#amwriting

Unless you count writing in my mind (aka: attempting to make sense of the jumbled thoughts tumbling around my little noggin, clunking endlessly like a pair of sneakers in the dryer) I #amwriting–not really. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter the number sign is a hashtag. Hashtags help people who tweet find and follow interesting topics. #amwriting is a popular hashtag used by writers. Other hashtags are just funny and have nothing to do with specific categories or subjects. I’m not explaining this well, so google hashtag or read about Twitter in Wikipedia or #askateenager.

I received, however, two invitations from two writers I admire, to participate in a Writers’ Blog Hop. A new writer friend, Kate Motaung, asked first so I jumped in with her. We met through my fellow Redbud Writers Guild friend and gifted writer, Browyn Lea, who generously hosted me along with a “Warrior In Pink” book giveaway on her blog. Kate won the giveaway. We emailed back and forth. Drawn to her heart for God, shared experience of walking the cancer road, and interest in learning this crazy world of writing, I instantly felt bonded to Kate. I could tell we would have a lot to talk about over coffee irl (text abbreviation for “in real life”). Her skillfully woven words blessed me deeply as I read the book review she wrote on her website about “Warrior In Pink.”

The way the blog hop works is I answer four questions about what I’m writing and introduce you to three writer friends who will also answer the same four questions and introduce three of their writer friends, and so on. A bit reminiscent of those chain letters from back in the day sans the horrible omens from failure to participate. For those of you from more recent times, chain letters refer to a practice long ago involving envelopes, handwritten letters, stamps and the use of the metal box, commonly known as a mailbox, found at the end of your driveway.

Anyway, I figure what better way to return to a place where I #amwriting than to introduce you to other writer friends and answer a few questions about writing. So here goes:

 1. What am I writing or working on?

Can I count the “writing in my mind” material? Or the fact that I downloaded Scrivener (a word processing software helpful for organizing and writing books)? I have as a goal to have a book proposal for my second book to my literary agent by the end of summer. I’m excited and nervous about embarking again on the book writing path. So many lessons learned along the way the first time around. Now with one book under my belt I return with a little more experience but a whole host of new insecurities and fears. I wonder if marathon runners feel the same sort of excitement and dread after enough time has passed and they begin training for the next marathon? I wonder. But I’ll never know. Ever.

 2. How does my work differ from others of this genre?

As a nonfiction writer, I bring myself, my worldview and experiences into my writing. I naturally weave in aspects of my Asian heritage into my writing. Unfortunately, at this time, very few books by Asian-Americans authors are found among the bookshelves in any given library, bookstore or online. I’d like to see the landscape change to include more Asian, Latino, Native-American and African-American voices. We grow a more robust understanding of life when exposed to people who see the world through different lenses.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m a teacher at heart. Usually there is some teaching point to whatever I write. My greatest satisfaction comes from helping people regain perspective, expand vision, or consider a life principle through daily life experiences. As a Christian the why of what I write is summed up in this verse: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

4. How does my writing process work?

In my pretend world, my house is spotless and quiet. My clothes are ironed, teeth brushed. I spend hours sitting comfortably in my little nook upstairs typing diligently on my laptop with classical music playing softly in the background. Occasionally I would need a tissue to dab my eyes when writing and recalling a particularly painful memory. My giant mug of coffee would magically refill as needed.

this is my nook

this is my peaceful nook

 

But the reality is usually the dog occupies the chair (unless I cover the chair with books, but even then he still seems to find open space to sleep). And the dog passes gas. Choking, tear-producing foulness. My house is in constant chaos and covered in dog fur and dust. The unending piles of paperwork, laundry, and dishes makes it hard to concentrate and write at home.

 

dog in the chair. me on the floor?

The dog in the chair. Me on the floor? What!?

Even if the stars align and some semblance of order is established, I have a hard time staying in one place for extended amounts of time. So I write a little here and a little there.  I’ve been known to write in my car during soccer practice, at “my Starbucks” with earbuds stuffed in my head, the dining room table, my closet floor and a myriad of other places. I haven’t developed a habit and discipline of writing. And honestly still feel painfully insecure about how I write and what I write. When someone mentions anything regarding author or writer I usually turn my head to look behind me to see who the person is referring to.

Usually a blog posts come to me as I’m going along with my regular activities. I start writing in my mind getting ready in the bathroom or out running the dog or waiting at a stoplight. Sometimes the ideas come out of conversations with friends over life’s challenges.

So that is a peek into my writing life.

