The Success of a Writer [inspiration to keep at it]

I read this article yesterday titled “11 Books That Will Definitely Disturb You“. The columnist, Nick Cutter, gives the following (slightly self-deprecating) praise to Stephen King, regarding the second book on the list, Pet Sematary:

“This whole list could be devoted to the modern master. No other person (with the possible exceptions of Poe, that wacky opium-eater, or Lovecraft if you’re into that whole “nameless dread” stuff) seems as keyed-in to what scares the hell out of all humanity quite like King. It’s infuriating from a fellow writer’s perspective: You try to take his writing apart to see what makes it work, same way a mechanic takes an engine apart, but it’s impossible. The terror somehow lives behind the words on the page: a gathering groundswell of dread and panic. So thanks, Uncle Stevie, for making the rest of us look like muddling crap-stains! Pet Sematary gets my nod as scariest King, but it could’ve easily gone to It or any number of his short stories from the collections Night Shift or Skeleton Crew…”

He gives further props to Stephen King when he sites the author’s (no doubt highly sought-after) endorsement of a younger, up-and-coming horror novelist, stating:

“Man, this guy can write. Lord, what an imagination! Stephen King anointed Barker “the future of horror,” and he wasn’t off base.”

Of course this is just one person’s admiring thoughts about this truly outstanding writer, but Mr. Cutter is not alone. You’d be hard-pressed to find a genuine critic of King’s talent. Even those who don’t do horror can’t help but admire the man’s incredible ability in his craft. I chose to site these two statements from this “11 Books…” article because it was the most recent one in my memory of Stephen-King-is-awesome posts and I enjoyed reading it.

Now – part 2!

I just learned this little blurp about Stephen King a few moments ago from a piece by LearnVest author, Erin Scottberg:

“[Stephen] King was broke and struggling when he was first trying to write. He lived in a trailer with his wife—also a writer—and they both worked multiple jobs to support their family while pursuing their craft. They were so poor they had to borrow clothes for their wedding and had gotten rid of the telephone because it was too expensive.
King received so many rejection letters for his works that he developed a system for collecting them; in his book “On Writing,” he recalls: “By the time I was 14 … the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.” He received 60 rejections before selling his first short story, “The Glass Floor,” for $35. Even his now best-selling book, “Carrie,” wasn’t a hit at first. After dozens of rejections, he finally sold it for a meager advance to Doubleday Publishing, where the hardback sold only 13,000 copies—not great. Soon after though, Signet Books signed on for the paperback rights for $400,000, $200,000 of which went to King. Success achieved!”

Did you catch this one:
“By the time I was 14 … the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”

I certainly relate all this to writing because obviously that’s my whole deal. And also because it is hard, even when its your passion, your art, your craft…it is not easy to do. It takes a lot of time, focus, emotion, energy, and obviously the use of one’s strengths and abilities to create engaging written art in the first place. Quite frankly, it can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, no matter how much we love it.

But the point here is that regardless of the heaping level of rejection this person received, he did not give up. Especially when it really is so much easier than pushing on. There have been so many times that I’ve told myself things like:

  • Screw the book, Danielle.This is too big a task.
  • Just be a blogger and do your regular job.
  • This isn’t worth it. Nobody even reads books anymore.
  • Nobody is going to care about the story you’re pushing, even if they do read.

And I wonder what I would do. Like what if I finally finished this thing and printed it and submitted it and did all the things I need to do, and then nobody wanted it?

Would I write another one? Would I pour my heart into something like this all over again? Would I face the critics a second time, put myself out like that again?

I don’t know. I’d like to believe that I would, but I can see my sensitive self being too butt-hurt to try again. And sadly, that is often our response, because failure hurts. Nobody wants that, even though we are reminded constantly that what we are called to do is supposed to be kind of hard. If it were easy, would we grow from it? Would we learn? Not likely. Not much.

I need to promise myself – we all need to promise ourselves – that we will not give up on the passion inside, the call put on our hearts. That we too will replace the nail with a spike and keep on truckin’.

Image

Photo Credit: The Denver Post; July 10, 2013; Journalist, Tucker Shaw; Photographer, Unknown.

