Chuck

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Recently some people we thought were dear friends inflicted Chuck on us via massive arm-twisting and emotional evangelizing.  My husband and I are both busy people, we have a wonderful evening entertainment routine which includes Rhett and Link’s Good Mythical Morning, and we really didn’t have time for another TV Show.

They applied the pressure. (We’re so glad they did.)

Hesitantly, we started season one in early February.  And once you start…you’re doomed.  In about four weeks, we devoured all five seasons becoming Chuck-evangelists ourselves.

This show is the Get Smart of my generation.  It’s very specifically geared towards those of us fortunate enough to be born in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  It is brilliant.  It now occupies a slot in my Favorite TV Show List alongside Star Trek:NG, Firefly, Band of Brothers, Sherlock and 24.  Chuck is funny, cute, intense, heart-warming, relatively clean, and relatively moral.  The jokes are both nerdy and geeky, and cover everything from Court Jester, Terminator, Final Fantasy, Cobra, Batman, Tron and so much more.

The real beauty of this show, though, is not the jokes only my generation will get, it’s the characters.  The main characters all grow, but don’t change.  They all mature without losing the core that made you love them in the first place.  Each season they add important layers to the main characters that give them an unusual amount of depth for such a fun show.

Normally, I don’t enjoy shows with a lead female who can fight her way out of any situation, especially against bigger men.  I think it’s unrealistic to the point of being patronizing and insulting.  Strength is not always how much butt you can kick.  I really hate it, generally, when they pair a strong, cold female with a wimpy guy.  I just don’t find the ‘I can be as strong as him’ plot point satisfying.  Call me old school, but I enjoy the strong guy who saves the girl far more than the strong girl who saves the guy.  All this was true until I watched Chuck.  Chuck’s saving grace, his strength, is his moral compass.  He never strays from it.  He always does the right thing no matter what national secrets are on the line.  It’s why you love him.  It is why Sarah loves him.  And while Sarah is saving Chuck physically – she protects him – Chuck is saving her spiritually and emotionally.  Chuck gives her something to live for, not only because she loves him, but also because he’s good.  She wants to be a better person because she loves him.  They play this theme out dimensionally with the other characters.  The hardened John Casey is not immune to Chuck’s good nature.  I think, ultimately, Casey is my favorite character.  He starts out easily mistaken for cardboard.  He grunts, shoots, and has no emotion.  By the end of the show, he’s part of the family, willing to do anything for his team.  Casey becomes human because of Chuck.

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I loved Chuck’s use of marriage.  In many stories once you have the lead male and female marry, the spark is gone.  They fight.  They cheat and lie.  They lose everything about them that you once loved.  Not Chuck.  Chuck and Sarah’s marriage only strengthens their bond.  They have a greater depth of character as a unit and as individuals once they’re married.  I loved the power it gave their characters when they no longer protected their boyfriend or girlfriend but their husband or wife.  Even the side characters, Awesome and Ellie, have a good marriage.  Marriage is not treated as the end of romance, but as the beginning.

There are many heartwarming themes running through this show.   Loyalty to friends and family is at the forefront.  My husband and I have a close-knit family.  We spend a lot of time together.  We’re loyal to each other.  I love this show for honoring that.  It was also nice not to feel like the political punching bag.  If you’re conservative in any way, you know what I’m talking about.  Chuck, probably due to Adam Baldwin’s influence, makes conservative jokes that don’t poke fun at us as stupid but as strong.  Casey has a picture of Ronald Reagan in his house, Rush Limbaugh is mentioned, and guns are used regularly.  Chuck’s personal aversion to guns isn’t touted as the next step in human enlightenment, but only part of his character, making it less annoying.  This is one of the few shows where the wife chooses to be at home with her child.  How often does that happen?  Never.  But Ellie admits she wants to be with her daughter and Awesome sacrifices what he wants for her.  It’s great.

So, this show is one of the few shows that made me laugh like a geek, satisfied my courage/loyalty loves, and didn’t trample my conservative belief system.  On top of all that, it had layers of depth, twists and turns, intense moments, and I cried.  I cried like wake-up-the-next-day-with-sandpaper-eyes through the last three episodes.  As soon as it was over, I wanted to start it again.  I watched much of this show with the similar intensity as 24: just one more episode, one more.

This picture brings on the tears!

This picture brings on the tears.

Parental Warning:  I would rate Chuck PG-13.  It is a feel good, relatively clean show, without too much language or violence, but seduction is part of the spy game.  And as nice as it is to conservatives, it’s not based on firm Christian values.

Death of a Friend

Re-posted from my old blog to share with others:

September has been a very busy month.  It started with a head-cold, then a wedding during the cold, than a dear friend passing away, then a conference.  I coordinated the wedding with the cold and almost no voice.  I was the person in charge of the five meals for about 200 people attending the conference.  It was crazy.  But what I’m sharing today is about my friend who passed away.

