Friday, December 16, 2016

When Hope Healed Broken and Scattered

I opened my eyes today, and for the first time on this date in forty-two years, there are no tears. I  wrote this on the anniversary of my mom’s death. To write these words is a miracle. I believe God is in the process of doing a work in me, but I never imagined this possible. I’ve lived with the ache of unresolved grief and burdens for so long I couldn’t fathom life any other way.

I read Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs this week. In her book she states, “I had to be broken to be rebuilt, but breakdowns seem to often come before breakthroughs."

And man, have I been broken. Broken and scattered.

But God…

He is restoring my brokenness one piece at a time. He didn’t forget where all the pieces were scattered. What I didn’t know was that He’d already picked up all the pieces and kept them safe until I was ready to put them back together.

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...and provide for those who grieve in bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."
Isaiah 61:1-3

I had to return to my five-year-old self and come forward to see the life He ordained before I took my first breath.

The thing is, I have hope. I can feel His Spirit healing me and it’s because of Jesus; the same Jesus who came to earth in the form of an infant, lowly and meek. The same Jesus who traveled to Jerusalem with His parents at the age of twelve and stayed behind at the temple. The same Jesus who gave His mother fits when she couldn’t find Him, and they had to circle back to retrieve the young lad. When His parents found Him he said, “didn’t you know I’d be about my Father’s business?”

This same Jesus approached the woman at the well, healed the sick, raised the dead, and resisted temptation from Satan himself.

This same Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane as He agonized over what was to come. This same Jesus prayed for me in John chapter 17, and every believer throughout the ages.

This Jesus went to the cross and died for me. He arose for me and makes intercession to the Father for me…and you.

This is the Author of my hope. He is the reason I get up in the morning. He is the reason I had no tears on December 14th.

This Jesus has been my healer and protector. He has been my deliverer of more fears than I can count. He is the lover of my soul, faithful, and true to His Word.

He will do the same for you. Your date on the calendar no longer has the power to hold you prisoner. He will set you free and give you the same hope I have. 

This flesh and bone story of Jesus began long ago in a manger, in a land appointed by God on high, but it continues today in a risen Savior who dwells in us. He is the One who heals our brokenness, forgives our sin, and changes the way we view ourselves. 

At Christmas, and always we should celebrate Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He lives, He reigns, and He will return for all who believe in Him.

May you have the merriest of Christmas holidays!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

30 Days of Thankfuls

The older I get, the more I treasure the days I have left. Does that sound corny? That's my stage of life. I'm a retrospective person, and yet I ponder the future and how to make the most of the days ahead. Not wanting to waste a single moment, I need to celebrate the here and now. My soul needs a break from worrying about the unknown, and a reminder of the blessings of my life or I will implode.

My tender heart gets broken way too often, and though I know the Word says, "cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you...," I try to carry my own load. Maybe you fall into the same trap as me.

I'm choosing to be thankful in this season we focus on the blessings of our God. It goes without saying I'm thankful for my salvation, my family, my church, and friends. These are the extra gifts from the hand of my Provider. He knows my needs better than I do, and surprises me when I'm at my weakest. As you read my list, have a go at writing your own list of thankfuls. It does wonders for your soul, and it may bless someone else as you share.

These are in no particular order of importance...just random thoughts gathered over a steaming cup of tea on a cool, November morning.

1. Crisp, fall days.
2. Winesap apples.
3. Bringing out my worn jeans. We're like old friends.
4. Long walks where I don't drip sweat.
5. Two-for-one lattes at Starbucks.
6. Dark-thirty = Permission to read.
7. Sweatshirts and sweaters, need I say more?
8. November elections are over.
9. Friends who stick closer than family.
10. Pictures of West Virginia family on Facebook. I miss them so much.
11. Opportunities to love the needy.
12. Making new friends where age isn't a factor.
13. Answered prayer.
14. Doing the hard thing.
15. Celebrating God's goodness and faithfulness.
16. Ladies I serve with in missions.
17. Ladies I study the Bible with on Friday mornings.
18. Pets who bring comfort and companionship.
19. Sunday walks with a treasured friend.
20. Contrast of orange and yellow leaves against a Carolina blue sky...breathtaking.
21. Pansies and pumpkins.
22. The long inhale and exhale of rest.
23. The anticipation of upcoming celebrations.
24. Coffee dates.
25. Tea parties.
26. Music that speaks to my soul.
27. Sitting around a fire pit with friends.
28. Second chances.
29. Writing the words my lips cannot utter.
30. Gift of family.

What are the gifts you've been given? We all have them, even if we've been blinded by loss, pain, illness, financial ruin, or our own poor choices. Thanksgiving is the perfect time for do overs. It's the time of year to stop, and realign priorities, to think of someone other than yourself. It's a time for giving thanks for all you've been given, and then giving to others out of your bounty.

This is my favorite time of year. I love an excuse to slow the rhythm of life. My natural inclination lends itself to pondering the goodness of my Creator. Long walks with leaves crunching beneath my feet while a steaming cup of coffee or tea awaits is my happy place. I'm a simple person and it doesn't take much to keep me content. Take time to enjoy the next few days before the hustle of Christmas sucks the joy out of your days of thankfulness. Look into the faces of those sitting around your table. Have meaningful conversation without the distraction of technology. Love one another, for they are your greatest gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Reflections on Hartford...A New Awakening

I returned last week from a mission trip to Hartford, Connecticut. The last time I was in the northeast was with middle schoolers during their spring break on a mission trip to Brewster, New York in March of 2012. It was bitter cold if my brain is functioning properly. I must say my return visit was picturesque and filled with warm fuzzy memories.

