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turkish bowlI recently went to Turkey for a work conference. Along my travels there, I discovered some beautiful, inexpensive hand-painted bowls.

I bought a couple (hoping to give them to friends back home) and packed them up in my luggage.

I got home to find one of them in three difference pieces. I got out my super glue and forged it back together.

The thing about glue is, as amazing as it is, whatever you are gluing is just never the same.

It’s not as strong.

It’s frame is weakened and it carries a greater risk of breaking again.

It’s not as beautiful.

There’s most often a line… a glued-together crack, that reminds you that it has been glued back together. Chipped.

Damaged goods.

It’s certainly no longer suitable as a gift.

It’s value has decreased and it is clearly flawed… I can’t give that to a friend.

I realize how often I see myself as that cracked-and-glued-back-together bowl. How it must seem so obvious to the world that I am chinked. How my cracks must be glaring. How my scars must scream, “I am not as valuable, not as purposeful, not as strong as before I was broken!”

And boy, have I been broken.

Broken to the core of my existence. A mess. And not even a beautiful one.

Glued back together by grace and mercy and compassion… by the tender hand of a Dad whose love never fails.

My bowl is just a bowl. It is still beautiful to me. Others may not even notice the line that divides or the paint that’s been chipped off.

I chose to glue it because I saw value in it.

Not monetary value. Value from the hands that formed it, painted it, sold it. Value in the time spent over its details. Value in the memory it draws upon… the market scene, the Roman ruins surrounding me, the way the sellers lavished my kids with free gifts.

Maybe it’s more than a bowl.

And maybe we are more than our cracks and chinks and glued-together brokenness.

Perhaps our value is found in the hands that formed us… the time spent over our details, and yes, even in the painstaking restoration and healing that winds its way through our fibers like super glue… bringing our pieces back into one. A vessel containing a great treasure… a treasure far greater than we can actually bear to hold… but ours to hold because we have been broken and restored.

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7

5-minute-friday-1I’ve missed quite a few of the most recent Five-Minute-Fridays… but here on the brink of a ten-day business excursion, where I will likely have little to no internet, I give it my all.

Then I pack.

GO.

Writer.

This is a name I wear. A banner that flies above my soul. It cries to be seen, to be heard. It bears the insignia of a King, who chose this to be the gift He’d give His daughter.

And she wears it with pride.

And sometimes shame.

Because life is full and its demands often pull her, like the outgoing swell of a tide, away from this calling.

But not just calling… this purpose.

This means of surviving.

This outpouring of thought and word and expression that only becomes understood in print.

That stays a muddled mess in the head until birthed into something that can be read.

Being a writer in not only a great honor… but it may also be a curse.

Any good thing, left untamed and un-ridden and undisciplined, yet bearing some supernatural urge to be bear on, can begin to feel like a curse. Or at the very least, a deep, constant pressure to create without an outlet to do so. A penning up of swirling, twirling energy that screams for release. An internal tornado with nowhere to go but round and round and round.

And then the kids ask for breakfast. Or help with homework. Or just time to be spent together. And meals need to be made, groceries need to be bought, rooms need to be cleaned, showers need to be taken… and the day is over and another day has passed. All important things.

And this banner still flies, waving victorious in an unseen world.

(Ironically enough, within the five minutes I have to write this, two of my children just burst through the door with all of their excitement about our trip, full of requests for Mommy to get this or do that…)

And it’s still waving.

Because no matter the season of life, or the choices I make, or the amount of children bursting through the door…

I am a writer.

There are quite a few days when, sitting in my counseling office, I feel like I’ve just witnessed a movement of God.

And I’m sitting on the sidelines, witnessing a powerfully holy moment… a moment I am so privileged to see, and almost embarrassed to witness. Because the moment is so tender and intimate between this person and their Jesus that I can’t even breathe, for fear that my small movement will break the sanctity. I live for those moments.

I’m living this right now with the community center in Maubane, South Africa.

I’m running to keep up with the amazingly generous and compassionate hands of a loving Savior.

In ONE DAY the community garden was funded.

One day.

$10,000

I blinked and I missed it. And now we are full on into Phase 2…  community kitchen and welcome center. I’m gasping across the finish line of phase one… only to find that at this moment, $10,363 has already been raised for Phase 2. Hello?!

A sacred moment where God moves faster than you can keep up, extending grace and showering mercy on everyone who enters into the story. I imagine even folks on the sidelines are testifying to how radical this is.

That leaves us with only $29, 637 to go to complete the already government and tribe approved center. This will give 400 people

A base of operations – for the 20-30 volunteers who serve the weekly church meetings that currently take place under an open air shelter that was donated by a local church in Pretoria. What started as 15 kids has now grown to 250-300 children and 100 adults every Sunday for the last three years.
Hygienic Food Preparation – every second Sunday the volunteer group, Take Action, provides food and drinks to the community. But no running water, no kitchen, no bathrooms make it challenging to serve so large a group of people.

