Friday, September 28, 2007

Important Contest Update - Please Read

Our guest judge Allison Bottke was called out of town on a speaking engagement that had not been previously scheduled. Allison looks forward to judging the entries herself, so instead of calling in a substitute, we are going to delay announcing the winners of the REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS contest until she returns.

This contest will still end at midnight tonight, September 28th, and a new contest will start Monday morning, October 1st-October 5th.

The winners of the REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS contest and our next contest will both be announced on Monday, October 8th. All winners of the REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS contest will be chosen from entries and comments left September 17-28th.

Thanks for your understanding and participation!

Have a blessed weekend - and get those entries and comments to me by midnight!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Entry: REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS

Daring to Dream
By Patty Wysong


I was too afraid to dream. If I dreamed I risked failure and that possibility froze me in my tracks.

“What do you want to do, Hon? What are your dreams?” My husband, Jim, asked me, pen and paper in hand ready to add my dreams to his so we could start working toward them.
“Umm. I don't know. I'm content right where I am.” I was puzzled by my lack of dreams and Jim was frustrated.

“C'mon, there's got to be something you want to do!”

“No, not really,” I replied, embarrassed because I couldn't come up with a single thing—well, something other than my closely guarded and locked away secret. In my mind that one dream was unattainable, and I didn't dare dream of anything else. One unattainable dream per lifetime was one too many. It ate away at my confidence, as well as my enthusiasm for life, and I didn't have enough left of either one to waste any on another dream.

“What'cha got written down?” I asked, hoping he had something I could adopt as my own.

“Skydiving.” Jim said with a smile. My dear, darling man knows me well.

“Ah, not me.”

“I know. These are my dreams, remember?” He was smiling at me, letting me know my attempt didn't work. He shot me another one. “Cross Siberia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.”

Ugh. I hate snow. I hate cold. So much for tagging along on that dream.

“Scuba diving.” Jim quirked a questioning eyebrow at me.

Tempting. If it's warm enough to scuba dive it should be warm enough for palm trees, and I absolutely adore palm trees. Only one snag: I hate swimming. Hmmm. Could I pull it off enough to convince him?

“That one sounds interesting.” I tried to put the right voice inflection in there.

“Right. You'd rather sit under the palm trees reading than dive.”

Rats. Didn't work—but maybe it could.

I hedged, “You can't dive all day, can you?”

Jim studied me, speculatively. “No, you can't.”
I thought of the under-water pictures I'd seen and tried to remember why I didn't like swimming.
Would the scenery out-weigh my dislike for putting my face in the water? Would wearing a mask, fins, and having an air supply take away my fear? Without stopping to think too much more I plunged in.

“Let's do it.”

Jim's eyes widened in surprise, but only briefly. He circled scuba diving and I gulped. What on earth had I just gotten myself into?

Six months later I lay on the bottom of a swimming pool with an air tank buckled on my back, a regulator in my mouth, and a mask snuggly covering my eyes and nose. I looked around and would've smiled if I could've. Jim's dream turned into a dream of my own. 'I can do this!' echoed inside my head, and with that thought the seed of my dream began to sprout.

Four weeks after that first time in the pool I went on my open water dive for my certification.

While we geared up, we watched the catfish surface and beg for treats like pets.

“They're huge, but they're so tame!” My dive buddy was fascinated by them; I was intimidated. Would I be able to step off the platform and swim with those beasts?

When my turn came I turned my back to the water, not sure if I was running away or getting in place for a back-roll entry.

“That's the easiest way,” my instructor called to me. “Just sit down and let yourself roll back.”

I automatically put my left hand on my weight belt and the heel of my right hand went to the regulator in my mouth, with my fingertips resting on my mask, holding them all in place, just as I'd practiced so many times in the pool. Before I could start panicking, or maybe because I was panicking, my knees bent and I sank into a squat. My air tank pulled me back and I gently rolled into the water. I barely went under but I was euphoric. I was in the water with those huge catfish and I was fine.

We only went down 10 feet that first time, but the blue gills were there in force. We quickly learned that shiny things like wedding rings and earrings attract their attention and they would try to nip the sparkly tidbits. As I batted those blue gill away and kept my eyes peeled for the giant, but gentle, catfish my sprouted dream grew. It grew enough that I could no longer ignore it.

Learning to scuba dive boosted my confidence. It broadened my horizons. It made me realize that just maybe I could attain at least a part of my own buried dream. My enthusiasm for life and living bloomed into a beautiful thing that I didn't want to ignore it anymore. I wanted to chase after it and I determined there, while batting the blue gills, that I would find a way to pursue that one dream I had been too afraid to even utter. I would pick up my pen and begin to write.

“Lord,” I prayed in the silence of the water, “I've run away from writing for years and it's made me miserable. I want to start living. I want to do something with my life, not just go through it holding on to Jim's coat-tails and following his dreams--although this one is wonderful. If I can learn to scuba dive, and enjoy it this much, then I can learn to write. Whatever You choose to do with that writing is up to You. I'm willing to learn all I can, and to practice, so that if You ever choose to use my writing it will be there for You. If You don't use it, that's ok, too. I only know You've put this dream inside me, and You haven't let me run away from it. It's Yours to do with as You wish.”

My heart was finally free. Just as I felt safe and comfortable in the water with my mask and air tank, I felt safe and comfortable dreaming about writing--with God as my safety factor. By giving Him my dream I was free from the fear of failure. It no longer mattered if I succeeded or failed, as long as I did my best. My dream was simply to write. It was up to God how He used it.

Back up top I reached for my journal instead of the novels I had been burying myself in, in an attempt to hide from my dream. My pen flew over the page, capturing my thoughts and resolve, as well as the wonder of diving.

As I wrote, I prayed and planned. For the first time in years I felt fully alive, excited. I hadn't realized how hopeless I had become by locking my dream of writing in a closet, and I decided to never again give up like I had.

I got my scuba diving certification that day, but more importantly, I picked up my pen. Failure, as some people might see it, isn't an issue for me any more. Doing my best, learning and growing and being available to be used by God are the important things to me. The seeming failures along the way are simply stepping stones to my future. Even if God doesn't use my pen, this time of writing in my life will be used for some purpose. I am confident of that.

From the dream of writing has sprouted other dreams. Dreams that I'm free to dream and to pursue. Dreams that have added a richness to my life that I once pretended didn't matter to me.

Do I want to cross Siberia? Not really, but I'd love to take the Euro-Rail through Europe and see the Alps. We're planning on diving some coral reefs, maybe even yet this year and I'm excited about that. Someday I hope to dive the Great Barrier Reef. This spring I rode a big roller coaster as well as a huge ferris wheel and I survived them by conquering my fear--that same fear that had me locked up and frozen in place for so many years. If I can do that, than maybe I can even sky dive—because I want to.

