Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What I've Been Reading: A Review & Update

Back in January not only did I decide to jump on the one word bandwagon, I also joined in with many others who set a book-reading goal for the year. My personal goal was to read 52 books in 2013, just 1 book per week. As you can see from the list below, I'm a bit shy for being more than halfway through the year. But that's OK. My goal is still the same, and I've got 21 1/2 weeks yet to go. :)

Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Illusion by Frank Peretti
Neuromancer by William Gibson
The Chance by Karen Kingsbury
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Sovereign by Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee
The Harbinger by Jonathon Cahn
Inferno by Dan Brown (not finished yet)
World War Z by Max Brooks (not finished yet)
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (not finished yet)
Frame 232 by Wil Mar (not finished yet)

Most of these books have been enjoyable to read, though a few of them have given me grief. Illusion took such a long time to read simply because I couldn't get into the book. Old-school Peretti was fast-paced and well-written. That was not the case with Illusion. The story line was interesting but a bit far-fetched and the plot just dragged on and on and on.

Neuromancer was another difficult book to read. If you're a sci-fi fan, especially of the Matrix variety, you will probably love this book. I, on the other hand, did not. My personal opinion was that it would have made a better movie. Which is probably why I like and enjoy the Matrix series.

Frame 232, while I have not yet finished it, has really captured my attention. If anything, it has triggered my curiosity with the whole JFK assassination and conspiracy theories that go along with it. If you've not heard of it, Frame 232 by Wil Mara is a fictional account of the daughter - Sheila Baker - of the famed "Babushka Lady" who discovers the film her mother shot during the JFK assassination that uncovers a long kept secret of that fateful day. Upon discovery of the film, Sheila contacts millionaire sleuth Jason Hammond for help. Together, they seek to uncover the truth behind one of the most tragic events the US has ever witnessed.

Though I'm not quite done reading Frame 232, I can tell you that it has been hard for me to put down. I picked it up a couple of days ago and read long into the night, reading more than half. If it hadn't been for work and other obligations, I'd be finished by now.

Frame 232 is intriguing because the author takes a real-life tragic situation with real people and says what if? What if the "Babushka Lady" truly did take a video of the assassination that day but hid it in fear for herself and her family's life? What if one day the video was discovered and the people who had a hand in the assassination were still alive? 

Not only does the author ask these questions, he answers them in a fairly good storytelling way. The story is fast-paced, with a lot of action and history weaved together. The characters are well-developed, and you grow to like them along the way, cheering them on to the end.

If anything, it's an easy read that gives a bit of a history lesson. I give it a thumbs up. :)

Author Wil Mara was asked a few questions about Frame 232:
1. What inspired you to write a novel around the assassination of President John F.
I have always been fascinated by the assassination, which, obviously, was one of the most pivotal and enigmatic events in American history. And when I heard about the ‘Babushka Lady’---one of the few people in Dealey Plaza that day who remains unidentified---and the possibility that she may have filmed the shooting, an idea came to mind that seemed too good to disregard. 
2. How much research did you do for this project?  
An unbelievable amount. I spoke with assassination experts, read literally hundreds and books and articles, pored over countless name it. My goal was to write a fictional story around the established facts rather than alter the facts to serve the story. Thus, I had to know pretty much everything. I ended up loading my brain with more data than I really needed...but I didn’t mind. 

3. How has your research informed your own theory of what happened during the JFK
My personal theory, prosaic though it may be, is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. If you want to be convinced, get your hands on a fairly rare book called Lee, which was written by his brother, Robert. Once you understand the mind behind the eyes that looked through that rifle scope, you will be convinced.

I was given an advanced copy of Frame 232 by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Choosing To Be Fruity

In case you haven't noticed, I took a little break from blogging the past couple of weeks. Not for any real reason except that I chose not to blog. I chose to do something else on Monday nights. Nothing exciting, just something different.

The past two weeks have really given me time to think and reflect. This past week especially as I've had a lot of alone time. 

While I've had no grand revelations or anything of the sort, the time alone has been good for me. It has given me opportunity to do things I've not done in a while or at all. For instance, inviting my mom over for dinner and spending quality time with her. Or like making Indian food for dinner this evening.

The time alone has given me plenty to think about, especially about my choices. A lot about what I write about in these "Manic Monday" posts is about choosing to find the good and positive things around us on Mondays (or any day, really). For the most part, I follow my own advice - I consistently try to see the beauty that surrounds me.

But there is more to choice than simply finding the beautiful in life.

The Bible describes what the life of a spirit-filled Jesus follower looks like in several different passages. Galatians 5:22-23 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives the picture of one who loves, is kind, gentle, patient, faithful, good. Someone who doesn't get easily angered or keep a long list of wrongs.

This person should be consistently choosing to be...







All things (and more) I've failed to choose over and over again. Especially in the relationships that matter most to me. 

And that makes me sad.