Sanitation – this portion of the community center will include male and female restrooms (5 stalls each).

Facilities for the caretaker who will farm the vegetable garden and provide security and maintenance for the community center site.

Conference Room – for launching economic empowerment with training classes in job skills, early childhood development and HIV/AIDS training for the community.

Safe storage for all the tables, chairs and equipment that serves the church and is currently stored in Pastor Norman’s house.

Right now they meet here: 3Ci+Maubane066

And meals and trainings and services happen here:

Maubane

 

How’s that for your next work retreat? Your office pow-wow?

I wish I could just plagiarize Lisa-Jo’s entire post for today… but I’ll just let you go read it for yourself. It’s amazing.

I am putting my money where my mouth is. I’m not just asking you to help these people… I’m doing it too. I’ve done it.

And I have an excuse not to.

I’m a missionary who relies entirely on the kind and generous support of others…

to buy groceries,

to go to the doctor,

to pay for internet to write these posts,

to buy shoes for my kids,

to drink clean water.

It all comes from others. And we need it. We do. Every dollar.

But God provides those dollars and I’m trusting Him to provide for our every need… while letting Him use our funding to provide for those in South Africa.

I’m sure you have excuses too.

Good ones.

Will you join me in a leap of faith? A bound over a canyon? A hop of hope? Belief that God can take what He’s given you (because everything you have is His anyway) and multiply its blessing over others… and never miss a beat in providing for you?

Are you ready?

Check out the generous offer HERE from Money Saving Mom when you make a donation.

You can also buy a beautiful personalized necklace HERE and a part of your donation will go to the community center.

Don’t sit silently- if you can’t help, spread the word!

3Ci+Maubane016 Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorites. My parents were so great at making each holiday special- finding ways to celebrate my sister and I and our family. It wasn’t a day where my parents ditched us to celebrate their love (nothing wrong with that!). Instead they wrapped us up in their love and made Valentine’s a day for us all… not just romantic couples.

And I love it.

Years later, I’m instilling the same in my own children.

And today, I’m joining Lisa-Jo in an even bigger wrap of love… a blanket that encompasses 250 orphans and 150 adults in Maubane, South Africa. Are you ready to

passionately fall in love with 250 kids who would tell you that there is nothing ordinary about being a mom? Especially when you don’t have one. Here’s the chance to give your heart away and BE someone’s unexpected, ridiculously generous valentine.

I can’t think of a BETTER way to spend Valentine’s Day, can you?

Through five phases, we are building a community center in Maubane.

You can check out all five phases here, including how you can join and make an orphan your valentine.

Or an entire community.

12459491944_21199a8ba1_n This is how the garden looks right now… And with the help of YOU, Foundations for Farming, Lisa-Jo, and I… it will look like this:

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This is the work of Foundations for Farming in some of their other locations, after training and developing nationals in building and maintaining sustainable life-giving gardens. In Maubane,

Foundations for Farming will be training community representatives in “train the trainer” workshops and helping them establish a 2,500 square metre garden.

This garden will produce spinach, beans, tomatoes, carrots, corn and soya. Enough to feed the community as well as be a source of sales income.

This garden project is designed with the specifics of South African soil and this community in mind.

Training, equipment, veggies = $2,500

Fencing to keep out cattle = $1,000

Irrigation equipment = $1,500

I’m a mom. And I’m a mom doing the day in and day out of raising my children. I don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from. They aren’t playing in the yard with hundreds of children who don’t have parents… whose parents have died before their time to preventable causes… I don’t worry where they’ll get clothes, if they’ll have clothes, or whether they will die of a cold.

And no mom should

Won’t you join me today? Will you take on this community as your Valentine?

Will you stand with the mother’s of South Africa?

Will you stand with the orphans of Maubane?

Let’s show our children the TRUE heart of Valentine’s Day!

worldnextdoornecklace

Lisa Jo’s friend, Krafty Kashoan has created three custom necklaces and will donate half the price of each to this project. Choose from the words Brave, Family, or Pray and wear a reminder of this love story with you on Valentine’s and beyond.

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“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

-Flannery O’Connor

“Just write,” they say. Like that’s an easy thing to do.

Like it doesn’t mean undressing your soul, standing fully nude, and being forced to birth a child in front of a bunch of strangers.

“Just write.”

Just tell me your deepest, darkest secrets… your greatest fears, your biggest nightmares, the things that terrorize your sleep and that you spend your life trying to ignore.

Just loose the doors to your lips, to your heart, and let it all spill on paper, leaving a bloody trail.

Just write.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

-Hemmingway

And yet… not to write is to die. f5c257e6946ffa7e8de77f57cb94d5fa

To cease to breathe. To cease to understand myself.

