Book Update

Hope Against the Hopeless

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve decided to take on the genre of Christian dystopian fiction. Dystopian fiction is based on a world or society where everything has gone wrong. Think 1984A Handmaid’s Tale, or The Hunger Games. They’re all set at some uncertain time in the future (well, except for 1984, but it was written in the 1930s so for them the ’80s was a long way ahead!), and they describe societies that promote fear, hopelessness, and deep conversations about the fate of humanity.

After hearing that description, you might be thinking, “Those novels were terribly hopeless! I mean, did you read A Handmaid’s Tale? How could you bring God into plots like that?”

My answer to you is…exactly.

Originally, I had wanted to write a novel about a woman who overcomes anxiety in order to encourage other women to find hope. Well, why not create a society that is completely against the protagonist, and watch a woman navigate her way to hope?

This journey started for me after reading A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I was not only disturbed by the plot and how women were treated in this story, but also the fact that they use the Bible to justify their terrible acts. Is this how Christianity is portrayed to the rest of the world? When we as Christians claim to have the hope that the world needs, is this what people are thinking? After reading this book, I wanted to create a story that discusses what a Biblical society would look like, and if it became a dystopia, why it went wrong.

I had read 1984 in high school, but I read it again this past week to confirm if this genre is the one for me. During the last section, turning each page with anticipation, my heart pounding out of my chest, nausea rising to my throat…yep, I knew that was what I was meant to write. While reading about Winston’s transformation, I thought about the martyrs who were willing to die for their faith. They went through the utmost torture, and yet they would not betray the One they loved. This book reminded me that while humans have limitations, God does not. God is the one who empowers us to make the change we wish to see in the world. Despite the worst case scenario for humanity, God is still in control, and His plan to redeem the world at the end of days is still set in stone.

The book I’m writing is the one I’ve been working on for 4 1/2 years. I had the theme this whole time, but I did not have the plot, an exciting, compelling, gut-wrenching plot. And now I do. Be prepared to sit on the edge of your seat and take in the story of a woman who feels trapped, but might finally have a way out of her mess.

Although I’ve been posting weekly updates on my blog, I’m going to reserve Fridays for book reviews from other great authors. If you want to get weekly updates sent to your e-mail about how my book is doing, click here to subscribe to my newsletter! Thanks for coming along for me on this wild ride. (Note: If you want to subscribe to my blog, which includes content every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, click the little “Follow” button on the lower right-hand side of the page. This content will also be e-mailed to you as it is posted).

Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

Book Update

I Could Never Write Like That!

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. By reading, I can learn from other writers’ techniques, and can try to figure out why they are published and I am not. Last week, I reread Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, not only because it was free on Kindle Unlimited, but also because JK Rowling is always referred to as the goal for all writers. (“I want to be the next JK Rowling”). Rereading this classic, I couldn’t help but fall in love again with the quirky characters, each and every one of them unique, and find myself wishing I had received that letter to Hogwarts when I was eleven (Ironically, I got saved when I turned twelve, so it was like God gave me a letter to embark on the adventure He had for me!).

While I read this book, however, I couldn’t help but feel a little sense of hopelessness. There was no way I could ever write like JK Rowling. I mean, seriously, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans? Such genius! They’ve even made a game out of it (Beanboozled) that we can enjoy! We feel part of the story through Rowling’s work by figuring out what house we’re in, and even after she’s finished writing the series, the fans are still creating scenarios of what could have happened at Hogwarts. Doesn’t everybody want to write a novel that captures the audience so much that readers are actively talking about it eleven years after the final book was published?

Alas, I’m no JK Rowling, and I never will be. I might as well put down my pen and stop writing altogether.

Unless, what I never was meant to be JK Rowling? What if God gave me a voice that I could use to bring hope to the world and glory to His name?

Even if I rewrote the Harry Potter series, my book would be a little different from the originals, not because I’m a bad writer, but because I’m a different writer. I have my own flavor I add to my writing that JK Rowling doesn’t. This idea reminds me that I’m not in competition with any writer. We both have a voice, a platform that we want to reach, and God is using both of us to accomplish the plans He has for us.

