Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Be Kind, Really

So many things compete against kindness. The desire for power. The desire to be right. The need to feel important. Lack of thinking our words and actions through and considering how they will make others feel. Almost everything we say or do has an impact on someone else. We should do our best to be cognizant of that fact and act accordingly.
In 2015, I learned a lot about not letting other people's actions and words determine my worth, my mood, or my value. I am much better at letting things go that aren't worthy of holding onto. I also learned that telling people the truth about their actions is deeply valuable when done in the correct manner. I have no desire to be placated or pitied. And I don't want that for others. I'm just saying, sometimes we say and do things that have zero eternal value for us and cause others pain. Let's just not do those things. And when we unknowingly do them, let's apologize sincerely and work at making sure we do better the next time.
This living thing is hard. We either get to help people along their journey's or be the stumbling block. I think we would do well to fall on the helping side.
There are so many things to argue about, disagree with, and defend passionately. These things are important. They are not more important than other people. Like, ever. Okay, if you are hanging around with someone who is harming you or themselves, you get to defend yourself and attempt to show them the light. Today, two students argued violently about what which number the table at which one was sitting is called. It changed nothing, the number of the table changes nothing for them - they were just determined to be right. Seems to me that we do a lot of knock down, drag out fighting, and name calling, and just plain meanness over things that matter less than we think they do. We gossip, we get revenge, we rub people's faces in things that would break our hearts if it was us. Let's try just not. Not doing the things that are going to make someone else feel unloved, unimportant, unnecessary. Not do the things that place a burden too big to carry on another person's shoulders. Not lash out and hurt back.
Instead let's be kind. Radically, out of the ordinary, over the top kind. Even to people who don't deserve it. Cause really, we don't deserve it either - but we sure do want people to be kind to us.
And don't go thinking it will be easy. That we can just up and be nice and thoughtful just by waking up. It's a job, really. It requires thought, and effort, and determination. Sometimes, it even turns bad on us. Sometimes people use our kindness against us and feels like crap. Still though, still, kindness wins. Promise.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Book Review - The Sound of Gravel

Listen, I'm going to be honest, this book review comes with a story that is going to sound just plain crazy. In many ways, it kinda is crazy. I've tried to write the review for this blog post without the story, and I just can't. Too much of the review needs this background. So, this will be long, but hang in there with me, it is a beautiful, powerful, fascinating story.

It starts in March when I applied to be a part of Jen Hatmaker's book launch team. When author's publish a book, they need for the book to get a lot of coverage, especially in social media. So they put together teams of people to read parts of the book - sometimes even the entire book - and then promote it. Jen Hatmaker is brilliant and hilarious, so I knew I wanted to be on her team. Sadly, 5,000 other people had the same thought and the publisher told her she could only have 500. What no one could have predicted is that those of us who got "rejected" are a group of rather determined (stubborn) force to be reckoned with. Within hours of getting the rejection letter, we begin tweeting to each other and Jen responded. Before 24 hours were over, we had formed a group based off of Anna Lebaron's genius hashtag, #the4500. So much has come out of that group that I could not even begin to cover in this post. One thing that we discovered was that even as the "B" team we were really good at launching a book.

Jen's book launched officially, but our group has formed such a bond that we continue to support, pray for, and care about each other. We have created several different groups that started with members of the original #the4500, health groups, writing groups, and an entire group dedicated to launching books, #the4500launches. As we were organizing our group, our leader, Anna, again reached out on Twitter. This time to a first time author named Ruth Wariner. Here is where the story really gets crazy. Anna's father was one of two leaders of a violent, polygamist,cult. Violent as in, robbing, beating, and killing people. Anna is in the process of writing her own book about her escape from her father. The first person that Anna's father had killed was his own brother, the other leader, and Ruth's father. Naturally, there was a huge disconnect between the two families after the murder of one brother. Anna and Ruth had never met, nor spoken, before this Twitter contact.

Anna reached out to Ruth because Ruth's book is a memoir as well, of her childhood after losing her father. Incredibly, Ruth responded. Anna offered #the4500launches as a way to promote Ruth's book, The Sound of Gravel. Ruth accepted and two cousins, torn apart by horrible, tragic violence came together and presented us with this book. Only God could possibly have made that happen. Only God.

