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Archive for the tag “story”

If You Give a Child a Pencil: A True Tale of Transformation

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Click on the photo to learn more about our If You Give a Child a Pencil goal!

I’ve seen poverty in three developing countries because I feel driven to be there—driven to look it in the face. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. I often have this wild thought that I must tell the story of these places. I’ve come to accept this feeling as my calling—to speak for those who have no voice. Two years ago, I stepped into my job-dream come true. I work as a staff writer for Children of the Nations (COTN). In this job I see the naked reality of the brokenness that was, and the unaccountable, transformative power of the Great Love who is doing a great, great work in the lives of so many.

Most of the time I write accounts of these miracle stories from my home office. It’s clean, quiet, soft white and driftwood brown, one window facing to the sky. Here I let my mind to take me to the countries where our children live. Uganda. Sierra Leone. Malawi. Dominican Republic. Haiti. But each year, for a week or two I don’t have to imagine those places, I get to go. In May 2013, I went to the Dominican Republic.

We work with the outcasts there—migrant Haitian worker families who crossed the border years ago to harvest sugar cane. Now, generations later, they aren’t needed in the fields so much. Work is very hard to find. They have no rights as citizens. No access to public education or health care. They live in shanty towns. The poverty is raw boned. But here is better than where they came from, Haiti. And it’s home now, sort of, so they stay.

Here—where children hopped and skipped alongside me, pushing and shoving to grab even just one of my fingers—I see a beautiful future embedded in the dirt roads.

The beauty is only possible because I have seen what COTN is doing here, loving and caring for so many children. Otherwise, without this hope, the little fingers grabbing for my attention would break me. But here, one child at a time, hearts, minds, bodies, futures, families are being made whole again—the way God always wanted it to be. This is only possible because thousands of hands and hearts have come together to work with COTN.

Here in our Florida COTN office, we’re asking for 800 more helping hands. We recognize that education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. And school supplies are a critical, basic necessity. COTN meets this need through SmilePacks—individualized packages of school supplies.

We’ve called our goal, If You Give a Child a Pencil. There’s a simple yet profound progression from a pencil to a good education to a job to a child now grown able to provide for their family. These SmilePacks put real hands and feet on hope. COTN isn’t a hand out, it’s a hand up. This isn’t my typical blog, as you know, but I blog where my heart is, and here lies my heart. If you have any questions, send me a message! Thank you for reading!

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They Might See Too Much

SamSo I might have cried in Starbucks last week. Which was, ahem, a wee bit embarrassing for me. Thankfully, I was with a friend who has seen me through many a good cries. She listened and murmured her understanding as I chugged my chai latte and really, really hoped the baristas weren’t overhearing all of this.

See, I had just posted the first chapter to Penumbra, and I felt like I was suffocating. My thoughts went a little like this… Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no. OH NO. I need to undo this. How can I undo this? What if people click on the link? What if they read it? Then they’ll know I’m not really a writer. And they’ll hate my story, and I should just stop all of this right now.

Mostly, I was just scared of being seen. The kind of seen that happens when we create something from the deep down places that exposes us as broken, searching artists.

God has taught me so much about this “seeing” by putting some just fantastically quality people in my life. I’ve learned that I can let others into those places, and they’ll love me all the more. They’ll even open the door to their own places in turn. Well, as much as any of us can. There is an intimacy that’s reserved for God alone, and I’m thankful for that!

A few nights ago a woman approached me after reading my first chapter and talked about my characters, by name. I totally freaked out. Hearing their names on her lips breathed such life into them. What a gift to know that she cared about these two people (however fictional), and that she wanted to know more of their story.

I felt such hope for them and for me.

We don’t have to be afraid in the telling of our stories. If God is leading the way, and showing with whom and when to share, then we can boldly tell our tales. This is my prayer for me and for you too, fabulous readers.

So what about you? Does sharing your art with others ever scare you? How so? And how do you move past the fear?

Dragon Slaying, Dream Chasing

Months ago I was elated to find this gem of a blog post titled Slay Your Dragons Before Breakfast by Michael Hyatt, an author, speaker, the works. He writes about “slaying your dragons before breakfast” and it cut right through to my core. I thought, “Wow, this successful and eloquent man faces some of the same challenges I do each morning”. Relieved, I made a mental note to pay more attention to my morning “dragons”, committing to mindfulness of overcoming them day by day.

