Monday, August 31, 2015

This Post is Potentially Awesome

by Kasey Tross

The other night I was in the shower (the place where all my great epiphanies occur) and I was thinking about how I was a little bit frustrated with my two older kids. My son is the oldest, and he takes archery lessons, and is in fact on our local Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) team. He practices with them once a week and periodically competes in tournaments. During the school year we had him on a regular home practice schedule of twice a week, but over the summer we've slacked off a bit.

When he's competed in tournaments, he's always placed- 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Some of those tournaments were entered in hopes (in MY hopes) that maybe he wouldn't do so hot and it would be a wakeup call for him. But so far that hasn't happened, because apparently, he's really naturally talented at archery and the pressure of a tournament just makes him even better.

 My boy in his last tournament- solid 3rd.

So in the shower I couldn't help but think- How much better might he be if he were actually putting in the effort? I mean, just a little bit of effort each day with his strength training? I can only imagine how he might blow past the competition with ease.

That would be really fun to watch, and even more fun for him to get to experience.

Now my daughter. My daughter has been doing gymnastics for a year now. Like her brother, she seems to have a natural talent for her chosen sport, and moved up from the beginner's class after just 4 months and is now in the intermediate class. She loves gymnastics- at any given point in the day if she is not being forced to do something else, you'll usually find her practicing her handstands, cartwheels, round-offs, and splits in the living room.

That's my girl there in the middle.

But. The backbends. She just can't go from standing into a backbend.

Her coach has talked with me about this and has shown us some stretches she can do to increase the flexibility in her shoulders (turns out that's where the issue is). But when she's bounding around the living room, do you think she stops to stretch out those shoulders? Nope. And it kills me- each week in class I watch her improve on the bars, improve on the beam, but when it comes to doing anything that requires those standing backbends- it's a precursor to the back handspring- she looks like she's back in the beginner's class.

So that night in the shower I thought, What if she just did those stretches for just a few minutes each day? Just a little bit each day- such a simple thing- and I just KNOW she'd get it. Think of how much more fun it would be for her once she'd mastered that skill!

And then, as the hot water ran down, I had that funny, kind of niggling feeling in the back of my skull, that feeling I have come to recognize as the Spirit, sort of jumping up and down raising his hand and saying, "Um, hey! Over here! Yoo-hoo! I have something to say about this!" I sighed (usually when this happens I've learned to expect that I'm about to have some kind of less-than-comfortable inner epiphany) and said, "Yes, you there in the back?" And he said, What about you? How are you not living up to your potential? As a mother, you can clearly see the small changes your children could make to live up to their potential. What small changes does your Heavenly Father wish that you would make to live up to yours?

Yep. There it was.

Here I was beholding the motes in my children's eyes without batting an eyelid at the beam that was in my own. And I'll bet you can guess what it was- writing.

That's when the next whisper started: Just 15 minutes a day is all it would take. You have it in you. You know it's what I want for you. It's what you want for yourself! It's where your natural talent lies- you have this gift for a reason, you have so much potential and it's just wasting away there, unused, forgotten behind trivial things like Facebook. Just think of how you'd feel with that first published novel. Just think...

Well. That's hard to argue with.

So for the school year (which starts next week) we are going to institute a family Talent Time- just 15 minutes a day during which we will each work to improve our talents and live up to our potential. My son will be strength training, my daughter will be stretching, and I will be writing.

15 minutes. That's all it takes to live up to your potential.

What can you do for 15 minutes today?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Size 5


By Beckie Carlson
I've always been very self conscious about my weight. I was a twig in high school, always bumping my hip bones an corners of walls an such. I had bird legs and protruding collar bones, but I always focused on that one area I couldn't shrink. The motherhood bump.
I remember the day I was able to fit into a pair of jeans that were size 5. This was a huge accomplishment for me. I was 5'8-1/2 and thought it was important to have the waist size of a girl 5'5 at best. I don't know which super star to blame for my twisted idea of 'perfect size' but I do remember Dana. She was a model in high school and wore size 5, so that must have been my motivation. Looking back, I don't remember much else about her except her fateful words, "I wear size 5". It became my goal.
The jeans were beyond tight. I could get them on and zipped up by laying on my back and doing a weird sort of jump-grunt dance. Who cares if I could walk or sit down? I wore them with pride...stiff legs and all. It was the day of the big choir concert; the day everyone would notice if I wasn't wearing size 5 jeans. I was finally going to fit in and be like all the cool girls. I was SURE they ALL wore size 5. That's why they were cool, right?
I was in the Honor Choir. That meant we got to do more than just sing. We had "choreography" with our songs. Born in the U.S.A. was one of our high energy songs. We started at the back of the auditorium and ran to the front while we sang. It was a lot of fun! It went awesome until I had to run up those stairs to the stage. I hadn't tested the size 5 jeans for running...these were posing jeans at best. Imagine running up stairs, stiff-legged, quickly. I did it, almost. On the last step, I didn't manage to get my peg leg up high enough to advance and I fell face first towards the floor. Here it moment of size 5 glory, quickly turning into my high school nightmare.
An angel from above, named Curt (I think), grabbed my arm as I descended and pulled me up and along with him as he ran. No one even noticed my near death. The song went on, my jeans stayed on, and my moment of size 5 glory stayed in tact. In my mind.
In reality, no one cared what size jeans I wore. No one looked at me and said in awe, "she's size 5...she's cool!" The truth is nobody even noticed me in high school. I realize now that not being noticed isn't such a bad thing. Kids can be mean, and being noticed usually ends up with a target being put on your back with "kick me" under it. Blending in is okay.
Now that I'm an adult, I don't care about sizes anymore. That doesn't mean I don't care about my body and how I look, it just means I dress for me. I started a new diet to feel better, not look better. I exercise (on occasion) to have fun or spend time with people. I eat right because junk food makes me feel like crap. I look at my sisters in awe because they have drive to work out and stay fit, but I don't let it reflect back on my self image any more.
We all have strengths and weaknesses and personalities and needs. I'm happy with who I am because I'm an original. I'm size me. Cause I said so.
Photo credit:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Scripture Study and a Thought

By Jewel Leann Williams

Hello. My name is Leann and I have a confession I need to make. I have a child who...

HATES to read.  (Audience gasps)

Yup. He has said multiple times in the past two weeks, that 


Can you believe it? 

