Feedback for “The Artist”

So one of my old friends recently bought a book (Yaayyyy!!) and emailed me the other day with this:

“We have been really enjoying reading it at bedtime and any other time momma’s hands are dry!  I love the art and the note to your readers at the end especially,  it made us feel like you, as the author, actually cared and you weren’t just some distant random person out to make a buck! God bless you on your adventures.”

Thanks so much, Gwyn!!

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Review for “The Artist and the Clay”

This almost made me cry. One of my friends shared “The Artist” with her daycare students, ages 5-9, and asked them what they thought. “Awesomest book ever!” “Total epicness” “She is one of the bestest writers ever!” “I liked her letter to us at the end.” Diana said, “It has already become a favorite for them and we tied it to the scripture too.” -Diana Herzog and the God’s Giants class of All God’s Children Childcare.

This made my day and my night and probably my week, too. 😀 That’s why we do it.

P.S. I got my first book signing!!!! In Nampa, ID, at Pearson’s Twice Sold Tales, on Saturday, Aug 15, from 10am-2pm!!!! 😀

Why I Wrote the Book

Before and during college, I struggled a lot with what I was supposed to do, career-wise. Though prayer and Bible reading, I came to this conclusion: God creates people different from each other, with unique gifts and talents. He did that for a reason, and it’s a good thing. Throughout the Bible, God talks about forming us like a Potter forms clay, and compares us to a body, with different parts with different purposes.

So I thought this idea was worth sharing. But how would I explain this concept to my little niece or nephew? Ergo, the story was born. I was (and still am) exploring my artistic talent, so I started drawing pictures to go with the story, just for the joy of creating beautiful spaces. Matt encouraged me, and I came up with something decent.

I’ve gotten some amazing encouragement from people who read the story, and now the book is printed and available on Amazon.com or from me personally. All proceeds will go towards my next book and a new project called the Genesis! game that my husband and I are working on.

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A Russian Orphan Testimony

Note: Kostia wrote this just after high school, a few months after we became friends. We were sharing our stories, and I cherish his young, rough grammar. 🙂 

On October 22, 1988, I was born in Russia, about a train ride away from Moscow (probably 200 miles away).

My first memories were in an orphanage. I remember we had one meal a day (lunch) and it was packed with food. The food I remembered the most there was tomato products. The food was like the stuff you would find in a church pot luck. No hamburgers (sniff) or hotdogs. Mostly food like mashed potatoes, bread, corn, you know, old people food!!

429915_122278191235373_1959725180_nI remember while I was in Russia that there used to be a person who used to visit me almost every week. She was a tall, dark haired lady who took me to her house sometimes over the weekend. This was considered special treatment because nobody there did that. I think maybe that it was my mom. I don’t know, though. (NOTE: we have since found out that this wasn’t his mom, but an orphanage worker who had taken a special liking to him. They are now friends on FaceBook). 

The things that happened in Russia were not so good. If you were bad, they would put this weird plant on you that would make you itch all over. I remember that clearly. Of course, they would spank you mercilessly. Sometimes they would strap you in bed so you couldn’t move. That is why when I was little, I always rocked. I rocked in the van, when I was sitting down, and sleeping. I don’t do that anymore, but sometimes to help me sleep, I still do.

I remember at the orphanage that I had one set of clothes. It was a button up collared T-shirt, slacks and I don’t remember if I had shoes. I remember my best friend. He had a green parka and was a little chunky. I don’t know how I remembered him, but he and I always hanged out.

But one day, while I was in the sandbox, I heard a big loud noise. After that, life went from bad to worse. I was sent to a weird hospital where they would put shots in me.

I remember the hospital quite well. We used to sleep in this big room and people would come play with us. Every once in awhile I would get a lot of shots for some reason. I think the reason for was because of my ear and my blood.

My special person who I think was my mom would still come but only to visit me. I couldn’t go home with her.

One day though, that was the last time I would see her. I cried and cried because even though I probably didn’t know exactly what she was saying, I got the point.

After what to me seemed like an awful long time at the hospital, I remember going on a train. I later found out that I was getting adopted. Julia and I were the first ones in that orphanage to get adopted. Before then, kids were not allowed to get adopted. I only remember the train ride. I remember that room that we slept in. There was a bed that I would sleep with my head on one side and Julia would have her head on the other. My feet would be by her head and her’s by mine. My caretaker would sleep on her chair.

I don’t remember much after that but people tell me that when I got off the plane, I cried. Then a person who knew Russian held me and started to talk to me in Russian and I felt a lot better. I do remember going to a family reunion at Minnesota and then heading off to California. My new family was planning on moving to Portland, Oregon, from California.

