The Good-Embarrassing of My Mom

My mom will be embarrassed by this post.

DSC02266

But the good kind of embarrassed, I hope.  And it’s all well and right to good-embarrass a godly person once in a while.

We just finished studying Romans in BSF this year, and Paul good-embarrassed a boatload of people at the end of Romans 16 – Paul knew how to give praise and affirmation, and how to be thankful.

And that’s what I want to do today, on Mothers’ Day Eve.

2011_01_11_KES-1449_2When I first became a mother back in 2011, Mothers’ Day quickly had all sorts of significance.  I had been cut open and stitched back together to bring my husband’s and my DNA into the world, and so I deserved to be celebrated, dagnabbit!  With my three-month-old daughter in tow, on my first official Mothers’ Day, we revisited the arboretum where we got engaged and had pictures taken.  My mom was there too, probably taking the pictures, but the day was suddenly about me.

IMG_4065

I was twenty-four years old and thought I was the best mom in the world. The doc had diagnosed a serious dairy allergy in my infant and I was totally off dairy to nurse her.  She was three months old, and I knew everything.

Right.

Here I am now, seven years later, three little girls later, and all I’m thinking is Heeeeeeeelp.   I know nothing.  I never knew anything.  I’m going to fail them.  I’m already failing them.  How did my Mom do it, and what made her so gloriously wonderful?

But now she lives across the U.S. and I can’t hit the arboretum with her, or stop by on a bad day and cry, or throw myself into her arms and say thank you about two hundred times.

Now, in 2018, this day is all about her to me.

My mom was the golden middle child of five.  And I don’t mean she was perfect.  I mean she was literally golden.  The only blondie in a household of brunettes.  The only one that really looked like her own mom.

188749_195007420530226_4261779_n

She was friendly and outgoing, a bit of a follower, and super cute.  She wanted to be well-liked, and she tried to please everyone.

One day at the end of high school, she was invited to Young Life, and there she confessed her sins and embraced Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross.

While she got her teaching degree, she worked all over doing numerous fun and temporary jobs during the summers, including a stint at the Von Trapp family lodge in Vermont.  She was an evangelist, a people-person, and cheerful.  She sparkled and enjoyed life.  All of the pictures I’ve ever seen of her show her smiling broadly, happy, purposeful.  She’s the perfect picture of a healthy ENFJ.

One time, in Boston, she took a teaching job that involved kids on parole.  By the start of the year, numerous teachers had already quit, but my mom hung on.  On the outside, she doesn’t look tough – the woman cries at practically every touching movie we watch, and numerous books as well – but she has guts on the inside that people always underestimate about her.  And mostly she has a gigantic, whale-sized heart.  She loved those difficult kids when no one else would.

Wait, I’m talking about my siblings and me.  Did you think I meant the kids on parole?  Oh yeah, she loved them too.  *wink*

She stuck that class through and won them over that year.  She also spent years teaching special needs children and adored them.

But rewind.

After moving to Colorado to live with a dear college friend who had just had a difficult miscarriage, she met my dad who was stationed nearby in the army. They met at Sunday School, because my mom was always at church, rain or shine.  She was also planning on heading to Japan for short-term ministry when they met, and she planned her wedding in a short space and time before leaving for overseas.

220240_210450082319293_6074750_o

10675639_841169559247339_6493991553754274477_n

Six years later, after my dad got out of the army and graduated from Harvard, my mom had me.  After that, the rest of us came quickly, four children in five years.

38809_140824595948509_806722_nMom stayed home and became the world’s best housewife.  She had a schedule for everything on her multiple whiteboards, and she was as predictable as the sun rising in the mornings.  Everything had a place, everything was secure, everything was safe.  She made us feel like our world was all right.

134736_179281598769475_2620292_o

Mom got excited about homeschooling pretty early on, and started with me right away in kindergarten.  As each younger sibling began school with us, she added to her own workload without a blink of the eye.  Every once in a while, she’d beg for her fifteen minute nap in the middle of the day, but that’s only because she got up at five thirty in the morning to meet with God one-on-one for hours.  And could she nap!  She could go out like a light at 199852_195007213863580_1038841_na moment’s notice, in a public place even, without pausing a second.  I’ll never forget the time the piano teacher found her asleep on a chair in the other room, mouth wide open.  Mom is a queen napper.  She has no ability to stay up late.  She’ll get this fuzzy delirious look and won’t listen to a word you are saying.  As a teen, I should’ve asked her for big bad things at that time of night.  She wouldn’t have remembered saying yes. *wink*

Faithfully taking us to the very best of Bible studies, to all of our sports, to all of our friends’ houses, and laying down her lives for ours, Mom didn’t have much time for herself outside of her home, her children, and her Lord.  But she led Bible studies and 1914825_186167651414203_7180005_n (2)neighborhood groups, started get-togethers and women’s meet-and-greets.  She could get to know anyone.  Meeting new people is her favorite pleasure in life. We used to groan and joke every time someone randomly started telling Mom their life story.  She knows the grocery checkers by name, will pray for their children by name, and starts conversations with all the other moms at the sports games and doctors’ offices.  No one is off-limits to Mom when it comes to a conversation, and she knows how to slip Jesus in when you aren’t expecting it.

