Blessings and Adieu

Blessings and Adieu

Nine years ago, I started my first blog. Like a lot of people, I didn’t start off smoothly. It was a rough few months figuring out exactly what a blog should be, how to tell a story in a way that was interesting, how to share what was happening in our lives without oversharing.

Blogging filled a need for me. I was a writer, but I needed to practice the art of the written word, and I learned a lot in those early blogging days. I also had a lot of fun.

I walked a red carpet in Hollywood.

I covered the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

I went to Toronto and interviewed Christine Baranski.

I went to Tanzania and saw first hand the impact that Compassion International has on families around the world.

I met some amazing people on this blogging journey, and I have friendships all around the world because of those early mornings spent typing out stories for the world to read.

Blogging made me a better writer, a better mom, a better wife, and a better person. Blogging helped me process a cross country move, the termination of our adoption, and the death of a parent.

Blogging gave me the opportunity to dissect the difference between Christian art and the Christian who makes art. My faith has been stretched and challenged as I’ve worked to live it out both privately and online.

And, ultimately, blogging led me down the path toward my ultimate goal – publishing books. You all rejoiced with me when I got my first publishing contract, and then my second.

I owe a world of gratitude to the blogging community and all it has offered me. This is why it’s sort of painful for me to step away from it, but more and more over the last few months I’ve felt that it was time for me to take a hiatus from the blogging world.

I’ve fought this decision. I didn’t want to stop blogging, and discontinuing my blog goes against all conventional wisdom for writing and marketing books, but the current life stage in which I find myself demands that I make some changes.

Right now, my heart’s desire is to continue to build my publishing career, and with four kids, homeschooling, taxiing said children to ALL THE SPORTING EVENTS IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, and every other daily responsibility that falls on my shoulders, something has to give.

Right now, I can either write good books, or I can write good blog posts. But I can’t do both.

So I will be taking a hiatus from the blogging world. I don’t know if I’m stepping away forever or for a time – I just know I need to give myself the freedom to walk away so I can focus on writing my next novel, as well as the novella I’ve been mulling over. I’m also fleshing out an idea for a new nonfiction book.

My brain is spinning with ideas, and this is exciting!

So, while I’ll be stepping away from blogging, I’m not completely disappearing. I still want to connect with all of you! 

I’m going to start posting Facebook videos a couple of times a week on my Facebook page, and I would love to have you join me there. I’ll be discussing books I’m reading, talking about the writing process, telling funny stories – pretty much everything I would have done here only in short 2-5 minutes video bites.

Will you join me there?

You can also connect with me on Instagram where I’ll continue to share bits of my day to day life.

And of course, I still contribute regularly at Extraordinary Mommy, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. 

I will miss sharing my life in this medium, but for now this is the right decision. To whomever has hung on with me from the beginning (and there are a few of you!), I thank you for taking this life journey with me. You all have been such a blessing.

And for those of you who are new, I sure hope you’ll continue to follow along, because if I’ve learned anything during this blogging journey it’s that life is so much more fun when it’s shared!

Blessings and Adieu…for now.

*wink*

3 Keys to Raising Confident Children in a Contentious World

3 Keys to Raising Confident Children in a Contentious World

We are now one month into Donald Trump’s presidency, and it has been a heckuva ride so far, hasn’t it? The world is alive with noise right now, everyone jockeying to make their opinions known, fighting to prove their “rightness” and everyone else’s “wrongness.”

And along for the ride, bouncing in the wake of this political madness, are our children. Young and old, they’re watching and listening, and make no mistake, they are trying to figure out their place in this crazy world.

I’ve seen a number of disturbing posts and articles from parents lamenting their fear at raising children under a Donald Trump presidency. While I can certainly empathize with these sentiments, the truth is they baffle me.

Parents, why are we afraid? Now is not the time for fear, but for action, and what better way to exact change in this world than by raising strong, confident children who care well for the needs of others?

Here are 3 Keys to Raising Confident Kids in a Contentious World

1.) Have Age Appropriate Conversations About Politics

My seventh grader is currently learning about Individual and Civil Rights in his Civics class at school.

“I have the right to say whatever I want!” he boldly proclaimed at the dinner table the other night. “It’s my freedom of speech. I can say anything because it’s my natural, individual right.”

Ah, seventh grade is fun, isn’t it?  Sometimes I have to remind myself of how cute he was as a toddler so I don’t throttle him now as a teenager.

“Yes,” I responded, my voice sugary sweet. “You do have the right to say what you want. And I have the right to take your phone away if I deem your speech hurtful or inappropriate.”

I had to bite my lip to keep from ending my comeback with a good old fashioned, “BOOM! Take that sucka!”

