Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Are We Waiting For?

by Marcy Leigh

“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 poinsettias 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 at the {re}fresh blog won't you?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

S-A-C-R-I-F-I-C-E - It isn't easy

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: “Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?” Mark 14:35-36 MSG 

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve my one word S-A-C-R-I-F-I-C-E activated like a Cinderella spell, barely a week since God dropped it into my heart.

I tried to shake it off like a wet dog after a bath, but it wouldn’t leave. Sacrifice didn’t conjure up those fuzzy, warm, feel-good emotions like grace or faith or prayer. No, after a year of tremendous loss, sacrifice was the hardest word to accept because I already felt given-out. What more? What more could I possibly give? I felt exhausted, wrung out, spent and ungrateful and the New Year was only seconds old. 

Days later, I hunkered down for a relaxing winter’s night before we froze under the polar vortex headed our way. Another crisis came and I went out again; called to sacrifice and serve.

During short breaks, I closed my eyes and rocked silently in my own grief while my heart froze like the pipes beneath my mother’s house. This sacrifice was hard and painful. My hands and feet served until my nerves shook me to the bone and my ingratitude ground me to a pulp. Worn down, I prayed God would melt those frozen pipes, let the waters flow and release me from that place. Hours passed, and just when I thought God fell deaf, release came. Flowing water never sounded so good—like cascading waterfalls—from every faucet.  

Homeward bound on those darkened country roads, words from a familiar childhood hymn drifted from the stereo, melting my ingratitude. “Are we weak and heavy laden cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.”  

Tears I’d bravely suppressed spilled everywhere—my own heart’s release—and I cried that sloppy, blubbering, snotty cry all the way home. And when the tears stopped flowing, I wondered if I’d failed the test. Did I sacrifice well? Did I really offer up my best to the Lord in all I did this week, or had my ingratitude nullified my offering?  

Before my heart could punctuate the question, God’s answer came. “Well done. You obeyed and did the hard and painful things. You would fail only if you had ignored my calling and stayed comfortable.” 

“But, Lord, I grumbled inside. I asked for relief. How is that serving well?”

“Even Jesus asked for the cup to pass, didn’t he? But when it didn’t pass, he drank. He went where I called him to go. He sacrificed—gave until it hurt—out of obedience to his Father. And so did you.”

Sacrifice—the offering of all we are and all we do—to the Lord is hard and often painful or it wouldn’t be called sacrifice. I can’t say I’m excited about this word, nor have I fully embraced it, but my heart is listening and drawing nearer and nearer to God's throne because it calls for strength beyond my own.
Ah, yes. Maybe that. Maybe it’s all that—the drawing nearer to God—whatever it takes, until Heaven’s waters flow. When we surrender everything to God, we gain even more—God’s favor, authority, glory, salvation, eternal life.

Do you find yourself in the midst of a hard sacrifice? Maybe it’s been a long year of hard sacrifices and God’s calling for more. If you feel you’ve given all you have to give, take heart, Jesus is there to strengthen you, to walk along side you and encourage you. Call on His name and He will draw near to you.

Prayer: Heavenly Papa, draw near to us, especially when the sacrifice is hard and we feel spent. Teach us to draw upon the strength of Jesus. And Papa? When we pray for the hard cup of sacrifice to pass us by, let our hearts’ desires to line up with yours. Not our will, but yours, Papa. Amen.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
Romans 12:1 MSG

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cindy Lou Who Wisdom

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" Isaiah 55:2

Buried behind a tall stack of Christmas packages, Cindy Lou Who says, "Isn't this all a bit much?"

Feeling adventurous, my husband and I joined the midnight madness on Black Friday this year. Call us crazy, we arrived at the store with a fist full of store cash, two 25% off coupons, a short gift list and a plan: get what's on the list and dash.

Ha! Dash was more like crawl with the crowd winding around the store like a Python sneaking up on its prey. Without a cart and only a few things on the list, we snuck past the serious shoppers unscathed and two hours later, with our bargains stuffed under and over our arms, we joined the even longer checkout line coiled around the store's perimeter.

It was then, I felt like Cindy Lou Who and thought, "Isn't this all a bit too much?"

(Join me for the rest of the story at Christian Children's Authors blog...see you soon!)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fearing Insignificance: Now that Your Nest is Empty

If you find yourselves here from Encouragement Cafe: Welcome!

Image by Laura Hartog, Empty Nest Syndrome, CC BY ND 4.0

 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Sitting across from old high school friends, we caught up on all the years we’d missed between our daughters’ fifth grade graduations and weddings. Fifteen years later, we no longer sip a cup o’ coffee during their play dates, but instead we share similar experiences from our empty nests, now three thousand miles apart.

“What fills all your time, now?” I asked. And immediately I felt her embarrassment. I’d asked that dreaded question which plagues any stay-at-home mom and twice over for the stay-at-home-empty-nester. It’s the question I stammer to answer myself, as if staying home needs justifying.

While I couldn’t always afford being a full time stay-at-home wife/mother, I cherish the season I’m in now, where I’m not juggling office and home and church on the same plate. That doesn’t mean my plate isn’t full, but I’m now working for those that matter most—my God and my family.

I no longer run around like a banshee slapping four lunches together while gulping down a breakfast shake, or hunt for misplaced car keys while snapping at my kids to hurry out the door for school. Rather, as a stay-at-home-empty nester, I’m afforded breakfast alone with my husband every morning and uninterrupted candle-lit dinners. I can drive two towns over to sit in sweaty school auditorium and beam proudly up at my granddaughter singing a dramatic rendition of Disney’s newest theme song, or just lend a hand when my kids need help.

Staying home hardly means sitting around eating bonbons all day; although there are moments when I find myself in the empty nest talking to the cat curled up on my lap. But those days are rare. Often my days are spent caring for our aging mothers, helping them remain dignified, independent and healthy. I might drive them to doctors’ visits, pick up groceries, do their banking, mow their grass and rake some leaves; whatever they need.

And what about ministry? This…these words you’re reading, that’s part of my ministry. I felt guilty about it for quite some time. How can something I love, something I do in private, alone be ministry? Because when I hit that “publish” button on my blog, it sends my words around the world. The other way God uses my words? Children’s books. Silly little stories based on healthy family and moral values. And, when I walk into a school to present these books, or I’m at a fair signing these works, God’s right there, sending those who need these messages the most.

God presents each one of us unique opportunities to share Him with the world, no matter our circumstances or life season we find ourselves.

If you feel you are insignificant, know this: God sees you and He wants to use you right where you are to make a significant impact on those around you for His Kingdom.


Father, when we find ourselves feeling insignificant, especially in our family or ministry, show us how you want to use us. Help us to see that everything we do, how you’ve created us and the season we find ourselves can be used by you to make a mark in this world for Your Kingdom purposes. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Raising Grateful Children in a “Gimme More” Society

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2
Around this time of year, before we’ve had a chance to empty the Halloween candy bowl or carve the Thanksgiving turkey, the big toy sales fliers start arriving and kids start their Christmas wish lists. Tantalized by every gimmick and colorful advertisement, their lists grow long and their expectations reach great heights.   

While there’s great fun letting them dream and wish for everything they desire, it creates quite a conundrum for parents striving to raise grateful children. Let’s be honest, those newspaper ads are colorful and those TV ads do well convincing them it’s a MUST to have the newest everything, don’t they?  

So, what’s a parent to do? How do we first, balance their expectations with our budgets and second, teach them gratitude when the world screams, “gimme more”?
(Please join the discussion at Christian Children's Authors blog? All are welcome! Just click here.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

More than Hearing: Soul-Life

If you find yourself here from Encouragement Cafe, Welcome!

Blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees planted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers… Jeremiah 17:7-8a The Message

One by one, cool mornings gather – sneak between our flip-flopped days. Summer scorched edges line the garden beds and pile beneath the trees. Back-to-school bargains fill our closets and drawers. We trade loose cottons for warm wools and bare toes for socked feet.

I think of all those lazy, carefree summer days gone by as autumn rushes in, clutters the ground and my calendar. Busyness pushes her way into every day, overrunning God’s presence – threatening soul death.