285038_2075171632039_2120670_n

Mom can disarm anyone.  I’ve never met a single person who doesn’t like her.  People walk away warmed from the inside out because she’s the least intimidating, most caring person you’ll ever come across.  And when she says she’ll pray for you, she means it, in her numerous organized prayer journals, and on down on her well-used knees.

Mom used to randomly say, “I love you, Rachael Lynn,” using our full names, just because she felt gushy inside.

The only conflict I can really remember us having is when I would blitz through my chores like a madwoman, wanting to get to my entertainment and play, and Mom would go back over the dust with her finger, calling out my lack of thoroughness.  Or the times I’d get far too creative and not really do the work she wanted me to do.  Or the time she’d use her razor sharp discernment and call me out on something spiritually that I’d delusionally insist wasn’t true.  Or the times she’d try to correct my early writing and I was too arrogant to submit to it.  Sometimes we’d call her Scrooge, which she hated, because she suggested doing away with Christmas presents and just focusing on Christ.  *wink*

She is in my top two favorite people to be around, including my husband.

And then I got to my late teens and early twenties, and I wanted my friends, wanted to my freedom, wanted my husband.  And I was moving too fast and being too foolish and getting too obsessed.  And Mom was frightened about the technology and “Inter-web” and “intelligent phones” and things that might take me away from the Lord and their home.  I kept silent, expecting her to handle things badly, lying to her and being rebellious deep in my heart.  But when my sin came out, she was nothing but forgiving and gracious, adapting in ways I had not thought possible, embracing the future God had for me, counseling and guiding me, and I slowly began to repent and grow.

No matter what interests take my fancy, Mom is interested too.  Mom listens, researches, studies, and embraces.  No matter how weird.  No matter how odd.

www.kathleenelizabethphotography.com

All the granddaughters

She insisted on doing all of the gardening and mowing herself, and taught us how to run a home independently by age twelve.  She took us on hikes and sang us the bear song and the skinny-dipping song.  She gave us St. Patrick’s Day treasure hunts and folding-laundry-movie nights.  She took us on all-expenses-paid vacations with her inheritance money and put little gifts on our car dashboards.  She held hour of prayer days and taught us hymns.  She let us sleep in her bed when Dad was away on business trips, even when we kicked her in the middle of the night.  She taught us about the human skeletal system, even when it made her feel like passing out and she had to sit with her head between her knees.  We made meals for church members, hosted strangers, and prayed for persecuted nations.  She taught us to see outside ourselves.

She does everything well.  She would insist I’m lying when I say that, so I have to admit she’s never had a great relationship with technology.  She’d gush and gush about how patiently I taught her how to use a computer, but to me, she was easy.  I’m pretty sure I first realized that I loved teaching from all of the pleasant hours spent showing her how to minimize a window.  *wink*

11700878_1115777958439547_6278047765549556863_nMom reads every single one of my novels as I write it, giving few critiques, but all excitement, loving and rooting on my characters, lecturing me for writing something that keeps her up too late at night unable to put it down.

When I got married and moved away, Mom still visits and simply cleans my house, attending my children’s sports and activities, even grocery shopping together.  When she visits, we do life together, and she’s like my second set of hands.  We work together, talking until my throat hurts, best friends sharing our souls.  We can talk Christ for days on end.  I never tire of being in her presence.

2009_09_26_KET-286

I, as her child, rise up and call her blessed.  Many women have done virtuously, but she excels them all. I truly strain in my head to find faults with my mom.  They simply don’t exist. She walks more humbly and closely with God than another human being I’ve ever met – and I would know!  She loves Jesus with a realness and dearness that I long to emulate, and she loves people in complete purity.  She is gracious, giving, non-judgmental, flexible, loyal, and pleasant.  She laughs easily, she serves continually, and she is wise.  She is over and beyond humble, and she has suffered long.  Her faith does not waver.

10502057_841169609247334_3544670857629499215_n

If I could be half of who my mom is, I would be satisfied.  Thank You, Lord, for putting a spiritual giant so closely in my life as my very best friend.

I love you, Mom.  Happy Mothers’ Day.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Open Letters to Persecuted Christians – From My Children

We’ve been praying through Voice of the Martyrs prayer calendar – praying for a different persecuted country every day.  This has been very eye-opening to my two oldest

PROD_PC18

Front Cover of the Prayer Calendar

girls – children who’ve known peace, safety, and security all their lives.

Today we studied a passage on heaven and Jesus’s second coming.  At the end of the passage, Paul tells people to encourage each other with these words.  I mentioned that thinking about eternity in heaven was probably very encouraging to those being persecuted, and my oldest daughter got a lightbulb idea from the Lord.

“Let’s write a note of encouragement to them about heaven!” she said.

