Monday, April 27, 2015

Prayer for Nepal

Like thousands of others, I am praying today for the people of Nepal.

The country is devastated - physically and emotionally.

How many lives must be lost, oh God? 

I am praying for help and peace and comfort. How it aches our hearts to know that we cannot do much except pray and send a check. Such little to do with such overwhelming need.

When I was a little girl - probably 5th grade or so - my parents talked about becoming missionaries to Nepal. They were both public school teachers, and they had heard of great need in that country for Christian teachers.

We talked about this - as a family - and we were all ready to go. Then, the country closed to outside missionaries, and our plans were cancelled. But dreams of Nepal stayed in my heart.

When I was packing for our move, I found my construction-paper covered report from 5th grade on the country of Nepal, its people, its products, and other random assorted facts written on large-ruled notebook paper with encyclopedia and National Geographic photos cut and carefully pasted on the pages.

Years later, Nepal entered my heart again with a book. Conor Grennan wrote a book titled Little Princes. It is his memoir about life after college. He had decided to spend his first year of post-school freedom traveling the globe. To offset what he saw as a selfish pursuit, he started by volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal.

What he didn't expect was that the needs of those children would break his heart and change the entire course of his life as he began an organization to save children who had been trafficked.

I decided to teach that book for my freshman English class - and was thrilled when I found out that I had an international student from Nepal. Hanna had a gorgeous smile and taught me the correct pronunciation of her beloved home country.

She told me about the beauty of the mountains and endless cups of tea. She talked about her parents who married out of love and broke traditions of arranged betrothals. She lit up as she described her heart to reach the people of her country with God's love.

I pray for Hanna today - she had not heard from her family when I last emailed her. How hard it is not to know. I pray for the orphans of Nepal and Conor's work there. I pray for the people who do not know if there loved ones are safe. I pray for those who lost homes and all of their earthly possessions. I pray for the children who lost parents and the parents who lost children. I pray for the grief of seeing roads broken and buildings crumbled.

I pray for God to heal and to comfort and to be present for His people today.

Praying and weeping with you, Nepal.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I Prayed for You Today

I walked on the beach this morning. And, as I walked, I prayed.

I asked God to be with my good friend Jill as she says goodbye-for-now, today, to her father.

for Teryn who has battled illness for the past year.

for my friend Amanda and her daughter Meg who is serving God across the seas.

for my friend Ben and his sister Stephanie, who is grappling with a diagnosis.

for my brother-in-law Dave and for Bob and his family.

for my friends Rachel and James and their baby son.

for Junias, and Anna, and Melissa.

for so many of you who have shared with me your fears and worries and struggles and concerns.

I prayed and asked God for His healing and comfort -

for His peace and joy -

to do what only He can do.

And then the sun came out,

it peeked over the clouds,

and it changed everything.

God can do that.

We serve an amazing, awe-inspiring God who can do anything.

He holds all of this - all of our cares, worries, sicknesses, fears, concerns, all of it, in the palm of His hands. Nothing is impossible for Him.

As I walked back home holding the most perfect tiny shell in my hand,

a contrast to the magnificence of the sunrise and the vastness of the ocean.

I was thinking of how God cares for us, despite His grandeur,

and the words of an old hymn came to my mind.

"All your anxieties, all your cares,

Come to the mercy seat, leave them there.

Never a burden, He cannot bear.

Never a friend, like Jesus."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Advice for College Graduates on Getting Your First Job - Part Two

Here's some helpful job-searching advice from former graduates who are now working (many of them in their desired field)! I received so many suggestions that I'm stretching these out over two more posts.

On Getting Your Foot in the Door…

Volunteer! Sharon writes, “My current job, as well as one previous job, I got through volunteering. 
The organization knew me and valued me as a volunteer, and thought I would make a valuable employee.”

“If you can’t work for money, work for free. Don’t be afraid of a day job, but keep building your portfolio,” Karen said.

Nailing That Interview . . .

Candy was impressed by one particular “fresh-out-of-college” candidate, “I hired Kaitlyn right out of college. She was professional, to the interview a few minutes early, sent me a link to her online portfolio, had good questions, and seemed to be a learner. I have continued to be impressed.”

