Spring, Deconstruction of Faith, Dreams, and Birds Chirping

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve blogged. (Not due to a lack of writing though. I’ve been busy writing copy for amazing clients.) 

Winter has stretched on in Michigan like endless days of clouds and cold. I’ve worked in my office downstairs, coming up for air to eat and go about life’s routine. Day passes into next day. Feeling pretty much the same. 

Then one day, the birds sang outside. That drew my eyes from my screen. That beautiful cue that Spring is coming. Such a lovely sound that says yes, sunshine will follow. 

I don’t know why but Spring feels a bit more exciting this year. Could be that we feel like we’re finally getting on the other side of the pandemic. Could be that we left our former church and embarked on a deconstruction of faith. Could be that my husband and I have been on a risky adventure of chasing dreams. Could be that I just NEED it. Whatever the case, I welcome Spring. I welcome new growth, new life, new opportunities. 

Cue the birds.

Excuses: Those Tricky Things

Excuses. They’re tricky little things really.

They keep us from being fully productive.
They keep us from being fully honest with others. 
And worse, they keep us from being fully honest with ourselves. 

It’s this last category that I have fallen into lately.

I’ve been making excuses to keep myself busy. Anything to occupy my time, so that I don’t have to look inward. Anything to avoid checking in and dealing with the fears lurking around that childhood dream of writing books for a living. It’s what I’ve wanted my whole life. But this thirty-six-year-old woman hasn’t been able to make that happen. 

Since my last book published in 2019, I have struggled. I went back and forth on my genre and classification as a writer. Then, I wrote a complete manuscript. A Murder Mystery. Which sadly, I have decided to file away. It doesn’t work for a myriad of reasons. All of which I’ve tried to fix. But it still doesn’t work. Admitting that after more than a year of effort is a gutting thing. 

Therefore, I’ve been making mental excuses to avoid writing something new. Until today. Today, I looked at those excuses and asked why. Why am I making them? It came down to fear and a lie I have believed for too long—that I’m not good enough. That I will fail. That I will write something again, and it won’t be good enough. It won’t sell. It will be wasted time. 

I faced the ugliness today. It has been painful, but it has left me with a choice. Do I want to continue to believe the lies and continue to make excuses or do I want to be at peace and rest in the assurance of who Christ says I am? 

Of course, the answer is easy, walking it out is the hard part. 

Becoming An Indie Author: My journey to find fictional freedom

I dreamed of being a traditionally published author since I was 11 years old. I wanted to hold a printed book in my hands and say, “Look, this great publishing house believed in me! They published my book!”

My dream propelled me, year after year, without fail. I wrote books diligently (and they were crap). But I wrote them. Then I re-wrote them. Then I edited them. Then other people edited them. Until 2010, at age 25, I settled upon a story that I was certain was good. It was called Ramble and Roar: A 1920’s novel. I loved this novel and was ready to have it published.

With hopes held high, I sent my first book proposal to a literary agent. And by golly, she liked it. I became her newest client and was certain that within the year, I’d have a publishing contract. That year passed with a series of rejection letters. In 2011, I entered the novel into a Christian writer’s contest. The judges didn’t like the honesty and grit in my story. I was told that my book wasn’t Christian enough and gasp–I said the word brassiere! Needless to say, I did NOT win that contest. The third year came, and we finally had an interested publisher. The only problem–they wanted me to edit out the POV of my Irish mobster, who was a main character woven through the entire book! Apparently, his storyline was too MUCH for a Christian audience. Though I felt like I was dying inside, I changed the whole novel because I so badly wanted to be published traditionally. After two months of hard work, we sent the new manuscript to the publisher. And wouldn’t you know it, they said they didn’t think the novel suited their audience after all. I think I shouted Bastards at that moment.

In the beginning of 2014, my contract with my literary agent ended when they cut the fiction department. Though it sucked at the time, it was a blessing in disguise. I needed them to cut me loose because I was in the wrong market.

