Monday, June 6, 2016

Never Fear the Storms

Lake Powell, AZ

Nowhere in the Bible is it written that the life of a Christian will be easy. Instead, we are told the Christian will suffer as Christ suffered. Meaning, storms of life will come and go and leave their marks on us as they do the unbeliever.

I remember last October, after my sister passed away from cancer, I had registered to run a half marathon at Lake Powell. I wasn’t sure if we should still go so soon after my sister’s death, but we both knew my sister would want our lives to go on. As my husband and I were driving toward Page, AZ, for a half marathon race, we could see storm clouds gathering above the city. It’s hard enough to run a half marathon, but to run in the rain and wind makes it even harder! I could feel the fear and trepidation building inside me.

We tend to fear storms because we’ve all experienced them: literally and figuratively. We know how dangerous storms can be. All of us would love to live a life without storms, but what would that life look like?

Years ago, in Tucson, Arizona, scientists built the Biodome: A place where scientists could live and work in a perfect environment. They had perfect air, water, and soil to grow perfect food. They even made a simulated ocean! There within the Biodome, these scientists could study the effects of a perfect environment in hopes of replicating it in life.

After a while of living in this perfect environment, however, these scientists noticed something shocking: the trees they grew were dying. They were simply falling over dead at a young age. Concerned, they took samples of the air, water, and soil to try and figure out what was causing the deaths of these perfectly healthy trees.

All their tests showed nothing was wrong with the water, air, or soil. Perplexed, the scientists had no idea what was causing the deaths of the trees, until one day the answer came to them: No wind.

You see, there was no wind inside this “perfect” environment, but trees need wind. As a young tree grows, the wind beats against the trunk causing the roots to dig in deeper and the trunk grows stronger after each storm. Without those strong winds of a storm, the young trees did not become stronger. Instead, they became weaker and fell over. 


We might desire to live in a “perfect” environment (a life without storms…) but by studying God’s creation, we can see that a life without storms makes us weaker.

I thought about this life lesson as we approached Page, AZ. I knew I could run the race in the rain, but it wouldn’t be easy. The morning of the race proved to be beautiful with the sun rising through the thick storm clouds. It only sprinkled on us as we ran.

Later that night came the rain, wind, and lightning. But we watched it from a safe haven inside our hotel room. It was a beautiful sight!

I have endured many storms in life. Recently, my whole family endured that hurricane called “cancer.” We endured for a year alongside our sister, mother, aunt, daughter, and friend: Tammie.  Watching someone you love die a slow painful death isn’t easy. You feel helpless and hopeless. You walk away from that storm forever marked…forever changed.


But, after the rain and wind departs, the skies are clearer, the sun shines brighter, and the new day is remarkable. You walk away a stronger person for having endured the storms.

The good shepherd knows how to handle the storm. He gathers his sheep and provides a shelter. During the storm, he watches the sheep to make sure none wander off and fall into a raging river or off a cliff to their deaths. He keeps a vigilant watch all through the night. And in the morning, he counts his sheep to see if any are lost. If any are gone, he searches for them and returns them to the fold. He binds their wounds and heals them.

So, never fear the storms of life. They come to make you stronger. The rain makes you grow and the winds make you stand firm.  Praise God you have the Good Shepherd who will remain with you throughout the storms. He will never leave you nor forsake you.  There is purpose in everything He does.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

“As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” Ezekiel 34:12


Friday, May 20, 2016

Are You Ready for the Summer?

New Smyrna Beach, FL

Rest & Relaxation

Ah, the beach. For me, there is no better place to relax and unwind after a busy school year. As a former school teacher (this was my last year...), I found much solace in sitting on the beach and listening to the waves last summer in New Smyrna Beach, FL. It was the best way to decompress. 

What about you? How do you prefer to rest? Do you even rest at all?

I tend to have many projects going at the same time. I'm crazy that way. I think I find busyness as a way of avoiding things...primarily completion. But I have improved upon that little hiccup in the system. I actually do complete novels, paintings, or blog posts. I know many people who never complete a project. They just go on to the next. 