Finding Job Possibilities …

“Make connections and network,” advises Kaitlyn. “Get your name out there. My advisor at school told me about an opening and told the organization about me. Don’t be too picky for your first job; eve if it’s not exactly what you want to do.”

“Don’t be afraid to go for the big guns,” Andie advises. “As long as you’re mostly qualified, there’s no hurt in trying. I never would have thought Christianity Today would interview me.”

David took the wrong job to meet the right people. “So much of the opportunities I have been given are because of networking in circles that I wanted to be a part of. Started as a social media specialist, but I wanted to be in radio. Getting your foot in the door is less about working a job that will be good in the future and more about meeting the people you could work with.”

Don’t Give Up!

Jesse talks about how long this might take: “Persistence! It can be really frustrating to be rejected over and over or to not get a response when you send your resume out. But, you can’t lose heart. It took me a year and a half after graduation to get a job in my field. You just have to keep going.”

“It may take you a while to figure out what God has given you both talent and passion for,” Luci says. “Don’t be afraid to try new jobs.”

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Advice for College Grads on Getting Your First Job - Part One

As a former college professor, I still get Facebook messages from students asking me for career advice. One of the most common is - How do I find my first job?

I know it is daunting. College provides a sense of security. You know exactly what you are doing for the next four years. Then, many books and exams later, suddenly it is senior year, graduation, and the unknown is thrust upon you.You are forced to make some serious choices. Should you return home to live with mom  and dad? Find a job? Get an apartment? Go to graduate school?

Just a few bits of personal advice if you decide to attempt that first job search:

1) Go for your big dreams first. My first round of resumes were sent to my dream jobs. I think I had ten of them. I was wildly unqualified. I had education, but not a huge amount of experience. Nevertheless I sent those first resumes out with high hopes and prayers. I only heard back from two, but two was great! One was an actual interview. The second, my letter to Oprah Winfrey Productions, was returned with a signed photo of Ms. Winfrey herself. They had misfiled my resume as a fan letter. Sigh.... I did go to that one interview, and I didn't get the job, but it provided needed experience and was a huge boost to my self confidence.

2) Then, spread your net wide. Apply for a LOT of jobs. Don't be too picky. In my time, we printed resumes, now much of the application process is electronic. Look at all of the job listing services you can find. Apply for anything that sounds like a possibility. It is tedious and exhausting, but it is necessary. Even if you don't like the job, the interview process will be helpful and informative. And sometimes a bad lead can develop (through connections) into another good one.

3) Proofread your resume and cover letter. I've seen many resumes, electronic portfolios, and cover letters with typos. Aaaack!!!! Have one friend - maybe two or three (literate) friends - read and proof your outgoing job applications and resume material. Mistakes are deadly in this situation. They reflect poorly on who you are, your work ethic, and your abilities.

4) Check your social image. Change your email address from to something that sound clear and professional. Maybe just use your name. Keep it simple and clean. Look critically at your Facebook profile and delete anything necessary. Google your name to see what appears. Employers today are savvy.

5) Get solid references. Before you leave college, ask a few key professors or staff members if they will serve as references. Some may write you a "blank" referral letter to use again and again. Others may serve as character references. Don't ask professors you don't know well or those whose classes you failed. If you over cut their class, didn't turn in a project, etc....don't ask for a reference!

6) Be realistic. Realize that to get that first job may take sacrifice. You might have to relocate. You may have to take a job title or salary that is not within your original expectations. If your search is too narrow, you will have trouble finding that first position. Consider the opportunities that will extend from that first job - whether it means transferring up within a large company or even just gaining work experience in a field you desire. Some trade-offs are worth it. And, your expenses are low right now, so you may be able to settle for a lower salary.

7) Prepare for interviews. Dress up. Don't wear schlumpy clothes to your first interview, even if it is a casual environment. Take off the knit cap. Don't wear flip flops. Look sharp. Suits are still expected. Have a physical copy of your resume with you. Bring samples of your work. Know the company you are interviewing with and have one or two questions prepared that show your understanding of what they do. Even better, bring a sample of what you can do directly related to that job. For example, one public relations candidate brought a press release she had written for a future event at the non-profit to which she was applying. She go the job.

