How to Face the First Day of School

School Bus~ Images by Tara Homan ~

Here in Michigan the first day of school traditionally falls on the Tuesday after Labor Day. I rather like this about my state. It seems fitting for school to start on the heels of what so many consider the last day of summer.

No matter when school is starting or has already started in your neck of the woods, no matter whether it’s your oldest or your youngest, the start of kindergarten or the start of college, public, private, or homeschool bound, collectively as mamas, we stand and look at the child we once held in our arms and wonder where and how the time has gone.

My oldest daughter Aletheia is starting kindergarten at home this fall and while she won’t be riding away on a big yellow bus our days still feel marked by change. The kind of change that forces me to remember that motherhood, at its core, is all about letting go.

ColeIn July Tenley moved from her crib in the nursery to a big-girl-bed in her big sister’s room. In August Aletheia lost her first tooth. These are small milestones, I know, but they are milestones nonetheless. Markers that remind me in neon lights that my babies are growing up and there is nothing I can do to change it.

Perhaps Aletheia expressed it best when she came to me with her wiggly-tooth smile and said, “You’re not ready for this are you, Mom?”

No, sweet girl, I’m not.

A few weeks ago my friend Tara posted a note on Facebook. Her youngest is starting kindergarten this year, and Tara put into words what I know many of us are feeling this weekend:

Tara's Note

My eyes pool with tears every time I read this note, and I think that’s because it captures so well the balance between letting go of our most prized possessions, our babies, our hearts and trusting them to God and the people He puts in their lives.

To Cole’s Kindergarten teacher…I’ve prayed for you over and over…

Isn’t this the key? The hidden strength we don’t think we have but do possess as moms? The power to pray. The power to trust our little ones to God, to the One whose love is unfathomably greater than ours.

EliPraying for and trusting God with our children may not make the milestones, the growing up, the waving good-bye on the first day of school easier but it does make us better equipped. It reminds us that our children’s futures aren’t up to us, that there is someone beyond us who loves them beyond understanding.

And no matter how hard it is to let go, to send them off, to watch them grow, this is a comfort and a weapon against the temptation to hold on with fear, denial, and misplaced trust in what we as parents can do.

As mamas we can do a lot but we are never better or as capable as parents, as mothers, as keepers of souls, as we are when we help our children become more and more independent from us while at the same time becoming, ourselves, more and more dependent on Him.

So mamas, this post is for you. May your first day of school (and all the milestones thereafter) be filled with a love that casts out fear, a box of tissues, and God who holds on…even as we let go.

Tara Homan is a photographer and stay-at-home mom of two. For more information please visit Tara Homan Photography on Facebook.

How to Survive in a Spiritual Desert

My Mother's CamThis week I am so excited to welcome author Susie Finkbeiner to Once Upon a Writer. Susie is the author of two amazing books, Paint Chips and My Mother’s Chamomile and is currently working on her third novel. A long time fan of Susie’s, I am delighted for the chance to share her writing with you today…

(Be sure to read to the bottom of this post for special details on how you can purchase both of Susie’s books this week for only $0.99!!!)

~ Post and pictures provided by Susie Finkbeiner~

My in-laws live in Roswell, New Mexico. Yes, it’s a quirky place. McDonalds is built to look like a UFO and Walmart has an alien painted on the wall. Most of the town is devoted to the tourists who come, looking for evidence of extraterrestrials.

It’s a fun place to visit.

Fun, but dry. Desert spans for miles. It’s hard to tell how many. Blaring sun and dry sand make depth perception fail. The aridity wicks away all moisture. All day, the goal is to keep from becoming dehydrated.

During my whole visit, I was reminded of one very important thing: the desert is dangerous. It could mean death to someone ill prepared. To someone who is not mindful of its perils.

In my novel “My Mother’s Chamomile”, my character Olga Eliot finds herself in a desert of grief. A wilderness of loss. Dry and hopeless and isolating. She feels a kinship with the Israelites who wandered on their trek to the Promised Land.

The desert seemed to have no end. For her and the Children of God. In that desert, they question God. His love for them. His power.

My pastor reminds us often that, in the desert, faith either grows or dies. I believe he’s right about that.

How many times have I been in a Spiritual desert? Too many to count. Feeling alone. Terrified. Near the end of hope. Wandering aimlessly, wishing for a little direction. Not knowing that what I needed more than anything was mercy. Comfort. A flood of relief.

That, not only did I required it, I would need to accept it. Not only for myself, but for others.

First Corinthians 1:3-11 is all about receiving comfort so that we can become a comfort for others.