Yet I want this realization to make me more than sad! I want my heart to be broken so that I no longer continue making selfish choices. I want the Holy Spirit to fill me so full of Him that I ooze patience, kindness, and goodness. That love is the center of all that I am.

Funny thing is, I have to choose to allow the Holy Spirit to work in me. Each and every day as situations arise, it's my choice how I'll respond. Just as fruit cannot grow without first being planted, then watered, and even pruned, neither can I produce the fruit of the Spirit until I've been planted and given the ability to grow.

So today I choose to once again allow the Holy Spirit to work in me. To respond with kindness and goodness rather than anger. To be patient even when my patience is running thin. To forgive and forget, or at least, not throw it back in someone's face.

Do you think allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your life is a choice? If so, how has He been working in your life lately? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tragedy into Triumph

Mondays suck.

Today is no different. 

Work was crazy busy. 

My husband is sick but he's on the mend. 

Then there's the awful devastation in Oklahoma that's all over the news. 

Pain and suffering in the world makes my heart ache. It causes me to doubt and question. My mind reels at the possibility that a good God allows so much evil in this world. 

Despite the doubt, beyond the questions, there is hope. 

Hope that God is there, His own heart aching with the families in Oklahoma. As they grieve and mourn, so does He. 

Hope that when they pray for comfort and strength, He offers Himself. 

Hope that He will turn tragedy into triumph. 

Hope that someday soon, He will make something beautiful out of the rubble. 

On this terrible Monday, my heart and prayers go out to the families in Oklahoma. Will you join me?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Motivation

Mondays suck.

We all know it.

And no one is truly ever happy about it.

But let's not dwell on it. Let's not allow one crappy day to ruin the rest of the week for us. In fact, let's change our thoughts and not allow the fact that it's Monday ruin the entire day for us.

Yes, it really can be that simple. If we allow it.

It's all about perspective. 

You and I, we have the ability to change things.

This evening I stumbled across this quote and I want to share it with you. It's so simple but so true. And it's what I've been trying to remind myself this past year as I've embraced each and every "manic Monday."

Photo found at Monday Morning Motivation
What do you do on Monday mornings to make the day better?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bless the Lord

Hello Monday.

In my part of the world, it's been a dreary day. The clouds have kept the sun in hiding and have caused raindrops to fall from the sky instead. Not to mention the temperature took a bit of a drop. Nothing drastic, but enough to make it a bit chilly.

Nevertheless, today I'm reminded of something my mentor from years ago used to say. The psalmist would often say in scripture, "Bless the Lord, oh my soul." Deonn would say to me that what the psalmist was really doing was saying, "Soul, bless the Lord!" You see, the psalmist went through a lot of crap in his time. He was hated by the king who often tried to kill him, so he had to hide out in caves and stuff. His soul went through dark, troubling times. My guess is that he didn't feel like blessing the Lord. Cursing him, on the other hand, may have been a better fit. Rather than doing so, he commanded his soul to bless the Lord. 

Life's circumstances make me want to cuss. And sometimes I do. From my inability to pay the electric bill because I just don't quite have enough that week or the constant arguments my husband and I seem to find ourselves in. No way I'm blessing the Lord. Much like the psalmist, sometimes I have to tell myself to find the blessing in the midst of the darkness. 

Even when I don't feel like it, the choice is clear - bless the Lord. You know why? Because sometimes blessing comes through raindrops. (Yeah, I just stole a lyric from a song I don't even really like. But there's truth to it!) 

I've said it once and I'll continue to say it. It is your choice - my choice - to find the good, the beautiful, the positive things in life. Even in the midst of the darkest day of your life, there is something good to be found.

Have you ever had to tell your soul, "bless the Lord"?

Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Your Choice

Mondays are hard. 

For me (and probably you as well) it's the hardest day to get out of bed. It's a struggle to get back in the swing of things at work. No doubt it feels like the longest day of the week. 

Mondays just feel like one giant muddy dark pit where all I can do is stare towards the sky, wondering how to get to the light. As I struggle to climb out of the pit, my arms and legs tire quickly and my breathing becomes labored. A couple of times it seems I'm making progress only to slip on some mud and slide back to the bottom.

Thankfully, Mondays aren't completely hopeless. Once I finally find a way to climb out of the pit, Mondays usually turns out to be a pretty decent days. Especially when I remember that it is my choice as to how I'm going to respond to my circumstances.

Do I always make the right choice? Heck no. There are some Mondays (and other days as well) where I forget that it's my choice as to how I'm going to respond. Many times I get caught up in the drama of it all and choose to argue with my husband, or complain about having to clean the house yet again, or pay bills, or whatever it is that day that sets me off. There are too many times where I forget that there are many other, more positive, ways to respond to the crap life throws at me.

I can choose to be kind rather than hateful.

I can choose to be grateful rather than complain.

I can choose to be positive rather than negative.

I can choose to find the good, beautiful things throughout the day and focus on them.

