Letters full of understanding, encouragement, comfort, and acceptance.
Wouldn’t they just wow you?
Make you feel special?
Help you believe that you, too, are part of the royal family?
One of the special gifts I received this Christmas was from a close friend. She gave me a small book by Sheri Rose Shepherd called His Princess – Love Letters from Your King. This treasure contains beautiful photographs and about ninety short letters, each based on a Bible verse.
The writings are Sheri’s interpretation – based on scripture - of what God might say to us if He were to pick up a pen and put His thoughts and feelings down in the form of a letter. I love them because they are so personal. Words found in the Bible become even more intimate. They help reveal His character and just how much He cares for me.
I’ve joked for years with my husband and friends that I’m a princess. With God as my father, I really am a princess. And with God as YOUR father, you are too…unless you’re a prince, of course. :)
A member of the royal family,
We all want to have a happy and memorable Christmas filled with warm moments shared with those we love.
We celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus and the hope He brought to the world. Nativity sets are placed in the home as a reminder of the real reason for the season.
In the midst of cheer and merriment there's another message I embrace.
Do not be afraid.
When Mary discovered she was going to be an unwed mother…
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33
When the angels appeared to the shepherds in the field…
She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manager, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But, the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Tonight in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest and peace to men on whom His favor rests.” Luke 2:7-14
My husband and I recently attended the wedding of a young couple. They’d planned to marry “someday,” but due to an unplanned pregnancy, decided to make the commitment now.
The bride’s parents provided a beautiful wedding and reception. The church had just been decorated for Christmas and our pastor reminded the couple, just as Mary had been told…do not be afraid.
What a wonderful message to give two young people who wanted to do the right thing, but could very easily be filled with fear. Fear about the future and how they’ll handle caring for a child so soon.
Christmas will come and go. The bright lights and tinsel will be taken down. The decorations will be packed away. Life will settle back into a routine.
With the end of the holidays, job stress will resume. Bills will need to be paid. People may experience medical challenges, loneliness, or breakdowns in relationships.
The good news is the “Good News.”
Christ has brought hope.
Do not be afraid.
It creates memories and connects us to places, events, special occasions.
I love the scents of Christmas...
Turkey roasting in the oven.
Logs burning in the fireplace.
Fresh evergreen branches on the mantel.
Apple cider – with cinnamon sticks – simmering on the stove.
The whiff of hot chocolate and melting marshmallows as you bring the cup to your lips.
The ability to smell is a gift that keeps giving…and giving…
Don’t we have an awesome and creative God?
What other scents connect you to Christmas?
I set aside the day after Thanksgiving every year to put up several trees and decorate our home. I enjoy the transformation, but it takes a lot of time and energy.
My husband looks forward to lighting the yard and exterior of our home. This year because of complications that seem to come with stringing many lights, it took him two days to complete the task to his satisfaction. But, now when I arrive home after a long day at work, I’m welcomed by a beautiful display.
For many years I’ve included a letter and photos of the family in Christmas cards sent to friends and relatives. The girls, now in their twenties, have been put through the drill of having their photo taken for this mailing since they were babes. Their part in this is to sputter and complain. “Mom is at it again!” But, the first year I suggested we didn’t do photos since they’re all out on their own, I heard protest. Hmmm…what do you know? They actually love the tradition.
Do you bake mounds of cookies in preparation? I hadn’t baked much at all these past years. I have enough trouble staying away from sugar as it is! But, I did spend a day baking and freezing sweet treats for a Christmas party we held in our home last night.
Of course there’s shopping to finish…and packages that need to be mailed out to family in the Midwest.
Many hours are spent in preparation for the holidays…
But, what about preparing my heart?
How much time have I spent embracing and reflecting on the reason why we do all this?
Not nearly enough.
Father in heaven, fill my heart with joy and wonder as I celebrate the birth of Your Son… my Savior, Lord, and King.
Do you have limited time to read them?
I want to share something I’ve been reading the past few days.
Thirteen talented authors, who have a passion for historical Christian fiction, have collaborated on a story set in late Victorian England titled, Home by Christmas.
The beginning of this tale was posted on December 1st on www.homebychristmas.blogspot.com Each day a new author will pick up where the last one left off until all thirteen installments have been added.
Each piece is well written and only takes a few minutes to read.
Check it out!
The Writers Guild of America went on strike early in November.
