Heart of a Hero

What is a hero-

In the Reluctant Warrior Chronicles, I write about heroes and heroines who fight demons. But what makes them heroes? Is it the way they face down the enemy on the battlefield? Is it because they reach out to help those around them, or rescue those in untenable situations? Is it because they rally together to encourage one another and carry each other through the toughest battles?

I think it’s all of the above and more.

Hero (noun)-

 

 

 

 

 

A hero can be something different to each person. They may be a warrior, a parent, a friend who is there for you, someone who takes care of you, a volunteer, or a survivor who has decided to no longer be a victim. They can be strangers or family, friends or lovers, male or female, young or old.

How do you define a hero?

That’s exactly what I want to find out. I’m starting a blog series titled “Heart of a Hero”. The purpose? To shine a light on those who make a difference in the lives of the people around them. To give credit to those who do so much, yet often fade into the background, working their goodwill and making sacrifices no one may ever know about. Using real people, I want to show, not just tell, what the true definition of hero is. I want to know what a hero is to you.

 

 

Starting April 1st and running all month, I want to share stories of not just my own heroes, but yours as well.

Twice a week, I’ll post about a hero of mine and tell you what makes them a hero to me. Maybe they were there for me when I needed someone most, maybe they’ve battled addiction or disease and won, or maybe they have sacrificed for myself and others. Whatever the reason, they are my heroes and I want the world to know.

Also in the posts, I will highlight one or two of your heroes. I want to know the people you look up to and admire and why. I want to know about those who make a difference in your life and the lives of others every day. I want real-life, everyday, unsung heroes.

 

All you have to do is email me at: AmyBrockMcNew@gmail.com, and tell me about your heroes. I want to know what makes them special, unique, and worthy of the title of hero. You can even include pictures if you like, just be sure to give me written permission for their use.

 

I look forward to hearing about the heroes in your life, and sharing about those in mine! 

 

 

 

The Battle Continues

 

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As I sit here on release day  for my second novel, I’m in awe. I have two books published. It’s surreal.

 

Three years ago, almost to the day, I began this journey. I finally gave in to my sisters’ urging (The none too subtle or gentle urging. More like shoving me off the cliff!), and sat down to start writing a book. I hit the keyboard with no idea what I was doing, no concept of how to get where I wanted to be.

 

I just wrote.

 

I stopped overthinking, let my fingers fly, and out poured the story that had been churning in my gut.

 

I was scared. Terrified, really. Putting so much of my own life into the tale was…exhausting, nerve-wracking, embarrassing, crazy-making, eye-opening, gut-wrenching, and so much more. I poured my blood, sweat, and tears onto those pages. Quite literally at times. I worked through my issues as Liz worked hers out on the page.

 

I faced my fears.

I unearthed those hidden hurts I’d buried so deep.

I confronted the rage inside me, rage I thought I’d conquered.

I walked through the agony, despair, and abandonment.

 

I met myself in those pages.

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The self I’d tried to forget and pretend didn’t exist. The self with her heart still isolated, cut off and determined not to really let anybody in. The self that never fully let herself trust. The self who raged at the world, at those who had hurt her, and yes, a little at God, for “letting” some of those things happen to her.

The self who had yet to forgive, and had no idea she was poisoning her life, holding herself back, limiting her own potential and hurting the ones she loved.

 

And as I climbed up in the middle of all that mess, as I waded through to find the true me, the true Liz, the whole story underneath all the debris, a miraculous thing happened.

 

I began to heal.

 

I cried. I laughed. I threw things. I laid into the heavy bag and split my knuckles open several times. (Don’t forget gloves.) I shivered and screamed and begged God. I opened myself up, every dark recess, every secret corner, and I looked that broken girl who had no idea she was still broken right in the eye. I begged her to forgive. To laugh. To love. To fight. To trust, like she’d never been capable of before.

She did.

Though the battle rages on, she continues to stand tall. To face her fears. To step into the hot zone and eliminate the threat.

And every time I write another installment of this story, my story, I pick up my sword and I face down those demons.

But I don’t go it alone.

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They say it takes an army. I’m convinced that is true.

The army behind me and my story? Second to none.

The only way I’ve gotten to this point is because they’ve been with me. No way could I have undertaken this mission on my own and succeeded.

It’s overwhelming when I really think about it. The sheer number of people I have supporting me is unreal.

