Every Writer Needs a Bethany


It’s dinner time and the pasta on the stove is bubbling over. The boys come screeching through the house pretending to slaughter one another as they play ‘Hunger Games,’ and the baby hollers in the living room for the toy that’s rolled out of her reach. There are pressing matters that need my attention, and yet I cannot fully focus because there is this story I’m working on, and the characters just aren’t right. I grab my phone.

“I need your help!” I text. “Do you have ten minutes to read this story and tell me if I’m on the right track, or if I should just scrap it altogether and go back to the drawing board?”

I shoot the text to Bethany, and I close the computer because sometimes you just have to walk away. In no time, I got her reply: “Yes!! Absolutely!! Email it to me. I love stories! And you know I won’t flinch from giving edit.”

I don’t know what I would do without Bethany. She is my lobster in so many ways – the heart sister the Lord gave me who shares my love of books and learning. Bethany is the one who challenges me to be better as a wife, a mom, a writer, and a friend.

Bethany isn’t satisfied with mediocrity, as can sometimes be my tendency, and so I know when I hand her something I’ve written, she’ll will come back to me with an honesty that’s refreshing. She knows that I don’t want to settle for “good,” but that I’m striving for “great.”

As a writer, I need someone like that in my corner. Bethany not only believes in my ability to tell a story, but she makes sure I believe in my ability to tell a story. Because sometimes I forget that I can do this. Sometimes I get bogged down in the trying, and I start to question why I’m doing this in the first place. Bethany is there to keep me from walking away.

Also, Bethany is wicked smart. She’s smarter than me. She’s probably smarter than all of you, too.

When she returned the edits, I breathed a sigh of relief, because it was exactly what I needed to hear. “You have a really good base,” she wrote. “But the story is flat. I need you bring it to life. Stop TELLING me the story. SHOW me. Do what you do best. Make me love the characters.”

What would I do without a friend who wasn’t afraid to push me? What would I do if there wasn’t someone who had my back, someone who was willing to tell me the hard things so that I could get better?

We all need Bethany’s in life. We need someone who will look us in the eye and tell us what we need to hear, not just what we want to hear. As a writer, I’ve been blessed to have a whole group of women surround me in support. The buzz word nowadays is “Tribe,” and I believe mine to be one of the best.

I put up my first short story today over at Short Fiction Break. Short stories are a new challenge for this novelist. It’s an art form all it’s own, and I am excited about the challenge. I’m also immensely grateful to Bethany for pushing me to infuse the story with life. When I was doubting my ability to pull it off, she gave me the courage I needed to hit publish.

Every writer needs a Bethany.

Do you have yours?

It’s Time to Live Free


I was twelve the first time someone made me aware of my body shape. A friend held up a magazine, and on the cover was a waif-ish model, for this was the early ’90’s, and very thin was very in. This friend of mine was also stick thin, her body shape so different from my more athletic build.

“This is what you need to try to get to,” she said. “If you were thinner, we could share clothes.”

That was all it took. The tiny seed of insecurity planted in my formative mind, and from that day forward, the image I saw in the mirror was a distorted version of my true self.

It wasn’t a fast descent into bulimia for me, but more of a slow fade. It started with the comment from my thin friend. This only got the wheels turning, and I began to limit my food portions because maybe she was right. Maybe there was an easy solution to my “problem.”

A few months after that first comment, my gymnastics coach yelled at me from across the gym after a particularly rough training day on floor. “What’s the matter with you today? You sound like a cow trying to tumble out there. Stop being so heavy on your feet!”

Looking back on it now, I don’t think she was calling me fat. The lightest of gymnasts can sound heavy when not tumbling properly. But the seed had already been planted, and so my youthful heart translated her words to mean something different than intended, and the slippery slope on which I stood grew steeper.

I traveled a battled path with eating for a decade. From the ages of 13-23, I fought this fight, knowing in my heart that my relationship with food was an unhealthy one. I sought counsel, saw doctors, asked for prayer, and tried to beat it on my own. I was ashamed of my inability to control myself around food, and I hated that when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t seem to see what everyone else saw.

I thought it would get better when I got married. Somehow, I thought the committed love of a man would free me of all insecurities because, after all, I didn’t need to impress anyone anymore, right?

But it didn’t get better and, in fact, my shame grew, because now the harm I did to my body directly affected my husband.

Finally, in early March, 2002, I’d had enough. I was so tired of fighting the battle, and I fell to my knees after another day of failing with food.

“Take it from me, Lord! I don’t want this anymore! I just want to be done.”

Read the rest at WendySpeake.com

Body After Baby: A Guest Post

I’m over at Extraordinary Mommy today. Join me there?

“Mom, are you having another baby?”

I get asked this question by my nine and seven year olds at least twice a week. Three times if I’m lucky. Our fourth born arrived four months ago, and the children are certain that something is terribly wrong with me since my body hasn’t immediately bounced back.

