35 Reflections

Birthdays are a perfect time to reflect. Mine is next week.

35.

35 probably sounds young to most of you. – maybe older to a select few of you. It IS young. I FEEL young. I’m used to being the youngest in my groups of friends. I got married young. Gave my life to Jesus young. Became a mom young. And started my own business when only a teenager.

On the other hand, I also feel I’ve lived several lives. I’ve worked through multiple careers and lived in multiple states and homes. Each one feels like a separate lifetime. I was a vegan pastry chef, owning my own catering business for 11 years. I was a teacher of art, theater, and culinary for 3 incredible years. A business manager. An office manager. Now, I’m an artist and writer. I’ve lived in New Jersey. New York City. 6 different homes in Pennsylvania. And now beautiful South Carolina.

I’ve been through Christian schools, homeschooling, cyber schools, culinary school, business courses, and numerous writing classes. I’ve had rare cancer. Been healed from said cancer. Seen miracles. Been penniless, yet never hungry. Been married for twelve amazing years. Had a child whose first breath came at the name of Jesus, after being born with the cord wrapped around his precious neck. And been told I should never get pregnant again.

I’ve seen a LOT in my 35 years of life.

As long as I can remember, I have never seen a godly man abandoned, or his children forced to search for food.” Psalm 37:25

I’m remembering a time ten years ago. It sounds so silly now, but 25-year-old me felt old. I was tired and drained in my catering business. All I wanted to do was act! I’d wanted to be an actress since staring in a play when I was 7. A year younger than my son is now. 2 weeks before I left for Culinary School, I remember crying to my mom about wishing I could just be an actress. I didn’t though. I went to NYC and became a chef. And at 25-years-old I regretted my decisions. I searched out auditions, casting calls, watched YouTube videos on how to get into the field, and bought stacks of books on the subject. I did all of this until I discovered a trend – an age trend. Directors wanted actors ages 18 – 25. Any older, and actors were considered the “older” category. I let myself get discouraged before I even began. I gave up; defeated before I went to one single audition.

Ugh. I feel so silly the more I think about 25-year-old me. I thought, “I missed my chance, so why start now?” If I’d plunged into that passion, I’d probably be in Hollywood or Broadway right now. I seriously believe that. Did you know Steve Carrell from the show “The Office” didn’t start acting until he was in his 30s? There are many similar stories of “late bloomers.” 25-year-old me neglected that bit of info.

When I was 27, I finally quit baking. I stopped lying to myself that I enjoyed that work: I hated it. I don’t regret quitting my business. Not ever. That same year, I started writing my first novel. I almost didn’t finish that either. I wrote 13 chapters and gave up. Praise God, He brought incredible friends in my life who encouraged me to get back into writing (shout out to Alison & Lauren! 🙂 ). At 29, I finished my first book and spent 2 years editing it. I then wrote 2 plays, 3 picture books, and started this blog. At 34, I finished my 2nd novel. And while I’m super proud of this latest book, I fear it’ll be forgotten like every career, job, house, and friend I’ve lost throughout the years. Let’s be real here: my life isn’t exactly a success story. At least, not by the world’s standards of success.

But as I sit here, thinking about the events of my 35 years, I can’t help but feel thankful for the lives I’ve lived. The failures and mistakes I’ve made.

Missed opportunities force me to sharpen my eyesight so I don’t miss the next one. Failure shows me what not to do again. And times of want always cause me to trust God all the more. It also helps to keep moving. Keep pursuing. There’s an old saying about it being easier to turn the wheels of a moving car than a stationary car. It’s very true. It’s also a lot harder to find your dream when you’re bundled up in self-pity on your couch.

In all my years, I’ve never lacked for dreams. If one dream died, three more would take its place. I’ve dreamt of having a huge family in a house on the ocean…this turned into a desire for a home in the suburbs of Greenville, South Carolina with a blend of biological and adopted children. I dreamt of being a famous actress where I could use my talent to show the passion God gave me… then having my own bakery where I can encourage my customers through healthy comfort food… then my dream became to be a New York Times best-selling author of multiple books, changing lives with the words God gives me.

They’re different dreams. But, if you look closely, they’re the same dream: be loved, and show love. Through people, and through the talents God’s given me.

It’s not too late for those dreams. The first part is already happening. (All glory to God!) I’m still young. But even if I was turning 85, I’d still believe God has more to do through me.

Just like God has so so much more to do through YOU!

If you’ve made it this far while I’ve been talking all about myself, thank you. I know I can be long-winded when I’m trying to make a point. Words haven’t always been my thing. I still SERIOUSLY struggle to articulate my words verbally, so I appreciate you reading my thoughts in this format. I love to write. I really, really do. I know it’s what God made me for. I know this because I’ve been in places I wasn’t meant to stay in. It’s not about it being hard or easy either. – Writing is far from easy most of the time! – It’s a feeling that’s difficult to describe without living it first. It’s peace, joy, passion, commitment, satisfaction, and excitement all rolled into one. It’s a feeling in your soul – the pit of your gut – that you’re doing what you were created to do. A peace that passes all understanding. Can you think of moments in your life that brought these feelings? What desires has God placed in you?

I lay pieces of myself here in order to encourage you to stop making excuses about not pursuing those dreams God gave you. Never let age stop you. Never let life’s circumstances stop you. And definitely never let other people dictate who you should be. Friends encourage you while a competitor will do anything to keep you beneath them. I’ve had to overcome a few of those too.

