Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Wrap-Up Questions



1. Where did you begin 2016? At my in-law's home in Tennessee.

2. What was your status by Valentine's Day? wife, mom, homeowner, substitute teacher

3. Were you in school (anytime this year)? I was in schools as a sub and in preschool as a teacher.

4. Did you have to go to the hospital? A few ER trips with the boys and I spent time in a Honduran hospital, but not as a patient.

5. Did you have any encounters with the police? I went to the police department to get a background check for work.

6. Where did you go on vacation? Corey and I spent a week in Florida, 30A.

7. What did you purchase that was over $500? We bought a house.

8. Did you know anybody who got married? Corey preached a couple of weddings. 

9. Did you know anybody who passed away? My Aunt Carol passed.

10. Did you move anywhere? We moved from the parsonage to our new house.

11. What sporting events did you attend? I went to one of Haydn's football games.

12. What concerts/shows did you go to? We took the boys to see Tim Hawkins, and Corey took me to see The Wizard of Oz at The Orpheum. David had a couple of choir and band concerts.

13. Where do you live now? We are still in Mississippi.

14. What's the one thing you thought you would never do but did in 2008? Zip-line. Upside down.

15. What has/have been your favorite moment(s)? The rainbow in Honduras... Standing by the ocean with Corey... Cuddling with Livy to watch a TV show... Standing by Haydn in his football uniform... Hearing David sing a solo...

16. What's something you learned about yourself? I am capable of more than I think I am.

17. Any new additions to your family? To our church family, yes, but there were no babies or anything for us.

18. What was your best month? July ... In Honduras

19. What music will you remember 2008 by? "Oceans" sung in Spanish, "Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here" sung by Jamie in an ancient empty church

20. Made new friends? So many! The Well has turned into a community that feels like home.

21. Favorite Night[s] out? Pizza with Corey at the beach, BBQ with Leila in Atlanta, La Cumbre in Honduras...

22. Any regrets? Things I didn't say... chances I didn't take...

23. What do you want to change in 2017? My state-of-mind. I want to spend more time meditating and less time stressing out. Beyond myself, I want to change how people view one another. I want to break the chains of fear and ignorance that keep us from truly knowing and loving our human family. Easy, right?

24. Overall, how would you rate this year?on a scale of 1-10? For personal growth? A 10, hands-down. But I can't even begin to rate it beyond myself. It was beautiful and hard and sometimes scary and sometimes frustrating and also full of goodness.

25. What would you change about 2016? I'd elect a different president and take back all of the violence and hatred that spilled from the cracks in humanity.

26. Other than home, where did you spend most of your time? At work or at church, and those were mostly the same place. 

27. Change your hairstyle? I cut some layers into it myself, but I didn't do anything dramatic.

28. Get a new job? I started teaching preschool.

29. Do you have a New Year's resolution? My theme for 2016 was "Daring," and I definitely did some daring things. It wasn't a resolution, per se, but it did drive me to take more risks.

30. Did anything embarrassing? I used the wrong Spanish word for hot and basically announced, "I'm sexy."

31. Did you learn a new skill? I continued learning Spanish.

32. What was/were your favorite purchase[s]? A miniature pallet Christmas tree for Corey, items from Mi Esperanza, Truby's The Anatomy of Story

33. Get married or divorced? Nope.

34. Get arrested? Nope.

35. Best TV show binged? Good Girls Revolt

36. Did you get sick this year? Many times... preschoolers are the most adorable little germ incubators.

37. Start a new hobby? I didn't, but I did refine my hobbies. I scaled back on a lot of supplies in my craft stash.

38. Did you see the ocean? I saw the Gulf of Mexico from two different shores.

39. Read a good book this year? 106 of them.

40. Are you happy to see 2016 go? I am. There was a lot I loved in this year, but I am also looking forward to so much of the next one. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

And I Read... (2016)



In January...

I turned 34.
Worship began at The Well.
We bought a house.
I began work as a substitute teacher.
Jack Reed Sr. passed away on my birthday. :(
I began revising a manuscript.
Alan Rickman died and I cried a lot.
Corey and I took the boys to meet Tim Hawkins.
Will and Mandy came to visit.


