Category Archives: faith

A Lot of Faith, part 1 (we’ve been given a lot)

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“Our faith increases when we’re in enough pain, we learn enough, or we’re given enough.” Bishop Chuck Murphy (paraphrased from 20 years ago)

Our lot, the one we closed on today, overlooks a creek, as well as houses, inns, and a church on the oldest part of Pawleys Island (Pawleys for short). We can take a boat from our neighborhood to secluded islands and walk to one of the island’s finest restaurants. The strip of prime property, the one we can see from where we’re building, is in between the marsh and the ocean. Our view is a little sand and a lot of wetland.

There is affluence mixed with old, original architecture that islanders call “shabby.” Sometimes structures get upgraded and sometimes not. No one seems to mind because it’s a given the property is valuable.

Making the island our home has been a hope of my husband’s and mine for more than 20 years. We set up an appointment that many years ago to look at a house for sale in Pawleys. The following day, the owners took it off the market. We did the same with our dream. We figured it was a sign about whether we deserved to live in Pawleys or not.

We didn’t.

Since then, we haven’t thought much about moving unless we’re down that way and riding around. When that happens, one of us mentions the imaginary line in the road, that place that when we drive beyond it, we get quiet and take a deep breath. Past that line, life feels more relaxed and free. Plus, our grandkids are closer, so life is more fun in that direction.

IMG_7953 Not a geographic cure, for sure. Nowhere could fix us. We’ve had to do the hard work right here at home, most of which I’ve blogged about. Even though we know Pawleys isn’t our be all and end all, for us the place is special. It’s symbolic of something we can’t even name yet.

So, when my husband John convinced me a couple of years ago to sign up for a membership at one of the island’s highlights, Brookgreen Gardens, our decision rekindled a longing we’d dismissed – we longed to live in Pawleys.

The same thing happened when I stumbled onto a photo on Facebook of a stunning church on the island that we joined this year – we longed to live in Pawleys.

And then again recently when we made an offer before selling our house and on a lot that wasn’t for sale (a story for another blog post) – a lot with a dock, a view, and a breeze – we longed to live in Pawleys.

We rethought deserving it. Feeling undeserving is a habit, though I don’t think a holy one. Nor a faithful one.

I’m still not convinced I’m worthy. In fact, I’m overwhelmed by the bigness of our decision and overwhelmed by God’s graciousness to let us have it. Overwhelmed by His faithfulness to bring good from a “loss of faith” season. Overwhelmed John and I made it this far and intact, much less together in a place we’ve longed to live.

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But mostly, I’m …

Overwhelmed by gratitude. I’m very grateful. Tears streaming down my face grateful. On my knees grateful. “Why us?”grateful.

Grateful for restored faith.

Grateful.

How much faith does it take to hang onto a dream? To make it happen? A mustard seed or less – I do believe I had less.

What dream are you waiting for? I hope you won’t give up. Ask often and expect a lot.

In This Together,
Kim

Photo #1 is of our view of the creek from the lot.
Photo #2 is our lot.

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2017, A Great Year

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“Faith don’t come in a bushel basket, Missy. It come one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He’s so trustworthy you be putting your whole life in His hands.” Lynn Austin, Candle in the Darkness

The day before our son received a cancer diagnosis in late February, he wrote a rare post on Facebook, “New job, new city, and bringing a new life into our family … 2017 is shaping up to be a great year!”

He’d texted me earlier that month to say the year was off to a great start because Clemson University, his alma mater, brought home the 2016 National Championship.

At the end of last year, I overheard him telling his dad about 2017 being great since he and his wife had several promising things in the works.

My stomach tightened each time I heard “great,” and not because I didn’t think 2017 held a lot of possibility, but because sometimes we don’t perceive great in the same way God perceives it.

Almost a decade later, I still remember my “great” year that brought me to my knees. I wrote about it here, “The year was 2008 …

Great typically requires footwork, and a lot of it. It means change and not always the kind we want. Coming into greatness often means walking through trials and feeling emotions we hadn’t factored in when we did our planning.

Great means being in relationship with God, in relationship with others, and living our purpose.