Now to introduce to you some great women writers:

First, my dear friend, Ann Suk Wang.  Ann and I met back when she attended UCLA and Darrin and I were Cru campus staff assigned to that great campus (go Bruins!). Our paths crisscrossed back and forth over the years but recently we have been able to connect over writing. Ann is also a Redbud Writer, newspaper journalist and writes children’s and young adult fiction. She usually has at least a half a dozen story lines going simultaneously. I’ve been blessed by her friendship. Through Ann I’ve learned to appreciate the work and mind of fiction authors.

Ann’s Bio:
Ann enjoys painting God’s goodness in words, helping others come one step closer to Him no matter where they are in their journey.
     She has loved writing since she was in elementary school when she made her best friend memorize her original rainbow song (they are still best friends and still sing the song together willingly, 30 years later.)
     Now, Ann is a columnist for a Los Angeles based newspaper, writes features for a San Gabriel Valley magazine and enjoys creating fiction for children. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s teaching a Hot Hula Fitness class, playing board games with her 3 boys (includes her infinitely patient hubby), sipping tea or cuddling with the only other female in the house — Bree, her hairy daughter and 4-legged writing partner.
Connect with Ann:

Twitter- @imwonderingwhy
Facebook- annsukwang

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My next friend is fellow Cru staff, Terry Morgan. I haven’t spent time irl (remember the text abbreviation: in real life) with Terry, but I know we share a similar heart, Terry’s writing is laced with themes around changing the world, developing leaders, especially women leaders, personal growth and appreciation and love for coffee. We have many mutual friends. Conversation over coffee, I’m sure, would last all afternoon into the late night. I’ve admired Terry’s ability to share honestly as well as bilingually. She writes her posts in English and Spanish!

Terry’s bio:

Terry is an international mentor, coach, and leadership development strategic partner at Cru. She is on a heart journey as a wife, mother, ministry leader, friend, and daughter of the King… taking on life with a strong, black cup of coffee in hand.
Connect with Terry:
on twitterLinkedIn, or blogging at MaturitasCafe.com.

terry coffee web

 

Finally, I’d like you to meet my friend Karen Yates. I met Karen through the Redbuds. Ann, Karen and I meet regularly to encourage each other and affectionately refer to ourselves as “Palm Tree Buds” as we represent writing in community here in Southern California. Wise, generous, fun, humble, and kindhearted, I’ve been blessed by Karen’s friendship and insight. Karen is pursuing her Master’s at Talbot Seminary in Spiritual Formation. This major fits Karen well as she is one person I admire who integrates a keen mind, tender heart, and a soul sensitive both to God and the people God has placed in her life.

Karen’s bio:

Karen Yates lives in Orange County, CA and is a Jesus chaser, mother, adoption advocate and loved of sushi. She has worked 12 years in the Christian non-profit industry and has a passion for missions and the global Church.

Connect with Karen:

her blog: KarenEYates.com or on Twitter @KarenYates1

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I’m so glad to introduce you to these wonderful writers! Hope you’ll check out their websites and the writers they introduce to you next week. Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting in my nook, avoiding the piles and trying to stay true to the hashtag: #amwriting.

No Accidents

I’ve been turning the house upside down looking for my driver’s license. Flying out tomorrow to Baltimore and remembered identification is necessary to clear security. That, and small earrings. Don’t wear jumbo big metal ones. Trust me. I remembered the passport for identification option but discovered mine expired in September 2013. Sigh.

Online last night, around midnight, I found out the next available appointment at the DMV landed on May 21st. Sigh. So after dropping Julia off at school I gathered my coffee, big water, big bag-o-stuff (Darrin keeps telling me I should get a wagon!) and headed off to the dreaded DMV. Sigh.

The line ran out the door. Sigh. 

Temperatures are hitting the mid 90’s today and the sun was beating down. Sigh.

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Bumped into a couple from church so we caught up a little while waiting for our numbers to be called.

Two hours of waiting. Sigh. 

All the while I thought about my to-do list, my overturned wreck of a home, packing, prepping and which nail polish goes best with a hot pink dress. Finally, finally, FINALLY the electronic voice announced my number over the speaker. I smiled and worked my way up to the counter. Rainbow loom bracelets in little clear baggies greeted me. I thought to myself, “I bet she’s a mom.” Then I noticed the Bible verses tacked up all over her cubicle. I smiled wider and said, “I’m a Christian, too.”

Instant connection.

I shared how I needed my driver’s license because I was flying out tomorrow to speak at a church in Baltimore about my cancer journey. Whipped out a bookmark from my big bag o stuff, and  shared about the crazy journey to publishing. She shared, “I’m a two-time survivor.”

No accidents who we meet.

