A Meaningful Christmas

My son checks the gifts around the tree each morning to see if they’re ripe for the opening. I ask him how he can tell and he said the wrapped gifts are the ones he checks because they’re more of a mystery than the bagged ones. One is almost ripe, he says. The rest aren’t ready yet.

Despite being battered with the knowledge that we not only will we be missing our big family Christmas this year, and that I have to work for the first time since I’ve been a mom, my little guy is holding on to the joyful parts of this season. His eyes, despite some blurry days, are usually fixed on the things he hopes for.

As for me? I’m still reeling from the Monsters of 2020 that have barged inside January’s door and have kept filing in ever since. COVID. The politics, the hate, the name-calling from every side, and the decision on whether or not to get the vaccine accompanied by the criticism we all will get no matter what decision we make. Not to mention the personal challenges we’ve encountered this year.

Because of all these things, I wanted Christmas to be more meaningful this time around. Every year actually, because it seems like commercialism has become the babe born in a manger rather than the Savior of the world. There have been so many things on the to-do list since adulthood arrived that Christmas has seemed like something to briefly enjoy but also to move past so I can depressurize.

There’s no ripeness there, so little flavor. What have we neglected?

When I first learned that I had to work on Christmas disappointment clothed me. The kids hate it. Their faces crumpled when I told them, and the long-held seniority I’ve enjoyed from being at the same workplace for twenty years is no longer a thing, just like bare faces and civil conversations.

So many normal things have become dust under Monsters feet.

But then a light started to awaken in me. I work at a retirement place where people are lonely, quarantined and surrounded by COVID. The outside world throws words at them like retirees and at-risk people are in such a small percentage that they aren’t worth our covered faces. The O.W. says many callous things (although not nearly as many as before). Maybe because they’re on the safer side of the oxygen tanks and…worse. Our retirees are jailed, yet protected: Alone together—two meaningful words that have grown into Monsters themselves.

But here lies the mystery–the loss of my great seniority benefit has turned into my meaningful Christmas. It’s not about my to-do list this year (thank God), or the pressure of all the holiday stuff. I get the morning and early afternoon with my family, and the evening and half the night with my friends at the retirement place. I’ll get to watch my family open their gifts. We’ll have bacon. And then at work, I’ll probably deliver groceries or packages to those who are ordered inside their apartments for the holidays.

Monsters beware. Your giant, bitter feet are no match for the those that follow the Bethlehem Star. Christmas is about loving on all kinds of people this year, and my face –tired as it will be—may be the only one some of them see on this Holy Day. May more hearts ripen, may kindness blanket our nation. You better believe the smile underneath my mask will be visible all around those masked borders.

Merry Christmas, friends.

That Gut Feeling

Who wants to talk about something besides Covid and politics? I’ll have to say, people’s reactions to all the chaos have thrown me just as much as all the surprises, globally and personally, that 2020 brought forth. Reactions that made me stop and think—ask a thousand questions about why people respond the way they do. I’ve even done some thinking about my own responses which got me chewing on some memories and why my brain often rejects the status quo on whatever current cultural thought is expected of us.

It wasn’t a highly educated college instructor that taught me to broaden my ways of thinking. College in the ’90s was permeated with the overused and abused term open minded, which, in my experience meant that the instructor who lived by that mantra was hell-bent on stripping the values, the faith, or whatever you came to college believing from your very marrow.

(I will throw in here that some of my teachers were quite excellent, but this isn’t about the good ones either.)

No. To help stretch my mind, I needed a teacher who was so wrong, that 20+ years later I wonder if he’s still alive.

He was tall, personality-challenged, and stood in front of the class as he tried to convince us that humans had lost all instincts. That gut feelings were illogical and we used knowledge to get around in life and nothing more.

You should have heard the mothers in the room bellow at him like he had lived in a bubble his whole life. The women. Tell me, what woman hasn’t heard that small inner voice telling them that Mr. Handsome and charming and perfectly perfect by all appearances is, in fact, MR DANGER on the inside?

On my TBR pile

At first, I assumed our teacher was trying to inspire conversation, but no. Turned out that he believed it.