He Makes Me Lie Down in Green Pastures

Lately, I have been working on a project that speaks to my heart. I am writing a women's Bible study based on Psalm 23. The part I focused on today is the concept of rest. In the first verse, David writes about the Lord our Shepherd.

"He makes me lie down..."

Curious isn’t it how David wrote that the Lord makes him lie down? Wouldn’t one want to lie down in green pastures?
Think about it. When was the last time you stopped and rested. I mean really rested? The good shepherd would stop his flock and make them lie down to rest.
I, myself, understand this idea perfectly because I usually am against resting.  I am very good at multi-tasking. Aren’t most women? It is hard for me to stop and take a break from anything. My brain is usually going one hundred miles an hour. 
As a runner, I almost feel guilty when I take a day off from running even though I know my body needs rest to recover. Rest is the best way to avoid injury.
So, I can easily understand why the Lord has to make us lie down in green pastures to rest.
That’s a sad reality, isn’t it? But we women tend to become so busy that we do forget the importance of resting.

"Pastures of tender grass..."

The phrase "green pastures" is translated as "pastures of tender grass.” You know the kind of grass: soft and cool to the touch. It reminds me of that rye grass we plant in winter here in Phoenix.
Imagine your bare feet on the soft cool tender grass shaded by a tree. Who wouldn’t want to lie down on that grass and rest? Contrast that to the dry harsh desert landscape: The coarse sand and rock burning in the sun. The Good Shepherd seeks out the green pastures for his sheep to enjoy. 

He seeks out the land for us to enjoy! 

Why would we not follow our Shepherd and find that rest? My challenge this summer is to make the time to rest. It will be a challenge, too. I want to finish three books and self-publish them this summer, start a drawing instruction YouTube channel, and also write and teach this Bible study. 

Oh and did I mention I am also looking for a full time job? Tired yet?

See what I mean about crazy busy? It can become overwhelming and the Shepherd must lead His sheep to the green pastures, stop them, and bend their legs to force them to lie down as a good and loving shepherd does. 

It's up to you and me to actually follow His lead. He knows best. Who are we to fight Him?

So, are you ready for the summer? Are you going to be so crazy busy with projects and plans that you will forget to stop and rest? Or will you truly heed the Master's call and spread your bare feet in the cool shady grass that He provides for you?

I hope you heed His call and find rest.

Enjoy your break!


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Only Race That Matters

How much do we trust God?

I'm a runner and I truly enjoy the experience of running alone. It's my time of reflection where I do my deepest thinking. 

I also enjoy participating in races! One race I enjoy the most is the ultra marathon. I have had the pleasure of running this race with a large group of other crazy runners who love it just as much as I do. One race I have never tried is the trail ultra marathon where you head out into the desert alone and complete the race 50-100 miles in 10 mile loops. That idea terrifies me! I like the 1 mile loop that connects me to other runners, the food tent, the port-a-potties, and a comfy chair I can rest on when needed. 

But to be out there for ten miles at a time alone in the desert? That's risky. There are snakes out there! There's more of a chance of falling down and getting injured, especially in the dark. Running through the desert in the that's crazy!

I prefer the safety of the 1 mile loop. I prefer the security of being with other runners. I prefer the known rather than the unknown.

We Christians tend to be like this. During our life-long race, we tend to enjoy the security of the seen instead of the unseen...


After listening to Dr. R.C. Sproul teach about when God called Moses to return to Egypt to perform a miracle, I was reminded of all that God asks His servants to do. 

If God asked you to reach down and pick up a poisonous snake by the tail, would you?

God's tasks are never easy ones. These tasks tend to take us out of our comfort zones.

Sometimes we Christians forget that we aren't called to a fluffy white perfect marshmallow existence here on God's green earth. We tend to think that the word "Christian" means: having a perfect life.

How far from the truth can that be? Pretty darn far...

I hate snakes, so if God asked me...or commanded pick up a snake by its tail, I know I would question Him. I know I would hesitate. 

Well, this year has been about as challenging as picking up a rattlesnake by its tail. I experienced my mother's death this month and this comes only 5 months after grieving my sister's death from cancer. Now the grieving process has started all over again. My treacherous trail ultra-marathon has begun!