Because my first-born is older now, we’re able to have deeper conversations about what’s happening in the world and how we should be responding. He’s privy to a little more information because he’s old enough now to process it, and to dialogue with us through it all.

My nine-year-old, however, is still a little boy. He doesn’t need to hear everything that I perceive to be wrong with our nation and the world. He’s not ready to process that information, so I don’t share my every concern with him.

Our kids are bombarded with enough messages on a day to day basis. Let’s not fill them with undue and unnecessary fears over political messages that we may or may not agree with.

2.) Teach Them to Be Kind

Most parents are already doing this. It’s a pretty second nature response when we have children. From a very young age, we admonish them to share with others, to speak kindly, to treat one another with gentleness, and so on.

That training has to continue, though, and as the children grow into young people we need to change our tactics.

We need to be teaching our older children to be kind to those who may think or feel differently about things than they do. Basic kindness may already be ingrained into their youthful hearts, but grace toward others is a skill that needs to be honed over a lifetime.

Today’s youth are bombarded with messages from the world, and social media takes the nuance out of difficult discussions. We need to work with our kids to help them navigate conversations, both online and off, with kindness.

3.) Show Don’t Tell

When I was a senior at Baylor, I took a class called Writing for the Popular Market. Our only assignment for the year was the write the first draft of a novel.

Every week, we met at a local coffee shop (there were only six of us), and we exchanged papers, reading and editing one another’s stories. And over and over in the editing process, our professor would repeat the same basic principle of writing:

Show, don’t tell.

Don’t just tell the reader what happened, show her. Give her the action that paints a mental picture.

The same is true for parenting. We can talk to our kids until we’re blue in the face, but our actions will have a greater impact than our words.

So let’s show them how to care for others, how to put the needs of our neighbors (both near and far) above ourselves.

Raising children in this contentious time feels like a gigantic hurdle, but really this time is no different than any other in history. Now is not the time to fear for our children, but rather to dig in and fight for them. And that fight starts at home.

What are your thoughts? How are you working to raise confident children in a contentious world?

Welcome New Readers!

“There are few moments when you receive a book and it just captures your attention and demands to be read. This is one of those books. It is powerful, emotional and full of passion. I cried, smiled and my heart broke at various times throughout the book. I was so attached when I first opened this book, it came with me to soccer practice and I read it the whole time we were there. It was definitely a book I read in one sitting and then re-read over again to further appreciate it.” Amazon review

It’s been just under a month since Like a River From Its Course released, and what a ride it’s been. I’ve been overwhelmed with the response to the book, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of this process. So may of you made it an exciting time for me, and I could not be more thankful.

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“Like a River From Its Course is an emotional, moving story that will leave you horrified by the depth of human depravity and yet inspired by the characters’ courage and faith in the midst of adversity. The author’s research shines through this book, as there is an air of realism that permeates the pages. The fact that I was reading about characters whose experiences were based on true stories made them all the more heart-breaking to read about. Kelli Stuart writes with a sure hand, with carefully crafted scenes and the ability to bring her characters to life.” Amazon Review

As I continue to share and spread the word about Like a River From Its Course, it’s also time for me to begin shifting my focus toward the next book launch.

In just two months, my second book will release. CRAZY! Who’s idea was it to release two books in four months?!

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom is co-authored with my dear friend, Wendy Speake, and I’m unendingly grateful to have her on board this time around. She’s like a book marketing ninja, which is good because I’m almost brain dead after this last month.

Many of you are new to the website, and I’m so glad to have you here! Feel free to poke around.

Visit this page to learn a little more about me.

Visit this page to read some of the true stories that inspired Like a River From Its Course.

Click here to find a synopsis of the book, as well as Pinable images for sharing!

Read this post to see how your purchase of Like a River From Its Course is helping a young Ukrainian girl named Masha.

Contact me here if you have any questions.

You should have already received a message offering you access to the freebies you get for subscribing to KelliStuart.com. These freebies include two ebooks, the first four chapters of Like a River From Its Course, and a Reader’s Guide perfect for book clubs. If you haven’t received the links to those freebies, contact me and I will send them right over!

Stay tuned for some SUPER exciting news! I can’t wait to share an upcoming opportunity with you all!

We are beginning to wind down our summer here in Florida. Only two more weeks until school starts! As much as I’ve enjoyed this break, the return of a routine is always welcome. I will be working on developing a more consistent posting routine again, as well.

In the meantime, welcome, and thanks again for making the launch of Like a River From Its Course such a memorable time for me! I’m looking forward to getting to “know” many of you in the months to come!

Happy Monday!

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How a Girl Tricked the Nazis and Redefined Bravery

She sat across from me, her mouth turned up into a soft smile. With eyes crinkled at the edges, and a gentle lilt to her words, she took me back into the recesses of her memory.

