Friday, June 29, 2012

Do I Need It, or Do I Want It?

by Jennifer AlLee

(The following post originally appeared on The Pastor's Wife Speaks on March 25, 2011)

One of the TV shows I enjoy watching is House Hunters. If you're not familiar with it, one family is showcased per episode. They always look at three different houses, and in the end they buy one. The fun is imagining which house might work best, weighing the pros and cons of each, then trying to guess which one will be purchased.

Tonight, I saw an episode about a family with four children who needed to downsize because the husband had been let go from his banking job. My heart immediately went out to them. How terrible to have to leave the home you expected to live in forever. (A 7200 square foot home.) But due to finances, it was important that they cut back anywhere they could.
They were being realistic... or so I thought. But then we found out the couple's maximum purchase price: $400,000. And then we started seeing the homes. When the realtor told them the first house was 3400 square feet, the wife looked shocked and said, "That's so small."

It quickly became clear that "downsizing" meant something different to them than it means to me. In each home, when they found something that was old or they didn't like, they both responded with, "We'll have to replace that" or "that'll need an upgrade." After a while, I started to feel like I was listening to two spoiled children rather than a couple trying to be fiscally responsible.

But then I turned the mirror on myself. How many times have I claimed to need something, when in reality, it was merely something I wanted? How many times have I looked at something that was perfectly capable of serving my needs and said, "I want something else"?

There's nothing wrong with wanting nice things. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of your labor. But it's important that we open our eyes and see things for what they really are. When we discern our needs from our wants, we're freed from envy. Freed from being unsatisfied. Freed from depression over not having. By seeing how God fulfills our needs, we are more fully able to praise him when he blesses us with the things we want. What a good and gracious Father he is!

How about you? Have you ever needed something, only to realize later that it wasn't as necessary as you thought? How do you deal with those "gotta have it" feelings?

JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her novels include The Love of His Brother (Five Star, 11/07), The Pastor’s Wife (Abingdon Press, 2/10), The Mother Road (Abingdon Press, 4/12) and the upcoming A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (Abingdon Press, 11/12). She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.
Visit Jennifer's website at

Thursday, June 28, 2012

God's Prescription for Healing Sin - Romans 8 Part II

by Dina Sleiman

3-4God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.
The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

Sin. Kind of an ugly word. A charged word to be sure. Maybe it’s been overused. Maybe we apply it to anything we don’t like. We certainly don’t want to apply it to ourselves, but truth be told, we probably do it in some way or another everyday. From my understanding, there are two Hebrew words for sin. One means evil. Hopefully not too many of us are guilty of that. But the other one--the simpler one was known as “het” or “chet” in Hebrew. It means missing the mark. Veering of the path. Missing God’s best plan for our lives.

Yep, I’d say most of us do that every day.

And no one understands that more than God himself. He made us after all. And He knows us intimately. Although I don’t think it would be fair to say He “planned” for us to sin, I imagine He “knew” it was going to happen. For the record, I don’t think God is the control freak most Christians seem to think He is. I happen to think He has given us a ton of choice and more responsibility for our own life than the whole “God is in control” mind set seems to acknowledge. Oh, and that there’s an enemy too, who seeks to destroy us, and as we saw in verses one and two, we’ve been given power over that enemy.

Anyway, back to verses three and four. So mankind fell into sin. And it created a degree of separation from God, but He wasn’t numb to our plight. He had a plan. And not a wimpy little plan. No, it says here He went for the jugular by sending His own son. A son who died for us on a cross to pay the price for our sin. Pretty amazing. God took a personal interest in our human condition. Why? Because He loved us. He wanted to fix this disordered mess once and for all.

Laws—rules, they could never fix the mess. They weren’t enough to earn us salvation. To restore our relationship with God. And guess what? They still aren’t. We don’t need the band-aid of the law anymore. What we need is the deep healing that Christ offered on the cross. We don't need to accept Christ's salvation once and then earn our own salvation everyday for the rest of our lives. We just accept Christ's salvation, and it's done.

So why do we spend sooooo much time trying to fix ourselves, control ourselves, be perfect, please people, live up to some impossible religious standards?