8) Be patient. This is not a quick or painless process. It is humiliating. It is tedious. It is discouraging. It is overwhelming. But each interview is a bonus. Each call-back is a good sign. Each person is a possible lead. Let everyone know what you are doing. Talk about it. Pray about it. And then take one day at a time. Don't give up. It will happen. It just might not happen as soon or as easily as you'd expect.

This is part one of a small series. I've asked recent graduates how they secured their first jobs. In the next few days, I'll share their responses and advice to you as you begin your own search. Check back - there's some great things coming!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Save Beach Driving: Daytona Beach, Florida

I am a new resident. My husband and I moved from the Chicago area to Ormond Beach, Florida, in January.

And one of the reasons we chose this town is that my husband has always loved Daytona Beach.

It is one of the few beaches where cars are allowed to drive - directly on the sand and next to the ocean.

Every year, we would vacation in Daytona and try to get a hotel room that looked directly at the Atlantic Ocean. It was the only time of year my night-owl spouse would rise early. He'd jump out of bed, grab a blanket and cup of tea, and watch the sunrise.

Then we'd pack up the car and head to the beach.

In Daytona, you can park right where you are relaxing. You can keep your belongings in your car and return to it as often as you'd like. No need to lug your children and belongings from a hot parking lot and trek to the sand.

We'd open the trunk and maybe play the car radio. He loved to watch the cars drive by. Some have their windows tightly shut, air-conditioning on. Some are jeeps - no windows or doors - teenagers wearing sunscreen and blaring tunes. There is the occasional vintage convertible - much to my husband's delight.

There is so much to watch and enjoy.

Cars drive very slowly - and become part of the bustle that is Daytona. It is historically a part of this beach. As new residents, we went to the Granada beach entrance and walked through the tribute to the Ormond Beach races that happened here first.

I did not realize that the first land races in automobiles were in Ormond . . . on the beach. How incredible it must have been to see these cars flying on the sand. Certainly - in those days - it was a spectacle.

There isn't racing now, and I'm afraid there won't be driving either.

We've learned that the city council is planning to shut down beach driving. Motivations are masked by environmental concerns, but it appears this all comes down to money. Big hotels are moving in - and they want private beaches and no cars.

That is sad.

I hate when the one unique feature of a place is destroyed. It is the shopping mall syndrome where everything starts to be like everything else. Nothing is forever, of course, but couldn't we preserve the one unique feature of Daytona Beach?

There is a group fighting to allow residents to vote on this matter. Currently, they have little say or influence. There only recourse is not to reelect a government that refuses to listen.

Hopefully it won't be too late.

For more information, see and follow their Facebook pages: FREE Daytona Beach and Let Volusia Vote.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Prayer for the Overwhelmed

Sometimes life can be too much.
Too much to accomplish in too little time.

Too many worries
flooding my brain.

I turn to my computer,
flit from page to page.
I am distracted, unable to focus.


We are muddled, and messy,
and worn.

Lord, is there room for You
in these crowded moments?
Is there room for your peace, and
hope, and light?

Breathe deeply, friends.
Not just to center ourselves, but to
seek emotional, spiritual and mental rest in Him.
Leave your burdens at His feet, knowing He cares for you.

He is our resting place in times of trouble.

He steps into our lives and tells us
to set down our nets,
to sit at His feet,
to follow close.

He has a better way.
He is enough.

Quiet your heart.
Still your brain.
Allow yourself to feel cared for
And loved.

God sees you now - even in the messy -
even when we don't see Him.

Knowing I am seen, and that God has my back,
gives me strength and peace today.
He doesn't take away my to-do list,
but He gives me courage to tackle number one.

If you are overwhelmed,
if you are having one of those days where life seems a bit much,
where the concerns of life flood in,
let's pray together to the God who sees and knows and can do.

Praying with you today.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Florida Highwaymen (and woman)

In a local Florida antique mall, my husband and I were struck by a scenic painting that captures the beauty of the Florida coastline. Then we noticed another, and another.