So that became our English assignment for the day.  ❤

I copied down exactly what both girls wanted to say.  These are 100% their words, not mine.  As we look for a place or person to mail these, I thought I’d share them here as well.  ❤

 

Dear friend in Christ,

            I’m writing to you because I want you to know that Christ is always with you and you can depend on Him to always be there.  Even if your enemy is hurting you, you can know that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, will always be there in your heart and around you.  You can know that at some point you will be in heaven and you will enjoy it.  You will get to see the Lord who you’ve been waiting for – the One you believe in!  If any of your Christian family members have been hurt or persecuted or killed, you will be able to see them up in heaven too.  Just remember that Jesus, your Lord, is still with you, and you can depend on Him to help you.  Every day, in every way, He will always keep His eye on you, so that He knows what is happening. Everything that is happening to you is all in His sight and it is all for good.  Even though you might be alone, you can still have the Holy Spirit in your heart and you can keep Him there. He will never leave or go away.  You will never leave Him.  You will always be in God’s arms. Even though we, in America, haven’t gone through the persecution you have, we still have a very bad sin of not focusing on God.  😦 We can learn from you because you and your family focus on God and keep up standing up for who you believe in.

Love,

R.S., 7 years old, USA

 

Dear friend in Christ,

            God loves you and He will always be there for you, no matter how hard your troubles are.  He’s there with you! When Jesus comes back again, there will be a great celebration.  He will take all of the Christians up, and, if you are one, He will take you up too.  🙂 At the end of the world, God will create a new earth and it will be part of heaven. Everyone will be satisfied in heaven and there will be no sadness. There will be no anger.  There will be no dying.  Everything will be happy in heaven! Whenever you have a trouble, just pray to God and He will figure out a way to solve the problem. I will meet you in heaven too!  🙂

Love,

R.J., 5 1/2 years old, USA

Preciously Precocious Children – Part 3

GemEleven-year-old Gem has traveled from his home planet of Topha to meet with ten extraordinary children, all sixteen and under. These children have been given the RJ Conte label of “Preciously Precocious” and are heroesGem 2 of their own stories.

 

Gem, future possible savior of his fragile planet, is prepping to take on the planet’s core with the power of his mind.  For motivation, he’s interviewing child heroes.

 

 

And now for the final installment of interviews! And make sure you check out each of their amazing stories – all of which are on Amazon – including Gem’s!

 

  1. Footer - Footer Davis Probably is Crazy - 11Fontana “Footer” Davis, 11 years old, of Footer Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught

Gem: Do you prefer English or math?

Footer: I prefer anything Ms. Perry doesn’t teach. I really like English because Ms. Malone teaches it, and she gets me, you know? She didn’t even make me go to the office over that serial killer book.

Gem: (laughs) I get you there.  Some of my supervisors’ minds are really awful and unkind places (I have telepathy). I prefer Soleil in every way.

Okay, you get a dingbat as a pet.  What do you name it?

Footer: What’s a dingbat?

Gem: Anything you want it to be.  A fictional pet.  (grins)

Footer: If it’s anything like a walrus, don’t get it near me. Seriously. Walruses are creepy. If it looks like a kitty, I’d call her Dorothy for Dorothy Thompson, who was like the bravest, coolest journalist in history. I think I’ll be an investigative journalist. I like investigating stuff, and I plan to find these two kids who went missing from the farm behind my house.

Gem: (cheers) Go Footer!  So what’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Footer: I do a lot of brave things, like clean snake guts off bird feeders, look at pictures of walruses, and try to keep my friend Peavine’s little sister Angel from stealing all my books (she’s plotting my murder, no doubt), and show up in 5th period every day even though Ms. Perry is there (probably plotting my murder too).

Gem: (laughing harder) How you feel about walruses is how I feel about sloths.  (shudder)  Thanks, Footer!  Stay alive!  🙂

Footer Davis is on the case when two kids go missing after a fire in this humorously honest novel that is full of Southern style.510r0Cpkh4L

Here are some things that are true about Footer Davis:
1. She has a BB gun named Louise.
2. Walruses freak her out.
3. Her mom has bipolar disorder.

But she wants you to know that it’s not that big a deal. She’s just Mom, and usually she’s fine except sometimes when she doesn’t take her pills. But right now what’s most important to Footer is what happened to those kids at the Abrams farm. See, there was a fire there a few nights ago, and those kids haven’t been seen since. Pretty sure they got burned up. What Footer and Peavine—that’s her best friend—want to know is who started the fire?

Buy Footer Davis Probably is Crazy on Amazon.com

 

Blondie - Blondie McGhee - 92. Blondelle “Blondie” McGhee, 9 years old, from Blondie McGhee: At Your Service by Ashley Eneriz

Gem: What do you believe about love?

Blondie: I really love being a detective, and I really love my dachshunds (a.k.a. wiener dogs), Emma and George – although George can be a pain in the behind most of the time!  He has helped me solve several cases.

Gem: I wish I had a pet!  So who do you get along better with: your mom or dad?

Blondie: Hmmm… That’s a tricky one. Both of my parents are pretty cool, but I am still on cloud nine from when my dad put together the most awesome surprise with clues.

Gem: I miss my parents.  That’s really cool.  So what’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Blondie: Go into my school attic when some other girls told me it was haunted. I was scared of running into a ghost – or even worse, the principal – but I had no idea what kind of adventure I was really about to be in!

