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Archive for the ‘Crosswalk Articles’ Category

I wrote another version of my original article, September, and it landed at Crosswalk today under their homeschool section! The link is below.

http://www.crosswalk.com/family/homeschool/encouragement/wrestling-to-get-back-into-school-mode.html

I am polishing a story for The Writer’s Digest 2011 short story contest this weekend. Six categories. Probably thousands of entries per category.

I am entering a shortened, and reworked, version of my young adult novel in the young adult category. A little fun. A little creepy. The story, not the entry process. Well, maybe the entry process. We shall see what happens.

Worst case scenario? I get a lot of material for my blog on self-esteem and rejection!

Have a great weekend!

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Why does God teach me the most valuable lessons at the center of my rawest moments? Whether I’m humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed or aching—those are the times He reveals the deepest truths.

For the fourth year in a row, I attended the annual North Texas Christian Writer’s conference held in mid-September. As usual, the workshops offered impressive teachers and valuable information, but what I took away from the weekend had nothing to do with writing tips. God had a bigger revelation for me—that words, often spoken without thought, can construct and create or damage and destroy.

I wish I could tell you I gleaned this pearl of wisdom from dancing out of the conference on a high. However, God rarely teaches me during a happy moment—maybe because I don’t always listen when I’m confident, secure, and delighted with myself.

Instead, He used a disappointing critique with one of the faculty to illustrate how flippant words do more harm than no words at all. Despite how desperate I am to hit the “rewind” button on the little breakdown I had Saturday morning at the conference—a meltdown large enough to prompt a dash out to my car where I could hide until my mascara stopped running down my face—God moved my heart in a major way. Using humility. I hate that word, almost as much as I hate the word patience. I try not to ask Him for either of those lessons. But He always knows what I need.

Being an artist, any kind of artist, makes for an emotional rollercoaster ride. What we write and paint illustrates the essence of who we are, and when other people don’t love our art, it feels as though they don’t love us.

I’m pretty certain I’m not alone on this rollercoaster. We all hold something close to our heart—our job, hobby, skill, talent, our children, marriage, or friendships. I know that as a mom who strives to build my kids’ character nothing pops my balloon faster than a well-placed dart targeted toward my deficiencies as a parent.

Yes, I want to stretch and grow as a person and a writer. In order to do that, my heart must be teachable. Yet, no matter how willing I am to learn, I still ache when someone criticizes my work or dismisses my effort—constructively or otherwise.

Hard work and perseverance will move me toward my goals. Poorly placed criticism can still be useful. There’s always a small truth that I can take away, but I work so much better with encouragement. None of us was made to walk alone. I Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (NIV). We need each other. Having someone push you up the mountain, in the midst of crippling criticism or personal crisis, makes the difference between falling down and re-energizing for the climb.

I choose to take what I learned at the bottom of the rollercoaster and use it as momentum to scale the rise and take another ride. And when I get to the top? I will remember that meltdown in the parking lot and remind myself that anyone can criticize, but it takes a special person to encourage, and that’s the person I want to be.

I challenge you to carefully consider the words of your mouth. Be an encourager, not a destroyer. Open your mouth and spread the love!

Link to this article in Crosswalk: http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/the-power-of-the-tongue.html

If you liked this article, please pass it on!

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This summer I took a trip up north. From Texas, I flew to Wisconsin, picked up my mom, and drove her to our family reunion in Ohio.

Before our road trip began, we met my in-laws for breakfast at an old-fashioned diner in Sun Prairie. We enjoyed a great visit swapping stories and photos with my mother-in-law, Diane, and her new husband, Bob.

After the meal and four cups of coffee, I excused myself to run to the little girl’s room before we got on the road.

I took a quick glance in the mirror after I washed my hands. Not finding any food in my teeth or toilet paper hanging out of the back of my pants, I reapplied a layer of barely beige lipstick and fluffed my hair. The mirror approved and I sailed out the door ready for pictures and hugs.

Outside the diner, the four of us played rotating photographer. My camera held photos of me and mom, me and Bob, me and Diane, Diane and Bob—you get the idea. After final hugs, I turned to unlock the car and caught a glimpse of a large white square stuck to the back of my upper thigh.

A lone piece of toilet paper lay plastered to my black yoga pants.