Dear Judge Boyd

The letter I just dropped in the mail to the judge in this Ethan Couch fiasco.
____________________________________________________

February 6, 2014

Texas State District 323 – Family District
The Honorable Jean Boyd
2701 Kimbo Road
Fort Worth, TX 76111

Dear Judge Boyd,

I am writing to you regarding the case and sentencing of Mr. Ethan Couch. I am sure you have received numerous letters and phone calls about this case as the handling of this trial and sentencing has sparked a great deal of public outrage. My intention is to explain why this situation has brought such a strong reaction from the community and what step might be taken as a result.

Americans are tired of watching wealthy people commit crimes without punishment. We have had enough of it. We are burdened by seeing celebrities and people of wealth make poor and illegal decisions without ever having to take responsibility for it. It has become too common. We’ve seen too many perfectly-innocent, everyday people put in prison for years, while there is no justice for the audacious and unlawful choices made by the rich and/or famous. This is becoming infuriating. It is senseless and, most importantly, it is not fair or just. And the preservation of justice is, I believe, the whole purpose of our judicial branch.

The public simply does not believe the excuse of “affluenza”. Our society does not even recognize that as a real condition. However, if that is the basis on which you decided the sentencing, did you consider that by giving Ethan Couch yet another opportunity to be free of any real consequence that you would also then be contributing to his supposed “affluenza”? It seems the more logical approach would be to present him with an actual and impacting consequence in an effort to teach the teen that there are indeed results to our actions, and he has to suffer them like everybody else does. It is absolutely blasphemous for him to get away with this by claiming that he didn’t know it was wrong because his parents supposedly never taught him such things. That’s completely and totally ridiculous. There is no way a child could even survive to sixteen years of age without some parental authority to guard them against the dangers of this world. Such a ludicrous claim would have to also mean that his parents never advised him to watch for cars, or not to play with fire, or not to go away with strangers. These are things that children are often inclined to do, and I don’t know one single parent who has not had to interfere with their children’s lives to prevent such things from happening on at least one occasion. It is absurd to assume that Ethan Couch has never once done anything to warrant his parent’s correction. He has without a doubt been instructed, advised, or corrected by his parents, teachers, and other authority figures throughout his life, and he absolutely knows that driving drunk is wrong and there are consequences for doing so!

This entire ordeal stinks of corruption. You are a Judge. You are someone that people count on to be diplomatic and fair. Your role in society is to treat the law with priority and the citizens as equal. This is your duty as a presiding judge in the State Court of Texas. But instead, your actions in this case have said to the families of these victims that their lives weren’t valuable enough for justice. You actions have said to all of America that we can buy our way out of the law, if the price is right. You have made it clear that murder has become forgivable in our society and that blatant disregard for others is perfectly acceptable. To be frank, it is very difficult to believe that you came to your final decision without some, shall we call it, “influence” from the Couch family. The outcome of this trial is so outlandish that it is hard to believe that it came by honest means.

Ethan Couch killed four innocent people. He took the very lives of Hollie Boyles, Shelby Boyles, Breanna Mitchell, and Brian Jennings. A wife, her daughter, a family friend, and a pastor. All together on the side of the road trying to help Breanna with her broken down car, when an irresponsible and intoxicated teenager plows into them, ending their lives and destroying countless others, in one split second.

Four people that will never see another sunrise. Three families that will never eat another meal together. Their lives are gone. Taken from them by some drunk kid who doesn’t even know how valuable life is.

And you, Judge Boyd, have allowed this. It is my sincerest hope that you consider stepping down from your position as Judge. Whether your action in this case was simply poor decision-making or motivated by corruption, we do not know. But either way, you have deeply disappointed the people and should therefore seriously consider resigning your position in public office.

Sincerely,
Danielle Hewitt

**PETITION**
Take Judge Jean Boyd Off The Bench

February 6th – CNN

December 12th – CNN

Judge Jean Boyd

Photo Credit: http://www.heavy.com/news/2013/12/ethan-couch-affluenza-drunk-driving/

Ethan Couch’s victims, from left: Brian Jennings, Breanna Mitchell, Hollie Boyles, Shelby Boyles.
Photo Credit:
http://www.heavy.com/news/2013/12/ethan-couch-affluenza-drunk-driving/

Denouement by Sarah Russell

This poem came to me by way of the Goodreads February newsletter. It won the iPOETRY monthly contest, and I can clearly see why. It is true and authentic, in a way that brings the reader into the very real stillness and emotion of the story. I think that’s what makes it gripping. It paints a scene that, sadly, too many couples have themselves been the subjects of.

