Letter to Myself: What’ll Get You to the Flipside

Dear Jerri Lynn,

There are so many things I wish that you knew, but not much that I’d tell you. After all, each and every tear you cry, mistake you make, and success you achieve will work toward making you the person that you’ll be in the future.

That person, by the way, isn’t perfect. She’s a little on the dumpy side (okay, so maybe I would say you should appreciate this time in your life when you “think” you’re fat, cause honey, in the future, you’re going to put on a few extra pounds). She can be a dork. She’s made LOTS of mistakes. And sometimes she loses her way. But you know what? She’s pretty prefect just like she is.

So, looking back what WOULD I tell you? Just this: Remember who you are and where you came from. I’m not talking familial lineage, here. I’m talking about that person that you don’t show everyone. THAT person is who you should strive to hold onto because for a little while, doll, you’re going to lose her. And you might not think that’s a big deal, but from this side of that chasm? It’s a huge, scary loss that’s going to be hard to come back from.

Hold on to who you want to be, and remember that if other people want you to change for them, then they probably only have their own interests in mind.

And where you came from? Well, you probably already realize that though they’re tough, your parents are good,loving, and supportive parents.  And you’ll always appreciate them. But I’m talking about the OTHER where you came from. The place in God’s heart where he knew you long before you were born. That one element, friend, would make such a difference for you.  Instead of spending a few years floundering around, if you remember where you came from, you’ll always know where you belong, even when you can’t seem to find that perfect place to fit in one earth.

Beyond that, younger me, keep right on doing what you’re doing. Suffer a little for me. Sing a little for everyone. And always, always, take the time to feel everything as fully as you can. It’ll hurt, it’ll feel fantastic, and at times it will be so confusing you won’t know exactly what it is you’re feeling.  But those emotions will pave the way for what’s coming. Those experiences will take you along a path that not too many people would choose to follow.  That’s okay. Less crowds, more rewards.

Just be yourself, my friend. Because it’s in being yourself that you’re the happiest, kindest, funnest person you’ll ever be.  And there’s nothing in the world wrong with that.  There’s nothing wrong with changing nothing and learning from everything.

Have fun, and I’ll see you on the flip side.
Jerri Lynn

Celebration Time!!!

Remember a few years back when you were in elementary school, the days you looked forward to the most (besides weekends and vacations of course) were the holiday celebrations. Those were the days you actually wanted to go to school. You’d get to dress up for the Halloween parade, share a gift with a fellow student for the Christmas celebration, make a Valentine card to give to everyone in your class, etc. Food was usually involved in some way too.

Well today we’re interrupting our Writing 101 class to celebrate Publication <insert confetti throwing and noisemakers>. Yes, two of our esteemed authors  here at Inkspirational Messages–Jerri Lynn Ledford and Shannon Taylor Vannatter–have new releases out.

It’s time to party!

I’ve brought bars to share (reminder for non-Minnesotans, bars in this case are not the place you go to drink alcohol, rather they are highly sweetened, often chocolate treats, usually layered in a pan. Calories? <shhh. We don’t talk about them.>) Anyway, I digress.  If you’d like to bring something to share, that would be great!

So please come celebrate with us as we honor two of our very own.

Jerri’s debut novel, Biloxi Sunrise, released just this week. You can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for just 99 cents. Yes, you heard me right: only 99 pennies. I already have it on my Kindle. Don’t have a Kindle or a Nook? No problem. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have computer apps you can download. So, no excuses.

Want to know more about Jerri? Stop by her terrific website: http://www.jerriledford.com/. You can also *like* her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jerri-Lynn-Ledford/147815135313371

BILOXI SUNRISE

The Biloxi Series

Debut Novel by Jerri Lynn Ledford

Deep South Press 2011

He hadn’t protected them.

When Homicide Special Investigator Jack Roe’s daughter is killed in an auto accident and his wife dies from a drug overdose, he abandons a promising career as a Military Police Officer. If only he’d been there when they needed him, he could have saved them both.

He didn’t protect her.

Six years later, Jack is in Biloxi, Mississippi to be close to his sister and her daughter, Lisa. As long as he’s around, nothing can happen to them. But then he’s called to the hospital in the middle of the night and learns that Lisa has been abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Jack must confront old wounds that never healed, and a burning anger that’s been buried for far too long.

She can’t protect him.

The same night, a woman’s body turns up on the beach. A few days later, so does another one. Jack must deal with his past and his present while he and his partner, Kate Giveans, race to find a killer before another woman dies. But Kate harbors a secret that just might get Jack killed.