I'll not soon forget the faces I met in the grocery store, the hotel and especially the street. We are proud of our hospitality in the south, but I was pleasantly surprised at being treated with kindness and respect everywhere I went. People were generous with smiles and warmth.

The day spent frying chicken for fifty people with Elaine and Paulette is a day I will treasure. We had a makeshift kitchen behind the hotel on a picnic table, as well as hotplates and slow cookers in a meeting room. As we worked in our outdoor kitchen, it began to sprinkle rain. The radar showed the entire region covered in green and Paulette began praying. The rain stopped. The green on the map never lifted. We fried 107 pieces of chicken and the rain never amounted to anything more than a few sprinkles, even though radar painted a different picture. We were exhausted by the end of our lonnng day but I wouldn't trade a minute of it. We were meant to walk in relationship with people through this life and this day was special in more ways than frying chicken.

I'll not forget praying for people on the street in downtown Hartford, on one of the busiest corners, in one of the worst neighborhoods. People are hungry for people who care. This was my own personal highlight, as well as the relationships I made with those on the trip.

I'll not forget Anderson University students praying for, giving out water to, and connecting with the citizens of Hartford and the surrounding area. They have a heart for ministry, students, the unloved, the broken. They gave their time during their fall break from classes to love on people 1000 miles from home who don't have a relationship with the God of the universe. There is a generation of young adults coming along that excites me. God is moving people. He is not finished if we are willing. He will work in and among those who will say "yes."

It was a unique joy to be part of the first service of The River Church of Glastonbury, Connecticut. Several of our group worked tirelessly preparing the sanctuary and grounds for the service while others spread throughout the town prayer walking and sharing information about the church. Pastor George Lim and his wife, Janelle are passionate believers in Jesus Christ and desire to minister to people in this community.

We traveled to Enfield, Connecticut where there's a rock laid and dedicated to the memory of Jonathan Edwards and the revival that sparked the Great Awakening. We gathered in a circle and sang "There is a Fountain," and then prayed for revival in our country, churches and personal lives. As we finished singing and unlocked hands, several people had stopped to sing with us.

And then we return to the real world of home, family and politics. I fall into the black hole of Facebook with everyone else and give way too much time and attention to the junk found in its trap. It's bad, very bad, and yes, I want Jesus to come back, but that would be a quick fix. And then a lot of people would die without Him; people I just prayed with on the street in Hartford, Connecticut. Who am I to say, "Come Lord Jesus?"

Yes, I'm tired of living in a fallen world; I'm tired of living in my fallen world with my pain and brokenness. But, thanks be to God He has the answer. It's not time. There are people who need Him and we must tell them.

No political candidate will ever dig us out of the mess we're in. E V E R. It takes individual people. You and me. One on one relationships, taking someone by the hand and telling them there is a God who will not vote for Trump or Clinton, but for them. He has a plan tailored just for you, and me.

"I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord..."
Jeremiah 29:13

It was timely for me to go to the northeast just before a major election. At one time, I saw them as enemies because they were traditionally liberal. Now, I see them as friends and in need of my Jesus. Won't you join me in praying for them? We are ONE nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Living Loud Inside My Head

Have you met the kind of person who exuded confidence and a bubbly personality? This same person could charm the neighbor's kid, the neighbor's dog, and the fence you had a chat over? I grew up surrounded by those kind of people.

I'm not one of them.

I'm quiet and reserved, until I discover something we have in common. My outward demeanor may come across as calm but most of the time the voices in my head are noisy. For many years I became accustomed to listening to the clanging sounds telling me I would never measure up to the person sitting next to me, but I've become better at remembering my worth in Christ.

I'm an observer of people by nature. Unless I know you well I won't approach you for fear of rejection, or because it's too awkward.

If you had a front row seat in the audience of my sub-conscience you'd hear creative projects brewing, conversations with friends over coffee, advice given and received, writing ideas bouncing around, decorating ideas, Bible study thoughts, and the conversation that never ends...the direction of my book, what to include, how much do people really want to know, and will they really care.

While sitting in Starbucks, the people huddled in groups of two or three catch my attention. I ponder what issues they find themselves. My eyes drift to the barista. Even with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, her simple beauty is unmistakable. Is she working her way through school? Maybe she's a single mother struggling to make ends meet, working during the day while writing her first novel late into the night. Did her husband leave, or did he die at a young age? Is there a little one to raise alone with no money, and no education, but she has a dream of becoming a writer?

And then there's the fifty something man who is there every time I stop by to write. Did he make millions and now he's retired and simply wasting time? Or did he lose his job and he's using the free wi-fi as I did awhile back?

If you haven't guessed by now, I'm an introvert, a writer, and I live on the fringes. I live loudly in my head, but very quietly in public. It's difficult for me to be assertive, but in my head, I have conversations going constantly. You won't find me on the dance floor at weddings, though I love to dance. In my head, I'm line dancing right along with you.

I love one on one time time with friends, and especially entertaining in my home. I get lost at parties and usually find one person to connect with. Writing conferences are filled with introverts who understand one another. Sessions are structured to your particular need and therefore, not intimidating.

