2016 Local Mission Trip Recap

Last week was absolutely incredible.  Actually, I think incredible is an understatement.  The guest pastor said that in all of his 54 years, he had never witnessed anything like what happened 2 nights this week.  But I won't get too ahead of myself... ;)

3 youth groups came together on Sunday evening to get settled in and worship.  That night, my youth pastor preached and got us all hyped up for a week of service.

Monday morning rolled around a little earlier than I would have liked.  (And there was a rooster crowing right outside of our window?). We ate breakfast, had a little devotion, found out our photo challenge of the day, and headed out to our work sites.

My team of 7 worked at a Habitat for Humanity thrift store.  For those of you who don't know, Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization who helps families have houses.  Proceeds from their thrift stores go directly into building those houses.

The first day, we cleaned out a couple of sheds and bleached them, and assembled bookshelves.  Assembling furniture is not nearly as easy as it looks.  And the Spanish directions appear to be more thorough than the English ones which have virtually nothing helpful.  Come on, people.

Please make better directions next time.  :) (Source)

The showering situation was...interesting.  We had a trailer type thing with 4 private showers.  We got 3 minutes to undress, shower, and dress.  That wasn't super fun.

Literally me when I went into the shower.  (Source)

That night, we had worship and went to bed.

Day 2 involved cleaning another shed, panicking about bees, finishing the bookshelves, and painting shelves.  I may or may not have gotten paint all over myself.  Actually, I think someone mistook my body for a canvas.  It's all good, Tesa. ;)

THAT NIGHT SOMETHING INCREDIBLE HAPPENED.  The worship service again...and God just showed up.  The sermon hadn't even begun, we just sang and He came.  Time disappeared and we worshiped Him for almost 3 hours.  Everyone was in tears.  Everyone.

THE SAME HAPPENED THE NEXT NIGHT AND ABOUT 30 PEOPLE GOT SAVED.  The guest pastor said he had never witnessed anything like that.  It.  Was.  Amazing.

On Day 4, we started some landscaping out by the thrift store's sign.  It was really hot, but it still felt good to serve others.  That night, we all packed into the vans and saw Finding Dori.

It was a pretty good movie, but the bet part was the entire youth group piling into the theater.

It stormed on Day 5, so we couldn't do much for the thrift store.  I felt more in the way than anything else.  We didn't really get sweaty that day.  (I may have painted myself...just a bit...)  Dinner that night was absolutely incredible.  Steak with corn, baked potatoes, rolls, and salad.  AMAZING.

A little while after dinner, we all gathered for a baptism.  About 10 people got baptized.  We had a worship service and then it was time for the end of the week dance party...90's themed.  We had dance offs and worship and a lot of fun.

Throughout the week, I made it my goal to be grateful and serve others as much as possible.  I find this carrying out into my "outside life" (I really don't know what to call it.)

Thank you, Jesus for an amazing week of growth, fun, and service!

Have you ever been on a mission trip?  What did you take away from it?  Where did you go?  TELL ALEA ALLLLL.  Lol.  Really, though. I would love to hear your thoughts. (I am not going to have Internet access for a few days, but when I come back I will answer all of your comments.)


Being a Writer Means...

1. It is 100% okay to go insane.  Okay...maybe more like 99.2334543345% okay.

2. There is a welcoming community just waiting to motivate you.

3. You get to name a ton of people.

4. If you are mad it is okay to stab someone (IN YOUR NOVEL NOT IN REAL LIFE).

5. No one will judge you for talking to fictional beings.  (Dragons included.)

6. Reading is a job requirement.

7. Having hoards of books is nothing to be ashamed about.

8. You may or may not end up with a serious addiction to Pinterest.

9. You will find yourself analyzing every situation as book research.  (True story: When I had to get a tooth pulled, I took mental note of everything and how it felt as book research.)

10. Meeting other writers in person is the best thing ever.

11. ALLLLL THE TEA. (or coffee, if you are that kind of person)

12. People might become huge fans of your books in the future.  (This might come with them forever hating you for killing characters.  You have been forewarned.)

13. You can have a really cool secret agentish double life.  A pretty average person by day...and an epic novelist by night!  (Unless you actually are a secret agent.  Then you are an epic covert operative by day, and an even cooler novelist by night.)

14. You have the right to correct grammar.  You're welcome.


How to Be An Awesome Beta Reader

*Quick Announcement* - I am on a mission trip until Saturday and will not answer comments until then.


Beta reading is awesome, guys.  I love being able to read someone's book before it is even finished and tell them how much I like it.  However, in order to be an awesome beta reader, you must do more than that.


This is the #1 thing.  The writer you are beta-ing for wants feedback to help better their book.  Sparing them criticism is a beta reading no-no!

2. Look for things the writer specifically asks you to.

Sometimes, writers use beta readers to see how they did with a specific thing such as pacing, plot, and/or characters.  Other times, a writer might ask you to look at the writing style.  If the writer asks you do look for something, do it.


Another huge one.  The 1 Corinthians 16:14 says, "Let all you do be done in love."  This includes beta reading even if you really don't like the book.  You are critiquing something a writer has spent a lot of time on.