The clerk explained to us that these mid-century paintings were the work of a group of artists known as the Florida Highwaymen.

In Chicago, we've met individual street artists, but this was the first time we'd ever heard about this group of Florida men and women who left behind a legacy of landscapes.

This group of 26 self-taught, African American men (and at least one woman) sold their paintings on the side of highways in Florida in the 1950s. At the time, collectors paid $20 to $40 per painting. Today, some are valued in the thousands of dollars, and the prices continue to rise for the originals.

Not only are the paintings beautiful, but they show their ingenuity, resilience, and remarkable talent.

A few more facts from this helpful website:

  • They painted on Upson board (compressed paper), tree trunk easels and artist's oils.
  • The Highwaymen sold their artwork out of the back trunks of their cars.
  • Painting and selling landscape art was their escape from working in factories and citrus groves.
  • Many of the paintings were sold before the paint had time to dry and were completed in an hour or less.
  • Frames were hand constructed out of crown molding and finished with house paint and gold paint.
  • It is estimated that more than 150 thousand paintings were sold!
  • Today, you can see many of the originals (and imitators) for sale on Ebay.
  • Some of the Highwaymen are still painting today.

For more information and to see a movie trailer, see these helpful websites:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Can a Woman Be Too Strong?

I was reading an essay, written by a female Christian author, advising strong women about the harm they can inadvertently do to their marriage if they let they don't tone down their personality.

The essay left me frustrated and then a bit angry.

The author was explaining how her strong outgoing nature was first very attractive to her husband, and then (after they had been married for some time), it started to grate on their relationship. She was always interjecting what she needed and what she wanted. She needed to tone down who she was in order to make the relationship work.

As a woman who considers herself a strong woman - I thought this was a dangerous article.

But I also know this is a real concern for many young women who find themselves considering marriage. At the Christian college where I taught, I was often approached by female students - in their final year of college - who were a bit dismayed that they had no marriage prospects and not even serious boyfriends.

Unfortunately, there is an unrealistic expectation among many in these circles that they should marry  or at least seriously dating by graduation. I remember one student complaining, "What am I doing wrong? Why isn't anybody interested in me?"

Truth be told, I was a little surprised. She was beautiful and intelligent and witty and sharp. I think she scared the college-age men. Many of my sharpest students dated very little in college. For many, serious relationships did not happen for years following graduation. It took time to find the right person.

Strong women are not a fit for every man. True. But strong women should not have to diminish their personality to make someone love them.

One of the things I most loved about my husband is that he admired and respected my strength. He was proud of my achievements, he wanted my opinion, he was never threatened by me.

To the young women who doubt themselves and wonder if they will ever find a match - I say, "Wait. Be patient. Refuse to settle or change who you are."

God created you. He knows everything about you. He will guide you and show you the way you should go (Ps. 32:7,8). You should in no way diminish what God has created in you in order to begin or sustain a relationship. Dumbing down is never the answer.

But I had another thought about the article. What if the author was using "strength" as synonymous with rudeness or selfishness?

What if, sometimes, in being strong we demean our spouse? If that was the case in the author's essay, she would be right to curtail it. True strength of character should never harm another person or push one's way at all costs. And that is true whether you are male or female.

I want to be strong in the best ways. I want to be courageous about my feelings. I want to say big words and answer hard questions. I refuse to dumb down my intelligence to be considered more attractive. I want to work hard and think deeply.

And I want my husband to be the same way.

We can be strong together.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Among Friends: Who Do You Want to Be?

Reposting this introduction to my blog for Among Friends - by Igniting Women publishers. If you haven't seen their site - they have some wonderful, short essays by some of your favorite authors (like me, perhaps?!). Follow the link at the end of this introduction to read the full essay.

My teenage daughter is filling out college questionnaires, and they all ask the same perplexing question: “What do you want to be?”

