Can I be in your Shelfie?

Straight up, I have a lot of books. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to many of you. At Christmas, most of my presents are fresh printer-and-ink-smelling rectangles in tacky Christmas wrap, simply because I make it easy for my husband to guess what I want by constantly adding a pile of Marissa Meyer, Veronica Roth, Marie Lu, Lindsay Cummings, Kate Quinn, and Kiera Cass volumes to my Amazon Wishlist, along with the random other authors I decide to obsess over. And don’t even get me started on my Bill Johnson collection.

With technology and self-checkout robots dominating society, I’m relieved that real books with paper pages are still a thing. Gone are the days where Christmas shopping was as easy as purchasing a CD, or a DVD that you knew someone liked. Now with Spotify and Netflix, who needs stuff like that?

And now here comes Kindles and e-books, rising up from the guts of the literary world with its robot tentacles to scoop up as many of us as they can. Some people love reading on a Kindle or their phone, and I’m sure that’s where the future is headed. But it’s just not my thing.

Don’t go dying on me book-lovers. We need our libraries to live on!

In the midst of the buzzing technology that runs this world, I find my happiest place is still sitting by the window in a plush chair, with a cup of something only slightly less hot than burn-your-mouth temperature, with all the other sounds turned off, holding open a book and getting lost in a great story. And since moments of rest are sort of God’s thing, something He holds high on the list of valuable things for your life, I hope some day I can be responsible for the story that brings someone else into a place of peace.

Because, really. After all these years of raising babies, it’s about time I kick-start my writing career, wouldn’t you say? I’ve been telling stories since I was a little girl, and now that I have kids of my own I want them to go on adventures and live a life with all the magic of getting carried away into other worlds. So please pray for me, friends! Shoot one into the air right now if you can. I need all the faith-fuel I can get as I start to send proposals to literary agencies. And you can bet your buttocks I’ll keep you in the loop as much as I can!

Now tell me, what kind of story would you want to read about?

  1. Parallel universes on the brink of war with a psychologically unstable (but hilarious) female lead that has totally fallen head-over-heels for a guy who hates her guts.
  2. A chilly Christmas tale that forces an uncoordinated faithless female protagonist to face off with villains from old Christmas legends.
  3. A fairy-tale retelling with a twist that pits two sisters against each other in a dangerous competition to hunt down the greatest threats their historians have ever recorded.

Let me know! I’m sharpening my pencils to take notes…

 

 

Hunt Your Dragons before You Come

It only makes sense. As children of a Holy King we are fully equipped to be dragon slayers.

One of the hard things I’ve had to learn in my twinkling twenties is that dragging around baggage into areas where the love of Jesus is supposed to shine is inappropriate, un-classy, and just plain bothersome. In order to walk in freedom we need to release those things into the hands of our all-powerful Commander of Angel Armies.

I am the first name on this “guilty” list. I have done this too many times, especially when I was just starting to fine tune my spiritual ears to hear the voice of God, because before my twenties I didn’t even really understanding what listening was. I was what I like to call, a “RUSHER”. Everything must be done instantly. The moment I got a vision, I believed it was only going to work if it happened overnight.

Well that doesn’t leave God any time to move, now does it?

I have learned a couple of times over that God prefers to drag things out, not to torture those of us who are impatient, but so He can teach us things along the way. There are hidden treasures in this, worthy of discovering. Things that will change our lives. Things that will turn out to be the solutions to other unrelated problems if we let God work. Things we will take with us for the rest of our days so we are stronger and can do more. These little gems are what I believe Heaven’s storehouses are bulging with. And if we are patiently looking for them we will find them. If we are not then we are no different than crazy children running around and grabbing candy at Halloween. After we consume it all we will probably feel sick.

I don’t think there’s a Christian on the planet who isn’t guilty of bag-dragging. It’s really hard not to bring our inner conflict with us everywhere, our negative mind-dialogue, and our limb-flailing fears. But God’s plan isn’t for us to walk while pulling seven or eight hefty bags behind us through the dirt, rather, it’s His plan that we walk freely. It’s His plan that we trust in Him for what we need, because if we need it He will provide it, and if He doesn’t provide it, it’s probably because we are delusional about what we need.

In every situation, whether you are on your way to church or on your way to work or on your way to a family gathering, its best to spend five minutes (it literally doesn’t take more than that) by yourself and say to God, “I give you all of these things.” If you know what your dragons are, speak them out, hand them over and take away their power. If you don’t know why you are feeling like garbage and want to pound on the walls, you are probably PMS-ing. Just kidding. You’re probably dealing with something deeper than surface level issues. But I promise you that even if you can’t exactly pin point what your problem is, God knows what it is. Ask Him to take it. Then invite the love of Jesus to come in and fill you. Trust me, if you head out of your house this way you will have a much better time and all the people who you want to karate chop off a cliff will suddenly be much less horrifying.

