Monday, the highest ranking fake-it-to-make-it day.

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I watched my first horror movie in elementary school. It was a field day and we could either go outside and (be charbroiled by the Az sun) play, or stay inside and indulge in what we’d never be allowed to watch at home.

Three cheers for the glorious ‘80’s.

The room was darkened and so were our virginal eyes. Fear, blood, and sounds that were as paranormal as the eighties hair styles, started as a low murmur from a violin, crescendoing to the shriek of a teenager being attacked by her braces. Or something like that.

When it was over and we were shooed to the next diversion, I felt like I had grown up a year. I saw something only older kids were supposed to see. Except many of my peers had already seen it, so maybe not older kids—just kids with less than strict parents, or kids who saw those movies at the houses of less strict parents.

When I finally let the whole movie sink in—plot, acting, story—it was really just meh. The exciting part was watching a forbidden movie. At school. Okay, that made it a little less fun, but after the thrill wore off, I decided that a person just liked what they liked, forbidden or not.

I wonder how many other kids really liked the movie and how many kids faked it for the joy of the thrill.

The other day, I talked with an elderly man who had just lost his son. Wanting to bring him a distraction, I asked him why he didn’t show off more by doing pushups for his friends. Did I mention he’s in his eighties? And does push-ups? He smiled like he always does, shrugged and said, “I just fake it. That’s what we do—we fake and smile our way through life to get through it.”

He went on his way, after I gave him an awkward smile, knowing he wasn’t talking about the pushups.

So a recent night ago, when I noticed my daughter faking a prayer to please me, I stopped her mid, “Thank Y—“, and told her no.

“Don’t fake a prayer. Just talk to God. Thank Him for what really makes you happy and tell Him what makes you mad. Ask Him for help.”

“Oh.” Her performance mask slid from her face and she just stared at the wall, silent. She declined her prayer that night.

The next night: “Please help me to stop worrying about——, God. Thank you for funny Noah. And help me to stop being scared at night. Amen.”20150829_135921

It wasn’t eloquent. It was disjointed. But it was the deepest part of her gut, grabbing hold of genuine gratefulness and reaching out from her greatest need.

She started laughing, and talking about funny Noah (brother). The next day, she told me she thought of Noah’s funny faces  that night, and was able to laugh herself into good dreams.

Perhaps we need to fake it sometimes. To get through the crowd, to get through the day—to reach out for a thrill.

But I’ve never found real joy there. Have you?

I’ve never found real joy in religion, but I’ve found it in God. He opens His arms wide to catch the prayers from my deepest needs, and answers it by pouring out boundless streams of grace. Like He did for my daughter, He’ll do that for anyone who sends Him a genuine prayer.

Superkids

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Sometimes I think kids should rule the world. They’re much better at finding contentedness in it. Really, how many adults would squeal in delight if you handed them a giant cardboard box? My kids don’t care about the quality of washing machine that came in the box. They don’t care that the washer is a much brighter white than our ancient dryer—they have a box! It’s a spaceship….a treasure chest—No!—It’s a castle! That box will bring the hours of endless joy.

But we know it’s not the box—it’s the beholder of the box.

My family tries to shop smart. The way we see it, our kids outgrow clothes too quickly to plunk down tons of money on brand names, so we do Walmart, resale shops, Ross, etc. Our kids don’t care, and we’re certainly not going to point out the labels to them. They don’t see labels anyway—they beg me to cut them out so the bothersome things won’t tickle the back of their necks. “Why do they put those in clothes, Mommy?”2015-08-24_08.56.38
One of my son’s favorite shirts came from a yard sale. It was mostly worn out, a little too big, but it has Spiderman on the front! He snatched it up before I could fish a quarter out of my pocket. If kids could teach the rest of us that kind of gratitude, maybe the world would be much happier.

