Friday, January 29, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It is my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

My best friend from college loves this question…so this one is for her:
Tick Tock.
What makes you tick?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interview with Nicole Baart for One Body, One Hope

The following is an interview with author, Nicole Baart~
What is the mission or vision statement for One Body One Hope?
One Body One Hope was formed for the purpose of raising aid for victims of war and poverty in Liberia. Partnering with a church (Abide in the Vine) and an orphanage (Christ Our Hope) in Monrovia, this nonprofit organization provides a sponsorship program for orphans, relief and redevelopment aid for the church and community, as well as training for church and community leaders in Liberia. Through prayer, partnership, and financial, emotional, and spiritual support, we commit ourselves to working alongside our Liberian friends to rebuild their lives and their country.

Can you describe the moment you knew you wanted/needed to do something personally for the children of Liberia?

Aaron, my husband, and I have always had a heart for orphans. Even when we were dating, we often discussed our shared desire to someday adopt. It was when we were fulfilling that lifelong dream that we met Robert Bimba, the Liberian pastor who would become our connection to Christ Our Hope orphanage.

We were actually in Ethiopia at the time (not Liberia) picking up our infant son. Our travel dates had been pushed back one week because of a mistake on our court documents. We were devastated when we heard the news, but we believed that God must have a reason for postponing our longed-for union with our new baby. Not so surprisingly, we met Robert (who was staying at the same missionary guest house) only minutes after arriving in Ethiopia. It was one of those serendipitous encounters--those moments when you know that Someone much bigger than you is orchestrating lives according to his will. It became apparent over the week that we spend in Addis Ababa that God wanted to use this connection in ways we never dreamed possible.

How has God impacted your faith through the process of serving?

I feel like a little kid with my hands on the steering wheel of my Daddy’s big truck. He’s controlling the accelerator and brake, he’s steering with his big hands over mine, but he’s letting me sit on his lap and learn what it feels like to have the power to go places and change things. It blows me away that God loves us so much that he allows us to partake in his kingdom building. I’m not trustworthy! I’m not capable of making the Port of Monrovia open for containers we send. I’m not influential enough to ensure that the anti-malarial medication the kids need is not expired. But God is. And he continues to work in ways that awe me. My faith has been transformed since we began serving in Liberia. I know now that it is not (and has never been) what I do, but what God does through me and through others.

How do you balance your gift of writing with pouring into the ministry?

It’s hard sometimes, but thankfully One Body, One Hope has an amazing board of eight dedicated men and women who share the load. Our Treasurer has a gifted mind for finance, our Secretary keeps us all organized, and our Executive Director (my husband) keeps the mission and vision of our ministry before us. My workload for One Body, One Hope comes in bursts and spurts. I take care of all of our media, newsletters, mailings, and correspondence. I am also the official Registered Agent of the organization so I receive all our communication.

I noticed on your site that 100% of the funds given go to the child. What else would someone need to know about this ministry to make an informed decision about getting involved?

Because our board is so dedicated to our vision for helping these amazing kids, we do not have an operating budget. Instead, all printing, mailing, fundraising, and media work is paid for by our board members so that when you make a donation you can be assured that not a single penny of your gift is used to fund the management of One Body One Hope.

We are also very passionate about long-term goals in-country. In addition to making improvements to the orphanage and church we support, it is the vision of One Body One Hope to facilitate growth and redevelopment in Liberia. We do not intend to be wealthy benefactors who dole out money and then ignore the real needs of our African friends. Instead, we hope to partner with Liberian nationals to stimulate their economy, create jobs, foster work ethic, and raise up new leaders to help make Liberia a safe and stable country again. Some of the things that we are currently doing to promote this are: using local workers to make cement blocks and draw up plans for the different stages of our capital campaign, allowing our Liberian counterparts to set the vision and direction for both the orphanage and our involvement in it, and providing an education not only for the children at the orphanage, but also for the kids of the surrounding community through funds collected on behalf of the school. Some of our long-term goals include: offering job-training for older children so that when they are mature enough to leave the orphanage they have a life-skill and the potential to work a wage-earning job, providing educational grants for kids who would like to pursue higher learning, and continuing to seek ways to further train and educate the workers, church leaders, and teachers in the community around Christ Our Hope. One of the ways that we fund these endeavors is through our monthly sponsorship program. When a family decides to sponsor a child through One Body One Hope, we set aside five dollars every month from their thirty-dollar donation. This money is saved in a long-term fund for the child. When he or she reaches an age of maturity and “graduates” out of the orphanage, the money will be use as a nest egg to help the young man or woman start out a new life on the right foot.

