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Friday, December 2, 2011

How a Little can change a LOT

Author extraordinaire, Gina Holmes, has given me a challenge: Will I tithe my blog. To which I say, "YES"
Please read the following article and follow your heart as God leads. The photos didn't come through, but if you would like to read it online with the pictures, please follow this link. Otherwise, the text is intact.

How A Little Can Change A Lot
Posted by Jessica on Oct 23, 2011 in Callings, Latest, Missions | 6 comments

“We have much to be judged on when he comes, slums and battlefields and insane asylums, but these are the symptoms of our illness and the result of our failures in love.” – Madeleine L’Engle

When my brother traveled to the Sudan he had an encounter that changed his life—and as it ends up, mine too.
He stood in Darfur at an orphanage filled with children leftover from the genocide. There were over 800 children, and during the night wild dogs were dragging them off and killing them.
My brother already felt shell-shocked from the travesties he’d witnessed in Uganda.
The day was hot. The sun beat down upon him. His camera had nearly been ruined from all the dust. He’d barely slept. His gear was heavy. Yet his conscience was seared by the numbness he felt, so he turned and confessed to a Sudanese pastor.
“We shall pray right now that your heart will be opened,” he was told.
Not long after that prayer three young children approached Joshua and started to follow him. After a bit, his father nature kicked in and he stopped and sang Father Abraham. It didn’t take long before the four of them were dancing and going through the motions.
When they finished, he asked the children to tell him how they came to be there.
The oldest, a girl, answered. “The soldiers came and shot my mother and father, so I came here.”
The two other children nodded in agreement. “Me, too.”
He was grief struck, but it was what transpired next that tore my heart. “Do you have a Mommy?” The little girl asked my brother.
“Yes,” he answered.
“And a Daddy?”
Again, his answer was yes.
“Oh,” she said, her voice hinting at a strange intermingling of numbness and grief.
Her question stirs me still. For I believe it came from her soul and revealed the thoughts of her heart. She didn’t want to know what his country was like, what kind of food he ate, or what he did for a living. She had her own bullet holes leftover from the genocide. Her world consisted of this single question: Who still had parents and who didn’t?
In her questions I heard her worry and fear. Imagine being trapped in a war-torn country, a land of famine, drought and disease. Imagine trying to survive it as an orphan with death threatening you every hour. No matter how much she’s endured, at the end of the day, she’s still just a little girl. And all she really wants is her Mom and Dad.
I imagined my daughter living as an orphan in the Sudan. If I were shot and dying, it would be my hope that my brothers and sisters would care for her. But what if her aunts and uncles were killed too? What was it then, that her parents hoped?
As members of the body of Christ these children are not alone. They have aunts and uncles. Multitudes and multitudes and multitudes of them. Talk about staggering! These kids are our nieces and nephews! Mine. Yours.
So who, I wondered, within the church has the responsibility to step in?
I didn’t like the answer that came. Earlier that week I was shocked to learn that globally I was one of the richest people in the world—even though as an American, I’m pretty poor.
Like it or not I was the rich aunt. I had knowledge of the situation. That made me accountable.
I wasn’t comfortable with the knowledge then, and I’m not comfortable with the knowledge now. But I am determined to do something. Anything.

That day Joshua had in his possession a picture book that someone had asked him to give to someone in the Sudan. It was a children’s book with a story about how we have a Heavenly Father who always loves and cares for us. Joshua read the book and gave it to them.
An American woman took it upon herself to raise the money to build shelter. Every person who donated, even a dollar, helped to create a place where the little girl now sleeps safe from wild dogs.
When Joshua told me he’s going to start a branch of Watermelon Ministries called Media Change, a non-profit encouraging Americans to give up a portion of the money spent on entertainment to serve those fighting world hunger and thirst, I wanted to support it.
For seven years he’s helped non-profits raise money that serves the “least of these.” He’s seen the impact a small investment can have. This is a brand new initiative. He’s not quite ready to launch, but you can sign up and be kept updated at His first goal is garner the support of 10,000 people who are willing to give $10 a month. I’m number #3.
This is only a blog post, but who knows what one blog post can do.
What if the task of helping others isn’t as overwhelming as we make it?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coffee and Jesus--Two constants

We have gone through a really odd season for the last six months. A place I think a lot of people are camping in. Economy woes and unemployment. Post deployment unemployment has been our cross and it hasn't been TOO bad until recently when the savings are dried up, book money is on hold or gone, stuff that many of us are having to face.