Now we get to my favorite part of these verses. We don’t have to try harder. We don’t have to redouble our efforts. We just relax and embrace what the Spirit is already doing in us. If we’ve accepted Christ and His forgiveness, it’s God’s job to fix us. Not our job. His!!!!

We just have to hold on for the ride.

Wow! How freeing is that? Take a minute to feel that freedom. Breathe it in. Shake off the heaviness of guilt and sin and live in the moment of liberty and forgiveness. Of spiritual health and well-being. No wonder that dark cloud from verses one and two has been blown away and now we can live under clear, bright skies. Sigh. Lovely.

Have you been redoubling your efforts lately? Have you been stressing over your sin? How could you simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in your life? What would that look like?

To Read Part I about Romans 8:1-2 click here. 
Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, is now available at amazon and other online and ebook distributors. Her latest novel, Love in Three Quarter Time, will be the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. Dina is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Letting Go, Looking Ahead -guest post with Jillian Kent

We welcome our good friend Jillian Kent today, author of the Ravensmoore Chronicles. I'll he reviewing CHAMELEON this coming Saturday. Jillian writes about some of the background in writing a series, and I think it will be of interest to both authors and readers!

Here's Jilly!

Hello everyone here at Inkwell Inspirations. It’s been awhile since I’ve visited and I’m happy to be here. I’ve just turned in book three to my publisher for the big substantive edit. Mystery of the Heart, The Ravensmoore Chronicles which is releasing in January. It is the last book in this series and I have to admit I’ve had a really hard time releasing these characters and this story and looking toward my next project.

If you’re already published you may have experienced this issue. If you’re not yet published but have worked on  your own book or series you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Letting go is hard especially when you’ve spent so much time developing characters and plots around those characters. It’s like reading a great book and not wanting it to end. It’s just that now you’re the creator and have to figure out what to do next and there’s no guarantee that there is a next.

To be honest, I want to take a little time off just to recuperate from the last three novels and to get some space from those characters so that I can move on to the next series. Ah, a decision! I have decided to propose a new series and look forward to discussing this with Rachelle Gardner, my agent at Books & Such. I’m currently trying to brainstorm ideas by myself to see how it feels and that’s where I might get hung up. It’s not always about how we feel. As a counselor I see how difficult it is for my college students to make decisions when it’s all about how they feel. Decision making goes past feelings in my opinion and dwells in the land of wisdom. Sometimes we have to seek out others for their opinions and experience and not rely totally on our feelings. Not easy work. Here are three things I’m considering while trying to figure out what’s next.

  1. Do I like the genre I’m writing in?
  2. Do I like the length of the novels I write?
  3. Do I have stories in me that others will enjoy?

The whole timing thing in publishing is awkward. Here I am hoping you’ll enjoy my second book in the current series, Chameleon, which just released in May, and I’m going to be editing book three while marketing books one and two and thinking about my future project. Whew! It’s a fascinating process though even if it does drive us to the cliffs of insanity now and then. J

As you know, there are a lot of opinions out there in cyberspace about traditional publishing verses e-publishing, etc. Here’s a recent post from the Kill Zone that might get you talking.
I’m only interested in traditional publishing at the moment but I do have some ideas for e-publishing non-fiction at some point in the future. How we all view success is another matter but I believe it comes into play or should when we look toward the future of any career. How we make decisions is important and in the writing world will effect each of us differently depending on the path we chose.

I’d like your perspective on how you make your decisions about your writing career no matter where you are in the process.

What questions would you add to the three I’ve listed above? And/or just for fun where are you going or where have you been on vacation this summer.

Thanks Jillian. I'm loving this book (hey, the colors on the cover alone draw me!) and I'm so glad you stopped in and that we met years ago in an online critique group! You are the only one I know writing stories in a similar sub-genre, so I'm thrilled with your success!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Research Trip: Trails of 1885 Part 1

by Anita Mae Draper

What does the spring mean to you? To me, it means writing reatreat and research trip. I figure, if I have to drive 4 hours to get to the retreat, I may as well turn it into a research trip while I'm there. It worked well last year. Throughout the winter, I planned my route, figuring out what I needed to see for my current writing projects.