My husband. My kids. My sisters. My brothers. Aunts and uncles and cousins. My friends. My publishing team. My Realmies. My loyal readers. There are too many to label individually, unless I wanted this post to be three days long.

These people have fought countless battles with me. They’ve guided me, cried with me, laughed with me, held me, taught me, encouraged me, and kicked me in the butt when I needed it. This series would not exist if not for them, and I am forever grateful.

 

So as I celebrate another release, another piece of my story out in the universe, I think of these people. I think about the army that surrounds me. The Realm Warriors. They’ve got my six and I’ve got theirs.

As this battle continues, I know I will never fight alone.

 

Guts on the Page

~This will be a long post, even for me. Bear with me. I am showing you my heart. Once again, I am flaying myself wide and laying my #GutsOnThePage. This won’t be elegant or ground-breaking. It’s just me, pouring my soul out and writing it down as it flows.~

This warrior’s heart is broken today, my spirit unsettled and grieving.

My sword dangles from my bruised hand, the polished steel I usually wield with a flourish suddenly too heavy. My shield drags the ground as it slides down a bloody arm. My legs are giving out, muscles quivering, strength failing. My boots trudge through the mire, the sucking sound accompanied by the knowledge that the very ground itself seems intent on keeping me immobile. Keeping me from reaching those I love who are hurting.

It’s all I can do to remain standing as I work my way through the center of a battlefield strewn with carnage, the stench stinging my nostrils, my eyes watering. I blink and rub my eyes, hoping when I open them it’ll all be some grisly mirage that will have vanished. That the destruction will have been a brutal nightmare, and I’ll wake up to the world I fight for.

But as I open my eyes, the devastation still spreads before me.
The ugliness remains.

This is how I feel today. The reason? It’s not what you think. My heartbreak is not due to the numerical results or outcome of an election. It’s not due to the beliefs or convictions of one side or the other or the other. No, my heart bleeds because of the battle that has raged for months, intensifying in these recent weeks, culminating with a massacre.

A massacre perpetrated not by steel and munitions, but by words.

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I have watched and listened as my friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers have ripped each other to shreds. I’ve seen families divided. I’ve seen friends abandoned. I’ve seen relationships destroyed.

And I’ve remained silent publicly. Going against my natural instincts to first lash out, then to defend those I love (even if I don’t agree with them), and to engage in debate, which normally I thrive on. I shut my mouth and listened. I tried my best to work behind the scenes, attempting to calm tempers and moderate arguments and soothe those who were hurting and scared. For once, I was the quiet voice in the cacophony. The one urging for calm, rational thought before setting out on the warpath. But I can no longer remain silent.

Especially last night and today, I’ve heard those I care about cry, celebrate, mourn, rejoice, or share their utter confusion and dissolution. I’ve seen and heard their pain, anger, and fear. And that is a good thing. By good, I mean it is a positive thing to release that emotion, to discuss the things we’d rather bottle inside, to let it all out in the open. It should be that when someone opens themselves up, becomes vulnerable and honest, those they’ve surrounded themselves with should either celebrate their joy or mourn with them, or, if they don’t agree, at least acknowledge their feelings and show compassion despite the disagreements. That’s how we find healing.

But that is not what’s happening.
This is why I speak. I don’t have any grand words today. In fact, they are shockingly simple.

I beg of you, stop the carnage.

Express your feelings, absolutely, but do it without attacking others around you. When someone vocalizes a view or emotion opposite yours, don’t go for the throat. If you want to debate, great. Have at it. But do so in a logical, respectful manner.
All of us are all over the map today. And that’s fine. Everything we’re feeling is valid. Why? Because no matter the situation, each person responds differently internally. Even if they hold exactly the same views. We’re all unique, all hold different ideals for different reasons.

That’s what makes this nation great. It’s not a leader. It’s not a group of leaders. It is the people. WE are America. Whoever holds office, the people are the backbone of this country. If we want change, if we want hope, if we want to make a difference and be better, WE have to make it happen.

Yes, we should be fighting. But not against each other. We do that, we fall. It’s as simple as that. We should be fighting FOR each other. We will never heal the rifts in this country if we continue to brutalize each other. You can’t expect to win a battle if you constantly kill off your own fellow soldiers.

Whether we like each other or not, whether we agree or not, we are all in this together. Period. And I have got to believe we all have enough in common, value enough of the same things, that we can work together, live together, or at the very least, tolerate each other, without setting out to destroy the other.