She showed me a picture of her beautiful daughter. I learned she was a single mom. Finances were tight. She wanted to know if the book was available on Kindle since the prices generally are cheaper. I smiled even bigger,

“I’ve got a book for you in my car.”

“Really?” She brushed away tears, “Oh, these are happy tears.”

We both agreed. It’s never an accident who we meet. And even when life seems “off” or inconvenient, God is at work. We are on assignment. A much larger tapestry is being woven and spun and you and are I part of God’s plan unfolding.

My new friend and sister in Christ, Angelica, is a shining bright light in the otherwise dismal DMV. God is using her to make a difference in the lives of hundreds who walk through the doors of the DMV. How grateful I am to have met her. How grateful to know I will see her again.

Offering Everything Back to Him

She asked me to tilt my head forward, combed my wet hair straight through to the ends, and then looking at me while we both faced the mirror she said through her smile, eyes twinkling,

“It’s long enough to donate, you know.” 

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Wow. It would be like coming full circle!”

She threw her head back laughing, and with her warm, Alabama accent she declared,

“That’s exactly what I was thinking! Full circle.”

Last Wednesday, the official release date of “Warrior In Pink,” I had an appointment with Jesslyn to get my hair cut. The same Jesslyn who has always, always cut my hair. The same Jesslyn who knew I was pregnant before I knew because she could tell the texture of my hair had changed. The same Jesslyn who gifted me with the sassy magazine haircut when I was diagnosed with cancer and knew I would go bald. The same Jesslyn who came over to our house to shave my head when the harsh chemo meds began taking over my body and my hair began to fall out. The same Jesslyn who styled my crazy “muffs” when curly chemo hair grew back.

Fighting back tears I replayed in my mind those milestone moments with Jesslyn.

Full circle.

And how wonderful. How absolutely appropriate to donate my hair back to someone who would be walking the now familiar road of cancer treatment.

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And symbolically the donation of my hair reflects the place the book holds in my heart. I’m seeking to offer everything back to Him.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things…

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Cancer has altered my hair from stick straight to wavy curls. And cancer has altered my heart. The One who remains unchanging through each and every twist and turn is the One who has sustained, provided, led, and loved with perfect faithfulness.

To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

We are blessed to be a blessing.

He is worthy of our all, our everything.

It’s No Joke: Warrior In Pink Has Released!!!!

I can’t smell, taste, or hear. Pulled a muscle in my chest last night from coughing so hard. But all of this pales in light of the excitement I feel having “Warrior In Pink” officially releasing today.

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What is an official release date? I’m not exactly sure. I do know that now the book will be available on Kindle and Nook and on iTunes and will start showing up on book shelves in real book stores. Amazon has been sending pre-ordered books out for the better part of March, so it feels kind of like the book is already out. But today, April 1st, 2014 is the OFFICIAL BOOK RELEASE–so bring out the pom-poms and cowbells!! It’s time for celebrations!!

The Book Release Party is taking place on Saturday, April 5th at Mariner’s Church from 2-4pm. Can’t wait to celebrate with friends from near and far. Special out of town guests include my parents coming in from Nevada and my literary agent, Karen Ball, flying in from Oregon! And of course Darrin, Michael and Julia, the Oasis women, the Awesomes, the California Cohort, and so many who loved our family so well and prayed us through cancer treatment and someday-book-turned-actual-book.

I’ve enjoyed taping two pre-recorded radio interviews and giving two live radio interviews so far about the book. You can check out the Speaking Schedule page for other radio interviews coming up. I think most of the interviews will be available to listen online at the links on the websites.

So grateful for your love, encouragement and prayers leading up to this day. Appreciate all of your help in getting the word out about the book. Please keep on sharing, reposting, tweeting, etc.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 

The Book Has Birthed

I love the Fed Ex man.

Not like I love Darrin, the kids, our dog and Jesus, but the Fed Ex man is on my current top ten list. Every few days the Fed Ex man leaves packages on my doorstep. Boxes of bookmarks. a banner, bookplates.

IMG_2188IMG_3101IMG_3119Yesterday I returned home from enjoying a tasty lunch out with some church friends and found a small brown box on the doorstep. I was on the phone with Darrin and brought the box inside. Our dog, Koa, greeted me like I had been gone a month, or five.

As I ripped through the packing tape, I wondered out loud to Darrin,

“I wonder what they sent me this time?”

The last I checked the Fed Ex tracker (at least three times that day), three boxes of books had made it to Chicago and were scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.

I lifted the packing paper and found a hand addressed card, some book plates, and then under another formal looking envelope with my name typed out, I saw, then gasped. Then said loudly,

“Oh my goodness, Darrin. It’s here. The book. It’s actually here!!”

