Category Archives: faith

The Only Way Around is Through

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It has been almost a year since my epic California road trip with one of my best friends. I got the opportunity to visit San Francisco for the first time, explore Big Sur and visit the Red Wood forest, which is something I had been looking forward to since I was a child. Every aspect of our journey was magic, but there were some struggles to overcome. Our rental car was a dud and we had to postpone the second leg of our journey by a half a day as we limped back to the airport to exchange it. Jamie struggles to sleep comfortably the first night in a new place and we changed hotels/locations almost every night. My snoring didn’t help either. Having my wallet stolen at Red Rocks the day before our trip was a huge inconvenience as well. All of that aside, we were able to work everything out and had one of the best trips I have ever been on. 

I have been thinking about this trip a lot lately and wishing I could go back in time and do it again. A full week with one of my favorite people in some of the most beautiful places I could ever imagine. I’m so grateful I got to see and stay in Big Sur when I did. 

Last week I found myself at a coffee shop after class. I had been planning on meeting a friend. I told her where I was in the coffee shop and said I had arrived a little early since traffic had been kind. She messaged back quickly that the day had gotten away from her and she wouldn’t be able to make it. I was faced with the decision to pack up and head home, or enjoy a coffee and work on some writing. I decided to do the latter, and pulled up my working outline. 

I have been working on this novel for a while. I realized about year ago that much of what I had already written was merely backstory. I had to scap a lot of it. And I have been really struggling with the plot points in the second act. Really struggling. Everything I outlined seemed cliche and boring. Yet, as I sat there sipping my Americano, I had a second act break through. I was able to tie in some of the old ideas in a way that felt fresh and rang true for the the characters and how I wanted them to grow through the story. I outlined the whole second act and felt at ease with these new plot points. Now, I have to write it, but I’m excited to tackle this new leg of the journey. Now I have a map. 


Brene Brown speaks about this same struggle in her magnificent book, Rising Strong. She writes of working with Pixar Animation Studios President and staff. The Pixar team explained that the middle of the creative process is the hardest part, in the writing and story telling, but also for the character. I would have to agree. I used to loathe editing, but now it is the part I love the most. The shaping of the story is fun. The slugging along through the middle has had me stuck in creative quicksand for a long time. As Brene states, “You can’t skip the second act.”

This is true in so many parts of life, not just the creative practice. The second act is difficult and trying. There are times it feels as if you will be walking uphill forever. I have been feeling this in my personal life as well. There are great things, don’t get me wrong, but there are deep struggles too. Brene also tells us, ” If we are brave enough, often enough, we’re going to fall. Rising Strong is about what it takes to get back up and keep being courageous with our lives.” 

Holding space and continuing to work and move through the hard stuff can be daunting, but it is worth it. That is one of the reasons I am drawn to storytelling in the first place. It is the shared experience of the human condition that intrigues and excites me. The good stuff wouldn’t feel so grand without the hard stuff to compare it to. There is also grace in accomplishing something seemingly impossible. You always get to keep that prize, you made it through whatever daunting thing had been placed in your path. And when the next hardship rears its ugly head, you aren’t hopeless, because of all the dragons you have slayed before. As Brene so brilliantly reminds us, ” The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens.”

Dinner is Served

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I  love to cook. This has always been the case, but it was very difficult to cook for one for many years. It took a while to figure it out. I also have two major food allergies that make it difficult to eat out and be satisfied. I can modify just about anything, but if I want it, I have to figure out how to make it happen in my own kitchen. This could have been very challenging, but it’s actually been a positive thing. I had to learn how to cook again and it has opened me up to another form of creativity.

I have been listening to podcasts recently as I cook dinner. One  in particular has been incredibly juicy. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. Her book of the same title came into my life at a critical time and it has helped me dispel some of the myths I had held about myself and my ability to create. The most recent episode really hit me, as did the episode with Neil Gaiman. These podcasts have quite literally been food for my soul.

