Inspirational thoughts and random writings from the alumni and friends of Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Little Red Wagon

By Kristi Paxton

In Stephen King’s book, “On Writing” he talks about going to a special place (figuratively so) where you think and write, beyond what is going on in your life at the moment. His “place” happens to be a basement.

“This is a place I’ve built for myself over the years. It’s a far-seeing place. I know it’s a little strange, a little bit of a contradiction, that a far-seeing place should also be a basement place, but that’s how it is with me.” King goes on to say you might put your special place in a treetop or on the roof of the World Trade Center (well, not any more) or on the edge of the Grand Canyon.
Then Stephen King credits another writer, Robert McCammon with this quote: “That’s your little red wagon…"
Interested in the concept of “your little red wagon,” I researched McCammon’s story. You can read it on line at In brief, the story is about time and how you use it. It’s about trading your watch and the almighty dollar for a pencil. It’s about taking time to live your life and write your story.
Here is my story, or at least a start:
Not so long ago, I decided to clean the garage. Two car garage. No room for cars. Within a day’s work, I had one stall nearly opened up—space for one car—if it were not for the outcast toilet in the front right corner. The pot had been a sore spot for some time. I wondered why it was there, and I wondered why my husband didn’t haul it away. Minus the toilet, we could have kept the rest of the garage neat as a pin. Not! Instead of cleaning the garage, I could write The Great American Novel. The old john was a symbol for everything that was wrong in my life, and I blamed it. (and my husband)
Just then, my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of red. A rusted Red Flyer wagon sat just outside the garage, a memento from when the kids were little. Match! A sly smile formed on my lips, and I swallowed giggles as I executed a plan. I wheeled the wagon closer to the toilet and eyeballed dimensions. Yes. I think it will fit. Using the same adrenaline a mother would use to lift a Volkswagon from a child, I hoisted the toilet onto the Red Flyer with a grunt. There!
Imagining how it looked to passers-by, I pulled my personal porta-potty down the lane, laughing all the way.  Destination: garbage pick-up area. I ran back to the house for a camera.  Anger was gone, joy in its place. Snap. VoilĂ ! Time to write. (See photo)
What is your little red wagon?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Solitary Spaces in the Wild

By Jeannette Doran
  I have always loved the wild of nature. As a small child I would run off to an empty space surrounded with lush foliage to my secret hiding place and would occupy myself for long stretches returning with a heart filled with joy and peace.
This sacred space amidst the greening filled me with a serenity I’ve never forgotten.
My last year of college I listened with awe as my roommate described the in creditable beauty of the Chiapas jungle where she had spent the previous summer. My desire to go there grew over the coming year and I overcame many obstacles to track over hills created by jungle growth the coming summer. I went seeking God’s presence in the vast cathedral-like splendor of the tropical jungle.
I was not disappointed in my time spent there; it truly prepared me for my life choices.
The wilderness in the wild centers one guiding us to make wise decisions.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Hope of Tomorrow

By Kathryn Lang

There are moments in life when you look around and wonder if the path you are on is in the right zip code for where you are supposed to be. Everything looks wrong, feels wrong and even wears wrong. You just feel out of place.

I was there. Not only had my mother died, but the deadline I set for getting on the map with my writing and speaking had slipped past at the same time. I looked around and realized that nothing was like I thought it should be. Quitting seemed to be the logical choice – or at least backing up and punting.

It got worse.

The moment I think that all of the shoes have dropped and all of the rugs have been pulled out from under me is often the same moment it gets even worse. I got an email that cut my pride and even integrity – and it happened in front of my kids and my nephew.

My gut instinct was to react in kind. Calmer heads prevailed. I responded with a basic “this could have been handled better and best of luck in the future.” That alone was an example to those watching my reactions. My next step was even more important because I chose to let the past stay in the past and I jumped with both feet into the future that I had moments before been contemplating letting go.

That is why they say when you feel you are at the end of your rope then tie a knot and hold on. Tomorrow holds the hope – and it always shows up just when the time is right.
My choice to look at the problem as a possibility paved the way for two interview requests, one book review request, and one addition contact the holds unknown potential (and they all came in one day). My children and nephew witnessed firsthand that doing what I knew to be right opened the door for a heaping of blessings.

Keep holding – keep hoping – and keep pushing, because tomorrow will bring the dawn that you desire.

My Secrets for Holding On

- Surround yourself with others that believe in your dream. Even one person that says you can do it when you hit that brick wall can be enough to get you over that wall and moving forward again.

- Review your own actions before requesting action from others. Do all that you can do, FIRST. Once you have those actions in place then reach out.

- Ask for help. You know who to ask, so ask. There are people out there that want nothing more than to support you in your journey. Ask for their support in the way that you know suits them best.

- Keep praying. Pray about your own situation, but look for opportunities to lift up others in prayer. Focusing on the lives of others often brings clarity into our own lives.

