Confessions of a Middle-Aged Teenager

by Heather Fitzgerald

 

I’m a late bloomer. It took many years of marriage and four kids to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When I graduated high school back in *ahem* 1987, I had plans of becoming a model and world traveler. Yeah. I know. Very realistic and attainable. But college was definitely not part of my head-in-the-cloud plans because there wasn’t anything I wanted to do that could justify the cost.

Thankfully, the Lord had other ideas. He brought Prince Charming my way a year after graduation, and we were married shortly after I turned twenty. Billy (aka the prince) was the left brain to my right brain—quite literally—and helped me to keep my feet on the ground without giving up my desire to dream big and embrace life.

But once we started our family, a lot of my hopes and daydreams had to be set aside for a season. This was before the internet and smart phones too, so when I see busy moms that—somehow—juggle school, jobs, writing, housework, and social media, I’m a bit boggled and incredulous. I don’t think I could have managed such an itinerary with any measure of grace, let alone success! Hats off to you millennials that have grown up with social media diversions as part of your norm. I guess it’s all a matter of what you’re used to.

By the time my oldest daughter was seven, we also had a boy, age six, with autism, and two more daughters, age three and newborn. Let’s just say there’s a large chunk of my young married life that’s rather fuzzy. Beyond laundry, meals, school work, and therapy, I don’t have a whole lot of clarity on the day to day. Pretty sure everyone made it through well fed and with clean underwear, but I wouldn’t bet large sums of money on it.

Still … in the midst of our busy family life, I knew there would be another season that would allow more time for creative pursuits. Fanciful ideas always bubbled just under the surface. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t merely biding my time as a mother so I could get to the ‘fun stuff’. No. I loved being a mom, a wife, and a teacher. Creative pursuits just looked different at that time…like learning to cook and enjoying the challenge of decorating on a shoestring budget. Still, my mind constantly came up with ideas, both realistic and impractical.

One thing I had always loved to do, from childhood through high school, was dance. Think Fame and Flashdance—iconic 80’s movies. Although my parents didn’t have the finances to put me into any sort of lessons or program, public school had quite a few outlets for it, between dance team, cheerleading, and talent shows (not to mention hoofing it around my house). However, after graduation I really didn’t have an opportunity to continue dancing.

When my youngest was two, my husband encouraged me to get involved with it again (told you he was a prince!). Being that I could only take classes when he was home in the evening, there wasn’t a wide selection of adult dance classes to choose from. I could take ballet, or ballet.

I chose ballet.

Since I hadn’t any experience with this form of dance beyond a plie, it was a whole new discipline. To be honest, it wasn’t nearly as fun as contemporary dance because it’s much more technique driven and all about uniformity among dancers. I’m more of a free spirit. But it was still an opportunity to dance, nonetheless, and I learned to enjoy it.

Around that time, my kids began to take classes at a fine art school for homeschoolers. Eventually, I put my son in their ballet program to help with his coordination. I stayed in class and assisted him since his coordination and flexibility were about as natural as my talent to work quadratic equations (hint, that’s a left brained activity and I don’t have one of those).

Because of my involvement, I was eventually offered a job teaching ballet at this fast-growing school.

What???

Okay, the Lord definitely had a secret agenda for me when ballet had been my only option for dance classes a few years earlier. Someone was actually going to pay me to teach dance and I’d get to choreograph performances—which was my favorite thing ever.

Fast forward fourteen years. I’m still teaching ballet at this fabulous school. We’ve grown from a handful of students to close to one thousand! We’ve expanded from two ballet teachers to five. And choreographing for our ‘showcase’ is still the best part of the year for me. Choreography is storytelling set to music. I prefer to use songs with lyrics so that we can express the story through dance, though certain instrumental pieces can move me in much the same way and I’ve used them as well.

As my children became teens and tweens, I began to see how swiftly our school days would come to a close. When my youngest was in sixth grade and my oldest had graduated, I could feel the fetters of schedules, classes, rehearsals, and performances loosening, little by little, as each child became a young adult. What was I going to do with myself? Ballet classes were only a once a week event. I didn’t want to choose a career path after our final graduate walked the stage. I needed a goal to work toward.

Enter writing. If I could begin a career in ballet in my thirties, why couldn’t I begin a writing career in my forties? I’d always had the desire and the ability lurking just under the surface. Where I had struggled tremendously to keep my head above water in math, I had easily coasted through English and literature courses. And as a homeschooling mom, I enjoyed reading to my kids most of all. “Just one more chapter” was a sure way to take a bite out of my well-intended schedule.

I had already been playing around with writing kids books and venturing into the blogosphere, so writing wasn’t a brand new pursuit. But I made a firm commitment to have some sort of career in place by the time my youngest graduated. Though I had often dipped into creative pursuits only to let projects sit unfinished for eons (if finished at all), I felt like the Lord was calling me to look at the big picture, the long term, and the future of my grown up self.

Well, number four graduated in May of 2016. My first book The Tethered World was published in February of 2016 with The Flaming Sword releasing that November. The Genesis Tree is coming out this June which means my first publishing contract has been fulfilled. Pretty much divine timing, right? Divine indeed because I look back and wonder how my blonde, right-brained self managed to pull this off.

I can’t help but view the past twenty-seven years of marriage with a thrill of awe and thanksgiving over how well the Lord orchestrates our paths. He has blessed me with a wonderful husband, terrific kids that have grown into treasured friends, a beautiful grand daughter, and—amazingly—a dual career doing things that I absolutely love. It’s humbling to look at how little I had to do with any of it. Even the talent to dance or to write are gifts from Him, designed by Him.