Members felt they deserved more royalty money for material distributed over the Internet and other online distribution methods, such as “video on demand.”
Although I don’t have time to watch a lot of TV, I’m addicted to the dramas CSI - Las Vegas and Criminal Minds.
This fall I added Chuck, a comedy, to my must-see
entertainment list. And I have this habit of watching Leno’s monologue before settling in for a night’s rest.
I have to admit, after a summer of reruns, I wasn’t excited about the possibility of having them return. I look forward to seeing fresh episodes of my favorite series.
But, I still support the writers.
They’re not in the spotlight like the actors and directors, so it’s easy to forget how important they are. Writers are the creative foundation for all forms of entertainment.
Your favorite actor wouldn’t have the words to woo his love interest – he wouldn’t even know who to express the words to – without a script in front of him.
It’s easy to assume that the late night talk show host has written his own jokes or monologue. In most cases, not so.
The strike has reminded me of how important we all are, regardless of the job, position, or title we carry.
Do you ever walk into a public restroom and wonder about the person who replaced the toilet paper or the soap in the dispenser? It may seem like trivial type of work – but it sure can be frustrating to find the rolls empty of paper and the dispensers void of soap.
We’re ALL needed.
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” Romans 12: 4-8
God doesn’t judge us – or love us more if we have a more prestigious job than the next person.
We’re all important in His eyes.
If we give a party, I have the menu figured out weeks in advance.
If I go on a trip, my wardrobe is laid out several days ahead.
My husband is also a planner. Besides having IRAs, we both contribute to retirement plans offered through our employment. We meet with a financial planner several times a year to make sure we’re on the right track with our financial resources so we can live comfortably once we do retire. All of that is important if we want to maintain our independence as we grow older.
The company I work for recently switched to another 401k service provider. That meant attending a meeting, and once again, making decisions and filling out forms as to how I wanted my contributions invested. It can be mind boggling for people like me who don’t fully understand investment strategies.
Focusing on our financial future has prompted me to take inventory.
Inventory of my heavenly treasures.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Matthew 6:19-20
What am I doing to plan for my future in eternity?
Am I investing in what will never disintegrate, fade, or lose value? Like my relationship with my Lord, my family, and my friends? Or helping others, whether they have spiritual, physical, emotional, or financial needs?
God doesn’t reward us with eternal life because of our “good deeds.” That’s a gift for anyone who wants to receive it. But, once we’re with Him in heaven, we'll be rewarded for the kind of life we led on earth.
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” Matthew 5:12
My 401k will eventually run out – or my children will inherit what’s left.
But, my reward in heaven…that’s forever.
What a great holiday. It’s one of the few times we happily grant ourselves permission to eat whatever we desire, guilt free. A piece of pumpkin pie now and another later? Sure! It’s Thanksgiving.
“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” Erma Bombeck
But, Thanksgiving is more than tables laden with food, football games, and holiday parades.
We set aside a day to not only share a meal with friends and relatives - we come together to share the bond of family. Despite any differences, conflicts with each other, or personal struggles.
My family has much to be thankful for. Our grown children are safe, healthy, happy, and leading productive lives. And we truly enjoy spending time together.
But, I don’t give God near the credit that I should. It’s easy to be caught up in schedules and accomplishing the tasks or goals on our lists. And it’s easy to be deceived that blessings come from anywhere else but Him.
“Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” Henry Ward Beecher
Give thanks…and have a blessed Thanksgiving.
There’s nothing better when it’s cold and damp outside than to snuggle inside by a roaring fire and eat comfort food. You know…chili, homemade soups, and grilled cheese sandwiches.
And if you’ve had a bad day and need even more comfort…there’s always pizza, hot buttered popcorn…and CHOCOLATE.
God’s word can be comfort food for our souls.
The Bible assures us that God desires to be our comfort.
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him. Isaiah 57:18
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. Isaiah 66:13
Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Jeremiah 31:13
Having a bad day?
A bad week?
A bad year?
Savor God’s warm, wonderful comfort.
We’ve said goodbye to daylight savings time until spring returns.
I dread the duration of daylight growing shorter.
I’m NOT a morning person. Just ask my husband. He’s Mr. Happy at four-thirty am. That’s why he’s at work by five-thirty. I’m NOT a morning person. You’ll NEVER find me at work at that time.
