Friday, October 31, 2014

A 31-Day Conclusion


I made it. Thirty-one days. My hat is off to 365-days-a-year bloggers, because writing daily for just one month has been challenging.

Whenever I finish a book, a screenplay, Nanowrimo, or a project like this, I get a fresh insight into perseverance and what it takes to see something through to the end.

Writing daily for me is more than putting a post out there every day. It’s about what God teaches me through the writing, and it’s about keeping a promise. The world would not stop spinning if I didn’t post every day in October as I said I would, and if I skipped days, we’d all get over it. But it was important to me to continue, so I have prayed for God’s grace to persevere.

I’m sure that God has taught me far more this month than anyone reading these posts.

In my continuing effort to memorize the book of James before I go see Jesus, I’m remembering this verse: “Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything” (James 1:4) Perseverance in this writing project helps me with perseverance in life. Set the goal, take each moment as it comes, look for creative ways to deal with the problems, don’t panic, pray, listen, watch for what God is doing.

And as for fresh strength—God is renewing my focus. Often, the underlying cause of our spiritual lethargy lies in the fact that we’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted. This month, I’ve spoken several times, participated in a weekly Bible study, experienced a concentrated time of prayer and fasting with my church, as well as posting daily here. It’s helped me spiritually to refocus. But what I do next is key. Because when this intense time of spiritual renewal in October segues into November, I can once more allow myself to be dragged down a path of loud distractions.

In November, I’m pursuing a new fictional story, so posting less frequently here will open up the time for that pursuit. That’s a good thing, but I’ll miss meeting with you here every day. I pray that somehow, you’ve found a bit of renewal as you’ve made this thirty-one day journey with me.

I’m looking forward to what God will do next.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Another table


This past week, I hosted a party for my dad’s eighty-sixth birthday.

The only thing was, he didn't come.


His place remained empty.

We knew this day was approaching, that his health issues would curtail travel. We just hoped we could squeeze out one more trip. All things were go even on Saturday night, but on Sunday, the phone rang early.

“Up all night. Don’t feel well. Don’t know what this is.”

“We’ll come there, Dad.”

“No, we’ll do it another time.”

So, today’s another time. We’re heading north with party favors and a frozen cake from Sunday, which I hope thaws by noon. The grandkids won’t be there, because they’re all working or in school, but we carry their warm wishes, and a few of us will gather and give thanks for this patriarch.

We’ll relish the precious moments together, remember the  birthday last year when we were all around the table, and pray for more time. Even when you’ve had them so many years, you still pray for more time.


All of our days are diminishing. The thing that helps is the knowledge that there’s another table. In another place. And that one by one we’ll gather around it, and there will be all the time in this world or any other to celebrate and rejoice.

So, through the bittersweet tears, we’re holding on to today, and by faith, thanking God for a beautiful tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him . . .” (I Corinthians 2:9 ESV)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Getting Pink


I couldn’t let October pass without getting a little pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. I don’t know how much this fits in with my Thirty-One Days to Fresh Strength, but perhaps someone is flagging under the burden of a diagnosis and needs a bit of hope for the days ahead.

This year, I’m celebrating fourteen years of being cancer free, so thankful to God for the life He has given me to share.

Here’s a photo of our family taken only the day before my big surgery in 2000.


I have more wrinkles, now, and most of my hair color comes out of a bottle, but I'm still going. And those little children are now young adults.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life . . . The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever . . .” (Psalm 138:7, 8).

Like the Psalmist, I know what it’s like to walk in the midst of trouble. As I stood with those small children, my biggest prayer was to live to see them grow up. I didn’t know what the pathology report would say in the days ahead or whether the cancer had migrated to other parts of the body. What I could do was trust God with the next moment. And the next, and the next. Here I am, fourteen years later, trying as best I can to daily surrender so that God can fulfill his purpose for me.