I still think of that teacher (if he’s still alive) as life has thrown me many opportunities to consider the matter of instinct. One in which I will probably never know the whole story.

It was close to midnight, I was a young twenty-something, married, and alone in our apartment when someone knocked on the front door. Our apartment complex was regularly visited by police and drama. It wasn’t the worst place around, but it wasn’t what I’d call the safest either.

But for some reason, I rose from my recliner at the sound of that knock. At the last second, something made me pause and grab our orange tabby, Loki—the Garfield of all Garfields–and tuck him under my arm. I swung open the door and this young blond guy I had run into a few times stood in front of me. And I knew. Despite his shiny exterior I knew his intentions were bad.

But I wasn’t afraid. I also knew, knew, that all would be well. At the sight of Loki and me standing in the doorway the guy flinched, and whatever he planned before I opened that door fell to the wood walkway beneath him like broken promises. He actually stepped back, fear filling his eyes as Loki and I stared him down.

“Uh…do you have any cigarettes?” he mumbled.
“Ok, thanks.”

That’s when I closed the door, latched it and stared at my cat. I mean, he was a force to be reckoned with but the guy had looked at my orange ball of cuteness like he was God himself.

Strange, yes? I’ve gone over this incident many times over the years, from questioning why I felt compelled to open the door at midnight to wondering what that guy saw in my cat’s eyes, or mine, and why I knew that I’d be safe while staring into what my gut told me was evil.

Some people say that instinct is a pathway to God, some say it’s something we developed when the world was primeval and every day was survival—our senses were heightened out of necessity. Maybe it’s both.

The inexperience—or ignorance—of my instructor could have proven deadly if I had thought my gut feelings were no more than paranoia–not to mention the fact that I was naive when I took his class, but not so much that I let him dull my mind. I had learned way before I took Sociology that instinct is as valuable as the air I breathe. But his disbelief has taught me to dig deeper into the enigma of instinct, adding books to my TBR pile, and to hold conversations that have been enriching to say the least.

I also wonder about the blond guy. Why did he react the way he did when he saw me and Loki in the doorway? The manifestation of my prayers, perhaps?

What do you think? How often do you take someone’s word for truth, and when do you step back to dig a little deeper?

Welcome to Velvet, Az.

Welcome to Velvet, Az.

It’s release day! I’m so excited to bring you a meaningful story that has nothing to do with Covid or politics, or anything else we’ve had an overdose of.
So that you can decide whether or not this story appeals to you, I’ve posted the first chapter of the book below the description (It’s YA fiction, but told through multiple viewpoints, adult included. Everyone, teen and above, will enjoy this story).

For the past eighteen years, the town of Velvet has been under a holiday curse. For them, Thanksgiving is not about turkey and family. It’s about the Nightmares.

Five days before Thanksgiving, the curse arrives early, sending a menagerie of characters on a search for answers. It begins with Boone, a seventeen-year-old who was raised by an ageless eccentric, Nick, a man in the midst of a breakdown, and Toni, a girl who won’t let any man get closer than three feet.

As answers unfold, suspicions arise, and the power behind the curse is a surprise no one could have imagined.

