Friday, October 28, 2016

The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp

This week, we pulled up at a bookstore not too far from us to meet a very special lady. A woman who has known brokenness, and has vulnerably and beautifully poured out her brokenness for the world to be healed by. We found seats--very early, and they were already getting full--and listened to Ann Voskamp talk about her new book, her little daughter, and visiting Iraq. Then we lined up with lots of other women who had shared eucharisteo and koinonia grace with Ann, and waited in line to have her sign our books. (I bought her newest one hot off the press so I could have a print copy.)

She listens intently to each person, and freely gives love to those she talks to. You can tell she's a deep thinker.

When I came home, I set my books beside me and opened them up to her signature now and then. It was a surreal kind of moment.

And today, I'm here to review The Broken Way.


The Book 
Ann Voskamp, a farmer's wife from Canada, has learned how to see the world through a special set of eyes.

Not only has she learned herself, but she's also shared this gift of seeing with others. Her first book, One Thousand Gifts, deeply stirred my own heart as she chronicled her journey from desperation and depression to giving thanks--seeing God's graces in a thousand ways. A dare to see how much he loved her. Her second book takes the premise of a grateful heart and brings it one step further--to a given heart.

It is only by be present in each other's brokenness--both by carrying the brokenness of others with them, and sharing our own brokenness--that we can reach the full impact of the koinonia fellowship of Jesus Christ. He gave thanks and then he broke, and then he gave--and that's the only cycle by which we can live an abundant life.


My Thoughts
Throughout the whole book, I enjoyed Ann's lyrical style of writing. Each chapter had a rhythm--a situation, sometimes just an action like hanging laundry or dishing up dinner or waiting in a doctor's office--that begins the chapter and weaves through her thoughts like a refrain until the end of the chapter. She lingers over textures, feelings, and actions in a way that creates a vivid portrait of family life along with the spiritual life she talks about. The writing style gently rocks you back and forth, like a rocking chair itself, as you think, and ponder, and revel in the grace of each succeeding thought.

The Broken Way reads like a deep weaving together of everything she has seen, heard from friends, read, and pondered on this topic of broken and given fellowship among believers. Her content draws from a deep well of everyday reflection. This isn't truth she's just writing easily and quickly, but truth that she has tasted and lived in a myriad of ways as she puts pen to paper. I love reading an author who has taken the time to experience for themselves what they are promoting. It's the thought I heard once from Madeleine L'Engle's book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, that says a writer must be willing to carry their message like a mother carries her child in the womb. The Broken Way has been lovingly, painfully nurtured and given birth to before it was sent out into the world, and now its ready to bless thousands of people.



Chapter 3 made some of the biggest impact in my life out of the entire book. In it, Ann talked about brokenness in the context of taking communion. Jesus was broken and given for a broken and given people. When we pass the bread and cup of communion, we are commemorating his brokenness and givenness. In essence, when we eat the Lord's Supper in remembrance, we remember that his brokenness came to heal our brokenness--and we exchange our brokenness for his. That gave me a fresh perspective--and I'll admit a reassuring one for a perfectionist--on communion. Now it's a joy to celebrate brokenness and givenness with him.

And I won't spoil it, because it really has a superb effect, but the last chapter ties together the entire premise of the book in a way that completely took my breath away. You'll want to read it for yourself. It hit me in a way that I need to grow in, and reminded me that being a safe place myself requires accepting safe places from others.

Part description of life, part reflections from things she has read and heard and experienced, all offered in love, The Broken Way is a call to look outside ourselves--to heal our own brokenness by reaching out and healing other people's. If you feel broken, or you know someone else who is, gift yourself with the grace of The Broken Way.

I'm so honored to be on the team reviewing Ann Voskamp's newest book, The Broken Way. I received a free book from the publisher, but I loved it enough to go out and buy a copy for myself. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Character Letters // October



On this fine October day, it's the perfect time to curl up with a fox mug filled with hot cider and read some character letters. I have another installment all set to go for your reading pleasure. Enjoy missives from The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Prisoner of Zenda, Star Wars, and A.A. Milne.

