Talent is for Showing

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My faith in our future generation raised quite a few notches after watching the talent show at my daughter’s school. Not that my former estimation was really low, but maybe too low. It wasn’t the level of talent either—some were good, some needed a little more polishing, or a lot, but that wasn’t it.

For two hours, child after child conquered the stage. Lots of braced teeth, nerves either lifting or lowering eyebrows, and many girls on the balance between girly-girl and sporty-girl strode across the stage. When I was in elementary school, there were nowhere near that many kids willing to show their skills—maybe it’s because Chloe’s school emphasizes the arts—maybe the current culture values entertainment more than it used too.

But what impressed me the most? They got up there. They danced or sang or did a

Be Bold

Be Bold

few tricks and showed their willingness to be bold. That’s it—they were bold. Some of them sang with shaky hands clutching the microphone, but they gave us their voices anyway. Some forgot their dance steps, but they caught up and plowed ahead.

These kids all have something to say, and expressed that to us the best they could—they just don’t know yet they’re future leaders, teachers or artists.

Sometimes people try their “thing” once or twice, but a little adversity presses them down like a concrete sidewalk on a blade of grass.

It’s easy to feel beyond repair–but God specializes in rebuilding.

I hope Chloe and all those kids remember this talent show, and remember how to be brave. One big step can teach them how to fight their way through the cracks, showing the world how lovely and exquisite determination is.

Want to show us your (family friendly) skills? Feel free to post your links in the comments.

P.S. I want to give a big thanks for all of you who helped put Faith Seekers on Amazon’s bestseller’s list. Mostly, I hope you enjoy the story. Don’t have a copy yet? The ebook is on sale for a few more days…get it here.

Old People are Awesome

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Slim was giant swizzle stick, Geneva was a little bean. They were the coolest octogenarians in the retirement place. Every evening for dinner, they had a date in the dining room with a sea of blue hairs, chatting about health problems and the cost of prescriptions.

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I grew weary of my duties like answering phones. They rang when Security called me on the radio, when Walter wanted his Rx, when Hilda kept asking me the same question over and over even though I was on the phone, the radio, and fishing through the closet for narcotics.
For a while, work was static…showing it’s monotonous face to me when others were swimming in full color…
Until Slim and Geneva zoomed through the lobby. Geneva wanted to keep up with miles-tall Slim, but her little legs couldn’t handle the speed of his scooter. So they came up with a solution that reminded me that dull days and Mondays are seasoned with rainbows too.
She sat on his knee. Yep, his white horse was a retiree’s hot rod, cruising along at the speed of rabbit. She grinned all the way to dinner, on the knee of her prince, knowing the more proper peeps would point and disapprove—and it made my evening every time.
It’s the little things. Look for the good stuff today.

The Magic Sandals

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Six years ago, I found a miracle in Walmart.

Yes, I said Walmart.

In exchange for a beautiful, smart, perfect, precious daughter, my husband and I gave up all hope of having spare change. Or high fashion, sleep…dignity.

But we had our Princess, and she was worth it (still is).

Summer was blazing in like a beast and I needed sandals. I’d been wearing my “pregnant” sandals for close to three years, and was tired of the old lady footwear.

Chloe was eighteen months old which means she was allergic to sitting still and silence. Shopping was now a marathon event, and I knew to expect a toddler circus through. every. aisle.

So there I went, walking my ballet-beaten, pregnancy-stretched, flat, achy, feet into Walmart in hopes of finding an affordable sandal that would last me several years and bring comfort at the same time. Did I mention my eighteen-month-old came along to help?

I tried on a few, but my daughter kept running out of my sight, so I grabbed the ones that fit the best and dropped less than $20 at the cash register. I wasn’t overjoyed sandalsby them, and doubted those cheapies would last the summer, but with our budget, Walmart was THE option.

As soon as I strapped them on, God happened. I loved them. With barely a sole to stand on, they were comfortable. It was as if an invisible cushion materialized, and the strength of the Almighty Himself held those man-made straps together. They held my feet through another pregnancy where my feet stretched a half-size bigger. They survived a run-by-puking when I was hit by a severe bout of morning sickness, when my two BEST leather boots kicked the bucket.

