Vacation, Huffington, and a WINNER!

Once upon a time, I wrote blog posts every day.


I don’t know how I did that, honestly. Life was different then. The kids were younger, most of them still napped, and our days were less dictated by sports and activities, and growing social calendars.

All that to say, I haven’t had much time lately to write. Not writing is hard for a writer. I feel like I’ve been neglecting a part of myself.


What I haven’t neglected, however, is some sweet time with this family of mine. We are in Texas for the week, holed up in a hotel (six people in one hotel room isn’t exactly a vacation, but I can’t find a better word for it…torture? No, that’s not right) while our daughter does a gymnastics camp.

Despite the cramped quarters, we’ve had some fun, and are making good memories with friends and with one another. And my brain is relishing in a bit of free time.

But it hasn’t been a totally work-free week! Before leaving, I submitted a blog post to The Huffington Post. It finally went live today. This was my response to the terrible attacks in Nice last week.

How History Can Help Our Fight Against ISIS


Now, moving on to the GOOD news!

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A winner was drawn this morning for the Like a River From Its Course giveaway and blog tour! Congratulations to Miranda Marchese! My publicists from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch via email with details on how to claim your prize. You can also email your mailing address to info {at} litfusegroup {dot} com. Congrats!

Thank you to everyone who entered, and who helped spread the word. It’s been fun to see so many new faces around Twitter and Facebook!

If you haven’t ordered your book yet, do so today! I’m blown away by the reviews and responses I’ve receive from readers. This book was a labor of love, and it holds a large piece of my heart, so hearing the impact it’s leaving on readers has blessed me so much.

Order Like a River From Its Course now and find out why people are calling it the best book they’ve ever read!

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying some sweet down time with family here in the middle of summer!


How audacity played a role, and also a GIVEAWAY!

It’s funny how God puts people together.

Lee and I were freshly married and just beginning our life together in Frisco, Texas. We’d been in town for one week when we got together with a couple whose names I do not remember, nor do I recall how we were connected with them in the first place. I just remember going to lunch and telling these strangers that I needed a way to keep practicing my Russian language so I didn’t lose it.

“Oh, I know the perfect place!” the strange lady said. “There’s a gymnastics academy here in town run by Russians. You should go in an talk to them, and see if there’s a community here to get involved in.”

The next day, I visited the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy for the first time. Sometimes, I chuckle at my tenacity. I walked in and told the receptionist I was looking for someone who would speak Russian with me. She looked at me as if I had two horns growing out of my head, then led me into the gym and introduced me to Valeri Liukin and Evgeny Marchenko.

“I want to practice my Russian,” I said. Valeri cocked his head to the side slightly and smiled.

“Do you know anything about gymnastics?” he asked.

It just so happened I had been a competitive gymnast as a kid, and had coached on and off through high school and college. I nodded my head and he looked at Evgeny.

“Do you want a job?” he asked.

And so it was that I began working at WOGA not because I was looking to be a coach, but because I was looking for Russian speaking community. For two years, the coaches at WOGA took me under their wing, inviting me to parties, answering my incessant questions, helping me understand the nuances of the language I loved, and so much more.

They were my people, and it was them I was saddest to leave when we moved away.

The year after we moved, I contacted Evgeny with yet another odd request.

“I’m going to Ukraine to interview veterans for a book I want to write. Do you have any contacts there who can help me?”

It so happens, Evgeny’s mom lived in Vinnitsya, Ukraine, and within a week it was all set up for me to spend a few days with her.

A pregnant, sick Kelli, with Victoria and her table full of food!

A pregnant, sick Kelli, with Victoria and her table full of food!

Victoria Marchenko welcomed my mom and I into her home with open arms, and a table brimming with food. I was sick when I arrived, having picked up a terrible cold on the trip, and she immediately took it upon herself to cure me with tea and vereniki (think dumplings filled with meat – yum!).

Victoria was a true gem. She mothered me for the next two days as she took me around town, introducing me to some of the most fascinating people I would meet in all my travels.

She took me to the home of her friend, Elizabeta Semenova, a woman who worked as a partisan and whose experience became central to the story of Luda.

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Me, Elizaveta, my dear friend Sveta, and Victoria in Elizabeta’s home.

She took me to a group of veterans who were one of the liveliest bunch of men I’ve ever met. They told their stories one at a time, and Victoria sat in the corner taking it all in. You could tell she was respected and admired within her community, and I felt a sense of pride just being in her presence. Somehow I knew I’d found a very special lady.