So, yes, I’m getting a little pink. Get pink with me and make sure you or the woman you love gets that mammogram. And if you’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis right now, declare with me the words of the Psalmist, “Your love, O Lord, endures forever.” Know that God can be trusted.
 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Meet my personal trainer



Yep, it’s Lucy.

Every afternoon about the same time, this dog who rarely speaks, sits in front of me, and barks until I get the leash and put on my tennis shoes. Then we go out, and she drags me around the neighborhood  I take her for a walk.

Our route varies, and I often let her select the path we take. It’s almost always longer than I’d want it to be and uphill no matter which direction we go. Both ways.

But, if you’re looking for fresh strength, you have to get moving.

My friend, Frieda, one of the fittest people I know, says that exercise doesn’t “take energy, it gives energy.”

I’ve noticed, since Lucy became my trainer, that the exercise helps keep stress down, helps me feel calmer, and at the same time helps me feel more energetic.

Walking the neighborhood, is a far cry better than being on a treadmill, too. At least for me.

Lucy gets to sniff out all the good smells, and gets a little muscle tone, too, good for chasing those pesky squirrels.

So, if you’re feeling a little draggy, get yourself a good trainer, or dog as the case may be, and get moving.

“Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart” (I Timothy 4:7 The Message).

Monday, October 27, 2014

When you find it hard to laugh at the days ahead

I'm reaching way back into the archives for the post today. After a very busy few days, I'm needing to share something I've already written. I love this story, because what God did during this time has continued to fill my heart with praise. I thought in these days of scary news stories, when you're looking for fresh strength, it helps to remember what God has done. "And when they had come and had gathered the church together, they recounted all that God had done with them . . ." (Acts 14:27).


Years ago, I had a dream in which a young woman, whom I’m sure represented some aspect of me, was trying on a lovely sky blue formal gown. The gown had a tag inside marked with the initials R.H. Completely convinced the gown would not fit this woman, I made negative remarks about her ability to zip the back of the dress.

But to my surprise, the zipper closed, and I danced and shouted with joy, “It does fit, it does fit.”

The initials R.H. are those of a young woman I knew who brimmed with vitality and joy. I loved being around her. The color blue is the hue of majesty and healing in the Bible. I doubted in the dream that the garment of youth, joy, and healing would fit me. But the fact is the garment did fit.

I thought of it this lovely dream often, and weeks later, I had a chance encounter with R.H. As we caught up for a few minutes, I felt I should tell her about my dream. As I began to speak, her eyes widened. When I finished she sat…stunned. She said, “I had a dream, too.”

In her dream, she struggled over accepting a clothing item, which belonged to me. She knew it represented the family she longed to have, but for many reasons was not sure she deserved. But God showed her in the dream to take the garment. Both of us wrestled with receiving the grace gifts God had for us. Battling posttraumatic stress at the time, doubts about the future threatened to keep me from believing God would heal and restore me. But God confirmed the truth to each of us through not only our own dreams but also each other’s.

R.H. is an artist. One day after church, she left a hand painted card on my car window of a woman in a blue dress with the caption, “It does fit, it does fit.”

Beside the picture was the scripture from Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

For me, the months ahead continued to contain many difficulties including breast cancer.

All these years later, I still have R.H.’s thoughtful card in my office. She now has a precious family with several children. And sure enough, God healed me of the PTS and even enabled me to laugh at the dark visitor of cancer.

How do we face an uncertain future?

Where does strength and dignity come from?

The same Hebrew word for strength is used in Isaiah 12:2, “…the Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

The Hebrew word for dignity in Proverbs 31:25 is used in Psalm 8:5 as it refers to God’s creation of man. It’s translated as the word honor in the NIV, “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”

The garments of strength and dignity with which we clothe ourselves come from God. And it’s only as we receive and wear this mercy woven clothing, that we may laugh at the days ahead.