I had doubts about whether our family had worked out matters of the heart enough to usher in greatness. Like in Romans 2:29, the verse says “heart matters” are the heart of the matter for God. Since I didn’t think we’d gotten that far yet, I questioned what it’d take to make it happen.

What would “great” cost us?

I was bothered enough to mention my son’s text in February’s blog post, “It’s Always Something.” Even though I trusted what I wrote, I still felt uneasy about the messiness I mentioned, “My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because it is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.”

For one minute, I wished I had not prayed long and hard for us, asking for realness and restoration and godly relationships minus the things that sometimes come alongside like devastation and humiliation. I’ve held my breath while we have skirted those last two.

Just before our son’s biopsy confirmed stage 1 cancer, not the result we hoped for, he and his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, had a baby scare. Thankfully those test results turned out well.

Less than a week after my husband John and I returned home following our son’s surgery, John’s 87-year-old dad took a fall, hit his head on a brick stair, and was rushed into surgery. Doctors did all they could over the next fourteen days, but last week we said goodbye to Pop Pop. He died the day before Easter.

In light of reassuring calls and messages, friendship, and signs that life was happening as intended, my stomach calmed down and so did my spirit.

Historic Great Cross at St. Augustine, Florida at sunrise

 

I didn’t have to wonder anymore. I was witnessing the price of greatness.

While John listened to his dad’s surgeon talk to the family in the Neuro-ICU waiting room, he leaned close and whispered, “Is this what great looks like?”

I believe it is, and we notice it most during times like these.

Great is recognizing our dependence on God.

Great is cherishing others’ demonstration of God’s love.

Great is acknowledging God’s goodness when we have to let go of things we want to control and keep.

Finally, great is learning the lessons God teaches by way of suffering, grief, and letting go because He calls us to the emotional journey before He allows us to take the action journey.

In other words, He prepares us for the great things (great according to Him) that He’s put in front of us to do.

How great is your year? It’s not so much about our surroundings as it is about coming around to Him.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks, Pixabay, for photos of the Great Wall of China and the historic Great Cross in St. Augustine, Florida.

A Quiet Miracle (one I almost talked through)

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“A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:7 #WhileLovingthePeopleInIt

Although I wouldn’t call this a typical Thanksgiving post, today, I’m grateful.

For a few weeks now, our family’s been going through growing pains, which makes me feel crazy because, even when I don’t know what to do, I believe God needs my help.

I can’t get out of the way. I can’t shut up.

When I say, “I can’t,” it’s not that I won’t. I mean I can’t. I’ve made up my mind and tried dozens of times before. Too many frightening images pop up like the time I got out of the way and shut up with Mom and Dad, and we spoke to each other only three or four more times before Dad died.

I can’t shut up.

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I’m terrified of quiet. I mean, I’m an introvert, so I love it when I’m alone and peaceful and there is no noise. But if there’s something that needs fixing, I can’t keep quiet about it.

Last week, while I sat in the wrong parking lot that I accidentally pulled into, I talked to my daughter about feeling crazy, which is even more scary for me right before the holidays. We’ll all be together and I’ll talk, especially in the middle of growing pains.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you this story, but what you’re going through right now reminds me of what you and I went through after Claire was born. It wasn’t until you got quiet that I recognized my part,” she said.

Wait. What? When I got quiet?

Kelly and I hit a rough spot after our first grandchild arrived three and a half years ago. She and my son-in-law asked me to move in for a week to help. I changed diapers, rocked Claire, stayed up late into the nights, cooked meals, made beds, washed clothes, and cleaned, but I couldn’t do anything quite right. Kelly’s conversations with me were edgy and unpredictable. The atmosphere was tense, and it got worse when I talked with her about it.

I told you, I can’t shut up.

I finally said to my husband John, “I’d rather never see Claire again than set an example for her by allowing this kind of disrespect.”

I meant it. Disregard for women, really, people in general, runs rampant in both of our families. I set out, I think from birth, to put an end to our unhealthy generational patterns, even though clueless about how to do it. In fact, many times I did the opposite of what was right, but I did something. My resolve was never stronger than the first time I held Claire.  

