The Magical Kingdom

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The wind moans through the park as I stare at the old tree. It cranes over, dry and brittle like a tired old man. Its back is arced from carrying heavy branches that creep across the expanse of it like withered spikes on a crown. It looks one moment away from crumbling back into the dust.

I hold on to a that picture two hours after my Grandpa walked through Heaven’s door, and for a wonderful minute I feel some of his joy as he left his failed body 100_1071behind and walked into glory. His crown is new now, and I’m sure, full of splendor.

I sift through the memories like we all do when we lose someone. I can smell the downy fresh sleeping bags draped over dusty camper beds. I hear him and my Grandma singing on their front porch as we string beans, and the sounds of multiple trips to Disneyland play their faded tunes. My Grandpa never outgrew the magical kingdom.

I take another look at the tree, a heavy shadow tucked inside the Christmas lights strewn about. Life blooms and celebrates around it. It’s really a picture of all of us—those who can see the lights weaving among those who only see the shadows.

I step back and take it all in. If I take my glasses off it all whirls together. It’s no longer joy separated by pain, party here and sorrow there. It’s a true magical kingdom—a glimpse of heaven touching earth.

But that’s how it really is. Even though there are days when walking in the shadows of the fallen seems like the only thing to do—days when it feels like everything has fallen—seeing the magical Kingdom around us is just one choice away.

I would like to extend my gratitude to all of you who’ve joined or visited this blog. Thank you for becoming a part of this community and supporting my writing efforts. The digital version of Faith Seekers is now available for $2.99 here.

Release Day

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Faith Seekers is here!

As I’ve told a few people before, this book was written under the influence of chocolate, chai tea, and Dr. Pepper, none of which are healthy but all are stuffed full of inspired awesomness. This book is neither Republican or Democrat, or even politically correct…which makes it more interesting from the start.
So take a peek, and if you happen to read it please post an honest review.

FaithSeekersFrontCoverFaith Seekers on Amazon.

 

 

Book trailer here.

How to wrap a Christmas gift

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Sometimes the most wonderful time of the year feels like living inside a mobile barrel of monkeys. It starts off a jolly good time until you realize it’s just a huge bucket of chaos. One monkey’s using your hair as a steering wheel, tugging you to every Black-Friday-Cyber-crazy-half-off-sale until you wonder how wonderful time became synonymous with stressful.

Don’t misunderstand, there is much joy in giving and gratitude in receiving, but what can we offer our circle of family and friends when the stress gets in the way of the heart of Christmas?

How do those who live paycheck to paycheck give generously?

Or for those who have a few more dollars, what can bless others that will mean more than the newest gadget or someone’s 200th DVD?

Hildreth has been coming to my mind a lot lately as I deal with the monkey barrel. prayercandlesShe lived in the Retirement Resort for a few years before she left us for Florida. She was one of the quietest, but her impression was one of the deepest. How many times she shared her dessert with me, I can’t count…how many times she kept me company after I dimmed the lights and waited inside the empty lobby for something or someone to need my attention…but it was mostly that time she invited me to her apartment that I saw her shine.

She had welcomed me inside so she could clean my wedding ring for me, but what a delight I found at her dining room table. She laughed when my smile spread the width of her apartment, and tried to brush off what I saw as a silly thing, but it wasn’t. I can still see inside her dimly-lit apartment, the teddy bears—one in each of her dining room chairs around her table—several were Victorian elegant, some fluffy, but they were all her family. She had flesh-and-blood family, her daughter Jane was just as sweet, but those bears filled the empty places when she was alone.

“They keep me company,” she said, and smiled as she escorted me into her bathroom. She dipped my ring into a tub of cleaner and talked about how it wonderfully it shined up her jewelry and didn’t it make my ring shine too?

“It sure does,” I said, but it wasn’t the ring as much as it was Hildreth. She shined, in her smile, in the way she made a family out of a collection of Teddy Bears, in the way she gave me all that she really wanted—company.

I have this monkey pounding on my head this year, steering me this way and that, demanding I drive it through blocks of politically-correct commerce. It’s annoying, demanding, and works hard to suck the joy out of all that’s wonderful.