I scan even the Christian market at fiction authors that blow me away with their amazing talent. Francine Rivers? Who could recreate Redeeming Love? The reality is, I was never meant to recreate Redeeming Love. God has given me my own story to tell.

Although we writers are set free from the need to be the next JK Rowling or Francine Rivers, we still have a responsibility. We are still called to excellence. I might not have come up with earwax flavored jelly beans, invisibility cloaks, or a freakin’ sport played on broomsticks with like three different types of balls, but that does not mean I have to write mediocre ideas. I may use time travel, or a dystopian society, or tense conflict, to convey my message. Whatever I end up using, I will use it well. End of story.

So, if you’re a writer, keep writing! Don’t look at the work of the people next to you, unless you can appreciate it. Try to figure out what you’re good at, and then work from there. Think about the message that God has given you to share with the world, and brainstorm how you can best share that message with others. You may not be the next JK Rowling or Francine Rivers, but maybe over time people may want to be the next [enter your name here].

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Book Update

The “Fun” Part of Writing a Novel

When I went on the ReNEW writers retreat two weekends ago, I received some great feedback from friends that share my passion and can help me sharpen my vision. It was a pleasure to hear what everyone was working on, and the triumphs they’ve made this past year. Though, I wondered when it would be my turn to release my book and celebrate my accomplishments.

At lunch one day, I caught up with one of my friends from last year, who encouraged me to start my novel.

“How’s your book going?” she asked.

“It’s a train wreck,” I said.

“Oh, really? What’s wrong with it?”

I explained how I met with a literary agent and he gave me some good pointers, but I feel like my book is total trash.

“Okay, so, what’s wrong with it?”

I shrugged. “The setting doesn’t make sense.”

“So, basically the setting is your problem?”

With those words, it clicked. That was the only problem with my book! The characters were solid, the writing was legit, and the theme was evident. I just didn’t know where to put my little cherubs. What location, what time period, would serve them best, and help me get the message across?

Well, the literary agent I met with suggested Christian fantasy, because the island of Verdaria, where my characters are currently meeting, is a fictional country. I might have made it more complicated than it is. That’s a good story in and of itself. I wanted my main character to travel to Spain and found out some dark secrets from her past, but why does she have to leave Verdaria? Verdaria has some nasty secrets too! Tori can find out all she needs to know through this fantasy world, while encouraging the reader to explore a new land that has never been discovered by us in “reality.”

As you know, the temptation for me is to write a completely new book. I already have the idea for a new book, and I’m super excited about it, but I have to finish my current book first. My current book is not a train wreck. It’s not trash. I just have to be the master of my own world and mold a world for the theme to shine and the characters to thrive. Or not. Muahaha!

I told Lenny yesterday the plot for my new book. When he heard that the characters had the same name as my current manuscript, he stopped me mid-sentence. “What? You’re rewriting your book again? Stop it! It’s fine. Just finish it and make this book another one.”

My husband is an IT professional, not a writing professional, but God used his blatant honesty to open my eyes and see that I need to edit this thing! Did I mention that the literary agent I met with told me my book was good enough to be published? I don’t think that translates to “total trash.” That means I actually have a shot at having my book traditionally published! Hallelujah!

It is so much easier to write a whole new book than to fix the pieces of my current book. Freewriting is my favorite. I love telling stories, and stringing words together, even if they don’t make total sense. But editing is the fun part of writing. It’s using the mind that God has given me to figure out the best way to communicate a message, to use these words I love to bring out a compelling story, and to use my perseverance to grow my faith and increase my endurance. By self-editing, I have the privilege of reading my book before anyone else! It’s a free pre-release copy that I don’t have to order.

As I improve my self-editing ability, my writing ability will also improve. I’ll be making less mistakes as I learn what my common mistakes are. So, overall, self-editing is a win-win!

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Book Update

The Soothing Pain of Rejection

This past weekend on the reNEW writer’s retreat, I had hoped to tell everyone that my novel was finished and it was in the hands of a literary agent. However, two weeks before the retreat, I read a book called Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell that made me reconsider my whole plot. After talking with some friends, I realized that the only change that really needs to take place is the setting, but I still had a bend in my pride when I had to tell a literary agent I met that I wasn’t ready to send it in yet.

