Tag Archives: friendship

Levis and Hijabs

30698037_10155553271969077_4312443565172064256_nImagine walking into the 9/11 memorial next to a vibrant, first-generation New Yorker who is dressed head to toe in traditional Muslim attire. Her hair is completely hidden beneath her hijab, and layers of loose-fitting clothes cover her wrists and ankles. She is twenty-one, bright and articulate. Her conversation, despite a slight accent, sounds much like that of any American college student as she complains about how hard Calculus Four is. We know Sushmita will make a fine secondary math teacher.

I want to know how she feels, as a Muslim woman, as she steps into this place, but I don’t want to pry. Finally I ask, “Were you old enough to remember 9/11?”

Sushmita explains that she was too young to understand what happened, but that she experienced the aftermath when she came to school in her traditional attire. The other children ostracized and bullied her. They called her “Osama’s daughter.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay.” My new friend smiled. “They carried much pain. They needed to release it.”

20180411_141302As this vivacious young woman walked through the memorial, it was obvious she carried much pain as well, not for how she was treated, but for tragic deaths of so many of her fellow New Yorkers. She stood for nearly thirty minutes listening to name after name, story after story, of New Yorkers who died that day. Long after I couldn’t take it anymore, she and my daughter lingered there, grieving. Honoring the ordinary people who suffered that day. Standing in solidarity with their friends and families.

I walked also with another new friend, Mina. Mina is a beautiful Afghan woman who has lived in the states for five years and recently applied for citizenship. Her grief was palpable, as was her concern for ours. I soon realized she didn’t experience the memorial as one who’d seen the devastation on TV like I had. She saw it through the lens of her life in Afghanistan, where such tragedy occurs on a regular basis.*

Often we asked each other, “Are you okay?”

“Yes. Are you?”

The time came when the grief flowed out in my new friend’s tears. For the people of 9/11, for the people in her homeland who daily face the fear of attack. She told me that every morning the first thing she does is check Facebook to see if her family in Afghanistan is alive. She is glad to be here with her husband and children. Safe from the daily fear of bombs. But her brother, her sisters, her loved ones in Afghanistan live daily with the very real possibility of tragedy.

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Mina pointed at two young women standing nearby, Sushmita and my daughter, Sarah.  In broken English she explained that at any moment a bomb could explode between them, taking half of each of their bodies. She pointed to her hand and talked of a friend who no longer had a finger. Another who no longer had an arm.

We were women together that day. An American team with their new friends from another culture. Grief and love bound us together, weaving through the varied experiences that brought us to this place and the shared experience of the moment. Before and after this time we would laugh together. But in this space we wept as one.

Please pray for Mina and Shusmita. That love will bind their wounds. Pray for their struggle as they press forward in their desire to live as free Americans who come to this land to love and be loved.  Please pray for the safety of their families in their countries of origin, the loved ones who face great uncertainty every day.

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Blessings,

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*Today’s heart-breaking story from Kabul, Afghanistan.  As I work on this blog, I text with my friend Mina. She sends me pictures of this tragedy, and once again we cry together, her from her home in NYC, me from mine in Denver. Two women. Hearts forever joined.

Weigh-in Wednesday: Let’s Get Real!

IMAG0191Let’s get real!

It isn’t that we don’t know the path to better health. While we each may have physical limitations or allergies unique to us, we know the basics: Increase activity. Decrease intake. Eat fresh.

So if we know what it takes why is it so hard to lose weight and maintain a healthier body?

It’s a bear to establish healthy habits, but it’s just as difficult to continue them once goals are met–at least for me.

Am I the only out here?

(I know I’m not.)

With all the renovations on my house the only part of my body that grew stronger were painting muscles. My walking legs aren’t quite as muscled and the middle is going soft again.

And I let it happen after all that work to drop 55 pounds and get strong after those car accidents!

So I’m trying to re-establish the healthy choices that brought much freedom and joy back into my life before the ease of movement slips away again.

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The brave and beautiful Jennifer bundled in several layers to walk with me today!

