The brave and beautiful dream chasers I met from Afghanistan last Friday night.
Last Friday we hosted a dinner for ten Fulbright Scholars from Afghanistan. Not your typical Friday night in our house.
My husband is a professor and was running a workshop for 70 Afghan scholars last week. Part of the weeklong visit was a dinner in an American home. We were blessed to be chosen as one of the host families (my husband running the program certainly helped).
Eight men and two women who all speak English, who all have graduated from college in Afghanistan, who all are in the United States for a two year master’s degree in various areas of expertise at Universities all across the states (ranging from the state of Washington to Washington D.C.), who all have been handpicked by the U.S. Department of State to receive these prestigious scholarships shook hands with me, my four kids and my hubby, thanked us graciously for the simple dinner of pasta and salad and shared their stories.
I specifically wanted to speak to the women. They were physically captivating with their olive coloring, large, dark eyes, and thick black hair. But these women blew me away with their inner beauty. One was a dentist in her homeland. She’s come to the States to get a Master’s in Public Health Policy, so she can return to Afghanistan and create better health care policies for her people. The other left home for the first time in her life to pursue her MBA in Finance in Rochester, New York, with dreams of helping non-profit rescue missions with their finances. One said, “I’ve been dreaming of this day since my first year of high school. I worked so hard for this scholarship.”
Yes she did. In a country where men and women are not treated equally, where education and employment opportunities for women pale in comparison to what men are empowered to do, these women fought the odds and went against what was expected of them achieving what some perceived as unachievable.
I take the fact that my daughter attends high school for granted. And living in a college town, it seems the opportunity to attend college is readily available. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. These women will live for two years in a foreign land, away from their family and their food and their culture, speaking a second language, relying on buses to get them from small apartments to classes, to chase their dreams—dreams of hope and of change.
Let your firework light up the sky!
That kind of bravery in dream chasing deserves to be noticed. So, whatever dream you’re tossing around in your head today, think to yourself:
· Would I move to a country on the other side of the world to fulfill it?
· Would I leave family and friends and the familiarity of my culture to fight for it?
· Would I work years and years to achieve it?
If it burns that deeply in your heart, chase that dream with full force and enthusiasm. Light up the sky with the sparkling firework of your dream. And look to the example of these women as inspiration.
What's your dream?
Edits to a manuscript.
Ask any writer about their WIP and you’ll be sure to spark a conversation. Even if the author is protective of their WIP’s identity, they’ll at least comment about how far along they are with their WIP, what genre it is, if it has a home, etc.
WIP is writer speak for Work In Progress.
Writers are always writing. Even if we’re taking a hiatus from our next novel. We might be working on our blog, an article, a forward or endorsement for a friend’s book. We could be in a rewrite stage or awaiting edits or using our writing to help a family member with their website or our church with a newsletter. Or maybe we’re in the mulling over stage--the plotting, researching or character development stage. But I guarantee, writers always have a WIP.
An empty slate - a work in progress in the making.
I was recently chatting with a writer friend (*ahem* Stephanie) about getting edits back from our editors, and no matter how much we write and how many times we go over our own work, editors find so many ways (major and minor) to improve our writing.
I am a Work In Progress.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10 ESV
God created me (and you and the person across from you and the person down the hall from them) to do good works.
God had this idea for me from the get go. He created me and predestined specific works I would do – how cool is that? But my story constantly changes. I need to listen to my editor (God) about some of my choices, and how to learn from my mistakes. My patience needs a rewrite. Paragraphs and even chapters of my life should go in the “trash” at the bottom of my screen with a satisfying “crumpling”. I am constantly searching for a better way to write myself, a more precise word, a truer reaction. As Robert Fulguhm (author of Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) says, "I could do better. The president and the pope and all the rest of humanity. We could do better."
The awesome thing about me as a WIP, is I know my ending. Because I believe in Jesus Christ and His unending love for me, I know my ending is actually just my beginning.
But how I get there, what I say along the way, how I interact with those around me, the decisions I make, what I do with the talents and troubles and experiences that come my way… well, that’s a story I’ll always be refining.