Yoga pants are perfect for travel. The stretchy waistband and soft fabric assure a certain comfort factor during a long ride in the car; however, I did not realize yoga pants were also a toilet paper magnet.

I glanced around the parking lot, which stood empty except for my mom waiting by the passenger-side door. With a nonchalance I’d learned over the years of suffering from such disasters, I reached back, dislodged the paper, and nudged it under the back tire.

How did I miss that big white blob on my dark black pants when I performed my cursory check in the mirror? How many people watched me walk out the door of the diner with toilet paper plastered to my leg?

Just like toilet paper, sin is sticky.

It hangs on me in places I can’t see—even if I’ve looked for it. I need help to see what I’ve missed. Lord, I cry out to you like David. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See
if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (NIV
Psalms 139:23, 24).

And help me remember when I wear those black yoga pants again to check them twice after a visit to the little girl’s room.

link to this article in The Christian Pulse: http://thechristianpulse.com/2011/10/21/fatal-attraction/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheChristianPulse+%28The+Christian+Pulse%29

link to this article in Crosswalk; http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/the-stickiness-of-sin.html

 

 

 

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http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/chosen-by-him.html  (link to this article in Crosswalk)

The valet line in front of the Ritz Carlton stretches down the street and winds around the block. After handing off my keys, I register for the charity auction at a table on the patio, and enter the conference area.

Chaos.

Women adorned in cocktail dresses, high heels and matching jewelry—at nine in the morning—mill from table to table, clutching numbered stickers and small goblets stained with lipstick.

Heels. I should’ve worn heels. I look down and notice how my black flats highlight the bruise covering my big toe. My dress, while cute—a Dillard’s outlet steal—hides beneath an old black cable sweater. A sorry stand-in for the silk wrap I lost last week. I pull the sweater off and drape it over my arm. Maybe no one will notice. Goosebumps race across my shoulders and back.

Cold and chic? Or warm and ratty? A dilemma—we’ll see how cold it gets.

I’ve already embarrassed myself three times this morning. I left my phone in the car after the valet drove away. I gashed the front of my shin when I tripped over the spotlight on the floor. And, by far the worst, I opened a door in the bathroom to find the stall occupied.

Maybe sitting is the best way to wait for the luncheon to start.

As I head for the lone chair at the edge of the room, I pass tables laden with beautiful purses, positioned just so on white silk tablecloths, waiting for the highest bidder to carry them home. I push through the sea of women perusing the bounty and glance at the invitation in my hand. In stylish cursive script, I am encouraged toDress Hip with a Hip Handbag.

My eyes catch on the plethora of hip handbags promenading around the room. I peek at my own bag—brown-striped tweed, half zipped, a wad of paper hanging out—and wince. When I reach the chair, I breathe a sigh of relief.

Poor purse. I frown and trace the front buckle. As we walked past the frou-frou handbags lining the tables, it must have cringed in humiliation. Cast-off, tossed to the bottom of the bin at Goodwill, it never perched, proud and regal on an auction table.

Kind of like me, needy and neglected, at the bottom of the reject bin. With great care, God rescued me, placed me among the adorned, heeled, and jeweled. The highest bidder, He paid the price and reminds me today as he whispers through His word. “…even the very hairs of your head are all numbered…you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:30-31 NIV) and you are “…precious and honored in my sight…” (Isaiah 43:4).

I pat my purse and smile. “You’re mine. Doesn’t if feel amazing to be chosen?”

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http://www.crosswalk.com/family/homeschool/the-belly-of-the-bus-11637337.html

It’s that time again. I rise with the sun, eager for what this school year will bring, yet sad to see summer end. And on this day, once again, the annual ritual outside my window lures me in.

Across, the street, Liz opens her door, tightening the belt on her blue terry robe as her girls scramble out underneath her arm. Next door, Dawn, toddler on her hip, strolls down the driveway. Her triplets follow behind, turning toward the bus stop, carrying purple lunchboxes and bright pink backpacks—no doubt filled with perfectly tipped crayons, unused glue sticks, and tightly capped markers. Two houses down, Tommy, laced into a pristine pair of white Nikes, races down the sidewalk for his first day of kindergarten. Clutching a large mug of coffee, his mom trails behind.

As my neighbors herd their kids to the end of the street, and one by one, their children disappear into the belly of the bus, a twinge of longing grips my heart. Longing for the serenity of an empty house, an open schedule, and weeks and months to pursue the things I desire. Longing for the novel in my head to emerge on paper this year rather than next.