Sir Percy

Monsieur,
Sink me, isn't it a fine morning. I heard through the grapevine that you've been having difficulty communicating with a certain beautiful wife of yours. While the fellows may be more dependable, the fact remains that she has a right to expect a certain level of confidence from you. Andrew Ffoulkes seems like an INFJ, who make excellent counsellors, I hear. Perhaps he might have some advice to share on Controlling Erroneous Suspicions and Showing the Authentic You Now and Then. Also, if you weren't so rich and so good, your absolute controlling leadership would be concerning. But who are we to be concerned? You dance into our lives, charm us, and go on your merry way. I'm already writing fan fiction.

Entirely Yours,
Lady B.

Rudolf Rassendyll

My Dear Sir,
You deserve a seat amongst the grandest of adventurers. I love your gallant integrity. I am, however, receiving dire hints about either your physical longevity or your personal honor, I'm not sure which yet. If you die, you will have my mournful self to reckon with. If you lose your honor, then I hope you get whatever's coming to you. You shouldn't win my affections and then risk them in such a manner.

Hopefully yours,
Lady B.

PS. Who are we kidding? I hope you get off without a scratch.

Kylo Ren

Dear Son of Solo,
Bet you're loving the fact that you've single-handedly captured the hearts of half the female fandom universe. Who wouldn't? I've been volunteered by the Jedi to offer you some free counsel. Early bedtimes, honest sweat, and a healthy dose of genuine repentance are all excellent remedies for confusion as to life purpose and emotional angst for your own wrongdoing. I wish you all success in finding the True You.

Professionally Yours,
Lady B.

P.S. I can't believe I seriously wrote that to you after a long soul symphony of compassion for the outcasts. What level of worm can I sink to?

American Political Candidates

Dear Political Candidates,

Oh, wait. The 2016 election isn't fictional. Moving on.

Rabbit 

Dear Rabbit,
We need your executive abilities to Make America Great Again. Imagine what you could do with our Hundred Acre Wood if you turned your paw to it. You'd be a natural at writing executive orders and making speeches. And you'd also be a natural at going around and getting everybody to do it. I think you'd especially enjoy harnessing America's man and woman power (must be politically correct) to the profitable task of finding all of your friends and relations. If you turned it into a smart phone game, you'd be a millionaire. Do consider this propisition.

Respectfully Yours,
Lady B.

PS. I have a Small too. Isn't that cute?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Drawing on Your Inner Gold


There's a lot of talk of brand these days. Find your brand, what makes you you, what sets you apart from other authors. Find your passion. What makes you tick. The elements that light you up. Then use those as much as possible in your own creative work to maximize your potential.

Tracy Groot, at a recent writer's conference, talked about drawing from your instincts as you write. Ultimately the best writing comes not in following craft books step by step, but in drawing from your creative well--that inner compost inside you that Tolkien talks about. That black gold rich with memory, zeal, excitement, and zest for stories.

The best exercise I've found for discovering my inner gold was in James Scott Bell's The Art of War for Writers. In it, he had you make a list of what you believe. Then he had you jot down your favorite books and movies and analyze the elements that you loved most about them. He said you want to put elements from both lists in your stories, so you're always passionate about them.

Today I thought it would be fun to share my lists with you and see how they've played out in the wide variety of genres I've read and written.

Things I Believe 
This isn't just a list of theological things I believe. But mindsets I hold that strongly affect the way I act, treat others, and make decisions.


  • God is a deeply loving and perfectly holy Heavenly Father. He gives us his love and calls us to pursue holiness.
  • Kindness and courtesy are essential elements to communication
  • Be a safe place in a world that has few of them. That shoulder they can cry on, the place where they feel able to share who they really are and let off the pressure of performance and masks.
  • Be vulnerable and authentic for real relationships.
  • Don't be afraid to live with all-out passion for the things God has given you to love.
  • Find friends who are shield brothers--loyal, loving, generous, forgiving.
  • Have compassion on the outcasts. The messy, the broken, the struggling.