It touched me, so I wanted to share it.

Denouement

The movers are here this morning.
Only things with yellow post-its,
I tell them. I find my long lost earring
behind the couch. Probably landed there
that night we couldn’t wait to get upstairs.
I put it in my pocket, wonder
if I kept the other one.

I divide the sterling service for eight
into two sets of four—
Solomon solution of no use
to either of us for dinner parties. Outside,
the garden needs tending—stalks of brown and gray,
withered blossoms in a winter without snow.
I reach for the pruners, then put them back.
The roses are his now.

Tonight I fix a curry with stuff from the fridge,
and we make small talk—my new job,
his vacation. The acid words are past,
etched into the decree and property settlement.
Afterwards, we clean up in choreography
perfected through twenty years of meals together.

I feign tiredness and ask if he’ll be around
tomorrow before I leave.
No, there’s an early meeting, he says
and turns back to TV.
In the guest room, the sheets smell stale.
The old cat comes and curls into the crook of my knees—
an exquisite kindness.

__________________________________________________

de·noue·ment
ˌdāno͞oˈmäN/
noun
  1. the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.

Clean Banana Muffins

banana muffins 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of oat bran
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Dash each of cinnamon & nutmeg, to preference
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/3 (generous) cup agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 3 medium mashed bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 410 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper baking cups.
  2. Combine the first five ingredients. Add cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir together, making a slight well in the center. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, beat an egg, then add the last three ingredients. It probably won’t seem to have mixed well. That’s okay.
  4. Drop the egg/wet mixture into the well of the dry mix. Mix together with a hand mixer until well-combined. Add the bananas and continue mixing until smooth.
  5. Pour by heaping 1/3 cup servings into muffin cups.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from muffin tin and continue cooling as soon as the tin is cool enough to handle. Let the muffins continue cooling completely before eating.
  7. Store them in the refrigerator and warm-up in the microwave before eating.

Tips:
The batter will be thick but very soft and pliable. Coconut oil makes the muffins really moist, and some of the oil will kind of settle at the bottom of the muffin tin and paper. That’s okay, because you don’t eat those parts. ;)  The muffins themselves are not big “risers” and won’t puff up like other muffins do, but a tsp of baking soda might change that. I should have added it and seen what happened, but I trust that one of you awesome readers will do that and report back on the outcome. Lastly, they make for a filling breakfast. I ate two of them yesterday at 10am and four-and-a-half hours later, I still wasn’t hungry. Hooray for fiber!

Okay, that’s enough. Enjoy your muffins.

CSA Box, #1

Our first CSA box of locally-grown organic produce arrived sometime in the middle of the night, and was waiting patiently for me at my front gate when I woke up.

IMG_20140107_124358

The box contained:

  • 6 apples
  • 4 pears
  • 6 mandarin oranges
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3 red potatoes
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch red lettuce
  • 1 bunch leeks
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1 bunch carrots

IMG_20140107_125125

With these items, I am going to make:
Creamy Cauliflower, Leek, and Potato Soup
Baked Kale Chips
A cleaned-up version of this Better Than Pumpkin Pie
Chicken Stir Fry (with the broccoli/carrot, and served with brown rice)
Something like this Chinese Chicken Salad but not exactly (with the red lettuce and other yumminess)
The apples, pears, and mandarins are just gonna get gobbled up as they are.

I’ll share the pie and salad recipe after I work them out. Sometimes cleaning up a recipe is a straight swapping shot. Other times, it can be a bit more tricky. But I’ll share both once they’re done.

Do you belong to a CSA? Tell me about it in the comments!

7, Month One: Food

Before I begin, this whole thing is all happening because my friend suggested a book to me called 7 by Jen Hatmaker. You’ll quickly gather helpful background info by reading the synopsis and looking at the Amazon preview.

In the book, the author embarks on Month One with a selection of 7 foods to live on for that month. The foods she chose were eggs, spinach, chicken, whole wheat bread. apples, avocado, and sweet potatoes. Salt, pepper, and olive oil were allowed in reasonable amounts. And water was the drink of choice.