If the sun’s rays are filling the bedroom, I’m more apt to rise and shine. But, if the room is dark and feels like two in the morning, forget it. When the alarm goes off, I’d rather crawl deeper under the covers than put my feet on the floor with a single bound.
It’s also difficult to leave my job at the end of the day, knowing the city has already been shrouded in darkness for at least an hour. It feels like time has sped ahead of reality.
Energy levels and moods pick up when our world if full of light. For many people, energy wanes when evening arrives. Some experience different levels of depression if they don’t receive enough sunshine.
Hmmm…there seems to be a correlation here.
Light = people experiencing greater energy and positive attitudes.
Darkness = people experiencing a decrease in energy and a greater chance of having a negative outlook.
Kind of similar to our relationship with God.
If we run from Him, our lives may feel like we’re covered by darkness. Bogged down, heavy, and without purpose.
But, when we run to Him, His light shines on and through us. We not only experience heightened energy—we experience peace, hope, and joy.
Striving to share His light,
Surnames identify people who are related. They tell a lot about the family’s heritage. For instance, someone with the last name of Johnson has Scandinavian ancestors, while someone with the name of Martinez is probably Mexican. A surname is usually inherited and, while it may be changed, some form of it is usually retained.
Given names are chosen by the parents the majority of the time. A name is usually not given lightly. It represents thoughts and feelings that may be significant to the parents.
A name may be associated with an identifiable person or couple. If someone mentions Brad and Angelina, everyone knows who’s being referred to. If you disliked someone in fifth grade because he was mean, it’s not likely you’ll name your son after him.
Parents spend hours discussing names when expecting the arrival of a child. I can’t imagine my daughters using any other names than what they were given at birth.
A person’s name is attached to them. If someone in the entertainment business uses a different name, it doesn’t necessarily change things for people who have known them. If my friend Tina changed her name to Mary, she’d still always be Tina to me.
The other day I listened to a discussion on the radio. It pertained to a survey in which people were asked what it would take for them to relinquish and be willing to sell their name.
One of the announcers said she would have to be paid 10 million dollars. Survey results showed that most would sell their name for $100,000.
What would it take for you to sell your name and use another?
So I’ve been intrigued by the children’s movie, The Golden Compass, which is being released in December and stars Nicole Kidman.
However, I was disturbed and disappointed to discover the following information.
The Golden Compass is written by Phillip Pullman, an atheist with a hidden agenda.
The movie is based on the first of a trilogy of books for children called His Dark Materials. The hope is that if children and parents are drawn into this softer, watered down version of the first book, they’ll be enticed to purchase the trilogy.
Pullman is very open about the purpose of these works. His Dark Materials was written to lead children toward anti-Christian beliefs.
In the first book, The Golden Compass, the church is in the business of kidnapping children and conducting some rather unpleasant experiments on them.
In the end of the last book, after the children kill God, everyone can do as they please.
I have no problem with an atheist speaking or writing about his beliefs – or non-beliefs. He should have the same rights and privileges that I have. The movie may even prove to not be dangerous in itself. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t judge that piece of work.
But at the same time, I think it’s important that we’re aware of what children could possibly be exposed to.
To read more information on this man, his books, and the movie…
Click here: Urban Legends Reference Pages: The Golden Compass
I personally enjoy movies that are a little scary and contain suspense. Do you?
However, it drives me CRAZY when one of the characters ventures into a dark basement or other area alone while a murderer is known to be in the vicinity. Doesn’t he or she have any intelligence or common sense?
Or are they just refusing to pay attention?
You know…to that sick feeling in your gut when a situation or someone doesn’t feel quite right?
God gave us a wonderful gift when He provided us with great instincts. But, too often we disregard them. We downplay warning signals that our inner spirit sends to our head and heart.
In many cases, women are more likely to push those nagging feelings away. We don’t want to appear to be rude or unkind. But, if we listen to them, they can keep us out of uncomfortable situations or even danger.
Trust your gut instinct.
Stay away from dark,
It takes a lot of determination and guts to dance in front of millions of viewers and then be judged on the details of every move. The stellar performances come at a painful price. The stars work their bodies into exhaustion while trying to perfect the rigorous routines.
Last night, Marie Osmond fainted after she and her partner danced the Samba. She dropped to the floor while awaiting the judges’ comments.
Marie may have felt embarrassed, but she has a delightful sense of humor. Instead of taking herself too seriously, she laughed it off and explained that it happens when she forgets to breathe. A real trooper, she got up and continued the show.