The podcast I listened to tonight spoke of many important things, but most importantly for my journey, was the concept of showing up before you’re ready. Knowing that you are never going to truly be ready, but here is the Universe offering you an invitation anyway. I cried as I sautated my Brussels sprouts, hearing my thoughts and feelings expressed through another woman’s voice. I think this is why I create. To find meaning and find myself in others. It helps me feel connected to something bigger than I am. It helps me makes sense of the world, when it is so often senseless.

My life has been topsy-turvy the last few months. I made a major change for my good, but I am not someone who handles change well. Even when it is what is best for me. Creative endeavors ground me. They lead me home and I discovered later than I care to admit, that when life feels overwhelming, the best thing I can do is create. I might never write the great American novel or headline Red Rocks (although  I’m still working on making those things happen) but I can make dinner. I can take ingredients and use my magic to create something special and delicious. I am going to continue trying to find meaning. I’m going to start accepting that invitation.

To Everything There is a Season

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mbm2011IMG_2254wtmkThis has been the most beautiful Autumn I ever remember in Colorado. The interesting thing is that it has happened in waves. Most of the trees in Denver are just starting to change, but last weekend, the collegiate peaks were in full color. I was lucky to get out of town, with one of my best friends. We had a wonderful weekend and was amazed by the ridiculous level of beauty at every turn.

Fall is my favorite time of year and I’ve written about it here on many occasions. It holds so much meaning for me, but it is also bittersweet. It is the end of a cycle. One final burst of color, before a new white canvas. There are many blessings in my life right now: I have a job, a home, people who love me, a weekend of uninterrupted quality time with one of my best friends. However, there is horrendous upheaval all around and the stress and sadness is hard to manage. Many systems in my life and the lives of those I love are being torn down. I trust and have faith that these systems will be built again, stronger and better, yet these times of chaos are unsettling.

How do we keep a tight ship in a stormy sea. How do we move forward when our path seems cluttered with destruction, so much so that it’s difficult to even make the next right step? I don’t have the answer, I’m afraid. I think that is one of the reasons why autumn is so breathtaking. I think it’s the universe’s way of soothing our souls and easing us into the dormancy of winter.

I trust that this time of upset will resolve. I can only control or change so much. Much of this is out of my hands and above my pay grade, as a good friend likes to say. Yet, there is still beauty. There is still deep, unending friendship. There is still comfort from my dad, even if I have to visualize a bear hug as he listens and calms me over the phone. There is a time for every season and a time for every purpose, whether I see the reason or not.

Into the Woods…Again

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This has been another quiet weekend, after a stressful week. I had a couple of opportunities to go out last night, but I was feeling reflective and still not breathing great, so I ended up staying in. I slept well and wrote. Baked and organized. I also found some scenes from my story that I have been interested in reworking. It was interesting to read them back after so long. The writing is fine, but with this distance, I am able to see that all of these pages add up to back story and not much real story I can use.

In the past, this would have frustrated me, but it didn’t feel like a waste today. These scenes gave me insight into the character and I can still use that insight as I move ahead. I am basically having to start from scratch with this story, but I think I finally understand what the story really is and how to write the moment in time. All the pages I’ve already written won’t go to waste. There are some scenes I can use, but much of it is a wash.

I have been nervous to attempt this story again, but I am itching to head into the woods again.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

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Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

The first official day of fall isn’t for a couple of weeks, but I can feel it coming in this weekend. Fall is my favorite time of year in so many ways. It is the most beautiful to me – the leaves, the light, the perfect temperature. It also has always felt more like the new year than January does. Fall is one big last burst of beauty and harvest, before winter comes and things go dormant again, burrowing under ground and building beauty anew for the coming year. I reflect in the autumn, review the year and let go of my own dead leaves, after they have revealed their true colors.