Obviously once the food month was over, she was eager to EAT. While there were some good lessons learned about over-consumption, wastefulness, and our general spoiled-rotten American ways, the effort it took to get there seemed fleeting. And when I first presented the idea of 7 to my husband and explained the author’s food month, he in no uncertain terms said he was definitely not on-board.

And when involving family in life changes, its best to make it workable for them.

So I set out to determine how I would make 7′s first month, FOOD (an already touchy issue), workable for us as a family unit. What I came up with is to make seven changes to our dietary lifestyle, with the primary aim being to reduce consumption and make healthy nutrition choices. This was an agreed-upon idea. (Yay!) And here are the seven changes:

  1. Removing fast-food from our lives altogether. None of it. Zero, zilch, nada.
  2. The rest of the fam is going to give up soda. Since I did that 2 years ago, I am finally bidding farewell to friend Red Bull. It’s been fun, buddy.
  3. All the processed sugars and treats have to GTFO. Oreos, Ferrero Rocher, Godiva, etc. Bye, guys…you’ll be missed, I’m sure.
  4. Restaurant dining is being reduced to actual special occasions only.
  5. We’ve signed up for a weekly organic produce/CSA delivery thing and have vowed that nothing will go to waste. This means we may try new receipes, experiment with foods I don’t normally buy, and learn new things. This is kind of a fun aspect of the change! :)
  6. No longer supporting factory “farming” in any way, shape, or form. This means organic, grass-fed, free-range animal products (meat, poulty, eggs, dairy) and avoiding all other foods or products that contain factory-farmed ingredients. Just say NO to factory farming!!!!
  7. A general and overall move from the Standard American Diet (S.A.D) to clean, unprocessed, whole, nutrient-dense, no-added-nonsense foods. Meaning everything we eat or drink will be as organically-homemade-from-scratch as possible.

So this is month one, the food month. It brings with it big changes for me and my family, but they are things we can begin doing now and maintain long-term.

While I totally respect the concept of fasting, the way month one is presented in the book doesn’t make a lot of sense to me beyond that. I wonder, what is the point of beginning a journey toward lasting change by doing something that is so incredibly temporary? I mean, you know going into it that by the end of the month, you’re going to be so tired of restriction and cutting back that you binge on everything you intended to cut back from in the first place. Since I don’t see how that sets up the food consumption issue for permanent improvement, I am setting out to do this a little differently.

So that is how this list of seven changes was born. I spent a lot of time reflecting on how our household will make an impact on food culture, and this is what I’ve come up with. I feel like these things are an honorable focus for food month. And I want it to be clear that these seven things are not going to revert back to what they replaced after the month is over. Rather, they will be built up and expanded on.

Each month will bring a new aspect of life to focus on after having already had a month (plus two weeks) to work on the previous one. The “plus two weeks” is something of a mental-health break taken between the months. Like a buffer period to settle down before shifting momentum to the next endeavor. I guess this is a good time to explain that we are not talking calendar months here either. The months are actually 28-day periods that begin this coming Sunday, January 12th.

It has only today become clear to me that the rest of the group doing this is not observing the 2-week mental health breaks. I don’t know why they ditched them, but I will definitely still be observing those because as a thinker, writer, and reflector, I am going to need time to process and develop all of this. This will be a 280-day, 40-week, 9-month, and 3-quarter overhaul of the the following aspects of my life and home:

  • Month 1: Food
  • Month 2: Clothes
  • Month 3: Possessions
  • Month 4: Media
  • Month 5: Waste
  • Month 6: Spending
  • Month 7: Stress

I expect a whole lot of shifting and shaking going on. And I need time to sort through and deal with that stuff. So the mental health breaks remain.

At any rate – I am really excited and totally ready to tackle this!

7 banner

My 14 for ’14

My goals and intentions for the coming year are:

  1. Use the “7″ book/plan/group to make permanent, lasting change against the excess in my life.
  2. Sponsor two children through Compassion International.
  3. Lose these last ten pounds. (Seriously over the long-term stragglers!)
  4. Get back on-track with eating clean, training, and water drinking.
  5. Move to our new place.
  6. Enroll in my employer’s 401k plan.
  7. Increase my tithing to the full 10%.
  8. Read at least 20 books. (other than #9 and #12)
  9. Read (or listen to in the car) one excellent personal finance book.
  10. Finish my manuscript and begin the publishing madness.
  11. Blog at least once a week, but ideally three times a week.
  12. Read the Bible cover to cover.
  13. Focus on my #Verse2014 (Proverbs 16:23-24) by speaking life, love, and goodness into those I communicate with.
  14. Take a really nice vacation. Ideally, to Italy.