 I’ve really enjoyed wearing my blue dress all these years. I have every reason to believe it will never wear out.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

A time to every purpose


Saturday, October 25, 2014

To dream a new dream


"Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits . . . who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s" (Psalm 103:1,5).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Giving Crisis to a Creative God

 My friend, author Dolly Dickinson, wrote this wonderful article on dealing with crisis. When you're looking for fresh strength, it helps to hear the testimony of others who are living in victory. You may find more information about Dolly here.


My older daughter, Sheila, had just gotten married, and I knew it was time to look for a smaller, cheaper apartment for me and my teenage daughter (Rhonda) who lived with me half time after my divorce.

Then on April 28 came the phone call from my sister, Rita. That momentous conversation set in motion seven months of intense change, which I look back on as a mind-boggling milestone in my Christian experience. I learned just how creatively God could answer prayers.

On the phone, I listened as my sister poured out her woes about various stresses in her life. Then she added, “I always feel better when I talk to you. You’re such a good listener. I sure wish you were here to talk to for extended periods, not just phone calls from 3000 miles away. Why don’t you come and spend the summer with me?”

“Let me think about it, pray about it.”

I hung up. “Yeah, right. It would never work.” And yet, I felt drawn to consider her outrageous offer.

So I prayed, “God, this is crazy. I have a job and very little money, you know.” (Does God smile when my silly prayers are always informing Him of the obvious?)

That night I couldn’t sleep as I went over the impossibility of such a trip. I got up in the night and wandered around my apartment, noticing all the stuff I would have to figure out what to do with for three months. How did I accumulate so much?!? And there was Rhonda. How could I pull her away from the familiar? Not that she was so very happy at her awkward age.

The Spirit, however, can be quite a nag and kept pressuring me the next day, the 29th. As I got ready for work, I noticed some things I could do without, sell, or give away. I realized I was not overly attached to my Goodwill d├ęcor and needed to downsize anyway to fit in a smaller place.

But how could such an enormous change ever work? I still had a job, and I didn’t dare walk away from that. Two years earlier God had nudged me to leave my freelance writing and sign up to be a counselor in a residential facility for juvenile delinquents. Now that was a major change, but it was an amazing occupation—getting paid to minister to the hurting.

I went to work tired the next morning and sat dazed in our weekly staff meeting. My mind was awhirl with Rita’s request, so I had trouble paying attention. When we got to the topic of scheduling for the week, there was a break in the conversation. I said casually, “You’ll never believe it. My sister wants me to come to Maine for the summer.”

One of the part-time workers smiled. “Hey, that would be great for me. I’ll be done with classes by then and could take your full-time job. You could have it back in September when return to grad school.”

I looked at my boss who shrugged, “Sure, I don’t see why not.”

I gulped. “I’ll get back to you. There are a hundred other details to work out. I don’t know if I can pull this off.”

I left the meeting stunned. “God, what is this about? Could this really happen? I can’t imagine how, but I guess if that’s what You have in mind, I’ll just proceed step-by-step until I hit a roadblock.”

I asked my ex-husband, “How would you feel if I took Rhonda to Maine for the summer and then you had her with you until after Thanksgiving?”

“I guess that would work.”

Then, like Gideon and his blasted fleece, I was emboldened. “And pay half her plane ticket?”

“OK.”

Just like that, God leveled two insurmountables. Then came April 30 when I would have to give notice. I looked around my full apartment and felt overwhelmed at the thought of downsizing and packing in only 30 days. Was this of God or was I a little crazy? It seemed to be both.

During the chaotic month of May, I learned the truth of Philippians 4:6-7—“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Anxiety was a daily, even hourly, threat. Every time it swept over me, I reminded myself of those verses. I told God I needed help and then I looked around for all the things I could be thankful for. Then it was the strangest thing. I did experience the promised peace, beyond my understanding. Thus, I discovered Philippians 4:6-7 to be a most useful formula. The month of May was one of the most stressful of my life—and one of the most peaceful!

I also discovered the liberation that comes with letting go of stuff. I had set out quite a pile of it, ready for last-minute pickup by the Salvation Army truck. Then on the final Friday in May, the Spirit nudged me to have a yard sale.