I’ve submitted my book to six literary agents. I know that the Christian fiction market is not doing too well, but I have a passion to help people see a relatable character through fiction to help them overcome their anxiety, find their purpose in life, and walk in their identity with Christ. I actually have three novel ideas that each branch from these topics. However, each time I receive a rejection from a literary agent, I wonder if God’s plan for me is to write this novel, or if it’s just my own dream.

Each time I submitted my book to another literary agent through e-mail, I prayed that God would lead me to the right literary agent, and that even if it didn’t work out, that the agent would have just enough spare time to tell me why he/she did not accept my proposal. Literary agents are typically very busy, so to expect a response from an agent is a tall order. However, as a writer trying to publish her first book, I need all the advice I can get. Of the six times I submitted my book, I heard back from two. The first one that rejected my manuscript has a blog that I follow, which has helped me tremendously as a writer.

The second agent who rejected my manuscript decided to give me some advice, which I greatly appreciated. He told me that the Christian fiction market wasn’t doing too well, so a lot of agents are steering clear of that. He also gave me advice about how to make my book better, and he encouraged me to keep attending conferences. Finally, he told me to keep pressing on, and God will lead me where He wants me to go. I am incredibly honored that this man who has very little time to spare took the time out to impart wisdom to a woman beginning her humble journey as a writer. It even looks like I got a word of blessing from him!

I share my personally journey of writing a book because, when I am a bestselling author of something, I want to look back and remember where I started. I want to encourage writers who aren’t there yet to keep going. Rejection is not the end of your story. God has given you a voice; use it to glorify Him.

Success is not defined by the end product. You may look at a book and think, “Well anyone can write a book.” However, you don’t realize the blood, sweat, and tears that went into writing it. Not everyone can write a book. It takes vulnerability, dedication, and insight.

I never want to be so famous/busy that I forget about the people that I met along the way. My why is to encourage women and the stories that God has given them. I don’t care how much money I make or what places I’m able to travel to; I never want to get to a place where I ignore or automate any experience I have with a woman who is desperate to share her story with me. I want each and every person I encounter to feel encouraged and to feel loved. If I’m making millions of dollars and I live in a fancy home with beautiful flowers and I have a social media team writing my tweets for me, I’ve lost my why, and I’ve failed at my goal.

Rejection hurts, but it’s not the end of my story. Even as I was writing this blog post, I had to remind myself that the rejection was not of me, but of my book. And as my friend encouraged me last week, the book may be great, but it might not be marketable at the time. It’s literally in God’s hands.

I say to myself what I say to you if you are struggling to fulfill your dreams: Don’t give up!

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash


“Plot & Structure”: A Game Changer and Life Saver

I have been working on my book for four years now, and it pains me to say that I have begun my FOURTH rewrite. A book by me will be published eventually, I promise. I’d rather have a well-polished book published in five years than a thrown-together book published in five months.

Every time I think I’m done with writing this novel, I find out new information that changes everything. For some reason, I can’t just make little changes here and there. If something is wrong with my book, the whole book needs to be changed.

James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure was what inspired this fourth round of edits. I’d love to show you all a time lapse of how my book has changed. It started as a bunch of random ideas in my journal, and then became edited random ideas from my journal typed into a Google Docs file, and then became edited random ideas that now had a plot in a Google Docs file, and is now finally (hopefully) a story put together by random ideas that now make sense because the book has, you guessed it, plot and structure.

I’ve learned through this book that I am not a structure type when it comes to writing. With everything else, I’m a type A personality, from being ten minutes early to everything, to organizing my work space every day. When I’m writing, all I want to do is start a timer and let the words fly from my brain to my fingers. I’ll often meet writers who have their characters’ back stories on post-it notes, stuck together on vision boards with strings connecting each character with each idea, setting, theme, symbol, and scene. That kind of planning makes my brain hurt, and makes writing (for me) incredibly painful.

I prefer to meet my characters midway through the book, after I’ve created a preliminary personality about them. After all, we don’t ever know everything about people when we first meet them, right? It takes time to grow a relationship and learn details about them as time progresses. That’s how my characters are formed, and that’s how I develop a story. You meet them the same time that I do, because I love to be surprised while I’m writing!