Detaching from Kelly and her family ranks among the hardest choices I’ve ever made. I stepped away for about three months from grandparenting. Kelly and I talked seldom and I saw Claire even less.

Our break ended with Kelly apologizing. It didn’t happen overnight, but it still seemed she grew up right in front of me. On the phone and crying, and still in the wrong parking lot, I said, “I wondered what I said that helped you recognize your bad attitude and your resentments.”

Nothing.

I took a deep breath on the phone. I’m taking another one now. I cried then. I’m crying now while writing this.

It wasn’t anything I said. It was all the things I stopped saying.

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and she tells me the thing that worked was being quiet.

I couldn’t hear “be quiet” until this moment because of my fear of losing the people I’ve loved most. I still know there are plenty of times I need to speak up, but there have been many more times I’ve needed to shut up, but I could not. I’d shake until I talked.

This week’s been different. I’ve been quiet, which is called a miracle. It’s my Thanksgiving miracle, and I believe God will extend the Grace of it onto my family while I quietly watch.

If you’re in the middle of a mess, please believe with me that a miracle is on its way. God loves surprising us when we least expect it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I love y’all dearly.

In This Together,
Kim

Here’s a funny side note about when I told Claire, aka Amelia Bedelia, “I love you dearly.” She said, “Mammy, who’s dearly?”

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com. Wow, I’m even feeling more grateful for your site today. ‘Tis the season for gratefulness …

 

Afraid of Africa (a post about callings, a post about courage)

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“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Joseph Campbell

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Joseph Campbell

Lis and her husband relocated two weeks ago to Tanzania, Africa. She asked for prayer to lighten her sadness about leaving behind belongings, friends, and family including her three-year-old granddaughter who calls her Lolly. She asked for prayer to calm anxieties about things like plane crashes and Ebola. And she asked for prayer because it’s scary to move to Africa.

She’s now settling into a routine, but not like one we have. Her luggage hasn’t arrived, the toilet and sink overflowed into her new-to-them home, and both the refrigerator and washer stopped working last week. Despite all this, Lis committed to Africa because she’s committed to God.

Her faith was evident when she returned home to say goodbye to her parents before leaving for two years. It was evident when she got vaccinations that threatened to make her sick. And it was evident when she packed the bare minimum because that’s all she was allowed to take.

Her faith was most evident when she posted photos of her final goodbyes with her daughter and granddaughter.

“If she can leave behind the life she loves and physically relocate to Africa, surely I can sit in the comfort of my own home and tackle my own “Africa” (writing a book). What am I so afraid of?”

I thought it might help to share –

  • I’m afraid of being judged. I’m pretty sure some of my feelings aren’t theologically sound, but they’re part of my story.
  • I’m afraid of being misunderstood.
  • I’m afraid there won’t be enough time for relationships while I’m writing and editing.
  • I’m afraid my story will come across as pathetic rather than powerful.
  • I’m afraid I’ll sound like I’m blaming (especially my parents) because sometimes I am. There’s a fine line between telling what happened and whining.

So, why write the book?

Because I think God is calling me to this “Africa,” and because I saw for myself (in photos) how Lis came alive holding one of the children she’s now ministering to.

I want to be that kind of alive.

What’s your “Africa”? What’s stopping you from starting?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, I’ve started and stopped, started and stopped … until now. I’m finally convinced the book is our project and now is our time.

On the side: Thanks for the photo and the inspiration, Lis. I love you.

Is It a Proclamation or a Clubbing?

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Then he told them, "As you go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to everyone.” Mark 16:15 (Image from iStock)

Then he told them, “As you go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to everyone.” Mark 16:15
(Image from iStock)

The woman knocked five or six times before she gave up and left a tract in the door. Until she was out of sight, our dog barked (unusual for her) like she was terrified.

“Our visitor came to proclaim the gospel while our dog sounds like she’s encountered a demon” was all I could think.

That’s my skewed vision of in-your-face proclamation, but that’s because I’ve never known it to turn out well.