Welcome to Velvet, Az

Boone/Saturday Night

My best friend is no girl next door. She’s a one-person parade sitting against the antiquated phone booth, barely visible in the eight o’clock twilight. Gray hooded coat, blood-red shirt ending in two violent points past her cuffs, trying so hard to look like anything but the china doll inside.
Wait ‘til Toni sees what this town will offer her during the holidays. She’ll think no more of her idle masquerade, poor girl. Unless she follows instructions. But I know she won’t.
Maybe she’ll think more of me. On second thought, I may become the thing of her nightmares. I’m the last person to want to mark her with that kind of fear. Anything but that. I slow my stride, not wanting to startle her.
In a snap, a stream of light catches her. She springs to her feet, her eyes squinting at the approaching headlights. Must be the new guy. He’s early.
One of his tires throws a rock at a lamp post as he pulls to a stop in front of my friend and the red phone booth. Toni’s expression resembles the one she wore the first day she walked into school. She was the new kid: half-emo, half-crafter, trying to present herself as a don’t-mess-with-me fashion statement. But it was the end of summer, and we all looked like Halloween, as we always do. By the time she had taken her third step into the classroom her face reverberated with that of every new kid: a big, hairy slap in the face.
I push my hood back and reach Toni, still caught in the high beams. After an awkward pause, we shuffle outside their glare.
Nice ride. Custom hubcaps, tires made for pavement. He’s not getting out of his car. Toni spots me from the corner of her eye, trying to do it so I don’t notice, fear sliding from her face. She brings out the fists she had stuffed into her pockets, stretches out her fingers and curls them into white-knuckled angry balls.
She doesn’t know that I know. I know more about, well, everyone than they know about me. And what I understand about Toni is that she resents the fact that she has a small frame despite lifting weights five days a week. I know her warrior princess clothes with their blood-red accents, her sharply angled hair and her frequently balled fists are about someone who hurt her before she moved here. The only reason she tolerates me is because I keep a respectable three foot distance from her most of the time.
The car door opens. A Nike shoe, approximately size eleven, touches the ground, gets pulled back up, banged free from its more than likely first taste of loose dirt, then slowly lowers to the ground again: toe, ball, heel. The second foot appears, pressing to the ground like this activity is a grand science experiment, as if there is a formula to contain Arizona dust. This guy’s going to be a fun guest.
My fingers quickly spread inside my coat pocket to make room as I type dirtphobia into my cell and text it to my dad.
A hand grips the top of the car door, and judging by the sketchy lantern light, it looks free of manual labor or wedding ring. His forearm is fairly well-developed. Two things cross my mind: Miss Daniels will be finding excuses to visit the camp now, which reminds me I have a speech to make next week. Crap. I pull two antacids from my pocket and pop them in my mouth, chew them, savor the quenching of the fire in my stomach.
The second thing? Toni had scooted next to me as soon as she saw his size eleven shoes. So it was a guy who hurt her. I figured—it explains things. Maybe he had dirtphobia like this guy. She does something she hasn’t done in the two months I’ve known her and moves deeper into the three-foot safety zone. Is it appropriate to allow myself to smile? I don’t.
She speaks quietly. “Are you expecting a guest tonight?”
“It’s why I couldn’t walk you home from school. I had to get the Marley Cabin ready.”
“Forgiven. But you know it’s me who walks you home, right?”
I bump Toni’s fist with my own and try to keep reality from showing up on my face.
Back to the car. The slowest emergence from a vehicle ever to happen is playing itself out in front of us. His hands look no older than thirty-something. Another body part emerges—his head. Medium brown hair tousled to the side. He stops again. He didn’t request handicapped accommodations, and he said he’s been here before, so it can’t be Velvet’s idiosyncrasies making him nervous. Unless…
I try to imagine myself a guest and scan the town like I didn’t grow up here. I guess the flickering lanterns are unusual, although most say it bridges the gap between the old buildings and the new. Maybe the diner without a name? I lean my head back. A few years ago, a guest told me without any other street lights to dull the night sky, the bright stars can be unnerving if you tend to have a vivid imagination. But I doubt that’s the case with this guy. It’s either the phone booth, or me and Toni.