And I Read...

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
*Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Sandman, Vol 1 by Neil Gaiman
The Sandman: The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman
*Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Koboldt
*All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab



In February...

I had a poem published in the Tipton Poetry Journal.
I had strep throat.
We took the boys to the Compassion Experience in Collierville.
I went to a Senegence even with Renee.
I sent a revised manuscript off to my then-agent.
I doodled a lot in my journaling Bible.
My sis, Lynn, sent me a tiara and feathered slippers.
I binge-watched "Jane the Virgin."


And I Read...

We Were Here by Matt de la Peña
Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
*A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett
*Cinder by Marissa Meyer
*The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Breathing Underwater by Richard Rohr
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han
Fire with Fire by Jenny Han



In March...

Byhalia UMC gave $1000 toward my Honduras trip.
The Doctor (my cat) disappeared and never returned. :(
Pat Conroy died.
We visited the filming place for "The Walking Dead."
Carrie (sis) and I took our kids (and husbands) to Riverbanks Zoo.
Mama gave me my new quilt she made. LOVE!
Geese started hanging out in my backyard.
Corey taught Haydn to tie a tie.
Haydn traveled for the TSA state competition.
I had a story published HERE.
We celebrated Easter at The Well.


And I Read...

Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg
This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell



In April...

The Well was in the paper.
Baby turtles kept showing up at my door.
I spotted a blue heron and a luna moth.
I took David to the regional science fair.
I met Matt de la Peña!!!
David broke his arm in two places.
My Honduras tees arrived.
I had an idea (in the shower) that has turned into my new writing project.
I created a Pinterest account for The Well.
David was confirmed in the United Methodist Church.
I finally finished Disney pages in my PL album.
Our geese had goslings and I named them all Ryan.


And I Read...

*Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay
Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
^Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
Chasing Utopia by Nikki Giovanni
*Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning
The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker
Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin
*Because I Said So by Ken Jennings



In May...

I wrote seven devotions for the district.
I had a poem published at Mothers Always Right.
My niece had heart surgery.
Friends and I enjoyed a girls' night at Pinks.
I started revising another manuscript.
David made Principal's List for 6th grade.
My friend Ginger brought me cupcakes, just because.
I discovered and remedied an electrical issue while Corey was out of town.
I chaperoned a bowling night for the youth.
Corey caught a snake in our driveway.


And I Read...

The Walking Dead, Vol 25 by Robert Kirkman
Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
A Blueprint for Discipleship by Kevin Watson
*A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
* and **Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
You Can't See the Elephants by Susan Kreller
The Antelope in my Living Room by Melanie Shankle
*The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Machinations by Hayley Stone



In June...

I had 3 poems published at YARN.
Haydn and David went to Universal on a choir trip.
I finally got to hold baby Amelia.
Leila convinced me to try kombucha.
Lynn drove up from Tallahassee and met us for dinner at Keifer's.
I got to spend some time with Izzie.
We attended the final worship service at Lewisburg UMC.
Orlando happened. It still breaks me to think of it.
Corey was ordained as an elder in the UMC!
I met Ruth Wood, first woman ordained in MS (40 years ago).
We introduced the boys to Bob Ross via Netflix.
Sasha sent me a sealed note for Every Single Day of my Honduras trip.
Rhonda sent me a card with the coolest bookish stamps.
I performed a poem with my friend's son was baptized.
Jen and Drew came over for dinner and the girls gave us a concert. ;)
The Well got a website!
We had a church cookout to honor the firefighters.
I got new glasses.
I spent a lot of time trying to pack in under 50lbs.
I left to spend a month in Honduras.
Jamie and I met Rudy Cano on the plane.


And I Read...

The Reader by Traci Chee
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
*Muchacho by LouAnne Johnson
*The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
*Where There's Smoke by Jodi Picoult
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Life in a Jar by Jack Mayer


In July...