The problem is, she doesn’t know. Not yet.
I think it’s the wrong question. Too often, who we want to be gets mixed up with a job title or a more personal goal—we want to be a pediatrician or somebody’s girlfriend, wife, or mother, for example.
Maybe a better question to ask is, “Do you know who you are?” In my self-description on Pinterest, I settled on a series of words: Girly. Nerdy. Vintage-loving. Writer. Wife. Mother. Christ-follower.
Truth be told, my clever little list is incomplete. You could add some not-so-flattering words: klutzy, disorganized, tired, cranky. These are also true, but not really what I want to shout to the world.
One thing I love about following Jesus is that He knows me completely. In Him, Scripture says, “I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
What does it mean to be fully known? And do we ever really get there? Finish the Essay at the Among Friends Site Here!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Ten Things I Love About My New Home Town

I'm now living in Ormond Beach, Florida, which is a small coastal town just north of Daytona Beach. We moved here in January - and I am now past the exhaustion of moving. I have loved just being able to breathe deeply and have a sense of place. We love spending time with family - and I'm enjoying NOT commuting for a change.

Was it a difficult transition? Yes - I've never lived outside of the Midwest. But, despite my nervousness about a new town and a new state, I have to tell you: I love this place.

Here are 10 Random Things I Love about my new home town:

1) The Beach - Now I've never been a lay out and sun tan all day kind of gal. But, I adore walking on the beach. This morning we saw the sun rise over the Atlantic - and the big, calm, wide stretch of sand goes on forever.  I can walk and bike for miles by the ocean. Sunrise or sunset. Stepping into the wet sand and letting waves hit my legs. Picking up sea shells. It is wide and grand and wonderful.

2) Garlic Knots - The pizza here is nothing to write home about (and NOT as good as Chicago), but they have this wondrous creation called Garlic Knots. I think it is a New York thing. They are knots of pizza dough that are then doused heavily with butter and tons of garlic. I have told the owner at Stavro's Pizza that he is going to be my downfall. I could eat enormous portions of these - and no one would want to talk to me for hours.

3) Bridge Signs - I love the signs they post on either side of the bridge that connects "beach side" to "mainland." It is our old-fashioned announcement system. This weekend is Herb Fest and Celtic Fest and a Softball Game. Just check the signs. Easy.

4) Lizards - There are tiny lizards everywhere and they scurry out of the way when you walk by. I would normally freak out at mice or snakes (and yes, we saw a few snakes) but the lizards are adorable.

5) Moxie Vintage - There is an area called Beach Street on Mainland that has antique shops, an outstanding sushi restaurant, an art cinema - and a fab vintage shop called Moxie Vintage. Sabrina bought a 1980s dress to wear to prom there.

6) Surfers - I never want to learn to surf. Now that we've got that out of the way. I adore the surfer look. There is a tall surfer guy who stands in front of us at church. The blonde tosseled, slightly unkempt hair, the tan, the laid back vibe. They are so cool...I want to be them (without the actual surfing).

7) Seafood - We have always loved Ocean Deck Restaurant in Daytona - which opens up right onto the beach. but now we have Riptides (with about six different kinds of oysters) and Hull's Seafood where you can eat outside and enjoy fish fresh off their own boat. Seafood is plentiful and fresh here - and I am eating plenty of it.

8) Being Outside - I know it will be hot all summer, but oh the joy of being outside year round. I am soaking it in. I love biking and walking and even working on our house. People are active here. I love that.

9) Our Mid-Century House - It needs some work - but we are having a blast redecorating and fixing up this fixer-upper. It is just our style - and has that 1960s charm we wanted. The terrazzo floors - the wood built-ins, the pink and blue bathroom. Oh - and Old Stuff Antiques has been very helpful in selling fabulous things to put in it.

10) Palm Trees - Such a silly thing - but they still fascinate me. My neighborhood is full of them - and when I see them swaying in the breeze I know I'm not in Indiana anymore.

The only thing that is missing is YOU - do come and visit us. We're getting a guest room ready!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Are You Average or Beautiful?

Beauty, they tell me, is in the eye of the beholder. But what if the beholder is yourself?

Whenever I tell my teenage daughter she's beautiful, she tells me, "You have to say that. You're my mom."

And I know how she feels. It is difficult to feel confident in your own appearance.

Growing up, I had a terrible self image. I was way, way too skinny. I know for some of you that might sound appealing, but it wasn't. I was the kind of stick thin where clothes don't fit and boys don't look at you.