This book, The Sound of Gravel, is unlike any other book I have ever read. And I read a lot of books. From the first sentence, to the last sentence I was completely captivated. Somehow it was simultaneously heartbreaking and inspirational. With grace and beauty, Ruth recounts a childhood that most of us can't even begin to imagine. There were times while I was reading that I had to stop, so difficult were the circumstances she presents. Yet, I could not leave the book unread for long because those stories were equally as compelling and powerful. Though these stories are sometimes horrific, Ruth tells them with grace, and mercy, and love. Incredibly, I never felt pity for her, instead there was just courage and acceptance and genuine joy laced throughout the book. Ruth is a masterful story teller, and her style connects the reader to each member of her family. I marvel at her indomitable spirit, her incredible ability to speak from a place of love, forgiveness and hope, and her astonishing bravery. This book speaks to the spirit of those who refuse to give in or give up. It speaks to fighting for those you love. It speaks to finding strength and using that strength to not just survive, but flourish.

The Sound of Gravel can be ordered at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book sellers. Go to for details on ordering this book.

*I was given an advanced reader copy to read for an honest review of this book.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Faith Like Job - Guest Blogger

     When I learned that there was a day to celebrate the lives of infants and babies who were lost to their parents, I was deeply touched. While I have never experienced this heartbreak personally, I know many who have. People whom I love, people whom I admire, people who matter. My first thought was of my precious friend, Alyssa Crouch who had only shared her loss about a year ago. I asked her if she would write out her experience for my readers. I know that you will love her, her testimony, and her story as much as I do.

     Job, God reminded me of Job’s story when it seemed that everything was crashing down. The summer of 2013 was brutal. I was doing interviews for a teaching position, my husband and I were in the midst of purchasing a house, because in part, we were pregnant.
     Our pregnancy came as a slight surprise because we weren’t trying for a child, but there was no means of prevention. We were both excited and scared out of our minds because we had recently graduated college, were both working at a sandwich shop, and lived in a small rented trailer. We had hope, however, because of our faith in God and great support from close family and friends. As the summer wore on though, it began to weaken.
     I heard back from my first interview that they had hired someone else. Shortly after, the house we were trying to buy did not pass the septic inspection, meaning we would have to pay an additional $10,000 to fix it because the sellers couldn’t. We lost the contract on that house because we couldn’t pay and the mortgage came back unapproved. We were ready to look at other houses, still holding on to the image of cuddling our new baby in a new house, but then the unthinkable happened.
     If was a Friday. I was at work and noticed that I had started cramping and bleeding. My mom had a friend that was a nurse, who told me that I needed to rest that weekend and go to the doctor on Monday. I stayed in bed that weekend praying for my child. Since I was only about 5-6 along, at the time, the only people we had shared our wonderful news with was immediate family. Laying in bed, I was grateful this was the case. On Monday, my husband and I went to the OB where she told me that she wasn’t sure why I was bleeding, that I was too early to really see much and called it a threatened pregnancy.
     In the two weeks that followed, I never felt more like a stuck pig. Every two days or so, I was sent for bloodwork. I remember holding and looking at my belly, begging my child to stay with me. I went on to another teaching interview, still in pain. another doctor visit came when I was about 7 weeks along. The doctor looked over my hormone levels and performed an ultrasound. This was the first time my husband and I had seen our baby, or rather, where he should have been. (I’ve always thought our child was a boy.) After printing a picture (which got jammed) the OB confirmed it was a blighted ovum and explained that my body had aborted the pregnancy (although we are not sure why) and an empty sac was still present.
     We were in shock. How? Why? These were the questions constantly on my mind. For the next month, I was in pain with my body letting everything go. I was confused, thinking that “nothing was there anyway, why did I love it?” Already in so much emotional pain as well, a few days after the appointment, I got a call telling me that I was not selected for my second interview either. I was infuriated, depressed, and beaten down. I cried and cried for days until there was nothing left. That’s when I got really mad a God.
     I remember laying on my bed, feeble tears making their way down my cheeks, dead to my own mind for lack of comprehension, and I audibly asked, “Why?” I can’t explain how, but three letters seemed to glow on the ceiling above me. J-O-B. I said, “really God!? Why are you testing me?” I closed my eyes and felt courage enough to pick up my Bible. Flipping through the book of Job, I realized that I could have it a lot worse. Not meaning that my concerns didn’t matter, but I needed to have faith like Job. When my husband got home, I told him what I had discovered and I was able to let my emotions go. He held me and we cried together. This was the first step in my healing.
     Hope twinkled again when I again went for an interview, in which I got hired for the position. It wasn’t until the spring of 2014 though, that better understanding took place. My best friend, and sister by love, presented me with a stuffed animal and a message that God instructed. “Even though you don’t have an earthly body to hold, you are a mother. Someday God will give you children in your arms.” This was the breakthrough. It still wasn’t easy to think through, and still isn’t, but gradually I began to remember my son with love.
     God helped me replace the feelings of hurt, sadness, and confusion, with love, fiath, and determination to go on. He has started a fire in me to help others work through their pain of saying goodbye before ever getting to say hello.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Five Minute Friday - Doubt