Because introverts are quiet, we get looked over, pushed aside, ignored, and taken advantage of. The movie, Dirty Dancing, which caused quite a stir in the 80's, made this line famous, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." Baby was the picture of an introvert coming of age in the hit movie set in the Catskill Mountains in the 1960's.

I've had to learn to speak up for myself, and while I'm not sneaking out learning dance moves like Baby, I can resonate with her character. I've only begun to understand introversion in my fifties. When I was a teenager, I thought there was something wrong with me. Now I understand, I was the one holding back, it wasn't anyone's fault that I felt left out. I've learned to use my creativity to transfer the voices in my head to the written word. But first, I had to find my voice, and learn how to say what I think. It's made all the difference.

If you see me staring out the window while sitting in Starbucks, please come talk to me. There's a story going on loud in my head. I'd love to share it with you.

Coming soon: Reflections on Connecticut Mission Trip

Monday, September 12, 2016

What Do You Love?

On a recent trip to the beach, I was listening to the sounds I love while reading my devotional book, contemplating these words...What do I love?

This question was asked in the book, "Longing for More, Finding God in the Rhythms of Life," by Timothy Willard, "Do you love the Word of God?"

The wheels of my mind were already spinning with thoughts of people I love, places I feel most at home and connected to, material things that bring comfort and joy, and memories that bring feelings of love and peace.

But I had to ask myself the hard question, "Do I love the Word of God?" Do I think of it throughout my day? Do I study and treasure it for the priceless gift it is to me? Do I regard it as the living, breathing representation of the person of Christ?

For those of you who remember the inaugural days of the television show Survivor, the participants were allowed to take three items with them to the remote location of the filming of the show. They were unaware of their destination.

I watched a season or two in the beginning with my family and silently chose my three items. Two of my three items were books, one being my Bible. I don't remember the reason I chose it, because I know my love for Him is so much deeper and truer now than it was then. I'm going to admit my third item was mascara, if that tells you anything. I don't wear makeup, but never leave home without mascara. My eyes disappear without it.

The question in my devotional book brought it to the forefront again. What do we love? Where do we spend our time, where do we spend our money? How often are you hauling your children to this sports activity or that music lesson? Do you spend your tithe on everything except the church or worthy ministries that benefit someone other than yourself? Larry Burkett said, and I'm paraphrasing, "Let me see your checkbook, and I'll tell you where your treasure lies."

When I ask myself the question about loving the Word of God, it begins with loving God first, then loving others before myself. This is the first and greatest commandment. The me that had a desire to take my Bible on an imaginary trip to a deserted island was a grand gesture, but the me who walks the planet today has a greater desire to live it out in flesh and blood through loving hurting people. I want to live it out through the words I speak and write and the actions of my hands and feet. The word of God is not only living and breathing in the pages of scripture, but it is also living and breathing through His people on earth.

Are you being the word of God where you live? Are you being the living, breathing truth of the gospel that a hurting world can grasp and know they have seen the Word of God lived out before them?

Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey whatever I commanded you." And He won't care one iota if you have mascara, or not.

The answer to the question, "What do I love?" lies in the answer itself. What are my actions? Am I making disciples with the the love I've been given, or am I merely hoarding knowledge for the sake of personal gain? Am I giving myself away to those in need or wallowing in my self-pity because of my own neediness? Do I give finances sacrificially or out of abundance? Just a few questions you may need to ask yourself as we seek to live the abundant life. I've already been asking myself the questions and I'm not too pleased with the answers.

But, unlike the show Survivor, I won't be voted off the island. My God is a God of second chances, or as many as my repentant heart needs. He has the ability to see into my soul and discern truth. He also said, "Ask and it will be given..." So, if my desire is to love Him and His word, and I ask, it will be granted. That's all I need to know.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Let All Creation Roar

I had an opportunity to slip away to the beach for a couple of days due to a bridal shower near the beach. I prefer going late summer and early fall, mostly for my budget, but I also like the slower pace and the cooler temps. This worked perfect all around. The humidity was lower and the evenings offered a nice balmy atmosphere as the sun dipped into the western sky.

I was almost giddy my first evening as I sat on the shore with a cup of coffee doing what I love. I never tire of the majesty of creation that points to a Creator. His Presence is everywhere. His handiwork is cast upon the sand as the waves roll in bringing treasures from the deep. All manner of shapes and sizes lay before me. Man, in his finite knowledge doesn't have the ability to craft as many different kinds and colors as can be found in the natural world, though we may try.

Come and see what God has done,
how awesome his works in man's behalf.
Psalm 66:5

Many fortunes have been made throughout the centuries by brilliant artists, and when it all boils down they are merely trying to reproduce what the original artist Himself first created, In the beginning...

Can you blame them? It was a sight to behold as the pink and purple tones of the evening sky were on display for all to see. The clouds were strewn about the horizon as cotton candy, made especially for me, a feast for the eyes. And when the sun completely disappeared, stars replaced the cotton candy, dotting the night sky like Christmas lights, except it's Christmas year round in God's world. The scene is drawn every night upon the canvas, free for anyone, anywhere in the world.

The roar of the sea is a reminder that He is always present, always faithful, never changing. Is there a time the sea doesn't roar? When I return to the eastern coastline, it never loses the characteristics that tell me where I am. Manmade markers certainly change the landscape, but the salty air, the ocean breeze, and swell of the tide cannot be mistaken, nor do they ever leave the place they were assigned.