I'm glad I'm past those days.

Now - as I'm just about to turn 50, I feel more at home with how I look than I ever have. I weigh quite a bit more than I did back then. I look in the mirror and see graying roots and crooked teeth, but I also see kind eyes and a ready smile. I feel happy and comfortable in my skin.

But, beautiful?

Recently, Dove - the beauty products company - tried an experiment. On a busy building entrance they placed large signs above two doors. One read "BEAUTIFUL" the other "AVERAGE." They then videotaped the women who approached the doors.

They did this in the United States, but also in other countries.

I'll let you watch this video yourself, but it broke my heart a little bit.

After you're done, look in the mirror. Take a good hard look - and then tell yourself, "I am beautiful." Tell the women in your life the same thing. We all need to hear it.

Watch the video and CHOOSE BEAUTIFUL.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Amazing Results of an Ordinary Life

I've been thinking about average women.

I know a lot of women who don't think their lives are all that special. Sure they are special in the sense that they have people who love them and who they love in return. But, perhaps, they feel they aren't making great strides in this world.

They aren't an Oprah or an Angelina Jolie. A Hilary Clinton or Princess Kate.

When I googled famous women, it suggested a list of 100 - living and dead. The historic women are writers and academics and social workers, the living are musicians and actresses (go figure!).

But the women I want to talk about are regular women.

You work hard and rarely make headlines. Many of you have full-time jobs in addition to the work you do at home.

You care for your children. You make meals. You dust. You drive lots of places. You wash clothes. Over and over and over again.

When the alarm clock buzzes, you get up.

When someone calls, you answer.

You work hard.

One of the women in my book, When Others Shuddered, was like that. When I researched Virginia Asher's life, I had difficulty because there wasn't a great deal written about her. She had never stopped to write an autobiography. She was too busy doing ordinary work. She went to school. She married. She helped her husband, who was a pastor. She volunteered. She spent time talking to other women. She held Bible studies.

When you look at Virginia's face, it is rather plain and ordinary. She is a woman you would pass by on the street and never stop to stare.

But what was remarkable about Virginia is that she had this huge heart. In the midst of a fairly ordinary life, she reached out to other women - particularly women who had a tough time in life.

She walked into Chicago's roughest brothel district and went right into the most expensive one. She wasn't there to protest or fight the evils of the day. She just offered to sit with the prostitutes, pray with them, hold the hands of one sick women or write a letter to her worried family. She just loved on them. Quietly, patiently.

When she was working in the city, she noticed that many ordinary women - women like herself - spent long hours in factories for low wages. She decided to start a small lunch for these ordinary women. She offered them sandwiches and Bible study.

At first just a few women attended. Then more. Then it grew beyond her boundaries. Word spread that Virginia Asher was a friend to women. She gave them friendship and hope. Soon, the Virginia Asher Women's Business Council was meeting across the country.

All because of one ordinary woman.

You see, we don't have to be extraordinary. We just have to look and see where we are placed. We have to be willing. We have to work hard.

We are extraordinary, not because of ourselves, but because we serve an extraordinary God.

When Virginia died, women gathered to talk about this "mother" they held dear. Virginia never had a child - it was one of her biggest longings and regrets. But she had thousands of women who called her "mom"...she had inspired them, comforted them, and lived a life of faith that gave them hope.

One woman wrote that not a day would go by that some woman somewhere would not pray and thank God for the life of this ordinary woman: Virginia Asher.

I am thanking God today - for many of you - the regular, ordinary, up -at-dawn punching the clock women. Take courage friends. Your life matters.

God is doing something through you that may not always seem apparent to you at the moment. He will take your small offering of love and hope and hard work and multiply it.

You have influenced one life...mine. And I know He will do great things through you.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Helping Amanda

Amanda would never ask for your help.

So I will.

Amanda Rinkel was my student at Moody - and I sensed, right away, she was a special person.

She was a bit older than my other students with long red hair, freckles, and a serious nature.

Growing up, her family operated a grist mill in Indiana. They made pancake mixes and flour as well as supplied electrical power to their neighborhood. Her family's life centered around the mill, so Amanda dropped out of high school to help.

