Spring out of Winter

Spring is such a happy time of year, don’t you think? The pastel colors. Pops of red. And endless growing lime green.

But there’s one major thing that makes spring wonderful. Without it, spring wouldn’t even exist. That cold, bitter season many of us wish would discontinue.

Winter. Seriously, winter.

Now, South Carolina doesn’t have as long or brutal winters as my past homes in Northern Pennsylvania, New York, or New Jersey. Brrrrrr. Winter lasted from October to April. On my first anniversary – October 30th – we had a foot of snow. There were more than a few blizzards in mid-April too. But when May came to Pennsylvania…..oh, it was beautiful. Those first crocuses peak through the brown mud, and frost-covered tan grass. Sunny daffodils wave hello in the crisp winds. I appreciate spring. I NOTICE spring. The colors make me pause because they didn’t exist a few days ago.

Some tropical places don’t even get a spring. Sure, the calendar still holds the spring equinox. They celebrate the first day in late March, but spring can’t have physical evidence in nature. Without the cold, the trees don’t need to lose their leaves. Without the frost, the grass doesn’t disappear. Without a freeze, even the bugs don’t take a break.

Winter can be a season of rest. A season with no harvest. A season where we hold onto trust, hope, and faith. The trees appear dead, but we trust they’ll grow back in the spring. Those daffodils, hostas, irises, daylilies, etc. lay hidden in the ground, out of sight, and we have faith they’ll return with warmer temperatures.

Like those long winters in the north, sometimes life’s “winters” feel extra long. Maybe you’re waiting for an answer to your prayers. Maybe you feel like no one hears you, or listens to your cries. Maybe you feel like you’re in an endless loop of work, mundane responsibilities, or thankless jobs. You’re stuck in a cycle of laundry, dishes, errands, school, taking care of others, etc. Or, maybe, you don’t feel like you’re accomplishing anything because you see no evidence of making a difference.

I’ve lost count of how many “winters” I’ve endured. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been part of one endless winter with mere glimpses of sunlight through the thick clouds – that’s depression and I won’t dwell there, but I will say this: no matter how you feel; no matter how depressed or hopeless you feel… God never desires for you to stay in that place. NEVER. While wait periods, peace, rest times, and mourning seasons are normal, wallowing in pity, guilt, and anxiety aren’t meant for us. Depression and rest are two VERY DIFFERENT things.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3

That all being said, winter can definitely hold a lot of sorrow, trials, and turmoil we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. But, even those things can be used by God.

I bet the blind man in John chapter 9 felt like he was in an endless dark winter. He wasn’t resting, just waiting. Waiting for a spring he didn’t know was coming. Even the disciples thought he must deserve his predicament. Perhaps he was depressed. I know I would be if I had to sit stuck in the dirt on the side of the road. He was alone. No friends. No comforts. Then Jesus walks up and says He’s “the light of the world.”

Do you know what thing makes us notice light more?

I bet a blind person would know the answer.

I like to nickname my hubby “Andrew the bat.” I’ll usually call him this as I laugh at his squished face when I brighten our bathroom in the morning. He’ll be standing there at the sink, washing his face in pitch darkness. I’m sorry, but I need light to see where I’m going. Light illuminates the area, showing what we can’t see at night. And in that dark bathroom, the sudden flick of light calls attention to the brightness. The burst of colors momentarily blind us in their brilliance, and we acknowledge the light’s existence.

The bible doesn’t describe the moment the blind man found his sight. It simply says “he came home seeing.” I like to imagine he ran home with a spring in his steps, jumping for joy. He wasn’t shy in proclaiming the miracle to his neighbors, so we know he was excited. He appreciated the light because he knew what it was like to live in darkness. Like Jesus said in verse 3 “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Knowing this story helps me look back at the “winters” and dark moments in my life in a new light, if you will. The sicknesses, depression, lost careers, deaths, disappointments, and valleys weren’t brought on because of sin or as a punishment… they were present so God’s work could be displayed in my life. Here, let me break it down in a simple list format:

Cancer caused me to thank God for health, and trust that “by His stripes, I am healed.”

The lack of having more kids naturally caused me to appreciate the one I do have. It also gave us the desire and opportunity to become foster parents and prospect adoption.

Depression caused me to appreciate joy. Joy everlasting. To seek out Psalms and the words of David when he also went through depression. I declared myself a woman after God’s own heart.

My failed careers each brought me to the place I am now. To quote Chariots of Fire: I feel God’s pleasure when I write. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, and can’t wait to see the next steps He has in store.

Each waiting period forces me into God’s word. Some people might need far less to get them to see, but I know I need a kick in the pants too many times. I need a winter to notice when an answer to prayer sprouts life. I need a dark valley to notice the bright morning joy.

When you look up the definition of spring, two examples say “originate or arise from” and “a sudden jump upward or forward.”

It’s time to arise, my friends. Rest when you need to, endure the trial if you’re currently in it, but don’t neglect your call to jump out of it. Don’t stay in winter. Sprout into spring. Grow from the difficulties. Arise from the ashes. It’s time to thrive and spread the joy everlasting!

A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. – Psalm 40:1-3

Following the Leader

Five years ago, God laid on our hearts that He wanted us to move. We didn’t know where or when, but we felt the pull south.

It feels like such a lifetime ago. We were so different, so young, so naive, and so full of dreams of possibilities. Yet, we somehow knew our future would hold something neither of us were currently expecting.

God first put the idea into Andrew’s mind during a trip to Tennessee, with the question “what if we moved?” I responded “maybe so.”

