To a Dear Friend

October 22, 2014

"Are you going to blog while you're away?" 
My friend asks this eagerly, with the kind of smile on her face probably similar to mine. Almost three hours of kindred-spirited heart-conversation will do that.
"I hope to!" 
Panera has closed, but we stayed chatting till quarter to ten before walking out to my car. I was shivering for lack of a proper coat but we didn't want to say goodnight. And so we talked and laughed for another twenty minutes before finally saying goodbye when it started to drizzle. 

This friend is ten years my senior, a wife to an amazing man, mama to three adorable little ones, and did I mention her mother in-law is awesome, too? Well, my friend'd be the one to tell you that. What she would also tell you is that my mother is somewhat of a Titus 2 friend and she is so grateful to God for her. What my friend probably doesn't know, is that I look at her the same way.

We talked on and on about a myriad of things. Our families, the past, present, funny stories, special life moments so crystal-clearly God's perfect plan. How we are both fearfully and wonderfully made works in progress. How that one phrase is easy to think about or even write, but it takes a different form when we have to walk out life in it's grace-laden truth.

She shared her love story, what God taught her in and brought her through before her husband came into the picture pretty abruptly. *smile* What marriage means to her, the continual choice to be selfless, in comparison to the "automatic" selflessness motherhood requires. She shared many things with a wink and smile to, "Store away for later."

It is serendipitous moments like this, with a new, dear friend, where I am reminded of God's amazing goodness and His grace. His all-sufficient grace that is here. It cannot become more sufficient or less--we cannot receive more grace than He has already provided. It is that infinite and fathomless. I left there that night after three precious hours of talking and listening and receiving grace from this dear friend with a light heart.

So, thank you, dear friend who I know is reading this. Can't wait to visit again with you when I get home from the South to share all the pictures and memories yet to be made.

20 Things | A Tag

October 20, 2014

Thanks to Savanna at The Engrafted Word for tagging me to share twenty things you may or may not know about me. Here's the scoop, my friends! Even though most of ya'll probably know most if not all of these randomly assorted facts.