So I've been trying to find ways to engage him. He wants to be a scientist, so I've tried that angle. I printed out a bunch of stuff on Albert Einstein, which he found interesting enough to read for, oh, five minutes, and then declared it was stupid too.  Books that his siblings like, he does not. I imagine it is because it doesn't come easy for him, so he doesn't want to do it. Whatever the reason, it is already causing me headaches, because he has to not only read daily for 30 minutes, but he also has to write a pretty comprehensive book report every grading period. So, I've been trying everything I know to do, to help him. 

The other day, I was reading my scriptures, during one of those admittedly rare times when I can do so without "MomMomMom  I need water, let me play onyour phone,Abby'stouching me can I have a fruit snack....." echoing around me. I had out my paper for notes, and I had been praying and pondering about how to help my family, my non-reader especially. I was reading in Mosiah and immediately this verse stood out:   

3 And he caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord.
(Mosiah 1:3)

It hit me that this scripture is 1)something I can give my son as a reason to read, and 2)this can be my mantra for when I want to give up on teaching my children.  Trust me, with the new school and their love of homework, I really want to give up about 750 times between 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm. It is important to be taught/learned in the language of our fathers, to become men/women of understanding, and also in order to learn the Gospel. It's not just for school/reading addiction enablement. 

Something else that keeps coming to mind with regards to reading, more specifically addresses our Book of Mormon studies. It's a promise that originally was spoken by Elder Marion G. Romney, but was echoed and expanded upon by President Ezra Taft Benson:

I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase, mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to that counsel. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the true love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness. (436)      

What a promise! I love that President Benson adds that parents need to be reading the Book of Mormon themselves as well as with the kiddos. It's not enough to just be having our nightly Book of Mormon reading. I have to be studying it myself in order to avail myself of this promise. 

I am so grateful for our living prophets and for the Book of Mormon. When I am lost or struggling with things like a kid who doesn't want to read (still trying to wrap my head around that), or whatever it might be, I know I can go to my scriptures and find answers. I know that Heavenly Father uses the scriptures to provide answers to my prayers, because he did that for me this week. 

PS, here's a link to a great page I found about WHAT to teach our children from the Book of Mormon. I found it while looking for the exact words of that promise I quoted above. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Bit Like Christmas

Look what arrived at the Ballpark recently! It's Christmas in August!

Interestingly, today is my birthday, and it's a fun gift to myself to share this with you.

An e-book I've been working on for four years was completed last month. It's now available here: THE 12 DAYS.

I had a crash course on e-publishing over the spring months, and by the grace of God and unending support from our technology wiz daughter, the story I've been encouraged to share for a long time now has a venue. For someone who still has trouble working her cell phone, this is a colossal feat. Thank you, thank you to all who heard me talk about this endeavor for years.

A bit about this baby: Over twenty years ago, our family was anonymously given 12 days of surprises over the holiday season. The daily gifts were small and simple, but precious. The following year, we gave the 12 Days project to someone else. We have been doing this every year since.

The book explains how the project is executed and offers over 100 gift ideas (home crafted, baked and purchased), based on the lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" carol (doves, rings, dancing ladies, pipers, drummers - it's crazy fun!) It shares how receiving this gift so long ago changed my heart about holiday giving, and it has testimonies from recipients of this gift - how it blessed them.

If you are tired of and frazzled by the holiday chaos that accompanies Christmas (I was) and are looking for a way to create a different atmosphere in your home during the month of December, this book is for you. If you want to teach your children in a very hands-on way that Christmas is about giving, not consuming, this book is for you. If you want a fun, sneaky, holiday adventure, this book is for you. If you want to learn how to make Octopus bread, here's the book for that.

I'm so grateful for readers and followers and anyone who has been kind enough to ever finish a post of mine. You are the peeps I most want to share this with.

This ebook is under 10 bucks - less than two cups of fancy coffee at Starbucks - and in the spirit of birthday giving (and early Christmas giving), I'm giving away a copy of The 12 Days to a random commenter (I'll draw the name out of a Christmas stocking.)

Just answer this question: what is your favorite holiday tradition? (the food, gift exchanges, Christmas services, caroling, fighting with shoppers over bargains, etc.) Also leave an email address where I can contact you. I'll choose a winner Monday (the 31st) evening at 6 p.m. EST.

It's beginning to look a bit more like Christmas....

Where Did My Time To Write Go?

Since school has started, I’ve found that writing has been pushed to the back burner of my life. In between planning  lessons for my kidos, grading their assignments, and completing the school district’s required professional development, I barely have time to read much less write. This is heartbreaking for me. Writing is very much a skill that has to be practiced and honed, and the thought of losing something I’ve worked so hard to gain is gut wrenching.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been in this situation. I think the trick is to purposefully set aside time for it. Like a long distant relationship, it will take a lot of work and commitment. So I’ve come up with a plan.

1.       Write a little bit every day. It can be a page, a paragraph, or an entire story, but some writing has to happen every day. A little is better than none.

2.       Surround myself with writers. A community of people who are continuously writing and encouraging you to write is inspiring. Seeing them improve will make you want to improve.

3.       Have a friend keep you accountable. When you have someone who is willing to lovingly nag you, you are more likely to write, if nothing else but to make your friend shut their trap.

4.       Have an end goal in mind. If you have a deadline and an overall goal, then you have something to strive for. It’s much easier to let things fall by the wayside if you don’t have a goal.

5.       Set up a reward for yourself. While the thought of being published and seeing your name in print should be reward enough, we are of an age of instant gratification. Giving yourself a little treat if you write every day for a week will perk up your writing habit. Not to mention, you deserve it!

Here is to another great year of learning and writing! Have any of you felt this way? Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks that could make finding time to write easier. We could all benefit!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Choose Your Next Writing Project

by Katy White

I'm not entirely sure how this has happened, but I've found myself project-less, with one MS freshly sent off to my agent and another making the critique partner rounds. Yet, my three year-old has just started preschool, and my baby is in that pre-crawling, content phase. In other words, I have actual free time and nothing to write. I have plenty of ideas, but I'm struggling to choose between them.

In case any of you find yourself in a similar predicament, here are the conversations I've been having with myself, for your viewing reading pleasure:

1) What project do you think about most in your idle time?

I have two projects that I go between most frequently. I'll call them Tom and Gwen.

2) Which idea makes you most excited?

