I don’t really know where to start this story. Julie Andrews says we should start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start.

So maybe I should start in 1995, when I was a junior in high school and I visited Kiev, Ukraine for the first time. While there, I was invited to dinner at the friend of a friend’s house to meet her grandmother, a World War II survivor.

That dinner changed the course of everything.

I sat at the table of a small, grey haired babyshka named Maria who told me her story of survival in a German slave labor camp. Maybe it was the twinkle in her eye, or the way the light glimmered in her silvery hair, but something happened inside me that evening.

That was the night I fell in love with the Ukrainian people – the night the story was born.


But maybe I shouldn’t start there. Maybe I should start 1999. I was twenty-one, and I sat behind the desk as the professor explained the goal of our two semester course.

We would leave Baylor with a finished novel.

He encouraged us to begin brainstorming what we’d like to write about, but I already knew. I wanted to tell the story of Ukraine, of the devastation at Babi Yar, the darkness of those desperate years, and the partisans who pushed back against the Germans.

I also wanted to encapsulate Maria in a character, right down to the way she tutted over a plate of food.


Of course, I could easily start the story in 2003, when my mom and I (and my five-months pregnant belly) hopped a couple of planes and returned to Ukraine where we would tour the country for a month interviewing countless veterans as I continued on my quest to publish this book of stories.

I already had a publisher lined up at that point. It would all end up falling through at the last minute, but the stories I pulled in that month would simmer a little longer. They waited for me through the birth of three children.

The story needed me to tell it, but first I had to live a little.


Technically, I could start the story in 2011 when I finally found the voices of each character. I knew, in the flourish of a few sentences, that the book was taking the shape it was always intended to take.

I tapped away at the stories in the tiny slivers of my day. Nap time. Early morning before the kids woke up. The occasions now and then when I was able to sneak away and write. It was a slow process.

Signing Contract1

I guess I could start the story in 2012 when I attended the Blissdom conference, and I sat in Jeff Goin’s break out session on writing. I sat at a table with Anne of The Modern Mrs. Darcy, Megan from Sorta Crunchy, Ruth from The Better Mom and Laura, the Hollywood Housewife, and I sort of vomited out my dream of finishing this book and having it published.

They were all beyond encouraging, and supportive, and genuinely sweet. And perhaps slightly baffled by my tangle of words trying to explain my need to finish this project?


I can’t tell the story without looking at 2013 when we saw the collapse of our adoption. Writing was the only thing that pulled me out of depression. Tapping into the heartache of others healed my own wounded heart. I typed THE END in 2013.

Signing Contract2

The only other place I could see beginning this story is last fall. Two years after finishing the book, I still hadn’t been picked up. I’d queried so many agents and publishing houses, and was always met with the same comment:

“Love the concept, and the writing is great. But fiction is a hard sell.”

So I waited, and I sent more query letters. So many queries. And last fall, someone took a chance on me. A literary agent saw potential, and she appreciate my passion. She took the manuscript cautiously, and two weeks later I received a text:

“Just finished your book and WOW can you tell a story. We’re going to see what we can do with this.”


But that’s a lot of beginnings, so maybe I should just begin with the phone call I took three weeks ago with Kregel Publications when they told me they would be publishing my book next spring.

Did you hear that?!

My novel will hit bookshelves in the Spring of 2016.

After our conversation, in which we spoke of the novel and topics for potential future books, I hung up and walked out to the kitchen. As soon as I saw Lee, I burst into tears.

It all felt overwhelming. Twenty years of dreaming, of writing, of perfecting and refining the story all came to fruition in a minutes long phone conversation.

I’m a novelist.

I can’t wait to share this book with you all. Stay tuned for more information!

(And for more on my publishing journey, check out this post where I share the news that my second book will release in September next year. 2016 is going to be crazy!)


You Can’t Do It All, And That’s Okay

When I graduated college, I really believed that I was on the path to a huge career. Early on in our marriage, Lee and I sat down and wrote out a list of 100 dreams – because those are things you do when you’re young and married and feel certain that the world is yours for the taking.