((There is no way I can summarize this month well, but here are a few tidbits.))
Jamie and I lived in a hotel, a house, and a dorm.
We worshiped at the oldest standing church in the Western hemisphere.
We visited the Jesus statue at least 3 times.
There was a glorious weekend in Roatán.
I ziplined upside down and played with monkeys.
I had the best smoothie ever... guanábana flavor.
I met a mermaid named Nathali in a KFC bathroom in Honduras.
I fell hard for pupusas.
We made cotton candy for kids who'd never had it before.
I found gelato in Honduras!
We met with government officials in Honduras.
Our group had dinner at La Cumbre.
I got a new tattoo.
I spent a lot of $ at Mi Esperanza.
We made guacamole from scratch.
I drank a lot of lachino de fresa at Espresso Americano.
I returned home after a month in Honduras.
I picked up school scheduled and supplies por mi hijos.
I took a car full of tween boys to the HP midnight release party.
I won the costume contest at said party.


And I Read...

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward



In August...

I parted ways with my then-agent.
Haydn started high school and David started 7th grade.
I started teaching preschool.
I got sick and took a lot of vitamin C.
The well digger struck water in Tierra del Padre.
David got first chair in band.
I had three poems published at Scarlet Leaf Review.
I binged Downton Abbey.
Haydn joined the football team.
Our community well started meeting at our house.
Hubby took me outside to catch baby frogs.
I was disappointed to find American-bought starfruit is sweet.


And I Read...

*The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Three Simple Rules by Jon Rueben
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty



In September...

I struggled to adjust to working mornings when I wanted to write.
CPR training was easier than expected.
My friend, Carrie, went with me to Book Fest in Memphis.
Carrie and I also had Korean food that was So Good!
I had two poems accepted for publication.
Another manuscript... another revision.
My daddy told me he is proud of me.
I binged "Call the Midwife."
I got sick. Again.
We visited the Invitation in Tupelo and had lunch with friends.
I was a little obsessed with Snapchat filters.
I went to David's first choir and band performances.
College transcripts were ordered and an application filled out.
I spoke on mission at The Well.


And I Read...

The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems by Billy Collins
*M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman
Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles by Shari Green
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott
Foolsgold by Susan Wooldridge
The Living by Matt de la Peña



In October...

The Well got a new logo.
Flannery O'Conner arrived in my mailbox.
David joined honor choir and performed.
I started ordering my groceries online and picking them up. Glory!
We went to Haydn's last game of the season, and they won.
I signed with a new lit agent, Amy Tipton.
Same manuscript... more revision.
I had a sore throat that was not strep, thank goodness.
I finally participated in a #readathon.
The blue heron returned to my backyard.
I binged "Good Girls Revolt."
My Aunt Carol left this world behind. :(
I dressed as a princess and the TARDIS for fall fun days at work.
My boys were Rick and Negan for Halloween.


And I Read...

*The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Life Sentences by Laura Lippman
*Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan
The English Major by Jim Harrison
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk




In November...

One of my preschoolers brought me blue Gatorade as a gift. :)
I restarted my study of Truby's The Anatomy of Story.
We traveled to Tupelo for Khadence's baptism.
I voted. Grr...
I got sick. Again.
I rewatched the 9th's Doctor's entire run.
Leila and I went to Atlanta for the Belong Tour.
I started watching Project MC2 with Livy (BFF's first-grader).
We had Thanksgiving with the Bull family.
I finished Level 2 of Rosetta Stone.
Corey and I spent a week in Florida all by ourselves!


And I read...

All the Rage by Courtney Summers
What Light by Jay Asher
Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
*How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
*Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto by Lesley Hazelton
Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons
*I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest



In December...

Corey and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.
I fell hard for The Liturgists Podcast.
I had to go to the men's department to buy pants for my BABY.
Our preschoolers did a Christmas concert.
I researched Honduran poets.
David had a solo in his choir show.
I helped my preschoolers make reindeer handprint ornaments.
Jen made butterbeer fudge, and it was delicious.
There was a fun Christmas party for The Well leadership.
We had Christmas Even worship in OUR BUILDING.
We enjoyed time with friends at the Hursts' house.
David got a stomach bug.
We watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special.
Carrie Fisher AND Debbie Reynolds died. :(
I booked flights to Honduras.


And I read...