“No, you know I hate the hassle of a yard sale. And without advertising? NO!”

Reluctantly I made signs to put up on a nearby busy street. To my surprise, my signs joined those of people who had advertised in the paper and I made more money than I ever expected.

In June, I felt an additional down-the-road anxiety. I prayed, “You know, God, in September I’ll be homeless. Have you got that covered too?”

Well, yes. I ran into Kay, an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. It turned out her husband had been diagnosed with a terminal brain illness and could only get worse. She would love to have me stay with them for three months, “for moral support if nothing else.”

Mid-June Rhonda and I flew to Maine where I found my sister in worse shape than I had imagined. There was so much I didn’t know since we had only become close friends in our thirties. She is six years older and many of her wounds happened before I was born or after I had moved away. I was clearly in over my head, but I knew how to listen.

Once again, I needed prayer to get me through. I leaned heavily on the Spirit and was grateful for all my on-the-job training in counseling. My sister grew spiritually and emotionally, and in the end, we had an intervention with someone who had hurt her deeply.

A side benefit no one could have imagined was how much Rhonda grew in confidence. At the church youth group she was assumed to be someone special since she was from exotic California, and in time she began to grow into seeing herself as just as special. She was a new gal when we flew back home.

September brought more listening as Kay and I watched her husband deteriorate physically and mentally. I was again grateful for my training, this time being able to remain calm in the face of the occasional violence brought on by his disease. While I couldn’t solve anything, I could offer encouragement and perspective in an impossible situation. So for three months we prayed often and laughed when we could.

In the middle of this, I again felt blips of anxiety about housing. Yet again, I prayed the obvious, “God, I hope you realize I’m going to need a place by December so I can resume the parenting arrangement.”

I’d barely begun to look at the rental section of the paper when my daughter Sheila called, “Hey, the people in the apartment across the hall are moving out November 30, and. . . .”

Thus ended an intense seven months of praying my way through constant change. While it was often unsettling and uncertain, it was also amazing to see God work wonders in my circumstances while also using me in the service of others.

Now whenever I face new challenges and changes, I look back on that time and know from experience that God can sort out anything with surprising creativity.

 



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Revisitng Mitford


A few weeks ago, I learned author, Jan Karon, had just been in Atlanta speaking as part of her book tour for Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good.


I’ve wanted to meet her for many years and then to find I’d missed her by only days, well, it was just so disappointing.

But, then my sister calls me, and tells me she’s found a signed copy of the book for me. What an amazing gift.
 

Jan Karon’s return to Mitford has delighted all her fans. Delighted me. We’ve all missed  “a village delightfully out of step with contemporary America.”

I’ve written here of how Jan Karon’s writing has inspired my own. How she, at the top of her career, took time to write me.

So, I knew that I was going to write the post yesterday on the difficulty of change, especially finding rest in the midst of chaos, and I come across these words about Father Tim. “His mind was a clamor itself, a hectic marketplace with hawking on every side.”

She nailed it. Exactly how it feels sometimes. She finds a way to weave into her character’s lives the struggles that we all face, so that we don’t feel alone.

 I’m reading slowly and taking the time to savor the words. How grateful I am to be in Mitford, again. When we’re looking for fresh strength, it’s nice to revisit places, which have brought inspiration before. Because it’s likely, we’ll find renewal again.
"All my fresh springs shall be in Thee" (Psalm 87:7).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When change is hard


My friend, Dolly, who will guest post in a few days, asked me to write on the challenge of change when we’re stuck in a rut and looking for fresh strength.

My sister and I just had a discussion on that very subject last week.

I can’t cover the whole gamut of the difficulty of change when we’re entrenched in our bad ways, so I’ll just address one of the most enduring challenges for me—and that is abiding with God in the middle of screaming external pressures.

In a Bible study, I’m currently doing, Priscilla Shirer says, “True abundance is really seen when you’re sitting in a prison circumstance, when you’re eye to eye with an impossible situation, and right in the heart of your impossible, you experience the fullness of God.”