Although I learned a lot more than this simple point from the book, my one takeaway is that I can be both the outline person and the non-outline person. I can be the free spirit writer and the structured writer. A little bit of structure may help me save time on rewriting my book a million times (guilty as charged!) but a little bit of spontaneity can help the structured people be more creative in their writing.

During this fourth rewrite, I have brainstormed how I want my book to go through bullet points, rough ideas. Then, as those points come up in the story, I cross them off my list. Usually, the bullet point works for each part of the story, but if it doesn’t, I don’t use it! I’m free to create, while also free to provide structure for my book. It’s like I’m cruising on the highway, but there are guardrails on the road so I don’t drive off a cliff.

I believe this point is most helpful for those who are writing academic papers as well. You might not know where to start, but you can create an outline to give you a general idea of the direction of your paper. When you have that guideline, you can cruise through the rest of the paper; by that point, you’ll know enough about the rules to write freely!

By the time you read this, I’ll be at a writer’s conference, getting feedback for my book from wise people who have blazed the trail before me. Please keep me in your prayers as my beautiful work of art is being perfected piece by piece. I am confident that God is forming this story into one that will heal, transform, and bring hope to those who need it. Thank you for your continued support!


All the Feels of “Redeeming Love”

*WARNING: If you have PTSD due to sexual abuse, this post may be difficult for you to read. Proceed with caution.

If, for some reason, your emotions have been on the fritz, try reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It’s not like I have any trouble tapping into my emotions, but after reading this book, I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to feel every single emotion that the human heart could fathom.

Although this book was published in 1997, several people recommended this book to me because they know I’m writing Christian fiction. Each one of them told me it was a “good” book. Good? You all tricked me! It was exceptionally wonderful and altogether awful wrapped in five-hundred pages of an emotional roller coaster. But yeah, I guess you can describe that as “good.”

Some people did warn me that it was heavy, and I thank you for that. I just about lost my cookies on page 185.

Redeeming Love tells the story of Sarah, who was later named Angel when she was sold into prostitution at the age of eight. She finds herself in California during the California Gold Rush about ten years later, as the highest-prized prostitute in the Pair-a-Dice brothel. Through her experience dealing with customers and horrible bosses, she learns that she has no worth except what she could give to men, and that men want nothing from her except for her body. All that would change when Michael Hosea walks into her life and makes her his wife.

Without spoiling too much, the book is an example of the book of Hosea from the Bible. In that story, Hosea marries a prostitute as a means to show the people of Israel God’s love for them. When I look at Redeeming Love in that light, my heart breaks. It forces me to examine my own sin and pride, and remember how many times I have run from God and how many times I probably will still run from Him. I couldn’t help but think while reading this book that my heart is not any softer than Angel’s is.

The key in this book is the relentless love of Michael, who seeks in every moment to demonstrate God’s love to his wife. Even when she runs away, even when she commits the worst sins against him and exposes her past sins to him, he does not give up. When it is difficult for him, he turns to God and begs Him for help. His example of redeeming love helps to heal her soul. It is also obvious that God’s love is compelling him to love her, so that Angel could see the love of God and put her faith in Him.

Whenever I read a book, I like to think of my overall takeaway. So far, in the last month, two books from decades ago have made their way into my lap. Why am I reading A Handmaid’s Tale when it was written in the ’80s? Why am I reading Redeeming Love when it was written in the late ’90s? Well, I truly believe that God is challenging me to look at how much we have (or haven’t) progressed. In the ’80s, some people believed that they were one step away from a dystopia. Do we still feel that way, and if so, what can we do to change that?

Redeeming Love reminds me not to give up on those I love, even when they push me away, even when they do everything imaginable to make me angry. It also reminds me to continue to support and pray for ministries that are rescuing men, women, and children from prostitution around the world. I believe we have come a long way to show women their true worth, but I also believe that we have a long way to go. May God reveal His redeeming love to us, and help us to share that love with those around us. Amen.


Hope for the Handmaid

The world is one step away from a dystopia or a utopia. It all depends on your perspective, and how you seek to change the world.