Yesterday I chose to walk while I took a phone call. Today I asked a friend to walk with me. I’m an extrovert, so being in community while I walk gives me that little extra joy I need to keep my feet moving. I know I need to return to this activity even when it’s a solitary endeavor, and I’ll get there, but for now having a friend helps!

Jennifer bundled up to stay cozy in the cold and we enjoyed the fresh (though slightly nippy) air, avoided the goose poop, and had a good long conversation uninterrupted by the real world.

Honestly, it was heavenly!

How about you? Would calling a friend make it more fun to be active today?

The Stuff Dreams are Made Of II

(For part one of this story click here.)

Valentine’s Day morning Jerry and I lingered in our beautiful vintage room at the Broadmoor. I couldn’t resist a long, hot bath in the large, tiled tub, complete with lavender mint bath salts from the Broadmoor’s spa collection. We chose a lazy morning over breakfast, so by the time we left our room we were starving.

We ate in the Tavern, next to La Jardin, which is a 1900s style garden room attached to the main serving area. (Since it was Valentine’s Day we needed reservations to actually sit in this beautiful room, so we settled for being close enough to gaze inside. Not that the expensive wooden decor of the Tavern left anything to be desired.)  La Jardin, with its 16 ft long chandelier, reminded me of the garden room dining area on the RMS Titanic, which I researched carefully to include in one of my scenes in our book, Titanic, Legacy of Betrayal. Of course this gracious space is on solid ground, not on the ocean floor. And Jerry and I loved it. Oh the opulence of the early 1900s!

jerry in the tavern

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I chose a very wonderful french onion soup to start my lunch. It’s the best I’ve ever had.

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And I savored every bite!

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Afterwards we headed to the Espresso shop for that morning coffee I’d not yet enjoyed. It was now our after lunch treat, and we each ordered something sweet. Jerry opted for a chocolate filled croissant, but I chose entirely based on beauty. And the fact that you can NEVER go wrong with raspberries and chocolate. (Just another example of why the thoughts in my post last Thursday about maintenance and keeping weight in check after a time of feasting were necessary reminders for me!)

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What we did next was not romantic at all. We set up office in the very elegant lobby and worked on FAFSA, due that day if we were to get our son on the list to be considered for college scholarships. Oh well, real life sometimes invades.

While we labored away we were given a wonderful surprise. I spotted my friend Brandy Cole-Vallance. She stood next to a gigantic fresh flower arrangement with a huge sign advertising her new book. Brandy’s gorgeous cover alone would have made me want to read the book, but when she shared her premise I was totally hooked! (Don’t miss the painted ceiling in the picture below. If I’m keeping facts straight, it was painted by the same artist who did the ceiling of Grand Central Station in New York City. When he was told his work was perfect, He purposely included an imperfection, telling on-lookers that the only perfect one was God.)

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What’s especially spectacular about bumping into Brandy is she had only received her book contract the night before, in front of a ton of people at the Writing for the Soul Conference. Everything was still new and like a dream for this debut author, and I loved the somewhat glazed sheen of joy in her eyes. Authors often spend years honing their craft and networking before breaking into the business. Many never actually experience this moment; few get their contract in front of an audience. I had a taste of this in 2011 when my first fiction contract for Postmark: Christmas was given to me in front of 500 people at an ACFW conference. It’s truly a stunning experience.

Getting to hug Brandy and cheer her on was a divine appointment–a sheer gift. As state coordinator for ACFW,  I feel invested in every one of our wonderful authors. Their victories bring me great joy. Plus Brandy and I share an amazing agent, Rachelle Gardner of Books and Such Literary, so we connect in two different, but precious, communities. Congratulations, Brandy!

All too soon Jerry and my lovely dream-of-a-stay came to an end. I waited inside the double doors as Jerry retrieved our car, standing just away from the blustery gusts of a very cold late afternoon. Two porters stood opening and closing the doors as each traveler came and went. Each was greeted with a genuine smile, and I found myself wondering if doing a job which required such consistent, cheerful kindness actually made a person feel happier. I finally got up the nerve to ask the smiling man during a break in the action. He said the Broadmoor was careful in its hires, getting good people who represented it well, but that being cheerful did help a person feel cheerful.

As I did the night before when I visited with our valet, I wondered at the stories this man could tell, at the people he’d met.