Over these past few weeks, I’ve learned to respect this woman and the way she’s able to find humor in daily life.
We could all stand to do the same.
Most of us take life way too seriously.
God gave us the gift of humor.
He loves to hear us laugh.
It will do you good.
I know, I know…
It’s not even Thanksgiving and I’m already mentioning a book about Christmas. But, it’s just around the corner, and wouldn’t it be nice to have a fun book on hand when the time is right to get into the holiday mood? And is there ever a wrong time to enjoy a little romance?
A Big Apple Christmas is a collection of four contemporary inspirational stories. Readers are given diverse characters and adventures as four couples find romance in New York City during the holiday season.
by Carrie Turansky
Shopping for Love
Holiday bustle is the means two tourists try to use to get lost in the crowds. But when Brian Evans literally knocks Emily Jones off her feet, her heart’s secrets are spun even more off balance.
Christmas in Rockefeller Center puts a widow’s spruce tree on center stage. Professor Theophilus Stellakis volunteers to host Gwynn Michaud, and they both find new dreams in the glow of the holiday lights.
Gifts from the Magi
by Vasthi Reyes Acosta
The gift of the Magi comes full circle for two lonely Latinos when Cecilia Montes takes time out of her busy schedule to help an old friend with youth group activities. But, can she trust her heart to Elias Perez?
On this site you’ll find additional fun things, such as…
> Photos from New York City
> Christmas Recipes
> Favorite scenes in the book, their own Christmas traditions, and more.
One day we’re wearing our light summer clothes and experiencing temperatures in the seventies and eighties. The next day the temperature drops into the fifties and sixties.
One day we’re experiencing bright, warm sunshine.
Then the rain and winds sweep in, shooing the sun away.
One day the leaves are green.
While we blink an eye, they turn shades of yellow and red.
One day we sit on our backyard deck with the tikki torches burning.
Now we lounge in the comfort of our family room with a log blazing in the fireplace.
I enjoy the difference in colors, temperature, and smells.
I look forward to switching out my wardrobe with each season.
Now I can don comfy sweatshirts and wrap up in blankets while watching favorite movies.
Change can be good.
Do you need it?
Are you ready?
Are you willing to make a change?
Paul Farid was once a member of the royal family who openly persecuted any Sudanese who failed to practice Islam. Now he’s a Christian who puts his life on the line to aid the persecuted Sudanese. His wife, Larson, is a doctor committed to giving her life for peace.
Colonel Ben Alier has fought for twenty-one years against the government’s mandates to control the oil, religion, slavery, and politics of Sudan. He neither trusts nor rests any hope in the newly formed government.
Ben’s health deteriorates while Larson finds out she is going to have a baby. Their worlds collide, and as the relational tensions escalate so does the physical danger.
Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold more than a million copies.
DiAnn believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” Her desire is to show characters solving real problems of today from a Christian perspective through a compelling story.
Video - DiAnn Speaks to Us...
Click on link.
Questions and Answers
What inspired you to write this novel?
I had previously written a nonfiction book about the Lost Boys of Sudan – Lost Boy No More. From that research, I wrote the novel When the Lion Roars, but the story would not let me go.
Through numerous interviews and extensive reading, I grew to love and admire the courageous Sudanese people and was burdened by their incredible needs. I had to bring them back in When the Nile Runs Red.
This country went through nearly two decades of civil war strife. In 1983, the northern government launched a holy war against the south. This grew out of the views of the Islamic north against the mostly Christian black African south. The war had three aspects: religion, politics, and oil. The atrocities committed against the southern people are too many to list, but the war was fought in the south through genocide.
How did you conduct your research?
I grabbed my backpack and sun screen and traveled to Juba, Sudan, the southern capital. There I stayed at a Christian compound and met with southern Sudanese from all walks of life: refugees, political leaders, and church leaders. I talked to as many people as I could, snapped pictures, and listened to what was being said.
Regarding your trip to Sudan, what touched you the most?
The incredible faith. I could look into a Sudanese’s eyes and see the pain of persecution and the hope of Jesus. Here, we say we love Jesus while we live in our huge homes, drive our fancy cars, are well-fed, are not hunted down for our faith, or are concerned about medical care. The Sudanese understand that all they have and need is Jesus.
Can you give us a brief description of your characters?