Thanks to T-Mobile, I have access to Kindle Unlimited free for three months. This makes the bookworm in me very happy. I decided to read The Handmaid’s Tale, since it was #1 on the recommended list. Although the book was written in 1985, it has probably resurfaced due to the new television series that came out earlier last year. It also reminds people my age of some certain others in power at this time. No comment from me about that, except what follows below.

If you want a trip, definitely read this book. I spent the first third of the book trying to figure out what in the world was going on. It was a good thing that Goodreads had a summary of the book, that served sort of as a CliffNotes version of what I was reading. Even after that, I finished the book confused.

Although this book defies every writing technique I’m reading in books about how to write fiction and grab your reader and all that, I believe Margaret Atwood attempts to demonstrate the thoughts of someone living in a dystopia: confused, out of place, nostalgic of the past, a little crazy, trying to stay sane. I really don’t like how it is written, so I hope the TV series paints a better picture of this novel. I feel like I’m on a leash and the writer is dragging me along, withholding information from me, seeing how long I hold on before I throw the book in the trash. Oh, wait, it’s my Kindle. I have to keep it, then.

Because I have an open mind, and because the book was free, I decided to try to figure out what Atwood is trying to say overall in her tale. I thought at first that she was saying that religion, particularly Christianity, causes dystopia, but she clearly states in an interview that humanity and power in the wrong hands is what causes it.

Christian, the rest of this article is for you.

This dystopian society is the result of the Bible taken out of context. People use the Bible to get power. I wish I could say that this is uncommon in our culture, but it is not. So many of us twist the Bible to be whatever we want it to be. If we are not careful, power can fall into the wrong hands. People in power want to make the world a better place, but only by their definition of “better.” And as the Commander says to Offred, “Better never means better for everyone…It always means worse, for some” (211).

The Handmaid’s Tale is correct in that we are just vessels. Although they use even this aspect of the Bible out of context, we should be more concerned with what’s inside of us than what is outside. My challenge to all of us is to study the word of God and to lean on HIM. Jesus changed the world through his ministry on Earth, to a point where we still talk about him thousands of years later. His power is still strong over the course of humanity, because His Spirit lives in each one of us. We should fill our hearts, our minds, as vessels, with the word of God. The true word of God. And pray.

Sure, the presidency is strong. Sure, people are strong. Sure, ideas are strong. But I believe that God is stronger. As we fill ourselves with the truth of God, the wisdom of God, the love of God, we will be one step away from a utopia, because we will represent the kingdom of God on Earth to our neighbors.

As I’m reading even more of the book, I’ve discovered that there is nothing more important than Biblical community. The characters in this book are brainwashed by the powers that be. The only way to combat being brainwashed is to memorize God’s word and accept it as truth, and be around godly friends and family that can hold you accountable if you start to develop wrong thinking.

No matter what happens in this world, there’s a world waiting for us after this life. We have no reason to fear, because God has prepared a place for us in Heaven. Until then, we have a mission from God to be a light in this dark world.

If the news, or books like the one I’m reading, scares you into believing that we are one step away from the world collapsing, have hope. God is stronger, and He will use YOU to change it for the better. Except HIS definition of “better” includes better for all.

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Book Update

4 Myths & 1 Truth of Freelance Working From Home

Having worked as a freelance writer and editor now for three months, I can say I’m finally a novice at this! Much of freelance work and working from home is discipline and determination. I thank God that I have both of these gifts, or else I would never be able to do this. I also would never be able to do this without the loving support of my husband, Lenny, who encourages me every day to pursue my dreams.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve heard some myths about what it’s like to work from home. I have experience working in stores, offices, and schools, and working from home is a totally different experience. If you’re curious about what I do, check out what I’ve learned so far about being a work-from-home freelance writer and editor.

MYTH: You get to work in your pajamas all day

This is the statement I get most often from people when I tell them I work from home. While it is true that I can work in my pajamas all day, I don’t prefer to do so. Christy Wright writes in her book Business Boutique that we should dress for success. Like when you get ready for work to go to an office or a place away from your home, you need to establish a routine so that you can start your day with motivation. There are days when I feel like hanging out in my pajamas, but those days I don’t get anything done. If I equate those outfits to sleeping, I’m not thinking about working; I’m thinking about sleeping! I usually have my outfit picked out the day before, so that I could get dressed and go right to work.

