Thursday, February 27, 2014

Writing Retreat at The Cove

Have you ever returned from a weekend adventure and you were full, but it had nothing to do with the food? That was my experience this past weekend.

I spent three glorious days at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. I've never left that mountain without leaving a part of me behind. My soul, however, was full to the brim.

There is something special when you drive through the gates just after you get off I-40 in Asheville, North Carolina. Wildlife such as deer and turkey are there to greet you from the edge of the forest. The nearby creeks and grassy areas are perfect places for hungry animals to graze, and be right at home in their natural habitat.

Beautiful hardwoods and evergreens line the forest as you snake your way up the mountain. Simply breathtaking. Signs point to Chatlos Memorial Chapel, Pilgrim's Inn, Shepherd's Inn and the Training Center. Cedar and stone lodges await you at your destination.

What sets this facility apart from any other place I've been though, are the people and their attitude.

I've been there with my church, and this weekend, I was attending a writers' conference. The multiple times I've passed through the gate and made my way up the mountain, it never changes; the people are outstanding…from the shuttle bus drivers to the wait staff to the door greeters to the desk clerks. They are there to serve.

They make you feel as if they've welcomed you into their home for an overnight stay while they offer you all the comforts of home. Smiles and hugs are shared, yet they're not intrusive.

Katy and Mrs. June
I was having coffee with my meal on Saturday evening and the table hostess, June, said, "Can I fill your cup from the main pot? That coffee is hotter than the coffee on the table." She didn't have to do that for me.

She's been working at The Cove for many years. I've seen her every time I've been...always smiling. Our conversations are peppered with our love of family, The Lord, and ministry.

She isn't the only one. All the staff has the attitude of June.

Can you imagine what our world would be like if we all had the servant's heart she and her fellow workers have? How different all our work places would be. What if we thought of others more highly than ourselves?

Oswald Chambers says, "If our devotion is to the cause of humanity, we will be quickly defeated and broken-hearted, since we will often be confronted with a great deal of ingratitude from other people. But if we are motivated by our love for God, no amount of ingratitude will be able to hinder us from serving one another."

And so, while The Cove is a beautiful place to go, it's the people that make it special. The Presence of God is felt and experienced while there. He is there in the midst of His people. He is on their every cup of coffee they fill, every bus they drive, every story they share about bears…He lives on that mountain because He lives in the hearts of the people who work for Him through The Cove.

Where can you plant yourself? What mountain can you invest your life in that will transform the lives of people through the God you serve? Whose cup can you fill today?

Blessings from My Little Corner,

P.S. Oh yeah, I was at a writing conference this past weekend and we learned a few nuggets about writing. That was good too! Made some great contacts and received good feedback on my book.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Friends...Then and Now

There are several writers whose words I love to read. They write from the heart and speak directly to my soul. Sharon Randall, is one of those writers. She has a syndicated column in the Monday edition of my local newspaper each week. I read her words with my tea before I head out for the morning.

A couple of weeks ago, she wrote a story about friendship that made me think. She said this in the article, "Best friendship is like grace...a gift, free and clear. And every day is your birthday."

Nancy-Bottom Right; Me-Right Standing
I've been blessed with wonderful friends in my life from the time I was a little girl. I can remember spending the night with Nancy and giggling until our sides ached. We're still friends and she still makes me laugh. Though miles separate us, we pick up right where we left off when we get together. She is a forever friend from my childhood.

When I moved away from home, I made other lasting friendships. Early in my marriage, there was Mary Beth and Debbie. Each of them taught me valuable lessons and we remain friends. They were there for me through years of infertility. Living in my husband's hometown was difficult in the beginning and yet, they made me feel welcome. Seeing them is like seeing a long lost sister. And of course, my sister-in-law Judy, has and always will be my dearest friend.

There are certain qualities in a friend that come to mind and I thought I'd share those with you. Hopefully, you're as blessed as I have been.

1. A friend will listen first, ask questions only when you're ready to talk.

2. A friend will pray for you and send you scripture text messages.

3. A friend remembers the important days in your life.

4. A friend knows the things about you that trigger sadness...and joy.

5. A friend loves you through every season of your life. She understands your "crankiness from not enough sleep due to being up with babies" through the season of "no sleep due to worry over your children as adults."

6. A friend will tell you you're beautiful, even when you look like yesterday's leftovers.

7. A true friend won't turn their back on you when you disagree on something. They will talk it out, and if forgiveness is needed, they are eager to restore the friendship.

8. A friend knows your favorite foods and brings them when you're sick or sad or just had a very bad day.

9. A true friend cheers your successes...and is there to pick you up in your failures.

10. A friend will let you cry on her shoulder.

11. A friend will always want to do the right thing for you.

12. A forever friend is one you can pick up your conversation with like you just chatted yesterday.

I'm so thankful for my friends, both then and now. God has blessed me with lovely women whom I can trust and who love me for who I am. They encourage me and support me through word and deed. I also love how He's given women of all ages, some older, some younger, to walk this journey with me...what wisdom they've shared and the fun we've had.

Someone told me once, "if you find one good friend, you've found a treasure." I'd say I have a treasure chest of gold, if that statement is true.

The friends I now share my daily life with are the truest kind. They know how to make me laugh till my sides ache. They pray for me and my family and love me unconditionally. They know I'm addicted to chocolate and lattes. They know I love cats and hot tea and flowers. They know this has been the most difficult year of my life and the best year of my life at the same time. They cry with me and have coffee with me and go to writing conferences with me. They send me text messages at the precise time I need them most. Can you tell I have the BEST friends on the planet?

I can't possibly list their names because I would leave someone out and that would break her heart and mine. They know who they are and how much I love them.

I hope you have one friend who loves you unconditionally. My husband always told our children, "to have a friend, you must be a friend." Life would be so lonely without the companionship of female friends.

Me and Nancy-2012
Find someone who shares the same interests as you. He or she may be as lonely as you. Their family may have just moved to the area, as we did many years ago. Your best friend may be sitting in Chick Fil A while her child plays in the play area or on a park bench and all it takes is, "Hey, my name is..." really is like grace...a gift. Most of us don't deserve the friends we have but we have them anyway. Treasure them and through the fires of life they will become refined. My friendships have become like pure gold to me...more precious as the years have passed.

Who came to mind as you read this post today? Give them a call and let them know you value your relationship.

To my friends then...and are always in my heart!

Blessings from My Little Corner,