Thursday, October 27, 2016

Podcast: Writing, Wonder & Discovery

Last week, my friend Karen Weiss from Waterworks Ministries in State College, PA, came over to interview me for her podcast.  We had a great time sitting in the sunlit Little House on my property talking about writing as a way of paying attention to life and as a Spiritual Practice.  

If you've ever wondered how I started writing, how I decide what to write about or where I find God in the process, pop over to her website and have a listen.  I also give a shortish-long description of what my forthcoming book, Chicken Scratch is really all about.  

The proofs of Chicken Scratch (final rough drafts) arrived yesterday and my older two children carted two of them off to school to show their friends and teachers - I think they're more excited than I am.  This next week I'll be working hard on editing and re-submitting my files and by November 7th we should be ready to go!  Last, but not least, here's a little bonus meme that gives you a sneak-peak at the heart of Chicken Scratch.  Feel free to download and share the image online.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Doing It Scared (#SmallWonder Link-up)

Thursday morning I printed off a how to manual for formatting the inside of a book and sat outside highlighting the parts I thought would apply to the job ahead of me that afternoon.  It was a beautiful fall day, enough to warrant (in my mind) printing the 70 plus page manual.  Looking up, I caught this picture of our rooster, Joker silhouetted by the sun.  You can see the farm stand in the background.  

I started formatting around noon and by three o'clock I really wanted to go into the house for a drink of water or cup of coffee, but I made myself stay put in the Ikea chair in my office.  If I pushed, I could finish formatting the inside layout of my forthcoming book before the kids’ bus rolled over the hill to drop them off, and I really wanted to be done.

Thirty more minutes and I had done it.  All eighteen sections of my book were copied, pasted and formatted into the layout template I purchased online.  I felt like my eyes were going to fall out of my head and I had spent the last four hours struggling to breathe for fear one finger-stroke would blow the whole book out of the water.


This is how a lot of self-publishing has been.  I was scared and overwhelmed by websites like Createspace and Canva (Never heard of them?  I hadn’t either.) but I found them and set up accounts.  I didn’t understand book formatting lingo and the specifications necessary for designing a cover layout, but I googled instructions, read them, and did it.  Every week brought a new skill to learn, a new figurative blank page that terrified me to the core. 

Making dinner in the kitchen while the kids watched TV in the afternoons, I would sense my fear and anxiety.  Why am I so anxious?  I wondered.  

Because I don’t know what I’m doing, came the reply.

It turns out, I don’t like not knowing what I’m doing. 

But I also tried to find perspective, You didn’t know what you were doing a week ago when you designed the cover, but you figured it out.  You can do this too.

I thought of all the times I’ve walked blind into new challenges, and although I don’t like it at all, I kept on groping my way along the path of self-publishing.  I think this is what some people call, “doing it scared.”  The idea of doing something despite your fear and not allowing fear to be the boss.  Maybe “doing it scared” is the secular version of “walking by faith, not by sight.”


This is one side of my self-publishing story - I've done it scared. (Although I think the term 'terrified' would be a more accurate descriptor.)  There’s been value in the challenge of learning new skills and overcoming hurdles.  But it’s also been exhausting.  
Friday night, I finally submitted all of my files to Create Space (Amazon’s self-publishing site).  This was the one step I was most nervous about.  After submitting, I felt a breath of relief.  Then, I laid down on the couch and fell asleep at 7:00 pm and slept straight through until the following morning. 

I think it’s important for others to be aware that there’s a real cost to doing it scared.  And, because of that, I’m not sure it’s a value I altogether promote.  It’s ok to be scared and important to not let fear be your master, but sometimes our fear and stress are telling us important things too. 

“Doing it scared” can only take us so far without things like, “doing it together” and “doing it with grace and a heaping dose of help.”  Although I’m proud of myself for the work I’ve done these past two months, I’m not unaware of the cost.  

Also, I’ve not, by any measure, done it alone.  I’m grateful for those who’ve come alongside of me to offer advice, encouragement and support.  I hope my experience will help me remember to take notice when others around me are doing it scared.  Those are the times when we need to lean in and offer  help and support.  

What have you "done scared"?  What was it like for you?  

*   *   *

It's official!  My book, Chicken Scratch: Stories of Love, Risk & Poultry is coming on November 7th!  Feel free to share this image on social media and stay tuned next week for more info one ways you can help get the word out.  

One advance reader gave me a great compliment today.  "It felt like sitting down with you over a cup of coffee and listening to you tell stories.  I didn't know how much I needed it."  