Again, I don’t remember much in this time period. I remember that we moved to an apartment in Oregon before we moved to Lake Oswego. Things were not going so well in the family. About this time I felt left out because I was new in the family and I could not relate to anybody. I was very shy and had no friends. I was treated, if you want to say, more like a pet and less as a human. I was just there to look at.

Also, I guess I was something my family wasn’t expecting.

matstuff 004There is a long blank spot now. The next memory is when I started to go to school. I loved school. I loved school so much, too much. I didn’t make many friends and I would spend my time in the library reading. When I got home I would make models with legos and build things. I was a very quiet person and this was something my family worried about. I started to see doctors to try and find out “what was wrong with me.” About my third grade year I got into computers. At the library I would work on the computers, mostly typing and working with random programs.

At home things weren’t good. My mom and I didn’t have the best relationship. She wanted me to be more “outgoing” and she did things that would not be the best for a 8-10 year old boy.

My dad was gone a lot and he was my stronghold. Things were a little crazy now because my sister was going through a phase in her life and wasn’t always there for me. She started to act, can I say teenageish?

I felt abandoned and hopeless.

I didn’t really have a foundation on God, and when you don’t have that, you tend to act how people think about you and how they feel about you. That’s how I acted.

I always knew about God but didn’t fully understand who He was until this next part. One trip, my family took me to Hope House to visit and I wanted to go so bad that I wanted to go now instead of for a summer school. One big reason was because there were horses there. I really liked horses back then.

matt_bicycleI went to Hope House and life started to take an interesting turn. I started to be more social just because I lived with a whole bunch of people and that’s kind of how you survive there. I was still very non-social and it was hard to talk to people. I had an awesome counselor named Jan. I was turning into a “man” now, and I had to switch counselors, which wasn’t the best for me. Jan soon left and worked somewhere else. She was the only person I could tell what was going on.

Things were doing okay. I was starting to have a “normal” life. Do normal boy things and get into a little trouble. I was the kind of person that really never got into trouble. The only truly real trouble I would get into I would accidentally get into. It would be with other people or something that I really didn’t fully understand. I was always used for examples for the older boys of how they should act. GULP!

Well, this is the scary part of my life. I started to hear audible voices that weren’t there and see things. It was very scary. I don’t remember really how it all started but I think it was because I was lonely and longed for something to fill in that area. It started off slow, and nice. I would “see” this guy and we would talk. I would hear him and he would “comfort” me. Then one night it all changed. I was still a quiet person at this point and I was sleeping on my top bunk. I saw this figure with a weird head, horned and small peeking at me from the bed. I screamed, jumped off the bunk bed and started to run, and run and run. I don’t remember much, but people said that I would not stop screaming and shaking uncontrollably. This was only the first of a long time of torment.

The so-called “friend” was now a person that took control of me. Sometimes he would threaten me or my family to not tell what was happening and keep it to myself. I didn’t understand what really was going on but now I think it was evil. Strange things started to happen often and finally I got sent to a hospital to “treat” it. I didn’t really like that place. It was horrible, I would get these shots because the meds that they were putting me on were making my body do weird things. Little did they know that this was more than a physical or mental issue but a spiritual issue. I finally lied my way out of the hospital saying that I was fine and I didn’t hear the voices. That was the time where I started to keep things in. I didn’t have too much problems with the voices and seeing things because to an extent I was doing what they wanted me to do. I was going farther from God and ruining my life by being “secret.”

1098332_10200444433462426_186796677_nFinally though, it happened. I couldn’t take it anymore. By this time I would be having horrible dreams. I would not be able to walk alone, etc. I finally told Christ Coury, who is the only person who I could really trust at that time. If I didn’t have that way out, I probably would not be here today. I was asked to go back to the hospital for them to “try” to fix the problem.

There, they “diagnosed” the problem as schizophrenia, which a lot of people get confused by. Most people think schizo is when a person has two personalities. This is schizo but it’s the rarest kind. Schizophrenia is an illness in your brain that messes with your visual, seeing, etc. part. People would see things that aren’t there, hear things, and random things like thinking somebody talking about them to thinking somebody’s going to kill them.

This seemed strange to me because my only symptoms were seeing things and hearing things. Also, in a schizophrenia person, it would be very random, something from the past or just brief clips of things like a dream or such. Not in my situation. I had full conversations, it answered back, and most if it had nothing to do with the past. When I found out all of this, I realized this might just be a spiritual battle. I heard that you could cast out demons but never really tried it.

That night about five years okay, I tried it. I didn’t just say it and didn’t believe it, I really wanted them out. I asked Jesus to help me because we don’t have any power unless through Him. That night, sitting on that bed, it happened.