Sometimes I think I’m a piece of work. Sometimes I think I’m progressing. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever work things out. But I always know that I am progressing toward the last beautiful chapter. And that the Author of my story is my Savior. He’ll never ever delete me. I’m not any old WIP. I’m His.
My current writing WIP is the third book in the Status Updates series. What are you working on?
Melissa is the main character from my novel addressing eating disorders, Skinny. Click here to order.
I decided to start this blog as a way for me to work out some of the things going on in my head. Like my eating disorder. Somehow it seems less harmful if I say “eating disorder” like my doctor does, instead of ANOREXIA or BULIMIA which sound so vulgar and catastrophic. But the words “eating disorder” also make what’s going on with me sound so sterile and almost insignificant. Which it’s not! Because even though I’m “on the path of recovery”, I’m guessing I’ll never be normal about food again. I can’t look at a cheeseburger or a Cadbury egg without calculating fat grams and calories. I’m not allowed to diet, because it could spin into something ugly. So, even though I look normal, or at least normalish, I’m still eating, but trying to make that not be way too much food or way not enough food. It’s complicated!
Food, dance team, homework, and did I mention my boyfriend? These are some of the things I struggle with.
Then there’s my boyfriend, Beau, who’s not actually my boyfriend because even though he says he likes me and I’m nutso over him, his parents say we can’t date. Well, we couldn’t date during basketball season. You guessed it, he’s a basketball player. As of last weekend, the season is officially over. So, we’re allowed to date again, only we’ve been on this break the last few months, so we don’t know what to do, how to do this dating thing. Sometimes I don’t know how to act around him – like how much of myself to reveal or how cool to try and act. But I’m completely mesmerized by him, and well, it’s a mess.
Melissa holding her Bible for encouragement.
I also need to talk about God, because even though I know He’s always been there for me, I was ignoring Him, and that turned out to be a major mistake. I almost lost my friends, my slot on dance team (which is where I truly feel alive), Beau, everything, because I thought I could do it all by myself. I figured out the hard way, the ultra hard way that I can’t do everything by myself. I’m not even supposed to. God wants me to depend on Him. And, as long as I do my part, which means trying my hardest to be the best Melissa Rollins I can be, and talk to Him about it, He’ll take care of the rest. It sounds easy, and I’m really trying, but some days are harder than others.
So, I have to trust. Trust that I’ll figure out all this stuff about food and boys and God and somehow maintain good grades and keep my dance coach happy. Like I said before, it’s impossible to do it alone. But, I do believe, with God all things are possible.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!
Fight. Dream. Hope. Love. Les Miserables
I love award show season. I ogled over George Clooney during the Golden Globes, because; well, because I do every year. I’m counting down until Sunday night so I can glue myself to the Grammy’s. And don’t even get me started on the Oscars, but I do hope Les Mis sweeps.
One of the stunning gowns nominated for Best Costume Design at this year's Academy Awards.
Every year it seems like there are more and more award shows rewarding everything from Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards to Outstanding Performance Under Pressure for an athlete at the Espys.
In our house we give The Goat.
Although not quite as glamorous as a golden statue of a phonograph or a little bald man, The Goat is coveted and treasured in our home. We don’t select special outfits or write speeches in hopes of earning The Goat. Instead, we just try to be good people. And some days that’s easier than others.
A goat stuffed animal serves as the nightly award at our house.
Each night the recipient of The Goat from the previous night, sneaks into someone else’s room and places The Goat on the winner du jour’s pillow. Whoever is in possession of The Goat can award The Goat to whomever they want for any reason at all. There are no criteria. But, in the past The Goat has been awarded for listening to someone when they’ve been upset. It’s been snuck onto the pillowcase of someone who did somebody else’s chores. Some days The Goat appears in the bed of the person who had the hardest day, who cried and screamed (either literally or figuratively) but needs to be reminded how special they are.
We all love to be recognized for our accomplishments. Whether that’s running the fastest mile at our school or at the Olympics, writing a moving song or a powerful essay, or sometimes just making someone smile.