Hmm. Excited? That's actually a different book altogether, one I'll call Elmore. The idea of Elmore makes me want to squeal from coolness.

3) Which project do you think would resonate most with readers?

Uh, depends on the reader? Sorry, that's a copout. Gwen could pack an emotional punch, but Tom could be the kind of book to really stick with someone. If I do it right.

4) Which will push you the most?

From a creative perspective, probably Tom. From an emotional perspective, Gwen.

5) Which is most unique in relation to the current market?

Tom or Elmore.

6) Which fits your current mood?


7) Which idea is the most ambitious?


8) Why aren't you writing Tom?

*Gasp* Shut up! You don't know me!

9) I am you. Why aren't you writing Tom?

I'm scared, okay? It just feels big and requires a ton of research into kind of seedy, dark things that I don't normally open myself up to learning about, even though it will definitely serve a purpose from a storytelling perspective. It's the kind of story that could be super duper rad. Or it could be a dull, weird flop, and I don't want to write a dull, weird flop.

10)'re going to start writing Tom, though, right? Because you can do hard things?

Gosh, you're bossy.

Now that you've had an unfortunate glimpse into my psyche, how do you choose between projects?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Taking on Social Media like Bond, James Bond

by Celeste Cox

For some of us, and quite possibly all of us writers, social media is a feared concept. An it-must-not-be-named that we promise we will work on, but never really do. It’s the monster you know is living under your bed but are too afraid to face. You hope that as long as you feed it every so often and never directly look at it, it won’t gobble you up in the middle of the night.

Well, believe it or not, you don’t have to be gobbled up to be successful with social media. Nor do you have to spend every waking moment linked to it. If you have an understanding of your brand and audience you can be successful and even enjoy meeting the monster too. Not only that, you can be like the Bond of social media—yes, that Bond, James Bond.

Your Brand

Whether you’ve already written your novel, you’re in the process, or you’ve just begun, it’s important to know what makes it unique. To start, ask yourself:
  • Why should an audience invest in my novel?
  • What is my novel specifically offering them? Ex: Knowledge, romance, entertainment, thrill, a mixture?
  • What rating should my audience expect? Ex: If there’s violence, is it mild, heavy, extremely graphic? G, PG, R?
  • What’s the style and tone of my writing? Ex: Sarcastic, literary, first person, third?
  • Even the formatting is part of your brand. Ex: In Jack Weyland’s novels the internal thought is always italicized.
The goal is for your reader to hear your name or see your novel, and know what to expect. Your name and novel should evoke certain thoughts and feelings for the reader. Ex: The name, Stephen King suggests a novel that is strange, scary, mysterious etc. A Stephen King fan would be confused if they picked up King’s latest novel and it were about a ballerina torn between love and her career. The most important thing to remember is to be consistent.

Your Audience

Now that you’ve got an understanding of your brand, it’s time to find the audience to match it. It’s a common misconception among writers that the bigger the audience, the better. True, a bigger audience could mean more sales, but not if the audience could care less about you or your book.
Imagine a scuba diving instructor at a Steampunk convention. He’s trying to sell his how-to book on the proper use of scuba diving equipment. Yes, there’d be a lot of people there, but it’s unlikely the scuba man sells a single book. (Unless of course his scuba gear is based on the 19th century and is powered by steam—now that would be something!) Point is, you need to start with an audience you are 80-99% sure will be interested: your target audience.

How to find and research your Target Audience:
  1. Find novels you feel are similar to yours and study their audience. Don’t waste time on the big fishes. For example, if your novel is a paranormal teen romance, don’t immediately look to Twilight fans. That audience is too broad, but you can bet it started with vampire fans and lovesick teens before it became what it is. Find novels that are emerging from the woodwork. Ones that are getting more and more reviews among a smaller, specific crowd.
  2. Read the reviews voted most helpful. Take note of what the readers liked and didn’t.
  3. Go to the authors’ social media accounts and study what the fans are saying.
  4. Understand them. They are your target audience and your potential fans. You are writing or have already written for this audience. Think of them as your investors. They are the readers more likely to take a chance on you and your novel.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking once you put yourself out there you’ll be surrounded with that awful sound that means no one cares: silence. Maybe it’s already happening. But now you know your brand! You understand your audience. And you can face anything. Think of yourself like James Bond just receiving your gadgets. Now here’s how to use them.
  1. Be interesting. If you haven't gone on any great adventures lately, that's fine. You don't actually have to be James Bond. Interesting things are things people don't normally see. Anything ranging from an image, quote, article, your own thoughts. Keep it fresh.
  2. Images are your friends. People are more likely to look at them than text. Instead of excerpts of your novel on their own, add that sentence or paragraph to an image. Like a meme, for example. If you aren’t familiar with any programs to put text on an image, an easy and completely free place to do this is at Don’t waste too much time making it pretty though. As long as the image is somewhat interesting and eye-catching, it will do.
  3. Anything funny. People like to laugh. If it’s consistent with your brand, try to bring humor into your posts. And don’t panic if you’re the opposite of funny. You can always share and re-re-tweet what others have posted, though you shouldn’t only rely on that tactic, which brings me to,
  4. Be original. You’ve studied your audience to try to understand them, not to completely transform yourself to be like the authors they already follow. A carbon copy is never interesting. You want to show your audience that you’re offering them something they’re likely to be interested in, while giving them something different: you!
  5. Be helpful. People love to learn new things, especially if the information will help them in their pursuits.
  6. Be relevant. An article on getting published won’t be as helpful if it’s ten years old.
  7. Take Notes. Check out which of your posts received the most response. Try posting more of the same and continue tweaking things accordingly.
  8. Remember your brand. Anything you post should reflect your brand. You can have a variety, but if your novel’s genre is horror and you’re constantly posting pictures of baby animals and Disney princesses, your audience will be confused and wander off.
  9. Socialize. There’s a reason it’s called social media yet so many of us only post things with a comment and a like here and there. It’s not enough. You don’t have to engage with everything, but if you find something helpful or interesting let the person know. When you help a fellow author out, they are more likely to do the same. You might even call it networking.
And there you have it. A quick guide to taking on social media. Just remember to be consistent and have fun with it. And when it feels overwhelming and you just want to lock the door and run, remember that you are James Bond. Okay, maybe not. But you are a writer, which means you deserve to have your work read and people deserve to read it. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Post 2000...

by Kasey Tross
Whoa! This is MMW's 
2000th post! 