This is the task that God has appointed unto me. Frankly, I'd rather pick up the snake, for crying out loud. 

When God commanded Moses to go back to Egypt and perform miracles in front of the Pharaoh, no one can blame him for questioning God's choice. "Who, me?" 

I have been asking God the same thing lately. "Who, me? You want me to handle all this on my own? Me?"


God doesn't expect any of us to handle anything on our own. This is what women need to learn more and more in this time of feminism. Being alone is not part of God's perfect plan. Being alone was what God called "not good" when He created Adam. And so, He gave Adam a helper. He gave Eve to Adam. 

God has given me my helper, my husband, Scott. But He has also given me The Helper, the Holy Spirit in addition to Himself. 

I will never go into Egypt alone to face the Pharaohs of this world. God goes with me and He carries me through the storms. I never have to run the race alone through the desert facing all the risks out there.

No, I will endure this ultra-marathon with my God who loves me. I don't know what else is coming, but I do know He feels I can handle it with His help. 

The Race

Before you run a race, it's wise to take a look at the route. God gives us the route in His word and He also provided us with the testimonies of those who have gone before us! We can learn from their wisdom.

Hebrews 12:1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."

The longer I live, the more I understand why Paul and the other writers of the New Testament used running the race as a metaphor for this Christian life with God.

It is a race! It is the most difficult race set before us: one through the dark desert trails full of obstacles and dangers all the while the approaching storms bring the cold wind and rain...not fun!

1 Corinthians 9:24 "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it."

I will continue training by being in God's Word, praying to Him, and trusting in Him while I endure these obstacles He has put before me. I will work on my stride, my dietary needs, and hydration during the race. I will trust in Him when the darkness comes and the hungry coyotes howl in the distance. When the snakes cross my path, I will not falter.

And my God will be there the entire time.

My goal? Like Jesus: To finish this race strong!

2 Timothy 4:7 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Let us all face this race prepared and on task so we can all cross the finish line together! It isn't an easy one. No white fluffy marshmallow creme trails. No. It is challenging.

But we can trust God. He has gone before us and He will go with us.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Paint By Numbers? Be Unique!

Paint By Numbers? No Thanks. I'd Rather Be Unique

Recently, I was invited to participate in one of those painting parties. Have you ever heard of them? 

It's a party that consists of attendees painting a painting based off of the teacher's sample painting. It's a fun social way to be creative while eating and drinking (wine at some parties...)

I've seen the final product of these parties on social media and the one thing I noticed was that all the paintings look the same. So, before I arrived at the party, I thought about what I would paint. 

The artist posts the sample painting on the invite. After studying it, I lay in bed one night, thinking about what I would paint. "I'm not going to paint the sample painting. That's just a guide. I'm going to paint what I want to paint."

At the party, I began filling my canvas with the bright colors of a sunset while the instructor taught about the brushes and mixing the paints. I have a degree in visual arts, so, as an artist, I already knew about mixing paint and using the brushes. As I filled my canvas, I felt  like a rebel going against the grain. It felt fun to be different. It felt great to be unique.

After a while, the other attendees walked around the room and when they came to my painting, they stopped and studied it. 

"I didn't know we were allowed to do something different," one lady said. 

Be Unique

Isn't that how it is? We go through this life thinking we have to be exactly the same as the other women around us. We frown upon women who dare to go against the norm. 


Why are we women, especially CHRISTIAN women, so hard on each other? I really want to know the answer to this question. I mean, shouldn't we encourage one another instead of tearing each other down?

Yes, as a Christian woman, I once was told by another Christian woman that I was sinning because I did not homeschool my son. 

I lost many Christian friends when I revealed that I was not a virgin on my wedding day. 

I was told I was selfish for not having more than one child (without being asked why I only had one child. Had this woman asked, she would have learned that God only allowed me to have one child...)

I have been judged for working outside the home.

I have been judged for...gasp...bottle feeding my son instead of breast feeding him. Oh the horror!

And the list goes on and on.

Why do we do this to each other? Where in the Bible does it say that we women have to be exactly alike? I have studied the Bible many times and never saw that verse anywhere. 

Instead, I found a verse that says we are to be the same as Christ who sought out the broken, flawed, and despised people of the world. 