In an ever-changing world where nothing is safe there is One who never changes. I will put my trust in Him and Him alone. If you think anyone in this world is going to fix your problems you're wrong. Fix your eyes on the only one who has the power for now and eternity.

We assign power and prestige to those we think can bring those same qualities to our lives, when in reality they lead us further away from the one thing we truly need...a relationship with the Creator.

I'm reading through the Psalms and after writing this post, the next Psalm in my reading said this:

He rules forever by His power,
His eyes watch the nations,
let not the rebellious rise up against Him.
Psalm 66:7

I don't have cable television, but I can glean from what I hear and read about our political climate and our choices, America is on a slippery slope, with a very short slide. He may just be growing weary of her rebelliousness.

The Bible also says creation has no problem understanding her connection and responsibility to the Creator. It says in Luke 19:40, even the rocks will cry out in praise of creation. And we, the crown of all His glorious creation have dishonored Him and spit in His face with our self-righteous, haughty attitudes. How can we ask for mercy? As a pastor in my church said recently in Sunday School, He's already been more than merciful.

Oh that we as a people would see Him through the world He's given us. Look around as summer fades and autumn bursts forth with colors that man can only dream of reproducing. The sky above turns a shade of blue the entire state of North Carolina will stop in their tracks and salute. Have you ever noticed the day after a storm is usually a day with the bluest of skies? It's a gentle reminder from God that He is in control.

And the orange and gold that shows out in my part of the country is so much more beautiful than the Clemson orange or the Georgia Tech yellow, though Death Valley lays only twenty minutes from my home, and Atlanta is two hours south.

He is watching and He is in control. I trust the truth in those ancient words, and I trust Him. This is His world whether you believe that, or you don't. History and the future will prove it. Don't let creation and the rocks be louder than the praise that comes from your mouth as you witness beauty wherever life takes you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Giving Hope in the Shadows

Accolades and recognition. Isn't this what human nature craves? We claim humility, and then announce to all social media outlets the deeds of our humility. At this point, it ceases to be humility.

I'm including myself in this observation.

We want everyone to know our lives count for something. We want to be seen as caring, responsible, active, and serving while also trying to keep all the balls of family and responsibility juggled. And we want to look as good as possible while juggling.

What's the point of service, of ministry?

The point is there is a world around us in despair. Our neighbors and community are a people with masks that hide the pain and dysfunction of life.

It's our responsibility to love them, to listen, to meet a need if possible. Listening is key. Walking with someone through tragedy, carrying their burden as your own.

The unsung heroes of my world are those who quietly serve. They take a meal to a family in need, where no eyes are watching. They stand in a hot kitchen and dish out food for the homeless. They rescue a young mother by giving her an afternoon of rest and freedom. They shovel mud out of flooded houses and deliver clean water, as well as hugs. They lay their heads on a hard gym floor at the end of a long day, or crawl into an air mattress that goes flat during the night. The unsung heroes pray weekly at a local coffee shop, no fanfare, no applause. The utterance of their lips speak of the needs of others. The heroes I know are not strangers to hospitals and nursing homes. There is no difference in span of life.

You may never see their names posted or their deeds applauded, but that doesn't deter their work of love.

When I was a teenager, growing up in the hills of West Virginia, my unsung heroes came in the form of my mom's best friend and her husband. After losing my mom at 15 years of age, she fixed lunch for me every day until I graduated from high school. She prepared a feast for me, day after day, year after year. Grilled cheese, ham and cheese on hoagie bread, burgers and fries, and dessert awaited me, and hugs were dished out before I rolled back to school with a full tummy. She even peeled my oranges and separated the slices; and a couple of times she slipped money in my pocket, given by her neighbors. I don't know of anyone on the planet whose heart is bigger. Very few people knew she did this for me. But God did and her acts are recorded in His memory. One year her husband made me a goodie box with all my favorite things. This is an example of caring "for the least of these."

Who we are as a people outside the church walls is much more important than who we are on the inside of those walls. We were not commanded to minister to the like minded. We are commanded to go to the uttermost places of the earth. The uttermost may be in your community, your state, or your own four walls.

Choose service without the hope of announcement. After all, the One who see all and knows all is the final judge. He will remember the deeds unseen, the intercession uttered, and the lives forever changed. The acts of love done in the secret place are many times, the most needed, and the most lasting.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What I'm Reading Lately

Ok friends, it's time for a beginning of summer book and podcast update.

Have I mentioned how much I love to read? I know I have, and I love it more as I age. My reading taste is not as diverse as I'd like, so I've been branching out a bit. If you're a writer, one of the best pieces of writing wisdom is to read books in your genre, but also read lots of fiction. I've not made a secret of my love of memoir; people fascinate me. Most of my writing is non-fiction, and I tend to lean in this direction in my reading as well. However,  I've been reading more fiction, but none I'm willing to recommend. I take seriously the responsibility of recommending a book.

