The Summer Files: Day 75

This week I got to be a full fledged grown up.

I went on a business trip.

Of course, it was one of those fun ones. I made the trip across the country to Philly, meeting a few friends at the airport where we stepped outside and slowly trudged through blankets of humidity (I think my mascara is still running).


Before we got down to business, we immersed ourselves in the middle of the city–Hillary and Bernie people swarmed the streets, dark alleys beckoned us into their creepy yet crowd-free walls, and we discovered that Philly bus drivers will go to any length to be kings of the road.

We visited a haunted prison.easternpen

At Villanova University, we attended classes and met many incredible people. Have you ever been in a room full of specular fiction writers? It’s not boring, not for a half-second.

There are changes going on in the publishing world…exciting, risky. Christian specular fiction writers have a very unique place in the world right now–we are forging our place onto bookshelves that don’t know where to categorize us, walking through darker alley’s than many of our writing peers, getting shunned by others, but that’s okay. We’re not ones to follow a crowd.


God is a lion. He lives inside the hearts of His family, roaring when needed. Here you see His might in my friend, Louise (Furiosa, on the right).


She came to this conference, lacking hair, full of cancer. For costume night, she showed her inner strength by donning the garb of Furioso. This is a true warrior, full of fight,  Lion roaring.

She goes back home to agonizing treatment, but full of hope. Look into her eyes, her heart. This is the Lion showing the world that we can walk through those dark alleys and survive. We can forge our way into uncomfortable places to where God calls us whether we feel at the top of our game or not.

So keep your head up and tell Monday to beware The Lion.

Hats And The People Who Wear Them

My little guy wears many hats. His crocheted Yoda hat works well for cool weather, the blue and white striped fedora works well for going out, and his pumpkin stem hat goes on for sleep. He has a shelf full of them, one to identify every kind of event.

I have many hats too. I love them despite the guaranteed hat head—after years of sun damage, a hat is much more valuable to me than stylish hair. Vanity got me nothing but skin cancer.

But the hats I wear most come with valuable names: Mommy, Wife, Friend, Writer, Artist, Employee of that other job, and the not-so-valuable names: scrubber of floors and bathrooms, scooper of the litter box, cleaner of hairballs, puke, random pee puddles, and anything gross and sticky.100_2432

What usually happens is the need to pile on multiple hats at once. This is where blessed, too busy, and exhausted morph into one hat. I call it: Huh? It’s kind of like a fedora and pillbox hat in one—half stylish and the other half—not so much.

This hat is heavy, but it’s the hat-in-fashion because we’re supposed to wear it with pride, right?


I have another hat—one that our culture laughs at. It does give me hat head—that pressed down circle around my head. I think many of you wear this hat too (it’s called The Crown)—but like me, you probably keep putting on Huh? because we think it works better to take everything on ourselves. And despite the pillbox influence, people think Huh? looks more stylish.

When The Miracle of Rain came out, someone in the publishing industry sent me an article on how authors are supposed to manage their time. “I have a newborn baby”, I said. “I’ll do my best, but…”
“Read the article,” he said.

So I did. I read how this woman became a bestselling author because she marketed her book full-time, wrote full time, was a full time mom, held down a full time job, went back to college and managed to stay in shape. I’m serious, this woman claimed to have done it all—full time, wearing her extra-strength Huh? hat.

Me thinks her hat was fiction.

The person who sent me that article? I don’t work with him anymore, and I will never put on that hat again because what it does is squeeze your brains until they fall out. And then you have another sticky mess to clean.

But The Crown is light. And it works for you when you need to rest.

Wait—what’s that word?


So disregard those brain squishing Huh?’s and the people who pawn them. They’re nothing but bling for the pillbox. The Crown? Well, the Maker of your crown said that people will indeed mock you, but that’s okay, it’s only because they’re tired and unable to see what they’re really wearing.  It’s been said that when the whole kingdom wears their crowns, they light up the world. I think our world could use a little more of that.

How to be an Impressionist painting

In my teen years, I handled life with my hands dipped in paint. I found joy in the blues and reds, found peace in knowing I was good at something, and for my own entertainment, it confused those who kept trying to put me in the preppy box. Yes, I behaved myself. Yes, I was quiet and most everyone assumed I was an A student and read a lot (I did read a lot). But the messy paint and my “unique” way of fashion had more than one person scratch their heads. “How do I complete this picture?”

