In Memory of Natalie

Friday, July 24, 2015

Some Thoughts on "Voluntourism"

I’ve seen a few articles on “voluntourism” going around Facebook. Having just returned from Honduras, I feel the need to step up and defend mission trips, but the truth is… a lot of what these articles have to say is right. I thought this one had fair things to share from both sides.

In my opinion, the real difference is relationships.

Our previous church has been building a relationship with the people of a village in Honduras. As a church body, they have sent people twice a year to build houses and distribute food, yes, but they have done more than that. They have built school buildings and worked to get the kids of the village into school.

I love giving people things they need, like food and clothes and shelter. Those are crazy important things. But you know what I love more? Giving kids the ability to read and the desire to learn. They won’t outgrow reading. Reading won’t wear out or burn down or be taken away from them. If they can read, and they want to learn, they always have options.

The trips like the one I took this summer are also good for us. And I know some will cite that as a bad thing, but it’s not. Or, it doesn’t have to be. If you go to a third world country and return saying, “I have learned to appreciate what I have,” then, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you got it. At the very least, that is just step one, and a good documentary could have produced the same result.

Going to a third world country and making connections, building relationships, will do more than make you grateful for your own life and your own blessings. It will get in your belly and not let go. You will agonize over “Why me?” Because, really, why was I born in America with money and education and options and this child in my lap was born here with nothing or very little? And, instead of being grateful for what I have, I am burdened by it. Because what am I doing with it? Am I making the world a better place for God’s people or am I just saying thank you and building up my own storehouses a little bit more.

My trip to Honduras has brought me good stories and wonderful photographs, but if all of the pictures were lost and I could never tell you a word about the trip, the trip would still have been worth it. I met some amazing people. We have friends who live in Honduras and we listen to their wisdom in how best to help the people there. Throwing money and stuff at poverty is not the answer. Education and relationship… connection. Those are answers. Or they are the beginning of answers.

My favorite part of our trip (aside from building the house for Nattie) was Mi Esperanza. They don’t just sell ethical fashion items. They teach women skills. You can find all kinds of success stories on their website. They offer micro-loans and they pour their profits back into the community. I have my heart set on doing an internship there one summer. Because a week was not enough time in Honduras. My heart longs for more.

The way things have lined up for my Honduran experience to even happen? It is so God that I cannot begin to deny I was supposed to go there. I was supposed to meet the people I met and be changed by them. Call that “voluntourism” if you wish, but don’t dismiss it too easily. Read the articles and consider the angles and be careful about where you invest your money. Don’t rush to dismiss what someone else feels led to do. When you want to do good, you should do good. When you feel God leading, trust God’s wisdom.

I promise I will be blogging about building the Nattie house soon. I want the post to be perfect and that has kept me from writing anything. But, it’s coming, pictures and all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Hallmark of this Home

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The above gif comes from my favorite scene from Parenthood. The cancer storyline on that show took me back in time. It walked me through losing Natalie all over again. By the end of the season, I sobbed and didn't know what I wanted to happen. If Christina died, it would be so unfair. I didn't want her to die. But if she lived... it would make me angry. Angry because if my friend didn't get to live, why should this fake person on TV?

I don't claim to be logical where death is involved.

So, when Christina lost her friend to cancer and gave this amazing speech, I was right there with her. I got it. And I cried with her. 

Tomorrow, Corey and I will board a flight to Honduras, and I will help build a house in Natalie's memory. So many of you helped make this whole thing possible. Thank you for helping me honor my  friend. 

It will never make sense to me... the random selection of death. Why did Natalie have to die and I am still alive? I don't know. But I do know I can do something with his life of mine, however long I am going to have it.

And I am going to sign off now before I get overly sappy. 

Prayers over our trip are appreciated. Specifically, please pray for the family that will have a home with Natalie's name on the wall. Pray the hope and gratitude that marked my friend's life will become a hallmark of this home as well.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Currently: June Trembled Like a Butterfly

Current Books: I am halfway through Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. It is a comforting read. I am listening to the audio for My True Love Gave To Me. It is a collection of holiday short stories by some wonderful YA authors. I just finished listening to An Uncommon Reader... a fun little romp about the Queen of England becoming addicted to books.