Broken Vessels

Take Ruth, for example. Ruth was a Gentile. She was a Moabite woman. Yet, God chose her and used her to do great things. As a result, Christ comes from her lineage. 

The Samaritan woman is another example. Christ sought out this scarred Gentile woman. She was in a part of the world that was seen as unclean. She was a broken vessel living in sin, but Christ spoke to her, confronted her sin, healed her, and used her in a mighty way. 

His disciples weren't men of prominence. Instead they were lowly fishermen or even a despised tax collector, yet Christ called them, changed them, and used them in a mighty way. 

So, why do we expect perfection from those around us? Why are Christian women so harsh toward one another?

It just doesn't make sense. 

Finish Product

When I finished my painting, it stood out from the others. The instructor loved it because I went "outside the box" and used my creativity. She loved that I did what others had not. And, as I walked around, I noticed that some had decided to make their paintings their own after they had seen what I had done. 

"I didn't know we could do something different," asked that one attendee. 
"Of course you can," I said. "That's what's so amazing about painting. You can express yourself."

It was fun to see how others had expressed themselves once they realized they could. 

Celebrate Your Uniqueness

Instead of judging other women who aren't doing things the way you would do them (I know, How dare they, right??) encourage them. Use your uniqueness to encourage women. 

Do you have a unique story to tell? Tell it to encourage women. 

Do you have scars to reveal? Show them to encourage other women who may have scars, too. 

Do you have gifts or talents that may be different than what others have? Use them to encourage others. 

 Philippians 2:2-5

...complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus...

Instead of worrying about being just like that perfect woman you know who raised seven kids and still has a twenty inch waist and has a clean house and bakes her own bread and sews her own Halloween costumes...worry more about being just like Christ.

 Aspire to have His mind. 

Celebrate who you are in Christ. After all, He is the great artist...the divine designer who created you as one unique creation to be used by Him. 

Now that's a work of art to celebrate!


Thursday, June 18, 2015

4 Important Writing Questions...

I don't know about you, but I LOVE Writer's Digest Magazine. I obtain so much helpful information about writing from this magazine and their Facebook page.

Earlier today, they posted on Facebook an article about the importance of answering 4 questions from an agent during the pitch session at a conference.

I read the article and decided to answer the questions here.

In the column written by author Lisa Katzenberger, she thoughtfully explains the importance of the questions and knowing how to answer them...

How would you answer the following questions?

1. Are you working on anything else?  For me, the answer to this question came easily because I am ALWAYS working on something else. I have about a dozen book ideas in my head as I type. Plus, I have new ideas pop into my head during the year. I get ideas from my job (I'm a writing teacher...), my students, books they are reading, movies I watch, etc. Just ask my student. They'll tell you how I often talk about the plot of my next book.

I find it is important to have that next story in line. That way, when I type "the end" on my current WIP, the mourning period is short. I am back in the saddle and ready to begin plotting out the next big idea. I also think agents like this answer because it shows them that I am a writer. This is my career and not a hobby. I want them to see that I am serious about my craft.

2. Who are your favorite authors? This question is tough for me to answer because I am not a voracious reader in that I tend to start many books and then put them down after a few chapters. But, I am working on that! So, for me, I'd answer Susan May Warren (I am reading her books), Susan Meissner (Just started one of her books), J.K.Rowling, of course. She is an inspriation to me. Karen Kingsbury (I love her latest true crime story!), and Jodi Picoult. I just started her book,  "Lone Wolf" and am enjoying it.

I would next explain to the agent that I am a bigger fan of non-fiction: Biographies and autobiographies along with historical narratives. These books help me with research into certain eras I am writing in or with voice to make my dialog or exposition sound more real.

I feel an agent could see by my answer that I do appreciate good story telling techniques in the genres I write. I tend to research writers who are on top of the market (John Green is another favorite...) and see what they are up to next.

3. What kind of writer are you?  This question is much easier for me to answer. I have to confess, I did have to rehearse the answer a few times, but that's okay.