This exhausted warrior is pleading with you. We’ve all been through Hell lately. Can we call a cease-fire? Please, lay down your weapons for just a moment, at least. We have injured on the field. The casualties are astronomical, and growing by the minute. We’re all tired. We need some peace. We need some rest. We need to heal.

Will you join me? Will you be the one who drops to your knees beside that fallen warrior from the opposite side and shows some compassion by tending their wounds? Will you not throw grenades at the warriors celebrating? Will you hold and comfort the soldier in mourning? Will you be the example of what we should be, what we dream of being, instead of what the battle has turned us into?

It doesn’t take much. One kind word. One smile. One hug. One moment of acknowledgement or validation. It all starts with one. That one small, kind act can be the start of something wonderful. No, it won’t fix everything. We’ll still disagree. But wouldn’t it be great if, for one shining moment, we could light a spark of understanding and cooperation? What if for one moment, we see through new eyes?

What if we look past the ugly and the broken, and we see the beauty that exists underneath?

Then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t pick those swords back up to use on each other.
If we fight together, no one can break us.

~Watch the video, listen to the song. Maybe it’ll help you understand my heart. I truly hope it does.~

 

https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=7g7t1KIv70Y

Vincent and The Moon Pies

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It all began innocently enough.

Two friends and a Jeep. Loaded to the gills. Headed to Nashville, Tennessee for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. They had plans to take their first year at the conference by storm, learning all they could, meeting new friends, and hugging those they’d only met online. They were determined to make their presence known in the best of ways. 

Their brilliant plan was nearly sidetracked, and their song of joy partially transposed into a melody of sorrow in a minor key only a couple of hours after they arrived in Music City. 

As they sat down to lunch, a short text that seemed innocent and sweet and the two minute phone call that followed changed everything.

 

“Hey, Mom, I just wanted to say I love you.”

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This picture was taken seconds before my son sent the above text. I showed that text to everyone at the table. It was just like my sweet son to send a loving note like that. The call that followed cast his message in a whole new light.

One of my friends was on the other end, wind screaming in the background, panic squeezing her voice. She told me there was another tornado plowing through our neighborhood. She was on the way to get my son, who was home alone. My brain shut down. My body went numb. I looked at the friend sitting to my right and said,

“I can’t do this again.”

When the last tornado hit in November 2013, it was bad. This time was worse. My seventeen year old baby was all alone. In the middle of the monster. Was he okay? Did he make it to the bathroom for shelter? Was that text his way of telling me goodbye? All these thoughts boiled my brain as it went into lock down mode.

I don’t remember much of Wednesday evening. Numerous calls and texts. The girls praying with me and holding me. Being kept off of Facebook and away from the news. We went to eat at a local restaurant. I remember the music. I remember standing on the balcony and watching the water below. I remember I did eat something, at my friends’ orders.

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Then finally those words came I’d been dying to hear all afternoon.

Everyone is okay. All the kids are accounted for and safe.

I wanted to go home, but was instructed by my husband and friends to stay put. There was nothing I could do, and my husband didn’t want me to have to deal with the mess at home a second longer than I had to. I fought them. I was two seconds from jumping in the Jeep and breaking the laws of the land and physics to get home to my husband and babies.

Then I met Dineen and Heather.

They found me roaming the lobby, I’m sure looking lost and pitiful. They prayed with me. They spoke peace and common sense into me. Both of them felt what I already knew but wanted to deny anyway: I was there for a reason. They refused to believe the timing was a coincidence. Looking back, I agree. I have no idea how I would’ve handled being in the middle of another storm, as I was still dealing with emotional issues from the first one. They convinced me, albeit begrudgingly on my part, I should stay and get what I could from the conference. Gain strength to take back home and share.

For once, I obeyed, and stayed put. I’m so glad I did.

I crawled into bed Wednesday night weary and hurting. It took me hours to fall into a fitful sleep. Finally Thursday morning dawned. It was then I noticed something I hadn’t the night before in my hurry to hide under the covers and wish it all away.

A concierge named Vincent had sent a basket of goodies and a note expressing his sympathy for what had happened at home and his hope my weekend would improve. In that basket, among other things, were two treats I adore and rarely get. One you can’t buy up North where I live now, and the other is hard to find.