Books and Movies that Mean the Most to Me 

  • Great Expectations--it leaves me feeling that justice and mercy have been fully satisfied. I end it feeling mentally inspired, with a heart that's been touched and a host of new friends in cast and characters.
  • Little Dorrit--I feel as if we have come through much suffering and yet suffering has not broken us.
  • Kidnapped--the male soul-friendship to trump all soul friendships. This one will always be my favorite in the realm of literature.
  • Amazing Grace--I must not give up the causes I am passionate about, even when it takes a long time and seems to ask for everything I have. When it ends, I feel triumphant, contemplative, grateful, and deeply moved.
  • The Pilgrim of Hate--I love the twist of justice and grace.
  • The Young Victoria--Victoria and Albert can stand shoulder to shoulder, with hearts beating in unison, and face anything. I feel excited about marriage when I watch that movie.
  • A Cast of Stones--I get to walk step by humiliating step with a wrecked, drunken outcast and watch him rise above his pain and humiliation to conquer it. Nobility for the outcast gets me every time.

Common Elements Between Them 
Tying through all those books and movies are themes of passion, grace, justice, mercy, kindred friendships, and suffering. Every single one of them has a clear picture of the kaleidoscope of personalities in the world that I love. They all have people paying the price for things they love, but refusing to give up: grappling with impossible darkness in themselves and others, and coming out scarred, but victorious.

I don't particularly love villains, but I deeply, deeply love anti-heroes. And this list very much shows that fact.

If I sat down and made a list of favorite literature and movies with my mom, my dad, or my sister in mind (hey little kylo ren fangirl), they would be completely different, with completely different elements. They would have different passion points, different common elements they're always looking for before my family pronounces a story "good". And that's the cool thing about the world if literature--we'll always have different types of stories because people are moved by different things.

How They Play Out in My Novels 

War of Loyalties 
War of Loyalties pretty much crams everything I love into one giant epic. Ben, Jaeryn, and Terry all have to grapple with justice, mercy, suffering, scars, friendships, and overcoming in a world of spies and broken generations and political turmoil. That is my first baby, therefore all my passions went into it at once.

The Caribbean Novellas 
These novellas are way different than WoL. They're modern day friendships exploring life and growing up and budding romance. But they started out with the soul-friendship theme, and the main characters have safe and authentic fellowship, both funny and contemplative by turns. Colby, Julian, and Roo are safe places for one another and find ways to show love and enjoy life in whatever they're walking through. This story pulls more from my core beliefs list than from the dramatic literature I enjoy.

The Jazz Age Novellas 
The Jazz age novellas incorporate zeal+shield brothers into one story. They don't have a lot of angsty safe-place scenes. They're just about having a purpose to better the world and holding to that purpose with joy, vigor, and willingness to sacrifice self. Plus, I suppose, slightly unlikely friendships.

schuyler and her outcast theme. has to get it in somewhere.

The Country Story 
This is a newer venture, a novella that hasn't been finished yet, and is barely started. It's a story about Becca, and it deals again with safe places and outcasts, but in a slightly different way than the Caribbean novellas. Becca is deeply in need of a safe place and finds it in someone who isn't a social outcast, but who could be in homeschool circles.  I'm already getting ideas for a sequel from watching God's Not Dead 2 yesterday with the sis. A real outcast walked into the cast of characters, and I want to explore where it takes me. While the themes of outcast and safe space are classic ones for me, the setting is fresh, placed in the country, with characters and struggles that are deeply autobiographical and personal for the year that 2016 has been.