Submitted by
Patty Wysong

Entry: REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS

A Trail of a Dream
by Lauralee Bliss


Have you ever contemplated a lifelong dream? One you conceived perhaps as a child but wondered as an adult if it would ever come true? You begin to ponder the dream. Consider the possibility. Fantasize a little. Do a little research by buying a book or two. Take a few steps of faith. Allow the life God has planned for you to unfold while the dream lingers in the background.

At last the day arrives, many years later, the dream once conceived in ages past, now ready to be experienced.

Here’s mine… Thru hiking the Appalachian Trail.

What is a thru hike? Hiking the entire trail in one long, continuous trip. Over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Fourteen states. Carrying your house – a loaded pack with sleeping gear, food, water, clothes - on your back for six months. A backbreaking, knee-buckling, grueling but rewarding adventure that takes you along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains spanning the eastern United States.

It was the essence of a God-given dream of mine that never diminished, despite the passage of time. Thirty years of time, to be exact. It began as a small seed through family camping trips we took to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. As a young teen I used to stare at these white rectangles neatly painted on the trees and read the concrete posts bearing the words “Appalachian Trail” etched into them. I asked what was so special about this particular trail. A ranger explained, “It’s a trail that starts in Georgia and goes all the way to Maine. And there are hikers who hike the entire route. It’s the longest footpath in the world.”

Wow! What a great thing to do one day. Travel all the way from Georgia to Maine. Not by car, by bus, by plane but by my own two feet that the Good Lord gave me. Putting one foot in front of the other, walking the entire route, crossing state borders, seeing new places and meeting new people.

From that moment on I was hooked. Soon after, I used my babysitting money to purchase material about the trail. A journal written by an older man, one of original hikers who did the entire trail back in the 70’s. A small gray data book put out by a trail organization that gave the mileage points to significant crossings along the route. Not much to hang on to but good enough to keep the dream alive. Then came the pleas when we visited Caledonia State Park in Pennsylvania and a place where the trail crossed. “Mom, Dad, can we please hike part of the trail?” And they take a snapshot of me, at age fifteen, standing by an Appalachian Trail sign with my candy striped day pack on my back.

Then there were road maps. I studied maps all the time to see where the trail meandered and if the road we were on would intersect it. My nose would press against the car window, staring for a white blaze, a trail marker, an Appalachian Trail sign at the many road crossings. At the crossing of Route 17 near Harriman State Park, New York. Along a footbridge spanning the Massachusetts turnpike. In many state parks. And of course, within my beloved Shenandoah National Park where we made yearly pilgrimages.

Fast forward to many years later. I am no longer a child but a grown Christian woman with new plans and dreams. I am married to the man I dreamt about for two years (but that is another story). I have a son named Joshua. But that other dream of long ago, that one conceived as a child, still lingers in the background. One day I shared with my husband these immortal words – which I’m not sure he truly understood amid the frenzy of parenthood and mounting responsibilities.

“When Joshua is of age, like seventeen, we are going to hike the Appalachian Trail together.”

“Hmmm, uh, huh,” he responded absentmindedly.

I smiled to myself and let it lie while buying more books about the trail. Data books. Journals by other hikers who have completed their dream. And I reread the book every year that I bought at age fourteen, the book an older gentleman wrote about his hike on the Appalachian Trail in the 1970’s. The cover has become creased and ratty but the contents continue to fascinate me. Meanwhile I home school my son who is the only child the Lord gives me. I write novels of adventure that are published. And patiently wait for my own personal adventure to come to pass. I know too, as a Christian, that if this is not God's best for me, this dream of mine will fade into oblivion. But it never does grow faint with time. It only seems to grow stronger.

In 2003 I finally decide to put feet of faith to my dream and begin walking. I set a date for the start of the hike and create an online trail journal. The hike will be in 2007. Joshua will be 16 and in-between high school and college. A perfect time to do the trail, or so it would appear.

It is now 2005. Two years and counting. The time is drawing nigh and I need the support and blessing of loved ones if this dream of mine is going to happen. I must somehow convince both husband and son that the year to do the full hike is approaching, and I need their support.

First, my husband. He listens as I explain how I would like to start the Appalachian Trail in Georgia in March and that 2007 looks to be the year. “You can’t leave in March and be gone for six months. Why don’t you do it over several summers, then I can come along.”

And from my son. “Why do I need to go? I don’t want to be gone that long. I’ll miss my friends. Band. The computer. It’s your dream anyway, Mom. Not mine.”

Sigh. I say nothing. I hold fast to the belief that – “God, if this is from You, it will work out.” So I decide to begin at least part of the hike, inviting my loved ones along for the trip and see what happens. We will do the section of the Appalachian Trail closest to my home and, yes, my heart. Shenandoah National Park where the dream first took root. And being a lover of the outdoors like I, my husband wholeheartedly agrees to the hike. We complete this section of the Appalachian Trail over several weekends. Husband and son hike the trail, meeting other long distance hikers along the way. My son is given the trail name “Paul Bunyan” from a fellow hiker after trying to break up tree limbs bigger than he. My husband laughs and jokes with fellow hikers at the trail shelters where we find refuge in the midst of spring storms.

Both husband and son arrive home, thrilled by the experience.

One day my husband says to me, “If you were to leave for the trail in March, I can probably join you for several weeks during the summer.” His support was solid for my hike from that moment on.

And from my son. “I guess I’ll come, Mom. But we have to do it from Georgia to Maine.”

Thank you, Lord! I didn’t have to suffer anxiety attacks over it all. Or feel stressed. I allowed God to change people’s hearts and minds. And it was only the beginning of answered prayers. God did the convincing. I stood by and watched in awe. I stepped forward with baby steps toward my dream, and He paved the way.

I then tell friends and church leadership about my dream. I believed in the covering of prayer and the wise counsel of leaders. One friend calls it the thing. “Are you really going to do that thing?” Then she gives me money so I can buy supplies for my thing. The pastor’s wife listens, nodding her head, then reveals her own personal dream of one day hiking Kilimanjaro. Another gives me a book for my birthday, having never heard of my personal dream until the moment I received the book. The title is - “Live Like You Were Dying.” All confirmations. All pointing to that thing, that dream planted long ago and now growing by leaps and bounds.

Time is quickly growing short. There is gear to purchase. Food to dehydrate. So many plans to make. And book editors to notify and who give their wholeheartedly support for the endeavor. Everything appears to be falling into place. I am amazed yet terrified. This is a huge undertaking. Dreams can also be nerve wracking. They challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. They test your faith to the limit. And this is a huge test of faith to venture out into the virtual unknown with my teenage son, putting our lives and our livelihood in God’s hands. But He would not have it any other way. He wants us to trust Him. To allow Him to care for us. To allow our dreams to become His dreams so He is glorified. And so we do. We finalize plans, boxes of food and supplies to be mailed to us. I call family and friends for their prayers.