Screenshot_2013-12-31-21-23-58-1-1

13 Pieces of Advice I’m REALLY Sick of Hearing

How many times does a person have to read the same pieces of painfully obvious regurgitated self-help advice before those bits of advice start inspiring thoughts of violence? For me, I think it was about 200 times, give or take.

So to close off the year, here are thirteen such tips that have come to completely infuriate me. (Please note the heavy tone of sarcasm in my response to each of these.)

1. Unplug! (or “disconnect” or “limit screen time” etc).
Really???? You mean all the time I  spend on Facebook and looking at my phone isn’t wholly beneficial??? Now just who would’ve thunk?…

2. Spend time outdoors.
No kidding, eh? Like with trees and grass or the beach, in the natural world we were created to thrive in? Hmm, okay. I think I remember a hiking trail in Yorba Linda somewhere. And this giant yellow glowing thing in the sky too. I’ll check it out.

3. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Because of course it is completely intentional that I feel a little sheepish whenever I see some drop-dead gorgeous chick with mile-long-legs and a magnetic personality. Clearly I just need to stop comparing my probably-a-7-on-my-best-day self to her rolls-out-of-bed-a-10 awesomeness.  Its my own fault really. But what if I was just totally girl crushing or admiring the chick? Is that still comparing?
Oh! You know what, I don’t actually care.

4. Fuel your creativity! Find the artist within! Oooo!
Oh, totally! Like take one of those trendy wine & painting classes on Groupon and experience the unbridled joy of remembering that, oh yeah, my talent is limited to stick figures. Oh well.

5. Take time to be with your family.
No shit? Really? I thought my parents, kids, and husband were just for decoration. But okay, I’ll keep that in mind!

6. Eat more whole foods.
But why?!?!?!?? There’s a Del Taco down the street, and a Carls Junior right across from there, and Jack in the Box is only a stone’s throw away. And with the everlasting availability of Oreos… I mean, eating whole foods?… Don’t be ridiculous.

7. Move your body!
Oh, I’m on  to you now. Time in nature, whole foods, exercise? This is some attempt to get me to care about my quality of life or something, isn’t it? You can’t fool me!

8. Don’t check your email in the morning.
Okay, can you go ahead and let my boss know about this one? I wouldn’t want him to think I am going to start addressing tasks and whatnot when I first arrive at work. Clearly such things can wait until the latter half of the day.

9. Make time for YOU!
So I’ll just schedule a date with myself and spend all of the loads of extra cash I have on a nice massage and pedicure. No concern that my kids are probably at home killing each other while my husband plays the Xbox. Its fine, really. I can do it on this thing people call a “lunch break”. Just like the email thing, work can wait. What’s 40 hours a week? I am sure I can keep my benefits and maintain the same income if I shorten it to schedule some of this all-important “me time”.

10. Go for a walk and breathe deeply.
Ummm….yeah. Because somehow that’s the answer to everything.

11. Develop an attitude of gratitude!
Wait, wait…hold on… – I think I am about to vomit all over your face.

12. Spend wisely!  Develop a budget!
Ooooooooooohhhhhh…..got ya! Spend wisely and develop a budget. I could have sworn my dad said something about that when I was growing up, but gosh, I just can’t put my finger on what it was…

13. Love the skin you’re in!
Aww, that is so sweet! It makes me want to give myself a warm, cozy hug! I’m going to go stare in the mirror now and repeat my new self-care mantra: “I love my body…I love my flaws…I love my body…”.

And there’s more. So many more of these obnoxious kill-me-now bits of “wisdom”. It’s like everywhere I turn is some mindless article showcasing this (and a similar) collection of tidbits. It was probably first heard on a Kaiser Permanente commercial, and then every self-proclaimed guru on the planet copied it to their blog citing some divine influence from which it supposedly came. The titles of such entries were things like:

“Here are 10 ways to do life well”
“Tips to live a happier life”
“How to feel more fulfilled”
“Feel happier now!”

I. Can’t. Deal. 

Want to know how to live a happier life?
Do things that make you happy!!!!!!