Click <here> to purchase Biloxi Sunrise through Amazon

Click <here> to purchase Biloxi Sunrise through Barnes and Noble

~~~~~~~~

You’re all familiar with Shannon’s fabulous work. No one writes romance fiction better than Shannon Vannatter–all those awards she won for her White Roses series are proof enough. And now Rodeo Dust, the first in her Texas Rodeo series, is out courtesy of Heartsong Presents (Barbour Publishing). Rodeo Hero and Rodeo Ashes will release in 2012.

Shannon has a wonderful website, http://shannonvannatter.com/, and a popular romance blog, http://shannonvannatter.com/blog/. She’d also love it if you’d *like* her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shannontaylorvannatter

 

RODEO DUST

Texas Rodeo Series

by Shannon Taylor-Vannatter

Heartsong Presents 2011

Ad exec, Rayna Landers meets bull rider, Clay Warren at the State Fair of Texas. While Rayna thinks she’s content solo, Clay longs for marriage and family. Though poised to win his third world championship, his ranch is in a slump. Clay convinces his publicist to hire her advertising firm in a last-ditch effort to keep his employees and lasso her heart.

Soon the city girl is on the ride of her life, until the rodeo unearths buried memories from her past. Clay sees her through the trauma, but an injury and his stubborn determination to get back in the hypothetical saddle threatens their budding relationship. Can they rely on God to find their common ground or will they draw a line in the rodeo dust that neither will cross?

Click <here> to go to Shannon’s page at Barbour Publishing. Last I checked Rodeo Dust wasn’t listed, but it’s coming soon so keep checking back.

Enjoy today’s party, but remember, next week we begin classes again.

It’s Not ACFW But…

I wish I had stories of ACFW to share with you.  This was going to be the year that I went and finally met the friends that I’ve made through the ACFW online forums.  For a variety of reasons, it didn’t happen.  God has a way of taking you in the direction that you need to go.

Instead, I ended up going to a conference (on the same weekend) in South Caroline called The Writer’s Police Academy.  What a weekend I had!

The weekend started off with a meet and greet reception on Thursday night.  You’re familiar with these.  Everyone is getting in, getting ready for the “main event,” registering, etc. It was my first exposure to a man I’ve long followed on the Internet, Lee Loffland.  Lee’s a great guy.  He’s an ex-cop that shares his knowledge with writers so they can get their stories right.  Lee’s a hoot online, but in person he’s closer to a comedian.

Friday kicked off the first of two and half days of intense teaching about what else? Law enforcement “stuff.”  I had to say stuff, because it was far more than just crime scene investigation and arresting techniques.  My first “class” of the day was actually a very detailed tour of a fire station, along with a description of the protective gear, the workings of  pumper truck, and some forcible entry techniques used when it’s essential to get through a locked door during a fire event.  Tim Fitts, who did most of the talking and demonstrating, took the time to answer all of my questions about fire cadets, arson investigators, and the nature of fire and arson investigations.

I followed up with an arson investigation class. Did you know that it’s actually not all that difficult (in most cases) to tell if a fire is arson or accidental?  Fires create very distinct burn patterns based on where and how they started.  A trained arson investigator can spot these patterns and then use those to lead to additional clues that will help them learn the origin of a fire. I learned about accelerants, the different colors of fire, the heat generated by a fire, and most interesting, that everything has to turn to gas before it will burn. That’s a super interesting thing to watch when you know what you’re looking at.

There was so much information in that arson investigation class that I actually took it the second time around in the afternoon.  So, my first full day at WPA consisted of all things arson.  I could probably write a pretty good arsonist and arson investigator now.  In fact, I will be writing on in Biloxi Heat the third book of the Biloxi series.

There was one non-arson related lecture I caught by Dr. Katherine Ramsland.  She spoke to us about the tools of forensic psychology.  Interesting subject!  She set me straight on some mistaken beliefs about criminal profiling, as well as provided information about kinesic (body movements) evidence that can be helpful during the investigation and after an arrest.  I found another story idea there, too. Unfortunately, I missed the evening discussion with Lee Loffland about the demon in his brain, but hopefully I’ll have a chance to catch it next year.

Saturday was full-tilt all day long.  I started the day out in FATS – Fire Arms Training Simulator. Now, if you want to know what it’s like to be faced with someone that’s dangerous and how it feels to shoot a person, this is as close as you’ll get to the real thing, I think.  You’re placed in a dark room with a screen on which a scenario plays.  You have to decide whom and when to shoot.  The scenarios vary widely, but you have to make the decision in a split second.  I’m still amazed how the “real” world faded away around me and I ended up screaming at the screen before taking a shot.  (By the way, you’re not supposed to scream “Freeze, police!” You’re supposed to yell, “Police. Stop. Put the gun down!” Or whatever the situation warrants – but “Police!” has the be the first word you say.)

