The Case of the Missing Book: Part 2


Congratulations to Mrs. Vanden Brink and Mrs. Machiela’s 4th Grade GEMS Class for their winning idea! Here is what they wrote about The Book of Letters:

The Book of Letters was a collection of letters from when the town first became a town (where the story takes place). When you put all the letters together and study them, you unraveled a mystery — a mystery that reveals a treasure hidden somewhere in town (in the library). The museum wants to keep the ancient artifacts because they are valuable to the town. The museum doesn’t know there is a treasure hidden. But someone does!

Here is the next segment of the story! (Read all the way to the bottom for a chance to direct the mystery and win a prize.)

The Case of the Missing Book: Part 2

Title by Keegan

Story by Sara Lynne Hilton, Rebekah Scholten, Mayan Salas, Grace Caywood, Kyleigh Lamberts, Raina Bredeweg, Katelyn Inman, Kaitlyn Townes, & Chloe Jurries

“Isn’t that just that old book of letters from the Tenebray Exhibit?” Tasha asked once Mrs. Rachem disappeared behind the door where they had taken Lucas.

“I think so,” I answered. “But doesn’t seem like a weird thing to steal? I mean what would Lucas want with it? It’s not like he could sell it.”

The noise level of the foyer had slowly begun to crescendo as our class grew impatient with waiting.

“Quiet down!” The muscly Mr. Sims boomed over the noise. Even his voice seemed to have muscle. “No more talking!”

The chatter instantly stopped. I think most of us were afraid we’d be the next person taken to the mysteries room where they had taken Lucas.

“Maybe there is more to it,” I whispered to Tasha.

She shook her head and put her finger to her mouth, gesturing to me to keep quiet. But all the facts were just rattling around in my mind, and I couldn’t help myself.

“Maybe,” I whispered, “there is more to the book. I mean, maybe Lucas stole it for a reason. Or maybe it wasn’t even Lucas.” Tasha kept poking my leg and shushing me, but I kept going. “For all we know Mr. Sims stole it.”

“Or maybe you stole it,” said the muscle voice. He was standing right behind me. “What’s your name?” he barked at me. All eyes from my silent and scared classmates were on me.

“Chloe,” I answered.

“Well, Miss Chloe,” said Mr. Sims. “You seem to have a problem listening to directions. I clearly said no more talking and yet here you are talking. You seem to have a lot of  answers about what exactly happened. Get up.”

“What?” I asked.

“I said, stand up.”

I stood, but even standing Mr. Sims towered above me like a thick tree.

“You are coming with me,” he said as he grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the mysterious door. There was no use struggling. He was too big and too strong. My only comfort was that Mrs. Rachem was behind that door. She would protect me. Mr. Sims’ giant mitt of a hand turned the doorknob. He opened the door and pushed me inside. I gasped at what I saw.

I need your help!

What did Chloe see? Comment with your ideas. If you answer is chosen, you’ll be listed as one of the authors of the story and will win It’s a Colorful Life Calendar!



Contest ends Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 11:59pm. Winner announced Monday, January 27, 2014.


The Case of the Missing Book: Part 1


Congratulations to Keegan for her winning title entry: The Case of the Missing Book.

Here it is! (Read all the way to the bottom for a chance to direct the mystery and win a prize.)

The Case of the Missing Book: Part 1

Title by Keegan

Story by Sara Lynne Hilton

A large, muscled man wearing a jacket labeled SECURITY pushed through the crowd of kids, knocking us aside like a semi knocking down barrels on the highway. As Lucas Blake reached for the door, the muscled man grabbed him by the back of his collar and yanked his body backwards.

“Where is it, kid?” the muscled man demanded.

Lucas turned to look at the guard. His collar twisted around him as the guard refused to let go. Seemingly with no fear, Lucas looked up at the muscled man towering over him and answered coldly, “Where’s what?”

The security guard grunted, and with his hand still clawed around Lucas’ collar, pulled him back through the crowd. This time there was no need to knock us aside. We all parted and made a path. No one dared speak. No one wanted the wrath of the guard. We silently watched them walk to the back of the foyer. The man pushed Lucas through a door and shut it behind them with a slam.

Our teacher, Mrs. Rachem, flurried from around the corner, another muscly security guard at her side.

