my coffee in the mornings. I am almost finished reading We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. WOW! For a while, I have read books like my son plays with toys... secretly taking them apart in my brain and trying to figure out how they work. It's been a while since I have totally relaxed so far into a book, I forget it is a book and I write books and I need to know how this book works. We Were Liars is a "just one more chapter" kind of book.

Current Playlist: I've been listening to "Less Like Scars" by Sara Groves on repeat.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Yesterday, I bought donuts. For myself. I didn't share.

Current Colors: I've liked mustard yellow lately, and that's not a color I normally like. It's also not a color I wear. It doesn't look good on my skin tone. But, I like it lately, nonetheless.

Current Food: Corey and I tried a new place called Amsterdam's. Though the name doesn't show it, they serve a few middle eastern dishes, and I got a gyro. They also have shawarma and a hummus plate. It was delicious and I will definitely go back. A lot.

Current Drink: I had a yummy sparkling berry lemonade at Amsterdam's. I don't recall the brand. It was a French import.

Current Favorite Favorite: Not stressing about gifts this Advent. I made a list and I have stuck to that list.

Current Wishlist: A bunch of books, some Out of Print Clothing shirts, a journaling Bible, a new bag for my Macbook...

Current Needs: Nothing huge. I'm feeling very content and grateful.

Current Triumphs: I just bought my husband's Christmas gift. It was expensive. I paid for it with Jamberry money I earned. :) We've never been a "your money" and "my money" kind of couple, but usually he is the only one earning any money. This year, it was fun to shop for him without him even knowing.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Hormones. Mine and those belonging to the tweens living in my house.

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Current Indulgence: I watch New Girl on Netflix while working on Christmas gifts.

Current Mood: Content.

Current Outfit: Jeans, spike-toed boots, blue shirt, purple Under Armor jacket

Current #1 Blessing: My husband

Current Quote: “Because I hadn’t known that I knew these things. Just having a notebook to write them in, and having someone to write them to, made them all rise to the surface.” ― Rachel Cohn, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Current Photo:

Title taken from: “How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Middle Places: A Wait Wasted

To enter the Church of the Nativity, I went through the “door of humility.” It’s called that because you must bend low to fit through. Once inside, I found myself surrounded by people.
So. Many. People.
I’m not fond of crowds, and this church was HUGE and FULL. We were crammed into one section, waiting. Far ahead, I could see the doors we would eventually go through. Beyond those doors, there was another room.
More people.
More waiting.
Our guide was flabbergasted. Other than on Christmas Eve, he’d never seen a crowd like that. On that day, we’d planned lunch after the church visit and an earlier stop had us running behind. Still, the line had always moved quickly before, and we had other activities scheduled for the afternoon.
So we stayed.
We waited.
Everyone was talking about the wait, about being hungry, about the priests allowing certain people (some of them foreign diplomats and some of them pretty girls in short skirts) to skip the line and spend as much time as they wanted inside the cave believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.
I’m skeptical at the best of times, and I had plenty of time to be so over whatever this site was. 
If you would like to read the rest of this story, please visit Middle Places.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Poem: Christmas Came too Fast

I struggle to write poetry and fiction at the same time. The last few months have been saturated with fiction and some creative non-fiction, but no poems. This morning, I tried to pen a verse during the sermon, something I used to do every week without fail. I'm not sure I love the result, and there will be a more clearly expressed blog post for Middle Places next week. But I am trying...

In Bethlehem, we waited.
We waited inside stone walls,
surrounded by columns and ancient
art. We waited, and we
were hungry and tired and nothing
was as we expected it to be.

That day, in Bethlehem,
my feet hurt, and I
was distracted by
the grey wall, so high,
the wall that would keep Mary
and Joseph from entering
the very place God intended
them to be, if they were 
to come today.

Inside that overwhelming wall,
my heart was broken and my legs
were aching and my focus
was shattered
long before the star appeared.

Christmas flashed
before my eyes,
my fingers barely grasping
the hope that I was

I knelt, confused,
by the marble manger,
and I left with my soul
cracked in frustrating pieces.

I didn't understand
the things I thought
I understood.