Like this image I captured right after leaving my office this afternoon. When I took a moment to breathe, to look at God's beautiful creation, all the tension from the day slipped away and my spirit was filled with peace. My circumstances didn't necessarily change, but my attitude and focus changed.

Today, let me encourage you to make a different choice. Choose to change your attitude and focus from the things that will bring you down. Instead, focus on the good, the beautiful, the positive things in your life. Trust me, it's not easy, but it will make a difference in your day.

How can I pray for you today as you seek to make a more positive choice?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Easy Way

Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner. My transgressions are many, far too many to name. There is nothing good in me.

Return to me, for I have redeemed you.


At the beginning of this year, I chose a word. One word that I would focus on all year long. It really wasn't a word that I chose so much as I felt God whisper to my heart.


Return to what?

Return to Me.

Return to my first love, cliche as it may sound. 

This morning I chose to sit in my office and read for a while. I sat with one of my old, worn Bibles. One that has writing in the margins, scriptures underlined and circled, and all kinds of memories. It's one from a different time in my life, one where I was excited to read and learn and grow in wisdom and understanding. To spend time with the love of my life, getting to know Him and allowing Him to change me, mold me, shape me into the woman I am meant to be.

As I opened the crinkled pages to a portion of scripture I've read many times, I listened to God speak to the Israelites, His chosen people. He recalled their shortcomings, their wickedness, and their idolatry. He then recounted how He had formed them, created them in their mother's wombs. And then He whispered to them the same thing He whispered to me, "return." 

I wonder how the Israelites felt as they heard God whisper. Did they wonder at His grace and mercy? Did they weep with joy at the sound of His voice, knowing all their sins were pardoned? Or did they scoff, kicking their feet in the dust, dismissing Him altogether?

This morning, as I ponder God's words to the Israelites, and to me, it's easy to scoff. It's easy to say, but God, you don't know who I am or what I've done. 


As ridiculous as it sounds, yes. The human heart - this human heart, especially - finds it much more difficult to lay down my pride and open my heart to Him. To His redeeming grace. To let the tears of joy flow, knowing all is forgiven.  Because to truly experience what it means to return to Him, I have to let go of everything that is holding me back from Him. All the stuff I'm holding on to must be dropped at His feet so that I can embrace Him. 

And letting go is hard.

Yet He continues to whisper. He speaks to my heart and tells me He loves me with an everlasting love. 

With those words I know He will wait. He will be patient and loving and kind, ever prodding at me to let go of whatever is holding me back. But always with love. Everlasting love.

Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt God whispering to you but you found it hard to let go?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blood Sucker

Hi. My name is Buzz and I'm a blood sucker.

Every single day I wake up thirsty. Thirsty for the warm, sticky taste of blood. My body craves it; I need it to survive. The very thought of blood consumes me.

People all over the world think I'm annoying. Heck, I don't blame them. I swarm around their head, the quick beat of my wings ringing in their ears, as I contemplate where to land. Oh, they swat at me, hoping to deter me from my mission. But my goal is clear - I must suck to survive.

Can I tell you something? I'm a carrier. I don't know how or where, but I'm infected with malaria. I'm an agent of sickness and sometimes death. I don't want to be. But I don't know how to stop. I'm a blood sucker. Sucking blood is my life.

I've heard rumors. People say there's a way to prevent people from getting sick from malaria. I hope it's true. I don't want to kill people. I just want to suck their blood.


Today is World Malaria Day, a day to raise awareness about a deadly disease that is both preventable and treatable.

Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted via mosquitoes. According to the World Heath Organization, there are 3.3 billion people at risk of malaria. Most susceptible to malaria is the world's poorest and youngest. In 2010, 90% of all malaria deaths were in Sub-Sahara Africa, and most were under the age of 5.

5 year old boys and girls are dying every 30 seconds from a disease that is both preventable and treatable.

My heart breaks when I read this statistic. Because it's not just a statistic. There are faces behind each number. A child, mother, and father. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. Cousins.

No one should die from a preventable and treatable disease simply because they are poor.

Thankfully, there are so many amazing organizations that are doing something to help in the fight against malaria. Compassion International is one of those organizations! As part of their health & medical needs program, Compassion helps aid poverty-stricken families with a way to prevent and treat malaria. Insecticide treated mosquito nets are key in preventing malaria, and for most Americans, they are inexpensive. 2 mosquito nets cost just $20 - that's less than a date night at the movie theater!

Would you consider purchasing 2 insecticide-treated mosquito nets today? Click here to bite back and help prevent someone from getting malaria today!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hope Is Not Crazy

Mondays have never been my favorite day. This is no surprise to anyone who reads my blog. But when I woke up this morning, I wanted it to be different. I wanted to appreciate the day, all day long. I wanted to find the beautiful, the good and positive things about my little piece of the world, and share them with you.

But three quarters through the day at work I heard about the tragedy of the Boston marathon. And my heart was deeply saddened. My heart breaks for the families who are grieving the loss of a loved one tonight, and the families of the injured who have such a long journey of healing ahead of them.