I look back at my life and I see blessing after blessing. In times of depression, and in times of joy. In times when we didn’t have enough money to go grocery shopping, and in the times we were able to bless others with a hot meal. In times when I’ve cried to God for answers, and in times I felt His voice. In the time I was told I had cancer, and in the time God told me I was healed before the doctor did. In the mountains of rejection letters, and in the future day I’ll find out I made the best-seller lists. In lonely nights, and in parties full of genuine laughter. In times of failure or success, God has been faithful.

I can’t wait to see what the next 35+ years will bring!

In honor of my 35 years, here’s a list of 35 things I’ve discovered in life so far. I hope it brings some joy to your life and sparks the courage to go after your desires!

  1. Killing a plant doesn’t make you a murderer, just remember to water your kids and pets more often.
  2. If you have enough time to check your phone, you have enough time to talk to God.
  3. Try listening more than talking.
  4. On that note…if he’s playing a video game, he’s not listening. I don’t care if he answers, he’s honestly NOT listening.
  5. Pray with your spouse. It’ll bring the two of you closer to each other as well as to Christ, and to a whole other level in your relationship.
  6. Laugh. Smile. Giggle. Snort. It’s healing to your soul and mood.
  7. EVERYONE is going through something or dealing with something. No one is perfect. Treat them with care.
  8. We’re all more alike than you think.
  9. Cats are better than dogs.
  10. But… not everyone likes cats, so that’s why God created dogs. I respect that.
  11. Life’s too short to not have chocolate.
  12. You can’t please everyone. Actually – you can’t 100% please ANYONE. Even yourself. So stop losing sleep over it.
  13. You’ll learn a LOT from having friends that are all different ages, races, and backgrounds.
  14. Watch where you step in the ocean…(long story)
  15. Sunsets are beautiful, but there’s something extra special about getting up for a sunrise.
  16. You don’t have to listen to every piece of advice given to you.
  17. But make sure you consider each piece of advice given to you.
  18. Your career isn’t the thing that defines you.
  19. Don’t walk through your kid’s room barefoot.
  20. Doctor Who is the best tv show of all time, but not everyone has the time to accept this fact.
  21. This time next year you’ll be thankful you started that project NOW instead of procrastinating it.
  22. You’ll never remember that thing you’re telling yourself in bed. WRITE IT DOWN!
  23. You don’t have to follow the recipe. Live a little.
  24. No matter how many times you read the Bible, you’ll always find something new.
  25. Lists are amazing. Satisfying to write, and even better when crossed off.
  26. Forgiveness is more for your sanity than their’s. Just like bittereness effects you more than them.
  27. ALL of God’s promises are Yes and Amen.
  28. There might be no place like home, but real change happens when we leave our comfort zone.
  29. You can never have too many books. No, really! Tell my hubby this one!
  30. It’s OKAY to rest.
  31. Kids are sometimes the best source of wisdom.
  32. You can get used to almost anything if you’re around it long enough. That’s not always a good thing…
  33. Men just think differently. It’s weird, but he doesn’t accociate the silence as a sign I’m mad with how he acted last Tuesday.
  34. Drink more water. Don’t be like your plants.
  35. You’re never done learning new tricks.

Hope you enjoyed those! Have a blessed day!

Oh, and be on the lookout for my new newsletter! Woohoo!! Sign-ups will be posted on March 1st. All who sign-up will get a FREE recipe booklet with original recipes inspired by the dishes in my upcoming book, Neutral Extinction. Stay tuned!

Darling, There’s a Better Future For You!

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Some of you might recognize this famous quote from Stephen King. Writers often reference “killing your darlings” during the editing process. The message might sound cruel, but it means to delete the characters/plots/dialog/writing we THINK we love, but it drags our story down. He’s saying to cut the things that’ll make our story better once they’re gone.

If only we could do that in our own lives…

But how do we know which pieces to cut to make our lives better? We don’t want to cut something useful, after all. We don’t want to commit a Freddie Krueger slasher work to our dreams and future.

In 1 Samuel chapter 16, God tells Samuel to stop being depressed over Saul and anoint the next king of Israel. God simply says “I have selected one of Jesse’s sons to be king.” Complication alert: Jesse had 8 sons. Samuel needed to “kill” some of those darlings to find the true king.

When he got to Jesse’s house, he met 7 handsome, strong, and perfect darling sons. They were everything Samuel THOUGHT he wanted.

If I had a dime every time I THOUGHT I knew what I wanted…

When I was single, I made a list of the characteristics I desired in a husband. Some were important: integrity, faith, strong values, kindness, compassion, etc. A few were darlings that weren’t exactly important to a happy marriage. Blue eyes being the most superficial. Once I met a man, I took all the things on my list into account and decided which weren’t as important as I originally thought. In the same token, the important things on the list helped me weed out guys who weren’t perfect fits either.

Samuel had a list in his own head. Tall: check. Nice face: check. Dreamy blue eyes: check. Looks like a king: check. But God told Samuel “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God’s list was different than Samuel’s. And on the surface, some might have said the “ruddy-faced boy” God chose was a few steps down from the first 7 sons. David wasn’t even invited to be a part of his family gathering. His dad left him to do chores while they feasted with the prophet. Samuel didn’t know Jesse had an 8th son until he asked!