It was 2003, and I was in Vinnitsya, Ukraine. Elizabeta Yepifanova agreed to meet with me on a brisk, March morning, and over a spread of tea and chocolates, she invited me into her story.

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Elizabeta was sixteen when the Nazis invaded Vinnitsya. Unable to enlist in the Red Army, she found herself stuck, forced to live under the invader’s imposed law, and unwilling to stand idly by while young boys with cropped hair took over her home. She wasn’t, of course, the only one left heated with indignant pride.

A group of young men and women like herself formed a quiet group. Meeting weekly in the hushed corners of the local library, this pack of partisans made it their mission to fight a different kind of battle with the Nazis.

“We fought a psychological battle,” she told me. The interpreter sat quietly by my side, whispering Elizabeta’s every word like it was a sacred secret, and perhaps it was.

“We wanted those boys to know that though they had physical might, they did not have the power to break our spirit.” She tossed me a mischievous glance. “And we won that psychological battle.”

Not content to subject themselves to the Nazi’s rules, Elizabeta and her comrades devised secret plans to keep the German soldiers ever aware of their own infallibility. “The Germans were afraid of us,” she laughed. “We were unpredictable and shrewd. They never knew where we would strike next.”

“I got very close to a Nazi once,” she continued. “It was the most dangerous mission I participated in. But I was successful. Of course I was successful,” she chuckled. “I’m here talking with you now!”

Late one evening in 1943, Elizabeta and her friend, Sophia, walked to a nearby market where German soldiers were known to congregate, and they openly flirted with two of the Nazis.

“We got those boys to come with us easily,” she said, eyes twinkling. “We didn’t speak German, of course, and they knew very little Russian, so most of the communicating took place with gestures. But if you can believe it, I was quite beautiful then, so it didn’t take much to convince them to follow us.” I smiled, because I could believe it. Behind the wrinkles and the grey hair, Elizabeta Yepifanova had striking features.

“We lured them to our safe house and had them take off their coats in the front hall. When we saw their guns, we pretended shock and fear, and those boys were quick to remove the weapons and lay them down. They thought they’d get something from us that night, but we were the ones who got lucky.” With a slap of the knee, Elizabeta let out a hearty laugh.

Read the rest of this story at The Huffington Post.

 

Love Wins. Light Wins. Prayer Wins.

The television droned on in the background as I prepared dinner, my eyes ever trained on the flashing screen. I was taking in the horror against the juxtaposition of my children laughing and dancing in the room next to me. The pictures of death a back drop to the sounds of life.

Like everyone else, I watched in horror at the unfolding of events in Paris on Friday night. I did not, however, feel either shock or surprise. Because evil has been lurking in the periphery for some time, and we’ve allowed it to trickle in to our vicinity.

Oh, what charitable people we long to be, but charitability combined with passivity leads to tragedy.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to extend my hands to the people of this world. I want to open my home to the hurting and the deprived, and I would give all I had to the children whose tears bleed through my computer screen. I am not an unmerciful woman, though for much of my life I’ve been painted as such.

On the contrary, I feel deeply. Mercy and compassion cut to my core. I am not one prone to hold on to anger. These are all strengths passed down to me from my parents, and nourished by God Himself, and for them I’m grateful.

I’d rather bask in the grace of forgiveness and mercy than wallow in the darkness of anger and hurt.

But there’s a measure of protectiveness that settles upon a mother’s soul when her children dance and sing, and the world burns just beyond her borders. I will call out evil for what it is, and I will condemn it, and by God I will support the fight against it. And here’s the kicker:

I am not unmerciful in my condemnation of evil.

prayforparisIn the wake of one more wretched attack, the world has rallied yet again. Only nowadays these rallies take shape via social media. Because what else can we do but voice our horror and our pain, and support the cry for swift retaliation?

And for those of us who cannot fight back, what more can we do but pray?

In the days following the attacks, I’ve seen more than one article calling people out for using the hashtag #prayforparis.

“The world doesn’t need your hashtags!” they cry, and maybe they’re right. Maybe the world doesn’t need my post or my photo layered with blue, white, and red stripes. After all, a hashtag and a filter are nothing more than symbols. They mean nothing in the wake of disaster and death.

The carnage in the streets is not revived by mere symbols. And yet…

There is power to be found behind a symbol, if we’re willing to follow through. Will I simply post #prayforparis, or will I drop to my knees and pray for Paris? Will I pray for this world, and for the people who are grappling for security and safety in a land the explodes around them?

It feels so monumental, praying for the world. Dear God, I pray for the world?

What does that even mean?