The love of Jesus conquers all. Every time.

No dragon is bigger than the Holy Army Commander. So take that mighty sword and chop off that ugly dragon’s head. Hiya!!!

This might seem obvious and simple, but I went a long time before coming to this conclusion. And now it’s my go-to. Even on good days I try to remember to do this, because it makes my heart so much bulgier. And everyone wants a bulgy heart.

That’s what I wanted to share today. Bless you all!

A Glimpse of Rome Through Geeky Glasses

Dreams. Dreamy dreams. Dreaming of dreamy dreams.

We all have that one dream, the one that never goes away, even if life provides a heaping pile of lofty distractions. Occasionally something reminds us of it and we pause to go back to dreamland for a moment. We let out a long dramatic sigh and for a split second that thing we want the most is so close we can almost taste it.

Nice, isn’t it? To experience it for just a moment? If only everything were possible and we had unlimited amounts of money and each of us possessed our favourite super power.

Really, there is only one conclusion. Dreams suck. Yep. It’s official. We always take it too far by adding on new branches to our dream tree and suddenly what started as a small dream turns into a completely ridiculous impossible venture.

Go us.

I happen to be incredibly guilty of being a ‘brain-wanderer’ (yes I made that term up which is why it’s lame) which leaves me staring off at nothing for long periods of time, getting lost in non-existent worlds or situations. I can sure dream up some funky dreams. Some of them are probably attainable. But I’ll be honest, most of them aren’t.

My biggest dream though is one that doesn’t seem to want to scamper off, even when I try to ignore it, forget about it, or even beat it down. Realistically there is no reason for me to want to get rid of it, except for personal insecurities, but there are always loads of excuses to. For example, I’m a mamma now. Most of my time is already spoken for by a little stump of a creature who doesn’t even know he’s needy. I love him to death quite frankly. Which presents a problem when the opportunity comes around for me to be selfish and take some time for myself. All I want to do with my time is help him, make sure he’s full, gotten his sleep, isn’t afraid, doesn’t feel alone, has clothes to wear, has food to eat and sing adorable songs to gently put him to sleep. It sure makes it hard for me to want to take off and live out my dreams when I care for him so stinking much. He rules my world. What a little punk. It’s like he’s already got me all figured out.

I’ve always wanted to get published and write novels full time as my career. I have many dreams, some you would laugh at because they are so far fetched, but this one trumps them all. I picture myself sitting in some little hole-in-the wall apartment in Rome, Italy, finishing off an epic sci-fi novel that will leave the world with their jaws hanging open in anticipation of what happens next.

This might sound strange. I don’t exactly come off as the well-spoken type. I’m one of those people that can write something that sounds pretty, but the moment I open my mouth I sound like I’ve stuffed my vocabulary into a blender and failed English seventeen times.

No, I don’t want to live in Rome. But some day I would love to travel there and sit with an unhealthy-sized cup of coffee and write an action packed book with just enough romance that all the saps out there buy into the story too. I would wear geeky glasses and everything, just to make it all feel legit.

Pffffft. Ridiculous. Who has the money for that? Or even the time? Seems like a lot of work to make this dream come true. I’m probably better off to stuff it into my “maybe later” box and never think of it again.

If I’m being honest though, I don’t think God gives us dreams for no reason. His reasons though, are likely not always what we think. Maybe He just wants to see if we are willing to give them up to follow Him. Now whether we are willing to give up our dreams for Him, that is the biggest test. It really doesn’t matter where they come from, God or us, we aren’t called to chase after fantasies, even if it would be incredible to wind up in history-splattered Rome with my nerd-glasses and an armful of notebooks with endless ideas.

We just need to praise Him, no matter what we are doing with our lives currently. I think the praises that come directly from the surrendered most abandoned hearts in those face-in-the-mud moments are the most touching to Him. Even if the songs aren’t that greatly written, sung or played. He just wants our true feelings, our true love, scribbled down on a cola stained napkin, and expressed to Him our very best.

I think the little drummer boy had it right.

Peace out.

My Baby’s Butt

It’s not that I’m just bad at hiding my facial reactions, or that I’ve unearthed some putrid smell, its nothing like that. My face is constantly crunching for an entirely different reason, one that no one would know about unless I tell them. My baby, now positioned on the right side of my stomach, keeps shoving its little butt out towards the public, pushing against my inner stomach. It agonizes me to think that my child is somehow already rude, and he hasn’t even met me yet to learn bad manners.