My First Love...Memoir

by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle has been on many book lists, as well as writing conference "must reads" if you're going to write your own memoir. It's been on my TBR list for awhile. I tucked it in my luggage on a recent trip to New York City, but didn't get very far because of the busyness of the trip. As soon as I got home, I devoured it. Yes, it was that good. Author, Jeanette Walls, reveals her childhood story of life in a dysfunctional family that redefined the word dysfunctional for me. Her memories are vivid and well written, but it's her story of survival in the midst of heartbreaking circumstances that kept me reading. Some of her most difficult years were spent in a small town in West Virginia, only 75 miles from where I grew up. She's within a few months of being my age and I could identify with the time and place as well as the unfairness life. At the tender age of 17, she leaves home for the bright lights of the city where she makes a name for herself in the world of newspapers and  television. The book is in the process of filming for the big screen.

by Adam S. McHugh

Are you a good listener? The Listening Life by Adam S. McHugh has transformed my understanding of communication. Relationships are the foundation of life and this book has not only helped me understand and learn how to be the right kind of listener, it's given me insight to ways I've coped because of my childhood. A true listening life is more powerful than words if we learn to hear and understand those in pain. I will reread the book again and again. This book should be read by anyone who is in the business of counseling or comforting others. I can't remember when a book made as profound impact on me as this one, except maybe Simply Tuesday, by Emily P. Freeman.

by Madeleine L'Engle

This book took several chapters to decide if I liked it, but it was worth the read. The second half of the book was much easier for me than the first. Her writing is intellectual, yet comforting; part memoir, spiritual journey, with writing practices sprinkled throughout. I'm glad I pressed on through the beginning pages. It was worth the effort for the nuggets I discovered. 

More Podcasts...

For Writers


10-Minute Writer's Workshop

Pop Culture and Media

The Popcast with Knox and Jamie

Enjoy your summer, and happy reading!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

New York City, of All Places

You may have thought, because of the post title, I was going to write about my recent trip to the Big Apple. Yes, it was an amazing four days. NYC is definitely a destination for your bucket list.

I could tell you about going to my first Broadway play, Beautiful, the story of the life of Carol King. Her music had me in tears for most of the production. I'm a child of the sixties and seventies and the music touched me deeply.

Me and Janet
I could tell you of the lights and energy of Times Square at 11:00 p.m., and the feeling of safety in the midst of thousands of people.

I could tell you of museums and parks and famous sightings. Or, the underground subway ride with the chest of drawers on its way to a new home.

I could rave about the food...oh, the food was so good. It really was. And the ladies I broke bread with are the best travel companions. Anna, daughter of Janet, my longtime friend, planned our excursions with the finesse of a travel agent. We followed her everywhere she wanted to take us, walking 33.5 miles in four days. Did I mention the delicious food we ate? It's a good thing we walked 33.5 miles.

There are occasions in life when you're confronted with a person, event, or conversation and you must plunge into the encounter based on prior knowledge, your own gut feeling, or fear. Taxi ride, need I say more? The only time we hailed a cab, apart from the shuttle to and from the airport, was a 30 minute ride from the Upper West Side back to the center of Manhattan. It was a moment in my life, planned before I drew breath. Our days are not random or by chance.

Skyline view from Central Park
I am a committed believer in Jesus Christ. I write in this space and tell of my beliefs, my struggles, and my joys. This is a safe place to express my heart. During the ride in the cab, our driver, a twenty-something college student, began a conversation about politics and social issues. He assumed, from our accent, we were southerners. I have no idea how he knew. Anyway, he also assumed we were conservative homophobes.

For the record, I must tell you, in the past my husband would've taken the lead in friendly banter and I would've sat quietly in the backseat people watching and daydreaming. However, this time, I found myself explaining my political views, my social issue opinions, and defending my faith.

The young man boasted of being an atheist. Before leaving the cab, and this enlightening exchange of world views, I was able to tell him of God's love for him and Jesus' death on the cross for him. It was a natural progression of conversation. I didn't beat him over the head with it, and he promised he would think about all we'd said. He asked that I do the same, and I have.

It was a short conversation in the scope of the entire trip, yet it was one I will not soon forget. A seed was planted right in the middle of NYC on a beautiful Friday afternoon. We each made an impression with someone who is blind and deaf about the most important part of life, with our words, our demeanor, and our smiles. This is what we are called to do as believers, "Be ready in season..."

9-11 Memorial and Museum
Did I say all the right things? Only God knows. Will He use our words in this man's life? Only God knows, but the Bible says His word will not return void.

I want to be ready to share my faith with whomever is put in my path. I must not be afraid to share the truth of all I've learned and experienced in this life. We must be sensitive to the beliefs of others, yet firm in our own belief. Then, and only then, will we be taken seriously in this post Christian world we live in.

True freedom cannot be found in the temporal, but the eternal. That should be our message. It's not up to us to change the world, but we need to be faithful and obedient to whatever opportunities we have. He will do the rest. It's a promise.

With the summer months upon us, many will be out of their normal routine. Where, and with whom will you find yourself in a cab or hotel, on a boat or restaurant? People are looking for answers to life's deepest questions and meaning. If you're a believer, you have the answer. Be gentle and kind and let Love talk. Amazing adventures await you.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Decluttering for the Home, Heart and Soul

Spring is a time of renewal, the time of year when life springs forth, the old is gone from the journey through winters' chill.

Spring is also a traditional time for renewing our homes.

When I was a little girl, spring was the signal for curtains and bedspreads to be stripped and washed. Walls and floors were scrubbed clean, drawers were emptied and rid of clutter. Once the room was sparkling clean linens were returned to beds and windows. And all was well in our world. This process was repeated In. Every. Room.

When I grew into an adult with my own home this was the only way I knew how to operate. I'd been taught the value of a clean, tidy home. To this day, I love the smell and satisfaction of washing curtains and bedspreads. My childhood is reborn through the practice of homemaking.