Darrin congratulated me and we finished up our call.

I pulled out the book and flipped through the pages. My first thought: the book seems thinner than I thought it would be. My second thought: these books will fit nicely in purses and bags of women sitting in waiting rooms and infusion rooms.

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I checked the time and jumped in the car to pick up Julia. I decided to see if she would notice, so I placed the book prominently between the seats, resting it in the coin holder section, up against the dashboard. Julia clicked in as I drove off and started rattling off all the happenings of the day and sighed deeply,

“I wish I could do a reading counts test on your book, Mom. I wouldn’t have to read it. Except I wasn’t at the Epcot Center so I wouldn’t know how to answer questions about that part.”

I picked the book up and handed it over to her,

“I guess you could read about that part in here.”

SCREAM. Instant happy tears.

“Oh. My. Goodness! Your book! It’s here! I’m actually holding it! I’m crying!”

We screamed together again, eyes filled with happy tears.

Thank you all for journeying with me all these long months, and years, really. Thank you for your prayers, for believing the book would really happen. Thank you for your enthusiasm, encouragement and support.

Please join me in praying the book will bless many walking the road of cancer.

The book has birthed, and just like with each newborn, I wonder if I’ll ever sleep through the night again….

….the journey has just begun.

 

 

Here

Another full week. I can tell based on the volume of dog hair I vacuumed up this morning. Differing levels of disorder fill the rooms. The flat surfaces around our home are covered by either dust or stuff. Or dusty stuff. Our dog intermittently has donned the dreaded cone-of-shame for an infected anal gland. He started on his second round of antibiotics today. Very little on my to-do list or the way I wanted my days to look turned out how I wanted this week. Mild irritation began growing into full-blown frustration. And then today I stumbled upon this TED talk:

And now I sit here humbled, sobered, grateful, sad.

Jennifer and I both were diagnosed with breast cancer the same year. Five years ago this week I lay in bed recovering from my first surgery to remove what ended up being a 4cm by 6cm tumor. A call from my surgical oncologist came with the devastating news: cancer had spread to three spots on one of my lymph nodes. A second surgery was quickly scheduled to remove all the lymph nodes under my arm.

My story didn’t turn out like Jennifer’s, but it could have.

Now I sit with renewed perspective.

I am still here.

Here.

And regardless of the circumstances around me right now, God has gifted me with more days and years to live and love.

Life is a gift.

As I look around at the mess, both within and without, rather than annoyance I find myself whispering prayers of gratitude and thanks.

 

Save The Date: Book Release Party

Warrior in Pink - Vivian MabuniA mere six months to release date. Thrilled to share the news:

Warrior In Pink Book Release Party

  • Date: Saturday, April 5, 2014
  • Time: 2pm-4pm
  • Place: Mariners Church Bookstore in Irvine, CA (5001 Newport Coast Dr.)

Please mark your calendars, save the date, invite your friends, and let me know if you will be able to attend. :)

 

Everyone Needs A Prisca

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who takes the time to truly listen and understand the struggles of the heart.

Someone who models an authentic life of faith and grace and prayer.

Someone who has survived the current life stage you are seeking to navigate.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who believes wholeheartedly in the goodness of God and lives for eternal things unseen.

Someone who reminds us the ministry is unending, but the window interacting with our own children is small. And taking time to be good to ourselves is crucial.

Someone who applauds steps of faith and prays diligently. And then prays some more.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who is humble, a learner, compassionate, and incredibly, incredibly wise.

Someone who doesn’t fix problems, but knows how to hold emotions.

Someone to model after because they so reflect the heart of God.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who is mature, who speaks words of hope, who knows how to laugh at herself.

Someone who helps restore perspective.

Someone who loves well.

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Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7) 

I have six names written in the margin of my Bible next to this verse. Prisca is one of them. I’ve been blessed to know her for twenty years. She is one of my heroes of the faith.

Who do you have written on the margin of your Bible?

Who has your name written in theirs?

Loved By God

Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake. Still working my way through “The One Year Chronological Bible.” Two days ago I read about Daniel in Daniel chapters 10 and 11. The angel addressed Daniel as “greatly loved of God.” He explains the moment Daniel began praying, which was three weeks prior to this appearance, his request was heard in heaven. Some kind of fierce spiritual battle took place which required Michael, one of the archangels, to aid the angel in order for him to deliver the message to Daniel. He later tells Daniel,

“Dont be afraid, for you are deeply loved by God. Be at peace, take heart and be strong!” (Daniel 10:19)

I know in my head God loves me. I sing about it, in the privacy of my car, throughout the day. But something about the description of being

greatly loved

and

deeply loved

by God

has stopped me in my tracks.