These are notes I took while sitting in the hospice room for the last few days of his life.  These are very intimate notes, but I feel it is important to share them.  I’m leaving them much as they were when I wrote them, so please excuse the rough draft format.

9/14/13:  Early AM

I’ve never been with someone when they died.  I’ve been to relatively few funerals.  My fear and repulsion for hospitals and any and all things medical coupled with the one too many things I know about crime scenes and thus how the body decays after death has led me to fear the side of a dying friend for many years.

But, I have entered a stage of life where I can no longer avoid hospitals and death.  God’s grace is sufficient and like a good hobbit I screw up my courage and visit my friends.  I have found love to be a great motivator.

So, here I sit, having been in the hospice room for almost 12 hours and only three of them spent asleep.  My brother “breathes” loudly in the hall.  My husband is finally lying down covered by my St. John throw, faithful to his friend to the end.  Glenn is sleeping for the first time in days and Flo stays by his side, nurse, wife, and friend.

We have kept the night watch.  We have been with Harry as he struggles to breath – labors! – and as his body shuts down.

I’m amazed that I have done this.  I have visited Harry, my Grandma and spent all day with my father-in-law in the hospital.  And while I have not changed my revulsion for them, I am here.  I haven’t “felt” the hand of God, but I have thought, “I love these people and I must do my duty.” (Maybe that’s what the hand of God feels like.)  It is so ordinary and I am so thankful for it.  For the quiet working of God to aid me to be motivated by love.

So, Brother Harry lays dying.  Not real quickly I must say.  He has no family here, only his church.  But as far as I am aware, he has not been alone at all.  Men and women have gathered to sit at his side, hold his hand, stroke his brow, pray, read the scripture, sing.  We have sung his favorite hymns and the hymns he wrote.  We watched him try to sing with us.  We felt him squeeze our hands when his favorite passages are read, and like Sam at Gandalf’s death, we have spoken often of his banana pudding.

So, I sit and watch a friend die.  A man I love because he encouraged my husband.  And you know what I think….Harry’s gonna get to see Glenn Wilkinson before the rest of us.

My facebook post that day:  For the believer death is but a door to heaven.  It is the ending of one story to begin the real story in the presence of Christ.  And dear believer….this story has the best ending through the path to it has been dark.”

A quote sent by a friend: “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” – JRR Tolkien

9/14/13: 9:00AM while Price reads Revelations out loud to Harry.

Listen.

Listen for his last breath,

Feel the twist in your gut,

Is this the one?

A moment of bi-polar emotion.

Fight. Fight to stay alive!

Go. Go. Let go.  We will soon follow.

So we gather.

We hold tissues tight in our fists.

We sing in broken voices.

We share intimate moments of tears.

We hold his hand unsure of being held.

We talk unsure of hearing.

We read unsure of comprehension.

And we listen

Together, we listen for your last breath.

Even now, when he lies lost in dark halls of his mind laboring to breath, hot with fever, he serves his church.  Even as his last few hours slip away, we are encouraged, brought together, given new opportunities to serve, given new love for each other.  As you come closer to haven’s door, we, gathered around you, examine our own future deaths and find peace.  We see the love of the saints.  We see you surrounded by hymns and the Word and by tears and laughter and we know we are not forsaken.  Even in death, You are with us, our mighty brother who already conquered death!

(I have, on my next page, the words written out from Before the Throne of God Above and Into the West.) (http://instagram.com/p/eP6SugTFFU/)

9/15/13:

Watching Harry, I’m struck by God’s beautiful multi-tasking. I’m beginning to understand joy in the midst of suffering.  Our church hurts, yet here we are gathered around Harry with all the members singing, praying, reading the scripture.  We are laughing and crying, crying with people who I’ve never cried around, watching people cry who I’ve never seen cry.  And we are united.  So as the Lord takes Harry home, as he finishes the work which He began, we are made stronger.  We are untied and we are challenged.  As the Lord takes him home, he is using Harry to help us love each other more.  He is using Harry to sanctify us.  Harry’s faithful testimony has been mentioned again and again.  And the Lord even used that.  If Harry hadn’t been faithful, he might have died in his apartment alone, but God used his faithfulness to preserve Harry.

“I have so many friends, and I don’t know why,” is what Harry told his niece before he became mostly unresponsive.

9/18/13:  (Harry passed on the morning of the 16th.)

I spent the weekend carefully watching my husband.  When did he become the man I always wanted him to be?  When did he get so strong?  As I watch him hold the hand of a dying friend, as I listen to him sing and read the scripture, I couldn’t be more thankful for this man, my friend.  He sacrificed his time, sleep, his work to stay by Harry.  The Lord granted his request to be there with his at the end.  But the part that I remember and cherish the most is him holding Harry’s hand and reading the book of Revelations barely able to keep his voice steady.

