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5 Things I Learned at My High School Reunion

Dear Friends, Not long ago, I wrote about what I’ve learned since high school. Since sharing that post, I’ve had the privilege of attending (and enjoying!) my fortieth high school reunion. I can only describe it as a wonderful weekend, filled with friends, fun, and plenty of tender/some side-splitting memories. And of course, I acquired a bit more wisdom over the reunion weekend. I’ll do my best to summarize it: 1. Shared Memories Unite Us: In my earlier post, I mentioned that our high school schedules, interests, and activities tended to separate us. Part of the reunion’s beauty was the opportunity to revisit our shared experiences: cafeteria food (Hopewell Elementary’s tender wheat rolls, Lakota’s salty French fries), football games, prom, and particular classes/teachers. As we talked and laughed, those long-ago differences fell away, and the sweetness of the memories brought us closer than the day we graduated. 2. Life’s Difficulties Bring Compassion: As I spoke to friends and acquaintances throughout the weekend, I realized how many of us had been through challenging experiences: Cancer. Divorce. Job loss. Death of a child, parent, or spouse. Some of my classmates’ faces were etched with the pain of those tough times. Others bore little to no evidence of suffering. But whenever anyone mentioned these tough times, heads nodded and eyes warmed in both empathy and sympathy. We care a lot because we’ve been through a lot. 3. Sometimes a Friend Surprises: The evening held more surprises than I anticipated, whether by attendance (“What? I thought you couldn’t come!”), appearance (“You look just like you did back then!” or “I wish the print on that name tag was bigger, because I don’t recognize you”), or achievement (“You turned out a lot different [or exactly the same] as I expected”). But I was also surprised how much it meant to spend time with my new-old friends. One, whom I’ve known since second grade, cried upon hearing my voice. I also choked back tears as I watched old football buddies reunite and other longtime friends rejoicing at the opportunity to spend time together once again. 4. Dancing Is Cool (Even Though I’m Not): Our DJ played a delightful (for most of us) mix of 70s hits and encouraged us toward dancing and karaoke. But most of us just wanted to talk, talk, and talk some more. I did get out on the dance floor, not because I’ve got any disco moves, but because I wanted to celebrate, and dancing provided a great avenue. And unlike the times I dare to dance in view of my children, no one at the reunion made fun of me. Or if they did, my ears were too old to hear it....

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4 Things I’ve Learned Since High School

Dear Friends, My graduating class celebrates its fortieth reunion this fall. And I realize just writing that number dates me. One of the positives of social media has been the way I’ve reconnected with friends from high school and earlier. Soon, I’ll have the chance to see in person some of the people I’ve seen only online since our graduation day in the bicentennial year of (gulp) 1976. But the other day, I realized that I’m also looking forward to this reunion because I’ve learned a few things since that star-spangled graduation. When my classmates see me, they’ll no doubt notice my silvering hair, mom-curves, and face that reveals both laughter and pain. But I hope they’ll also see something else. The Martha (I went by my full name until I entered college) they knew back then isn’t the Marti they’ll see at the reunion. Here are four things I’ve learned since high school. It’s OK to be different. I always felt like the weird kid (raise your hand if you did, too). In younger years, I was left behind in the library, transfixed by my book, when everyone else returned to the classroom. I was still that kid in junior high and high school (who else wrote poetry in French and Latin?) I intentionally remade myself in my sophomore year and tried to be more outgoing, more fun, more cool (big word back then). But inside? I was still that scared little second-grader trying to fit in. Today, I’m still different. I still live through the books I read and the words I write. I still can’t dance (although I love to), and I’ve given up the idea of ever achieving even one degree of cool-ness. But guess what? All that reading and all those words have turned into a rewarding career. I cherish my family and friends more since I’ve learned I need alone-time to recharge. I dance no matter how silly I look. And raising five children has taught me moms aren’t cool anyway. What makes me different also makes me special. And I like that. A lot. What divides us is less important than what unites us. Through the process of reconnecting with friends online, I’ve realized I knew some people better in elementary school than later on. Three elementary schools united to form our junior high and high schools, so the friendship possibilities broadened. But the separate tracks (College Prep., Business, etc.) and various clubs or other activities meant we spent lots of time with one or two groups. That was good, because we got do things what we liked with people we enjoyed. But in the process, I lost some people who were...