MYTH: You’re lonely

I am an introvert, so I love being alone. I have to be intentional about leaving my house and spending time with friends and family, but quality time with loved ones has turned into a joy. I’m now seeing them because I want to, not because I have to since I work with them or because it’s another thing on my to-do list. I also want to take a moment and challenge all offices: I’ve heard many a story of people who show up to work and don’t speak to a single person all day. Sure, you’re surrounded by people, but you’re still lonely. To me, that’s worse than isolating myself in my home office. If you work in an office, reach out to someone new today. You never know what struggles people are carrying.

MYTH: You don’t get anything done

Studies produced from the last couple of years have shown that the average person only gets about 2 hours and 53 minutes of work done in an 8-hour work day, and that doesn’t include the hour-long commute most of us have to travel to and from work. So if I work 3 intentional hours from home, I’m working more than you, office worker. And since I’m my own boss, I can create my own schedule, which includes personal time. I make time to eat an hour-long lunch, go for a walk, clean the house (as needed), and read. I set a timer on my phone for one hour at a time, and then I put my phone on the other side of the room. I don’t do anything but edit, write, or read a book about writing until the timer goes off. When we’re intentional about our work, we get more done.

MYTH: You don’t make a lot of money

At first, this is true. When you work an office or retail job, you get a contract and a salary and benefits and all that. When you are starting your own business, you start with $0. When you put yourself on the internet and say, “Hey, I have a new business!” no one knows you who are. But when you apply those discipline techniques into your work, you will see more of a clientele over the next couple of months. As the Bible alludes to on multiple occasions, you reap what you sow. When you put work into your business, you will see the fruit of that work.

Truth: It is a fun adventure

I love what I do, so much. I have the opportunity to create my own schedule and workload. I create my own vacation time. It’s not that I don’t have a boss, but I am my own boss. There is a difference. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m closer than I was a few days ago. Working from home has been such a blessing, and I can’t wait to see how God grows the vision that he has given me.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Book Update Marriage

Make Your Own Dream

When you first get married, you think that you will always agree with your husband. Let’s pop that bubble right now: You’re going to disagree, and it will probably be messy.

I can only speak from a woman’s perspective, but I was taught that my wedding day would be the greatest day of my life, where all my dreams will come true. But it wasn’t. Why? Because my dream wasn’t my husband’s dream. We both had a say in our wedding, so we mixed both my vision of what the perfect wedding would look like, and his, and formed our own special day. That vision required compromise from both of us.

As a couple, you will have to make a ton of decisions together. When are we getting married? Where are we going to live? When are we having kids? How are we going to raise our kids? Whether long-term or short-term, you will have to work together to make decisions on a regular basis.

Currently, our next major decision is buying a house. We still have a couple of months before we can afford a down payment, but we’re taking the time we’re waiting to figure out what we want before we buy the first house we see. We’re finding that our ideas of a dream house are both totally different. For example, I want a big backyard with a ton of lawn space, while Lenny wants to cover our front yard and backyard with cement and pavers! I grew up with a big backyard, so I’ve always imagined our kids running around a safe grassy space (Barefoot, probably, because who doesn’t love the feeling of grass on their bare feet?). Lenny, on the other hand, wants a lot of cars, so he wants to have enough driveway space for his possessions. I’m not saying my way is right and his way is wrong, or vice versa, but that we obviously have a different way of looking at our space.

How are we going to make this decision? Well, like every other decision, here is what we’ve committed to do as a couple:

  • Be clear. I could write a blog post alone about how to be clear. But before you could decide what you both want together, you have to decide what you both want individually. Like my example of finding our dream house, I generally want a space big enough for our future family, but specifically, I know that I want a big backyard, hardwood floors, and an open concept to our house. That’s pretty clear. And Lenny can work with that.
  • Make a list. I love lists! They help to make things even more clear, and they provide a visual. Write down everything you want in your dream house. I recommend making your lists in separate locations (you sitting on your couch and your husband sitting at your dining room table, for example) so you don’t influence each other’s preferences.
  • Circle similarities. Find a common ground. We both want a safe neighborhood and a good school district. We both have the same housing budget. We both have the same location desires. Those are our starting points. Those are non-negotiable. Everything else will have to be discussed.
  • Discuss everything else on the list. For whatever else is on your list, you both need to decide how necessary the other items are. How important is it for me to have a big backyard? If there is a park nearby, can I take my kids there to play instead of using our backyard space? What about for Lenny? If the current driveway is big enough, maybe we won’t need to completely get rid of the grass in the front yard. Regardless, you must talk about each point with your spouse and see how necessary it is.

