Friday, August 30, 2019

The End of These Days

Tonight we sit under strings of lights in the middle of a shopping mall parking lot. We have chocolate peanut butter shakes from Five Guys, and we are giddy on them. These are the last days of August, and hints of fall are blowing into our lives just as gathering storm clouds band together in steel and navy above us.

The lightening strikes, but we don't worry. It's far enough away so we can grab Instagram boomerangs and my mom can snap book stack photos. There's enough space to sit and feel the summer wind playing around our faces. It's pleasant, with the faintest kiss of the season to come.

September is just around the corner. My favorite month. But this summer is worth lingering to remember.

We road tripped with friends, went to writers' conferences and Bible Bee alumni reunions, slept in gloriously, and continued our education in Marvel. We named succulents after the Avengers, discovered a little dessert cafe, lingered on the shores of Lake Michigan, and talked with friends about homeschooling. We made decadent strawberry frosting and drove a new car and watched Disney films we never saw when they came out.

My laptop was sent away for repairs. I started taking the wheel solo again after car accidents earlier this year. I hugged the ones I loved, tackled math long forgotten from high school, and wrote a literature guide for my students this fall. I added words upon words upon words to War of Honor and started volunteering at the church we love.

The grace is staggering.

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on....Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" Jesus says.*

We studied this Matthew passage earlier this year. My sister made the comment from it that God cares for things that will be destroyed, can't earn their food, and can't praise him for it--a gratuitous beauty, she points out (a term originally coined by artist Makoto Fujimura). While parts of this winter and spring felt like a desert place of waiting, this summer held a gentle rain of that gratuitous beauty. Those little things that will be destroyed. The things we cannot earn. But the steady stream of a Father's love that even in the transient memories, imprints its joy on our hearts.

Tonight as we sip our Five Guys shakes, the far away lightening flickers near enough to send us back to our van. We've just come from our favorite bookstore where we turned in summer reading lists. I almost didn't sign up this year. Early this winter I felt a quiet sense that it would not be the year where I got a lot of reading done. But I did sign up, and I'm glad. Those ten books found their way to differerent areas of my heart, nurturing writing (Story Trumps Structure, Steven James) trust in God (Trust, Lydia Brownback) beloved old friends (Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson) making decisions in grace (The Next Right Thing, Emily Freeman) gut-wrenching honesty about disappointment and faithfulness (Remember God, Annie F. Downs) and the work of a recent hero (The Big Book of Beatrix Potter). They poured in during the school off-season, and they will bear fruit when time to read is more rare and precious.

Speaking of rare and precious, I miss this blog dearly. I miss the Tuesday and Friday posts I wrote every week without fail. But I hope this place can be like a phone call with a friend after the two of you have grown older--sweet when it comes, and nonetheless glad for the absence. I don't have plans to go anywhere. I'd love to come back regularly. I'll just have to wait and see how that can happen again. In the meantime, I have some things coming your way which will be a joy to pass on to you--a website and newsletter goodies I've been designing thanks to Katie Phillips' expert tutelage; and of course, a sequel to War of Loyalties which will come as soon as it is full grown.

We are entering the days of purpose with the upcoming school year. There will be stacks of homework and new rhythms to embrace. But a few days of freedom remain. On the way home from our shakes, a white church spire stands tall against a freshly washed sky. Further up towards home, orange and purple cluster along the horizon like an artists' canvas. The end of these days is a quiet revel of bright memories. The end of these days is grace. 

*Matthew 6:26-27, ESV

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Seventh City Author Interview {new YA fantasy release}

Have you heard of a place called Inik Katsuk?” The world seems to have gone quiet again.
Inik Katsuk, the Seventh City.
I nod.
“Have you seen it?”
“I have only heard of it in tales.”

“And do you believe them, these tales?”

Friends, it's a joy today to host a very special treat in the form of a brand new book you're going to love, and a little talk with the author herself--Emily Hayse! Her second novel, Seventh City, released this week. An Alaskan-inspired fantasy full of a missing city, an unbreakable sibling bond, and a perilous adventure awaits your reading pleasure. I just got my copy this week, and I love it so much.