The idea would roller coaster over the next few years, get hidden under a mountain of work or try to be forgotten when having fun with friends and family. But God kept bringing it to the forefront of our minds when we’d least expect it. Usually during a snow storm, to be honest. Other times it happened when my work flourished, activities abounded, and we couldn’t be happier in our current lifestyle. But still God knocked on our hearts.

We first looked at Cleveland, Tennessee. Toured a few houses even, but knew it wasn’t right. The idea laid low for a few years, until almost forgotten. In 2016, we wanted to go to a new state on vacation. We almost went to Colorado, then Michigan, but ultimately we found Greenville, South Carolina in a Pinterest search. Yeah, I’m a Pinterest junkie. The more we researched this area, the more we got excited for our vacation. Then, about one month before we went, Andrew said “what if we moved there?” I laughed and said “maybe so.”

On Liberty Bridge in the heart of Greenville, South Carolina

We spent a glorious week in that city/area, fell in love with it, made a few friends, and dreamed of possibilities. Then we returned to PA to enjoy the friends and family at home, but didn’t forget our experiences in Greenville.

The next winter was hard, and we talked about leaving the snow. But South Carolina sounded too far away. Maybe we should look a bit closer? We considered Maryland for a long time, and thought of Delaware for a hot minute. But all the while, we compared everywhere we went, to Greenville, South Carolina.

During these months and years, we only saw these moves as dreams. There was even a job opportunity that arose fall of 2018, and I told Andrew to turn it down. There’s too much for us in Pennsylvania, I said. How could we even begin to think of leaving our amazing friends and family? Sure, we hated this northern weather, but it’s all we’ve ever known. Dreaming is one thing, acting on it is quite another.

This year is when it all changed. It started with the Nativity performance in December 2018. I played Mary, and greatly enjoyed this annual role. During the final performance on Sunday night I felt God’s presence flow through me. It became a worship song, and I talked to Him as I sang. I heard Him say to me, this would be the last time I’d play Mary and perform in this Nativity. I sat down to a hushed crowd. The man playing Joseph leaned over to me and said “That was your best performance yet, I could feel the Holy Spirit. No one clapped because they were just too stunned.” We laughed, but I felt the same way. And I wondered if this would be the year everything changed.

In February, it was Andrew’s turn to proclaim he no longer wanted to move. Life was too good up north. I agreed we had a lot to live for in Northeast Pennsylvania, but I mourned the loss of our fun dream. Because I had never truly stopped hoping for it “one day.” And I wondered why God told me that bit in December, if we weren’t going to move after all?

In April, Andrew had again had enough of our long winter and said maybe we could move one day. I laughed in agreement. And we searched online for grace-filled churches in South Carolina. It was done in curiosity, but we stumbled on one called “Real Life” that intrigued us. I listened to their Easter message as I painted the props for the school play I wrote/directed/designed. And immediately felt like I has hearing a missing piece to our puzzle. That’s the best I can describe the warm feeling settling into my heart.

In June, school was out for the summer, and two jobs in Charleston, South Carolina came to the surface. Both looked promising, but both fell through.

In July, I quit my job at Rock Solid Academy just weeks before it closed its doors. I suddenly had nothing but my writing to fill my work days.

August is when it all truly came together. We could no longer ignore the pushes from God. It was like we were being propelled into our future path. Our destiny. We had no control, we just knew the steps mere hours/days before they happened. To quote Pride and Prejudice “I was in the middle before I even knew that I had begun.”

We spent a week down in Greenville. We called it our “test week.” We were testing God to see if this was really where He wanted us. EVERYDAY held a miracle or a step forward, that entire week. Zero closed doors, only open ones with flashing lights and lit arrows lined our path. Andrew had only one job interview, but he only needed one. We made friends, connections, found our future neighborhood, found multiple places where we fit in like a missing puzzle piece, and were told my multiple people – strangers – they’ve “been praying for us,” etc. etc. etc.

Jones Gap State Park, an hour north of Greenville.

We drove back to Pennsylvania with heads swimming and hearts torn. How could we feel so connected to a place so quickly? How could we even begin to tell our family and friends? How could we explain to them that it had nothing to do with Pennsylvania, but EVERYTHING to do with Greenville? God had shown us a glimpse of our future, and we couldn’t say no. We didn’t WANT to say no.

We waited 2 long months for things to finalize with Andrew’s new job. Meanwhile, our prayer life grew stronger. We listed our home, and prayed that regardless of the slow real estate time of year, we’d have a bidding war and sell quickly. It sat for a week and a half. Our prayer life grew. We suddenly got a bidding war of 3 offers. Our house sold to a beautiful family from Texas who is moving to be a part of the Tim Tebow foundation. It must have been waiting for them.

We drove once again to Greenville to pick out our home. We say a dozen homes, but in the end only one was perfect. It was listed just above our price range. We put in our offer and prayed. God came through once again, and we got it at the perfect price.

Things seemed to finally be moving smoothly. We hurdled over a few inspections on both our current home & our future home. Family took it hard, but God still continued to move. The weeks blurred and we were suddenly only 3 weeks from our closing date. It was starting to feel surreal, this dream was finally going to happen….

That’s when my cancer scare happened. It was a difficult time. My surgery robbed me of energy and the ability to lift anything heavy during the weeks surrounding our cross-country moving process. But we didn’t let that bump in the road stop our God-given dreams from coming to fruition.