I've tried to continue this through the years, but as the years have increased, so has the size of my house. It's been impossible for me to clean every room, every year, and have a life apart from Windex and Lysol.

I've been in the process of decluttering due to reading a book called, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Condo. The fact that my house is for sale is another motivating factor.

I call myself an organized hoarder. My children's artwork was too precious to part with more than two decades ago. The boxes are now in the garage, four of them. Toys from long ago, Lego projects, dishes, dolls, and trucks of all sizes and variety were neatly packed away. But, the time has come to face the future without the baggage of the past.

The task seemed overwhelming when I began removing my life from the storage room. Everything was divided into three piles: Keep, Yard Sale, and Giveaway. I had to fight the urge to send everything to the Keep pile.

As I was sorting and reminiscing my thoughts ventured into contemplative mode. What if we could sort our experiences of life into three piles: Memories to Keep, Memories to Share, and Memories for the Trash? The life changing magic of decluttering the soul, mind, and spirit.

As one who's carried burdens way too long, the practice of decluttering my soul would put a skip in my step.

The Bible says in Lamentations 3:22-23, "His mercy is new every morning." Each day the sun rises in the eastern sky is an opportunity to begin again, to ask for mercy in the hard places, to share with someone the love I've experienced, and give thanks for my blessings.

Every day brings a new challenge all its own. If I drag the worries of yesterday, or last month, or decades past, I'm throwing the mercy of my Savior back in His face. I'm saying the mercy He offered wasn't enough.

I don't want to refuse a gift like that. I want to clean every nook and cranny of my heart until it sparkles clean. I want to experience the joy and satisfaction of living to the fullest, not berating myself for the failures of life. On my own, I'm not capable, but with Christ all things are possible, and through Him I can do all things.

In His strength, I can sort and throw away the clutter of my soul. He will be faithful to put the sparkle on the rooms of my heart.

Are there places in your life in need of decluttering? Join me in your heart and home and clean out anything that doesn't belong or bring joy to your life. We can all stand to lighten our load in every area of our lives,

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Birthday to Remember, But No Tears This Year

She would've been 80 years old today; my mother, the woman who gave birth to me, nurtured and molded me, and then died when I was fifteen years of age, and she, 38. She lives forever young in my mind.

Her eyes never aged to wear glasses and her hair, when she had it, had only a few gray streaks. It didn't glisten white like that of her beautiful sisters; though I can imagine what she would've looked like because of them. She was never mother-of-the-bride, and therefore, never held a grand baby. She never celebrated a silver wedding anniversary or felt the emptiness of her children leaving the nest.

But, her days were fulfilled as God planned them. Her life was complete in His eyes.

Memories are an interesting thing. They occupy a considerable part of the brain. They hold court in your mind anytime they see fit. Memories can be a source of joy, as well as pain, depending on your state of mind and life experiences.

Mom and me circa 1963
The memories I have of my mom have grayed with time. The same ones make their appearance as predictable as the changing of the seasons. Different stages of my life renew the fervor to retain the pictures in my mind, the voice, the body language, and unfortunately, the pain.

When I was a little girl in first grade, one of the most vivid memories I have was about a dress; and me not wanting to wear the dress. I left the house to walk a short distance to the bus stop. About half way down the street I stopped, eyes full of tears spilling down my cheeks, and turned to look back at my house. She was standing in the doorway. I can see her clearly in plaid bermuda shorts and matching blouse. I was close enough to hear her yell, "Cindy Jean, you get on down to the bus stop or I'm gonna spank you."

The rest of the story is a blur, but I don't remember a spanking so I must have obeyed. My dislike with some clothing was real or maybe it was a control issue. I was, and am, particular with the way clothes fit and feel. It can be a curse when looking for a specific item.

I've since learned I'm a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Yes, for real. Much has been written on this kind of person and I qualify, without a doubt. It reaches into sounds, surroundings, and emotions, as well as physical. I don't think Mom cared much about my sensitivities that morning. I'm sure she didn't want me to miss the bus.

She had breast cancer so a lot of my memories involve hospitals and doctor offices, meds and recuperation. But in the midst of all she went through, I remember her smile and her belief that God was in control and she would be fine. I was naive and had no idea of the seriousness of her illness. I was five years old at the time of her diagnosis and they didn't give any details. All I knew was that we spent a lot of time in Charleston at the hospital, expecting her to come to the waiting room to see us.

Times were different in the late sixties and seventies. Facebook didn't exist so there was no sharing of her illness, no requests for prayer or support for family put out to 500 of my closest friends. Families were much more private and mine was almost to the point of a lock down. The only time I heard about it was on Wednesday night at church when her name was called aloud during prayer time.

She was brave and strong and it never occurred to me her days were finite. Her strength came from the God she loved. She put Him first in all she did.

Vacation in Washington D.C circa 1971
I never want to forget the sound of her voice, the laughter beyond the pain, or the way she loved her family. I want to remember her love of Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, and the way she would sing along to all their albums. She knew Every. Single. Word. And because she listened so much, so did I, and still do. I visited Loretta's home place in Butcher Holler while on a mission trip in Kentucky, and cried all the way through.

At times, I'd like to forget the arguments we had, the struggle she faced every day to walk, the pain and sorrow in her eyes, and the sight of my dad after she died. But those memories tell the complete story of who she was. I don't ever want to forget the joy she brought to others, and the stability she gave to our home.