    Doubt gets a bad rap. It is thought of as the opposite of belief, and belief is shining example of all that we are supposed to do and be as Christians. Rather than opposite, in my life, doubt has been the beginning of true belief. Doubt acknowledges that there are questions that cannot be answered easily. Doubt is an honest struggle with what we believe to be true and what reality looks like all around us. Doubt is saying to God, “I don’t get it. How does this (whatever this is) line up with what I have learned about Your character? Help me make sense out of this.”
     My belief is that God can handle doubt. He is a big God. He is well aware that there will be questions, and concerns, and doubts. He is ready, willing, and able to answer them all. When we come to Him and admit our doubt, He is able to prove Himself to us. When we hide our confusion and our questions, we are basically saying that we don’t believe He is capable of an answer. The Bible tells us that those who seek will find. That gives me permission to seek. It gives me permission to ask the hard questions and believe that He will answer them.

          Doubt is not the opposite of belief. Doubt is the catalyst for making a belief solid. Wrestle with God. Take your doubt to Him and let Him work in and through it. Then your belief will be stronger and more powerful because it will be real.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


     Words, words, words. I love the way they sound, the way they look, and the meaning they carry. I love studying the history and meaning of words. I love playing around with them to see which combination works best to explain something to someone else. I just love words.
     Perhaps it is my love for them that gives them so much power. Or maybe, since God used words to create the entire universe, they are just powerful. Whatever the reason, words have the power to inspire, encourage, and motivate, or destroy, damage, and cause immense pain.  
     Sometimes, we know are words will hurt another, they may have been chosen for that purpose. In other situations, words meant for other reasons still wound the hearers of our words. 
Just recently, I chose to speak the words that I would have wanted to hear. The ones that would have made me feel better. I did not take the time to think about how my friend would hear them. Thankfully, she was honest with me and let me know that my words had hurt her. It was a tough two days, but we worked through it and I am grateful that I can see another perspective.
     It gave me pause to think that words meant to help instead hurt. How was I to trust my words if they were so confusing? Two things stuck out to me as I processed this incident along with a couple of others where I was wounded by words others spoke. First, I need to be very clear on the reason I choose to speak, type, or write. My motives may have been good, but what was my true intent behind sharing them with my friend. Was it to ease my own anxiety? Was it to try and gain extra friendship points, was it me trying to prove something to her or to myself? When I take the time to examine exactly why I feel I need to share, it gives me clarity. It also allows me to choose the words that will best convey the meaning I desire them to contain. I am able to carefully choose just the ones that right for that person, that situation, and most clearly communicate my thoughts.
     Second, not every word that I think needs to make its way out of my mouth. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29, "Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them." My thoughts don't always meet this qualification. When a thought comes to my head that would only hurt the people I around me, I don't need to share it. This doesn't mean that I don't tell people truth. Truth is valuable and necessary. Just being annoyed, or frustrated, does not give me the right to share those thoughts. I need to weigh my words carefully before sharing them with others. 
     All of this does mean that I won't use as many words. The good news is that when I choose my words carefully, they are much more powerful. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Really God, Patience?