We aren't promised no trials. As a matter of fact, despite the fact that Jesus WILL overcome for us, we are pretty much guaranteed that we will face situations where we will have to throw ourselves on God's mercy and watch his faithfulness unfold.
Two things God has graciously allowed me to keep during this time: Coffee and His Word. Not sure I could live without either of them.
I've grown absolutely dependent on mornings alone on the deck with Jesus, coffee and my word count for the day.

My song for the day is "The Power of the Cross" by Natalie Grant and my Bible reading Psalm 27.
Give it a shot. Find a quiet place and let God walk you through the waves.

In His love

Friday, May 20, 2011

Awakening the Dawn--and a sneak peek.

You know me...I've never been a morning person. If I wake up before the alarm I consider myself severely chastised by God. Except this week something has begun to change. Monday I started a six week writing project, slow and steady wins the race. Daily word count that must be strictly adhered to in order to meet the goal and finish the experiment--Can I write the first draft with my heart and then go back with 10 days to spare before deadline and write with my head?
That's what Sean Connery's eccentric, writer character admonishes in Finding Forrester.
But I've never been that kind of writer. To me, three weeks before deadline is a good time for the frenzied fever writing to begin. But I am tired of the craze. Not meeting deadlines, lack of discipline or something crazy comes up like a kid gets sick or I do and my writing goes to heck for a few days.

This week has been awesome. Only, for some reason I started it at 3:30 am Monday morning instead of the 8am I planned. But I liked it. The next morning, same thing happened. Only one day this week have I not woken up at 3:30 and that was yesterday. Every day I've met the goal and every day I felt God smile at my obedience. Even yesterday when pushing through later in the day with more distractions. I wrote this last night. Anyone who has watched the night fall away from the woods over the river, specifically in the Ozarks, knows this picture well. For those who don't, I hope I've painted it for you here. My heroine is sitting on her porch waiting for the sun to come up:

From a new work tentatively titled ARE YOU THERE? To be released Spring 2012:

"The sun would rise behind the house and flash across the treeline where the haze rose from the river overnight, an ethereal fog like something out of a movie. The thick mist blanketing the trees would give up its hold on the ancient oaks and cedars as the sun burst through the morning. The breathtaking view never got old and I ached that I’d never share it with Jarrod in person. Two weeks ago—for me, the morning of the day he died, for him, the night before—we sat together with our computers and watched the sun rise across our trees and we both cried."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Writing Get-Away

Sometimes a girl just can't concentrate at home. To that end, I've headed for the hills--of Arkansas, that is. My best writing buddy, Christine Lynxwiler ( is blessed to live smack in God's country with all the trees and beauty of rolling hills, green valleys and southern BBQ. (wait, did I say southern bbq? I've smelled it but haven't actually eaten any this time around--yet, it's only day 2, so I haven't given up)

Granted I live in south-central Missouri, which is technically the Ozarks too. But unless you head down to Branson it's not so Ozarky pretty :)

So, my friend Chris has a little apartment that I use when I go to write and I love to sit out on the deck, put my feet on the rail while I write, and look at the woods behind the house.

The view from my deck...check out my pedicure....I know I have weird fat feet and stumpy toes...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Julie and Julia

I know...old movie. Old subject.

But for some reason, I've been stuck on it. Amy Adams is one of my favorite actresses. Although I wish she'd pick a genre and stick for awhile so she can really make a name for herself (probably what all my readers think about me--vampires, prairie, chicklit, suspense--nail it down Tracey!)

Anyway, so she (the character, Julie) talks about having ADD--and her husband says, "You have ADD?"
"Yes, that's why I'm so bad at housework" LOL--true, true. I've recently come to understand myself better since I was diagnosed with ADD myself. Wow what a revelation. Seriously, folks. Read the list of symptoms and if that's you--get help. I'm doing medication and some behavior therapy--which leads me to the next point.
Every day. 365 days over 500 recipes and some of them really gross like the beef molds EW. Day in and day out she worked all day at a regular job, took public transportation home, and then started to cook, eating by 10 pm at night and getting up at 5:30 each morning. THAT is determined effort. BIG for anyone, but for someone with ADD--godlike ability. Truly.