And the journey begins. Almost. Our start date was March 1st down in Georgia. I catch a cold. Joshua has a fever and a bad cough. The rain pours down in Georgia. We are delayed until March 5th when we finally begin. But only a mile up the trail, called the Approach Trail that will lead us to our first steps on the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, the trials are mounting. My knees and feet hurt. Joshua can barely move and falls far behind. The wind is so strong on Springer Mountain my tent collapses three times, and in my confusion, I lay on my glasses and break them. I begin to panic, wondering if I have made the biggest mistake of my life.

And then we meet two other hikers who are also beginning their quest of a long distance hike. They give all kinds of encouragement and support to our family. They were sent by God to help us in those early days. And we make it that first day, the beginning of many days to come. Days of trial, of pain, of nearly wanting to quit, of rattlesnakes and rocks and sickness and fatigue, and mountain terrain so steep one can barely climb them. But days of glory. Of mountain views and sunlight streaming through the woods. Of snow-covered pines and mighty rivers. Of blue tinted ponds and people with smiles, offering food and rides and ice for an injured ankle when I needed it.

And then the victory lap. September 18, 2007. The mighty Mt. Katahdin in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Grasping the hand of my son as we stand by the sign marking the end, having completed all 2, 174 miles of trail, it truly is a miracle of miracles. But it is also a dream that has come true to the fullest, marked by days, weeks, months, years. A dream realized on that spectacular day atop Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine.

We, the dreamers, who dare to dream big. And God, the Giver, for whom no dream is too large.


Lauralee Bliss is a published author of twelve novels as well as an avid hiker. You can read about her day-by-day adventure on the Appalachian Trail and see photos at – http://www.trailjournals.com/blissful
To find out about her novels, visit http://www.lauraleebliss.com/

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Entry: Reach for your Dreams

DREAMS OF A HOPE AND A FUTURE
By Debbie Roome


Our dream was to give our children a better start in life. To move to a country where there were opportunities for all of us. It was a dream God gave us and confirmed in many ways, but one that was hard to follow.

To reach for our dream entailed sacrifice. To grasp something new and different you have to release what is currently in your hand. For us that was fifteen years of life in South Africa. The familiarity of everything around us. The closeness of family and friends, our pets, our careers and business and our home.

Conversely, it was easy to let go of the terrible oppression we lived under. To leave behind the crime ridden society that dictated our every move. Our lives had been controlled by fears of varying kinds. The fear of being attacked and murdered in our beds, the fear of driving alone on the highways, the fear for our children as they grew older and started socializing at night. The fears were not ungrounded as we incurred huge losses through theft, our son was held up with a broken bottle and robbed and my husband injured in an attempted hijacking.

In January 2006, I boarded a plane with our five children to join my husband in New Zealand. It was just a dot on the map to us. A place down under that looked good in photographs. However, God had planted it into our hearts and we followed His leading.

We can say now that pursuing our dream has been the best thing we ever did. We love our new country and are settled and secure. The children are thriving and my husband loves his job. I am following my life-long dream of writing full time. Besides this, God is giving us opportunities to speak and minister to His church and wider afield.

Our dream cost us dearly but God has given us so much back to us. He has surrounded us with dear friends and church family and we live in peace and tranquility. We are successful in what we are doing and most importantly, God is using us to touch the lives of people in New Zealand. Of course, there are days when we think of Africa. When a song triggers a memory or an email arrives from family. When we yearn to be back there just for a day. To revisit familiar places and renew friendships. God understands this and on such days, wraps us in His peace and love.

Every one of us have dreams in our heart. Dreams that God has placed there. Dreams that may have been simmering under the surface for years. Don’t stifle what God wants to do through you. He always knows best and has amazing things planned for each of us. Take the first step towards fulfilling your dream today and don’t be afraid to follow where He leads.
Submitted by
Debbie Roome

Entry: REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS

CHASING MY DREAMS WITHOUT LEAVING MY FAMILY BEHIND
By Angela Meuser

Most authors say that growing up they never imagined something as fun as writing books could become a career. I knew though. My mom was a writer. I even had my picture printed in Woman’s World when my mom wrote a story about me. I took it to school and felt pretty cool. And then in high school when I sold a story of my own and had my picture printed in American Cheerleader Magazine, I was hooked.

Because writing had always been a dream, I didn’t have trouble figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I attended The University of Oregon to study journalism. I loved it. I even had my stories used as examples of good writing in front of the whole class. And my Rosie O’Donnell-like professor somehow made grammar fun, as well. I worked for the school paper and signed up for creative writing. I was headed toward success, or what I thought of as success.

My junior year, the path I had mapped out for myself made a U-turn. I got pregnant. After the campus doctor confirmed my pregnancy and offered me the option of abortion (which I turned down, thank God) I drove the two hours home to tell my parents. That was the hardest I’d ever prayed in my life.

My mom’s first words were, “Babies are a blessing.” I was relieved and thankful, but I still had to wait for my dad to get home. (We didn’t tell my siblings the news, though ironically we watched a Seventh Heaven episode about teen pregnancy, and my little brother asked, “Mom, what would you do if Angie came home pregnant?” They didn’t understand why I started sobbing like a baby.) Dad came in the door and I told him to sit down. After I made my announcement, he immediately put his hand on my knee and said the powerful words, “I forgive you.” God answered my prayers for support from my family.

I also had a supportive boyfriend. We’d been dating since my first day of college when he’d walked into my dorm room and started dancing with my teddy bear. We’d planned to get married after I graduated since he’d already moved back to Portland for a job, but our wedding plans got bumped up a year and a half.

I know now that if this hadn’t happened, if I’d graduated and started a career, it would have been very hard for me to quit my job to stay home with my kids. I would have missed out on so much, but at the time I felt like a failure. I began trying to prove my worth in many different ways, including writing.

I joined writing societies and attended workshops. I sold a few stories to magazines and one anthology. My dream became my identity. Then my obsession.

You see, my mom quit college to have children. I’d always considered her a failure like I considered myself a failure. (Never mind that she was content with her choice and the fact that she was the wind beneath my wings—as my first editor and biggest cheerleader.) I respected her mainly for her writing. She published over 50 articles and stories and had a couple of her novels very close to publication. Then she quit.

This change in my life’s direction was much more subtle than the pregnancy, but it affected me nonetheless. I became filled with fear that if I didn’t sell a book soon, I would be destined to follow in my mother’s footsteps just like I had with college.
I stopped cleaning my house. I let my kids watch way too much T.V. (I have three kids now.) I didn’t care if my husband hung out at a bar after work with friends because that meant more time to write.

