Wish Lists

Wednesday, October 26. 13:27. My room.

(This is a true story of real, actual events)

My little sister Ruthie walks into my room and presents me with piece of paper. “Christmas List 2011” is scrawled on the top in smudged pencil, along with some drawings and her name.

“This is the list of what I want for Christmas this year,” she tells me. She seems quite proud of this fact.

“Didn’t you give me one of these the other day?”

She shrugs. “This is my fourth one. This is what I want now, not what I wanted back when I gave you the last one.”

This, of course, makes no sense whatsoever to me. It’s Wednesday. She gave me her previous list on Monday. But, you know, whatever. I’m too nice to point this out anyway.

I tell her to read me the list out loud, since her handwriting is a bit indiscernible.

Ruthie clears her throat and begins. “Number one: A DS.”

I interrupt: “Wait a second. You aren’t allowed to have a  Nintendo DS.” She says she knows. I ask then why did she write it? She says she’s still hoping she’s going to get one anyway. There is a pause, and then she continues to read.

“Number two: An eighty dollar doll house.” She ignores my snort. “Number three: Barbie clothes. Number four: Barbie movie called Princess Charm School. Number five: A DS. Number six…”

“Wait a second,” I say again, sitting up a little this time. “You aren’t allowed to have a DS.” She says she knows. “Then why do you ask for one?” She says she’s still hoping she’s going to get it. Now I’m getting frustrated from getting the same answers. “Ruthie, you know you can’t have a DS, but you put on on your Christmas list twice? What do you think–that Mom and Dad are going to change their minds?”

Ruthie pauses a few seconds before answering. “I don’t know. I just really want one.”

It’s on the tip of my tongue to argue some sense into the foolish child, when a thought occurs to me: I am the same way. I’m constantly asking God for things that He’s made clear He doesn’t want me to have. How many times have I begged Him for selfish things, even when I know that it’s not in His will to give those things to me? He’s told me time and time again that He will provide for my needs, and that I don’t need to beg and whine for anything He hasn’t supplied for me. And yet I keep making wish lists. And I keep feeling disappointed when I don’t get what I wanted in the end.

I definitely never intend to be demanding, or selfish. I just keep thinking in my head, “Maybe I’m still going to get it. Maybe He’s changed His mind.” But you know what? If God ever “changes His mind”, it’s not going to be a wish list that does it. It’s going to be because it was His plan all along. I don’t need to bring a wish list to Him. If I trust that He will supply my needs, then He will never leave me feeling jipped or disappointed.

This is a thought that encourages me. It gives me hope. God doesn’t need my suggestions to determine what’s best for my life. He already knows, and anything He gives me is going to be a whole lot better than anything I could have asked for myself.

In the end, I let Ruthie give me a copy her wish list and I tell her I’ll do my best to get something on it. Although I’m definitely leaning more toward the Barbie clothes than the eighty dollar doll house. She’s happy that I let her read it, and she dances out of my room in her bubbly, nine-year-old way. She probably doesn’t know the lesson she’s taught me.


(Random photo of Ruthie for you, Ya-Ya <3)

Lord, Make Me a Moon

The sun is the most glorious thing in the sky. It blazes, it burns, it radiates heat and light. Sit out in it too long and you’ll either fry until even the ends of your hair are sizzling (like me), or bake into a nice tan (like my sister). It heats our planet, and lights our days, and provides the nutrients we need to live. The sun is amazing.

All my life, I’ve wanted to be a sun. The center of the universe. The brightest thing in the room. I’ve always had that selfish desire to be the one that people look at and admire. No one wants to be the dull spot in a conversation. I think we all have that innate longing to be noticed and appreciated. At least I do. 😉

Which leads me, of course, to think about the moon, that lesser light. The moon also has an interesting role in the sky. It’s not quite as important as the sun. The moon doesn’t give us heat. Or vitamins. Or cause us to glow with a dazzling tan. It doesn’t even produce its own light. To me at least, the moon has always seemed pretty lame. No offense.

No one wants to be a moon. Overlooked, underappreciated, disregarded. I certainly never did. But it wasn’t until recently that I started viewing things in a slightly different way.