Not all of them have been published, but many have, and each and every one represents effort and dedication from our MMWs. So here's to you ladies (and a gentleman or two)! :-) 

Kind of fitting that today I wanted to say a few words about goals. You see, I am a goal person. I just love me some big, juicy goals, and I especially love the feeling I get when I reach them.

This summer I set a goal to read the Book of Mormon by the time the kids start school again, which is two weeks from tomorrow. I put up a chart on the fridge with tiny squares for each chapter, and I have filled in each square as I've completed it. I knew I needed to do about 2 chapters per day to succeed, which seemed very doable to me. Of course, there were times I got behind- like the week before vacation when I was trying to get us ready to go and then the week we were on vacation- but I jumped back on the wagon when we got home and I increased my daily reading to catch up. I just love the feeling of coloring in those little squares, and I love how my daily immersion in the scriptures is bringing the Spirit into my life.

One thing I've learned over the years is that for me, goals need to be cumulative, rather than calendared. What does that mean? It means I set a deadline for myself to accomplish a task, and then I divide that task into manageable chunks to ensure I accomplish it by the deadline, rather than setting a goal to do something every day. I kind of stink at consistency, but when I see a deadline looming you'd better watch out because this MMW is gonna make it come heck or high water! Plus, there's always hope- if it's cumulative, even if I've been slacking I can still make it up (like the scripture reading) whereas if it's a goal to do something every day then as soon as I miss a day I have failed. 

Make sense? Good.

I've decided that's what I need to do with my writing. Rather than setting a goal to write or edit "x amount" of words or chapters each day, I'm going to set a goal to have a certain amount finished by a certain deadline. Last year my mom helped me by being my accountability partner- my goal was to write 3,000 words each week, and yes, most of those got written at 11pm on Saturday night.- but they did get written!

And, as in my scripture reading, a visual reminder like a chart is awesome. You might think it's kind of childish, but I just love that feeling of filling in another block and seeing that chart filling up, getting closer and closer to my goal. I think for my writing I will get creative and make a mock-up book cover for my WIP and put the chart on that. That way I will be able to see my progress as I go along and remind myself what I'm working for.

Keep in mind that goals aren't just for writing, and they aren't just for grownups. Recently my two middle girls have been having a tough time getting along so I sat down with them to create some simple goals to encourage them to mend their relationship. They decided they would each hug each other once per day, and they would each do 1 kind thing for each other each day. They haven't been perfect at it, but just the effort they've been making has already helped their relationship tremendously. 

Now that school is starting up again, what goals do you have for yourself? For your kids? Are you a chart nerd like me??

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sugar daddy

By Beckie Carlson

I started a new diet ten days ago. Okay, it isn't a "new" diet, I have done it before, but I started anew. I've been feeling like a cantelope on a vine during a hot summer; slowly swelling til I fall off the vine. It isn't a good feeling. My clothes are a bit tighter, my energy is a bit gone, and I'm single.
Okay, that last one may not have much to do with the diet, but dieting does get my mind off my loneliness.

A friend of mind complains when I say I am lonely. How can I be lonely when I have a house full of kids, friends, pets, and books. It's true. I am rarely 'alone'. Yet, I still feel that pang that only comes when one is single.

When you are single, there are lots of perks. Nobody is there to tell you what to wear, what to eat, how to spend your money, or what shows to watch on Netflix. Then again, when you are single, there is no one there to tell you that dress makes you look fat/great, remind you of your budget, bring you ice cream at midnight, or laugh at those shows on Netflix with you.

I've been single for just over six years now. My husband died in 2009, on the day of General Conference. I heard later that the conference was just for me. A friend even purchased the CD's for me so I could listen later. I haven't been able to do that yet. The day is kind of 'removed' from my life. I'll take their word for it that it was good.

It took a while for me to get used to being single. I relied on my late husband for all the big stuff like choosing insurance, paying the bills, lifting heavy things, and killing spiders. It's hard being a grown up, especially if you are the only one in the house/family. Some days I just want to stay in my jammies and say "no. I'm not gonna be the mom today." Unfortunately, nobody is plotting to take my seat. It would just stay empty til the utilities were shut off and the fridge was empty. Then, I would probably hear the faint questioning of bewildered children asking where mom is.

This diet is fairly easy. I just don't eat anything that has carbs or sugar. I can gorge myself on fresh vegetables and meat, but no fruit. Weekends are the hardest because I'm home with my friend the fridge. He is constantly calling me over and introducing me to his friend the pantry, famous for it's hidden carbs. I've been strong so far. I've only eaten approximately twenty cucumbers and thirty pounds of fish. Okay, maybe not that much, but I'm not starving.

My kids don't love the diet. My oldest son at home texted me last night, asking if I would get some food because we were completely out. I stopped for a moment and then replied with a list of food that was in the house. Chili, burritos, mac and cheese, hamburgers, beans, soup..... His reply was that it was completely unfair that I go off and leave him home with only nasty healthy stuff to eat.


Bad mom award, here I come. How dare I feed my kids healthy stuff? Guess I better rush off and buy some hot pockets. Cause I said so.

Photo credit:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sorrow, Grattitude and Healing

By Lacey Gunter

This was the day I was planning to announce some exciting news to all my lovely ladies on MMW.  My husband and I have been trying for another child for nearly four years. I was so surprised when I got that first positive pregnancy test that I really didn't trust it. I trusted that for the moment my body was in the process of pregnancy, but I scarcely trusted it would stay that way. I was just getting close to letting myself believe in it before I found myself being rushed to the ER, fighting off the first symptoms of traumatic shock.

I am not writing this blog post to elicit sympathy, quite the contrary. I am ready to move on from sympathy, to find hope and healing.  I am writing this post first and foremost because I think it will be cathartic.  Writing out in physical form the experiences and emotions that beset us can often give us a source of power and freedom over them. I am also writing this post in hopes that maybe even one person out there can benefit from hearing my experience and find greater healing.

I have been remarkably blessed with three beautiful children. My heart goes out so much to my fellow sisters who are on the harrowing road of fighting to bring even one child into this world. I acutely recognize my over abundance of blessings in this arena. I also recognize that most people in our Westernized cultured believe that having three children is already too much. I fully acknowledge both of these viewpoints as I try to share my experience without offending.


