Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hungering for Beauty & Smallness

It has been a difficult season of gray days and black nights and aching for the dawn, a time when every part of my heart, my life, my calling, my core, has been challenged to evolve, adapt, accept, surrender, and overcome. It has been a time of dreadful dullness, punctuated by sharp stabbing moments of inner chaos. This season has left me hungry--so hungry--for change, for growth, for the drenching of beauty that will wash away all the ugliness that remains, both within me and around me.

Today is one of those days when I wish I could recline in a field of flowers and stare at the shapes of the clouds without the fear of creepy crawlies and pollen reactions (as if.) Since fields of flowers are almost sure to have both of those things, however, I wish for the beach; I long to sit at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, in that flour-y white sand, in that perfect place where the tide laps playfully at my toes, reminding me that I am small and God is big and I am His.

I want to surround myself with beauty and peace and to settle my heart within that sort of perspective. I want it to seep inside me, inhabit me, renew me, and shine out from within me to those around me who so desperately need it. I want to embrace my smallness, that I might allow my heart to be engaged--every moment--in recognizing the immense hope I know exists, even in the chaos of our darker seasons.

I read an article last week that claimed people who see fresh flowers first thing in the morning are more optimistic throughout the day. It made sense, so I thought . . . okay. Let's do THAT.

I brought home two bunches of daisies and one of... something purple from the affordable cut-flower section of my local discount grocery store. There were enough for two bouquets, so two were made: one for the kitchen, one for the living room. After arranging and placing, I instantly felt better. Having flowers on my table, seeing them first thing in the morning and every time I pass through the kitchen these last few days has been... 


We're a household of "pilers" -- we pile stuff, both literally and figuratively. In the figurative sense, it is our emotions that fester in the wounds inflicted upon us as well as those we inflict upon others. But in a more literal sense, as anyone who 'pops in' for a visit unannounced can attest, if there is a flat surface, it will have a bunch of paperwork, mail, and other random stuff piled on it. The worst place for these piles to accumulate, of course, is the kitchen table (which is our only eating surface.) 

Rare is the meal that finds all four of us at the table. Often, we shove all that paperwork detritus to the middle to make room for a plate on which we can eat. Gross, right? I'm not proud of it, it just is what it is. Or at least it HAS BEEN. Until I started this flowers thing. Now, although my family hasn't exactly caught on yet, I'm finding myself pulling stuff off the table every time I walk through the room. I don't want anything there to detract from this little snippet of beauty within chaos.

I moved the second bouquet from where it was sitting unnoticed in the living room (let's face it, if we're in there, our eyes are most likely on a screen.) Now it sits on the kitchen counter. Oh, sweet lovely.

Sometimes, it's the little things that dash away the dull grays and the black nights of a season, bringing color, light, and life back into a heart, if only for a moment. I'll take it. Perhaps it will grow and become a new season of its own.

What do you do when you recognize that beauty-hunger within your soul?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Season of Growing Pains

image Copyright: <a href=''> / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
I am (hopefully) coming out of a difficult season, a season in which I've taken emotional punches to the gut... given them back... and been brought to my knees, sorrowed over the resulting losses and filled with regret and guilt over... all of it. I've learned a lot about myself in this season--most of it unpleasant. But I'm finally feeling stronger. Me-er, if that makes any sense. Sadness still lingers, but repentence was true, and although it took a while to get here, that sadness is softer now and I can accept the new peace within the losses. Most days.

Who would have thought I would still be experiencing 'growing pains' at 42?

I hope I've learned things through this season that will make me a better whole down the road, someone who can confidently, kindly, and firmly say "NO" when it is called for and "YES" when it works within the limits of my sanity. I don't want to be that person again; the one who waits too long to be clear, continuously disappoints people because I don't have the heart to be firm in stating my limits when I should. I don't want to put myself in a position again where I've allowed the frustration and irritation of many demands from many various sources become stacked so tightly, layer upon layer, that, when the proverbial tiny strand of straw--or bale, depending on the event--settles on the camel's back, the camel explodes on whoever put it there before collapsing into a heap of tears.

I want to be better at managing my life, my time, my relationships, my heart. And I still have miles to go... many more heart inches to grow.