The Trails of 1885 is a tourist designation for the Riel Rebellion - Canada's only civil war. It happened in 1885 when Louis Riel lead the uprising of the Metis against the Canadian government for not acknowledging their concerns. The Metis are the descendents of the Coureur de bois - those brave Frenchmen who paddled the explorers' and map-maker's canoes into Rupert's Land leading the way for the fur traders, missionaries, and settlers. Far from home, the Frenchmen married Native women and stayed to become trappers, fur traders, and settlers themselves.

The Metis way of life was distinct in Canada since it followed the ways of France. One of the biggest differences being that their land lay in strips where each farmer would have a small amount of river frontage and his land would go back, away from the river.

The Canadian government sent surveyors to divide the land into squares, the English way of doing it. The Metis expressed their oppostition. The government ignored the Metis concerns. And in 1885, the Metis rebelled with the final stand-off at Batoche where the rectory still bears the holes of the Gatling gun.

Last year, the writing retreat was the week before Victoria day and only Batoche was open for the season. Canadians celebrate the current monarch's birthday on Victoria Day which is the unofficial weekend for the start of the summer season. This year, the retreat was in June so I was sure everything would be open.

Since the retreat was at St. Peter's College in Muenster, my first stop was just west of there at Humboldt where I wanted to see the progress of the archaelogical dig of the original Humboldt Telegraph site.

The Humboldt Telegraph Station is important to me because of its location on the Carlton Trail which plays a large part in my Mountie story. I'm also energized that the first operator was a woman. And that brings up yesterday's post by Suzie Johnson about Women Making An Impact In The Lives Of Others.

Back to my research trip, I was very surprised and pleased with what I saw there. If you're interested, read my blogpost, The Union Jack Flies On A Dry Run.

From that success, I travelled west, around the perimeter of Saskatchewan's biggest city of Saskatoon, and down to the southeast side. My goal was the Saskatchewan Railway Museum. I checked the website before leaving and saw that it was open from Victoria Day to Labour Day, so I was all set.

Unfortunately, I missed the part that said it was only open on weekends and holidays. How can a tourist attraction be closed on weekdays throughout the summer? I was so despondent. I read and re-read the list of things to see on the 7 acres of railway heritage on the other side of the fence, hoping someone would come out and take pity on me. After ten minutes, I realized that whoever owned the cars inside the fence wouldn't be coming to see who was outside the fence.

Not only that, but when I looked at the website on my iPhone, I realized their Railway Heritage Day had been the day before. If I'd left the writing retreat one day early, I would have been there for the railway museum's special day where they fire up things you don't see or hear otherwise.

I drove to the southern edge of Saskatoon to the Western Development Museum (WDM) where there was a real sod house on display. Yet foreboding grabbed me as I looked at the empty parking lot. No, it couldn't be. I got out of my van and walked to the dark entrance where a man with a backpack was reading the sign. As I approached, he said in what sounded like a German accent, "It's closed on Monday." What?

There are 4 WDM's in Saskatchewan. I used to live in Moose Jaw, so visited their WDM regularly. I researched the WDM in North Battleford last year. This was WDM Saskatoon's turn. I thought the WDM's were always open throughout the year except for major holidays. Yet as I read the sign, I saw that he was right. When I mentioned it to someone later, they said, "Budget cuts." Sigh.

Back on the road, I headed for Wilkie where the museum was made up of 5 buildings including a printing press operation which is what I wanted to see. Apparently, in the 1960's, the press owners left everything intact, gave the key to the museum board, and walked away. The equipment inside was supposedly all the way back to 1910 era when the business began. I was very eager to see this operation.

I arrived in Wilkie around 6 pm. Spotting a motel, I booked a room for the night and started up the east side looking for the museum. By the time I got to the gas station on the other end of town, kitty-corner, I hadn't found the museum, nor a sign about it. The station attendant said it was "somewhere in the middle of town". So I went back, driving along the western edge this time. Not one sign pointing the way to the museum. So, I started going up and down the streets. When I saw 2 women loading a vehicle, I stopped and asked them. Blessed be, they were both members of Museum board! With her van loaded, one woman said to follow her and I soon found the main museum in the old fire house.

The sign out front said who to call for appointments. I made the appointment for the next morning and went back to the motel. The next morning, a very knowledgable man, Ed Elder, gave me a tour of The Wilkie Press and allowed me to take lots of video of him explaining the operation. This tour alone was worth the trip and made up for the disappointments of the day before.