I had a cold this week and slept terribly. This weekend has been quiet, but in a way, it was exactly what I needed. I have slept, written, read, eaten comforting healthy food and sat outside in the breeze. I’ve done some cleaning too and later today, I’ll do some cooking for the week, but I needed to rejuvenate and regroup this weekend.

I’ve been very emotional these last two weeks too. I have been vulnerable and spoken to friends and a counselor. I am processing. Mainly, I want things in my life, that I don’t have. I am a glass half full person and most of the time I am content and at peace with most areas of my life. I do still struggle with releasing my urge to control life and letting go of the reins and having faith can be difficult more times than not.

It is the 25th Anniversary of the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I have written about this book before, but I have been thinking about it a lot lately and needed to write about it some more. It is my all time favorite book. It speaks to me and moves me every time I read it and I assume that it always will. It is a simple story with complexity that unfolds more with every reading. I have a beat up dog-eared copy that is highlighted and underlined. I also have a twentieth anniversary copy that is in good shape as a keepsake.

The story holds so much truth and I seem to reread it in the fall, which upon reflection doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. In the fall, I take stock of where I am and what I am grateful for. I also reflect on the things that I hope to change or see flourish in the coming year. The Alchemist reminds me that the Universe conspires to meet me and help me achieve what I was put here to do, just like Santiago in the story. I also go through hard times on my journey and am continually trying to interpret the omens and follow my path.

I splurged on Friday and bought an elegant new lined notebook. It is bound with soft leather and the cover features autumn leaves that seem to be floating. I am hoping to use it as inspiration to get back into an old work in progress, The Lost. I still really believe in the story and want to tell it, however, I got confused about the direction the story was going and instead of following my characters into the woods – I left them.

I was able to build up some momentum over the summer and I am writing, in some form, almost every day. I’ve asked a colleague to read my drafts in an effort to keep me accountable to the story and I am wooing my muse with a new notebook. I’ll let you know if any of it works.

Nothing gold can stay… it is true in so many ways. I am trying to make the most of the gold while it lasts and continue to reflect, change and grow in the coming year as a person and a writer.

Spend Your Whole Life Waiting…

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I went to an event at Lakeside Amusement Park last week and had more fun than I’d had in a while. It was a rainy afternoon, but in the evening it was just pleasant and cool. It was a special event for the Denver Film Society called Summer Scream and the park was closed to the general public. The ticket entitled you to unlimited rides and cocktails. I hadn’t been to Lakeside in a long time. I have always loved amusement rides. This park especially has a great deal of sentimental value because I have many great memories of riding with my father.

We got there near the start of the event and only had to wait about fifteen minutes to ride the two big deal rides. The Cyclone and the Wild Chipmunk. The Cyclone is a wooden coaster built in 1940. The Wild Chipmunk opened in 1955 and is a wild mouse coaster. I loved every second but am quite bruised up from being knocked around.

Soon the line for both rides was over an hour long. We got some drinks and spent time on some other great rides. The Tilt-O-Whirl and Satellite Planes were as fun as ever. After a couple of hours, we were joined by some more acquaintances. They wanted to ride the Wild Chipmunk and while they waited, we all took turns riding other rides as the line inched along.

It occurred to me that many of the “big ticket” items in life are this way. It seems you have to wait for the really good stuff, but when it’s right, everything can fall into place so quickly. I wrote The Christmas Child for almost a dozen years, but the actual publishing process and getting it out in the world happened over a matter of months. One of my best friends has been trying to grow her family for four years and it would seem they will be gaining a new member by the end of the month. You date for years, but when the right person steps into your life, everything aligns.

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It helps remind me to keep moving forward, even if I don’t have any idea when it’s all going to line up. Every day is a chance to take steps toward the good that is headed my way. I make minimal progress most days, but it all adds up to a giant leap in the right direction in the grand scheme of things. I look forward to soaring in the clouds when it all falls into place. Then I’ll start inching toward my next big thrill.