“It seems our field trip has taken an unfortunate turn.” she said nervously. “It seems as though the museum is missing some property, isn’t that right sir?” she said to the security guard at her side. He didn’t look at her nor did he respond. He just stared at us kids with an icy glare. Mrs. Rachem gave a jittery laugh.

“As you probably noticed they have a suspect,” she continued, “but the museum has asked that no one leaves until this misunderstanding has been resolved. So, sit tight, find a place on the floor to get comfortable while we work this out.” She smiled and tried to look calm, but not one of us believed it. “I’m going to attend to Lucas for a moment. This is Mr. Sims,” she said gesturing to the large man beside her. “He will be staying with you, so please remember your manners while I’m gone.”

Mr. Sims crossed his arms over his massive chest. Mrs. Rachem looked at him uneasily and then turned to go.

“Mrs. Rachem?” Tasha called out after her. “What’s missing?”

Mrs. Rachem  stopped and then slowly turned to us. She no longer tried to mask her fear or her anxiety. “The Book of Letters.”

I need your help!

What is The Book of Letters? Why is it so important and why would it be a big deal for it to be stolen? Comment with your ideas. If you answer is chosen, you’ll be listed as one of the authors of the story and will win It’s a Colorful Life Calendar!



Contest ends Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:59pm. Winner announced Monday, January 20, 2014.

Micah Road Mysteries Title Contest!


It’s time to begin another online version of The Micah Road Mysteries. The online version is a mystery series that is shaped and guided by readers.

This week I am looking for the name of the next online mystery. This is what I have so far:

The Micah Road Mysteries: The Case of the______________


I totally need help.


Comment with your title ideas. If your title is chosen, your name will appear as one of the authors, and you will receive an It’s a Colorful Life Calendar!Calendar

Contest ends January 10, 2014 at 11 PM. Winner will be announced Monday, January 13, 2014.

I can’t wait to hear your ideas!


Imperfect Christmas


Christmas is messy. It was messy 2000 years ago, and it is just as messy today.

The image of Mary holding Baby Jesus on the first Christmas is so serene and peaceful, but what leads up that point is messy, and hard, and inconvenient. When Mary is very pregnant, she and Joseph get the news that they have to travel to Bethlehem to take part in a census. The fact that Mary has to travel while pregnant is a big deal. When I was six months pregnant, I traveled three hours by car to see my family. By the end of that trip, I could barely stand upright because of pain in my back. Mary has no car. She has to travel on a donkey. I cringe at the thought.

But it gets worse.  They get to Bethlehem and Mary goes into labor. The baby is coming and she is far away from home, far away from all the comforts that one would want when having a baby. But it gets even worse. There is no place to stay. All the rooms are filled. The only place to have this baby is in a stable with animals. It all seems so imperfect. So unlike how we would plan.

Christmas hasn’t changed  in 2000-plus years. Despite our plans for a picture-perfect day, Christmas activities never turn out like we hope.  For instance, this year in Michigan, an ice storm left 150,000 homes without power on Christmas Day. The loss of electricity ruined long-set plans for Christmas dinners and gatherings. All over the world, people felt the disappointment of not receiving the gifts they had hoped for. Families who struggle with damaged relationships felt hurt and pain at the hands of those who are supposed to love them the most. And It all seems so imperfect. So unlike how we plan.

But we can never forget that at the end of that first Christmas, after a time of inconvenience and disappointment, a baby was lying in a feed tray. That baby was the greatest gift humanity would ever experience.

Christmas really hasn’t changed in 2000-plus years. Despite the presents we didn’t get, the dinners that didn’t turn out, and the lights that wouldn’t turn on, we still receive the greatest gift humanity has ever known. We have Jesus — a Savior born into the tangle of our messy and imperfect lives.


The Scandal of Christmas


Talk about a scandal.

Most of us know the Christmas story so well that we forget just how appalling and scandalous the whole thing really was. We often gloss over the shocking details that must have caused an uproar in so many lives. Think about it from Joseph’s perspective. He’s engaged to this girl named, Mary. His life is on track, everything is going really well, and then it falls apart. Mary is pregnant. This is bad–REALLY bad. Mary and Joseph aren’t married yet, she is pregnant, and it isn’t Joseph’s child. Not only is this unbelievably scandalous, it is also humiliating. Joseph must have felt like he was just dropped in the middle of a storm.