*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Awakening We Seek (#SmallWonder Link-Up)

#SmallWonder friends - I set the linkup to automatically post last weekend since we were out of town, but it didn't work!  I missed connecting with you all. Today I'm re-posting something from October, 2013, back when the twins were just two years old and we were living in a small rental apartment and waiting to find a home.

*   *   *

To see the world in a grain of sand,
and to see heaven in a wild flower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hands,
and eternity in an hour.
- William Blake

The whole world is dripping and gray; water runs through the streets and pools in the Quick Stop parking lot across the road.  In this light, the apartment walls are dingy, ashen, crisscrossed with shadows.  Every corner of the house is filled with piles; it feels like the stuff in our house is also pooling together mirroring the puddles outside.  Here I sit, waiting for a miracle that will move us into a brighter space.


The twins threw noodles down through the cast iron vent in the floor the other day, noodles from a box they scrounged from the pantry and tore open like the little wild things they are.  Laying on their bellies now, peering through the grate that leads to the basement below, they're pleased and excited to recall where the noodles have gone. 

"Hot-hot," they exclaim, "Noodles!"

Everything, to them, is an exclamation point, everything extraordinary - the sun, the clouds, the rain, the discovery of their own shadow following their every move.  In their eyes all the world is a miracle, the finite infused with the infinite.  To us, they are the miracle, these little beings whose minds see no clear divide between the ordinary and extraordinary.  I envy their capacity for wonder, their openness to the love of what is.


All our lives, I think, are spent seeking an awakening, a return to that same unity of vision.

*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  

Sunday, October 9, 2016

In Defense of Fun (#SmallWonder Link-up)

I had coffee with one of my former college professors a few weeks ago.  I walked down the road to the little corner café and we sat for a while talking about life and direction.  We’re both in the midst of a murky time of transition – his post retirement, mine at the end of the season of parenting preschool aged children.   This friend, a retired professor Christian Spirituality and Ministry who’s penned a biblical commentary for a well-known series, likes to tease me about the fact that I went to a “better seminary” than him.

When it came up that morning in the coffee shop I smiled and shrugged.  “Yeah,” I said, “and look where it got me – selling flowers and eggs along the side of the road!”

He smiled and shrugged. “Well,” he said, “that’s important too.”

He’s right.  It is.  And I knew it even as I sat there making light of it.    


John built the farm stand early this summer and I started out trying to sell eggs and produce, but sales were slow, by which I mean nearly non-existent.  But then the two seed packets of Zinnias we planted grew and started blooming in a wild array of pinks and oranges.  I soon added cut flower arrangements to the stand first in old glass canning jars, then in recycled soup cans.  I called them “Tin Can Bouquets” and sold them for $1 each. 

In late August, a friend of mine discovered the bouquets and posted a picture of them online, sales picked up dramatically.  Some days it felt like I could hardly keep the stand stocked with flowers.  All in all, I’m confident we made more money in flowers this summer than in produce and eggs combined. 


I realized something amazing this summer when I sold my first carton of eggs to a stranger who happened to stop by because of the sign in our yard.  When you sell something to another person – in this case, eggs – you’re in some small way, entering into their life.  The woman who stopped by took my eggs into her home, put them in her refrigerator and they became part of her meal planning and dinner, lunch or breakfast.  A product of mine became part of her life and I don’t even know her name.  The same goes for writing a book, I guess, or selling flowers, each product offers a chance to impact someone else’s life. 


A few weeks ago I told a small group of friends about my plan to self-publish Chicken Scratch this November 7th.  After taking time to think about my goals for the book and how I would measure its success, I had found I was surprised by my own answer.    

“What I most want,” I told them, “is for it to be fun.” I shrugged my shoulders at the word fun, like it was a small thing.  Then with my face scrunched up, almost as if in apology, I added, “I think it’s really important.” 

My friends agreed.  

We talked about how fun can seem frivolous, unimportant, when compared to the serious work needing to be done.  These friends work in the non-profit sector, they know a thing or two about serious work, and yet they agreed, we do need more beauty and joy, more fun in our lives. 

I used to think being a good person meant doing all of the serious work first.  Then maybe, if I was lucky, there would be a few spare moments at the end of the day or the end of a productive life to do something “just for fun;”  to travel, to rest, to play.  I still find myself thinking that way when the list of good and important, even necessary, things that must be done is long.  (Is it ever not long?) 

But I understand now that fun belongs on that list too.  Fun is good.  Fun is important.  Fun is necessary. So necessary that we may even need to practice at it until we learn to engage in fun, not as a form of escapism or entertainment, but as a way to refill our souls, giving us hope, energy and courage to continue on in the rest of the good and serious work needing to be done.   