You sneaky little thing. Already trying to get away with stuff. I’d spank your show-off little butt but you always seem to duck back in before I can poke you.

It’s not that painful when he swims around and kicks, a little uncomfortable maybe, but the worst part is that no one else feels it. So if you want anyone to experience the moment with you, you have to tell them “Look at my stomach!” and sure enough, the rascal goes perfectly still in a clever attempt to make you look like a fool while everyone stares and nothing happens.

Every time.

It seems silly, to talk and sing to something that likely can’t comprehend your witty comments and wise counsel. But nonetheless I find myself doing it a lot. We named our baby almost immediately after we knew he was a boy (no I won’t tell you his name so don’t ask. And please don’t try to get it out of me – I’m terrible at keeping a straight face and I will probably give it away if you guess correctly). After naming him, I began to experience other things that I felt belonged to him. Like prayers. It’s not a secret that I’ve been praying that my baby boy would have a heart of worship. I’m not even convinced I know what that looks like, but I sit at my piano and sing worship songs, and pray by scribbling in my journal, that this boy would have the makings of a true passionate worshipper. Worship comes in many forms, not just in music. But if he is born and instantly picks up a variety of unexplainable musical abilities as a mere infant, I won’t be surprised.

The next thing that I’ve been praying is that my boy would be so diligent in his chase for God’s heart. That his strength would flow right from the throne of Heaven. And because of this, he would possess a strength that steadies those around him, like an anchor. I can’t possibly expect my child to get through life without encountering a hefty slew of storms, but when he does I believe that he’ll remain calm and firmly planted in the Lord, and this will create a feeling of safety for those around him. I truly believe my kid will be a protector.

Heart of worship. Chaser of God’s heart. Anchor. Protector. I know that people pray all sorts of things for their children, some fantastic like a passion for justice, a missionary’s heart, prophetic gifts, discerning abilities, seer of miracles, healer of the sick, anointed preacher…all amazing. (Let’s raise up a whole generation of these, yes?) But, worshipper. Steady anchor. Boy oh boy. These are the things I feel called to pray over my first child.

I’m not a mom yet (well technically I’m a mom of a half-human, or whatever my kidlet is while he cooks) and I’m so far from being an expert it’s ridiculous, but if you are a parent then I urge you to pray for your kids if you don’t already. I wasn’t always the easiest child to deal with or contain, but I was so incredibly blessed to have parents who prayed for me, specifically for radical obedience to God and miracles. It’s amazing what I’ve been able to see in my lifetime, likely because of those prayers.

My dream is that my home will be filled with music, the way it was in my parent’s household growing up. I rarely made it through a day without hearing piano, singing, guitar or some other instrument ringing through the house from someone’s bedroom, the living room, or my dad’s office. Worship is so close to my heart. God has shown me this many times.

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While I was preparing for The Love Encounter this year I did a painting called “Love From Heaven”. It’s a picture of rose petals falling from Heaven into a worshipper’s hand. And while I was painting this, I kept singing a line to myself, over and over. Then I would add another, then another. Before I realized it, I’d created an entire song simply from hum-singing to myself as I painted. And it was all about the love of God coming down. I wrote it down and pondered for a while the message that God was sending to either me or the women who would attend the conference. I was so incredibly moved by the love of God in that moment, as I was really made aware that the King of Heaven loves me and knows my name. On the final night of the conference during the Worship Night, I had someone from my church approach me and ask “Do you write music?” I’ll be honest, I was a little uncomfortable even answering. I’ve written music in the past. I used to do it so much it was all I could think about. He went on to tell me that he felt that I should start writing music again.

No, I’m not a striking worship leader and I’ve definitely dropped the ball on keeping up with my musical instruments over the years because of insecurities that realistically are pretty ridiculous, but when God starts to remind me through these things how striking His love is for me…it changes my heart. Instead of fear and insecurity there is suddenly peace and understanding. I’ve had it prophesied over me before that I would “sing over people” as a ministry. It’s so easy to say “Whatever that means…” and forget about it, because embracing it would mean I don’t get to hide in the shadows anymore, but maybe its actually not about me. Maybe its about Him.

This antsy little boy who already has such a hard time sitting still has taught me so much and he’s never even said a word to me. Talking to him, singing to him…I’ve realized so many things. What an unexpected bundle of blessings he’s brought me in my pregnancy. It was all tears, snot and barf in the beginning. But now I get it. I’m borderline terrified to be responsible for a baby, but I understand why God wanted me to be a mom.

Thanks God. It’s like you actually know me or something.

So as I’m decorating baby’s room in navy blue, grey and white, with little elephants, and world maps, I’m dreaming of my boy’s future.

I sincerely hope he’s not a little punk. But if what goes around comes around….

