Wednesday, October 19, 2016

We Do Not Serve a $1.98 God

Coupon Piles by Caroly Pyles
Flickr.com_photos/cpyles/10866066513_CC BY ND 2.0
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. " Ephesians 3:20-21

I love a good bargain, don't you? When the receipt shows I've paid less than half the retail cost I feel like I've won a small battle; like I've out-smarted the man (whoever he is). But there is a limit to my bargaining. I don't price-haggle, travel more than 5 miles, snip piles of coupons, purposefully collect "magic" supermarket coins, or stockpile anything I'll never consume just because it's free. That's simply exhausting and wasteful.

If I were brave enough to climb upon a hernia-sized soap box from aisle #10 I'd shout, "Stop playing games and just lower the prices! Keep it simple! The end. Amen." I just wanna purchase items at fair price without all the planning and strategizing.

Guess what? We do not serve a $1.98 God.* When presented with our needs he doesn't ask for a coupon or bicker over the price. It's already paid for through Jesus and he generously gives us the best from his heavenly storehouses; rich, overflowing and limitless supplies of everything we need. And God always slips a little something extra into our bag just because he loves us. All he asks is that we say, "thank-you"--a heartfelt word of gratitude--and share with others.

God keeps life simple. Out of a life of gratitude and thankfulness, he gives abundantly more than we can imagine and we walk away with free, joy-filled bags of the highest quality hope not only for ourselves, but also to share with those around us. Nothing ever goes to waste. Whatever we give away in his name, God always returns ten-fold.

My prayer for you today:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19

*Original quote by Jennifer O'Neill

If you're joining me from the Christian Children's Authors Blog, welcome!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sweet Comfort

CC BY ND 4.0
He will take great pleasure in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

A medley of hymns from my childhood rings clearly in my heart when I close my eyes and listen. They were completely separate tunes until my mother gathered me in her arms and strung them together as one. It's impossible to count how often she sang over me, but this I know: it comforted me.

Decades later, I gathered my own children in my arms and rocked away the nights in darkened rooms gently whispering that same strung-together-medley: "Jesus loves me this I know...Oh how he loves you and me...Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There's just something about that name...On a hill far away, stood and old rugged cross...Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord." Every time I sang over them in love. Every time, it comforted them.

I miss those lingering moments of new sleep when I studied their sleeping little faces, inhaled their clean baby hair and thanked God for the precious gifts they were.

Now, six grandchildren later, I sometimes relive those times when they spend a night. Gathering them into my arms, that old, familiar, strung-together-medley reemerges, and usually, within minutes, their little bodies relax and their eyes close. If I’m honest, I linger with them when their fast asleep, tracing their familiar profiles and delighting in their presence.  

It awes me to know God looks at us the same way. I wonder how many lingering moments-when our hearts are quieted by His love-He rejoices over us with singing?

Do you have a favorite childhood tradition or memory that you’ve carried over into your own parenting or grand parenting? If not, memories can be intentionally created. Why not start today? Choose something that shows you delight over them like singing over your children as they fall asleep or sending them to school with a prayer. The sky’s the limit.

Dear Jesus, thank you for taking pleasure in us, quieting us with your love and rejoicing greatly over us. And for those times when we might feel unloved, bring to mind how much you delight in us. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Holy Knees

Day 14_365 by Megapixx_Flicr.com_5747041178_5d7d312d94_CC BY ND 2.0
"I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. " 1 Samuel 1:27-28

I crawled on my knees, for what seemed like forever, after my babies were born. As soon as they got past the sleeping/eating/sleeping routine and stayed awake to play for awhile, I was on the floor cooing and playing with them while they got their necessary social and physical exercise. Then they became mobile and I was on my knees making sure the house was baby proofed, crawling with them, chasing after them and picking up the debris (also known as toys) they left in their wake.

Prior to babies, a pair of jeans lasted me a few years. Post babies, they wore out at the knees after only a year. I remember reserving one pair of jeans as my "good jeans"; the ones I only wore out in public or on a date with my husband because they didn't show where my knees were.

Children grew into adolescents and I often missed those days of holy-kneed jeans. I didn't miss the physical exhaustion as much as the uncomplicated simplicity of those peanut butter and jelly vs. bologna and cheese type of days. It was stepping back as they made their own decisions - good and bad - when I wished for simpler days.

When boundaries set meant boundaries tested I found myself back on my knees. But this time, instead of crawling after them, I was crawling toward Jesus' feet. I was on my knees praying for them - for God’s Truth to pierce their hearts and redirect their paths. There were days, weeks, months, and years when I wondered if God heard me.

Then He reminded me of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:27-28:
I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord.”