Victoria also told me about Vervolfy, Hitler’s underground bunker built just on the outskirts of Vinnitsya. Now just a meadow with no seeming significance (though the site has never been excavated, which gives it a mysterious quality), Victoria made sure I understood the gravity of what occurred at that place. Her description was so vivid and passionate that when I finally visited the site in person, I felt a hallowed awe for the men and women who died there.

This book wouldn’t have come together the way it did if it weren’t for Victoria Marchenko.

It wouldn’t have come together at all if I hadn’t been to audacious to walk into that gym so many years ago and just ask someone to talk to me. I mean, really – WHO DOES THAT?!

What a lovely thing it is to see the tapestry of this project woven together for such a time as this.


Speaking of the book, it’s time for another GIVEAWAY!

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Litfuse Publicity Agency started their blog tour for Like a River From Its Course, and you have the opportunity to win big! They’re giving away a copy of the book, a Kindle Fire, a Kindle Fire case (winner’s choice), and a $30 Amazon gift card. And the best part is, it’s super easy to enter!

Click here for your chance to win!

Don’t let this stop you from purchasing the book, though! Order your copy of Like a River From Its Course* today and find out why people are calling it the best book they’ve ever read.

If ever there was an opportunity for me to honor the memories of Victoria Marchenko, and all the men and women to whom she introduced me, this book is it.

Thanks for honoring them with me!

*affiliate link included

GIVEAWAY TIME! Win an Amazon Gift Card!

Update: This contest is now closed and the winner has been notified. Thanks, everyone, for joining in!

My senior year at Baylor, I was in the throes of my Professional Writing degree. Every day was filled with literature classes, writing classes, and great gobs of time spent learning this craft.

My very favorite class in all my years at Baylor was that final year. It was titled Writing for the Popular Market, and the only assignment for the year was to write a novel.

That was the year I wrote the first draft of Like a River From Its Course.

There were only six or seven of us in the class, and we met weekly, sometimes at the campus coffee shop, with our fresh pages in two. Ten pages a week was the requirement, and we’d hand those slowly developing stories to the person on our right, and for the next hour we read, then offered one another constructive criticism.

This class was paramount to my career in that it taught me not only the skill of writing on a deadline, but also how to edit, how to offer someone helpful feedback, and how to take constructive criticism without taking it personally.

In an industry that requires a thick skin, I’m forever grateful for that year-long course.

As I prepare to officially launch #RiverNovel out into the world, I know that not everyone will love it. It won’t be some people’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. I am ready and prepared for the reviews – all of them, the good and bad.

Thankfully, so far all the reviews have been positive. In fact, I’ve been truly humbled and floored by the way people have fallen in love with the stories and the characters in my book. I’m honored to be able to share these stories, and relieved that it seems I’ve done a good job.

giveaway post

Every reviews helps in this cutthroat market of selling books, and so today I’d like to offer a little giveaway.

If you’ve read Like a River From Its Course, and you leave a review on Amazon, you will be entered to win a $25 Gift Card to Amazon.

If you’ve already left your review, I know who you are and you’re already entered. Please just send me an email at rivernovelcontest(at)gmail(dot)com so that I have your contact information should you win (and I hope you do!).

If you haven’t finished the book yet, but plan to leave a review, awesome! Thank you! I’m going to pick a winner on Sunday so you still have time to finish.

And I want your honest reviews. Good or bad, you will be entered to win the gift card, so no pressure. Really! *wink*

I am genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, grateful for everyone who has taken the time to read this book so far. Thank you for celebrating this milestone with me. I am so honored to be on this journey, and to have so many cheering me on!

How to leave a review on Amazon:

1. Login to your Amazon account
2. Go to the product detail page here:
3. Scroll down and click “Write a customer review” in the Customer Reviews section.
4. Enter your review and click Submit.
Once you’ve left your review, please send me a link at rivernovelcontest(at)gmail(dot)com so that I have record of your information to contact you if you win (and I hope you do!) *wink again*

Also, if you have not had a chance to order your book yet, Amazon is running low on stock already! What a good problem to have, right?!

The good news is, you can get the book several other places online including Barnes and Noble,, and Books-a-Million. I even noticed yesterday that you can order it at

So basically I am taking over the world!

In the meantime, we’re working to get more books to Amazon as soon as possible.

Alright, so that’s it! Leave a review, and you’re entered to win a $25 Gift Card to Thanks to all and happy reviewing!!!