I even started asking questions like, “Do you have to sacrifice your family to become truly successful at your passion?” I’d watched the documentary on Star Wars and saw that George Lucas’s wife left him during the making of Return of the Jedi—and believe me, Star Wars is considered a true achievement in my family. (My water broke while watching Episode I at the movie theatre.)

Well, I found out the answer to this question the hard way. I almost lost my marriage. I didn’t realize how unhappy my husband was. I thought we were doing great. If he just let me pursue the desires of my heart (like the Bible said) we would have been fine, right?

So wrong.

I once heard that if you can quit writing, you are not a writer. Well, I quit. It was another hard choice I had to make—especially with the fear of turning into my mom—but it was the best choice I could have made. My obedience allowed God to take me through a process of learning that just because I didn’t earn my degree, it doesn’t mean that I’m not intelligent. In fact, graduating would have been the easier thing for me to do. I made a bold choice—daring to believe that I could live a different life than what I’d planned. This realization came with the release of many tears and an unbelievable amount of freedom.

My husband and I attended an experiential seminar together. In one exercise called “Peeling the Onion” I was asked, “What do you want?” My response: “I want to sell a novel.” Next question: “What do you have to do to sell a novel?” I laughed. “I have to write a novel.” (I’d quit writing at this time.) Question: “How would that make you feel?” I answered, “I would feel successful.” Aha moment: “So what you really want is to feel successful.”

I had to redefine my definition of success. I’d always thought achievements meant success. God showed me another definition. In The Message translation of the Bible, Paul talks about how hard marriage is, then he says, “If you are capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” I will never “achieve” the perfect marriage, but it will be a successful one if I’m capable of growing. Success is all about growing.

This was huge for me. I don’t have to prove myself anymore. I don’t have to sell a book, or win a contest, or get rave reviews. I simply have to learn from each experience.
I started writing again. I’d been 175 pages into my manuscript Fake Blonde when I went to the seminar and the whole premise of the book changed through it. I even use the “Peeling the Onion” exercise that revealed my desire for success, and this is the scene that everyone mentions after they’ve read my novel. It’s got a powerful message now, where as before it was just a fun story.

My first novel was requested by a publisher who asked for revisions, took it to acquisitions, pronounced it publishable then rejected it. Even though I was disappointed, God had prepared me, and I know He has a purpose for it. The interpretations of Romans 8:28 that I love the most basically says: There is nothing that can touch me unless God allows it, and the only reason He would allow it is if it has a great purpose of blessing for my heart.

I may not know God’s purpose, but if He said no to one publisher, he’s got something better planned for me. I’ve got an agent now. I’m close to finishing my second adult novel. I have a middle grade novel and picture book under consideration. And I’m growing every day.

More importantly, I’ve been set free to help my family grow. I’m a home school mom for the first time. (Nobody was more surprised than me when I made this choice.) I’ve given up quite a few of the aerobics classes I used to teach and simply run on my treadmill now before the kids get up. (I’ll have to write another article for this topic.) My kids attend Awana once a week so I get to have a date night with my husband. And though I still hate it, I started a schedule for cleaning my house every day.

That stuff isn’t always fun. It would be much more fun to become obsessed with writing again. To help keep that from happening, I write to God in my prayer journal every moning before I turn on my computer. This helps me stay focused on using my gift for Him. The struggle with selfish ambition is going to be a never ending one for me.
I still dream of becoming a published author. Along with my novel Fake Blonde I want to do an author talk titled: A Fake Blonde Gets Real. I want to share my story and even lead participants in the exercises that my characters go through. My pastor says that a dream should be so big that if God’s not a part of it, you’re going to look pretty foolish.

I’m that kind of dreamer…and this is my foolish story to prove it.
Submitted by:
Angela Meuser

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Entry: REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS

Let the Dream Live
by
Jonathan Bolton


Life.... Living.... Living a life to live....
What is it that encourages us to pursue our lives?
Is it a choice given?
Life.
At any minute life ends unknowing.
Anytime we could make our own ending, while knowing.
Life. What is living?
Does it consist of breathing? A heart beating?
What about machines pumping oxygen, while our insides are bleeding?
Is that living?
Is life considered valuable anymore?
Is life taken for granted?
Too young, too old, never right.
Too many questions, not enough answers.
Just Life.

Is life trying to live a life others expect you to live?
Is life Free? More than freedom being fought with lives?
When are you dead?
Is dead when your heart beats no more,
or when your life seems to break down and love has closed its door.
Is dead equal to death?
When living feeling dead hurts, more pain than death where pain is no more?
Is life, living the way the world lives.
Is life none other than mine, yours, his or hers?

Would you look death in the eyes, without lies, without disguise,
death is too frightening,
close your eyes,
start to cry,
walk away to live your lives.
Live a life you enjoy,
whether young, old, rich or poor.

Reaching for your dreams is only a dream if you give up.
Keep dreaming.
When you’re stuck, look up
to the one that gave us life,
called Christ,
who paid the price
with bleeding stripes,
bringing love, no longer strife.

I'll keep my dreams in sight, and stay alive.

Your life is yours to live - You decide.

Submitted by
Jonathan Bolton

Friday, September 21, 2007

Entry: REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS

In His Time
By Carolyn M. Kenney


Dreams come true in unexpected ways and unforeseen places. What is now my lifelong goal was not even thought of a few years ago. It is amazing how one decision can change a person’s life and instill new vision and objectives. This was the case four years ago when I decided to attend a Bible Study class at my local church. The small class of six people was held every Saturday morning from September to June. It was conducted by a seminarian who had been assigned to our church for two years prior to his ordination.

The classes went along for about six or seven months until one day we were told to “write about what you learned today.” I did as I was told and passed in my short article of four sentences. Much to my surprise, the seminarian told me I should write an article for the church bulletin. After weeks of hesitation, I began what has now become a weekly article titled “Meditation of the Heart.”

About a year after I started writing these articles, the same seminarian told me I should write a book. I hesitated at the suggestion. Many times, I had thought of writing a book, but quickly dismissed the idea. However, as I sat alone later that week in front of my computer, ideas and thoughts for a book slowly and awkwardly began to take shape. The book was based on the four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Some of the articles which had been printed in the church bulletin developed into chapters of the book.

I thought writing a book was just that - writing. The process of publishing had never entered my mind; I was amazed at all it entailed. Once the book was completed, it was submitted to three publishers and of course was rejected. Due to the fact that I was a new writer, this did not surprise me in the least bit. In fact, I expected these reactions. I was an “unknown” and felt I had to prove myself in my new “career.” In the end, I self-published my book; more were given away than were actually sold. However, the simple fact of having my name on the front cover was enough for me - at the time.

