Saturday, March 23, 2019

I'm going back to Rwanda!

Muraho, Rwanda followers! It's been awhile, hasn't it? You read correctly that I am going back to Rwanda :) We (New Mercies Ministries) will depart to Minneapolis on June 10th and returning to Minneapolis on June 22nd.

There's a lot that's going into my decision to take this trip, as before, but I won't get into that right now. What I'm thinking about at the moment is Numbers 13 and 14, which we have been asked, as team members, to reflect on at this time.

Bible Gateway passage: Numbers 13-14 - New International Version

Exploring Canaan - The LORD said to Moses, "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders." So at the LORD's command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran.
In these two books of the Bible, Moses is a leading the Jews out of Egypt and into the "promised land."  They've been traveling for a while, and he sends a team of scouts to survey the land below to see if it is livable. They find that it is, and full of great produce and such, but several strong groups of people are already living there, and that freaks a lot of the Jews out. Caleb, one of the scouts, is not afraid, because he knows the Lord is with them.

 Moses intervenes on behalf of the people, asking God to forgive them (again) despite their ignorance and rebellion. God does forgive them, but says that those who did not trust him all died before they see the promised land, and those who did the scouting and spread panic among the people will be struck down of plague. Moses tells the people this, but the people still do not understand. They decide to go into the land anyway, saying, "we are ready now."  Moses says they should not do this, because the Lord is not with them, having told them to go a different route. Predictably, the people who ignore this instruction and go down into the country all fall.

So what can we learn from this? Obviously that we should follow God's lead, but also that we need to be aware of when plans change and our expectations fall short, or are not even applicable. Adaptation, in life, is as important as — if not more important than — having a plan to begin with.

As I prepare to return to Rwanda, with this new team and a higher level of maturity on my part (as well as more life experience, since most of our team is made up of high school girls), I have to remind myself of who I am, both historically and at present, the "good" and the "bad," in Christ and as a teacher and artist. I think I'm pretty aware of my strengths and weaknesses as a person, but I pray that I would know in the moment, in Rwanda, what is God's will and what is not.

If you are interested in helping to fund this venture of mine, you may do so by following this link. Or, you can purchase some of my recently published books of poetry (one of which includes a poem I wrote about a moment in Rwanda!), the proceeds from which will go toward my trip for the next 2-3 months :)

Turongera (See You Later)!


P.S. Here's a silly picture of me in a plastic poncho at Favor Guest House in Kigali when I was really sick but on the everyone found it pretty hilarious.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Waiting... hear back after Round TWO of the New Wrinkle Publishing Contest!

If you're interested in seeing how that turns out, stay tuned to my other blog,

That's where I do most of my blog-musing these days.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Trying to publish a novel

Hello again, blogosphere! Long time...

This post is not about Rwanda, or religion. It's about wRiting, and today I need your help.

I'm trying to get my first novel published in a contest hosted by New Wrinkle Publishing, which ends tonight at midnight, Pacific Standard Time; that means you have about 3 more hours to vote for my novel to be professionally edited, illustrated, published and set to an original soundtrack. What an opportunity, am I right?

Now, the winner of the contest won't necessarily have the most votes, since the publishers judge based on the merit of the story synopsis as they perceive it.

"We’ll consider every entry for the grand prize, regardless of votes … but the more votes you get, the more visible you’ll be. Plus, there’s an awesome secondary prize, specifically for the person who gets the most votes!"

The secondary prize honestly doesn't compare to publication of one's novel (a book, a t-shirt, a mug and an Amazon fire tablet), but the point is visibility.

My book (under my pen name, Cate Slader) is titled The Blame Game. I currently have 103 votes and need to break 131 to get into the top 10 (that would also put me at the top of the YA Drama genre).

So without further ado, here's the link to vote! All you have to do is click the heart next to the number of votes for each entry.
Thanks in advance; I'll keep you posted on the results!

Monday, August 24, 2015


Today is momentous.

Today I finished a book called "The Poison Tree," written by English author Erin Kelly. I had never heard of her before, but found the book in an Anchorage, Alaska bookstore called "Title Wave Books." I guess what caught my eye was the review on the front of the book by Stephen King: "I wish I had written it."

I read a Stephen King book as research for my undergraduate English thesis, a creative project, and though I sometimes call him and his work overrated, there's no denying the weight his name carries in the writing world.

The first two chapters or so of "The Poison Tree" had me second-guessing my decision to buy the $10 used book, but I quickly forgot that and found myself engrossed in the book. Kelly drew me into its pages in such a way that made me crave and eventually hate the recklessness of one of the main characters, question my own motivations and feeling in love, and ponder the problems of The Past. I also stopped to note how poignantly she described the violence and promiscuity in the book, thinking, "that's it. That's how you effectively communicate the nuances of 'gritty' situations without going into grotesque detail. That's it."