“Let me tell you a story that happened so long ago that only the hills and rivers can remember the time . . . .”

All her life, thirteen-year-old Maki has heard tales of the legendary city of gold, buried deep in the northern frontier. But when her village is burned and her brother captured by cruel invaders, the legend becomes desperately real.

Armed with a wolf-dog and a heart of courage, Maki sets out on a journey that will demand all her strength and cunning. She is determined to bring her brother home at all costs. Yet as her quest leads her deep into a wilderness of ancient dangers, Maki realizes that even for her, some prices are too high to pay.

Interview with the Author

Hearing behind the scenes for books is so fun. What originally sparked the inspiration for this story?

I did a blog post all about this, actually, over on Melody Personette's blog! Short story: the Iditarod, a book about conquistadors titled The King's Fifth, and a song called King and Lionheart. I was thinking about how the north has had its fair share of gold and silver and that it would be cool to have a city of gold legend based in the north. And then the story just kind of went from there.

In talking about Seventh City, you said Maki was a lot like you. What scene with her reminds you most of yourself in her? 

There is a scene where Maki is talking to Willow at night, trying to explain her worries and her unshakable fear that she will lose people she loves, and how she is worried that it will happen because she lets down her guard or makes the wrong decision. And he goes on to ask if it had ever occurred to her that the world wasn't made to be carried by her. In that moment, when I wrote it, I felt the same surprise Maki did, as if he was talking to me.

What books/authors would you be geeked to see Seventh City next to in #shelfies?

J.R.R. Tolkien, Armstrong Sperry, Maggie Stiefvater, Rosemary Sutcliff, or Adrienne Young.

If you compared Maki and her brother to characters from the MCU, who would they be and why?

Probably Natasha and Clint, actually. Fiery and loyal paired with steady and clever.

Does Maki have a theme song? What inspired it? 

If Maki had a theme song it would probably be 500 Miles or King and Lionheart. They are both very tough, loyal sorts of songs.

What nature setting and coffee flavor makes the best pairing for enjoying Maki’s adventures?

Either a campfire by a lake or under a pine tree, and while black suits this book well, coffee flavors would have to be blueberry or hazelnut.

Maki has to face a lot of challenges as she starts out her journey. What challenges did you have to face as this story came together?

A lot, actually! I drafted this book when I was working on publishing Crowning Heaven, which was absolutely crazy, and while working six days a week. I spent much of the spring and all of summer and fall trying to complete this book which made for one of the most frustrating first drafts I've ever written. That being said, it was also one of the cleanest manuscripts I've ever written, so there's that. I also lost a friend right before I got the book back from edits so I ended up delaying my content edits so long that I ran up against my next major deadline and my line editor and I had a few horrible, glorious late nights working back and forth. (She is my sister, so it's all cool.) Though I have to say, while this book had more challenges than most, I have had some incredible support from so many, which quite literally, made this book possible.

Any hints about what we can be looking forward to next?

Haha, you had to go there! But I don't mind sharing a little hint: it is a book about Atlantis with a dash of historical fiction, and it's stuffed full of sharks, political intrigue, stormy coastal Maine, and an unlikely power couple.

Author Bio
EMILY HAYSE is a lover of log cabins, strong coffee, and the smell of old books. Her writing is fueled by good characters and a lifelong passion for storytelling. When she is not busy turning words into worlds, she can often be found baking, singing, or caring for one of the many dogs and horses in her life. She lives with her family in Michigan.

Check out her beautiful photos and posts on social media: 

Want more Seventh City goodness? Check out the official blog tour below!

August 20: Kickoff post: The Herosinger Blog
August 21: Guest Post: Down the Rabbit Hole
August 22: Spotlight: Deborah O’Carroll 
August 23: Interview: My Lady Bibliophile
August 24: Guest Post: Rae Graham 
August 26: Spotlight/Review: Claire Banschbach
August 27: Interview: Smudged Thoughts
August 28: Review: Kaleigh Stroink
August 29: Interview: Laura Grace at Unicorn Quester
August 30: Interview: Anne Rhys at Father’s Joy

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Struggle of Art

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

He turned the stars into swirls of beauty on canvas, yet his own life was a personal hell of mental illness.