Like the time I told our neighbor’s girlfriend I’d pray for her when she was struggling through a difficult pregnancy. In spite of the fact that I didn’t follow through, the following week she thanked me after getting a good report from her doctor. I said, “That’s the power of prayer for you.” The next day, she miscarried.

Another time, my aunt turned down my invitation in front of the family when I invited her to church. I said, “Don’t blame me if the result of that decision isn’t a good one.” A close family member commended me for being bold in my faith, which was exactly why I spoke up – to impress him. It’s been at least a decade and I still cringe when I think about how I spoke to my aunt.

Then there was the summer of walking the beach alongside Campus Crusade for Christ members who witnessed to addicts and prostitutes. When our youth group got the hang of it, we were sent out in pairs to do the same. I’m sure our youth director had good intentions, but he had no business encouraging teenaged girls to wander up to strangers, however, I did it because I wanted to impress him in the same way I wanted to impress my family.

Although I’m sure God can use these circumstances and he may have, it seems our egos cause him extra work.

I’d like to say I’m not knocking “proclaiming the gospel,” especially since it’s in the Bible, but I sort of am if we’re talking about clubbing innocent bystanders over the head with what we decide they need to hear. I can’t recall a single time this strategy worked, whether I’ve been the one clubbing or the one being clubbed. I have, however, been transformed by people’s actions, which I happen to think is the harder “proclamation” because doing is harder than talking.

What does “proclaiming the gospel” mean to you? When is it most effective?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, I’m not questioning what you’ve told us to do. I’m questioning how we’ve interpreted it and how we carry it out. Help us know your way.

Religious Dysfunction

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"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  Isaiah 55:8 (Image from iStock)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
Isaiah 55:8 (Image from iStock)

A friend emailed in response to the post about dying. He mentioned religious dysfunction, which made me think of lions and tigers and bears … oh my.

Well, not really. Only lions came to mind, but still, what a weird thing to reflect on at the mention of religious dysfunction.

It’s because I’ve done some weird things in the name of religion. Just ask my husband.

Nearly two decades ago, I dragged him to Canada so I could fit in with God, or so I told both of us. Actually, I was trying to fit with my religiously dysfunctional family. One of them told me unless I spoke in tongues, I wasn’t saved.

Looking back, I think, “I should have been wiser than to listen to that sort of thing.”

Next thought, “Obviously not. I fell for his condemnation because of my self doubt and confusion and fear.”

Good thing, too. Or better yet, God thing, too.

When our assistant pastor talked in his sermon (at an Episcopal church in Pawleys Island, SC) about spirit-filled members who were roaring like lions in a Vineyard church in Toronto, I nudged my husband. I wanted him to take note of our summer vacation destination.

Next thing I knew, we were checking into Robin’s Nest, a bed and breakfast in the middle of a multimillion-dollar neighborhood in a neighboring country. Friends of our assistant pastor owned the place, so he and his wife suggested we stay there.

Before our bags were on the luggage racks, I was pacing to get back in the car. I wanted to make it on time to the afternoon church service. We attended another one the following morning before I admitted I wasn’t touched by the roaring, nor was I fond of the hour-long drive in crazy traffic to get to the church.

I was, however, touched (and moved to tears) by our quiet walks in the afternoons when we looked over each historical home for its character.

I was fond of warm blueberry muffins for breakfast, the balcony of our room that overlooked a garden, and an evening bubble bath that smelled as good as it felt. God showed up in it all, including the book I pulled from the shelf of the adjoined-to-our-room library.

I left Toronto spirit-filled and changed, just like I thought when I set out on our trip.

I also left believing maybe I need to stop chasing experiences that others tell me I should have with God and start looking for the ones he has in mind for me.

When have you attempted to follow someone else’s religious rules only to have God intervene along the way?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – God, spare us religious dysfunction that makes us believe we know your ways for others or that makes us think others know your ways for us. Intervene when we can’t hear you for the roaring.

God Is Bigger Than the Bible

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"God is bigger than people think." Jimmy Dean

“God is bigger than people think.” Jimmy Dean

I sat waiting for friends when I couldn’t help overhearing a gentleman at a nearby table. He dominated the conversation by quoting Bible scriptures, then elaborated on their meanings. The woman and man who accompanied him tried to join in, but mostly sounded like they were trying to impress or at least keep up.