You see, dreams are never easy to accomplish. If they were, I believe more people would be living in overwhelming joy. But we had gotten tastes of this joy throughout the years. And it only made us hungry for more. When the obstacles came in the form of sickness, finances, disagreements, and questions. It only made us ask God what it all meant. And we heard His voice in our hearts saying “GO!”

So we left. 4 days before Christmas. In 16 degree weather. We drove 11 hours, shedding our coats, gloves, and scarves along the way. We exited in the mid 50s to our new home.

We’ve been here for a month now. We’re making new friends, growing in our new church, Riker is settling in to his amazing school, Andrew loves his new job, I’m relishing in all this inspiring writing time in my new favorite coffee shop, we feel like royalty in our beautiful house that we’re customizing to our desires, enjoying the endless warmth and sunshine, and I learned last week that I’m cancer free!!!!! Praise God!!

I honestly don’t know what the future holds. I do know that we are where we are meant to be, and that our dreams are happening before our eyes. I believe that I’m only days away from FINALLY getting published, getting back into drama/acting, picking up my flute once again, and whatever else God wants me to do with my talents. It feels so surreal. It’s like a lifetime has passed, yet I’m a newborn child. This is our new chapter, but in the same book. New beginning, with the same characters. We’ve awoken to a world of our dreams. And there’s nothing but joy when we follow our great Leader. He knows exactly where He’s taking us.

10 Things To Tell You

Life’s been just shy of mayhem at the Kudey cottage the past two months. You can tell how busy I am by the stack of unread books on my table collecting dust and the hours building up of unwatched TV shows in my DVR. Hopefully, I can catch a moment to watch last night’s This Is Us episode at least…

Riker turned 5, started kindergarten at Rock Solid Academy, and has been making us beam with pride.

Andrew has been busy writing and creating promotional videos for the Hope Center (a free medical/dental/chiropractic clinic he volunteers at twice a week).

I finished the 13th edit to my novel, reached 76,000 words (wow), and I got promoted to business manager (and remained the art teacher) at Rock Solid Academy. 🙂

Andrew and I also started going to a marriage Bible study at our friend’s home each week. This new event brings us together through the fog. It’s so important to just take time to breathe together in all the craziness. We need time to reflect, talk, be still, or just sit.

That’s one reason I chose to have a bit of fun by joining an event that took place on Instagram last week. There was a hashtag event called #10thingstotell you. I found out about it through my best friend, Alison, who posted this pic on her story:

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For those who don’t have Instagram, or don’t follow me (@laurakudey), I thought it’d be fun to show you my answers to these questions! I enjoyed answering them, I hope you’ll enjoy reading them. 🙂

Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting  Day 1.

I grew up… wanting to escape my life and just live in the pages of one of my books. I was ALWAYS reading.
(Picture is from 11 years ago now. Reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I was 20. Wow.)
I entered the worlds of Jane Austen, Dickens, Tolkien, Lewis, Dekker, Carroll, McCarthy, Wells, Twain, Hemmingway, etc. and never wanted to let them go!

Now that I’m a wife, mom, writer, artist, teacher, and business manager, I sadly find too little time to escape into my lovely books. But, maybe it’s because my life is so much better now that I don’t feel the need to “escape”? Let’s go with that 😉. I’m still forever a book geek!!

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Day 2 in #10thingstotellyou
Someone who has influenced me more than anyone else is my husband. Wow, God knew what He was doing when He brought the two of us together.
We are opposites, yet we come together on all the things that matter the most.
It was through Andrew’s influence, I finally shed the old feelings, jobs, and condemnation that didn’t belong in my life anymore.
During my bouts of depression, Andrew has encouraged, strengthened, and caused me to grow. His undying spiritual strength is continually inspiring me to strengthen my own walk with Christ.
He might have a hard time understanding my crazy writer mind, but he tries every day to pull that creativity out of me. He’s my cheerleader, knight, advocate, guide, and comforter. He always wants the best for me & this causes me to try to do my best!

20170904_133600 Day 3.

A thing that changed my worldview was the week I lost my grandfather… He died on December 1st, 2008. I was so broken up by his death, I didn’t even want to go to his funeral. I chose to stay home in PA, while the rest of my family left for Nashville, TN.
The next day, I left for church and chose to drive WAY past the speed limit on our back roads. I was late, careless, and not in my right mind. I hit black ice going around a curve, and fishtailed into a tree. My car was totaled.
Once my car was driven to a repair shop, I had no way to leave my house while my family was in Nashville for 3 days.

In those 3 days I mourned, hit rock bottom, and read my Bible. I cried out to God like I never had before. In the next two months, I went through a complete mind change. That week made me realize life is fragile; I didn’t know what the future holds, so I needed to live to my fullest. God was preparing me for the following March, when I met Andrew.

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I am strangely good at…
Some pretty “strange” things, because, well, I don’t like being normal…
Distracting myself by my cats, when I should be writing or doing housework.
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Strategizing and winning difficult board games. This torments my board game aholic husband to no end. 😅
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Recognizing a celebrity in a TV show or movie IMMEDIATELY, even if they are 20 years younger/old, 50 lbs fatter/skinnier, or have a different hairdo from the show/movie I know them from. YET, I can’t recognize people in real life most of the time 😓
And on that note…
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I’m strangely good at getting someone’s name wrong!
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Getting lost in researching something for hours.
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Problem solving. I refuse to have any open issues! If I do, I drive myself crazy trying to figure out a solution because I believe everything has an answer.
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Saying yes to too many things.
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Last, but not least… bruising my legs by tripping over the most random things.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and outdoor Day 5:

I have mixed feelings about… living in Pennsylvania.
On the one hand, most of our friends & family live here. On the other hand, there’s too much snow, bad roads, and no beach. 🤔

Image may contain: 2 people Day 6:

A defining moment in my life was when our son, Riker Gabriel was born.
When I was 5 years old I said “When I grow up, I want to be a mommy and a Christian.” I can proudly say that I am both 😉.
Now, Riker is 5 and he wants to grow up to be spiderman. 😂😂😅

In the months of trying to get pregnant, God showed me His unfathomable grace. It wasn’t until I stopped relying on myself, did Riker enter our lives.