Just because I identified as a Christ-follower didn’t mean I had to write “Christian fiction.” By writing for a mainstream audience, I was able to be myself, explore the hards issues, have real dialogue, and allow for creativity. More importantly, I released the lie that I was “walking away from my faith by writing secular fiction”. That mentality is absolute crap. God loves me. He is worshipped in my craft. The stories I write about brokenness and finding hope–I know this pleases God. The honesty in my books, pleases God. The fact that I am using the talent He gave me, pleases God. I don’t have to be pigeonholed in a market to please God.

In 2017, I said screw it, I’m starting my own publishing imprint. And I did. I bought the license for Flywheel Books and became an Indie Author. The first book I published was a children’s Christmas book (which I also illustrated) called The Magic Snow Globe. In 2018, I published Ramble and Roar: A 1920’s Novel, complete with all the characters and all its grit and glory! I also published another children’s book called Superhero Levi. In 2019, I published my 1920’s sequel, Marvel and Mayhem as well as my non-fiction book called Standing Lost: my journals through miscarriage. Now, I’m working on a new Historical mysteries series, which I hope to release later this year.

Being an Indie Author is hard work, all the responsibilities and marketing rests on my shoulders, but it’s worth it. I finally have the freedom to release my stories. It took 22 years for that dream became reality.

My dear fellow writers, if you have a dream to be published, maybe it’s time to quick putting your eggs into a traditional basket and go Indie.

RAMBLE AND ROAR: A 1920’s Novel

MARVEL AND MAYHEM: A 1920’s Sequel

COULD

COULD

What does that word really mean? COULD.

By definition, it’s a word that indicates the possibility to do something.

I hear that word, COULD, and it rings deep into my heart. It says, “Imagine. Create. Invent. Design. Dream. Because it COULD be achieved it you simply said, YES.”

This week, my husband and I looked at each other and asked, “What COULD we do, if we tried? What would we do if we believed that we COULD?”

The answer—a whole lot more than if we didn’t try.

So, we did something crazy, we stepped out of the boat and decided to chase our dreams.

It’s scary and exciting.

We’ll see where it takes us.

But one thing I believe with all my heart, I rather be scared about taking a risk, than growing older and not trying.

COULD. Let’s see where that leads.

Are You Ready To Escape? Then Read: These Nameless Things

Shawn Smucker is an author that always leaves me thinking. His plotlines are always clever. In his recent novel, These Nameless Things, my mind was racing trying to sort out the truth. I can’t stop thinking about this book. The undercurrents, the double meanings, it all has me astounded. I’m left with a deep appreciation for his carefully crafted words and the journey the characters must take in order to escape their personal demons and the abyss.

This is a deep read. It is thought provoking. It’s a lot like the television series LOST, but with its own twists and turns and a much different ending. I highly recommend this novel.

And now a message from Shawn:
Ten years ago, I started writing a story about a man named Dan who had escaped a mountain of terror. But he didn’t go far, because his brother remained trapped in the pain and the suffering inflicted by their tormentors in the mountain. So, Dan waited in a village for his brother to escape, too. What Dan didn’t realize was that the rest of the villagers were also waiting for his brother to escape, each for their own reasons.

 

PICK UP YOUR COPY TODAY!! Anywhere books are sold.

Honoring Our Frontline Heroes: Josh West

Josh West entered emergency medicine because of his mother-in-law’s passion for her role as an RN in Florida. Josh says, “She talked me into getting my EMT license, and I’ve loved the job ever since! I love the thrills of the job, but I also enjoy making a difference in people’s lives, even if it’s just being someone who will listen to them.”

When Josh chose to enter the medical field, he went all in. Prior to moving back to Michigan, Josh worked in Florida for eleven years as a Firefighter/Paramedic for Polk County Fire Rescue, as an EMT with Transcare Ambulance Service in Tampa, and as a Patient Care Technician in Spring Hill.

