Your Presence Is A Light

I stumbled across Jude Sierra's books earlier this year and quickly fell in love. She is a phenomenal writer and I was honored to review A TINY PIECE OF SOMETHING GREATER upon its release. (Read my review.) I'm even more honored to host her guest post today! I adore her characters and really enjoyed getting Jude's perspective. I hope you'll check her books out and let me know what you think. Learn more about Jude at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


A Tiny Piece Of Something Greater


“He tries to give his body over to the sounds of a great big earth around him, understanding that his is very small, a tiny piece of something greater, a small glimmer of either light or darkness, depending on his choices and will. He might be small, but he matters, and Reid wants to be a light.”

One of the hardest things I’ve been asked to do in my writing career has been to define myself as a writer. I’ve never been good at summaries and elevator pitches, and I struggle to narrow what feel like very intertwined and complex webs of emotion, life experience, character and story. My stories are many things; often called lyrical in prose and character driven in plot, they live in a variety of cities with unique characters with singular life experiences.

When I sit and reflect on them, however, it becomes clear that really, what I write are romance novels about surviving, thriving, healing and learning to hope. While each character in my books has their own journey, there are a few that have really stayed with me.

Cam (Hush: Amazon | B&N | Interlude | The Ripped Bodice) learning who he is, and coming into his own and navigating his identity was a sincere reflection of a story many people in the LGBTQAI+ community have lived: a realization that who we thought we were doesn’t quite fit. Cam’s transition to a new orientation and sexuality isn’t painful, but a transformation like turning on a light. Coming home.

Milo (What it TakesAmazon | B&N | Interlude | The Ripped Bodice) was in so many ways a reflection of me, his story mirroring aspects of my own childhood. Milo’s backstory is painful; living through emotional and physical abuse shapes victims differently. Milo’s sense of worth is so tied to what he goes through as a child. Milo doesn’t doubt his ability to love—he doubts his lovability. As an author, it was a joy to write Milo’s journey to healing and growth. To show him as an adult, still navigating anxiety and PTSD, clearly acknowledging his past struggles with depression, while also showing him actively working toward wellness.

Idlewild (Amazon | B&N | Interlude | The Ripped Bodiceholds a complicated space in my heart. Both Asher and Tyler go through intense changes in this story. Tyler’s coming of age, realizing that his projected confidence and beauty don’t match his internal insecurities; his deep desire for love and to love pulled so much out of me. Perhaps more quietly (although I can’t speak for readers reactions), Asher’s coming to terms with his late husband’s death, and the realization that much like Tyler, the internal story he tells himself differs wildly from the fact that he paused his own grieving process. Falling in love is an impetus for self-reflection and change in Idlewild.

In each of these stories, one important part of the healing and thriving process is presence. Each of these characters experience moments in which it becomes clear that presence is instrumental to their journey, to healing, to love, to living their best lives as their best selves. Our pasts inform who we are, and they are vital threads in the tapestries of our lives. But when we are hard up against change, growth, potential, or healing, it is so vital to recognize ourselves in that very moment.

A Tiny Piece of Something Greater is a story about a boy healing and learning to live with his mental illness. Reid moves to Florida to try to live on his own, to remove himself from a strained family dynamic, an unhealthy relationship and to heal from a past breakdown. Tiny, as I lovingly call it, is the most important thing I’ve written in my life. I wanted to invite those without mental illness into the lives of those of us actively struggling with our illnesses. Equally important to me was writing a story about what it means to fall in love with someone and navigate these challenges. Not just for Reid, but for Joaquim, who does fall so hard for Reid, and must learn what it means and what it takes to create a healthy, communicative relationship.

Tiny is not just a love story. It is a coming of age story too. It is about healing. It is about struggling, about making mistakes, about forgiving yourself and continuing to fight for wellness. Reid is very much in this space throughout the book. This is a language I speak, I’ve been every place I took Reid in this book. When you get a second chance at life and love, as all of my characters do, it is so important to put your body and mind into a present moment. To acknowledge your past, to look forward to the future but to recognize that very moment in which you are alive. Perhaps you are struggling; perhaps beautifully thriving. Perhaps on the cusp of change. But you are here.