This is something I believe we constantly miss in our lives. We choose a husband/wife, career, job, friend, or decision of any kind simply because we THINK it’s our best option. We fear nothing else will come around because this is all we see. So, we say it’s “good enough” or “I deserve this anyway” when deep down we know we’re meant for more.

I’m not talking about being discontent with what God has given you. I’m talking about settling for less than God intends for your life. Filling your life with events, people, and obstacles God wants you to subtract in order to accept what He desires for you.

Having 1 of David’s brothers on the throne could’ve proven disastrous. I bet Samuel was thankful he abided by God’s list instead of his own when he saw how fantastic of a king David would become. He could’ve made a history-changing mistake if he hadn’t listened to God. If he’d settled for something on his own superficial list.

I know. I know. You’re probably saying “But Samuel was a prophet who verbally heard God’s voice. How am I supposed to know what God wants me to do?!”

Don’t worry: God already told you!

Have you ever heard or said the phrase “God’s working on me concerning ____” or “God’s dealing with me about ____”? It usually pertains to something difficult, life-altering, or a path we don’t want to go down.

For instance, God has been dealing with me about my view of success. My idea of a successful life is changing the lives of multiple people, influencing thousands or millions with my books, and making profits to show these numbers. I see the avenue to this outcome to be by a popular literary agent, having a top 4 publisher, and a six-figure advance paycheck. I’ve committed to this list by e-mailing agents for years. Years. And tailoring my books to what I THINK these people want. Ugh. I fell victim to creating a superficial list of darlings that only matter to the world, not to what God might have in mind. I know this now because God has been “dealing with me” about what’s truly important. How do I know? Because He has been opening doors to other avenues. These avenues might be different than what my list included, but they align with God’s word:

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:17

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:17

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

I want to be clear that what God has “been dealing with me” about isn’t actually different than my true desires. They are simply guiding me via the path God wants me to go down to achieve them. My true desire is to have my words mean something, and have my books published. The how isn’t up to me, it’s up to God! God’s joy and peace fill us when we are on the right path. Our deepest desires are God-given, and only He knows the best way to achieve them.

In order to see what plans and pathways God has for us, we need to cut the parts we don’t need. The only way to do this is to know what parts we do need: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” In order to trust God, we need to have faith. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

Honestly, I believe that the real reason most people aren’t living to their full potential is because we don’t trust that God has something better in mind. We see missionaries living in poverty, Christians who never make millions, or faith-filled people who lack so much, and fear we’ll have the same “fate”. But are we looking at these people through God’s standards or the world’s view of success? When we look closer, we can see how faith-filled believers live BETTER lives when they surrender to what God intends. When they “kill their darlings” of the world and tailor a new list with God’s worldview.

Love. Joy. Peace. Faithfulness. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Meekness. Self-control…. a list that trumps wealth, power, and superficial beauty. It’s a list that means something to our future, and doesn’t fade with age and politics.

David was “a youth with beautiful eyes, and good looking.” He wasn’t ugly by any means. Just different than what Samuel had in mind.

Samuel’s desire was to have a good king, and God showed him the path to get there. What path is God wanting to lead you through?

When we surrender to what God wants, instead of what we THINK we want, we’ll find God has something much MUCH better in mind. Kill your darlings, friends, and see the beautiful story underneath.

Living On Purpose

It’s been a hot minute, y’all! I missed blogging in May, but my blogging week was consumed at an amazing writers conference. It gave me a break from my normal schedule, a chance to connect with kindred spirits, intense classes to challenge my career, and a boost in confidence.

Over the last several months, I’ve been struggling with mass rejections and exhausted faith; a week rediscovering my purpose was EXACTLY the recharge and refocus I needed. I love how God knows what we need when we need it. He sees our needs. He knows our desire. And God knows our purpose.

Purpose. We all want one. We all NEED one.

The best-seller lists are lined with books promising to give people purpose. The Purpose-Driven Life, The Pursuit of Purpose, What on Earth Am I Here For, and The Purpose Effect are just a few. And no, I haven’t read any of them.

There are many quotes on the subject. Here are a select few. And I’m going to say a disclaimer right now: I don’t agree with any of these quotes…

“The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.” ― Woody Allen

“I believe purpose is something for which one is responsible; it’s not just divinely assigned.” ―Michael J. Fox

“Our purpose in life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.” ―Dalai Lama XIV

Why do I disagree with these quotes? Well, first off, Woody Allen’s outlook is that life is empty. It’s up to us to at least make it fun. Art = fun, right? Art = color, imagination, character, beauty, or fun. So, he’s saying if you take art away, then you take purpose away. I will be the first to say art is mandatory to live fully. To create is definitely a type of purpose. I wrote an entire book proving how we lose our humanity when we strip away art. But can there be purpose without this artist’s existence? Is there a way without us searching for this alleged antidote?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: I’ll write it below.

Similarly to Woody Allen, Michael J. Fox puts a TON of pressure on our shoulders. We’re responsible for finding it, doing it, and achieving it according to his humble standards. There’s no God in his world. Talk about depressing and exhausting! He does have the word “just” thrown in, which leads me to assume he believes a divine deity might have something to do with assigning our purpose. I would hope so. If we left finding a purpose up to humanity alone, we’d have eternal chaos.