You see, it's not about making sure every story is unlike the one before it. It's about putting your message to the world in fresh guises. After all, Dickens deals with social injustice, Ellis Peters writes mysteries with oppressed lovers, every Jules Verne is a tale of perseverance and impossible discovery, many L.M. Montgomery novels deal with escape from harsh control. You can change settings from America to Asia, change ages from young to old, change character religions and incomes and family backgrounds, but ultimately that heartbeat of what you believe and love should sink into every single thing you write.

After today, I think I've discovered that for now, every story I write will have the outcast, the dreamer, or the anti-hero.

Because that is who I am. And that is what I want to offer to the world.

So I'd love to know--what are two or three of your favorite books or movies? Do they mirror your passion points? How does what you believe influence the stories you like to read--or write?

(Or feel free to steal this blog post idea and link up to it in the comments.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Book For When You Want a Safe Place

My heart cry, for several years, has been to be a safe place.

Safe places aren't so rife that you fall over them every step of the way. There's a lot of safe people out there. I'm privileged to know quite a few of them.

Not everyone has a safe place. Not everyone is a safe place. But everyone, safe place or not, needs a safe place.

Jayme Hull is passionate about mentoring the millenial generation. The 25-35 somethings, so full of potential, seeking out who they are and where they belong in life and in the church. In her book Face to Face, she shares some of that wisdom, reaching out to countless girls who desperately want a woman to sit down one to one with them and meet regularly for sharing their hearts.

The Book [From Goodreads]

An indispensable resource on what everyone needs: a mentor

Whether you have a mentor, can’t seem to find one, or haven’t even thought to look, Jayme Hull walks you through every aspect of this critical relationship, including:


Its purpose, value, and benefits
Marks of a healthy mentoring relationship
Initiating, navigating, and even ending a mentorship
Becoming a mentor to others
Packed with stories and anecdotes from Jayme’s experience as both a mentor and mentee—plus sprinklings of wisdom on balance, purpose, and change—Face to Face speaks to the heart of young Christian women eager to grow. In her warm, personable style, Jayme offers expert advice on how to journey well with someone further along.

My Thoughts 
I love Jayme's warm, conversational style in writing this book. She knows how to reach out to millennials. She includes things that they care about: dreams and potential for the future, as well as wrestling through the gap of struggling to get started in life. Her own examples of trying to find her life purpose and starting her own mentor relationship makes the book feel like you're sitting down for a cup of chai and some good advice from a woman who cares about you.

The beauty of Face to Face is that it doesn't stay in the realm of the theoretical, but spends most of it's time on practical action steps readers can take to develop a mentor relationship. You won't walk away from this book only thinking "I wish I had a mentor." You'll also walk away thinking "I have some ideas on how to find one." Jayme gives tips on where to meet, what characteristics to look for in a mentor, and how to care about them as well as having them care for you.

It's easy to look at the description of a book like this and think "I don't have a mentor, and no one would do this for me." Not only is it possible, but we've also probably had mentoring more than we realize. While not discounting our need for regular meetings with a one-on-one, heart-to-heart mentor, Jayme gives examples of people who have mentored us. Coaches or teachers, friends, parents, Bible study leaders. I've never had a formal one-on-one mentor. I've always wanted one. But I have had mentors who have generously given time, effort, love, and listening ears to me. They've been both women older than me and peers. People I can text writing questions pretty much any time, and they'll answer. Parents I can talk to late at night, when life's problems seem to want to be solved. Women who have prayed for me, held me while I cried, sent Scripture and encouragement, and seen my potential. I wouldn't be where I am without the informal mentors who have poured so much love into me.

But the one-on-one kinds are important too. I know it would help in a few ways to know someone to meet regularly and talk through some issues I've walked through. Jayme gives some great ideas for getting to know someone like that. She walks through how to ask someone, how to deal with feelings if they say no, how to judge if you're both a good fit, and how to work through differences of opinion or uncomfortable moments that might arise. I especially appreciated her advice on that last part, because I want to know how to navigate the hard parts of navigating the human side of a good relationship.