The drive, the desire to be a light, has carried me through so many moments in my life. Holding both of my parent’s hands as I cared for them through the end of their lives. Greeting each of my children the moment they were born and realizing the awesome responsibility I’d been given. Feeling the unmeasurable magnitude of love for my family. Holding my husband’s hands and looking into his eyes when we spoke our wedding vows. Forgiving myself for actions when I had a mental breakdown. Acknowledging my own strength in every moment after as I fought for my life. Overcoming each obstacle. My story hinges on moments like these. Yes, they string together and create a story. But I remember each with clarity because I was present in each moment. I fully surrendered to what those moments meant—from promises, death, life, healing. In each one, I shone bright. This is why one of the tag lines for A Tiny Piece of Greater is a simple phrase and a powerful message: I’m still here. Because you are, and your presence is a light.


Buy The Book Here:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Interlude Press | The Ripped Bodice

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Special offer: the ebook will be 50% off on Kindle November 12-18.


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This Is How We Met: Brenna D'Ambrosio's Story

Friends, this is the final TIHWM story. At least for now. I am so grateful for the people who participated in the series and for the affect it had on me. My writing is headed in other directions and so we bid TIHWM adieu with Brenna's captivating tale.


I shouldn’t have been surprised. Two things I swore up and down were off limits, and here, standing before me wearing a blue polo shirt and a pair of Levis was the embodiment of both.

I almost didn’t open the door that Thursday evening in May. I knew deep down that on the other side was my future.  But I did open it, and I looked up at him, pass the dimples that instantly weakened my knees and right into his blue eyes. My heart flip-flopped and my first thought was “Crap. I’m going to get married.” I’ve been in love ever since.


My parents divorced as soon as I graduated high school. I escaped Ohio and found shelter on the shores of a college nestled along Lake Michigan. My dad found love in a Christian singles newspaper ad. It wasn’t long before his new bride reached out to my mom and offered her an ad in the same newspaper. It’s probably not shocking that my mom found love and has been happily and blissfully married since.

I was going to find love the old-fashioned way, like normal people did. This was the late 90’s and this kind of thing you didn’t talk about or admit. I was an intelligent, hard working woman moving up the corporate ladder. I could meet a man on my own just fine, thank you very much.


My dad’s wife passed away. When he later met his (3rd/ current) wife, this time it wasn’t through a newsletter. It was Christian Matchmaker. During this time I received a promotion and moved out of state. But on weekend visits they encouraged me to “find love.”  I resisted.

One trip I went up and noticed my stepbrother acting strangely. He was in the office and in uncharacteristic manner was whispering as he kept the door shut, which was against the rules.  I heard the clanging of computer keys and the howling of a DSL line (remember those?!). I barged in only to find him on the computer, online, answering questions such as “If you were a character from the Bible, who would you be?” It didn’t take long to realize he was answering those questions as "Brenna."

He had filled out a profile for me.

He had put a lot of thought into it, though I never would have said Mary. I was much closer to Martha, although if memory serves me I may have said James…so I gave in. What’s the harm? They had paid for it, might as well correct the profile.


Back in my cozy apartment just miles away from Long Island Sound I would glance through them, occasionally wondering if this is how I would end up meeting my husband. Wouldn’t that be quite the family legacy? I decided I’d keep my options open since there weren’t any prospects at my church.

There was just one area I would hold my ground. I wouldn’t date a Navy guy. I was now living in a town that hosted a naval base and without any disrespect to our armed forces, I had seen with my own eyes the difficulties that dating someone in the Navy brought. Crazy schedules?  Constant underways for weeks at a time?  Six month deployments? Nope. Not for me.

So when that profile caught my eye, the one from the Naval officer with blue eyes, dimples, and shoulders that showed me he used to play football I had no choice, really, but to move ever so carefully.

We emailed for about two months before meeting. The first time I heard his voice on the phone my hands shook. He was already becoming my friend. His voice made my heart want him to be more.

It was a busy season for him; he was studying and taking qualifying exams.  But finally, on a warm May evening, he knocked not only on my door, but on my heart, and I opened both. Three and a half years later we married and I love him more each day.