The quote from the Dalai Lama is possibly the worst of all. Do you see it? Let’s see if I can explain the flaw with this one…

We live in a current world of a LOT of depressed people. I’ve struggled with depression for the past twenty years. What I have isn’t a situational depression; it’s not brought on by a bad day, a misspoken word, or horrible accident. It’s a struggle of low self-worth, motivation, uncertainties, and life’s pressures. I actually don’t struggle with happiness. I’m a positive person. I’m what’s called “A happy person with depression” or “smiling depression” (this is an actual thing, ugh). By Mr. Lama’s standards, I’ve achieved my purpose. And also by his standards I’ll NEVER achieve 100% purpose because I’m never truly content. No one who’s depressed lives in honest contentment because we’re never always happy. Happiness is fleeting.

As wrong as these quotes are, I do want to point out what they get right:

Woody Allen’s artistic antidote could indeed be our purpose. Our purpose should NEVER be to succumb to despair, thus we do need to find the opposite of despair. And without Jesus there is indeed an emptiness of existence. Jesus would be the artist’s antidote for despair.

To Michael J. Fox’s credit, it is our responsibility to accept Jesus. We don’t need to find Him though, because He’s always there waiting for us, but we do have a responsibility to accept His gift of salvation.

Perhaps the Dalai Lama suffered from a simple case of a writer using the wrong word. If we replace happy with “joy” the quote takes on a deeper meaning. David – who’s arguably the most depressed individual in the Bible – said in Psalms 118:24 “You have put joy in my heart” in reference to God. Paul says in Thessalonians 2:20 “For you are our glory and joy.”

I know. I know. I can hear you saying “get on with it, Laura. Enough of this back and forth interpreting quotes. What’s our purpose?!”

I’m so glad you asked.

Because when we know our purpose, we know where we’re going. When we know our purpose, joy consumes us – not the fleeting happy moments, but a joy deep in our soul even when we’re unmotivated in bed. When we know our purpose, the mountains of rejections become unimportant. Rejections become answers to whether that person was a right fit for me: no, God has something better in store. When we know our purpose, our life has meaning.

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power out flowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]. – Philippians 3:10

It’s that simple. Our purpose is knowing Jesus, and becoming like Him.

I’m done, right? Case closed. End of blog post. But it doesn’t feel quite that simple in our every day life, does it?

How can we be like Jesus when we do our jobs? i.e. writing, selling, speaking, helping, healing, manufacturing, creating….. wait… Didn’t Jesus do all of these things? Don’t each of our jobs involve at least a few of these activities? Jesus wrote through His disciples (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). He was, in essence, a salesman of salvation (He described it and offered it at the one price of accepting Him). He spoke powerful life-altering words wherever He went. He helped every person He came in contact with. He healed better than any doctor or nurse. He manufactured items when He was a carpenter. He created the world, didn’t He?! As well as every food and material all jobs work with.

How can we be like Jesus when we do our housework, raising kids, loving our spouse, relationship troubles, sleeping, eating, etc. etc.? The Bible talks about each and every one of these life events, challenges, and responsibilities. It’s an amazing read. I highly recommend it. I have a horrible memory though, so I need to continually reread it.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s exhausting to try to be like Jesus.

I grew up with the WWJD bracelets and the fire brimstone preaching what will happen if we sin instead of being Christ-like. Both of these methods didn’t work with a majority of my generation. We don’t need reminders of our failures or proddings to be perfect. I believe this is why, first and foremost, Paul tells us to KNOW JESUS more deeply, intimately, so we can recognize and understand the wonder of who He truly is.

I think we as Christians can get so lost in what to do, that we forget the why. We forget who we’re doing it for. We forget the purpose of it all.

When we concentrate on all the things we must do, we risk exhaustion to the point of giving up. We need to realize WE can never be perfect. It’s impossible. We can study the word of God all we want. Wear all the cool Christian jewelry and garb. Spurt out “thees” and “thous.” Make carpentry our profession, and take up fishing. But none of these things will bring us our purpose. Because Jesus isn’t any of this. Jesus, well, He’s all of this and more…

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” John 6:35

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” John 11:25

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” Rev. 17:14

Those are highlights of what the Bible says Jesus is. When we know Jesus, we see our purpose because Jesus = our purpose. Jesus sets us free, and gives us the faith we need to live: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

You know what’s also interesting? In studying the scriptures of who Jesus is, I see my own purpose written… Life. Giver of living bread/food (chef). Faithful. Author. Joy-filled.

I always find my purpose when I look to Jesus. Because Jesus IS my purpose.

What’s your purpose? I dare to say you’ll find it in Jesus.

Let’s Be Honest…About Goals

Where are you going?

In a world still full of travel restrictions, fear, mandates, and opinionated hypocrites, this question might seem a bit taboo. Many of us aren’t going anywhere. And if we do go somewhere, we might try to hide our whereabouts. No need to upset family and friends, or a job that’ll make us quarantine.

But where doesn’t have to be a new state or country. Where can be as localized or foreign as we desire. Where can be a state of mind.

But we need to go somewhere.

Do you wake up with a jump in your step, or do you curl into a ball under the covers? Be honest. Okay, I’ll go first: my bed is the comfiest mountain of soft pillows and billowing warm blankets. A black hole would be less magnetizing. It hurts to leave it every morning to take Riker to school. I want to forget my responsibilities, my worries, anxieties, and just stop adulting for as long as my covers will hold me.

It’s hard being positive 100% of the time. It’s difficult facing people, even when you’re an extrovert. It’s a struggle to take a step when the path is invisible. And it’s totally okay to admit that!!