The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman
The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg
The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
Once Upon a Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg



TOTAL: 106

*Audio
**Reread
^This is the Newberry award winning picture book for the year, and it will be listed to cover all of the bazillion picture books I read this year as a preschool teacher.



Sunday, December 18, 2016

Currently: Going Forward



Current Books: I am a few chapters from finishing The Anatomy of Story. That book make my brain hurt but it is so helpful. I am reading The Souls of Black Folk as an early start on my peace/justice book list. It is crazy how little has changed in the handling of race relations. Technology has changed and the details of what a family's home life might look like, their school, etc... But, over all, in one hundred years, we haven't changed as much as we'd like to think. I just started The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg for my postal book club. So far, it is a quiet thoughtful kind of read. Last night, I began Return of the River, which is a collection of poems by Roberto Sosa. This book is doing double duty as part of my peace/justice book list but also research for my new manuscript.

Current Playlist: The Liturgists podcast. I get in my car and hit play and then I nod and say amen and say yes and also cry. I have been crying in my car for two weeks. Sometimes I pull over and sob. It's the same kind of crying I did when I first read Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans and throughout anything Nadia Bolz-Weber writes. My soul soars upward to meet the words and my soul finds hope there, hope and peace and acceptance and challenge of the best kind. The challenge to be better, not a better Christian or even a better person but a better soul, a better me.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Mello-Yello from the soda machine at work... I rarely drink soda, but lately I grab a can from that machine 2-3 times a week.

Current Colors: teals and creams... soft colors, but not pastels, per se. Peaceful homey colors.

Current Food: A lot of my preschool students brought me Christmas gifts, and one of those gifts included three kinds of cookies. So yummy.

Current Drink: This morning, it is coffee from a travel mug one of my students gave me for Christmas, but it will be Emergen-C apple cider in a bit. I am trying to shake a cold.

Current Favorite-Favorite: The Liturgists Podcast, hands down. I know I sound obsessive lately, but their conversations are feeding my spirit. I wonder if this is how the disciples felt when they first started walking behind Jesus, listening. Suddenly, things were making sense, and they didn't feel quite so crazy.

Current Wishlist: Mostly books: Amazon Wishlist

Current Needs: Stamina... Back to work on January 3rd and then just one week before I am registering for classes and then a day or so later, it is back to college for me. There will be a trip to Honduras tucked in there as well, and I have a book to write.  So, you know, nothing really going on in 2017.

Current Triumph: I got all of my paperwork done and turned in and jumped through all of the hoops so I can go back to school. Also, I completed a full semester as a preschool teacher. There were some weeks I didn't think I would make it. The kids are great, but my depression and anxiety issues can make things more difficult.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Naptime in my 3yo class... I am going to do some schedule rearranging in January and try to fix that. In a class of twelve, I have only two that always nap.

Current Indulgence: Blogging right now... I need to be putting together media for The Well tonight. And I will do that as soon as I finish this. I also indulged in a thrifting trip with my friend, Jeniffer, yesterday. I bought jeans and a blazer, and I haven't bought myself clothes in a long time.

Current Mood: Not bad. I am coughing and feeling a bit sick, but I have chicken in the crockpot for our Community Well party and I swept the kitchen while my coffee brewed. I'm looking forward to two weeks off of work, and my new manuscript is promising.

Current Outfit: Grey sweats, Leila's old Southern Miss soccer sweatshirt, thick slipper-socks one of my students gave me for Christmas

Current #1 Blessing: My husband, my family, my home... finding community here in Mississippi.

Current Quote: “There I was, waiting, afraid I’d never experience the kind of joy yet to come, but hoping for it just the same.” -Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

Current Photo:
David, after his choir concert

Title from:  “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson (((Because, 2015 was Dream and 2016 was Dare and now it is time to go forward with a dream in one hand and a dare in the other.))

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2017: Peace and Justice



For more than ten years, I have skipped resolutions in favor of themes for the New Year. I ask God to give me a word and then I wait. Some years, he gives me more than one word, like in 2007 (Purpose and Vision) and in 2008 (Laughter and Possibilities).