When we walk through the desert, we are comforted by Christ. Often that looks like a friend bringing over a casserole. Or someone paying a bill we can’t manage. A kind word. A warm hug.

We drink deeply of mercy, having more than our fill. Let the oasis of comfort immerse us. Renew us.

Refreshed, we have the power, the resources, to let that comfort spill over. To wash over those around us.

And, in the cleansing, faith grows.


My Mother’s Chamomile

Desperate for the rains of mercy…
Middle Main, Michigan has one stop light, one bakery, one hair salon…and one funeral home. The Eliot Family has assisted the grieving people in their town for over fifty years. After all those years of comforting others, they are the ones in need of mercy.
Olga, the matriarch who fixes everything, is unable to cure what ails her precious daughter. She is forced to face her worse fears. How can she possibly trust God with Gretchen’s life? A third generation mortician, Evelyn is tired of the isolation that comes with the territory of her unconventional occupation. Just when it seems she’s met a man who understands her, she must deal with her mother’s heart-breaking news. Always able to calm others and say just the right thing, she is now overwhelmed with helplessness as she watches her mother slip away.

Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist and short story writer from West Michigan. Her first novel “Paint Chips” released in 2013 and her second novel “My Mother’s Chamomile” in 2014. She worked with WhiteFire Publishing on both novels. Currently, she is working on her third novel.

Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write.

For more information on Susie and her books please visit Also don’t miss your chance to purchase Paint Chips and My Mother’s Chamomile in ebook format this week for only $0.99 each! Offer is available August 28-31st at


“Be Hot! Be Cold! Be Something” (Plus Giveaway)

Bultema Red Hot Faith Cover ImageMy love for college basketball started when I was twelve years old. While all my friends were losing their heads and their hearts to the latest boy-band, (was it New Kids on the Block?), I lost my head and heart to the North Carolina Tarheels.

To prove my love for my team I wore a UNC t-shirt every day for an entire year. I sent homemade birthday cards to every player on the team. And I never, I mean NEVER, missed a game. Just to be safe I recorded most of them, and I saved every magazine or newspaper article I could find.

In time, I mellowed out (a little.) But it was this same crazed enthusiasm that sparked a thread of text messages between my dad and me.

Me: It seems like everything these days in college basketball is driven by networks, and programs, and money. It’s going to ruin everything good about the game…I should blog about this.

Dad: You should.

Me: It’s a little outside my realm but still full of passion!

Dad: Passion is your realm.

Passion is your realm. These words, coming from my dad, warmed my heart and got me thinking.

It seems to me that when it comes to things like college basketball, NFL football, and Sherlock Holmes (my personal TV obsession) we, as a culture, have no problem feeling and expressing our passion. We jump from our couches and cheer when our team scores the winning goal. We light up Facebook and Twitter when drama strikes the characters of our favorite TV shows, movies, or novels. Did you see what happened to ???

But when it comes to our faith or our walk with God, what of passion then?

Cindy Bultema

Author & Speaker, Cindy Bultema

Last summer I had the joy of hearing speaker and author, Cindy Bultema give a fascinating presentation on her latest Bible study series titled, Red Hot Faith: Lessons from a Lukewarm Church. Based on God’s message to the church of Laodicea found in Revelation 3:14-22, Cindy’s teaching encourages readers and listeners to, “Be hot, be cold, be something!”

According to Cindy, and her studies of Revelation, the ancient city of Laodicea was surrounded by two other cities, Hierapolis and Colosse. Because of their unique water sources each of these cities had a different type of water supply.

While the city of Hierapolis was known for its warm, therapeutic waters, the city of Colosse was known for its refreshing, cold water. The city of Laodicea had no natural water source and was therefore dependent on the water flow of its neighboring cities. Unlike the waters of Hierapolis and Colosse, Laodicea’s water supply was lukewarm and virtually useless.

Think about it. Consider what it feels like to take a steaming hot shower when you’re sick or a drink of ice-cold water when you’re incredibly thirsty. Now consider how it would feel to do either of these things with tepid, lukewarm water…yuck! The level of usefulness and satisfaction is just not the same.

So it was with the church of Laodicea. When God looked at this church he found its people had become lukewarm in their faith. They had allowed themselves to be neither therapeutic nor refreshing. They were stale, tepid and good for nothing.

Yikes! I don’t know about you, but this is not what I want God to find when He looks at me. I want Him to find me useful for His kingdom. I want to be a therapeutic or refreshing glimpse of God and His love. I want to be passionate with my faith and the hope I have in Him.