I knew I wanted to write about goals this month. To beautifully ask what motivates us, and how our daily dreams bring brighter futures. How Christ set us free to be free, and not to be in bondage by condemnation any longer. How goals help us to spring out of bed with renewed strength. But, honestly, let’s just keep on being real here: how can I write about something I’m struggling with myself??

I’ve talked for years about my love of writing. How I dream of being a best selling author with book tours, tv/movie deals, and entering a book store to see my novels on the NY best seller shelves. I have several manuscripts that I’ve either finished or am starting to write (you can see my growing list in Upcoming Books). But, as you can see, half of this list are manuscripts that have been “shelved” until further notice.

The two shelved picture books might never see the light of day, to be honest. I love the stories and illustrations I created, but my style of writing tends to lean more mature than for children. I need to work on that if I want to pursue this genre, but honestly, I love writing for adults. So, I’m okay with these two being shelved. I LOVE the adult picture book I’m creating right now, and I like to think my illustration skills are improving with each picture. But, I still have so so many doubts. Test readers didn’t like my poetic style with my first two picture books, so why should I feel confident in this one? Do I dare let test readers tell me their thoughts so my hopes can be dashed again? This doubt in my talent haunts me.

If you follow my Facebook author page, or have met me via the Montrose Writers Conference in PA, then I KNOW you’ve heard me gush about my book The Judas Killer. The Judas Killer was my baby. My first finished book. The manuscript I toiled over for YEARS. It took me 3 years to finish it, and 3 more years to edit it through over a dozen rewrites. I had a bunch of literary agents interested, and such high hopes for my dreams coming true, but in the end I had 85 rejects. Yes, you read that right. 85.

I can’t get more honest than I’m being with you right now. I’ve never shared this number before. My first agent/publisher rejection came in March 2018. My last rejection came March 2020. And I decided The Judas Killer must die at last.

I love that story. I love the characters. But my writing has actually gotten better since then. So, I tell myself that writing The Judas Killer was like going through 6 years of literary college, and I move on.

The book I just finished is my new baby: Neutral Abyss. This book has had so many countless obstacles that I’ve lost track of its survivor story. I began writing Neutral Abyss in mid 2019. Writing was slow then because I was finishing up my job at Rock Solid Academy, we were getting ready to move here, and then I had that annoying cancer. Once we moved, I hit a beautiful stride despite having to home school, and finished the book in June 2020. Then I had 4 test readers quit on me before they even started reading. I had 2 quit after they started reading. I did have a few finish who loved it, but 1 of my readers spurred a political debate that sadly ended our friendship. I rewrote my first chapter 4 times. I rewrote my whole book twice.

Example of 1 rejection letter.

The good news: my latest readers LOVE it. It’s a strong story. It’s downright powerful. The characters are real. The message needs to be told. But, I can’t help but think about The Judas Killer and those 85 rejections.

Neutral Abyss is a dystopian time travel story about the love and struggles between a torn family. During the pandemic the need for “essential” jobs, the rise of hate crimes, and the separation growing in politics, sparked a question in my mind that I wanted to answer through this stoy: Is it worth sacrificing our art and individuality to create a peaceful society with no war, disease, or conflict?

But, I can’t seem to get any agent to read this book because I’m being told time travel is a “hard sell.” Cue the frustrated scream.

The rejections are building, and I’m struggling to be motivated enough to get out of bed.

There was a time in my life that I loved talking about myself. I freakin’ loved attention. Good and bad didn’t matter, as long as people noticed me. But this faded with experiences and age. I’ve been hurt over the years. Now, I rarely bring up my issues, my struggles, my thoughts. I don’t want to be a burden, and I don’t want to be hurt again. But it’s okay to be honest.

We ALL struggle. We ALL have issues. We’ve ALL been hurt in some way. We’ve ALL had rejection.

Sometimes when we only show our good sides, other people think they’re the only ones going through something. I’d be remissed to tell you all to “be positive” and “trust in God” if my own life was rainbows and roses.

I’ve been honest with you when it comes to my writing life. But, honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But that’s okay. I don’t need to share every bloody detail of my life for you to see a piece of me. An avalanche doesn’t solve a drought; a little rain will help the crops grow.

When our lives are drowning in rejections, failures, and comfy blankets, it’s okay to admit that we don’t know what to do. Yes, goals will get us out of bed. Yes, goals will give us ambition and motivation. Yes, goals help the world start to spin again. But, goals alone won’t solve our problems.

The first step is to stop being so bloody hard on ourselves! It’s OKAY to rest. It’s OKAY to cry. It’s OKAY to admit we can’t do things on our own. Gosh, just read Psalms and you can see for yourself how often David cried and asked God for help.

The second step is to go forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s a crawl, baby step, or lunge. Just go forward. Step out of bed. Open your Bible. Turn that computer on and try one more time. Step out your front door. Call that friend. Send another e-mail. Try again!

The third step is DON’T STOP. Especially if you fail again. Get back up. Cry again if you need to. Eat the triple chocolate fudge ice cream with a side of “HELP ME, LORD!” and try again.

I didn’t know if I’d get a blog post out this month. It was hard. It’s hard to be motivated when you don’t know where you’re going. It’s even harder when the opinionated hypocrites love telling you what to do. But I’m going to admit I can’t go on without the guidance of my Jesus, take a step, and try again.

And, I did it, honestly.

