Friday, July 31, 2015

Faith-Filled Friday: My Angel Baby

My family and I are camping at the place where I first found out I would lose my angel baby. This is a collage of pictures I took that May weekend. It's been 5 years, but the memories still tug at my heart. Life is precious, no matter if it's 8 weeks in utero or 8 weeks breathing this earthly air.

Praying at least some in our society never forget that, even if it seems that some have. 

Life is a gift.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

TBT: My One Sheet Design

A #ThrowBackThursday tidbit? I have a degree in Landscape Architecture.

Yet. I write fiction.

Ah, but my degree isn't completely wasted as I learned a ton about graphics. Now, I apply what I've learned to design one sheets for myself...and other CBA authors!

For Throwback Thursday, here are my a few of my past one sheets. Interested in having a unique design to take to your agent/editor appointments this year? Check out my tab 'CBA One Sheet Design' for more one sheets, testimonies, and info. My schedule is booking fast, so if you are interested, let me know!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reflecting In the Calm

It's been a time of reflection for me. I guess because we made our bi-annual trek down south to visit our families, and many memories are stirred up with the rising temps.

Some of those memories are just as searing as the blazing sun. Some are as sweet as the iced tea of my husband's youth. It's kind of strange to visit my past peeps...past stomping grounds...past past...when so much has happened in the two year storm away from the Texas border.

No matter how much I hated the force and heart-damage of the bouts behind me, I still grew. God still shaped me and gave me each new morning regardless of the downpour. And in such a storm, the growing is big.

I can't help but think of Paul's words:

For everyone who partakes only of milk 
is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, 
for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, 
who because of practice have their senses trained 
to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:13-14

It's hard to consider that before this trial (you can read about it in many of my posts these past months) that I was only surviving on spiritual milk and not the meat of maturity. Perhaps, I am over-exaggerating. Maybe I was on toddler food.;) I mean, seriously, I was a ministry leader, a Bible-studier of almost two decades, and a very devout practicing Christian for many years.

But, the storm came. After the pain I rest here in the calm, realizing how little I had made God back then and how big He is now.

Could I really be craving meat? And has it been twenty years of milk in this journey? Am I finally comprehending God? Hardly. Actually, He is more of a mystery than ever....and I have so much more respect for that.

I am finally discerning not only good and evil in a deeper way, but I am discerning God in a different way. I am understanding the distance between men and God, and it's so vast, but yet, through the Son, so close.

I heard something the other day that really struck me. Christ came as the Son of Man AND the Son of God. He is truly the union for the Bride (Humanity) and the Bridegroom (God). Scripture is amazingly intricate in symbolism and design. Christ is our common ground with God. He is our bridge. Before, I thought that thinking God was a mystery was unacceptable in my Christian circles. But maybe to think He ISN'T mysterious is child-like--like I needed God to be an easily-explained  storybook character?

Perhaps, it really is good to see God as a mystery and unfathomable. Because it grows my need for Christ even more. It's only through Christ that I can view God as a mystery but still feel Him near to me in an intimate way.

It's an amazing, unfathomable, intimate plan only fulfilled through Christ and His gift of the Spirit. It is life-changing to know that. And it blows me away that I am just now figuring it out.

This past southern trek, I saw old pictures of me and met with old friends. I can't pin it, but I felt different. I am different. And I think it has everything to do with my recent storm.

And THAT is an unfathomable change only God could pull off. Because if it were up to me two years ago, I would have been just fine with milk a little longer.

But now, I want meat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gearing Up For ACFW: One Sheet Design

Hey ACFW attendees! Be sure to check out the page on this blog, CBA One Sheet Design My schedule is filling up! Pass this ad along if you'd like.:)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mama-Drama Monday : Budget Breaker

Feeling the need to be frugal after a family vacay of a lifetime! Thanks, Disney, for the memories and the budget lessons! ACK!

Ever feel the sting of bringing memories before your budget?