The last chapters on balance, romance, and getting out of stuck spots in life seemed a little more life advice and less geared towards how a mentor could help with those things. While they were good advice, I thought they wandered from the heart of the book. But those are issues that Jayme encouraged readers to discuss with their mentors, so it all ultimately ties together, and they were really good chapters in themselves.

I suppose the only danger from this book could be reading it, agreeing with it, and walking away without taking action steps. As you read, take the time to ponder and pray, make lists of people you are being mentored by, and people you might want to be mentored by--or issues you want to be mentored in. (I'm talking to myself here, too. *makes note to Schuyler*)

Then make the first meeting. Don't jump into asking them to be your mentor just yet. Just get to know them, let them get to know you, and then ask them if they might be interested in a formal mentoring relationship.

And if you're scared, or need some words to say, then pick up Face to Face. It's an engaging read, rich with content and practical suggestions. You won't regret it.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was not obligated to give a positive one in any way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

12 Fictional Villains I Would Invite to Dinner


Bad guys prove fascinating to a lot of people. Imagine having a table of twelve of them and living to tell the tale afterwards.

Probably you wouldn't, but one can always imagine.

So if the invitations went out, here's who I would invite to dinner:

A warlord of Plenilune (Plenilune, by Jennifer Frietag--I'll leave off the name so as to avoid spoilers.)
Rigaud (Little Dorrit)
Pecksniff (Martin Chuzzlewit)
Chauvelin (The Scarlet Pimpernel)
Lord Carnal (To Have and to Hold)
Rupert of Hentzau (Prisoner of Zenda)
Grandmother (Jane of Lantern Hill)
Tarkington (Bleak House)
Lucy Steele (Sense and Sensibility)
Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes)
The White Witch (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Pride and Prejudice)


But it doesn't stop there. The best chuckle out of this dinner would definitely be choosing who gets to sit next to who.

Sit Rigaud next to Pecksniff, because Pecksniff would disappear from the cast before the dinner is over and no one would be the sadder.

Sit Tarkington next to Rigaud, because Tarkington would winkle out the truth of Rigaud's deed and bring him to justice.

Sit Moriarty next to Tarkington, because he'd get a kick out of deceiving London's best lawyer as to his true motives, and I'd get a kick out of watching.

Sit Moriarty next to Chauvelin, because Chauvelin would bribe Moriarty to help him bring down Britain's brightest, and the Scarlet Pimpernel's laurels would be that much shinier.

Sit Chauvelin next to Lord Carnal. Nothing epic here. Both of them would be too occupied to talk to each other.

Sit Lord Carnal next to Rupert of Hentzau, because they'd be sure to provoke each other to blows before the evening is over, and I want to see who would have the upper hand in a sword fight. Especially since both would take unfair advantage.

Sit Rupert of Hentzau next to the warlord of Plenilune, because Hentzau would definitely win the swordfight with Carnal by fair means or foul, and then he would agree to be the warlord's henchman, only to start secretly plotting against him. Such drama.

The warlord of Plenilune next to The White Witch, because I want to see who would win supremacy over the other in a magic war.

Sit the White Witch next to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, because that British madam would not be frightened in the least what any winter-loving hussy would try to do to her. She might, however, suggest shelves in the closet for Jadis's castle.

Sit Lady Catherine de Bourgh next to Grandmother, because neither of them deserve to die, but it would be cool to see which strong-willed madam could gain supremacy over the other.

Sit Grandmother next to Lucy Steele, because her frosty snubs would be enough to discomfit that young miss.

Sit Lucy Steele on Pecksniff's other side, to see which one's oily jabs and hypocritical friendship would win the upper hand before Rigaud made his move. Plus, his death might shock the badness out of her and make her lead a kinder life.

Voila.

I would, of course, remove myself from the room as soon as possible. After all, such dinner parties aren't safe.

It would be a grand opportunity for the room to accidentally explode and wipe them all off the scene of literature. Wouldn't it, now?

If you had fun with this post, be sure to join the October linkup! It lasts until the last day of October, so there's plenty of time to join!