Today, Josh West works at Metro Health Hospital in Michigan as an RN in the emergency department. While this is his full-time job, he also works as a paid-on-call Firefighter/EMT for Zeeland Township Fire Rescue.
Josh says that “it’s strange with the Covid-19 response now. After all of the media coverage initially, it was somewhat frightening. Locally, we saw all of the coverage from Detroit and anticipated to be hit hard like they were. Fortunately, we have not seen those kinds of numbers here. Hopefully, we won’t. We have, however, been preparing for the worst and hoping for the best! And sending up lots of prayers!”

We are thankful that we have healthcare workers and first responders, like Josh, who are prepared for anything.

The message that Josh would pass along is to “please take this seriously, especially as the stay-at-home orders are relinquished. There is a very likely chance that a second wave of cases will come through so please continue to practice social distancing.”

~A Diverse Global Article written by Catie Cordero

Honoring Our Frontline Heroes: Samuel Ortega

For the last three years, Samuel Ortega has worked as a first responder for the Norton Shores Fire Department. A passion for this field arose at a young age, watching his father serve the community in Los Angeles City Fire Department in California. Sam loved visiting the station and climbing all over the trucks.

Sadly, his father passed away from ALS, which was triggered by firefighting work. The loss was devastating and for years Sam pushed away the calling to join Fire Service, but God had other plans.

Only God would know that Sam’s service would be needed at such a time as this. Even though the call volume has lowered, the stress and mental load is much heavier. Protocols are changing daily, sometimes hourly. As a first responder, being ready and adaptable is key. Even before Covid-19, the department had a certain amount of P.P.E. (Personal Protective Equipment) to wear, and now, the P.P.E. required is greater—regardless if a patient is assumed positive or negative for coronavirus.

With every case they face, our responders must recognize and face the danger. Unfortunately with Covid-19, the danger doesn’t end at the conclusion of their shift. As they return home, they dump their clothes in the washing machine and jump in the shower, hoping to protect their own families. The danger is real, but they face it for us.

Each day, Sam and his team strive to be at their best in order to keep the community safe. Sam says that it is a hard balance between doing his job safely and wanting to jump right in and help. “For the community, we keep our heads down and keep moving forward. This too shall pass,” says Sam. “While I think our normal will definitely be a “new normal” this will pass.”

We are grateful for Samuel and all first responders. Being on the frontlines is challenging physically, emotionally, and mentally. Please join us in praying for these great men and women. Please remember Sam and his family in your prayers.

And remember these last words from Samuel Ortega…“Think for yourself, don’t believe everything and anything the media tells you. Use precaution but don’t live and operate out of fear. And above all, keep your faith.”

~A Diverse Global Article, Written by Catie Cordero

Honoring Our Frontline Heroes: Nicole Sparks

 

“Want to know who’s not practicing social distancing? These babies! Because they just keep coming,” says Nicole Sparks, a physician of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Atlanta, Georgia. “And I fully expect to have an influx of babies approximately 9-10 months from now. (Laugh out loud)!”

Nicole has been an OB GYN for almost five years, but her interest in the medical field started as a young girl. Growing up, she marveled at how her family pediatrician would perform back to back visits for her four siblings and herself and never lose patience. Her doctor cared for them with such kindness that it imprinted on Nicole’s heart. She knew she wanted to follow in the same career path.

Since becoming a physician, never did Nicole dream that she would find herself working during a pandemic. She says, “This is unchartered territory. The biggest challenge I am facing as a physician at this time is trying to keep my patients calm in the midst of grave uncertainty. The field of OB GYN is unique in that we are taking care of two patients at any time—both the mother and her baby. Mothers are extremely worried at this time. They are afraid of what the future holds for their pregnancy and their delivery. They are looking for us to have all the answers, and unfortunately we are navigating this new territory too, just like they are.”

In order to promote peace during this time of uncertainty, Nicole’s first priority has been to remain calm and educate herself so that she can strengthen and encourage her patients. Nicole says, “Pregnancy is supposed to be a beautiful time, and it has been plagued by a pandemic. So as a physician, I feel it is my duty to encourage my patients and provide them with information that will keep them safe. We took an oath when we became physicians to do no harm. That is what I intend to do, especially during a time like this.”