Happy Monday!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Growing Patience...Tomorrow

I am over at The Writer's Alley tomorrow. Head over there now for a great quote, and be sure to stop by tomorrow!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Faith-filled Friday: Like An Eagle

I look at my journey. My greatest triumphs come when I find my wings no matter the storm. Sometimes, I need to be tossed about a bit. But when I manage the flight and focus on Him, I am not weary or afraid.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Target Run Memory Maker

"Thank you for letting me go with you," my four-year old said when we pulled away from...Target. It wasn't the pool, the playground, or the ice cream shop. It was a quick run to finish up some last minute road-trip shopping.

Today was a long day of me finishing up some writing and mothering and packing six people. I tried to take a momma-break this evening aka retail therapy. But my little girl wanted to tag along, even crying big ol' crocodile tears as I got in my car.

I could have just bribed her with, "I'll bring you a surprise," or I could have ask my husband to come to the rescue and distract her... I'll admit that those are not unordinary options around here.

But, instead, I scooped her up and invited her to come with me.

And, without trying or even planning, I think we made some memories--enough so that she genuinely thanked me as we left the parking lot. I am glad she'll have the fun mommy-and-me shopping trip to remember instead of the car pulling from the drive leaving her behind.

Trust me, there will be plenty more times that I'll choose differently, but tonight I realized the need to try and keep those times balanced with opportunities to include my daughter. All too often, I try and push time along for my own desire of peace...quiet...alone time.

I know it's important. I am a big advocate of "pour into yourself so you can pour out into others." But, I'll think more carefully next time my child begs to go with me on an errand.

One day, she won't ask to go anymore, and I'll have more peace and quiet than I might never want.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

TBT: 2 years is a lifetime.

I look at the picture taken in 2013 and see those kids through the eyes of a different person:  one untouched by a storm, deeply rooted in her worldview, and expecting much from her own effort to grow these kids.

Now, in 2015, I see these kids through the lens fogged by a storm, with my worldview devastated but growing new, and expecting much from God's Grace to grow these kids His way regardless of my effort.

How can two years seem so far away?

How can so much hurt and heartache happen in 24 months?

And how can HOPE grow so big in a lifetime of two years? Only by Him who gives it freely. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How To Love This World

What do you think?

Opinions are all over social media (should we gauge real life by that? maybe). 

But I see this "army" mentality among some. They declare a need to stand up and fight...shout their beliefs out and stand their ground. Whether they mean it to be or not, it's drawing a clear-cut line: "I am holy / you are not". And as far as I know, that's exactly what Christ fought against during his ministry.

I will admit, I mourn a bit at the changes of our society. I am not one to like change. I get nostalgic about the way "life" used to be. From my t.v. box perspective.

To be clear, I am not condoning or canceling out or saying one way or another on any issue. What I am wondering though...

Is the world growing harder to love, or are we being challenged to love bigger?

I open history links/books and realize that I see brokenness, hatred, perversion, and division laced throughout our world's timeline and it's not on the "other side" of the religious divide. It is ALL OVER God's people, God's church, and God's ordained.


With the world shouting "LOVE", even if it's in a worldly sense, what are we called to do as Love-Bearers?

What would Jesus do?

Did he sit with the righteous and the holy?

Did he only mingle with those who were forgiven first?

I almost wonder if "the world has grown so bad" (if I may quote Shakespeare) only because we have grown so BLIND?

Are our hearts so hard and so righteous that we cannot stand up for LOVE, but for division?

Is it possible, that maybe, just maybe, God is shaking us to wake up and remember...HE IS GOD, WE ARE NOT, and our GREAT COMMISSION IS TO LOVE LIKE CHRIST SO CHRIST CAN LIVE IN OTHERS. Unconditionally. To Love. We should LIVE TO LOVE.

That's it.

(And I hate to consider that possibly the world is the way it is because of our lack of Love over the centuries. Is it on our shoulders as God's children? Pride is certainly breeding ground for brokenness, isn't it?)