I spent many years of my life weighed down with unresolved grief. Children who suffered from the loss of a parent were often overlooked in that era. Hospice didn't exist and the needs of children were not met with intention as they are today. Almost on a daily basis a memory would interrupt my thoughts to remind me of all I'd lost. Other life experiences compounded my inability to grieve.

I'm thankful to share after forty years since her death, my demons have been laid to rest. My dreams are no longer the stage where she returned for a curtain call night after night. The tears upon hearing her name have dried to a trickle. For these things, I thank God. In His faithfulness, He brought me to a place of grief and acceptance. He held me closely as I relived the memories and put them in the proper place. Grieving allowed me permission to finally lay her to rest.

This year, I'll quietly celebrate her life, her influence and her legacy...through my memories.

If you've lost someone you love, keep your memories alive. Talk about your loss, share your stories, and don't forget to grieve. Don't waste precious time in the pit of loneliness and unresolved grief. Allow Jesus to mend your heart and restore your joy.

Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who Heals, promises to bring healing; even if it's forty years in the process.


Friday, February 19, 2016

So What Happens Next?

How do you know you're doing the thing you were meant to do?

This is a question I ask myself frequently. As I've moved from one stage of life to the next, it's been clear...until now. I wonder how many others feel the same?

Early in life you transition from one stage to the next by traditions, expectations, personal desires, and need. Fear and her co-horts of the hows and whys do not occupy a large of the brain. The next thing seems natural and the destination is one you can grasp.

The years in the next life, the ones I call the empty nest, are not as obvious. Bodily changes, housing changes, social and emotional changes, crouch at your door. These years are filled with transition as you grapple with the fact that life is finite. You want to squeeze every last ounce of joy and fulfillment out of each day.

This is the place I find myself. My life was predictable and fulfilling...and then it wasn't. I am a homemaker, momma to two beautiful children, a wife to one. The children flew the nest and left me without a daily routine that was familiar. My years were spent as many of yours are the car shuttling children to this and that, in the classroom, overseeing homework, pulling out my hair with discipline issues, on my knees, proms and soccer games, and a million other little things of insignificance. Very little, if any, time was spent on myself.

In the corner recesses of my mind though, there is the me, before life became about everyone else. Who is she, and what does she have to offer the world and her family?

There are many things I want to do. My creative side has its own vision of these remaining years, but my practical side has issues. What to do is the question that looms large and uncertain.

"These are the best of times and the worst of times..." Isn't that the way life is?

The one thing I know for sure is that God knows the plan He has for me. He knows my heart, He knows my gifts, my strengths, my weaknesses. And He will work it all for my good and His glory, because I love Him and trust Him.

As I seek Him, He will reveal one detail at a time when He's ready and not a minute before. He is faithful to care for me now as He did then. These years need not be wasted. I can face them with joy because of who He is.

Life transitions shouldn't be something to fear or dread. I'm in the place of great expectation. The next few years are uncertain at this point, but as I test the waters of creativity, I'm excited about the journey. He will hold me in the palm of His hand as I go and that's good enough for me.

Do you struggle with the big picture of life or are you a detail person? What are your hopes and dreams as you approach these in between years? I'd love to know I'm not alone in my thoughts. How has God directed you into a place of peace as the years roll along? Do tell in the comments. We can learn much from one another.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

How to Survive the Winter Months

Winter is not my favorite season of the year. I'll say that and get it out of the way. However, "there truly is a time for everything under the sun," as Solomon wrote in the Old Testament of the Bible. Surviving, and even thriving, during this time of the year can happen if you bring some intentionality to your daily life.

Here are a few of my recent activities that have brought joy to my gray skies:

1. Cooking and baking

There are many things about cooking that breed procrastination, dread, and frustration. Time, menu planning, shopping, and pleasing your diners are just a few. However, I've changed my attitude and it's made all the difference. Winter is the perfect time for comfort food during the many events surrounding the holidays, sports events and family gatherings. It's a great time to snuggle up to a roaring fire and peruse your favorite cookbooks. I love feeding people. I love meeting a physical need as well as providing a satisfying experience of fellowship around the table. Good food and conversation just go together.

2. Going to the library

As I've written before, my hometown didn't have a library when I was growing up. The bookmobile visited every two weeks and I was a regular customer. Libraries hold a special place in my heart, and they're completely free of charge. There's a world of discovery at your fingertips waiting for you at the local library. Movies, books, magazines, and newspapers await your pleasure. It's an excellent place to while away an hour or two...or four.

3. Cleaning, organizing, and decluttering

Call me crazy but I love this more than the average person. It's in my gene pool, I can't help it. If you could peer into the homes of my relatives, we all have this in common. We have the most fun sharing about our OCD tendencies with cleaning. Don't misunderstand me, my home is lived in and I want people to be comfortable more than anything. I just love a clean, uncluttered environment and the feeling of a day's work leaves me satisfied and complete.

4. Movie nights

This one is a stretch for me. I don't watch television except for Downton Abbey. This winter I've been watching classic movies checked out from the library. Again, completely free and a great way to spend a snowy afternoon or evening.

5. Coffee dates

This one speaks for itself. Good friends, good coffee and great conversation. Enough said.

6. Celebrations

This one is special to me. Both my children are adopted and we celebrate their coming home days. We call it their "Special Day." Each year is marked by a family dinner where we recall the miracle of adoption. I never want to forget the two happiest days of my life.