2017 is going to be another two-word year. 2015 was DREAM and it was in that year I began to wrestle with my dreams for the future and eventually found myself dreaming a new dream. This January, I will return to college for the first time in thirteen years. This whole going-back-to-school thing is born of that 2015 theme being followed by my word for 2016, which was Daring.

I did a lot of daring things in 2016, including a month living away from my family (in Honduras) and starting work as a preschool teacher. The latter has turned out to take more daring than the first.

For the last few weeks, I have wrestled with my theme for 2017. I kept hearing two words, but I only wanted one of them.

Peace. Justice.

I only wanted Justice.

My heart is so focused on justice lately. I am in a place of needing to fix the world. If you know anything about Spiral Dynamics (thank you Liturgists Podcast), you will understand when I tell you I am in an orange/green phase of life.

Peace felt like a weak word to be handed by a strong God.

But then it hit me... Peace and Justice are synonyms. Or, at the very least, they are intimately connected. In my own soul, I cannot have one without the other. I was driving along, listening the the Liturgists, and one of them quoted Jesus, "Love God and love neighbor," and it gut-punched me.

Peace and Justice.

God and Neighbor.

True peace requires everyone to be loved and taken care of. True peace requires no need to strive for justice because justice and mercy have already been handed out.

Or maybe, for my spirit, true peace can only come when I am certain I am striving for justice in the ways that I can, in the ways that I am called to do so. I need to be loving God and loving Neighbor.

I don't know for sure. It is something I will be wrestling with in 2017. Rarely does my theme turn out to mean exactly what I think it will mean. The Year of Patience was pretty hellacious. And the year of Oblation ended with me questioning every aspect of my faith and religion.

And I already had a year of Peace in 2011. Maybe 2017 will add new dimensions to what I thought I learned that year.

I have created a list of Peace/Justice books on Goodreads. Some are books I have read. Some I want to read and some have been suggested as additions. I am still taking recommendations, so leave a comment or send me a message. There may be some inclusions that seem odd to you, but that is because I am still trying to figure out what kinds of Peace and Justice God means.

My heart is most broken for racial justice.

I feel as though I have lived too many years in a white-washed world.

That isn't what formed me. I grew up in a diverse school system. My friends in high school were Korean, Black, Filipino, Hispanic, and White. My white friends were not the "upper-class" white girls with the expensive clothes and the right shoes and the perfect make-up. Those girls were mean to me. I felt safer with my friends of color or my friends who were, like me, poor to middle-class. The thing is, I never thought about how diverse my friend-group was. They were my friends. End of story.

Now I realize my experience is not the norm, at least not for the people around me in adulthood. I have to make a conscious effort to ensure my children have friends from other races and cultures. When I am in an environment with people of multiple races, I notice they seem to self-segregate, and I don't feel free to cross that line very often. When did that happen? Did I change or did other people change or is it the difference of place?

I grew up near a military base. My dad only dated black women and married a black woman. I feel out-of-place with non-diverse groups, but there is no good way to say that. How do you say, "I miss black people?" I miss the smell of Kimmi eating kimchi and the flow of Spanish words and Kim Jones putting me in her afro wig in Creative Writing class and EJ dancing with me on my 17th birthday, his dreads swinging and our bodies close with no thought to what color skin we each lived in.

I miss reveling in the differences found in humanity, exploring those differences rather than disdaining them.

Lately, I want to walk around with a sign above my head: "I don't like Trump. I am not racist. I want to fix this mess of a world." I can't do that, so I am trying to live in such a way that those things are obvious to anyone who meets me. Not in an alienating political way, but in a way that invites others into conversation and relationship.

I want my life to be an open door to community for everyone I meet, regardless of race, culture, socioeconomics, sexual orientation, gender-identity, political party, etc... I am sure I missed a category but I am so tired of needing categories. I want to be in community with you all.

I don't want anyone to assume that, because I am white and Christian, I am.... well... anything. I don't want people assuming things about me, and I don't want to assume things about people. I want to be aware of my white privilege and use it to help others or else walk away from it in protest. I don't know. I just want to be better than I am.

I don't have little goals.

But neither did Jesus. He wanted to love the whole world.

So do I.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Life Update



I'm busy.

Isn't that always the excuse?