When the things came back, it was worse, almost the worst it had ever been. But then I rebuked them with all I had and with Jesus’ help. All of a sudden, it was quiet. It felt like the quiet when a long war had ended. All was peace when I said, “Jesus, help me!!!!!!” I felt this strange peace and that was the point where I truly became a follower of Christ. I got released from the hospital and went back to Hope House.

People at once began to see a change in me. I was afraid of people’s reactions, though, and didn’t really express my faith out loud. I didn’t pray out loud or sing out loud. I started my career as a “Lone Christian.” Did the voices ever go away? No, not really. They would come back and I would rebuke and rebuke until they felt like they weren’t welcome. But from time to time, I still experience them, and it still scares me, but I got Christ whose got POWER!

About my freshman year (high school) I started to program. I made some games and programs. I also loved to draw during my middle school years. When I was a sophomore, I started doing animation. I wanted to make Christian games. I wanted to spread the Word through games. In my Junior year, I started to do movie editing, special effects, and things I’m doing today. My dream job was movie editing because you don’t have to wake up early, you get paid a whole lot, and it’s not as stressful.

But then I realized that it would be harder to witness about Christ as an editor. I am now wanting to become a Director. This was not my first choice because it’s stressful! Believe me! But I feel led to do this and I want to, sort of, and you know that feeling when you’re walking on the right path? That’s how I feel. I started to write Christmas plays my sophomore year because we were going to do this really lame play. My first play was Christmas in the Bahamas. It was pretty good! I was Bad Santa! Then I wrote Have A Madagascar Christmas, which was a major hit! And this last year, The Christmas Rap! Mrs. Dario and I have been having a competition to see whose was the best plays and I’m sorry to say the last three years, I destroyed the middle school class! I say that with all humility! HA HA HA! Nah, it’s a thing we joke around about. 🙂

Let’s see here! I’ve really changed I think in the last 3 years and 5 years of my life. Through Christ I have been a social person, likeable, (to an extent, Mercy? Have I?!?!), and able to share about my life and accept help. God has done amazing things in my life! Wow!! Then it happened. I started to go to VCC. Normally this should be a good thing, but some people at Hope House didn’t like it. At VCC, I started growing very quickly, being challenged and able to open up to people more and more. I became really more social and started seeing the person God wants me to be.

Mercy is a person I have found I can trust and “spill the beans” to. She has helped me out in ways nobody else can. I’ve started to see trust as a two-sided thing. All of my life I was being helped by other people, yet they weren’t sharing things with me. In Mercy’s case, we help each other out. It’s awesome and I’ve seen how brothers and sisters in Christ really do help in our everyday struggles. Yup, she is awesome!

Also, my relationship with my family is awesome! My mom and I are doing great, we’re getting less and less intimidated by each other. We talk about our beliefs and what God has done and also back each other up. She is awesome and my whole family is awesome! God is SWEET!!!!

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Parents Don’t Have Feelings!

When I was a tot, I didn’t think my parents had feelings. I just didn’t think about it. So if, today, your kid totally runs over you, insults you, and takes you for granted, remember, it’s not because he doesn’t love you. To him, you are an element of existence, like the sun rising every day, or the leaves falling into winter, or the need to pee. In his world, you aren’t a kid with pains and hurt feelings like him. You’re a self-sufficient, all-knowing, god-like being, and we all know how many complaints God gets… 😉

The Story Behind The Artist

So everyone kind of asks when they hear about my soon-to-be-born book, The Artist. And, in some stumbling, run-on sentences, I answer. But what really inspires a book? Why would anyone give years of their life to a project that no one may ever see?

I’ve written this like 10 times, because in the process of making The Artist, so many stories have come to be connected with it. But I only have to read the dedication to remember why I really first wrote it.

“To Matthew, who was made for a purpose. You’re very different from everyone. Your God made you that way for a reason. Remember your highest calling.”

Matthew was, and is, one of my best friends. At that point, I didn’t know if he would ever be anything more. I was trying to figure out if someone could be a dedicated Christian and have a career in something besides ministry. Matthew was a genius in tech and math and programming. Literally. MIT accepted him on the basis of an algorithm he invented. He had a freelance career in programming and web before he graduated high school.

Why did God make him that way? Shouldn’t he be, like, a brilliant speaker if he was supposed to be a dedicated Christian? But he wasn’t. Should he abandon his talents and pursue more “holy” tasks?

This question went along with my own. If I love God, shouldn’t I be a traditional missionary or nun or something? But I LOVE design and art and writing, and generally, if you love something, you can get pretty good at it. (I’m not saying I am, but I have the potential, ha ha).