Joseph had two options in a situation like this. He could break off his engagement with Mary, which was like a divorce. Or, because of what Mary did, he could have her stoned to death.

Both options stink, both options leave him alone without the wife he was planning to marry, both options destroy the life he was planning to live. The Bible tells us that Joseph was a righteous man and didn’t want to hurt Mary, so he decides to quietly break off the engagement.

But God had other plans. God sends an angel to talk to Joseph. The  angel appears to Joseph and does this crazy thing–he gives Joseph another option: Marry her. The angel explains that there is so much more going on than what Joseph realizes. “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,” the angel says.

I love the New International Version commentary on this story. It says, “God often shows us that there are more options available than we think.”

When life corners us and we find ourselves in situations that are unfixable, we can’t always see the options available to us. We tend to get tunneled in on what everyone else would do or what society tells us our options are. We easily forget that God is always bigger than our limited options. Sometimes in those stuck situations it is helpful to remember the angel’s advice to Joseph… Don’t be afraid of this third option. I know it isn’t normal and it is unusual, but there is so much more happening than what you can see. 

Go Ahead. Be Sad


I’m currently writing a book about my experience with pain. I’ve lived with serious chronic pain for a good portion of my life. Sometimes the pain gets so bad that I’m confined to bed for days or even weeks. On top of that, my body has had a series of other mishaps that has led to surgeries and hospital stays.

For years my response to this was, “It’s fine. I’m fine. It’s okay. It’s just life.” I wanted to have a good attitude, and I didn’t want to bother anyone with my constant troubles. But then about a year ago, a doctor sat down next to me, looked me square in the eye and said, “Sara, it’s not fine. You aren’t fine. Stop saying that.”

I drove home that day in tears. For the first time I let myself be sad about all the ways pain had changed the life I had hoped to live. I didn’t try to look for the bright side. Instead I was honest about my sadness over my broken body. Then I was sad for a while. For several months I allowed myself to just mourn. And then, as gradual as a sunrise, I came out of it and found something I never had before: peace and a clarity of how to move forward despite a life of pain. It was my first experience with the healthy side of grief and sadness.

There is this great guy in the Old Testament named Nehemiah. His story opens with him getting some seriously bad news. When he hears the bad news he sits down and cries. He’s really sad. In fact, some scholars believe he is sad for about four months before he is able to move ahead. Now, it’s important to realize that Nehemiah doesn’t stay in sorrow forever, but he had his moment of grief, and God doesn’t seem to jump in and tell him to stop it and have a better attitude or buck up. Nehemiah needs time to be sad.

Sad things happen. We live in the middle of this broken world and sooner or later that brokenness hits every one of us–and when that happens it is really sad. It is sad when our bodies fail. It’s sad when people we love get sick. It is sad when our dreams crash and aren’t realized. It is sad when we mess up. It is sad when others hurt us.

I have this feeling that some of you might need the same coaxing and permission I once needed to enter sadness. Sadness is not weak or silly or frivolous. Sometimes, we all need a Nehemiah moment.

God’s Hems


Last week I had a dream that this group of giants were coming toward my family, and I had to stop them. Suddenly I was on the ground wrestling with one of the giants. I was terrified. I just knew this big horrible thing was going to overtake me. And then, as I was wrestling the giant, he stood up, and I realized that he was shorter than me. And I thought, Huh… why did I think he was so big?  Then there was another giant on the ground, and I was terrified again, and I started wrestling for my life, and then that giant stood up, and I realized that yet again, the giant was shorter than me. This repeated over and over, and I couldn’t seem to grasp that these giants I feared weren’t so big after all.

I woke up considering how much of my life has been spent in fear of things that never came to pass, how much of my life has been spent wrestling tiny, little, insignificant giants.

So today I’m embarking on a seven-day worry fast. This doesn’t mean I’m going to become irresponsible and not think ahead. But I’m disturbed about how much I am worrying about things that are out of my control. I’m disturbed at how much time and energy I’m spending wrestling with giants that maybe aren’t even giants. So I’ve memorized this verse, written down, and am carrying it in my pocket:

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5

This afternoon, every time I started worrying about what I have no control over, I repeated Psalm 139:5 and just let my mind wrap around the image of God hemming me in. And each time it has felt like leaving behind a scrappy, fearful, bloody fight for quiet protection, comfort, and a deep breath. I don’t know what is ahead, but I do know that I’m so tired of wrestling with the giants.