My husband and I had come to a point of acceptance. So I was pretty reluctant to take that first pregnancy test. Why dig up hope only to have it crushed again? But my monthly cycle was nowhere to be found and I couldn't very well contact my doctor to inquire about the problem without having checked first. So I took the test, and to say I had mixed emotions at the result would be an understatement. My husband's reaction was much the same.  We agreed not to tell anyone else yet.

The next month was like a slow roller coaster ride. Some of the symptoms that were usually present with previous pregnancies were diminished or slower to develop. We tried to stay on guard with our emotions, but the days ticked on. So I conceded on some levels, like getting an OB lined up. Then there were the episodes of pain. I thought my digestive track was just acting up and I didn't want to be that naive kind of pregnant woman who thinks pregnancy should be pain free and effortless. So I just sucked it up and tried to bear them gracefully. After all, I didn't want God to think I wasn't grateful for this potential gift he seemed to be dangling in front of me. Yet, they were painful enough to incapacitate me for hours at a time. Still, I seemed to remain pregnant and we both started to hope that maybe this would work out.

During my 9th week, I had a particularly bad Sunday. The morning had started out okay, but a little  after breakfast I was laid out in bed again with a lot of pain. I vowed never to eat that breakfast again as I mustered the strength to beat it and drag myself to church with my kids.  I made it through most of church when the pain began to return. This was new. I had never had more than one episode of pain in a day. It had both me and my husband more than a little concerned. I laid in bed for a long while trying to get a handle on it when I started to have some light spotting.  This is what I had figured we had been waiting for all month, so I resigned myself to an imminent miscarriage, glad that at least the physical pain would be over soon. Apparently my husband had already committed to this pregnancy and was much more reluctant to think so negatively.

We debated much of the rest of the day about whether to go somewhere or call some one, but I didn't really want to be told I was just having a miscarriage and should just go home and try to relax. After a few hours the pain seemed to subside again and the spotting had only been minimal, so we contacted no one and I decided to just do some light chores to try and get my mind off things.

Around 10 pm the pain came back with a vengence.  I could scarcely manage and our debate about what to do started again. We both went back and forth until my husband finally told me he would leave the decision up to me and support me on whatever I decided.  I tried to get up too see if there was more spotting and quickly realized this pain was too serious to ignore. So my husband got all the kids out of bed and loaded them up as I waddled to the car and we sped off to the ER.

We got checked in quick, as I figured we would be. Both the ER staff and I were convinced this was probably an ectopic pregnancy. I thought everything else would go quick as well; quick examination, quick ultrasound, quick rush to the OR and quick surgery.  It did not.

Every step in the process was controlled, deliberate and thorough. No one wanted to make any mistakes. Multiple people had to look over the ultrasound evidence and agree on the same diagnosis. I was interviewed extensively about my past medical history and current symptoms.  Several other tests were conducted. Finally they were convinced it was a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. They took their time prepping me for surgery. Then they were compelled to take their time correcting the problem during  surgery due to some unforeseen complications of a prior cesarean section.

All in all, they were able to get things sewed up sufficiently, but l lost my right tube and a lot of blood in the process. I was given 3 blood transfusions, which helped stabilized my vitals, but lead to a lot of swelling all over my body.

The recovery was very slow and very difficult at first. I couldn't even lay down to sleep because it caused so much pain and difficulty breathing. I remember early on thinking how painful and challenging all this was with no baby to show for it.  Eventually, though, my pain and swelling did go down and I am surprised and grateful for how well I am doing now. The only symptom that seems to be lingering is that I am tired all the time. The doctor said I would feel more energetic once I had built up the blood they didn't replace.

I wish I could say the sorrow goes away as quickly, but it's not quite that way. Sometimes I just want to sleep all day. I could tell myself it was simply from exhaustion,  but I know some of it is wanting to avoid the emotional reality of what I am going through. It is hard to escape thinking about it a good portion of my waking hours.

Every now and then, though, I experience moments of deep gratitude and hope. I am grateful that medical technology could save me and help me to heal so quickly. I am grateful that people were willing to donate blood to save my life. I am grateful for the service and kindness of others during this difficult time. And I am grateful for the beautiful smiling faces of my children and our tender moments together.

I am hopeful that maybe we can get pregnant again. It happened once, so maybe it will happen again. Either way, I hope I can learn what God wants me to learn from this experience and become a better person.

For anyone else out there experiencing this or something similar, I pray that you may also find hope and healing. You are not alone. God bless.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Writing Advice for Teens

by Patricia Cates

This fall I will officially be the mother of two college students, two high school students, an 8th grader and a 7th grader. Coming soon are promised deadlines for papers on all fronts. So I decided to search for a little help on this topic. For some reason when the advice comes from mom, it isn't always taken.

I found a terrific page from the National Council of Teachers of English or NCTE. 

They list 10 helpful hints for parents of teens:

1. As with any skill, writing gets better the more we do it. Let your teenager see you write often and encourage her to write often, too. At-home writing might include e-mails, instant messaging, thank-you notes, scrapbook descriptions, diaries, and what’s-for-dinner notes.

2. We write differently for each audience. Encourage your teenager to expand his range and abilities by writing for many different audiences. He could try a letter to the editor or to a legislator, a silly story for his younger sister, or a "list of ten" to cheer up a sick friend.

3. Language play and writing can be fun. Have fun with language yourself and share that sense of play with your teenager. Point out new words and phrases you come across in the newspaper or on the radio; share favorite song lyrics; get creative in naming a new pet or writing humorous gift tags or cards.

4. Support your budding writer. If your teenager chooses to share her writing with you, point out specifically what you like best about the piece. Rejoice in effort, delight in ideas, and resist the temptation to be critical. Maybe you’ll want to ask your teen to read the piece aloud. Feel free to ask questions about parts that aren’t clear, but leave the answering of those questions to your teen. And make it clear that you are always interested in reading any writings that she wants to share with you.

5. While it’s true we learn to write by writing, we also learn to write by reading. Offer your teenager a wide variety of opportunities to read, both educational and entertaining, and pass on your own favorite authors, novels, and magazines to show him you’re a reader, too. Talk about those things you’ve both read.

6. The funny thing about writing is that it actually helps the writer think. Encourage your teenager to use writing to think more deeply about things in her life—questions, problems, difficult assignments, hobbies, and topics she wants to learn more about.