I take a nauseating step outside of my comfort zone and greet him with a wave, smiling like a 1950s teenager. “Hi. Are you Nick? My name’s Boone—I’m with Velvet Camp Cabins. Our signs were damaged a few nights ago, so the owner asked that I meet you in case you needed help finding your cabin.” He raises his eyebrows at me, which pries the usual explanation from my lips. “My dad’s the caretaker.”
“Uh, yeah. Thanks.” He holds up his phone. “My app quit. It’s been awhile…I don’t exactly remember how to get there.”
I figured. He must have camped here as a kid. He probably won’t make it past November. “Two miles down the road.” I point west where the road disappears into the pines and darkness. “Turn left at the wagon wheel. That road leads directly into the camp.”
Nick rakes me and Toni with his gaze. He stands, crosses his arms and speaks with a don’t-BS- me accent. “Why don’t you ride with me, so I don’t get lost.”
Toni shoves past me. “Fine,” and climbs into the back seat. “Oh, sorry.” She hangs her feet outside the car and bangs her shoes against each other three times. “There’s no place like clean.”
Nick looks at me.
“She’s sympathizing with you.”
“Uh huh.”
His car’s a smooth ride, even when we reach the potholes. No rattles, immaculate interior, smells like cologne. It’ll all be undone within the week. At the first lengthy washboard he slows to a retiree’s pace and swears. “Sorry,” he mumbles.
“You get used to it,” Toni says. “And before long you’ll remember where they are so you can drive around them. Where are you from?”
Nick clears his throat like he’s going to answer, but doesn’t. I warn him about the upcoming pothole he doesn’t have the clearance for and he swears again, swerving.
“Whose responsibility is it to take care of this road?” Goes the second question our more particular guests ask.
“It doesn’t matter. All it takes is one good rainstorm to roughen it up.”
“It’s a vacation destination.” He presses harder into the gas pedal. “They should at least pave it.”
Eager to dump the small talk, I attempt to find the reason behind his visit. It’ll make things easier for when the time comes. “Did you, by any chance, camp here as a child?”
Nick nods. “Good memories.” He glances at me in the rear view mirror, but I see a ghost in his eyes before he zones in on the camp entrance. “Wow.”
We come to a complete stop in front of the welcome arch strung with large bulb lights. Above them, each letter in Velvet Camp Cabins is lined with battery operated tea lights. Two blue bows cascade down either side.
“My dad’s birthday party’s tonight. All guests are invited.”
“Turning a decade older I take it?” Nick chuckles and drives through the arch. The whole town is already here, thirty minutes into the celebration that will last most of the night. He’ll receive more gifts than will fit in our house, most of which will go to the needy throughout the coming week. There’s no one like my dad.
“Not exactly. Why don’t you come down after you get settled and see for yourself?”
He ignores my offer. Nick chose Marley Cabin, the farthest cabin from the others, edging the forest. Probably the one he stayed in as a kid, although it looks nothing like it did after my dad remodeled it. Whimsical man that he is, he added a loft and left all the carved initials in the wooden beams from fifty years of campers.
“Perfect.” Nick drops his backpack on the front step and smiles at us. “You know, I thought you guys were messing with me back there. No uniforms, no name tags.” A pause fills the space between us—one where he tries not to stare. He takes the key I hand him and shoulders his bag again. “I guess small towns live up to the unconventional stereotype, right?”
Good for him he didn’t wait for an honest answer. He walks into his cabin with a “See ya around.”
“How old is your dad anyway?” Toni and I take our spaces outside her three-foot comfort bubble as we walk toward the Parlor—the old mess hall my dad renamed to sound less casual.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure he knows.”
“I would ask how that’s possible, but I suppose you don’t know that either.”
“Dr. Wynn said he’ll tell me soon.”
“Why the mystery? He’s your dad. A bit—”
She takes three whole minutes to say what she’s chewing on as we leave all ten cabins behind and stand outside the Parlor. “I really love your dad, Boone. I hate it when outsiders say stuff about him.”
“It’s nice to hear you feel like one of us now.”
She looks up at me, pushes her hood from her face. “Weirdos together, right?” She unzips her coat and pulls out a fabric-wrapped gift, tied with a blue ribbon. “I made him something. I hope he likes it.” Hard as stone when threatened, sweet as honey when safe.
“I know he will, let’s go.”
I pull open the wooden doors to the people of Velvet.