Reality shows are the best with kids. My daughter thinks the ladies are pretty as little girls see it—nice hair style (especially if there’s a pink streak), a pretty smile…sparkly jewelry. There’s no mention of jiggly thighs or a stray pimple here and there. And I’m not going to point out flaws to her—I want her to see things without the critical eye of an adult. We’ve been brain washed, really—beauty is not perfection—it’s a woman/man who spends more time with the reason behind the smile, than perfecting the physique of a smile.

I can’t finish without mentioning books. I’ll have to admit, since I’ve become a writer, I’m more critical of books…I don’t go so far as to be legalistic, in fact, I love a writing rule that’s been successfully broken, but I don’t finish as many books as I used to because of my critical eye. But Noah and Chloe love books of all kinds/voices. Some of their favorite ones are what I would call amateur attempts as writing, but if there’s a good story and an interesting protagonist, my kids will sit through twenty readings in a row! Forget reader analytics—as long as there’s a grand adventure, nothing needs changed!

 

So hand over the keys to the city, give children a platform, because they don’t need as many of our opinions as we think they do–in fact, maybe we should take their example and quit judging the world–Lets just focus on the grand adventure.

 

 

 

 

The Blessed Unglamorous

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Since my earliest days of sitting in front of the keyboard, I can’t help but notice the romanticized ideas people hold about writers. I suppose gifted photographers are partially to blame…they’re good at making writers look brilliant, focusing on the horizon while pondering the ways of the world and the next great novel.

Hollywood, of course, has convinced the world that writers are all rich, eccentric and live in Hemingway-esque log cabins.

When my first book was published, I got snubbed by a few friends and co-workers. They assumed I had hit the big time and would become a distant memory, too good to hang out with the struggling class. One of them confessed to me later that in 20150817_084722realizing one of my dreams I reminded him of the ones he hadn’t reached yet.

My favorite reaction to all of this is that of Stephen King. When speaking to aspiring authors, he started out by saying, “I’m just a guy.”

So before answering a few questions people have asked me about being an author, I’ll be completely honest and say, “I’m just a gal.”

How much money do you make?
I could say something about manners here, but here we go. I might have been able to buy a pair of pants with my very first royalty check. A happy meal with the second.
To be honest, most writers have day jobs. I’ll say that again, with no exaggeration—most writers have day jobs. “But your novel became a bestseller.” Still working the day job. So we are indeed, part of the struggling class.

Why didn’t you give me a free copy of your book?
Refer to the above question. When I published The Miracle of Rain, I didn’t even get my own free copy. For book signings, I have to buy the books before I can sell them. I’m not rich—as much as I would love to give copies to every friend and family member, I can’t afford it—a box of books costs several hundred dollars. I did get one free copy of Faith Seekers (from the awesome Rook Publishing), but if I want to sell copies in person, I still have to buy them first—so do other authors.

What is your real job?
Our educational system is to blame for this question. Any career in the arts is often thought of as a hobby. Not so. Talent or not, writing is a lot of hard work—it’s a skill, and a very difficult one to master. Being a good English student in college doesn’t pave the way to becoming an author. I learned most of what I know from my writers group, from reading, and studying/researching a lot. Like any education, it’s an investment.
Writing is my real job. But career is a better word for it.

Where do you get your ideas?
Various places. Sometimes from life experience, sometimes from watching/listening to interesting people. Prayer. The idea for Faith Seekers popped into my head like a painting. A single visual image (while doing laundry, heh) filled my mind’s eye so clearly, I knew this was a Father/daughter project, meaning God/Sherry project. For who or what—I don’t know, but I wrote it anyway. It’s controversial, and I knew it would be—but I wrote it anyway. That’s how art works.

I’ve always wanted to write, but I’m not good at grammar/don’t have time to learn something new/am not able to go back to school. How did you do it?

By disregarding the above excuses and doing it anyway. I did it without going back to school. If you have a dream…a true desire to do your thing, then you can do it. You can accomplish a great deal if you believe like a visionary. And never, ever, take advice from a pessimist.

There you go, writing life (at least mine) in a blog post. What do you do, and what misconceptions do people have about your career?