But something else I've learned over this time is that I am not alone. Many other authors struggle with these same issues--some more successfully than others. But the truth of the matter is that, too often, we authors--especially those of us who are women--and even moreso those of us who are women AND, by nature, introverts--allow guilt to be draped over our shoulders by friends, extended family, our communities--and especially ourselves-- when we invoke the word "No" when asked to "do this"/"be like this"/"show up here and..." So, we don't allow that little word to cross our lips. We try to be all things to all people ... at great expense to our sanity, our stories, our kids and spouses, our calling . . . until we realize, in one ginormous explosion of emotional wreckage, that we just can't do it anymore. That we have to be selective about to whom/to what/and how we distribute our energies. And then we retreat. Sometimes too far.

Yes, we need to find a balance to avoid becoming utter hermits, we still NEED to go out in the world, interact with others, and breathe the wild air, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said; otherwise, how can we go back into our caves and write about it with authority? 

Saying "no" or stating "I can't today/this week/this month/this quarter/ever" now and again is part and parcel of this often quite solitary calling we've embarked upon. Without being what non-publishing people might perceive as "selfish" with our time and energy, we cannot do what we have to do to invest what we need to invest of ourselves in the worlds of words we create. --- 

While sipping my coffee this morning, I came across this article by Jeanine Henning on the Indie Author News blog and thought I would share a quote:  

"I think, we authors need to be more selfish sometimes. Yes. I said it. We need to be more selfish with our time and space. Because we are the storytellers that make people buy Kindles, download books, go into book shops and have something to keep them entertained with new worlds and characters." -- Jeanine Henning -- Here's the link to the full article, which is aimed at indie publishing authors, but applicable, I think, to us all:

That seems like a very unfeeling thing to say, very mercenary, perhaps even a bit . . . arrogant. But there is more than a bit of truth at its core. Every human being has only so much of themselves to give, and it varies from person to person. An author of fiction is called to bleed a little of her life-force into each phrase she crafts . . . in the hope that being so bled will result in a page with a pulse. That is what makes a story resonate as true, even though it is fiction. It is draining. And beautiful. 

And misunderstood by so many.

Because I have somewhat of an obsessive personality (the people who know the real me are choking with laughter over that word 'somewhat' about now), I struggle with balancing my life. When emotional upheaval takes center stage--especially when I know I have not reacted as I should have within it--my focus shifts, pinholing on that upheaval, thus putting everything else--including my writing; perhaps ESPECIALLY my writing--at risk. This is problematic when you have contracted with editors for specific dates on which a manuscript is to be completed and ready for edit. When an author's mind is obsessively trapped in one moment or event, unable to move successfully beyond the resulting regret, sadness, anger, or whatever else resulted from it, anxiety becomes a near-constant companion. Creativity suffers, hope for its return shrivels, characters are silent, and each new scene that hits the ever-expanding wordcount becomes little more than a series of contrived efforts to make *something* happen to move the story forward, but yet . . . they fail to do so in a way that honors the characters' journey.

That was my season. 

Outwardly, I blamed the book. "This book is killing me!" I lamented. But inwardly, I knew the truth. It wasn't the book--okay, it was partly the book, but that's another blog post!--but my meaninglessly verbose creative drought (165,000 word draft with stakes yet unclear anyone?) was due more to the festering wound inside my heart than the story I was trying to bring to life on the page.

Within the benevolent grace of God, a good friend (also an author) advised me to find a way to figuratively or even physically let it go. On her advice, I did. In the window of my soul, I pictured my hands, filled with the delicate petals of a pink rose--the fragile beauty of what was lost. I lifted my hands to God and allowed a gentle breeze to take those petals from my hands and into his keeping.
Image Copyright: <a href=''> / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

He took them. They are His.

As am I. Still.

It was a beautiful, freeing image... and one I shall cling to and return to when new hurts invade new seasons of my life with growing pains... as surely they will. As long as I live, I'll have many miles to go, many heart-inches to grow.

Have you gone through a difficult season of 'growing pains' lately as an author--or as a human being--or both?

You are not alone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Random Quirks of Me: 20 Things I've Learned About Myself (Recently)

Some things are just not worth sweating over.

Some things are.

Here are some random quirky things things I have learned about myself in recent months:

1. I do not have the patience to master Photoshop. Not even after taking a once/week class for 6 weeks.

2. and because I do not have the patience to master Photoshop (Elements. The "easy" cheapo version.) neither do I need to learn how to operate that schmancy DSLR camera that I do not yet own (and should never purchase.)

3. I need to use recipes when I cook. 

4. That may not translate into "I will use recipes when I cook" and yet . . . no one in this house will starve.

5. Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing.