Round. That’s a shape. I’m in shape.

Pregnancy. What in the world was I thinking?

I feel like I should start blaming things; the TV commercials with the ‘cute-little-belly’ women, the happy pregnancy portraits all over the internet, those girls who claim that pregnancy is such a joy. You bums. You should have warned me better.

I feel like every women coming into pregnancy for the first time should be told about the real things that happen. No one gave me a heads up. When I got hit with the truth it was too late and it felt like I’d just taken the palm of someone’s hand to my forehead – V8 style.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s really exciting to feel the little thing inside you kicking at your insides, unless you have any liquid in your bladder in which case you are at a high risk of wetting your pants in public. And thinking about your baby coming into the world, the life that you created, it’s incredible. But pregnancy isn’t all rainbows and roses. In fact it’s mostly thunderclouds and weeds.

It starts with giddiness – a short but fun part. You are now carrying another human being in your body. Wow. Science. How is this even possible? Then it turns to numbness, where you find yourself staring at nothing in particular, lost in some abyss of confusion, and then snap back to reality and realize you haven’t moved a muscle in an hour. And then it quickly morphs into an unfathomable dousing of terror, where it occurs to you that not only is someone else’s safety in your hands, but you have no idea how to be a mother. And every plant that you have ever owned has died a slow and terrible death because you couldn’t even remember to give them water. This all happens in the first day.

After that you make a very ignorant attempt to carry on with life – the way you always have. And five seconds into your first act you realize that you are a dummy, and you can’t think straight, and for some reason it feels like you haven’t gotten any sleep for a week. The pull to climb into bed is overwhelming, more than just a temptation. It’s so severe that you realize your brain won’t even allow you to function until you lie down. Well buckle up ladies, this is going to haunt you for weeks, probably even months. Good luck trying to make it to work every day. Oh and did I mention that if you’re not passed out on some piece of furniture that you meant to only lie down on for a second, you are probably barricaded in the bathroom because you feel like every morsel of food that you consumed that day wants to come back for a reunion?

That brings me to my next delightful point; barf.

Trust me, you’ll get used to it. Seeing your food twice every day becomes almost a warm family tradition for you and your husband, or whoever is with you at the time. But despite what you might think, barfing isn’t the worst part. It’s the nausea – that’s the killer. I walked into the kitchen when my husband was making bacon and I nearly busted a gut in my moment of panic as I quickly realized; bacon was a no-go. A lot of foods you once loved will be the most repulsive things you can even imagine. I’m well into my second trimester and I still can barely look at cooked onions or cooked green peppers. But while these food aversions will keep you from eating a variety of things, you will actually eat a lot less for other reasons. The only way I can describe it is to say that being pregnant makes you tire of tastes very quickly. You might be willing to sell your soul one minute for a cheeseburger, and then you take two or three bites and realize you’re done and can’t eat anymore. It’s not a ‘full-stomach’ thing, it’s a ‘I’m completely over this’ thing. It’s very difficult to explain to others. But forcing yourself to finish your meal will probably make you barf if you don’t listen to your stomach. So pass off your cheeseburger to your man and try not to watch him eat the rest – that will gross you out too.

Everyone always tells you to go on Diclectin if you are nauseous. It’s everyone’s first solution. I’m definitely guilty of giving into the Diclectin obsession, mostly because I just hate feeling nauseous, but there are side effects of being drugged up too. Diclectin won’t solve your problems, it will just take the nausea away, maybe. But get ready to feel like a walking-corpse for the rest of the day. Some doctors or girlfriends fail to mention that Diclectin makes you very tired, and sometimes even dizzy. If you were hoping to take Diclectin in order to finish all the tasks you had planned for the day, forget it. You might be able to get away with that in your second trimester, but in the beginning you will probably see the room start to spin and just want to go back to bed.

I could hound on this forever. There are so many weird things about being pregnant. It almost feels like an invasion on your body, on your life, and even on your relationships.

Boys, your wife or girlfriend isn’t being lazy. She’s working harder than she ever has, keeping another human being alive. And this little human is stealing all of her resources, strength and sanity. And don’t try to tell her that she needs to be eating healthy – no offense but half of you wouldn’t last a day in her condition without passing out or breaking down into uncontrollable tears. Eating healthy is great if you can manage it, but personally mostly everything I tried to eat in the first few months I just barfed up anyway. I learned that if the food will stay down, eat it. Even if it’s just soda crackers or goldfish. The baby needs to be getting fed something.