The seeds for my budding obsession with Vincent Van Gogh started a year ago. While every kid does a rendition of "Starry Night" in art class, painting and artists weren't something that stuck with me in the years since. It actually started at a writer's conference, when a presenter, to illustrate his talk, showed the Doctor Who clip where the Doctor and Amy Pond take Van Gogh to the art gallery. Watching the moment where he gets to see the success he never saw in his lifetime touched something deep in my core. At the time, it gave me a deep desire to watch Doctor Who (which I have since indulged.) Since then, it has developed into something more.

Sometime later, a Facebook Memory popped up that I had forgotten about. It was an article about a movie releasing called Loving Vincent. The movie had been entirely hand-painted in the style of Van Gogh's paintings (phenomenal!) but I forgot about looking it up. Turning to my local library, I found it was actually available to check out on Hoopla. It follows a fictionalized story of the son of Vincent's postman trying to deliver a last letter to Theo Van Gogh, while investigating the mysterious details of Vincent's death. I came for the art, enjoyed the actors (Aidan Turner of Hobbit and Poldark fame is in it) and loved the way they turned this into a historical mystery about his life. As a side note, there's also an intriguing making-of documentary which I just discovered this morning and hope to watch asap.

After that, my interest in Van Gogh was firmly fixed. Perhaps it was just the interest of a human soul; perhaps it was the combination of his artistry, his mental illness, and the unfulfilled yearning of his life. Either way, I wanted to read a biography next, and I thought it would be best to start with children's books. Children's books are wonderful because they give you the basic facts to get a foundation under your feet before jumping off into the deeper details and themes. Our local library offered several contributions, which I enjoyed.
  • Vincent's Colors offered a simple presentation of some of his paintings with extremely brief lines describing the colors in his works. It was good to thumb through to get familiarized with his art. 
  • Vincent Van Gogh and the Colors of the Wind presents his biography along with a gentle, subtle portrayal of his mental illness. It is wistful, and I loved picking out the portrayal of his and his brother's personality differences through the picture on the first page. While his death is alluded to, the word suicide isn't mentioned. 
  • Vincent Van Gogh, by Patricia Geis, was by far my favorite. This interactive book has pop-ups, things to lift and open, and helpful information about the style of painting he was influenced by. It felt like a tactile discovery of his life. I loved this book so much that I hope to order the other artists in the series to keep learning about more of them. 
My latest installment in an obsession with Vincent came when a Facebook friend posted a link to a documentary about him starring Benedict Cumberbatch (OK, the actor was a definite draw, because normally documentaries are not my cup of tea.)  I couldn't believe (but it's true!) that the producer, Andrew Hutton, had posted the entire documentary on Vimeo to watch gratis. Vincent Van Gogh: Painted With Words, is an 80 minute production in which the actors give word for word renditions of letters and conversations from Vincent's life. (Side note for Victoria fans: Frankitelli makes an appearance acting out the lines of the only man to give Van Gogh a review in his lifetime.) This documentary is wonderful. It explores his episodes of mental illness, his ill-advised moments of compassion, and the solace that his art brought him, as well as his frustrated relationships with family and friends. It tugged at my heart to watch him struggle with mental illness without much real, fruitful help as he tore from one relationship and place to another. But I also found it fascinating to see his journey as an artist as he imitated and then abandoned different favorite artists in his own work (including Japanese art.)

The next thing I'm hoping to tackle is a full length biography. This will be a step up (Van Gogh: The Life appears to be an exhaustive look at his journey.) The audiobook clocked out at 44 hours, so I chuckled and put the print copy on order. Whether I'll finish it or not, we'll see. But I'm looking forward to learning more.