In case you're wondering, the Saskatchewan Railway Museum, the WDM, nor Wilkie are part of the Trails of 1885, but since I was in the area, it seemed like a good idea to check them out. Heading north from Wilkie, it wasn't even 30 minutes before I stood looking down at one of the numerous Valleys of the Saskatchewan River area. And if it looks like I'm standing in the middle of the road, I am. Traffic was almost non-existent that midday.

I crossed the Battle River Valley and up the hill to Fort Battleford. Along the way, I stopped to pay my respects at the NWMP cemetary. The plaque on the front reads, "In honour of those members who served in the North-West Mounted Police during the development and settlement of the Canadian West." The plaque on the monument lists the names of 6 Mounties buried in unmarked graves.

I really wish they hadn't allowed homes to be built so close. It just jars somehow.

Last year, Fort Battleford was closed when I arrived, but I made a phone call and was allowed inside. I couldn't take any photos of the employees because they weren't in official period costumes yet, although they were practising their roles. However, one Park employee gave me a personal and very knowledgable tour.

This year, three school buses were in the parking lot when I arrived so I knew the fort was open. Sure enough, a Mountie wearing the white pith helmet and red serge tunic led the way to the fort. Since I wanted lots of period photos, I allowed them to go ahead and toured the Men's Barracks first, which are situated outside the fort walls.

After the Men's Barracks, I followed the path into the fort and was met by a Sergeant in brown undress uniform who offered to show me around. He was nice, but I was hoping to find a Mountie in red serge wearing corporal's stripes to match the hero of my Mountie story. And then there I was in the Orderly Room when a man in that exact uniform walked in. I quickly asked if I could take his photo.

Imagine my surprise when he said I was there last year and announced, "You're the writer."

Yup, that's me. And he was the employee who'd shown me around last year. He's David Trimmer, a photographer by trade, and someone who loves history. I have many photos and several videos of David giving out information about Fort Battleford, gleaned as we toured the rest of the site.

At 3 pm, I sat to watch the cannon firing demonstration, but was torn between media memory. Should I take photos or video? David solved my problem by offering one of his own photos taken at the moment of firing...

A hint... if anyone needs photos of Fort Battleford, the NWMP, horses, ranch-life, or anything along those lines, check with david at first. He may already have what you need, or he can get it for you.

I still have one day left of my research trip, but this post is very long already, so I'll sign off for now.

I'll leave you with the video I filmed while they fired the cannon off at Fort Battleford. In the video, David is the Mountie on the left - the powder monkey, as you'll find out.

And when the job is done, the powder monkey must clean up his mess.

Which part about my trip enthused you so far? Which part did you want to learn more about?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. She writes stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books and Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at

Monday, June 25, 2012

Women Making an Impact in the Lives of Others

by Suzie Johnson

Strong women: 
Leaders, dreamers, achievers, caregivers, helpers, encouragers, teachers, doers, prayers….

I love reading about strong women; women who have an impact throughout history, in current events, and in fiction. Listed above are just a few of the words we can use to describe strong women. One thing they each have above all else is heart, and one thing they all need to achieve their goals is faith.

One such woman made headlines just about a month ago for being a woman of strength, a dreamer and an achiever. Now she wants to be a teacher and encourager.

Mount Everest
courtesy of wikipedia
On May 19th, 2012, Tamae Watanabe broke her own record as the oldest woman to ever climb Mount Everest. She originally set the record ten years prior – ten years where some other woman could have broken her record, and yet none did. Tamae Watanabe is seventy-three years old!

Tamae, who lives near the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, is a retired office worker who has spent years climbing mountains. Perhaps living so close to the largest mountain in Japan is part of what inspired her to climb. From Alaska, to Switzerland to Nepal, Tamae has climbed mountains all over the world.

Mount Fuji
courtesy of wikipedia
Seven years ago, at the age of sixty-six, three years after she initially set the record on Mount Everest, Tamae fell and broke her back. She was afraid she’d never climb again. Driven, she pushed forward and realized her dream.

For now, Tamae has no further plans to climb Everest. She does, however, intend to spread her enthusiasm and knowledge by teaching and encouraging young women of Japan who wish to also achieve their dream of climbing mountains.