I miss blogging. It used to be such a part of my daily life... writing here and reading the posts of friends and strangers.

I write posts in my head sometimes, but I rarely sit down and make them appear on this screen.

And, yeah, I am busy, but I tend to make time for what I most want to make time for. So if blogging is important to me, I need to look at my priorities and see what's up.

For a brief update:

I am finishing up my first semester as a preschool teacher. I have a backlog of picture books to review for you. I like the job way more than I thought I would, though it is not a forever job. I am praying the perfect work-from-home-with-flexible-hours job drops into my lap next summer. If not, I will go on teaching preschool and make it work.

I start back to college in January. I am nervous in a way, but mostly ready to get started already. Once I decide to do something, I loathe sitting around waiting to do it. Currently, I am waiting until registration to be assigned an advisor and told if any of my past credits will transfer to the new school. The idea of starting over entirely is frustrating, and it also hurts my pride. I will admit that. I am a writer with a literary agent, and I don't want to retake Comp 101. Know what I mean?

I am working on a new manuscript. I haven't written a word of it yet. Or, rather, I wrote a few hundred words that helped me see what was NOT my story. Now I am working through The Anatomy of Story and planning as I go. I started Chapter 7 of Anatomy yesterday, and I already feel so much more capable of writing this new tale. I am also scared to write it, because it is so close to my heart. Part of it is set in Honduras.

Speaking of, I will return to Honduras briefly in February. I cannot wait to be there again. My heart aches for that country. I plan to pick up some volumes of Honduran poetry. I've fallen in love with the writing of a poet there. She is my age, Mayra Oyuela, and her words are gorgeous. I also want to read the works of Amanda Castro. Finding the books I want is difficult in America. Amazon has failed me. But I contacted a bookstore in Tegus and they promise they carry what I need.

I have been thinking a lot about who I am and what I want my life to be like. I find myself wanting to finally make this house into our home, buying art and bedding and stuff and also getting rid of so much. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I will have to write a whole post about my thoughts on it. Mostly, it has left me ready to not be owned by what I own. So I am discarding things left and right.

I have my theme for 2017. It is two words this year, though I am finding them to be synonymous. I will write more about that soon.

It is time for me to head to The Well for band practice. I'm glad I sat down to share here, this disjointed sort of sharing. I've missed it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

For Such a Time as This



I'm struggling with how to best use my voice right now.

Writing is my thing. Words are my medium. I want to say things. I want to say so many things.

My Facebook feed is full of articles I agree with and I could repost them to my own wall. I could hoist my current opinions and fears and beliefs onto people that way, but I haven't.

For me (and this is for me, I cannot decide what works best for you), posting too much of that stuff on Facebook feels like a waste of my time and my power. For the most part, people who follow me there either agree with me already or aren't going to be swayed by me sharing the same articles and slogans that everyone else in their feed is sharing.

There are too many fake news stories. If you don't want to believe something you read, just tell yourself it is one of the untrue things the media is currently pushing on the public. This argument is true often enough to work well in just about any situation.

I don't want to be another written-off Facebook friend, unfollowed or unfriended because my opinions make someone uncomfortable. I don't think that helps me or them.

But I cannot be quiet.

Nazis met in large number this week. They met in our nation's capitol, if I understood the news correctly. I watched bits of the footage, but it made me sick to my stomach. It reminded me of my visit to the Holocaust Museum five years ago. I will not link to stories about this event. You can find them on your own. You can decide what sources to trust, because I am sure whichever I share will be the wrong one for some reader or another. Quite frankly, I just refuse to pull the links up on my computer. I won't have that disgusting propaganda in my browser history.

Here is what I want to use my voice to remind my friends and family:

When the Nazi party formed, they were not known as evil. They were a group of people wanting to make political changes. We hear the word "Nazi" and cringe, but it is because of what those people did under that word.

These people call themselves "alt-right," and that isn't a term that makes us cringe. But it should, because they are trying to be exactly who the Nazis became. These are not the "neo-nazi" or "skinhead" stereotypes we are used to. These are men and women in suits and ties, business executives, our neighbors, employees, bosses, and friends. They look like respectable people, but the words they are speaking...