God describes self sufficient, busy people as tumbleweeds in the desert – roaming aimlessly with no roots. But…
God restores soul-life

Those who trust in Him – stick with Him – they are like trees replanted in Eden (paradise), rooted near rivers – “Never a worry through the hottest summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season”(Jeremiah 17:8b)

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be a strong tree, rooted in paradise, planted near living water, serene and calm, bearing much fruit than an aimless, tumbling tumbleweed in the hottest desert.


Ø  God replants us in paradise. Sin uproots our relationship with God, like in the Garden of Eden. But Jesus came to restore that relationship through his death and resurrection. Romans 10: 9 say, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Ø  God supplies us with living water. Like trees, our souls need living water to flourish. Throughout scripture, God refers to himself as the spring of living water. If we stay rooted in Him by reading His Word, (the Bible) and learn to abide in Him – listen, pray, worship, we cannot help but thrive, flourish and bear fruit. God is our source of life.

Ø  God requires we rest and worship. Even God rested. At the end of creation, he looked around at all his work and said, “It is good” and then, he rested. He saw how good rest was and He required it of us: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). It was still important to God in Jeremiah’s time:

“‘This is God's Message. Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the      Sabbath by turning it into just another workday, lugging stuff here and there. Don't use the Sabbath to do business as usual. Keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors’ ” (Jeremiah 17: 21-22).

In our fast-paced, cluttered, 24:7:365 worlds, let’s be mindful to keep our souls rooted near the spring of living water where soul-life flourishes in perfect rhythm between work, worship, and rest.

Father God, make us mindful of you throughout our busy lives. Tug at our hearts to slow down when we’re entangled in the demands of the day. Help us to carve our time alone with you so that you might fill us with soul-life that comes only through the infilling of your precious Holy Spirit. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Storytelling: Sharing God's Goodness from Generation to Generation

We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4

My father-in-law was an infamous storyteller. You wouldn't know it by his quiet public manner, but gathered around the dinner table with family or friends, his storytelling flowed for hours. He had great material from growing up in the rural south during the depression, serving in the U. S. Navy after Pearl Harbor, forty years of repairing failed factory production machines, fishing and hunting trips, retirement golf tournaments...well, you get the picture. 

While most of his stories may not have intentionally imparted any moral lessons, they taught us more about history and the storyteller than he ever imagined. So many times we said, "We should really record his stories for future generations," but we didn't. 

Storytelling is a wonderful teaching media. Whether spoken or written, it ignites our imagination and helps us connect-the-dots between the story and our personal life experiences. It's exactly why Jesus taught God's truths through parables. 

Not all stories are parables, but admit it, everyone loves a good story. If this weren't so, there would be no books, no movies, no theater. Have you noticed how our souls long for a captivating story with a hero, a villain, a battle, a rescue, and a happy ending that instills hope? 

( hear the end of this story, click here. See y'all in a second at Christian Children's Authors blog).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Daddy, Am I Beautiful? Mommy, Am I Strong?

I'm proud to share with you two new children's books authored by my friend and colleague, Michelle S. Lazurek. 

Daddy, Am I Beautiful? is a delightful new book which addresses every little girl's deepest desire - to know she is beautiful. Through colorful, whimsical illustrations, this book teaches girls that beauty is God-given and comes from within. They will discover not only their own inner beauty, but learn to recognize the inner beauty in others through acts of kindness, love and concrete biblical examples.
Little girls will easily identify with Lovely Leah through her ordinary playfulness and inquisitiveness as shown through the extraordinary collaboration between author and illustrator.
:) :) :) :) :)
Pauline Books & Media, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-8198-1905-5 (paperback)
SRP $12.95
Ages 4-7
Written by Michelle S. Lazurek
Illustrated by Apryl Stott
Mommy, Am I Strong? is the companion book to Daddy, Am I Beautiful? and addresses every boy's universal need - to know he is strong.
Loving to play superheroes, Courageous Caleb and his cousin Daring David learn that true strength isn't measured by how high they can leap or how heavy an object they might lift. Rather, they learn that real strength comes from within - asking for God's help to do the right thing, especially when it's difficult.
Little boys will love the colorful illustrations and identify with these adventurous superheroes.
:) :) :) :) :)
Pauline Books & Media, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-8198-4948-9 (paperback)
SRP $12.95
Ages 4-7
Written by Michelle S. Lazurek
Illustrated by Scott Spinks

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Love Me

"Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens." Psalm 89:2 NLT

"I need someone to love me!" she shouts impatiently from her princess toddler bed.

"I'll be right there," Mama reassures her, "as soon as I lay your baby brother down."

Oh isn't that the cry of everyone's heart? Toddler princess or not, we selfishly desire love -an all-knowing, unfailing, soul-deep love. We crave attention, reassurance that our existence matters; that who we are in this great big world makes a difference to someone

Mama finally arrives and kneels beside her bed.

"My heart is so full of love, Mama, so I need to love you," the toddler princess explains. "And, I need someone to love me."

Isn't that the way unfailing love cycles? Love fills and spills and fills again - without fail - without fear. Perfect love never fails.

{Click on over to {re}fresh for the rest of the story, won't you?}

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

One Author's Journey: Interview with Michelle S. Lazurek

Michelle and I met at her children's preschool in 2009, where I was substitute teaching.
Michelle S. Lazurek
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
Introducing herself as one of the students' parents we quickly became friends when I discovered her passion to follow God's lead toward a writing career. Being a newbie to the business myself, we encouraged one another in our writing and I'm proud to introduce her to you today;  a student who now far surpasses the teacher. 

1. For my readers who don't know you, will you tell them a little about yourself? 
I am a writer, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. I've been in ministry for over fifteen years. I'm married to my wonderful husband Joe for fifteen years and have two children, Caleb and Leah.

2. How did you become a writer?
I've often said that I didn't choose writing; writing chose me. In 2009, while attending a women's retreat, I felt God impress upon my heart to write a book. I had never written anything before in my life. I was terrified! I prayed and asked God what he wanted me to write about, and I began to notice in the gospel of John how many times John referred to himself as "the disciple ‘Whom Jesus loved." As I researched, I found no one had written anything about that topic. That’s when my first book "Becoming the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved" was born. I've been writing ever since.

3. What difficulties have you experienced as a pastor’s wife, and how did you handle those difficulties?
When you are in a position of power, there will always be people who try to take advantage of that power. It’s especially tough when you are in a place of spiritual power. The enemy will always seek to knock you down, using the same people who praise with you on a Sunday morning. Besides loneliness—that’s the hardest part about being a pastor’s wife—those within your congregation who don’t treat you with the same level of mutual respect because they believe things should be handled or organized differently. 

4. You have two new children’s books that have just been released. Tell me what they are about.
When my daughter was four years old, she would spend hours parading in front of my husband, twirling around in her princess dresses and asking “Daddy, Am I Beautiful?” I realized in that moment that is the cry of every young girl’s heart—to be told by her father she is beautiful. My book explores the concept of self-esteem from a young girl’s perspective and teaches them that it is not what’s on the outside that makes you beautiful, but what’s on the inside. Mommy Am I Strong? is written for boys and explores the concept of their self-esteem. Boys want to be seen as strong and use their strength to prove their worth. This book teaches that true strength comes from the inside, not on the outside. 

5. What lesson would you like young girls and boys take away from your children’s books?
Society is tough to raise Christian men and women in, especially for women. In this overly sexualized world, we tend to teach girls that their value in life comes from exploiting their bodies for others’ pleasure. I want girls to feel they are more than that. I want them to come away with the confidence that their worth does not come from their body type, but from God’s approval of them just as they are. With the increasing popularity of superheroes, boys are taught early that their worth comes from their strength I want young boys to believe that even someone with a disability can be strong because of their ability to display humility and grace in the face of trials. 

6. What are some upcoming projects? 
I have a non-fiction book on hospitality titled An Invitation to the Table: Embracing the Gift of Hospitality that releases in spring of 2016.

Michelle S. Lazurek is a pastor’s wife, a mother, an author, and a speaker. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she has been published in numerous places such as Charisma Magazine and Movieguide Magazine. Her newest book An Invitation to the Table explores hospitality and discipleship. For more information, Please visit her website at 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

4 Suggestions for when Littles ask BIG questions

Enjoying the backyard sunshine, my granddaughter asked a big question. “What’s heaven like, Grams?”