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(We were there at the end, when Harry died, along with my parents, our other pastor, Glenn and Flo, and Ben.  It was the first time I held someone’s hand as they passed away….I know it will not be the last.  But I do know that God is good.  He will finish the work.  He has conquered death.  I hope and pray my death serves my church as well as Harry’s did.)

 

Lessons from the Boutique, Part 2: Opening and Closing

PhotoSpin Office Imagery © 2001 PhotoSpin www.photospin.com

Owning a business for several years teaches you a few tricks.  This is one that I still use today:  an Opening and a Closing.

At the boutique, we opened at 10.  The thirty minutes before that was ‘gird your loins’ time.  It was the last few minutes you had to prepare for the incoming of customers.  This is when you checked to make sure everything was perfect, settled your heart and mind, dealt with any attitude issues, then click, unlocked that front door, and welcome the world.  Do you see where this is going?  At the end of the day, after we let the last customers out, we had a closing.  This was the wind-down: vacuum, wash mirrors, tidy, review the day, plan for the next day, count the money, lock up, and go home.

I’m a happy housewife now, but I’ve found that the idea, the concept of opening and closing still applies.  I still have things that need to be done each morning before me, my husband, and my house are ready to face the day.  Opening gives me a sense of peace, calm, and control before I get going, while closing settles me down for the night.

The main thing I like about opening, just like at the store, is it gets me ready for people.  One of the hard parts about life is that you can’t live without people.  Accept that.  You aren’t a hermit.  If you were, you’d die.  Now, I can say that because I’m the first to admit that I would be the crazy neighborhood cat lady if it wasn’t for all the rest of you crimping my style.  If it wasn’t for a husband, a family, and a church to serve, I might never leave my house, and I’d have lots of strange pets, and I’d probably scare neighborhood children.  (Remember, I’m a writer, strange comes with the job.)

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But God (my favorite two words) has wisely decided that we are all better off having to deal with one another.  I’m sure it has something to do with sanctification and destroying my selfishness.  Add to that that I’m one of those old-fashioned people who think that people should feel like honorable guests in my home.  I want my husband to feel appreciated for all the work he does, and I want him to be able to study with ease when he comes home.  The fastest way to accomplish this is with an opening and a closing.  The best way to have an opening and closing is to do the same thing every time.  (We’ll talk about systems in a later blog post.)

My day starts at 5.00am.  I get up, get the coffee going, wake up my husband, and drink a glass of water while I check email, FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, and my blog stats.  This prepares me for anything I may need to take care of later today, and lets me get my head in the game.  I try to limit my social media time or it takes over my life.  At this time, I also select blogs to read and line them up in my browser, so that they’re ready when it’s time to take a break.  After that, I see my husband out the door and focus on writing.  I either work on my blog, or on my WIP(work in progress): Icicle Rain.  Sometime between 700 and 730, I head for the shower.  I don’t leave the bathroom until I’m clean, my hair is done, and my war paint makeup is on.  I always put on my makeup for the most significant event of the day.  Meaning, if I’m going on a date that night, I wear date makeup all day.  I usually do the same thing with my clothing unless I plan on working in the yard.  After hair and makeup, comes getting dressed and making the bed.  I get completely dressed in the morning: jewelry to shoes.  This is part of being prepared.

Now that I’m all ready, I get the house ready.  Curtains are flung open to let in the day.  Last night’s dishes, snacks, and dirty laundry are tidied.  Each room gets a quick going over.  I generally start at the laundry room and move towards the back bedrooms.  This quick sweep of the house not only keeps it in order, but also lets me see any areas that are going to need more major attention later in the day.  Finally, I adjust my To-do list, make breakfast, and do a little bible reading.  My day is ready to start.

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At the end of the day, I basically rewind all that I did in the morning.  I set up my coffee.  I make sure my computer and flash drive are ready to go.  I close curtains, shut off lights, and settle in for a quiet evening with my husband.  The main thing about closing is to turn your focus inward on your family.  We have a small dinner together where we talk about our days, make any joint family decisions that need to be made, and plan our schedule.  We take off our day clothes and put on our comfy pjs.  I wash off the makeup.  This is a very important time, because it is us time.

Opening and closing your day gives your body cues as to what needs to happen next.  Are we gearing up or winding down?  It helps you prepare your family for the day ahead and get them all snuggled down at the end.  It lets you know the first things to accomplish so you don’t overwhelm yourself with everything all at once.  It is a good way to stay on top of your clutter even if you know you have to do it every day.  We don’t live in a world where things improve with time.  Everything falls to ruin in this life unless we maintain it.  God doesn’t get miffed that He has to give breath to one more person, even though they’re going to need it again in the next second, and they never even notice He gives it to them.  God is good and generous.  We should be too.  It might seem dull and frustrating to have to tidy up the house yet again, or make the coffee, or the bed, I mean you’re going to get back in it again, right?  It might seem like such a waste to do your hair or your makeup when no one’s going to see you but your husband, right?  Wrong.  It sets a tone of focus, self-sacrifice, and seriousness to your work.  Even if your house is going to have to be cleaned again tomorrow, it is important to clean it today.  That’s being a good steward.  That loves your neighbor as yourself.  That’s being ready for what the Lord brings in your life.