My dad was leading Bible study one night and he said something that surprised me: “Christians should desire to be like the moon.” At first, this didn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t we be like the sun–dazzling bright for the world to see? He expanded on his thought: “The only light produced by the moon is a byproduct of the sun’s reflections on it. So, when you look at the moon, what you’re really seeing is the light from the sun.”

It’s the same way with Christians, he went on to explain. Christ is the all-glorious one. He has conquered sin. He is the one that is dazzling and bright and spotless. The sun. We’re sinful and ugly in comparison. And yet Christ has shone His light on us. When people look at us, they shouldn’t see our sins and our mistakes. They should see the beautiful, radiant light of Christ, which God has reflected upon us.

I thought about this a lot after my dad first shared it with us. I was looking up at the moon not too long ago, trying to make sense of it. As a Christian, God doesn’t call me to be a sun. He doesn’t want me to be the center of attention, or the source of light in a room. Rather, He desires for me to put aside my own sinful cravings and become a reflection of Him instead. To light the darkness of this world with the love of the King.

And so, I decided to pray for God to make me a moon. Not to astound those around me with my own gifts and talents, but to quietly step aside and let the true Light shine.

Just something I felt like sharing. 😉


Lonely Beach: The Hawkins Family

I’m absolutely gushing at these photos I just finished editing of my recent photography escapade. 🙂 I shot photos of the Hawkins kids the other night at this gorgeous fossil beach. There were fossils and shells and old fallen trees everywhere… It was stunning.

 Every time I edit photos, I’m amazed at how photogenic the subjects are. It just leads me to the conclusion that everyone is beautiful, in their own special way. 🙂










































My First Interview

I’m excited to share with you today my first official interview for my book! Zondervan interviewed me via Skype for their Teen Author Week, and the video was recently uploaded on their Youtube page. The video cracks me up, because un-technologically-savvy me did not realize that I am supposed to look at the webcam when I talked, so half the video shows me with half-closed lids. Ha ha. 🙂

It was so much fun, though, and I have another interview coming up soon I’ll be sure to share with you!


Homeschool Field Trip

Or: Why I Need to Take Someone’s Photos at Monticello


So, yesterday we went on another homeschool field trip. I love going places as a big group of homeschoolers, because we get the funniest stares/questions. It must be weird for others to see so many kids of different ages and sizes and backgrounds, roaming around the grounds of a historic houses and getting dangerously close to wreaking havoc. 🙂 Actually, it’s kind of fun and a really neat experience. All of the little kids and teenagers mingling together… It’s a lot like adulthood,  in a way. Everyone is different ages and backgrounds but they all get along together just fine.

Anyway, yesterday we went to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. It was probably one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been. (Yes, counting Bermuda!) The trees were all bright and beautiful, and the air was crisp and cool.

Which leads me to the conclusion that I simply MUST take someone’s family portraits at Monticello. Not that I can convince anyone to take the long car ride and pay the entrance fee, but I simply have to try. 🙂












































This last one is of Chelsea. Doesn’t really quite fit with the rest, but it was by far my favorite photo of the day. Just goes to prove how perfect Monticello would be for portraits…

I Am…

I decided to do a post that would let me learn some more about those of you who read my blog! Basically, here are ten sentences that you can finish in the comment section. I’m so thankful for all of you who support me by following my blog, but I’d love to hear more from you! If you are a friend of mine, or someone who stumbled across this blog somehow and just enjoy reading what I have to say, then please comment and let me know! Hopefully this is a fun exercise that will let us all get to know each other better.

Here is what you can fill out in the comment section if you want to participate: (I filled it in myself as an example)

I am: Crazy and blessed

I am not: Unselfish by any means

I need: The support of my family

I fear: Going up ladders–I’m never sure if I’ll make it back down!

I listen: To music on a really loud volume when I’m alone

I believe: That God will be faithful to do good things with my life

I love: Vanilla milkshakes–probably more than I should 😉

I imagine: A future filled with crazy adventures

I hate: When someone makes fun of something I like without taking the time to try it

I know: How to speak Pig Latin very, very fluently

Now it’s your turn! Complete some or all of these in the comment section below. Have fun! 🙂


Writing Q&A: Part Two

Well, I had a couple more questions on writing that I figured I’d take the time to answer. Mostly about character and story development, which, as many of you know, I love to talk about.