While Tamae may be the oldest woman to climb Mount Everest, she is not the first. The first woman to successfully climb Mount Everest was Junko Tabei, in 1975, also of Japan. Junko was also only the thirty-ninth person to complete the climb.

Another woman making recent headlines is thirty-three-year-old Liu Yang of China. When Liu Yang was a young girl, she loved riding the bus so much that she wanted to be a bus conductor so she could ride every day. Later she decided to become a lawyer. But when members of her country’s army visited her school, Liu decided she wanted to become a pilot.

On June 16, 2012, Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman to be launched into space headed toward the Tiangong space lab where she and two male colleagues were to spend a week doing space experiments. She is only one of two women, and one of six people to have been considered for this space mission and China is only the third country to send a woman into space.

Learning about these two women, and other women like them – women who dare to follow their dreams, women who want to experience all life has to offer and to perhaps be an influence on other women, women who put their lives in danger for their beliefs – is inspirational to say the least.

But there are other women out there doing things right now, today, who aren’t in the headlines; women who are changing lives because of their faith and their calling – women who are giving of themselves to help others.

My friend, Amy Hauser, whom I wrote about here in early 2011, is leaving today for Haiti. She’s made several trips there since I first told you about her. Not because she wants attention or headlines, but because she wants to help those in need. Amy is a physical therapist and the first time she went to Haiti she lost her heart to the people who were hurt, devastated, hungry and grieving. Because her life’s mission is to help bring comfort and aid to those in need, and because she’s been blessed with the gift of healing hands, Amy has become involved with missions such as Hands of Light in Action and To Love A Child, Inc.

Then we have Christi Sleiman, daughter of our own Inky Dina Sleiman, who also has a heart for helping others. Christi says it best on her blog sitewhen she says, “I love helping people and making them smile.” Christi is getting ready for a mission-trip to the Philippines. Is Christi doing this for glory and accolades? No. She was called to this through faith, and she’s going with the heart and attitude to help minister to the poverty-stricken children of the Philippines.

God bless Amy, Christi, Dina who instilled her love for all of humanity into her daughter, and other women out there who have the courage to put themselves out there and make a difference in peoples’ lives.

You have to be physically strong to climb mountains and go into space. But you don't have to be physically strong to be a woman of strength and courage. Those who make the greatest impact are those who do so with spiritual strength, relying on their faith to help them make a lasting difference in people’s lives.

To read about Christi and her mission trip to the Philippines, read here.

Suzie Johnson’s debut novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, will be released by White Rose Press later this year. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man, who makes her proud every day, Suzie lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and naughty little cat.  You can visit her at the following places:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What I Learned from Dory and Carrie Underwood

 What do Dory (from "Finding Nemo") and the "Jesus Take the Wheel" song performed by Carrie Underwood have to do with each other? They are my spirit-inspired memory aids for applying the following Bible lesson:
"Because of the extravagance of these revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, 'My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.' Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size — abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Whether it's a physical attack, a financial battle, a mental challenge, emotional upheaval,  an accident, the lousy economy, car trouble, a messy kid's room, a fussy baby, or bad weather on our birthdays, we can either be KO'd by our circumstances...
...or we can learn to do what Paul learned to do: "take it in stride, and with good cheer," letting Christ take over. Wow. When I think of the time and energy I've wasted over the years because I REFUSED to take things in stride, and I certainly didn't take them with good cheer. Even after I became a Christian, if obstacles and limitations arose, I either ranted and raved against the devil who brought the trouble or fell into the trap of guilt and condemnation, certain I had brought the problem upon myself because I wasn't "good enough." I still have a long way to go, but seeing these verses in the Message have given me a new way to approach those KA-POW situations. Just keep swimming, and let Jesus take the wheel today!
(I know, it's kind of a weird word picture, but I bet you won't forget it!)

About   the Author: Niki writes fiction, nonfiction, blog posts, newspaper articles, grocery lists, and Facebook status  updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


by C.J. Chase
PIXAR--the company that brought us kiddie blockbusters such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars--returns to theaters with Brave this weekend.

First, a couple words about PIXAR. I love this company's movies. PIXAR has made its name by focusing first and foremost on story. Before special effects or animation or anything else, a movie (like a book) must tell a rousing good story. This is where PIXAR consistently excels. Consider that they have yet to produce a flop. Yeah, C.J. has some serious writer envy going on.