Even though this journey has nothing to do with WW1, historical fiction, writing, or an art form I hope to practice, I still love exploring it. Not all art has to feed directly into one's work (according to the excellent advice of Austin Kleon) and this journey has expanded my mind with new knowledge, new beauty, and a new landscape of a human soul. I am the richer for it.

What have you always wanted to explore? Who's someone you'd love to read a biography about? I'd love to know!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Swing By the Shore {agatha christie and austin kleon}

Sometimes, it takes until you're twenty-four to learn how magical a swing is.

There's a beach, and a Sunday afternoon, and waves that have crept up on the shoreline year after year. A swingset perches on the sand just yards from the water. I've never sat there; never thought about it. Most Sunday outings I make a beeline straight towards a swing in the shade and stick my nose in a book. But today--

Today a dark-haired friend slips up on a swing, and in the spontaneity of the moment, I follow her. There will be time enough for Egypt and murder and Agatha Christie in an afternoon traffic slump. For now, we swing back and forth, back and forth, and slowly the rhythm returns. I pump my feet to gain height. Gradually, I realize she leans back on the downswing to gain even more height--an old memory from the past that went to the memory dump long ago. I try it, my gauzy skirt fluttering pink in the wind and the sun. My pointed toes reach out--out towards the blue water and a boat on the horizon. A weight presses down on my heart. This is a beauty I never knew about before, the magic of swings by the shoreline. It is the weight of a heart crying without tears because in this moment there is an unquenchable draught of satisfied Sehnsucht, and moments like that should stretch on for an eternity.

We wind our way home, intent on a downtown photo shoot, and as we sit in traffic, Poirot and I continue our reacquaintance in Death on the Nile. I picked it because of the upcoming movie, after being enchanted by Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie and I have a current feud, one I still nurse good-humoredly, about trying to see whether I can beat her prowess or whether she will hoodwink me. When I read on the jacket flap that this is one of her favorite mysteries, I'm even more determined to win. Christie's mysteries are perfect for a mind eager to sharpen itself with a new hobby, following the twists and turns of an investigation, but also relaxing enough to give the mind some rest in the middle of summer vacation. The characters emerge from the shadows. A rich American heiress; an adoring husband; a sullen young woman; a conniving lawyer; a mother and her son. Slowly the shadows fall away and I see the missing puzzle piece. Though I don't get it all this time, I'm proud of myself for catching some parts of the solution, and I want to try again.

A book for leisure provides an undercurrent of challenge and indulgence to the week, but a book for artistry provides something else--soul food. "You should read Austin Kleon," my mom tells me, as I agonize over homework about author branding and how to stay true to my heart while learning useful industry trends. So I pick up her new library book, Keep Going, in the middle of an enforced week of making my mind not obsess over questions. Instead, I read Kleon's thoughts about creativity and mind nurture. They're simple, interspersed with art and poetry, pages of profound mentorship tucked in a tiny square of a book.

While the questions about writing direction buzz in the back of my mind, I go to another coffee shop to drink a life-changingly yummy blend of pomegranate kiwi boba tea and plot another story. It's a spur-of-the-moment challenge. "We should all give each other a prompt," we say, and scuttle off to Pinterest to find something slightly weird and wonderful to inspire each other with. My picture has a man and a woman on the beach with a crack running through them. The story plan that comes out, scribbled on the back of an old letter, doesn't fit in a schedule, a genre, or a line-up. It's a fantasy about a Greek Orthodox female scientist who loves stargazing and pipes and purple hair. I don't know when it will be begun or if it will be finished, but the joy of blending disparate elements into a living, breathing character are water to my soul. She is mine, and I love her.

It is a week of story binging, both individually and together, as our friend introduces us to Marvel. (We clear seven movies while she's here.) Sometimes there is nothing quite so healing as prayer time and a story binge when my heart is tired and frail. In between stories, we experience the joy of cityscape photo shoots in leather and softer photoshoots with pink and sand. Of window shopping, that ends up with respective prizes of jewelry-making supplies, sushi and macarons, and big, pink peonies. Of nights talking about Enneagram personalities and a Bible study of how to walk through hard life emotions.