With a sigh, I drop the curtain and pad to the kitchen where my kids lounge at the table cluttered with notebooks, textbooks, pens and markers. Breakfast dishes mound in the sink and slippers lay strewn across the floor.

Kyle, 16, is showered and dressed—ready to begin the school day no doubt in hopes of moving on to a more exciting endeavor involving a red and black controller. Maddy, 9, remains enamored of learning and is showered, re-pajama-ed, and industriously sharpens her brand new pencils. Alek, 13, unshowered and sporting the same attire as the day before, sprawls with his head down at the table and groans.

“Oops.” Maddy jumps off the chair as her markers clatter to the floor like heavy hail.

I sigh and top off the coffee in my Georgia Bulldogs mug. Add a little cream. Then a little more. The bus will be at school by now. And I envision my neighbors on their second cup of coffee, relaxing in serene and perfect silence.

“I’ll get them, Maddy.” In a rare show of kindness, Kyle reaches underneath his chair to collect the markers as they roll by his feet.

Alek stretches, then runs a hand across a large black book, a half-smile brightening his face. “Can I start with history this morning?”

His smile is contagious and I realize I don’t really want to pack them on the bus. I just crave a quiet moment here and there. Drinking coffee alone is overrated. I don’t really need days and weeks of an empty house. Just an hour every so often.

And maybe God’s timing for my novel is the year 2020.

The right thing isn’t always the easy thing—especially in the midst of daily bickering and the responsibility of vigilance as both parent and teacher. It’s a calling I don’t take lightly, yet I know for now God wants me here. And what I love about Him is that in the most necessary moments, He lifts me up and swathes my heart in grace and joy. “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11 NIV).

The first day of school.

With a smile, I sip my coffee and take a seat between Alek and Maddy. My annual angst has disappeared inside the belly of the bus and chugged away. Maybe next year I’ll look for His joy at this table and skip the activities outside my window. I will live Isaiah 43:19 and forget the former things, stop dwelling on the past, and eagerly await the new thing God is doing!


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http://www.crosswalk.com/family/homeschool/encouragement/stepping-off-the-wheel-of-worry.html

3:00 A.M.

I can just make out the small green numbers on the cable box. Why did I think this couch would be more comfortable than my bed? My body pillow hangs off the cushions and the blanket tangles around my legs. At least I’m free to toss and turn without heavy sighs from my husband’s side of the bed.

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

Jeffrey scampers inside the blue plastic wheel hooked to the bars of his hamster cage. For the last hour, I’ve been tossing and turning to the rhythm of his relentless, nocturnal quest. The wheel spins faster and faster. Jeffrey goes nowhere.

Pushing my head into the pillow does nothing to block out the squeak of Jeffrey’s wheel. Restless, I can’t get comfortable. How am I going to clean the house, get to the grocery store, make snacks for Maddy’s Brownie party, edit Alek’s World View paper, help Kyle study for his Spanish test, prepare for our co-op’s student council meeting, and still get through Maddy’s Abeka worksheets in time to make writer’s group? Especially if I don’t get any sleep tonight?

How did I get so busy? Homeschooling three kids, teaching and advising student counsel at co-op, girl scouts, tennis, charities, driving the boys to outside classes. Not to mention the daily crush of dinner, cleaning and laundry.

And worrying.

Always worrying. Am I smart enough to teach? Have I rounded out our curriculum? Am I tuned into the kids’ learning styles? Would they be better off in real school? Will Kyle get into college? Was duel credit the right choice? Was I wrong not to push Alek into baseball? Am I pressing Maddy too hard in math? The wheel picks up speed. My mouth is dry. It hurts to swallow

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

Can you WD-40 a hamster wheel?

Jeffrey’s persistent quest continues. Half his body slides off, but a last second foot maneuver saves him and he catches the wheel and keeps on running. Give it up already. Face it, Jeffrey—it doesn’t matter how fast you run—you’re still going nowhere.

Despite the amount of body hair he sports, Jeffrey and I aren’t that different. We both run. Neither one of us getting very far. Day after day, commitment after commitment, mini crisis after mini crisis, Jeffrey and I race ahead,  never bothering to slow down long enough to look around and realize we haven’t moved at all.