Man oh man, it’s a whole adventure of its own. Women who survive pregnancy deserve a metal. People are given all sorts of awards for making it through terrible and traumatic situations and keeping their sanity. And not only is pregnancy loaded with other symptoms that I haven’t even mentioned yet; unexpected sobbing, an agonizingly sore back, weird food obsessions, muscle weakness, headaches, teeth pain, uncontrollable farts, alien dreams, the unexplainable urge to tell off your boss…At the end you get to go through a woman’s version of hell on earth; childbearing. No, it’s not that beautiful. Shut up you crazy science women. I’ve never been more terrified in my life for destined pain and suffering. Why in the world did women get stuck doing all of this?

But despite all of these gross obstructions of justice, there is just something about sitting at home, drinking measly decaf coffee, rubbing your stomach and thinking about the little gem that is about to change your life forever. God is incredible, isn’t He? How in the world is a human capable of providing for someone else, living inside of them? What the fudge sort of creative thinking had to come into play to make this even possible?

It’s like catching a glimpse of some majestic creation; long fields of wheat, a roaring waterfall, giant cliffs, rocky mountains, soaring birds, heavy wind, crystal ocean, a pink sunset…it sounds cliché but savouring those moments and acknowledging God’s hand in them, holding a paintbrush or whatever, it brings a kind of freaky but captivating passion into your heart. It makes your heart beat for things other than yourself. It makes you feel alive.

That is what it’s like to sit here and feel my baby doing somersaults inside of me, and jamming its foot into my stomach, ribs, bladder…How can I have never met someone and still love them so much? I would die for this thing. I would. I would take a bullet to protect this kid who might turn out to be a huge brat, or a rebellious let’s-throw-rocks-at-the-neighbours kind of punk. I can’t control what this kid will do, but I can pray, with ever fibre of my being, that this child will be totally filled with the Spirit of God, that God would show favour to my spawn-thing, and that this baby would have a heart of worship. ‘Heart of Worship’, that’s what I pray, continuously, or scribble in my journal. I don’t know what that will look like. Maybe my kid will have musical gifts, maybe not. But my baby’s heart is what I intercede to grow.

Pregnancy. What it comes down to, more than the crappy road ahead, is that God is amazing. That is the best way to describe it. And I’m thankful that He deemed me fit to be a baby-carrier.

Oh and one last thing – ladies if you are pregnant, please try to drive as little as possible, at least in the first two or three months. I’m baffled that this country hasn’t made it illegal for women to drive in their first trimester. I would easily compare it to driving drunk, and that’s illegal. So pray for angel power, keep your eyes wide open, and buckle up.

Peace out.

Poop Happens. So grab a shovel and deal with it.

There was an eerie whistle coming off the fields; its source was unknown. Only vacant emptiness hung over the green wheaties for miles. The sky was a dull grey, creeping over the landscape like it was its own life form. All seemed…ugh what is that horrendous smell?

Manure season. That’s what. What a wretched time to live out in the country.

I would have loved to sit outside today and observed God’s creation from my rickety lawn chair. But unfortunately the air is clogging my windpipes. I will die out there.

Time to come in and seal all the windows. With duct tape. And fabreeze. And then maybe I will gag myself and make a blanket fort to hide under to try and trap out this horrific smell. I wish I’d thought ahead and invited a friend to come over to suffer through this with me. At least then I could complain about it and make mildly inappropriate potty-humour jokes to pass the time.

Life’s storms, eh? Sometimes they come in the form of spray manure.

Ironically enough, I feel like this is God showing me something incredibly important. And JUST when I thought I got everything He was trying to say, this happens. And I realize all over again that He is sending me a message.

His message isn’t that He wants to choke me in a hot vat of animal waste. It’s about attitude. It’s about what your heart is doing. God is really asking me in this season, Do you trust me?

Ugh. I do. I know I do. Just let me be in control this once, please?

Sometimes it’s insulting when God asks us to trust Him. I get in these “zones” where I think about my education and capability to be able to get things done correctly and I think I can do quite an excellent job. And then God shows up. Do you trust me? And I’m one mega fist-flying hissy fit away from burning my house down for no reason.

Last year my journey to the Love Encounter conference was not flat. And by that I mean I fell into valleys and had to climb mountains to get to the end. But staying on the right course, even if it’s the un-level one, is key. If I’d gone my own way I would have gotten distracted by pretty flowers along the side of the road and after pulling off for too long I would have gotten lost in the magical forest. I never would have had to climb the mountains or scale down the rocky valleys. That might have been nice. And the Love Encounter would have looked really pretty. But it would have been dry, and lifeless. Those mountains that I conquered shaped the vision of the LOVE Weekend and changed my heart to understand the true purpose of where God was going with it. I needed those hikes. Or I wouldn’t have gotten it.