Writing is now a daily passion. Writing weekly articles for my church bulletin is part of my weekly routine. One woman even said, “I thought they were written by a syndicated columnist.” I was deeply honored by her kind remark, but at the same time laughed inwardly at the thought I would be in the same category as any columnist! I have grown to love devotional writing. My dream is to write another book of this type, only this time to see it on bookshelves in stores like Barnes and Noble. I have taken online writing courses. I am a member of online writing sites and study the advice of established authors. There is more to writing than sitting at the computer and typing. One has to edit, publish and market the book. However, God is the one I listen to first. He speaks to my heart and soul as I write His words. In His time, my dream of a second book will come to fulfillment.

Submitted by
Carolyn M. Kenney

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Theme: REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS!

The contest for the next two weeks is extra special because it’s all about YOU! Grab your pens, and get ready to share.

Our special guest judge for this contest is the award-winning, indefatigable Boomer Babe and author ALLISON BOTTKE.

Allison, who has been coined the “God Allows U-Turns Poster Girl,” recently released her second novel, One Little Secret, and we’re celebrating its theme this week in our contest. Here’s a blurb about this incredible and fun book:

For Ursula Rhoades, her ONE LITTLE SECRET becomes her one big problem! ONE LITTLE SECRET fits seamlessly into a culture obsessed with reality TV and celebrity lives (think American Idol and E! channel). Delving into the life of a fictional rock star, ONE LITTLE SECRET takes readers on a fun-loving ride through Hollywood and the famous GRAMMY awards.

In a land of glitz and glamour, Ursula Rhoades isn't fazed in the least by the constant parade of Prada. She has a beautiful home, a loving family, and fulfilling volunteer opportunities that leave this fashionable and loving Bel-Air housewife completely content, even if she did have to give up her dreams when she married Don so many years ago. Enter Nikolai Prevelakis, or Nik Prevel to his fans, the hottest young music star in the country. But it isn't enough. Handsome, famous, and living the life of a rock star, Nik isn't content. When his path crosses Ursula's, he sees the opportunity he's been waiting for. But what seems like a harmless little secret changes their lives forever-and becomes one big secret everyone's trying to figure out!

ONE LITTLE SECRET is a Hollywood fairy tale with all the pleasures of escapist literature mixed with gentle lessons on using the talents God has given you, the power of sacrifice, self-esteem, and the value of being "just a housewife."

ONE LITTLE SECRET hooked me from the beginning. Allison has created likeable, believable characters and developed a story line that most of us, as mothers and wives, can identify with. This book encourages and inspires all of us to not give up our dreams, to be open to the possibility that our dreams eventually can come true, if we're willing to reach for the opportunities! This book makes a great, fast read (you can’t put it down!), and it also makes a wonderful gift to give to all your girlfriends and sisters.

Now for the contest this week:

Allison wants to hear about YOUR dreams. This contest theme is REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS! So write your best essay, short story, article, or poem about reaching for your own dreams. Share your hearts with us, but please limit your entries to 2000 words or less. Send your entries to tracyruckman @ gmail. com by Friday, September 28th for your chance to win. Entries will be posted online as they are submitted. You retain all rights to your entry.

Allison will judge the entries and the winner will be announced October 1st. The winner receives an autographed copy of BOTH of Allison’s novels – A Stitch in Time AND One Little Secret – plus all the promo perks (there may be a few extra surprise promos this contest) and entries into the Grand Prize Drawing in December.

We're also giving away a 2nd set of autographed books! Just leave a comment below, and your name will be entered into a random drawing!

Come - share with us as you REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS!

Oh - and I almost forgot - Allison is hosting a CASTING CALL CONTEST on her website. After reading ONE LITTLE SECRET, visit the website and cast your vote for actors and actresses YOU THINK would fit the roles of characters in ONE LITTLE SECRET! If/when the movie is picked up by Hollywood and is casted, you could win a trip to HOLLYWOOD! What a fun idea!

Congratulations to...

this week's winners!

Debbie Roome is the winner of the TRUE STORY entry and Jessica Ferguson won with her blog comment. Both ladies will receive autographed copies of May I Walk You Home? Sharing Christ's Love with the Dying by Melody Rossi.

Here's a bit about Debbie:

I am happily married with five children and a sweet Jack Russell. I was born and raised in Africa and moved to New Zealand in 2006. Writing is my passion and I love to write stories that point to God and touch people's hearts.

And a bit about Jessica:

Jessica Ferguson is a regional freelance writer. She's the author of The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes, a Silhouette Romance and has recently sold to Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul and Daily Devotionals for Writers. An agent is shopping her latest manuscript, Miranda's Mistake.

Jess is the coordinator for Lamar University's Professional Writer's Center and maintains their blog. Her very favorite thing to do is encourage other writers. She's a member of RWA, ACFW, CWFI and many other local and online writing groups. Get to know her at: http://www.jessyferguson.blogspot.com/

Special thanks and a big hug to Melody Rossi for being our special guest this week! Be sure to check out her book, and if you ever have an opportunity to hear her speak, GO! Your life will be blessed and your heart touched by this incredible woman.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Entry: TRUE STORY


PASSION FOR LIFE
by
Debbie Roome


Pat marched to the beat of a different drummer. She was an odd one, strange in appearance and ostracized, even by people in our church.

Aged about forty, Pat was a regular at evening services and always arrived in denims, sweatshirt and a blue jacket. Sometimes light, sometimes dark, but always blue. Even if it was blistering outside, the jacket would be on. Her hair was fine, blonde, pulled back in a short pony tail and shaved round her ears.

To our shame, my husband and I judged Pat to begin with. Sided with those who laughed at her strangeness and wished she would make adjustments. That she would conform and fit in.

Pat was gregarious by nature and got hold of me at church one evening. It was the beginning of understanding, a gradual progression of relationship. As I got to know her, my prejudices began to crumble. I learnt that Pat was deeply passionate about wildlife, and nature, and ham radio. She did her best to get my husband to join the “Save the Whales” website and told me stories of radio friends, connected across the world by their interest. Mostly, however, she talked about her snakes.

She had a collection of them, a couple of dozen that lived in tanks around the walls of her bedroom. Other rooms held cages of rats and mice that she bred to feed them. Pat came alive when talking about her snakes. She seldom looked you in the eye but her face would be animated, her hands fluttering as she explained how she cared for them. As she discussed their habits and behaviour. She even said that when she died, she hoped she would be surrounded by her snakes.

A friend found her on a balmy summer’s evening, concerned when she didn’t emerge for her ride to church. Investigators pieced the story together. The fatal bite was inflicted by an American Cotton mouth, probably four days previously. It seems that after Pat was bitten, she simply walked through to the lounge and lay down to die. No one missed her in those four days.