But boy did it pay off. God is like that though. He gives us glimpses of ideas. "I could write a blog. I could cook from Julia Child's cookbook and blog about it." Every day. When it rains, when Idol is on TV when I'm sick. It's our choice to believe in that dream or shrug it off as a crazy idea that could NEVER really pan out.

Become what you believe. (Not just new age mumbo jumbo--it's in the Bible)

Last night, watching the movie to fall asleep I thought about what Oprah said on her Masterclass. She doesn't believe in "luck" it's all part of a plan. But if there's a definition for "luck" (we would probably call it promotion in our religious circles) It's this "Preparation meets opportunity."

Stop and think about that for a second. PREPARATION meets OPPORTUNITY.

I tell my kids God isn't going to open a door you aren't ready to go through. Start moving. Prepare. Start working toward the thing you most want to do or be.

For me that means write every day. I keep thinking about what it will take to get to where I want to go as a writer. For some who are still waiting to be published, where I am seems like the dream. 40 books published by paying publishers, 1 million books in print. Still there's a piece of me that is still waiting to find my writing self. Something inside that knows I'm not seeing the vision quite clearly. The purpose of it all.

So here I am, eleven years after I supposedly "made it" re-evaluating my goals and dreams and assessing if I'm truly willing to give what it takes to go there. "There" finally not the elusive, undefined dream. But a solid goal I could reach for--if I'm willing to pay the price to reach it.

I won't tell you my conclusion. If you're'll know, either way.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Character driven vs Plot driven writers

So I'm a few days late with my blogging. Honestly, that's because I promised a blog on a book I was reading and then got sidetracked and never really finished the book.

Every time I pick up a new book or a new tool for writers I think it might be my answer to getting off the midlist :). I've read the first two chapters of a lot of writing books and honestly, none of them really have anything new to say about plotting. They want you to discover the inner journey. Either using screen play writing techniques or The Heroes Journey, or yada yada. Truthfully, all that stuff is way over my head.

The thing I really do like about Jeff Gerke's stuff is that he's very open and real in his style of trying to teach a character driven writer to plot and vice versa. I was actually able to take away quite a few tips from his character side. The how to plot side (FOR ME) was same-o. What's the inner journey--how does it relate to the outer journey. All of that is great IF you can somehow articulate that inner and outer journey. Which I can't. I try. Really, I do and it's noone's fault that I can't. I have to discover it along the way. SIGH Sometimes I wish I were more analytical. Or I wish I had someone who really understands plotting and is also a good teacher to hold my hand through the plotting process of ONE book. SIGH. That's just not going to happen. I'm sure Jodi Picoult is way too busy :)

Having said the PLOT side of the book didn't really help me, I am going to be really honest and admit that there is a certain amount of understanding about my character that really clicked for me while reading the first half of the book and working through Jeff's character charts so if for no more than the first half of the book, it's well worth the change it costs to pick it up. Even for someone with mad characterization skills, like me (ha! no really, I do have mad characterization skills--the therapy must be helping, I could never have given myself a compliment six months ago)

What I found was that while discovering my character using the method Jeff suggests, I discovered some things that helped me write out some inner journey stuff which naturally spilled over into plot. So for that alone...I'm highly recommending Jeff Gerke's Plot vs Character. Honestly, I am very anti writing books because I have such a hard time implementing the information, but this one did help me more than any other book ever has. And that's saying a lot!

Monday, March 14, 2011

For all my fellow "cloud-walking helpmates"

I've been reading the biography of Janice Holt Giles, whose book The Believers is among the favored few I posted last week. I'm fascinated by her life. She didn't publish her first novel until she was 41 years old.

This is what her husband, 10 years her junior, had to say:
(this made me smile)

"I know now that I shall spend the rest of my life with the people in Jan's books. They are part of the family, and I don't think I would like not having them around. In fact, I strongly suspect I would find life with the average housewife (which I thought I was getting) pretty dull and uninteresting. I've got used to dusty floors, books scattered everywhere, meals at odd hours and a cloud-walking helpmate. I'm even getting used to being pointed out as Janice Giles' husband. After all, it isn't everyone who can live successfully with a writer. Besides, when she's writing I have an awful lot of time to go fishing!"

