I Don't Need Big Muscles

When the storms rage in and the rains fall in sheets, it can be pretty scary. I remember when I was a little girl, a tornado blew up across the field from our house. My mom pulled my brothers and I down into the cellar, but she wouldn't get down there with us. She stood at the top of the stairs, watching...listening...waiting. I caught a glimpse of the sky outside the windows. I've never seen green like that before...thick...dangerous...menacing.

Water was standing in the bottom of the cellar--the cellar I wasn't even aware was there until that day. My brothers were jumping around in it, laughing, playing, not acting as if--at any second--the house could be blown away right over our heads. But I stood still, my heart thundering inside of me, my eyes dancing between my little brothers and my mother's worried face at the top of the stairs. She told us to sing, so I did..."Jesus loves me, this I know." Over and over again, I sang with a voice uncertain and afraid.

When I was seventeen, I was in California for the very first time. I was excited because I might see a movie star, see the Pacific and see my handsome boyfriend graduate from the United States Marine Corps basic training. On the first night, his sisters and I were about fifteen floors up in a Holiday Inn hotel in L.A. Everyone had fallen asleep, the room was pitch black, and suddenly, the hangers and door chain began to clatter as they swung back and forth. At first, I thought someone was trying to break in to our room, but then the entire room began to sway...and then the building began to move in a circular motion. I sat straight up in the bed on hands and knees, and cried out, "Jesus, save us!" I said the same thing over and over again until the earthquake was over. I didn't feel the least bit silly about it, either. I knew that earthquakes were serious...and that the only one that could help me in this situation was my Heavenly Father.

Now as a mother, I've had to take my children down to the basement several times. Sirens blare and rain and hail pelt the windows. I still get a glimpse of that green sky beyond the windows...but somewhere in the midst, there is peace.

And would you believe me if I said I have felt several earthquakes since that first one in California...and that all the rest have been felt here in Indiana? Each time I wake up to the bed shaking and the windows rattling, I feel peace...

I stand in a grown-up world with a far different view from that of a child's, and I find other things more frightening than tornadoes and earthquakes. The checking account is empty and bills are due. Children are sick and running high fevers...and I don't know how to make them feel better. Jobs are lost and new ones are hard to find. Wars rage in distant lands and I wonder what it all means. My heart can ache, feel lonely, and my mind can taunt me with past lies and failures. People say mean things, hurt me, wound me and leave me to figure it all out and heal on my own. You're told to, "Put on your big girl panties and move on," but sometimes, big girl panties do nothing to help the situation. Life can stink...and I can stand in the middle of it and not come up with a single solution. I can't change this. I can't make it better. This is all far bigger than me...like tornadoes and earthquakes.

But I know a single, simple truth that will carry me through:

God will fight for me. He will carry me when I cannot walk much more. He will wrap His arms around me and hold me in a bear hug until the pain fades away. He will breathe new life into me when this world tries to steal my joy. He never gives up on me even when I give up on Him. Those promises that He placed in my heart? Well, no matter how much times passes, He always fulfills them. He will not leave me alone. He will not make me stand alone. If I get scared and run, He will chase after me...because HE WILL fight for me.

"God will fight the battle for you." Exodus 14:14 (Message)

I don't need big muscles because my God has the biggest of them all...and He uses every single one of them to fight for me.


No Doubts

As a writer, I struggle to believe. Are these words really good enough? Are my characters strong enough? Does God's work shine through...is His breath on the page?

As a photographer, I struggle to believe. I wonder if my talent is really breathtaking. Are my clients truly pleased? Do they see the beauty of creation reflected in their children's smiles...in each belly laugh caught in the shot?

As a mother, I struggle. What am I doing wrong that is going to screw up my kids when they are adults and parents themselves? Do they see the love of Jesus in me?

The list goes on and on and on. I am hard on myself. I beat myself up and hold my image to high standards that are nearly impossible to achieve. When I fail, I fall deep into gloomy darkness. When I succeed, I doubt the success.

But God has called me to greatness, and I must find a way to believe in that. He has put stories in my imagination, set them deep within me to be stirred to life by the mere sigh from His lips. He has given me the ability to capture His beauty buried deep within every human soul. H gave me incredible children, trusting me to be the mother He needs me to be in their lives. And my dear, wonderful, most courageous husband (just to endure and choose me)...for him, God gave me patience and a warrior mindset to stand beside him and never run. He has called me to greatness.

We all need to start believing...and stepping out. For He knows the plans He has for us...


Those First Words

I am particularly critical of my own first sentences. I rake them over the coals, delete them, yell at them, kill them and start fresh, cry over them and sometimes even damn them to the deepest parts of the earth where no one can find them even if they wanted to. (hehe)

So this morning I have stacked a pile of books that were nearest me, and I am pouring over their first sentence. This is what I've found:


"Sister are overrated, she decided. Not all of them, of course, only the beautiful ones who never let you forget it."
~A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman
(Hooked me)

"When the sun set over Thebes, splaying its last rays over the limestone cliffs, we walked in a long procession across the sand. In a twisting line that threaded between the hills, the viziers of Upper and Lower Egypt came first, then the priests of Amun, followed by hundreds of mourners."
~Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
(Pretty good image right off the bat)

"Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn."
~The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
(It's okay...intriguing)

"Scarlett O'Hara was no beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were."
~Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
(Love it...but I'm biased)

"'This will be over soon, and then I can go back to Tara.' Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler stood alone, a few steps away from the other mourners at Melanie Wilkes' burial." ~Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
(GREAT start!!)

And now...here is mine....

"As Rafe walked through the crowded officer’s club, he stirred the air scented by KREML hair tonic and booze. He breathed in deep, savoring the thick fog of cigar smoke that filled his lungs, reminding him of the dusty Texas saloons back home. But there were no spit-shined cowboys here, nor any curvy blondes with Chantilly perfume dabbed at their necks."
(I just don't know...)


So what do you think? Do first lines matter to you? Because I think they certainly do. From the beginning of the process you are trying to hook an agent, a publisher and then a reader. The first lines are the first thing they see (duh), so do they matter to you?


Music to write to: