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, 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.

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'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?