Tomorrow hold the hope – and you need to find your own keys for reaching out to that hope until you have it in your grasp.

Visit Kathryn  on Facebook at
or on her writing website

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Equations of Love

By Brenda Lysak

Motivated by Compassion                                                            John 6: 11, Mark 8:6, Matthew 15:36
Problem: A lot of hungry people. Resources: a few pieces of bread and fish. Solution: Thank God for what you have and His provision. If you begin using what you have, and trust God, not only will there be enough but the leftovers will exceed what you started with.  

 Motivated by Fear                                                                                           Matthew 25:14-30
Each of three men started out with a certain amount, be it opportunities, money, time, health, intellect, or talent. The first two invested and doubled the original amount. One man embraced fear and instead of investing he played it safe.  He was rewarded with punishment. He was despised and even the small amount was taken away.  The other two were rewarded with more, and honored for the risks they took. Fear should not be accepted as normal. In the kingdom of God fear is evil.

 More than Enough                                                                                          Romans 5:17
For if by one man’s lapse death reigned, much more surely will those who receive God’s overflowing grace and free gift of being made right with God reign(control, command, govern) as kings in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Notice the word overflowing. The prefix “over”, means over the top, or too much. We have more than enough Grace for every challenge so therefore embracing fear, or inadequacy equals denying God. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


By Marie Tschopp

Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: (KJV)

Spring!  Warm and wonderful spring!  The season God awakens nature from its slumber and adorns trees with red, yellow, and gold attire.  What?  This sounds more like autumn?  Maybe so.  But did you know the rich colors of the leaves we see in the fall are present inside the leaves in the spring?  In the spring and summer months, days are long and sunlight is plentiful.  Chlorophyll is then produced, causing the leaves to remain green.   With autumn, daylight is shortened.  As nights become longer, darker, and colder, the color hidden inside each leaf shows through. 

Sort of like me. 

When life is good and sunny, it’s easy for me to praise the Lord and say, “God is Good!”  But in those seasons when the dark is long, well, it isn’t easy being green.  In difficult times, I’ve questioned the goodness of God and wondered if God really loved me.  And, in my anger, I’ve even given Him the silent treatment. 

When the ugly shades of fear and doubt show through, I’ve begun to remind myself of all the times in my life God has proven faithful.  I started writing my blessings down, for seeing the past helps me have confidence in the future.  While the tears flow, I drop to my knees and give thanks. 

Maybe someday I’ll be an evergreen.  I certainly hope so.  But, for now and forever, I’ll continue to count my blessings, root myself in His word and draw close to the Son. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fig Trees and Dreams

By Lisa Lickel
Mark 11:12-14, 20-26

It’s so unfair, a poor little fig tree and leafed out. Jesus tries to pick a fig to eat, but there aren’t any. It’s not even the time for figs. Jesus isn’t disappointed. He’s not sad for the misguided tree. He’s not upset he can’t have a fig when he’s so hungry. Instead, Jesus is enraged, so out of his mind angry that he curses the tree. Can you imagine the searing breeze of that curse, withering the bright green leaves into brown crisps, cracking and peeling the bark, boiling the sap and finally shriveling roots?

For forty years I’d heard that story and I never understood what Jesus had against that tree. Until I realized that my writing career had done the same thing. I hadn’t put in the necessary prep time to understand what I was doing to encourage sales when my first novels were published. I was all leafed out, eager to show everyone I was someone! I had what it takes to produce…nothing. Without a foundation, fertilized soil, tender nurturing, I was worse than the seed of another parable that fell on thin soil and barely sprouted. I had a root that made promises to readers that I couldn’t keep.

I believe it’s okay to see your dream become reality. Go ahead and publish your book, hold it in your hands, see who’ll buy it. But do your homework first. Prepare the ground, line up the gardeners who will support you. Store water and gather fertilizer, but most of all, be ready at the right season of your life to nurture others with the work you have been blessed to share. No matter who helps you put your work out for show, make sure it’s more than pleasing to the eye on the outside, but also handsome and hearty for refreshment on the inside.

Thank you, Jesus, for the work you have commissioned from me. May it be pleasing, never false, in the Kingdom. Amen.

 Lisa Lickel
"What if" stories with a twist of grace
The Map Quilt, coming April 27

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fire Under My Bottom and Bold as a Bull

By Charis Seeley

from The Far Side

I considered posting something seasonal and celebrating the wonderful weather we’re having in Iowa. But I wrote a short story instead, so we’re switching it up a little today. I’m an epic fantasy writer, and when I saw this image, it got me thinking. How many times have we heard something go bump in the night, and even as adults, we pull our covers over our head and pray ourselves to sleep? As a Christian, I know it’s the prayer keeping me safe. But the comic sparked an idea in me. What if there was a world where a blanket was all that protected you from the things that creep in the shadows?