Gem: Now I want to know!

Got a crime?51mCbpvUVUL
Need a professional detective?
You’ve come to the right girl.

Blondie’s the name and solving cases at Graham Elementary is my game. 

I promised I would never, ever solve a case for that meanie, Owen Thomas, but when he is accused of starting the crazy food fight and is about to be expelled, I am his only hope.

Can I wipe his name clean of mashed potatoes before the principal expels Owen for good?

Buy Blondie McGhee: At Your Service on Amazon.com

 

Ruby - Healing Ruby - 133. Ruby Graves, 13 years old, from Healing Ruby by Jennifer H. Westall

Gem: Do you ever have a dream while you’re sleeping that makes you not want to wake up?

Ruby: Sometimes I dream about being with my daddy. He was strong and good to me, and I miss him like crazy. I dream I’m sitting at his feet again in front of the fire, listening to his deep voice read his Bible before breakfast. I wake from those dreams with a sad kind of joy, missing him so much, but knowing I’ll see him again someday.

Gem: I wish I could’ve met your dad.  So, on a less sad note… who’s the most irritating person in your life? (laughs)

Ruby: I swear, I can’t pick just one. My brother Henry loves to pick on me, and I could just punch him in the mouth sometimes. But my oldest brother James might be even worse. At least Henry plays with me and makes me laugh. Ever since Daddy died, James acts like I’m a burden he has to carry to Timbuktu and back twice a day. Why, he even tried to marry me off just to get rid of me!

Gem: Wow.  Maybe I’m glad now I never had brothers!  So what’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Ruby: I don’t see myself as brave. It just seems like there are times when God calls me to act, and doing so puts me in the middle of a storm, sometimes literally. I’ve learned to trust Him, even if it means running headlong into the storm, because He is in the storm. Nahum 1:3 says, “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in the whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.” I don’t know why He calls me, I just know I have to obey.  I’m not brave. I just choose to trust Him.

Gem: You have amazing faith, Ruby.  I needed that.  Thank you!

Ruby Graves, a young girl in Depression-era Alabama, faces the hardships of poverty and 51jNtK+qVFLloss with as much faith as she can muster. At only the age of thirteen, she’s already lost a younger brother to illness, and now faces losing both her father and the boy who’s stealing her heart to illnesses as well. Armed with her beloved Scriptures, she prays daily for their healing, only to have her tender faith shattered by her father’s death. Through her pain, she’s able to connect with her long-lost Uncle Asa, who’s mere presence at his brother’s funeral brings murmurs of a scandalous past involving her parents and a prominent local pastor, Irwin Cass. When Ruby discovers that one of Asa’s many secrets is an ability to heal, and that she may be next in line for the “gift,” she vows to find the faith that has eluded her so far, a faith that could mean never losing loved ones again. But faith and doubt can’t reside in the same heart, not according to her father, and doubt is Ruby’s constant companion. As she struggles to find the true meaning of faith, she’s opposed at every turn by the pastor who would see her family destroyed and a community that can’t see deeper than the color of one’s skin. Through her search for a faith that could move mountains and a true understanding of her gift, can Ruby trust in a God that may require the ultimate sacrifice?

You can buy Healing Ruby on Amazon.com

 

Chad - Angel-Lover - 164. Chad Burnhill, 16 years old, from Angel-Lover by RJ Conte

Gem: Hey Chad!  So I’m an INTP.  What’s your Myers-Briggs type?

Chad: Hey.  So that’s a really interesting question.  For a long time, I was convinced I was an INFJ.  I think I have two very strong J parents – workaholics, driven people.  But in reality, I found out recently I’m actually INFP.  It explains a bunch, including my depression and artistic creativity.

Gem: So we’re close in type, except you’re the mushy emotional version of me, eh? Okay, feeler, tell us a secret you’ve never told another soul.

Chad: Oh great.  Now I’m going to feed into your perception that I’m a soft feely guy… I’m in love with Angelique Rose – this angel at my school.  She’s not a literal angel, I don’t think… I mean, she sure looks like one with the blond curls and all… (coughs ) Something’s seriously different about her, and I’m going to figure it out.

Gem: Blondes, eh?  I hear you on that one.  (winks) What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Chad: Stepped foot in this mega church in my area.  Walking into one of those religious places was absolutely terrifying.  Then coming clean to my parents about what I thought later… Whew.  I have a feeling I’m going to have to be really brave about some other things too because I have a feeling all’s not right in Angelique’s world…

Gem: Stay strong, man!  We’re rooting for you!2D

Chad is a reclusive teenager whose thoughts are full of loneliness and suicide. The only thing that he obsesses over more than planning his own death is the nicest, sweetest, most beautiful girl in school. As he stalks her and watches her, he learns the truth about what she believes in and, in the process, finds Someone Else he did not expect.

Buy Angel-Lover on Amazon.com

 

 

 

Preciously Precocious Children – Part 2

Gem’s back to interview more children heroes – middle grade and young adult books that Gem 2can be enjoyed by your kids.  🙂  Make sure to pick up books on Amazon that interest you, and feel free to share the interviews!  And check out Gem’s own hero story as the sole savior of his dying planet of Topha here.