My heart is angered at the thought of another senseless tragedy that has taken place. I'm angered by the way folks turn tragedies such as this one into just another point in their political or religious agenda. Even as I type these words, I think to myself, should I even add to the noise?

In spite of today's tragedy, there is still much good and beautiful in the world. Oh, it's harder to see on days like today. But as we wipe away the tears and look around, we'll find it. As we cling to each other and join hands and hearts in prayer, we'll see that even though the world is a broken, messy place, there is still hope.

Will you join me in holding on to hope in the midst of tragedy?

Photo by Laine

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Together We Can End It

End It Movement

27 million people.

161 countries.

32 billion dollars.

27 million people - men, women, and children - in 161 countries across the world are enslaved. Slavery is a $32 billion industry.

The statistics are staggering.

But the statistics aren't just numbers. Each number represents a person. Men, women, and children - people just like you and me.

Katya is an educated Russian woman who returned home after graduating from college only to find there were no jobs available. She responded to an ad for a waitressing position in Greece only to be forced into striping and having sex night after night along with 30 other girls.

Rajesh is a 50 year old Indian man who was forced to work for 30 years for a loan he took out from his landlord to help with family medical bills. His loan was equivalent to $35. No matter how hard or how long he worked, his debt was never able to be paid in full.

Guillermo is a 24 year old who was offered a chance to come to the US for a well-paid job but was sold as a contract laborer for $1100 once he arrived in Florida. Forced to work in tomato fields with little pay, Guillermo was beaten when he tried to escape.

Amanda was sold into sex slavery as an 8 year old living on the streets of Cambodia. For 9 years she endured hell on earth, being abused, raped, and used daily.

The stories are heartbreaking.

Yet there is hope.

There are people - just like you and me - who have joined forces and are speaking out against slavery. Others have created organizations - like Love 146, Not for Sale, International Justice Mission, Exodus Road, Stella's Voice, Rahab's Hideaway - that are actively involved in rescuing and restoring those enslaved worldwide. There are grassroots movements, politicians, celebrities, and everyday people that are taking a stand and raising our voice to shine a light on slavery.

You might be asking, what can I do to help? Good question.

Check out the organizations above and consider giving a financial donation.

Tell your family, your friends, your co-workers about modern day slavery.

Consider hosting an event to raise awareness.

Share this post.

Above all, pray.

Will you join the movement to shine a light on slavery? Together we can end it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Beautiful Things

Oh, Monday.

You could have been a little kinder, gentler.

Then again, I blame Sunday. 

Sunday wasn't very nice to me, so I suppose you were just following in her footsteps.

Nevertheless, I'm choosing to find the beautiful.

One good thing came from yesterday - the remembering of a long-ago promise. An ongoing promise of making something beautiful out of the ashes of life. A promise of hope, of redemption.

Remembering God's promise to me is the only thing that has kept me going today. The only thing that could ignite a spark of hope into an otherwise hopeless situation.

As I remember this promise, I also remember that He makes all things new. He takes what has long-ago been thrown away, set out for trash, burned up, and makes it into something new.

Thank God.

          Thank God He makes beautiful things.

                    Thank God He makes all things new.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Fresh Start

Today is Monday.

And April Fool's Day.

This morning it snowed, briefly, and I tweeted about it. The first person to respond to my tweet didn't believe me. Of course they thought I was trying to fool everyone. And I don't blame them.

But hear me out on this next thought. Don't dismiss it as foolish simply because of what day it is.

What if Monday's weren't a day to dread but rather a time for a fresh start?


You know you've thought about it at least once.

How many times have you heard these statements:

I'll start dieting on Monday.

I'll start working out on Monday.

Yeah, I'll do that on Monday

I've said "I'll do fill in the blank here on Monday" so many times.

So today I thought to myself, why not? Why can't Monday be a fresh start?

There are many reason why it might not be a good day for fresh starts. But think about it for a minute. Monday is the first day of the week. It's the first, and perhaps best, day for new beginnings. For starting over. Fresh.

I need a fresh start today. Especially now as my husband and I are fighting. Throwing hurtful words at one another, hoping to ease our own pain but really creating more.

My prayer, my hope, is that God would create in me a new heart. One that would follow desperately after Him, so much so that the childish things of this world would fade from view. That my own selfish desires would cease so that He could fill my heart with His desires.

Do you need a fresh start today?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Where Is Home?

They say home is where your heart is.

Home is different things to different people. It might be a geographical location. A physical building. A community of people. Or even a feeling. A dream. A memory.

My single-wide trailer is located in small-town Ohio. But home is my family and friends. It's being known and  understood and loved by them. It's knowing and understanding and loving them.

Home is being able to be me with all my flaws, inabilities, all the undesirable things that make me hard to know and love.