(For the record…I had three kill shots out of five and wounded the bad guy twice.)

I also got to taste of crime scene investigation, though admittedly, the torrential downpour we had all weekend long made the whole crimes scene experience a little difficult.

I witnessed a house fire. I learned how different it is for women in law enforcement. I learned about cold cases and the VIDOQ Society. I witnessed a hostage situation that ended because a sniper made a fantastic shot.  And I learned so much more that I can’t possible put it into a single post.  I also made a lot of new friends.  And I’ve added a completely new depth to my writing that I would never have been able to add without the experience.  So, yes, I missed ACFW, but I’m pretty sure this might have been exactly where I was supposed to be this year.

Reading, and Re-Reading

I have to admit, I’m not getting much reading done this summer either. Well, not fun reading anyway. And I’m not reading anything nearly as interesting as research materials. Nope. I’m re-reading the same thing I’ve been writing over and over again for the last year.

Yep. Torture. It’s a murderous, slow death, and I’m convinced I’m being punished for some mistake that I’m completely unaware of.

Okay, so maybe it’s not all that bad. But it’s not a lot of fun. What’s happening is that we’re working through this rather large non-fiction project. It’s the same one that’s had me pulling my hair out for the last year. And we’re on about the 25 billionth iteration of the same basic information.

That means I write it, they love it. Then they hate it and I write it again. Only, each time I write it the information stays essentially the same just the presentation of said information changes. It’s quite the nail-biter, too. I mean, I’m covering things like how to create appointments from email and how to add color to calendars. Can you stand the excitement?

These are definitely not the type of reading materials that I would take to a picnic. What I would take, however, is a serious simple fruit salad that’s both light and desert-like. Try it. I promise it’s easy.

1 Can Fruit Cocktail, drained
1 Apple, sliced thin and then chunked
1 (or 2) Handsful of Grapes (seedless work best, and you can cut them in half if you want)
1 Can Mandarin Orange Segments, drained
1 Tub Cool Whip
1 Handful of Walnuts or Pecans (if Desired)

Toss all ingredients together until well coated. Serve chilled, and keep left-overs refigerated.

See, easy! Almost as easy as winning this weeks collection of books (I think there’s 9 of them, by our own Inkspirational authors as well as others). Just leave a comment and your name will be entered into a drawing. I’ll even make it easy for you: What the easiest summer salad you’ve ever made?

An Opportunity to Learn

This year was to be the year that I made it to the ACFW conference. After listening to all of the stories that come out of the conference, I decided this year, I would go.  But probably not for the reasons that most writers go.

I don’t plan to go for the opportunity to get published. Sure, I want to get published. But I don’t have a manuscript ready to put in front of an inspirational house right now. And if I’m being honest, I’m not completely sure that I want to go the traditional publishing route.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn about publishing. Sometimes learning how others have been through the process is just as valuable as going through the process yourself. Hearing the stories published authors have to tell about how they reached their publishing goals can give you insight into what you’re doing wrong, even before your manuscript gets in front of an editor or agent.

I also don’t plan to go for the opportunity to find an agent.  I have one. She’s fantastic, and if there is one bit of advice that I could give to any writer, it’s that an agent is worth their weight in gold, and I don’t say that as a tired old cliche. For the money (and headaches) that my agent has secured/handled for me, I would gladly have paid the going market rate for enough gold to equal her weight.

That doesn’t mean agent information isn’t valuable to me. Even though I have an agent, I would gladly listen to whatever other agents have to say. Agents know the business.  They know what houses are buying, and they know what books are selling. Don’t discount what an agent has to say simply because you have an agent. Like writers, they all have a different perspective.

My goal from the ACFW conference is to learn. As much as I can. From anyone I can. Because as a writer, as an author, it doesn’t matter if I’m a newbie or a bestseller, I can always learn more about my craft and the business of my craft. And honestly, the ACFW conference is one of the best places to do it.

Really. For the money, where else could you get such a deep education in such a short amount of time? Workshops, lectures, conversations with other writers, agents, and editors. Every moment of every day that you’re at the ACFW conference is an opportunity to learn. It’s an opportunity to see the industry and your craft from dozens if not hundreds of different perspectives. And that, as they say, is priceless.

I may not make it to the conference this year. But I’m not worried. I will make it when the timing is right. Until then, I can still achieve my goal from right here in Deep South Alabama…I just need to pick up the recordings after the conference and listen to all the stories coming from the attendees.

 

Self-Generating Ideas and Where They Come From