I feel like I’m getting some sort of do-over from my graduation in ’87. Probably because I needed to grow up a bit to know what I wanted to be when I actually grew up. Thanks to the disciplines of being a wife and a mother, I’ve matured enough to handle the freedom of self-expression that would have been wasted in my youth (on me anyway).

Yep. I’m a late bloomer. What about you? Maybe you had different opportunities than me and were able to enjoy a career before you reached middle age (okay, maybe you’re not anywhere close to being middle age but, I promise, you’ll be there in a blink). Still, we all have hopes that are deferred for one reason or another. What are your future dreams?

Although there’s controversy surrounding whether or not C.S. Lewis actually said this, it is still a favorite quote and sounds like a tidbit of his wisdom. “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” I’m certainly proof of that.

And I’m not done dreaming!

 

Author Bio:

Heather L.L. FitzGerald writes from her home in Texas, while dreaming of being back in the Pacific Northwest, where she grew up. When her four kids were young, she enjoyed reading aloud until her voice gave out. (Her son, who is autistic, would just move on to his favorite audiobook).

Certain stories became good friends—the kind you want to revisit. The kind you wish never needed to say goodbye. Those are the kind of stories Heather aspires to write. Stories worthy of delicious coffee. Stories difficult to leave. Her YA Fantasy trilogy The Tethered World Chronicles will be complete when her third book, The Genesis Tree, releases June 1st. Her other books, The Tethered World, and The Flaming Sword, are available on Amazon or can be ordered at any book retailer.

Heather is a member of the North Texas Christian Writer’s group, ACFW, CAN, and helps with the Manent Writer’s group in Fort Worth, Texas. You can connect with Heather on her website/blogFacebook, Pinterest,(Belongs to her main character, Sadie), Character blog: (Sadie’s mother has a blog pertaining to legendary creatures), Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads.

Confessions of a Medical Mom

by Lindsay Franklin

 

Red lights flashing in the darkness, sirens wailing in the middle of the night. Your child being loaded onto a gurney and whisked away to an emergency room. It sounds like the start of a horror story. Every parents’ nightmare. The worst day of your life.

But if you have a child with a medical condition, this may be routine. It may be the eleventy-hundredth time you’ve watched EMTs load your kid into the back of an ambulance. It may only barely affect your blood pressure these days, which is good, because you have to be calm enough to recite your kid’s entire medical history at three a.m. to the paramedics who have probably never heard of his rare neurological condition.

I’m only speaking for myself, of course. Every medical parent’s story looks different—indeed, the variance can be wild. But the sirens don’t scare me anymore. When my son has a seizure, my husband and I time it carefully (our comfort zone is five to six minutes) and watch for signs of respiratory distress. Most times, we don’t call an ambulance anymore. What are the ER docs going to tell us? “Your son has something weird in his hypothalamus.” Yes, thank you. We know.

The way I’ve described it, maybe it sounds like medical moms (and dads) are the chillest cucumbers in the vegetable bin. In some ways, that’s probably true. We can’t afford to panic in the midst of an emergency. We have to stay calm and level-headed to make sure our kids get the care they need. But that’s only one facet of the medical mom life.

Anxiety has become part of my essential makeup. It always has been to a degree—I’m just wired that way more than some others, like my husband who doesn’t startle at loud noises and barely blinks when he hears glass breaking, people shouting, or atomic bombs dropping.

But my journey as a medical mom has upped the ante. The part of my brain that wants to protect my squishy, exhausted, grieved heart always has me preparing for the worst. When the worst has already happened—when you’ve gotten the very last news you ever wanted to hear—it’s hard not to constantly wait for the other shoe to drop.

I’ve had a lot of dropping shoes in my life.

There’s a strange layer of shame that tags along when you or your child is not healthy, especially in the faith community. I’d need a couple extra hands and feet to count all the times well-meaning people have subtly (or overtly) suggested my life would look different if I had a little more faith—if I prayed better or more frequently, if I had better theology, if there weren’t some underlying sin lurking in my past or present.

Look, I said they’re well-meaning, and I meant that. People don’t realize the hurt they cause when they say such things, and really, no sick or differently abled person should be surprised by these comments. They’ve been happening for millennia: “Who sinned, Jesus, this man or his parents?” But what these folks don’t realize is that the medical parent’s life requires a certain kind of faith just to reach ground zero, if you will. Just to get to the starting place where others begin growing in their relationships with God, we have an uphill battle.

That’s because we start in a pit. We start in a place of constantly wondering why our child is suffering, constantly working to overcome the anxiety and shoe’s-going-to-drop mentality. We start in a place of being reminded every moment that we are weak, that our children are hurting and there’s nothing we can do to fix it. So it is simultaneously true that I’m barely clinging on and my faith is a solid rock. Both those statements are my raw, naked truth—my confession. My faith is tested by the moment, and I’m still here.

The places where I’ve seen God working most clearly in my life have been related to my medical kid. Small miracles—and a couple big ones—have unfolded before my eyes. Medical parents may have a strange, arduous road to walk, but we also have a sharp, unshakable sense of hope. Hope that we’ll make it through today, hope that tomorrow will be easier, hope that even if it’s not, God will see us through.

 

Author Bio:

Lindsay Franklin is an award-winning author, freelance editor, and homeschooling mother of three. Her debut fantasy novel, The Story Peddler, releases in 2017 from Enclave Publishing, and her book of devotionals for young women, Adored, releases October 2017 from Zondervan/HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Lindsay has had dozens of short stories published, and she is Faculty Director for Realm Makers, an annual conference for speculative fiction writers of faith. She is a Bible college student and has taught fiction to wildly creative homeschooled junior and senior high students. Lindsay may or may not be addicted to full-leaf tea and organic coffee. Don’t tell anyone. Connect with Lindsay on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also follow her stuffed wombat on Instagram. Yeah, you read that right.