The Big K

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What’s round, can protect you from danger, yet put you in danger at the same time?

This quandary adorns my head as my husband and I boulder-hop, wearing more sweat than clothing, including my beloved hat.

“My brim is my friend,” I tell myself, as I nearly miss another foothold. I don’t want any more skin cancer, however, I don’t want to tumble down a mountain of 20150803_093042boulders.

We just dropped off our little boy—our youngest—at Kindergarten. His first day of new everything, my first step of letting go of my baby for the day. I can’t help but think of him as my brim keeps getting in the way. I could have kept him at home another year—I could home school my kids—they’d be protected from so many things that way…

But, from experience, I’ve learned that too much protection can cause a person to fall later on. I can’t keep them under my brim forever.

He was crying when we left. The teacher had to take him inside the classroom and we had to walk away so he could adjust to this new chapter.

Chapter One: The day Noah becomes a big boy.

A boy who will laugh and smile with kids who think boogars are funny too, coat various things with glue sticks, make friends, fight with friends…find the best ones to make memories with and maybe even stand by each other on their wedding days.

Do stuff without me, *sniff.*

When my hat keeps casting its shadow over my face, blocking the blue sky from smiling on me, I remind myself that my skin can’t take it. But I push it up a little bit so I can see what’s around me, because I’ve got to take a little risk in order to see where I’m going.

There it is—that glorious big picture.

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The wide open sky, the rise and fall of the horizon, the breeze across my forehead. There’s an island of rocks—it was our goal, but the water level is still too high to rock-hop over to its bank. I guess it has a mama protecting it too.

We could have told her we were friendly, but I understand. Maybe she’ll let down her guard in autumn.

It’s been a week now, and usually my son comes home and tells me how awesome his day was, but then the morning comes to find him in tears again. But he keeps going, step after little step, thickening his skin and finding out he can do some things without mommy.

His teacher walked him to the car the other day with a mountain of praise. “He’s doing well. He’s the only one in class who doesn’t say ‘I can’t’.”

Good job, big boy.

Shhh…

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My littlest one started Kindergarten today, and while my manuscript is in the hands of beta readers (love you), I’m taking the week to reflect on the fact that my babies aren’t babies anymore, and I’ll now have exactly 3 hrs. and 15 minutes of solitude a day. Phew. It’s a marvelous stacation.

John and I climbed the boulders today.

John and I climbed the boulders today.

Even the boulders have caught on to the mustache trend.

Even the boulders have caught on to the mustache trend.

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Love living in raccoon country.

I’m enjoying the silence now. See you next week.

The Paranormal Conspiracy

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As a child, I had recurring nightmares about a little town a half hour away from my house. It was a charming area, full of art and history, but for some reason, whenever we drove through the century old homes and hairpin roads, the crawlies would follow me home. They stuck their slimy talons into my dreams, twisting them into terrors and woke me up with a thudding heart and a disdain for a very cool looking town. What the heck? In my teen years, I found out it was a hang-out for Satan worshipers.

People would laugh and joke about those rebellious kids who just wanted to do something cool and “dark,” by sneaking out at night and performing strange ceremonies. I laughed some too, but quietly remembered the crawlies I felt as a child and knew the skeptics were looking past the root of the issue. What was it?

Despite the small town values around me, it was still difficult for an individual to be 81hBaj0rCELbold when it came to beliefs of the supernatural realm. If you talked UFO’s too much, you were a weirdo, if you talked Jesus too much, you were a geek. It’s always safer standing in the shoes of skepticism.

Still is. According to The Paranormal Conspiracy by Timothy J. Dailey, when veteran UFO researcher Joe Jordan discovered a man had successfully halted an attempted abduction when he used the name of Jesus (bear with me here) he dug into those experiences a little deeper. After contacting researchers around the country, Joe discovered they all had similar stories, but purposely didn’t report them for fear of losing credibility.