My list included such items as:

“Backpack across Europe with Lee” (should’ve taken care of that one before kids came along…)

“Go on an Alaskan Cruise” (should’ve done that when we had income to spare, and practically no bills, and no kids…)

“Own a boat” (we’ve learned it’s much better to be friends with people who own boats…)

“Have 4 kids” (hey look! dreams do come true!)

There were also a lot of ridiculous things on the list – things like, “Be in a commercial, live in the Bahamas for a year, and own an island.” You know, like I actually wanted to buy an island.

Ah, youth.

It’s actually really hard to come up with 100 dreams if you think about it, and for good reason.

This life is so much more than simply living out our wildest dreams. That’s not to say I’m against dreaming. But when you set a task for yourself to write down 100 dreams?

You’re bound to let yourself down.

My career dreams were even more ambitious than my life dreams. I wanted to write and publish ten books and be on the New York Times Bestseller List before age 30 (again, I may have wanted to edit this list when kids started showing up at age 25).

I was going to do all this with my perfect, angelic children by my side. And somehow my life would be spotless and easy throughout the process.

In short, I believed the biggest lie sold to women of my generation – the lie that said we could do, and have, it all.

I watched this video today, and I found myself nodding so ferociously that I thought I would get whiplash. It’s time more women stood up and acknowledged that having it all is just a myth.

I loved when Ally said, “You may have it all, but it will be in different season.”


Ladies – Moms – Life is messy beautiful. Motherhood is messy beautiful. Careers are messy beautiful. Marriage is messy beautiful.  But you know what? Dreams are simply beautiful.

When we dream, we don’t see the messy. We only see the beautiful. And then the messy shows up, and the dream gets muddy, and we miss the beauty, and we wonder why it’s so hard to do all the things we dream of doing.

That’s because we can’t do it all – not all at the same time.

Everything we do – every choice we make – will require sacrifice. Motherhood will require a sacrifice of time, of brain power, of focus, of sanity. In the early seasons of motherhood, that sacrifice will be huge. But as your children grow, the sacrifice lessens to a degree, leaving space for new experiences.

Chasing a career will require sacrifice. It will require a sacrifice of time, of brain power, of the freedom to get up and go. And if you’re pursuing a career with young children at home, that sacrifice will be greater for a time. But as your children grow, the sacrifice lessens to a degree.

Do you see a pattern?

We can’t have it all at once, ladies. And if someone tries to convince you that you can, you should kick her in the shins and flee.

Make no mistake, that woman you’re watching – the one that you think has it all and balances it so perfectly – is making a sacrifice. She is sacrificing something, and that’s okay. We can’t judge one another, because we’re all doing it. We’re all sacrificing in some area of life so that we can provide in another area of life.

That’s what makes womanhood, motherhood, life in general, so beautiful. And so very messy.

So can you have it all? No, you simply can’t. Not all at the same time. But string the years together and walk faithfully toward the things set before you in each moment, and you just might be surprised when you get to the end and look back and see that you had a great many things.

You may even see that dreams you never dared to dream came true.

Why You Should Host a Creative Retreat

Four years ago, I got on a plane and headed West. My friend and writing cohort suggested a weekend away to focus on our crafts, and it sounded like exactly the thing I needed to jump start a few projects. That was the birth place of our Creative Retreat.


Today, Wendy told you how to plan and execute a Creative Retreat. I’d like to piggy back on her words and tell you why you should do it.

There is no substitute for the power of like-mindedness. As females, we crave relationships. Conversation with others is the Yin to our Yang. We thrive on those deep seeded moments of connection.

WendyWhile this is true for all women to some degree, for creative women, relationship is almost like oxygen. As Creatives, we are known to have ALL THE FEELINGS! We see life in a unique way, and by unique I mean totally different from our more realistic, left-brained peers.