Like Hannah, I prayed specifically for my children and dedicated them to the Lord as infants. But somehow through the years I took back possession. I’d forgotten they were God’s gifts with their own hearts, traveling their own God-journeys.

And so, back on my knees, I offered my children back to the Lord - trusting His plans for them - knowing the same God who promised to never leave me nor forsake me offered those same promises to my children.

How's the knees of your jeans looking today?

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." 
Proverbs 3:5, 6


Halloween makes me uneasy. Always has. Ghoulish images, horror films, ghost stories, visions of death and destruction that seem to permeate this "holiday" doesn't intrigue me one bit. I find all that disturbing and avoid all contact with such imagery.
Scripture says it this way: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)
Scary images don't contrive anything honorable, right, pure, lovely or admirable so, I don't open myself up to those images. Why? Because I know my mind, especially my subconscious, would fixate on them and do me harm.
But what about all the fun? As Christians, do we have to become Halloween party poopers? Not at all, but we need to understand which traditions are worth celebrating and why.
Throughout history, the lines between pagan and Christian holidays blur, like Halloween. Hallowe'en in British tradition, is the marriage of the Gaelic festival of Samhain (lord of death) and All Saints Day. In an attempt to override the celebration of death, Pope Gregory IV, changed the May 1st celebration of All Saints Day (commemorating all passed saints), to November 1st, using October 31st (festival of Samhain) as a commemoration of All Saints Eve (All Hallows Eve). During the night, families would pray for their deceased loved ones and upon their return home, would feast on pancakes, curds and cider around the hearth. Later, this turned into begging for "soul cakes" door-to-door and in return, the beggars would offer prayers for the deceased loved ones of the home. Now, our modern-day trick-or-treat.*
Regardless, tradition does not make something right. But let me offer this: as Christians, we can bring Jesus' light into the darkness. We can celebrate the hope of life after death. We can celebrate the harvest that God has blessed us with. We can celebrate our family, past and present.
So, what does that look like? It is goodness. God is good (in the midst of evil) and, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28 NIV).
Here's my GOOD Halloween guidelines:
  • Generate boundaries. Ex. Safe, family-oriented, harvest celebrations, positive secular or Christian-based character costumes.
  • Open your heart and home for alternative, positive festivities based upon the above. Reach out to your children's friends and your neighbors.
  •  Operate out of love. When your child pushes back, take time to explain why you've decided to celebrate in a God-honoring way. Be inclusive with neighbors and friends, not preachy. Live your witness and love your neighbors (and their children).
  • Discuss the reality of good and evil in this world age-appropriately. Explain that while there is a real Satan, Jesus has overcome him and all the darkness in the world. If we believe in Jesus and have an intimate relationship with him, the same Holy Spirit lives within us and empowers and protects us from all evil.
Whatever your tradition, have a safe and happy fall.
If you joined us here from Christian Children's Author's blog, Welcome! So glad you popped in for a visit. 
*(To learn more, go to,,

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wind's in the East...

Wind by Gureu
CC BY-ND 2.0
Wind's in the east, mist comin' in
Like somethin' is brewin' and 'bout to begin.
Can't put me finger on what lies in store, 
But I feel what's to happen all happened before.
(Lyrics, Chim Chim Cher-ee by Richard M Sherman & Robert B. Sherman)

Season's changing. The hot summer bids us farewell and autumn's settling in with his cool breeze, yellow,orange and rusty hued leaves, shorter days and longer nights. We've all been here before and we know what's in store, generally. 

I mean we can predict weather cycles, but not specific storms too far in advance. Calendars remind us of upcoming holidays, but not what will take place in between. We plan our days accordingly--check the weather, the calendar dates, our to-do lists, but when it comes down to it, we never quite know exactly how the day will start or end or what might upend us. I suppose that's good, or we'd never get out of bed. 

It's been a mysterious year for me--a year when the East wind kicked up a storm--compounded family crises (good and bad) found me spinning in every direction imaginable. I've been here before--handled years like this before--nine years like this, to be exact, but who's counting? (Oh yeah, me). I thought after that first year of suffering concussive syndrome symptoms for seven months, I'd be prepared for a year like this. 

But I wasn't.  This year I'm weary. Literally at the end of myself. 

For years, (nine years) I've been feeling like I'm never enough for everyone who needs me. And I'm not. This year proved it. 

Eighteen months ago, I was diagnosed with vitamin D3 and B12 deficiency. No biggie, right? but after a year's worth of healthy eating, bi-weekly B12 shots and a myriad of natural food supplements, I felt the east wind blowing and all the physical symptoms returned. Luckily, blood work showed my vitamin levels were fine, in fact way off the charts, but I'd contracted mono. Again, no biggie. It's treatable. Been here before.