These are the smallest graces that weave together into largest grace. They are straight from a kindly Father who has led us into desert and promised land this year in equal measure. This week, as in every week, he feeds my mind with truth and my soul with beauty and my heart with gladness. This week he touches everywhere my eyes see with joy.

Perhaps I have underestimated too long the magic of a swing by the shore.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

You are the Hearth Fire {a birthday tribute}

A birthday tribute to Ben from War of Loyalties, a WW1 spy novel available on Amazon

Image by Jörg Peter from Pixabay

Hey, man.

We're a few days late celebrating all 127 courageous years of you, but I suppose a day doesn't matter when we've been friends as long as we have. It was you and I and a beat-up orange folder writing on a childhood bed we got rid of years ago. And it was all a joke once when someone asked what I kept in there--a boyfriend? I suppose in a funny, platonic way it kind of was, but you and I aren't each other's type, and I gave you a much better girl.

I don't remember when you first came, but it was somewhere between twelve and fourteen, so at the very least you and I have known each other for ten years. It's ten years' worth of quiet perseverance. I hope we're friends until I'm ninety-nine and you're old enough to need a calculator that I don't have the time for.

You measured up through each bloody, gritty draft that polished away the funny edges of our childhood. And we got tired trying to figure out this spying business sometimes, but it was a good, bone tired that showed up and tried again the next day and never looked back. And we're still showing up until the last spy is captured. We're going to see this thing through together.

You were quiet, and never much wanted to talk about yourself--more awkward than brave. But you never walked out. You never get annoyed with the people who matter most to you. You're a safe person in a wide world. And everyone fighting spies with you knows they could knock on your door in the dead of night and always find a refuge. Even though you're not real, I would fight anyone to say your love is real. We know.

It made me glad when there was pie in the fridge on your birthday, waiting. I didn't even remember. But grace showed up around the corner like it always does. Your actual birthday was one of those stretches where life punches you in the teeth and then kicks you again in the stomach and you only remember celebrating when you're too tired to do it. But I've seen you kicked in the teeth multiple times, and someone funny and wise once told us that brave will run itself until we get back on our feet again. And you and I, we have all these good people helping us sort life out. We know what that funny, wise person said is absolutely true.

Here's what I admire most about you: You chose kindness and courage when you got the metaphorical slap in the face. There's nothing you hate more than taking up a reproach against a friend. And you've proven over and over in this draft that you'll swear to your own hurt and won't change. I think your 127-year-old self can look back on your 26-year-old self and know that in spite of the earth giving way under your feet, you will not be moved.

I know you want nothing more than home and peace in your world. It isn't time for peace yet, or that little house with the dog you always wanted, but maybe someday there will be a Shire in Great Britain.

You're the anchor that keeps all these spies in order, and you're the hearth fire that wild hearts come home to. And I don't know, but I think I was the luckiest girl in the world to end up with a friend like you.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Feast of Summer

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

It is midnight, and I cannot sleep. The grades for the school year are all nicely turned in, the work for the week is done, and my mind, free of normal responsibilities, runs at a wild pace. So I stumble downstairs to where the bookshelves are.

Bookshelves. Quiet, simple, sometimes perhaps a little stuffy standing there in prim, orderly rows. But just underneath the surface, they are the Tardis of the real world, crammed with joy and fear and imagination. Much bigger on the inside.

Like any sane person at midnight (cough, cough) I scan the shelves and allow myself the delicious experience of pulling off anything that grabs my eye. The school year is over. It is midnight, and I cannot sleep. Why not do it? Voskamp slips to a stack on the floor. A devotional on trust joins her. A book about story writing merrily befriends this baby TBR. And last but not least, a thick, black-clad volume of the complete Richard Hannay novels dwarfs them all. They are set during WW1, spy novels, and perfect for research, I tell myself.