To get really, really cranky.

Because for writers, there’s this constant tension between the dance of mind and fingers and how they birth beautiful and amazing expressions of the deepest places, and the fear that we won’t be able to handle it.

That what comes out will be too much. Too deep. Too scary. That somehow all our daytime efforts of holding back will be overthrown, and this powerful urge to write will ruin us.

Yet, it is only in this space of soul-bearing that truth reveals itself in bright rays of light, bursting forth like a kid who’s been held back from a candy-buffet… and the bar’s been lifted. It lights each nook and cranny of the spirit, giving clarity and insight. “Ah-ha,” sighs the soul, slumping into rest… into the Sabbath dusk that chirps with crickets and calms.

It is like birth. The labor pains end and now you understand that it is all worth it. All the months of anxiety and fear and trepidation and excitement and build up and stretching and growing and changing… now, here, is this word-child, the result of the bearing and the pushing and the crushing of body. And now it’s clear.

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I have something to say, and I’m terrified to say it. It’s one thing to think it… it’s another thing to pull it out of that “safe” treasure trove and flag it around for others to see. I’ve seen writers  watch their “babies” dragged through the streets, slaughtered and hung on digital poles with signs of accusation and finality.

We live in a cruel world.

But we also live in a beautiful world. And I have experienced the way brave writers, stepping into their beautiful messes and sharing it with grace and elegance, can change the world for a moment. For a day. Forever.

My moment feels more mess than beautiful.

The kind of mess that begins to tower over you and reek of insufficiency and condemnation. The kind of mess you see in other people’s yards, piled in front of their pretty doorways. The mess you ignore because it just can’t be that mess. No, it might look like that mess, but it’s definitely not.

My denial has been assuring me that my mess is the self-cleaning kind of mess. Yeah. That kind.

Not the ugly, embarrassing, humbling, bigger-than-I-can-manage kind of mess.

Nope.

That’s for the other people.

But it’s not.

That kind of mess is for me, too.

And it’s here, in the thick of this suffocating mess, that God longs to bring my defense. My vindication. His healing to my story-in-progress. His healing to your story-in-progress.

The story we must tell to save ourselves and each other from self-made prisons.

Just write.

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The Prognosis

I have a very long list of desperately hurting people in my life right now.

It’s too long.

*The 8-year-old (?) daughter of friends, adopted from Russia, loved by many… was found to have a brain tumor the size of a kiwi. It’s been removed and she is in recovery.

*The 11-year-old (?) daughter of friends has had a heart condition requiring heart surgeries throughout her life. She recently had cardiac arrest… leading to her death and revival. She went 8-10 minutes without blood flow and the prognosis is moderate to severe brain damage. She didn’t know her own parents. She happens to be two doors down from the above friends.

*The 6-year-old son of dear friends and writing buddy was diagnosed with epilepsy. He had part of his brain removed as a last-effort attempt to end the seizures. All was going really well with his recovery… a couple of months seizure free. Then they started again. Worse. He recently had a twenty-nine minute long seizure. TWENTY-NINE MINUTES!

*Another friend had a miscarriage at eleven weeks.

*A friend of ours, serving in Cambodia, doing AMAZING things for the people, for children, for God’s glory… was falsely accused and is in prison. Yet, when I read his posts (when he’s able to post) I feel like I’m reading PAUL’S writings… because God is radically at work, now, both within and outside of the prison! Our friend has NOT let the enemy defeat him, even with false accusations bearing serious consequence. If they don’t release him soon, they are going to have a complete inmate conversion and revival on their hands…

*A sweet and dear friend and sister to me just recently learned that at her 20-week ultra sound, that her baby has an issue with her lung development. The prognosis is death, anytime between now and within one hour of her birth.

*A BFA teacher was rock climbing on Saturday and fell. After an emergency twelve-hour surgery, she still felt nothing in her legs or feet.

It seems like every day I find out about a new one. I wake up… check in and weep… either from joy or pain over their situations. I pray constantly. And yet the prognosis is hopelessness. Imminent fatality.

And I say, “God! WHAT’S UP?!” while preparing myself for the bad news. The final news. Preparing myself for the worst case scenarios. These kids die. Or get worse. Or stay in prison for life. Or never walk again.

Today, He spoke.

“I’m up.”

I’m up.

She can move her knees.

She recognized her parents. And fought to get up.

The tumor was benign.

He’s ALIVE.

He’s a flame, burning down a prison with God’s light. Inmates turning to Jesus, waking up singing “Amazing Grace.”

They have peace.

God is UP.

I was humbly jolted this morning to realize how fatalistic I’ve been. How prepared to walk through the worst while praying for the best. Struggling to believe that God would act in healing and freeing. Because sometimes He doesn’t. And I haven’t figured out the equation for how and why and when… so I hang my head, defeated for my friends, weeping for their pain, praying for mercy.