  1. How tall are you? Five feet, four inches. I stopped growing at twelve.
  2. Do you have a hidden talent, if so, what? Crocheting is one thing I hardly ever share about here on the blog, though I do want to join up with the Yarn Along every Wednesday...I love making big projects like afghans for friends, and ripples are my favorite go-to pattern. I have two baby afghans on the agenda to begin in a few months when the happy parents find out the sex of their baby, and until that point I'll be making some slipper socks.
  3. What's your biggest blog-related pet peeve? Ohh...gosh. Probably those who apologize for an inconsistent blogging schedule, or when they took a break and then come back. I completely understand the importance of building a following and engaging with readers and giving them something to expect as far as content and regularity but, as Laurie Tomlinson so astutely put it:
    life > blogging.
  4. What's your biggest non-blog related pet peeve? Loud coworkers, witchy patients who take their frustrations out on the check-in girl, *ahem* Textbook history and the Christian fiction's sympathetic emphasis on the South during the Civil War. I acknowledge the South suffered infinitely more than the North during all four years of the war--therefore, in fiction, more writing material! AND I'm also not saying the North was faultless and noble. Far from it. However, the strength and ingenuity the women of the North displayed during the Civil War are things to be written about and highlighted as just as noble as the South's women. Not only that, but my home state of Pennsylvania was second only to New York in the sheer number of manpower it volunteered in the form of soldiers.
    And Pennsylvania has the largest monument in Gettysburg. Just sayin'.
  5. What's your favorite song? Really. Really? Hmm. One song that holds so much meaning and brings tears to my eyes every time is a re-discovered Casting Crowns song, Wedding Day. In the middle of my little, present-tense messes, the lyrics draw my heart upwards to the glorious future hope that is eternity with Jesus. Not to mention the imagery and tie-ins to an actual wedding are beautiful.
  6. What's your favorite Etsy shop that isn't yours? Turn Around 360, by my friend Michaela.
  7. What's your favorite way to spend your free time when you're alone? Besides writing here or in the novel{s}, I've been trying to get back into reading consistently. And I play a myriad of a few current songs, old movie tunes or Broadway classics on our piano.
  8. What's your favorite junk food? Anything with cheese. Cheeto's, Mac and Cheese--any kind, queso and chips...get the cheesy picture?
  9. Do you have a pet or pets? If so, how many and what are their names? My family has two cats. A petite calico named Chloe who suffers from feline asthma and sneezes a lot, she loves outside even though she's an indoor cat, and she's kinda crazy. Then there's my favorite, Doc. He's a big black galoot with a few white hairs on his chest, a British short hair, and is quite the introverted cat. He hates large groups of people and normally hides, but he is just a big bumbling baby when it's just us. He's the cat I talk to and my sister tells me I'm turning into an old-maid cat lady. And I suppose I kind of am. *smile*
  10. What're your number one favorite nonfiction and fiction books? Favorite nonfiction is Streams in the Desert by L.B Cowman--a classic and a consistent balm to my spirit. Favorite fiction...ugh. I'm going to have to go with Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin. This first book in her Civil War standalone trilogy, Refiner's Fire series, was what first piqued my interest and now-passion for historical fiction, specifically the Civil War era. Joanne Bischof's Cadence of Grace trilogy is a close second to Lynn Austin's trilogy in my book.
  11. What's your favorite beauty product? Mascara. My eyelashes are incredibly blond, so without mascara I look like I'm ten. They say I'll be grateful for my baby face one day, but it's not this day.
  12. When were you last embarrassed? What happened? *flips thru mental book of embarrassing antidotes* About a year ago at a Bible study I was sitting across from a guy that I was--past tense, ya'll--interested in getting to know. He was a scholarly Christian, quiet, writer, handsome. Even more introverted than me. *cough* I'll leave out the story of how I cured myself of this interest. Anyhow, I was sitting across from him and took a sip of my iced tea. A small sip. And whoosh. Cascaded in a thin stream down my chin and shirt.
  13. If you could only drink one beverage {besides water} for the rest of your life, what would it be? Coffee. Naturally.
  14. What's your favorite movie? Little Women, pretty much any Gene Kelly film or classic movie musical, Beauty and the Beast, Captain America, and The Winter Soldier.
  15. What were you in high school? Prom queen, jock, nerd, cheerleader, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep? Technically--none of these, because I was homeschooled. But I suppose I was the nerd/valedictorian for going above and beyond in detail when assigned to write anything having to do with whatever era in America history we were studying. And I did graduate with honors in English. *smile* True story.
  16. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Gettysburg. Big surprise, huh?
  17. PC or Mac? I have a Google Chromebook, a Linux small laptop that works fabulously. Mac is too expensive and is far too complicated.
  18. Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boyfriend or spouse? Not applicable. I'm as single as the day is long and that seems not to be changing any time soon.
  19. Favorite celebrity? Pretty much all of the main cast from Once Upon a Time. Chris Evans. *swoon*.
  20. What blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with? Fellow indie authors Amber Stokes and Emily Ann Putzke. These two are some of the sweetest, most supportive blogger friends I know, and they write my favorite genre, historical fiction. Therefore, I tag both of them to post twenty things we may not know about them. I'm also tagging them because I feel bad about owing both of them emails! 

10 Months of Abiding | One Word

October 17, 2014

Abiding

This word. I couldn't tell you why this word was put on my heart, only that it was, and at the beginning of the year I pictured it looking very differently than it does right now. I can tell you that, in spite of me and everything this year has seen, I am closer to God through it all.

A year ago at this time, this blog was still Just As I Am. At the beginning of the year, as I look back thru the archives, I was still very much into self-preachy posts and always tying the end of each post up all pretty and concise and encouraging. On one hand--I sometimes need to write those, Speak hard truths, posts to myself. But too often as I look back I see a thread of pushing down deep my true struggles and just focusing on the ones that were on the surface. It's humbling going back and reading posts from earlier this year, knowing exactly how I was feeling and the deep things I tried not to dwell on as I was writing many posts. God is good to use many of these older posts to speak grace into my heart. 


Grace

One huge thing that has really sunk in from my head to my heart in recent months. I get the Sunday school lesson on grace. Probably too well. Up until this year, it hasn't sunk in so deeply for me. My unreasonably high expectations and perfectionism that affects not only me but anyone around me is because I don't remember grace. Beating myself up over being altogether imperfect {this is me using brevity for once here}, is because I don't get grace. I hate struggling with stuff, I hate being wrong, I hate having my plans changed or thwarted. This is pride, yes, but it goes deeper too. It's been a constant struggle to put priority on me. Deeper than that--to remember God's grace that is all-sufficient, and realize I am important, special, and worthy because of, thank you Jesus, nothing I could ever do. There is not a number of people I could please to make me any more or less important/worthy. 

