Thursday, February 26, 2015

When the Sparrows Took Center Stage

It was snowing by the time daylight fully emerged, one of those mornings that evoke memories of jumping up and down with delight at the thought of no school. Though for me, the nest already emptied, it was a day of normal activity.

As I sipped tea, snow fell in quiet, steady rhythm as birds flocked to feeders dripping with fresh seeds. Watching from my kitchen window after traipsing in the snow to fill the feeders, sparrows had the most fun.

I love watching birds feast to their hearts' content. It was worth the trek in the snow.

There were birds of all kinds. I grabbed my phone to capture a few pictures of the elusive bluebird who visits. She's building a nest nearby and swings in for daily rations. Cardinals are common visitors, as well as Goldfinches, beginning their metamorphosis to the color of a summer day.

The most common are the sparrows. They get no applause, no fanfare. No one says, "let me get my camera and take a picture of the sparrow." We ignore the sparrows and long to gaze at the beauty of the bluebirds and Cardinals. They are indeed beautiful, breathtaking in fact. 

Isn't that the way we treat people? Isn't that the way we treat ourselves? We pass over the common people for the ones we think are important, the ones that can make us look better, advance our careers, help us climb the social ladder, or fit into the popular clique.

But Jesus chose to speak of the sparrow in His Word. He chose the bird that doesn't stand out above the rest, the one who goes about his day doing what a bird does. He chose an ordinary bird to teach us who He is. He chose a humble bird to teach us how much He loves us, and that He is the source of everything we need.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." 
Matthew 10:29-31 ESV

We're prone to seeking out the beautiful people, the ones who seem to have it all, for guidance and fulfillment. We were not created to live like that. Most of us were created to live ordinary lives, helping and loving ordinary people.

I want to live as the sparrow, however, I want to treat everyone as if they are a bluebird or Cardinal.

Since I've been writing and revealing my deepest hurts and fears, I've learned we all have pain in our lives. Most of us go through life feeling like the sparrow that no one notices.

But there is One who tells us not a single sparrow is ever out of His sight. He knows every tear we've ever shed, every hurt, every loss and He loves us with an everlasting, faithful love.

Now that is something to jump up and down about. Maybe that's why the sparrows have so much fun at the feeders. Could it be the sparrow has discovered the secret to abundant living?

His eye truly is on the sparrow, and you, and me.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

This One's For You, Katy

I love the idea of taking the thing you fear most and turning it upside down. One of my greatest fears was in writing. The thought of anyone reading my words, my innermost questions and opinions, well, that was too much for me to grasp.

But, as I shared in a recent post, I pushed past the voices in my mind and just did it.

I wanted to give this fear its own space, for its given me so much joy the past two years. This month is an anniversary for my blog. A world of possibilities opened up for me when I conquered this particular fear monster and hit "publish" that first time.

I have someone special I'd like to thank publicly, and give a few reasons why I love her so much.

Meet Katy...
Katy at The Cove in 2013

She is a writer, friend, confidant, mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, Christian, teacher, musician, gardener, and lover of Hershey, her chocolate lab.

She is smart, beautiful, loyal, outrageously funny (with a bit of sarcasm), talented, and an excellent writer. And she has a green thumb, with a beautiful yard to prove it.

She is the reason I have a blog and I wanted share our story. Everyone needs a "Katy" in their corner.

My husband was walking with Katy, and David(her husband), one Wednesday night at church and he said something to her about writing, and that I liked to write. She said she had no idea I was a writer. We've played handbells together for several years, but never talked about writing.

As soon as she got to the handbell room that night, she brought up the subject of writing. I told her I was a closet writer. I said I was too afraid to let anyone read anything I'd written.

A few days later she sent me a link for a writers conference in Asheville, NC. She asked me to please go with her. She said she'd never gone to anything like that and it would be so much fun to go together.

I went online and checked out the conference and decided it was safe enough. I told myself, and Katy, I would go as her cheerleader.

As most females do, we planned our trip, coordinated our outfits...the important stuff. We were excited to be going to The Cove in Asheville. If the conference was a bust, at least the scenery was beautiful and the food would be excellent.

Katy and I both love the written word, but let's just say the spoken word was overflowing the cup many times over that weekend.

We both felt like we had arrived at our Mecca. We were with our people. We soaked up every drop of information, every resource, and every ounce of inspiration our writerly minds could absorb.