6. Almost always, when you've been hurt, the best thing to say is nothing.

7. When you go ahead and say something anyway, you need to apologize. Quickly. Truly. Repentantly. (But do wait until the repentance is genuine, or what is it worth?)

8. I do not have a spam folder in my brain I can empty. I wish I did. This year, more than any other, my brain feels as if it has reached maximum capacity.

9. Ooooooh... shiny! (I am easily distracted.)

10. No one should have a combined 14,242 emails spread over three email account inboxes. 

11. I have 14,242 emails in three (combined) inboxes.

12. New furniture can change your life. Seriously. I can sleep now, without pain (most of the time) because the furniture I sit in during the day and evening has been recently replaced.

13. New furniture is expensive. But if it changes your life in a way that positively impacts your health and productivity, it is money well spent.

14. If there is a clean dog, and the weather is warm enough to produce mud, he will roll in it.

15. Don't spend good money on bad chocolate. Spend extra money on good chocolate, and then treat it as the treat it is, rather than a cheap stress bomb.

16. Business tax deductions are cool for next year, but it still hurts to buy them this year.

17. Gravity is not my friend. 

18. Also, I am glad for gravity. Just imagine trying to get stuff done when you're floating all over the place. I mean . . . really.

19. You can decide to be content where you are, even though it's the last place you ever wanted to be, but you have to work really hard to keep that contentment or you'll make everyone else around you miserable, too.

20. If you think you need to speak softly so no one will hear what you're saying, chances are you should not speak at all.

So, there they are. Twenty things I've learned about myself in recent months. Can't say as I've applied all (or any?) of them successfully yet, but there they are, in all their humanness. 

Random. Quirky. That's me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Random Februrary Freak Out (or is it?)

There is something about this time of year that causes certain areas of my brain to implode and makes everything seem 5 billion times more overwhelming than it is. There is just too much to do and my learning curve is getting worse and worse the older I get.

There's income tax filing, FAFSA filing, deadlines, budgets, book releases, graduation, marketing, taxes (right. I already mentioned those. Still haven't done 'em.), reading these stacks of books for review, meal planning, grocery shopping, taxes . . . (yeah, those are still there), cold weather, really cold weather, (btw: who ordered this cold weather, making everyone stay in this house so much when I need to be working, or, at the very least, prepping my taxes?) --what can I say? numbers freak me the crap out.--, and a host of things I need to learn to be a successful independent author; things that I just can't seem to make time to learn because . . . it's cold, it's February, I'm trying to finish the most stubborn and convoluted book I've ever written, and I'm utterly overwhelmed.

My procrastination habits and excuses ("But I must finish the book! I can't attend to that other stuff right now!") are only adding to the crazy. I'm practically inhaling chocolate these days, and my increased caffeine consumption (via both coffee and Dr. Pepper) is not helping to ease me through the final stages of writing this book during February's annual freak out, instead, it's providing:

  • Nightly anxiety attacks.
  • Lack of sleep due to anxiety (and caffeine perhaps?)
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed and mildly freaked out. 
  • Nibbling habits that prove I would make an excellent chain smoker, were I open to adding cancer sticks to my collection of bad habits (thankfully, I'm not quite there. Yet.)

But am I doing anything proactive to counteract it?

Err... nope. I have to finish the book, remember??? THERE'S NO TIME (okay, there is probably time. But there's a pronounced lack of motivation.)

*bangs procrastinating head on desk and avoids doing tax prep for another day*

I'm "attending" a webinar this afternoon concerning one of many items I have put off learning about due to its residency on my I-CANNOT-LEARN-ONE-MORE-THING-CUZ-MY-BRAIN-REACHED-CAPACITY-PRIOR-TO-TURNING-FORTY list of things that so overwhelm me about this business. Honestly, just the thought of facing all I do not know about this subject (and so many other subjects!) makes me want to grab my hair at the roots and curl into the fetal position until Spring--assuming I can finish this convoluted book in the fetal position, you understand. For the book must be finished.

Is it cabin fever . . . or the natural result of avoidance? Is it a sign that complete insanity is only a snowball's throw away? I hope not (although my children might argue that the proverbial crazy stone hit its mark a while ago.) 

What overwhelms you to the point of succumbing to a random (or increasingly regular) freak outs?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Points to Ponder Concerning the 50 Shades Buzz

Even before I became a reviewer of books and films, I operated under a general, albeit unofficial policy that I would refuse the temptation to condemn a book I had not read (or a film I had not seen) based on what I had heard about it from the media or others*. As you read, please remember that. 
*Sadly, the term 'others', as referred to above, most often means Christians, the church, and those who have been placed--or have placed themselves--in the spotlight as a mouthpiece for the Christian community as a whole--but that is a topic for another day.