Her decision to quit school - which some of us might find shocking - came in response to a family crisis. Her mom had been diagnosed with a genetic and incurable disease: Huntington's Disease.

Amanda was tested as well. She found out that she, too, has Huntington's. She doesn't know how long her life will be or how long she will be able to function well. Life expectancy is generally 20 years after symptoms begin. But, Amanda did not give in to self-pity or despair.

She refused to give up.

One day, while listening to Moody Radio at the mill, she heard an advertisement for a new major reaching women who had been sexually exploited. She was riveted. It was like God was speaking directly to her.

She knew she should enroll at Moody Bible Institute, but there was one problem. She did not have a high school diploma.

Again, she refused to give up.

She went back to school at nights and earned her GED in just a few months. She applied to Moody and was accepted. She returned to school, to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. That was when we met.

I adore Amanda - and I so appreciate her story. She is passionate about helping other women. She teaches self defense classes and is studying to minister to women, but now she needs our help.

Last year, she was forced to drop out of college due to a lack finances. She decided to go home and work and save up enough money to return. In the meantime, she has been working as much as possible, cleaning hotels, helping her family, and taking courses online.

Now she wants, more than anything else, to return to Chicago. I think she should.

We can help.

Will you consider helping Amanda with a small donation? She needs $7500 to return to Chicago in the fall.

Any amount will help. Will you prayerfully consider a small gift today?

Some friends of Amanda have set up a "gofundme" account to raise money. I think this is a wonderful opportunity to help a woman who has never asked for help. Follow this link to give:

Dream a Little Dream

Have you ever had one of those long, extended, nightmare-style dreams that refuses to give up?

You struggle to open your eyes, realize you are far away from that wretched situation, snuggle back in, and - BOOM - back in it.

Even after I got all the way up this morning, I was all sweaty and twitchy - still fighting that nervous feeling from my night-long bad dream. Something about a man who would shoot at me with a giant machine gun after first calling me on my cell phone. Whenever it would ring, I would hit the floor.

I have one recurring dream. I call it my student stress dream. Lost on a huge campus, I am on my way to take a test. It is a comprehensive test for a class that I didn't know was on my schedule (thus I forgot to attend). For some reason I think I can still pass the test and survive the semester, so I am determined to show up and pass the test anyway. So I'm walking, hurrying, to this "never-took-the-class-but-need-to-pass-the-test" test. And, I can't find it.

I am completely lost. I am frantically running across acres of grass, building to building, and no one will help me or answer my questions.

Finally, in a huge panic, I wake up. I am done with college. I am not in a class. I don't have a test. Phew.

I'm not alone. I've heard this is a common dream. Many people who have attended college - and many teachers - have this same scene replay while they are sleeping. Not sure what this says about our educational experience.

Rarely do I have good dreams. I want to dream of faraway places, falling in love, revisiting loved ones who have died. I want the kind of dreams to sink into and escape. I want happy dreams that leave me rested and secure.

More often, my dreams are scary and stressed...

How about you? What is your most prevailing dream?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

My niece, Sylvie, left the Easter bunny carrots and kale last night.

She said the plate was empty when she woke up (hungry wabbit),
her basket and Easter egg candy were left behind.

I miss those days.

My "little" is now not so little.
At 17, she is too old for baskets, and we no longer await the arrival of the  bunny. 

Easter feels a little less magical now. 

Today, for us, celebrating Easter was about family and faith. 

I ate too much food, snuck handfuls of chocolate eggs, and then had some long and rather difficult conversations with one of my family members who is going through an incredibly tough time.

I pray that each of you had a good day - a day that was filled with moments of sheer happiness. But, even if you are facing difficult days, I hope you stopped to breathe in the real "magic" of Easter. Not the waiting for the Easter Bunny kind (although that can be quite special), but the Jesus conquering the grave kind.

No matter what you are facing, know today that our Savior has conquered it.
He is stronger than our weakness. 
He has beaten death.
He is Lord, and He is Risen.
And that is why we celebrate.
In Christ alone, our hope is found.
Happy Easter my friends.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Beach Blessing

Yesterday, I felt like a tourist.