After I had my son, most of my shoes had to be tossed, but those sandals, still size 8.5 with a thinning sole, still magically fit my size 9 feet.

God bless Walmart.

They carried my feet through seasons of financial hardship, races after busy children followed by miles of walking to soothe my babies to sleep.

Recently, I finally bought a new pair of sandals. My magical Walmart shoes lasted me as long as I needed them…down to the day. No fairy godmother can match God.

Do you need it? He’ll bring it. It may not seem like the right answer at the time, but He always comes through when life is one big bundle of crazy.

 

Have your own magical story to share? Tell us in the comments.

Fashion for The Rest of Us

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Ever feel misunderstood? Like you pull on the most awesome outfit of the century, slide into your shiny-like-new car, pull into work with the latest tunes that wrap your “vibe” into one awesome moment—but instead of flowing with the rhythm of awesomeness, your day pukes onto you 15 raised eyebrows, 10 corners of mouths lifted in sarcasm and exactly 1 million snickers when people pass you but are still within earshot?

Oh, poop. I’m still wearing my daughter’s blinged-out head band from our fashion fun this morning. Strangely enough, a few people got it.

Yep, that’s like many of my days. I like to use the word unique, sheesh, even God uses the word, unique, but on some days that word feels more like scatter-brained mess. Sometimes those of us who are normally challenged want less uniqueness and more ordinary. Sometimes.

Really, Jesus used ordinary people to change the world. Of course, Peter had a lot FS Quote #1of unique foibles with the whole cutting off an ear thing and sinking into the lake when the KING OF THE WORLD was watching. But God still used him for the good stuff.

Think of Peter, think of Peter.

So on those days when I’m not thinking of Peter, I do what the experts say not to do and read the reviews of my novel.

I think I started to twitch about half-way through. Let’s see:

One reviewer:Lyrical”. Another reviewer: Staccato”.

One reviewer: Slow start”. Another reviewer: “Excellent pacing”.

One reviewer: “Outside the classic Christian genre”. Another: Classic ideas based on the knowledge of God”.

And my all-time favorite: “This would have been a good story, I think, if the author had just used evil people in the story, and left God, the devil, and his demons out of the plot.” They go on later to say it wasn’t enough Christian enough. And yet another reviewer: “It was an interesting and new take on Christian fiction.”

Is my book schizophrenic?

We’ll call it unique.

Some dig it, some don’t, and that’s okay because Peter eventually found his peeps like I’m finding mine. But sometimes, there are misunderstandings that need clarification.

I need to address one thing that a few reviewers have suggested (spoiler alert). They said my book represents paganistic or idol worshipping ideas because God appears to my protagonist as an elk. Negative. God is I AM, the one true God and the Father of Jesus. The elk is a symbol, like the Lion in The Chronicles of Narnia.

This book is for out-of-the-box thinkers, and fans of fantasy, so reader beware. And so is my fashion, heh.

My readers might also get blinged-silly by their children, or even delight in kids that mismatch their clothes because to them, the interpretation works.

Are you a writer with out-of-the-box ideas, or someone who feels too normal? Guess what? There is no normal. That’s why God calls each one of use unique. Tell us your story in the comments.
Have an awesome grooving-with-your-own-vibe kind of Monday.

The X

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I love a good speaker—one who has been crushed, beaten round and round until they’ve earned their spot on the stage. This is not to say I’m glad for the pain they’ve felt, or hardship that got them to this point, but I recognize the value in their journey. It’s the stuff that shapes a grain of sand into a pearl.

About seventy of us mothers sit forward at our round tables and listen to this speaker who grew up in a Christian home, but answered the call of the piper instead. She gave us her story—the one so many know—of chasing the bits of pleasure the world had to offer. The nice clothes, the “free” living, all the stuff that looks so good on the outside, but eventually leaves a person empty.

“How do we prevent this from happening to our kids?” someone asks. “What could your parents have done differently?”

She pauses and takes a deep breath. “Well, I can’t say for sure. We went to church, but we never prayed together, we never really talked about God. We were Sunday Christians.” She pauses and thinks treasure photoa bit. “But I don’t know if that would have made the difference or not. Some of us just have to go through the journey.”

