Mirror, Mirror

My reflection in the mirror reveals disheveled hair and a face devoid of makeup. Wrinkles that never used to show now line my forty-something skin. Dark bags hang beneath my insomnia-racked eyes. Man, I’m a mess!

This is not who I think of when I think of me. Where have I gone?

Do we all get to that place where what we see in the mirror is not who we remember being? Age, time, and life happens, and suddenly we don’t look the same. Don’t feel the same.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall…” I whisper.

Although I write fantasy, I know there isn’t a voice that will answer my question of where the fairest me of all went.

I point to my reflection and stick out my tongue.

Heart and mirrorAre you not created in my image? I can hear God asking me midst my frowning dismay. That head of gray hair? It is your glory. (Proverbs 16:31) Wisdom can be found among those strands and those lines. (Job 12:12) Look not to your outer being, but seek that which is inner to judge your beauty, child. It is worth more than you know. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

I glance in the mirror one more time and to try to look beyond my blemishes and gray hair. Why is it so hard to give myself the same grace I give to others? Is it a plot from the beauty industry that makes me believe I need to use this cream or that new and improved dye to color my hair? Is it a societal flaw that we don’t respect and honor ourselves when we begin to show a little wear and tear?

I’m so glad God doesn’t judge me on such a superficial basis. I’m so glad He looks at my heart and sees my intentions. Time can be a thief, but only if we let it be. I make another face at myself in the offending mirror.

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall. You’re not so truthful after all.”


Just One Word

Can one word change your life? We believe the answer is yes. Think about it. It only took one word to accept a wedding proposal, and a word like “cancer” can send your life into a tailspin.

But the word we want to talk about for the next two weeks is one each of us have chosen to focus on in the new year. We hope you’ll join us in prayerfully choosing your own word. By focusing on this word, we hope the heightened awareness will help each of  grow in that area.


Of course the list can go on and on. Last year, my word was “gratitude.” I wanted to learn to be grateful in all circumstances–even the bad ones. It wasn’t hard to be grateful on our Alaskan cruise, surrounded by friends and God’s beauty, but it wasn’t as easy sitting by my husband’s hospital bed, day after day in the ICU.

Gratitude fills me whenever I look at our family photo this year.
Gratitude fills me whenever I look at our family photo this year.

Still, my year of “gratitude” focus helped me see the blessings God was pouring in during that time. I was surrounded by family and friends, both in person, by phone, and through Facebook. People from across the country lifted him before the Father, including those who didn’t even know him.

Incredible doctors took care of him.  One of those is a man who studied at Harvard and John Hopkin’s and did his residency at Mayo. He had dual specialties in pulmonology and infectious disease. He grew up in Council Bluffs and came back here because he wanted to be close to his patients. This incredibly kind doctor left at 11 at night and came in before 5 to check on David. I had to think God put him in this place, at this moment to be here for us. And I was incredibly grateful.

So what is this year’s word? I’m teaching a ladies class at church, and for the last few weeks, we’ve been studying “wisdom.” I’ve decided to make that my word for the year. God promises to give us wisdom when we ask for it ( ). I want to be more aware of asking for and using wisdom in all areas of my life– in making healthy choices, in the words I use, in the things I commit to, and in the words I put on a page for readers.

Ready to pick your word? There are no rules, and we’d love to hear it.

A Letter to My Teenage Self–You Are Never Alone

Dear Brenda,

I understand it’s a lonely time in your life. Making friends has never come easy. The same holds true for many your age. I wish I could say that struggle will ease over the years, but few things worthwhile are achieved without effort. As you strive, always remember to be yourself. God made you uniquely you and He treasures who you are. Remember, you are never alone.

And don’t forget to look for friendship within your own home. Siblings make the best of friends and will always be there for you.

Those dreams you have of writing a book, they’re more than just dreams. God has crafted that gift especially for you. Don’t  bury those longings where you’ll never find them, but act on them. Receive God’s gift and multiply it. You’ll find no greater act of worship.

You’re growing up on a farm, one of the best places in the world, but it won’t always be there for you. Take time to enjoy the beauty around you. Cradle the kittens and roughhouse with the dog. Take walks through the cornfields and sing down by the lake. Throw snowballs and go sledding. Bike. Swim. Walk. Enjoy the skies dotted with innumerable stars and be awestruck by the northern lights. Breathe in lilac’s spring bloom and autumn’s spicy harvest.

Always accept your grandma’s offering of molasses cookies. Nothing fills her heart more than watching her children and grandchildren enjoy her baking. Your acceptance of her gift is her treasure.

Never stop making music, be it blending with a choir, harmonizing with friends, or playing guitar alone by the lake, praising the Creator of song. Music will always unlock your stoic facade and sing the truth to your heart.

And, in all things, remember the One who breathed life into you, the Giftor or your dreams, the Painter of nature, the Architect of music. Your life will climb peaks, slide into valleys, and plateau on the plains. Yet through every moment, He is with you.

Even when no one else is around, you are never alone.


Your older, wiser, and always-learning self.

A Letter to My Teenage Self from Shannon

Dear Teenage Shannon,

Be yourself. Stop trying to mimic others. They’re not any cooler than you are, so stop feeling bad about yourself. God made you the individual you are. 

Don’t worry so much about what others think of you. Your audience is an audience of one. It only matters what God thinks of you.

You don’t have to dress immodestly to get the boys’ attention. They’ll notice, no matter what you wear. And if it takes immodest clothing to attract him, he’s not the kind of boy you need. (Your parents won’t allow it anyway, thank goodness.)

Stop being embarrassed by your parents. Some day, you’ll be in their shoes and realize how wise they are. And how much they love you. 

Start an exercise program now. That way, it’s second nature and when you’re older, it will already be part of your routine.

Don’t go to cosmetology school. You’ll only waste your parents’ money and get stuck doing your mother’s hair for life. Hairdressing isn’t glamorous. It’s hard, nasty, and exhausting. Stick with your first instinct: computers.

Even better—they’re books. Those stories in your head that you never know what to do with. Don’t wait until you’re thirty-three to figure that out. 

The move to rural Arkansas. Stop fighting it. Embrace your new home. You’ll grow to love it, never, ever want to live anywhere near a city again, and meet the love of your life there.

In fact, you’ve already met him. That new boy that lights your fire–the rumors are true–but be patient, God is working on him.

Pay more attention to young boys. Someday you’ll have one. The things he does and dirt he can find will astound you. 

Always remember. No matter what happens or what life throws at you, you’ve got Jesus to get you through.