Let’s just say we might still believe in unicorns and fairies.

When Creatives come together, the days suddenly feel a little more sparkly. Tuck Creatives away in a beautiful place with inspiring scenery, and a bit of magic happens. Imagination takes flight when a group of creative women comes together, because as we share ALL THE FEELINGS, and we dream the dreams, we see that perhaps this thing that we do, this creating, isn’t such a strange thing after all.

There is comfort to be found in a room full of women who agree that they’ll forgo cleaning the bathroom/kitchen/house in order to write a few more paragraphs, or edit that last batch of photos, or simply read a book. There is beauty seen when we stumble out into the early morning sunlight together because we couldn’t sleep, all the visions and stories calling us out of bed.

A Creative Retreat extends a hand out and says, “You’re not alone. I get you. Let’s do this together.”


What makes a Creative Retreat?

Wendy gave some excellent tips on what makes up a successful gathering for the creative minds. But more than anything, a Creative Retreat is simply a place where you come together, and you enjoy designated, un-interrupted, guilt-free hours specifically on your craft.

A Creative Retreat is a getaway that allows you not only to escape your day to day home life, but also to escape fully into the gifts that let your soul breath a little bit easier.


Why Is a Creative Retreat Important?

In the four years since Wendy and I began planning these Creative Retreats, we’ve seen the women who join us grow in their talents. The photographers, both already phenomenal in their own right, have gotten more confident in their abilities, and in their callings. The teacher has found that the time away fills her soul, preparing her to return home to pour back into both her students and her children. The writers have each expanded their reach and platform, and have accomplished project goals.

A Creative Retreat is not only fulfilling to the creative heart, but it also allows you to set and achieve goals. Concentrated time focused solely on your project can yield amazing results.

Three years ago, I wrote 50 pages in my novel in just three days. All I needed was the space and time.


If you’re a creative who’s looking for space to breath and stretch your creative wings, I would urge you to look for a retreat that you can attend that will meet that need. And if you can’t find one?

Well, head over to Wendy’s blog to see how to start your own.

Happy Friday!

It’s Okay To Want It

I crawled out of bed early this morning. Not by choice, of course. My covers were warm, and after spending three nights on a rickety pull out couch in a hotel, I wanted to stay nestled on my cottony mattress forever.

Forever and ever.

But the seven year old had nightmares, and just as I drifted back to sleep the baby woke up demanding food, and it became apparent that more sleep was a luxury I would not be afforded.

So I made my way to the coffee pot, and now I sit here in front of my computer. It’s so quiet, and it’s still dark outside. It feels like the entire world is still. As much as I wanted a couple more hours of sleep, I must confess – this is my happy place.

This is the place where the Lord meets me – where He whispers peace in my always swirling heart.

This is the place when words wash over me, and sometimes they even flow out of me.

This is the place where I chase my goals – where I chip away at a dream just a little bit more.

There are a lot of stories out there of people who find success almost by accident. They were blogging for fun, or to get through a difficult time, and they were noticed and suddenly there was a book deal that they never asked for!

It seems like my Facebook feed has been filled with such stories lately, and they’re good stories. I like to read them. And yet…

There’s a part of me that wonders if maybe I’ve just wanted this too much. Maybe if I just quit wanting it so bad, then the publishing contracts would roll in. Because aren’t accidental success stories so fun to read?

“I didn’t want this. I wasn’t looking for it or pursuing it!” People say these things and I smile because I’m excited for them. But also, my heart cringes a little because I do want this. It’s why I’m working so hard.

This is why the quiet spaces are so important, because it’s here in the quiet when I’m reminded that the toil is a gift, and the wanting is okay.

“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

There is good to be found in the discipline of rising early to toil away at your goals and dreams. In the quiet dark, while the house is still, your hands move and your heart sings because this is your time. This is the gift.


Friends, the message is simply this: The time spent working and laboring, creeping your way toward a goal, is a good thing. You do not labor in vain, and the difficulty is a gift.