I am a writer who writes about flawed protagonists with real struggles but who are determined to reach their goals no matter what. They don't always wish to "save the day" but sometimes that task is thrust upon them and they desire to follow through. They have caring hearts and big dreams, and they tend to be humble and cerebral. I write more plot driven stories, but I aspire to write character driven literature some day. My writing is strongest through dialog and description. I consider myself to be very good at sensory writing and plot twists. Just ask my readers!

But, most of all, I am a writer who wishes to impart a theme or "message about life" in my stories. My desire is for the reader to walk away from my book having learned something or connected to the story in some way. Faith, hope, stay-the-course, never give up, are just some themes I place in my stories.

4. Where did this story come from?  Good question!  I love asking authors this question when I get to meet them. And I really love it when readers ask me this question. I find most of my stories come from other stories I have read or have seen in a movie. Sometimes they come from real life events that I have experienced or someone else has experienced.

The idea for "The Children Under the Ice" came from a spelling test I was giving a class of 6th graders. The idea for "The Dragon Forest" came from a love of dragons and the King Arthur legend.

The idea for my current book came to me back in 2004. I would read the military blog posts (milblogs) via the internet at the height of the Iraq War and was amazed at how these men and women wrote about their combat experience minutes after it happened. It was then that I read about how civilian journalists would embed with the troops to report on the war. Unfortunately, many of these journalists would twist the account to fit their agenda of turning Americans against the war effort. I would read in the milblogs how angry our troops were to see their actions distorted by the journalists they had trusted. And then I read about a missionary who started a sewing center in Iraq to provide work for Iraqi women.

As a result, I put the two ideas together and have a book to write with these themes running through: Fight the good fight, stand up for the truth, persevere, and learn to trust and love again.

I feel I am ready to answer these questions for any agent and I look forward to it at the next writers' conference I will attend!

What about you? How would you answer these questions? Are you ready to answer them?


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Write About What You Love...

"A lot of people tell writers to write about what they know.
And that's good advice because it gives you a lot of things to draw on.
 But I always like to add that they should write about things that they love.
 And by that I mean things that fascinate them or excite them personally..."

-Suzanne Collins

Write About What You Love

As soon as the evil Maleficent transformed into that purple and black dragon in Disney's The Sleeping Beauty, I was forever in love with... dragons! I love their strength, beauty, and mystique. So, when it came time to write a book, the subject I selected was dragons, of course.

Why not? For me, it was a no brainer: Kids love dragons and I was writing a book (The Dragon Forest) for kids.

I also love ghost stories!  My love for ghost stories led me to write another book series about a group of kids solving a murder mystery with the help of...ghosts! The Children Under the Ice was a fun book to write because of my love for this genre.

But for many writers, coming up with an idea can be a struggle. Why? There are so many ideas to choose from! 

The above quote is from a list of writing tips found over at Tales of Success blog. Suzanne Collins lists 5 tips on writing and this particular tip stood out to me because I agree with it wholeheartedly.

What about you?

Do you write about what you know or what you love... or both?  I find it easiest to do both, frankly.

Suzanne Collins once stated in an interview that she knows about war because her father fought in war, studied war, and taught about war strategy at the War College and West Point. She also listed several books she had read as a child that were about children battling each other and dystopian themes:

Lord of the Flies
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

By reading the list above, one can easily see how influential these stories were to Collins who deeply loves each book and rereads them annually.

Do you love a certain theme or era or hobby? Write about it!

Write What You Know

Writers should love stories and storytelling. It is a passion of mine to tell stories, both fictional narratives and personal narratives. But to write a story is entirely something else.

I know much about art, drawing, painting, etc. I know about teaching because I am a teacher. I know about what it's like to be married to a military man. What I don't know is war or combat. My next book will be based in the Iraq war during 2007. So, in order to make my story seem real to the reader, I must study and learn more about this time in US history. But I love to write about wartime romances, and this is why I chose this period to write about. So far I have thoroughly enjoyed the research about this time in US history.

What about you? Do you find it easy to write about what you know?  Or do you prefer to learn about a subject and then write about it? Or do you just "wing" it?

I highly recommend the article about Suzanne Collins over at Tales of Succes blog. She provides some thoughtful insights about her writing process.

Now...get to writing!