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5 Marvelous Mission-Trip Fundraisers

Dear Friends, “Those trips are expensive! How can you afford it?” “I’d love to take a mission trip, but I could never come up with that kind of money.” These represent only a few of the questions and comments our family (five now young-adult children plus Dad and Mom) has heard in the more than 50 short-term mission trips we’ve taken through the years. Because of multiple mission trips, we’ve sometimes had to raise more than $10,000 in one season. So how do we do it? How can you? Large and in Charge   As you prepare for your mission trip, remember the One who called you to go. God doesn’t order what he can’t pay for. If he’s leading you on a mission trip, you can trust him to guide your fundraising, too. But don’t sit around waiting for pennies from heaven. Instead, ask God for creative ways to add dollars to your mission trip account. Feel free to consider some of the following (all of which our family has used, often more than once). The Write Start     This classic mission-trip fundraiser involves writing letters to friends and family explaining your trip and the funds you need. But don’t discount the power of persuasion. A student I know wrote a letter as the first of what she thought would be several fundraisers. Donations poured in, and she ended up with $2802—just two dollars more than the total needed for her trip. The negative side of this approach is that lots of people write fundraiser letters, and yours may get tossed aside. Recently, we’ve ditched the traditional letter in favor of social media posts with a quick link to an online donor campaign. Your sponsoring organization may provide one, or you might consider something like KickStarter or GoFundMe. (Here’s an example: our daughter Melanie’s current fundraiser site.) Sales Pitch What about that junk cluttering up your (or your neighbors’) garages? Offer to haul it off at no charge, then organize and sell it. One church group I know has a huge garage sale each year and shares the profits with anyone taking a mission trip. Advertise the sale via traditional channels (neighborhood social networks, local newspapers, and signs) but make sure to let your visitors know the funds raised go to support a mission trip. During our missions garage sales, we provide posters showing pictures of past trips, country and specific ministry information. We also add a big “donations” jar to our checkout table. Even those avid garage-salers who want to talk you down from a $1 item will often throw a bill into the donations jar! Bake it Off Do you bake mouth-watering muffins or crazy-good cookies?...

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Prayer for Those Who Have Been Wounded by Words

My Father, So many times when I post prayers, people comment back: “That means everyone!” or “That applies to all of us.” I know. And so do you. I wish “wounded by words” didn’t apply to so many. I wish these wounds could be fixed with a kiss, a band-aid, or even a good dose of antibiotics or some secure stitches. But no. The wounds caused by words tend to go much deeper, and the resulting infection remains much longer. Sometimes the word-wounds seem small. A tossed-off comment, a quick word of correction, a thoughtless assumption that hints at anger. But, depending on the recipient, a small wound can plunge deep, can open a tender place—perhaps one still healing from a previous injury. And in this way, little barbs become gaping holes and small statements, large lacerations. Words hurt. They hurt especially when they come from those we respect, even love. Those who have, in one way or another, power over our lives. Those we want to please. Those we seek to honor. Those who often pour their words like kerosene over a smoldering fire, sparking it into a flame that destroys as it grows. Lord, in your mercy, will you stop those words from forming? And if they do form, will you send them another way? Put a block between the source and the ears—and especially the tender heart—of the hearer. Cause the pointed arrows to miss their mark. And where those fireballs and arrows have struck, remove the pain. But Father, don’t just remove it. I ask you to replace it with your power to heal, your light to conquer darkness, your truth to overcome the horror of lies, your love to rule and reign in places where hate had dominion. For your grace to abound. Oh God, clean out the depravity surrounding these wounds—no matter how painful that process may be—and pour your cleansing victory through each one. Let no one remain trapped in their hurt. And use these wounded ones as healers for others, God. Let their words become grace seasoned with salt to lift others up in time of need. For their good and your glory, always and ever, AMEN. Dear Friends, If your life has been wounded by words (and yes, that’s most if not all of you), feel free to share a comment or prayer need below or on social media. I’m here to pray. for his glory,    Marti...