Michael’s blog post shed light on the battle I face each weekday morning. Some days my “dragon” feels purely physical—as if my body were stuck in mud—while other times negative thoughts begin to fold in, threatening to take over my day. That’s when I know I have a choice: to slay my “dragons”, calling them out for what they are, or to break in my weakness, giving in to despondency for the day. I know this may sound a bit dramatic (no surprise there as I recently discovered my long-lost resolve to pursue acting) but it is what I truly face many mornings.

Now that I’ve brought up the subject…what do your “dragons” throw at you each day, each week? Which “dragons” are your primary battles? What is your reaction and plan for overcoming these hurdles?

My main “dragon” tells me that I simply cannot do it all—that I’m not good enough. It flashes my week, my month, my year before me and whispers: “What were you thinking, Crystal? You can’t pull it all off…you’re in over your head…you’re not talented enough…” Taking a deep breath, I continue getting ready for work, sometimes allowing these thoughts to take up space in my brain for a minute or two. Then, I remember that my past life of succumbing to this “dragon” was put to bed. Sweetly I smile, thanking my Creator for bringing this insight to me two years ago. Reading an inspirational paragraph or two, writing a page or uplifting myself with music in the car—these are all small actions that help me transition into my day and continue chiseling away at my dreams. The battle is in our minds.

Maybe mornings aren’t tough for you. Maybe it’s the lonely nights at home or the lethargic afternoons pushing through at work. We are all different and that’s okay.  Actually, it’s more than okay. It is necessary. As artists, we must embrace our imperfections and individuality, reveling in their beauty yet leaning on our Creator for the strength and courage we need to carry on.

Knowing we have a unique purpose that no one else has ever had or ever will really motivates me. Believing that you have been specially equipped with what you need to pursue your calling is imperative to taking real action. When you are on top of that, then the “dragon slaying” isn’t so scary anymore. It is just part of the daily journey, fashioning your character and true self more into what He already created it to be. But we have a part in the story too. (For a great reminder about how we are “coauthors with God”, check out Sammie’s post from earlier this month.)

So, what motivates you to “slay your dragons” and carry on?

Artist Survival Kit

What is your “artist survival kit”? It can be anything you feel you cannot do without as a creative being (this includes everyone, of course). Or better yet, what is your “human survival kit”? All humans are creative in some way because we are all fashioned by the Great Creator in His image.

As a newfound artist, I cannot be without my emotions. The ability and openness to honestly express myself is vital to my art. Like a rushing river graciously flowing through my core and out to others open to receive, a colorful collage rise and fall—deep purple, tranquil turquoise, vibrant orange, passionate reds and dark black crescendos. My eyes open; my ego shut off as my heart and the “real me” vulnerably dance in front of people I do not know. To fully let go, not care how ridiculous I may look, while telling someone’s story—the good and the bad—brings deep satisfaction and value to my very being. When I let raw emotion pour out, I find joy in expressing an authentic story over and over, making it my own, as if the knowledge was mine in another life. To feel someone else’s triumphs and heartaches is a gift. It not only heals me but the audience as well.

Another tool I cannot be without is writing. To write is to breathe, to sleep, to eat—to savor life. Inner ponderings, experiences, gut reactions and dreams strut onto the page eagerly. Thankfully, my left brain is silenced during these fleeting moments throughout the week. I long to capture “living in the moment” and the thoughtfulness flowing through my sore hands, fingers and worn-out pens. Pushing away all that I want to forget and reaching for the hand of today. The here. The now. My soul’s ears acutely listening and transcribing His lessons and truths. Thankfully, He has prompted me to be aware, giving myself permission to create.

I could go on for pages, but I will end with this: I cannot be without my Creator and all that He offers. Without His guidance, I would not even be open enough to write this. If I had kept myself closed off from His nudging, I wouldn’t be experiencing life; but merely surviving. Human relationships, nature, love, kindness—all things He has given. And I cannot do without them.

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