Now at this point, most people would roll their eyes and throw out names like geek and weirdo, but I think most of us either have our own story or know someone credible who’s had their own experience with the paranormal realm. Maybe with a Ouija board, a spirit guide or a strange lights in the sky.

In his book, Dailey talks about the paranormal realm in great length. Of course, we know there are plenty of fakes out there, yes, but inside the web of mystery surrounding the paranormal, there is the real deal. Even the government has their own paranormal researchers.

Dailey talks about Bigfoot, aliens and new age philosophies in his book. What frustrates people most about these “sightings” is the lack of tangible evidence, but there are enough experiences by reputable people—people who could easily lose credibility by coming forward—that it’s important to lend a listening ear to this subject.
Many people have delved into Spiritualism (that goes by many different names—many celebrities practice some form of Spiritualism) such as Colonel Percy Fawcett. Fawcett undertook an expedition to the Amazonian jungle in 1925 to search for the lost city of Atlantis, or “Z” as he called it. On his last attempt, he disappeared, never to be found again. It was later discovered that he was involved in the occult, and communicated with spirits (aka Watchers or Shining Ones) who gave him detailed instructions on planning his expedition in order to found a new colony, code name “The Great Scheme.” He was to be the leader of this new nation.

Obviously, they never came through with their part of the bargain.

Joe Fisher is another man Dailey discusses in his book. Joe was a journalist who had abandoned his Christian roots in favor of Eastern Mysticism. He believed in reincarnation, and discovered his supposed soulmate from another time through the practice of hypnotism. Long story short, he withdrew from his family and friends to spend time with this spirit (who spoke through a hypnotized woman named Aviva), ultimately to discover, through intense research, that these past lives she talked about were fictional. His conclusion after spending years invested in this lifestyle was this: “Although they often spoke of ‘the good’ for humanity, love, and ‘forward development’, it became apparent that their true motives were to control and live vicariously through physical beings.”

Although a dark read, Dailey did a good job with research and showing the big picture behind the paranormal. The one thing that any spirit behind eastern mysticism, aliens, etc. is that they don’t like hearing the name Jesus. Fear and disdain of His name are always present. If He was just a man, as many say, why would paranormal beings fear Him?

“The enemy is never so deadly as when he is invisible—when one has no idea of his whereabouts. The skeptic is like a willfully blindfolded man stumbling around a battlefield, insisting that the exploding rounds are flashes of lightning and claps of thunder.” Timothy J. Dailey

I’m just glad I’m on team Jesus. Go ahead, call me a geek.

What do you think about the paranormal? Aliens…spirit guides…UFO’s….or plain old demons in disguise? Tell us in the comments.

 

The Paranormal Conspiracy is here.

For further reading on this subject, I recommend:

UFO’s and the Christian Worldview by Jeff Gerke

The Dark Side of the Supernatural by Bill Myers and David Wimbish

The Magic of Words

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I’m pretty sure the devil invented legalism, and suspect he’s behind many regulations of HOAs. “No, it doesn’t matter that you own your house, you can’t paint it blue. The house you slaved for isn’t about you, it’s about everyone else judging you.”

Or so it seems sometimes. Who decided that mud was a nice color for a housing development anyway?

Like I told you—it has to be the devil. Jealousy has inspired his influence. He didn’t get forgiven—we did. He can morph and change into any kind of beautiful shape—he can deceive countless numbers of people because of that, but us? We were made of mud (and offered an eternal home with The Sculptor Himself). That’s probably why he inspired someone to make mud the standard color of all southwestern houses. It’s his way of saying “in your face, mud-people.”

But pride gets everyone into trouble.

He’s done it with words too—even with the Christians. We can put violence into our books and movies, (mild) sensuality, conflicts of every kind. We can have fictional knights yielding otherworldly power from their swords, Nephilim dating humans, but there’s one word that many ban from the Christian scene.

Magic.image007

I believe it’s because people automatically equate it with evil. But should we? Does the devil own this word?