Paul Farid was once a Muslim who actively persecuted the southern people, but now he’s a Christian who flies dangerous missions into war-torn areas to deliver food and medical supplies.
Dr. Larson Kerr Farid risks her life to bring healing to the Sudanese. Just like her husband Paul, her life is often in danger. But there is a problem between her and Paul with no easy solution.
Colonel Ben Alier has been fighting and leading the southern army of Sudan for nearly two decades. Often referred to as a warlord, Ben fights his own demons.
The three are friends, an unlikely friendship forged by their love for Sudan.
How do you build your plots?
Always out of character with two simple words: what-if? John Gardner said to create the best possible characters and allow the worst possible things to happen to them. That says it all. It’s easy to coat our darlings with easy trials and struggles, but the hard stuff, the struggles that define the character are what has to happen. I’m a huge fan of Donald Maass and wouldn’t consider writing a paragraph without using techniques found in his books Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.
What are you goals for this novel?
To increase awareness about the situation in Sudan and to share my passion for the Sudanese people through a compelling story.
The proceeds for this novel go back to aid the Sudanese.
What do you hope the readers will gain?
To lose themselves in the novel. That’s every writer’s goal. But I also want the reader to sense a call to action and support the Sudanese cause.
What is your next project?
I’m currently writing a romantic suspense series with a working series title of “Behind the Sunglasses”.
How can readers learn more about what you are doing?
Check out my website at http://www.diannmills.com/ . I have sections about Sudan, and for readers, and writers. Those signing up for my newsletter get to download a chapter of an upcoming release.
Aside from your passion for writing, what else are you doing?
Speaking to groups about the situation in Sudan.
Teaching at writer’s conferences.
Conducting Fiction Mentoring Clinics. These are small groups who work closely together for three work-filled days to develop their craft.
Thanks, DiAnn, for sharing your work with us.
DiAnn Mills, a favorite author, hails from Texas. Her book, When the Nile Runs Red, was recently released. Check back on Saturday to find out more about this exciting novel and what DiAnn is doing with the proceeds.
My critique buddies... Annette and Ocieanna Fleiss.
Another one of my favorite people in the world is Cynthia Ruchti.
Cynthia lives in Wisconsin and is one of the writers and producers of the radio ministry, The Heartbeat of the Home, for which I'm a guest writer.
Annette, Cynthia, and I were priviledged to sing vocals with the worship team during the conference. Not only fun, it became a blessing for us! We were thrilled to be asked back to sing next year when the conference moves to Minneapolis.
It's time to jump into my other world, but I'll soon be back working on my latest project.
“Ready for what?” you ask.
Ready for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Dallas, Texas. I leave Seattle with three other writers on September 19th, not to return until the 23rd.
This will be my third ACFW conference and I’m excited! I’m more prepared and confident than several years ago. I know what to expect, not to mention, far more people.
The conference provides an opportunity to immerse myself in learning more about the craft of writing and the publishing business. The days are intense from early morning until midnight. But, what’s a girl to do? I don’t want to miss a thing. It’s great to hang out with other people who are passionate about books – both reading and writing them.
There are numerous classes to take, appointments with editors and agents, and a fabulous keynote speaker. I’m able to share time with current friends and I always meet interesting new people. And where else can you talk one-one and be mentored by so many published authors? Their books sit on the shelves of Barnes and Noble and many other bookstores.
My appointments are made and my proposals are written. If an agent or editor is interested in one of my projects, they’ll request a few chapters and a proposal be sent to them. If they like what they read at that point, they’ll ask to see the full manuscript. It’s a very long process which takes months, but one many have gone through before.
I’ll fill you in after I get back.
I may even have photos.
Hope to see you here!
Angie was visiting friends at a college in Oregon the week prior to starting her sophomore year at a college here in Washington. The car was hit with such force, that despite wearing a seatbelt, she flew through the sunroof. She died immediately.
Angie was only nineteen years old. A beautiful young woman with ambition, she dreamed of what she could accomplish in her life. She freely shared her strong faith and relationship with God. Young people packed the memorial service. They spoke of the impact she’d made on their lives.
Time does help to soothe wounds, but you never forget. You never fully recover from the death of a child.
Angie’s presence is missed. You think and wonder about what could have been. What she might have done with her life. Would she have married? Had children of her own? How would our lives have been even more blessed?
Every year at this time, emotions tend to run close to the surface. There is a deep need for my husband to talk about his daughter. To share memories—special moments—funny times—her childhood.