It was at this place I heard God say in the quiet of my mind, "I didn't bring you here just to be Katy's cheerleader. I want you to write for me."

When we got back to our room that night, I let Katy read something I'd written. Never before had I allowed anyone to read my words. It was too risky. They might reject me, and I couldn't take that. I'd faced too many rejections in my life.
Attempt at a selfie at our favorite hangout...Starbucks

She read it and gave me positive feedback. I still didn't call myself a writer though. But, it was a start. Something was birthed inside of me.

My friend gave me courage.

When I came home from The Cove in February of 2013, I published My Little Corner. That name has significance since I live on a corner and my office is in a far corner of my home. I wanted to share from my little corner of the world. Katy encouraged me from the first time I published, and she continues to this day.

We meet for coffee and talk for hours, about writing and life. She's listened and let me talk out my fears. Sometimes that's all it takes, that person in human flesh who will listen and allow you to talk without fear of judgment. As you talk it out, your fears become smaller and you gain control over them.

Katy is not one who puts herself above others. She is selfless and always ready with a smile.

I am a writer today because of her encouragement. I hope I'm a better person because of her friendship.

We share a lot of things...our love of writing, gardening, music, chocolate labs, but the most important one of all is Jesus. He is the one who binds us together. I believe He is the one who whispered in her ear the thought to invite me to The Cove to set His plan in motion, and she obeyed.

So Katy, thank you for listening and obeying. Love you girl.


p.s. Katy writes at Go over and visit her blog, you'll love her as much as I do.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Killing the Fear Monster

When my children were little, we taught them the Bible verse, "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." Psalm 56:3 NIV

One child in particular would wake up in the night, come toddling downstairs needing reassurance that she was safe. Her daddy would take her by the hand, walk her back to her bedroom, tuck her in bed, tell her how much she was loved, pray with her, and return to his bed.  Sometimes this worked, sometimes not.

All of us, if we're honest with ourselves, have fears of some kind. We spend our days in busyness and then, when all is quiet and our mind should be at rest, Fear and his demons come out to play.

That's the way it is for me anyway. And if I'm really, brutally honest, my playground is never closed.

I've never been a person who feared for my personal safety. Maybe I should have. Because of family living in another state, I've had to travel alone, and I regularly go on writing sabbaticals. I'm not a girl who closes the blinds as soon as the sun sets either.

Me at 4 Months 
My fears are in my head. They've held me captive my entire life. That's the reason I used the baby picture. I'd need to return to infancy to escape my fears. They whisper in my ears when no one is looking, and when everyone is looking. They tell me I'm not good enough. They slither up beside me when I need to make a decision and tell me I'm a failure, so why would I want to begin anything new. He tells me you're uneducated so that means you're not smart, and don't even think about going back to school. You don't have time and you wouldn't pass anyway, because remember, you're not smart enough.

My fears told me you can't be a writer, because who would want to read anything you have to say. My fears have always told me I'm a nobody.

My fears told me you're an orphan, and you will always be an orphan, because your mom died and your dad abandoned you.

And then I went to counseling a couple of years ago. My church has a counseling ministry with a licensed counselor on staff. He and I worked for nearly a year untangling the mess of my life. The evil one can wrap you up in a stronghold of fear and hold you captive from all God has for you. His lies are subtle, but powerful. He is relentless in his pursuit.

Many of my fears are the result of a childhood gone askew, however, some of them are of my own making. God has helped me conquer many of my fears. It's an ongoing battle. As long as there is breath in me, it's my thorn. I've found healing in areas I thought would haunt me to the grave. I no longer see myself as an orphan. God has showered me with grace in this tender place in my heart. He took me on a journey that awes me and encourages me to press on.

What do you fear? Are you like me and struggle with the fears in your mind? Maybe your fears have to do with your children. Those are certainly valid. The word says:

"Fear not, for I am with you; 
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, 
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10 ESV

I've wasted many years allowing the fear monster to control my life. He's robbed me of precious time, talent, and self-esteem. I'm a work in progress though. I continually have to return to the Word for my source of strength. There are countless books and resources available for help, as well as wonderful counselors, like mine, who are ready to guide you.

I've cried on shoulders and poured out my burdens to the One who knows my every hurt. His word says He will hide me in the cleft of the rock. I have to trust that in my deepest hour of need. You can too, when your fear monster slithers up beside you and sends messages of deceit.

There is hope for slaying the fear monster for good. I'm counting on it. If only I could whisper that in the ears of the wee one in the picture.