We packed a picnic basket with ice and drinks and bag of salt and pepper chips that I can't stop eating. We drove the few miles south to the central area of Daytona Beach.

Milt loves Daytona Beach because they allow cars to drive on it. He gets to look at the water and automobiles - all at one time.

For years, Milt and I have made this stop on every trip to Florida. There is something magical about waking up to the sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean, so our hotels were always upgraded slightly to include an ocean view room.

The trouble with vacations is that the weather doesn't always cooperate. Many times we were at Daytona on cloudy, cool days. We would stubbornly plunk down on our beach towels, wearing sweatshirts with the wind whipping sand pellets at our faces, refusing to admit that this just wasn't working.

Today wasn't one of those days. It was Good Friday and the beach was packed. We squeezed our Kia Soul into the first available spot. The sun was full-on gorgeousness. But no longer had we sat down then a young couple in their 20s came walking up to us, smiling.

The guy turned to Milt and said, "Do you mind if we talk to you for a minute?" To which my husband quickly replied, "What are you selling?"

"Nothing," he said, shaking his head. The girl added, "I felt like we were supposed to come and talk to you." "Yes," he nodded. Now they were crouching down in front of us.

Why are they crouching? Why are they in our space?

"I think you have something you are meant to give away," the young man explained. "Not necessarily money. Land?"

Are they selling timeshares? I wondered... what is this? Why are they two blocking my view?

"And, you," she said, pointing at me. "You are meant to give as well, something about being a hairstylist. Creative?"

There was an uncomfortable silence. I was completely confused. Who were these people, and why were they tell me to be a hairstylist? Was it too much to be left alone for one moment? I hadn't even put suntan lotion on yet.

"We're Christians," he said.

Oh...oh...oh...the clouds cleared. I get it. I had been there. I had done evangelism in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago. They were

"We are too," I said.

They continued to talk about college and what they hope to do. I told them about Moody, and Milt told them about my book. They were adorable, really. They are dating and trying their best to do what God tells them to do. And this time He told them to talk to us.

And then they asked if they could pray for us. And they blessed us. And it was really beautiful.

The rest of the day was ordinary. We ate oysters at the Ocean Deck. Walked on the boardwalk and played skeeball. Bought a shell-covered souvenir.

But I won't forget that prayer. Even though my introverted self rebelled against such an intrusion, it was a lovely start to our day. A moment of consecration of ordinary life. It was a Good Friday beach blessing.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fresh Starts

I was watching the television show Bones last night, and the main character Dr. Temperance Brennan (a nerdy, brainy forensic anthropologist) decides to start a Twitter feed to promote her book.

But - instead of posting light, fascinating brief comments, she makes obtuse references to scholarly articles. She ends up with 10 followers. Dismal. A failure.

So, at the advice of a colleague, she changes her approach. Light. Fun. Selfies.

Boom - 1,000 followers.

I laughed, because my own attempts at Twitter and social media self promotion are fairly dismal. It is hard to be that interesting all of the time. Or, that profound. Or, that anything.

Blogging is one of my favorite things - but it has lost its joy. It has become more of a duty than a love. It is like those diaries I had as a little girl - still have about five of them. I would fill out five days in a row and then...nothing. I would write "did not write" on each page until I gave up even doing that.

Consistency is not my thing.

So, I'm going to try an experiment. I'm going to blog every day for a month. Every day of April (starting today).

I'm going to just be honest - say what's happening - give one tiny observation - take a photo - pray with words about what's pressing on my heart.

I'm going to write about my walk on the beach and the amazing number of tiny shells that littered the sand.

I'm going to write about Easter and how I mourn not buying and filling and hiding baskets anymore.

I'm going to write about watching too much Netflix and saving myself with library books.

And, I'm not going to over think anything.

I'm not going to over analyze who is reading or why they would care about my random observations.

I'm just going to write to write and write some more.

I'm not doing it to increase my readership. I just want to rediscover my voice.

I'm going to start over.

I'm going to keep it simple.

All of April with no "did not write pages"... I pinky promise.