Confessions of a Reluctant Author

by Tracy L. Snyder

youre-invited-to-ababy-shower-forFriends drug me to my first writer’s conference a good ten years ago. While there I talked to an editor who advised me to enjoy the writing journey. “Have fun,” she said. “Make friends. Learn new things. Just don’t expect to be published. Accept the fact that the odds are so stacked against you that it will never happen.”

I loved this advice. It fit perfectly with the messages of my youth.

You’re good, but not good enough.

If you aim low, you won’t have to fall as far when it all goes south.

So I learned what a plot arc was, and how to describe scenes. I went to my critique group, attended more conferences, and was perfectly happy in my anonymity.

Then I started getting a new message. One that worried me.

This writing is good. It deserves to be seen. You should try to get published.

Last summer I sat across from the author Tosca Lee at a writer’s conference. She complimented my writing, then paused. “You seem hesitant,” she said.

My shoulders slumped in resignation. “I just feel as if I’m in so far over my head.”

She leaned forward until our noses were inches apart. “You’re not in over your head. You are a masterful writer. Getting published is well within your grasp.”

Wow, I thought. And then I froze.

For years I have been in treatment for PTSD due to childhood trauma. I’ve gone both inside and outside of the box in my determination get well. Acupuncture is great, and I haven’t shown a single sign of becoming a Buddhist. One of my favorite councilors met me at the door of her office with a fistful of burning sage leaves and proceeded to wave smoke all over me.

Fine. If it will help, then fumigate away.

I’ve worked hard, and have achieved a level of recovery that makes the specialists do Jazz Hands when they see my brain scans.

But when I think of being published, I still I feel the grip around my throat, and hear the details of my impending death should I speak.

I know that every author is dogged by a voice of doubt that whispers in the background. But for those of us who have been scared speechless at some point in our lives, the voice can be deep, and dark, and carry a threat.

Sometimes I grow weary, and I think about how wonderful it would be to stop hammering away at the wall of silence that surrounds me. How easy it would be to stay voiceless, and quit trying, and rest in the shadows.

And then I go get porcupined by the acupuncturist, and smoked by the councilor. I attend a support group at my church, join the Christmas choir, and play piano when no one is listening.

And I write.

I write not for fame, nor money, nor bragging rights. I write to reclaim my voice, which was removed from me with surgical precision.

I do know that I’m not the only author who has had to dig deep to reclaim my voice. And I believe that those of us who have done so, are left with a unique timbre and cadence to our words that others don’t have. I think there is grace to cover the pain, songs to banish the darkness, and laughter to stab the devil’s heart.

And so, I write.

 

tracyAbout the Author:

Tracy L Snyder lives in Salem, Oregon, the wife of one man, mother of two sons, and servant of two cats. She usually writes science fiction or fantasy, but occasionally pens a piece from the real world. By day she is a lymphedema therapist, in the evening she paddles on a competitive dragon boat team named the Angry Unicorns.
You can find her website at www.tracylsnyder.com

Twitter: @tracysnyder111

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tracy-L-Snyder-204665353212426/

 

Books:

realmscapes-cover-websiteRealmscapes Anthology

https://www.amazon.com/RealmScapes-Science-Fiction-Fantasy-Anthology-ebook/dp/B01GZ5NEFQ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

The Gold Man Review

Literary Journal

https://www.amazon.com/Gold-Man-Review-Issue-6-ebook/dp/B01MCY4CLG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1479876196&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Gold+Man+Review+Issue+6

Confessions of a Change Hater

confessionsHi, my name is Amy, and my confession is that I hate change. 

So, I started this post about six times before actually committing to this particular topic. Does that qualify for irony? For someone as indecisive as I can be, change is really not a comfort zone for me. At all.

I grew up in the same house, in the same town, with the same friends until my mid-twenties. It took 20 minutes to drive to my favorite place in the mountains. I had two favorite coffee shops, and a close-knit circle of amazing friends. I loved to travel, but mostly I loved coming home to my room, my things, my friends, my corner of the world.

So when I married a military guy, it was jarring to say the least when I made that first move away from my home. Honestly, life became pretty difficult for me. I felt lost without my support system, without the familiar landmarks I loved.  I didn’t know how to live on my own without them. Even the seasons felt “wrong.” Each time we relocated, there was new territory to learn, new friends to make, new hangouts to discover. I now got to learn how to call unknown places, “home.” And I despised it.

The only things I could take with me were my hobbies (reading, writing, and knitting), my little family, and my faith. And while my hobbies and my family didn’t change too drastically, my attitude was a major challenge to my faith. Externally, I made friends, learned about my new space, but my heart was crying out for a comfortable place, and my inner toddler was stomping her foot and hollering, “I don’t want to do this again!”

Have you ever made a decision, covered all your bases, done all the research, and then committed to it — and afterwards found out on the flip side that, well, this wasn’t exactly what you expected? Maybe it’s a job. Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s even something small. No matter, when this happens, sometimes well-meaning people will tell you that, “You have no excuse to complain, since you knew what you were getting into on the front end.” I think they mean it as a tough-love kind of way to remind you that, once, you believed that this was the right decision for your life. And you need to see it through. 

Though they may be correct, I haven’t ever found it to be that helpful of a statement. Words like that made me more unsure about making decisions — what if a decision that looks good on the outside actually turns sour? How can I be sure it won’t?