The only treatment? Rest. Lots and lots of rest. 

Hey, every adult wishes they'd be ordered to bed, right? Yeah, but what happens when you're the main caregiver for two aging mothers, an active grandmother to six grandchildren whom you love with all your heart, a small group leader and an already a hard-to-motivate writer? 

Let. It. Go. and ask for help. 

Following the doctors orders, I gave myself permission to sleep. A lot. Twelve hours a day for two weeks. Nine hours every night the third week, and so on, until my body finally regulated to a normal eight hour night. 

And, you know what's amazing? While I slept, my mothers were well cared for by others, my family was flexible and came back to visit when I was well, and my writing...well...I didn't write, but the rest helped restore my creativity. Ideas flow more easily and instead of just scheduling archived articles, it's refreshing to actually write an original thought. (Thanks for your patience). 

Best of all, I'm learning that it's okay to not be enough for everyone. God is. That sounds cliche, I'll admit. But it's true. When I thought I had to run around like crazy meeting everyone's needs on my own, God's taught me that He is ultimately in control. [He will provide for everyone's] needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:17 NIV). So much more than I can offer. 

How about you? Is the east wind blowin'? Feelin' like somethin' is brewin' 'bout to begin? How do you handle the changes that upend you? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Be a Life Preserver

On the ferry by C Carlstead
flickr.com_photos/cristic/560163635_CC BY-ND 2.0
Life was smooth sailing until the summer before my tenth birthday when my father walked out on us. Forever etched in my mind, it was the first day I ever felt lost.

Everything in my life changed that day--holidays, church gatherings, even after school routines--and I found myself gasping for air, barely keeping my head above water.

Our home, once overflowing with family during holidays and birthdays, now sat eerily empty as half our extended family wondered what to do with us. After-church dinner invitations halted and television noise filled the air instead of friendly conversations and kids' laughter. And, worst of all, a locked door and empty house greeted me after school because my mom now worked.

Oh, how my heart yearned for normal and the family comfort it once knew. So, I sought out family wherever I could--looking for hope for my future--praying that God would somehow allow me a glimpse at what a forever family looked like. And He was faithful.

While I bobbed in a sea of raging chaos and change, God threw me four life preservers that helped me navigate those choppy waters of a fatherless childhood and adolescence:

  • An attentive teacher. Mr. P was my first male teacher and one I'll always remember. Rather than coddling me, knowing my family situation, he taught me courage. Oh, he had my back, like a good father, when the class bully picked on me, but most importantly, he helped me discover my voice. He gave me the courage to speak up for myself and to be comfortable with the sound of my own laughter. 
  • A caring faith community. Shunned from our "family" church, my sisters and I sought out a loving faith community across town; one with an active youth ministry. The youth group became my family; a place of comfort and belonging, spiritual encouragement, and growth. It's where God grew me up into who He created me to be through the leadership and friends.
  • A loving extended family. Newly married, my eldest sister and brother-in-law took me under their wing. They welcomed me to their extended family celebrations where I witnessed numerous godly marriages that extended decades. One celebration, in particular, a fiftieth anniversary, stood as the catalyst of hope for me. Attending with my then boyfriend (and now husband of 32 years, yay!), it hit me...there is such a thing as a godly, forever family. 
  • A generous friend. Adolescence was a tough road for a single-parented child, especially one whose sisters were both married. God graciously gave me a friend from seventh to twelfth grade who generously shared her family life with me. Her parents meant the world to me as they often invited me to stay for dinner, go on vacation with them, and allowed me to share the day-to-day routine of their family. It was in that home that I caught a glimpse of a normal, loving family; the one I longed for someday. Truly, a gift from my heavenly Father.

I am forever thankful that God placed these people in my life. The lessons I learned from them remain even decades later. And as I welcomed my children's young friends into our home, I prayed that God would use our family the same way He used those precious life preservers of my youth; that for those seeking acceptance, normalcy, family, and God, they would find it all under our roof.

Are there children or young people in your life who might be drowning in some rough family seas? Are they seeking some resemblance of normalcy in their world? How might God use you and your family to ease them through this tough time?

(If you joined me here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, Welcome!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Taming the Busy Monster

3 Monsters
by Larry Wentzel
CC BY 2.0

...keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the Lord, your God. Ezekiel 20: 19b-20

If you've joined us here from {re}fresh, welcome!

Rest. Simply stop. 

But, it's not always that easy is it? 