Cloud-walking helpmate. I've never heard myself described so well. And by a man who isn't my own husband. But Rusty would agree.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A prayer for writers

Years ago when I first joined American Christian Fiction Writers (OH that reminds me, my yearly dues are due!), I discovered a new author I quickly added to my list of favorites. Deb Raney wrote a book that changed the way I think about Christian fiction called Beneath a Southern Sky. I have a row of about six books that I consider favored enough to keep separate (this doesn't include my shrine to Gone With the Wind or my Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers.) I have those six books hedged between my beloved bookends my mother bought for me when my first books sold. Beneath a Southern Sky is among those books.

Among those books is also Three, by Ted Dekker, To Kill a Mockingbird, Forever Amber (which is raunchy for its time, but holds a special place in my heart), The Believers, The Complete Guide to writing and Selling the Christian Novel by Penelope Stokes--and any aspiring Christian author should have it--Sophie's Heart by Lori Wick. And Deb Raney's Beneath a Southern Sky, which in my opinion, should become a Christian classic.

Deb also quickly became one of my favorite people and in those early days when the loop was small and there was lots of activity, she posted a prayer that God gave her and she prays as she sits to write. I had this taped to my computer for years until it finally got lost and she graciously sent it to me again. With her permission, I post it.

~Quiet my heart and clear my mind this morning, Lord, and help me focus on this story that You've given me to write. Keep me from anything that would distract me from the work I need to accomplish, but also let Your Spirit within me discern what is truly a needless distraction and what is important enough that it should distract me. Never let me put project above people or worldly gain above things that are eternal.

As I write, guard me from my tendency to laziness, Lord. Nudge me to dig as deep as necessary in researching my story; remind me to use all the tools at my disposal so that I handle the language in a correct yet creative way. At the same time, don't let me focus so harshly on one 'tree', that I never make it through the 'forest'.

Lord, I know that as I write this book--a book that won't be published for many months--even now, you are preparing hearts that will one day read my words. So let every word I write accurately reflect Your truth and Your precepts. Supernaturally imbue my writing with that quality that, by Your Sprit will woo souls to You.~

Isn't that a beautiful prayer of surrender? Even for those of us who write at the edge of Christian fiction--leaning more toward crossover appeal and a quiet truth God can use to share his love to a hurting World that maybe wouldn't read and Amish novel or prairie romance or even Christian suspense, we still want the words we write to accomplish their God-ordained purpose.

So as I sit to write today, I pray...

Lord, Quiet my heart....

Monday, January 31, 2011

Trying to be relevant

I've been trying to blog every day this week, but then I realized my week sucked so bad it would be nothing more than a narcissistic whine fest, so I blew it off until I could say something relevant that might actually be something anyone would want to read.

Good news is that I am plumbing-trouble-free for the moment. More good news is that my husband is going to build me a cubicle to put around my desk. Last night I specified it has to close off the right side of my peripheral because for some reason I am most distracted by things on my right side. I was diagnosed ADD a few months ago and am really trying to work through it so these deadlines aren't such a problem.

I can't blog without mentioning a heavy heart for Egypt and the middle east right now. I am mulling over a lot of questions. What does all this say about the impending return of Jesus and what are the immediate ramifications for Israel if the leadership falls? I'm praying that God's magnificent hand will uproot, tear down, and build up as He sees fit.

My read for the week is Radical by David Platt. Get this book. It will yank you from apathy and give you a heart for the underground church.

Until next time.
God Bless you as you live, move, and have your being in Him

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let's Talk American Idol

I wasn't going to watch. Truly. But I had to see Steven Tyler and J-Lo do their thing.
I loved it. So much better than the last two years of AI with Simon the Egomaniac, Kara (I'm sorry, WHO did you say you were?), and even Ellen who's pretty cool, but not a music person.

Randy was a bit uncool on Jimmy Kimmel saying Jennifer Lopez is a 7 at the most as far as singing goes, but I like Randy. Maybe it's finally his year to shine.