As you might guess (or maybe you’ve also learned), this is an exhausting way to live. So I had to figure out a way to get out of this paralyzing mentality. 

For some reason, the simplest answer is sometimes the most overlooked, like prayer. And that’s probably because I used to pray and tell God I wasn’t happy with where He’d put me, and that I’d (respectfully) like Him to make it possible for me to move to my comfort zone. Yeah. I’ll let you smirk at me on that one. I was always disappointed because He didn’t give me what I asked Him for.

I was recently challenged to approach God with the attitude of Mary (Jesus’ earthly mother) at the wedding in Cana. Present Him with the problem, and then step back and let Him take care of it in the way He will. It’s that stepping back part that gets me every time. Not telling Him how to handle my predicament. But when I started presenting my concerns about change to Him in this way, I noticed that I was granted peace and calm, more than a reversal of my situation. Because of that stillness, I was able to grow in my new place, rather than stay paralyzed in fear and frustration.

Music has always been a refuge for me. Finding lyrics, or even instrumental pieces that speak to me during times of change, has always helped me deal. It becomes kind of exciting to find the new soundtrack for this upcoming challenge, similar to when I’m choosing music to inspire a writing project. One of my hands-down favorite bands is Switchfoot. We got to go to one of their concerts recently and I about died of happiness, but that’s another story.

Anyway, their song, The Shadow Proves the Sunshine, is one that I’ve listened to on repeat when faced with transition. It’s a reminder that our difficult times actually accent the beauty in life, and God knows I need to remember that often.

One of the things moving has given me is an array of new friends each place I’ve lived. And I know that I’d regret never meeting the people who I miss the most. He’s given me cognizance of the difference of skies across the U.S. He’s given me the opportunity to be present in critical times for dear friends. I’ve witnessed both amazing and heartbreaking moments that I never would have, if I had stayed in my comfortable Hobbit Hole. And I’ve been given an appreciation for the depth that distance can give a relationship. 

Change isn’t something I can avoid. I will probably never truly like being pushed from my comfy place, which always seems to happen when I’ve finally become content. But it’s as if God says, “You’ve grown long enough, here. It’s time to grow another part of your soul. Let’s go.”

 

The Shadow Proves the Sunshine:

 

 

blog-author-photoAuthor Bio:

Amy Davis is a writer, mother, lover of hot drinks and nerdy things. She’s also a co-founder and Acquisitions Manager at Crosshair Press (crosshairpress.com) where she blogs monthly. She occasionally tweets on Twitter (@afielddavis) and posts on her personal blog at writingandrhythm.com.

Confession of Two Arrogant Thoughts

by James L. Rubart

 

eugeneArrogant Thought # 1

It was the mid 90s when I finished a novel in the wee hours of the morning and said to myself, “Really? C’mon. That’s supposed to be a good story? I could write a story way better than this.”

It wasn’t the first time that thought had skittered through my mind.

Arrogant? Yeah. But I didn’t do anything other than think that thought. Why? I’ll explain. (You might even relate.)

I’d dreamed of being a novelist since I was eleven. But I’d been taken out at the end of 8th grade by a lie that I believed till I was in my early 40s. The lie? That I had no writing ability.

In 8th grade—given my dream of writing—I took a journalism class. I loved it. I imagined being on the school paper the next year. Then, at the end of 8th grade, the journalism teacher chose the staff for the newspaper the coming year.

You already know where this is going. You’re right. My name wasn’t on the list. And I believed deep down in my core: “You can’t write, Jim.”

How ‘bout you? Might not have been writing for you. Might have been sports, or speaking, or painting, or singing, or cooking, or running for student body president, or a million other things, but I’m guessing you had a dream, a desire, something that stirred that deep place of joy inside you, but it crashed. It burned. Or it never got off the ground.

Arrogant Thought # 2

Fast forward a few years. Thanks to my life-changing wife, I finally jumped off the novel writing cliff and built my wings on the way down. (Thanks to Ray Bradbury for that awesome metaphor.) I got published. I hit a bestseller list. I won an award for that first novel.

You know what my reaction was?

I thought, “It’s not that I’m any good, it’s just that everyone else is so bad.”

That’s what I thought. Truly. Arrogant and self-deprecating and judgmental—all at the same time.

The Truth

In the years since I’ve discovered a few things. Or better said, my perspective has changed in a few ways.

  • First, both of the arrogant thoughts above come from deep insecurity. Am I worth anything? Do I matter? Can I do anything in my life that’s worthy of being remembered?
  • Second, the only way to be set free from that insecurity is to know, to KNOW I am loved by a Father with an unquenchable love. A Daddy that loves all my attempts—and sees all of them as triumphant, that celebrates not what I do, or accomplish, or create, but celebrates me simply because I am His son.
  • Third, the answer to the first question (can I do anything worth remembering?) is it’s really, truly okay … wherever the path of your life leads you, it’s okay. You are worthy. You do matter. You are utterly loved by a good, good, Father. And that’s enough. God’s definition of success is different than ours. Our is money, or fame, or recognition or … fill in the blank. But God’s is simple. Did you try? With whatever ability, be it great, or small, did you try? And the very fact that you care that you’re trying means you’re trying.

 

So as my friend Mark says, “Go crazy!”

Try it.

Dream it.

Believe it.

Do it.

 

tljtjp-cover

 


The Long Journey to Jake Palmer

Publishers Weekly starred review

Library Journal starred review

RT Book Reviews- 4 1/2 stars and  TOP PICK!

Available wherever books are sold.

 

 


james-l-rubart-hs-v4-7-26-16Author Bio:

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s the best-selling, Christy, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington.