4. Point out positive things.

This assures the writer that he/she did some things right.  (We writers are often plagued with self-doubt...especially when we shove it in someone's face to read.  Utterly terrifying.)

5. Make sure the writer knows what confused you.

Whenever I beta read someone's book, I always point out stuff that confused me.  In books, clarity is oh so important.

6. Point out things that need work.

Maybe provide some suggestions as well.

7. Never sound like you are attacking the writer.

Again, be loving.

8. Don't hold comments/suggestions back because you think they might be a little too harsh.

As long as you tell it in a loving way, you should tell the writer.

Bonus Tip for the Writer

 - Welcome feedback.

Make sure you are ready to change your story.  If you plan on publishing your book, you created it for the purpose of people reading it.  If people think certain part need work or are confusing, you should listen to them.  There are things you overlooked because you know this story better than anyone else in the world.


What are tips you can give to beta-readers?


In Which I Rant About My Summer Plans and Goals

Whoever says that summer is a time to be lazy and do nothing is a liar.  I am even busier than when school is in session.  There are mission trips and vacations and beta reading and all that writing.

All in favor of vacation from summer vacation raise your hand.

This post is inspired by the AMAZING Katie Grace over at A Writer's Faith.  Please make sure and check out her Summer Bucket List here. So, here are all the things I need/want/ to do (or are doing) this summer.

1. Finish draft 3 of The Clockshifter, do some line edits and send it to my brave fast readers.

I really need to work on writing faster.

2. Make business cards for Realm Makers.

So all my new friends can email me!

3. Create a Twitter account.

I'm kinda on the late boat with this one.

4. Get together my costume for Realm Makers.

Thrift stores, here I come!


Because reading is what helps me write.  And I love reading.



7. Beta Read all the novels I agreed to beta read.

Beta reading is epic.

8. Local Mission Trip...starting tomorrow!

Basically, this is nearly a week of getting closer to Jesus, endless fun, hard work, good food, and no sleep.

9. Houseboating Trip.

I've never done this before, but it sounds super fun!  (Plus I get to write while on a ship without wifi distractions?!)


What are some of your summer plans?  Are you embarking on any adventures (vacations)?  Are you attending any writer's conferences?  Have any writing or reading goals?


Re-reading Favorite Childhood Books - A Chat About "The Mysterious Benedict Society"

Woah...so I just realized that this little blog of mine is 2 years old!  Happy birthday, blog!  :D


The past couple of days, I have been working on re-reading my favorite childhood series, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

Honestly, they are just as good now as they were 6 years ago.  (I was completely obsessed with them. Seriously.  I had a Mysterious Benedict Society themed birthday party.)

Reading them again, I notice so much more.  There are some "hidden messages" in the book (yes, this is a reference) that teens and adults understand.  (I promise you, they are good messages.)

Oh, and one another thing before I get into the book review.  Some awesome fans of the series got together and made a full length film of the movie!  Some things are different from the book, but I still think they did a pretty good job!  If you are interested in watching it, here is the link to the movie and the trailer.  I would like to take a moment and thank them for making me a very happy fan today.  :D

About the Book

"Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?"

When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.
As our heroes face physical and mental trials beyond their wildest imaginations, they have no choice but to turn to each other for support. But with their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?

Welcome to the Mysterious Benedict Society.

My Review

As I mentioned before, The Mysterious Benedict Society was my favorite childhood book series.  Today, it still up there in ranking. Why?

The Characters

Everyone.  These.  Characters.  Are. Amazing.  They all have quirks and things that make them unique.  Not to mention they are incredibly lovable.  Reynie is an average boy with an extraordinary gift of politeness and puzzle solving.  This is an epic combination.  Sticky (that's not his real name, by the way) is awkward, a nervous wreck (umm...me?), and remembers everything he sees.  Him becoming a spy is a sight to see.  Kate...  Oh my goodness.  She is amazing.  Kate is an extremely resourceful and outgoing girl.  (And she has a dream of being called The Great Kate Weather Machine.)  Constance is a very unique addition to the team.  She is quite the complainer and prefers to whine through poems.  All 4 of these incredible kids work together so well, but they also have their times of disagreement.  They are well rounded quirky characters and just...*flails*.


The Plot

The very name promises an exciting plot.  I promise you, there are no disappointments.  Think The Girl Who Could Fly meets (insert spy book here).

The "Hidden Messages"

Trenton Lee Stewart packs in a lot of messages into his books.  There are so many things I notice now that I didn't when reading them just a few years ago such as the concept of the media lying influencing our thoughts on truth, body image, and priorities.  Also it talks of people who love Truth being few in number and attacked by those influenced by Evil.  The Mysterious Benedict Society is a pretty deep book.

Final Thoughts

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a book series that is very dear to me.  I love this series and think everyone will love it.

About the Author

TRENTON LEE STEWART is author of the award-winning, New York Times bestselling Mysterious Benedict Society series and the adult novel Flood Summer. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Have you ever read The Mysterious Benedict Society?  What did you think of it?  What are some of your favorite childhood books?