Open your home in the morning, close it at night.

Lesson 1: First Things First

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife

Boys and Leaves: A Tale of Two Cousins and their Aunties

Stolen from Liz Groves.

Stolen from Liz Groves.

Once upon a time, two Aunties watched two cousins every day after church.  They would take these two precious, beautiful little girls out to run in the grass, soak in the sun, and expend excess energy.  Jules Ethel expended her energy chasing after a little boy named Tristan, the son of a family friend.  Constance Lydia Galadriel expended her energy chasing after blowing leaves, picking up every rock she saw, and waving sticks around – which her Aunties called wands.

Auntie Abigail followed after Jules Ethel to ensure she stayed safe and out of trouble as she chased the boy named Tristan.  Auntie Elizabeth followed after Constance Lydia Galadriel to ensure she stayed safe and out of trouble as she chased after nature.

As they passed, one chasing a girl chasing a boy, and one chasing a girl chasing a leaf, Auntie Elizabeth quoted one of their favorite authors.

“‘What are men compared to rocks and mountains?'”

Auntie Abigail laughed.  “Jules Ethel’s father should have fun when she grows up.”

Auntie Elizabeth sighed.  “Maybe neither of them will ever grow up.”

“Maybe we can send them off to Never-Never Land…” Auntie Abigail also sighed.  “But then we’d miss them.”

The Aunties agreed that it was better to chase boys and leaves and be here, then to miss their nieces who, though different, they loved very much.

One Sunday, the Jules Ethel and Constance Lydia Galadriel gave their aunties a slip.  Jules Ethel spotted Tristan headed towards the creek and hurried after him.  Constance Lydia Galadriel saw a lovely tree by the creek shedding its leaves and hurried to stand in the leaf-rain.  The two girls came by different paths to the same creek.

“Where are the leaves?” Constance Lydia Galadriel said finding the tree finished shedding for the moment.

“Where’s Tristan?” Jules Ethel said finding the boy gone again on some other adventure.

The two cousins shared a glance.

“Jules! Help!” Someone yelled.

The girls spun in a circle.

“Jules!”

It was Tristan in a spot of trouble.  He had slipped down the edge of the creek and couldn’t get back up.

“Oh, Tristan!” Jules Ethel said.  She started for him.

“Wait,” Constance Lydia Galadriel said.  “If you go, you’ll get stuck too!”

“You’re right, what should we do?”

Constance studied the rocks, sticks, and leaves in her hands.  “We could get a branch and hold it out to him?”

“Yes!” Jules Ethel said.  “Tristan, we’ll be right back.”

Jules Ethel and Constance Lydia Galadriel rushed off to find a branch or a log.  The first one they came to was short, stiff, and broke in their hands.

“No good,” they said.

The second was big and heavy.  It was so big and heavy they couldn’t lift it.

“No good, again,” they said.

Then they saw it.  The perfect branch: long, thin, and strong.  Plus, they could carry it.

With Jules Ethel in the lead and Constance Lydia Galadriel following, they carried the branch back to Tristan.  Getting angled correctly, they lowered it down to him.  He caught hold of it and the cousins pulled.  They pulled and pulled and pulled and pulled.  They pulled as hard as they could.  They pulled until they were out of breath.  Suddenly!  Tristan’s head popped up above the edge of the creek.  He was safe!

“Thank you, Jules for saving me,” he said, ever the polite gentleman.

“You’re very welcome,” said Jules Ethel.  “But I couldn’t have done it without my cousin.”

Tristan gave both girls a hug.

At this moment, the Aunties discovered them.  They had frantically searched high and low, up and down, this way and that way, for their two nieces.  The cousins excitedly told them how they had rescued Tristan.

“Well,” said Auntie Elizabeth, “I guess it’s a good thing Jules Ethel always chases after Tristan or he would still be down in the creek.”

“And, “said Auntie Abby, “I guess it’s a good thing Constance Lydia Galadriel chases leaves, sticks, and stones or Tristan would still be down in the creek.”

The two Aunties gathered the cousins up and covered them with too much love.  They took the girls, and Tristan, back to their Mommies and Daddies with stories of rescue and adventure.

The End

 

God’s Generosity Praised

All that is gold does not glitter

All that is gold does not glitter…

I don’t usually post on Thursdays, but this struck me so strongly this morning that I just had to write about it and share it now.