I’m going to end this post the same way I started. Where are you going? Because I can’t freakin’ wait to hear your success stories.

My latest illustration for my new picture book for adult creatives.
May you part the seas today with whatever you do and wherever you go!!

Author Of Our Future

We live in an era of uncertainty. And I hate not knowing the future.

I’m someone who loves to make plans, schedule, research, and know everything about anything. I’ll constantly become bogged down in my writing because of my incessant need to research.

For instance, yesterday I wrote how a character visits another character on W44th Street in Manhattan. What did I do? Well, I had to search Bing maps for an aerial view. Then a street view. I explored all over 44th street, and went down 9th Ave (virtually). Spotted a few restaurants and bars to reference. Did a search for apartment buildings. Found a condo for sale on the exact corner I needed. Got the specs from listing pictures, details on layout, and the location of doors, etc. etc. Needless to say, I did about 30 – 45 minutes of research for one single paragraph.

But, I NEEDED to know! I needed to know the layout so I could continue my story without any surprises.

Guess what happened on the next page though? Yup, another plot twist I needed to research.

That’s just in fiction. In the real world it takes me weeks to plan the perfect vacation, party, or event. I say I love surprises, but in reality I’m too much of a control freak to enjoy a surprise properly.

So, this not knowing the future is driving me crazy!! When will everything reopen? Will we be able to have a family reunion this year? Will we even get to the beach? Will Riker have school next year? Is this all a ploy by the government? Will we lose all of our rights? Is everything fake? Or is everything more real than they’re saying on the news? Are we living in the end times? Will every restaurant close down before I can try a true southern meal?!

I don’t know.

But God knows.

I’m sitting in my sun room with the screen doors open. My cats are restless. The wind has been wild all day, and the clouds are rolling in. The air tastes thick with humidity. It doesn’t take a weather reporter to tell me there’s a storm coming. It’ll be here in a couple of hours. By the time you read this, I might be in the midst of it. It could be bad, or it might only bring rain. We’ve had some tornadoes in the area twice in the last few weeks, and there’s a possibility of more again tonight. But no one knows for sure. All we can do is wait it out and prepare. I cleaned our garage today so we can put our vehicles inside, and we have an amazing neighbor who has offered her basement to us if things get bad. But there’s not much more I can do to physically prepare.

Mentally though, I can choose to not let fear consume me. Riker senses when I’m upset; he’s sensitive that way. I made the mistake last week to get a little frantic in my last-minute tornado prep because we got a phone alert only 5 minutes before the wind picked up (we’d known the weather reports, but denied that we had anything to worry about). He was terrified; feeding and magnifying on my own fear. I’m not making that mistake again. This time, I’m prepared.

We might not know the future, but we don’t have to be surprised by it. We can see the signs coming, prepare, and rest in the knowledge that God has us in the palm of His hands. That doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. That means:

“Because you are God’s child, you can be confident that he will give you wisdom. And because he will give you wisdom, you can be sure that you will have a future and a hope. When you have the wisdom of God, you don’t need to fear the future.” Proverbs 24:13-14.

There’s one verse in particular that came to my attention this weekend. Our pastor loves to read from The Passion translation of the Bible, and I find it brings new understanding to verses I’ve heard all my life in the same formal translations.

“For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

As a mystery writer, this wording brings an instant picture to my mind. In mysteries there are clues and references for the end to come. A truly keen reader can follow the right clues and guess the ending that the author has planned. There’s clues and answers speckled all around us: in our relationships, our minds, even on the news, and especially in the Bible. God wrote MORE THAN 400 references to Jesus in the old testament. That’s a heck of a lot of clues. Yet, the majority of the Jewish people were surprised by his coming. Why? They didn’t need to be. And neither do we need to be surprised by our country’s future. By our own individual futures.

Am I surprised that I’m a wife, mother, writer, artist, living in South Carolina? Not really, because God put every last one of those desires in my heart years ago.

Will I be surprised if we’re hit by a tornado tonight? Not really, because I’m watching the winds bringing in the dark clouds. But that doesn’t mean I’m living in fear.

Am I surprised by this pandemic, how fast everything shut down, and how divided our world is becoming? Not really, because I’ve read the book of Revelation. I’ve read Matthew 24: “Nations will go to war against each other and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be terrible earthquakes—seismic events of epic proportion, horrible epidemics and famines in place after place. This is how the first contractions and birth pains of the new age will begin! …. But keep your hope to the end and you will experience life and deliverance. Yet through it all, this joyful assurance of the realm of heaven’s kingdom will be proclaimed all over the world, providing every nation with a demonstration of the reality of God. And after this the end of this age will arrive.”

But don’t worry: we all know how this story ends. If we trust the author.

Is it a coincidence that I’m currently writing a book all about possible futures? Not really.

Let me leave you with my latest video I created with a fitting bit of poetry. Be blessed and encouraged no matter what our futures bring!!

Changes Bring New Life

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor E. Frankl

Wow, that quote hits me square in the forehead. It pretty much sums up the last two months of my life.

My life situation has changed beyond my control. I’m incapable of stopping the catapults being thrown at me, the doors closing, and the never-ending waiting of opportunities to open. And this adventure has just begun.

The major door to close was my job. It literally closed. The school I worked for as an art teacher, theater director/writer/teacher, business manager, and substitute office manager (yeah, I had a lot of hats there), officially closed its doors this summer. Permanently.