“It kinda blows my mind,” I told my friends that day.  “Of all the things for sale at the farm stand, all of the useful, practical food items, what people bought most was beauty.” 

I like to think of those tin can bouquets -  the ones my friend bought two and three at a time and took to meetings all over town, the others bought by people I never met or even saw - those pink and purple happy Zinnia faces are smiling all around Boiling Springs and Carlisle, on kitchen counters, dining room tables and goodness only knows where else.  What a joy it is to spread a little fun into pockets of the world I would otherwise never reach. 

*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Chicken Scratch (The Cat's Out of the Bag!)

(Note the water fountain.  Yes, we have an old school water fountain in our kitchen.)

I know the image is blurry, but this is our cat, Perfect, exploring one of our kitchen cupboards for the first time.  We've had Perfect for about two years now and, for much of that time - ever since we got a dog - she's lived in my bedroom.  Well, when the dog first came, she lived beneath our upstairs floorboards for a few months, but after that, she took to living in my bedroom.  

Perfect was terrified of the dog and willing to do anything to avoid her so we tried to make things less stressful by adding another litter box upstairs and moving the cat food and water.  Life went on and Perfect stayed in her comfort zone, occasionally making daring excursions down the hall to my daughter's room which was also quiet and dog-free.  Then one day, discovering a broken window screen, Perfect expanded her territory exponentially by venturing out onto the roof of our wrap around porch.  There, she napped on the sun-warmed shingles, watched birds and chased insects.    

Months later she started sneaking downstairs at night with our male cat Blackie standing guard against the dog's unwitting approach.   Sometimes she followed Blackie's lead, slipping silently out the back door, only to get terrified and end up hiding on top of the open garage door.  On those days I grabbed a wooden folding ladder and pulled her down, then carried her into the house while she hissed and growled on full alert.  

Perfect's choice to live in confinement fascinates me.  I like to think of her as a feline Emily Dickinson - self-confined, but longing to communicate in some way with the outside world.  

Now that all four kids are in school the house is much quieter and Perfect often follows me cautiously from room to room, which is awkward because Coco (the dog) also follows me and yet they prefer not to come in contact with each other. They orbit me, like planets orbiting the sun.

One day last week I propped the screen door open in the back room, hoping Perfect might venture outside while I worked inside.  Walking past the back door, I was greeted by this sight - Perfect interacting (for the first time) with a chicken.  She didn't seem one bit alarmed by it.  

(Note the crooked door handle - someday I will write a post about that.)

Grabbing my phone, I snapped a picture before the moment passed - evidence of Perfect's bravery to show my daughter later that day.  I love this picture because it reminds me - things change, time passes, and brave wears a new face every day.  

Today I'm putting on my own brave face to share some BIG NEWS . . . I wrote a book!  It started last spring with the purchase of our new flock of chickens.  I set an intention to write about my experience with the birds as often as possible during the month of May.  By the time school was out, I had over twenty very rough pieces to work with and I set a new goal of rewriting and then revising those by the end of summer vacation.  

By the grace of God and with a lot of support from a dear friend who helped care for my children this summer - I did it.  

Chicken Scratch: Stories of Love, Risk and Poultry is launching November 7th - a month from tomorrow.  It's filled with over twenty of the same style of fun, thoughtful, compassionate and laugh out loud stories that you've enjoyed here on the blog for the past four years.  

Right now Chicken Scratch is in the process of being edited and while I wait to hear back on final revisions, I'm continuing to work on all of the behind-the-scenes aspects of self-publishing.  Right now that includes growing my email list (Newsletter), creating a launch team, and working on cover design and media images for sharing.  

I want to thank all of you who've walked with me on the journey of discovering my writing life - your presence keeps me going.  And I want to invite you to consider helping to spread the word about Chicken Scratch in the circles you're in.  Here are some ways to do that:

1. I need committed readers and sharers to read the book and post a review online on the day of (or week of) the launch.  Preferably on Amazon, but also other places where you share about books you love.  If you're interested in this opportunity, comment below or shoot me an email at kchripczuk at  I will probably need to "friend" you first on Facebook to add you to the launch team.  

2.  Closer to the launch date, I will post some graphics you can share online to help spread the word.

3. If you're a blogger, consider posting a review of the book on your blog or contact me for an interview or other content.  