GooGoo clusters and Moon Pies.

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His simple act of kindness, added to the love and prayers of my friends, were what propelled me out of my stupor. As I enjoyed a GooGoo Cluster for breakfast, I prepared myself anew for the conference. I became determined to milk every last drop out of the weekend. To fortify my armor. To be stronger than ever.

I began to push aside all the depressing, crazy-making thoughts and focus on where I was. It wasn’t hard. Being surrounded by friends, sisters and brothers, made it easier to shove my troubles back and find my joy. Throughout the weekend, especially Thursday, I had my moments. Ups and downs. But there was always someone by my side to pull me up and out of the down times. I am forever grateful.

 

Then came Friday morning. I’d signed up for a class I knew would be highly beneficial to me. As I sat down, the instructor immediately gave valuable information I could use to better my manuscripts. But something felt off. Not with her, with me. I had a nagging feeling despite what I could glean from this class, it wasn’t where I was supposed to be.

After about 10 minutes, I left. I roamed the halls, trying to decide where to go. Looking for answers. I passed a room with the doors wide open and heard the speaker, Allen Arnold, say something that demanded my attention.

“How can we experience miracles if we never need them?”    (Click to tweet)

Okay. I sure needed a miracle. One I didn’t want to need. Hmm. I had to hear what he said next. I rushed inside and chose a seat. That’s when he said he had something for us. Notebooks he’d prayed over and written messages in. There were no names on them, and he handed them out randomly. He was confident they would go to the right people and be the exact message they needed. When I reached up to take mine, our eyes met and he grinned and nodded. In that moment I knew. I was in the right place. That was only confirmed as I opened my notebook to read the message it contained. Tears flooded my eyes and I instantly froze. The first line said:

“Control is an illusion.”   (Click to tweet this.)

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My toes began to hurt from being stepped on. Yep. He’d nailed it.

The confirmation that this class, this conference, was precisely where I was meant to be just kept coming. That note? Only the beginning.

With each keynote, each class, I was challenged. Challenged to write with God. To see things from a different perspective, whether it be a storm I’m going through or the people and things around me. To become one with God, with the universe, and let myself be used as a conduit. To discover myself as I write. To write for the sake of my own transformation. That the only way to change was through a shake up.

I had to step out of the boat and into the turbulent sea, having faith He would hold me.

Another class that really resonated with me was called “Soul Care for Authors”. Boy, did I need that one! They talked about four aspects: Spirit, Soul, Body, and Community. I learned that God is not a teacher who fathers, He’s a Father who teaches. That He wants that deep communion and intimacy with each of us. That sometimes things would be beautiful and messy, but we had to be willing to say yes to the invitation. We had to be ready to jump on that ride God was inviting us on.

One thing that adhered to my heart like crazy glue was something my friend Kristy Cambron said. “Fiercely protect the moments of holy in your life.”  (Click to tweet.) They could come at any time, and we needed to always be ready for those God appointments.

I had plenty of those this weekend.

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So many crossed my path, some unknown to me before the conference, who became close friends. Allies. They saw the light when all I saw was darkness. My roommates Michele, Jebraun, and Terri. My friends Lauren, Ralene, Sara, Sarah, Morgan, Dawn, Naomi, JC, Ronie, Amy, Elizabeth, and Cynthia. So many others. Their paths collided with mine in what could only be these special God moments. People sent to me, to love, encourage, and hold me up. They were my Aarons and I am so thankful for them.

Aside from having my soul, mind, and spirit fed by a sumptuous buffet of instruction, and gaining strength from all I was given, there were multiple lighthearted moments that infused my heart as well. From the genre dinner to the awards gala, to dinners out on the town, to hanging out in the lobby talking about everything and nothing. These precious hours of fun recharged me. They steeped me in joy I would need when I went back home. Not all God appointments are serious and somber. He knows we need the levity to balance the heaviness. And He provided for me in spades.

 

 

 

Yeah, my trip didn’t go according to plan.

Really, when does everything go exactly how we planned it? I would’ve certainly preferred not to have to go through this particular storm and deal with the things I faced once I returned home. But I wouldn’t trade the rest of that weekend for anything. If I had to do it all over again, I would still make the choice to stay. God knew where I needed to be and when, and He put me there. He knew I needed these people, the teaching I received, the fellowship, the strength He gave me through them, and the conversations that forced me to think differently and stretch beyond my limits.