But, it’s hard to find someone willing to listen. He tries, but often the conversation is quickly turned.
Friends and relatives seem to have forgotten. Few ask how he’s doing.
Why don’t they?
Are they caught up in the business of their own lives?
Do they believe healing has taken its course?
Maybe they don’t know what to say.
Perhaps they’re afraid they’ll dredge up memories that are too painful to talk about. But, just the opposite can be true.
People who have lost someone they loved - a child, spouse, parent, or friend – NEED to talk. And they NEED to be heard. Not every day. Not even every week or month. But, sometimes…
They need people to laugh with them over silly stories, while still empathizing with their loss. Even if the same antidotes have been told many times before.
They want to celebrate the life shared on earth and the life given in heaven.
It's been my experience that people who grieve don’t expect anyone to fix it for them. Or say anything that will bring great understanding or healing.
They just want someone to care.
“Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver and the other gold.”
I still keep in touch with friends I grew up with in our small Wisconsin hometown. We may only send Christmas letters and photos, but it’s still a way to share our lives with each other.
In college I met another group of wonderful people. This summer I received word that one of my roommates died from cancer. The other three roommates (the five of us had shared a house) were able to be together for the funeral in the Midwest. Although I’d not seen the friend for many years, I deeply felt the loss. It was difficult for me to not be with the rest of my “roomies.”
I’ve lived in the Seattle area for thirteen years, but still keep in contact with two friends back in Minneapolis. Jane lived next door and we raised our five girls together (her three and my two) from the time they were babies / toddlers until my family moved to the Pacific Northwest. I met Barb when our youngest were both around four years old. We don’t call often, but when we do, several hours can slip by before we hang up. It feels like we’ve never been apart.
Even though I’m blessed to have amazing friends here, I’ve also strived to do my part in keeping long distance friendships alive. But, not everyone has been willing or able to put in the effort it takes to maintain the relationship. I understand. People’s lives are full and it takes a lot of energy just keeping up with daily life!
Some things – like certain friendships - are meant for only for a season. That’s okay.
I still think about friends from my past and wish them well. How can I not? They’re a part of my history and why I’ve become who I am. They’ll always be a part of me.
Yes…one is silver and the other gold.
When I tell people I haven’t seen them in almost three years, their eyes bug out, and their jaws drop. It makes me feel like a terrible daughter. I go into a long explanation of why a visit in either direction hasn’t taken place sooner. Life happens.
I called my mother this morning to firm up plans for picking them up at the airport. I could tell from past emails and her voice today that they’re excited to see us and the kids – who are now young adults, on their own.
My mom is a great cook and an excellent housekeeper. Her home is always spotless. I’ve grown up with the same tendency to keep a clean and organized home, and my daughters have followed in my footsteps.
Even at my age, I still feel the pressure to please my parents. I still need that, "good job" from them. So, I’ve cleaned more than normal and have planned healthy and delicious meals while they’re here. I've worked hard to make everything as perfect as it can be.
I’ve tried to never put any pressure on my daughters to perform, but I’ve recognized that they, too, in their twenties, still seek my approval. They need me in their cheering section, trusting that I’ll think they’re the best, no matter what the situation.
I just want them to know that I love them as they are, whether they succeed – or fail. They don’t have to be perfect. Ever.
And then there's the relationship with God, our Father. Don't we often try to win His approval by being “good?”
Sure - we should try to please Him in how we live, but we don’t have to impress Him. There’s a difference.
He loves us despite our failings and imperfections.
Just like a parent.
I’m sympathetic to customers who have taken a wrong turn and call with, “Can you help me? I’m trying to get to you, but I don’t know where I am.”
When it comes to driving, I’m directionally challenged myself. Don’t tell me to turn north or south. I need left or right and I never leave for foreign territory without having map quested.
With lost customers, I ask questions until I can get a visual of where they’re located and then talk them through until they arrive. We’re not a difficult place to find, but some people come from a distance, and if not familiar with the area, anyone can get turned around.
Once they reach our location, many seek me out. “Are you the nice lady who gave us directions? Thank you for the help.”
Directions are necessary if you’re going to arrive at your destination, try out a new dish on the family, or assemble anything technical.
Direction is also important in making life decisions and choosing the right path for our lives. We’re fortunate to have such help at our fingertips. It’s called the Bible.