There have been several times in my life when I’ve had a choice between what I want to do (also what the world would tell me is following my dreams) and what the Lord commands me to do.  This has happened three big times in my life.  In these three big moments, God has blessed me beyond anything I could have planned or imagined.  God isn’t beholden to bless me with things or events that make me happy, but I’m thankful He does.  Of course, God is multi-tasker, so while He blesses me with a happy providence, He also sanctifies me through that providence.

I want to share one such situation for our mutual encouragement.  I’m a writer.  I would love nothing better than to hide in my house day after day and write stories of imaginary people.  Then, I would like to be able to take those stories and share them with others.  To be honest, I long for a day when I can walk into Barnes and Noble and pull a book off the shelf with my name on it.  I long to write a story that millions of people read.  I long to write a story that reverberates through people’s’ lives.   I long to write a story with the impact of Tolkien, Lewis, King, and Koontz.

But God.  God has providentially placed me in a life where that is going to take time, and lots of it.  First, we had a business were I was the face.  My husband was the brains and I was the brawn, so to speak.  Now that we’ve sold that, my focus is serving my church and maintaining my home.  (Clean, cook, upkeep, remodel, budget, etc.)  This is a full-time job.  My writing has changed, further hindering publishing.  I’ve gone from medieval fantasy, to urban fantasy, to YA and children’s stories without a book to hand to a publisher.  I’ve switched blogs and I’ve switched focus.  These things  set me behind every time I get close to the publishing wire.

God has commanded me to submit to my husband as to Christ.  Part of this submission is working to stay on board with his life.  His life, my husband’s, has changed focus in the last year or so.  It has gone from business to theology.  To be able to serve our church through study and teaching, he needs me to tend to lots of matters.  He has also asked me not to make writing a second career.  I’m in full agreement with him.  But, this leaves me with being a writer who can’t spend her days writing and marketing.  I get a few hours here and a few hours there.  I have limited time and resources.  This struck me when I tried to share my blog on Goodreads and realized I can’t unless I have a book published.  There are limits to what I can do.  I read other successful writers who talk about the amount of time it takes to be a published author and I think to myself, “I can’t do that.  Not now.  That’s not my focus.  God has called me to serve my church and obey my husband.  I can’t do those things well if I’m also trying to have a career in writing.”  So, I leave it alone.

Don't let me fool you, this is not me.

Don’t let me fool you, this is not me.

Please don’t think I left it alone like some Elsie Dinsmore type.  It wasn’t a calm folding of the hands.  It was a storm raging in my heart.  It was a battle between desire and command.  It was a weaning from this world.  It was a war of trust.  On one side sits my yearning to be a published author.  On the other side sits the commands to put the church and my husband first, to pour myself out, and leave this world.  I so want to go to the published author side.  I so want to forsake everything and do what I want.  The world screams at me that anyone standing in the way of what I want is an enemy.  But over on the other side, stands my humble Savior who gave everything for me.  Over there, stands my mighty Captain who died for me.  With Him stands all of eternity.  With Him stands my family, my church and my husband.  With Him stands everything I would forsake for my own gain.

This is more what I feel like inside.

This is more what I feel like inside.

The world shouts, “But this is your dream!  Follow your dreams!”

Christ holds out His hands, scarred for me.

Only by His grace, only because of Him and nothing else – family, church, husband – do I take His offered hand and flee to Him ignoring the world’s cacophony of noise.  And what do I find on the quiet, gentle side of the war in my heart.  I find love.  I find hope.  I find joy.  I find peace.  I find my friends, my family, and my church.  I find my husband.  And in God’s grace, I find people to write for and to.  God is so good to me.  Early this week, through His providence, a guest post I wrote was shown to a well-known reformed writer (Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Vidal!).  This writer shared my guest post with his audience.  So many people came to read what I wrote.  So many to me anyway. 🙂 The next day a blogger who only posts quotes from men like Calvin and Bunyan posted my article on his blog.  I was dumbfounded.  I was elated.  I was humbled beyond belief.  (Which is funny cause the article was about humility.)

God didn’t owe me one single reader.  I would have happily followed my Brother, my Captain, my King without another word written or read.  But God.  God who is rich, rich in mercy, saw fit to do this for me.  How can I not love and trust Him?  He not only saved my soul, not only adopted me, not only sustains me, which is far and above anything I deserve, but He also blesses me.  He takes care of me when I obey Him,  when I trust Him, just like a tender father.  How mighty a King, how kind a Lord, how generous a Brother, I have.

He has preserved me and is continuing to make me more like Christ.  I lay all that I am, all my dreams and desires, at His feet and trust Him to do with them as He will.  I praise Him now for the increased exposure and encouragement, and I will praise Him still even if no one ever reads a word I write.  It’s not about me.  It’s all about Him.