You don't have to give someone a golden phonograph to make them feel like a rock star.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. Matthew 5:12
And we all have the ability to reward others for jobs well done. It doesn’t have to be a crystal statue. It can be a cookie (especially if it’s chocolate chip) or a text or a hug. Just something to let someone else know they’re special.
Who can you make feel like a superstar today?
The beautiful Bethany Jett, author of the soon to be released The Cinderella Rule, invited me to join her and other authors as we share what we're writing, and why you'll want to read it.
Bethany and I share loves of writing, fashion, Christ, chocolate, kissing and the shoes on the cover of her new book. Check them out, you’ll see why.
The Cinderella Rule by Bethany Jett - A Young Woman's Guide to Happily Ever After
What am I writing? I’m working on a new series revolving around four women rooming together at a fictitious college. Clearly the story lines for a series are endless with the ups and downs, trials and triumphs of living away from home for the first time and navigating around the college scene. But that’s all I can tell you for now. I’ll let your imaginations run wild and share with you soon more information on titles, characters, plots and release dates.
Why am I writing this series? First, I live in a college town, Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University. College girls surround me. I’m friends with many of them. I hear their stories, their dilemmas, their fears and their hopes. I wanted to capture this time of life full of uncertainty and potential for them and other girls like them. Second, my college years were a critical time of my life. I fell from my faith. I made mistakes, some big and some small. I had a blast in college, made amazing, lasting friendships and met the love of my life, my hubby, in spite of myself. You see, I also doubted myself. I tried too hard to be accepted. I did many things I regret. I lost the essence of who God created me to be during those years. I long to share what I’ve learned about loving myself more and worrying about what others think less with the college girls of today and tomorrow. I want to share with them how beautifully and wonderfully they were created and urge them to not pay attention to what everyone else is trying to achieve, but instead strive to be the best versions of themselves.
What actors would I have play my characters? Well, there are four girls and without revealing too much about their personalities I think Dakota Fanning, Vanessa Hudgens, Anna Popplewell and Ellen Page would make the perfect representations of the room mates.
Dakota Fanning and Vanessa Hudgens
Who represents me? Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary. She is brilliant and sharp and pushes me to write better and explore new options.
What other books in this genre compare? Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares, Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares, Bloomberg Place Series by Melody Carlson, Mixed Bags by Melody CarlsonSome amazing authors you should check out, if you haven’t already:
Laura Kurk Anderson – YA fiction – Glass Girl
Stephanie Morrill – YA fiction – The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt Series
Jennifer Murgia – YA Fiction – Angel Star, Lemniscate
So, how about you? What are you reading this month? What projects are you working on? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below.
Skinny a novel about self image, eating disorders and a relationship with Christ is FREE on Kindle this week
Melissa Rollins is juggling all the balls in the air; dance team, freshman year of high school, new girl friends, a new boyfriend, grades. And it's all going quite well, it always has, until there are too many balls in the air to juggle anymore. She feels like her life is spinning out of control. How can Melissa be accepted and appreciated when there are so many pressures to be perfect? How can she gain back a little bit of that control?
Download your FREE copy this week only on Kindle:
Have you ever met someone who you knew God introduced to you to somehow, someway alter and enhance your life? Laura Anderson Kurk is one of these people. I haven't known her for long, but already I feel like I've known her forever. We both write stories for young women, live in college towns, and yeah, the "Laura" thing. So, today, I want to introduce you to Laura and give you a chance to win her book Glass Girl. You'll be hearing more about her in the future. God will make sure of that. In the meantime, read her insights on "Indie Girls" and the deets on how to win her book.