It always starts with words.

Words are power.

Words are power, and that is why I have been so quiet on Facebook over the last few weeks. I have been thinking and stewing and praying and waiting. Words are what God gave me. They are my gift, and I want to use them well. I don't want to lash out with my words and do more harm than good.

My words show you who I am, and so does my silence. So I cannot be silent.

I will continue to choose my words carefully. I will look for ways to use my words well and not haphazardly.

For such a time as this...


Monday, November 14, 2016

Walking on Water: A Review



How have I made it to 34-years-old without reading Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle? I already counted Circle of Quiet among my favorite books, but somehow I missed this one.

The copy I just read had a preface by Sara Zarr. I am normally a skip-the-intro kind of girl. However, Sara is one of those YA authors I first read back when writing YA was a new possibility for me. I admired how she wove faith themes into her stories without writing books that you can only find at Lifeway. I read her preface and felt instantly connected to her, like we could have a cup of coffee and talk.

When you are, like I am, a pastor's wife and a writer, people will often assume you write "Christian fiction." I don't. I used to wrestle with guilt over that, but I've slowly shed that worry. Christian is not an adjective. You cannot use it to describe a book or a movie or a painting. It's a noun, for me. It's who I am, a follower of Jesus.

L'Engle writes about how the world views Christians and how the church has both helped and hindered what society things of Jesus because of how we treat others and approach art and view science. She penned these words back in the eighties, but they are still true today. The label Christian still makes me nervous, makes me worry people will think I am THAT kind of Christian, the hateful kind, the closed-minded kind, the racist kind... whatever the stereotype of the week is.

I'm getting off topic though.

In Walking on Water, L'Engle shares about the process of creating being like prayer, and that is exactly what I needed to remember. I have been rewriting and revising the same two novels for the last couple of years, and it is time to draft something new. I needed to remember to trust the process.

"In prayer, in the creative process, these two parts of ourselves, the mind and the heart, the intellect and the intuition, the conscious and the subconscious mind, stop fighting each other and collaborate."

Any of you who read my blog posts on a regular basis know I have struggled with what I believe over the last few years. I am part of a church while struggling to make peace with the Church. I am praying while struggling to understand prayer. I am reading my Bible while struggling to believe the same things about scripture that I used to believe so easily.

This new project I am facing deals with some big themes, some topics I am still wrestling with myself. Madeleine reminded me of why I am drawn to write in the first place:

"In trying to share what I believe, I am helped to discover what I do, in fact, believe, which is often more than I realize."

This book couldn't have fallen into my life at a better time. It has helped me to dive into my new work. Madeleine has reminded me to trust the process even when I do not trust myself.

I want to frame this cover; I love it so much.


If you are an artist of any kind, I highly recommend this book. 



*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Currently: I'd Rather Sit on a Pumpkin



Current Books: I'm reading Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light after my Bible in the morning and The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson along with our leadership group. My current fiction pick is The English Major by Jim Harrison.

Current Playlist: "Trust in You" by Lauren Daigle and "Happy Girl" by Martina McBride, along with podcasts (Writing Excuses and Happier)

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Soda. I'd gotten to where I only drank water unless eating out, but lately I find myself buying soda way too often.

Current Colors: Grey and white and teal

Current Food: Tortilla chips and melted cheese... simple and yummy

Current Drink: Coffee in the morning and then water at work and a soda or Starbucks Refresher on the way home

Current Favorite Favorite: The fragile gorgeous glass bowl I bought for our living room. It holds prayers from myself, my family, and my friends, and it makes me feel peaceful when I look at it.

Current Wishlist: I really want to take the time to "Konmari" my whole house, so time. Time tops my wishlist. Time to work on Christmas gift projects and the like as well.

Current Needs: Patience. Lots of it. With the kids in my classes and with myself as I revise this manuscript and with the various things going on with life goals and dreams.

Current Triumph: I'm really excited about signing with a new agent, and today I hit the halfway mark on revisions.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Working an on-the-clock job.  I hate not controlling my schedule and I miss being by myself for the majority of the hours in my day. The job itself is fine. It's fun to watch how the kids grow and change as the year passes. It's just an adjustment, having to be somewhere everyday and having to make arrangements if I want to travel. I know that sounds spoiled. Welcome to the real world, Heather. But I just prefer working for myself. Ya know?