I'm looking forward to a kinder, smarter, funny-without-cruelty, American Idol

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing and Dieting and honeymoons

From Maeve Binchy (the fabulous Irish author) "Writing is a bit like going on a diet, you should either tell everyone, or no one.

If you tell everyone, then you can never be seen feeding your face in public without appearing weak willed. Or you can go the other route and tell no one--hug your secret to yourself. Get thin by stealth, write the book, then burst onto an unsuspecting world with your new shape or finished manuscript.

But whichever way you do it, you will need discipline and a plan."

January is one of those months for writing and dieting. People plan the calorie crunching--I wonder how many are still on those diets... I actually started mine half way through the month instead of January 2, so I'm still good. :)

New projects, writing, painting, house projects. It's easy to start fresh, hard to stay focused. Recently I made the decision for change and someone said to me I would be right back to my old ways right after the "honeymoon" period. Of course, this person was a man, and we all know the honeymoon is a lot more fun for them than the trembling virgin, so what does he know? Ha!

It's in the human nature to stay with what is comfortable. But change is uncomfortable. I want change. I've been in a rut for 12 years in one area of my life. So my question is, do I tell everyone and hold myself accountable or do I hug my secret close to my chest and cooperate with God while He does the work?

For now...I think I'll plead the 5th.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Young Again

My husband, Rusty, is a supplement guru. He knows things that normal folk just don't know. Things that fitness industry folks don't know. He was kettle-belling when Kettle bells weren't cool. He's always ahead of the fitness curve and I've stopped rolling my eyes at the new stuff he comes up with because a few months or a year later, he always has the ammo to say "Told ya."

From time to time, this man God gave me who loves me way more than I deserve says something profound from his enormous brain, filled with all of that information that I typically ask him not to reveal to me.

The latest was really my own fault. I asked the question.
"Now, what time of day do we take L-glycine and why?"

After minutes of the unabridged edition, where I admit I spaced off more than I actually listened to, I waited for him to come up for air then I broke down the original question..."In one sentence, tell me why we need it."

His answer, "Honey, I've been telling you....It keeps you young."

OH....Like Oil of Olay...gotcha. Gimme some of that. And with a bit of trembling, " to the the first part of the question...what time of day?"
"Just take it on an empty stomach."

WHEW. So, it keeps me young....(the empty stomach part could be a problem...)

So here's the point of that lengthy opening. :)

I've been reading tidbits daily from Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water this year. It's Oh-so-good. So full of faith and childlike coming to God just to believe and trust with wide-eyed innocence and purity. I love that. In theory.

As I have asked God to show me my heart in 2011, I've seen some stoniness I don't like. Some cynicism that separates me from people I absolutely love and admire and yet inwardly scoff at.

FOR SHAME, the Lord convicts me. I think back to the beginning when I approached the gospels, the writings of Paul, the first ten chapters of Revelations with eyes wide open and heart beating wildly with awe at the words of God written through the hands of ordinary men like me. I've been reading the gospels. Jesus at his most human, most vulnerable.

My darling 19-year-old son is fasting caffeine for three weeks. Last night God gave him a song called "Trail of Blood." I cry thinking of some of the lyrics he wrote from his tender and child-like heart.

The basics of our faith. The road to Gethsemane, a trail of our savior's blood.

Dropping like Hansel's crumbs to lead the way home. (my words, not his lyrics)

Sometimes we know too much and believe too little.
I'm a simple girl. I need to keep things broken down to their simplest form.
Glycine keeps you young. Jesus died for your sins. Love your neighbor as yourself. Come to Jesus as a little child.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Walking on Water

I absolutely love Madeleine L'Engle (writer of A Wrinkle in Time). Mostly her nonfiction although I love her fiction too. Lately I've been savoring her words in:

Walking on Water Reflections on Faith and Art.

As kids we knew nothing was impossible. At least until we were told it was impossible to fly, to travel through time, to raise the dead, to heal the sick, and yes, to walk on water.

Here is what Madeleine says, "We were not meant to be any more restricted than Jesus was during his sojourn with us here on this earth. If we take seriously that during the time of his incarnation he was truly man, truly human as we are, then anything he did in his lifetime is available to us too."

Sounds good to me. :)
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