GUEST BLOG BY LAURA ANDERSON KURK, AUTHOR OF GLASS GIRL
Girl boots and boy boots under a table photo courtesy of Cary Anne Photography
A few weeks ago, my daughter and I had a conversation about the minefield of middle school and how the girls who'd seemed unique and awesome in lower grades suddenly looked like copies of one another. One day--cool, relaxed and confident. The next day--clingy, rubber-stamped robots. I told her the same thing happened when I was in middle school and when her grandmother was in middle school. It's just that weird middle school thing that happens when we stumble a little with confidence. The conversation came about because my daughter had talked to a girl in the hall that morning while they were waiting for the bell to ring. This was a girl she had never talked to before. They moved in different circles, respectfully distant. The girl said—"Hey, I've always wanted to tell you that I like your style. Most people here are too afraid to be different but you aren't and I really respect that." That was it....the whole conversation. I think my daughter swallowed her tongue and then went on with her day in her cool, vintage way. But the girl's words stuck with her. And they emboldened her and went a long way toward making her feel more confident. It got me thinking, again, about the power of words. And the power YOU hold when you reach across the chasms you think are between you and the other girls at school. So here’s what’s up. I want you to try to encourage one girl at school tomorrow. Spend tonight thinking about who needs words from you. Who is out there, trying to do her own thing, and thinking no one notices her? I know that applies to you--you think no one notices you. But watch what happens when you toss a pebble in the school pond and compliment someone who needs it. The ripple effect is a beautiful thing, girls. And soon you'll see those little waves coming back to you. You've heard me talk about "art bombing" a bit over on my blog. Well, now we're going to "compliment bomb." It'll be fun, trust me. And don't forget to come back here and tell us what you did, said, and saw. We're all in this together, learning how to feel our way toward comfort. Here's something, too, that makes me smile. Even the "Indie" girls admit that they're just another fashion trend. There's a Wiki on How to Be Indie. (You can take the "How Indie Are You" quiz here if you're interested.) I think it's okay, though, because what's cool about "Indie" is the attitude of acceptance they have for others. Once you realize everyone is trying hard to be noticed and accepted, your viewpoint changes and you're suddenly more approachable and accessible. Your heart is open to people. There's nothing cooler than that. Trust me. “Watch the way you talk . . . . Say only what helps, each word a gift.” Ephesians 4:29 msg
beautiful teenager pondering her gifts photo courtesy of Sydney Gass Photogaphy
photo courtesy of Cary Anne Photography
FREE BOOK DEETS: Laura Anderson Kurk’s debut YA novel Glass Girl is available now. You can win a free copy by being one of the first twenty people to comment below, or share this post on Facebook or Tweet about it on Twitter. Just make sure to let me know if you FB or tweet, so you can be included in the drawing.
fall leaves in yellow, orange, red and green scattered on the ground - which one do you like best?
Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?
So, who is the fairest of them all? Taylor Swift? Gabby Douglas? Selena Gomez? How about _________ (insert your name here)?
Hard to pick, isn’t it? Impossible maybe.
You see, God created Taylor with thick blonde hair and an amazing voice. He gave Gabby a strong body, dark coloring and a killer smile. When God created Selena he gave her full cheeks and lips and chocolate eyes. They are all stunning.
And so are you.
On a recent run as I crunched through the leaves, I was stopped in my tracks, mesmerized by the stunning beauty of fall foliage that had floated to the pavement. Reds, oranges, yellows and greens, oaks, maples, beech and leaves I couldn’t even identify. Their damp, sweetness filled my nose. What a gorgeous collage of color! As I wondered at the beauty of leaves changing color I kept telling myself, “Wow, that one is so pretty.” And as I shifted my gaze, “Oh my gosh, that one is spectacular.” And then looking at the leaf overlapping it I thought, “The way that one is streaked with red is amazing.”
Which leaf is your favorite in the photo above? Hard to choose isn’t it?
Because each and every leaf that falls from the ground is magnificently designed by the greatest artist of all time – not Van Gogh or Magritte, but by God, the Creator. And each and every human is magnificently designed by the greatest artist of all time, you guessed it, God the Creator.
“Walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you?” Matthew 6: 28-30 MSG
Take a look at those leaves again. That’s how God sees us, but even more so. He takes pride in us, each and every one of us. We are all beautiful to him, because He creates us in His image.
Where’s your favorite spot to take in the fall color?
Glasses on an eye exam chart, showing in and out of focus letters of the alphabet.
75% of the United States wears either contacts or glasses, including me.
Most of us struggle to see the world we live in more clearly, sharper, brighter.