I want to hang out in God’s hems.


The Story of My Failure


This is the story of an epic fail. A story of how I bombed, tanked, flopped, and completely messed up.

A while back I was facing down my very first radio interview. This shouldn’t have been a big deal. Ever since I can remember I’ve loved speaking in front of crowds, but for some reason the radio seemed different, bigger, scarier.

So to calm the beast of fear, I came up with a brilliant plan to not only nail the interview, but also to make myself sound brilliant and intelligent in the process. In advance of the interview, I sent the station a list of suggested questions. Then I spent hours memorizing brilliant answers to my own questions.

And then I learned something about radio interviews. Interviewers don’t ask the suggested questions. When the DJ called me at home from his South Dakota station, he started asking me his OWN questions (what?!). His questions were really simple, but I was so nervous and so tunneled in on the answers that I memorized in advance, I couldn’t think of a thing to say. So I started saying, quite frankly, stupid things. I didn’t speak in complete sentences or answer his questions. My thoughts didn’t connect. I could tell from the DJ’s voice that he thought I was incredibly stupid, which made me even more jittery and I started saying even dumber things—dumb things that were being broadcast across South Dakota.

When I hung up the phone there was no doubt that I had epically bombed, tanked, failed, flopped.

I was embarrassed and horrified and my confidence was shot, which was unfortunate because I had three other radio interviews scheduled that week.

But then something stunning happened: Nothing. That’s right: Nothing happened. We put all this weight on failure and the fear of it keeps us from trying and doing all sorts of things, but here I had epically failed and nothing epic happened. My family still wanted to claim me, my friends still liked me, and God still loved me.

It seems that failure isn’t the beast we believe it to be. An epic fail taught me that my worth and my judgment don’t spring from how perfect I am. My good standing with God doesn’t depend on how brilliant I sound on the radio. And you know what? This fact is incredibly freeing. I have freedom to fail. That means I have the freedom to do new and scary things. I have the freedom to take chances. I have the freedom to not follow the crowd.

So this week, when JQ99.3 out of West Michigan called for an interview, the prospect of failure first made me want to avoid the call. But in the end, I answered the phone and gave an interview. Because if I bombed, I bombed. And in the end, the more frightening thing is being too afraid to try.




We Walk Wisconsin!


We had an amazing time in Wisconsin this past weekend!


We Walk Wisconsin from GEMS Girls' Clubs on Vimeo.

True Emotion to Join The “We Walk Tour!”


There are a few changes as we head out next week to begin another season of the We Walk Tour. One of those changes is the addition of the music group, True Emotion.

TE on grass

True Emotion is a sensational music group made up of  sisters Kansas, Jamie, Kasondra, Kelsie, and Jasmyn.

And while I’m confident that their strong vocals and spontaneous personalities will rock We Walk, I’m most excited about working with a group of women who share my passion to encourage girls to stand up, speak out, and use their lives for Christ. We share the belief that you don’t have to wait until you are grown to be used by God or to make a difference in the world, Anyone, regardless of their age, can use their lives to make a lasting impact in the world.

TE Close up

Not only do we share similar passions, but True Emotion also grew up attending GEMS Girls’ Clubs, which is the sponsor of the We Walk Tour. I had a chance to talk to Jasmyn, of True Emotion, about what joining the tour means to the group.

“Growing up, our GEMS Girls’ Club, had an immense impact on each of our lives. As young girls we were challenged at club to find out what our unique voices were when it came to being God’s hands and feet. We are excited about the We Walk Tour because we know what it’s like to be a part of the GEMS Girls’ Club, and now we have been blessed with the opportunity to reach out to young girls, who may be walking in the same shoes that we once were.

“We now want to be a positive voice to young girls attending the We Walk Tour. We want to while encourage the girls to step out in faith no matter what their age. We are also excited to reach out to mothers and support them while they are teaching their girls to stand up for what they believe in, and to rely on God even when they may feel that the world isn’t valuing their voice.”

True Emotion will be joining us in Wisconsin, Michigan, and in British Columbia. You can find out more about True Emotion by visiting their website or connecting with them on Facebook.

More information about the We Walk Tour and how to purchase tickets.