Sometimes home is sitting quietly in pj's on a Saturday morning sipping coffee - ahem - Mt. Dew and reading a good book. A book that speaks of dreams, of a place where people come first. Where "love is about seeking the best for a person, even at expense to ourselves and even when it is hard in the moment." A place where animals matter, art is appreciated, and stories - real or fiction - are shared and honored and lived.

This place, this dream come true after fifteen years, is God's Whisper farm. It is the home of Andi Cumbo, writer, editor, teacher, and friend.

A few months ago Andi wrote and released God's Whisper Manifesto, the makings of a dream. In it, she shares 10 principles of what she believes makes up an ideal community. Having read and re-read her manifesto, my heart longs for such a community. And one day I hope to visit God's Whisper farm, to share in the joy of a dream come true.

To celebrate Andi and God's Whisper farm, I am giving away a Kindle edition of God's Whisper Manifesto.* Not only is Andi's dream beautiful, she also writes beautifully. Every sentence, every paragraph, paints a picture of the farm and the community that dwells there. It's a beautiful picture. And I want to share it with you.

To enter to win a copy of God's Whisper Manifesto please share in the comment below of what home is to you. 

*Winner will be announced on Monday, March 25.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Case of the Mondays


Oh, Monday. 

You tried hard to win today. To beat me down and wear me out.

And I was not alone. So many of you felt the same.

It seems we all had a case of the Mondays.

Even so, Monday did NOT win.

Not because it wasn't a truly manic Monday. Trust me, it was. There were moments today where I really felt like I was going to lose my mind. Like I tweeted earlier today, who knew that learning a new phone system could throw a whole office into a tizzy? After losing the third or fourth call while trying make a transfer, I wanted to give up. It would have been so easy. Especially after finding out my mama's blood pressure is high and my nana might have pneumonia.

But I refuse to let these manic Mondays win. I've said it once and I'll say it again - finding the good in the midst of a crappy day is a CHOICE. And there is almost always something good/positive/beautiful that can be found even in the worst of days.

For me, the good was found in the camaraderie between myself and my co-workers as we struggled and learned together. The laughter found in the midst of the craziness. And the thing that made it the best day? Coming home to dinner cooked and ready to eat courtesy of my husband. :)

What do you do when you have a case of the Mondays?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Motivational Monday

It's Monday.

And it's raining.

For most, those two make a lousy combination.

For me, it wasn't too bad.

Work was steady, making the day go by quickly.

The weather may be rainy, but it really didn't effect me negatively.

So today has been a pretty decent day. For me.

How has it been for you?

Early this morning a friend tweeted me saying, "I need some Monday motivation." I tweeted her back, encouraging her to think positively and to remember that there's always something beautiful just waiting to be found.

Her tweet got me thinking about motivation. Motivation is one of those things that seem to elude me. I never seem to have it. Yet I long to find motivation.

The motivation to write.

To work out.

To eat healthy.

To serve more.

After thinking about it today, here's my conclusion. If you want motivation, you have to create it. Motivation is similar to turning a manic Monday into a beautiful one. You have to choose it. It doesn't just appear out of thin air. Motivation is simply a choice.

So, today I choose. I choose to create the motivation I need to do the things I want to do.

I choose to create the motivation I need to write. To work out. To eat healthy. To serve more.

And I encourage you to do the same.

Are you lacking motivation? What do you do to find it?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Forget About It

Want to have a good Monday?

Forget about it.

No, really.

Forget about it!

Today I completely forgot that it was Monday.

All day long I thought it was Tuesday.

It was a busy, crazy kind of day. But not once did I realize it was Monday until close to 5 'o clock.

And it really made my day better!

So, next time you want to have a good Monday, forget that it is Monday. Don't even think about what day it is. Enjoy the day for what it is. Good, crazy, manic. Enjoy the madness.

Have you ever forgotten that it's Monday? What'd you do to celebrate?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Maybe Maddie: A Guest Post by Kirsten LaBlanc

Photo by: left-hand (creative commons)
From Denise: Today we close out the "Love Found Me" series with a guest post from my friend, Kirsten LaBlanc. Kirsten and I became friends through an online writing community this summer, and she graciously allowed me to share on her blog after only knowing me a short period of time. (You can read that post here.) 

My heart did not swell that first moment. I felt the amazement of a new life but my heart was numb. I felt blank. Wasn't this supposed to be that moment when a mother feels overwhelming love for her child? As I examined the small fingers and toes, I wondered when or if the moment would come. Why was my heart not filling up with the sweetness and innocence of a very first meeting? She was God's perfection personified. Thick burgundy hair framed a cherub's face. Her breath warm and syrupy. I inhaled her. She studied me trying to decide what kind of mother she been given. Was I kind and loving or cold and stoic? I couldn't answer those questions as I didn't know the answers myself. It was almost as if the child was suddenly ancient and I could sense her deep understanding of the world. All I knew was that my life would never be the same. An excess of hormones and narcotics blocked further clarity.

"What is her name?" asked one of the nurses in the room. The voice led me out of the thick fog.