What are the most pressing needs your ministry currently has?

We are in the midst of a big capital campaign. Right now, the kids at Christ Our Hope sleep three to a bed in a dormitory that houses 56 children (boys and girls) as well as the orphanage director and his family. They are, quite literally, on top of each other. We are in the process of raising $50,000 for a new dormitory, a security wall around the orphanage, a drinkable water line, a bath house, a library, furnishings for the school, new (safe) bunkbeds, and more. We are about halfway to our goal, but we have a ways to go!

In addition to the capital campaign, we are also currently looking for more sponsors. We are blessed to have 56 sponsor families for the kids at the orphanage, but now we hope to raise money for some of our adult workers and their families. The orphanage currently runs a community-wide Christian school that is staffed by eight university-educated men and women. These teachers work for nothing more than the one meal that is served halfway through the school day. But they have families to support! It is our goal to find people (or groups of people) willing to pay these teachers a monthly wage. For $75 a month (per teacher) we can do more than just support these men and women--we can begin to change their lives and transform their community. Most workers in Liberia make a scant dollar a day. We want to do more than that. We want to pay these educated workers a fair, competitive wage so that they can in turn help their friends and neighbors and begin to change the world around them.

Last of all, if you’ve been to our website, you may have noticed (you’d have to be blind not to!) that it is old and out-of-date. Since we have no operating budget, we have no finances whatsoever to fund the design and launch of a new website. Websites can cost thousands of dollars, and our board members (dedicated as they are) do not have the means to shoulder this sort of expense. It is our prayer that God will make a viable solution very apparent to us in the coming weeks and months.

Can you tell my blog readers more about who you are and what God is currently teaching you?

Yikes! That’s a tough question! Who am I…?

In no particular order… I am a wife of ten years to the man of my dreams (yup, I mean that--we are a one-in-a-million couple!), a mother of two (a beautiful six-year-old son that is the spitting image of his daddy and a breathtaking three-year-old that is our Ethiopian prince), a novelist (with three novels in print, another two waiting publication, and at least a dozen more rattling around in my head), an amateur photographer, a self-professed foodie, a lover of the great outdoors, a book addict, a wine enthusiast, and an eternal optimist.

What God is currently (and continually) teaching me is… that I am not in control (and have never been), that his plan for my life is bigger and better than the stuff of my wildest dreams, and that he loves me unconditionally, illogically, and with a furious abandon that I will never, ever understand. And I’m okay with that. :)
I'm so grateful to learn more about your ministry, Nicole. Thank you for being such a woman of character and vision. May God Bless your ministry, your family and your faith.
Please visit One Body, One Hope to learn more.

Monday, January 25, 2010

An Excellent Book Made Me Smile

I finished Donald Miller’s, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years this weekend. I also held my daughter’s hair back nine times (NINE times—Bueller) all throughout Saturday night and wiped her face. But I finished Miller’s book and despite the lack of sleep and my large intestine now wrestling with my small intestine, I smile. I smile. That is the power of a good book.

The book blends two things I’m in love with: story and life.

It’s good.

Because my large intestine and small intestine are having the battle of the century, I’m going to keep it short today. I intended to post an interview with a stellar author about a noble passion of hers. I’ll leave you in suspense until Wednesday.

*photo by flickr

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It is my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

The Question:

Silence is Golden or Say What You Need to Say

*photos by flickr
**check out the
devotional channel at Exemplify to read more about my love of refinishing furniture

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ten Little Confessions

On Monday I hosted author, Rachel Held Evans. She provided wonderful insights about how to handle memoir writing. I thought I’d air a little of my own laundry today. Key word: little.

You know the song, Ten Little Indians? One little…two little…three little…

Today I’m posting Ten Little Confessions:
  1. I’m obsessed with having soft hands. I apply hand lotion 2-3 dozen times a day.

  2. In the 1980’s, I had a poster of Corey Haim hanging on my wall. River Phoenix and Johnny Depp were up there too. Thank you Tiger Beat magazine.