So, the time to experience abiding and resting in God is right in the middle of a to-do list that screams to be done. Right here. Right now.

“But . . . , “ you say, “you don’t understand what I’m up against.”

We’re all up against. We all hear that voice that if we don’t get it done, the walls will cave in.

When I was trying to recover from Posttraumatic stress, people would tell me I was always in a hurry. I was. I was in a hurry to run away from the way I felt. But, of course, I couldn’t. I had to face it. Part of facing it was to stop, to be intentional about quiet moments. Often, I didn’t even want to sit, but I knew it was an essential part of my recovery. Instead of fighting the way I felt, I had to accept it. The way I felt wouldn’t kill me. In time, my legs and hands stopped shaking as I stopped fearing my feelings and the peace inside me grew.

We are the ones who often set ourselves up for shaking hands by our over scheduling and our excuses for not taking time outs. It’s almost as if we’re addicted to busyness. The time to stop that is now. The time for change is now.

And yes, we’re going to fail. Change is hard. But God’s grace is always there. I still struggle with hurrying, with feeling life is an emergency,  but God’s amazing grace comforts me in ways I can’t even explain.

I’ve been waking up singing this song for days. It’s taken from I John 4:4 " . . . greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." and it helps me to know that the One inside of me is greater than anything screaming at me from the outside. And when we’re trying to find fresh strength, when we’re trying to change, these words are such great news.
 
There might be a rap-song type commercial at the beginning. Just x out of it to get to the song, "Greater," by Mercy Me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cotton and what really makes our lives


Cotton to the horizon.





 

The plants have been defoliated, and in the sunny days ahead, mechanical pickers will lumber across these fields stripping the bolls. They’ll be dumped into giant mesh containers and trucked to a gin.

And perhaps one not too distant day, this cotton will be fashioned into fabric used in a couture design on the runways of Paris, or a sheet to keep a baby warm in a neonatal unit,  starched into the shirt of a politician in Washington, used in a towel by an Olympic swimmer, woven into the jeans of a Texas cowboy, or knit into socks to keep a child’s feet warm near the Arctic circle.

In a few years, it might find new life as a second-hand cotton tee shirt handed to a ten year old by a missionary in the favillas of Brazil, or provide the covering of a sleeping mat for a homeless person on the streets of New York.

What is America’s Cotton Producers and Importer’s slogan? “Cotton, it’s the fabric of our lives.”

Well, it is. For people like me who sometimes develop a rash when wearing synthetic textiles, cotton is comfort. I could be wearing fabric made from these very bolls some day. (They didn't pay me to say this!)

There is something much more profound, however, which really composes the fabric of our lives.

“When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong” (Romans  2:14-15).

God’s truth is woven into the warp and weft of our existence. It provides the boundaries and environment that provide safety and comfort in our spiritual journey, and when we err from it, we suffer.

So, whether we acknowledge it or not, God’s law IS the fabric of our lives—“the fabric of creation,” more far-reaching than any cotton boll, and more enduring.

If you want fresh strength, far better any day to invest in God’s word than commodity futures.

But aren't those cotton fields beautiful?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Celebrating an Anniversary


Here’s my sister, Tammy Todd, with the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes we put together on Friday.

The flowers are hers. She’s celebrating an anniversary.

Some of you may have noticed this picture in the One Ringing Bell sidebar or seen the post that accompanies it.

Weight Watchers featured my sister on the cover of their magazine when she lost 130 pounds and  was selected as one of six in their national “Tell My Story” contest. I had a great time accompanying her to New York for the photo shoot. 

She pushed past the naysayers—the ones who said she’d never maintain her goal, and with God’s help has kept the weight off for five years. I thought at the least, that accomplishment deserved a few flowers.

Sometimes, when we’re looking for fresh strength, it takes a drastic lifestyle change, because unhealthy choices can make us feel terrible.