I had an eye check up last week, you know the kind where they dilate your pupils with drops and everything is blurry for hours and hours afterwards? It was that kind.
Due to the dilation drops, I spent the rest of the day wishing I could see more clearly. I wished my computer screen wasn’t so bright, so I could write the chapter I’d been plotting for my new manuscript. I wished the words in the book I’m reading weren’t so blurry. I wished I could respond to an email, flip through my latest copy of In Style or even get some early Christmas shopping done online. But nothing smaller than a chocolate chip cookie would come into focus.
How often do I wish I could see God’s plan for me, His vision of me, the way He sees the world -- better, sharper, brighter, more in focus? But sometimes His ways are too bright for me to stare into. Sometimes His plans for me are too far away for me to see clearly. Sometimes, I let the lens of the world distort and twist God’s vision, His plans. So, I beg for clarity like the blind men outside of Jericho:
“Master, we want our eyes opened. We want to see!” Deeply moved, Jesus touched their eyes. They had their sight back that very instant, and joined the procession. Matthew 20: 33-34
When I pray, when I actually lean on Him to see how things truly are, I get my sight back. Not always the way I want things to look, like no writing after my eye doctor appointment, even though that’s what I’d planned. But always something amazing, like the wonderful phone call I had with my mom instead.
Lord, I really need to stop right now
Stop now and focus on you
Even with the chaos all around
Stop now and focus on you.
“Focus” by Holly Starr
When friends, magazines, TV shows, work, and other worldly voices try to fill our eyes with drops of advice and expectations and pressures to dilute His view of us, all we have to do is call out, “I want to see!” and everything comes back into focus.
How has God helped you see something more clearly this week?
Cover of my book HOT - it's free on Kindle this week
My book HOT is FREE on Kindle this week:
This is the main character's, Lindsey's, blog:
I haven’t been to youth group in a while.
There. I admitted it.
I feel so guilty about skipping; I’m not sure what to do, or how to get back into my routine.
I love youth group. I really do. Our youth pastor is young and goofy and totally gets it. The band rocks. I mean it. I would rather sink into the squishy giant pillows on the barn floor where we meet on Sunday nights and jam to that band than listen to my iPod! But here’s the deal. I’m in the middle of some stuff -- big crummy, confusing stuff.
My sister’s life could be an episode on 90210. My parents are all tuned into her station and her station only, even during commercial breaks. And my boyfriend, I mean my ex-boyfriend, Noah, well I still secretly adore him.
I’m still crazy about him because, mmmm, because Noah smells like minty gum, and his hand feels so warm and strong and safe when it holds my tiny hand. Did I mention he has these dark forest green eyes and he’s so tall I have to stand on my tippy toes to look into them? He’s also one of the kindest and sweetest people I know, and he completely understands me.
I broke up with him. I know. It sounds crazy. But, I had to for now. Things got too out of control, and we needed to slow down. I needed to slow down and get back to who I am, to who God made me to be. I know it’s the right thing, but it is so hard.
This brings me back to youth group, because Noah goes to youth group too. And the real reason I haven’t been going, is him. It’s one thing to see Noah across the cafeteria at school. But in the barn? It will be so awkward. I won’t know where to sit. My best friend, Emma, and I used to always sit with him and his friends. Emma hasn’t been going to youth group either, which has made it easier to skip. All Noah’s friends will make comments under their breaths. The people who don’t know we broke up will ask why we’re not sitting together. And I’ll have to look at him and not feel his warm leg next to my leg and not smell him or hear his smooth, soothing voice. I’m not ready.
The voice in my head, which I know is God, says it’s time. He says he’ll be there for me.
Really? How cool is that? But is that enough God?
There will be a whole lot of other people there too. And they’ll make it hard. He says to remember that youth group isn’t about who sits next to who or who wears what but about getting closer to Him. He says His grace is enough.
Right. I knew that. Sometimes, I just forget. Okay, I just need to stay focused on God. Easier said than done, but possible. With God’s grace I can do this. I think I’ll call Emma and try to con her into going with me.
2 Corinthians 12:8 My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.