*one more wink*

Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes in All Your Mess – A Giveaway

When Kristen Welch contacted me about being part of the launch team for her new book, Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough, I knew immediately that I was on board.

I’m fascinated by Kristen’s story. Her story could be my story…and it could also be your story. She’s a normal girl like you and like me. She’s a mess, she’s funny, she doesn’t get life right all the time. Her kids fight, her house gets messy, and her marriage has seen its moments in the valleys.


Her story is our story, and I wanted to know more. Because where Kristen’s story takes a sharp turn is at the very moment that she uttered a tiny word.


Kristen and her family felt a tug to help the struggling young women living in the slums of Kenya. With fear and trepidation, they took steps forward, saying Yes to this dream that seemed impossible, and out of their Yes, The Mercy House was birthed, offering freedom and grace for 12 girls, and 12 babies. The story is miraculous, awe-inspiring, and challenging. Kristen and her family are just like your family and mine. They’re a ordinary family who chose to say yes, and they are doing extraordinary work.

When I began reading Rhinestone Jesus, I worried that it would make me feel inadequate. I feared that maybe I would be more confused, more unsure of what my next step should be.

Instead I was reminded of that which I already knew, but I so quickly forget:

I am the mess, and Christ said Yes to me.

Rhinestone_JesusPrintables3I am prideful, and judgmental. I’m the girl who yells at her kids, who grows idle with her time. I’m the girl who spent a decade wrapped in the ugly talons of an eating disorder, who was freed from that prison, but who can still look in a mirror and find too many faults to list.

I am the girl who will pass on the opportunity to help someone because it’s inconvenient.

I’m the girl with big dreams, who fears she won’t ever have the guts to pursue them.

I’m the girl who wrestles with God, who gets mad at Him, and pours out frustrations over praise far too often.

I’m the girl who struggles with the dichotomy of wanting to give away all we have, and longing to add more earthly treasure to my already hefty mound.

I am that girl, and I am a mess.

But the beauty of receiving Christ, of accepting His Yes of me and all my flaws, is this – Because of Christ:

I am humble and repentant when I fail. I’m quick to ask my children for forgiveness when I yell, and I fight the desire to grow idle with every fiber of my being. I am free from the confines of that eating disorder, and when the lies press down, I have the wisdom of the Spirit to help me fight back.

I look for opportunities to serve, and I long to give freely.

I’m confident that the dreams I have were given to me by God Himself, and I take steps toward them, even if I sometimes feel like I’m walking blind.

When I throw my frustrations at God, He meets me with Grace and Mercy through His Word, every. single. time. He takes my doubts, and He strengthens me in weakness.

I see, and embrace, the blessing that comes from giving, even when the giving is hard.

Because Christ said Yes to me, I am able to say Yes to Him.could say Yes to adoption, even when it was scary and expensive, and our decision wasn’t fully supported by everyone we knew and loved. And when it all fell apart, I was able to say Yes to disappointment, to knowing God deeper through brokenness.

We were able to say Yes to hosting a child who needed love, to pouring our time and energy into her for a month, and sending her home with a piece of our hearts.

I say Yes every day when I fold my laundry, hug my children, serve my husband, live my life. My Yes isn’t always big – it’s a simple response, because the Big Yes was offered on my behalf with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.


I write this today to encourage you. We are all broken. We all feel a hot mess, and I want you to know that Christ said Yes to you, for you. You can embrace that and cling to it on the days when you don’t feel like you’re enough.

I also have the privilege to give away TWO of Kristen’s books to two of you.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. If I could afford to give one to every single person I know, I would.

To enter for a chance to win one of two copies of Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough, simply leave a comment. Let me know how God has redeemed you in your mess. Share how you are able to say Yes to Him in return. Tell me anything you want to share – one comment will enter you to win.

The comments will remained open until Thursday, May 1, when Rhinestone Jesus officially releases. You can, however, purchase the book already in pre-release. If you’re anxious to own your own copy of Rhinestone Jesus, you can purchase it at the following places:


Barnes and Noble 


Family Christian


This post was long. Sorry – I try not to do that too often. Thanks for sticking with me until the end. I am pleading blessings and grace over all of you as you enter into this weekend. I pray that you feel the power of Christ’s Yes to you, and that you, in return, will know the power of saying Yes to Him.

*The giveaway is now closed. Winners have been notified. Thanks everyone for entering!

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the book to review, and two copies to give away. All opinions expressed are my own.

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