And He smiles at my small faith. Smaller-than-a-mustard-seed faith. And He moves anyway. He doesn’t need me or my faith to move.

He reminded me to hope for the BEST! To pray for miracles and believe Him for them. What’s a prognosis to Him? An opportunity to show Himself. To work His glory. He IS the Healer. He IS the Ever-Present Help in times of trouble. He is the giver of all that we need. He IS our peace.

1% chance? BAH! “Watch this,” He says.

Oh me, of little faith. To resolve things to be as they seem. To succumb to what my eyes can see and my ears can hear, forgetting that God is more than able. Loving. Moving on our behalf, always. Okay, it doesn’t always come the way we hope or when we want it… but it comes. His healing comes, and with it, everything we need to stand up under it.

So today I’m believing for them. I’m believing that the sliver of tumor left will be GONE, her eyes and vision will be restored to their perfect health, and she will be healed.

I’m believing that her heart will be healed. That her memory will be restored. That she will recover more quickly than anyone thinks possible.

I’m believing that the peace and joy that transcends all understanding will fall on this mourning mama and, in His way, this “lost” life will be restored.

I’m believing that he is going to be SEIZURE FREE!

I’m believing that Cambodia will come to know Jesus through a slandered missionary in a prison cell.

I’m believing that she will LIVE. That her lungs will grow, her body correct itself, and a miracle story will change hearts and minds forever.

And I’m believing that she will walk again… and soon.

Will these all happen? Only God knows. But the point is… with Him, THEY ARE POSSIBLE! And I had written them ALL off. But they are possible. They are. Because in Christ, ALL things are possible.

And I’m believing the impossible things in my own life as well. The money that has to be raised to continue serving here. The tax bills of friends around me. The insurmountable challenges in parenting. The best is possible in each one.

And in each of yours.

Believe today.

Badge_StartTheYearOffWriteIt’s one thing to set a bunch of goals for yourself.

It’s a whole other thing to set up an action plan to lead you into achieving those goals.

I’m good at the former. For example, my writing goals this year are to publish a picture-book, complete (and publish?) one of my two novels, and get an agent.

But really… I’ve had those goals for the last couple of years.

I even invest in achieving them each year, by attending conferences and workshops and staying connected with critique groups.

But this year, I’m Starting the Year Off Write.

That’s write.

I mean, right.

I’ve jumped into a challenge to kick-start 2014.

What’s the challenge?

Each day an established author will provide a writing exercise for you to complete.  If you complete the exercise and comment on that day’s blog post you will earn an entry toward the prize drawings.

Today is day two.

And they’ve already been two very productive days… days in which I’ve further improved my craft of writing. I’ve already written a basic draft to a new story, and tightened up an already polished one. HELLO?! Imagine what the other 19 days are going to do for my writing this year!

I’m excited.

And I’m inviting you to join! It’s not too late! You can even win prizes! Though, the ultimate prize is the 21 days of writing prompts that will have driven you and I forward in our goal-achievement.

But I’m not done there.

I need to sustain the momentum beyond January.

SOOOOooooo I’ve also joined:

12-x-12-new-badge12 x 12 2014. This challenge follows me for the next 12 months. “If you join, you will be encouraged and supported as you attempt to write one picture book draft a month, AND to revise one and submit one manuscript as additional, optional goals.”

Yes, please! This is exactly what I need to keep me writing a new manuscript each month, and submitting each month. You can join this one too! Registration ends on Friday, February 28th. With it, you get an entire year of support, encouragement, and resources.

I’ve also added Rate Your Story to my list of supports for achieving my writing goals this year.

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Rate Your Story is something I’ve used in the past to gauge the quality of my work. The service has improved and offers way more resources. I’m excited to get constant professional opinions of my work all year long.

And, as a reward to a writing contest I won this past year, I’m also in the process of completing the Writing Character-Driven Picture Books. At the conclusion of my class, I will get professional feedback on one of my stories from Marsha Diane Arnold.

I think it’s going to be a good year!!! I’ve gotten such great feedback from critique partners… now it’s about fine-tuning this skill and finding the agent and editors who will love my stories.

Are you in? What is your plan for achieving your goals this year? I hope you’ll join me at Start the New Year Write, Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 2014, Rate Your Story, or Writing Character-Driven Picture Books!

 

****UPDATE****

ReviMoButton-Logo3Just because I didn’t have enough on my plate (HA!) I went ahead and joined ReviMo as well… it’s only one week long (Jan 12-18) but the challenge is to do some substancial revising EACH day. I just couldn’t pass it up. And already, day one, finished off one of my manuscripts! Off to subbing I go! It’s too late to join for prizes, but you can still follow the great posts and revise!

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