Just had to share it.

You’re Help Needed

I probably need this more than you do.  Every once in a while I need to remind myself of my goals, my dreams, my hopes.  I need to keep them before my eyes or I might lose my way.  I might get lost in the fog of possibility and never complete a project.  I might never grow beyond where I am today.  Being a writer means having other people living in your head.  They queue up to have their story written, but they don’t know how to stand in line.  They push, shove, cut, and get in fistfights.  One moment, I’m all pumped about finding the opening lines for a new story.  The next, I finally figure out how to re-write a scene that’s just had a temper-tantrum.  Then, this blog needs a new article and I’m off to find a 1000 interesting words.  Soon, my nieces and nephews do something adorable that must be captured on my computer.  But wait, my pesky fairytale pushes ahead of it all demanding my attention.  See how maddening it can be to be a writer!  (Yes, you literally feel crazy sometimes.)

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There are four writing goals at the forefront of my life:

1. Children’s Stories:  Capitalizing on my growing number of nieces and nephews, I’m working on a handful of children’s stories featuring their many adventures.  My goal is to have a handful of whimsical stories and a handful of moralistic stories to present to a Christian publisher.  Right now, I have two moralistic ones dealing with the differences between boys and girls, and two whimsical ones.  I envision watercolor illustrations, but I’m flexible on that point.  I hope to publish with a traditional publisher and market them towards homeschoolers.

2. FairyTale:  When I think back to the stories I read as a teen, I find many of today’s YA stories lack true adventure.  Oh sure, they have vampires and witches, but they don’t have innocents or strength.  Most of them are based entirely around romance, too easy to read, and self-focused.  They too quickly cave to raging hormones to gain readers and don’t remember that someday these people need to be able to deal with real life.  My goal is to write a Fairy Tale series featuring both grownups and teens captured in the flow of history.  They will face darkness, but light will win in the end.  Friendship will be the focus and theme.  This series will take me many years to finish, but I hope to have book one’s rough draft done around this time next year.  I don’t have any specific publishing plans yet, as the book is still in the rough draft stage.  I am sharing it with my writing group and have gotten rave reviews.

3. Blog:  I plan to continue to feature two to three articles on my blog each week.  The articles will cover sanctification type posts, movie and book reviews, writing articles, guest posts, and interviews.  My goal is to expand my readership base (followers) so that when I’m ready to publish I can prove I have an engaged and active platform.

4. Finish my two series:  When I made the switch from Urban Fantasy to Children’s Stories and YA, I left two intense series unfinished.  They may never see the light of day, but for my own sanity, they need to be finished.  If I don’t finish them, questions will haunt the back of my mind forever.  This is my hobby/vacation project.  I don’t plan on working on these stories on any sort of regular schedule.

These are my writing goals.  I don’t plan to spend more time on them than I currently do.  Writing is not my career.  My church, husband, home, and family are my careers.  But, part of the service I can offer is writing these stories.  I want to serve my church and my family through my writing.

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How can you help?  Well, that’s easy!  First, read my blog.  Read and comment.  Let me know you were here.  I check my stats page to see how many people viewed my blog each day, how many looked at different articles when they came, what articles and subjects are the most popular.  When you read the blog, comment, and share, I know!  Please, share my blog with your friends and family if you’ve enjoyed it.  If you like the children’s stories, read them to the little people in your life and let me know what they thought.  If the writing articles helped you, tell me and share it with other writers.  If you were encouraged by the more spiritual articles, maybe someone else will be too.  Read, comment, share.  Last, follow me on Facebook.  Facebook is an easy way for me to let you know how my writing is going on a daily basis.  It gives you insight into the mind of a writer and who doesn’t want that??  It’s also a convenient way for you to share me with all your friends and family when you’ve enjoyed something I’ve written.

A writer is only worth their salt if they have readers.  I am so encouraged by the number of you who regularly read my ramblings, like my posts, and even stop me at church to tell me you’ve enjoyed my stories.  I can’t tell you how much it means to me.  To all you Moms who’ve told me about reading my stories to your kids, two words: DAY MADE!!!  All writers feed on their readers.  You’re what drives us to keep going.  You’re what keeps us going when we feel like that was the biggest, garbbled pile of green ooze ever written.  Thanks for reading my musings.  Thanks for supporting me in my change of direction.  I love all of you!

 

Quote of the Weekend

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

 

(Probably one of my favorite quotes about love.  I think that in a culture where we focus on the emotional side of love and forget about the mental side, I appreciate Lewis calling it selfish to hide your heart away.  We can be selfish in so many many ways.  Small subtle ways, even with the people we claim to love.  This is a good reminder to trust the Lord and not be so self focused.)

Brothers, a Tale of Two Sons

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SPOILERS!!!!