Current Indulgence: Fridays. When I get off work, I pick up pizzas or something I want for dinner. I binge-watch Netflix and eat junk food and read books and work on Project Life. Basically, Fridays are sacred me-time.

Current Mood: Pretty good, actually. I'm intensely engaged in revising a manuscript and that kind of creative focus always enlivens me.

Current Outfit: Jeans, polka-dot tennis shoes, and my "When in doubt, go to the library" tee

Current #1 Blessing: My husband. I've had two friends lose their husbands to death this past month. I don't ever want to lose Corey. I can only imagine the kind of grief they are living right now.

Current Quote: “Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.” ― Brené Brown, Rising Strong

Current Photo:
My football player



Title from:  “I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” ― Henry David Thoreau

Monday, October 24, 2016

Guest Post: Influences from Books, Games, and TV



Guest Post by Hayley Stone

Something you will immediately notice about the following list is that the majority of my influences are not, in fact, books.

It’s not because I don’t find books inspiring, or because there aren’t amazing post-apocalyptic books out there (hello, Alas, Babylon and On the Beach), but mostly due to the fact that I digest books in a way that is different from the way I digest other media. With a focus on technique and structure, my inner editor kicks in, and I sometimes lose the forest for the trees while reading. Movies, shows, and video games are more likely to stick with me due to the visual component, and because I’m less obsessed with the method of delivery.

Speaking of video games, I am a huge proponent of their storytelling capacity; they immerse you in a unique and interactive way that no other fictional medium does. When you feel you are part of the story, how can that not leave a lasting impression?

So here are my top 5 influences, in no particular order:

1. The Hunger Games series

This was the book series that not only brought me back into the YA fold for a time, but also inspired my switch from writing third person to first. I loved the subtlety of the world-building, with the dystopian elements remaining crucial to the plot but never seeming shoehorned in. The characters are the stars more than the premise, as they should be—and this is something I always try to keep in mind with my own writing, too. A lot of series tried to accomplish what Suzanne Collins did with THG, but I don’t think any of them managed to do what she did.

2. BioShock

BioShock nails the chilling ambiance of a ruined civilization—it just happens to take place in a secret underwater city, while the rest of the world above remains fine. The isolated dystopian/post-apocalyptic experience was something that stuck with me. And in hindsight, I wonder now if my instinct to set Machinations and its sequel in an underground base was inspired by the city of Rapture. If so… good call, subconscious! Good call.

3. The Walking Dead

This is perhaps one of the most well-known examples of a post-apocalyptic setting to date, and had a lot of influence on me since the show came out right as I was first experimenting with a post-apocalyptic story (also a zombie apocalypse, by total coincidence). The Walking Dead showcases humanity and inhumanity in equal measure, and while overall I find it a little too cynical, it has undeniably influenced my perception of what the end of the world might look like.

4. The Fallout series

In addition to being two of my all-time favorite games, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas further inspired my love of the post-apocalyptic genre, and gave me a lot to consider when crafting my own post-apocalyptic world. Unlike the others on the list (with the exception of BioShock), the Fallout games can be fairly lonely as you wander the wasteland, scavenging and getting into fights. The emptiness of the landscape combined with all the hints of former civilization serve as both warning and hope; what was could be again.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale

Last, but certainly not least, Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian tale completely altered the way I viewed the genre and literature as a whole. It’s certainly one of the most affecting pieces of fiction I’ve ever read—disturbing and entirely too possible, especially when you hear the views of certain political extremists today. While my work does not parallel hers in any obvious way, I hope that the emotion resonates just as clearly.


At the end of the day, post-apocalyptic fiction appeals to our base instinct to survive while dystopian asks, at what cost? How far are we willing to go down the rabbit hole, how many freedoms are we willing to trade, all for some perceived safety? It’s an idea as relevant today as it was in the 50s, when nuclear fears were part of everyday life, and I look forward to exploring more of the same themes in the future.

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