My last day on the job was mid-July, but it hasn’t stopped weighing on my mind and heart. I was there for 3 years, and had grown accustomed to the hustle and bustle of a small private school. The opportunities, memories, friends, and life-changing experiences will stick with me for the rest of my life.

It’s because of Rock Solid Academy that my love of writing is rekindled. They needed a play, and I excitedly wrote one, stage designed, and directed it. Twice. The first time with loads of help, the second time with virtually no help until I was blessed beyond measure from multiple friends during the performance week. Writing these plays inspired me to pick my unfinished novel back up, and finish it. And begin to write more. And more.

It’s because of Rock Solid Academy that my intense love of art was rekindled. My good friend Lauren, the principal at the time, gave me a chance as the new art teacher. She knew I was an artist, but I had minimal teaching experience. I’d only drawn and painted for fun, except of the cake art in my previous culinary business. Through lesson planning and working with talented young artists, my love for all things art grew to new depths. Today I have a greater understanding of the craft, history, and a more polished skill to take my own pieces to the next level. And I’m suddenly not afraid to tackle a new art project. More on that in a minute.

Rock Solid’s closing brought a change that I had wanted for months, but sooner than I expected it: the ability to be a full-time writer/artist. WOW. I get to live a dream! I suddenly have the time to write, paint, edit, create, research, read, draw, brainstorm, etc. etc. I even have the time to edit my website (yay!), and start a YouTube channel (double yay!). I should be happy during this exciting time. Unfortunately, I’m not making a single dime. YET.

There’s also another change happening that I can’t really get into yet. The reason being is that we just don’t know what will happen there, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself. We’re in the waiting period. This change could possibly be a big one, affecting the rest of our lives. (no, it doesn’t relate to more kids, stop asking! lol) But the wait has been no less than agonizing. The unknown is a difficult place to stall in. We’re forced to live by faith, not by sight.

I had no power to change the situation of being jobless. No power to keep a school going that was not only a home for me, but also to my son, Riker. There will be a big change for him in a new school this year too. But in this change, I’ve been challenged to change myself.

When you’re stuck at home, alone with your thoughts and an over-energetic 6 year old, you’re forced to reevaluate yourself. I battled with a depression I thought was behind me, my self-esteem plummeted, but my prayer life grew. I hit rock-bottom two weeks ago where I just couldn’t stop crying out in frustration. This week has finally been a turning point where I came to a revelation.

I was reminded of another similar time in my life over 10 years ago. The winter of 2009. I’d just lost my Grandfather, I’d gotten into my first car accident, I was evaluating my job life, felt stuck at home because I made so little money, and I was crying out to God asking why I was still single. In that time, God brought me to Psalms 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

I realized that I wasn’t in control of my life, and if I tried to be in charge then I was always doomed to failure. I needed to give the reigns over to Christ, and just let His joy flow through me. I needed to rest – to delight – myself in Him completely. To trust He had my best interest in mind. Always. It was that very spring. March 2009. That I met and fell in love with Andrew. My business skyrocketed. But more importantly, my joy in my Savior plateaued to a new level.

This is the turning point I’ve been going through again. New trials that are challenging me to grow deeper in joy and rest in the One who has me in the palm of His mighty hand.

This summer has already brought new life in me, and I personally can’t wait to see the breakthroughs that are just a breath away!

As I wait for an agent to excitedly snag my debut novel, The Judas Killer, God has been giving me ideas for children’s picture books! Who would have guessed?! The one closest to being done is called Mona’s Masterpiece. And for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid to draw people. Wow. If I can draw people, then look out world; NOTHING can stop me now!

What changes are you going through in your life? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to know I’m not the only one going through a life change! 🙂

Short Story: Two Rules

Stories are my life. Not a day goes by where I’m not considering a new book, revising a plot, digging deeper into a character’s backstory, imagining a distant world, or creating something totally different.

My usual creations are novels, plays, or poetry. It’s been years since I dabbled in the art of short stories. I dusted off this part of my brain when I decided to enter a short story contest with the prompt “I have two basic rules.” Although I didn’t win, I still got the privilege to read my writing. The image is of me reading this story to a captivated audience at the Rutgers Writing Conference.

It won’t surprise many of you that I’ve chosen to write on the dark side. I took inspiration from Stephen King’s rules on writing from his book On Writing. If you’ve never read it here’s a link to another blog stating the rules: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/stephen-kings-top-20-rules-for-writers/ scroll down to rule #17, read it, then enjoy my creepy story…

My Two Rules

By Laura Gibson Kudey

The room smells of alcohol and ammonia. Two similar scents to the untrained nose; one pungent, the other a sweeter sensation. Both tantalize my nostrils with a burning thrill as a deep inhale transports me into a comforting trance.

“I suppose you are all wondering why I brought you here.” I fold my hands behind me and weave around the tables and chairs. The air conditioner whirrs to life, and the beads of condensation on Dr. Anderson’s forehead quiver. The slim middle-aged man scrunches his face and mumbles a prayer under his breath.

“I find myself with an impossible deadline; six weeks to write my sequel. I expect you all to be just as cooperative as the last bunch.” I raise my finger to the curvy woman to my right. “And don’t you worry, Matilda, I remember the promise I made.”

My heels clip along the concrete floor and echo across the plastered walls. Pearl-white paint peels along the ceiling tiles. A short man to my left tries to rise to a sitting position. I grasp his pale shoulder and press him back into place.

“The rules of my process remain the same.”