1. Sadie Larcen, 16 years old, from The Tethered World by Heather L.L. FitzGerald

Gem: What’s the best thing about being a kid?

Sadie - The Tethered World - 16Sadie: I’d have to say that the best thing about being a kid is the way you can quickly adapt to new circumstances. When you’re young, it’s easier to take life’s unforeseen plot twists and turn them into an adventure. My little sister Sophie definitely embraced the crazy things that happened to our family better than I did when our lives were first turned inside out. (laughs) But these days I actually get bored if something doesn’t stir the pot—or the plot—and break the monotony. I’m sixteen, which is still kind of a kid, right? These days there’s definitely a fairytale loving princess inside who wants to get out and find some excitement. Maybe even a little danger 😉

Gem: I’ll let you come save my planet, and take your monotony then!  Ha!  So what’s your dream job?

Sadie: I feel like my life is divided between “before the kidnapping” and “after the kidnapping.” Okay, it totally IS divided into those two parts. Who am I kidding? So, before everything I would have told you I wanted to be an author. Or maybe just a bookish English professor or something.

But now–NOW–my life, my location, my interests have all become, well . . . complicated. Though I’ve achieved one particular goal–that of being an author (see The Tethered World Chronicles for more on that. Haha!)–that particular accomplishment now feels like a small fish in a big pond. It was something I’d always assumed I’d do later in life. Instead, I actually set my family’s adventures down right after they occurred. (It was cheaper than therapy so, there’s that.)

And yet, in the vast, hidden realm of the Tethered World, there’s so much work to be done. I know God has a bigger purpose for me than I’ve ever dared to dream for myself. Plus, there may be a particularly tall, dark, and handsome Nephilim prince whom I’ve grown rather fond of . . . *sigh*.  I guess I can no longer give a safe and definitive “what I wanna be when I grow up” answer to your question, Gem. Sorry for the roundabout way I’ve replied. But, like I said, it’s complicated! One thing is certain . . . it’s going to have more to do with my life underground in the Tethered World than it will Topside, where I grew up in Washington state.

 

With everything that’s happened to me “after the kidnapping,” I can accept that. And, hey, it’s not like I really have much choice anyway. One can’t escape the call of their Maker.

 

Gem: I totally get that.  Whether or not I survive telepathically controlling my first core earthquake will mean I can suddenly begin to dream about my future.  I know I want Soleil by my side, but what else is there?  It’s hard to think past the big bits of suffering that have to come first, and going through a near-death experience and (Hopefully!) surviving may totally change my perspective.

 

So, along those lines, what’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

 

Sadie: The bravest thing? (laughs) A couple of years ago I would’ve said that forcing myself to ride a rollercoaster at Disneyland (with eyes closed, of course) would have counted as my attempt at bravery.

 

Now…well, for starters, I’ve ridden a dragon, have been transported by a cyclone of faeries, and have traveled to mysterious places to rescue those that I love—without always succeeding. It’s hard to wrap my brain around the changes that have taken place inside—sometimes I hardly recognize myself! Until recently, my idea of adventure was what I could find in books. It’s only by God’s grace that I’ve come through these things. Seriously. And not just “by the skin of my teeth” sort of come through…but I’ve learned to be thankful for everything that has happened to me and my family, despite the fact that I once fought so hard against it.

 

I think that kind of thankfulness takes bravery.

 

Gem: I can learn a lot from you.  Thank you, Sadie.

 

“Normal” means different things to different people. For sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen, 51L-3BglRLLfamily dynamics look a little different than most. Parents with oddball occupations? Normal. Five home-schooled siblings—one with autism? Normal. Police knocking on the door and parents gone missing? Definitely not normal! When Sadie uncovers the reasons behind her parents’ disappearance and the truth about her heritage, she despairs of ever feeling normal again. Especially when she learns that her mother’s interest in Bigfoot, Dwarves, and other lore extends beyond her popular blog. Sadie’s family has been entrusted with keeping the secrets of the Tethered World—home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden. Sadie and her siblings must venture into this land to rescue their parents. Stepping out of reality and into a world she never knew existed is a journey Sadie fears and resents. But she chooses to risk all to save her family. She’s just not sure she will survive during the process.

 

You can buy The Tethered World on Amazon.com!

 

ClaireLee - Just Claire - 132. ClaireLee Monteiro, 13 years old, from Just Claire by Jean Ann Williams

 

Gem: How many children do you want when you grow up?  I know you’ve been a caretaker to your own siblings for a while.

 

ClaireLee: I want eight children.

 

Gem: Wow!  That’s a love of kiddos!  Do you have an embarrassing hidden talent?

 

ClaireLee: I can bite my fingernails off and spit them a long ways across a room!

 

Gem: Sounds like a great weapon!  Haha!  Okay, but now the important, serious question: what’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

 

ClaireLee: The bravest thing I’ve ever done is crawl across a log over the river to save someone.

 

Gem: That’s why I wanted to interview you, because a little bird had told me you were a secret hero too.  🙂  Thanks, ClaireLee!