More at www.jameslrubart.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Feel free to include headshot, bio, and links

 

 

Confessions of a Literary Mutation

04-21-19All my adult life I’ve struggled to merge my serious, Bible study, church-lady, self with my inner geek. You see, since childhood, I’ve loved to read, study, and know God through His Word. I’m passionate about everything from Noah to Nehemiah, John the Baptist to the Revelation of Jesus. I can talk and write about the Bible until, well, forever, actually. I’m certain that around the campfires of eternity, I’ll still be happy hearing the stories it contains.

However, God wired me with some nerd circuits, too. I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek (all the series from classic to whatever’s coming up next), and I’m a huge fan of Star Wars, Marvel Comics, The Lord of the Rings series, Once Upon a Time, King Arthur, Matrix, DC Comics, as well as select disaster movies, epic fantasy novels, science fiction books, and … well, you get the picture.

My mind swims with these characters and stories so, when I’m processing biblical truth, I often find the perfect illustration in a zombie war or a Klingon ritual. That’s just how I roll. I suppose it’s not hard to figure that I would mutate this way if you consider that I received most of my early discipleship through two magazines. In college, I faithfully read Discipleship Journal and the Wittenberg Door, one, serious biblical scholarship, and the other, evangelical satire. Yes, I’m the love child of these two, now defunct, periodicals.

cat-518306_640I’ve struggled with this–at one time attempting to hide one side from the other for obvious reasons. Only revealing one side to certain people, the other side to others. You understand. But frankly, that’s an exhausting way to live, and I respect God too much to deny His design. I mean, you wouldn’t encourage a hedgehog to keep acting like a house cat, would you? There’s a reason He created both.

It wasn’t until I started my blog and worked up the nerve to write the way I think that I discovered I’m not alone. Of course, God designed enough of us to crew a Starship, deliver a ring to Mordor, or alert the planet of impending disaster. As I found others like me, I grew to accept myself as a literary mutation–a person who merges the biblical with the fantastical in the service of furthering the kingdom of God. (It was only recently, at a Realm Makers conference, listening to a pitch from Splickety Publishing Group, that I discovered the concept of literary mutation and embraced it as my author identity.)

In my first book, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus), a quirky, unconventional devotional, my inner geek makes peek-a-boo appearances in chapters titled “Klingon Christians,” “Where’s My Cool Iron Suit,” and “The Faith of the Redshirts.”

My newest release, Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) is a full-scale merger combining serious bible teaching about characteristics necessary for spiritual growth described in 2 Peter 1:1-10 and illustrations rife with fairy tale characters, Star Trek figures, and, yes, even zombies. (If you’re a fan of a certain TV show, you won’t want to miss the chapter titled “Thou Shalt Pray like Sheldon Cooper.”)

I’m really excited about this book and even more excited that the more I find my identity in Christ, the freer I am to not only be who He made me but also to write what He created me to write. I’ve found that many of us write with the hopes that we aren’t alone in this world. My favorite part of writing is hearing from readers who also felt alone until they discovered my words that expressed what they didn’t have words to say. The faster we find the courage to write from the deepest part of who we are, the faster we’ll find the readers we are intended to reach.

How amazing is God’s imagination that He could design the likes of all of us and put into place a plan of redemption that includes even literary mutations like me?

 

Have you ever faced the issues of being a mutation of any kind?

 

roeleveld-headshot-2015About the Author:

Lori Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. Passionate about the church, she speaks and writes with humor, transparency, and authority about the long journey from the ground to glory. She writes an unsettling blog and authored three books, her latest Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life). A retired homeschool mom with a day job and a husband, she’s also a part-time giant-killer/dragon slayer. Not available for children’s parties. She’s prone to reveal too much about herself at www.loriroeleveld.com

 

high-res-beanstalk-cover-2Link for Jesus and the Beanstalk: https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Beanstalk-Overcoming-Giants-Fruitful/dp/1501820044/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471726558&sr=1-1&keywords=jesus+and+the+beanstalk

Link for Running from a Crazy Man: https://www.amazon.com/Running-Crazy-Other-Adventures-Traveling/dp/1941103782/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471726591&sr=1-1&keywords=running+from+a+crazy+man

Confessions of an Artist Hiding From her own Heart

love-castle-1042979_1920I am an artist, but I’ve only recently accepted it. Growing up in an uber-practical Midwestern family, as a rule, artistry was something to be respected and grateful for, but it wasn’t highly valuable as a skill. So instead I focused on achieving practical things. Being organized. Being reliable and responsible. Changing tires, balancing check books, making lists. Life skills and algebra (*shudder*).

But I was only ever truly happy running around outside in the fresh green grass of the back pasture at our family farm. Sticks became energy weapons. Towering sunflowers became leering villains who needed a beating. I climbed apricot trees and pretended I could glimpse my imaginary world through the blossoms. I blasted soundtracks in my bedroom and paced in circles, letting the vigorous strains of Anastasia and The Phantom Menace choreograph action sequences that could keep Weta busy for decades. But I didn’t really write it down, and I certainly didn’t take it seriously. I was just playing, and the real world mattered more.

new-name_final_smallFast forward 20+ years. I tell stories for a living now. The first novel I ever wrote hit the shelves in March of this year, and in December of this year, the third book in my Destiny Trilogy will be available too. You can pre-order it right now, actually (http://crosshairpress.com/books/destiny-trilogy-3/).

Conquering the fear of sharing my words with the world began with understanding that God gave me a gift. Not everyone can write, and I had a choice to use my writing for myself or for God. My choice? God gave me this gift of words, so why wouldn’t I want to give it back to Him? And that’s where my real confession begins.