This year God has been bringing me back to those moments, reminding me what He taught me back then so He can build on it this year. Last year we climbed mountains. But this year we are building towers.

“Brave”. That is the theme for this year’s conference. I can’t wait to watch what God is going to do with this. I can’t wait to stand among the bravest of women. And when the enemy starts to spit arrows, I’d like to fire a couple back. I was nervous at first. I was afraid to set out on this new adventure again. But God asked me to trust Him. This year is going to have new battles, but for the first time since this TLE ball got rolling, I’m not afraid. Instead of ducking behind a rock, I’m going to grab my theoretical bow and cling to God’s promise. And the moment He says “Go!”, boy oh boy, I’m going to charge!

What I don’t want to do is walk into the battle unprepared. That is just plain dumb on my part. But in order to be prepared I need to have the right attitude. I need to ready my mind and my heart to stand against the attitude-manure that is going to make me and this entire conference stink if I let it get too close. Set me free God, from this manure season! I want your sweet fragrance to fill the sanctuary all weekend. I don’t want to drag in my manure-smelling attitude. That can leave with the wind. Let’s get this right.

Now I need to go call my husband and tell him that when he gets home he’s going to just have to wait out the poop-storm in his truck. If he comes and opens the front door then my entire fortress will smell like the inside of a cow’s bowels. I can’t have that.

Kropf out.

Fear the Pirate Dragons

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All I can hear, apart from a few bugs and birds making odd noises from somewhere I can’t see, is the sound of moving water as it tumbles off the hot tub thingy and spills into the pool, making a “blub-blub-blub” sound. The weather called for thunderstorms today but I can only see clear blue when I look up. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a storm though; those things seem to appear out of nowhere and vomit up a half-ocean of water upon Davenport in a split second. But regardless, God has given me a good day. And I’m eating Jolly Ranchers. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I’m trying to decide where to let my mind wander as I sit here. What’ll it be today? Superheroes? Super-villains? A self-reflecting version of a Tomb Raider? Zombies? Storm Troopers? Pirates?

Pirates. Definitely pirates. (When in doubt, always go with pirates).

This morning I want to encounter danger, just for kicks. And since Phil just started piping in answers to Family Feud from somewhere in the house behind me, I’ll try to keep focused without adding any random words, like “chips” or “picnic” or whatever else I hear him yell out.

Here I am with open water in every direction and not a single pebble of land in sight. The water seems calm. But I know a storm is coming because the wind makes an eerie grumble and moves back and forth across my flesh, giving me chills that I decide to hide from my crew. A captain should never let on about her fears.

Of course, I’m the Captain. It’s only logical.

I dragged my crew from their favourite island, the comfortable yet occasionally dangerous port called Daven, which crawls with law enforcement who don’t take kindly to people like me and my crew of water thieves. We’ve been asked to leave during more than one visit, which often results in a ridiculous looking bar fight during which I sit back and wait it out until its over. My men all collapse eventually. I chose them for their ability to work under stressful and non-ideal conditions but if I’m being honest, they’re all terrible fighters.

It’s embarrassing. Sometimes when we port in new places I pretend I don’t know them.

Jolly Rancher had the worst attitude about leaving Daven this time. He’s still back on the Poop Deck staring back towards the island that left our view three hours ago, pouting. What a baby. In fact, why any of my crew even like the Daven Port is beyond me. The place is jam packed with poison ivy and every single one of those nut bars has caught it.

When I raise my spyglass to try and spot anything in the distance that isn’t liquid I feel a tap on my shoulder. I pull my eyes back without fully turning around to see my first mate Orlando Cross, the most well groomed pirate on my ship and the only pirate on the seas that I can fully trust, mostly because he doesn’t look or act like a pirate. I raise my eyebrow to invite him to tell me what he wants. He holds up a basket with bananas and coconuts inside.

“Boys want a picnic,” he states.

I stare at him, unwavering. I don’t even know what to say.

Oy.

I turn back to the water without responding and raise my spyglass again. As I do, I hear a crumpling sound that reminds me of walking on dry leaves.

“We have chips,” Orlando offers. When I look back this time I see that he’s pulled a bag of them out of the basket and is holding them up for me to see. How he managed to score those is a mystery. But I hesitate. We have a job to do and I hate wasting time. But I do love chips.

Orlando challenges me. “Bet you can’t eat just one.”

* * *

I ate several. And I don’t regret it. I can still taste the salt that lingers on my lips when I bite them in thought.

“We ought to head South. If this rumoured sea lord is as bad as they say she is, then she won’t be afraid to venture into the Dragon’s Throat,” I say.

A number of heads snap in my direction, including Orlando’s. Mostly they just blink in surprise. Jolly Rancher puts his hands on his hips like he’s having a temper tantrum.