The Small Percentage That Matters to Me

I wrote this yesterday for my personal facebook page, but it got such an unexpected response, I thought I’d share it here. Post any thoughts in the comments.


Let’s talk masks, guns, and freedom. Notice I used the oxford comma—and I’m probably one of a very small group of authors to loathe that ostentatious little wiggle—to make sure there’s no confusion here.

Freedom is a beautiful word that’s been hijacked, much like the words educated, hate, and love.

Although my worldview is largely conservative, I don’t like using that word anymore because people have made it an uncrossable line. I believe immigrants should be shown compassion. Some of them just want to do what our ancestors did and make a better life. I wholeheartedly believe in women’s rights, but I also believe in the rights of the unborn. There are some people who should not. ever. have. a. gun, but I also have the experience of growing up in rattle snake country where shooting them was the quickest way for my dad (the Gunsmith) to keep his three young children safe. Seriously, they often hid underneath the pallets outside the back door, or within the woodpile in which we dipped our arms and feet in quite frequently.

When I run I don’t wear a mask. Can’t. I have allergies that mimic asthma. When we first moved to the Prescott area I had an inhaler for a short time. I want to laugh at people I pass who pull their hats over their faces, or pretend to see something the opposite of where I am so they don’t catch my heavy running breaths. In reality, passing a runner outside is not a good way to get sick.

But I do wear one when I go shopping. We have an immunosuppressed child, and although he’s doing better than he ever has, we wear our masks for him, but not just him. We have other family members at higher risk, not to mention the fact that my husband and I work at a retirement place. We’re surrounded by those with weakened immune systems.
Masks don’t protect the wearer unless they’re of the N95 variety, but they do protect those around us. How many of us think that matters anymore? Masks will protect others. My son is an other. Our parents and people we care for at work are others. If you are pro-life consider thinking of Others as those who need our help to survive.

Do I think our freedoms are being whittled away? Yes, as a person of faith I see this every day. Do I think there are corrupt politicians? Of course. Where you have power, there will be those who give in to the temptations that come with that. Do I think the media has been irresponsible? Absolutely. But not all politicians and media are the bad guys, and you have to wonder how much harder their jobs are because of those who are. The truth is, we don’t know all the facts, and probably won’t. Ever.

That’s where discernment and thoughtfulness come in. Just like I have to decide whether or not a politician cares for women’s (and minorities) rights or just wants to use us to get our votes, I have to consider my mask and make decisions.
Do we have the right not to wear them? Yes.
Are there circumstances where someone may not be able to wear one? Yes.
But for most of us, does it do more harm or good to others when wearing them in public?

Can we make this thing, this ONE thing about something other than our political leanings? Can we recognize that COVID-19 is the snake underneath the pallet, threatening our loved ones? Can we consider others’ welfare even when we don’t know them?

That’s what freedom is, pushing the might-be intentions of corrupt people aside to be a united people again. Can we start with the mask?

BTW, if my dad the Gunsmith, Cowboy, Soldier, Guy-who-actually-drove-cattle-across-Arizona can, one day, decide that hunting is not for him anymore because he loves animals THAT much and crosses “the line” then so can we.


My dog knew something was about to happen. And when I say my dog, I mean Bella, and dog spelled backwards.

I had just begun to rise out of a long season of burnout. I’m not going to list the reasons, I’ll just put out a sentence most or all of you will relate to: I’m a grown up.

On the way to one of my daughter’s cross country meets last fall, I had shed enough stress to let some creativity back in; through the hairpin curves and mountain climbing in my rattly Xterra I got an idea so exciting I started tailgating the blue-hair driving in front of me. I felt guilty as she eventually pulled over to let me pass—tailgating is rude, I know—but I was thrilled to be settled onto the wings of my muse again. I needed to fly.

Come November, I was coming along on this new book, polishing the rusty fingers and creative flow, when my dog began to act strange.

My ultra-sensitive boxador has this code for earthquake. She can sense them from a state away. Bella gets fidgety, impossibly restless. If I’m not fixing it, she’ll go outside to our back patio and focus her bark-growl straight through the house to whatever threat she imagines is lurking in front of our house.

There were a few earthquakes, you know, across the world, so her radar was either ramped up to impossible or she was bothered by something else.

Bella moved out of our daughter’s room where she usually slept and started sleeping in the center of the house.

By January, she was mostly back to normal as she always gets once a storm or natural disaster gets underway. The only difference is that she insisted on keeping watch from the living room, where she can keep an eye everything.

Now that we’re in quarantine, Bella is exceedingly happy. Not only has lizard season begun, but her family is home a lot more. More play, more snuggles, more people to go on walks with.

It took me a while to gather my thoughts after the COVID-19 crisis arrived. From re-calibrating at my day job, to my own health issue right before quarantine to becoming a homeschool mom while trying to balance my novel-writing and…..you know. Being a grown up.