When Cindy urges her readers and listeners to “be hot, be cold, be something,” this is exactly what she means. And this is exactly what God was saying to the church of Laodicea, “Be passionate! Be of use!”

Be like hot water. Be comforting, therapeutic and healing to hearts that are hurting and broken.

Be like cold water. Be refreshing, invigorating and thirst quenching to souls that are parched and dry.

But don’t be lukewarm. Don’t be tepid, stale or useless to a world that needs you.

Live in the realm of passion and let that passion be for your faith. Let that passion be for the hurting world around you and the glimpse of God only you can give.

Enjoy the thrill of your favorite sports team. Get lost in Sherlock Holmes. But don’t let your passion end there. Don’t be Red Hot for these things, yet lukewarm for the things of God.

Be hot! Be cold! Be something!

Be passionate for the One who went to the cross to express His passion for you.

The Red Hot excitement doesn’t end here! Cindy and her publishing team have graciously provided me with two copies of her Bible study, Red Hot Faith: Lessons from a Luke Warm Church to GIVEAWAY to two lucky readers. Each Bible study includes an 8 Session DVD, Leader’s guide and Participant guide. To enter for your chance to win simply leave a comment below or post a comment to my Facebook link. Drawing will be held next Sunday and winners will be announced on Wednesday, Sept. 3rd.

Cindy’s Bible study is on sale now at Discovery House Publishers, Amazon and your local bookstore. Also be sure to check out for Cindy’s blog, links, and updates.

For When Life Seems Out of Focus…

TypingI have a love-hate relationship with August. I love the last days of summer and all the charm they bring. But at the same time I always feel anxious for summer to end and for fall to begin with all its glory.

If you know me well, you know I love the fall but it’s more than just the season. It’s the routine. The rhythm. The chance to re-adjust, re-calculate, re-focus.

This year I feel the need to re-focus not just in my family life but also in my writing.

A question went through my mind this week that I simply can’t ignore. Am I a blogger who writes or a writer who blogs?

It may seem like there’s not much difference between these two statements, after all, writers write. What does it matter where and how my time is spent?

Work In ProgressBut for me it does matter. As you may or may not know I’m in the middle of writing a book. It’s a story that means the world to me. I’m passionate about it. I long to share it with you.

And while I LOVE this blog and you, my readers, I’ve come the realization that it’s become a bit of a hog. Week in, week out, it hogs my writing time. It steals my focus. It keeps my book simmering away on the back burner.

Bottom line: In my heart I know I am first and foremost a writer, an author, not a blogger.

So what does this mean? Not much, really. I love this blog and I love each of you far too much to quit. But I do think it’s time to make an adjustment.

My goal is to make my book, not my blog, the priority of my writing time. You’ll still see my posts on a weekly(ish) basis, but I’m giving myself freedom and grace for there to be sometimes a little bit more and sometimes a little bit less.

As is always the case I know I’m not alone. Whether you’re a writer, a mom, a teacher, a nurse… whatever it is you do, life comes with seasons, and with each new season we’re given a gift.

With each new season we’re given a moment to pause, to think and reflect. To ask God, and family, and friends for guidance. We’re given a chance to collect our bearings, to change what needs to change, to keep what needs keeping.

Whenever I do this, whenever these moments come, a line from one of my favorite movies, The Patriot rings true in my mind. When Benjamin Martin becomes discouraged and is tempted to forsake his fight for freedom his son, Gabriel, reminds him to “stay the course.”

And that’s what I find the Still, Small Voice reminding me to do now. Stay the course. Finish the book. Loosen the grip on the blog.

And trust.

Trust in whose you are. (God’s)

Trust In what you are. (Capable, loved, and extraordinary)

Trust in what you’re not. (Perfect, super-human or Martha Stewart)

And trust in the work you’ve been called to do. The kingdom work worth fighting for.

20 Things to Do Before the End of Summer

Wrinkled ToesToday I took my girls swimming for the FIRST time this summer. Here it is, August, and I’m just now getting my girls, and their super-cute swimsuits, into a pool.

Believe me; I am experiencing serious mom-guilt over this. At the beginning of June I promised to give my girls plenty of opportunities to swim this summer, but somehow we made it to August without the wrinkly toes and tan lines that serve as a badge of honor on hot summer days.

Inspired by today’s visit to the pool I’ve been making a list in my mind. It’s a list of all the things I’d like to do before summer days are gone…To I’m posting over at The Blog Pile. To read more of this post please visit