I keep my memory of Hildreth in front of me and reach for the catalog on the buffet. That darn monkey is yanking on my hair and pointing toward that stores that won’t let its employees say Merry Christmas, but I turn my head away and look back to my own table. This is the only catalog that hasn’t found its way into the trash can. There are photos of babies. I can pay $9 and feed one of them for a week. There are shoeboxes I can fill with toys and toothbrushes that will be the only gift a child will get this year. I can give to our patriots, help build a school or a church—there is something for every income and I AM IN.

This is stable-love.

This is shaking those monkeys out of my life, the light coming from Hildreth, the Jesus the world needs to see.

This is Merry Christmas.

The Battle of Words

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Fantasy literature is a Heaven and Hell fight. It’s the bookstore lumping in witchcraft novels along with heaven’s novels–in the make-believe section–as if nothing beyond the realm of flesh and blood is real. It’s me in the library, walking through the explosion of chapter books, trying to discern between a harmless magic-based novel or a book that will fight for my daughter’s loyalty to something darker.

I tell my princess God is real.

But that other book tells her witches are real, and good.

I show her the Bible, talk to her about the stories. “This isn’t just a book”, I say. “It’s a history book.”

But then she asks me why schools outlaw that history book.

She knows the truth inside that book, but gets distracted by the pretty covers 100_3067shelved alongside it.

We all need something extraordinary beyond our flesh and blood lives so we know there’s a purpose for this earth-and-pain mess we live in. God is that something extraordinary. “But what about what this person said?” she asks.

I could tell her all kinds of things, read to her the story about Elisha and the army of angels and how Elijah called down fire from heaven.

But we don’t see a whole lot of that in America these days. Some say it’s because we’re too distracted.

So I pull that mustard seed from my pocket and hold it out to God.

I had a nightmare—a staggering one—the kind that wakes you up with sweat and fear coursing down your body. I dreamed horror and woke up piercing the darkness with my prayers. I called the only God who ever shows up because I knew this wasn’t just a dream or too much late-night salsa churning inside my belly—this was a battle. The kind bookshelves call fantasy.
The next morning, Chloe said, “I had a dream last night, Mommy.” My heart thumped a little, remembering my own nightmare. But then she said, “There were angels surrounding our house, protecting us, and Jesus came inside to be near us, so we were okay, Mommy. The bad guys couldn’t get in.”

I remind her of that dream when she asks me about God’s abilities. She may tell that dream to someone someday, and they might laugh it off and say it was just a dream, or that she’s been reading too much fiction.
But I hope she remembers to pull out her own mustard seed. I hope she remembers who showed up to protect us that night…and who didn’t.

I believe there’s a reason why we don’t see much fire from Heaven, or chariots of fire coming for our prophets. I think when we started shelving all of that in the fantasy section, we made ourselves blind. We laugh at those stories, call them silly dreams, but when we need to escape—when we need to know there’s a reason for us—we dig into a few books or flip on the TV.

The problem is, along with the heaven-books, there are other volumes with names like witch or daemon that are passed off as fantasy, but that’s really not it. They are the disguised foe—fighting alongside the volumes of heaven for our children’s hearts. Our hearts.

Writers: It’s never just a story. Your work is eternally valuable.
Readers: It’s never just a story, it’s a battle. But you are worth the fight.
Parents: It’s never just a story. Wicca is the fastest growing religion of American children today. You, along with the angels, are guardians of heaven’s children.

You see, a mustard seed is really a sword. It’s that thing that meets us in between  earth and the spirit world. Never leave yourself unarmed, and don’t ever forget the Maker of your sword.

The Making Of…

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Sometimes I don’t have a blog because Pounce eats it.

Quit blaming me.

Quit blaming me.

But this time, I’ve been busy planning and making my book trailer for Faith Seekers (out soon). Of course, I had a lot of help.

Here’s my proof.

My bro Kenny, the filmster

My bro Kenny, the filmster

 

Me and Cheyenne, My "Hannah". One Awesome Teen.

Me and Cheyenne, My “Hannah”. One Awesome Teen.

 

Why are we filming in the creepy woods? Because I love stories with a good dose of creepy. Happy Monday, and see you  next week.