I’m part of the video game generation….but I don’t personally play video games.  I’m not really that good at them.  I tend to die a lot, or get all jumpy, and forget which controls do what leading to mass frustration.  What I do is watch video games.  They’re my husband’s favorite form of recreation even though he really doesn’t have time to play them anymore, so he watches them.  It’s like sports.  When you’re a kid, you play football, baseball, soccer, and basketball.  When you get older, you watch others play.

Many of the video games that have come out in the last twenty years have had amazing stories, compelling characters, and beautiful artwork.  Yes.  Artwork.  I’m one of those people who believe video games are artistic and a form of art just like movies, photography, painting, writing, music, sculpting, etc.  Early on, the means to showcase the artistic side of gaming was less visible unless you knew the craft, but the stories were there.  (If you did know, it’s quiet impressive what could be done with 8bits.)  Games like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, and the first Starcraft had gripping, moving stories that left you asking for more.  As technology advanced, the artistic side of video games became more obvious to the everyday layperson playing a game here and there.  I remember the first time I picked up a Warcraft 3 art book.  It blew me away.  It was beautiful, detailed, rich, and haunting.  Skyrim, a fully interactive world, has sweeping scenes of majesty, epic music, wooly mammoths, customizable characters, and an entire land you can walk collecting plants, animal hides, and meeting strange and interesting characters.

But what about the stories?  I’m here to tell you that not only are the stories filled with myth, twists, turns, and character development, some of them have even made me cry.  Yes.  Video games have brought tears to my eyes.  The top of the cry chart is Red Dead Redemption.  I pretty much bawled.  After that comes StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, the beginning of The Last of Us, and now Brothers, a Tale of Two Sons. (Honorable mentions are Mass Effect 2 and Metal Gear anything.)

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Brothers, a Tale of Two Sons, is an epic, short, moving, fun video game designed by Starbreeze Studio with the help of 505 Games.  The story takes place in an agricultural setting against a fantasy backdrop with amazing visuals.  The mountains, valleys, rivers, trees, sky, giants, trolls, ogres, fish, birds, and everything else are impressive.  They’re beautiful, awe inspiring, and detailed.  There are benches placed here and there throughout the game so that your characters can sit and take in the view.  Every scene is sweeping.  Meaning, no matter where in the game you’re at, the view spreads out as far and wide as you can see.  But, all that’s just the backdrop for a game that tells a story through unique game mechanics.

This is a story about two brothers.  You play both of the boys at the same time.  Your left hand controls the older brother while your right hand controls the younger brother.  They start you off slow, giving you time to get used to the controls so you don’t have one brother standing still while the other runs off in a crazy direction.  Pretty soon, you have them working in unison on ever more complicated climbing puzzles and traps.  (None of it gets too complicated because that’s not the point of the game.)

The game opens with the younger brother visiting the grave of their mother.  The older brother interrupts him with horrible news.  Their father is dying.  The two boys rush their father to town where they’re told that the only way to heal him is with a drink from a magical tree.  Off they go on an adventure.  The designers perfectly capture everything a brother adventure should be.  The boys defeat bullies, big dogs, help friendly trolls, scale mountains, ride rushing rivers, free trapped birds, discover giants, fly, slip down tunnels, ride goats, explore an old battle field, and sail the sea.  All the while, you control one brother with your left hand and the other with your right.  None of your adventures are possible without the effort of both brothers together.  And here comes the tears.  (You probably already guessed it.)  One of the brothers dies.  He dies at the base of the tree they were searching for to heal their father after all their adventures.  Suddenly, your left hand is doing nothing.  Your right hand climbs the tree, gets the drink, and then buries your brother.  Your left hand does nothing.  Never before have I seen a game mechanic used to create so much emotion.

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But, it gets worse/better.  Now, you must make it home alone.  One of the creatures you aided on your adventure takes you almost all the way back.  He leaves you, the only brother, standing on a beach facing your biggest fear, and you’re alone.  (It’s a fear, until now, that your brother always helped you through.)  A ghost of your mother appears and encourages you, but even when you move your character forward, the game stops you….until you control him  with the controls of his brother.  (Bawling yet?)  Only when you use the left hand side of the controller is the remaining brother given the courage to face his fear, move past it, and save his father.

Even the guy we watched play the video game choked up.  It was just so perfectly done.

This is the kind of game where you lose yourself.  The beauty of the world sucks you in right away.  The story, filled with exactly the kind of adventure you’d want to have with your brother, encourages you to invest in it emotionally from the beginning.  To have to play one-handed, until courage is needed, is the perfect end to this game.

As a writer, I found the landscapes inspiring, the story moving, and the adventure a good refresher on what should be included in a Tweens or YA story.

Parental warning:  This game is fairly mild with no language or sex.  It is emotionally moving, slightly violent, but not in any sort of heavy-handed way.  It does get darker as they move along in the story, but if your kids have seen or read Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, or Harry Potter they should be fine.