Today, my sister has segued from being a lifelong educator in public schools to being an educator for Weight Watchers. She has a personal trainer, is a disciplined walker, and eats healthier than anyone I know.

If you need to make a lifestyle change, read more about my sister’s amazing journey, and find fresh strength.

I tell her story in greater detail HERE, and Weight Watchers has an amazing article and video of her HERE.


(In case you're wondering, I receive nothing from Weight Watchers for telling this story. Just so proud of my sister!)

"They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds" (Psalm 145:6).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

All that matters

 
 "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are oneI in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me"
(John 17:22-23).
 
"You make 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).
 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Taking a walk with a turtle


Lucy recently had her first encounter with a turtle. All right, I don’t know exactly turtle or tortoise, but I think turtle. My wildlife biologist son is not around right now to verify.

 

Lucy was quite curious, and expressed it by barking at the poor turtle. Maybe Lucy wondered why it just sat there. Every time we let her out to walk, she’d make a dive for the bushes where the turtle had been.

Bruce Feiler writes, “Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.”

Saturday is a good day to take a walk with a turtle. However, my day is lining up to be pretty busy. So, I’ll have to be intentional about beholding “the world in pause,” because it’s likely to go streaking by at the speed of light. If I want to find fresh strength today, I’m going to have to take that slow walk.

Hoping  I’ll run into you.


"Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything” (Psalm 46:10).
 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Finding Fresh Strength through Giving


Today’s the day.

My sister and I are getting together to put together twenty-something Operation Christmas Child boxes. I’ve been shopping all year to pull my boxes together, and thankfully, she’s willing to help me fill in gaps with things she’s found.
 

It will be an all day event making sure every box has the necessary components:  school supplies, hygiene items, toys, and hard candy.

Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, has now surpassed over 100 million shoeboxes distributed around the world. Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan’s Purse says, “Every shoebox offers an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a hurting child.”

If you haven’t finished your box yet, the deadline is approaching. Most regional collection centers close a week or so before Thanksgiving.

I love this quote by John Wesley, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

So, get hopping, folks. You can change a child’s life for eternity with a box that says, “Jesus loves you.”

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Are you willing to fail?


At the recent Catalyst Atlanta conference, I had opportunity to hear Craig Groeschel.
 
He's the founder of one of the United State’s first multi-campus churches, now meeting in 120 services in over 20 multi-site locations. 

He spoke from the story of the four who brought the paralytic to Jesus. “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’” (Mark 2:3-5).

Groeschel addressed the necessary elements to foster a culture of innovation in our churches. These same principles foster a culture of innovation in our personal endeavors as well.

One of those elements is a willingness to fail.

Dropping a sick man through a roof so that he could be prayed for probably fits in that category. They could have dropped him on his head. But these friends were willing to risk failure.

At this late date, I recently learned that people with my personality type like things to be perfect—something with which I’ve long struggled. It has held me back in the past. I suppose one of the blessings of a few decades of life, though, is realizing time is flying, and we’d better fling things out there while we can. One of the most helpful insights I’ve read lately came from Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson, who says that in this day of rapidly changing digital technology, we should view our writing as we view software—subject to constant updates. “When you sit on something until it’s ‘perfect,’ you miss a lot of opportunities,” he says. Best to put it out there and keep revising. That helps me take my white-knuckle grip off my writing and release it into God’s uses. Yes, we aim for excellence, but not to the point of paralysis.

So, if we want fresh strength, we need be willing to fail. We need to be willing attempt things for which  we don’t really know the outcome. That willingness helps get us out of the rut of perfectionism and propels us into a future of infinite possibilities.

 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blog stats, Lucy, and paying attention


Here at the halfway point, I have to admit that at times, I’ve questioned the wisdom in posting everyday in October. It's a lot of time and work and I knew at the outset that it wouldn’t necessarily boost my readership. And it hasn’t. If anything, it’s diluted it because people are busy, and they’re only going to come here once or twice a week. I know, because I receive emails from bloggers who post every day, and I don’t read them daily. I usually just read a weeks’ worth at a time. So, my reasons for doing this had nothing to do with my blog stats.