  3. When my girls act up in the car I’ve been known to (on a rare occasion) turn the music up loud to drown out the noise (excellent coping skill and parenting, right?).

  4. I wear wool sweaters I owned in high school. They are still “stylish” and I find them too comfortable to part with.

  5. My first apartment consisted of a total of five pieces of furniture. (Come to think of it, it might have only been four.) I loved it.

  6. I saw Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch in concert. Yes, yes I did.

  7. I sing as well as a dying goose.

  8. Toys move to trip me in our house. I’m constantly bumping into things. My husband tries hard not to make faces, but I see him laugh every time. Every time.

  9. I can croak like a frog. Yes, yes I can.

  10. Still not sure why I do this, but as company is getting ready to leave I’ll ask an involved question. Jackets are on, door is open…out pops my random question.
Ah, that feels better. Anything little thing you want to confess?

*photos by flickr

**Happy Birthday to my little one. God is so good.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Guest Post by Rachel Held Evans

The Art of Airing Dirty Laundry

If your mother was anything like my mother, there were a few things you probably learned before the age of 10.

Look both ways before crossing the street. Don’t get into cars with strangers. Always say “please” and “thank you.” Never air your dirty laundry in public.

While I’ve faithfully observed the first three for the past 28 years, I’ve practically made a living ignoring the fourth.

That’s because every writer knows that readers don’t like one-dimensional characters. The good guy’s got to have some flaws in order to be relatable, and the bad guy’s got to show some shades of virtue now and then in order to be believable. As a creative non-fiction writer, with a spiritual memoir due out in July, this poses a bit of a challenge because the protagonist of my story just happens to be me. If I want my words to resonate with my readers, I have no choice but to air a bit of dirty laundry.

And I don’t mean a light load consisting of petty little dramas in which I play the victim. I mean the stinky, deep-stained stuff—secrets and fears, jealousies and prejudices, insecurities and acts of self-centeredness. (I may even have to write about the unfortunate incident involving an entire roll of refrigerated cookie dough that somehow ended up in bed with me the night after my first rejection from a publisher.)

As I’ve studied other memoirists, (particularly Anne Lamott and Donald Miller), I’ve noticed how skillfully they weave just enough dirty laundry into their narratives to gently remind us that we’re all in the same boat, all deeply flawed, and all insecure about it. Consider these observations to be like instructions on the care labels of your dirty laundry:

  1. Don’t overwhelm the reader. Nobody wants to read 140-pages of self-loathing—unless, of course, they are between the ages of 13 and 20.

  2. Have a sense of humor about it. In one of my favorite lines from “Bird by Bird,” Anne Lamott writes, “I started writing sophomoric articles for the college paper. Luckily, I was a sophomore.”

  3. “Air” on the side of caution when it comes to writing about family and friends. This might mean taking a little extra responsibility for mistakes that were made; it might mean truthfully showing—not telling—what happened.

  4. Lighten an intense theological or philosophical paragraph by poking fun at yourself for attempting it. In a particularly dense section of my book I quip, “Occasionally people will ask me what I think about truth. They ask me if I believe in it, what I think it is, and if I think it’s relative or absolute. These are pretty sophisticated questions to ask someone who once lost her contact lens in her eye … for two days.”

  5. Write honestly about sin. It’s one of the few things we all have in common.

  6. Write about those universal insecurities that we all share—our common dirty laundry, if you will. I loved Donald Miller’s poignant and funny thoughts in “Blue Like Jazz: “Everybody wants to be fancy and new. Nobody wants to be themselves. I mean, maybe people want to be themselves, but they want to be different, with different clothes or shorter hair or less fat. It’s a fact. If there was a guy who just liked being himself and didn’t want to be anybody else, that guy would be the most different guy in the world and everybody would want to be him.”

The beautiful thing is that there are perks to airing your dirty laundry. It frees you from the weight of carrying the load in secret. It gives you the chance to laugh some of it off. And when neighbors come by to add theirs to the heap, it reminds you that you’re not as alone as you might think.

Do you air your dirty laundry when you write?

(Rachel Held Evans is a writer from Dayton, Tennessee—home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. Her first book, “Evolving in Monkey Town,” will be released by Zondervan in July. She blogs at )

Friday, January 15, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It is my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.


River of Questions or Field of Answers?