It the beginning, there were the haters spreading their angry at a 9.9 magnitude. It was ugly and so was social media.

But then, from across the world, Italy started singing from their balconies. Locked inside their worst crisis, they reached inside and gave forth their best.

As the hoarders cleared shelf after shelf here in America I started watching Bella more closely since I couldn’t go anywhere except when necessary. She has the gift of being exceedingly happy with so very little. Lizards, a nice breeze, her family, walks. Forwards and backwards, her kind is the very definition of love. I don’t believe this is coincidence. Now is the time for all of us to think about these things.

DoG spelled backwards is giving us a rest, my friends. He’s allowing this to happen for reasons I won’t pretend to know, but one thing I know He’s doing is reaching inside those of us sensing the change within the change, and pulling out our best.

He knew this was coming, and will remain present with every one of us throughout this whole storm. Right where he can see all of us.

It’s onward with the book for me, although I have to think about the new world it will be published in. How will things change? Will my characters still shake hands, or touch their faces? Will medical facilities wear masks all the time, forevermore?

Will I ever see my sweet Doctor’s face again?

Like Bella, I’m going to have to foresee the change so my book will be relevant when I release it.

I could say we’ve been given the opportunity to thoroughly, quietly (as much as mom’s lives with kids can be), intuitively consider how we’ll forever go about our lives. But doG spelled backwards hasn’t given us the choice this time.

I’ll promise to release the beautiful if you do.

Project A




Welcome to Velvet, Arizona.

Within these notebooks are my notes, rough scenes, and research for what I’m calling Project A. A stands for anonymous, as in the mysterious creatures that haunt Velvet  every holiday season. We’ve all heard the stories…things seen in the dark, the wild–creatures that have been witnessed among a broad swath of cultures but elude us just enough to deem them as fables.

Some “fabled” creatures are unique to certain regions. In Velvet, there’s a question as to whether the people are as unusual as the creatures.

Although this story contains fictional characters and scenes, everything within it is based on truth.

Truth #1:

–The creatures I’m exposing in Project A leave footprints within the shadows of every town, every culture, every religion, every acedemic instution.

Truth #2:

–Because of the overactive nervous system of 15-20% of the world’s population, there are people who truly sense things beneath the surface. Of what? Follow along and you’ll see. I will identify the science/sources in the back of the upcoming novel.

Truth #3:

–There’s been a breach.


For the first time since I’ve began writing, I’m going to bring you guys along on the story as I compose. Although I have the ideas above in my head beforehand, I’m a pantser at heart, which means I figure most of it out as I write. For further enrichent of the process, and for just plain fun, follow along and feel free to comment with your own experiences/thoughts as I unravel the mystery of Project A.

Blessings, Thank You, and Happy Thursday to you!!

Hello From the Shadows

I keep finding myself another few months from my last blog post, wondering if I’m in an alternate universe where time mocks all my efforts to get back to writing.

How many of you have day jobs? You probably go through seasons where you’re understaffed, overworked and coming away with a paycheck that doesn’t reflect the energy/family time you’ve sacrificed to “fill in.”

Well, my season of overworking has been much like hitchhiking on a turtle. It keeps going and going at a painfully unproductive pace. I need a wormhole, friends.

However, the time I’ve had away from writing has blossomed with new ideas. I’m considering switching gears to enter the general market. My current genre of faith-based speculative fiction has been fulfilling, but it’s a genre so obscure that I’m not connecting with enough of a readership.

I want to write more real-world, living-this-hard-life themes while keeping the undeniable magic. I have ideas for fiction and one non-fiction.
Thank you all, for your patience and for sticking with me. In this fast-paced world where our attention spans are compared to that of goldfish, you guys are highly valued.

As a thank you—that I’m only alerting those reading my blog—I’m offering the kindle version of ILLUME for FREE, today only. So far, readers consider it my best work and the best of the series. If you’re a tactile person it’s also in paperback now, yay!

I’ll be back, taking you along on my research journey, soon! Happy Tuesday!