Personally, I am into a lot of those crunchy-mama kind of things, but if you’re happier with a hot dog than you are with a green juice, that’s okay. Or if you want to veg out in front of the TV rather than go for a walk in the park, that is totally fine. And if you and your mom would rather shop till you drop than paint ceramics at Color Me Clueless or whatever, again, absolutely okay.

THIS IS YOUR LIFE.
There is only one.
You choose the priorities.
You choose how to spend the time.

I’d like to suggest that we stop spending said time constantly trying to fix things and instead embrace it all as it is. Assuming you’re not hurting anyone, there is nothing wrong with living your life however you see fit.

Wake up, thank God for another day, and get after it!

That’s it. Everything else is just filler.

Happy Thanksgiving

1. What are your plans for the holiday? Home and hosting? Traveling? Going to grandma’s house?

2. What is your favorite Thanksgiving food or dish? Who makes it? Why do you love it so much?

We’re having the family over at our house for the big day. This is the second year that I’ve done it and I’m feeling way more confident than I was the first time. I was worried about it last year because I’d never made Thanksgiving before, and I am not especially known for my cooking skills. Not that I totally suck at it…there are a few things that I do really well, but I am not like that girl who everyone counts on to make the bombest food, you know? So I wasn’t sure if I was going to nail it or fail it.

Luckily – I nailed it. And now, I shall do it again! :)

So I am going to cut this short and get to work on the delicious spread I’m planning. Hoping to make it as much like Grandma’s as possible…

We’re having:

  • Roast Turkey
  • Lumpia (from my hubby’s grandma)
  • Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Herb Stuffing
  • Cranberry Sauce (both homemade and jellied)
  • Pumpkin/Harvest Pie
  • Apple Pie
  • And of course all the little odds and ends.

There’s much to do, so I am off to do it.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, FRIENDS!!!

I have no idea who the photo credit goes to on this one, but it is not my image. Just my favorite "Happy Thanksgiving" Google result. ;)

I have no idea who the photo credit goes to on this one, but it is not my image. Just my favorite “Happy Thanksgiving” Google result. ;)

So then there was #BeyondThankful. And I cried.

1 week + 2 days ago, I was hopeful that I would find a ticket to the Beyond Thankful event that was to take place at my church last night. (To clarify, this was a free event, but they needed a ticket system so they would know how many people to plan food and seating for.) I figured that somehow over the weekend, I would get my hands on one of those tickets.

The weekend came, and the weekend went. And I did not find a ticket.
I was bummed.

But then I went to class on Tuesday night, where by serendipitous chance (which was not really chance at all!), one of my new friends had a spare ticket she could give me. And not just a spare, but an auditorium seat spare.

I. Was. STOKED. I treated my little golden ticket like just that, and tucked it tenderly into the cover of Jesus Calling leaving it safe on my nightstand until the following night. I was so glad to be able to go after all. :)

And let me say that it was even better than I imagined!
I cried pretty much the entire time. But in a good way.

Let me explain the background of my emotions here:

It was not that long ago that I was a freakin’ deviant, okay? I do not for the life of me know why God decided to work in me. I did not deserve His hand in my life, but I got it. Part of that work included bringing me to Eastside right after they moved to the new campus one year ago (hence the Beyond Thankful celebration), where I was baptized and built-into. The point being that for some reason, far beyond my limited understanding, God did a lot of work in me and allowed me to be a part of some truly miraculous stuff! One little paragraph does not convey the weight of all this, but having experienced it, I make no apology for the waves of emotion that come over me because of it.

(Note to self: Blog post about miracles I’ve seen in my life.)

So back to the story. Eastside has been posting a series of pictures over the last several days of some pretty impactful things that have happened during the past year at the new campus. I am borrowing said pictures completely without authorization. Although I am telling you in advance that these are not my pictures and that they are absolutely the property of Eastside Christian Church.

Okay?
Okay.

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So you see the pictures and you think “aww, that’s great”, right?
And yeah, they are totally great. But as I sat there last night listening to Pastor Gene unpack all of the things depicted here, I was moved to tears by the true significance of it all. I was awed by the work God has done through our church and I was humbled to be a teeny-tiny part of it.