7. We all have trouble getting started once in a while. If this happens to your teenager, suggest he try brainstorming, jotting lists of ideas, or talking through his thoughts with you or a friend. Sometimes just spending 15 minutes writing anything and everything (including "I don’t know what to write.") loosens up the very ideas needed for the piece.

8. Good writers know how to make any topic their own. They do that in the way they organize their ideas, in the examples they choose, and in the angle, as well as by drawing from their own experiences. Encourage your teen to find ways to make the assigned topic his own.

9. Writing is a process of developing and drafting ideas, then revising, and, finally, editing for correct grammar and spelling. Help your teenager see the value of clarifying her ideas, drafting, and revising before she attends to the mechanics.

10. Provide a special writing folder or notebook for your teen and encourage him to save writings in it. Nothing can replace the good feeling of reading something we wrote months ago and rediscovering how good it is.

I am pretty sure these are great reminders for writers of all ages. Hope this helps you all too.
Write on!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Your First Manuscript

By Kathy Lipscomb

Seven years ago, when I finished my first manuscript, I was so excited. I thought the next natural step was to get published and get lots of money. Oh how naïve I was. I didn’t know about the writing community, critique groups, writer’s conferences, or even much about editing. I thought I could send it to a publisher and be published within a year! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha . . .

The first novel is not typically the one that’s published first, because we don’t know how to write a great book yet. At the same time, the first one is important because it teaches us so much. It’s the one we learn with. It can be reworked a million times, but what I’ve seen with successful published authors, is that they put the first novel aside, use what they learn on the next manuscript, and go back to the first when they’ve developed the skills to fix it. Sometimes we take more than the next manuscript to develop the necessary skills to go back.

My first manuscript taught me about writing and about writer’s conferences. My second novel taught me about critique groups, hard core editing, the amazing writer communities out there, and more about writing in general. Now that I’m on different stages of my third and fourth book, I feel more confident about the skills I’ve learned. When I get a novel published, I’ll go back to my second manuscript to rework it. I’m too in love with it to let it go. My first one though…I may take that apart for scraps…  

Are there good published novels that were firsts for an author? Absolutely. But sometimes we’re so hooked onto the idea of it being published, it’s hard to let it go even if no agent or publisher wants it yet. When that happens, sometimes we get stuck and never continue, never truly grow.

It’s kind of like how I tell my son in the midst of high emotion to take a breath and step back. You do not have to give up on any novel (I recommend you don’t!), but sometimes it’s best to take a breath, step back, and move on until you’re ready to tackle it again. Let yourself breathe. Let yourself learn from each manuscript. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Flying Teddy Bears- I'm At It Again!

by Kasey Tross

Remember how last year MMW Anna Buttimore and I got crazy and sent each other teddy bears? Anna's family's little bear, Charmin, came to spend the summer with us here in the U.S., and our bear, Tag, headed overseas to England.

Well, Tag had a great time and returned home in one piece, so we decided to let him travel abroad again this summer!

This year he journeyed to Australia to stay with the Wroe family, and their adorable little koala, Koko, came to our home here in Virginia for the summer. We've been having so much fun seeing all the fun he's having with his Australian host family- like going to the beach and spotting kangaroos at church (!!!)- and we've had a blast showing Koko all things American, like baseball, Washington D.C., and even Orlando, Florida!

If you'd like to join us on our Aussie adventure (or see what Koko is up to on his American adventure) come visit us at The Great International Teddy Bear Exchange.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Discouragement and Enlightenment: Teaching a Lesson I Needed More Than Most

By Jewel Leann Williams

I teach Relief Society. It is possibly one of the most treasured callings I have ever held as a member of the Church. Even years ago, when I was the counselor over the teachers, I assigned myself to be the substitute teacher whenever anyone was out for the day. I just LOVE teaching Relief Society. I think the reason why is because it not only “forces” me to delve into the topic and matter at hand, but I also have an extra measure of the Spirit to guide me and so I learn that much more. I read the lesson weeks in advance and ponder it for the month. Usually something happens in my life or in the world to give me perspectives on how best to teach the topic for the sisters I am privileged to teach.

Well, not this last lesson. I’d read it—and felt extremely guilty and terrible about myself.

I pondered it all month, as I tried desperately to live some of the principles taught.

I was a complete and utter failure at that, as well.

I read it again, and felt like the weight of the world was pressing down on my shoulders.

The topic:  The Sacred Callings of Fathers and Mothers (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson)

I cried when I read it. Every time. It felt like I was being slapped in the face. Every time. It is really a beautiful lesson, but it wasn’t that kind of crying. It was the kind of crying that comes along with this (partial) text message I sent to my husband:       
     “I am ashamed of us.”

That’s what it boils down to. The lesson talks about all these wonderful things mothers and fathers are to their children. I looked at it and saw everything I was doing wrong. I won’t get into all the specifics, and CPS doesn’t need to be called, don’t worry, but I was just flooded with the thought:
     “You are not good enough.”

So, Sunday rolled around, and before I even got up, my heart was pounding in my throat and I was fighting back tears. I played a recording of “Love is Spoken Here,” and I couldn’t stop crying long enough to speak. The first sentence out of my mouth, in that squeaky croaky voice of someone trying not to cry, was something like, “I am having a very hard time teaching this lesson, because I am an absolute failure at just about everything this lesson teaches.”   Within the first 5 minutes I used my whole stash of Kleenex and moved on to a baby wipe from Abby’s diaper kit.

There were a lot of really good comments made and we had small group discussions about some points—I mean, my husband is the Sunday School president and taught me the cool “new” way to teach, so it wasn’t that I wasn’t confident in that part of the lesson. I just felt like a big, fat hypocrite.

The last comment of the lesson was given by the mother of my son’s best friend. She is “that” mom. The one whose house ALL of my boys want to go to all the time. They would never come home if I didn’t make them. Her kids are awesome, and she always has it together. Really. When we talk, she tells me how she doesn’t have it together, but when I compare us, she is doing all the things right that I’m doing wrong.

Her comment went something like this, and I’m totally paraphrasing:
    “The first thing you said in this lesson was how you are a failure as mother. You need to stop, because this is the devil telling you how you are not good enough. Heavenly Father does not want you to feel like that. All of us feel like we are not doing enough, like we’re not good enough, and that’s wrong. We need to build each other up and not let Satan tear us down by making us feel like we’re not enough. One of the things I love about you is how amazing of a mom you are. Of course there are things we can work on, but I’m here to tell you that you are good enough, and you are an amazing mother.”