“I’ll throw myself to the sharks before I let you take me into the Dragon’s Throat!” he hisses.

“Be my guest. And I never said we were going into the Dragon’s Throat. I said we were going to head towards it.” I want to smack him. He doesn’t deserve the name “Jolly”. He can be such a bear.

“You heard the lass! Man up, you soft shelled tacos!” Orlando barks at the men. They start moving about the ship and I look out across the sea towards one of the most dangerous canals I’d ever heard whispers about. The men who’d built it had been eaten alive by dragons, or so they say. I was just a girl at the time and the tales had sunken deep into the most tormented parts of my brain, giving me nightmares for weeks.

But I grew out of that.

I turn and cross the Spar Deck, glancing up at the Foremast. I see Crabby Joe high up in the Main Top flicking peanut sized chunks of wood from where he’s sitting. Even though he’s far away I can hear him whistling like a content child. Apart from Jolly Rancher, Crabby Joe will probably have the biggest issue with heading towards the Dragon’s Throat when he finds out. I can only pray that we don’t actually have to go inside once we get there. I don’t know if I will force my crew to follow the sea criminal into the canal if I see her go in. I’m undecided about that.

The lassie’s name is Blue Diamond. She’s a sea brute who’s shameless trail of crime has put many old friends of mine in a kerfuffle. I’m only going after her to even the score.

Well, that and because yesterday a reward was placed on her head that I couldn’t refuse.

I feel the pull of the ship as it turns against the ocean. Orlando is behind my wheel, carrying out my directions. I want to steer the ship myself though so I head towards the stern.

When I get there, I feel a chilled wind ripple through my clothes and it makes me pause. Though I don’t see a ship behind us, I have a dawning feeling that we are not alone. I glance up at the clouds that are forming above in large chunks spotted with an unpleasant grey. The storm I anticipated is crawling over us. I think it’s about to explode into a wicked chaos. I would swear if I thought it would help. But I know it won’t, so instead I turn to Orlando.

“Let me steer. And get this ship at full speed,” I say to him. He sees the uneasy look on my face but doesn’t ask. Maybe he already noticed the storm coming in.

* * *

I think that maybe I can relax now that the clouds seem to be holding their tears, and because we are a few more hours into our search and I know Orlando is overseeing the pansies. I even close my eyes for a moment just to feel the air, but when I open them and glance ahead towards the cliffs, something else catches my eye, something that shouldn’t be there. And I second guess myself because of the likelihood. But when the red sails peek out from behind the jagged rock I instantly understand why I’d felt like we weren’t alone.

“Cross!” I yell at Orlando, suddenly in full pursuit mode. He whips around and catches my gaze, his silver buttoned up jacket making him look like a British gentleman who got lost looking for his afternoon tea and found himself on my ship by accident. “There’s a ship ahead! Someone must have been following us!” I call down to him, even though I am already halfway down the stairs to the main deck.

The men have already started to notice; I see Crabby Joe standing far above us, pointing frantically and yelling like he’s been trying to get our attention for a number of minutes. I won’t ask why he didn’t just climb down and grab me to make me see but I let it go. I have bigger problems now. The foreign ship is turning in our direction; it’s obvious.

I almost drop my spyglass when I rip it out of my pocket, but I catch it amidst my fumble. I’m nervous.

“Captain, the sails are red!” Palm yells at me like I’m not standing a foot away from him.

“I know!” I shout back, pulling the spyglass to my eye. The circular picture I see wavers up and down. My hands are shaking. Blimey.

“So the Blue Diamond keeps her sails black and blue!” he is still yelling and it takes me a moment to register what he is saying. I drop my spyglass. Palm is right. This isn’t Blue Diamond’s ship.

“Then who’s following us?” I ask, my nerves finally beginning to settle. My eyes narrow in on the wide boat with scarlet sails, the one who’s crew seems to have known about us for longer than we’d known about them.

“Can’t tell. It’s unmarked. But they’re coming right toward us now,” Orlando says, raising his own spyglass.

I stand silently for a moment as I think. We’ve come too far to turn and run away. But just beyond this new ship is the Dragon’s Throat canal which I think I’d like an excuse to run from.

Run or fight? Run or fight? Run? Fight?

Run.

No…dang it. Fight.

“Send some men to the gun deck. We’ll see if these sailors want to chat.” I state it with confidence that I’m not actually feeling. But something about being followed lights a fire beneath me. It makes me angry. I want to at least see who my pursuer was. I want to prove that they made a mistake by testing me like this.

Half my men head below deck and I turn to Orlando. “You think they were hired to stop us?” I ask him, wondering if maybe these blood red sails were working for the Blue Diamond.