It’s okay to dream, and it’s okay to chase those dreams. Your story isn’t diminished by years of toil. Though it sounds romantic and poetic to somehow accidentally stumble into success, the truth is there is so much beauty in the toil.

Are you working toward a goal? Do you feel like you’re laboring in vain? I assure you, you’re not. It’s okay to want to see the fruition of your hard work. It’s okay to chase after your dream, whatever that may look like for you. It’s okay to want it.

It’s okay, because there’s goodness in the toil.

Your labor is a gift.

Dream Chasing

I watched her through the glass, her tiny, muscular body swinging and pushing through yet another bar routine. It’s not often that I have the opportunity to sit and just watch these days. Life is busy and the demands are high, so watching is a luxury.

 But I really love to watch her in her element.

monkeytiaWhen Tia started gymnastics at age 3, we had no idea that she would develop into a competitive gymnast. All we wanted to do was channel her monkey energy into someplace safer than the top of our ten-foot basketball goal.

She’s nine now, and for six years Lee and I have been in constant conversation about her participation in this sport. Is this the right thing? Is it too much? Is it too hard on her body?

On more than one occasion, I’ve wondered if we should pull back. Maybe it would be better if she just did it for fun. Then I laugh.

My competitive daughter would not understand the meaning of doing something for fun. If you’re not there to win, what’s the point?

As I watched her yesterday, she made eye contact with me and I knew that something was bothering her. I could tell on her face so I mouthed, “What’s wrong?”

She pointed to her head. “I have a headache,” she said.

We looked at each other for a moment, and I was immediately ready to take her out and bring her home, because I understand headaches, and the thought of her practicing for three more hours with a pounding head made my mom-heart hurt.

As if reading my thoughts, she shook her head slightly. “I’m okay,” she said. Then she wiped her eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped back up on the bars.


I am constantly amazed at my daughter’s tenacity. She’s driven by an inner force that I admire, and as I watch, I’m learning. I’m becoming a student of my child. While I know and recognize her weaknesses, and I’m constantly working to help her overcome them, I also see her strengths.

I see her willingness to push through pain in order to become better. I see her dedication, and the way she works without complaining. I see her set goals, and then not let anything get in her way as she works to accomplish them.

My daughter is a dream chaser. She sees obstacles, and she doesn’t stop to wonder if it’s possible to reach her goal. She simply believes that she can. And if it’s hard, or maybe a little scary? Well, that’s all the more reason to try as far as she’s concerned.

Dream chasing is natural to kids. I don’t know what age the belief that dreams can come true begins to darken into the more realistic approach of adulthood, but I wonder at what my influence could possibly do to my kids’ willingness to chase their dreams. Am I giving them the confidence to keep chasing, or do I hold them back, forcing them to face reality?

Of course, reality must be faced at some point.  I do NOT think that point is nine years old. If Tia wants to shoot for the Olympics right now, then she has my full support. If, at 16, she still thinks she can make it and it’s apparent that the Olympics aren’t in her future, I’ll work that out with her then.

I refuse to be a dream crusher, but I also don’t want to be a false encourager.

Because let’s face it – we’ve all seen American Idol, and we’ve wondered why someone didn’t have the guts to tell some of those kids that they couldn’t sing before they went on TV and made fools of themselves.

It’s a tricky business, navigating the waters of dream chasing with our kids. We want their success, and yet we also want to protect them from disappointment. And we must always make sure that we are not projecting our own dreams for our children onto them unfairly.

And so, as my daughter chases her dreams, and her brother’s each chase dreams of their own, I sit back and I watch. I admire their courage, and I applaud their hard work. Then I sit down and look at the goals I have written out for myself. The more realistic, grown up dreams of the present that are entirely possible with a little hard work and dedication.

Dream chasing, you see, isn’t just child’s play.