Well, I had regained my composure before that (several times, as a matter of fact), but I lost it, again. Luckily it was the end, and I had someone read just one final thought from President Benson and then mercifully got to sit down.
I was drained. I get a little choke-y just thinking about it.

I learned something—it’s something I know, but I needed to relearn it, and learn it with respect to my own flaws and foibles.

It was that statement—“You need to stop, because it is the devil telling you that you’re not good enough.” 

Our Heavenly Father never tells us that we are not good enough. He may, through the Spirit, tell us that we are not doing enough, but He will never make statements about who we are unless it’s to tell us that we ARE His children, that we ARE divine, that we ARE the subjects of His work and His glory.

  • The devil will tell us that we are failures. He wants us to stop trying, so he will overwhelm us with all the things we aren’t doing, and use it as evidence to prove to us that we have already failed. That discouragement, that heavy weight that he piles on top of us, keeps us from moving towards God. 

          That is how we know it is not from God—if it is not encouraging us to do good, it is not from  him, but from the devil.

  • The devil will try to pull you AWAY from our Heavenly Father and the Atonement. Heavenly Father and our Savior will always draw you nearer.
  • The devil is going to tell you “NOTHING” you do is right. The Holy Spirit will prick your heart to work on something. Then, when you’ve mastered that, there will be something else. Always onward and upward.
  • The devil will point out how you have ruined everything. The Spirit whispers “I give unto men weakness… I will make weak things become strong unto them.”

I still see so, sooooooo much I need to do to be a better mother. The difference is, that I know I can do it. Every time I stumble, I get up, I repent, and I try again. This week was better because of it. I wasn’t perfect, but I continue to try, because I know I can improve.

For anyone out there who is feeling worthless, as a mother or otherwise, I offer this scripture, along with the echo of what my friend said to me in that Relief Society class. “You need to stop.” Here’s why:
 27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me,then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Our Heavenly Father and Savior love you, and they will not abandon you. Satan is big fat stupid liar, and he will do everything he can to drag you away and make you build up a wall around yourself so the Savior can’t reach His hand in to pull you out. Kick Satan in the figurative teeth, and remember.
God loves you. You ARE His child. You ARE divine. Our Savior will do—no, HAS ALREADY DONE—what is necessary to make it possible for you to be all that you dream to be, and more than you can imagine.

                You are already ENOUGH. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Some Bad Guys Just Need a Good Smack!

Sometimes when you are really into a novel, don’t you just want to punch a character in the face?  Book Riot posted an article on which characters they would like to “punch in the face.” (Here’s the link) It was interesting, but I did not 100% agree with the characters the article’s author chose. In light of this, I decided to post my own top five characters that deserve a good smack.

5. John Hammond – the mind and money behind Jurassic Park.  I get it that some people have more money than they know what to do with and that because they have money, they get to be a little eccentric.  Further it is certainly impressive that Hammond came up with the idea to genetically clone a dinosaur and build a theme park filled with these extinct animals. Can you imagine what it would be like to ride through a safari filled with dinosaurs? John Hammond was the mind behind this concept, but this is not why he deserves a slap. He earns one when things start going wrong in the park but he refuses to see it. People are dying and going missing!  The park has lost electricity and its security measures!  Yet still Hammond insists that everything will be alright! He even knowingly put his own grandchildren at risk by bringing them to the unravelling park.  Smack!

4. Quentin Coldwater – the whiney main character from The Magicians.   I was super excited to read this book when it was blurbed to be “a grown up Harry Potter.” Negative. The book was very well written, and the concept was intriguing, but I could not stand Quentin. The guy had just about everything going for him. He was accepted into a university that taught magic. He had a girlfriend that loved him, and he had friends (okay, dysfunctional friends) that cared about him. Unfortunately, Quentin was never happy with where he was. He was always searching for something better and always seemed to make self-destructive decisions. Then, on top of everything, he whined about things not being fair.  He was VERY irritating. Smack!

3. Pride – one of the homunculi in Fullmetal Alchemist : In Fullmetal Alchemist, there are seven different homunculi, man-made creatures that are indestructible. Most of them are annoying because they have shaped the history of humans, manipulating circumstances in order to bring death and destruction.  But Pride is a little different. Pride hides in the shadows, lurking out of sight. When he does appear he strikes quickly. He threatens and hurts the characters the reader likes and makes mean, snide remarks about the other enemies. He even starts to devour his allies to gain more power. Definitely, not the best guy to have on your side. Smack?  Harder than a smack?

2. Geoffrey Baratheon – the spawn of incest that became king. The Song of Ice and Fire is a bloody, gritty series that centers around the Iron Throne. I’ll skip the convoluted politics that results in Geoffrey’s having become king at the age of thirteen. I will also grant that in literature young kings and queens usually have a bit of a rebellious streak. They suddenly have more power and wealth than they could have ever imagined. But Geoff is all that but still little different. He is a certified serial killer.  He has a cruel streak that runs deep. He hurts animals and people (physically, mentally, and emotionally) just to see them squirm. He is boastful and arrogant, yet a coward. He tortured a girl just because he could. But don’t worry.  No need to smack him:  he got what was coming to him.

1. Dolores Umbridge – Harry Potter’s fifth year Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher: Man, this woman was awful! She was cruel, prejudiced, and unfair. The worst part was, she tried to hide her inner ugliness by putting on an innocent façade. She had a sweet, high voice, pictures of kittens on her wall and wore charming (sometimes nauseatingly) pink outfits. But everyone soon discovered her true personality.  It is somehow just wrong to dress a monster up like a princess.  Smack!

Although I enjoy reading Book Riot’s articles, I didn’t just want to list off my least favorite characters; I wanted to point out that it was the skill of the writers that made us feel so strongly about these characters. Their entire existence was made to be hated. Villains are some of the most complex characters we come across in reading, movies, and video games. Sure, when we follow the hero and read his thoughts, it’s easy to fall in love with them. But to communicate why a villain wants to rule (or destroy) the world, is a powerful tool in a writer’s arsenal. Most people are not evil just to be evil. There is something more. Let’s look at our list again…

1.       Dolores Umbridge: She is motivated by fear. She is prejudiced against half-bloods of any kind because she is scared of them. Also, since she is small in stature, she seems to be cruel in order to assert her power and dominance.