When I was only 2 days pregnant (yup, a test would confirm this event 2 weeks later), my pastor told me I was pregnant & there was joy growing inside me. Boy, was he right!

God has great plans for our little leader. Can’t wait to see his journey unfold!

screenshot_2018-09-26-laura-gibson-kudey-laurakudey-twitter.png  Day 7:
A recent discovery I can’t stop talking about… the wonderful “Writer’s Twitter World”!
There is an amazing world on Twitter & it is run by the writing community!!
I joined in October & I still seem to bring it up all the time. I found all of my critique partners, a beta reader, editor, countless writing friends, and loads of writing advice & support in this community.

Regular Twitter = kinda boring.

Writing World Twitter = priceless.

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Something I’m struggling with right now is… trying to do everything I want/need to do without going crazy.
I’m a wife, mother, writer, art teacher, business manager to a private school, fine arts human video (acting to music) instructor and evaluator, I volunteer for various functions at my church, and I’m trying to get back into playing flute after a 1 year break. All of these activities could be a full time job in itself.
I enjoy being busy, however, life is suffocating me lately. I really want to have the stamina & time to give each job its proper amount of passion (especially being a wife & mother) & I want to be able to do other things like blogging, start a youtube channel or podcast, write more, read more, etc. Praying for God’s guidance to balance my always full schedule!

 

Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, sky, water, outdoor and nature   Day 9:

My magical reset button is…
A trip to the beach! Any beach. As long as it has sand, sun, water, and preferably waves, I’m magically refreshed!
I’m currently enjoying Ocean City, Maryland, and I feel like I can conquer the world when I get home! 😎

 

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor  Day 10:

In three months, will you ask me…
If I had any success in December #pitchmad with finding an agent for my book. And if I’m ready for Christmas. Hopefully, I’ll ecstatically say yes to both questions! 🤩😅

 

And now we come to the end. Hope you enjoyed this edition of “10 things to tell you”. Until next time… hope you all take a chance to breathe, enjoy life, and have a blessed day in the sun! 🙂

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Pinch Me, Please!

There are days I could just pinch myself. Last week held four of those days right in a row.

The intoxicating aroma of books, and being in the company of writers of said books had me souring to new levels. The adrenaline high caused from being around so many amazing people fed my social-hungry soul. My mind is still in a fog from the wealth of information swimming in it, although my energy level crashed and burned already.

These four days were spent at the Montrose Christian Writer’s Conference, where seventy other writers, authors and aspiring authors gathered with one common goal: to learn and get their works published! Boy, did I achieve the first half with flying colors!! WOW! After last week, I know how to market better, research more effectively, write cleaner, start my novel with more of a punch, appeal to more agents, and make a perfect pitch!

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The three amigo carpoolers! This week became extra fun with these driving buddies!

If you follow me on any social media, then you’ve already heard a little bit about this said pitch. We were tasked to create an “elevator pitch” to present to a panel of three judges (two agents & one acquisitions editor). They judged us on presentation, hitting all the needed points, holding their attention, etc.

What is an elevator pitch? Well, it’s a proposal delivered in about one minute. It must be concise, have a compelling hook, and identify a target audience. It’s quite the challenge to create! My friends and I obsessed over ours up until the last second.

Twelve of us presented our works, and the competition was fierce! There were fantasy writers, non-fiction, children’s books, historical fiction, and someone even presented theirs in the form of an original song!

I presented second to last. I knew that this was a make-it, or break-it, moment. Here was my result:

A serial killer is on the loose, terrorizing an old Pennsylvania town, when an aspiring pub singer finds herself entangled in the killer’s sights and a filthy past threatens to destroy everything she thought was true.
She discovers the hanged body of her brother, the victim of this killer who targets those with dark secrets and strings them up like Judas.
My adult psychological novel, The Judas Killer, reveals Loralie’s search for trust and truth in a world consumed in deception. Is she fated to become the very evil she is running from?

My tone came out creepy and powerful. It wasn’t presented in the most colorful way, but I gave it every ounce of drama background in my soul. I sat down with confidence in my work, and thought there might be a slim chance I could make third place. One could dream.

They started calling the winners. My best friend, Alison, placed in third. We cheered for joy!

Second place went to the talented girl who wrote the song. I thought there had to be a mistake because I thought she would win. Who could possibly place first now? Perhaps the children’s book writer with the catchy phrases, or the writers who dressed as their characters, or the teen writer who had my wanting her book, or…

“The winner is Laura Kudey!”

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My jaw dropped to the floor. This moment was real no matter how many times I pinched myself.

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Earlier in the week I had met with a highly esteemed Christian agent named Bob Hostetler. He was one of several one-on-one critiques I took advantage of during my conference week. During my fifteen-minutes with Bob I got the sense he just didn’t get me or my work. He gave me amazing advice about upping my word count, simplifying my genre, and fine-tuning my writing, but he didn’t seem interested in representing me. At the time, I walked away defeated because I had high hopes of working with him.