I glanced at the child's father hoping for a glimmer of recognition. Was this the child we called Maybe Maddie? Maybe, maybe not. I did not know. This baby was unfamiliar to me. I did not know her.

"Are you Maybe Maddie?" I asked my daughter, expecting a flicker of approval but getting a sleepy yawn.

"I believe she is" my husband answered for the child at my breast.

I nodded.

Maybe Maddie. The redhead girl we dreamt would be our daughter was here and on her own time. That was way she would do everything - on her own time. I did not believe the child was ready to come. She was 2 weeks, 6 days early and just barely to term. Her daddy and I firmly believe we know what happened.

Our Maybe Maddie poked too hard and accidentally broke her bubble world. As the warm bath water drained all around her, Maybe Maddie cursed, "Oh crap!" Then she panicked, "Put it back! I didn't mean to! Uh oh! Here I go!" She began her new life.

Every bit of confidence disappeared once I saw that tiny pink squirmy screaming being. “Are they really going to send her home with us?" I asked my husband.

He smiled and then gave a look of worry. “Yes. I think we’re in charge now.” He sat. “It shouldn't be too bad. We just have to keep her alive and love her.”

“Now comes the happiness,” I thought as we came home - a family of three. I waited. I cried. “Where is the happy excitement of a new baby?” I questioned myself, too ashamed to admit the truth.

It didn't help that Maybe Maddie was colicky. Maybe Maddie cried and ate and cried. Finally, she slept. I slept. I ate. I cried. The phone did not ring. No one called to ask what we needed. I asked. No one responded. So, I sat waiting for the joy to find me. After several days, it became apparent that joy wasn't really even looking for us. One morning, I waited on the couch with a wriggly unhappy baby. I called the pediatrician's office at exactly 8:30 am. “Come right away,” said the voice on the phone.

We did.

"She's perfectly healthy." the nurse sat in front of me and studied me. "Oh! Poor Dear." She said, "Motherhood isn't exactly what you expected, is it?"

We left.

When we got home, I bundled up Maybe Maddie and we walked. I looked for joy. Maybe Maddie cried some more. We ate lunch and we got in the car. I drove and drove. Maybe Maddie slept and peace found me. This became our new life. We woke up. We ate breakfast. We bundled up and we walked. When I couldn't take any more crying from Maybe Maddie, we drove and Maybe Maddie slept.

Finally, a break. One day, after our walk, Maybe Maddie made a sound that wasn't screaming. I looked down into the stroller to find a happy smiling plump baby. I cried. I ate. I slept. Maybe Maddie smiled. She laughed and she played. I wish I could say I remember the exact moment I realized my heart was full. My memory has so many blank spots. I didn't know what to call it. Doctors call it Postpartum Depression. My mother said it was the Baby Blues. Maybe Maddie patiently nursed me slowly nourishing me with that magical elixir - her sweet baby breath. As I inhaled, I was filled fill light. The darkness was gone. My
tears dried and I was content. That’s when I knew I had always loved her.

That’s when the joy came.

Love can find us in many different ways. How has love found you?

Kirsten is a writer, mommy and a woman trying to have it all or as much of it as possible. She is currently working on a book about her grandparents’ oral history. Kirsten blogs at exploring motherhood, faith and her quest to shave her head for children’s cancer research. When 
Kirsten isn't writing, she loves to cook, read and she spends entirely too much time chasing her 3 year 
old daughter.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Strikes Again

Monday + Head Cold = BAD DAY

After a fantastic weekend at the Justice Conference in Philadelphia, it was hard to go back to work today. Let's face it, I love my job, but I would LOVE IT if God would provide some way or another for me to do outreach stuff 24/7. It's my heart & soul. Until then, I'll carry on and be the best, most kindest receptionist/administrative assistant to the best boss(es) in the world. ;)

Not to mention this pesky little head cold that managed to find me this weekend. (Thank God you can't see me right now. I have tissues jammed in my nose to catch all the snot trying to escape.)

On the bright side, today was a beautiful sunny day outside. I thoroughly enjoyed the bright blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.

And did I mention what a wonderful weekend I had in Philly? It was jam-packed full of social justice goodness, networking with some new friends and awesome organizations, and getting to know my friend Kelly A LOT better.

Speaking of the conference, there's so much to unpack from what I heard this weekend. There's so much I need to process and wrap my head around, and things I would eventually like to share with you. For today, I want to leave you with this one thought - the theme that ran through the weekend:

Just because we can't fix the world doesn't mean we can't change it. 
-Ken Wystma

P.S. I was on cold meds when I wrote this post, just in case it makes no sense to you. ;)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wrecked No More: A Guest Post by Andrea Ward

Photo by: Idodds

From Denise: The "Love Found Me" series continues today with a guest post from my friend, Andrea Ward. Andrea and I became friends through an online writing community, and I'm honored to have her share on the blog today.