In light of this topic, I’m excited to announce that I’m joining the writing team over at God-Sized Dreams. It’s time to stop talking about what we want to do with our lives, and start doing something about it. So if you’re a dream chaser, or if you’re looking to rekindle the magic of an old dream you’d long since given up, please join me and the other ladies as we chase the dreams that are placed on our hearts.


“Are you excited?”

His voice reached through the phone pressed to my ear and I took a breath to give the expected response, then stopped. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes, and I felt the wind sort of escape in a small sigh.

“I don’t know,” I said, voice trembling slightly.

A month ago, I signed my first contract with a literary agent. For over a decade, I have been trying, without success, to secure a literary agent. It is a very big step toward my dream of publication – this is what I’ve been waiting for, what I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager.

I should be excited.

I am excited.

But I’ve lost momentum.

When I began blogging seven years ago, I had no idea where that journey would take me. Very early on I came across one of the Compassion Blogging trips, and as I read through those posts I felt a deep longing for my words to matter. As much as I loved chronicling the humorous moments of mom-life, I knew I wanted my site to become more.

I very prayerfully began chasing that heart desire, and in 2012, the Lord answered my prayer and I was invited to go to Tanzania with Compassion International. I didn’t know that trip would change everything.

It was the catalyst that led Lee and I to finally commit to adoption – an adoption that would be terminated.

I would walk through a year of grieving and heartache, and I couldn’t find my footing in the blogosphere anymore. I had accomplished my goal, and while writing has always been an outlet, at that point in time I found more solace in working on my novel, because blogging began to feel too painful. I was so very raw in those days, and I felt exposed online.

It’s been such a journey these last two and a half years. And now here I am, on the cusp of seeing another dream realized, and I find myself wildly overwhelmed.


If it weren’t for my husband, I think I would have given up a long time ago, because this process of doing what I love hasn’t been easy. Success, however you may measure it, hasn’t fallen in my lap. I’ve worked for it – I’ve worked really hard, and I have a stack of rejection letters to prove that what I do isn’t for the faint of heart.

Maybe I shouldn’t have kept the rejection letters. Maybe the folder full of “No” is a little bit of a downer, but it does make the “Yes” a little sweeter. And inside that folder full of “No” are little glimmers of hope. Editors who took the time to write me a personal note on their typical form letter response.

“Love the concept, and the writing is beautiful, but it’s not a good fit for us.” 

“Keep working on this. You have the beginnings of something really special, but it’s not there yet.”

When I got those notes, I placed them on top of the stack of rejections to remind myself that I really can do this writing thing. Because the truth is, when you fight for something for so long, and you are constantly pushed backward, you start to question whether or not you’re cut out for this gig.

But now, there is someone else out there who believes in me. An agent who believes me capable of telling the stories I long to tell. I have a writing partner who, like my husband, has always been my cheerleader, and she’s right beside me in this new journey. She’s helping shape a message that the Lord placed on both of our hearts so many years ago.

I’m overwhelmed by it all. This is where the real work starts, and there’s a small part of me that is just scared. I’m afraid to get too excited. I’m intimidated by the need to gain blogging momentum again – to rebuild a platform in an already saturated market.

And that ever present nag that tells me I might not be good enough to pull this off likes to prick at my ears in the quiet moments when I’m most vulnerable.

Dream chasing is hard. It will always involve rejection. There are so many “No’s” that make up a “Yes.” And we’re all prone to look to our left and our right, and to see the people who are doing the things we want to do and assume that the success just fell in their laps. But 9 times out of 10, that’s not the case.

They worked hard for it, too.

If you’re chasing a dream right now, and you feel overwhelmed by it all, can I urge you not to give up? Don’t look at the “No’s” as a finality, but as the stacking point for the great big “Yes” waiting in the wings.

Maybe it won’t look like you thought it would, and maybe it will be more work than you assumed, but at the end of the day your dream matters, and the tenacity with which you’re willing to run after it will be the tipping point between excellence and mediocrity.

Let’s be excellent together.

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