*feel free to visit 5 Minutes for Faith today to read my devotional
**please consider donating to help Haiti.
World Vision and Compassion are two organizations I greatly respect
***photos by flickr

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Language of Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

* Special Thursday Book Review Post *

Recently I read The Language of Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. This is not a book I’d ordinarily go for, but I thought a little brush up on marital communication might serve me well. It served me adequately. It might be important to understand I’ve explored so much on this topic before. I’ve read up, attended classes and listened extra carefully whenever our pastor preached sermons on communication. I thrive on improving my marriage. This book inspired me only a fraction in that arena.

I learned some new acronyms though and for that I’m grateful. I also appreciated how Dr. Eggerichs uses multiple examples from his own marriage within the book. That vulnerable authentic approach appeals to me. The book is written for the pragmatic, systematic thinker, of which I’m neither. I’m all for outlines and examples but something about this read felt overdone, as though I attended a lecture three hours too long and was forced to doddle while tapping my leg, anxious to exit my seat.

I laughed when I read about “the crazy cycle,” agreed with scriptural references and overall felt the book could prove beneficial for some marriages.

The concept = valuable. The acronyms = helpful. The repetitiveness = longwinded & aggravating.

I’m thankful to read all kinds of books (this one included) for BookSneeze (love that new name…hysterical and yet catchy...catchy, HA!).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Playing Against the Doldrums

This time of year has the potential to swing me into a funk. How about you? Do you fight off the overeating, reflective to a ridiculous point, SADD moody blues? I’ve learned to fight and people, sometimes I don’t fight fair. I combat any sinking feelings with prowess and intentionality.

I’m going to share ten ways I play against the doldrums today:

  1. When it’s time to iron (which I loathe) I head to the basement, crank up music and dance as I’m scooting the iron across pants, creasing them flat as Ohio terrain.

  2. I make birthday plans (Now might be a good time to tell you all three of our girls have birthdays at the end of this month. No we did not plan that and no our anniversary isn’t in April…but spring is ;) Having something to look forward always helps.

  3. I dedicate time to a craft project other than writing. Quilting, refurbishing a furniture piece, learning how to mosaic…I’ll try anything. I didn’t say I’d be good at everything, but I’ll try it.

  4. I exercise. I walk (or run) on our treadmill (a note: I used to run outside in frigid weather. During a blizzard, while I was in college, I headed out for a run dressed in shorts. Several friends pulled up next to me, insulated in their car yelling, “Run Forrest. Run.” I got a reality check). Today I stack three or four books where I can reach them and dig in. I got this idea from Stephen King. In On Writing he wrote that he walks and reads at the same time and well, if he can certainly I can. :D

  5. I pray. Another thing I do while on the treadmill is go through the ACTS in my life. I share with God all the ways I Adore him. I Confess things I need to release. I Thank God for just about everything. Then I supplicate my requests to him, asking for help in specific areas and with specific people. I also make time to read the Bible throughout the day. My children sing Bible verses before dinner every night (okay, I know I pushed it. I’m kidding on that one).

  6. I think about a getaway. I’ve gotten away so few times. I can count on one hand the times I’ve left for more than a six hour stretch (excluding our Austria trip). Youch. I’m hopeful about attending writer’s conferences in April and September this year. I’m working for the funds, but I trust it will be worth it.

  7. Sundays and Wednesdays. Not sure I’ve told you about these two days before. My husband and I hold fast to them. They are the days we’ve marked off to connect if the rest of the week spins around us like a rabid Tasmanian devil. At least we have these nights to catch up, work through conflict and connect.

  8. I give myself a break. That’s right, without going overboard I give in to little innocent temptations. Yesterday I felt like baking chocolate chip cookies, so I did. It served as a good practice in discipline for me not to eat the entire bowl of cookie dough before I popped the tray into the oven.

  9. I read. I read. I read. When the earth is covered with that lovely brown snow and the wind is so intense it turns my nose and cheeks crimson after being outside less than two seconds I hibernate. I curl my hand around a mug of tea, toss a blanket on me and READ. Ah. Now entering imagination. Buckle your seatbelts and keep your hands inside the vehicle. Neh, stay unbuckled and lift your hands for a wild ride.

  10. I write. I write. I write. I’ve found that nothing keeps me percolated like writing. It lights a fire under me. Someone once told me the best way to know what your passion is in life is to pay attention to what you’re excited about when you wake up. For me it’s my kids and the words.