The man’s elbow thumps against the hard metal. “P-p-lease –”

My neck cracks as it twirls toward him. “Don’t interrupt me, Mr. Keen.”

He whimpers in submission. The vents quiet. The room stills.

“As I was saying, my two basic rules remain unchanged.” I open my laptop. The screensaver flashes a picture of Stephen King standing in front of Paul Cezanne’s “Still Life with Skull” painting before revealing a blank document.

“Rule number one: to start, all my characters, my precious darlings, must be alive in one room.”

“Wha-what about her, then?” Mr. Keen gestures to Matilda with a shivering hand. She lies silent and flat on her metal table.

“There are exceptions to every rule, Mr. Keen. She’s my returning character. Act your part well, and you too might be so lucky.”

The short man, Alexander, raises his head. “What did you promise her?”

All six figures cast their eyes on me. I take in the attention of the moment. They are all at the mercy of the master writer, waiting with bated breath for me to write their story.

“I promised I’d grant her last request and give you the courtesy of revealing my second rule before we begin. She swore knowledge would make the process smoother.”

I can see the book unfolding before my eyes. A cast of characters finds themselves trapped in a morgue. The antagonist gives them one mission; to discover the identity of the protagonist. The winner returns for the sequel. At least in body.

The family of six wrestles with the shackles on their wrists and ankles. Three brothers, two wives, and their old man, all looking from the corpse of their mother and wife to the creator of her story.

“Rule number two: in the end, kill all my darlings.”

Hello. Blink. Good-bye.

2018 for me can be summed up in three words:

Hello.

Blink.

Good-bye.

I feel like it was just New Year’s Day. Andrew and I were talking fondly of 2017, and our many dreams for 2018. I thought my book would be signed this year for one. My novel, The Judas Killer, went through quite a journey in 2018, that’s for sure; fifteen rounds of edits, reached 79,000 words, eleven rejection letters, four interested agents who didn’t work out, but nowhere close to getting signed. Yet.

I’m ready to be done with The Judas Killer, honestly. I’m going to do one more read-through before it goes into the hands of an AMAZING professional editor, Kathy Ide, on February 10th. She’s going to line edit my work and hopefully provide several publishing connections with advice on moving forward.Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing

That is one of the best things to happen this year; meeting Kathy. I met her at the writer’s conference in Montrose, PA in late July. Her wisdom, talent, warm personality, and her willingness to spend hours talking with me was like a hug to my writing soul. I’m looking forward to placing my baby in her editing hands to see where it ends up. While she’s working on The Judas Killer, I’m finally going to start my sequel: Dark Rain!

Meanwhile, I’m halfway done writing a playwright entitled “Perfect Misery”. It will be performed by Rock Solid Academy students in May 2019!

That was really the only change in 2018; I have added job titles to my resume at Rock Solid Academy. Besides the Art Teacher, Theater Teacher, and part-time Office Manager, I added Business Manager to the list in July. It’s a lot of responsibility and stressful, but working with numbers come easy to me at least. Riker has started kindergarten there this year, so my extra duties provide more time to be in the same building as him. Kindergarten. How did that happen so fast?!?

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Here are some snapshots of my year:

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I created a possible book cover for my debut novel.

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And I created an author page on Facebook.

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I instructed two human video groups in the first half of the year, with the help of Julia Taylor!

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One of the teams made it to the final level, although they sadly couldn’t make it to Texas to compete. I’m confident they would have made the top ten in the country if they could have competed!

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We had a winter which refused to end (this pic was taken on April 5th).

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I co-chaperoned a senior trip to NYC.

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We remodeled our Kitchen. Hallelujah!

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I won a book pitch contest at the Montrose Writer’s Conference. Read about it here.

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Got to experience the Wyoming County fair for the first time with my best friend, Alison Treat, and our families.

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We vacationed in Ocean City, Maryland for the first time. Loved it!!

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I created another book tree. Isn’t she pretty? 🙂

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And we got to enjoy Christmas with my mom’s side of the family for the first time in a few years.

All in all, it was a good year. It wasn’t extremely eventful, but it was a blessed one. I’m thankful for the times shared with friends and family. For the relationships built and some new ones created. If you are reading this, you were most likely a part of my year, and I thank you for being a blessed part of my life.

God is good. Always. No matter what.

I can sense something on the horizon though. Can you feel it? I’ve felt it for a few weeks now; change is coming. We are currently praying for a few things that could alter our situation for the better drastically. I have a feeling big things are in store this year. I’ll keep you all informed once these events transpire.

In the meantime, may you all have a blessed and happy new year! May 2019 be the best year yet!! God Bless!

kite

Poem ~ Pearls

I’ve had quite the day today with a roller coaster of emotions.

Honestly, I’ve had an unusually heavy last few months. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, my vent is in writing. More specifically: writing poetry. I penned (or typed) this poem just a couple of minutes ago. If it speaks to you, please let me know! If not, well at least I feel better from venting ;).

 

Pearls

Can’t breathe under countless glares

Lying empty from giving

All of me, but none of me

My true self lost to judging.

 

Pressure bares down on my soul

Will none understand my pain?

My pleasure lies in serving

Yet none accept my true gain

 

All they see are order rules

How dare I give my lifeline

My talents must match their own

Throwing my pearls before swine.

 

Hopeless to please human kind

My soul finds freedom above

There’s one who holds my pearls close

My gifts are His righteous love.