To Build Your Story

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I am my childhood home. Just like the near-decade it took for my parents to build the brick and mortar one, I’m still nailing on sturdy layers of skin, and collecting enough materials to house all I was designed to be.

I loved the house my parents made. There was a built-in bookshelf in the hallway where volumes of all kinds graced us as we dragged to bed each night, and began each day again. I liked to thumb through the older books, mainly because they came from my dad’s life before me. Before I knew him as Daddy, before he laid his rope on his saddle to begin a family.

One of these books intrigued me, not because of the cover, or the name of the author, but because of the author’s confession on the first page. He was bold G1about his lack of education, his weakness when it came to grammar, and all those things you’d think a writer should master before he showed his work to the world.

I thumbed through the story—it was a novel for grown-ups—and in that season of my youth, I needed a grand collection of illustrations before I would cozy up to a book, but I promised to get back to that book someday. A writer who can’t spell but still published a book must surely have a good story to tell.

I was reminded of that book recently as I scrolled through a few amazon reviews. I picked a few books that I adore, and skimmed through the myriad opinions posted underneath the beautiful covers. What does a review tell about a book? That depends largely on the reviewer and what season-of-life they’re going through as they approach a story, but there is one thing that stands out to me: There are those with critical natures—dissecting a book until it becomes more of a biology experiment than someone’s art—and those who just want a good story.

Like most authors, I approach the release of my own book with lots of excitement, and a good dose of trepidation. My education doesn’t go beyond junior college, I’m still figuring out all rules of grammar (a big thank-you to my editor, Michelle,), and my book is not perfect. But I really just want to tell people a good story.

How long do we wait to put our work out there, anyway? Despite the perfection the world demands, we will never attain that which is beyond the grasp of a fallible human being.

Only God can do that.

Is criticism helpful, and can you use it to shape your art for the better? Then, by all means, grab it and build yourself a little stronger. But if it separates you from you, well…that’s no better than a termite infestation.

When I went back to look for that old book, it was gone. It was probably loaned out, or was stored to make room for newer volumes—but I can still smell the dusty pages, still hear the voice of that author, offering us all he had. And that’s enough to remind me that it’s okay to be imperfect.

The Songbird

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I never liked caged birds until I met Sweetie. She sat near the entrance in Helen’s apartment living room at the retirement place. Helen loved her, spoke tenderly to her as if she were a diamond on a pedestal. But all I saw was a beautiful creature unable to spread her wings.

Helen was one of my favorites. She was cheerful, tiny—she could have been a little bird herself with her small frame and trill voice—and I never had to worry about gripes or criticisms with her. When I saw her approaching my desk, I knew she’d bring me a smile and a kind word. That was what I needed as I was stuck between a job and a career—just someone to talk to me like I was more than just the staff.

Helen called me in a panic one evening. Sweetie had escaped her cage and 100_1053damaged her wing when she flew through the apartment. I’d never had a caged bird, what was I supposed to do? Birds are supposed to be flying without borders—no wonder Sweetie went for a freedom flight. And this was far outside my job description …but it was Helen.

I put up my “Be Right Back” sign and rushed to Helen’s apartment. It probably took us a good thirty minutes to settle the feathers. Sweetie had cut her wing. I called my husband who had a bird once, and he gave me some instructions on how to treat Sweetie. I found what I needed in Helen’s bathroom and fixed Sweetie right up. “Hope you enjoyed your freedom”, I thought, but Helen gushed over her like she was family. I saw how Helen looked at that little thing. I look at my children the same way when my heart overflows with love for them.

A few years later Helen had to move to the Assisted Living side. Her mind began to scatter a little too much. Her spirits dropped and she didn’t come out of her new place much—but she had her bird. She and Sweetie became inseparable, and Helen took her, cage and all, when she went out for the day, usually with family.

My friend would lose her patience, and eventually her smile, but she kept a firm grip on Sweetie’s cage wherever she went. I’m not sure why she held on so tightly to her bird. But I think she needed someone to sing to her. I think she needed Sweetie to remind her that despite the cage her failing mind wrapped around her, there was still joy out there somewhere.