I have not, nor do I plan to read the Fifty Shades of Grey book series; neither do I intend to see the film. Therefore, I will not comment directly about either, because I do not consider myself qualified to do so. 

However, as a media professional, I do feel qualified to comment on the buzz surrounding these books and the film based upon them.

Before I began working in the romance fiction industry, I was not even aware the BDSM subgenre of romance fiction existed. It wasn't until I came across the term "BDSM" as central to a book review that I Googled the definition and . . . my jaw dropped. "Okee-dokey, then," I thought, shocked. "So... that's a thing. A real thing? And there are people really into it? Empowered by it? Turned on by it? Living it?" 

Well, color me innocent. And surprised. And . . . sad.

Although Fifty Shades of Grey might be the bestselling book of this subgenre, it is far from alone. Still, those who criticize the series based on perceived content seem to believe it shockingly unique. It is not. (I say 'perceived' because, let's face it: most of this book's negative critics have NOT read it.) Author E.L. James is hardly a trail-blazer. BDSM fiction existed well before Fifty Shades of Grey and more titles are releasing every day. For every person who purchases one of James's Grey books electronically, a slew of like titles by other authors will be set before their eyes, tempting them to purchase . . .

. . . while critics snarl and hiss and judge, using only that one as reference.

It makes me wonder . . . do they not know there is a whole world of that stuff out there? 

Why I don't read Erotica or BDSM books
I accepted Christ when I was eleven years old, but there were times in my younger adult years when I was not bothered by graphic sex scenes in novels. Several years ago, however, I decided those scenes were not something I needed in my life and I made a faith-based choice to skip through the pages of those I came across accidentally in my reading; moreover, I now choose to avoid reading books I know will lead toward graphic sex scenes. 

My definition of 'graphic' may not be the same as yours. And my idea of what constitutes a 'graphic sex scene' does not necessarily place a book in the category of 'Erotica' in the official categories of Romance Fiction, as I have come to discover. BDSM fiction is, technically, a subgenre of the subgenre of Erotica, which falls under the larger genre umbrella of Romance Fiction. Erotica, by definition, is literature or entertainment created with the intent of inducing sexual arousal. Since I do not read for that reason (I am quite happy to leave the inducement of that state to my husband, thank you very much), I do not read erotica. 

I consider erotic content in fiction (that written with the intent of inducing sexual arousal) akin to that destructive beast, Pornography--a thing that worms its way into an imagination only to become an obsessive habit, intent upon soiling the sexual expression of or appreciation for true, relational love. Therefore, I find the concept of BDSM behavior, whether in fictional form or as a lifestyle choice, a grievously sad comment on the status of modern romantic expression and psychological health. 

How our hearts ache when we learn someone we love is a 'cutter', someone who purposefully damages herself (or himself), using self-mutilation as a means of coping with stress or depression, or as a way to deal with past abuse or other psychological trauma. When an individual seeks a form of violence to give himself or herself a sense of control, it evidences deeply unmet spiritual, emotional, and psychological needs--and perhaps reveals that this person has suffered other forms of past abuse, which still inform his or her self-image. To me, BDSM, by definition, regardless of which combination of words used to form that acronym, is cutting's more glamorous cousin. 

We were not created to derive pleasure from the receiving or administration of pain--not even second hand through the fictional depiction of those sorts of sexual/physical encounters. We were created to form meaningful relationships, to emulate hope and love that, when met in marriage, can express itself beautifully through the safe, secure, and fearless joining of our bodies as one.  It breaks my heart that there are people so broken, so damaged, that they would be willing to be hurt--or to inflict hurt upon someone else--to escape numbness, to feel worthy, loved, or even alive. The concept of BDSM directly conflicts with my definition of what healthy, fearless, safe, loving, and partner-honoring sexuality is. That is why I do not read BDSM books.

And yet...
That being said, the growing popularity of this subgenre should serve as a wake-up call for mental health professionals and spiritual leaders; a call to provide a safe environment, free of judgment, where those who have fallen victim to the BDSM lure--either by choice or as a result of ongoing abuse--can find hope and healing (even if the only lure to which they have succumbed is that taking up space in their mind.) It should also encourage us to be honest with our teens and young adults who have access to these forms of entertainment. 