However, after this pitch night (where he was one of the judges) I had a chance to ask him if my pitch made him want to represent me. He enthusiastically answered yes, most definitely! He then proceeded to give me valuable advice in writing my proposal, and marketing myself. He encouraged me to try selling my book to the general market, but if I decide to sell to the christian fiction market he’ll be my first choice. Another pinch-able moment.

My favorite person though of the week is an exceptional editor named Kathy Ide. Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing

She and I had an instant bond and chemistry! She understands my voice, is absolutely intrigued with the opening lines of my book, and with her help will provide a pathway for my book getting published! You’re going to hear a lot more about her in the future because I’m hiring her to make “The Judas Killer” shine! She’s also trying to get me to come out to California to attend one of the writer’s conferences she directs out there. With God’s guidance, it might just happen… Pinch me please!

The week crammed in multiple classes with an over-whelming amount of advice and information. Some of my favorite classes were taught by the lovely Cindy Sproles:

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She also wants my book for the publishing company she works for!! Unfortunately, this company might not meet my needs, but I’m still overjoyed and flattered. 🙂

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The panel of speakers advised us the prose and cons of Indie vs Traditional Publishing

 

The best take-away from this incredible week though are the multiple writer friends I made and the relationships that became even stronger. Love these girls!!

 

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As great as this week was, I also learned how much more work I need to do before my book is ready. I still have a long, hard road ahead which includes adding another 15,000+ words (yow!), and going through two editors. Unfortunately, my second editor (Kathy Ide) is booked six months out. This means I can’t even search for my agent until spring. I have my work cut out for me, but my future is growing brighter! This journey might take longer than I original imagined, but my next pinch-able moment will be here before I know it. 😉

Silence Falls into Spring

The silence has lasted for too long.

It’s like the deafening quiet during a slow snow fall where the air is still and crisp and a white wonderland blankets the landscape like in an asylum’s solitary confinement.

Winter was so bloody long this year that I seriously felt like I was in solitary confinement at a psych ward.

I could blame my silence on this excruciatingly painful winter, but honestly I haven’t been blogging because any ounce of free time I get I’ve been either editing my book or querying agents! Even these moments have been too infrequent for my taste, but it’s been a roller coaster of a ride to say the least!!

First, I want to catch you all up on what I’ve been up to…

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Fine Arts took up the largest portion of these cold months. I helped 13 kids (2 separate groups) make it from the first round (sectionals) to the second round (districts).

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One of the two groups then made it on to the final round: Nationals!! This is a huge and highly sought after achievement. Sadly, due to the high cost of a week long trip to Houston Texas, they won’t be able to go on further. Next year the competition ends in Florida, so here’s praying funding will be more achievable for these deserving teens!

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We definitely had a ton of fun during our Fine Arts adventures! Especially during districts down in Hershey PA! 🙂

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We hosted Easter again this year!

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Our annual Easter egg hunt had to be conducted indoors for the first time. Ugh, have I mentioned how long this winter has been??

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(Taken on April 5th)

In late April Andrew took me to see my favorite band from my teenage years; the Newsboys! And these weren’t just the Newsboys of today…my favorite guys Peter Fuller & Phil Joel came back for this tour!!!!! Ahhhh, I was geeking out so hard!!

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The following weekend we visited Andrew’s best friend and his family down in Maryland. It is absolutely GORGEOUS down there and just the little family vacation we needed after our cold hibernation! Riker had a fun filled time with their 3 kids too which are all around his age. 🙂

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Riker has also been having a blast this year at Preschool. He’s growing up so fast that I’m getting whiplash!

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At Rock Solid Academy, I was a chaperone and a decorator at this year’s Prom! Our theme was “Enchanted Forest” and I’d say the kids had a blast, ALMOST as much as the chaperones! 😉

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Oh yes, and I made the cupcakes: Chocolate Espresso with Peanut Butter Frosting & Lemon w/ Raspberry Preserve Filling and Raspberry Frosting.

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Then, last weekend I held our annual Art Show!! HUGE success, especially since this year it was held at the same time as Rock Solid’s craft fair & talent show. Fantastic time and turnout despite the rainy weather. 🙂

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(And yes, that is my Doctor Who bag in the upper right corner.)

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I think Riker had fun too, lol…

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Also through Rock Solid Academy, a friend of mine who also happens to be the kindergarten & first grade teacher, asked if I could illustrate a book that her students were writing. I jumped at the opportunity and now I’m considered a published illustrator!

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Title Page

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Front Cover

Markers aren’t my usual medium, but I still had fun with it. 🙂

 

Although the winter has been long and cold it has been truly blessed. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that a select few know about. Hopefully I’ll be able to indulge into these deeper subjects in the next few months. In the meantime, I am grateful that spring is FINALLY here and that I was FINALLY able to share a few tidbits of my life with you all again!

I would love to hear from you as well, so don’t be shy in giving me a comment or shout out. Your messages fill me with joy every time!

I’m off now to pick up Riker from pre-school. This afternoon will be full of more editing of my novel and synopsis. I feel like I’m right around the corner from finally getting published. So look out for more updates on here and especially on my author’s page! Until next time; may you all be blessed!