I think a novel series set at the Broadmoor is brewing. What do you think? Would you read it? I know I wouldn’t mind going back for more research! ;o)

I was a bit wistful as Jerry pulled into the circular drive and our dreamy experience ended. Thankfully the Creator topped it off with a gorgeous white moon to see us home.

The next morning Jerry made the boys and me our traditional Saturday morning whole wheat pancakes. Maybe the Broadmoor ambiance continued to flow through my veins because I decided my breakfast needed to be pretty. Which goes to show it doesn’t take a fancy resort to embrace moments of celebration. Like the smiling doorman, I want to find and spread joy in my ordinary days. It seems a worthy goal.

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Share it: Sometimes dreams do come true

Courtship with Myself

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When I started losing weight my challenge was to find ways to exercise and eat right.

Instead I found out it was a courtship.

A chance to build the love and affection I have always had for myself.

~Kim Seigle of AlwaysThinkingImFat

This week I stumbled upon simple thoughts of beauty and encouragement written by Kim Seigle. The above quote was taken from her Love Yourself Again post. I’d encourage you to check out her blog and read the whole thing.

Here’s another of her gems:

The Big Beautiful Woman & Her Man

I was out and about enjoying my day.

I love to people watch.  I was sitting eating frozen yogurt when I saw a woman about my size walk in with her man.

Her face was so beautiful and she looked lovely in the coral pink ensemble she was wearing.  The man with her was very attentive to her and was in love with every curve.  I could tell!!

It made me so happy to see such a big beautiful woman with her man.

I guess it is not the size you wear but how you wear the size you are in!!!

Paula here again:

So with these nuggets of hope and beauty from Kim, I wish you a beautiful weekend. May you stand tall, wearing the size you are in with joy and confidence. May your journey to better health become a courtship with yourself. May we all learn to love ourselves again!

Beauty in the simplicity of encouragement

Make Your Own Body Butter!

Body butter, pity you can't smell it
Body butter, what a pity you can’t smell it

The following is a guest post from my friend Marie Keats from “across the pond” in Southampton. We meet blogging because we have both fallen in love with walking! (Only she makes me look like an amateur!) Marie’s posts about her long walks have inspired me time and again to get outside and experience life one sidewalk at a time!

After Marie commented on my Stretchy Skin post about making her own body butter, I asked her to teach us how. This post is the result. I’m excited about trying it! I make my own laundry soap, and love it, so why not this? It’s a less expensive way to luxury (and firming up that skin!). I’m considering using castor oil and lavender in this recipe since I read it is good to help firm up skin. I have applied it directly on my loose skin since I did that research, but putting it in body butter would be much more pleasant!

From Marie:

Because I have eczema I’ve been using body butter for years and some time ago, probably around the first time I got made redundant, I got annoyed at how much the stuff cost, especially as I use tons of it. A lot of Googling came up with lots of different methods to make it at home and, as it seemed quite simple, I thought I’d have a go. Since then I’ve made so many batches I’ve lost count and I’ve tweaked the recipe over and over to get it just how I like it. About a year ago I shared it on my blog but my friend Paula in America was interested and wanted to share it with the readers of her blog so I thought it could stand a revisit.

My basic recipe is very simple, just four ingredients plus some jars to put it in. Some of the recipes I first looked at also used beeswax which would add more nutrients but would also make the butter more solid. Maybe that’s something I will experiment with at a later date but this method has served me very well over the years.

The ingredients are surprisingly cheap. My shea butter, glycerine and essential oils come from Mystic Moments, a local company that can also be found on eBay. They are based in Hampshire not too far from me but they do ship overseas. There are also masses of different suppliers on eBay so it’s worth shopping around but check out the feedback ratings before you buy.

Body Butter

Ingredients
This should make enough to fill two 200g (6.8oz) jars.

Ingredients
Ingredients

150g (5.3oz) Shea butter or cocoa butter (I prefer Shea butter)

100ml (3.4oz) olive oil (you can use any oil, almond oil is meant to be very good, but I’ve always got olive oil in the kitchen so that’s what I use)

30ml (or 2 tablespoon) glycerine (you can get this on eBay or from a good chemist)

Essential oils (make sure you use essential oils rather than perfume oils or you could have allergy problems. I buy 50 ml bottles that last for ages and most are just £5 or so. I’ve built up quite a collection over the years and they keep forever.)