So that added up in one bigger question.

Why does God make people with different passions and talents? Shouldn’t we all be traditional evangelists or preachers?

Does God not control how we’re made? Or does He give these things to us to tempt us away from our “true calling?”

Then, one day I remembered the analogies God makes about His people. He compares us to a body, with different parts and different functions. He also compares us to clay pots. He’s the Potter, he creates each of the pots for different uses. But that doesn’t mean one is better than the other, or that one loves the Potter more than the other. Their love is measured by their willingness to let the Potter form them as He wishes.

A lot of this has to do with a trunkful of trust. In order to let God make you into who He wants, you have to love Him, let Him work on you (even when it hurts), and give Him your fears and desires. This is HARD. But it also brings peace.

So, in conclusion. God makes people for certain purposes. The overarching reason is to be in relationship with God. I can’t begin to express the importance of this. In your relationship with God, important things become important, and trivial things become trivial. It’s a struggle sometimes, don’t get me wrong. We’re still sitting on a muddy messy earth. But you have somewhere to turn, you have a goal besides yourself, besides this earth. You treat others the way they should be treated.

But when you are in relationship with God, you still have a specific part to play. For some, that may be preaching, or loving and teaching children, or being the brain behind revolutionary new ways to spread the Gospel, or making the building a clean place to be. Or making it possible for evangelists to evangelize. Or worshiping God and helping lead others to do the same. There are SO many different jobs for people who love God.

And this whole concept is what I’m trying to show in The Artist. In simple story form, I hope I can pass this idea on to someone who was struggling like I was. I hope it encourages them to trust and turn to God. If it does it for even one person, it was all worth it.

A New Book is being Born

Cover-Design-1I feel like I’m giving birth to a child… I’ve finalized my files for the publisher and handed them off today. Monday, Lord-willing, we will be going to press with my VERY FIRST PICTURE BOOK. I’m super excited and terrified at the same time. Will he books sell? Did I make all the words right? What about that extra hue of brown I used in the author picture?

Anyway… I find myself letting the file go to the desk with one last look over, even though I can’t read it objectively anymore, I’ve read it so often… *excited, nervous, excited nervous dance*

The book is called “The Artist.” We’re printing it in India, so it will be awhile before it’s available in the USA. For more on the book, click here.

The Man Who Counted Time

Once, there was a guy who worked a lot. His kids never saw him, his dog didn’t come when he called, and his wife only caught him to kiss him him once a year! He worked hard so he could retire. He thought, when he retired, he would do all the things that he didn’t do now. He would just take it easy and do whatever he wanted. That was his dream.

So, on the day he was supposed to retire, he threw away his suitcase, got rid of all his suits, and settled in to do something he had never done: watched TV for 3 days in a row. His wife was glad he was home, but his kids were all grown up already. The dog was too old and barked at him because he didn’t recognize him. But he was happy. Now he could do whatever he wanted.

But that night, he had a dream. An angel came and told him that he was going to die at midnight.

The man was very upset. “I just got settled! I have everything I need now! You won’t let me enjoy it?!?!”

The angel said, “God gave you a lot of years! You used them.” He shrugged. He had a lot of dreams to deliver, and was getting slightly impatient.

“But I didn’t know!”

“You didn’t know you were going to die?” The angel asked, confused.

“No, I knew, but I thought I would live until I was really old!”

The angel rolled his eyes. “A lot of people don’t even make it to your age!” He crossed his arms and tapped his foot. “That’s why we tell people to use their time wisely. You never know how much you have. Some people change the world in 30 years, Jesus was an example of that. And some people do hardly anything with 130 years. They’re only known for being old.”

“But I didn’t know!”

“Do you know what ‘investing’ is?”

“Of course!” The man had invested a lot of money so he could retire.

“Well, the time God gives you is an investment. If you use your time for good things, it will make the world a better place. It can help other people help other people, and they will keep doing that even after you’re dead. But if you just use your time for yourself, everything you do will die with you.”

The man didn’t know what to say.

The angel decided to try to make his exit and went to the window.

“Wait!” The man called out in desperation, “Can I just have one more year?”

The angel sighed and paused. “I’ll see if I can get you one more month.” Then, he disappeared.

The man stood in the dark for a moment, then turned on all the lights. He kissed his wife, he wrestled with the dog, and he read his Bible for the first time since he was young. He called all of his kids (who were upset that he was calling in the middle of the night), and then he donated all his money to feeding hungry kids.

From that day, on, he really lived. He counted each minute like it was money, and tried to use it for good.

Based on Luke 12:13-21