The church was shocked and a large number of people attended her funeral. One after another stood up and spoke of her love affair with nature, with ham radio, of her obsession with snakes. As I listened, God began to crystallize some things in my heart. I thought of how Pat’s life had touched mine. How God had used her to show me that we are all unique and special with something to offer. I thought of how, in spite of her strangeness and quirkiness, Pat had done something that few of us manage. She lived her life with great purpose and passion. A passion that bordered on obsession and leaked from every pore.

As I sat there, I wondered what people would say at my funeral. Would they speak of my passion for life? Would they say my reason for living was apparent to all; that my love for God was clearly visible? Sadly, the answer was no.

I came to appreciate Pat in life, but she taught me a whole lot more through her death. Lessons that have burned deep into my heart. I have consciously laid aside insipidness and continue to fight ferociously against apathy. God used a simple woman, one who marched to the beat of a different drummer to teach me these things.

When I see her again, I’m going to thank her. Thank her for living her life with passion and being exactly who she was.

(These events unfolded several years ago when I was living in South Africa)

Submitted by
Debbie Roome

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

True Story

This isn't an entry for this week's contest, but it's a true story of my own life I'd like to share for this theme. I hope you'll indulge me and I hope it will encourage you to share your stories, too.

My dad, an engineer, had been an alcoholic from about the time I turned 8 or 10 years old. Until that time, we’d had a glorious, memorable time together, fishing, swimming, gardening, playing football in our back yard. Even chores with Pop were fun because he enjoyed life so much.

But then the stress of caring for three rambunctious kids hit, and the alcohol took over. Our lives became roller-coasters and as I got older, I got angrier. Until I was an adult, I couldn’t separate the sin from the sinner – the disease of alcoholism from my father, the man. We shared lots of anger and words of disgust and condemnation flung far and wide caused such harm to both of us.

The older I got, the more I understood, the more I empathized. And when I finally found the Lord, the forgiveness began.

At that point, my family still didn’t want to know the Lord – they didn’t want to hear about Him and what He’d done for me, or for them. My very presence stirred up anger and resentment, so I lived my life apart from my family for many years.

I don’t remember what happened, but eventually, we all began to miss each other and began communicating again. My dad got reacquainted with my children, and our relationship grew so sweet once again.

Then he was diagnosed with cancer. We thought for awhile that he’d beat it, but it returned with a vengeance.

Those last six months of his life were precious. We read the Bible together – for the first time in my life and we discussed it at length. We discussed his past and my future. We shared words of love and forgiveness and both of our salvation stories.

His final weeks, we read Revelation, and discussed at length the new Heaven and Earth. In Chapter 21, detailed descriptions are given, and I’m always amazed at the beauty described there. I can visualize the colors, the light, the beauty.

Christmas Eve that year, we set up the hospital bed for my dad and spent Christmas day hovered around him. I had to go home the next day to handle some business matters, but was summoned back on the 27th. All day, we stayed with him, but he just slept peacefully. His bedroom was small, so the family mostly gathered in his small living room or outside.

Late evening, things got really still, and I suddenly felt something “turn off.” I didn’t know what – to this day I still don’t know – but I got up and went to check on Pop. As I entered the room and took his hand, he took his last breath and died.

Just before his funeral, the pastor asked if he had any special verses we’d like him to read. I mentioned that Pop really liked Revelation 21. As the pastor was giving the service, he brought up this chapter. He said that most people think of the beauty of the jewels, and can imagine the colors described, but my dad, being the engineer, probably saw a different beauty in those words. He said my dad probably saw the measurements given, and being the engineer that he was, he was able to picture the new Heaven and Earth – it became REAL to him because he could “see” the dimensions.

I realized the pastor was right. My dad and I saw the beauty of the new Heaven and Earth, but in an entirely different way.

That precious time I’d spent with my dad those last few weeks continue to give me comfort because I know without a doubt he’s with Jesus now.

Thanks for letting me share!
Tracy

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Theme! TRUE STORY September 10-14


Our very special guest judge this week is author, ministry-leader, opera-singer, and honorary “redneck” Melody Rossi!

My husband and I met Melody at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference this year, and immediately fell in love with her energy, smile, and joyful spirit. We became fast friends. Before the week was over, Tim had dubbed her an “honorary redneck” and passed along his copy of Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck Dictionary.”

To be quite honest, if I had known Melody’s credentials before meeting her, I probably would have been too intimidated to utter a word. But her warmth and sincerity drew me in immediately, and when she told us she was “one of the singers” for the week, I nodded and asked what she sang. She asked if I’d ever heard of someone – and I hadn’t – so she told me she just hoped I enjoyed it.

Blown away was more like it. Melody’s voice – well, in my own simple terms, I’ll just say that Heaven will be filled with voices like this woman. Thoughts of her songs and the talent of her voice bring tears to my eyes even months later. She is truly a beautiful woman – inside and out.

Okay – enough gushing. Here’s Melody’s impressive – and intimidating – bio from her own website:

Melody Rossi is a missionary for a new era. Although she once sang on some of the world's most prestigious stages, she now works in the heart of the inner city with Cloud and Fire Ministries, teaching gang members and at-risk youth a new way to live. She also has a heart for those who are terminally ill, and her book May I Walk You Home? Sharing Christ's Love With the Dying expresses her thoughts about what she calls “the most fertile of all mission fields.”


Melody's public career was launched in 1984 when she became a regular soloist at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. For the next 10 years, Melody sang with opera companies and symphonies across the United States and received numerous accolades for her rich, warm voice. Her singing career was reaching its pinnacle, and then tragedy struck.


A surgical error in 1994 nearly took Melody's life, and left her bedridden for almost a year. This incident not only robbed her of her health and halted her career, but left her unable to fulfill her dream of having children. As Melody and her husband grappled with the pain of infertility, God was working behind the scenes preparing them to become parents to hundreds of inner city children. During her illness, He became more real than ever before—but that was just the beginning!

In an attempt to reinvent her life, Melody became a substitute teacher in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles . She was repeatedly sent to the high crime neighborhoods where she discovered the harsh realities of inner city life. Initially horrified, Melody soon developed a love for her students and a desire to make a difference. She took a permanent teaching contract, and began a new career. After several years of teaching, Melody began an after school program to give extra help to her students. This eventually became Cloud and Fire Ministries, a Christian nonprofit that provides holistic transformational ministry to low-income urban youth. Today she is the Executive Director of this ministry through which she and her husband have nurtured countless young people.

Melody Rossi is a popular speaker for church services, Christian conferences, and special events. Her message is uplifting and victorious, and when she weaves singing into the presentation, the result is unforgettable.

This week on Pix-N-Pens, we are celebrating Melody’s first book May I Walk You Home? Sharing Christ's Love With the Dying. This book shares with you step-by-step, through Melody’s experiences and others, how to share Jesus with folks on their deathbed. It’s a book filled with practical, useful information in such a beautiful, loving way that you’ll need to keep a box of tissues nearby! We all encounter death of loved ones at some point in our lives – this book is for those times. Get a copy for yourself, and also think about giving copies to your church library, your pastor, your friends, your doctors, your relatives, your local Hospice. It’s a book that will touch and change lives.

