Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Legacy Worth Leaving

Wess Stafford experienced some of the cruelest physical and psychological abuse when he was a young man. People he should have been able to trust to act within his best interests took advantage of that childlike trust. Now, close your eyes and fast forward to the future. How do you imagine this man turned out? Based on your knowledge of cause and effect and your experience with children who are mistreated at a young age, what do you think has become of this man’s life?
                Wess Stafford is the President and CEO of Compassion International. Perhaps you’ve heard of it;  Compassion International is one of the largest sponsor organizations for impoverished children. Stafford himself would attest that the events of one’s past often influence one’s future. Life is made up of countless “minutes,” and not just those lasting for sixty Mississippis, but a brief period of influence. Those brief periods can influence a life that may have plummeted into despair and turn them around, inspiring a young man or woman at an early age to do the same for others. Conversely, those “minutes” can be used to bring irreparable harm to a young life, causing it to follow in that direction forever.
                In Stafford’s new book, Just a Minute, he, with the help of Dean Merrill, takes readers through a storybook full of lives that were shaped by the influence of others. The book reads reminiscent of a “Chicken Soup” book, a treasury of “minutes” in story form, weaving through stories of lives of which you and I may not be familiar and those with which we are very familiar such as Adolf Hitler, whose “minute” (you can imagine) was not so pleasant, and didn’t result in anything worth emulating.
                In the first few paragraphs of his book, Stafford explains why such a book is so important. When Stafford travels and speaks to crowds on the “minutes” that changed who they are today and why it’s so important to invest in the lives of children, everyone listening remembers a moment in time, a talk, a pat on the back, an encouraging word, or a discouraging word that had a very vital effect on the person they’ve become.
                We live in a world that seems to wage war on childhood. Child-killing has been legalized and labeled “abortion,” as if life is something where, at the last moment, one can pull the eject button and fly out of the cockpit, saving oneself from the wreckage below. People are on the local news being hauled off to court on child porn charges every day. Men and women go to jail for child abuse. Prominent figures rest in the safety net of their influence while leaving countless young lives destroyed forever. Those are the “minutes” that should not be. But they happen.  This is why Just a Minute is, indeed, vitally important.
                Stafford encourages readers to make a minute worthwhile in the life of a child, just like someone may have for them. And if the reader has never had a “minute” invested in himself or herself, he or she should look back on what they wished for and not cheat another life out of what had been neglected him or her.  Children grow up to be adults and here we are now, with a choice. What kind of minute will we leave?

Click here to read reviews or purchase the book from

Thanks to Christine of TheDeMossGroup for the copy to review!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Kernel of What?

Hello everyone.
It's been a long time. I'm returning now from my self-imposed, yet unplanned hiaitus from both blogging and the social media world. Those two aren't an oxy-moron in my own head...but after I typed them it seems like they are. Just trust me! They aren't.

So...the hiaitus came around Christmas...when anxiety and depression reared like an ugly two-headed beast. For the entirety of 2011, I plugged myself into everything I possibly could, taking every opportunity, saying "yes" to everyone who asked. And then a couple days before Christmas the after-effects of the stress came like a tidal wave and I could hardly breathe for a week, literally. Heart pounding, chest-tightening, nonsensical anxiety and panic for a week. I guess that's a medically proven thing...that anxiety usually comes after stressful situations. (Hence explained to me by Jen and Brittany :) )

So...out of all of that, there's something I've learned. Sometimes you have to let go of goals or projects, or entire seasons of your life even if they're good things. You may feel like you have to commit to them, see them through, come hell or high water, because they're your responsibilities. But all of those good things can wrap you up so you can hardly breathe. And sometimes you're supposed to let go - and there's no shame in it. Sometimes you have to let go and move on.

This concept was made more clear to me by a video life update from Olan Rogers. Olan is one leg of the tripod that was BalloonShop, an amazing set of hilarious youtube videos made by he and his two friends, Thomas Gore and Joshua Pursley. I watch them all the time :) they're pretty incredible. But...... watch this video :)

I couldn't help but cry with him when I saw this. It reminded me of things in my life, of letting go of things, of things I've had to do and people I've had to leave to move on to what Christ has called me to do. And it reminds me of a verse in John. Verse 12:24 says, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Christ's death and resurrection resulted in the production of much more fruit. Reminds me too of Jerry Falwell. When I was at Liberty, Jerry Falwell, Sr. passed away my sophomore year, during exam week. It was heartbreaking for the entire campus. But after he died, though many assumed the school would fizzle, Liberty only grew, and was amazingly pulled out of debt by a hefty life insurance policy that Dr. Falwell left behind.

Anyway, all of that is a dramatic way to tell you why I've been gone for a while. I'm not saying that I'm giving up on blogging or social media as my kernels that have to die. There are some things in my life that have to...but not this. Although, who knows...maybe that will change. So be it.

So, to end with a happy update, 2012 is a new year, and a year I've resolved to not land myself in a giant ball of stress by Christmas, but to let some things go. I've also resolved to finish my novel this year, and get it into a proper state to start seriously editing and sending out queries for publication.
But all of the things I've changed or resolved this year are toward the result of glorifying God with my life and the way I live it. And if anything I'm doing starts to lead away from that ultimate goal, it will have to die as well.