My art teacher encouraged me to paint big. He recognized that I was more of a free spirit and didn’t accept bashful art. I didn’t either, and I flourished with giant flowers and portraits of whoever was brave enough to model for a bunch of teenagers.

No erupting pimple could dampen the thrill of art class.100_2417

On one occasion he made what I thought a strange observation. “Your watercolor…it looks great from far away, but it loses something up close.”

There it is again. Up close I’m not quite. Not quite what?

I worked on my art, studying the masters, taking the passion to college—polishing up a bit and producing better work—but there was always that messy quality.

Of course, it worked for Claude Monet—if you look at his paintings up close, they’re a little messy. A little unorganized, but step back a bit and…hang that on my wall, please, and on every wall in my house. His work is an overall collection of wow.

Do we all really need to be normal? As one of my reviewers said about Faith Seekers: “… is occasionally like free-form jazz” (which, after mulling over, left me in chuckles). What do I do with this free-form part of me?

Twenty years later, Jeff Goins answered that question.

“Maybe the best moments in our lives aren’t meant to be so cut and dried. Maybe the mess is beautiful.”

Is this how God sees us? He knows we can be messy, and up close we’re far from perfect. But we’re His art. Why do we fight so hard to be accepted as normal? God made us unique from the beginning, and He calls it wonderful.

The Outsiders

There is a field of beautiful weeds next to my daughter’s school. I pull in line alongside it every day with the other parents, creeping along for my turn to pick up my child. The weeds are quite tall now, catching every breeze and butterfly that comes its way. There is the occasional set of tire tracks mushed into the field from a driver who couldn’t wait for the line to move. The school has tried to purchase it in hopes to expand, but that rectangle of dirt and brush is far too pricey.

The land is surrounded on one side by old trees, firmly rooted into the ground in the yards of neighbors. They tower above the weeds, holding court in their superior standing of shade-givers.

But when the light hits the weeds just right, you can see gold. While the sun outlines the trees like halos of honey, the weeds are given the full force of the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlight, casting a breathtaking beauty upon them. They are not weeds in this moment, but the light so many artists try to capture in their paintings. When I finally understood the value of a weed, it changed my thinking forever.

Although not everyone waits around to witness their transformation.

As I approach my 20th year high school reunion, I think about the weeds and wonder how many of us will walk in feeling like we’re pulling a cart-ful of them, and how many will feel like the trees that look down on them. Are my adornments as beautiful—do my shoulders reach as high as the others?

Does the weight of my cart outweigh those of the others?

Despite the joy of seeing old friends, successes will be measured on this day. Classmates will walk in with lists: the accomplishments, and the list that we probably won’t talk about –the failed relationships, losses of all kinds, mistakes.

But the light shines just as bright on our carts of weeds. They are what make us work harder, gain wisdom, and grow beautifully. God didn’t come for the best of the best after all.

I‘m here inviting outsiders, not insiders – an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” Luke 5:32 The Message

Those of us in the weed fields become part of God’s masterpiece—too unworthy in the eyes of those who miss the light—too valuable for the wallets of the insiders.

A girl’s tale–guest post by Chloe Rossman, age 6

It’s hard to get the feet moving on Mondays, so I thought I’d bring a little joy for your day. There’s nothing like the perspective of a child, after all, God  gave them this command:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
I Timothy 4:12

Chloe’s thoughts on finding joy in the little things.100_3262

My mouth makes me smile
My hands make me wave
My feet make me dance
My arms make my hands reach books
My legs make my feet walk
My tummy likes to get full and not full
My chin makes my mouth talk.
My ears wiggle.
My eyes make me see animal’s tails move up and down.
Hats are fun to wear. Clothes are really pretty.
My hair blows in the wind.
Reading books, chapter books, and princess books are really fun.
Raccoons play together.

Faith and Imagination

A childhood friend lived in a house with a hidden passageway. It opened from the kitchen, curtained and dark. It was lined with saddles, a shadow walk with wooden floors a cowboy could tread with his spurs on. At the end was a bookcase full of mysterious volumes all dusty and dim.