It was 1994 and I was not happy with life. I was too shy to make new friends and WAY to shy to talk to boys. I was lonely and didn't know what to do about it. I felt out of place and out of sync with everything around me. I felt guilty for things beyond my control. I felt misunderstood by others. I felt unknown to myself. I felt unlovable and obsessed over the relationships I didn't have.

I had many conversations in my head, but few out loud. At home, I stayed in my room. At school, I had two close friends. I talked to no one else because I felt no one else cared. I made sure that no one else knew. I wrote poetry trying to express my pain.

I blamed myself and I blamed others. It was not pretty. It was an ugly year full of pain. Not one part of the downward spiral or grabbing the survival line was pretty. However there was one moment of light. One honest prayer that broke through all my pain and anger. I prayed part of "Don't take the Girl" by Tim McGraw, "Take the very breath you gave me."

He didn't take my breath, but then and there He started taking my heart and my life. The very next day my parents discovered the depth of my pain and we talked. We really talked. A few months later there was a cute boy who grabbed my attention. A friend of mine invited me to the same youth group he attended. Of course I went. And I found a group that loved me. I found adults that listened to me. I had found a home for my heart. In October 1995, I found the lover of my soul and a love that would never fail me.

He found me as a lonely painful girl and loved me until I blossomed into the daughter he always knew I could be.

Love found me a wreck and loved me into a new creation. 

In what ways did love find you a wreck and transform your life? Share with us in the comments!

Andrea Ward is a blogger, writer, wife, mother, teacher, and youth leader. She loves good food, good books and good conversation. A cup of great coffee will make her day great and if it that said cup is fair trade, she’s through the roof! She blogs Jesus, You, and Me and you can find her on Twitter.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Not So Manic Monday

Ah, Monday.

We meet again.

Thanks for giving me a break today. From the start, you were slow and sure. There was nothing crazy about you.

Thank you.

Every now and again a girl just needs a break from the mania. A day just to be enjoyed and treasured.

And today was a joy.

Work was slow.

My evening peaceful.

The highlight was talking to my "lil sis." This kid is amazing & doesn't even know what a gift she truly is.

As I lay my head down to rest, my heart is full. There is much to be thankful for in my life.

How was your day? What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Found Me: A Guest Post by Tim Gallen

Photo by: findingthenow

From Denise: The "Love Found Me" series continues with a post from my friend, Tim Gallen. I had the opportunity to connect with Tim for the first time last year and have gotten to know him through an online writing community. He is a talented writer, especially where fiction is concerned, and I'm honored to have him as my guest this week! 

When I was born, I spent my first few days of life in intensive care. As my parents always tell it, something was wrong, but after several days they never figured out what it was. 

Nearly 30 years later - and despite what others might consider to be off about me - I’m confident the condition that went undiagnosed was a misplaced heart.

You see, my heart’s never really been under my left breast. Rather, I entered the world with my heart on my sleeve.

No wonder I’m a lifelong hopeless romantic.

Until I met her, I dwelled a goodly amount of time on finding the love of my life.

But the thing is, the harder I tried the farther I got from finding love. Not that I tried that hard, mind you. I was no smooth operator when it came to the ladies. I am shy, odd, nerdy, and not always good at small talk. But I tried, with limited success.

But it wasn’t until I essentially gave up looking that the woman I had been hoping for fell into my lap. Or, more accurately, my inbox.

Love found me surfing the Internet. And I've never been happier.

Have you ever seen one of those eHarmony commercials where the man and woman take turns talking about the other? That could be the story of my life. My wife and I met on eHarmony.

We connected over my passion for dental hygiene.

One of the questions on eHarmony’s profile asks to name three things you are passionate about. Honestly, I don’t remember the first two, other than that they were serious things. But for the third one, I wrote that I was passionate about brushing my teeth.

When my wife and I first connected via the dating site, she mentioned that answer had made her laugh.

I've been making her laugh ever since.

This may sound horrible of me, but I don’t recall what specific item from Nicole’s profile or answers entangled me. I think it was more a combination of everything. She entangled me with everything that is her - her passion, love, character, beauty, and faith. Since our first connection, I have found it easy to be myself with her.

Isn't that what love is all about? We spend inordinate amounts of energy to reflect an aura of perfection. We do our best to ensure the world only sees our best face.

But love strips away all the pretentious masks we insist on wearing. Love leaves us naked and vulnerable. Yet, instead of scorn or disdain, love sees us for all we are and embraces and cherishes us anyway.

I am not perfect. Like everyone else, I have flaws and foibles. I make mistakes. But my wife loves me anyway.

Love found me online. And I am so grateful.

How did love find you? Share your story in the comments!

Tim Gallen is a writer on a journey of recovery, rediscovery and irreverence. Follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook. He blogs, though not quite daily, at the daily gallen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How to Respond to Manic Mondays

Hello Monday.

From the moment the office opened, it was a crazy day.

The phones rang non-stop.

The waiting room flooded with customers.

The work seemed never-ending.

And it was such a beautiful day!

Wait. What?