Current Playlist: Audio books while I pack and clean and pack and clean and pack and clean... and sometimes while I pack... and clean.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: I'm still in my PJs.

Current Color: Bright blue

Current Food: Haydn made me crave a hot dog last night, so I went to Sonic.

Current Drink: Since I was at Sonic... cherry limeade.

Current Favorite Favorite: The creative team I was a part of at FUMC gave me a check as a thank you, and that means I got new books. I love book shopping.

Current Wishlist: To visit my family in Kentucky

Current Needs: Peace

Current Triumph: I raised enough money (thanks to all of you) to build a house in Natalie's memory while we are in Honduras this coming week.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Adjusting to bifocals and living in limbo

Current Indulgence: Eating our because my kitchen is packed

Current Mood: Mostly good, but also homesick and tired

Current Outfit: plaid Hershey Kisses pants and a long-sleeved TUPELO t-shirt

Current #1 Blessing: People. So many people who love us...

Current Quote: “Life is so extraordinary. Wonderful surprises are just around the most unexpected corners.” ― Rosamunde Pilcher, Winter Solstice

Current Photo:

Title taken from: “Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.” ― Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Being Myself: On Middle Places

In high school, I adored the stage. I was never one of those people who said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Nope. I liked the spotlight, thankyouverymuch. If I couldn’t play a big role, I may as well just work backstage. 

I’m not saying I had the right attitude about that. And I did play many smaller roles, but I craved center stage and I got it often enough to fuel further ambition. I will never forget the joy of playing Ophelia and having a nervous breakdown on stage in front of all those people. I was Lucy with Dracula leaning near my neck. I was a suspected murderess with Sherlock Holmes hot on my heels. 

I was happy. 

Flash forward to grown-up Heather.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Two Nattie-Day Announcements!

Hi there my lovelies. Today is Nattie Day, as many of you know. Today marks 8 years since Nattie died, and each year her friends do a variety of things to honor her memory on this day. I give away books, and my friend Pattie specifically gives away a copy of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons. If you haven't read it, you should. Some of us paint our nails and/or toenails purple. Drinking a Diet Coke is a great way to toast Natalie. When in the hospital, Nattie wore a t-shirt that said, "Kiss my Tiara," and I now have one I wear in her memory. Usually, I also don an actual tiara (that I won as a toddler in a tiara), but I must have packed it already because it is missing.

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This year, I also did a new thing. My husband has done two mission trips to Honduras and he absolutely fell in love. One of the things our current church does is to raise money to build houses there. It cost $1500 to build a home for a family in Honduras, and I decided I needed to build one in Natalie's memory. I did not have $1500 and if I'd told my kids I was canning their Disney trip they might have murdered me. So I needed a plan. My plan was to ask you for help.

And boy did you all come through.

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Between money I earned selling Jamberry nails the last few months and all sorts of donations from Natalie's family, friends, and my family and friends... churches and individuals... we have raised MORE THAN ENOUGH to build a house in Natalie's memory. MORE THAN ENOUGH! The extra will, I believe, go to school supplies for kids in Honduras next school year.

When the last checks came in, I cried and I cannot tell you how happy it made me. The verse I chose for the plaque that will hang in the Nattie house is from Job. I asked for it to be written in Spanish: Vivirás tranquilo, porque hay esperanza; estarás protegido y dormirás confiado.

In English, it is...

You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.

Hope was a big deal for Natalie, and I never saw her lose it. Her Aunt Anne had a beautiful print made for a group of us, a print showcasing something Natalie wrote:

So I picked a verse that drew on the hope Natalie clung to and the safety of a roof over one's head. Also, it came from Job, and we teased Nattie some about being Job the year she got sick. That sweet girl... so much piled on her at one time, and she bore up under it with grace and beauty. When something is hard for me, I close my eyes and remember Nattie's last few years of life and I say, "Girl, if you could do THAT I can do THIS."

But, there is more. I said this post would have two announcements. One is that we raised the money for the house. Two is..


I didn't plan to go on the trip. It cost $1500 and I chose to raise the money for the house instead of the money for a ticket. Corey promised me lots of photos of the house being built and the family that will live there, and I made peace with not getting to go myself.

Last week, one of the people going on the trip found out he cannot go. His wife called Corey and offered us his ticket. And I already have a passport because of our Israel trip in 2014.