Ideas, ideas, ideas. The topic of where our ideas come from is an interesting one to me for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s always nice to compare where ideas come from.  And second, I have my own theory on writer’s ideas.

For me, ideas come in all different types, from all different sources.  My ideas come out of the most unexpected places.Jerri's writer's notebook is where all of her ideas are stored. Sometimes something that happened to me years ago will spark something a little twisted in a current situation and then suddenly I can imagine someone being chased, or a lie that gets out of control.  Or maybe I’ll be walking along in the woods and see the perfect place to commit a murder.  Occasionally, something will strike my fancy about a person and suddenly I can see why they would commit some horrible crime.  Then of course, I have to write this all down in my writer’s notebook.

And since I’m a suspense writer, the news is always a fertile place to find an idea.  I used to collect newspaper clippings about murders to use as fodder for future stories.  It occurred to me that someone might think I was a little strange if they found those clippings, so I don’t do that any more. (Now I just have to worry about them finding my notebook!)

But I have a theory about ideas.  I think that ideas are self-generating.  What I mean by that is that if you’re a working writer, you’ll never have to try to find an idea. You’ll always have more than you know what to do with.  I’m not sure exactly what it is, though I am sure there has been some kind of study done that would point to the chemical in your brain that’s generated by creative work that makes you more creative.

I first developed the self-generating idea concept when I was just getting started as a writer.  I remember very early in my career going to see Stephen King speak to a group of writers at a college in Lexington, KY. He opened the floor for questions at the end of the discussion, and one of the questions (which I’ve since learned is pretty common for all writers) was “where do your ideas come from?”

Mr. King shook his shaggy head and said, “They just do. More than I’ll ever be able to write.” I was disappointed. I hoped he would give me some magical formula for generating blockbuster ideas.

It dawned on me a few months later as I was working on the fifteenth or twentieth short story that I’d written since seeing Stephen King in person, that I completely understood what he meant.  Story ideas fell out of nowhere…when I was working. I could be in the middle of a novel or story that I was absolutely thrilled with, and another idea would begin to bug me.  It wouldn’t go away until I wrote down at least part of it.  Then the same thing would happen again a few days later.

My brain had an assignment. Be creative. And it was. And the ideas came.

When it became imperative that I make a living with my writing, it was hard to generate non-fiction ideas in the beginning.  My brain wanted to create fiction.  But eventually I got into a rhythm of non-fiction writing, then for more than a decade not more than a dozen fiction ideas came out of that same brain.

Then I started working on my current novel again.  And these days I can’t get through a single day without some kind of idea hitting me in the head. I jot it down and keep working.  But the ideas are there. Falling from the sky, and who knows, maybe the ones that stick with me will be blockbusters some day.

Don’t forget…leave a comment for a chance to win two books this week: A GREAT CATCH by Lorna Seilstad and MCKENZIE’S BRANSON BRAINTEASER by by Shari Harness Barr.

Getting to Know New Friends

I’m in the midst of rewriting a novel. It’s something that I wrote a few years ago, and after much worry and angst, I knew that the story wouldn’t let me go until I finished it. Completely.  Because right now, it’s not completely finished. As my more mature writer-self has discovered, my newer writer-self was not nearly ready to write the book that I had concepted before.

Part of what needs to be changed and improved is plot. There are holes big enough to fly a plane through this story.  In my mind, the story is complete, but on the page there is a whole lot of information missing.  So, I had to find a way to visually see what was missing.  The picture on the left is my storyboard. The colors represent different plot lines in the book.  So far, it’s working pretty well. I can immediately see how unbalanced the plot is and where the holes are.

A benefit that I didn’t think I would encounter when I started creating that storyboard however, is that it also makes it much easier to see the motivation (or lack of motivation) that pushes each character forward. I understand my antagonist’s motivation completely.  She was molested as a child and her mother chose to do nothing about it. My antagonist will do whatever it takes to keep that from happening to other innocent children.

My protagonists, however, aren’t as clearly defined.  Sure, it’s important that they accomplish their job – to find the murderer. And I’ve got that nailed down pretty well, as is evidenced by the blue cards.  Those are my “solve the murder” cards.

The pink and purple represent two other motivations, however.  One is love (because it is a romantic suspense novel) and the other is forgiveness. Each of these characters have issues in these areas. And it is those issues that will truly bring my characters to life.  When the reader can see their internal struggles and understand why love and forgiveness are issues that affect the decisions that these characters make, then they will come alive and readers will be able to fully empathize with them. In this first draft I, as the writer, dropped the ball.

