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This past weekend, I was the lead speaker at a writer’s workshop.  I had forgotten just how badly this freaks me out until I spent two days absolutely certain I had a virus.  Stomach problems, head aches, hot and then cold.  “I can’t get sick now!”  If I remember correctly, my twenty year-old actually called the truffle he gave me placebo-chocolate.

In small groups, people don’t bother me.  But put me in front of a lecture hall and . . . am I running a fever?  That said, I always say YES and have a great time once things are underway.

I didn’t realize until recently just how gutsy it is to follow our talents where they take us.  My son is a mechanical engineering student.  It is an understatement of epic proportions to say this course of study is tough.  Every now and again he’ll leave a page or calculus or physics on the table and it always looks like something Sheldon would have written on his dry erase board in Big Bang. 

Listening to him and his fellow students discuss who has flunked what and who has miraculously made it through on one try astonished me.  Seriously?  I never flunked a class.

Of course, I never took calculus let alone Calc III.  But last week I saw a Tweet that brought it home for me.  I can’t find it to quote it but it went something like this, “I got a 2.4 my first semester as an engineering student but now I’ve landed craft on Mars twice.  STEM is hard for everyone.  Stick with it.”

So often we think that if we are gifted in an area, if God has given us a talent, it will be easy.  But is that really true?  My most well-received books have all been brutal to write but well worth the effort.  My God-given talent doesn’t make the job easy but it does make it possible.

Speaking of which . . . back to work!


“Don’t be surprised when you can’t keep the weight off.”

That’s only one of the many things I’ve had people dump on me about.  And I have to tell you, I’m a little sick of it.

It isn’t that I expect to always succeed.  I don’t and I won’t.  After all, I’m human.  I’m flawed and I’m going to fail.

My desk is still a mess.  The back wall in my craft room is still only half painted.  The linen closet?  I cleaned out one shelf.  Four more to go and I haven’t even bought the paint yet.

But I’ve lost almost ten pounds in the last four months.  Eight.  I’ve lost eight.  And I’m feeling better.

I bought a loom and am learning to use it. I’ve been making ornaments out of felt which is also a new thing for me.

I worked in the church garden this year and am now one of the people who does the yard work.

Oh, and I learned to make tea cup candles.

I’m flawed but there are things I manage to pull off.  I do, after all, have talents gifted to me by my Creator.

And the crazy thing is that you have talents too.  They might not be the same as mine.  In fact, they probably aren’t.  But that’s okay.   Figure out what they are and you’ll know that’s where you stand the greatest chance to succeed.

Does that mean you shouldn’t try anything else? Of course not.  Some tasks will be much harder but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile.  Sometimes they are actually the most rewarding.  Like getting rid of that 8 pounds.

Will I keep it off?  I’m going to try.  Lord knows he gifted me with the ability to bake but he never said I have to nibble on it all myself.  Tomorrow we have Sunday school so it is the perfect time to try out that new recipe.


Let me tell you about Frankie, of whom I’m terribly fond. I just saw him on Sunday, and though he slept through my visit, I could tell he was content — after all, he was where he loves to be, in a giant pen with a bunch of horned beasts. Frankie’s a llama, by the way. He lives at an animal park just outside of town where he spends his days raising generation after generation of pygmy goats. (Exception: For a brief while he was employed in pulling train-fulls of children around a track. It broke my heart — and his. Thankfully, he was quickly reunited with his foster children.) Frankie doesn’t know he’s a llama among goats. He’s just doing what he loves to do — gently guiding and nurturing his hoofed pals, lying down so they can climb him like a furry, brown mountain, policing caprine shenanigans.

No one has ever told Frank that he cannot be a goat mama, both because he is male and the wrong species. I’m glad they haven’t. So many of us are discouraged from doing God’s work, from being our fullest selves, because the world tells us we can’t. We’re not important enough. We’re women. We’re out of our depth. Those people are wrong. If a male llama can tend to goats, if a stutterer (Moses) can speak for the people of Israel, if an illiterate fisherman (Peter) can head a church, then why can’t you do what God is calling you to do, however unlikely?

To call myself a spiritual poet in a world where poetry (much less spiritual poetry) isn’t wanted, needed or read is as ridiculous a calling as a llama aspiring to goat-tending. But Frankie’s doing his thing. And I’m doing mine. Maybe no one will ever notice us much, but neither of us cares. The goats know. I know. God knows.

And maybe, just maybe, someday I’ll be as good at poetry as Frankie is at raising goats. Not a bad goal, wouldn’t you say?

A couple of weeks ago, I was short-sighted enough to disagree with a friend of my husband on Facebook.  I should have known.  Really, really should have known.  It isn’t that I dislike him but I know him.  He is pushy.  I think he’s condescending because I’m female.  My husband counters that he’s condescending because he’s breathing.  Female.  Male.  People in general.  Condescension will happen.

And when it did?  I lost all perspective.  It became the most important part of my evening.  Again and again I looked up his comment.  How dare he!?  The amount of energy that went into verifying, repeatedly, that he had been rude and he’d done it more than once was, in hindsight, embarrassing.  I should have just turned my back on the whole thing.  I should have turned to face something or Someone entirely different.

What if I’d spent that evening doing something God wants me to do?  Using the talents God gave me?  Facing into the Light?  Maybe nothing grand would have happened.  But, if nothing else, I’d have had a much better evening.

And if we did this often and consistently?  I can’t help but think that we’d get a lot more accomplished acting as His hands and feet on this earth.