Heads nod, eyes fall to laps and we all let that settle within us.

Maybe we all have prodigal seasons—the family, the job, fear of the words we’ll be called when we become more than Sunday Christians. And knowing our kids may have to go through hardship to find their answers weighs heavy.

As a child, an apple tree in the shop yard served as a treasure-hunting ship. I would balance on the leave-frilled branches with a friend, searching the distant skies for treasure. Would it come in with the waves? Would we need to land and tread across the wilderness in search of it?

Little do children know what real treasure is, or the battering they may have to go through to find the genuine stuff.

But finding it is worth everything—it’s worth the pearls we become—it’s worth putting our concerns in the hands of the Treasure Maker Himself.

This woman is a warrior—she had to go through the journey to find the true treasure—she’s one of those that bear the most judgement from others, but becomes the trailblazer who finds that giant X on the map, only to find that it’s been a Cross all along.

Are you a journey-maker? Tell us your story in the comments.

Dreaming

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I hate today. I’m on the couch as I write this, sipping out of a water glass my sweet four-year-old can’t fill quick enough. This is the first time I’ve had a fever since I can remember, and I’m unproductive. What a waste. A big, fat, ugly day filled with piles getting bigger, research not getting done and muscles getting flabby. I consider my weights in the closet—the ones I haven’t used nearly enough because the past few months of busyness have leached a good portion of my time. I curl up under my tea-sloshed blanket and scowl.

I don’t have time for this.

I sift through my email and social media. Everyone seems to be thinking about success today. What is it, really, and how do you know you’ve found it? Am I supposed to consider this as I camp out on my couch, not getting success done? I click on another blog and there it is again.

I just finished reading a book on the meticulous ways to map out a novel before beginning writing—“this is where you find success”, the author said. I think I yawned 2.5 million times before I was half-way through. I couldn’t give that book away fast enough. And extreme organization is a great way to suck the life out of a story if that’s not how you’re wired. I’ve tried it. Success is not found in changing the way God wired you.

Several years ago, someone insinuated that I needed to go back to school. My job didn’t pay enough, it wasn’t prestigious enough, and they insisted I would find success in getting a degree like theirs. They said my idea of advancing in the arts was unrealistic.

Says no one who dreams big.100_3848

Thankfully, I ignored them—otherwise I would never have completed and published my novel (and since then, that person’s priorities of prestige and $$$ ended up landing them in a world of hurt). Success is not found in a bank account or in the opinions of others.

My daughter keeps a notebook everywhere she goes—in the car, on her bed—being a sensitive soul, she needs all kinds of creative outlets to express herself. When her glass is half-empty a little too long, I encourage her to write about the things she’s thankful for. Somewhere along her words, she finds her answer—and I find mine. I pick up the paper she handed me before school this morning and delight in her wisdom on the art of ballet. Here is a condensed version of Chloe’s rules for being a successful ballerina:
Be good.
Keep your back straight.
Don’t bend your knees unless your teacher tells you to.
Keep your balance.
Have strength, courage and Faith.
Never give up.

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There it is—in the word she capitalized—Faith. That’s where success is. I think many of us feel like a good portion of our time is spent in between Good Friday and Resurrection Day. It’s dark, confusing, and feels like all we have invested our time and energy into has been sealed inside a dark tomb—going nowhere fast.

When success comes, it looks nothing like we thought it would. There are scars. The steps we take from now on require strength, courage and a whole lot of Faith. But someone carries those scars for us, and He’s not the product of human realism. He’s supernatural.

So there’s the answer. Our only option is to dream big.

What is your dream?

Beginning

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He said, “It is finished,” and a miracle bud formed,
Blossoming into our holy garden.

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Photo by John Hoopingarner

It blooms within the belly-laughs of children,

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Dancing among the shadows,

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And finds its way over the fences we’ve built.

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It curls through our fingers
And in the way He made us to create.

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There is beauty here

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  Here

"That's why God made the cat. We illustrate honesty. And brilliance. And divine beauty..."

And here 

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in this magnificent garden.