The question didn’t surprise me. She likes asking those big questions—the ones that make you flinch, test your heart rate and dig deep into your heart and Bible knowledge. But, what took me off guard (and it shouldn’t have) was the setting in which she asked it—just a relaxing-in-the-sunshine kind o’ day. That’s how kids roll, though. They ask the hard questions when they’re most relaxed, feeling safe in their surroundings and around those they love and trust.

So I rolled with it, too, as honestly as I could not having visited heaven just yet and based upon what Scripture says. Fishing for a deeper, hidden question I asked her why she wanted to know.  Instead of answering my question she offered her own opinion of what heaven looks like. “Heaven’s like a big house with lots of rooms, but no walls; no front  or back walls.” Then she asked, “Will we see our pets in heaven or the people who’ve already died?”

Ah, there it was—the hidden question...(Join me over at Christian Children's Blog for the rest of the story...)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Whatever You Do...

Image compliments of
Today I confess that I am a Christian and I am a children’s author, but I haven’t published a Christian children’s book. So, how is it that I’m allowed to write on the Christian Children’s Authors blog?
Good question.
When I approached the founder of that blog about contributing articles, she graciously gave me room at the writers table to share my heart—first, as a follower of Jesus and second, as a children’s author. While society deems it necessary to separate our faith from public settings, followers of Jesus know that it’s impossible to separate our faith from anything we do.
What Paul shared in Colossians 3:23 says it best:
Whatever you dowork at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters. 
(Join me at the Christian Children's Authors Blog for the rest of the story)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Encouragement Looks Like

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

It’s a rarity when we can mark a moment in time other than the date on a calendar. That moment that signifies a line in the sand, an about-face, a change of heart or a significant start.

Meeting Cindy was such a time.

Sitting amongst like-minded aspiring writers, Cindy, an accomplished author and public speaker, shared her enthusiasm for the written word. She shared her personal journey, but she didn’t make it all about her, as some might. Rather, she created a homey atmosphere where you imagined it was just the two of you sitting across from one another, sharing a cup of tea.

And her point? If she could succeed, so could you. But, what got me? What etched that day in my memory so that nine years later I can still recall the details? She personally told me I could write. She wasn’t granting me permission to write. No, she recognized me as a writer and called me out—called forth the dream God planted in my heart long before that moment—and I couldn’t hide any longer.

For years following that writer’s seminar, I’d often say to my husband, “I wish I could call Cindy and have her mentor me.” Since she lived but a half an hour from our home he’d answer, “Giver her call.” And I’d quiver in reply. “Oh, I can’t do that! She’s a real author.”

By the time we were reunited four years ago, I’d published my first children’s book and was a contributing writer for two blogs other than my own. And, two years ago, we spent quality time together at the New England Christian Writers Retreat. It was there, I finally understood her true calling. Yes, she is a brilliant wordsmith and talented public speaker, but encouraging is her strongest gift.

Paul mentions the ministry of encouragement in Romans 8:6-8:   

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Cindy definitely has the encouraging gift. And if you think she encourages me only because I attended her events, think again. For here she is, encouraging my heart at my own book debut this past weekend:

L to R: Carol Nicholls, Cindy Secrest-McDowell, Dawn Aldrich, Wendy Coy
And not only is she encouraging my heart, but see those other girls? They’re writers, too, and she’s pouring into their dreams, watering the seed that God’s planted within them.

We all need people like Cindy in our lives. In fact, I believe Paul commissioned all believers to practice and desire encouragement so that we might uplift one another in our faith journey. And, wouldn’t that include recognizing the God-given talents and gifts in others and calling it forth?

L: Akintunde Sogunro, author of Mama Stitches and one God's allowed me to mentor

Do you have an encourager in your life? Are you and encourager to others?

My pint-sized encouragers and that little girl? Man, can she write!
I’d love to hear your stories. Why not encourage our hearts and share your experience below in the comments section?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Unveiling Invisible Jenny May

My second book, Invisible Jenny May, (2015, Halo Publishing International)  finally launches in two days! The invitations have been sent, food, balloons and books are ordered. Now I sit and wait.
Jenny May has rattled around in my head since July 2009 that she's more of a person than a book character, so forgive me if I refer to her as a living being. She began as a true story my husband's Aunt Clevie shared with me at the breakfast table one hot Alabama morning. Soft and low, almost whisper-like, she started.
"When I was a little girl, I had a long black braid down the middle of my back. I put on my favorite dress and a white apron with deep front pockets. I'd walked down to Granny's house who made the best southern tea cakes.
Fillin' my pockets Granny would say, 'Now I'm fillin' your pockets. You go on back and share the wealth. There's enough for everyone to have some.'"
After breakfast, I scribbled this bitty story into my journal before I forgot it. It rolled around in my imagination for months. I wrote at least ten versions until my writers group, my editors, my young audience (ages 4-8) and I were pleased.
Now Jenny May has settled into a story about a middle child who feels invisible. Invisible Jenny May does everything right, but despite her good deeds and notable actions, no one in her large family notices her. No one, that is, except Granny. With a little help from Granny and some "magic" tea cakes, Invisible Jenny May discovers the "magic" to visibility.
So today, I am happy to finally unveil Invisible Jenny May to the world! A signed copy can find its way to your home by ordering on my website, where you may indicate to whom I should sign the book. Otherwise, you may also order through Halo Publishing International, Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Invisible Jenny May is also available in Kindle and Nook versions.
Enjoy! May you discover the "magic" God's placed within you.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Boredom is Okay

In the 1970’s summer vacation meant: staying up late, sleeping late, beach bumming, Bible camp, and eating ice cream…lots and lots of ice cream. If we were bored, our mothers would offer us plenty of chores or look over their cat-eyed frames with one raised eyebrow and say, “And what are you gonna do about it?”

So what did we do when we got bored and we’d watched enough reruns of The Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver, Captain Kangaroo, and all the Looney Tunes Cartoons you could stomach?

We played.

That’s right. We played unorganized games with neighborhood kids like us; sometimes made-up games with silly names and rules that changed. We pool-hopped around the neighborhood, rode bikes to the corner store for ice cream, candy and soda (fully loaded with sugar), played school and house, colored, painted with water colors, drew pictures, read books, and of course we did our household chores.

As teenagers, we spent days and nights at our best friends’ houses, took drivers ed classes and drove our friends to the beach as often as we could afford the gas and our work schedule permitted.

That’s right, we also worked. We worked wherever we could find a job—the local grocery store, department store, fast-food restaurant. Work was a right-of-passage at sixteen. It meant we were gaining independence from our parents, earning adult money and taking on adult responsibility.

I passed this training-out-of-boredom onto my children. Early on they learned that boredom is okay. I was not responsible to fill up their boredom hours, they were. They used their imaginations and abilities to fill their lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer as was fitting and according to parental boundaries. 

(Struggling with over-scheduled or bored children? Join me at the Christian Children's Authors blog for the rest of the story).

Monday, August 3, 2015

I Thought I Knew What Love Looked Like

If you are joining me here from by design ministries, then Welcome! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you are blessed by the words you read.

new logo
Training women to serve 
and influence others for Christ

"The one who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I too will love them and show myself to them." John 14:21
"Most live life with love gone much unsaid." These narrated words from a new BBC series pricked my heart as I thought about all the years I withheld my love from my father; repressed my childhood affection from the one who walked away and yet returned with a repentant heart. We'd lost so much time play-acting our roles as father and daughter all those Saturdays of my youth, that when he returned in my college days, I didn't know what to do. Showing affection was awkward, at least, and risky. I allowed the fear of rejection to build an impenetrable fortress around my heart, keeping everyone at arm's length, especially my father.

We lived most of the rest of his life with love gone much unsaid until God took hold of my heart about nine years ago. That's when God pried open my soul and revealed to me my earthly father through His eyes. For the very first time, I was able to accept him for who God created him to be, and honor his traits in me without shame. But it wasn't enough to only ponder these revelations. God challenged me to forgive my father face-to-face and to speak my love out loud to him (talk about fear and risk!). God worked on me for seven months before I gained the courage to risk it all and face my father. And I'm glad I did.