I am an artist, but I’m a practical one. I’m convinced that my practical upbringing helped me get to where I am now. I’m an artist who can run a business, who can understand accounting, finance, taxes, and insurance. I’m an artist who can pinch pennies, make deadlines, plan ahead, and manage people. I’m an artist who has finished 40 novels, averaging 55,000 words each. I’m an artist who lives and dies by the clock and the calendar.

That’s great, right? Because everybody can count on me. Everybody can look to me for answers. Everybody can come to me, and I’ll solve their problems. So it is great for an artist to be practical, especially if you have a caretaker streak in your personality. But if you’re an artist, you can’t always be practical.

I thought I could be practical all the time and still harness the heart of an artist whenever I felt like it, but I’ve learned it really doesn’t work that way. If you don’t have an artist’s heart, you may not understand. A practical heart can be refreshed and renewed with productivity and accomplishment and a good night’s sleep. An artist’s heart needs more than that. An artist needs to create. Without boundaries. Without rules. Without judgment or criticism. Artists need freedom to dream as big as they can imagine, whether it’s possible or not.

What the practical would call a waste of time is the artist’s lifeblood.

I’ve straddled the line too long, too afraid to accept my own artistic heart. I think I feared some Kafka-esque metamorphosis that would change me from a reliable person to a flake who couldn’t be trusted. And I can’t think of any greater horror than disappointing people who love me. At the same time, an artist confined to practicality is like growing a flower in water. It’ll grow, but it needs more if it’s going to thrive.

I am an artist, and avoiding that fact isn’t helping me. God wove my soul together. God made my brain this way. He knew exactly how weird I was going to turn out, and He still said it was good. So maybe I should too.

If God gave me this heart, if He gave me this gift, why am I afraid to embrace it? God doesn’t work through fear. He never has. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fear Him. I mean, heck, think about who He is. I fear Him, believe me. But I know He loves me. I know He’s good. And I know His plans for me are better than I can imagine.

I can be a practical artist. So can you. They aren’t mutually exclusive. Actually, both practical folks and artistic folks could benefit in learning from each other. One isn’t better than the other. One isn’t wrong and the other’s right. Usually, they’re both wrong, and the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I’ve been hiding from my own heart for years, and I’m done with it. This crazy, quirky, random heart God gave me belongs to Him anyway, so I shouldn’t be afraid of it. As long as it’s focused on Him, I’ve got nothing to worry about.

So blow up the box. Set fire to the rule book. Wipe the slate clean. God made me an artist, and I’ve got a job to do.

 

Are you hiding from who God made you to truly be? Or just scared to be that person?

 

me2015Author Bio:

Amy Williams is a novelist, freelance writer, founding member of Crosshair Press LLC, and professional nerd. You can find most of her work under the name A.C. Williams, but she also writes young adult fantasy (The Legend of the Lightkeepers) under the pen name Kimberly McNeil. Amy is single and lives in her family’s 100-year-old farmhouse on five acres in the middle of the Kansas prairie. She loves cats and drinks far too much coffee. Follow her random adventures on Facebook (AmytheStoryteller), Twitter (@acwilliams05), Instagram (@acwilliams05), and online at amycwilliams.com.

Reconnecting with Your Vision

pixabay.binoculars-1209011_640.vision.Ralene BurkeFor the past several months, I have been preparing for my current book release and there are days I don’t know if I’m a marketer or a writer. I spend more time redesigning my website, answering emails and writing blog posts than I do writing stories. Honestly, there are days I walk into my office space and feel overwhelmed and want to quit. Kind of sort of, but not really. I know that is not an option.

The Bible says without vision the people perish. Right now, my writing is in danger of perishing if I don’t reconnect with my writing vision and adjust my choices accordingly. I have found the following action steps to be helpful in this process.

Go back to the beginning. Remind myself why I’m writing in the first place. Visit that place of inspiration in my heart. Wake up the joy in writing story. What worked or didn’t work as I split by time between writing and marketing. Then make room in my life for what brings me joy about writing. Let some of the other stuff go and breathe.

Clearly define success for myself. Comparison is a dangerous trap. It is far too easy to be jealous of another author’s success and waste emotional energy bemoaning my lack of success.  What works for another author may not even work for my audience. Instead, I need to carefully examine where I want to be in 1, 5, or more years given my particular heart for writing.

Set clear and sustainable goals that are not pie in the sky goals, but realistic, reachable goals that won’t burn me out. Then once I have well defined goals in place, handle each day’s goal on that day. If I want to reach 1000, it starts with the one I reach today. When I worry about tomorrow, I miss out on enjoying the NOW.

Take the first step. Inaction will only frustrate me, stealing my joy of writing.

Focus on where I am going. Once I start moving, wherever I look is the direction I will go. If I use a compass to arrive at a destination, one degree off over long distance will take me far off course. The goals I set are my path and if I want to stay on that path, I need to keep my eyes on where I am heading.

Give myself grace for when I mess up. I will veer off course from time to time whether by life interrupting or my own reluctance to keep my eyes focused ahead. If I wallow in regret, I give away part of my joy.

Taking these steps will help ensure I don’t lose my joy in writing even if I occasionally lose my way.

What steps have you taken to reconnect with your vision for this writing life?

 

pub pic 2016 tempAuthor Bio:

Angela D. Meyer, author of The Applewood Hill Series, lives in NE with her husband of 25 years and their high school daughter. Their son serves our country in the Marines. Angela enjoys hanging out with her family, reading, connecting with friends and encouraging women to grow in their faith. One of her dream spots to vacation is next to the ocean and someday she wants to ride in a hot air balloon.