So abiding has taken a different form. It's involved painful transparency with the Lord Who knows me inside and out, but wants to hold me. It has been dear heart-friends helping to knock some grace-sense into my head. One night in May I just let it all out and cried to a sister about how it was so difficult trying to be and do enough...just because I "had" to. I've come to realize some anxiety tendencies and doing my best to abide, not strive. For instance--I'm okay if there's not a clear end to this post. It may not make total sense to whoever reads it, but it makes sense to me and I will not apologize for sharing on my blog where I am at, where I've come from this year, and how I'm growing by God's grace.
I just took a look at this graphic I made above for the first time since January. The definitions of Abide still ring so true for me now. 
  • To endure, sustain or withstand without yielding. I see the word "stand" in there. I must stand on the promises of Jesus my Savior, and stay rooted. Find my security and worth solely in Him. And this will build endurance for the day to day, for the chronic pain, to press on with my novel. All with grace.
  • To accept without question or condition. This one still zings like it did in January. I've struggled with my hip disability and chronic pain more this year than I have in awhile. Maybe that's because I've come to terms with the fact that it's okay to struggle and not have everything all together all the time. And I don't always have to put on a brave face and stuff down the resentment and questions and hurt I feel from the pain. Another facet of accepting and abiding joyfully in God's will for my life.
  • To wait for; await. Right now, this is still feels like a jigsaw puzzle. In our frenetic day to day life, waiting can imply stagnancy and a lack of action, and it's viewed negatively. But why? Even Jesus rested. He prayed and asked His cup of suffering be taken away from Him. He had full, perfect, unadulterated communion with God--as His perfect son! And yet in His time on earth--He still asked God in the Garden of Gethsemane for the suffering to be taken away. But nevertheless, not My will but Your's be done. Some days, I'm not too bad at waiting. For the book contract, for the guy. And therein I fall into complacency. And other days I'm not entirely good at accepting where I am in life without question or condition. There is discontent rearing it's ugly head and forgetting all the blessings I have to count. 
Anyhow, this waiting game. I by nature am not an outgoing person and the thought of stepping from my comfort zone and daring to knock on a door to see if God opens it, terrifies me. Even praying specifically and boldly freaks me out sometimes and I don't like to bother God with asking for specifics because His plan is infinitely better. However--a test of trusting and abiding is when I try moving and taking those steps. If the door's closed, it's closed. But I must literally take leaps of faith in more areas than one.

Turn Around 360 // Interview + Highlights

October 15, 2014

My dear friend Michaela is passionate about ending human trafficking and rehabilitating those rescued, one girl at a time. She started an Etsy shop called TurnAround360 that sells scarves, makeup bags and head wraps, among other things. Half of the money made on the items sold from this shop go towards safe houses here in the US for girls rescued from the sexual slavery and towards other missions such as the International Justice Missions. 
Why the name? TurnAround360's purpose is to donate earnings from items sold to different programs who's purpose is the help turn these precious girls' lives around-360 degrees.

Sexual exploitation and trafficking is a heinous degradation and debasement to those caught in it. It is an evil that must be stopped. Not very many people know that, not only is sex trafficking a problem around the world, it is a serious problem in the United States. More than 100,000 women, girls and boys are enslaved in the US and most of these are young girls. Victims are tricked, kidnapped or blackmailed and than brainwashed by pimps or madames so that they will not leave- trapped in a hopeless cycle of pain and, often, drug or alcohol addiction to deal with what is happening to them. The average age of girls in the US who are lured or coerced into slavery are between the ages 13-15 years old and are often runaways or come from troubled backgrounds, although that isn't always the case.

Trafficking destroys lives. It is an evil that cannot be fought alone.   We are all called to fight against evil and injustice and to be the salt and light to this world.   How will you become involved in this fight?

I'm hosting Michaela here today so she can tell us more about TurnAround360 and a little bit of background as to how she rose to this great need to put an end to human trafficking in the US.   