No, I must pray for them by name. I have to pray for the city of Paris, that life, and laughter, and beauty, and love return to the weeping streets. I will also pray that God would comfort the hearts of His people.

And I can move on – each country has a name, and that name is not lost on the God who formed the land. I believe this. I believe in all the good things of this world – in the beauty of laughter and dancing, of friendships, travel, family, children, and above all things, I believe in love.

And I also believe that evil will always be lurking in the shadows, waiting to snuff out those beautiful gifts. Because evil cannot stand the light, and all those things bring light. Evil hates light – that is why it’s evil. It can only exist in the dark places.

So get up, world! Let not evil darken the doors of our hearts! Let not the darkness snuff out the beauty of laughter and love. Evil may look like it’s winning, but it cannot claim victory because light won’t be chased away. I know this for a fact.

As I set dinner on the table, my nine-year-old danced out and looked at the television. She froze as the images pushed into her youthful consciousness.

“What happened?” she asked. I explained as best I could while muting the TV. She looked up at me, bright blue eyes swimming with compassion.

“We should pray for them,” she whispered.

So we did. And we will. 

Love wins. Light wins. Prayer wins.

Every time.

#prayforParis

One Small Box

Safety.

I both long for it, and resent it. Everything about my life is safe, and for that I am truly thankful. I’m free to move about as I please, and so are my children, and there are moments when I truly, genuinely do not take that for granted.

But there are more moments when I do take it for granted.

Like everyone else, I have been captivated by the photos of a little boy washed ashore. I think about his parents and their longing for safety, and the journey they took that was anything but safe, and my heart breaks because it was just so hard.

I think about the family who recently brought home a little girl from a Chinese orphanage, and they now sit cocooned in their home because they need her to know that they aren’t going to leave her. She’s barely two, but she’s conditioned to believe that everyone leaves, and so they must build trust. And how many children are living that way in this world?

I think of the young woman in Ukraine who spent the last two Christmases with us. She wants family and safety. She wants to be known. She wants life to be easier.

And then I think of my own children swimming in opportunity, and I worry that I’m failing. We have a house bursting with “stuff.” So much stuff. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and we have enough clothing to last us at least a month, maybe more, if needed.

Food piles in the pantry and fridge, but still I run to the grocery store almost daily, because I can. And because these people in my house eat like it’s going out of style.

We’ve tried to expose them to the suffering of this world, but as they bicker over who gets to play the PlayStation next, I fear we’ve done a poor job.

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We took them to Walmart on Monday armed with a list of needed and necessary items for Syrian refugees. Our sole purpose in the store was to purchase for others, not for ourselves. And yet, in every aisle they asked for something. We reminded them over and over, gently at first, and then with more urgency, that this trip wasn’t about us – it was about suffering people.

But even I had to restrain myself from grabbing a few things for our family while there.

We brought all the items home, and they’re piled in the corner waiting be boxed.

“That’s really not that much stuff,” my oldest said last night as I pulled it all out and began organizing it. “How many refugees are there?”

“Thousands,” I replied. He raised his eyebrows.

“That will only help a couple of people.”

And so it is that my heart constricts again, because this box I’m putting together feels so small. I know that for the three or four people who benefit from it’s content, the gesture won’t be small. But this feels like a single drop of rain in a vast desert. Everything feels so small.

A solitary box fill with clothes and shoes is small.

Bringing “K” into our home for two months is small.

$38/month for our sponsored children is small.

My children live in a world that is bursting with need, and I do know that they’re aware of this – they’re not clueless. Nor are they indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, when given the opportunity, they are more gracious and giving than I am.

But it all feels so small.

I placed the sweatpants and tennis shoes, socks and underwear in the box, and before closing it up laid my hand on top of it and prayed.

“Lord, multiply this offering so that it isn’t small. This isn’t enough, Father. But it’s something – it’s a start. Make it sufficient, Oh God.”

My one box is small, but it’s something. It’s a start. And maybe if we work together as a collective whole we can make that offering a big one. Like the loaves and the fish, the offering can be made sufficient for the masses.

offering

I tell you these things not to bait you for encouragement, but rather to let you know that I get it – what we have to offer feels small. But a lot of small can equal a big, so maybe we can join forces.

My small box combined with your small donation, and her box, and his donation all come together to clothe and feed the desperate.

My orphan hosting combined with their adoption, and your sponsorship, and their mission trip to paint the orphanage, and build shelving, and offer clothing all work together to show the fatherless of this world that they’re not alone – their lives matter.

Want to be small with me today?

 

A list of small things you can do to make a big difference:

Provide relief for Syrian Refugees

Sponsor a child through Compassion International

Host a child who needs to see a picture of family this Christmas

Throw a Shoe Cutting Party 

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