Lessons from the Boutique: Part 1: First Things First

Boutqiue Lessons

Back in the Boutique Days

My husband and I bought a business two weeks after we got married.  We bought a women’s designer consignment boutique.  A few years later, we bought another one.  We were in the business of designer clothing for ten years.  After our ten-year anniversary, we decided we wanted to apply ourselves to serving our church.  We wanted to store up our treasure in heaven and not here on earth.  The Lord graciously made that possible.  Now my husband spends his free time studying to preach on Wednesday nights.  I spend my time tending my home, visiting, helping, cooking, and serving my church any way I can.  I’m blessed with the opportunity to say yes instead of no.  To the world, our lives look much smaller and less significant.  To us, they’re fuller, richer, and have eternal value.

This is not to say we didn’t learn some valuable lessons from owning our business, we did.  In fact, as always, God used that time to teach me some very helpful things, which I now apply to managing my home.  For a few weeks, every other Monday, I’m going to share some of the lessons I learned.

The 1st Lesson: “First things first, and second things not at all.”

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Peter F. Drucker

Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management, coined this phrase.  (Don’t imagine your bad manager, or lots of useless paper work.  Imagine a well-oiled, efficient management machine.)

We went to him, through books and articles, as our business grew.  We had to become good managers.  Not just of our growing number of employees, but also of ourselves.  A manager has to prioritize their time, money, and projects.  Managers have to manage everything.  These same lessons apply to housewives and homemakers.

You manage everything.  Out comes the To-Do List.  Everything.  Feeling overwhelmed yet?  Your brain fragments into a million multi-tasking problems.  But, it’s ineffective to multi-tasking projects.  It’s impossible to get a task done while also trying to get another task done.

“First things first, second things not at all.”

Calling your sister while you’re doing the dishes, or listening to an audio book while you clean and fold laundry is proper multi-tasking.  Those tasks require little use of the brain.  You’ve done them a thousand times.  Cooking dinner while cleaning out the fridge, planning the next day, and texting your mom isn’t proper multi-tasking.  Your stress level spikes, something goes wrong, or is left undone.

This is where the First Things management principle comes in handy.  What is the priority of the moment?  Focus on that.  Don’t worry (Yes WORRY) about the other things.  For you list makers, like me, this is very important.  This form of management frees us from constantly worrying about The List.

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A real life example:  I woke up yesterday morning, Sunday, with the list for Monday rolling through my head.  I have a flat tire that needs to be fixed, a window install that needs to be scheduled, all the normal cooking, cleaning, errands, working out, plus a nephew’s birthday, two nieces’ birthday, taxes to get ready, friends to visit, house sitting to plan for, and articles to write.  It is very hard to prepare for worship when your head is preparing to battle with the upcoming week.

“First things first, second things not at all.”

My First priority on Sunday morning, is preparing my heart for worship.  It is to rest from the world’s demands and focus on the Lord and his people.  This is my First Thing.  I need to ignore the Second Things (the List in my head).  Knowing that it is good management to pack away Second Things, I command myself to stop worrying about the List.  It’s not important.  Going to church with a focused mind and heart is important.  First Things first.

With Sunday finished and Monday morning rolling around, I reprioritize.  My First Things are to get this article written and my husband off to work in as happy a state as I can.  This frees me from worrying about the dishes in the sink, the dirty bathroom, and the phone calls I have to make.  With those First Things done, I re-evaluate my list and find the next First Things.  I consistently command myself not worry about the other things.

In another words, compartmentalize your life, in a good way.  Take all the things you have to do and put them in a box.  Label that box Second Things.  Only get something out of the Second Things box if the First Things are done.

This form of management requires some planning.  Planning in the above Sunday example proves easy: stop worrying about Monday.  There.  Done.  But, when Monday rolls around, the planning takes on a more strategic design.  I must sit down and find out what are First Things and what are Second Things.  This provides me a moment to see if any of the First Things connect to the Second Things.  For example, maybe I’m planning a crock-pot meal for dinner.  Preparing that meal is my First Thing.  Agonizing over the order of my errand running is not a First Thing.  It is a Second Thing.  It doesn’t become a First Thing until it’s time to plan my errands.  I stop thinking about it and focus on dinner preparation.  My worry level drops.  I know that each important task has a place and time, which isn’t now.

This concept proves itself repeatedly as I manage my household, help with conference meals, spend time with my church family, and write.  It helps me apply the Biblical principle of not worrying.  Practice it until you get a hold of it.  If you’re a compulsive list maker, it helps you stop nagging yourself.  If organization isn’t your strong point, it gives you a place to start – the First Things.

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“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  – Matthew 6:25 – 34

“She looks well to the ways of her household  and does not eat the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:27

Lesson 2: Opening and Closing

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife