Thursday, December 20, 2012

When Darkness Shrouds Bring the Light

 
"I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark." John 1:46 The Message

Text messages poured in interrupting my holiday errands. Overloading the grocery belt with baking supplies and Christmas feast items, I glanced at the first note. It read, "Are you and the grand babies okay?"

An odd question from a friend, I thought, so I answered, "Yes, why?" Her reply stopped me cold.

"School shooting in Newtown. Kindergartners dead."

Before I could respond, my phone interrupted the cashier's question, "Any coupons?" Another friend texted, "Have you seen the news? I can't believe it! We were just there. Met all these families."

It felt surreal standing amongst Christmas shoppers, joyful greetings, blipping cash registers and questions like, "Any coupons?" knowing only an hour west, Evil ran rampant and darkness shrouded this community my friends and I spent time with in September.

After days of weeping, holding my own children and grandchildren physically close, God reminds me of words He spoke to me just a four days prior to this tragedy.

Darkness always tries to push back the Light, but it cannot distinguish it. Light is always stronger, always brighter, always reveals the Truth. Darkness hides, runs, disappears in the Light. Keep shining My Light.
 
And God gives me this idea: Words Heal.
 
Writers know this truth, don't we? God heals us through words whether we write them ourselves, read His Word, or read others' words. Words bring healing  as we rummage through pain and allow God's Holy Spirit to minister through recording it all. Somehow seeing is believing and seeing our thoughts through the written word becomes very therapeutic.
 
So, I take this thought and share it with an author-friend and God directs our conversation this way: "What if local, CT authors rally and freely offer their time and writing talents in conjunction with the school guidance department and grief counselors and facilitate writers' workshops, teaching the children (all ages) to journal through their grief?"
 
Light pierces the Darkness during this conversation. We can see it - how we can bring Light back into this town shrouded in Darkness; how we can push back the Darkness and reveal Truth.
 
The idea grows: seven local children's and young adult authors and I are in preliminary conversations with the Newtown guidance department to move forward once they settle back into school.
 
Will you help us push back the Darkness and bring God's healing and Light to Newtown?
 
While we wait for the details to iron out, we are collecting journals and asking all who donate to inscribe words of encouragement and healing on the inside cover to the child/student recipient. They don't have to be expensive or fancy. If God moves you to participate, please mail the journals to:
 
Words Heal
c/o Knee High Academy
43 Hall Avenue, 3rd floor
Wallingford, CT 06492
 
To keep up with our progress with the Newtown school guidance department as God moves us forward, please join us on Facebook at Words Heal.
 
May God be glorified as we watch His Light push back the darkness and witness His healing through words.
 
Shining His Light,
 
Dawn
 
 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Waiting Hope-Full

"Though you have not seen him you love him...believe him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy." 1Peter 1:8

Red and green stockings dangle empty below four red blocks, carefully centered upon my back-lit mantle. The Christmas story framed between two brass angels, nestled amongst these blocks that spell out H-O-P-E. Oh, how I need that reminder, today.

You too? Join me over at Christian Children's Authors blog and let's fill up with hope.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Un-plugged


Jesus spoke to all the people, saying, “I am the Light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will not walk in darkness. He will have the Light of Life.” John 8:12 NLV

Returning from morning worship, white Christmas window candles cut through the Sunday fog, beckoning family fireside.

Every corner glowed with winter scenes and perfect tree trimmed branches while simmering chili and hot, baked, golden-crusted bread teased our senses all afternoon.

The house warmed and filled and we lingered with one another - caught up on the week, watched grand babies immersed in imaginative play, and even enjoyed a bit of football. It wasn't anything special...and yet it was everything special.

Christmas unplugged.

No presents, no pressure, no skirmishing or deadlines. Simply worshipping the God who became man, born of a virgin, sacrificed all unto death, rose again and still lives - within us. He draws us together - family, friends and strangers - gives meaning to life on earth and fills our hearts to overflowing.

He - Jesus - who cuts through the fog,  illuminates every corner of our lives and beckons us home? He is Christmas.

Christmas unplugged.

Jesus comes, wrapped-up in the Father's extravagant love, offering abundant life and we need not wait 'til December 25th to experience Him. He's ours for the taking any day of the year.

He is Jesus and He is Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Waiting Together


"At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,  where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth." Luke 1:39-40

Holding an unbelievable secret, Mary ran for the hills--quite literally--seeking the only one sharing her inexplicable circumstance.

Who would believe she received a visit from an angel, let alone a personal word from God and most explosively, carried his son in her belly by some miraculous conception? Who could fathom God's choice in Mary, an engaged, Jewish peasant girl?

 Only Elizabeth.

 And so Mary ran; ran as fast as her pregnant legs could carry her to Elizabeth--the only woman who understood the great honor and the great horror of carrying God's Promise into a dark, confused world.

 I often imagine their relationship those three months--Elizabeth's relief to finally have a two-way conversation after six months living with mute Zechariah; Mary's doubts replaced as Elizabeth's undeniably swollen womb leaps for joy at her voice; Elizabeth's nurturing arms wrapped around Mary's retching body, feeding her unleavened bread and water until the nausea passed; their giggles watching Mary's tight, slender waist disappear under Christ-child bump--their hearts humbled knowing they carried fulfilled prophesies within--the second Elijah and God's Word made flesh--Immanuel.

Oh, can you imagine all the joys and fears and hope shared around Elizabeth's table? How wise for God to provide this companionship--this small community--to sustain one another physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Hasn't it been like that since Creation? God created man and woman to fulfill His desire for communion (with us and us with each other). We are meant to live in community--to share one another's burdens, joys, fears, accomplishments. But even more, we live to infuse God's hope and courage into one another's lives; to help tie the knots at the ends of our ropes and strengthen our hearts through God's word. We are God-flesh to others.

This Christmas, are you in need of some God-flesh wrapped around your shoulders? Pray God's provision for that person (s) who can wrap arms, speak encouragement, nourish starved, lonely hearts. Are you that God-flesh to someone in desperate need? Draw near and encourage that heart.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."  1Thessalonians 5:11

Lord, in the business of today, may we seek community--May we be your light, your arms, your love made flesh to those in need; not just the poor, but also the poor in spirit, the lonely, those in need of divine encouragement. Amen

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Did You Know God Ordained Kids to Praise?

"From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies to silence the foe and the avenger." Psalm 8:2

Children carry the spirit of truth. Ask anyone who spends significant amounts of time with little ones and they'll concur. As self-centered as children can be, they can sincerely size you up in five seconds flat. There's no faking it around them. If they're too timid to verbalize their opinions, give them a blank piece of paper and a marker and they'll show you exactly what they're thinking.

(Pssst! I'm over here at Encouragement Cafe today...please join me? )

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What Are You Waiting For?


"But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior."
Micah 7:7

While we set aside lawn rakes for snow shovels, pumpkins for pointsettas we usher in the Advent season - the season of waiting and inward preparedness. But what exactly are we waiting for? And how do we prepare for it?

Are we awaiting a birthday celebration - the remembrance, the anniversary of the Christ child? Yes, in part. The incarnation of God's love for mankind through Christ is certainly a divinely significant event to celebrate. Yet, if that's all we celebrate - an anniversary - then we are left wanting after all the presents are unwrapped, the decorations torn down and put away. For what power does Christ's birth have for us here and now without understanding the hidden cross inside his lowly manger on Christmas night as our hope of salvation and resurrection? (Watch for the Light, 2001 Orbis Books).

Join me over at {re}fresh for the rest of the story... 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Curing the Thanksgiving Hangover

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us...if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." Romans 12:6, 8

If a Thanksgiving hangover exists, I suffered one this weekend. Turkey and all the fixings, either graced our family table or someone else's three times this week and the other four days we filled up with birthday celebrations, yard work, painting and an author event.

Today, I was more than ready for an ordinary, boring Monday where silence reigned down refreshing my body, mind and soul; where I feasted on God's Word instead of more turkey pot pie.


Then, Auntie called asking for help - more shopping and a doctor visit.

My eyes squinted shut and my heart grew tight and small. My mind screamed, "No! Not one more thing! Not one more person needing me or one more place or one more errand. No!" I'm grateful God sealed my mouth until I could hear Him over my grumbling thoughts.

"Grace and mercy," was all He whispered.

Grace and mercy don't come naturally. I struggle receiving and giving these heavenly gifts, especially when I'm physically worn out, just like today.

Heaving a deep breath, I reluctantly agreed to one more person, one more place, and one more errand before the call ended. With barely a few hours to spare, I crawled upstairs and opened my thanks-giving journal. Remember? The one where I'm supposed to be counting all God's gifts? Yes, in all my Thanksgiving busyness I'd neglected to stop and count and mindfully give thanks.  

When we neglect thanks-giving, grumbling replaces joy. Our minds and souls need reminding every moment of every day that joy comes only after we offer our thanks to the Giver of all our good gifts.

So, this morning, I recounted the past few days - looked back and recalled God's precious gifts given even through my busyness.

#49 Rest at night
#50 Precious morning silence
#51 Musicals
#52 Still sharing dreams after 28 years
#53 Strangers turned friends
#54 An extra day off
#55 Winter preparations
#56 Physical exercise
#57 Celebrating one more Thanksgiving with Mom and Dad
#58 Intimate family moments
#59 Mom and Dad's laughter
#60 Mom's grateful heart
#61 Midnight shopping adventure
#62 A soft warm bed
#63 Sleep
#64 New paint on old walls
#65 New generation inspired
#66 Playful puppy cousins
#67 Seeking stranger
#68 Sharing God's hope
#69 God conversations in holiday traffic
#70 Smiling, snuggling grandchildren greeting me at the door

Yes, recounting God's limitless gifts and offering Him thanks transforms this grumbling heart into a cheerful heart; makes room for more grace, more mercy and allows me to offer it freely. One more person? One more place? One more errand? By God's grace and mercy, yes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why is Saying "Thank-You" so Difficult?


"Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?" Romans 8:32 (NLT)

Her petite frame bent low worn from nearly a century of living. Small in stature but oh, her heart - full and generous and always giving - barely containable. One could never out-give her, never repay her. "Just say thank-you, that's all," she'd say.

Open hands to receive and a grateful heart is all she asked in return. She gave what we couldn't earn. She gave more than we deserved. All because she loved - delighted in providing for others. And today, nearly eight years since her passing, my heart spills gratitude - not for the gifts but for the giver. 

(Having trouble saying thank you? Join me at Christian Children's Authors blog or
{re}fresh for the rest of the story.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Living Thanksgiving Every Day


Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving
"May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children."
Psalm 90:16

Our glasses raised, four generations gathered around the table, gave thanks for God's generous blessings and another year together. We feasted on turkey and all good things until our hearts and bellies filled.

And in the midst of our joy I thought, when we start counting God's gifts, is one thanksgiving day enough? Can our hearts and lips express enough to our ever-giving God? Shouldn't our diet include a large heaping scoop of heart-felt thanksgiving every. single. day?

#28 early morning coffee in bed                                          
#29 a chickadee's serenade                                                  
#30 early Christmas shopping                                             
#31 much work accomplished                                               
#32 God's protection                                                             
#33 new deer sightings                                                          
#34 Christmas music streaming                                           
#35 alone time                                                                         
#36 God's miraculous provision                                            
#37 God's gentle wake-up call                                               
#38 a new baby promised in June                                       
#39 God's Word whispered                                                    
#40 watching God's blessing poured on my children        
#41 giggling grandchildren                                                     
#42 a new friend seeking & speaking                                   
#43 early morning love pats                                                  
#44 playfulness                                                                        
#45 faith community                                                              
#46 four generations gathered, celebrating, giving thanks
#47 happy thanks-birthdays                                                 
#48 word gifts                                                                          

If we readjust our focus, realign our thinking, walk in God's rhythm, then every day is Thanksgiving.

Blessings to you this week,

Dawn

Monday, November 12, 2012

It Smells Like Snow

It sneaks up on us quiet-like; that unexpected fresh, heavy laden dampness that every New Englander knows. Stepping outside, it's undeniable. It smells like snow.


And before my brain can dismiss the thought of early November snow, the clouds disperse their frozen crystals and snowflakes drift down and fill the cracks. Every black space and gaping hole transforms in minutes with heaven's brilliant white grace.

Suddenly everything busy slows.


In the slowing, God's artwork appears.

Tiny white crystals outline spider's webs

in lacy white drifts.

The invisible becomes visible.


God's grace covers my busyness
and His invisible presence slows my heart-pace
until He blankets my soul
with peace.


Though the week progresses, warms and melts this cozy winter blanket, God's presence continues  to sneak into busy days. He creates slow moments and helps me count His good gifts.

#4 warm glowing fires
#5 hot brewed tea & honey
#6 a comfy couch
#7 freedom to vote who governs
#8 a husband who serves
#9 children who engage their world
#10 time to think
#11 family living close
#12 winter's first snow
#13 snow blowers that last to the last swipe
#14 unplanned romance
#15 winter naps
#16 enjoying God's harvest food
#17 healing prayers
#18 slow moments in the midst of rushing
#19 wordsmiths gathered in one place
#20 God honored through words
#21 laughter around the table
#22 worship
#23 community touched by a puppy
#24 an early Christmas present: a book of carols
#25 delight in Dad's chuckle as grandchildren sing him Happy Birthday
#26 snuggling grandchildren while reading stories
#27 living moment by moment

How has God slowed your days this past week?

If you haven't had time to count, do it now. Without thinking, list three gifts in this very moment, won't you?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Torn Between Heaven and Earth

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established"
(Romans 13:1 NIV)

I stepped up to the half-walled voting table with only space dividing me from my fellow citizens and cast my ballot. It’s a simple task that takes only moments, but weighs heavy on everyone’s heart. We wonder, “Does my vote count? Will it make a difference? How does this matter between heaven and earth?”

(Hop over to Christian Children's Authors blog and join in the discussion, will you?)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Joy Comes by Counting 1, 2, 3

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11

She wrecked me - in a good way - with her elegant prose-etry - as she laid down her story in front of me and 600 others. Beauty arose there from her ashes filling us all with hope; an uncomplicated hope that's born by simply giving thanks.

Keeping record of all the gifts bestowed by our Creator God - even on the difficult days when finding good gifts proves hard - fills us with heavenly joy. It's true, she said. So, I tried it. I can't say my journal filled with One Thousand Gifts jotted down in permanent ink, but my heart witnessed them all.

Now, fourteen months since we first met, thanksgiving is on my lips more and more - not because of her, but because thanksgiving ushers me into God's presence. And when I'm in God's presence more and more, heaven's grace transforms life from within filling me with pure joy. It's true.

When joy is on our lips, friends, He takes our burdens and makes us light. And when we're light-hearted, we catch His heart's rhythm and we join God in the dance. Life starts with thanksgiving; it's how hope rises and joy fills.

Will you join me in giving God thanks for at least three things a day, like she taught me? And, one more thing? Will you hold me accountable to write them down? Because writing them down serves as a solid witness of God's faithful goodness to our forgetful hearts.

Every Monday, we'll meet right here where I'll share my 27 God-gifts with you. Will you do the same? Join me in simple thanks?

Today, God's presence fills me with joy and makes me dance as I give thanks for:

1. Sunshine & blue skies after Sandy's hurricane fury
2. A quiet house
3. Piano solos ushering my heart into God's presence

Are you ready to dance?  Share three things are you thankful for today, won't you?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Take Off Your Masks


"Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
2 Corinthians 4:2

Masks have often frightened me. I never liked wearing them even for Halloween. I found them suffocating, irritating and stifling. Even with a friendly face painted on them, I find them eerily disenchanting. They hide the truth of what lies beneath, whether the Beauty or the Beast.

I find hidden agendas in people's speech to be like masks and just as frightening. In fact, I find hidden agendas loathsome.  I've been caught in their web (not by my own doing) too many times, mostly on the receiving end. Quite frankly, it's deceitful. Whether it's happened in the workplace, within my church family, or at home, the result is the same... hurtfulness and pain.

I suppose I can understand why people hide their agendas. In my experience, I've found people are either intimidated and want to test for possible reactions, or they desire an opinion on something before making their own committment. Either way, I find it disrespectful. If someone values a relationship there is no reason to hide behind a mask or approach someone with a hidden agenda.

When this happens within church family it hinders the work of Christ not only within the personal relationship of the two involved, but also within the entire church body. Paul talks about the importance of the individual "jobs" or "body parts" in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-25. In order for our whole body to work well, each individual body part must function well. When one part is injured the whole body suffers. Made up of individual members, a church body can also only work as well as the individual relationships within that body. If we are to be the body of Christ, emulating His character, then should we not be honest with one another so as not to deceive one another or those on the outside?

If our plans are God's plans, then there is no place for fear or deception. Let's stop the masquerade party and take off our masks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

When You've Fallen and You Can't Get Up


Photo from bleacherreport.com
"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber."
Psalm 121:2-3

"Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!®"

We've all seen that popular commercial for Life Alert® - that handy device that alerts the authorities when a senior adult is in danger or needs their assistance. Those devices save lives when used properly, but for some seniors their forgetfulness or pride hinders them. Sometimes it's both.

Forgetfulness can be helped with helpful reminders and repetition. We can strategically place notes around the house, reminding them to wear those devices. But pride? Now that's all together different. There are no reminders we can place on their night stand or taped to their bathroom mirror that cures pride.

At eighty years young, many seniors want nothing more than their independence. Bravo to those who are healthy enough to maintain that, but for those who cannot, pride is tougher to combat. I've witnessed this so many times within and outside our family ties. Whether it be a foot that slips or their memory, seniors tend to hide. They'd rather stay where they are, marked-up and needy, than push a button on their Life Alert® or the phone and admit they need help. Eventually, someone finds them calling, "Olly, Olly oxen free!" Game over.

Isn't that the way we are with God, too? Senior or not, when we slip up in our faith walk, our pride gets the best f us and we hide from God. Instead of hitting that Life Alert button called prayer, we run away and hide. Oh, I don't mean we run into the closet or crawl under the bed, be we still hide. We choose to sleep in instead of rising early and spending time in prayer. We ignore our Bibles on the nightstand for days or we skip church until our conscience clears.

Maybe we don't hide in such obvious ways. For some of us, we might go through the motions of prayer, reading God's Word, or attending worship services, but we choose to ignore our wrong doing; we pretend it didn't happen. We think, in time, we can forget about it and move forward.

Funny thing though, unless we do confess our sins, we don't move forward. We stay stuck because we're expending too much energy on hiding.

If we've fallen and we want to get up what should we do? Hit the button on your spiritual Life Alert®:
  • Call out to God in prayer - He's always on high alert, waiting to hear from you
  • Admit your wrong doing and confess it - Jesus came to save, not condemn
  • Ask forgiveness from God and any opposing party- it leads to freedom
  • Seek a Godly accountability partner to help you walk through this, if necessary -we're not meant to live life alone
  • Surround yourself with a community of faith - where two or more are gathered in His name, God shows up
We all slip and fall and need help sometimes. God, our Creator and Maker of heaven and earth, the one who never slumbers waits for us with open arms and a grace-filled heart. No need to hide.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Losening That White-Knuckled Grip

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal." Matthew 16:19

After two years of walking our son up and down the streets of our quaint New England neighborhood, I'd memorized every house; their beautiful, landscaped yards, their color and unique architecture, even their placement on the street. They were all beautiful, but I had my favorite. It was a small, white colonial with a big back yard. It was fenced-in with green hedges with a long driveway on one side and a cute little archway that was attached to the left side of the front stoop that created a double front peak. It faced the southeastern sky so I knew it would be sunny and welcoming most of the day. It was a house I could call home; a place to put down roots and plant our family. It was something I'd never had growing up...a homestead; a place where good memories were made and reminisced.

I've told this story before, right here, how God generously showered us with that gift. We've lived here twenty-three years, this November and our family roots have grown deeper with a new generation. This house has indeed become our homestead where we gather every Sunday to break bread and make new memories. But the landscape is changing.

Our newest back-yard neighbors are subdividing and threatening our privacy. This news jolted us last week and I'd love to say I was gracious in my response to this news, but I wasn't. Oh, I held my tongue in public and respectfully opposed their plans at the zoning board, but my heart wanted to lay claim on something that wasn't mine.

I boo-hooed all over Facebook and cruised the internet looking for new houses,  but the longer I cried and the harder I tried to hold onto this house, the emptier and more hopeless I felt. Then a wise friend spoke. "You cherish what God has surrounded you with. Not taking it for granted is the very reason why this is so seriously jolting you," she said.

Yes, I do cherish this house. Yes, I acknowledge God as the provider of this home. But then,  God whispered in my heart, "Your grip is too tight."

"What?"

"Your grip is too tight. Let it go."

"What?!! But you gave this house to me."

"Yes, but you're holding it too close, too tight. This house is an earthly treasure. It won't last. It will fall.  Build up your treasures in heaven, not on earth, remember? I've created you to go out into the worldStop coccooning yourself inside this temporary vessel. Trust me. Let it go."

So, I've taken a deep breath and stepped back. God's words jolted me more than our changing landscape. I'd wrapped my fingers around this house so long and so tightly that I hardley noticed my white-knuckled grip. It's time to loosen my hold, trust God and let it all go.

I don't know what God's got planned, but that same wise friend mentioned room for God's grace and endless possibilities with a new neighbor (albeit up close and personal). But then again, back door friends are always the best.

Until Wednesday!

Dawn

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Obvious How Much He Loves Me

Yellows, oranges, and reds splashed against autumn's bright blue skies while fallen leaves rustled around my feet. First frost lingered and I inhaled its cool breath as I walked back and forth behind the mower creating almost straight diagonal lines, just for fun. Yes, I think yard work, especially mowing, is fun. Creating designs on my lawn, watching nature's changes from every corner of my yard, neatening unruly bushes, and enjoying visits from the birds and bees and butterflies thrills me. It's like playing at God's house. He lays things out there and says, "Hey, here I am. I love you."

I enjoy creating a home on the inside, too. Maybe it's the creative brain syndrome but I love decorating, rearranging, straightening, mopping, and cleaning. But, ask me to cook and I get all frazzled. Maybe it's the undoing of things, the floury messes, sticky sugar stuck to the floor, the cluttered counters and stained stove tops. I'm not sure.

But come Sunday, I cook my heart out AND enjoy every minute because that's when three (occasionally four) generations gather 'round the table and we serve up love.  We share our weekly ups and downs, cheer for our biggest and smallest achievements, celebrate milestones, make memories, and play. It's where God shows up in my sons' and daughters' conversations and through the anchored faith in my granddaughter's whispered dinner grace. It's where God lays things out around our  table and says, "Hey, here I am. I love you."

In Song of Songs 2:4 (NLT), the woman says of her lover:
 "He escorts me to the banquet hall; it's obvious how much he loves me."

It's that way around God's dinner table. He cooks his heart out, serves up love all 'round and makes it obvious how much he loves us. We are his family and He is our home. He loves us first and He loves us most. It's where he lays things out, cheers us on, listens and loves unconditionallly and says, "Hey, here I am. I love you."

How does God make his love obvious to you?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Right This Very Minute

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

Right this very minute my nose and toes are cold so I wrap them up in cozy fleece and slip right into warm fluffy scuffs. Pen in hand, I scratch my free flowing thoughts across the page hoping inspiration comes. Last week's schedule wore me out and I grasp for wisdom through it all - some tidbit to share and a God revelation.

But, God interrupts and whispers, "Right this very minute."

"What?" I ask.

"What are you thankful for, right this very minute?"

"Everything. I'm thankful for everything."

"Be specific."

So, the list begins. Right this very minute, I'm thankful for:
  • open piano music sitting above the ebony and ivory keys
  • heat that warms during these cold autumn days
  • full cupboards that nourish and satisfy this body
  • a loving family
  • celebrating my father's 81st birthday on Thursday
  • forgiveness and fresh starts
  • peace and quiet to think and listen
These are all good gifts - indescribably good gifts that meet needs and add joy - from a generously loving God. And when I stop, right this very minute, and give thanks to the Giver my heart smiles and so does His. We don't have to look for huge, life-changing revelation in every moment...God just wants us to notice the little things because all the little things add up and point to a listening, living God. He is the most indescribable gift.

Every moment of every day, whether we notice it or not, God generously gives good gifts to His children. Have you noticed lately? Will you take the time and look around? What are you thankful for, right this very minute? Let's bless one another and God's heart.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How Do You Make God Real?

“May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.” Psalm 90:16


We snuggled there in the dark gazing at the stars through his open window. Breathing in his little boy scent, wondering how many more nights of after dark cuddling were left between us, his profound question interrupted my thoughts.

“Who made the stars?”

{For the rest of the story, join me over at Christian Children's Authors blog today. And while you're there? Feel free to puruse my colleagues' articles. They offer such wisdom for families.}

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." Jeremiah 31:25

I need a rainy day, now and then, when heaven pours down buckets of cool, refreshing rain under overcast skies. It's days like these when my mind relinquishes its normal scatter-brained push and pauses to hear the sleepy, pitter patter rhythm outside my window.

On these rainy days, when my "to do" list is blank, I slow down and enjoy a few simple pleasures: an hour more sleep under fuzzy warm blankets,  long, hot sips of pumpkin spiced coffee, extended quiet time curled up in my comfy chair, the new book aroma, the glide of my pen across blank pages, or simply an afternoon nap under Mom's hand-sewn quilt.

The rains fall and wash over my soul reminding my spirit who God created me to be. It's days like these when I can reflect on what God's done, focus on what He's doing now, and ask Him where He's leading me.

It's in the peace and quiet - the nothingness - where I hear God whisper and feel Him draw nearer. (Okay, in all honesty, it's in the nothingness where I'm left speechless, my mind declutters enough to hear God speak, and I lean in closer to Him).

Today is one of those days.

What kind of day refreshes you? What simple pleasures satisfy your heart? {I love it when you share your thoughts, so please don't be shy}.

Father,
Thank-you  for slow, rainy days and empty "to do" lists that serve to draw us closer to you.
Amen

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I Always Wanted

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11

She comes over for a bit of encouragement, a little “just her and me” time. We each sip our mocha coffee out of colorful sturdy mugs, and chit chat about life – how we’re similar in so many ways. We share funny stories and heart wrenching, lost and found stories - how God's always been there even when we couldn't see Him.

And before she leaves I give her the nickle tour around the house; show her my writing nook and discover blue is her favorite color. On her way out she stops to admire the piano and asks, “Who plays?”

I reply, “Oh, it’s always been on my bucket list, but only my kids know how to play.”

She chuckles and gives me that red-faced, raised eyebrow look, “I was a piano major. Guess we have another reason God brought us together!”

I was like a little girl on Christmas morning discovering exactly what I'd asked for underneath the pile of tissue paper! All giddy, I clapped my hands and jumped for joy. "Really? You'll really teach me?"

In that moment, God blew me away. It's one thing to receive exactly the gift I've asked for from my loved ones, but when God surprises me, I find it overwhelming. I mean think about it - the Creator of the universe, the Alpha & Omega, the Great I AM took the time to listen to my heart and pick out the exact gift that speaks, "I love you." It wasn't like I'd asked for this gift recently or begged my husband to purchase lessons for me. (He'd already given me a gift certificate for lessons a few years ago, but I was waiting for the right time which never came and that gift certificate is still sits behind my jewelry box).

Jesus said in Matthew 7:11, if we who are evil (not perfect, not God) know how to give good gifts to our children, then what do you think God, (your Heavenly Father, Creator, the Great I AM and Ruler of the univers) will do for those who ask him? {my paraphrase}. God surpasses our desires with better-than-good gifts; He gives us what we always wanted pressed down and overflowing and in His perfect timing.

I love how God wrapped this piano gift. He wrapped it up in community and tied it up with relationship. He's drawing both of us to Him through one another, the true gift.

It's just what He always wanted!

What good gifts has God given you? How did He wrap them?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nevertheless

"Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security." Jeremiah 33:6

We've all had those nevertheless moments, haven't we?

She snuck into class ten minutes after the bell rang, nevertheless the teacher ignored it.
He swung the bat and missed the ball, nevertheless the coach saw his potential.
She spewed hurtful words at her husband, nevertheless he forgave her.
He smashed his wife's dreams to pieces, nevertheless she loved him.
They deserved what was coming, nevertheless God showed mercy.

Nevertheless is a great, old fashioned word that musically rolls off the tongue unlike its choppy sisters but, however, nonetheless, or in spite of.  Nevertheless defines those free-of-charge, unexpected outcomes that either define cruelty or mercy.

With God, nevertheless always means mercy.

I've tried leaving Jeremiah's 52 chapters behind since August, but God keeps bringing me back. Today he defined mercy in chapter 33 verse 6 (above).

Like today's world events, war left Israel in ruins. Her idol worship angered God and they reaped the consequences. Nevertheless, God loved Israel and He promised restoration and healing, abundant peace and security.

So, what does that have to do with us? Everything.

We wage war against God everyday, even us "good girls", when we choose holding grudges instead of offering forgiveness, speaking our minds instead of holding our tongues, causing dissension instead of making peace, placing our "to do" list over loving our husband, busyness over abiding with God.

The list goes on and on. I don't intend to make you feel guilty but rather point you towards God's unfailing love and ever flowing mercy:

We choose holding a grudge, nevertheless God freely forgives.
We scream cruel words, nevertheless God whispers loving thoughts.
We cause dissension, nevertheless God makes good come together.
We walk away, nevertheless God never leaves our side.
We deserve death, nevertheless God offers eternal life through Jesus.

No matter what we've done or are in the midst of doing, remember this: 

Nevertheless, God...
 loves us and promises full restoration.

Abba,
In the little and big circumstances of our lives, we confess our waring hearts against you. Daddy, forgive us. Thank-you for your love that never fails, no matter what. How grateful we are that even though we deserve the consequences of our choices nevertheless, You show us mercy. Nevertheless, You love us and restore us. Thank-you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Where We Belong

"Delight yourself in the Lord...

and He will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:4

"There's something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they'll take you. Mine took me here...where I belong." Beatrix Potter, the greatest children's author of the 20th century, belonged at Hill Top Farm in rural England. She found inspiration and freedom to write about the many adventures (and misadventures) of her animal friends surrounded by beautiful, lush, rolling hills. It's where she was most herself and where her passion as an artist flourished.


We all long to find where we belong, don't we? As small children we belong to a family. We live where they live, find our identity in who they are and take our rightful place in the birth order amongst our siblings. As we mature, we find everyone in our family is different. Our eldest brother likes sports and our middle sister lives for fashion while we find we are most ourselves playing the piano. We're shy. They're social. We like solitude. They like crowds. We're most obviously different. And so, our journey of belonging begins.

(Join me at Christian Children's Authors or {re}fresh for the rest of the story, won't you?)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Close Encounters of the Human Kind

Newtown Arts Festival 2012
Newtown, CT
"So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be..." Romans 12: 5-6 The Message

You stepped right up underneath my tent and touched my dream. You picked up my words and thumbed through the pictures.  At first I thought I was only sharing my passion with you, but you surprised me. As your eyes sparkled, your lips curled and your tongues unfurled those hidden dreams, you shared your hearts with me. I'm richer for it.

Listening intently, I studied your faces - drawn with familiar lines and yet uniquely different - and I saw glory all around you, in you and through you; the shimmering glory of your Creator. Your stories wove through predictable turns but never failed a surprising twist or two; twists that make you, you. You proved once again, that everyone loves a good story and everyone has a story worth telling.

So what's stopping you? Fear that no one really wants to hear? Assumptions that your dreams aren't worth pursuing? Doubts that your work might be rejected, laughable, or just not good enough?

Writer, Jeff Goins challenged us in his newsletter last week. Speaking of creativity he said:

"The act of creating things (anything, really) is all about motion...It means you show up, do your work, and quit whining about whether or not it might be terrible.

"Because you're killing your art...you're failing to ask ONE crucial question:

What if you were amazing?

"What if this were the best thing the world has ever seen? What if instead of it sucking, it blew people's minds? If you've put in the hours and done the work, isn't that equally possible? I'm not telling you to get all puffed up, but don't sell yourself short."

And here's the key:
"You were put on this earth to do meaningful work. Work that could change people's lives. I don't care if you're a lawyer or a lemonade stand operator (in which case, you're probably seven years old); you have a purpose. And that purpose requires you to use some creative gift to bring light and life into this world. I believe it. Do you?"

Well do you?   Paul says it this way:

"So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t" (Romans 12: 5-6 The Message).


We're all made for close encounters of the human kind because when we walk away from seclusion and into community, we share, we encourage, we stretch, and we help one another grow into who God intended us to be.   What do you think your purpose is? What's your part in God's story? What fears hold you back? What propels you forward?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

There is No Substitute

"Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night." Deuteronomy 11: 18-19 The Message

We choose churches for many reasons, one being how active their children's and youth ministries appear. While these ministries help engage our children with their faith, I fear parents sometimes substitute their personal responsibility as the family's spiritual leader for these programs.

I've seen this from many angles: as a daughter of divorce, a Sunday school teacher/youth director and as a parent.

(Psssst! I'm so glad you joined me. Bring your coffee or tea, kick up your feet and join me at Christian Children's Authors blog for the rest of this story, won't you?)

Monday, September 3, 2012

5 Ways to Turn a Bad Decision Around

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8


Letting go of our well-laid plans is never easy. We labor over every decision, weigh the pros and cons, pour over every detail and even seek Godly counsel that in the end, we sometimes ignore.

Our plans make sense, satisfy our hearts' desires, hold prosperity and the betterment of ourselves and our family  in the wings. They're well-intended, but any plans outside God's will are disastrous!

About five years ago, I accepted a job, against Godly counsel, that looked promising in every way: more money, better and cheaper health benefits, a lucrative 401K plan, and still close to home. Within eight weeks none of that mattered as I found every facet of my life turned upside down. My pride kept me going, holding onto this job that I just knew was right, but screamed, "TURN AROUND! WRONG WAY! DO NOT ENTER!"

Month after month things grew worse, at home and in my department, but I was in this job to stay, like I had something to prove to God, and planted my feet firmly under my desk. Then one day, I lost my footing; literally tripped and fell, head-first into a solid, steel reinforced fire door. Even then, while suffering painful concussive headaches, I stubbornly stayed. Two months later, I surrendered - admitted I'd made a wrong decision, begged God's forgiveness, and let the healing process begin.  

So how do we get back on track when we find ourselves in the midst of disaster; when it's obvious we made the wrong decision?
  1. Stop! Make an about-face and turn back towards God.
  2. Set things right. Admit you're wrong-doing and ask God's forgiveness.
  3. Step in line. Ask God, "Which path?" and walk on it.
  4. Seek Godly counsel from someone who will keep you accountable to God's will.
  5. Savor God's presence. Develop daily God-time. God alone is our ultimate counselor. Be intentional to spend time reading His Word, talking about your struggles, your intentions, and listen for His advice. He will speak if we listen and welcome His presence into our daily lives.
I've never looked back after leaving that job. God did a miraculous healing in my life both physically and spiritually in the months that followed. The headaches didn't subside for seven months, but those were some of the sweetest times spent alone with God. He taught me about abiding and being still and knowing him as God; God of creation and God of my life. He taught me total dependence on Him for every need and showered me with grace and very good and abundant gifts.

Are you in the midst of a tough decision? Is it dangling promise and prosperity, but Godly counsel says, "Stop?" Won't you take the time to stop and seek God's presence, ask Him what His plans are for you? Ask, "What's the right path, God?" and walk in on it. 

God promises, "I will counsel you and watch over you." What is there to fear?