"fallen leaves in living water"; photo credit, John Hoopingarner

“fallen leaves in living water”John Hoopingarner

Keep your eyes on The Son,

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And you will smell its perfume forever.

Photo John Hoopingarner

Photo John Hoopingarner

It Lurks About

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Me and my friend, Mike, used to eat his mother’s homemade beef jerky with the garden hose aimed directly into our mouths. The spices from the jerky were so pepper-hot that it was the only way we could enjoy the exquisite flavor without misery. Garden hose jerky is still at the top of my list of favorite food.

Of course, garden-hose water is on the banned list now, but we were kids who swam in cricks more often than swimming pools, ran around in rattlesnake-infested (vile creatures) country in the beastly sun of Arizona summers. We built forts in a rusty-nail junk yard. We thrived in danger.

I’m sure our guardian angels were the elite of the elite.

As a teen, some of my friend’s parents didn’t want them to drive their nicer cars to my house…it meant a dirty car and possible Arizona pen striping—something about the washboards and alignment…so not only was my way of living dangerous due to rattlesnakes, cat claw bushes and garden hoses, but the dirt road was a factor too.

Save it for the garden.

Save it for the garden.

Evidently, proper civilization is devoid of dirt, sticker bushes and snakes (I saw many of you partake of the garden hose—guilty!).

Some of this uncivilized living must have tattooed itself onto me. For several years, after I moved to “the city” (to my husband, the Phoenician, it’s still the country), I was designated as the evening bug squisher at work. These people were afraid of bugs! Once, I was called outside to confiscate a tarantula from the employee smoking area. OUTSIDE. They, with cigarettes to lips, carcinogens flowing freely into their bodies, saw danger in a tarantula outside.

I said no. And laughed. Or I might have rolled my eyes, but I let the tarantula have free reign in his home (Isn’t nicotine supposed to have a calming effect?).

Have you heard about the dangers of microwave popcorn? Ingested both in city and country, this delightful movie-watching snack can damage your brain. Why isn’t it on the banned list (air-popping it is the safe way to go)?

So danger might be a frightful beastie—to some it has fangs, to others, it’s a scratch in the paint or a tongue-on-fire, but either way, it’s always lurking about—we might as well focus on the good part and enjoy it like the child within us.

Are you also a reformed garden-hose junkie? Leave your confessions in the comments.

Pheonix-in-Training

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My little girl is a fully loaded palette. On some days, she is mellow blue-violet, sitting at peace in front of her desk full of glitter and paper scraps. She hums sugar-sweet and creates art. Learning to be content is a beautiful thing indeed—this tells me my daughter likes who God made her to be. I thoroughly enjoy blue-violet Chloe—she fills our home with a lovely glow.

Very often, her rosy-pink lips spill out “I love you”—this is a wonderful contagion—but watch for that pea green bit of stinkerdom—she hisses when not getting her way. Pea Green Chloe is often found in time-outs.

RED. RED TEMPER, RED PASSION, RED AWESOME-IMPOSSIBLE. RED CHLOE is the most

Chloe doesn't need wind-she will make the wind.

RED CHLOE doesn’t need wind-she will make the wind.

challenging, for sure, but deep within the center of this fire is where I need to stay cool-azure, because a red poker meeting red coals can have explosive consequences.

What to do when she’s an overbearing ball of energy? The house cannot contain this splash of red, nor can the most patient of people—it’s a parent’s heart being tested. Something is trying to burst out of her when she’s this red—is it a need to create something big? Is it simply pent up energy? Is her cup brimming over?

Trying to control RED CHLOE fills her with bitterness, and dampens the thing that makes her shine. I think RED CHLOE needs a special kind of canvas, only we haven’t found it yet. Sometimes I send RED CHLOE outside to challenge the trampoline. In the warmer months, it takes a few miles of bike riding to calm the flames. Ballet helps.

Maybe this red streak is simply homeless passion. I guess that’s why parents are supposed to be shepherds rather than drill sergeants—so that we guide rather than extinguish their red-streaks.

Is this that thing in all of us that decides our future? We are God’s creation, and although we can be shaped by people/events in our lives, we ultimately choose this way or that way—maybe this is the difference between becoming the phoenix and those floundering in the ashes. What do you think?

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