How we are entertained can color our perception of true expressions of love and desire (vs. what is abuse) in future relationships. Imagine, if you will, a generation of boys and girls who go into adulthood and marriage believing that instigating or submitting to psychological and sexual abuse is just another night in the bedroom. 

A Warning Concering the Negative Impact of Anti-50 Shades Proselytizing
What are the implications of BDSM entertainment's popularity... if handled with only judgment and censure by its opposition? The obvious answer is: curiosity and rebellion. Think on that.

If the prevalent opposing message the public receives is, "It's bad! And if you like it, so are you, Perv!" all we do is promote shame at the expense of truth, inflicting new wounds upon the likely already-existing ones a more compassionate approach might soothe.

Heaping shame on those who have read books glamorizing BDSM--and/or those who will watch movies based upon them--is not speaking the truth in love. (see Ephesians 4:14-16)

Positive Things About the 50 Shades Buzz 

  • Even though the Fifty Shades of Grey promotional blitz is slapping you upside the face every time you turn on your TV, not all the buzz is pro-Fifty Shades or pro-BDSM. (Obviously.) Perhaps you've seen #50ShadesIsAbuse on Twitter or other social media networks. Have you noticed the diverse mix of people tweeting, blogging, and otherwise posting that hashtag? I have seen it quite a bit this week, as well as many other hashtags promoting a similar message. Because I have not read the books to justify that comment as fact, I have not personally participated in the movement--to do so would violate my personal policy (see the first paragraph); but that such a hashtag exists and is being promoted by people of such historically ideologically diverse platforms, leads me to my next point:
  • For the first time in my recollection--perhaps in the history of the WORLD--many feminists and Christians are on the same pageBDSM entertainment glorifies abuse. (The message might be portrayed a little differently depending on who is touting it, but at its heart, it is the same.) Although the general focus of social media hashtags and whatnot is on this one book/movie, it cannot be denied that these two, oft-head-butting factions are, in fact, mingling toward the same cause. (Those of us who consider ourselves 'Christian Feminists' are nodding our heads, thinking 'finally!') 
  • But that brings up another point to ponder: women are not the only victims of BDSM-driven abuse. Whether by choice or not, men, too, suffer physical, sexual, and psychological abuse when the person with whom they are involved derives pleasure from the giving or receiving of pain. 
  • We have been given an opportunity and a stage on which we can speak the truth in love, encourage intelligent discussion, and raise awareness of how to help people trapped in an abusive relationship, lifestyle, or pattern of thinking.

  • Kindness, compassion, and love--real, Christ-like love--are the only proactive expressions that will ultimately succeed in helping people overcome an obsession with or addiction to destructive behaviors.
  • Regardless of the labels some loud naysayers may wish to assign, the fact that someone has read erotica or plans to see the Fifty Shades of Grey movie does not make them a pervert; it only proves them to be a consumer of pop culture.

If you are surprised I would write something like this, well... so am I. At least a little bit. I generally prefer to tell stories, to avoid controversy, and to hang out in my writing cave, playing with my imaginary friends. But because I have been personally victimized in the past by people within the church who have judged me and my faith by the sorts of books I read and promote (again, another post for another day), books they would never even CONSIDER reading because another Christian (who also likely did not read them) pronounced them 'evil' -- I felt called to share my heart on this subject. 

I leave you with this advice... a tiny, and yet rather immense gem of wisdom I came across this past week in, of all things, a romance novel:

"Love well."
(from To Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck -- available February 24, 2015)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I know. My blogging at this location is sporadic at best. But just in case anyone out there in internet land actually reads this blog, I absolutely HAD to let you know about a promotion I'm involved with going into the holiday season. It's called the 32 Author Hunt. It was put together by author Brock Eastman as a blog scavenger hunt with an amazing cache of prizes, including 32 books and an i-pad mini! Check out this bookshelf for some of the books you could win:
Visit THIS PAGE for more info
Visit HERE when you've found all the clues
or if you need an easy-to-click list of links with which to do so!
Oh, and do take a peek at that newly-redesigned cover of THE RYN in the top row, center
(I know, the changes are subtle, but they're there!)

Make sure you also visit the 2 stops on the hunt in which I'm directly involved!
You can find my character interview with Captain Cazien de Pollis (a rather clever pirate you might remember from his minor role in The Ryn and The Remedy.) by clicking this link to Rachel Starr Thomson's blog. Now that Rynnaia's tale has been told, Cazien is still being chatty; therefore, I had to interview him... especially since this particular swashbuckler will be stealing the spotlight with the first of his own 2-book set in the Eyes of E'veria series in June 2014.