That was my take on their interaction, probably skewed by young adulthood memories around my parent’s kitchen table. Cousins excused themselves after they ate, my sister-in-law and husband found couches for a nap, but I hung in there, trying hard to impress my dad. The problem was, I couldn’t quote scripture like my brother. Still can’t.

It wasn’t until I gave up trying to hold my own in their conversations that I realized reading scripture, although important in my daily life, isn’t typically where I meet God.

Instead, I spent hours with him while listening to Rascal Flatt’s song, I’m Movin’ On. When my husband corrected me from singing “I never dreamed one would end up where I don’t belong” (I know, it makes no sense) to “I never dreamed home would end up where I don’t belong,” I was able to leave an emotionally unsafe situation.

There was also the time I walked on the beach for miles and talked with God until I got an answer about how to handle a situation with my mom. God responded out of the blue, not the black and white print.

Another time, I dreamed I walked out of a courtroom where I had explained my life for years and still didn’t feel understood. I closed the tall wooden doors behind me, then sat with my back against them, relieved I never had to go back in. When I awoke, I knew I had my answer to a longstanding prayer.

I could go on and on naming times I’ve encountered God outside the Bible, but still I’ve hesitated to believe these hold the same value as the scripture I can’t quote. That was, until God gave me another message out of the blue. This one, I could remember.

He’s bigger than the Bible.

When have you been tempted to underestimate an experience because you couldn’t explain it or back it up with facts? God inspired scripture, but he’s not limited by it.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Remember all the times the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the laws? Well, there are still Pharisees and Jesus still breaks the laws.

Girls Aren’t Safe Here (the post I was afraid to write about the granddaughter I was afraid to have)

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"Sometimes sacred and scared get mixed up." S. Kim Henson

“Sometimes sacred and scared get mixed up.”
S. Kim Henson

“It’s a girl.”

The nurse announced the baby’s sex while Mom, Dad, both sets of grandparents (this is where I come in), and the baby’s uncle-to-be looked at the ultrasound on a big screen TV. I held my daughter Kelly’s hand during that sacred moment of seeing my granddaughter for the first time.

“Were you shaking?” she asked when it was over. “I couldn’t tell if you were excited or upset.”

I wasn’t sure either. The pain and excitement (the scaredness and the sacredness) came in waves well into the evening.

I finally broke down in the grocery store parking lot, where I wished I’d been twirling with happiness, and bawled. The report said healthy baby girl in July and I was sobbing like her birth came with the wrath of God.

“I feel like God is punishing us. He knew we wanted a boy. Would that have been so hard for him?” I said while sobbing.

Twenty minutes and a half a box of Kleenex later, I glanced in the car mirror to check my mascara. I hardly recognized myself all wet and splotchy.

What was wrong with me? I thought.

“Bringing another little girl into our family seems cruel. God should know better. The timing is all wrong,” I said.

My husband, John, did his best to reassure me Claire (the name of our granddaughter-to-be) would be okay in our family, but he’s also well aware of my family’s generational patterns that dishonor girls. He has watched me repeat some, but thankfully not the most damaging, of these patterns with Kelly. He’s witnessed the two of us struggle against my family’s demons, and sometimes against each other. He’s hurt with us when topics like sexual abuse tore apart relationships with my parents, Kelly’s grandparents.

He understood, as does Kelly, why I felt shaken by the news of a granddaughter.

When Kelly and her husband announced her pregnancy, I announced to God, “We aren’t ready for a girl. Girls aren’t safe here.”

Even though Kelly and I have worked for years to right the wrongs and to share lunch dates, shopping and late-night girl talks, I still thought …

We aren’t ready for a girl. Girls aren’t safe here.

Even though Kelly and I want a daughter and granddaughter to dance around the living room, dance on stage in ballet recitals, and dance in her daddy’s arms at her wedding, I still thought …

We aren’t ready for a girl. Girls aren’t safe here.

Even though Kelly deserves a daughter to tell her (like she told me) that she is the world’s best mom, even when she doesn’t feel like it, I still thought …

We aren’t ready for a girl. Girls aren’t safe here.