What do you do to beat away the doldrums?

*I’m excited to be posting interviews with two stellar authors in the coming weeks. They blow me away with their wit, grace and integrity with words. Can’t wait to share…stay tuned.
**photos by flickr

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Wrong Turn

Ever been late for a wedding because of one lousy wrong turn? We have. Late to a wedding and several other events. I’ll blame it on our moving every 2-3 years. Now we have a GPS with a sultry voice (or an English accent…that one is my favorite).

With all due respect to Frost and the integrity of his poem, sometimes taking the road less traveled doesn’t make all the difference, it just makes you late.

Or does it?

How do you perceive wrong turns?

Today I’m going to give you a list of all the potential things you can learn from taking a wrong turn. (I’ll be tackling more than literal wrong turns. If you have a keen eye and a sharp wit you might catch onto that without my having to take up three lines to write it.)

Lessons thanks to wrong turns:

  1. You’re humbled to freely admit you’re not perfect.
  2. You stumble into unfamiliar territory and are forced to concentrate, with greater intensity on your surroundings.
  3. If you’re wise, you learn to ask for help.
  4. You practice the art of correcting yourself and sometimes that means backtracking a little.
  5. With great effort you clamp your mouth shut, refraining from swearing like a sailor in front of your spouse or children. Hence, discipline.
  6. You understand that time doesn’t always operate on your schedule and that life goes on without you.
  7. Dirt roads are never a good sign. Anyone guess this song…dananarnarnarnar? Okay, maybe not. Dueling banjos give you a clue?
  8. You become skilled at deciphering the best turn-around spots, gauging where/how you’re least likely to get in an accident.
  9. Conflict resolution if anyone is in the car with you.
  10. Finally, you discover that sometimes, in life you’re not always where you think you are. Some directions lead us astray. There’s always one guide that will point us right—and I’m not referring to the English speaking GPS system.

Have you learned anything significant from a wrong turn?

*photos by flickr

Friday, January 8, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It is my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

And now for your question…

Introvert or Extrovert?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Pursuing your Dream Award
Please feel free to post this picture on your blog if you are trekking ahead on your writing journey as a reminder to keep on keepin’ on.

Remember the scene at the end of As Good as it Gets where Jack Nicholson says to Helen Hunt (sorry I forgot onscreen names) “You make me want to be a better man”? That’s my message for fellow writers today.

You make me want to be a better writer.

You provide me with great encouragement. When I stumbled into social networking Oz, I discovered a land inhabited with other writing munchkins (as quirky and comfortable in their quirkiness as I). I felt like screaming, “I’m not alone in this. The passion runs deep. The people of the village have spoken.” At least a dozen times a day, I find reasons to thank God for blogging friends and online contacts. I’ve gleaned so much from you.

However, the Yellow Brick Road isn’t always coated with a Pine Sol shine. I watch longingly at times when this one gets a book published and that one gets an agent. I battle jealousy. But I don’t let it linger. Jealousy is like a starving lion. Feed him a little and he’ll take your arm off. Or he’ll swallow your head whole if you get too close. Besides, my time will come.

One of the best parts about connecting with other writers is reading work that makes me feel like I’m swimming in a geyser of liquid gold. I love it when someone gets my work and when I get theirs. Shivers run through me when I read tight, powerful sentences. I celebrate when I learn about others moving ahead on the path. Reading how others vulnerably express their writing triumphs and strategies motivates me.

Over Christmas break I had the privilege of meeting my critique partner and blogging friend, Jill Kemerer. I delighted in her company. We could have spent all day swapping stories. Meeting Jill merged my perception of an online friend/encourager with a physical face to face interaction. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore but I felt lifted from Oz as well. Our meeting got me reared up for a conference I plan to attend in September.
I cannot wait to meet more people I’ve connected with online. My time with Jill reminded me of all the reasons I love being connected in the writing world. I’m encouraged there. I’m inspired to keep on keepin’ on. The online writing community is like one ever-swirling, gigantic brainstorm. A home away from home.

I hope you realize that you are impacting me.
Simply put…you make me want to be a better writer.

*Check out my article over at Sage Girls Ministry
**Thank you, Jill for meeting with me and for being such an encourager
*** road photo by flickr

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...