     It's been a week. It has been a long, powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking week. The amount of good and the amount hard in this week is indescribable. So I a head full of words that are all mixed up. There is so much that I want to say, so much I need to say. Too much, apparently, because none of them are coming together to create sentences that other people would understand. I have been at this computer typing word after word, and then erasing word after word, for almost four hours. Just a moment ago, I decided to take a break and spend some time in prayer and reading my Bible. When all the things become too much, when all my thoughts and feelings are a mixed up jumble that I can't make sense of, I can trust Him to calm me, to guide me. So I prayed, and decided to start with a short devotion. 
     When I found today inside the book, I just shook my head and laughed. The verse, "And so after he had patiently endured..." My thoughts went something like this, "Really, God. Just really. I opened this book so that You could give me a verse about Your blessing, or Your faithfulness, or Your anything other than me having patience!"
     Turns out that if you keep reading, there are blessings to patience. "And so, after he had patiently  endured, he obtained the promise." (Hebrews 6:15) This verse is in reference to Abraham, who spent a good deal of his entire life being patient and waiting for God to fulfill His promises. Those years were hard on almost every level. He suffered through much while he was waiting. That last part though, 'he obtained the promise'. That part - it makes it worth it. It also makes it bearable. 
     God has given us promises as well. He has promised us salvation through His son. He has promised us that He will be with us. He has promised us that He will wipe away every tear. I need that promise.  I need to know that even though today was filled with junk, pain, and fear, there is coming a tomorrow that will be filled with joy. 
     Not much has changed during the time since I read that verse. Really, just my heart. My heart can now rest in the truth that God keeps His promises. It can rest in the story of Abraham and the knowledge that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and I can trust Him. I don't know what tomorrow holds. I just know who holds me. And tonight, that is more than enough.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Road To Becoming - Jenny Simmons

It's here! It's officially launch day for Jenny Simmons and her incredible book, The Road to Becoming. I wanted my readers to know why this day is so important to me.
In the fall of 2013 I begrudgingly agreed to accompany teenagers on a weekend trip to Lives Ablaze in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Honestly, I was pretty ticked that I volunteered in the first place. What exactly made me think that sleeping on the floor of a church, with a group of teenagers, was a good idea? My attitude when I arrived at Hoffmantown Church was incredibly bad. Basically I had decided that I would go, I would even smile, but I wasn't going to enjoy it. 
About an hour into the program, they introduced this lady who was "the former lead singer" of Addison Road. My attitude did not improve. My judgmental nature started to manifest itself. "Former lead singer? Does that just mean that she wasn't good enough to stay the lead singer? Why would someone of that level of importance be performing for teenagers in New Mexico?" Horrible - but true. 
Then this astonishingly beautiful woman came out and spoke words of truth. She was so real with us. Like we were sitting in a coffee shop hanging out - instead of her being this huge star and there being a ton of teenagers in between us. She told of how her band, Addison Road had suffered through difficulty after difficulty and finally had no choice but to stop touring because you can only replace a van/RV full of your belongings so many times. She spoke of being broken, and scared, and at the end of herself. It all made sense to me. I felt like she was one of my people. 
Then, she started to sing. Oh. My. Goodness. After the first song, my husband looked at me and said, "We are buying this CD, aren't we?" "Yes, and the bracelets and the anything else she is selling," was my response. Through her music and her testimony, my heart was changed. Rather than being angry and judgy, I worshiped, and prayed, and found joy.
Immediately upon arriving home, I followed her fan page, her blog, and eagerly awaited the next album. Each post drew me further in. She has a way of weaving words that cause a person to laugh, understand, and cry. And then laugh again. I read every thing she posted - because it mattered. 
2013 was a very difficult fall for me and lead into an unspeakably bad 2014. Jenny Simmons helped me through that - and she didn't even know it. I can sing every word to every song on her last two albums because I listen it that often. When she announced that she was writing a book, I was overjoyed! I had personally experienced the overwhelming power of her words. To be a part of launching this book is my way of giving back. My way of showing her how powerful her honesty, raw emotion, and passion for God touched and changed me. My goal is to make this book more successful than she could have ever imagined. After reading it, I don't feel that way just to help her. I feel that way because it is just that good. It is the story of her season spent in a desert. She writes about her fears, her doubts, her anger at the almost unbelievable series of tragedies in her life. Naturally, she doesn't leave the reader in that place, but she takes us on the journey with her. 
Yes, I am a part of a "team". Yes, it is part of our job to help sell books. No, those are not the reasons that I tell you to read the book. I tell you to read the book because even in our small launch team people have been forever, positively changed by the words contained in this book.…/…/ref=sr_1_1……/…/ref=sr_1_1…