Tact. We’re working on it in our home. Clearly we need some practice.

Dressing your postpartum body can be quite the chore, particularly in those in-between months when you’ve finally (blissfully) gotten to the place where your regular clothes fit again, but they don’t fit…well. What to do when you want to wear something besides yoga pants, but you don’t want to purchase a whole new wardrobe? I have one word for you:


The modern day girdle, Spanx are a gift for those living in that transition between almost there and finally made it back to pre-baby weight!

It’s true that Spanx make you feel like you might die a slow death of midsection claustrophobia. Just pulling the body-shaping undergarments on is a workout in and of itself, so basically when you wear Spanx you’re killing two birds with one stone: Workout, and completely eradicate the flesh over your abs.

I am now at the point that, with the help of my trusty Spanx, I can fit into almost all of my regular jeans. No, I don’t think I get the full amount of oxygen that I need to fully function while wearing Spanx and jeans, but I do get my kids off my back about having another baby. So I consider it a win.

So for you moms who are trying to get your body back after baby, here are a few tricks (to go along with the Spanx, of course).



Read the rest at Extraordinary Mommy.com.

I Get Around

I’ve had three posts go live this week, so rather than try to write some more words, I think I’ll just share the ones I’ve already labored over. So, without further ado…


She said the words softly, her voice halting as she looked forward out the front window. I leaned a little closer, trying to decode the sentence. My Russian is rusty, and though I understood each word, when strung together with the many grammar rules, I couldn’t quite figure out exactly what she was asking.

“What?” I asked. A single word in her tongue seemed to give her a little more confidence. She glanced at me out of the corner of her eye and took a deep breath.

“I will call you Mama?” she asked.

It took a minute for the words, and the meaning behind them, to sink in. She had only been with us for three days, so I worried that maybe I was still not fully understanding.

“You want to call me Mama?” I asked. She looked at me with glistening eyes and nodded.

“Is it okay?” she asked.

I nodded back, wordless not because I couldn’t find the words in Russian, but because the lump in my throat had blocked all sound.

Last Christmas we hosted a young girl in our home for one month. Through an organization called New Horizons for Children, we had the blessing of opening our home to “K,” a child who knew more heartache in her short 17 years than I likely will in my lifetime.

Abandonment. Death of a parent. Life in an institution. Loneliness and fear.

These are words that identified her past, but in our home, we had the privilege of telling her that she is loved, she is worthy, she has value on this earth, and she will always have an advocate.

I’ve been asked several times what I think about orphan hosting through programs such as New Horizons, and others like them, that bring children to the United States each summer and winter.

There are Pros and Cons, and I’d like to offer my thoughts on these hosting programs.

Read the rest at Mercy Found Ministries



When I had my first child, everything shifted. I welcomed the shift, because as I held his warm body next to mine, I realized that the entire meaning of my life had now taken a new course. No one can really prepare you for that when you are expecting your first child. It’s simply something that happens. It’s a good thing.

t can also lead to an identity crisis.

Before having children, I operated in full freedom. Putting faith in action seemed so much easier then, because I could get up and go when I felt like I needed to. Add a child to the mix, however, and suddenly everything gets a little more complicated. It happened rather slowly. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was happening until many years later, when I had three children, all pulling at my feet and vying for my undivided attention.

I had gone from a doer to a talker.

Read the rest at The MOB Society




“Mom, I have three different things I could do when I grow up, and I don’t how to decide.”

I suppressed a smile at the earnest concern in her voice. Genuine worry laced her eight year old face, and I pulled her close to me on the couch. This is the child who hates to make decisions. She’s so fearful of making the wrong decision that even breakfast can turn into an ordeal of tears if not handled with grace and patience.

“Well,” I said gently, “what are your options?”

“I want to be a gymnast’s coach, a soccer coach, or a doctor. But I also want to be a mom. How will I decide what to do?

My first born ambled up at that point. He’s trapped in that phase right now between boy and man. He’s long and sinewy, all knees and elbows. He still dreams like a child, but I see the practicality creeping in.

“I’m going to be a missionary,” he says. “I want to help people who don’t have anything. Or…” he pauses, conflicted. “Well, I kind of want to be a professional golfer, too.”

They both look at me then, as though I will have all the answers to these life decisions that seem so important right now. Before the youthful freckles have faded, and the white blonde strands of hair darken into a more mature golden, they want to know the future. They want me to tell them what to do.


Read the rest at Extraordinary Mommy

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I hope the rest of your week is sweet, and joyous, and filled with blessings. 

Watercolor Therapy: A Guest Post

This post was written by my dear friend, soul sister, and my creative partner, Wendy. A week from today, I will be on a plane to California for our annual Creative Retreat – a time to gather with other like minded women seeking to glorify God with these gifts that He’s given us. I am thankful for her wise words. Please welcome her!

There is a time and a place for therapy.