I can visually see that with my storyboard. The lack of cards representing these themes is glaringly obvious. And now I know what needs to be done to ensure that my characters, as well as my plots, come to life.

Of course, the question is, will this work going forward? I think it will.  I’m a pantser by nature.  And I don’t plan to give that up completely.  But if I can give myself  a few cue cards to keep me on track and help me remember what my characters motivations are, then I’m sure that getting to know my new friends will be as much fun as relearning my old friends.

Just How Much Reality Is In Reality TV?

I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of reality TV. Of course, I will also admit that my view of reality TV has broadened considerably over the last two weeks. Before this whole series started I didn’t really think of shows like American Pickers and Chopped as reality shows. But that’s because I have a horrible mindset about reality TV.

To say I’m not a fan of shows like The Bachelor and The Jersey Shore is a colossal understatement. My belief is that these shows give an entire audience a completely skewed view of what reality really is. It’s not a secret really that most of these shows are “creatively edited” to feature only the juiciest drama, yet somehow people (mostly young adults) still buy into them and many seem to believe that real life should reflect these shows. And that is evidenced more and more by the entertainment that younger generations choose.

So, what does that mean for us as writers? Does that make us an endangered species? Sometimes I wonder. Will the young adults of today still be interested in books and stories that are based on real human emotion, rather than on creatively edited versions of human emotion? Will books take the same path that television has taken?

I can only hope not. For those of you that know me, it’s not a secret that I don’t watch a lot of television. I tend to like a few detective dramas that I don’t have a lot of time to watch. And I occasionally like a movie marathon. Once in a while I’ll even catch a reality show, though I admit to preferring those shows that feature cooking or science. But if I have time to relax (and that’s not very often) I prefer a good book.  I don’t care if it’s paper or electronic. What matters to me is that there is a good story, and if I can learn a lesson about life on the way, so much the better.

Those are the things that I don’t think you can find through reality TV (or most other types of TV for that matter). The relationships that you see in MOST reality shows aren’t real, they’re creatively designed to show only the most dysfunctional elements of a relationship.  And the lessons that are there to be learned are usually lessons that we would rather not teach.

So why has reality TV taken such a hold on our culture?  Why do shows like Toddlers & Tiaras grab our attention so that we’re sucked in, and can’t seem to stop watching them?

I think it’s because those people on those “reality” shows have lives that are way more messed up than our own.  Sure, we have had a terrible day. The car died, we were late for work, the kids brought home bad grades.  But look, at least our four year old isn’t demanding her Ni-Ni and trying to run the whole show while screaming at the top of her lungs. Or gee, our wedding was stressful, but at least we weren’t fighting like heathens when it came time to pick the dress.

Some of these shows illustrate the worst possible moments in human behavior. And we can watch them and be thankful that we’re better people than that. For me, it’s saddening. So, just pass me a good book.  Let me laugh and cry with characters that make the same mistakes I do, but that usually handle it with much more grace and dignity than I ever will.  I’m good with that. Because when I put that book down, I will have learned something, no matter how small, that makes me a better person.

Do you agree? Disagree? What’s your take on reality TV? Am I off base, and is MY view of reality a little skewed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And while you’re at it, remember to leave your comments below.  You comment could earn you a Love Inspired prize package that will give you plenty of opportunity to indulge in a great book!

Confessions of an Eclectic Reader

Books.  Oh how I love books. But I’m not tied to the paper kind.  I’m not that person that appreciates the ripple of the paper as you fan the pages or the smell of a new book.  I don’t even get overly excited when you crack the spine the fist time.  Nope.  I like the story in whatever format I can get it. And growing up, it was the story that mattered to me.

I don’t remember a lot of the books that I read before about the fifth grade.  I know I read a lot, but due to a childhood accident, I don’t remember a large block of time.  So, my first memory of books is when I was in the fifth grade and had to read Island of Blue Dolphins.  I’d have to say that still remains one of my favorite books of all time.

The story in that book drew me in, and I remember distinctly wanting to be Karana; strong, resilient, and resourceful. After I finished that book I sought out other books about strong female characters. In a small base library on a military installation in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the offerings were slim and I ended up in the Biography section.