 

Connect with Angela:

Website  Facebook  Pinterest  Google+  Twitter

 

 

Coming Soon:

Cover reveal of Where Healing Starts Angela’s new release.

Pre-order special for Where Healing Starts: At the time of your purchase, receive a free download of Where Hope Starts, book 1 in the Applewood Hill series.

Sign up for Angela’s Newsletter so you don’t miss these announcements.

 

Coming Soon.temp book coverWhere Healing Starts

Release date: September 22, 2016

 

Joanna, full of bitterness over the past, can no longer ignore the growing storm inside her and is bent on self-destruction as she seeks to ease her pain. But the refuge she seeks is always out of her reach.

 

Her brother Blake must choose between what has always been safe and what he has always wanted. One mistake after another leads him down a dangerous path.

 

The one for all, all for one sibling bond can’t help them now. They are both determined to hang onto their anger, never forgetting. Never forgiving. They see no reason to trust God.

 

After so many years of turmoil, will the Hannigan siblings find refuge in the God who loves them? Or will they get lost along the way?

 

Confessions of a Writer, Mother, and Pastor’s Wife

Confessions of a ...Every time I share that I’m a writer, I have people look at me and ask how do I do it all? How do I balance raising four kids, being a pastor’s wife, and writing?

Confession time: I haven’t always done a good job juggling all three. Honestly, I think the only person who could is Supergirl, and even then I think she would struggle. But what I have learned is to have priorities, and those priorities have changed as I went from writing as an unpublished writer to an author with a deadline, and from having four kids under four to kids in the double digits.

When I first started writing, I was home with babies and toddlers, snatching bits of writing time during naps and nights when my husband was at church meetings. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to be published. I think this is the desire and goal of most writers (after all, we write so that we can share with the world). There were moments where I grew discontent with just being home with kids. I wanted more. I wanted to be an author so bad I could taste it. But that wasn’t where I was in life. So instead, I took the time I had to learn all I could about writing, then continued writing during those spare moments I had.

That period of my life taught me the value of waiting, of putting aside my desires, and to put my family first. As a pastor, one of my husband’s goals was to never have our children grow up and feel like the church took their daddy away. I had a similar goal: I never wanted my children growing up believing writing was more important than them.

New FotW coversNow, as a published writer, I am thankful for the boundaries I set earlier on around my writing and around my family. I write when my kids are in school, but when they are home, I put my writing away. There are those few weeks every year when I’m on an edit deadline, but because I have invested into my children and husband, they help me out during that time instead of resenting mommy disappearing into her office for hours on end.

As far as being a pastor’s wife, honestly, I’m not any different that other women in the church. I just happen to be married to the pastor, other than one thing: the more he is gone, the more I need to be home so I can hold down the fort. I serve where time and gifts allow, and in some ways, my writing is also part of my ministry. As a shy introvert, it is hard for me to be around people. That’s why I love writing! I can communicate my heart and faith with people in a way that bypasses my weaknesses.

So what advice do I have for mothers? Enjoy the time you have with your little ones now. The writing will always be there, but your children will not. They grow up and before you know it, they’re gone. Also spend time with your husband. Your marriage needs you to be a part of it. It might mean you only write a book a year, but your relationship is worth it. If you want to be writer, you need to write. But find a time and a pace that allows you to be a mother and wife as well.

Tainted_Hi_ResAlso, saying “no” is okay. You can’t do everything. That is something I learned early on in ministry. I can do a couple things very well, but if I spread myself out, my effectiveness diminishes. In order to juggle the role of mother, writer, and wife, I’ve had to use “no” many times in order to say “yes” to a few things so I can do those few things well. That might come in the form of saying no to writing three books in one year (no!), or heading up three different ministries at church (no!), or having each of my kids participate in three sports, piano lessons, and drama club (no!).

So how do I do it all? By giving each area the time in needs, and saying no to everything else. My kids and husband get time with me, my writing gets its share of time, and I serve the church when I can (and sometimes that means being home for our family and allowing my husband to go off and do everything he needs to for the church).

How about you? Do you struggle juggling everything? How do you prioritize your time, obligations, and relationships along with your writing? Share below!

 

morgan-busse-NLR-5Author Bio:

Morgan L. Busse writes fantasy and steampunk for the adult market. She is the author of the Follower of the Word series, including Daughter of Light, Christy and Carol Award finalist. Morgan lives on the West Coast with her husband and four children. You can find out more about Morgan at www.morganlbusse.com

 

Website: www.morganlbusse.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/morganlbusseauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MorganLBusse (@MorganLBusse)

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/morganlbusse

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5827587.Morgan_L_Busse

My books: http://www.enclavepublishing.com/authors/morgan-busse/

Confessions of a Rejected Author

BelieveWe are told that if we pray hard enough … long enough … that you will get what your heart desires. Added to that is the phrase “if it is a Godly desire”. I’m fairly sure this is a cultural teaching, but that is not the point. The point is, we pray, expecting to get what we pray for. The “God is a vending machine” mentality. This idea goes hand in hand with the idea of God making us prosper. That we will have a happy life with no issues, other than where to spend our money, because he has made us so prosperous.

Somewhere in all of this, the idea that we are tested and that the enemy attacks us is lost. Maybe because we don’t want to hear it, or maybe because, too often, the bible verses “Ask and it will be give to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:8) and “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24), are taken out of context and used as a one shot to bolster the spirits of Christians and non-Christians alike.