End seriousness. :)
Have a good day. :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Weary World Rejoices

The other day, my boss at work gave me my first Christmas present of the year – a jar of honey that he made (you don’t really make honey… you extract it? Whip it up? Coagulate it? I have no idea).  I got into my car to leave that day and put my lovely present on the seat next to me, drank some warm coffee and turned on the radio to Christmas music. The spirit of Christmas filled me to my toes and I couldn’t help but smile.

There’s something electrifying about Christmas. Lights go up in shops, snow reflects the moon at night making the night world glow with eerie joy. People are nicer to each other (except on Black Friday), people feel compelled to wish each other joy. People give gifts with curly ribbons, spending more than they have but giving with a full heart (Gift of the Magi, anyone?)

Is it ironic or not so ironic that Christmas is filled with joy when it represents one of the greatest days (only equalled to the Resurrection) mankind has ever seen? The explosive joy felt over two thousand years ago when Planet Earth received its Savior continues to spill over into the present. The magnitude of the significance, thousands of years later cannot help but touch us still. Whether we know it or not – that is the reason why joy is felt. Earth received her King. If the earth had feelings like a human, what sort of nuclear reaction went off when it woke up to find God had come back to its mortal soil? That the perfection it had experienced during the Eden years made a re-appearance on a moonlit night? Joy to the world!

With our twinkle lights, and our tree skirts, we feel the warmth of a season of joy. But WHY? Because Jesus Christ came back for us, refused to abandon us to our hopelessness. He came to die, and then to defeat death, to do great things...all for us. THERE IS NO GREATER REASON FOR JOY. And with the joy in remembrance of what He's done comes the hope of the promise that He will come back for us again if we don't leave this earth to join Him first.

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.  Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2011 Reading List

It's that time of year. The end of it. I used to post this list on facebook, but it looks a little more nifty on here. You'll notice a lot more YA fiction than the last list, due to the fact that it was readily available at the Library - and I'm a sucker for it. Let me know if you've read any of these and your opinions!

Here we go.

1. Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff
2. The last five books of the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
3. The Return of the King by Tolkien
4. 1984 by George Orwell
5. A Christmas Carol by Dickens
6. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson - very, very good.
7. Shades of Blue - Karen Kingsbury... eek. why?
8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney - loved it :)
9. The Professor's Daughter by Sfar and Guibert...a graphic novel about a woman falling in love with a mummy. Really good :)
10. Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys - Kate Brian - courtesy of Carolyn Myer :)
11. Fast Forward to Normal by Jane Vogel - also courtesy of Carolyn
12. How to be Popular by Meg Cabot - I have no recollection...
13. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
14. Let it Snow - 3 stories by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle - excellent
15. Girl Overboard by Maureen Johnson
16. Suite Scarlett by Mauren Johnson
17. One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde - the long awaited.
18. Tales from the Perilous Realm by Tolkien (AMAZING)
19. Cannery Row by Steinbeck
20. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
21. the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson (worst. series. ever. gag.)
22. Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton - excellent.
23. The Winter of our Discontent by Steinbeck. Excellent.
24. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
25. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. YES!!!
26. Quitter by Jon Acuff - read my review for Relevant here: Quitter
27. Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
28. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
29. The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson
30. Let Me be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot - excellent
31. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
32. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by Rowling - reading back through these :)
33. Life Itself by Roger Ebert

So...that's that! I promise more meaty blogs to come soon, as a lot of my writing/reading projects are over. :) What have you read this year?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Long time no see...

I publically apologize to the planet for falling off its edge. NaNoWriMo is over, and after a month of late late late nights and word sprints and caffeine, it's over. So for the first Blog Post Friday back, I wanted to share with you a polished edition of a segment of my NaNoWriMo novel, Untopia. :) Enjoy.

Chapter 4

I started to understand six months ago, last year in school. My Life Learning teacher had a special presenter come in and speak to us about an exciting advancement from the government. I guess because the sickness had been hitting mainly my generation, the government found it necessary to encourage us. Before I came to understand, I shuffled through life with Scott, with homework, with reading because it was the only life I’d ever known. But this presenter talked about how the government was constantly working, not only to sustain life but to improve it. We’d heard it a million times before but never really knew what it meant. The man brought with him a small metal spoon. It was like an ice cream scoop, with a metal canister at the end of it. He made us all come outside and stand around him in a circle. Through his air filter tube, he told us he was about to do something amazing.

He reached down and scooped some hard ash from beside the pavement into the bowl of the spoon and tipped it into the canister. We went back inside and he put a powder into the canister and pressed a button, which made the whole thing buzz and mix I guess. Then he dumped the ash and powder into a glass cup that was half filled with water. The water bubbled and orange foam filled the top of the glass cup. When all the bubbles popped, the man dumped the whole mess onto a tray and soaked up the rest of the water with a towel. It had become dirt, brownish orange, mushy dirt. Nobody spoke. We stared at it and at the man who seemed very happy with himself.