When a muscle is strained, there’s physical therapy; for the patient who’s undergone a stroke, speech therapy; children with physical delays need occupational therapy; and those held in emotional bondage benefit from psychotherapy.


Photo courtesy of Wendy Speake.

My dear friend, and author of this blog, is in need of a little therapy right now.  Even as I write, Kelli is flying home from an intense weekend with family.  After receiving the devastating news that a loved one is battling an aggressive form of cancer, each family member came together for the deep heart therapy that can only be done in one another’s presence.

The Stuart Family lifted up their beloved patriarch with prayer therapy, before Kelli’s father-in-law began chemotherapy.  Now all the Stuarts have scattered back to their own cities and little families again.  How difficult I imagine it will be for Kelli and Lee to not be with their loved ones during the days ahead.  Which is why therapy must continue. 

Prayer Therapy:  Those who know and love Kelli and her family, I beseech you to pray for them during this time.  Pray for the healing of her father-in-law, wisdom for his doctors, comfort and peace for Lee’s mother and siblings, and lift up the grandchildren… as the sting of illness and the reality of heaven sets in.


Photo Courtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography.

Friendship Therapy:  We desperately need friendship when our hearts pump hard to comprehend our circumstances.  There are seasons of grief when we pull away; retreating into prayer closets, lifting up our hands in private worship.  But a time comes when friends must join in the retreat.


“Retreat: A movement away from danger, back along the original route.”


Photo courtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography

 How appropriate that Kelli and I are hosting our annual Creative Retreat at my home in one week’s time – Our safe place to move away from danger, and find our path again.

Sitting in my backyard yesterday, creating watercolors with my children, I thought of Kelli, and sent her a text:  Let’s do some watercolor therapy when you come.  She responded:  I agree. 

 Water clear and paint brush dry 

Blank canvas ‘neath the western sky 

Young woman sitting all alone 

Breaks silence with a subtle moan 

Bare shoulders kissed by heavens sun 

She lifts her eyes, bids healing come 

Picks up the brush, then comes undone. 


Photo courtesy of Wendy Speake.

Ironically, or not at all, Kelli sojourned to my home for last year’s retreat, after the heartbreak of her unfruitful adoption.  She retreated to my front porch, blindsided and raw.

 Prayers and friendship mingled with food, adventures, laughter and late nights, as healing took place.


Photo courtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography

Sometimes the therapy a heart needs most is to RETREAT.

Retreat into the healing, dry climate of Southern California’s hills,  and the quiet of a backyard, and the rhythmic movement of a paintbrush.

 If you are hurting today, which many of us are, I encourage you to retreat, to find refuge, and to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day… (Psalm 91:1-16)

(Thanks to one of our amazing photographers, Tammy Labuda, for always capturing moments of inspiration so expertly. Check out Wendy’s beautiful new site here.)

Places I’ve Been and Where I’ll Be

It’s been a busy week, and it’s only Wednesday! Sleep has eluded me for most of the week, which is why I think it’s felt longer than usual. Or maybe time is simply slowing down. It’s really hard to say for sure.

In any case, yesterday I had two posts up on different websites, and I wanted to share links to those posts here. Tomorrow I leave for Kansas City for a weekend away with dear friends, and this little getaway could not be coming at a better time.

I mentioned that I haven’t been sleeping, right? 

My first post went live yesterday at Extraordinary Mommy. It came with a little bit of confusion when my bio did not originally post at the end of the article making it look like Danielle was announcing a surprise pregnancy, which made the morning slightly dramatic, and a little stressful in a totally humorous I MAY HAVE JUST STARTED A TERRIBLE RUMOR sort of way.

Thankfully we got it all sorted out, and we all had a hearty laugh afterward. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

It sounds terrible when I list out all the panic that has washed over us in the last six weeks as we’ve processed this new development in our lives. It’s not that we’re not excited, because we are – we’re just a little nervous. We were the young parents – the couple who would see their children all graduate and leave the nest before turning 50. Now I’ll be the “mature” mom at the Kindergarten round up, which in the grand scheme of life means nothing, I know, but it still feels a bit shocking.”

Read the rest at Extraordinary Mommy.



I also had a post up at Mercy Found Ministries discussing the struggle I feel when I see the crisis in Ukraine, and the knowledge that all adoptions that were in process in Crimea are now terminated. I feel the pain of those families affected deeply, and I wish there was more I could do. But my call right now is to simply be still and trust.

An excerpt:

Trust is such an easy word to say. It rolls off the tongue so nicely, doesn’t it? It is a single, simple syllable, but the implications wrapped intrinsically throughout those letters are weighty and full. They swell with responsibility, with a depth of emotion and sacrifice that is more often than not difficult to grasp.

Trust takes courage.

Read the rest at Mercy Found Ministries.

Happy Hump Day, everyone! Make it a good one.


Subscribe to receive a FREE excerpt from the award winning Like A River From Its Course!

You have Successfully Subscribed!