Q: How do you make your main character come alive in its own self, rather than a copy of yourself?

A: I love this question, because I personally think that issue is something every writer has to discover for himself. What makes your character unique? What makes them real, rather than a flat, two-dimensional object on a page? Giving your main character a stamp of uniqueness and originality is so hard to do, especially when you’re viewing things from the inside out.

I believe that, in every book or story you write, your main character should be autobiographical in some way. You have to relate to your main character. Even if you don’t think you have anything in common, go out of your way to think about possible similarities. Maybe, even if your circumstances are different, you have the same thoughts and motivations. You both want to be heard. You both need to be loved. You both react to situations in the same sort of manner. In some way or another, you have to feel like your main character is another part of yourself.

You may think I’m rather strange, for answering this way. After all, didn’t the question ask how to make the main character his/her own person, rather than a copy of the author? But I think that the heart of your story comes once you can discover how to take your own heartaches and dreams and passions and translate them into a unique, vibrant character. This doesn’t mean that every single story or book you read has to have the same exact characters with the same exact problems that you are facing, but instead should be a reflection on your life in some way. You don’t always feel or act the same. As a person, you are constantly growing and changing. Your writing style and characters should change right along with you.

So make your characters unique. Make them special. But make sure their heartbeat matches your own. Write a story with characters that you can relate to, and most likely your audience will feel that special connection, too!


Q: Do your characters ever “write themselves”? Do you ever feel like they are totally different people in the end than they are in the beginning?

A: Oh, absolutely! My personal approach to writing is “characters first, story second”. What I mean by that, is that I usually attack a story idea by focusing on a great concept for a character, than build a story around that. I’ll have an idea for a girl that such-and-such has happened to, and she feels this-or-that, and then [blank] happens to change her perspectives on things. So a lot of times, as I’m developing a character and trying to get to the heart of his or her issues, I’ll discover something new about them that I didn’t realize before! Writing fiction is a lot like making a friend, in a way. When you first meet a person, you don’t really know much about them, only the basics. But as time goes on, you start learning all kinds of interesting things and really getting to know that person. And even after you’ve been with them for years, you’re still finding out new things almost every day!


Q: Do you really have to know how a book is going to end before you even start it?

A: A lot of people hate the truthful answer to this which is: Yes. At least if you’re planning on publishing it. Because the truth is that most publishers require a full synopsis of a book before they will sign it. So even if you’ve already published one complete book, they will not sign a second until they know the full plot summary. How it starts, where it leads, and how it ends. Maybe not in microscopic detail, but at least the overarching picture. I know it’s hard for a lot of authors to decide on an ending in advance, because they want to “follow the story and see where it leads”. And I think you do have to do that, to some degree, when it comes to character development and scene placement. But before you can publish your book, you have to know what happens at the end. The aunt dies. Or the brother comes home. Or the fighting couple kiss and make up. And you have to know what needs to happen to get there, also. Yes, being a writer is a whole lot of work.


Q: Do you write by computer or by hand?

A: Oh, computer, definitely! 🙂 I’m actually really fast at typing (I can type like 80 words a minute), so it saves me so much time. I can’t imagine how long writing a novel would take by hand! Plus I have really, really bad handwriting…


Q: Why do so many people think that publishing with big companies costs money?

A: I think that there are probably a lot of shady agents out there that sometimes con people into giving them money and then never deliver on their promises. A lot of authors, young people especially, get really excited when they hear that an “agent” is interested in representing them, and fork over the money without thinking about it. DO NOT EVER GIVE AN AGENT MONEY UP FRONT!!! If he or she is a legitimate literary agent, they won’t ask for a penny until  you receive your royalty check. The same goes with publishers. You should never have to pay a publisher a cent. THEY pay YOU.


Hope this helped!


Real Quick…

Okay, so I do have a real post ready for this afternoon (another writing q&a!), but I wanted to post something quick this morning because something has come to my attention. On my dad’s computer, the last post keeps coming up with miscellaneous YouTube videos posted at the bottom. Each time he refreshes the page, the video changes, and some of them are somewhat innapropriate. The videos don’t show up on mine or my mom’s computer. I have no idea how they could have gotten on there, and whether someone spammed my blog or his laptop. So please let me know if your computer shows any weird videos, so I can try to figure out how to solve the problem. Thank you!