4. Pray for me.  About once a day I get a little panicky and think "I have no idea what I'm doing."  And, you know what?  It's true!  I don't! (insert maniacal laughter) But, that's ok, right?  My biggest hope for this book is to have fun - to share fun and joy with others and to enjoy as much of the process as possible.  Writing a book is incredibly hard work.  Self publishing is hard work.  But it doesn't mean it can't also be fun.  

This blog has been, for four years, my open window.  During the days and weeks of raising young children, when leaving the house was a rare treat, this space offered me a little room to breathe and an opportunity to stay connected to the parts of me that often felt unused in the endless task of caring for young children.  Now I'm stepping out again into a new adventure.  

It will be fun.

It will be scary.

And even if I end up like Perfect, hiding on the roof of the open garage door from time-to-time, I know for sure, there are plenty of people who'll set up an old wooden ladder and rescue me.  

Thanks being with me on the journey.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A New Season (#SmallWonder Link-up)

(an example of a chicken with feathered legs and feet)

This past spring I caught a bad case of Chicken Fever.  Not to be confused with bird flue, Chicken Fever causes its victim, usually already a chicken owner, to desperately desire more chickens.  One friend, eager to aide me in my distress, told me that her neighbor, an Amish farmer, would be happy to hatch some eggs for me for free.  

The price was right, but the timing did nothing to satisfy my urgent need.  It would take about a month for the eggs to hatch, then it would be another four months before the hens started laying.  Deep in the throes of fever as I was, I couldn’t possibly wait that long. 

A few days later we found a flock of twelve laying hens for sale and within a week they were ours.  My Chicken Fever broke as I faced the demands of the new flock, but in the early days of recovery I still sent a secret text to my friend who knows the Amish farmer. 

“I still want some chicks,” I typed.

“How many?” she asked.

“Four or five?” I suggested.

That was back in May.  Time passed.  We lost the matriarch of our flock to a predator and our baby Polish hens grew up.  Then one day last week, my friend pulled into our driveway and popped open the trunk of her SUV.  I ran out of the Little House like a child on Christmas morning as she lifted a small cage to the ground.

I was happy to see three white birds.  Then, as I walked closer, I got a better look.  “They’re the chickens with pants!” I cried. 

Inside the cage, three petite, fluffy white birds walked in circles.  Each had feathers running down their legs, sticking out on either side, giving them the appearance of wearing cowboy chaps.  

I carried the cage down to our smaller coop and lifted the hens out one-by-one.  Their feathers were soft as silk and they rested gently in my hands.  When the kids got home that day, I surprised them as they came off the bus, holding a white chicken in my arms.  “They’re the ones with pants!” I proclaimed and we oohed and aahed over them. 

I had no idea what kind of chickens we might get from the anonymous Amish farmer, but I never expected these fancy girls.   Now we have a total of seventeen hens and one rooster roaming the yard.

New things around the farm are pretty common - new pets, new plants, new equipment and work to be done, but this week I also have some big writing news to share with you.  First, I'm starting a monthly newsletter which will contain exclusive content (essays and poems not appearing here on the blog), links to great content around the web and information about upcoming resources and events.   

And the second piece of news is even bigger and more exciting . . . but you'll have to sign up for my newsletter to be one of the first to find out more.  Thanks for being part of the #SmallWonder community! 

Just enter your address here to sign up!  

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fish Fudge and the Quality of Silence (#SmallWonder Link-up)

My husband loves seafood - shrimp, scallops, crabs - you name it, he loves it.  But he absolutely adores Salmon.  He calls it "Fish Fudge."  

I don't love seafood.  At best, I tolerate it.  The idea of Fish Fudge, just the very idea, makes me want to vomit a little bit in my mouth.  But he says it's smooth and rich like fudge and since he likes fudge and fish, the image works for him.  

I visited the Still Waters this week in anticipation of a writing retreat Shawn Smucker and I will be leading there on October 15.  Still Waters is a privately owned retreat house located outside of Carlisle, PA along the Conodoguinet creek.  

Although I've attended numerous day events there and overnighted once, it had been more than a year since I was last there.  The moment I walked in, I thought, "Ah, it's been too long."  

There's a quality of silence at Still Waters that's absolutely stunning.  It's as though the silence has meat to it, a fullness of body, something like Silence Fudge maybe.  I'm very grateful to the owners, the late Sanford Alwine and his wife Lois, who left me a lovely note of greeting, for envisioning and sharing this space with the local community.  

Monday afternoon I made a hot cup of tea, sat for awhile, prayed and worked on some editing.  Mostly, though, I enjoyed the velvety silence of the air around me and gave thanks for the opportunity to be there.  I took some pictures of the beautiful space to share with you too.  Enjoy!    

*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!