Photo (54)Brenna is a city-living, tender-hearted wife and mama to three little girls who encourage her daily to seek out the beauty in life. She loves travel, Diet Coke, homemade bread, and Indian food. There is always something cooking in her oven so stop on by. You will most likely find her either shuffling her girls off to an activity or cuddling with her family at home. She blogs about brokenness and redemption at Beautiful Things  ( and you can find her on Twitter at @chicagomama

This Is How We Met: Sarah Siders's Story

The This Is How We Met series is slowly winding down. I've loved hosting everyone's stories and I don't know if I'll ever shut it down altogether. It is, however, time to focus on other endeavors. Before I do all that, I had to share Sarah's contribution with you all. Sometimes we really don't know what we want or need.

(The last TIHWM post will be May 10. Stick around!)


It was October 2006, the year I walked everywhere. The year I didn’t have a car.

I left my downtown office late that night, and by then it was dark. I had to pass a dark corner or two as I wound my way through the autumn streets, passed the low--income high-rise building, on my way to the coffeeshop in the bar district.

I was alone, and I felt it. I walked briskly as the darkness and the nighttime chill called for it. And then I heard footsteps behind me. I couldn’t tell how close, but they were close enough. I turned around to see a man, but I couldn’t make out his face. It was too dark. He was maybe 20 steps behind me.

I walked faster. And it felt like he did too. I felt more alone, but I wasn’t.

Then I looked up. In the light of the post office building sat something familiar. My friend’s car. And my friend was inside. My friend was a guy, which made me feel a little safer. I nearly ran to the door of his car and jumped in, maybe without asking.

It felt like a portal, whisking me suddenly from danger. He drove me the almost-mile to the coffeeshop where I planned to meet my friend, who would drive me the rest of the way across town to my apartment.

As I burst into the warmth and light of the coffeeshop, I felt like I’d narrowly escaped a disaster. My friend, Michelle, sat at a round table with another friend, Josh, and I gushed the harrowing tale to her, hoping she could absorb all my fear and relief. Josh didn’t say anything.

A few minutes later, we left.

I guess that was the first time I met him, but I hardly remember it. But anyway, Josh says we first met that night. He tells me I launched right into my story of near-death, and didn’t pay any attention to him.

I’m not surprised. It sounds shallow, and it was: I knew he wasn’t my type.

Two months later, Josh hosted an event of 24-hour prayer and worship at a local church. My church’s worship team took a two-hour set. I met him again there. He was intense, quiet, squinted eyes that seemed to take everything seriously. So not my type.

I ran into him again in January at the same coffee shop. He sat at the same round table, this time with several young gentlemen. Josh with his narrowed eyes, books stacked up, talked theology with whoever would listen.

They asked me if I’d heard of an author they were discussing. I hadn’t. I escaped to another table.  

In February 2007, Michelle invited me to a prayer and worship night.  Josh was there again.

I sang my heart out that first night, and it felt so natural to be there with these people. I felt like I found home. And there was this weird thing, this chemistry with Josh that I couldn’t explain. Because he was so silent and contemplative. I knew he was not my type at all.

Then in May that year, Michelle, Josh and I went to Burger King after a church volleyball game. We decided we wanted to be radical. All in for Jesus. We only had a few methods of radical we were familiar with, mostly fasting, so that’s what we did.

I know it wasn’t every day – we weren’t that radical – but we fasted during the day and met in Josh’s kitchen for dinner each night. One night I bragged about my fondue, and then I burned it.

It was something to look forward to, the meeting of the radicals. And then one night, Michelle couldn’t come. It was her work schedule, I think. Josh and I decided to meet anyway. We put chicken on the grill and stood out on the back porch in the warming spring evening.

The tension was growing.

I said something snarky, although I can’t remember what, and he snapped back. A clever remark that left me speechless. I was stunned. This from the silent man?

As he sauntered victoriously back into the house, I stood with my mouth open on the patio. “Maybe you’ve met your match,” he called back. What does he mean by that?  I wondered.

I didn’t wonder for long. That night he asked me on a date. I said Yes, even though I knew he was not my type.

Three nights later he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said Yes again. I was shocked because I couldn’t figure him out. He was so different. Not like anyone I ever dated. So quiet, with furrowed eyes and sharpness I couldn’t comprehend.

He was wild about me though. I knew that. And he just grew and grew on me.