The prison wall and the mosque,
the gun towers and the
olive wood cross
in my pocket...
The chanting in a tongue
Jesus used to whisper,
"Mama, can I?"
"Mama, will you?"
"Mama, why?"

"Mama, why?"

I didn't feel
what I expected to feel.
I felt empty, and I wonder
if Mary felt that too.

Did Mary hold a king in her arms
and feel the home inside of her,
hollow without Him?
Her child, her son, her Savior,
already leaving her behind
even as the angels sang
and the shepherds came
and the greatest story ever told
hovered in her hands,
nursing at her breast,
knowing no other love than the love
His mother taught Him.

Christmas came too fast
that day in Bethlehem.


Saturday, November 29, 2014


I won NaNoWriMo 2014.

That's my second NaNo win. The first was in 2011, when I dove in with the true "no plot, no problem" spirit and wrote a complete first draft of a young YA/upper MG novel called Truth or Dair: A Liar's Tale. I really should revise that book. I know some ways to fix it now, things I have learned in the last three years.

This time, I plotted first. I'd had my premise for a while, but I was scared to write it. I was scared because...

  • It's from a boy's point of view, and I have never written as a boy before.
  • It deals with Tourette's, and I didn't want to mess that up.
  • The premise calls for a lot of kissing. A. Lot. Of. Kissing. And, yeah, romance is a weakness for me, as a writer.

My friend and fellow Middle Sister, Sasha, was doing NaNo, and I was so excited for her. I've heard about her book for a couple of years. It sounds so good in my head, like The Book Thief meets Inkheart maybe. I'm just going on her talking about it, because I haven't read the draft yet. The point? I really wanted to support Sasha doing this. I remember how it felt to finish my first rough draft. I know how it feels every time I finish a first draft. It is glorious.

It isn't glorious because of the draft itself. Let's be honest; there is a dang good reason no one publishes first drafts. But once I have a draft, I can turn it into a novel. I can play with it. It's like I have created Legos from scratch and it feels as if no one ever in the history of the world ever thought of Legos before. But now I have them, and I am going to build.

I am going to build... a BOOK!

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So, yeah... I wanted that for my friend. And I needed a kick in the tail to start my new story. I have learned to find accountability, because I NEED accountability.

Making a public declaration that I was doing NaNo was my accountability this month. I have a lot of pride sometimes. Too much in certain areas, I'm sure. So I wasn't about to admit defeat. Between the specter of public failure and the need to encourage Sasha, I was kept on track, and I have 50,000 words now. It isn't a complete draft, but it covers the first two plot points and is in way better shape than my first NaNo novel from 2011. So I'm calling it a win.

To celebrate, I have watched a bazillion episodes of New Girl and prettified my fingernails.

Happy NaNoWriMo friends!

Saturday, November 22, 2014


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It has been some kind of week. I am more than halfway through NaNoWriMo. I'm exhausted but I refuse to give up this far in. So I am planning writing sprints today.

Last week was a bit of a rollercoaster. Most of that ride is good and I will blog about it at a later date. Some of it was bad, and I shared about that on Middle Places, Thursday.

It's surreal to me how big things can happen but the little things go on the same. Basketball games get played. Homework gets lost. Nails puncture tires. I schedule Jamberry party games and send out samples. I scrub the cabinets and make a shopping list. The mail runs.

My kids have been cleaning their playroom for almost 4 hours. FOUR HOURS. And by "cleaning," I mean, they have been making up odd games, fighting, yelling, laughing, and pretty much doing anything except putting away toys and throwing out trash. They are not allowed to play Xbox or go to friends' houses until that room is clean. It is the only task I asked of them today. But they will go to any lengths to keep from just doing it already.

And the sound of them NOT doing what I asked? Even when it is laughter? It makes me want to yell.

But I have not yelled. So where is my gold medal people?

I'm in the part of my new manuscript where I can see the whole picture but also feel bogged down in the details and how the heck I am going to pull them altogether. I do this freak out at this word count every time I write a new book. I should be used to it, as I should be used to my kids avoiding their chores. But I am not.

I have cleaning to do. I have grocery shopping to do. I have words to write. But mostly I want to stay in my PJs and watch New Girl on Netflix.

How's your weekend?


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