And if we ever feel totally lost? God is only a prayer away, willing to help us find our way.
Quite simply, we’re to ask God for what we want, believing we’ll receive it.
Why don’t we ask God for more? Are we afraid the answer will be no? Are we afraid He’ll think our requests too trivial? Or that we’ll appear selfish?
You want something, but don’t get it…You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives… James 4:2-3 (NIV)
We can’t expect God to answer requests we haven’t made…or made in faith, believing they’ll be answered.
We’re not only to ask, we’re to include details. When desiring a husband or wife, wouldn’t it be better to ask for a person with specific qualities as opposed to just asking for spouse? If you’re willing to take any man or any woman, you might not like what’s included in the package!
That doesn’t mean He’ll automatically give us everything we ask for. He only wants what’s best for us. And, if we ask for something purely out of selfish reasons, we may not get the answer we’re looking for.
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of you heart. Psalm 37:4 (NIV)
God wants to be good to us.
Tell Him what’s in your heart.
I’m not a morning person. I repeat. I am NOT a morning person.
But, if I’m going to fit exercise into my hectic day, I have a better chance of accomplishing it first thing. Unfortunately, too many mornings, I shut off the alarm, roll over, and go back to sleep.
I threw the covers off, forced myself to put my feet on the floor, and moved like a slug to my home office. I put on headphones and turned on the small TV on the wall in front of me. Listening to Joyce Meyer keeps me distracted from changing my mind and crawling back into bed.
I like Joyce. She’s direct, but humorous, and her preaching speaks to what we experience in our daily lives.
This morning she used a rocking chair to illustrate a point.
Wanting to accomplish something, but never taking any steps needed to reach the goal is like rocking in a chair, putting forth some energy, but going nowhere. And then wondering why we don’t make any headway.
Have you ever heard yourself moan these words?
“I wish I wasn’t overweight.”
“I wish I wasn’t in debt.”
“I wish I had a better job.”
“I wish my house was clean.”
“I wish I was in better shape."
“I wish I felt closer to God.”
If we want something to happen, we need to get off our butts and move. God is more than willing to help us – He wants the best for us. But, He also expects some effort on our part.
He expects us to implement that word.
What was it again?
Ahhh…that’s right. DISCIPLINE.
I’ll never look at a rocking chair the same way again.
And yes…I’ll be back on the treadmill tomorrow.
Whether I like it, or not.
"Could I have a job application?"Her voice lacked any enthusiasm and no smile graced her face.
“Sure.” I handed her a small packet. “We don’t have openings at this location, but I’ll send your application to our HR department at our corporate office. You can bring it back later, or take a seat and fill it out while you’re here.”
She opted to complete the application on site and I pointed to a seat where she could fill out the papers. Later, after she turned them in, she slumped out the door, probably to catch a bus or walk the streets, seeking possible job opportunities.
I scanned her information. Any form of education she’d attempted, traditional or technical, had never been completed. She’d never worked at one job for more than several months and the reasons for leaving or being asked to leave seemed trivial. I forwarded her application to our HR department, just as I promised, knowing there would be no way she would be hired.
After a rough day, I returned home with knots in my neck and shoulders. Dinner simmered in the crock-pot, thanks to my husband, so I was free to have a little time to myself.
I climbed into the hot tub on our deck and sunk into the warm, soothing water. Tensed up muscles began to relax. The sky clouded over and without the sun’s blaring light, the colors surrounding me became even more vivid. Details of the pine, birch, and cheery trees were striking. The sound of water flowing over the sides of the fountain in the yard added to the peaceful feeling. I had a refuge at the end of a not-so-good day. A place where I could relax and let stress slip away.
The eyes of the woman I’d seen earlier came to mind. Eyes that lacked joy or hope. And I wondered if she had a refuge of any kind. How was she spending her time that evening? What had caused her life to become so erratic? What were the real reasons for not finishing anything she started?
I looked around me.
My day had been a nightmare, but I was still blessed in so many ways. I said a prayer of thanks.
The woman had been a reminder of how much I had to be thankful for. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that.
My husband and I drove to one of the parks last weekend to see the play. It turned out to be a beautiful day and almost two hundred people arrived with blankets, folding chairs, and picnic baskets to enjoy the show.
The performance was scheduled to start at 3:00, but at 3:15 one of the actors announced a lead actor was missing. They were attempting to reach him and would let the crowd know soon as to the situation. At 3:30, they still had not heard from him.