If you actually read further in Matthew 7, you will see that Jesus is actually talking about being given what is GOOD for us by our heavenly Father. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:9-11)

The verse in Mark is taken out of context as well. If you read several verses before this one, you find out that Jesus curses a fig tree and the next morning, Peter expressed amazement that the curse Jesus spoke came to be. It is there we find the meaning of this story. “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. (Mark 11:22) Simple, precise, and to the point. This verse is not telling you that YOU demand of God, but instead, trust that God’s promises and God’s will will be carried out.

Does that mean we shouldn’t pray for what we desire?

Of course it doesn’t. But if you ask people if they got every desire of their heart, the answer is going to be no.

But doesn’t that mean it wasn’t a Godly desire?

Not necessarily. I prayed long and hard that my son would be healed and get to come home with us a happy, healthy, and normal little boy. I even took comfort in the idea that Godly desires are granted. It took our family preacher at the time telling me that just because I prayed, doesn’t mean I would get it. As much as I didn’t like to hear it then, I am SO grateful he spoke that truth into my soul at that time. Because when I DIDN’T get the desired answer from God, I didn’t lose faith. I kept the knowledge that God’s will doesn’t necessarily translate directly into what I want. But I also don’t believe that my desire was not put there by God. I fully believe that He, as our loving Father, would never want that type of pain to be given to one of his children.

I had a Godly desire, but God still said no. I do not have all the answers to the “why” behind it. And the day I finally do, I don’t think it will matter, since I will be with God and all of my lost babies.

Prayer will not always give you what you want. Sometimes, there is a “no” answer. And that is okay.

At the end of 2015, I submitted my first story to be considered for publication. (It was my “first” in terms of it was more than the rough draft. I actually worked on refining it and having others read it to help me fix big mistakes.) It was part of a contest and I was nervous and excited. I hoped I would win, but told myself I didn’t hold out much hope. (That was a lie to myself…I’m working on that!) But I would pray. I prayed long and hard some nights for God to let me win the contest and my my story be one of the five chosen. I even went as far as laying out why I wanted to win. (I realized later that this was only half the truth … but more on that in a bit.)

So February of 2016 came around, and I saw a post that made it seem like the winners had already been notified and I hadn’t been contacted. I was devastated. I felt like the best I could give wasn’t good enough and there is no way God intended for me to write because I wanted to win so bad. I didn’t do much other writing in February, telling myself I needed the time to recoup from my disappointment. I had really given up on myself at that time.

Towards the end of February, hoping for something I missed, I re-read the blog post that I THOUGHT said the winners had already been notified. I read and re-read the wording of a certain part and realized that I had been initially mistaken. The winners didn’t know who they were yet. There was still hope! But I still had about a week and half of anxious waiting before I would know for sure. The wait was going to do me in!

I prayed again that I would win the contest. But this time, I focused on a part of the prayer I had missed when I was praying in January…I prayed that God’s will be done. I was a lot calmer and a lot more focused on the fact that with all the entries in the contest, the chances of me winning was slim (there were only 5 winners of who knows how many … but it was more than 100).

So March 1 came along, and I read the announcement page. Sure enough, my name wasn’t listed as the five winners. Nor was it listed in the 5 runner ups. I was disappointed, but this time, I started thinking of the why.

Why was my desperate desire not granted. I had a Godly reason behind it. I wanted my story to touch and impact a person positively. So if I had a good reason, why was there a no.

I did a lot of soul searching the days after I saw the announcement. I finally realized that me wanting to impact the people who read my story was only part of the reason I wanted to win.

If I won, my story would be published, and I could figuratively thumb my nose at all those people who told me I couldn’t do it (even myself).

If I won, I would get money and my name in print … on a real life published book, published through a publisher that, while small, was an actual publisher that gave out rejections. This publisher is not a vanity press! It is the real deal!

If I won, I would be able to go to my library and tell them, “Hey I have a story that is going to be published.” I would have my name out there!

None of these reasons are inherently “bad” reasons (except for maybe the first one that hits a little too close to pride…). But they are all reasons that I lied to myself about. I’m sure there are other reasons I’m still keeping from myself, too.

My point with this, though, is to say that even though I prayed and had a good desire…a desire that, I believe, was placed there by God, it wasn’t my only desire. I would venture to say that it probably wasn’t even my STRONGEST desire.

I’m sure, like my prayer of healing for my son, there are multiple reasons why God said “no” to me having my story win, I think I’ve figured out a few.

One reason is I needed to learn a bit of humility. We all do, but I was so caught up on what I would do or say when I finally got published, that I started to think of myself as better than others. I spent some time reading other stories that were similar to mine after I submitted my story. “Mine was better than that one,” was a strong thought I had in the three months between when I submitted the story and when the winners were announced.

Another reason is I needed to look deep into my own reasoning and my own thoughts as to the “why” behind my desires. I only spoke of my “other” desires to, really, my husband. I kept them well hidden from myself most of the time and tried to “hide” them from God (that never works because He always knows …). If anyone would have asked me my reasons behind wanting to win, I would have whipped out my “I want to impact someone who reads my story” excuse.

If I had won, I would have never thought on my other reasons. I would have been prideful and arrogant and would have pushed my agendas, without much thought to the reason I told everyone about.

God answers prayers. I have seen it happen. I have witnessed it happening. But sometimes, the answer is “no.” We can’t ever know the full extent of the reason behind the no, but there is a reason. And we need to maintain our faith and belief that not only does God want to give us what we ask for, but he wants us to actually have better than we ask for. And this means, sometimes, He has to say “no.”

20150808_074211Author Bio:

Jill Fortriede is a stay-at-home-mom and future homeschooler. She has three beautiful girls here on Earth and three babies in heaven. She loves fairy tales, Narnia, and most things speculative.