I don’t know, to me, when someone “gives” a word to the devil, they’ve sacrificed to the wrong supernatural force. Become superstitious. And given Satan undeserved power.

Did we not add ain’t to the dictionary? We can command our words, friends!

We’re the stewards of God’s creation, not the slaves of Satan’s tricks, and correct me if I’m wrong, but most of us don’t speak devil.

I, for one, like the word magic. God is sovereign, and He’s done some pretty magical stuff, making that word most appropriate. So if you’re on the fence, let’s remember that God can work with anything thrown at Him. Even Joseph thought so when faced with the brothers who sold him into slavery:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20

In a culture where fantasy is highly revered, the word magic can be used to save many lives. So be bold (drab is for conformity)!

Do you agree or disagree? Tell us in the comments.

To Be A David

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What would you think of as beautiful in your last season of this life?

I may take that question to work, where people go to live during this great transition. I learn a lot there, where most conversations revolve around family: theirs, mine, and whoever else has one.

Children are incontestably beautiful. They celebrate life in so many colors and

Am I not divinely beautiful?

Am I not divinely beautiful?

expressions, it’s hard not to look at them as canvases of the most divine kind of art. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to raise them—we don’t want to unintentionally shape a Monet into a Picasso if that’s not who they are meant to be.

Speaking of art—if my “ship” ever makes it through all the cactus and dust devils, bringing treasures beyond my expectations—I hope it’s full of art to fill my walls with. I can’t get enough—Impressionism, Renaissance art, Contemporary…maybe even an art studio of my own, because to me, life without art means a life without beauty.

At the retirement resort, there used to be a group of ladies who, at the first sign of a fire truck, would gather in one of the lobbies to watch the firemen walk by (unfortunately, they were usually accompanied by an ambulance). Young and fit people will always have an audience.

But really, when we reach that phase where our human side starts to peel away from the eternal—what will we remember as truly beautiful?

My daughter is seven, and in public school. She’s reached that point where she’s gaining that early foundation of experience. She’s a butterfly—sweet and quiet (at school), and full of color (strong-willed monkey at home). Her teachers would like to see her speak up more in class, speak louder—find her confidence. We do our best to build her up—we even signed her up for ballet where she can express her creative side within a group.

But a person has to uncover their light on their own accord.

When a boy in her class kept coming in without lunch, and worried about his parents “illnesses”, she found her voice, taking him to the lunchroom supervisors and asking if they would give him a free meal. For those of you who have never been shy this may seem like plain old common sense, but all those former and practicing wallflowers will recognize what a leap of faith this was for someone afraid to raise her hand.

This, to me, is beauty at its brightest. It’s reaching beyond our own comforts, switching on that stubborn lamp, and letting the eternal side shine through the human side.

King David, in his early years as a shepherd boy, was described as beautiful.

So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” 1 Samuel 16:12 (emphasis mine)

I’m sure he was made “good-looking” for a reason, but is that what made him “the one”?

When I look at Michelangelo’s David, I see the story of him—the slingshot, the strength of body and spirit—the shepherd boy who stepped forward to save his people.

The statue will eventually crumble, but the part of him that made him a legend came from the Divine.

What do you think is eternally beautiful? Tell us in the comments.

The Realm of Moms

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Once upon a time in Wendy’s, a young mother experienced harassment of the most common kind. She sat with her three young children and happy meals, in what looked like a sea of white cotton candy—I’m guessing senior discount day—and a bored couple sitting side by side and facing her— judging her every move.

Her little boy, eager to fish his toy from his bag, spilled his entire box of chicken nuggets onto the floor.

The mother looked in the direction of the counter to her fully decked out table, to the little boy. She scolded him, maybe a little too harshly, but being a mom myself, I understand the dilemma. Does she leave her fully-loaded table, gather up her kids (she was out of sight from the counter, so she would have had to take her kids) and re-order the chicken nuggets or just share her meal with her son?

(Any mama or Nanny will understand how difficult a simple task

It's a glorious handful

It’s a glorious handful

becomes with small children.)