I will get to go and help build this house and meet the family that will sleep under this roof. And so I woke this morning, on Natalie's 8th heaven-birthday, and I grinned. Because she isn't gone at all. Natalie is still here with all of us, and she is still praising Jesus and helping others and pointing out joy in the little things.

And now she's going with me to build a house in Honduras. And I may cry today too, but mostly I will dance and I will sing and I will do what Natalie did best...

I will be grateful for my life and for each of you that God has put in it.

Happy Nattie Day, y'all!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Library Jumpers by Brenda Drake

I am late on revealing the cover, because this move has me scattered and I missed the info. But I couldn't skip out on posting about Brenda's book, Library Jumpers. Why? A. Brenda is awesome-sauce and this book sounds amazing. B. Brenda is my agent-sister, meaning we are both represented by Peter Knapp of Park Literary. Double cool!

Check it out... (see what I did there?)

Library Jumpers
Release Date: January 2016
Entangled Teen

Summary from Goodreads:
Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.
Jumping into some of the world's most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik's world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Pre-Order Links:

About the Author
Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at schooluntil her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up is of hereccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was onlyfitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward thefantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores,and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Author Links:
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Cover Reveal Organized by:

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Changes You Fight the Hardest

I suppose I haven't made an official blog announcement, so here goes...

We are moving!

I realize that doesn't change anything, really, for you blog readers. But it does mean a lot of change for me.

We have lived here, in Tupelo Mississippi, for almost seven years. It's the longest we've lived anywhere in our married lives. I'd be lying if I told you I'd ever wanted to move here. I had no issue with Tupelo, and I knew it was the right decision to come here, but my best friend is in our previous town. So many friends were there, and it was the first place I made friends as an adult... like the you-can-call-them-at-3AM-in-a-panic friends... Ya know what I mean?

I slipped into a depressive episode not long after we moved here. I couldn't find a doctor I trusted for a while, and I was really struggling to parent my oldest child. I thought something was wrong with me because I couldn't handle him. A few years later, we would receive a diagnosis that explained so much. But, at the time of the move, I had no explanation and thought I was just doing everything wrong.

And I missed my friends. Gah, how I missed my friends. I remember lying on my bed, staring at a blank wall, tears falling silently. I just wanted to go home.

And now, here I am, packing boxes and crying over leaving this place I never wanted to come to. That's how it works, life. Sometimes the changes you fight the hardest are the changes you need the most.

And I did change here.

In Tupelo, I became me.

I chased my dream here. When I arrived, I was a blogger who liked to scribble poems and once in a while published an essay or verse somewhere. I was too scattered to take myself seriously. Now I'm still a blogger and I still publish poems from time to time, but I finally focused on my dream of writing novels. Focused and finished many a manuscript and landed not one but TWO literary agents (not at the same time, lol). I will move to our new town feeling more purposeful... more like a person who exists outside of parenting and being a minister's wife.

We figured out a lot of stuff about my oldest son living here. We certainly haven't solved all of his problems, but we have a much better idea of what kinds of problems he needs help with and if not exactly how to help him, we have plans for various situations. We have some understanding that we actually are good parents and we are doing the best we can with the resources at our disposal. It was here in Tupelo that I was able to homeschool my kids long enough to teach them to love learning... to teach them that education doesn't have to be an emotional nightmare. And they have returned to public school capable and confident.

It's been in this town that I allowed myself to embrace myself... doubts and skepticism and heretical ideas that many a minister husband would be appalled by. I learned to trust that my God is big enough and my marriage strong enough to see me through, even when what I see doesn't match anyone else's vision at the time. It's oddly comforting to know I can question the floor beneath my feet and it will still hold me up.

How's that for a paradox?

And I haven't even touched on the PEOPLE in Tupelo... the people who have meant so much to me and always will.  We aren't moving terribly far away, but distance is distance, and we will no longer be passing one another in church hallways once or twice a week. Relationships will change. They always do. But nothing can change how these people have held me up... how they have loved me and let me love them. I can't possibly write enough words to cover them all.

So, here is my announcement. We are moving from Tupelo in just a few weeks, leaving behind my husband's twenty-year career in youth ministry and embarking on a new adventure in church planting. It is scary and exciting, this new pathway... but mostly?

It's ours.


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