The Honor of Us

My son was born a protector. When he was just two we found ourselves in front of an animatronic crocodile at the Rainforest Café. He shot an arm in front of his older sister and told her, “Back, Sissy, back!” He was the baby of the family and we hadn’t yet taught him to look out for his loved ones, but something within him came alive when the need arose.

He’s been fighting health problems since birth—could it be he learned to have a warrior spirit early on, or is the politically incorrect idea true that men are natural protectors? I have to say, I’ve noticed a great decline in male protectiveness over the years…cultural influences may have something to do with this. What do you think…nature or nurture?

I’m a 125 pound part-time security guard. Having said that, I guard the elderly at a retirement resort. My job mainly consists of desk work/people work, but when a security issue arises, I’m the one, or my partner working the far side of the building. When I first started working in the security department, I got a lot, and I mean a LOT of comments/jokes about being a guard looking as I do. I worked out, and still do, but six-pack abs and the ability to run laps around most people didn’t matter to the WWII generation. They wanted MEN in the department, even if they were old, fifty pounds out of shape and couldn’t lap the desk if they tried. Men, to them, are the soldiers and the protectors, always and forevermore.

Do you know when I became a soldier? Always. I grew up in the country, surrounded by cactus and boys. I went to a small country school where many of the girls were equally as tough and I had to learn how to defend myself at an early age. The staff turned a blind eye to most playground violence. I punched my first face when I was in fifth grade. In that environment, I learned not to rely on anyone else to protect me, and I’m grateful I learned that when I did.

My biggest advantage, ALWAYS, has been that people don’t expect someone who looks like me, and who is an introvert like me to even have the will to lift my fist.

Not that I don’t know my limits. I mean, I’ve punched faces, forcefully detached too-friendly men and have lifted more retirees off the floor than I can count, but when it comes to the more heavy lifting at work I call my friend—the guy– with all the muscles. I appreciate him, and acknowledge that he has a biological advantage over me in that arena.

Women, until recently, have been the main protectors of babies. This is, without a doubt, a cultural change because I’ve walked the pregnancy road, given birth, and am quite willing to rip anyone’s head off who would try to harm my children. Fact—like my son, from something deep and fierce inside me. Something too ancient to name.

But there are these hurt voices that say women haven’t been appreciated enough, or valued enough and we need to demand respect once and for all. I get it. There is much truth in this. I’ve been disrespected in many ways, including being a called “skinny, weak woman” at the exact time I was lifting my accuser off the floor.

The problem is, I’m hearing these voices about not letting disrespectful attitudes determine a woman’s identity from women who are doing exactly that.

Pregnancy and motherhood are no joke. It’s incredibly difficult—painful in all kinds of ways and I’ve had to put aside many projects I’ve felt passionate about to change diapers, attend field trips, and care for a flu-ridden child. I’ve had to neglect my own health/career/sleep to care for my children.

Isn’t that what a warrior does? When my son put himself in front of his sister, he was allowing the perceived danger to get to him first. When soldiers—real soldiers—fight for our country, they’re risking it ALL to protect us.

That is not a right, it’s an honor. It is complete selflessness.

Ladies, our wombs aren’t showcases for burdens, they are armor. Our biological advantage. God chose us to carry children when they are at their weakest, most vulnerable state. We are chosen to carry all those future Presidents and Doctors and Artists. Every Influencer, every Teacher, every Athlete, every Overcomer. We are their first shield.

When I see women marching for the right to remove children from their wombs, I don’t see virtue. I don’t see strength, I don’t see courage or liberation. I see an army of women hiding behind a political banner of fear.

We’ve been through too many battles to lose our honor, ladies. We have to be stronger than the leaders attempting to manipulate us into thinking we’re fighting for what’s right when all we’re doing is discarding the people who need us the most. The people whose voices we can’t hear. This is a cultural change that is not okay—it’s infanticide.
It’s okay to be afraid, but our army of protectors is dividing, which will eventually lead to the destruction of our nation. This isn’t an exaggeration. Take a good look at the state of our nation right now. Men, women, children. We are meant to be one united team.