How can a crazy-busy Monday be beautiful?

This morning as I was readying myself for the day, I was reminded of a phrase I heard frequently as my days as a missionary - "walk in the opposite spirit." Most of the time this was said in terms of how to respond to others. But today I applied it the spirit of the day. 

What do I mean?

Mondays suck.

It's like Monday constantly has a bad attitude.

And it's my choice how I'm going to respond to it.

Do I respond with the same bad attitude?

Or do I walk in the opposite spirit?

Today I chose the latter. I chose to have a good attitude. 

My beautiful day included a gorgeous spring-like day, some one-on-one time with my mama, and breakfast for dinner with my husband.

How did you respond to this manic Monday?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Q & A with Tosca Lee

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to ask New York Times Bestselling author Tosca Lee a few questions about her latest novel, Iscariot, which released on Tuesday, February 5th. Iscariot is a fascinating look at the story of Judas, arguably the most reviled man in Biblical history. Tosca is the author of Havah and Demon, and the co-author of Forbidden, Mortal, and Sovereign (written with Ted Dekker). 

Me: What drew you to Judas's story?

Tosca: My editor friend Jeff Gerke (who published Demon and Havah) suggested it. And I ran in the other direction for about a year. What finally got me was the encouragement of friends - most notably Robert Liparulo - and the fact that I finally admitted I was obsessed with the story.

Me: How do you see yourself in Judas?

Tosca: This story is largely about love vs. the law and about the agendas we have for God. Things that I've gone round and round about most of my life. Ultimately, though, this story is really about the inexplicable and uncontainable person of Jesus.

Me: In Matthew 26:50, Jesus tells Judas, "Do what you came for, friend?" What do you think of Jesus' response to his near betrayal?

Tosca: That he knew it was coming. That perhaps, he even had compassion for Judas, knowing that a day would come when he had wished he had never been born.

Me: What was the hardest part of writing Iscariot?

Tosca: The research. It took a year and a half. It was ginormous. And then writing it. And then editing it. The entire project was a long labor.

Me: What, if anything, do you want the readers to take away from Judas's story?

Tosca: Of course I want them to ask the question if they would have done the same, but what I really want is for them to slip into the skin of someone close to Jesus and experience him, as I did.

Many thanks to Tosca for giving me the opportunity to do the Q & A!!!

In Jesus, Judas believes he has found “the One” – a miracle-worker.  The promised Messiah and future king of the Jews, destined to overthrow Roman rule.  Galvanized, Judas joins the Nazarene’s followers, ready to enact the change he has waited for all his life.
But Judas’ vision of a nation free from Roman rule is crushed by the inexplicable actions of the Nazarene himself, who will not bow to social or religious convention – who seems in the end even to turn against his own people.  At last, Judas must confront the fact that the master he loves is not the liberator he hoped for but a man pursuing a drastically different agenda.
Iscariot is the story of Judas – from his tumultuous childhood and tenuous entry into a career and family life to culminating events that have marked him as the betrayer of Jesus.  But even more, it is a singular and surprising view into the life of Jesus himself that forces us all to reexamine everything we thought we knew about the most famous – and infamous – religious icons in history.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Has Love Found You?

Photo by: skyler817

"Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love." 
1 Corinthians 13:13

There's something about a good love story that we as a society deeply appreciate. We find ourselves telling love stories everywhere - in literature, movies, music, media. We engage in taking sides, rooting for one couple over another in fictional romance novels (Team Jacob or Edward, anyone?). We all have a favorite love song or two. We obsess over the successes and failures of Hollywood's power couples. 

Love stories are everywhere.

A mom longs for a little girl. A sibling for her sweet little boy. With aching heart and bended knee, she prays for her womb to be blessed once again. In the summer of 1977, her prayers are answered as she finally gives birth to her sweet baby girl. 

A young girl misses her daddy, taken away long before his time. Her heart and soul are lonely, longing to be filled with a father's love. Her Sunday school teacher tells her about Jesus, which begins a life-changing journey. One day He reveals to her how great & how vast His love is for her, that He is her Father and she is His daughter.

A young woman meets a young man, kind and caring, with those gorgeous blue eyes and sexy smile. She may not have fallen head over heals in love instantly, but he certainly had her attention. He pursued her over time, gaining her friendship first and stealing her heart later. Theirs is a crazy kind of love, but oh how they love each other!

These love stories are my own.

Love found me long before I was born, birthed out of love in my mother's heart.

And love continues to find me. India surrounded by the bright smiling faces of orphans, capturing my heart the moment I laid eyes on them. Bangladesh as my team was tromping through the muddy fields to reach a small village where they had never heard the Gospel. Love found a whole village that day. small-town Ohio living and loving the people here in small, simple ways.

Love has a way of finding each of us in unique ways. That's why I've invited some of my friends to share their love stories. Each Wednesday in February a new love story will be featured. As they share, I hope you will join the conversation by sharing your own story.

Love found me.

Has love found you?