Now for the contest! And we’re giving away TWO autographed copies of May I Walk You Home? Sharing Christ's Love With the Dying.

This week, we want you to share a TRUE STORY of an end-of-life encounter with God. Melody will judge all the entries, searching for the most inspiring story to win one copy of the book. Please limit your entry to 1500 words or less.

The second book will be given in a random drawing from all comments on this post – so be sure to leave a comment below.

Entries are due by Friday, September 14th, at midnight. The winners will be announced on Monday, September 17th. Email your entries to: tracyruckman @ gmail. com (delete the spaces).

And don’t forget – all winners will receive entries into December’s Grand Prize Drawing.

Congratulations, Debbie Roome!

Debbie's the winner of this week's SHORT STORY contest!

Debbie sends the following information about herself:

I am happily married with five children and a sweet Jack Russell. I was born and raised in Africa and moved to New Zealand in 2006. Writing is my passion and I love to write stories that point to God and touch people's hearts.

Great to have you participating, Debbie!!

I'll ship your book this week.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Entry: Short Story or Photo Contest Aug 27-Sept 9


First Day of First Grade at Catholic School

by Veronica Mello



First day of First Grade was like the Wizard of Oz story; some parts were really great, others not even close. Initially, I was excited to put on my new outfit. Snow White smiled on my lunchbox. Lunch out of a box would be like having a picnic. Cool!

Kindergarten was fun and Sister Emelda was sweet. Why would first grade be any different, other than the fact that a different nun would be teaching?

Ma walked me to school, as St. Joe's was only a few blocks away. On the way, we met Mrs. Badecki AND her daughter. The Badecki family had just moved to our street. Monica and I were the SAME AGE! What could be more wonderful than to FINALLY have someone on my own street to play with! We got to walk together ahead of our moms. Monica had a Snow White lunchbox, too, but the picture was different on hers.

"I have a nicer lunchbox," she announced as we clopped down the sidewalk in our new shoes.

Now, I knew that MINE was nicer, but I let her think her's was. I didn't even get mad at her; I was just too happy that she was there. Great start to the day!

When we got to school, the nun sent our moms away right there at the door. At Kindergarten, they were allowed to come in and get us settled. The school was crowded and one nun would teach two grades at a time. First and second graders were in the same room. It was so great to have so many kids around. (Yippeee!)

"Quiet!" A tall, not so pretty nun banged a yardstick against the wall. I wondered who she was. Of course, when she shoved us into the classroom, I realized I was in her class. (Oh brother!)

I took a quick peek into the Kindergarten room and saw Sister Emelda welcoming the new kids. All the blankets were being placed on the floor and the stuffed animals were sticking out of the box near the nun's desk. Father Lepak was in there, too, with Lucky and the kids were petting the dog and laughing. (Wished I were back in THERE!)

When our new teacher had us rounded up, she had us stand in the back of the room and then she shut the door. Something about that door shutting made me want to cry, but I didn't. The nun went to the blackboard, took the chalk and began writing. She smacked the chalk against the board at the beginning of EACH letter. SISTER MARY AGATHA. Then she underlined it and added exclamation marks. I wondered if maybe she would smile or show ANY sign of gentleness. THAT didn't happen. (Again, I wanted to cry but I was too scared.)

I wasn't used to harshness. Sister Agatha reminded me of that character from one of my story books. You know, the witch who baked kids in her oven and made gingerbread boys and girls out of them. I imagined her doing that to us. After she turned us into cookies, she would serve us to our parents at the School Guild meeting.

The seating assignment began and I looked forward to actually having my OWN desk. Sister Agatha went around the room sorting us out by height. She'd grab a kid's shoulders, move him in front of another, push another kid around them both...no, then she'd rearrange them again. FINALLY, she was finished. I was about to get to see which desk would own me for the rest of the year. I kind of knew which one I wanted; the one that wasn't too banged up. It was in the row near the door, fourth one back. (I secretly claimed that one as mine.)

I looked around. Everyone else was taller than I me. Our place in class was determined by height.

Wow! I'd get to pick first! Cool!

The nun pointed at me and then motioned for me to take my seat. SHE decided where I would be sitting.

Oh booo! I sat down in that desk, right up front, wedged right up to HER DESK.

Double boooo hoooo! "Oh, Auntie Em, there's NO PLACE like home!"

Friday, September 7, 2007

Entry: Short Story or Photo Story Contest Aug 27-Sept 7

We Don't Really Want to Go

Submitted by
Veronica Mello

Entry: SHORT STORY CONTEST Aug 27 - Sept 7

A Different Kind of Love
by Debbie Roome

Angel was her street name. Angel her tag in the newspaper ads. Angel was the one the policeman had asked for when he walked into the escort agency.

Back home, she was plain old Angie again. Plain, old Angie with the short mousy hair and conservative clothing. Not Angel, the seductress in tight black outfits, the stunner with peroxided hair gelled into cheeky spikes. The first week home had been a nightmare. Daddy had hardly spoken to her apart from a few questions. “Why, Angie? Why did you run away from us? What have we done wrong?”

Mom, as usual, had been a lot more vociferous and spent hours ranting and raving.
“What on earth possessed you Angela Mary”? She was only called by her full names when in serious trouble. “Do you know the agonies we’ve been through while you disappeared for a month?”

‘What about me?’ Angie thought to herself. ‘Do you think it was that easy to leave and start a fresh life?’

“And look what you have done to the family name. I don’t know how I’ll be able to face anyone at church on Sunday; or at the bridge club, or anywhere in fact.”

Angie sighed. It just wasn’t done for an upper class schoolgirl to become a sex-worker
“What did you want that we haven’t given you?” A little freedom maybe. A chance to date boys, to go to movies with friends from school, to spend the night away from home.

It wasn’t just that though. It had been the medical examinations. The humiliation of all the prying questions, the AIDS test and the final, awful revelation that she was pregnant. Her parents had gone crazy and she had to admit, she was rather stunned herself. Of course they had wanted to send her for an abortion without delay.

“It’s just a blob of tissue.” Her mother screamed when Angie refused. “You don’t even know who the father is; never mind how to contact him. You’re supposed to be at school studying for your future. You’re only a baby yourself.” The three of them warred and raged for weeks over the fate of the baby.

Daddy calmed down first. “Maybe it’s not right to punish an innocent life.” He said. “The Bible speaks against it and besides, the family name is ruined already. Let the child be born and put it up for adoption.”

More weeks passed and Mom put forward her final views. “Maybe foster care would be better. When Angela leaves home she can apply to get the child back if she wants to.”