Not just loved. But loved greatly. And deeply.

I’ve been turning these truths over and over in my mind.

I forget He loves me and begin to fret. I forget He loves me and I start taking responsibility for things I was never tasked with. I forget He loves me and I scramble for control. I forget He loves me and live as if everything depends on me. I forget He loves me and I forget He is with me.

A strong foundation of love makes all the difference in any relationship. The circumstances can be exactly the same, but the heart attitude is different. Love changes everything.

The kind of intimacy Daniel shared with his God kept him from rebelling or becoming bitter when he was taken from his home and sent away to Babylon as a teenager. His understanding and experience of God’s love, character and provision gave him courage to go against the crowd and abstain from the food eaten by the king and royal court. His obedience and steadfast faith kept him loyal to HIs God. He refused to bow down to worship the Babylonian king and was thrown into the lion’s den.

Daniel, just like you and just like me, experienced trials, bewilderment, heartache, discouragement, disappointment, unanswered prayer, life threatening situations, and all the while he was greatly loved and deeply loved by God.

So often my thinking is limited. Short-sighted. Off.

I think of being protected from experiencing trials, heartache, disappointment as evidence of being deeply and greatly loved. While I’m sure God has protected me from unseen difficulties, I also understand being greatly loved and deeply loved includes the hard times. The times when life gets derailed, when well laid plans are disrupted; the times when I personally fall and fail. I am greatly loved and deeply loved in and through those hard times. The intensity of God’s love is not based on my circumstances or my response. His love is great and deep and unconditional.

God’s love is tender and fierce.

Deeply loved means He knows my circumstances, struggles, and secrets. He gives strength to persevere and walk through the valleys. He is for me. With me. His purposes are higher and include a bigger plan I am often unaware of. His motivation always has and continues to be love. So it is from this foundation of love that I bring my fears, insecurities, failures and concerns to His safe keeping.

He loves you and he loves me greatly.

Deeply.

And like the angel shared with Daniel, knowing God loves us deeply helps us to be at peace, take heart and be strong.

I am seeking to mull and mediate and respond to what it means to be greatly loved by God.

What does it mean to you for God to love you deeply?

Julia drew this picture of me speaking at the Epic East Coast conference a couple years ago. Her words ring true.

Julia drew this picture of me speaking at the Epic East Coast conference a couple years ago. Her words ring true.

First of the Lasts

I heard sounds upstairs at 5:45am this morning. Creaking floorboards, the shower door sliding open and closed. It was still dark outside. First day of school and my 11-year-old was wide awake and got up to get ready. The 16-year-old woke up shortly after his younger sister. It has been months since the last time he was up before the sun. Lunches packed followed by the first day of school picture by the front door. A flashback to when they both were too small to look out of the peek hole. I watched from my window as the high schooler drove off down the hill to begin his junior year.

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While buckling my seatbelt when it was finally time to take Julia, I looked over and asked,

“What are you thinking?”

She smiled and said, “Top of the totem pole.”

Sixth grade is the top of the totem pole. Julia has been on the grounds of this elementary school for 11 years. She’s watched two older brothers move year after year from classroom to classroom from her stroller. She waved to her older brothers during playground time when she attended the preschool which also met at the elementary school. She finally was old enough to have her own desk in first grade when I was diagnosed with cancer. We finished cancer treatment during her second grade and brought leftover cake to share with her classmates after our big celebration. Third grade and we explored Anaheim together when it was time to research for her Orange County city report. Fourth grade and she became an upper grader with two older brothers in high school. Fifth grade her oldest brother went off to college all the way across the country. Now in sixth grade, at the top of the totem pole, she is ready to launch.

And today was the first of the lasts.

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When Julia finishes off this school year, it will be the end of an era for our family at this elementary school. Fifteen years of homework folders, assemblies, field trips, class parties and parent teacher conferences. And just like getting attached to a physical house, the rooms in this school are filled with memories and significant moments. But now when we arrive at each event, it will be another last. Our last science camp, last biography report, last back to school night, last, last, last. Lasts seem so final.

When we arrived early at our normal drop off spot, she walked off down the stairs ahead of me. Confident, excited. Probably a good three to four inches taller from last year at this time. She fixed her own hair, with extra twists and a ponytail to the side. She noticed the new girl waiting by the door and smiled and introduced herself and then began introducing the new girl to each of her friends as they showed up.

I pulled out my phone to take pictures. She asked to see them, looked up and said,

“It’s going to be a great year.”

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