Jars to put it in (I have some little kilner type jars that were once Body Shop body butter jars but any clean jar with a lid will do.

Using kitchen scales and a measuring jug if your scales don’t weigh liquids, measure out your Shea butter and olive oil then add the glycerine. I find it easiest to use a measuring spoon for this as it’s a bit like treacle. None of the quantities have to be exact so don’t get too obsessive about the weights and if you need conversion tableshere is a good website that will do the hard work for you.

Melt the Shea butter. I melt mine in a big glass bowl in the microwave but you can use a saucepan if you like, just make sure you wash it well afterwards though! Give it all a good stir to mix it all up really well.

Choose your essential oil. You can use a single oil or a combination, whatever you have or what takes your fancy. Add the oil a couple of drops at a time until you get the strength of smell you want. I find between ten and twenty drops does the trick depending on the oil I’m using. Less is more here as you can add but you can’t subtract and you don’t want it too overpowering.

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Stir it all really well then leave to cool. Go and have a cup of coffee or something, actually go and have several because this bit takes ages. When it’s cool but not completely set get your whisk out. You’ll know when it’s ready because it will have changed from a clear liquid to a creamy colour but it will still be the consistency of soft butter when you dip your finger in. I have an old electric whisk I keep specifically for body butter but you can use your normal kitchen whisk just make sure you wash the beaters really well afterwards!

Whisk the body butter up. Use a slow setting at first to avoid it splashing everywhere (voice of experience speaking here!). Once it is really creamy leave it for a while to set further (about ten minutes or so). Now it will have gone even paler than when you stopped whisking and will have begun to harden. Give it another good whisk and you’re ready to transfer into your jars.

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The body butter will bulk up when it’s whisked, a bit like double cream. It looks good enough to eat but don’t be tempted, it won’t taste good! It will set a little more once it’s in the jars so don’t worry if it seems a bit too thin at this stage.

Now all you have to do is wash everything up (I normally wash everything I’m going to use for food twice just to be safe although none of the ingredients are toxic) then you can start slathering it on! I do this while I’m still wet from the shower as it keeps the moisture in and my skin feels silky smooth and smells lovely.

It really is that simple. Easier than making a cake plus it saves loads of money on shop bought body butter and you can use your favourite scents. Some of my favourite combinations are orange and musk, lime and black pepper and ginger and cinnamon but it’s fun coming up with new combinations.

If you’d like a smoother, silkier body then body butter is certainly the way to go. If you’d like a fitter, slimmer more toned body to go with that silky skin I may have just the thing for you too. Motivation is the main factor in getting fitter and slimmer and I know from bitter experience that it can be hard to come by. Thing is I have a plan to help with that. At the moment I’m working out all the details but keep an eye out on my blog over the next few days and all will be revealed very soon…

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Make your own body butter to help shrink loose skin!

Epiphany #6 ~ Stretching into His Arms

IMAG2573I warned you my summer was a summer of discovery. Obviously now that we’re into October and I’m still getting epiphanies, my fall is following suit.

Honestly, those first five epiphanies wore me out. Highs and lows. Hopes and struggles. Dreams and Disappointments.

Growth.

If you’ve hung with me this far, thank you. I’m hopeful that today’s epiphany will be the last I need to write about–at least for a while.

Actually, even though I was bawling when this epiphany came, it might be my favorite. With it comes a picture I cling to. I think about it all the time. Even envisioned it as I walked about my neighborhood last week.

I’m posting this blog ahead of time because as you read this I’m embarking on yet another new adventure, attending the 2013 National Life Force Convention. I’ve no doubt but that I’ll need this epiphany as I continue to discover what it means to become a business woman who is yoked with Jesus in unforced rhythms of grace. 

Learning to do something new without falling back into my negative patterns of perfectionism and performance-driven behavior isn’t easy for me. But this epiphany helps.