While God had restored my love for my earthly father, that love was far from that innocent, untainted love between a father and his daughter. My heart yearned for that which was lost from my childhood; a type of love that now only God himself could restore, for my earthly father passed away last winter. My father and I had left no words unsaid and he knew I loved him and forgave him. I thought his passing had restored all lost love between us and ended my father journey, but recently God taught me differently; that I could not possibly know what a father's love looked like (or felt like) without experiencing it first.
Recently, I stood amongst a few others while the leader of the small group climbed upon a chair next to me, placing me in the posture of a young girl and her father. He then recited my personalized Scripture as though God were reading it himself:

"I cherish you with an unending, undying love. I pull you near and hold you close with my absolute, dependable kindness. Though your world is shaken and the familiar be removed, still my love for you remains - my boundless, unending, immovable love. My covenant, my word, my promise of peace also remains, for I AM tender, gentle and compassionate towards you, always." (Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 54:10 personalized)

In that moment I felt four-years-old again, standing beside my earthly father, protected and encircled in his love. God stirred my heart like never before, lavishing His love on me in such a way that words cannot adequately explain. Not only was it a time of restorative love of an earthly experience from my childhood, but more so a God-gift and spiritual breakthrough of experiencing the depth of God's love for me as my heavenly Father.

Jesus said, "A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34 NIV). In the past, I've read how Jesus loved and tried to love as he did, but I could not offer the full extent of his love until I experienced it firsthand. This teaching by Mark Fee in his First Loved to Love seminar blew me away. I'd spent decades trying to love my father as Jesus had taught me, but I hadn't experienced that type of father-daughter love from my heavenly Father at all. I hadn't even asked for it.

The exercise that helped me experience God's love firsthand that day was by personalizing a love Scripture, like the one above. I then read it aloud several times, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal God's heart for me through the Scripture. I recorded our silent conversation and meditate on it daily. I've found it more effective when my husband reads it to me. 

All these years I thought I knew what loved looked like, but God is showing me so much more. He is showing me how high, how wide, how deep is His love for me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Grant a Little Grace: Unmerited Favor

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at EncouragementCafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15 NIV

Frustration and anger brimmed over and I steamed under the pressure. I stormed toward his office hurling insults under my breath, ready for a fight. But she stopped me, pulling me aside.

“Sometimes we just need to grant a little grace,” she said.

Grace ̶ a familiar word ̶ God’s unmerited favor and love, freely given through Christ. I knew grace. God’s grace covered my ugly brokenness and allowed Him to see only beautiful wholeness. But what was this grace she spoke of?

“He doesn’t deserve grace!” I barked. “No one does,” she refuted.

Arms crossed, leaning against the copier between his office and my wise co-worker, my eyes spilled as her words pierced my heart. She stood silent there without condemnation ̶ only compassion ̶ until my demeanor softened and I gained composure.

The silence between us taught me more about grace than any church sermon.

No one deserves God’s grace and yet He sacrificed everything ̶ His only Son and all creation ̶ to offer it to us, through Christ’s death. He put aside His anger and offered Jesus so that we might enjoy the richness of relationship with Him and through that same grace, draw others to Him.

God’s grace duplicates through us. That’s His plan ̶ Christ in us the hope of glory. For those who carry God’s grace are called to bring God’s grace to the world through our words, our touch, and our actions.

What difficult situation, person, or place has God called you to carry His grace?

Father, where would we be without Your Grace? Teach us how to carry Your Grace wherever You lead.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Where We Belong

Home of Beatrix Potter
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, called Hill Top Farm in rural England, home. 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 belonged 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 together, find our identity through family and take our rightful place in the birth order. As we mature, although sharing the same roots, we differ greatly. Our eldest brother likes sports and our middle sister loves fashion while we adore books. We're shy. They're social. We crave solitude. They adore crowds. We're most obviously different. And so goes our journey of belonging.
In part, the journey points to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" 
(Pssst..skip over to the Christian Children's Authors blog for the rest of the story)