Now, I enjoy thrillers and crime novels, seek them out for reading pleasure and to develop my own craft. But I am a happy ending type of person. Great tragedy may fall upon my beloved protagonists, but they must find a happiness worth the heartbreak. In this book, the final murder upset me. The perpetrator was not who I wanted it to be. I understood the reasoning, but it was hard to come to terms with the action because it came from the character I wanted most to have clean hands.

But read this: It has been so long since I have felt so impressionable during and after reading a book. I can't remember when I last felt so rocked and impressed by a book. And this is why I want to be an author. This was a book that screamed to me, "YES. YOU CAN DO IT." And then, more quietly, "This is good writing. This is why you write. You can do this." (Plus, it ended with a relevant William Blake poem; Blake is my favorite of the Victorian poets.)

It just so happens that I've been looking a lot more into publishing recently, aching to find a company not too far away from my home that I would enjoy working for. But looking at publishing -- and reading this book, just now -- had made me ache even more to get back into novel writing. I have three significant projects waiting for some love. But which one to tackle?

Meanwhile, I decided to do a search on Amazon for a book I had written a review for -- I am quoted on the back of the book, but the full review was also used as a foreword. Turns out the book was published two days ago, and there I am. My name on and in a book out in the e-book world. That is significant. That is a step.

What am I waiting for?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Running/A time for everything

It's August, 2015. Three and a half years since Rwanda. Yesterday, I ran my first half marathon.

When I started this blog, I thought about adding "running" to the Rs in the title (hence my poem called 'The Fourth R,' which you can read in a previous post), but I thought that would be too confusing. And I didn't want to make it a big part of my writing, my thinking, because the Rwanda trip was about God's work in me and through me.

While in Rwanda, I had hoped to continue training (just running) for whatever sport I would be doing when I returned to Gustavus -- skiing or track (and it ended up being track). But I think I ended up running just twice, short distances.

God did work in me, and I hope through me, though I may never know how I affected or influenced any of the Rwandans I met. I remember walking with pregnant Claire to the bank, holding hands, just the two of us. It meant "nothing," but it also meant something. It was a symbol of trust. It was a symbol of the Rwandan culture. It was a moment I can't imagine I'll ever forget.

Nor will I forget when Willy came to see me after I had been sick, and I complained about having to stop writing my blog, mid-sentence, to say hello. Karen chastised me for being childish. I was overwhelmed with guilt and even shame. I think that criticism in particular has always been the hardest for me to take, the most humiliating. But perhaps it teaches me to be kinder. Reminds me that people don't always see things, situations, the way I do. Intolerance of differences in perspective can forever damage relationships, and it makes life just plain hard, harder than it has to be. Especially if one side does not understand or really believe in true forgiveness.

If I had made running more of a priority while in Rwanda for such a short time, I may have completely missed certain revelations, such as these, that God had planned for me. I may even have lost sight of certain truths, at least for a time. I will likely never know What May Have Been, had I run more, but I am sure my life would have been different.

When I returned to Gustavus, it was Touring Week. I had arranged to stay on campus, as had many athletes and students who's homes were far away. But most people stuck to their rooms. I ran every day. And on the seventh day, as I recall, I ran 10.5 miles without stopping. That was the farthest I had run in my life, and it was glorious.

I still don't know quite what got in me that day. I used to think it may have been that I was lighter, and could last longer. (I lost a significant amount of weight in Rwanda, though I don't recall the number. Part of it was getting sick. Part of it may have been though food, though I certainly ate plenty to keep myself full 90% of the time.) But after yesterday's half marathon (if not long before), I doubt that had anything to do with it. I don't know exactly what  happened, but I believe that God knows what's best for us, and when. He knew I hadn't trained, He knows I am stubborn, and could have started the race and hurt myself and had to drop out of the race to learn my lesson. But he also knew it didn't have to go that way. He knew how finishing the race well (well enough, in my opinion), and running with certain people at certain points in the race would empower me.

I have another long race (an 8.5-mile leg of a mountainous marathon relay) coming up in a month, and I won't promise that I'll run 5-6 or even 3 times a week, leading up to that. I won't tell you my half marathon finish has given me a full cup of motivation that will eternally runneth over. But I learned something about the power of will yesterday, about the potential of the human body; if I can endure, and then push myself to a physical limit for the sake of finishing an event I paid money for, just because I paid for it/signed up, how much more can I endure and do by the power of prayer? Why do I not trust that prayer will be more than enough for an equivalent spiritual accomplishment, when it is what the Bible teaches? Why do we rely on our own understanding?

Perhaps I have learned nothing, by the worldly definitions of knowledge -- I have only questions, it seems. But by asking these questions, I feel I have learned something. I'm onto something, and it is more awe-some than frustrating. I experienced Something. In Rwanda I experienced many Somethings. And I wonder about those things. I wonder. And, at least for now, that is enough.

Run. Learn. Wonder. Stand in awe. See where that leads.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Amanda, my roommate during my stay in Rwanda, wrote this in January, three years after we traveled there together. She went again. And again. And her words make me want to "start again." I don't know what that means, but I can't get the words out of my head.