The couple who was fully immersed in her business decided the most helpful thing to do would be to tell the mom to go back to the counter and ask for more chicken nuggets. They didn’t offer any help, just their opinion—with attitude.

The mama decided to share her meal with her son—who refused to eat anything but French fries anyway—much to the disapproval of the nosy couple. The woman-half of the couple scoffed, took a swig of her drink and along with her husband, continued to stare and discuss the harried mom in front of them.

Selfish is the word.

And mean.

But it turns out that mothers of young children are in the highest category of stressed out people in the world (and all the moms say amen). Here’s a snippet from Randy and Nanci Alcorn in their book, Help For Women Under Stress:
“One doctor and stress lecturer has said that the most overstressed person in our society is the mother of small children. Our counseling experience, our family experience, and our conversations with many women confirm this.
Small children are takers. They require unceasing time, labor, and attention. They cry but can’t tell you what’s wrong, and when they’re old enough to talk they ask you the same question twenty-nine times in a row. They are delightful gifts of God, yes, but they demand and deserve more than you have left.”

Many people have asked me how I manage to juggle all that I do. I raise kids full-time (and have one of those awesome husbands that helps), write novels and do other freelance writing jobs, and when my husband is off work, I go from wrangling my kids all day to putting in a shift at my part time job. I drive home at midnight, literally slapping myself to stay awake. My son still gets up anywhere from midnight to 3am with nightmares, which means I do too. I’ve worked physically demanding jobs, I’ve worked in a school for troubled teenage girls, and I’ve scrubbed dishes by hand, in a small redneck restaurant (redneck as in the genuine thing…not the Hollywood version). And all I have to say is….

Motherhood is, by far, the most difficult and demanding job I’ve ever done. And those other things I do? Yes, they keep me busier than is probably healthy, but they also give me a break from the mommy stress.

In contrast to those who recognize my hectic schedule, there are those (like the couple who plagued my friend in Wendy’s) who have asked me: Is that all you do? Why do you look so tired?

Seriously, who taught you to poop in a toilet, people?

And for those of you that hold doors, and offer understanding smiles and patience to a mama when her kids act out in public? Bless you a thousand times.

Are you looking for a way to pay it forward? Help a mom today. Are you a mom? Tell us your story, give us your rant, or grace us with your advice in the comments.

Seeing through boxador colored glasses

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We found our Bella at a local shelter. A delightful Boxador, she lavishes joy every moment she’s awake. Maybe it’s a gift unique to dogs, maybe we just don’t spend enough time practicing it, but lavishing joy is certainly a lost art.

All it takes for her day to turn from great to out-of-this-world-awesome is a lizard, or the morning, people walking in the door, or just being alive. Bella finds reason to celebrate from every angle.

Lizards, awesome! *Lick*20150620_142518
A dirt pile, awesome! *Bounce*
Morning breath. *Slobber kiss*

Frankly, she’s a breath of fresh air after living inside a human’s skin all my life. When I wake up in the morning, bed head and pillow creases across my face aren’t something I brag about, but to Bella? It’s the best thing ever!

Dogs can wake up with half their face smooshed an inch higher, and people think they’re adorable. They have no hidden agenda, political differences, nor do they fume over something that someone said they said that might be offensive that grows to something several people are saying thatmayormaynotbetrue.

Dogs just love us anyway.

Yesterday, my daughter said, “the house looks so different with Bella in it.” And she’s right—it does! Her delightful nature continuously points us to the good things—some of them we didn’t think were so good until she came along.

I believe God sent us dogs as illustrations to help us understand this:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Even if they have bedhead and smell, because being able to wake each day to your families faces is lovely indeed.

 

P.S. It’s been a busy summer…I’m close to finishing my newest YA novel and would love a few more beta readers. Did you enjoy Faith Seekers? Do you like Christian YA fiction with that pushes the boundaries? If you’re interested in becoming a beta reader, contact me at srossbook@gmail.com. Have a great Monday!

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