Yes, God can truly use anyone, anything, any situation, to do some amazing stuff and bring incredible good to us. It’s mind boggling how He knows each of us so well, and knows exactly how to nudge us along.

Who would’ve ever thought God would use a stranger named Vincent, and GooGoo Clusters and Moon Pies to be the final push I needed to give in and step forward on the path He’d set before me? 

 

 

~I always include a song with each blog post. I chose today’s song for several reasons. It’s been running through my head since conference. Instead of being burned by the fire, by the past and all the things singeing me in the present, I will instead BE the fire. I will be the storm. I will take what was given to me, what God infused me with, and I will fight.

Fire purifies. It transforms. I will allow it to transform me, to change my perception. I will be the Phoenix, rising from the ashes, stronger than ever. My greatest hope is that you will do the same.~

 

 

Cover Reveal for Ending Fear

It must be the week of cover reveals! And I have the privilege of introducing you to yet another!
This offering is from debut author Deanna Fugett. I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of this tour. I’ve had the opportunity to read Deanna’s work through several stages and I absolutely cannot wait to see the finished product.
She has created an intriguing, gritty, and sometimes too real and cruel world (in a good way!), drawn me in, and made me yet again doubt my resistance to YA.
You girls are killing me with the amazing YA stories!
Without further ado, let’s find out a little more about Deanna and then we can get to the gorgeous cover and a peek into the story!
Bio:
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Deanna Fugett’s heart belongs to writing. Author of edgy YA Dystopian fiction with an underlying message of hope, this stay-at-home mom of four focuses on writing as much as humanly possible. She was published at the young age of six in a local newspaper and is excited to be published again. It only took twenty-six years. She enjoys the thrill of writing fiction that deals with intense topics and prays it will impact people for the better.
Are you ready for the cover? Are you sure? Okay, here it is…
The cover for Ending Fear!
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Fourteen-year-old Fear learns she was a parachute baby, dumped over the edge of the Gliding Lands as an infant. Running from her abusive Downer family, Fear discovers a new family. One who knows how to love. But then her new little sister is kidnapped and sold to a harem. Fear must go against her namesake and journey to the dreaded Gliding Lands before the little girl’s innocence is ripped from her forever. Can she save Happy in time?
Want to stay connected and up to date on everything Deanna’s got going? Then be sure to follow her online!
Blog: http://quillsandinkblotts.blogspot.com/p/deanna.html
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeannaFugettAuthor
Twitter: @DutchessofDork3
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/DutchessOfDork3/characters-for-my-book/

Rock, Reverence, & Revival

This past weekend, my two passions collided in an explosion of epic proportions.

Music and writing are in my blood. They form a huge part of who I am. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to meld the two in a different way than ever before at Kingdom Come Festival.

For the first time, I set up a vendor booth, selling my new book and speaking to people. The conversations I had and sharing my personal story that’s wrapped up in the novel were some of the main things that will stick with me from this weekend. That one on one interaction, the personal connection, that’s what it’s all about. That’s why I write. To reach people, to move them, to touch them with stories they can identify with. Seeing the response to my testimony in person and being able to connect with these people and minister to them, wow. I think it may have touched me more than them!

And I must say, though I wasn’t expecting it, being asked onstage to speak about L2L2 publishing and have a little fun with the crowd was fantastic. The fans were so much fun and, you know I enjoyed making them do stupid human tricks and cartwheels to win books!

All that is just the beginning of the tale of an extraordinary weekend.

I hardly know where to begin. So I’ll start with a little background.

For those who don’t know, my family and I volunteer with Always One Ministries. This is a group that ministers to young people by putting together fabulous music events all through the year. Our primary event is KCF, held every summer. Many different kinds of music are represented, from worship, to funky bluegrass, to hip hop, to metal. It’s a massive, amazing weekend that changes lives. For the past 2 years, we’ve held this event at the Howard County Vietnam Veterans Reunion Campground. The vets have welcomed us with open arms and most join in the fun with us.

Now on to this year.

Beautiful. That’s the best word to describe it. 

Why beautiful? For many reasons.

First of all, the theme this year was Rock, Reverence, and Revival. And KCF 2016 more than lived up to that theme.

It all started with the flag raising ceremony Friday morning. This was a sacred and humbling event. To say that I was honored to be a part of it is an understatement. It’s an experience that moved my soul. I will never forget it.