7. Visiting family

My birthplace and home of origin is in West Virginia. My family has dwindled to a few cousins and two aunts, one on my mom's side and the other, my dad's sister. I don't go home much but my heart will always reside in the hills of West Virginia. Winter is a slower season for me and I try to visit during this time. My people are the first ones who had an impact on me and know my roots. We share memories of a time in my life that remind me of who I am, where I've been, and how much I'm loved.

Well, this is my list. What do you do to survive and thrive in this season of life? Please share in the comments. New ideas are welcomed since we have a couple of months before spring arrives. I'd love to hear how you bring joy to your everyday routine.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Favorites...Online and Off

Now that a new year has begun and we've settled into the winter slump, I thought I'd share some of my favorite on-line hangouts, as well as a book or two.

I love listening to podcasts when I'm walking, driving, or any number of daily activities. Podcasts can be educational, enlightening, and most of all entertaining. The hosts become your virtual friends in this crazy, noisy world we live in today. Most of the ones I listen to have been recommended from bloggers I trust. Clicking on the titles will take you directly to the shows.

~My Favorite Podcasts~

This show has three co-hosts who rotate with Megan. They cover every topic under the sun from books, parenting, cooking, self-care, pop culture, and my favorite topic, personality types. They are fun, positive women in this R-Rated world we find ourselves in. You would not have to worry about young ears if they happened to be in the car with you or come into the room while you're folding laundry.

The newest podcast on my playlist has jumped to the #2 spot. The author of the popular blog, Anne Bogel, who writes at Modern Mrs. Darcy, just launched her own podcast on January 10th. If you love books and reading you'll want to subscribe. Her voice alone is worth the listen. It has a soothing quality that has me checking my downloads for new episodes. Her blog, as well as the podcast have the ability to entice a non-reader to make a trip to their local library. 

If you're interested in learning about personality types via Myers-Briggs, you'll love this podcast. It has taught me invaluable lessons about the wiring of my brain. I've been able to use the information in everyday living.

The Simple Show is another voice that speaks on many topics such as parenting, books, writing, and traveling, while striving to live a simpler, uncluttered lifestyle. She has excellent guests that help make this one of the top podcasts on the web. This is another kid friendly podcast.

~My Favorite Books of 2015~

2015 was a great year for books...but is there ever a bad year? Not for me. I could bore you with my endless list, but these are the ones that stood out and beg to be read again and again.

My number one book would have to be Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines. Her writing is like medicine for my soul. She has a way of communicating through the written word that helped the broken places in my life find healing. She writes with authenticity and from the raw pain of God's redemption and restoration of her broken life. Her life is a testimony of God's faithfulness and love when we least expect or deserve it.

Simply Tuesday was released in August of 2015. I began reading it right away, but it's a book that needs to be read slowly and thoughtfully because of the nuggets of truth in every single page. The author, Emily P. Freeman, is one of the deepest thinking people I've ever encountered. In this, her fourth book, she writes on finding space for your soul to breathe. She calls us to a life of deep devotion to Christ, of sitting in His Presence, of being present in the ordinary days of life. I can't recommend this book with enough stars. But don't hurry through it, you don't want to miss a single word.

Another book on my favorites list that had me gushing about its content is Emily Whaley and her Charleston Garden. Emily and co-writer William Baldwin penned a lovely book about gardening, life in the south, and all things Emily Whaley. I loved this little book so much I drove myself to Charleston for the day to see the 30 x 100 foot patch of ground they wrote about. The private garden was alive and well many years after her death in 1988. She described life in the low country of South Carolina before it became a vacation destination. Her depiction of those years left me wanting to read more of this fascinating woman and her life in Charleston. 

I'll stop for now. You're either on overload from too much information, or you can't wait to check out these great books and podcasts.  

Until next time...


Friday, January 15, 2016

Lessons from a Sheep...The Secret to Contentment

Do you know what it's like to live an "I want" lifestyle?

If you're not this kind of person, you know someone who is; the kind of person who is never satisfied with what they have or who they are.

We all have some degree of want in us. If we didn't, we'd lay around like fat cats all day waiting for our next meal to be presented on a silver platter.

God planted a seed of motivation in our DNA so we'd rise from our beds each morning and face the day, even when our want may have went somewhere else. There's another kind of want that leads to discontent, that usually leads to trouble, that leads to wandering...far.

I was reading in Jesus Calling, "Be content to be a simple sheep, listening to my voice and following me..."

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
He leads me beside quiet waters, 
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His names' sake.
Psalm 23:1-3

I've been in want in my life. There were times I didn't know where food and shelter were coming from. But, He always provided.

There are few things the body and soul really need: clothing, shelter, love, and purpose.

Have you found yourself caught in the hustle of life, the hustle of more and better? Are you discontent in all you do, seeking the "I want" lifestyle and finding there is no peace, no satisfaction?

May I suggest the lifestyle of a simple sheep? There is quiet, there is calm, even when trouble is nearby. The Shepherd will care for your needs and you will never be in true want. He will make you lie down in green pastures and restore your soul.

I wouldn't mind a rest in a nice green spot, and a little soul restoration sounds mighty pleasant.

And then...He sets my wandering feet back on the right path. 

Life may not be easy, but there's peace, even in the midst of a storm. 

It begins with listening; taking the focus off yourself and your wants. The end result is your wants will be satisfied. He promised and He never breaks a promise. You'll wake up one day in the midst of that green pasture and realize your wants have changed, and it began with being a contented sheep.