Day 1: I Didn't Die

May 11, 2016


I made it.

Somewhere after North Platte, NE, I started wondering if the car had sounded like that for the first three-hundred-fifty miles and I just hadn’t noticed. The engine was speaking to me: BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! I pulled off the interstate and closed the side gas thingy that had popped open. On the interstate again, the sound resumed as soon as I reached cruising speed: BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! I pulled off at a rest area, and looked at the car thoughtfully—like someone who knew what they were doing might look at a car. And then I pulled out my heavy arsenal, I prayed. Into the car and on the interstate, and the sound finally disappeared. And for a while, all was good until the dragging noise began. It sounded like metal dragging across the ground. I didn’t even pull over for that one, I called my husband, and the conversation went something like this.

Me. You know that piece you hit on the driveway two days ago, I can’t believe you didn’t get it fixed when you got the oil changed yesterday.

Him. I didn’t think about it.

Me. Well, it’s dragging along the interstate.

Him. Well, pull over and try and find some place to fix it.

Me. I’m in the outer edges of Eastern Podunk, Colorado. I am not pulling over here. That particular piece of the car will either make it to Denver with me or it won’t.

I think I was about thirty miles from Denver when the storm started. First came dense, gray clouds, followed by a little sprinkle, followed by jagged lightning. The lightning did not streak across the sky as it was supposed to, but rather, it struck the ground in the fields on either side of the interstate. And then came hail, followed by a torrential downpour that left the interstate flooded with rain. Traffic slowed, people found shelter under bridges, and my car engine began to chug as the front end scooped up water with the dragging piece hanging from its front end. After checking with my daddy in Denver to make certain that I wasn’t on course to run into a tornado, I decided to keep going. At that point I was only about eighteen miles from Denver, and I had a feeling that if I stopped, that car and I were going to live under that bridge for a while.

I made it to Denver. Daddy tied up the errant car piece with baling wire and put some antifreeze in that place where antifreeze goes. I stayed for about an hour and struck out for Estes Park. Since my night vision isn’t the best, I wanted to get there before the outer limits of my blindness were tested. I’m not certain when I-25 became as hectic as driving the 10 in southern California, but somewhere along the way, it did. There was stop and go traffic for a while and my friend, Stress, had gripped my upper back in a fierce hold, and was screaming in my ear, “There’s no traffic like this in Nebraska!”

The last thirty-four miles on the highway took me higher into the mountains around narrow, hairpin turns. And that was when I decided that I am not a mountain driver. I always thought that I belonged back in the mountains from which I’d haled, but unless there is some other way to get to them that doesn’t involve me snaking through the mountains with stress perched on my shoulders shrieking his head off, I’ll need to stay in the lowlands.

Siri was my friend until we got past Estes Park and onto the YMCA property, and then we had a falling out. She wanted to drive me into the woods amid a herd of elk, and I just wanted to find the right building to register for the conference. If not for finding, Leah (a woman who works with the writers conference), I would have slept in my car with one eye opened just in case the bears decided to come for my white cheddar popcorn.

It seems the storm rolled through Omaha last night and shook my family awake around three in the morning. The hail was so dense that they are still cleaning it up this morning. My glorious, towering river birch came down across our front porch and partly on the neighbor’s roof. If a tree could be a friend, that birch was mine, and its falling seems to illustrate the fact that change happens whether we’re ready for it or not, and no roots on this side of heaven are permanent.

I’m in my room at the lodge now. It was good to wake up on a new day with the mountain range right outside my window. Things don’t really kick off around here until this afternoon, so I’ve got a little time to myself. It’s a little lonely here away from Jason and the kids, but I’m trusting God that the journey here and this lonely now is all a part of finding this next something he has in store for me.

Until later.


Coming Soon...ASHIRA


The Next Big Adventure: Colorado Christian Writers Conference




May 7, 2016


About twenty-four years ago, God called me on a grand adventure.

 I want you in Nebraska.

A double-take toward the rugged Flatiron mountains of Boulder, Colorado…perhaps the scenery in Nebraska was equally captivating.

A quick glance at the backs of my brown hands…perhaps Nebraska was an unknown mecca for black people.

I even reminded my pastor of my ethnicity just in case he’d forgotten that I was clearly of the darker persuasion. I said something like: “Will I be lynched in Nebraska?” And he reassured me that the possibility was as slim in corn country as it was in mountain country.

Who knew what I would find when I stepped out on faith to lend a hand to the ministry at the University of Nebraska’s campus in Lincoln. I only knew that God wanted me in Nebraska—so I went.

Nebraska’s weather taught me how to take literally the first line of the future king’s speech in Shakespeare’s Richard III, “And now is the winter of our discontent.” When I skidded across the pavement at the Lincoln gas station and noticed trees and buildings sparkling in the streetlights, crusted with ice, I learned what an “ice storm” was, and it left me fairly discontent.

Over two decades have passed, and I’m amazed that it’s been that long. Some of my favorite memories are still those involving late night games of hearts at Craig and Jen’s apartment, road trips to South Dakota and Colorado with college friends, and playing ultimate Frisbee or sand volleyball whenever the weather allowed. I survived a harrowing ride as a passenger in Chris’ car and schemed and planned the future with Cindy. Mark left a cardboard pig with glowing eyes on our front porch to terrorize us with loud screeches. I had the privilege of finding it when I opened the door to leave for my job around five that morning. He did manage to impress my roommate, Lisa, who agreed to marry him a year or so later. I got sick with Nate, Trevor, Jason, and Mindy after several wild rides on a merry-go-round at some playground in Po-dunk, Nebraska.

And the list goes on.

 In Nebraska, I met my husband, graduated law school, and raised four kids (still a work in progress). I said goodbye to Chip and Tony (until we meet on the other side), walked alongside friends as they buried their children, found a new church home, suffered personal hardship, and lived life more fully than I ever would have…if I hadn’t said yes to Nebraska.

What an adventure it’s been.

And now, God is calling me on my next adventure. He has not called me out of Nebraska (bittersweet feeling), but he has called me to, once again, step out on faith.

I want you to focus on your writing.

This is a call that scares me every bit as much as moving to Nebraska. And that’s saying something.

May 11 through May 16, I’ll be attending my first Colorado writers conference and I am scheduled to meet with a number of agents, editors, and a few authors. I’ll be pitching my manuscripts, “welcoming” critiques, participating in an intensive, fiction writing clinic, presenting myself as a genuine writer, and squeezing God’s hand tightly the entire time.

I invite you to come on this adventure with me as I hit the ground running and record the experience on my blog.

Every time God calls, he also empowers. I expect that God has many good and unexpected plans for this next adventure.

Dear God, if you need to bring an ice storm, I packed the right shoes this time.



Chaka Heinze








Please join us for an online discussion of "Under A Withering Sun"

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