 

P. S. I’ve also been hard at work on a full kitchen remodel. Look for my next post all on this project coming your way in a week or two! 🙂

 

 

 

2017, The Year of New Beginnings

Another year has come and gone by in a flash. It’s the end of the second week of January already, and I can scarcely believe it! My life is flying by faster than a speeding bullet, and I just want to breathe for a single moment.

I sit hear listening to the sounds of construction as our busted pipe is repaired. The hot water pipe in our kitchen faucet froze during the single and negative temperatures on New years eve. Yes, we had our faucet dripping. Not enough though, clearly. After 10 days of frozen solitude, it thawed and instantly burst spewing water all over our new basement carpet.

As life would have it, I had a bad head cold during this flood. So a HUGE shout out goes to my amazing hubby for almost single-handedly cleaning the water mess. Thanks to our heavenly Father for giving me the thought of looking in our basement a mere half an hour after the break, and Andrew for his fast work, and our trusted local construction friends, the damage was minimal! Also, we just learned that the pipe broke right above our electrical box. :-0 So God protected us from a HUGE disaster!

I’ll always remember how 2017 ended and 2018 began; with a frozen flood.

Our lives in 2017 were far from frozen though (with the exception of the 3 feet of snow in March). It was one event overlapping the next, with twists and turns, and lots of brilliant highs speckled with only minor lows. God is so good!!

The year started like most years in the past (10 years to be exact); a fun night of partying at our friends’, The Seelye’s, house.

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(Left to Right) Brittany, myself, Lauren, Hannah, Michelle.

We’ve made amazing memories and had such wonderful times with these girls and their families over the past 10 years! It was a perfect way to end 2016 and start 2017!

March brought my big 30th birthday and it is currently my favorite to date! March 4th landed on a Saturday this year and Andrew took me to my second home; NYC!!

We spent the beautiful day at an art show, touring art studios, catching a Broadway show, eating Thai at our favorite restaurant, and just enjoying the break from Pennsylvania for the day.

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FINALLY got to see Wicked! EXCELLENT!!!!

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Drunken Noodle is the best dish on earth…

And then, of course there was the 3 foot blizzard that nearly had us moving south…

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At least Riker had a little fun.

All through the winter and spring of 2017 I plunged myself deep into work at Rock Solid Academy. This was my first school year with them and I worked around the clock to do as much for them and the students as I possibly could. I even helped chaperone their very first prom!

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The kids stole my heart completely!

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I not only taught Art, Culinary, Theater, and worked as one of the two secretaries, I also wrote, stage designed and helped direct an original play. God had told me two years prior that he wanted me to write a play. Thanks to Rock Solid, a magnificent cast of kids, an amazing partner, friend and director (Tara DiMarco), and months of long after-school hours, my dream became a reality!

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I painted all of the stage backdrops too! Loved every minute 🙂 .

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“The Sounds of Praise” will always be one of the most memorable events of 2017 that I never ever want to forget!!

Another event that took place in the spring was Fine Arts. In case you haven’t heard of it before: Fine Arts is a national scholarship competition through the Assembly of God church where teenagers compete in categories pertaining to the arts (music, painting, drama, speech, etc.). My specialty is in the category “Human Video”, which is a drama performance set to song where the actors don’t speak or sing, but convey a message with movement.

There are three levels, sectional (a few counties), districts (one or two states, ours is PA & DE), and Nationals (I think that one is self explanatory lol). 2017 was my first time judging at the district level, and I got to share this experience with my Drewbear!

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I also helped coach two teams last year (one in our old church, and one in our new one), and got to see both perform with high honors! One made nationals, and one just barely missed the third round. All of these teens are brilliant and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for them!!

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Once June hit, Andrew and I knew that we needed a break from the craziness! It was time for a vacation for just the two of us. So we explore Greenville, South Carolina, and fell deeply in love with this area! It was our best vacation to date!

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Lake Chatawissa

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Shakespeare in the park

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Literally the BEST Bed and Breakfast we’ve ever stayed at!

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I could give you a dozen more pics, but there’s a taste for you. 😉 We then finished our vacation at the Outer Banks with a few of our friends…

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There’s nothing quite like the beach to refresh the soul!

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The summer brought some much need renovations to our house (you can read more about them here), a trip to Pittsburgh to visit my sister, lots of fun with our growing boy, and joyful times with new friends, but a major thing happened that could change my life for forever; my love for writing returned. I credit the need to write “The Sound of Praise” to ignite that fire within me again. But I also praise God for bringing a new friend into my life: Alison Treat. She is a fellow writer (a published writer I might add), whom I met at the end of 2016. Our friendship grew as 2017 continued on.

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In one of our early conversations I told Alison how I had a novel I was writing, but hadn’t picked it up for over a year at that time. I actually hadn’t thought about this novel for a while because of, well, life really. Jobs, parenting, and changes in church venues had pushed my passion for writing to the side. But no longer!!! Alison told me about this writer’s conference that would be taking place at the end of June. So I decided to take out my dusty document and fine tune those first six chapters to present to any publishers or agents I could meet with.

I could only attend two out to the four days of the Montrose Writers’ Conference, but it changed my life for forever!! I got to meet dozens of fellow writers, hear inspiring stories, learn priceless tricks of the trade, further my knowledge on writing styles, and meet a publisher and agent that both asked for my completed manuscript & proposal!! (A HUGE deal, since that meant they loved my work!!!)

It was just the boost of confidence I needed to complete my first draft and my first round of editing by the year’s end! I’m now deep into the second round of editing, and hope to be done very shortly. God is so good!