Years ago I read a wonderful article about PIXAR's company culture that places story above all else. (I'd link to it, but it was so long ago, I'm not sure it exists on the Internet.) When PIXAR writers turned in the first version of Toy Story 3, the company head honcho tossed out the script. Completely. The story wasn't strong enough. (When PIXAR finally made a third installment of their Toy Story franchise, it became the highest grossing animated film in history and only the third animated film nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. Coincidence? Um, probably not.)

PIXAR produced Brave in partnership with Disney. While Brave is appropriate for children (note: very young may find the fight scene at the end intense), the moral aims straight at teenagers and their parents.

Princess Merida's mother, the queen, harbors definite ideas about how a princess should look and behave. But Merida, as is often typical of young people, has her own ideas of what she wants for her future. The two talk past each other but never listen to each other.

The widening rift leads Merida to run away to the forest where she encounters a witch. Witches cast spells, right? Merida purchases a spell to change her mother.

But she gets more than she expected. (Note to teenagers, if you want your parents to change, be specific.) Now Merida and her mother must find a way to change Mom back before the spell becomes permanent. The witch provides a single clue:

Fate be changed
Look inside
Mend the bond
Torn by pride

Brave has a fabulous score of Celtic themed music (yes, including bagpipes) by Patrick Doyle. Doyle has been a favorite of mine since his 1989 collaboration with Kenneth Branagh in Henry V. The movie also has numerous laugh-out-loud jokes poking gentle fun at haggis, kilts, and all things Scottish.

I took a poll in the car on the way home, and the Chase family consensus was 4.5 stars. We all agreed that it was a bit predictable and lacked the emotional punch of Up and Toy Story 3. But it's a PIXAR production and still better than most movies out there.

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be available in February of 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pushing My Limits

by Anita Mae Draper

I thought I was going to die at roughly 3pm on Wednesday afternoon as I reached the bench at the top of a 180 foot climb. That I probably shouldn't have attempted it was only one of several things that crossed my mind at that point, but none of it mattered. The important thing - as I braced my hands on my knees and heaved in huge gulping breaths - was that I was alive - and would soon have to make the trip back down. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

I was touring the reconstructed Hudson's Bay Company Fur Trading post of Fort Carlton which sits alongside the North Saskatchewan River. When I mentioned I'd like a photo from a higher vantage point, a kind park employee told me it was a short 10-15 min walk up to a viewing platform and that half way up, I'd find a bridge that crossed the old red river ox cart trails. Intrigued, I finished my tour and then approached another employee to confirm the directions. She said I could drive through the picnic and camping areas, park, and take the trail up.  Good enough. Here's the view from the Factor's house, which is now the Gift and Interpretive Centre.

And here's the view from where I parked my car and began my trek. 10 or 15 mins was fine - as long as I didn't have to climb to the ridge waaaaaaaaaay in the background of the photo. The trail starts where that little orangey-brown sign stands after the 2nd picnic table.

I haven't gone very far and can see the ridge in the background. When I hit the bridge, I'll be half way up and the 1st employee said I should be able to see the fort and river from there. I won't need to go any farther.

Oh, look, a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker...

...a beautiful butterfly...

...and some pretty white alpine-like flowers.

I reach a spot where a dozen or so half inch light-blue butterflies are fluttering in the path. I've never seen them before.

Perhaps they have something to do with the plants since I haven't seen these little knobby things before. They are reminiscent of raspberries, but with sort-of-similar leaves of the strawberry plant.

Although I've been stopping for photos, I'm beginning to get tired and turn to look at the path behind.

Wow! I'm higher than I figured.

This beautiful blue creature flies like a butterfly, but is lying there like a moth. I wonder what it is?

Now this plant reminds me of the fritillaria plants I grew in Ontario.

I look up to see if I'm at the bridge, but only see the trail lead higher. You mean I'm not half way up yet? Ugh.

I see wood, but instead of a bridge, steps reach toward the sky. You've got to be kidding. My arthritic knees don't like stairs. Of any height.