Or are we ready?

“I can see the three of us doing craft projects, going to the beach together, and baking cookies,” said Kelly. “I can’t wait.”

I guess if anyone should know if we’re ready, it would be Kelly.

And God, of course.

Have you ever had a scared reaction to a sacred moment? If so, what happened afterwards?

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WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’m more convinced everyday (and once again) that God knows exactly what he’s doing. Welcome to our family, Claire. We’re going to make sure you’re safe here.

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On the side: Sort of like all the begetting in the Bible … Kelly wasn’t safe in our home because I wasn’t safe in Mom’s home because Mom wasn’t safe in her home because her mom wasn’t safe in her home. Our family hopes this post helps others who are stuck in generational patterns to find hope and help.

Our son is also aware and helping. Right after buying Claire a wardrobe, he said, “It’s time this all changes. It is changing.”

Penny For Your Thoughts … all about trusting we’re right where we’re supposed to be

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“It may be a penny from heaven
That an Angel’s tossed to you.”
From Charles Mashburn’s poem, Pennies From Heaven

My thoughts jumped from editing 154 blog posts, which felt like the right answer, to the more glamorous and profitable ideas of pitching articles to a national magazine and signing a book deal.

I argued over the next step in my writing career while I vacuumed. Distracted, I nearly sucked up a penny from our dining room floor.

Finding money at the very moment I was thinking about blog posts let me know, small goal or not, I was right where I was supposed to be.

I say that same thing every time I pick up money. In fact, that’s the origin of my blog’s closing “Write where I’m supposed to be.”

My habit of looking for change began before our kids were born, and unintentionally turned into a family ritual once they were old enough to play along. When they argued about where to eat dinner or what activity to plan for the evening, we’d finally make a decision and implement it, and I’d find money. Not every time, but it happened often enough I started paying attention and so did they.

Silly as it sounds, finding money calmed disagreements. 

“See, we’re right where we’re supposed to be,” I’d say.

Finding money also helped with discipline.

I walked daily, sometimes to deliberate over a problem like the kids’ undone homework or one of them talking back. A possible solution would come to mind and, next thing I knew, I’d find a penny on the ground.

I figured God was letting me know to trust him, as well as to trust my own decisions. I mean, there can’t be that many people dropping money. They are pennies from heaven, for sure.  

Maybe you have a sign that let’s you know you are right where you’re supposed to be? I’d love to hear from you.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – When in doubt, look around. Sometimes the answer is right under your nose, which means I’ll be editing 154 blog posts. 

On the side: Here’s a picture of our found money jar that gets fed almost daily. My husband reminded me that some 34 years ago, he and I rode around for hours to check paper machines and pay phones. To this day, I can’t pass a money slot without sticking in my finger, unless someone’s looking. Then I try to be discreet and just glance.

Coming Full Circle, the spiral staircase of writing

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“A journey comes full circle like a spiral staircase – the same view, only higher.” S. Kim Henson

The Write2Ignite! Conference is this weekend in Greenville, South Carolina.

The two-day event is for writers whose articles and books appeal to children and young adults.

A presenter for the conference, who I didn’t know until I got her message, asked if I planned to attend. If Kristi had not contacted me, I doubt I would have gone.

So what’s that got to do with coming full circle and spiral staircases?

Once upon a time, I attended my first writing workshop called Realizing the Writer and Illustrator Within.

It was also held in Greenville. I made the five hour drive to find a publisher for two children’s books and one about raising teens. Laughable since none were near ready for publication, and I’ve rewritten the latter ninety-something times.

Instead of a contract, I picked up a flyer offering classes to learn how to write for newspapers and magazines.

I signed up and the rest is my resume up until now.

A half decade later, I’m headed back to Greenville on scholarship money I received to attend the Write2Ignite! Conference, more confirmation I’m supposed to be there. Although I still have hopes of finding a children’s book publisher, I’m looking forward to whatever is around the next flight of stairs.

I’d love to hear your full circle story.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Each time around, I have a little higher view, and always more spectacular than what I planned.