What are we running for? What are we running toward? I can’t speak for Jeffrey, but my motto is Make It Through. I rarely stop and ask God what He wants me to do. I forget life is the sum of each moment. As I run past those moments, I’m wasting them.

In Matthew, Jesus confronts Peter on his wheel, challenging him. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23 NIV).

Uh oh. That’s harsh. My entire wheel spins with human concerns.

In that moment, God reaches down and ever so gently lays the tip of his finger on the top of my wheel, slowing it down carefully, so I don’t fall off.

Okay, Lord. I don’t know what to give up and what to keep. What plans do You have for my kids? For our homeschool? And their lives? Give me peace to let go of my human concerns and fall in line with Your plan. Weed out the distractions. Help me treasure each moment and not waste this time You’ve given me with my kids. Time I will never have again.

I roll to my side, snuggle into the softness of my body pillow, embracing the relief that always comes when I stop moving on my own power. Jesus, thank You that I don’t have to figure it out on my own. You know what You want from me.

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

Oh, and could You please put Your finger on Jeffrey’s wheel, too? Or at least make him very, very tired?

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http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/can-god-find-me-anywhere.html
I ran down the hall desperate for a quiet place to meet God. Around the
corner, through an old wooden door, an alcove hid a tiny restroom in the north
end of the hospital. I pushed through the door and locked myself in the cold,
grey refuge of the single stall. A knot formed in my chest, tight and
suffocating.

“Lord, please. I need to be alone. Don’t let anyone need to use this
restroom.” I stared at the chipped, stained tiles. Would God meet me here? In a
worn, broken down, dirty restroom?

Footsteps echoed outside the door. I held my breath as they paused, then
continued on.

Unexpected laughter bubbled up and I sagged down onto the worn toilet seat,
balancing over the oval shaped hole. Even if this was an odd venue to beg for
Kyle’s life—it painted an accurate picture of the day.

Was it better to leap right into the begging or make a bunch of lame promises
first? God knew it all anyway. And my time alone was limited. Straight
to the begging seemed the best option.

“First, I need you to forgive me. For getting too busy for you. Please don’t
be too busy for me.” I flexed my foot, moved my ankle in a circle. Fixated on my
dirty shoes.

The air conditioner kicked on and I slid forward on the seat.

Shaky laughter escaped, echoing through the bathroom. “Lord, please. I don’t
want to do this. I’m not strong enough. The whole concept of you only giving
what I can handle
? Well, I can’t handle it.”

I rubbed my palms along the rough fabric of my jeans. “I don’t want to handle
it. So maybe we could do something else instead? Something easier? I
could get sick.”

I stared at my wedding ring. Watched the diamond sparkle under the
fluorescent light. “Or Pat? He could get sick. What about a fire?
Tornado?” My bitten off nails dug into my legs. “Pat could lose his job. That
would be character building.”

I squeezed my eyes together. “Pick something else. Please. I’m begging from a
toilet seat.”

I paused to give God time think it over. But there was no great booming
voice.

“You could waive the last few days away.”

The air conditioner chugged louder. Tears escaped and I turned my face to
wipe them against my shoulder. “This isn’t supposed to be my life.”

The shape of the hard porcelain indented the bottom of my thighs so I stood.
“You’re not letting me out of this, are you?” I sagged against the smooth metal
wall. Slid down to the floor.

“I guess we’re going with cancer then.” Goosebumps formed on my back where my
tank top scooped down.

“I can’t do this alone. And I can’t waste time and energy wondering if you
caused this, or allowed this or could have stopped this. I need to feel your
love, your goodness. Every day. You are my rock.”

Tears rolled down my face—no point in trying to stop them. As the tears
flowed, the hard knot inside my chest stretched and softened.

Still no booming voice.

But for the first time in days, my shoulders relaxed. A verse filled my head.
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you
are there.” (Psalm 139:8 NIV). God could find me anywhere. He could fill me
anywhere.

That day, six years ago, God found me in the restroom of the Children’s
Hospital. He heard my plea and answered. No, He didn’t take it away or swap it
out for something else. But He met me where I was, in that dirty old broken down
restroom, lifted me up and reminded me why He was my rock. Throughout the entire
four-year journey, I walked alongside my son with God as the glue that held us
together. And not for one minute did I question His love.

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