We might not agree with what is sin and what isn't. And we are all called to conviction for our own lives. But there should be no judgement because there are planks in our own eyes, no exclusion because we're included in an everlasting kingdom that is waiting for NOT ONE TO PERISH.

Could it be possible that God is using this world at this moment for something so beautifully GOOD and pointed straight at His Glory? 

What I hope is that we can love as He loved us. For He sent His Son to die for us. And in that we are undeserving. All of us. 

That's what's so amazing. His Grace. His Love. And it's free for All. Let's share it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Mom's Simple Summer Eats

Sometimes, I just like to cook easy...and not frozen or leftovers...good, whole, simple food. This is always a family win: salmon with garden fresh herbs, watermelon, and local sweet corn. Takes about 20 mins to put together! What's for dinner at your house?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Throwback Thursday: 7-8-15

2009 to 2014.
One thing hasn't changed.
They are still my babies...even if they think they are all grown up.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pre-Teen Dating?

It was pretty obvious when I was a new mom. There were lots of "versus" in the mommy world...

Breastfeeding vs formula
Babywise vs attachment parenting
stay-at-home mom vs working mom
homeschool vs school

And with each side, depending on where I was, once I accepted my stance on the issue, I grew in pride and judgement for the other side....or sometimes, jealousy.

I always poo-poo'd my mom who would say, "When I raised kids, I just parented how I thought best. I didn't care what everyone else was doing."

"Well, we've evolved mom," I would say. And studies have been done...and books have been written...and...

Years later, I can honestly say that I am a little jealous of my mom's attitude (even if it may be tainted with thirty-some years of growing kids, sending them off, and helping with grandchildren). Because, in this over-socialized, over-opinionated, black-and-white media-driven culture, I realize that too often I let what some "stranger-psychologist" or "philosophy" says is best to shape my efforts in parenting.

So, to bring it down to real-life, here is my latest struggle:

Even thinking that makes me cringe.

...I just didn't think...
I just hoped it wouldn't be an issue for our kids...

I just...

Yeah, well, my rose-colored glasses were thrown to the ground when my son asked me if he could, "ask her out?" a month ago.

At least he asked me first, right?

My brain was flooded with all the mom blogs I have read, the parenting books I have scoured, and even the mom-speaking conferences, workshops, and MOPS meetings I went to. And I recall terms like, "courtship"and "dating contracts". But then, I looked back at my own summer before 8th grade and how I would have been ecstatic to "be asked out". In my mind, it would have meant that a boy had noticed me. And let's face it, thirteen year olds want to be noticed. Yeah, I was a little boy crazy, but I was a pretty level-headed kid with big dreams for my future career, and great desire for academic success. And I liked boys.

Now, I am not saying that we should allow our kids to think wanting that attention is important and a need to be filled, I am just saying...I know what it's like. And sometimes, as a parent, I forget to tap into my own experience and remember that.

But regardless, as a mom of an almost thirteen year old, I froze at this topic. I felt like I might be a disappointment in the parenting community if I chose wrongly (not that I should really care about others' opinions...but, um, it's a major flaw of mine). I might be labeled as "too strict" if I went one way, or "too lax" if I went the other.

Mostly, I was scared to death that whatever move I made, would be detrimental to my son.

And, really, I think it boils down to all the hype out there forced upon us as parents. The biggest obstacle as a parent today is black and white thinking.
I mean, as parents, we are easy targets. We want the best for our kids...and we want to keep them from the mistakes we felt our parents' made. So if someone has had success and coined it to share with us, then by all means! Parenting for dummies...yep, sign me up!

Only this way, not that way
This is the best way
That is the proven way

But is life really that clearly drawn?

Once I allowed a conversation to grow organically between my son and me...I realized I couldn't just apply what I had read, or easily label my next parenting approach. I had to look at the whole picture, and gauge my son as an individual who was allowing me to be a part of this stepping stone in growing up (Praise the Lord).