He shrugs. “I think that’s what it’s supposed to look like. But no pirate in their right mind can ignore the reward on Captain Blue’s head. They’re trying to scare us, Captain. Trying to shake us off so they can capture the Blue Diamond for themselves,” he guesses.

It makes too much sense for him to be wrong.

“So a fight it is,” I decide, once and for all.

* * *

The clouds roll in again. They caught up to us, threatening to spill a downpour upon my crew.

It doesn’t take long for us to make it close enough to the oncoming ship that I can make out faces in my spyglass. They are most certainly pirates, though some of them dress in full black like they are of a specific breed I’m unfamiliar with. I keep my jaw set, determined not to let my ignorance worry me.

“Just give the order,” Orlando says from beside me and I know the guns are ready. But I don’t give the order because the oncoming ship hasn’t attacked us yet. I watch them closely, my gaze bouncing around the deck of their ship, trying to spot their plan, or their next move, or who they are. I don’t feel like I have enough information to engage in a full blown attack. But I want to beat them to it if they are planning the same fate for us.

Their ship comes right up alongside ours without them making a single move. I stare across the space between us, searching for their captain. It should be obvious, but it isn’t. I can’t tell one pirate’s rank over another’s. Not a single one of them is wearing a hat.

“You think they’re military?” Orlando asks quietly. He is searching for their captain too, and like me, he fails to identify the right pirate.

“No,” I shake my head. No patriotic navy boat would look like this, or act like this.

My eyes wander over each of them now that I can see their faces and fall on one in particular. This young man looks at me from beneath dark eyelashes with a subtle smirk on his face like he knows something I don’t.

“Found him,” I whisper to Orlando. I think maybe the Captain’s tactic to blend into his crew is intentional, until he speaks. Then I think that maybe it’s just a coincidence.

“Good day fair Captain. I trust you’re enjoying this weather?” he calls across, locking onto my gaze and forcing me to drop my spyglass.

I try to take in his features, to study his stance. Dang, he’s good-looking. Tall, dark and handsome. That’s going to be a bonus distraction I didn’t anticipate.

“You want to talk about the weather?” I inquire. His petty subjects astound me.

“Actually I came to take your ship. Don’t take it personally,” he says, and before I can react, a dozen hooks are flying in my direction. Orlando’s hands pull me to the ground seconds before I could get knocked out by one, and I roll over twice to get out of the fire-zone. I jump to my feet.

“Fire!” I yell over the ship. There is a rumbling of small explosions that come from below, shaking the deck beneath my boots. I see at least two holes get blown in the side of the ship with the red sails. I whirl around to find what became of Orlando and my gut wrenches at the sight of him getting knocked over and restrained by three enemy pirates. I don’t know how they boarded my ship so fast. It had taken them seconds. Long fingers coil around my arm and I spin and twist to break the attackers grasp. I fumble out my sword as I turn to face the pirate and raise to block a fast swing that was headed in my direction. Past my adversary I realize that my entire ship is engaged in a heated battle. It dawns on me, at the exact same time that rain starts hitting my face. The storm has caught us. How wonderful.

I duck and swing, aiming for the kneecaps of the burly man who came to take me down. I need to go save Orlando without this man following me. My sword makes contact and I’m out of there faster than he can realize what happened. I feel a flutter in my stomach as I run, but I can’t decide if it’s a queasy sick feeling that’s going to make me barf or if it’s my adrenaline starting to stir, making me stronger. I hope it’s the latter.

I jump over a fallen man and nearly wipe out when I land because of the rain that has by now soaked the deck of my ship. I hear more explosions. A crackle of thunder erupts in the distance and I come sliding to a lurching halt as the dark barrel of a silver gun meets my forehead. My chest is pounding, making my breaths heavy. A gun. I look past it to the holder and find the Captain of the red sails that must have jumped ship at some point during the chaos. My eyes dart over to Orlando who is being held steady by two large men I would never want to fight. Then I look back at the Captain, the dark haired stud who holds me hostage at gunpoint. It’s too bad I’m going to have to beat him up in front of his crew. I’m waiting for my chance when he speaks,

“My name is Captain Philip. You and your crew are now my prisoners.”

But even as he says the words, the ear-piercing whale of something horrific fills the air. It’s so loud I almost throw my hands over my ears. A dark chill crawls up my spine like a spider running for its life and I look back towards the Dragon’s Throat canal where thick eerie smoke is lifting from the cliffs. Whatever dark bone crushing monster is living in that canal just got hungry. And now it knows we’re here.

Even Captain Philip isn’t smiling anymore.

End of Part I.

Here is a picture of my afternoon for your reference:

IMG_20140205_125440

Kropf out!