Well my friend, you're certainly not an unfamiliar face and name to the blog! I am so glad to host you officially today and to share about how you are working to enlighten others about this grievous crime of human trafficking all over the country, and save one girl at a time. First, could you share how you became aware human trafficking in the US and even in our own backyard?

Michaela: Thank you so much for sharing about this! I first became aware of what a problem human trafficking was in the US when I was a freshman in high school. There was a story in WORLD magazine and I've been trying to find it. All I can really remember about it now was how a high school girl was tricked by one of her " girl friends" into taking a road trip with her and her brother. That girl was then kidnapped by them, held captive and forced to perform sexual acts for payment. The pictures that accompanied it stayed with me- a girl locked up in a cage, as well as pictures of the area where the girl was held. She was later rescued. That story haunted me throughout high school and moved me to research and find out as much I as could about the issue. Turns out that this is not an isolated incident. There are as many as 17,500 trafficked in the United States a year, American citizens as well as foreign girls brought in from other countries.

What's the inspiration behind the name for your Etsy shop, Turn Around 360? 

Michaela: Funny story. That actually wasn't my first pick for a name, but a lot of the other ideas and variations of ideas that I had were either already taken or weren't processed correctly. Now that I've settled on Turn Around 360, it's beginning to take on a life of it's own, in a way, and I'm glad that this one worked because it portrays the heart behind this project. My hope with this etsy shop is to raise money for safe houses and rehab centers for girls who have been rescued from trafficking in the United States. The work that these few houses do is unbelievable- they want to turn these girls lives completely around (in other words, for the math nerds, 360 degrees), not just emotionally and physically, but spiritually as well, which is one of the most important things in the healing process. The homes also help the girls get back on track with school and offer life skills and art classes, as well as other activities. They are helping to rebuild these girls lives and help them to trust and love again. 

God has clearly given you a calling to rise to the great need of making people aware that human trafficking isn't just happening in foreign countries, but right in our own country.  Tell us more about how you plan to pursue this right in our own city of Pittsburgh.

Michaela: One of the problems is that people don't realize this is happening in their own backyards, so awareness is a big part of what I am doing right now. The number of trafficking cases in Pittsburgh has nearly tripled since 2010 and those are only known cases. There has also been an increase in "massage parlors" and strip clubs, which are often fronts for pimps. There's been an explosion of exploitation through Craigslist ads as well. I have a few projects up my sleeve to help educate people and raise awareness. They are in the works, so I'll keep you posted. ;) I'm also going to start volunteering with a great organization in Pittsburgh called "Gwen's Girls" that does a lot of work with inner-city girls and teen moms. It's more of a preventative program, but that is exactly what we need! 

Fifty percent of the earnings made off of the beautiful items in your shop will go to multiple organizations. Tell us more about what specific organizations the proceeds will benefit. 

Michaela: There are three organizations that I want to support through Turn Around 360: 
The A21 Campaign fights slavery all over the world. They have a lot of great and practical resources for anybody to get involved in the fight against modern slavery. They also own and operate safe houses across the globe to help heal rescued girls.
Hopewood Haven is operated by a Christian husband and wife team. Originally from Pittsburgh, Leslie Christ and her husband first became aware of how huge human trafficking is here in the US when they started in foster care. (Sadly, many trafficked children were either abused or trafficked by people in their own families.) I had the opportunity to talk with her before their move to South Carolina to open Hopewood Haven and her unwavering faith in the Lord and passion to work with other young girls was so inspiring.

Rahab's Hideaway is based in Ohio. They work with their local police force to rescue girls who are known to be trafficked. They are then transferred to the care of counselors and mentors in the home who help them to slowly heal. They are a Christian organization and are committed to serve and proclaim Christ in all that they do. The founder, a survivor of trafficking herself, is an incredible woman. Her testimony is on the website and I would highly encourage to go and watch and listen to what she has to say!

In closing, what is your prayer for your Turn Around 360 movement? 

Michaela: My prayer for the Turn Around 360 movement is that people would not just listen with empty ears about the atrocities taking place, but that the Lord would move their hearts and spur them to action. It would also be amazing to see more churches getting involved in the fight against modern slavery. This is not a one-person show. It takes the dedication, perseverance, prayers, sweat, tears and love of many to make a difference. In everything, we need to be committed to Christ. That is what I don't want to lose sight of- bringing glory to God by caring for and protecting His beloved children and speaking out against sin and evil.