Outside were horses and goats, a barn with antique parts that looked like they came straight from a western musical. The rutted driveway connected with a creek where we donned frilly swimsuits and swam along the cottonwood lined waterway until it grew stagnant. One time a snake swam alongside us. There was nothing like a terrifying adventure to paste in the memory album.

It was a childhood kingdom.

Looking back a few decades later I can see the house in need of a remodel, the add-on that I thought was a secret passageway and the barn full of rusty threats.

This is how I often see my own children’s world and the need to keep them from all danger.

Maybe I’m not supposed to focus on the dangers…I might really be a knight, ready to slay the dragons but not forsaking their adventure, their right to believe the unbelievable.

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall 100_2229not enter it. Luke 18:17

When I was a young child, fear brought me into my parent’s bedroom during a sleepless night. Every shadow was a villain, every creak of the house shouted danger. Lying in their bed, I could see into their bathroom when that night of all nights produced a scene I still can’t explain. In the mirror above the sink, bright yellow somethings drip-dripped into the sink like fluorescent yellow honey, and then stopped. My parents were lost to snores and dreams and I just stared at that mirror until exhaustion finally gave me rest.

I told them about it the next day. “The sink was probably not turned off all the way”, said one of my parents. “But it was high on the mirror”, I said. I liked my brother’s explanation best. “It was an angel pouring good luck into the sink.”

Our cats, of course, told me nothing, as well as the dog, but in my childish perspective, I knew that animals sensed things we could not. Those invisible things they followed with their eyes, the growls that came ten minutes before someone arrived at our door.

I bet my friends horses knew all kinds of things about the secret passageway and the mysteries within the old barn that seemed to hold such magic.

Maybe if we had faith like a child, animals would talk. How quickly we forget the one that did:

Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said…Numbers 22:28

Or superheroes would really protect us in the face of danger:

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6

Maybe the imagination of youth is just a taste of what could be if we saw through eyes of faith…eyes of a child. Maybe that secret passageway opened up my imagination, rooted the love of story-telling inside because maturity makes us forget the unbelievable…that sometimes life is full of hidden unbelievables that are ,in reality, truth.

Imagination is not just the mark of childhood, but a gift, the ability to see what is beyond human capability.

Do you have any amazing childhood stories? Tell us in the comments.

The Inheritance

I’m an artist.” I made known that identity when a woman called my hair dynamic. I get that a lot.
It’s also crazy curly and glows a bit honey in the sun. It’s thick – a boy in junior high used to call it the jungle. When I wash it, out comes a bunch of brown, blonde, and a few random streaks of black and red. From a distance, it’s dusty mush, but up close it’s the equivalent of my ancestry knitted into my scalp. I’m my Scottish, Irish, Native American, Dutch (etc.) heritage.

My days are born into family chaos that drip restless streams into most nights. The whites of eyes peep open, closed, big, and squinting all the way from bouts of laughter only to pop from terrors of the night. It’s love and anguish, joy and sheer exhaustion. I’m blessed.

I’m tired.

I can trace the colonels, the sergeants, the soldiers that marched all over the world and feel pride for this blessed soil that was nourished with the blood of freedom, and honor. I descend from these and take pride in their sacrifice for a blessed land. So…I’m a patriot.

Whether I’m dipping into a palette of paint or chalking up a tree, I’m happy to let loose when the words don’t come, but…the words….it’s the words, at the end of the day, that flutter onto the screen when the house pauses in a hush, where God has led me through this door for a season that I hope will extend a lifetime.

I’m a writer.

To weave the family (and hey – who’s family doesn’t include a few skeletons?) – then and now, the art, the words, and even the dynamic hair takes time where there isn’t, and energy so quickly, too quickly spent. Some days, caffeine is a tool and sometimes it’s just a word among many, mushed into the day. Sew in some wisdom, learn some more, kiss the boo-boos, paint some passion, and write some truth. I flit from thought to thought, sending my thanks on a breath only to be interrupted by the next flight.

I’m scattered.

What then, do I write on my dog tags? I can never be separated from Mother, will 100_2990always love creating art and I’m sure I will never hear the end about the hair I inherited.