If you can’t agree, don’t make a decision yet. We need to wait. Circumstances may change our mind over time. Maybe our kids will be allergic to grass, for example. Keep praying and wait it out. Don’t compromise your marriage for any decision. Whatever you do, make sure you put God first, your marriage second, your kids third, and everything and everyone else, last. You can disagree with me, but then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Photo by Andre Revilo on Unsplash


“We are the Dreamers” – Book Review of “Get Weird”

#Sponsored by FaithWords

Once I saw the description of the author, which began with the words “Armed with the wit of a native New Yorker,” I knew this was going to be a fantastic book. As a native New Yorker, sarcasm is my native language! Nice to see a fellow New Yorker writing a book. He’s even from Long Island!

Faithwords describes the book this way: “CJ Casciotta will help you identify your God-given uniqueness and teach you how to use your individuality to impact the world.” As a society, we’ve been taught that weird is a bad thing. Casciotta actually challenges us to think about how often we use the word “weird.” When we say that word, it usually implies something is not easily explained. Even though for us we consider that a negative thing, according to Casciotta, being “weird” isn’t necessarily wrong.

The book serves as a challenge for those who are sick of living complacent lives. They are sick of the Same. As a matter of fact, Casciotta wants us to challenge the Same (which he capitalizes throughout the book). He wants us to pursue the Sacred Weird, the other-wordliness that humans were created to possess.

Get Weird is split into three parts, which go by different names in the book but are described as the following: “It’s OK to be weird,” “We need your weird,” and “Go be weird.” The first part of the book illustrates our individual need to express ourselves in our own creative weirdness. The second part demonstrates how society needs weird people, highlighting specific people who were weird and yet changed the world through it. The third part encourages the reader to make a difference in her own unique way, embracing her weird, and fulfilling God’s calling on her life.

The word “weird” grabbed my attention when I first looked at the cover. However, as I’m reading the book, there is still a connotation that “weird” invokes in my brain. It’s different, but it’s strange. It’s awkward. It doesn’t make me comfortable. As much as I don’t like those feelings, Casciotta claims that those feelings change the course of history. Martin Luther King rubbed people the wrong way with his talks of diversity and acceptance of other people. Mister Rogers was unlike his contemporaries who hit each other with pies on television. Even Jesus, the hero and foundation of our faith, refused to be like the culture in which he was raised, teaching His disciples to live holy lives, “other” lives. I don’t like the look, the smells, the taste that “weird” invokes, but the story that God is writing in all of us is that the people who are least expected to succeed will transform our cultures and lead us into victory.

While I read the book, I unexpectedly received some free parenting advice. Children have this innate desire to be creative. Their minds are forming, and their imagination takes them on wild rides on a minute-by-minute basis. There is no limit to what their minds can accomplish, because they haven’t been taught that their ideas are “weird” (the bad connotation of weird). My one take-away from this book is to encourage creativity in my future children and the children that I oversee in our church’s girls ministry.

There is a cute viral video of a two-year-old baking a cake with her mom. When I first watched the video, I had my skeptic thoughts, the most prominent being, “She’s making a mess!” But after I read this book, I watched the video again. As the little girl poured an two entire containers of sprinkles on a tiny cake, I realized that she was using her creativity. She wanted a cake with lots of sprinkles on it, so she made a mess to make that happen, but she did it. I applaud her mother for letting her do that, and I applaud any parent that encourages creativity in their children. We’re so afraid of children making messes that we squash their creativity in the process. I’m choosing now to allow my children and the girls entrusted to me to be freely creative and freely weird.

CJ Casciotta has a ton of resources on his website. You can also get his book, which will be released September 11th, on the FaithWords website.