Also, keep an eye out for the November linkup next month, which is going to be pretty epic. :)










Friday, October 7, 2016

September Highlights

I'm off to another writer's conference today.

Two in one year. All the excite.

That left me little time to make a second blog post this week. Adulthood (is that a word?) in between travels is something fierce.

But I'm going to leave you with a few highlights of September, and maybe a novel snippet or two, because that's just the right thing to do. M'kay?

M'kay.



A dream came true a couple of weeks ago, when I was able to go down to Indianapolis with family and friends for the Revive Our Hearts prayer conference. I've been wanting to go to this women's conference for a couple of years now, and I'm so glad I finally got to go! I met Mary Kassian, heard the Gettys in concert, and spent time fellowshipping with 7,000 other women in attendance. It was special. 


That capitol building was so old fashioned and beautiful. I wish we would have had more time to explore it. 


On our way home, I went to Chick-fil-a for the second time in my life. The frozen lemonade folks. THE FROZEN LEMONADE. HER SOUL WAS MADE FROM RAINBOWS. 

(ahem. That's a quote. From binge-watching studio c.) 


Our aunt treated us to Tinykittens t-shirts! We love the Tinykittens rescue ministry that has a 24/7 livestream. The people running it rescue feral cats and kittens and make them used to humans so they can give them warm, loving homes. One dear little kitten named Nano is going into surgery today for a miracle chance at survival, and we are praying for that miracle chance to be exactly what he needs for a long and happy life. 


And finally, super excited to add this to my home library this week, and get it signed this weekend! It's a great, encouraging, empowering little book on writing, and I would highly recommend it. :)

Now. As promised. Snippet of writing. This is from a story I'm writing about a girl who goes to visit her grandfather in the country. This particular scene picks up when she and her grandfather are going to church together on Sunday morning:

//
“It’s all modern now,” he told her. “Them young folks have gotten into the music like they always do. But the preaching is rare good, so I keep coming.”

There was someone at the organ when we came in—an old, white-haired saint. I hadn’t heard an organ in my life before. There was something fascinating about it all—the deep, majestic tones vibrating from the pipes at the side of the sanctuary, and the sounds of a hymn I didn’t know. Grandaddy found a seat on the right side, near the wall, and sat down with his thick, worn out King James balanced on his knee, closing his eyes as he waited for it to start.

I spent my time peeking up at him, wondering if he was sleeping, and keeping an eye around the sanctuary, as mothers with wet hair from the shower and older couples and singles folks all found their places in the pews. There were drums in the left corner of the stage, and as the clock hands drew closer to the half hour, a woman in a black dress with classic gold hoops in her ears took her place behind them. She had long, waved hair falling over her shoulders, like dark caramel with gold highlights, and her smile was so big as she waited with the drumsticks in her hands, nodding her head slightly to an inner rhythm that seemed quite different from the organ. She had beautiful, bright blue eyes.

I wish I felt that bright, I thought, looking down at my own blue leather bound Bible with a sudden tightening in my throat. Granddaddy said my Bible wasn’t really a Bible, and he would give me a new one with the correct version in it. I had never really thought about King James  before, except that it seems a very dusty and tangled way of saying things. But Grandaddy wouldn't hear of anything else, and he made me read out of an extra copy he kept around the house for the breakfast chapter, instead of using my own. I felt guilty using it for devotions up in my room, but I hadn’t gotten around to switching yet.

//

Happy weekend, folks! What are you reading? Writing? What's your favorite memory from September? I want to know!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Flash Fiction + Fresh Air



I'm writing this post on a Monday morning before breakfast, as an early October sunbeam stretches across the grass. Sometimes life requires you to slow down and bask in the details. A lot of things have been happening lately, and I'd love to share them with you.