Two weeks later I found out he was funny, not corny or goofy funny, but truly smart funny. And it was all over. He said something that put me in my place again, and I just laughed.

I had met my match indeed.

One year and one day later, we married. And I know after nearly five years of marriage, he’s more match all the time. I love him and am in love with him.

Josh is still a totally different kind of person than anyone else I know. He’s Josh. And he’s my favorite.

And he taught me well we often don’t know our type until we meet our match.

SarahProfilepicSarah Siders is a social worker, pastor’s wife and mom, a dreamer, Jesus follower, people lover, and word junkie. She writes on spirituality, parenting and the journey of transformation at her blog home, She likes visitors so please stop by for a chat.

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Twitter: @sarahsiders

This Is How We Met: Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen's Story

The This Is How We Met series is much more occasional these days but when reader Fiona sent me her story, I knew it was a keeper. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do!


It was a stunning May day, one of those with the heat of summer but still the fresh smell of spring. I left the small dark church with its pews and stained glass into the freedom of this glorious day and walked down the long hill to the Sunday market. There I found the stall with the freshly baked quiches and ordered one in my stuttering French.

I was heading for the park, where my roommate and her church friends were gathering for a picnic lunch, friends who I’d been getting to know the last couple of months, who were becoming my friends.

I attended this traditional Presbyterian church across the city, but she’d been pestering me for months to come to hers – the way they spoke of church was exactly what I was espousing in some of our late-night, wine-fuelled rants, she would tell me. And I’d shrug and say, maybe, but it’s a scary thing to start trying to practise what you preach.

That Sunday, wearing my prettiest sundress because the day seemed to call for it, I was really looking forward to the picnic. I wandered across the large park, the triumphant arches towering over it all, and found the group already spread out across rugs and blankets – a beautiful mix of Belgian, Lebanese, American, Bosnian, Icelandic...

And one Danish man. I did the normal Belgian round of the group, one quick kiss on the cheek for each friend, a slightly more awkward kiss on the cheek for each stranger. I still wasn’t used to these new customs yet. I sat down next to my roommate, sharing delicious tabbouleh with a Lebanese couple, and we chatted our way through the afternoon. 

Sometime late afternoon, as they were all getting ready to leave for church, they got a call. The bar they usually met in had been closed by the council. The decision was taken fast – well, we’ll just do church here then!  I glanced around awkwardly as a guitar was produced. It would be super weird for me to leave now right? Even though it wasn’t really my church? I guess I could stay.

I stayed and loved it. And afterwards, as a smaller group decided to head to a nearby restaurant and consider the next steps for their enthusiastic but stranded little church, I was ushered along with them and found myself sitting next to this young Danish man. 

I liked him straight away. He was quiet but enthusiastic, a gentle strength to him. He would listen to everyone else speak, and then give his own thoughtful opinion, bringing together what everyone else was saying. I was drawn into the discussion and we finally agreed that for the coming few weeks we’d meet at his flat for church, because it was close to a Catholic church where 150 immigrants were on hunger strike to receive their papers, and we wanted to visit them. 

It was exciting and inspiring, this mishmash group of people from all over the world, desperate to figure out where Jesus would be, what he would be doing, and do it themselves in their city.

The sun was setting when we parted way at the metro entrance, saying goodbye and promising this Danish man I’d see him next Sunday – part of the church without even realising how it had happened - before he got on his bike and cycled away. Oh, he’s a cyclist too, I thought, impressed. 

Three years later and packing all our belongings to move to Luxembourg, I’d lift the bike off its rack, on the wall of the flat we’d met for church in so many Sundays, where we’d got to know each other as good friends, led church together, where I’d flirted shamelessly until he’d asked me out. The flat where we’d slowly fallen in love, where we’d first kissed, where he’d asked me to marry him. 

I’d brush the dust off the bike and laugh to remember that first impression of the man I’d married, who’d cycled all of two times since then...

  2012-10-07 09-42-10-3Photo by Almyra Knevel Persson

Fiona is married to her Danish husband, Rasmus, who she met in a park five years ago. They currently live in Luxembourg, where she is a wedding and events planner. She loves throwing parties and dinners, gathering people together, seeing the new friendships and plans that emerge. She loves seeing people find their role in God’s big story. Her one word for the year is Joy.