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There were other adventures in the last half of the year (most of them I’ve already blogged about, so I will briefly touch upon those…)

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First family camping trip! We went with a lot of our new church family 🙂

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Riker caught his first fish!

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Our kid turned 4!

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Riker started preschool. He’s getting so big!!

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Enjoyed the fall foliage while hiking a mountain with our Treat friends!

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Riker got a girlfriend 🙂 (Eva Treat)

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We grew our family with Mr. Darcy and Alixia

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We won Trunk or Treat with my DIY Gotham city.

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I Co-Directed the children’s Christmas play at our church!

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Last, but certainly not least, I got to play the role of Mary in our church’s live Nativity!! Had an incredible time with this fun cast!! 🙂

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Sure, there were some not so great stuff that happened in the past year as well… I went through a third life crisis where I came to the realization I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life (praise God he is answering that long prayer!), my grandmother Gibson pasted away, we got some miserable snow storms (including that three foot nightmare), and I gained 9 pounds (but I’m determined to loose that and 5 more in the next few months, while still consuming my chocolate and pizza lol. Plus I already lost 2pounds from this cold-silver lining!).

But I believe it’s these little trials and challenges that help us appreciate, and even see those blessings and new beginnings we might have missed otherwise. For instance, the end of 2016 was full of questions plaguing Andrew and I. We could feel a change coming, but we didn’t know how or to what extent. We could feel relationships suffering and uneasiness stirring to the point where we just had to stop and ask God for wisdom for the next step.

Enter 2017. God laid on our hearts to leave our church of 10 years, and embark on a new adventure. Thus began our year of new beginnings! It was beyond hard and difficult to leave our friends, comfort, and all that we knew, behind us. But when God closes a door, you better believe another one is waiting, and it’s not just a crumby window either!

This year was full of life, love, memories, excitement, newness, renewal, and rewards. From my plays, to my near finished book, to dozens of new friends that are already as close as family! I can’t imagine what this year would have been full of if we hadn’t stepped out in faith and made that first scary step into the unknown.

2017 ended at a brand new friend’s home to ring in the new year. It was the first change of venue in 10 years! We were sad to not be spending it with our old friends (whom sadly were all sick 😦 ), but it ended up being the best new years to date! Not because the others were bad, by NO means; they were fantastic!! This is because every year should be better than the last. When you know you are where God has you, then your best is definitely yet to come!

What will 2018 bring? God has been bringing to mind that this will be a year of growth. We shall see soon enough what that entails. 🙂 Happy New Year!!!Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, sunglasses

 

 

 

 

A Snapshot of Me

Thanksgiving is done and Christmas time is officially here. I’m swamped with directing Christmas plays, performing in one, writing my novel proposal, editing, cleaning the house for family coming, and all of my other normal activities. But I’m loving every busy minute of it! Except for the cold weather. Truthfully, I would work a lot father if I was warm!

So as I sit here shivering, in my thick wool socks and under a heavy blanket with the heat cranked up to max, I smile thinking of all of my bustling blessings. I’m so beyond blessed to have so much to keep me busy and satisfied. I love everything I do – especially all of the “work” that lets me write and create.

As I reflect on these benefits, I came across this questionnaire for writers. I thought it’d be fun for you all to get to know me a little more, my motivations, and what I’m working on.Well, at least one thing I’m working on. After the Christmas bustle I hope to share more of what has been keeping me away from my regular blog posts.

Stay tuned! In the meantime, this is a snapshot of me…

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  1. Age you started writing:  I wrote my first make-shift book when I was 8 I believe. I made a yellow cardboard cover tied with yarn, and had lots of pictures. I don’t remember much of the story excepted that at one point I had the main character walking and walking and walking…somewhere. LOL I fell in love with writing poetry during my depressed teen years, but never thought I was any good at it. It wasn’t until I was a stay at home mom at age 26 did God ignited the writer within me and I began my novel, wrote playwrights, more poetry, and started another novel that’s now on the back burner.
  2. Story that inspired you to write: I’ve always loved books! Ask my parents and they’ll tell you how I always had a book in my hand growing up. Whether it was the Boxcar Children, Mandy Mysteries, Nancy Drew, The Chronicles of Narnia, Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Cooper Kids Series by Frank Peretti, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, classics of all kinds, etc. I just couldn’t get enough of them! I don’t know of a specific story that inspired me to write though. I’d say each book had it’s own part to play!
  3. First WIP (work in progress) title: “The Judas Killer”
  4. First, Second or Third person: Definitely prefer first person. I believe it makes the story more personal to be told through the character’s point of view.
  5. Favorite time of day to write: The afternoon is my preferred time. It tends to be when Riker naps. The house is peaceful and quiet. And (hopefully) the house is clean by then since I had all morning to work…hopefully.
  6. Favorite place to write: Anywhere that’s warm and comfy! My office/art room is the popular spot since it has our desktop computer, but sometimes I’ll snuggle on the couch with my laptop. I enjoy going outside on our porch in the summertime, but I tend to get distracted by the beauty out there. 😛
  7. Most overused word: I’m CONSTANTLY having to catch myself and edit out the word “though” from my work. It’s definitely a clutch of mine (though).
  8. Most overused punctuation: Possibly the comma, but lately the semi-colon has been a favorite.
  9. Long or short sentences? Gotta love short. I chop up the sentence if it runs too long. Hate run-on sentences.
  10. Your first MC (Main Character): Loralie Amelia Campdon, 27, auburn hair, starving club singer, coffeeaholic, thinks the worst of herself but the best in others.
  11. Worst writing habit: Snacking WAY too much while I work…or to help me stall instead of work.
  12. Weird personal writing quirk: I write better if I have my Steeler’s blanket wrapper tightly around my shoulders.
  13. Notebook or computer: Computer!!! Spell check is a close personal friend of mine. I have written many notes for myself in little notebooks though. Gotta have both to further your writing skills.
  14. Favorite setting to write in: Hot tea or coffee by my side and complete quiet. Can’t even have the sound of classical music, let alone Andrew playing a video game in the background. It’s not impossible to write, but it truly makes it ten times more challenging for me.
  15. One word that would describe your WIP: “Hypocrisy”. It’s the name of the game in The Judas Killer. “Hidden” is another good word. Things are not what they appear to be…
  16. Describe the setting for your WIP:  My setting is Scranton, Pennsylvania in early Autumn. It’s a small city full of history, secretive people, and dark alleys.
  17. Are you a planner or a “pantser”?  I’m definitely a planner, but that flies out the window when I get new ideas for chapters 10, 3 & 17 all in one day. Oh dear.
  18. Pick three characters that describe you:  1. Elizabeth Bennet: Pride and Prejudice (Like her I’ve tended to judge people too harshly. I’m observant, but bold, and am a hopeless romantic.)  2. Jo March: Little Women (I have always found myself relating to Jo. She was an avid reader, tom-boyish, put her foot in her mouth, and loved adventure) 3. A mix of Lorelai & Rory Gilmore: Gilmore Girls (If you know Gilmore Girls, and you know me, I don’t even need to explain why… 😉 )
  19. Biggest Writing Fear: That it might take me months or years to get my first novel published.
  20. Biggest Writing Hope: That I’ll see my works at Barnes & Noble on their best seller shelves. *Happy sigh*