  • 610 baptisms?!?!? That’s kinda unheard of!
  • What’s the story behind The Story books? Well, Eastside arranged with the publisher to sell these books only in a 3-for-1 package, so when you bought your copy, you had two other copies to give away. It was a church-wide act of hardcover evangelism.
  • 11,000 imagined Christmas, and it was amazing! And then Easter, followed by Hope Rising, was life-changing!
  • The orange cups, the connection groups, the party on the plaza – ALL great examples of Eastside’s mission to build community.
  • The compassion trips made a dent in Gene’s challenge to every able-bodied Eastsider to unleash compassion around the world.
  • Our local population is more than one-third Hispanic/Latino, and about 30% of that population speak only Spanish. Eastside and Pastor Hector Hermasillo responded to this massive need by launching Semilla.
  • I’m crying again!!!! It’s so unbelievably moving to witness this work.
  • A bit that you didn’t see were the two local ServeBeyond days where we had the chance to give ourselves to the Title 1 schools in the area through service and donation.
  • And one massive celebration of marriage…could it be any more clear how packed with LOVE this place is???

I can’t describe these things the way Pastor Gene did, but every minute of this event was an awe-inspiring and humbling one.

It really began when I first got there, long before we talked about any of that. Walking on to the campus, it would’ve been impossible not to sense the lively and infectious energy moving throughout. And I wasn’t even in the building yet!

Once things got underway, we shared in some worship, including my favoritest-favorite “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)“. (I cried then too, just for the record.)  Then came Gene with his prayer and thoughts on all the things we are so very BEYOND THANKFUL for.

Gene told us about the miraculous ways that Eastside’s GoBeyond Vision has evolved. By the time I had heard all these new-to-me details of this phenomenal story, the concept of  coincidence seemed ridiculous to me. God does not deal in coincidences . He deals in great works. So the life-application takeaway on that one is that whenever I encounter a “coincidence” in my life, I should pay a little extra attention.

The guest of the event was Rick Warren, who had come to celebrate all of this awesomeness with our Eastside family. He joined Gene on stage for about a half hour in an interview-style exchange. He snapped a few Twitter pics (just for fun) and said that we were blessed to have Gene as our pastor, and that Gene was blessed to have us as his congregation, with which everyone agreed. Gene is a pretty rad guy, and that’s about all there is to it. It was a fun little introduction, and then they started digging in.

I’m not huge on sharing other people’s business, as public as it may be, but I will say that this is where it got a little heavy for awhile. I was reminded of the power of hope and that we have to trust God, even on the worst day of our life.

But then there was talk about the PEACE Plan, which was really inspiring! He talked about prominence versus significance…big noses and little toenails. He shared the 5-part vision he gathered from The Great Commandment and The Great Commission. And then Gene handed Rick a check from Eastside to benefit the PEACE Plan, and Rick flipped it so the money would be used to provide Eastsiders with scholarships to go do the work of the PEACE Plan! It was a gift of funds, inspired by a gift of great service, and then given back as a gift to those who will serve.
Because THAT’S the mind-blowing way that God does things!

So I walked out of there last night feeling called to make a few out-of-my-comfort zone moves.

  1. I don’t have a lot of money by any means, but I need to find a way to contribute to the GoBeyond Vision.
  2. I need to go on a Global Compassion trip, and I think its going to be Chile.
  3. I have done enough brainstorming and idea-shifting on the whole project – it is time to get serious and actually start writing my book.

As I prayed last night about all this and tried to process all that had been poured into me, I just started sobbing. I had this overwhelming sense of surrender. I wasn’t sad…I was thankful. I was so humbled by God’s love and mercy, and yet so inspired and convicted by His word that I couldn’t do anything but cry.

I know God wants me to really step into in the mini-ministry that He has entrusted to me and these few things repeatedly show themselves to be the next jump in my journey. For the first time in my life, I know that what I’m doing is part of His plan and purpose on my life. But while I know I’ve been doing the right things, I also know it is now time to do more of them. I am not at all sure how any of this is going to actually come together, so I’ll give that part of it to God. I guess my place in this right now is to listen closely for guidance and the calls put on my heart.

All I can say today, right now, is that YES – I am definitely beyond thankful.

ticket

**UPDATE**
There is a video available of the whole event. One hour, 32 minutes. If you’re interested. (And it does include the incredible worship portion, so there’s that…)

Beyond Thankful: November 13, 2013 from Eastside Christian Church on Vimeo.