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7 Surprising Bonuses of the Colorado Christian Writers Conference

Dear Friends (especially those who love to write), If you read this blog even once in a while, you know I’m a big fan of writers conferences. I attend, I teach, and I always learn. In fact, I encourage those who tell me they want to start writing for publication that a good writers conference is the best investment they can make. A writers conference brings together experienced authors, editors, and agents, all with vast knowledge of the industry and eager to share their wisdom with writers at any stage. A conference can lead to fresh ideas, industry insights, article and devotional sales, signed book contracts, and the growth of relationships that last. That last item may seem small, but it has a big impact. The industry relationships I’ve built have brought me a literary agent, a publicity scholarship worth several thousand dollars, book contracts, and (lest we forget) the opportunity to teach at writers conferences, too. The Colorado Christian Writers Conference (CCWC), though, offers something extra. Let’s make that several somethings:                                                                    Colorado. Because mountains. Need I say more? YMCA of the Rockies. The CCWC’s unique conference home blends rustic with comfortable and also boasts a gracious, caring staff. Hundreds of college students as well as senior volunteers work there every year. The writers conference keeps us busy (go figure), but the Y offers all sorts of available activities including mini-golf, swimming in an indoor pool, arts and crafts, and more. Consider bringing a spouse or (better yet) the whole family. In addition, the cafeteria offers delicious food, including gluten-free and vegetarian options, and again—the staff members are helpful and eager to serve. Rocky Mountain National Park. The 415 square miles of this gorgeous park, only a few miles from the conference center, encompass some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Every year, our conference staff manages to take a few breaks from our work and spend time exploring its wonders. Last year, one of the conferees, an experienced trail guide, offered a post-conference hike on one of the park trails after the conference ended (hope he receives this as a hint to do it again). The photos included here came from that experience. Don’t miss it! Estes Park. I can’t mention the CCWC without mentioning the small town that rests only a few miles below the conference center. Should you choose to visit, Estes Park offers lots of great dining (shoutout to Poppy’s Pizza and Grill) and fun shopping alongside the rushing Big Thompson River....

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Where’s Marti? Spring-Summer 2016

Dear Friends, Every so often, I take a little time to post my upcoming speaking schedule. I’ve had an exceptionally busy start to 2016, with lots of writing and editing projects, but I haven’t traveled much to speak. That all ends next weekend, although even then, I won’t travel far. Here’s my speaking schedule for the next few months, with a few notes about the specific conference or venue and topics: April 9, 2016: Outreach Prayer workshop, Women’s Retreat, University of South Florida Baptist Collegiate Ministry, held at First Baptist Wahoo, Bushnell, Florida May 11-14, 2016: Colorado Christian Writers Conference, Estes Park, Colorado. I’ll teach an Early Bird Workshop called “The Genuine Article,” but my main role will be serving on the conference staff and ministering through the appointment desk. These are the dates of the actual conference, but my husband (who is also serving on staff) and I will be there May 9-17. June 23-July 11, 2016: Panama Mission Trip with Awe Star Ministries. I serve as Director of Prayer and Publication for this student mission-sending organization but have not traveled with them since 2011. I’ll serve on a 10-day team and then join a 35-day team for another few days. I anticipate serving the students and leadership, writing regular blog updates for both teams, and seeing how God chooses to use me in the cities, jungles, and mountains of Panama. July 17-21, 2016: Montrose Christian Writers Conference, Montrose, Pennsylvania: This is the first time I’ve taught at this respected conference. I’ll present workshops on “Ethics for the Christian Writer,” “Master the Memoir,” and “I Want 2 Write 4 Teens” as well as a morning keynote. August 3-6, 2016: Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference: Faculty assignments have not yet been made for this conference, but I’ll again serve the faculty and conferees via the appointment desk. I expect to be in Philadelphia August 1-9 to help with pre- and post-conference work. I can recommend any and all of these events, and all except the first are open to the public. I’d love to see you there, so please let me know if you plan to attend. Blessings and prayers for you as you look ahead to your upcoming schedule, too.   For His glory,...

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