 

I leave you with a couple actual snapshots:

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Thanksgiving was held at our house again this year, and what a fantastic feast it was!! I’m still kinda full… oh, another slice of pie!

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After the meal my husband, Andrew, fell asleep with his kitten, Alixia, joining him. I would have never forgiven myself if I failed to get this picture.

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With the addition of our two little kittens, we knew an actual Christmas tree this year would be an accident waiting to happen. So I created a book tree for our living room! What do you think? 🙂

 

Hope you enjoyed this post. Blessings until next time!

 

P.S. My featured pic is the newest picture of myself taken on picture day at the school I work part-time at, Rock Solid Academy. I’m thinking of using this as my author photo, or at least the pic I send to the publisher. Do you guys think it looks professional enough? I love hearing from all of you! 🙂 Merry Christmas!

 

Coffee and Murder

Last weekend my little family and I took a little drive to Scranton (PA) to have some fun, do a few errands, and to celebrate our son Riker’s 4th birthday. It was especially fun for me because I had chosen long ago to have Scranton as the backdrop city/town for the book I’m writing. It was an exhilarating chance to explore the inner artistry of my stage.

Some of you have heard me mention a few times about this novel, but I have yet to mention it on my blog. So for those that don’t know, I started writing a murder mystery novel about 3 years ago, I worked a year, then took an almost 2 year break, and now a couple of months ago I started writing feverishly again! I’m determined to finish by the end of this year. (Pray for me, please!)

It’s the story of a unfulfilled singer who is thrust into a world of impossible love, deception, hypocrisy, and murders, when a serial killer invades her life and exposes secrets she never knew she had.

My goal is to create this raw world that shows the inner struggles and relatable tragedies (some scenes may be too extraordinary to be common, but they result in all too real outcomes) that befall this woman, named Loralie Campdon.  It’s fast paced, but with room to breath and wonder at what could befall next, be it blood, love, or another dark shadow.

The whole book takes place in this electric city called Scranton. It’s charming, cold, inviting, dark, trendy, yet scary all at the same time. There’s history there with a past vibrant and bustling, low points where populations sank, and a possible bright future. Sounds like a perfect to home for a sinister serial killer…

One of the first scenes in my novel, we meet Loralie in this trendy coffee shop. We get a peak into her seemingly perfect world when she first discovers the first glimpse of oncoming disaster.

This coffee shop, coincidentally actually exists! I’m not a regular here so I’m not an expert on their menu to recommend it to you (although I very much enjoy their almond milk lattes!), but I do want to show you how adorable this place truly is! I got the privilege to take some pictures when I visited “Northern Lights Espresso” last week. Take a little journey with me there…

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Adorable and quaint

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The possibility for love…or danger?

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Just enough tables to make a fast getaway an impossibility.

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A cozy hidden library, an easy place for a stalker to lurk…

May I lastly wet your palate with an insert from the beginning of my novel (working title “The Judas Killer”) …

Past these two tables, the little café was crowded with people minding their own business. Each of them in their own little messed up world. No one, that I could see, was looking at me.

Wait, hold that thought.

Every muscle in my body froze. There was a shadow watching me from the back corner.

A tall figure leaned against a book shelf that was crammed full of novels and cookbooks. His face and shape were obscured in the shelf’s shade. He was clothed in dark murky colors, but stood out like a sore thumb because of his sunglasses and fedora placed awkwardly on his head.

Didn’t he know Pennsylvania hadn’t seen the sun for weeks now? He appeared to be a man that wouldn’t care about that or anything for that matter. Except for me, he clearly cared about me.

 

I hope I now leave you wanting more. Until next time, this is a writer, who wishes her name was Loralie, signing off… Until my next adventure!