We left the dirt in the room for a few weeks on the tray, letting it “stabilize” as the man had told us to do. Then we were going to try to find some seeds online and plant something in it. But a couple weeks after it had finished drying the whole class got started to show signs of illness. Kids who sat in that corner started coughing up blood; everyone got the flu and a strange orange tint in our skin.

Jason, the boy who sat closest to the dirt, didn’t recover. He’s still alive but he suffered massive brain damage and is kept alive by machine. It turned out the guy who came to speak to our class wasn’t authorized by the government to show his experiment to the public, but he wanted to give hope to our generation. When it went sour he killed himself and the soil experiment was scrapped.

Jason made me realize the truth more than anything I’d seen before. I realized we were all kept alive by machine, by chemical, by things that weren’t real. Kids my age didn’t even know what was real because we had never experienced it. I became very angry at anyone who had experienced life before the fall. They bragged and reminisced about the days when things were beautiful and they had summer nights and bonfires and lightning bugs and real food. I hated them. I hated them because they wouldn’t shut up about it. They talked and they did nothing to change it. They are the ones that destroyed the world but they would do nothing to fix it, but punish my generation by spreading their malcontent.

I couldn’t focus well in class anymore and my heart was bitter. I stopped hanging out with Scott as much after school. I suppose nothing major really changed. It was the ceasing of change that made it obvious to me. Healthy development involves change, I have been told, and healthy development is what ceased.

And here I am. I thought about all of this as I lay on my bed. I used to think one day I would bring hope to my generation; I would find a way. There had to be a way to undo what we had done. But I had come to understand finally. There is no way, and that is what’s understood by those who leave. I shut my eyes and crossed my hands over my chest, letting out a deep sigh. Tired emotion in water form streaked lazily down my cheek and dreamless darkness swallowed my head.

Chapter 5

When I woke I was warm. I knew I was awake because I could feel it, though my eyes weren’t open and my hands were still on my chest. A new smell poured into my room. At first I thought it was my mother’s cooking, but it couldn’t be. It wasn’t the smell of something packaged and revived. It moved and changed.

I bolted upright, opening my eyes. I was definitely not in my room.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oh, on a wing and a prayer

Today is Blog Post Friday.
And I don't have much to write about.
This may be the case throughout the month of November as I'm currenly participating in the event that's sweeping my twitter feed, NaNoWriMo. (See previous post)

October 31st at 9:30pm I sat at my desk, trying to figure out what in the world I was going to do for two and a half hours before I could finally begin writing. And sadly, every half hour that went by I became more and more tired...but I held out! And was victorious.

The first day I made it to 2535 words.
The second: 5022.
The third: 7212.
The fourth: I don't know yet, I haven't started writing yet...but soon enough I shall.

I'm finding I really enjoy this fast paced writing, but just like a good diet, that happy feeling will probably fade next week. I'm finding I'm extremely tired already and I'm only three days in. But the exercise in finishing something for once is very needed in my case and I'm glad.

I should probably figure out some sort of celebration for when November is over. A nap?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cream and Crops

The last few blogs I have posted have been on the serious side.
Though I'm travel weary and exhausted from the week... I will deliver the blog I promised. And it is lighthearted. Shout for joy, O' merry makers! Raise high your tankards (of milk!) :)

I just wanted to take a minute to tell you my three favorite movies.  And why. Real hard-hitting stuff, eh?

Shawshank Redemption
This is the greatest movie ever. Based on a Stephen King novel. Phenomenal acting, riveting plot, unexpected ending, absolutely satisfying conclusion. Though the dialogue and content is rough - the language and the eeky parts are probably quite true to life in a maximum security facility in the 40s. Andy Dufresne's character leaves you guessing to the last minute. Did he kill his wife? What the heck is the rock hammer for? Morgan Freeman's voice as narrator helps to sell it. I personally love the crow, Jake. Shawshank is the greatest. Watch it. Pardon the language. Watch it.

Lawrence of Arabia
Uh...second greatest movie ever. Hence the number. Not only is T.E. Lawrence one of the most fascinating figures in history, his obscure birth and the way he's treated as a noneity in the British Army and manages to lead the Arab people to victory, but Peter O' Toole plays him. Peter O' Toole: face burned with sand, hair streaked white blonde in the sun, speaking the epic words of the Lawrence of Arabia in booming British while trains explode and camels pound across the blinding sand. IT'S....great. It's just great. Watch it.

Empire of the Sun
Another great movie. I watched this when I was a kid, and then I rediscovered it again when I was in ninth grade and I wept like a child. Based on the true story of J. G. Ballard, a spoiled English boy in the British controlled sector of China in World War I, Jim Graham is separated from his parents during an invasion of the Japanese. He learns how to survive in a POW camp for British and American citizens at the price of his sanity. One of Christian Bale's first roles at the age of around 12-13. Incredible!

Now, there are others that are on my cream of the crop list, like Forrest Gump, Titanic, La Vie en Rose, etc., but these are the undisputed tops.

So - watch these movies! And tell me what you think! And tell me your top three.