One Gross Family

Sorry I’ve been kind of absent lately. Things have been crazy but I promise to get more posts up this week!

I haven’t done photos in a while… Here are some I took the other night of some of our good friends: The Gross Family! I just have to tell you how much I love these guys and what I blast I had taking these photos. Four boys (Josiah, Jeremiah, Jace, and Jacoby) and two twin girls (Ella and Elsie). Needless to say, these parents have their hands full! But each kid is a total blessing and a joy to be around. I think you can really get a sense of their mischevious, somewhat silly personalities through the photos. 🙂

As a side note, doesn’t Mrs. Gross just have the most beautiful smile ever?































































Memories of a Life Well Lived

Sorry I’ve been kind of absent lately. We had a death in our extended family that, while not a complete shock, still kept me from wanting to post for the last few days. My great Aunt Mary passed away on Sunday evening. Because both of my father’s parents died when he was a teenager and his Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe took their place of raising him and his four sisters, the pain is similar to losing a grandparent. She was 87 years old.

I was trying to think about what to say or what to write because I knew that a lot of my family members would be reading this. I didn’t want to make them sad, but I didn’t want to seem too upbeat either. There wasn’t much pomp and circumstance surrounding her death. The obituary was about two lines I think. We didn’t even have a service.

And yet, all of this seems right somehow. My Aunt Mary was a simple, kind woman. She didn’t demand anyone else’s attention. She was willing to serve, and willing to help others, but she never asked for any favors in return.

Because my great aunt and uncle have lived in South Carolina since before I was born, I didn’t see them too many times face to face. I talked with them on the telephone a lot. I heard numerous stories from relatives of my dad’s generation. And every Christmas I got to see them at my aunt’s house. I got to hug them and laugh at their jokes and give them homemade bread. And yet, despite my shortage of physical contact with them, I have learned so much from them just by hearing the reports of others.

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to interview my Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe about their life growing up in the Great Depression. We had a nice long telephone chat, and I asked them plenty of questions about their childhood and the events that shaped them into the people they grew up to be. What started out as a school project quickly became a chance for me to become more intimate with the relatives I didn’t know too well. I learned about their values and their histories, and hung up the phone with a new feeling of gratitude at the very easy life God has given me.

I thought I’d share the interview with you here, just so you can see the type of people my Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe are. I regret not talking to my Aunt Mary face to face more before she passed, despite my numerous letters and emails. But I feel blessed to have been her great niece, and I’m thankful for all the time she spent writing me and sharing about her life.


Interview with Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe: October 17, 2008


1. How old were you when the Great Depression started?

    Joe: 7. Born in ’22.

    Mary: I was born in ’24, so I was 5

 2. Where did you live during the Depression?

     Joe: In Baltimore, MD.

     Mary: We lived several places because we couldn’t pay the rent. For the most part, though, I lived in Stewartstown, WV.

 3. How did the Depression affect your family?

    Joe: Well, to begin with, when the Depression started my father died in June of 1929. My mom took care of the kids; my older sister was 13, and my younger brother was 1 month.

    Mary: Just about the same way for me. I was five and we lived in the country. We did get a newspaper, but that was all. We didn’t have much money; we did what we could. My mother died in 1935, in the middle of the Depression, and she left five kids. The oldest, your grandmother was 15; the youngest, your Aunt Jeanne, was 18 months. My father did what he could; we had chickens and a cow; not a lot of food. Your grandmother dropped out of school at 15, to help. She took care of Jeanne.

At Christmas, the only thing we got was a pair of socks and tangerines. And I don’t like tangerines to this day. Yeah, but we had no Christmas. We had ice cream once or twice a year when the stream froze over and we could cut the ice and make it ourselves.

You learn, more or less, how you can get along on less. We were very healthy and I don’t remember the doctor ever coming. My father didn’t take us to the dentist; he pulled our teeth himself. It wasn’t good times. It was the commodity of our neighbors and the closeness of our family that kept us going.

 Joe: Everyone learned the value of a dollar. I worked on a produce truck and worked all day and got paid 50 cents a day so we could go out to supper and buy hot dogs and beans.