Tell me something is impossible and nine times out of ten I’m going to try to prove you wrong.  I taught myself to knit before the internet swarmed with tutorials.  I had failed to learn from my mom but when my 12 year-old niece acted like I was a simpleton because I couldn’t do it, I had to learn.  Hey, don’t judge. I wasn’t a mom yet.  I didn’t understand that 12 year-olds act like you’re a simpleton just because.

And it isn’t like this trait has diminished with age.  One of my girlfriends calls it my “hold my beer” response.  Half of the joke is that I don’t drink beer, I don’t like beer and I will never need someone to hold my beer.  But if you tell me something is impossible you better step back because I am hardwired to try to prove you wrong.

Some people would call this a weakness and it could be.  But I’m a writer.  Writing is hard and so is getting published.  If I gave up every time someone pointed out how impossible this job is, I’d still have a desk job.

I like to think my innate stubbornness is a gift from God.  Whether or not you agree, it is definitely something I’ve used to my advantage.



Follow your talent to the dark places where it leads.  Does this mean that using your talent will always be grim and scarey?  No.

But developing your talent can be tough.  Dancers face hours, days and years of practice to hone their skill.  All of this can be brought to a halt by a serious injury.  Pretty scary stuff.

Any college degree that is science based is hard to earn.  I’m saying that after listening to three teens discuss calculus over Christmas break.  How many of them passed?  None.  And these three are all honors students.  Heading back into their respective classrooms after Christmas, they each attend a different school, is going to be tough.  It is going to take guts.

Learning to use our talents effectively is often a long, difficult process.  This doesn’t mean that God wants us to take an easier path.  But it may mean a series of hurdles and dark passages before we can undertake the tasks that he will ultimately place before us.

Have courage!  After all, he is with you.



Some kids need to be encouraged to think for themselves.  My mom said that was never my problem.

When I was little, as in a preschooler, my grand-dad would take me walking with him.  He was a mining engineer and he constantly checked out rocks.  He’d roll them with his boot and maybe crack one with a hammer.  Choice bits would go in his pocket.

I had pockets too.  Mom didn’t appreciate either the number of rocks or the dirt in my pockets.  So grand-dad gave me a geologist’s bag.

Problem solved.  I filled that up and then dropped the extras down my bib overalls.  What can I say?  Some of those rocks were too good to pass up. I had learned not to put dirty things in my pockets but I was still thinking for myself.  Now I get to use that love of science in the writing I do for kids.

God created each of us with a purpose and a mission.  To find that mission, you will have to be yourself – the unique person that God created.





Today the choir director at Florissant Presbyterian Church, where I go, tried to recruit me for a drumming class.  She signed up for Japanese drumming classes.

The truth:  I LOVE Japanese drumming.  Love.  It.  Seriously.

Her:  It will be so fun.  We can go together. It’s eight weeks.

Me:  Do you have to do that thing where you do one rhythm with one hand and another with the other hand?

Her:  Probably not for a couple of weeks.

Me:  Have you noticed how excited I get when I keep track of one rhythm for an entire song?

My husband:  It’s easy.  When you do three with one hand and four with the other than (some bunch of something I can’t even begin to repeat).

Soon she and my darling husband where going on and on and the pastor and I looked confused.  Really confused.

For those of you who don’t know, my husband drums.  He can do two different rhythms with his left hand, a third with his right, and two different baselines with his feet.

On a good day, I don’t spill my drink on myself or drop food.  On a really good day, I don’t bounce off a wall or careen off a piece of furniture.  I can, maybe, keep track of one rhythm at a time.  Apparently, I am not a savant.

The beauty of it is, we each have our own gifts.  Our pastor’s is ministry. He’s also highly intellectual.  Me?  I’ve got a thing for visual pattern and nonfiction story telling.  Other cultures and history and paleontology are like candy to me.

But I’m lucky.  My parents always encouraged me to study and learn about what fascinated me.  Other people?  Not so lucky.  Our choir director got a business degree although she had been offered a full music scholarship.  She was told she had to be practical.  She had to make her way back to music as a profession.

In 2019, celebrate the unique gifts God gave you.  How?  Be the best you that you can be.



If two people are discussing education in America today, chances are that they are discussing the education crisis.  Me?  I’d like us to focus instead on the many teachers who inspire.  Why am I thinking of this right now?  I saw this post today:  “Thinking about changing my major to education! I like the idea of structuring your own class and being open to helping students!”

You know that a young man has had influential teachers when he is considering changing his major to education.  Good teachers not only help their students learn, they inspire them.  They are people who use their God-given talents for the good of all.

Not that we can all be teachers.  I helped in the classroom for about 20 minutes every morning when my son was in first grade.  By minute 18, I was glancing at the clock.  “Come on. . . come on. . .”  The kids were great but it wasn’t the place I was meant to be.

As the year draws to a close, I may be thinking about changing this up next year but I’ll still be writing. Writing is definitely my niche.

What about you? Have you found the place where you can use the talents God gave you?  Have you found a way to reach back and help another?



Today I am working on a rewrite.  For those of you who aren’t writers, let me explain.

With every new story, poem or article, we have an idea in our head.  It is golden and glorious because it is new and fresh.  A first draft never lives up to our expectations.  Many people never get past that.  Writers who manage to publish live on hope.  Maybe just maybe the next draft will fix whatever needs fixing.

Hope and determination aren’t limited to writers.  We just get to pair them together on a daily basis.

Pair them with your own God-given talents and see where they take you!  You may not get it right the first time, but that’s okay.  Be like this little guy and hold on to your hat and head for tomorrow.




Have a Mary Little Christmas

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