Her father lost his cool again.

“That’s taking things too far.” He shouted. “We have no idea who the father is and quite frankly I don’t want to know. I don’t want this child near me. Ever!”

Angie lay in her room and listened to the shouting. Curled on her side, she whispered to her baby.

“Sweetie Pie. Don’t worry about them. It’s just you and me. I won’t let them take you away. I’ll get a job and study for my exams in the evenings. We’ll find a little room somewhere. Just big enough for the two of us.”

She’d been expelled from school of course. The rich, snobby St Katherines where she’d been since she was six. The head mistress came round to the house and the family was informed in sad monotones that she regretted Angela would not be allowed to return to the school in view of the “situation”.

A few of her schoolmates visited. It was awkward, though. The easygoing camaraderie of school friends was lost. Angie was no longer one of them. She was an adult now. An expectant mother. Her worries and concerns were not things they could comprehend.

The months dragged by. Daddy arranged a correspondence course so she could keep her schoolwork up to date and of course she had doctors’ appointments and scans and antenatal classes and tests by the dozen. Or so it seemed anyway.

The only time Angie was really happy was at night. She would rest her hands on her swollen abdomen and whisper.

“Hello Sweetie Pie. It’s Mommy here.” Sweetie Pie would kick and push and Angie delighted in feeling her stomach lurch and bounce under the covers. “It won’t be long now,” she’d whisper,” just another few weeks and we’ll be meeting each other. I love you.”

She had some money in savings and in defiance to her parents’ wishes bought a matching baby seat and camp cot patterned with cottontail bunnies and dandelions. With the change, she bought a basic layette. At least once a day she would unfold everything and press them to her face. The vests were so soft and the tiny growers were like velvet against her skin.

A month before the baby was due, her mother weakened slightly. “I suppose the child will need basic supplies before it is collected by the foster parents.” She excused her actions. A pile of disposable napkins and a couple of cuddly blankets were added to the layette. Not to be outdone, Daddy came home the night before the baby was due. Awkwardly he pressed a teddy bear into Angie’s arms.

“I haven’t changed my mind.” He warned. “But it would be nice for the child to take something from us into the future.” The adoptive parents can tell him about us.

The labour was violent. A primeval force. Pulsating, throbbing, tearing. Bringing the unseen into the seen. Angie hanging on her mother’s arm, sobbing through the agonies. The doctor barking orders. One mammoth effort and then she was there.

A tiny doll with a button nose and a shock of dark hair. Angie named her Kayla Joy.
Daddy came in briefly after the birth and hugged and kissed her. Told her he was glad it was over.

“Please Daddy,” she begged him. “Have a look at Kayla.” In an embarrassed, male manner, he peeked in the crib and then was gone.

Mother and child sat in bed together that night, Angie rocking her, cuddling her, dropping soft kisses on her forehead. Then she carefully unwrapped the blanket and counted her fragile fingers and toes. What a miracle she was. Only God could form such perfection.

And yet as she held her, Angie felt an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. This child was perfect. She had never felt such love, a different kind of love, and because of that love, she had to let her go. She was only sixteen and in spite of her best intentions, she realized that her parents were right. She was too young. She couldn’t look after her and provide for all her needs.

Tears began to fall as she realized the love that her parents must have felt when they first held her. Suddenly their rules and curfews were not so foolish. Their protectiveness more understandable. Their hurt at her actions more believable.

She was still sobbing an hour later when the door cracked open. Mom and Daddy crept into the room and Mom embraced her.

“The Sister called us. Said you were upset.” Daddy was gently lifting Kayla out of her crib.

“Mom, Daddy, I’m so sorry for what I’ve put you through. I was trying to imagine how I would feel if Kayla did the same to me. I know she’s only been here for a few hours, but she’s helped me to understand so much. I’ve been selfish and immature and I know I haven’t treated you well. I’m too young to care for her properly. I want to put her into foster care and maybe one day I can have the privilege of looking after her.” She lifted her gaze to her father. “I can’t bear the thought of adoption, though. Please Daddy. Please don’t ask that of me.”

Daddy sat down carefully with his tiny grand daughter nestled in the crook of his strong, capable arm. “Angie, we want to aplogise as well. We’ve probably been overprotective of you, with you being our only child…” His voice tailed off. “We’ve all said some terrible things over the last few months. First we wanted you to abort this child. Then we wanted you to give her away. But we were wrong. She’s part of us as well as part of you.” Kayla whimpered and his voice cracked. Angie looked over at him, confused as tears glistened in his eyes. “Oh Angie.” He regained some control. “When I looked at your little girl in her crib this afternoon, it was you. You had the same button nose, the same crazy hairstyle when you were born.” Angie’s mother nodded in confirmation. He stood again and placed Kayla gently into his daughter’s arms.

“Angie. You are too young to raise this little baby on your own. But admitting that is the first step to maturity. Bring her home, Angie. Your mom and I will help you until you’re ready to spread your wings and together we’ll raise another fine young woman.”

Submitted by
Debbie Roome

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New Theme, New Extension, Contest Announcement

Okay - I had someone question why the School theme for this week's contest, and thought maybe that was what hindered the lack of participation, so as of TODAY, I'm changing the contest to open it up. I'm also extended the deadline until Sunday 6 PM, instead of Friday.
I hope that will give you enough time to enter.

The new theme is YOUR CHOICE! Send in whatever short story you'd like to share, with a 2000 word limit.

Readers of my Pix-N-Pens newsletter were informed this week about the prizes in the Grand Prize Drawing in December, and now I'll spill the beans here.

The winner of the Grand Prize will be chosen in a random drawing on Monday, December 3rd.

Your name can be added to the "pot" three different ways:

Everyone already subscribed to the newsletter will receive one entry.

All winners of our weekly contests, from the very first contest back in March, until the last contest before the drawing - even the winner announced on December 3rd - will automatically receive 5 entries in the drawing.

You can also receive an entry for each person you refer who signs up for this newsletter. Just forward this newsletter to your friends, asking them to subscribe. Get them to send me an email - tracyruckman @ gmail.com - telling who referred them September 4-November 30th and you'll BOTH get an entry into the contest.

The winner of the Grand Prize Drawing will receive:

$300 online Gift Certificate to Wolf Camera. This website sells photography equipment, digital and video cameras, computers, office equipment, MP3s, TVs, gaming systems, scrapbooking materials, binoculars and much more!! A perfect opportunity for Christmas shopping!

$50 Gift Certificate to Amazon
$25 Gift Certificate to Christian Book
$25 Gift Certificate for DeBrand Chocolatesand
An assortment of new releases - fiction and non-fiction from a variety of authors.

This prize package is valued at over $500!!! So enter the contests and refer people to this newsletter for your chance to WIN!!