4. How did the Depression affect your community?

Joe: Everybody was in the same boat; everybody was poor but they just didn’t know it.

Mary: Just about the same for me. There were very few people who had a radio; many didn’t, no, I don’t think anyone had electricity; we had oil lamps. The kids came together and made up our own games. The people washed clothes on washboards, we didn’t have any indoor plumbing.

But we did learn a lot. We learned how to get along with each other; how to respect our parents. Back then, we couldn’t go and play at a friends house before asking our parents. My mother would say, “You can go over so-and-so’s house, but when you get there you ask Mrs. so-and-so for a clock, and you’d better be home in half an hour.”

My dad worked in a coal mine, and I remember the miners who worked for him, in their lunch boxes there was water. No food, just water.

 5. Do you remember where you were on Black Monday, the day the market crashed?

Joe: I was probably asleep. In those days, extra papers would come out, we didn’t have televisions, and the paper person would knock on my door and give me $2.00 for 50 papers to sell. I got up at 2:00 in the morning to holler, “Extra!” I was too young to know how long it would last. But I know when the war started, the Depression broke.

Mary: I don’t remember.

 6. What was the public’s general impression of politics at the time?

Joe: At the time the Depression started, Hoover was president, and in 1932 it was Franklin Roosevelt. Everybody supported Roosevelt. PWA everyone used to say, “Pop’s working again!”

Mary: Everybody was looking to Roosevelt to make better times, and blamed Hoover for the Depression. We all looked to Roosevelt to bring us out of the Depression. Roosevelt was a Democrat, I know, but I think that he was loved by both Democrats and Republicans.

My father established a PWA and a CCC’s in our community and put people to work working on roads and building things. They were like an army! They built Cooper’s Mill, up by Morgantown. The workers were paid, I think, $1.00 a day. But they also got food, like flour and butter and stuff, for working and building new roads.

But there was no such thing as welfare. You didn’t work, you didn’t eat, you didn’t get paid!

7. What items were necessary for your family’s survival?

 Joe: The basic items: food, bread, and milk, and canned goods. Clothing was all hand-me-downs.

Mary: Yeah, from your family. Siblings, cousins; nothing was thrown away. And all the women could sew, either by hand or by machine. 99% of clothing was made by mothers. Mama could take jeans, well, back then they were called overalls, but now they’re called jeans, and split them down the middle and make skirts for the girls. And sheets. Old sheets could make skirts or pillowcases. You did what you had to do.

Joe: And a lot of people, farmers mostly, could make clothes out of feedbags. Lots of people went around wearing feedbags and you didn’t even know because they were patterned.

8. Was there anything you had to cut back on? What did you miss the most?

Joe: You cut back on everything.

Mary: We never had much to begin with. I can’t think of anything I missed the most, because we didn’t have much to begin with.

 9. What was Christmas like? Birthdays? Did you still get any presents?

 Joe: We had to go out to the churches and they would give us gift baskets. That was our Christmas.

Mary: I got those, too. And I remember saving pennies and buying things. My father used to save pennies and one Christmas he bought a wagon for all the kids. Back then you didn’t buy a bike for one kid and another thing for a another, you bought something for all of them. Oh, and my father always gave us a penny for Christmas to put in the collection plate at church, and we had to tie it in a handkerchief so we wouldn’t lose it.

Oh, some of the things we did are so funny now that I think back on them.

Joe: Birthdays came and went. Just another day.

10. Do you have any stories about your life when the country was at its worst?

Joe: The same thing everyone went through. Stash food.

Mary: The Depression didn’t get worse for us. It was bad at the beginning.

11. What’s one thing you learned about yourself from the Great Depression?

Joe: Tell the truth and be honest. And work hard.

Mary: Earn your money and don’t depend on the Federal Government. Of course, they didn’t have any more money than we did, but still. Respect people and get along with a lot less. We try to do that today, too. Save that money for a rainy day. Before we married, every week I put something in the bank; this was taught to me by my father, who never had a lot.

12. Just out of curiosity, how did you two meet?

Joe: I was in the service and Mary worked in the shipyard as a timekeeper. My sister worked with her, and she introduced us.

Mary: We wrote to each other when Joe was overseas. I still have every letter he sent me. He came home in 1945, and we married in ’52.