This Little Light

At the gym a few days ago, I took to the last available treadmill and started my usual run. For some reason, I’ve been dragging this month—the cloudy skies, maybe? The chronic lack of a full night’s sleep? More than likely, I’m just run down from a rough year but determined to stay in shape, I was going to do my full 3ish miles.
To my left, a man about a head shorter than I increased his running speed to keep up with me. A competitor, I see. I tried not to giggle as his short legs had to take twice the amount of steps than mine to run a moderate 5.8 METS.
But he worked hard. No matter his motivation, my humor quickly turned to admiration. How many of us feel like the best we can do is to take one step forward, three steps back to keep up with our goals—that we can’t run hard enough to catch them? Can all the strugglers raise their hand?
But this guy, he kept pumping those legs, working almost twice as hard as I did to meet the same stats.
It was the perfect picture of 2018, where almost every circle I belong to are in survival mode–battle-weary from an unusual amount of trials this past year, almost like a surge of darkness is engulfing our nation. I once read about a pastor writing about a season of higher suicide rates in his hometown directly related to the increase of occult influences. It makes me think of the happenings of this year: is there a fiercer battle going on that we can’t see?
Perhaps God is on the move for something big and the darkness is trying to keep us behind it.
Sometimes I think the trials of 2018 have kept me from running hard enough, although God is merciful, even when our best effort is minuscule. He sees us trying.
But that small man next to me, this giant of a competitor ran like there was an ember right in front of him that promised to light his world if he worked hard enough to reach it—even if his struggle was more difficult than it was for others.
So let’s keep going with all we’ve got, even if we have to drag ourselves along the path. Because my friends…..

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

For all of our Furiosas

How are you handling your world in the middle of the turkey and pine tree?
Thanksgiving brought news to me that a good friend had passed away. Her name was Louise, aka Furiosa in the writing community.
I met her in Bible study where we discovered we had a mutual love for writing. It only seemed reasonable that she would join my writers group a town away where we traveled every second Saturday for some critique, encouragement and lunch. Often, a third friend joined us.
Really, it was the 45 minute car rides that were the best. We took off our Mom badges and discussed things like, ok–parenting, stories, ghosts, God and how God and ghosts can be used in the same sentence.
It’s also where she told me about her heart failing some years ago. She passed through to the heavenly realm, woke up in a dark room glowing, and started walking toward God when she was resuscitated.
Yes, God. To be clear, The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Father of Jesus.
She then recounted her battle with breast cancer and chemo—how she broke down in an airport when she was asked to remove her hat, and from the corner of the bathroom where she ran, a housekeeper pulled her aside and told her she “has to be like Peter on the water, keeping your eyes on Jesus.”
As our friendship grew, we, along with another friend, planned a trip to a writers conference where we were expected to bring a costume for the rewards banquet. But shortly before we were to leave for Philly, my friend learned that her cancer had not only returned, but it had spread throughout her whole body. Bones, spine, and all.
Her response was to keep her eyes on Jesus. She endured her first round of chemo and set off for the second hand store where she threw a costume together with a handful of random items. Having  paid for the conference months ahead of time, she decided she wasn’t going to waste a moment. And she had this story inside her that she needed help getting onto the page.
She walked into the awards banquet as bald and bold as Furiosa the warrior. By now, everyone knew of her battle. When they saw her, jaws dropped, cameras were pulled out to record what a true warrior looked like.
Louise came home and endured the kind of pain no one wants to, and several more rounds of chemo. Armed with the kind of faith only those who’ve had a glimpse of heaven have, she conquered that cancer, regained her strength and poured herself into life. God, family, writing, hiking. Breathing.
After her heart failed a second time, the Lord took her home Thanksgiving week. From what I understand, it was in the midst of joyous family time.
It’s hard to interpret the conclusion to such unexpected loss after such marvelous victory. She never got to finish that book she was working so hard on. But as I look over her life as I knew her, the words spoken about her and the picture I have in my memories of her, I realize that she did indeed tell the world her most powerful story.
We should closely consider the lives of those who have had early visits to the afterlife, and what Louise did was to pursue the will of God, and lived—really, fully lived—every moment, even in the painful center of difficulty, knowing the reward  waiting for her when her time came.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2