My breathing is gettting tight. Taking the steps one at a time because only my right one can take the pressure. Up. Up. Higher and higher. I can't breathe. And I'm due for a high blood pressure pill. Haven't got one with me. Almost to the top. Ugh. Ridiculous. A bench! A bit further... I plunk down on the bench, hands braced on my knees, heaving and praising God for His hand over stupid me. I glance at my iPhone - 3pm. It's taken one hour to make a climb that should have taken 10-15 mins. No, wait... I haven't found the bridge yet. Does that mean I'm not even half way? I stop thinking about it and rise to see the view.

Well, that's real nice, but where's the fort? The trail leads off to the right - neither going uphill nor down. I follow it around the bend and a little wren-like bird warbles from a nearby tree.

The trees are thinning out and the landscape looks more like open prairie as I follow the river along the top of the ridge.

A heart-warming sight is Saskatchewan's provincial plant, the Prairie Lily, an elusive plant we must protect by law for future generations.

Not sure what I'd do if I didn't have the trail to follow. Hmm... if a riding lawn mower could make it up here, you'd think they'd send a vehicle for their lost patrons... not that I'm lost or anything... sigh.

Oh, another pretty butterfly - or is it a moth? I can't tell anymore...

Rose hips! Nice that's reassuring... if my knees buckle and I can't make it back down, at least I'll be able to survive on rain water and rose hips.

Looks like aquilegia, but the 2 inch pods seem very long for the common columbine.

I hear a shout and look up to find a park employee looking at me - from a long way off.

"You made it this far," he shouts.

"Where did you come from?" I yell back without thinking.

He sweeps his arm in a long curve, "You came up the back way."

Really. "I haven't found the bridge yet."

"No, it's down this way."

"They said I could see the fort from up here."

"Sure, a nice place to sit and watch the view."

Uh huh. I was halfway to him.

He waves. "Well, it's all downhill from here." And he's gone.

With mixed feelings, I look down and see some weird brown plants that remind me of burrs. No wonder horses don't like them under the saddle. I'm surrounded by them. Not a good place to try a short cut.

More trees come into view, along with a couple of cedar waxwings.

Up ahead finally - FINALLY - the trail leads downward. A tremendous view and yet I'm disappointed because I haven't caught sight of the fort yet.

I think I'm making progress - at least my knees are screaming from the constant pressure of going downhill, but the view is breathtaking and overrides the actual pain. It looks like there's a fence at the bottom of the trail before it winds off to the right.

Made it to the fence! Oh, look - more trail, no fort. sheesh.

I see it - not the fort, but the viewing platform. One thing at a time. Not sure if the photo is crooked or my eyes are skewered, but if I can make it up the steps, I'm spending a minute or two in prayer.

Such a beautiful place to spend with the Lord. And look - I found Fort Carlton. Phew.

And there's the bridge! Kind of anti-climatic, wouldn't you say?

I'm standing on the bridge looking at the path down - I'm a long way from the fort. But beneath the bridge are paths of the red river carts - you can see them on the right of the trail. They remind me of when I stood in the wagon ruts on the Oregon Trail in Wyoming four years ago, except those were made in limestone. I stay a couple minutes to make a video of this spot. I read from the storyboard while allowing my camera to pan the cart trails.

I continue down, with my knees crying out for mercy. I stop for a breather and look back, just barely seeing the viewing platform up through the trees, and yet I'm about half way down from the bridge. I clench my teeth and step down. One step at a time.

I take the last step and limp into the clearing, knowing it's not where I left my van, but hopefully it's not too far away. Where's my van? Ugh... it's the small muddy-red dot on the right of the photo near the tree line. Man, that's far...

But as I walk across the open expanse, I can't help but feel jubilation. I made it. I actually hiked to the ridge and back. I check my watch - 3:45. And I did it in under 2 hours. That is quite an accomplishment for me.

Back at the Factor's house, I find out I walked 1.6 km (1 mile), and the ridge is 180 feet high.

Yes, indeed, that's quite an accomplishment for me. As I sit in my van and take my mid-day blood pressure pill, I realize I've pushed my limits farther than I've done in years. But I wasn't alone up there. The Lord was with me every step of the way, pointing out the wonders of His universe, making sure I didn't miss anything from the experience.

What about you? When was the last time you physically pushed yourself past a point you hadn't thought you could reach?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. She writes stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books and Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at

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