Maybe when all of us walk through those barred places, all we need is for someone to remind us of the joy out there.

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22

Zebra’s Don’t Have Monkeys

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Happy Monday! Willow Dressel is back today, continuing her series on biblical skeptics. The beginning of her series started here.

 

SCIENCE, MORAL, SPIRITUAL AND BIBLICAL SKEPTICS
PART III
SCIENCE-MUTATION AND NATURAL SELECTION

Hello again!

I’m back with more information on the movie God’s Not Dead. If you recall, in the last blog covering this subject I identified the root idea “The natural world is all there is”, and the probing question “How much faith is required for that belief?”. We also went over quite a few red flag words. Let’s do a quick review:

In short information is non-physical and does not arise out of material; and our minds have the power of intentionality⎯our brains are just the medium for communicating it; and only mind, not matter, can generate meaningful information. Pretty profound stuff, especially when you try to put random and chance in there. Hmmm, just what kind of meaningful information could random and chance KennytheTiger IIIblogproduce? The “earliest and simplest” single cell organism that is made up of a series of complex systems? I think not! But sadly evolutionists believe that mutation and natural selection can generate, by chance and randomness, the meaningful information that DNA carries and the highly complex system of the DNA itself. Let’s take a closer look…

Mutation: what the science skeptic means when he/she refers to mutation is the random genetic improvements passed on from one generation to the next that allows an organism to move up the “evolutionary ladder” (or tree), becoming, according to their theory, more complex. The plain and simple fact is that mutations can only degrade or rearrange existing genetic information. Mutation cannot generate new information. So the probing question to ask anyone who is stuck on mutation leading to new species is–can mutations generate new material and new information, that is new DNA with new coding.
DnaStrand IIIblogEvolutionists believe so. They cling to “beneficial” mutations, such as malaria-resistant sickle cells and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, to try to prove their point. However, this really is a moot point because no new information or DNA is produced by mutations even though they claim that mutations are a naturalistic way that introduces DNA into an organism. They cling so adamantly to this because they need a way for creatures to evolve into something new. The other fact evolutionists either ignore or haven’t thought it through thoroughly is that mutations have harmful side affects such as severe anemia and even death in the case of sickle cell, and huge genetic information loss in the case of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
You see, “genes are like sequences of letters (codes) that act as blueprints and instructions for a creature’s form and functions. A genetic mutation is analogous to the following sequence of letters:
IWANTTOEVOLVE = the normal gene
IWaNtToEVOLVe = mutation (degraded)
OVATEVNOTLWIE = mutation (rearranged)
oVaTEVNOtLWIe = mutation (degraded and rearranged)
“No matter how you degrade or rearrange the message “IWANTTOEVOLVE”, you either get IWANTTOEVOLVE with slight modifications or you get gibberish. No new letters arise to create a new, more complex message.
“In the same way…suppose you have the blueprints for a Mercedes Benz. Could you repeatedly photocopy them hoping that a copy one hundred (or a million) generations later would randomly accumulate spots and smudges that transformed it into blueprints for the Space Shuttle or even an upgraded design for the Mercedes? The blueprint quality would get worse, not better, the more it was duplicated.
Mutations are incapable of generating new genetic information. But evolutionists hold out faith that the hero of their theory, natural selection, can make it all work out.”1