I went to a writer's conference this week. It's a place I know and love, and God kindly opened doors that I had never even knocked on to make it possible for me to go. I didn't know how needed it was. I was able to spend time in solitude, thinking about my books, and with people, getting and giving encouragement in the craft of writing. Seriously, every writer should budget in a writer's conference every year if they can. I know it's not possible for everyone, but it is an irreplaceable encouragement. Especially if you can go year after year, until it becomes a place you are known and loved. You should come to my conference. I don't put up locations near me on the internet, but if you're looking for a good one, drop me a line at ladybibliophileblog[at]gmail[dot]com and I can direct you further.

flash fiction and flashes of truth

While I was there, I wrote a piece of flash fiction. It was a scene that could never possibly work out in one of my novels for a variety of reasons. But I wanted to write a scene inspired by it, so I did a combination of memory and time travel flash-back to give the piece an otherworldly feel. In between sessions, or even sometimes during sessions, I would jot down one sentence after another, with as much rich sensory description and emotional connection as I could.
About a year ago, I took a trip to England and had the oddest day of my life. I don’t know if I’m actually going to send this account to you, but I couldn’t sleep last night, and I figured I would jot down a few details just to knock it out of my head. It’s been hovering about me ever since I came home, and in spite of all the coding I’ve done lately, it’s ruining my ability to complete this new programming deadline. Even mochas haven’t helped. So I figured I might as well pull out my childhood love of writing and spill it all out.
On Friday night they were showing a movie, and while I was interested, I couldn't emotionally handle the injuries the main character had to undergo. So I looked for a quiet place to tuck away and write. I ended up in an empty gymnasium, with seats lining the walls. One on one appointments had taken place there earlier that day, but now it was just a ghost room of silent echoes. I turned on the music, and the words came. All the way to the very end of the scene, when I knew I had written enough.

And then I sat there in the finish and cried. Because it was so gut-wrenchingly beautiful, and I felt the loss for what couldn't be.

That moment of pain gave me a moment of revelation that I think is one of the biggest reasons why I went to that conference. All of a sudden, I knew what I needed to be writing next. I might not have pulled out that piece of flash fiction at home, with other responsibilities. But in the quiet of the empty gym, and being surrounded by people, treating it like a mini retreat, God unlocked a lot of things that I didn't even know were tangled.

All vague, I know. But spoilers, so I can't go into specifics yet. Long and short of it: this conference gave me future writing direction that I didn't even know I was looking for.

worship and music

My favorite times were the moments when I was able to catch prayer time in the car. Life has been hectic. Downright crazy, the last few weeks. It will be for a little bit longer. But in the car, God and I were able to reconnect. Talk. Wrestle through some things. Some of it is a sweet time that I'll keep between him and me, but I was glad for the openness of solitude and intimate fellowship. I haven't been making enough time for that. There is a garden even in Gethsemane if Christ is there.

I also loved listening to my new CD (Facing a Task Unfinished) from the Gettys on the car rides back and forth. If you haven't heard "The Lord is My Salvation" yet, go treat yourself on Spotify. Good words. I got to meet them on my 22nd birthday, and that was a dream come true. :)

fresh air and encouragement

Sometimes what you need is some good writing, a big dose of encouraging words, extra-special meals, and fresh air. Sleep is also good, which I didn't get a lot of, but I didn't need it. I was being refueled in other ways. Words are my love language, and I could think about them from a happy perspective this weekend--the way I love to use them most. Having mind, body and soul treated extra kindly really meant a lot.

The meals were almost too good, so twice one day and once the next day I took a walk in the fresh, cool air down to our big inland lake. A shot of fresh air was just what I needed more of. Laying on the sand, getting bitten by flies and writing by hand in a notebook was perfect. The lake was still, like glass that day, with just the faintest, heavenly sound of ripples along the shore. For a little while, I had Travis Cottrell's "Thanks Be To Our God" playing out loud to the accompaniment because I was the only one there. I didn't want to leave behind that moment.


It was a good time. A retreat tucked in the middle of the craziness of life.

Plus, there was family and birthday cake to come home to, and that was pretty special after a long weekend. ;)
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