2.        Geoffrey Baratheon: Geoff is vile, but he is also only thirteen. While he has all the signs of a modern serial killer, he is the victim of an outrageously wicked family who doesn’t bother to hide their contempt of him.  Finally the one in power, he can escape his family’s shadow by doing whatever he wants. His decisions usually thwart political manipulations (although he really doesn’t understand them yet.) Picked on for years by family and court politicians yet helpless to fight back, he now takes pleasure in hurting those who cannot hurt him back.

3.       Pride: Pride is motivated by his Father’s approval. He does whatever is needed to make sure Father’s ultimate plans come to fruition.  Technically, Pride was the first “son” created and feels as if he is in charge of the other homunculi. He will lie, threaten, hide, manipulate and even devour others to make sure the job is done correctly.

4.       Quentin Coldwater: Ugh, I really do not like Quentin, but I can see where he is coming from. He kind of represents us as a society. We are always striving for the next best thing instead of enjoying the life we currently have. Quentin was accepted into magic school, but he wasn’t truly happy.  He had a sweet girlfriend, but wasn’t completely happy with her either. Then his dream literally came true, and still he couldn’t see how good he had it. It’s frustrating to see it from the outside, but we can’t judge too harshly. At some point, we’ve also focused on the negative instead of looking at all the positives we have. 

5.       John Hammond: In Jurassic Park, Hammond was like the scared ostrich that shoved his head into the sand. It was irritating to see the dangers that surrounded the characters in book, but the eccentric old man refused to admit that his park was falling apart. Irritating? Yes. Unreasonable? No. Think about it. Hammond was about six months away from seeing his enormous investment pay out. He was the first person to recreate dinosaurs from ancient DNA. He was going to make billions of dollars and get to see smiles on the faces of hundreds of families. Of course he was going to insist that everything was alright. His dream, that was so close to coming true, was crumbling before his eyes. Admitting it would be admitting that all his research, all his time and money, and all his hopes, were for nothing.

Each character has his/her reasons for acting the way they do, but it doesn’t make us like them any better. I still would like to punch these characters in their faces, but at the same time, I would give the author’s a high five for evoking such strong feelings for these characters.

In your opinion, who would make the list? I can’t wait to read your comments!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What Do Teens Want to Read?

by Katy White

Like Kasey, I've recently read a lot of "YA Cliches to Avoid" lists, along with articles about upcoming trends in young adult literature. The lists have been mostly frustrating, frequently patronizing, and even misogynistic, including things like "immature teens" and "female protagonists." Because being your age or gender is, like, so totally cliche. Ugh.

One article that I refuse to link to, so as not to give the site any more traffic, was more disturbing than any I've read yet. It talked about teen sexuality and how (I hate that I'm even typing this) threesomes are the hottest trend in YA. The article explains that most teens aren't sexually active until around seventeen, and then the author has quotes from parents saying that allowing teens to read about such experiences helps them figure out their own identities and prepare for future experiences. (Like, you know, threesomes. Every parent's dream for their children.) This kind of reading, the article says, expands the mind and challenges preconceptions.

You guys.



Worse still, the article stated that since teen books have become sexier, sales are up. Never mind the fact that 78% of young adult books are read by adults, so this arguably reflects the fact that adults are looking for sexier books about younger demographics (which I find disturbing). This is what teens want, guys. Obviously.

Except that I then read a great post from a *gasp* Real Live Teen! who responded to this article by saying that adults need to stop telling teens what they want and, instead, listen to teens.

All of this makes me wonder: who on earth are we writing for? And who should we write for?

I look at the world through religious lenses, so naturally, I want books to be uplifting and/or hopeful and/or to show growth and perseverance (and I want some that are flat out fun and swoony and enjoyable). I want books that my daughter can someday read and talk to me about, books that will help her see the world through someone else's eyes and help her become more empathetic. I include in this books like Eleanor & Park (which I desperately love for older teens and for myself), in spite of the pervasive language and probably because of the very mature, sad, realistic struggles of both protagonists. It's real and the characters make hard choices and worry about hard things, and all of these things are just so very teen.

An authentic YA book shouldn't appeal to a readership comprised of nearly four times more adults than teens, because 78% of adults aren't worrying about grades, college/future, moving out, falling in love for the first time, wishing that a first love could be a forever love, no matter how ridiculously unlikely that is, or having fights with their parents and siblings, however well meaning they are.

Before writing teen books, maybe we should actually talk to teens. Maybe we should have YA critique partners and beta readers. Maybe, just maybe, if we do that, we can write books that resonate with more teens than adults. Maybe we can expand minds and challenge preconceptions in a way that actually matters.

What do you think about teen books and trends? Sound off below!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Author and Finisher

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

When I think of the word “finish,” I think of “end” or “stop.” So every time I’ve run across this scripture in the past, the word choice has always struck me as odd: 

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2)

Being finished with faith, putting a stop to it—that didn’t make sense at all. But as is often the case in scripture reading, I just passed it by and decided to think about it more “next time.” Well, finally, the “next time” came around. A few weeks ago as I was studying, I came across this scripture again.

As I’ve associated more with writers and thought more about writing, I’ve noticed how many people want to write a novel or think they’ve got a good book in them that they’ll finish someday. There are a lot of us! But for every hundred people who want to write a novel, maybe only seventy or so even start one (and I think that’s an awfully generous estimate).

Now how many people finish one? (I’ll give you a hint. It’s not very many. Just ask the NaNoWriMo folk.)

It’s easy to be an author, but it’s hard to be a finisher. Christ, though—He wrote the book of our faith, so to speak. He brought its purpose into existence by His life. But starting it wasn’t enough. He also finished it, completed it, by His sacrifice on our behalf. He “endured the cross” for the joy of finishing. He gave our faith meaning and reason and wholeness.

You don’t buy a book at the bookstore knowing that the author never wrote the ending (please don’t quibble with me about that one Dickens novel). The reason those books at the store matter to other people is because they were finished. Our faith only matters because Christ finished His mission on earth and brings power into our lives when we follow Him in faith.

Through Him we can “run with patience the race that is set before us” (look! it also works as a running metaphor!).

Through Him we can be finishers too.


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