Natural Selection: what the science skeptic means by natural selection is that the animals with adaptable traits survive (survival of the fittest) to pass on their genes. And animals with less adaptable genes die out. They believe that is the method or system by which increasingly organized and complex creatures come into being. It is true that natural selection (aka survival of the fittest) does occur. However this process has nothing to do with accumulating complexity, becoming more complex, or changing one species into another. In other words natural selection describes a process (adaptation of existing information), not the introduction of new information (DNA coding). “The important thing to note about natural selection is that it is a process of subtraction, not addition. It streamlines creatures for better survival in their existing environment by removing traits less suited for that environment…It cannot collect, assemble, or create new genetic features (new DNA) required to transform one kind of creature into a different kind that can survive in at completely different environment.
Turtles, IIIBLog“A mosquito population can survive the threat of insecticide because of what it loses, not what it gains. Mosquitoes with a genetic weakness toward a particular insecticide die off. But the surviving, resistant mosquitoes become the new core population for a “stronger” next generation. (They may be stronger only against the original insecticide but vulnerable in other ways.) Is this new resistant group a sign that the mosquitoes are breaking the bonds of mosquitohood and evolving into a new creature? No. Their mosquito DNA dictates that they will remain mosquitoes. This new group has been “selected” to survive because it has lost the weak trait by losing the weak members of the group that carried it, not by evolving a new trait. The insecticide merely exposes a genetic resistance that these mosquitoes had all along.”2
The funny thing is, is that EVERYBODY gets this process with dogs (or horses, cats, etc). Nobody thinks that a Chihuahua will evolve (through breeding) into a bat or a monkey or another new type of animal. EVERYBODY knows you breed animals for certain traits, a lap dog for example. Or a racing horse, or hairless cat. EVERYBODY, including evolutionists know we can’t breed these animals into some new species. The fact is, that dogs remain dogs, horses remain horses, cats remain cats no matter how streamlined they have become for their environment.

I encourage you this week to look around at the world you live in. Do you see any familiar animals, or people for that matter, having young that aren’t of the parent species? I would bet my life that the answer is no. And scripture backs it up. Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:39; “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.” If you read further, (verses 37-44) you will find even more references to major distinctive realms including botanical (God giveth…to every seed his own body.), physical (There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another), astral: (There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory), and spiritual: (There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body).

God has provided for everything…we just need to open our eyes and hearts and trust Him!

God bless and take care!
Willow Dressel

References:
Foster, Bill. “Meet the Skeptic, A Field Guide to Faith Conversations.” Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2012. Pp 97-107. 1, 2 pg. 107-111.
3www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/weeks-sky-glance-april-1826

Superheros and Authentic Fashion

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Parenting is perpetual construction. It’s the work truck driving adjacent the joy curb, always working—reworking, and an occasional hopping out to stretch the legs. But there is no sabbatical for moms and dads. If there’s not someone in the lane next to you telling you how to drive, it’s yourself—sometimes I lay awake, going over my list of speed bumps:

I said too much there. I didn’t say enough here. I focused too much on the dirty house today. I’m not that mother who can multitask her child and the whole school at the same time—and to be perfectly honest, I don’t want to be—that would be as exciting as doing a math test.

But amidst all the chaos, there are two things I feel good about:

My kids know that Jesus is the only real Superhero.
I don’t make them match their clothes.

Wait-what? Yes, I’m proud of the fact that I let them wear fuchsia polka dots with camouflage pants. Stripes with crazy patterns. A spiderman shirt with batman pants (so as I am writing this, Microsoft word wants me to capitalize spiderman, but not batman—what’s up with that?).

Anyway, why do I let them walk in public looking like they dressed themselves? Because they don’t need to dress for others approval. They need to know it’s okay to be them. They’ll face enough pressure from their peers in a few years—I want them to feel good about making their own choices because they were made like this (by the real Superhero):

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

They weren’t knit together by Prada’s marketing team. They weren’t wonderfully made to feel pressured to have surgeons nip and tuck their uniqueness away.

If God’s works are wonderful…they are already beautiful. They need

My little beauty

My little beauty

encouragement to be them. Who am I to make them feel like they have to fit my standards of beauty, or the standards of the fashion industry, or Hollywood?

Here’s an excerpt from Alissa Quart in her book Branded:

“…many of the teens and tweens I have come across who are drenched in name-brand merchandise are slightly awkward or overweight or not conventionally pretty. While many teenagers are branded, the ones most obsessed with brand names feel they have a lack that only superbranding will cover over and insure against social ruin.”

And it all starts with drawing attention to their appearance.

I listened to an interview at my mom’s group a few weeks ago. Wisdom from a former Victoria’s Secret Model. She said the only reason she got into the modeling industry (and nude modeling) was because her father encouraged her in only one thing: her looks. It took her decades to realize that she had real value.

The only One children need to be concerned with pleasing is the Superhero who laid down His life for them. If they ask you why God made them look a certain way, tell them:

“God saw all that He made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31 (emphasis mine)

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