Creating a new book stack is delicious. I have rarely been able to make it all the way through lists. Some idealistic stacks (looking at you, Winter TBR) never really get off to a healthy start. But perhaps it is not always the finishing of them that really matters. In the first breath of creation, there is only the fresh, wild intoxication of a blank slate, a suspended moment of time, and a mental thirst that demands quenching.

Slipping from book to book in the midnight hour is akin to eating a stolen feast. This is a rich spread of history; of intrigue; of spiritual counsel and practical how-to. And here, here is why the beginning is as important as the ending. Because after a season of steady faithfulness and pouring out (essential pillars of the adult life) one must snatch--force--bend--time to make room for a season of dreaming. This is not the time for application. It is time for rest. For renewal. For feeding those "little gray cells" that have been exercised so intensely in writing final papers or finishing a deadline at work, or ending a busy season of shipping orders, or publishing a book. One cannot always be planting and watering and harvesting. One must sometimes sit down to the table with a full plate and a groan-worthy array of good flavors, and a deep sense of joy. So it is with the brain. One cannot always be honing and polishing ideas, learning new concepts. One must sometimes read for the discovery, for the exhilaration, for the freedom.

The beauty of the summer is the joy of the feast.

It does not always look like piles of nonfiction by midnight. Sometimes this feast turns into gobbling down an Agatha Christie in bed on a Saturday (scandalously late morning, I might add) rejoicing in the redemption of picking up an author that anxiety and mental illness shut out years ago. (It's a long story, which I'm happy to talk about via message.) I might add that I guessed the murderer correctly.

i was going to throw a tantrum if i didn't. 

Sometimes the feast means looking at another book when you've started six new titles and thinking, This--this too looks good. I need to read this. It doesn't always have to be in bed, either. This afternoon I gulped down the introduction to Sarah Clarkson's Book Girl, full of courageous, full-blooded ideas of womanhood and scholarship that fertilize dreams already shooting up buds and leaves in my soul. That feast was enjoyed standing on an exercise mat, sweating during surreptitious breaks from leg lifts.

They may all accompany this Book Girl all the way to the last page. Or they may not. It does not even matter. The point that matters is that they are the feast for the moment, and whether that feast is pages or chapters or the entire book, it will give my mind, weary in the pursuit of good endeavors, the rest and fresh heart it needs. After a season of output, the nutrients are depleted and the brain is starved. Sarah Clarkson touches on it in Book Girl, stating when you're stuck, go back to the books you love most (pg. 25). Another student mom I talked to said the same thing about physical health. Your body knows what it needs. And last Friday, between the hour of midnight and one, I found this to be true. My eyes and hands sought out the pages] my soul most craved.

So here's to the feast of summer. May it be gentle and glorious.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

of cake and jane austen and joy {currently}

Hi friends! I've missed you so much. Shall we have a cup of tea and chat for a bit? I'd love to hear what's been up with you for the last few weeks!

Image by Надежда Дягилева from Pixabay

Persuasion. I've been meaning to read it and host a read-along for years. I don't know if I'm knowledgeable enough yet to host a read-along. But I have been enjoying it immensely. The small observations about human nature. Realizing I don't think any of the movie adaptations quite match Captain Wentworth's sense of youthful joyousness (even though Amanda Root makes a wonderful Anne.) I think there's a sense of young, vigorous manhood about him coupled with a slight inexperience in regards to relationship navigation that isn't captured by Ciaran Hinds' crip authority or Penry-Jones' introverted reserve (though I love P-J, too.) I kind of want to see another version of it now.

Image by peachknee from Pixabay

In the mornings, I fill a mug with cereal and milk and bring it downstairs to my office/den. There, in the middle of ungraded papers, I wrap myself up in a fleece snowman blanket and wake up to face another day--sometimes with a Bible and The Valley of Vision. Sometimes with quiet. Sometimes--to my shame--with my phone.

I've finished catching up on random BSF lessons I missed throughout the year. Proverbs. David. The life of Solomon. One of the things that stood out to me from 1 Kings chapter ten and the questions we are asked is that in the midst of the list of Solomon's building and exploring, worship is also mentioned. Projects must be wound in and through worship. As I face school books to read for next year and dreams further in the future, worship cannot be lost. It must be the refrain, winding in and out. The accompanying plumb line of faithfulness. The companionship with a heavenly Father that, without which, all this learning and dreaming would be meaningless.