Twitter: @fiona_lynne

This Is How We Met: Kelley Nikondeha's Story

It's hard to believe I launched the This Is How We Met series a year ago. Amanda Williams kicked it off beautifully and now here we are 35 amazing guest posts later. I have been blown away by the stories shared and this one by Kelley is no exception. I've gotten to know Kelley in recent months and have come to truly adore her. I won't even be mad about the way she totally leaves us hanging here. After all, that's precisely the point: stories of how people met. The rest, then, is history.

Want to submit your TIHWM story? Check out the guidelines here.

TIHWM series small

My boyfriend and I entered fellowship hall. There were maybe fifty people, if that, milling around with Styrofoam cups filled with church coffee and nametags stuck to their lapels. We’d come for conversation on reconciliation and committed our next three days to it.

Like many such seminars, small group interaction was on the agenda. During the first morning break, introvert that I am, I sought out my boyfriend. On the other side of his sturdy build and big laugh stood an African man, someone in his small group, he informed me. “I’m Claude. I’m from Burundi.”

I’d never heard of Burundi before. Was it an African region, a country, a city maybe? How embarrassing to not even know – I felt ignorant and a bit ashamed.

Claude spoke with a French-like accent, and there were many English phrases that seemed to elude his understanding. He informed us that his mother tongue was Kirundi, but due to colonization the national language of is country was French. Even with his heavy accent, we communicated well enough for me to begin to learn about his homeland, the history of tribalism and civil war, resulting in his urgent interest in reconciliation.

Each time we broke for coffee or lunch, Claude joined us. His connection to Africa and thus, African animals, fascinated my boyfriend (who was into conservation). Claude seemed nice enough, so I didn’t mind – much.

The conference ended after three days, but Claude stayed in town for another ten days before his scheduled flight back to Burundi. His hosts seemed to lose interest in him and so his first visit to the States seemed to be petering out fast. But my devoted boyfriend rushed to the rescue with undaunted hospitality…

So each day when he’d pick me up from the bakery where I worked, guess who was in the back seat?

We took him to In & Out Burger, a steak house in Malibu over looking the ocean, outdoor malls lined with twinkle lights and other favorite local spots. We did our best to make his remaining days in town memorable.

As we spent more time together, I grew accustomed to the French lilt of his words. I listened better, understood more and found myself learning more about his world. I’d never met someone from such a distant, different place from my sunny California coast. Yet here he was, so different yet accessible through a shared language. As we became more familiar my questions came more easily and without as much embarrassment. The direct access to another world hooked me.

The three of us laughed a lot. The connection seemed natural after all those hours spent together in cars, around dinner tables and walking the Santa Barbara beaches. We were friends.

On Claude’s last night in town, my boyfriend had an evening work meeting he couldn’t miss. So it would be just Claude and I, for the first time, making conversation in an English-style pub. Nothing about sitting close and sharing a basket of fries felt odd. We just kept talking about the things that mattered to us, the things we wanted to see in the world and how we might be part of it all.

I remember at one point he got serious. “You know he’s not right for you. He’s a great guy, but you know there’s someone better out there for you, right?” I was a bit startled by this twist of topic – but I’d known for a while that my boyfriend wasn’t the best fit. This wasn’t news – just interesting that confirmation came from this Burundian friend.

When we parted that night we exchanged email addresses on scraps of paper. We promised to write. Who knew if we’d ever see each other again, because really, our paths were not likely to cross again. But a genuine cross-culture friendship, rooted in a shared hunger for reconciliation and the ability to find laughter in the same places, had begun.

Whether he wrote or not, he already had changed my world.


Kelley Nikondeha is a thinker, connector, advocate, avid reader, mother of two beautiful children, lover of God's justice & jubilee.  She leads theological conversations at Amahoro Africa and is community development practitioner in Burundi . Kelley lives her life in transit between Arizona and Burundi. She’s in transit between continents but also in terms of her own experience of motherhood, discipleship, theological engagement and living into God’s dream for the world. She savors handwritten letters, homemade pesto and anything written by Walter Brueggemann. She is fueled by space and snacks (and Diet Coke).


Twitter: @knikondeha