-Charis Seeley

Fire Under my Bottom and Bold as a Bull

I know you’ve been told to fear the monsters hiding under your bed and in your closet. But that’s a lie. I’ll admit they’re terrible. But your nightmares should be made of the monsters that stalk behind your curtains.

                One week after I had learned to crawl, Mother took me to get my blanket. I was five months and thirteen days old. Of course, I don’t really remember that day, but she’s told the story so many times that I can picture it more vividly than a memory.

                We took the steam train into town, walked seven blocks east, two blocks north, and arrived at Mole’s Blanket Emporium. It was a tiny shop, squeezed between Catherine’s Clothing Cache and Bit’s N Spit’s, common brass cog replacements. I’ve always thought of the Blanket Emporium as Mole’s Hole. Truth be told, calling it a shop is misleading. There wasn’t a sign or window front, just a foggy glass door and peeling gold letters that read, “Hipothecary Apothecary.” Mole never changed it from the last tenant.

                We went in. Mother says the bell on his door has always been broken. And calling it a bell isn’t a whole truth. I think it was an old soup can that lost a fight with some exploding powder.

                But I can be certain of this. Mole’s shop never changed and neither did he.  The space was deeper than it was wide and taller than it was deep. It was filled with crooked shelves that were covered in blankets. Mole himself was a squinty, bald man with great big hands. I promise you, he didn’t own a scrap of clothing that wasn’t rumbled and some shade of brown.

                That day, like every other day, Mole sat on his stool behind the counter. “And who do we have here?” Mole didn’t stutter or have an accent. But he clicked at his words when he spoke. “Is it a boy or is it a girl?”

                Mother held me up. “This is my daughter, Renee Amily Mary Sarah Elise Yvette. But of course, we all just call her Ramsey.”

                That’s right. Mother gave me a name so long and so impossible to say that everyone I’ve ever known has shortened it to an acronym. Ramsey.

                “Well,” Mole said. “She’s a real looker.”

                He was right. I was born with pale grey eyes and a wild mess of jet black hair that sprouted and grew like feathers. My hair never got any lighter and my eyes never got any darker.

                Mother sat me on the floor and Mole came around from the counter.

                He tugged a blanket out from the nearest shelf. “This one is very nice. Wool. Hand quilted. The tag says the previous owner died in his sleep from old age. Good way to go.”

                “Very peaceful,” Mother said.

                He put the blanket at my feet. “How about that one, little Ramsey?”

                I never even reached for it.

Mole took it back and grabbed another one. “No? Maybe this? Knitted. Owner... died of… cancerous ulcers. I’ll give it to you at eight percent off.”

“That’s very generous.”

                Mole put that one on my lap.

                Mother says I picked it up, threw it at his feet and applauded myself.

                “Do you have anything cotton?” Mother asked. “My own blanket is cotton. Perhaps she takes after me.”

                “Of course. Let me—Oh! There she goes!”

                Mother says I took off like there was a flame under my bottom.

                I crawled to the far right corner of Mole’s Hole and dove into a pile of blankets.

                “They’re all discount,” Mole said. “Blankets with some extra wear in them, had more than one owner.”

                I emerged with a black and grey damask print blanket. I sucked on my thumb and pressed the blanket to my face like it had always been there to comfort and protect me.

                “That was quick.” Mole said. “Must be a good match, bonded pretty strong.” He took the blanket from me and I wailed like a naked newborn.

                Mole’s face went white.

                “Is there something wrong?”

                “I—I don’t know how this got here. Tag says the blanket failed its last owner. Woman, 32 years old, killed by a monster hiding under her bed.

                I continued to scream.

                Mother clutched her heart. “Ramsey chose a broken blanket?”

                “I’m so sorry. We could give her another one, but—”

                “But it’s too late. She’s already bonded with that one.” Mother took the blanket from Mole and rubbed the fabric between her fingers. It was ratty and filled with holes. “This won’t protect her. She’ll never be truly safe in the night.”

                “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to do.”

                Mother gave me the blanket and I stopped crying. “What’s done is done. We’ll buy this one, but I must caution you to take stock of your inventory and remove anything that shouldn’t be given to children.”

                “Of course.”

                We left Mole’s Hole. I carried my blanket and Mother carried me. She insists she maintained her composure on the train ride home and I’ve never doubted her.

                And so life passed by without incident until the night I was three years, six months and two days old. Mother heard a scream from my bedroom and rushed down the hall in her puce nightgown.

                When she opened the door, a shadow monster lay writhing on the floor, hog tied by my blanket. It had been hiding behind my curtains. She says that I stood above it, bolder than a bull, laughing as it couched black spots onto the floor.

                She scooped me up, carried me from my room and shut my door. In the morning, the sun came and light streamed through my bedroom window. She wouldn’t let me back inside until after noon. When I went back, the shadow monster had burned away, leaving ashes on the rug. My blanket lay on the floor, still twisted up.

                My name is Ramsey. This is my story as the first monster hunter.