The cast offered two options to the audience. They would either cancel the show, or perform what scenes that they could without the missing actor in order to give a taste of their presentation.
The crowd cheered at the second option and the cast put together a condensed version of the play. They did such a fabulous job entertaining the audience for over an hour, we’re going to venture to another park this weekend to see the show in its entirety. And yes – they did finally locate the missing actor and were able to announce that he was okay.
The cast pulled off a good performance, despite important missing pieces, because they rallied as a community.
Members of our church recently worked together to create a float for a parade, part of a big city celebration. The float, on a long flat bed of a truck, wasn’t constructed until the morning of the parade. But, with everyone contributing various pieces and working together, by the time the parade started, we were ready with a beautiful presentation. Live music from the worship band, church members on the float waving and greeting the parade viewers, as well as teens from the youth group handing out candy and talking to children, made our entry enjoyable for people along the parade route.
The float was successful because we, as a church community, worked together.
We need community.
We need to belong to something bigger than ourselves.
Community is important in God’s eyes, too.
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
Beautiful. Secluded. Romantic.
Sometimes perfect is…well, perfect.
But, there are times when seeking and desiring what is perfect may not be the best choice.
I’ve struggled with perfectionism my whole life.
As a student, I wasn’t satisfied with anything less than an “A.”
As an adult, the house needed to be spotless before I could be comfortable with inviting people in. I stressed over meals prepared and worried that guests might think the meat was a tad over-cooked, the mashed potatoes could have been creamier, and the vegetables fresher.
As a writer, I look back on pieces that have been published on this blog or in various publications, and wish I could rewrite them. I continue to see ways in which sentences could have been written better grammatically or with more vivid and exciting details.
It’s stressful being a perfectionist. You’re convinced that you must always perform well. Anything less than perfect is not acceptable. The disease doesn’t allow for flaws or relaxation.
But, here's the problem. No one is perfect. It's an impossible feat.
Then why do people strive to look like they always have it together? It probably comes from an ingrained untruth. In order to be accepted or loved, you must be perfect.
I’ve worked hard and have made great strides in letting go of perfectionism. Maybe it comes with age. Maybe it’s because I have a husband who is accepting of my defects and helps me laugh about them. Maybe it’s having friends who allow me to be myself without fear of being rejected.
I no longer thoroughly clean the house every week and I remind myself that the company shared is more important than the food cooked.
As I work in our front yard, I climb up and down ladders to water hanging baskets. I have a tendency to trip over hoses as I pull them from one end of the yard to the other. In my tattered T-shirts and paint-splashed shorts, I can’t be making a very graceful impression on the neighbors. But, it’s okay.
The more I stop worrying about doing everything perfect, the more fun I have. It frees me to try new things without having to do them right.
God knows and understands that I can’t be perfect…but loves me anyway. So much that He provided a way for me to be perfect in His sight. Forgiveness and the gift of salvation.
The funny thing is, I didn’t grow up in a home where hugging or other physical expressions of caring were present. I knew my parents loved me, but touching just wasn’t part of my childhood experience.
But, while raising my daughters, I lavished them with hugs and constantly expressed my love with touch. As adults, they still crave and need it for their emotional well-being. We hug when we first see other and when we go our separate ways. My youngest, at 23, still enjoys laying her head in my lap so I can brush her hair or rub her back while she falls asleep.
It’s not unusual for me to hug or place my hand on someone’s shoulder to show friendship, connection, or offer comfort.
Science and research has proven that we need touch…
Biological – It’s known that babies will die if they don’t receive touch. Studies on infants and children link touch directly to healthy physical development. And in people of all ages, it reduces stress.
Communicative – What better way to communicate than through touch?
Psychological - It provides reassurance and comfort, and aids in the development of self-identity and self-esteem.
Social - The ability to trust others, and understand the needs of others, is directly related to touching.
Of course, not everyone is comfortable with touching or being touched. It may take a little practice to get used to it. And certainly not all of it is appropriate.
But, if you’re able to offer a pat on the shoulder or a gentle hand on the arm, it can be a gift. Touch provides solace, safety, tenderness, and soothing.
Jesus, while on earth, healed the sick and raised the dead with His touch. I wonder what it will be like to experience the touch of Jesus.
On the day I join Him in heaven, I’ll find out.
How awesome is that going to be? I can’t wait.