There has been an interesting benefit for me, though.

We have a friend who often used to say, “We need to pay attention.” I suppose he gets that from Paul’s admonishment to the Hebrews, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).

Posting everyday has made me pay attention. I’m constantly on the prowl for ideas, and praying that God would show me spiritual truths in everyday circumstances. I’m praying that when I read the Word, God would lift out a truth I might share. Of course, I don’t want to read or listen just to write a blog post. I want to hear so that my life will be changed. I’m listening with my ears perked much as our lab Lucy does when she thinks she hears the Big Guy pull in the driveway after he’s been on a trip. (If you're wondering how I got her to perk her ears for the picture, I have this Birdscapes book that sounds like an aviary, and every time she hears it, her little ears go up. I digress.)
 

 
Blogging everyday has helped me pay attention. This has been a challenge, but doing so is helping me find fresh strength.

Hope you’re finding it, too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When the green fades


I sat down yesterday to watercolor a few of the fall leaves I’d pressed.

 
As I studied the orange, red, and yellow of the leaves, I noticed some of the veins were still green.

If you remember your elementary science class, trees produce chlorophyll during the growing season, which in the conversion of sunlight makes the leaves green. However, when days grow shorter, chlorophyll diminishes, and the vibrant reds and yellows appear, sometimes leaving green veins. The colors had been there all along, but the green covers them.

Emphasis on “the colors had been there all along.”

When the light diminishes, sometimes, the beauty really bursts forth. In the leaves. In our lives.

If you find yourself in a place of receding light, look for the vibrancy of God’s grace. He’s been there all along, but watch for the ways He shines when the green fades and shadows fall. You'll find fresh strength as you notice how He manifests himself in the most glorious ways.

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need” (2 Corinthians 12:9 The Message).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Moving beyond safe


The first few words of Genesis are, “In the beginning, God created . . .”

We are created in the image of our creator.

Therefore, we create.

Sometimes, when we find ourselves sagging, when we need fresh strength, it’s because we’ve shelved originality in favor of something more safe and predictable—something routine.

My friend, Dolly, sent me a few quotes from a book she’s reading, one I hope to read soon, Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration  by Ed Catmull:

“Originality is fragile and in its first moments, it is often far from pretty. . . awkward and unformed, vulnerable and incomplete. It needs nurturing in time and patience in order to grow.”

“You'll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar.”

“Don't make ‘safe choices’ in creativity, even if you must in banking, airplanes.”

Today, friends, make some creative choices that take you beyond the mundane, that move you beyond the predictable.

I made a new blog banner over the weekend. I don’t know if it moves beyond the predictable or not, but it does include that bluebird sketch I did a while back.
 
I love that painting, and having it in the banner reminds me to press into originality.

Former Disney imaginer, McNair Wilson says, “We should put something into the world every day that wasn’t there before.”

Right there with you friends as we attempt something new and different today for God’s glory.
 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Presence


It’s so easy to start thinking that what we do for God is our relationship with God.
But no, we have to spend time in his presence.

Think of it this way: how would we every build a marriage or a friendship if we just ran around doing things for that person and never took time to sit down, talk, and enjoy their company?

When I first began this journey with the Lord, I sat in the same bedside chair every day to pray and read my Bible. I painted a watercolor of the scene to document that space that had become so precious to me. I only lived in that apartment less than two years and this chair is now long gone, but I have this painting to remind me of how and where I started with the Lord.

If you don’t have a sacred space in your home to spend time with God, today’s a good day to choose one. Find fresh strength in His presence.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Beauty in Humble Places


I saw this quote by Camille Pissarro on the Nester’s website and decided to etch it on this homemade chalkboard for a while—to remind me to look for beauty.
 

When we grow weary, we forget beauty is present all around us, but noticing the glories of the commonplace renews us. We find fresh strength.

May your Saturday be filled with wonder.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).

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