There followed a quick procession of books. Two of which stuck with me; Helen Keller and Joan De’ Arc. But I read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually moving back to fiction and becoming completely immersed in The Bobsy Twins, Nany Drew, and The Hardy Boys. Read every book in all of the series and fell in love with the mystery and adventure of all of them.

Eventually, my tastes moved to more of the macabre. Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker were my middle-and high school favorites. But I never felt tied to a genre. I read everything I could get my hands on. Romance. History. Biography. Science Fiction. If there was any kind of a story that I could fall into and become someone else for a short while, I was willing to read it.

As a kid that moved often (I went to 13 schools in 12 years), books were the friends that helped to shape my character. I had real friends, but only for a year or two at a time.  My “book friends” stayed with me, no matter where I went. The Jungle Book, The Lord of the Rings, and Little House on the Prairie and later the Star Wars books would go with me when I left Belinda, Mark, and Jaimie behind.

These weren’t friends that I could tell secrets to, but they were friends with which I could have secret lives.  I could fall into the world of Narnia and become one of the characters and feel the emotions they felt and learn the lessons they learned.  Every book changed me a bit, shaped my character a little, and revealed a facet of myself that I might not have known existed before I started reading.

It’s no wonder now that I’m headstrong and independent to a fault. It’s no wonder that I love technology and am intrigued by mystery, madness, and  psychological thrillers. All of these things became part of me in the pages of a book.

Did books shape your personality? Did they reveal to you a part of who you are? And what were your favorite personality shaping books?  If you’re a reader, I know there had to be at least one book or series of books that still brings images to your mind and reminds you of the things about which you feel so strongly.

The Ultimate Passion

Turns out, passion is a tough topic for me. I think of myself as an extremely passionate person. I believe just as deeply as I feel, and for those things that are “important” to me, I could argue, cajole, and convince nearly anyone to see my point of view.

So, when the topic of passion came up, I had to put a lot of thought into what I wanted to write about. That thought, of course, eventually focused on the One who ultimately created this passionate mess that I am. What was God passionate about? And by extension, what was Jesus passionate about?

After a week of contemplation I can come to only one conclusion. The ultimate passion is Love. And not the “passionate” type of love that is portrayed in movies, books, and television shows these days. That sexually-charged excuse for passion is far off the mark of what true passion is.

Christ’s example of passion closely mirrors the Latin origin of the word. Passion (the word) is derived from the Latin “patior” which means to suffer or to endure, and also “compatible.” Christ suffered and endures to prove his love to us. Be he also set an example of how to be compatible with both the world and the people around us. It was through His passion that the teachings of a 30-ish carpenter have carried across centuries and yet can still create intense feelings, beliefs and responses in both believers and non-believers.

So, I asked myself as I started composing this, what am I that passionate about? Because I’m human, the answer is nothing. But there are a few things that I think might come close. My love for Christ is at the top of the list. I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m a screwball. I make more messes in my spiritual life…and yet I know that Christ passionately endures my mistakes. He allows me to try to take control (when I know that eventually I’ll look back at this mess and see his fingerprints all over the solution). He allows me to be me, to make my own choices, live my own consequences, and to bury my face in the sand before Him as I admit that if I’d only done it His way it would have been so much easier. And still he loves me. So, yes, I’m passionate about Christ.

I’m passionate about the world that we live in. There are times when I’m completely overwhelmed by the grace that God has given us to allow us to live on such an amazing planet as earth. When was the last time you just LOOKED at the world around you? Thousands of tiny fiddler crabs crawling over each other for a moment in the sun? The red, gold, grey, and black rocks that make up the ghosts of ancient oceans in the Mid-West? The billion stars that dare to show their light during the darkest nights of the year? Or the zillion grains of sand that line beaches and flakes of snow that immobilize cities? Each element and nuance is a gift from God. One that I don’t always remember to appreciate enough, so when I do stop to notice, I’d say YES, I’m passionate about this world.

I’m passionate about people, my family, feelings, and dozens of other things as well. But if I’m going to be completely honest, I’d have to say that I will never be as passionate as Christ is about love. He was willing to suffer. He was willing to die. All so that I might be able to somehow wrap my brain around the thought that He loves ME…no matter what. And that true passion? That’s something that I don’t believe is completely attainable for me, because only Christ could love so completely. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying. After all, I have an amazing example to follow.