Society screams above God's whisper to rest and shouts "Go! Go! Go! Don't stop, keep going!" It's like we measure success by how busy we are until there's nothing more left to squeeze out of us by day's end. And the worse part? Society wants us to repeat that every. single. day. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, minus a week's vacation if you're lucky. Oh, and on that vacation? Don't rest. Go, go, go some more. Pack as much "busy fun" into your week to make up for the previous 51 work weeks. 

Whew! I'm exhausted just writing that paragraph. Nap, please?

So, as Christians, what's the big deal about rest? Here's a few thoughts:

Rest is ordained.  After creating the universe in six days, God ordained rest as Genesis 2:2 states:

 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 

Rest is holy. It allows us space to breathe, to listen and to worship. God knew our bodies, minds and souls needed refreshment; down time to heal and process and rejuvenate our creativity as well as worship our Creator. 

Exodus 20:11 explains it this way:

 This is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. 

Rest is healing. When our physical, emotional, creative and spiritual health suffers due to anemic rest, we break. And even then, when our bodies try forcing rest upon us, we fight it. We will ourselves to "get up and be better". We ignore our symptoms and forge ahead despite the still small voice that says, "rest". But, if we let him, God will use rest to heal our emotional and physical maladies. It's then, when our schedules clear and our distractions disappear that we can finally hear Him; finally allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives.

If rest is so holy and healing, then what about work? God never said don't work. Work and creativity has always been part of God's plan for us. 

The Lord God placed man in the Garden of Eden to tend watch over it. 
Genesis 2:15 (NLT)

But, God created a day for rest and worship. Taming that Busy Monster that lurks over our shoulders or shouts above the crowd, is key:
  • Build a work ethic - work hard and efficient while on the job
  • Set boundaries - protect your family time, creative time, and Sabbath days
  • Say "no" - to projects, ministries and outings that zap you and overstep your boundaries
  • Be brave - stop feeling guilty while resting. View rest as holy, God-ordained time 

Father-God, thank you for thinking of everything, especially rest. While the world shouts "do more", help us to stop and rest and listen to your still, small voice that beckons us to come away with you to a quiet place. Remind us that resting in you not only brings healing and break through, but it's holy and ordained. It's through rest that we worship and commune with you and our hearts, minds and bodies are made whole again. Amen. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Easing First-Day Anxiety

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25

If you're joining us here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

Mikey entered kindergarten kicking and screaming.  His mother didn't know what more to do except drag his stiff, reluctant, five-year-old body behind her like he was drafting on an imaginary skateboard. 

I'd been brave up until the moment his blood curdling cries echoed through the halls of Samuel Huntington Elementary School and into Miss Kane's classroom. Once Mikey arrived, my courage slipped through my quivering lips as I held on tight to my mother's skirt. 

Enter, Miss Kane--the sweetest, most loving teacher I'd ever known. She knew just how to calm our fears with reassuring kindness and creatively distract us long enough for our parents to slip away without notice. Soon enough, fully immersed in one of the play stations, we'd made new friends and our anxiety was long least until the next day. 

Easing separation anxiety with little ones isn't formulaic. Each child owns a different personality and it takes time to learn what works. However, from experience as a parent, day care provider, preschool teacher and grandparent, I've learned several general guidelines that help ease children's anxiety:
  1. Pray specifically for and with your child--that God would ease their fears and give them joy and protection
  2. Visit the classroom, day care, etc. with your child prior to the first day 
  3. Involve your child in "first day" preparations (packing their lunch, choosing a special outfit, packing a special "comfort" toy)
  4. Make drop off quick. Lingering only causes more anxiety in them and you
  5. Reassure your child about your return and leave them with a kind word
  6. Teachers/caregivers should greet every child with joy, compassion and kindness
  7. Teachers/caregivers should offer multiple activities to help distract children and ease them into healthy socialization with peers
  8. Parents, be consistent with routines and always return on time
by Dawn Aldrich
Halo Publishing, 2009
Years ago, while caring for my then, three-year-old great niece, I realized separation anxiety does not dissipate simply because they are familiar with the caregiver. It helps, but it's not the issue. The issue is, they fear separation from the parent. 

Implementing the above guidelines by trial and error and simply intuition as a parent and experienced caregiver, I wrote Auntie's House (Halo Publishing, 2009). This picture book, (pre-k through first grade), walks the young reader through a typical day a little girl spends with her auntie while Mommy works. It addresses separation anxiety in a positive manner, reassuring her that Mommy always returns at day's end. 

Adding Auntie's House to your child's first day preparations may help ease their anxiety. You can read the reviews on Amazon. 

Let's help one another out. Would you like to share your first-day stories or concerns below? We'd love to pray with you and for you and your children.