 

One mother damaged. One family tested. One daughter determined to find her place.51yGK1eDm-L
ClaireLee’s life changes when she must take charge of her siblings after her mother becomes depressed from a difficult childbirth. Frightened by the way Mama sleeps too much and her crying spells during waking hours, ClaireLee just knows she’ll catch her illness like a cold or flu which hangs on through winter. ClaireLee finds comfort in the lies she tells herself and others in order to hide the truth about her erratic mother. Deciding she needs to re-invent herself, she sets out to impress a group of popular girls.
With her deception, ClaireLee weaves her way into the Lavender Girls Club, the most sophisticated girls in school. Though, her best friend Belinda will not be caught with the likes of such shallow puddles, ClaireLee ignores Belinda’s warnings the Lavenders cannot be trusted. ClaireLee drifts further from honesty, her friend, and a broken mother’s love, until one very public night at the yearly school awards ceremony. The spotlight is on her, and she finds her courage and faces the truth and then ClaireLee saves her mother’s life.

 

You can buy Just Claire on Amazon.com

 

Gem: Bensin, you’ve been living life as a slave.  Boy, do I know how that feels. Although you’ve had a little sister, Ellie, to protect as well!
Who’s the hardest person in your life to understand?

 

Bensin: Officer Shigo, definitely. He’s the City Watch officer who arrested Ellie and me. All slaves know we’ve got to be careful around Watch officers, even when we’re not breaking the law. A lot of them look for any excuse to punish us. But Officer Shigo is different. When I needed money, he invited me to do some chores over at his place. I’ve gone a few times, and he pays me well. He always asks how Ellie and I are doing, and he’s come to watch several of my cavvara shil tournaments. He acts friendly and supportive, but he’s still a Watch officer, and I know he would arrest me again if he caught me trying to escape again. Sometimes when he asks questions about Ellie and me, I’m afraid he suspects what I’m planning. I can’t figure out what he really wants from me.

 

Gem: That would be confusing.  My ability to read minds would come in handy in this situation.  (winks)  Who’s your best friend?

 

Bensin: That would be Ricky. He’s a little older than me, and he knows a lot about nearly everything. He’s the one who taught me how to pick a lock. He’s got a list of helpful tips that he calls Ricky’s Rules for Surviving Slavery, and he says someday he’s going to publish them in a book and make enough money from it to buy his freedom. Of course, the people who would benefit most from a book like that are the ones with the least money for buying things, so I’m not too sure that’s going to work out for him. But in the meantime, I’m glad he’s around to help me figure out useful stuff.

 

Gem: (laughs)  I’d buy his book.  🙂  What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

 

Bensin: That was probably when I tried to help my little sister Ellie escape from our owners, Mr. and Mrs. Creghorn. I’d promised our mom that Ellie would be free someday, so I picked the lock and sneaked out with her one night. I knew what happens to slaves who get caught trying to escape, but I had a plan I was pretty sure could work. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly work out the way I hoped. (sighing) Actually, it took even more courage a couple months later when I had to sneak into an abandoned warehouse by myself and face three armed criminals who were hiding out there. I knew I could get killed, but what would have happened otherwise would have been even worse.

 

Gem: I can’t even imagine having to protect a little sister.  Wow!

 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only25454725 victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

 

You can buy The Collar and the Cavvarach on Amazon.com

 

Preciously Precocious Children – Part 1

GemEleven-year-old Gem has traveled from his home planet of Topha to meet with ten extraordinary children, all sixteen and under. These children have been given the RJ Conte label of “Preciously Precocious” and are heroes of their own stories.

Gem 2Gem, future possible savior of his fragile planet, wanted to meet other inspiring young people: children who stop dragon trafficking, who protect their families when their mothers go through deep clinical depression, children that speak up to bullies and solve mysteries. Children that have the gift of healing and travel to distant planets like pilgrims. Children that defend fragile otherwordly life. Children that go underneath the ground to other worlds and compete in martial arts, children that fight slavery and mental illness.

We’re going to meet, interview, and talk to these ten Preciously Precocious in a three-part blog series.  And make sure you check out each of their amazing stories – all of which are on Amazon!

 

  1. Amanda Greene, 10 years old, from The Gold by Krista Wagner Amanda - The Gold -10

Gem: Who was your first crush?

Amanda: Elliott, the boy from E.T.!

Gem: I haven’t seen that one. I’m sure you’d think me an alien too.  😉 So what’s your favorite book of the Bible?

Amanda: John

Gem: And now for the ultimate question. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Amanda: Walked into a mysterious forest!

Gem: Now that sounds promising!

51jbmneuX5LTen-year-old Amanda is constantly teased and tormented in school. Her home life is less than satisfactory where her widower father, who is often away on business trips, leaves her in the care of her indifferent teenage sister. Worse, not a day goes by when Amanda doesn’t miss her mom. To escape reality, Amanda creates fantasy stories, but when she discovers a talking golden pebble, her imagined world turns into a new-fangled reality.

