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Big News – A New Book is Born!!

Let me tell you a story. In fact, for convenience’s sake, I’ve fit it neatly into the space of about 220 pages and thrown the whole thing up on Amazon where it is NOW AVAILABLE!!! I started writing The Heir of Kembarius almost two years ago as the first book in a series called Tales from Winderlawk. It has gone through creative cycles that were exhilarating and technical stages that ground me to ash, but at long last I have wrestled it to completion whereupon the cup of my happiness overfloweth.

The main thing I want to communicate is that Amazon is the place to go if you would like to order your own copy of The Heir of Kembarius (or fifty to give to all your dearest friends). Paperback and kindle versions are both available. At some point in the future it might make its way to other retailers, but with this being the first book, and self-published at that, we’re keeping it simple. Amazon, friends- they make everything so easy.

The second-most main thing I’d like to mention is that part of self-publishing means there are no little marketing fairies working behind the scenes to sell this book. One of my sincere hopes is that if you like the book, you’ll let others know. You can do this in your own circles through personal connections and social media, and you can do it in the wider world by reviewing it on the book’s Amazon page. After all, sharing is caring, it takes a village, every time a review is posted an angel gets their wings, and whatnot.

I’ve had people ask me over the years when I was going to write a book. “You should write a book reflecting on life and faith,” they’ve said. “About life in West Dallas.” “About living in Africa.”  Is this something along those lines, you ask?! Er, no. It is a story, as one might tell their children night after night before sending them off to the realm of dreams. It is a story about courage and friendship and treachery and loss and hope. It’s that sort of book.

And who is it for? I am hesitant to attach ages to books, because children are all so different. Reading levels and interests vary so widely. I will say that I wrote it with my own boys in mind who were 8, 9, 11, & 43 at the time, a wide range in other words. Really the book is for anyone who enjoys a good story.

With that, I invite you to hop on over to Amazon and get acquainted with the quiet hills of Winderlawk…

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On listening and learning and living

Listen. The cicadas are chanting. Their anthem has several parts, the refrain swelling with raucous confidence. I’m no expert, but even I know those males are announcing to the females that summer belongs to them… that they own the tree-tops and all of Texas and this blazing inferno named “July.” They sing with all the bravado of those who don’t know they’ll be gone in a few weeks, such a short-lived escape from the underworld. Or maybe they sing so wildly because they know they’ll be gone in a few weeks, such a short-lived escape from the underworld…

Listen. The wind is shifting and shuffling through the oak trees, like waves of sky crashing on shores of leaves as they play ocean together. Like a mother softly hushing her baby’s sobs. Like heaven exhaling grace over this whole place, because it hears our sobs…

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Storms of All Kinds

It was far too dark for 10am, thunder booming like cannon fire. The rains made war against the earth; winds beating branch and leaf and limb without mercy. And for the first time in the last eight months we lost power at our house. Howls of delight resounded from the man-cubs who a) sensed this meant at least some degree of interruption in the school day, and who b) declared affectionately that it felt like Africa.

Precisely three things happened in the next ten minutes, two of which were fully normal and then a third which I found strangely unsettling. Firstly, the boys gathered all available bedding they could find and set to work constructing the finest fort their imagination and engineering could afford. Secondly, Paul and I grabbed our mugs of morning hope and fled to the covered porch in the back. We gave our eyes and ears to the rain and drank our coffee and reminisced about Africa, sitting there like two people who really do know that sometimes grownup work needs to be interrupted by coffee dates in the rain as much as man-cubs need to build forts.

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The Most Important Thing About Soccer

We are down by a couple of goals, and I am on my feet even though I have a perfectly good folding chair sitting on the grass right behind me. It is soccer season, and we have waited long for it. It was Africa when my boys last had others to play the game with; soccer fans are not as plentiful here. But this pitch is gloriously grassy, and their patience has paid off, and time is running out if we’re going to come back and win this thing.

Soccer Feet

The other team is fast and disciplined. They are few in number; no subs for them. Unfortunately for us, this is irrelevant because they are all strong enough to play this whole thing out with force left over. One of our players- we’ll call him “Jack”- is bested by their striker. Again. And there goes another goal.

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A Song of Hope for the Hard Season of Transition

It is October, the time of year when the wind sighs so deeply that the trees begin to weep leaves. It is the season of football and homecoming; it is the season of our homecoming. We are two weeks back; and I have lost my mind, wandered by myself to a grocery store the size of some small towns. It is a Saturday, when the rest of humankind also descends upon such stores, and I have somehow inexplicably put myself there.

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And Now I Am Back

The air is crisp, and the wide sky is bright morning blue. I haven’t had good running sneakers in a while; these feel extraordinary. I tug my black fleecy headband a little lower over my ears- how do they get so cold? And I am running. I am running the same streets I ran twenty years ago; and how, by the way, am I old enough to have been running twenty years ago? Someone explain that to me.

Run300The houses that line the streets are as quiet at this hour as the streets that organize them. (They are as quiet at this hour as they are at every other hour, for that matter.) Everyone has scattered- the children to school, the grown-ups to work. The family huddles have all shouted “Break!” and hurried to their respective places on the field. I pass no one except the very occasional biker or runner. I wonder if they were running crowded red dirt roads this time last year and are now finding these paved beauties as strangely peaceful as I do. Perhaps not, but I imagine my neighbors have their own unique surprises well-hidden under those layers of reflective spandex.

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A Thousand Days in A Thousand Hills: Leaving Rwanda part II

We haven’t been here that long. Relatively speaking. Right around a thousand days when we get on that airplane. It wasn’t long enough to have gained fluency. There are parts of the country we never saw; I would have liked to visit Nyungwe. There are still certain western sensibilities that we never quite outgrew, instincts and expectations irrelevant to life here that we never quite shook off.

Then again, a lot can happen in a thousand days. It’s long enough to form friendships that take root in your life and grow beautiful things that you’d rather not leave behind. Long enough to gain a perspective that will wreck you for “going back.” Like one wise hobbit said, “There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same.” Exactly, Frodo.

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An Introduction to Leaving Rwanda

I tried so many times- dozens upon dozens of times. For weeks. For months. A whole year I tried to reach Tate.

Those who have known us since the beginning of our Africa years will likely remember hearing about her- the teeny tiny umukecuru [old woman] who lived in our tight little compound in Musanze during our first six months in Rwanda.

Sarah and Tate

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Jesus Friend of Sinners and the Gospel of Unrepentance

It is dawn, pale morning light just creeping up on the streets of Jerusalem. Jesus has come to the temple to teach the people. Probable that the morning had started well earlier for him in some solitary place of prayer. Imagine two scenes going on simultaneously… in one, the humble Son is alone seeking his Father’s will for the day, fixing his eyes and attention on everything the Father desires. Meanwhile behind some door off some side street, a woman is in bed with someone else’s husband, rebelling body and soul against the law of God, fixing her heart on what she wants that is not hers. These two will meet each other this morning.

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Well of Healing, Weapon of War

It was early in the morning, still dark out. The light from my screen cast its blue hue as I scrolled through recent posts of dear friends and total strangers. Updates on an adoption… questions about plumbers… links to dessert recipes… And then a post caught my eye. It was a quote. I recognized those words.

I said those words. I wrote them in a journal, some time back when my boys were babies and my sleep was scarce. I shared them with a group of mothers and then went about my business for the next six years or so. And then half a globe away from home, I opened Facebook one morning and read back to myself what ‘Sarah Tenney Stehlik’ said one time.

Sobering.