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Then, we were privileged to be present for a memorial service for a fallen soldier. As the twenty-one gun salute rang across the countryside, followed by the bugling of Taps, there wasn’t a dry eye on the grounds. Everyone stopped to honor this soldier’s memory and sacrifice.

This all set the tone for the weekend. We had no idea just how profound and epic it would be.

The love of ministry through music is what brought us all together. This weekend, we rocked out like never before. With familiar faces and new additions, the lineup was off the chain.

The performers blew us all away.

There were serious moments, some hilarious happenings, ear-shredding rifts, peaceful worship, and dance-inducing jams. There were bag pipes. Circle pits. Headbanging. Spoken word artists with flair. Rappers throwin’ rhymes. A session of singing “This Little Light of Mine” with everyone under the big tent. Dancing zombies. Inflatable guitars. A singing storm trooper. We even had an onstage marriage proposal during The Protest’s set!

Every single person that stepped on that stage brought everything they had and left nothing behind. They played and danced and sang and spoke their hearts out.

The awesomeness didn’t stop with the music. Something else happened at this year’s event that changed everything.

A1M is a family. It’s always been this way. When my family and I joined, we were absorbed into the fold without hesitation. The love we were surrounded with was unexpected and astonishing.

The family spirit that is perpetually present at A1M events permeated the air this past weekend. And this time, it was supercharged. There was something different this year. Something unique.

There were many familiar faces and a whole lot of new faces. We even brought two with us. My friend Michele, who is also an L2L2 author, and her husband Ben.

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Every single one of these new-to-KCF folks I spoke with told me how they felt so welcome and felt so much love. It was the talk of the weekend.

Family. I’ve said that word a lot. But this weekend our family grew and when it did, it was like an explosion. An explosion of love.

Hugs. Smiles. Uplifting conversations. Bands and volunteers ministering to people. Small groups huddled in prayer. Large groups talking, praying, and dancing. Bands and speakers rocking and leading worship and praying from the stage. This is what was happening everywhere you turned.

If you looked close enough you could see the threads of love and communion and worship wrapped around us all, pulsating with an effervescent light from above.

That’s what made this weekend special. The love, the people, the bonds that were formed and those that were strengthened. Those who came feeling like outcasts, like they were unloved and unwanted, left with a new outlook. They left as family, loved and treasured. Many having made the choice to be part of the family of Christ.

It was so wonderful and spectacular it’s hard for even me, the writer, to describe.

The Spirit of love, the spirit of revival, ignited us all. This epic outpouring of love and the way that God moved this weekend is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. I know I can speak for all of us at A1M when I say our hope is the flame that was stoked so high this weekend only grows.

We want more. We want this revival to spread. We want more people to feel the Love that defined this weekend.

Kingdom Come Festival 2016 may be in the books, but this is just the beginning of something special.

Won’t you join us?

I’ll leave you with one of the many hilarious moments of the weekend.

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Video courtesy: Asche Relesser

Photography courtesy: Brian McNew

                                              Jeanette Yoder Photography

                                       To see more of Jeanette’s sleek, professional photography, visit her at:

                                              Facebook.com/jyophoto  or  jyophoto.wordpress.com

I’ll be Home for Christmas

 

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The holiday season always takes me on an emotional roller coaster.

With my family spread across the country, often we aren’t all able to get together for the holidays.  It’s difficult being away from them, to say the least. Then when I think about those that are no longer here to celebrate with us at all, well, the tears take over and I can’t even bake cookies without getting all blubbery.

This year, it’s all hit me just a little harder than before. I even welled up watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation! (It’s a tradition with my family to watch it several times a year.)

So, I decided to fight back against the overwhelming ache.

I loaded up my baby sister’s Christmas CD (her beautiful voice and skilled touch on the ivories always makes me smile), I organized some of my favorite Christmas pictures from over the years, and I made a video. For just a little while, seeing the smiling faces of those with me mingled with those I miss lifted my spirits and took me back to the times when we were all able to get together.

I want to share it with you.

I know this is probably the shortest post I’ve ever written, but sometimes, just sometimes, pictures and music can say what my paltry words can’t get across.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday season with whoever may be around you to celebrate. Treasure every moment, steal as many hugs and kisses as you can, and never forget the Reason for the season. He is always with us, especially when we feel alone and need Him most.

God bless you all. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!