Buy The Gold here on Amazon.com

Rejoice - Shatterworld -12

 

2. Rejoice in the Lord’s Salvation Holly, 12 years old, from Shatterworld by Lelia Rose Foreman

Gem: Tell us your most embarrassing story!

Rejoice: I forgot to watch the weather when I was harvesting seaweed. A storm blew me so far away from the colony that I got lost. I had to be rescued!

Gem: I’m glad you’re okay! So what do you think is the worst thing about growing up?

Rejoice: The colony is forcing me to be a farmer. There’s nothing wrong with farming, but I don’t want to farm. I want to be an astronomer, but my parents tell me I’m being selfish.

Gem: If anyone understands what it’s like having their whole life dictated to them and being groomed for a specific task, it’s me.  If I survive the core earthquake to come, I want to escape all this training, and go do what I want to do!  So now for the ultimate question: what’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Rejoice: I’m not brave, but I can tell you what the hardest thing I’ve done is: telling the aliens they were all going to die is hard.

Gem: Yeah.  My people understand that too, Rejoice!  You are brave, in my book.

512-AX+uLZLTwelve-year-old Rejoice cannot stop thinking about space. Her religious colony fled the violence of Earth to a new world to establish an agrarian utopia. The elders have determined that she will become a farmer, no matter what she wants. When she discovers aliens in the ocean and then the doom that is aimed at her planet, Rejoice needs to help her people find a way to survive.

Buy Shatterworld here on Amazon.com

 

 

3. Cora Harrison, 12 years old, from Cora and the Nurse Dragon by H. L. BurkeCora - Cora and the Nurse Dragon - 12

 

Gem: The most important question yet: do you like broccoli?

Cora: I’ve never had it. My dad doesn’t really cook. I mean, he’ll make pancakes or something for special occasions, but mostly we get whatever they make in the kitchen of the big house and that’s usually something that can get carried in a pot or a basket. It’s kind of a fancy word, though. Would make a cool name for a dragon.

Gem: Lucky! I’d rather never eat the stuff again.  😉  Okay, for more of an abstract question then: what color of the rainbow best represents who you are?

Cora: This is a weird question. It sounds like one of those poetry questions my best friend Abry is always getting good grades on in school while I get Cs because they really don’t make sense to me. People aren’t colors. I kind of like yellow, mainly because the best racing dragon I ever saw, Gold Digger’s Folly, is a yellowy-gold and that looks really cool, though. I’m not yellow, though. I’m kind of brown-ish, I guess, but Abry tells me that sort of answer is why I always get Cs.

Gem: Haha.  I need to meet this Abry.  And I’d like to see a real dragon too!  For the final ultimate question I’m asking everyone today: what is the bravest thing you’ve ever done? (I’m trying to psych myself up to be brave for a super big task myself…)

Cora: It really depends. If you asked Abry, a LOT of things I do are brave, but that’s only because she worries about silly things like falling out of trees and getting diseases from stepping on nails. I’ve stepped on at least two nails, and I’m still alive. Not sure what she’s going on about. Abry’s a lot braver than me where it involves people though, talking to strangers or teachers, so I guess there’s more than one way to be brave. I guess it would have to be the second time I hatched a Mayfly dragon. The first time I didn’t know what to expect, that they only lived a few weeks, so when it died I was so sad, I thought I’d never get another dragon. When I decided to get another dragon, even though I knew it would die again, I guess that was kind of brave.

Gem: You betcha. Death brings out people’s true bravery every time – even if it’s the death of a pet.  I’m interviewing another guy later whose very special otherworldly pet might die on him too.  Thanks, Cora!

51rD1Bt4MaLCora’s a young girl with two dreams: to be a dragon jockey when she grows up and to own a pet dragon now. She constantly buys “egg packs” at the dragon emporium in hopes that one will hatch into a rare pet-sized dragon, but only gets short-lived mayflies. However, when an unexpected egg does develop into something new, Cora may be over her head.

Buy Cora and the Nurse Dragon here on Amazon.com

Rosalie, Butterfly Rider

Am writing. Middle Daughter is writing her own short story. She dictates the plot to me, and I pretty up the words and type it up. 

Piece of today’s section:

 

Rosalie never got tired of flying.

She tore her hair free of the bun and let it sail behind her, the wind rushing past her face to tangle in her pale locks. Tiny insect houses dotted the landscape like colorful flowers below her. Butterflies played in free-floating spirals of joyful buzzing, their larvae crawling up stalks to watch and cheer. The forest beneath her was full of billowy branches that gave the appearance of feathers dancing in the breeze, but Vanessa climbed in altitude until Rosalie thought the deep green crowns looked as tiny as blades of grass.

In the corner of Rosalie’s vision, a circular pattern of red light with a deep crimson cross pulsed. With the reigns, she gently nudged Vanessa towards the center of the perpendicular lines.
Beyond the vast forest lay an open plain at the foot of a magnificent mountain peak. Sparse shrubs dotted the outskirts of the lush wildflowers and phlox.