At my other blogging home, Edgy Inspirational Romance, you will find a feature interview with fantasy author Jenelle Schmidt AND a bonus giveaway of (wait for iiiiittt....)
an autographed copy of the soon-to-be-released PAPERBACK version of THE RYN (Eyes of E'veria, book 1)
and a spray lotion and perfume roll-on of RYNNAIA, a scent I created with MiA Bath & Body products.
Most of the authors on the hunt are doing this bonus giveaways, so make sure you visit them all!

The hunt goes through December 6, 2014. What are you waiting for?
Begin at Stop#1 by clicking on this link to Brock Eastman's blog
 Good luck!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


This past weekend I took my two daughters on a quick and spontaneous trip that just happened to include a short stop-off at a beach. Since we live in Iowa, "real" beaches (the kind where the sand comes from God instead of a truck) are a bit difficult to come by around here--especially the sort of beaches where you can't see the other side. But I hunger for that exact sort of beach.

All of the time.

I'm a fan of warm southern breezes, palm trees, and white sand meeting up with the jade green clearness of the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, it takes about 20 hours to get to Florida's panhandle and at least a few hours more to reach some of my favorite spots: Clearwater Beach, Sanibel Island, and Naples. Unfortunately, when the idea struck to get the heck outta Dodge on Friday afternoon, it came with the dratted realization that "the new school year" was scheduled to commence on Monday. And since my bank account couldn't support two tickets to paradise, let alone the three we would actually need, Florida wasn't in the cards for our girls' getaway this weekend. 

So we went to Wisconsin, instead.

Now normally, I don't think most people think of "beach" when they think of Wisconsin. They think of dairy cows, dairy products, guys wearing cheese hats at football games, and rolling green hills dotted with (you guessed it) dairy cows. With the fame of Chicago and the very name of the state of Michigan being shared by that big ol' lake, we often tend to forget that Wisconsin, too, borders Lake Michigan. And when you've got a lake big enough that you can't see the other side, there's bound to be a beach worth visiting.


Sure. In . . .Michigan. But Wisconsin? Really?


I've been to the "other side" of Lake Michigan. A couple of summers ago our little family took a long weekend in the lovely little town of South Haven, which boasts two beautiful beaches and is within easy driving distance of many more. Although we all love our visits to the ocean, I have to say: Lake Michigan can be a pretty sweet substitution for us budget-conscious Midwesterners. When you look across the big expanse of blue lake, it may not have the salty spray, but it "feels" like you're at the ocean.

I don't remember thinking about Chicago or Wisconsin when I was on a beach in Michigan, just like I didn't think about South Haven, Michigan as I sat on the Kenosha, Wisconsin sand last Saturday morning. All I thought of was . . . peace. And wholeness. And the strange sort of "rightness" that settles over me whenever I sit near an ocean (or a reasonable facsimile.)

There's something about a big body of water and a sandy shore that helps me find my center. The vastness, the depth, the power of the waves and tides all work together to work a mysterious peace through my soul. Every time I visit a beach--a real beach, not the trucked-in kind--I'm reminded that I need more than what is seen. In the chaos of everyday life, I need that break from the land to know that it's okay to not be able to see the other side. That there is beauty in the mystery. That I don't have all the answers and that I don't have to have all the answers. I simply need to breathe, to listen to the waves breaking and slapping against the sand, and to feel the warmth of the sun on my face while the coolness of the morning still lingers in the sand.

It's only a five or so hour drive away, this beach we discovered. As drives go, it's not terribly long, but neither is it what I would call an easy drive. There's no direct route between my Iowa home and Kenosha, Wisconsin. There are confusing offshoots of interstates I don't normally travel, every excuse for road construction known to man, and every ten minutes or so, a toll booth that will make you a pauper in its quest to pull the state of Illinois out of its monstrous debt . . . at least in the transportation department. Honestly, it's a crappy drive to get to and from Kenosha's sweet beach. But then again . . .

Why should I expect a path toward peace in my soul to be an easy road? 

As a fantasy reader and author, as well as someone who studied at least the required bits of history necessary to achieve a Bachelor's degree in the United States of America, I know that peace is generally only noticed before or after a war. A season of unrest passes, and renewal--that deep, thirst-quenching hope, wells up within.

For me, the renewal of my spirit often comes 
by way of a beach. 

There is beauty in the mystery of not being able to see the other side. And in that beauty, there is hope.

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