It came while I was praying with my friend, Jill. She told me that God liked that I was competitive and wanted to do everything I did with excellence. He just didn’t need me to get caught up in performance and perfectionism. Then came the epiphany. She said, “You push too hard to stretch yourself. All he asks of you is that you crawl into His lap, lean into Him, and let Him do the stretching.”

Let Him do the stretching.

All that struggle melted away.

I don’t have to try so hard, to question myself so harshly, to push myself. I simply hang out with my Father, safe in His arms, and let Him do the stretching.

I know if He does it I’ll bend but not break. I will grow and change, but it will be natural healthy growth, like a branch full of grapes connected to a strong vine. Not straining and groaning, just sweet, normal growth.

Yes, I’ll change as I need to.

It just won’t kill me in the process.

After all, He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

How about you? Are you resting in His arms today? Looking to Him to teach you how to do YOUR work in the unforced rhythms of grace? If not, I invite you along. It’s way better this way.

Bazillion Duple

I’m not home yet. As this post releases I prepare to board a plane back to Denver after Sunday night’s excitement. But as I write the day is last Thursday. I prepare to leave home, to face the unknown of the Carol Awards.

I’m pre-scheduling my blog because I want to share my acceptance speech with you. I don’t know yet if I’ll actually get to say it, but win or lose it needs to be shared. Being chosen as a finalist for the Carol (no matter the outcome) is an honor that is not just mine alone.

Below are the words I’ve prepared. I’ve practiced them over and over, not because they are difficult to say, but because I can’t get through them without crying. Not those nice quiet tears, the loud, sobby ones. So deep is my gratitude. So deep is my passion.

Yes, it’s the acceptance speech I was asked to write, but really, it’s a thank you note, maybe even a love-letter, to all of you.

For this blog I must begin with the words . . .

Dear Friend,

The dedication for my novella includes these words, “to all my friends who ‘bazillion-dupled’ my joy of a first book contract.”

It seems a fitting way to open tonight.

Ours is not a solitary journey. For the Christian writer, we first hold onto our God for all we’re worth, empowered to persevere through success and disappointment, and then we hold hands with our friends. The true ones cheer us to victory and soothe the wounds of discouragement.

In 2004 when I joined ACFW I had no idea how valuable this group would become to me. I mostly wanted a discount to hear Francine Rivers speak! But almost ten years later I realize how invaluable this organization and each of you are to my journey.

Part of the road to becoming an author includes, at least for me, a lot of refinement, digging deep to find courage, and stretching. The ACFW prayer team prayed me through some of the most difficult years of my life, as did other dear friends and my sweet husband, Jerry. Brandilyn Collins committed to pray daily for a year for my children–and ended up praying for several.

wedding picture jerry and paula sarah's wedding

Editors, authors and critique partners offer wisdom and encouragement and teach me to write. Those who’ve gone before, like Kathy Kovach and Darlene Franklin, opened doors so I could follow, and Rebecca Germany, JoAnne Simmons, and Barbour Publishing took a chance on a newbie.

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Posing this summer with my dear friend and writing partner, Kathy Kovach

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Rebecca Germany of Barbour Publishing and I pose at the Barbour party in Sept. of 2011 when Rebecca awarded me my first book contract

Last year when a car accident shut me and my writing down, my agent, Rachelle Gardner, offered wise council, loving me through the difficult curve in my path, and the editor I felt I’d disappointed offered me hope and grace instead of censure.

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Taken September of 2011 when I got my first book contract, and Rachelle won agent of the year!

What a community we have!

At home, my dear family daily enriches my life and cheers me on despite burned or forgotten dinners when I get lost in fictional worlds.

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Photo by Kim Liddiard of the Creative Pixel

Yes, I’ve persevered. I study hard to perfect craft. I’m intentional about learning how to become a professional, but when the rubber hits the road, this victory is not mine alone. It is a collective one, an honor given first to my God, then to each and every person who taught me, mentored me, prayed for me, and believed in me.

As we endeavor to write for our Lord Jesus Christ, believing we help shape eternity as we do, we need each other.

Thank you for being there for me. Sharing this moment with you bazillion-duples my joy.

Blessings,

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We need each other