A voice deep inside of Rosalie’s mind whispered that she had arrived. She shouted over the wind to her ride, “Land here!”

icm_fullxfull.150678117_cegbpp64dz40gc4gssoo

Why I Stopped Texting at Red Lights

may1Last year, my state of Washington enacted a new law: you can’t even hold your phone in your hand at red lights any more.  Ever.  You will be ticketed and fined if you are caught even holding your phone at a red light while sitting and waiting.  Yes.  For reals.  The article is here.

I think this law is stupid.

End of blog post.

—–

Okay… just kidding.  There’s more.  *wink*

I could go into all the reasons why I loathe this new law, why I think its stupid, etc. etc.  What is dangerous about sitting completely stopped at a red light? Practically nothing that would involve a phone.  How long are those red lights where you’re just sitting and waiting?  Often super long.  Would I ever practically get caught doing it if I kept my hand down below the window?  Probably not.

Will so many of you comment with why the law isn’t stupid and will I still insist it’s stupid?  Yep.  *wink*

I could also give you all of my excuses: I get lost easily and have to constantly check gps.  True.  I never text or anything while actually moving.  True.  I am an efficient person who likes to use that dead time.  True. The odds are 99.999999999% that nothing will ever ever happen if I hold my phone in my hand while stopped at a red light.  Also true.  The law was probably made because people are too stupid to pay attention to whether their car’s moving or not.  Probably also true.

However, it’s a law.  It can be repealed on the basis of idiocy, but until then, we’re stuck with it.

I keep wondering if my kids are whispering the same things to themselves behind my back.

“This is stupid.”

It probably feels super stupid to them when I tell them to turn the other way and not sneeze all over the food.  I know they’ve got to think it’s stupid, because they continue to sneeze all over the food and look confused when I exclaim over it.

It probably feels stupid when I tell them to get dressed, make their beds, tidy up their rooms, and do their devotions before they go down to breakfast.  Because time and time again, they choose to ignore this one also.

There are lots of things our authorities tell us to do that can seem overbearing, nonsensical, and stupid.  However, we elect those authorities into office, and until laws get changed, the stuff still stands, stupid or not.

Yet there are just things that are tempting to ignore because they seem stupid.  Using your phone at a red light isn’t in the Bible.  It’s not even considered common sense nationwide.  If I were to move back to Texas tomorrow, I could still hold my phone in my hand and make calls while I drive!

After the umpteenth time of trying to reiterate why we have a certain rule in our house, and having my kids give me that blank look that shows stuff isn’t computing, in a fit of frustration, I vowed never to use my phone at a red light again.

That wasn’t where you thought I was going with this, was it?  *wink*

But really.  I just realized that there are areas – giant areas – and sometimes teeny tiny areas – of unsubmission in my own heart.  Things I want to do anyway because I truly think I know better – and because I’ve decided they’re stupid.

And because I was trying my very best to get through to my kids – “Whether you like it or not or care about it or not, God says to obey your mother, and so you should want to do it because you LOVE HIM, and obeying me shows love to Him.  So because you love Him, just do your homework assignment the way I told you to.  Okay?”

I realized that often times I show hypocrisy.

Now there are gigantic ways I do this, of course, and you might be saying, “Come now, RJ!  What’s this about phones at red lights?  Next you’re probably going to talk to us about watching illegally ripped movies on Youtube or fibbing that your vacuum cleaner stopped working and that’s why your carpet wasn’t clean!  No one cares about this little stuff.  We all do it.  Talk to us about your big, deep sins.  Let’s gawk at that.”

Oh, my friend, I usually do.  I usually talk about the giant stuff on this blog.  But not today.  Today I want to talk to you about a stupid new little law on cell phones at red lights.

Because I think that the same heart attitude of, “I don’t care.  Stupid people made this stupid law and I’m going to do what I want anyway” is the same attitude that my kids have towards completing their chores, and the same attitude I have towards all my biggest sins of pride, ungodly speech, impatience, selfishness, and fear.

“I know what I want, and so I’m going to do it anyway.”

When did Christians become people who tried to get away with as much as possible, instead of people striving for holiness?

And no, I’m not saying we do even the smallest and stupidest of laws so we can be “perfect” and harshly, fearfully lash out at those around us (or maybe even internally judge) like, “How DARE you commit the red-light-law?!  God have MERCY on YOUR SOUL.”

Also, don’t do it because of those watching.  “Kids, let me read you this blog article I just wrote.” *sniffs and straightens lapels* “You can get a good look at how righteous Mama is!  Feel like wanting to be me?”

No, I’m saying, strive for holiness in all those little unsubmissive ways that are pricking your conscience right now – for no one other than the Lord Himself.  Because you love Him.

You’re so in love with Him, that you’d lay down every pleasure, everything that you’re lazy about, everything that you just can’t do without, and everything asked of you just because He defines your happiness and reality. Because you want the cleanest conscience and the holiest living because you’re just in love with who He is – and simply because He says so. ❤

 

51kvw6wdzll

 RJ Conte is a wife and homeschool mother of three little girls (aged 7 and under) by day, and an author by night.  She has written a devotional for toddlers and preschool kids that is meatier than the typical fare they hear in Sunday school.  ASTOUND delivers doctrine and big concepts for the very small, and teaches them to love God, in language they can understand!