Image by peter_pyw from Pixabay

So much goodness. If you sign up for the McConkey Press newsletter, there will be a missive chock-full of historical fiction goodness coming in movie recommendations, as well as updates on research for the Folkestone Files. So sign up (see the top of this page on the right-hand side) and get even more fun chat there!

But the day I finished teaching for the year, we made stuffed crust pizzas and checked out a DVD of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

It made me feel alive. It was pure and good and beautiful. It was a story of adventure, of taking risks. The little scenes at the beginning of the movie set up for big plot moments at the end in satisfying mirror moments. Watching Clara made me feel as if I was watching a conglomeration of my creative writing students, who I deeply love, as she struggled for her place and who she was. And in a way, it makes me feel as if it is me, too. At twenty-four, I am looking for what my place in this season, and I love how Clara found hers. It was full of creativity and chivalry (the mouse!) Of friendship and yearning. Of love (the mother!) and of purple color schemes, which is my very favorite color.

Image by Amna Sayeed from Pixabay

My dad's birthday. We tuck cinnamon rolls into pans and layer cream cheese frosting over spice cake and give surprises that fill us with joy. It is a milestone birthday, and it is a day of rest, just being together and taking a breather from everyday work in a glorious long weekend.


The realization of things that I enjoy. Figuring out how to scrub a dirty cement floor. Folding peanut butter frosting over a double-layer chocolate cake. Turning up Disney song covers and baking brownies and cookies. Which kind of delights my soul as it reminds me off odd hobbies I love. They are beautiful in themselves for the sheer joy of creation.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

if you fall // It reminds me that in the midst of tough love, tough love is still worth it.

fall on me // Could any lyrics sound more magical? This is on repeat as I type, filling my heart with beauty so deep it hurts.

speechless // I don't know what to think about this yet, but it provided adrenaline for paper grading, which was a kind of grace.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

The most amazing peanut butter trail mix that a student gave me as an end of year gift. It's gone now. It had pretzels and peanut-butter m&ms, and rice squares coated in a peanut butter coating. It was incredible. Another student gave me a package of Apple Jacks, and there is nothing sweeter than a package of Apple Jacks from a student. I enjoyed them immensely.

schuyler, this whole post is delightfully full of cake and peanut butter. why thank you, darling. i thought so too. 

waiting for

Painful things. A sense of freedom. A sense of security. A sense of enough. A sense of restoration.

This pain controlled by the hands of a very compassionate Father is teaching me good things.

Image by Anastasia Kuleshova from Pixabay

dreaming about

All the books I want to read this summer: biographies about Vincent Van Gogh and Mary, Queen of Scots, and L.M. Montgomery. Books about stargazing and enneagrams and chess strategies.

All the ways to grow as an author, thanks to a fabulous course by Katie Phillips. (Do check it out!) I'm studying authors in my genre, who I am writing to, and how to set clear goals for a business.

Writing a magazine article about hygge. Taking a road trip later this year. Seeing For King and Country in concert, Lord-willing.

Image by freestocks-photos from Pixabay

grateful for

Passing a test. Free nights to sit under twinkle lights and write and text and watch the last episode of Les Miserables again. Sunshine in the mornings. Counseling that digs into hurt. Summery white skirts. Chances to give final words of encouragement to students. A bouquet of purple flowers. Chick-fil-a sauce twice in one month. Hard conversations with a very patient God. Cozy nights visiting with family and eating burgers and potato salad. Octonauts on a sleepy Saturday morning. Naps under a fluffy gray and pink comforter. Encouraging messages from a blog follower. A comment from a stranger who enjoyed War of Loyalties. So much goodness here.

Will you tell me what's happening in your life right now? I'd love to know! Feel free to grab one of these prompts (or more!) and answer them in the comments! 

(prompts taken from here and here)
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