A few years ago, I might have thought I needed to say "no" to this. To put my foot down and say, "YOU are NOT growing up so fast. You are too young for a girlfriend."

But now? After we've talked, and he's shown me his heart (and his oh-so-sweet-innocence shining through), and I know what kind of kid he is...does the above approach take him into account at all? Or is it a control thing for me?

I know there are great ideas out there like "courtship" and "dating contracts", and my advice to my son has borrowed ideas from both of those well as others. It's not black and white at all. It's all different shades...and so it should be. He is my purposefully-created child, who only fits his own mold.

If I tried to form my son into the latest parenting idea because it suits ME, then I know I would risk losing his trust in me as his uniquely-assigned parent. And when I lose that trust, my opinion won't count at all when it might be needed for more important topics down the road!

My kids can tell when I am being authentic. I don't know how many times they have caught me demonstrating the complete opposite of an opinion I tried to claim as my own. It's not me but my insecurity trying to take over. I have to remind myself daily to step around the obstacle of this way or that. I need to critically think for myself and know that I am guided by something or someOne greater than an expert or a philosophy.

I will never say that my way is best for another parent, but I will say, as far as I can tell, at this moment in time, my permission to allow him to "date" a girl (and there is a very unique definition for that in the Dicken household) is just fine for my son. It might only be for a short while until we need to adjust it all. But that's the great thing about raising a child, they are pretty good at mixing up the black and white, and keeping us parents hopping down those stepping stones!

What has been your latest parenting stepping stone? Or, how do you deal with pre-teen dating?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Four on the Fourth

Happy Independence Day, America! We are excited to celebrate our nation's birthday with friends, music, and fireworks! Have a safe and blessed Fourth!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Come Tweet With Me

I am two twitter followers away from my goal of 400 by the 4th! Woohoo! If you are on Twitter, follow me here for writing and mom-blogging tweets! Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Kid Is A...

"You're a bully." My ten year old reminds his older brother. It sums up his frustrations in one single word. He has overheard my husband and I use the word in analogy as we try to explain to our oldest how his reactions to his siblings appear. It's been a tough season of jumping off into adolescence, and the most modern term to use for his blunders is "bullying".

But what I see happening as a result of this season, is a bunch of sticky resentment coming from my ten year old. He now sees his brother as nothing more, or less, than a "bully". Even in the good moments when my oldest is trying to joke around and be a friend, even in the bad moments when my oldest is hurt by something and needs a friend.

According to his brother, he's been written off as the family "bully" and all other qualities are hiding in the shadows of the label.

Sad but true (and there is a lot of mommy-guilt here as well...but we will save that for another post). Regardless of my oldest's responsibility for his actions, or reactions, we have all set him up for failure with one powerful word.

Most labels are formed prematurely. It's like stopping in the middle of a person's story and choosing to define them by that point on their journey. Good luck giving them the chance to move into the next chapter without dragging that label along with them. Once it attaches, it is not easily forgotten--by the labeler or the labeled.

I'll always remember being called "a klutz" as a child. I often wonder if my holding back in many situations where I needed to be confident and capable thereafter had to do with that less-than-stellar perception of me? Actually, I am pretty sure it had loads to do with it.

The risk of using labels can narrow the ability to see that person as anything else. We are all familiar with the most effective label-maker--the media. Many lives and careers have been destroyed by the label that is given to a celebrity because of their mistakes or flaws.

As a mom and a woman of faith, I need to be slow to label and quick to love, regardless of what I see with my eyes in a particular moment or season. Kids change ALL the time...especially when it comes to their less-appealing qualities. In their growth, they will come across a gamut of emotions, reactions, and instincts. Heck, I still find myself going through that roller-coaster time and again. And while it's not always pretty, we are all more complex than just a label.

I cannot see the depths of my children's journey toward a well-rounded human being. The ups and downs aren't what make them, but teach them to grow toward something even better. If there is one label they need that will suit them for the rest of their lives it's A-Work-In-Progress.

And I hope that's the one that sticks.