The outlook can be bleak sometimes, but there is something that will always light up the darkness—the wonderful gift of life when a child is born. They are the picture of innocence. They are our hope for tomorrow. Thank you to Nicole and all OB GYN physicians for assisting mothers and their beautiful babies, in all seasons. You are our frontline heroes. We are grateful to you.

In closing, let us remember and dwell on the good in this world. Let us shift our focus to the positive things. Nicole said it perfectly in a recent Instagram post. “I hope if nothing else that this time away from work and busyness helps people realize what really matters most. I hope this time helps us to focus on our loved ones, on really connecting with each other, and connecting with ourselves. Take the news in doses. Guard your heart. Guard your peace. We will get through this. Together.”

~Written By Catie Cordero (A Diverse Global Article)

Honoring Our Frontline Heroes: Tayler and Mike Kooienga

Tayler Kooienga is a healthcare worker who normally works in an outpatient endoscopy center in Grand Rapids. When that center was put on temporary closure, Tayler called Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hospital to offer her assistance. It could have been easier or safer to remain home, but Tayler chose to go to the frontlines. She says, “I felt I had to do what I could to help.” It is with this giving, selfless heart that she serves her patients.

During this pandemic, she has worked with men and women fighting against Covid-19. Because she is not ICU certified, she cares for patients once they are off of the ventilator and making progress towards recovery and discharge.

Like Tayler, her husband, Mike, is also in the medical field. Normally, he works in a procedural area of the hospital but has been redeployed to the ICU to assist with the growing volume of patients. While the ICU stays busy, the rest of the hospital seems eerily empty. Saint Mary’s has canceled all elective procedures and surgeries that normally keep these units lively and full. Visitor restrictions also play a big role in the quietness.

While the group of patients have increased in West Michigan, Grand Rapids still hasn’t seen the vast amount of coronavirus cases like that of East Michigan. However, Tayler says that “there is a constant sense of uneasiness about when it will become as bad in this part of Michigan as they are warning us it will.”

One of biggest challenges that Tayler has seen thus far is the emotional taxation that isolation plays in the lives of her patients due to visitor restrictions. Tayler says, “As a nurse, you are one of the only in-person interactions these patients have during their stay. They can call or talk to their loved ones over video chat, but it’s just not the same as having them by your side during a difficult time. I cannot imagine how hard that must be.”

We are continually grateful for the sacrifices that Tayler, Mike, and all other healthcare workers are making to save lives. You are our heroes! We pray for protection and health to surround you as you treat and serve those in the hospital.

In closing, Tayler wanted to say this, “I would like to acknowledge and thank all the people who are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis because what they do is essential and important. We appreciate all your hard work!”
Well said, Tayler. We couldn’t agree more.

~Written By Catie Cordero (A Diverse Global Article)

Honoring Our Frontline Heroes: Anthony Morales

Anthony Morales is a first responder in West Michigan, which means he works on the frontlines, at all times. Due to Covid-19, the challenges on the frontlines have increased. This pandemic is a threat that agencies haven’t experienced before. Policies and procedures are changing day-to-day in response to the outbreak, which leads to higher stress levels.

Anthony has been in law enforcement for over six years—first, in the Florida Department of Corrections, second, in the Michigan Department of Corrections, and now, as a Sheriff’s Deputy at the Kent County Jail. Corrections is not for the faint of heart. Each day presents new complexities. Anthony says that after a few years, many people find they cannot handle this line of work. Thankfully, we have men and women who are able to gird up under the difficulties, ensuring the safety and order of our cities.

As the pandemic continues to spread, correctional facilities are faced with growing challenges, one of which is social distancing. Social distancing isn’t always an option in a correctional setting. However, when it can be controlled, movement in and out of the facility is kept to a minimum.

Being on the frontlines in corrections requires courage and strength. Not just physical strength, but mental fortitude. We are proud of Anthony and the many workers in law enforcement. Thank you for stepping up and being ready. You are our heroes.

We echo the message that Anthony shares today, “Stay home. Wash your hands. We’ll get through this.”

Yes, we will get through this.

~Written By Catie Cordero (A Diverse Global Article)