God has sewn a story into each of us, but He is not about our past or the deeds of our ancestors. True, we are in a sense, a quilt of their making, an extension of their talents, passions and motivations and even failures.

But the minute we stop following the world and its desire to label us into structured categories according to our religious affiliation, political party or who and what we descend from, and follow the song God sings us, we become new.

A new creation.

And that’s what propels us past the boundary lines, past the limitations of man.

Into the arms of a perfect inheritance.

What words would you write on your dog tag? What influence you the most? Tell us in the comments.

Dreamscape into God’s world

We are all given this tree


And it’s kind of nice the way it reaches toward heaven,

giving us breath and shade.

We go through the seasons and wonder, “What should I do with this gift?”


I could feed it with all the normal stuff and the sun will do the rest,

or I could get help because we all know that blessings sometimes feel like burdens…


 We could come together and paint some joy onto our allotted acre of this world…one brush stroke, one effort at a time.


What started out as a kids craft became a conversation with God.

He gives us canvases of many kinds.

Sometimes we just have to recognize that He works in many ways…not in the theoretical box that we tend to put Him in…

but in mystery, wonder and through the miracle of faith.

Do you have your own projects (family friendly) that you’d like to share? Post your links in the comments.

Old folks and shorts

100_2156When I started working at the retirement resort I thought I would get a lot of reading done. Yep. It was a “transition” job, in between none and no prospects. It has ended up being one of the best learning experiences for me – and humbling as well. The swing shift has always been my favorite because I get several hours of talking with people – a good social time for a mother who hears the words “poo-poo” and “no!” way too often – and several hours of solitude where I can read and write. The idea’s for my children’s books took root in the wee hours of darkness when I got so bored I thought I would dredge my green writing skills from the depths of my “no way is that possible” files. While I was etching out these stories, a few real ones played out in the fire lit lobby.

The residents who brought me endless laughter were Cliff and Paul. Cliff was a very classy man who liked to discuss politics and business. Respect followed him. His knowledge stopped at fashion when he donned the brighter than life green pleated shorts every summer. The contrast between his shorts and his pale legs was enough for any resident with failing vision to spot him in the clubhouse, the park, the sun…

Paul liked to talk about people and what screw-ups they were. All gossip was said with a grin – nothing was edited or glossed over for propriety’s sake. His world was black and white, including his t-shirts that illustrated his sarcasm.

Cliff and Paul liked to chit chat at my reception desk, often competing with each other for attention. If they were 50 years younger, I’m sure they would have approached each other from opposite sides of the tracks with tires spinning and a date for a fight.

But since life had weighed their legs heavy and stride slow, they decided a standing contest was in order. Standing contest. Whoever could stand up the longest won.

They started with grins and square (ish) shoulders, insults and jokes were thrown back and forth. I could see the energy waning as Paul leaned a shoulder against the supply closet. Cliff rested half a green-encased gluteus maximous on my desk. Shoulders slouched and trembles took over until Cliff announced his need to check on his apartment. Paul gloated as he collapsed onto his walker. It’s always the scrappy ones.

Donna and Odell taught me that passions never fade. They were best friends who always graced me with an evening of the latest gossip, dinner menu’s and stories of their youth. Donna laughed about her hair turning white in her 20’s and Odell told me about the wagon she traveled in as a child. They also loved to hang out in the lobby whenever the firefighters came to assist a paramedic team. Smiles as wide as the ambulance, eyes roaming over boots and logos. I’m sure I saw them drool over a tall mustached uniform more than once.

I could go on, but I won’t close without mentioning Bernita. She taught me that as long as a person is living and breathing, they have a purpose. She got locked into a prison of Alzheimer’s disease, forgetting the simplest tasks like dressing herself and asking for something as basic as a drink of water. But when someone needed encouragement, God’s word rolled off her tongue, as smooth as satin. One of her favorites:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11

So despite my thoughts on having a job instead of a career, I learned that life flows with a force strong and lovely in the old as well as the young, in the healthy, in the sick, and with those who wear shorts that could be seen from the moon.

God doesn’t abandon His people. He works with you in whatever season you’re walking through. Bernita taught me that.

Learned something awesome when you thought you were stuck? Tell us in the comments.