Be the difference

christmas card100Christmas.

The time of year when we remember.

Each ornament we hang has a special memory. Each song we hear sparks a feeling.

And my mind spins dizzy with the thoughts of my oldest son’s birth and of his death 12 short years later.

And I think of how all the more precious Christmas has become to me.

Remembering HIS birth.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~Isaiah 9:6-7

Because without birth, there would be no death.

And in HIS dying, we were saved.

We, undeservingly, were given the greatest gift.

Our family has enjoyed a special month of giving to others. It has blessed us immensely and helped us keep our focus on the true meaning of Christmas. We pass on many life lessons to our younger son, Nick, by involving him and helping him learn to make sacrifices and give with us.

Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time for many.

Look around. We all have a neighbor in a valley right this very moment. Can you take them a meal? Can you bake something? Short on cash – no problem! Visit or call! Give a smile and an encouraging word. Show them that they are not alone. Show them that you care.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

What can you do?

What will you do?

To make a difference for even one?

HE made a difference for me and for you.

Be the difference maker this Christmas season.

It will make a difference for you.

Be blessed!
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Waiting to be Found

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Our dirt path – our field road – is long.

But not as long as it seemed when I was a little girl.

Our field road leads through the woods to cornfields where children could easily get lost.

But to my brothers and me, and to my own children, it has always been a glorious setting for games of hide and seek.

Because it is easy to hide in the acres of endless walls…among the towering green stalks.

looking up through the corn stalks

looking up through the corn stalks

But I always want to be the hider and not the seeker.

Because isn’t it easier to hide than to seek?

“Ready or not, here I come!”

And we wait, eager to be found.

In fact, we often make noises so we can be more easily found.

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BECAUSE WE LOVE TO BE FOUND!

Some people live their whole lives, waiting to be found – instead of being the seeker.

But He calls to us, beckoning us to His hiding place. The sounds of His activity surround us if we will just listen.

And He promises:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

God is there. And easily found.

And in becoming the seeker…

it is YOU who will be found.

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Sticks and Stones – Words do Hurt

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“Sticks and Stones will break your bones but words can never hurt you.” 

Did you ever hear that growing up?  Have you ever said it to your own kids? In case you didn’t already know this, it was something made up by a parent to make their kid feel better.

And it’s a lie.

Because words do hurt and broken bones heal in relatively quick time. But hurtful words can inflict pain that takes a lifetime to heal or may never heal at all.

Recently, a well-known cooking star made headlines as words from her past caught up with her and aggressive media outlets were all ready to spread it to the world because she is famous.  While she is not the first famous person to find herself in the middle of a public relations nightmare, she will certainly not be the last.

Meanwhile I, the not-so-famous, sit secretly with my words from the past (and the present).  Because haven’t we all spouted out words we wish we could take back? Or maybe it’s just me?

Ouch.

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As I read about her on the internet, I was so thankful that my hurtful words have never blasted across the evening news.  But, then I remembered it doesn’t matter if the world ever heard them; HE heard my words and He heard your words. And HE knew them before they left our mouth… because HE knows our hearts.

Jesus tells us to watch what we say because it reveals the condition of our hearts. (Matthew 12:34)

Ouch.

Even when it doesn’t seem like a big deal, our words matter. Words are incredibly powerful and can be used to hurt or to heal.  They can be used to build up or tear down and to encourage or discourage. Our words reveal love or hate.

Our words reveal who we are.

And they matter…even if we are not famous.

This verse from Psalm 141:3 convicts me.

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

And I am reminded that I NEED to pray this daily.

Because I need HIM to help me carefully choose my words before I speak.

Because I have always loved to talk and sometimes I talk too much.  And I know my mouth can be a dangerous weapon.  I know because I have seen the scars and I have a few of my own.

And I remember the lyrics, “Oh Jesus, Alive in me”.

I wonder if my words tell the world that Jesus is alive in me?

Do yours?

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  ~Mother Teresa

As Christians, we must encourage each other and hold each other accountable to our words.

A tree is identified by its fruit.  If a tree is good, its fruit will be good.  If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.  For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. ~Matthew 12:33-34 (NLT)

I pray all of my words – all of our words – will be fruitful for HIS glory.20130717_195531

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Go Fish

commercial shrimp boats

commercial shrimp boats

“Shrimping” is one of my favorite things to do.  Being out on the boat, with the smell of salt air and a sea breeze is incredibly peaceful to me.

Shrimping, even on our little skiff, is demanding work.  Our bulky twenty-five foot net is attached with ropes to two heavy trawl doors and a tickler chain.  These doors are pulled along the bottom with the net dragging behind. The tickler chain stretches between “tickling” the bottom causing the shrimp (who live mostly on the bottom) to come up and into our net.

Mayo with the net

Mayo with the net

Our tows only last about a half hour, otherwise the net may get too heavy for us to lift into the boat.  Unlike on commercial shrimp trawlers, we have to set the net and trawl doors and pull it all back in manually.

I am always excited when the net comes back to the boat and wait anxiously to see what we have caught.

Mayo pulls the end rope causing the net to open and release the contents into the “cull tray” – a sort of table/wooden box with a removable end to sort shrimp from all the other creatures and things caught in the net.

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Sometimes we catch debris – old crab pots, cans and bottles, pieces of wood and tree limbs – all of which interferes with catching shrimp in our net.

Once we caught a log so heavy we had to go back to the dock so my Daddy and Mayo could get it out.  Because it was so heavy, they finally had to cut it out and mend the net.  By the time they got the net fixed, we almost decided to give up and go back home but we kept at it and took home a cooler full of headed shrimp (about 50 pounds).

Luke 5:5 “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Do I keep letting down my net out – even when it doesn’t seem worth it?

Casting nets for souls can be challenging and sometimes even frustrating work, but it is a work that cannot be ignored.

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. – Matthew 4:19

Am I excited to cast our net for HIM?

Are you?

Last night our shrimp net was filled with shrimp and jellyfish, crabs of all sizes and numerous fish.  And sorting through our catch can be painful as the jellyfish sting, the crabs pinch and the fish flop around splashing jellyfish on our faces and arms (ouch).

But the prized shrimp we took home made all the obstacles worth it.

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Do I let obstacles stop me from being fishers of men?

HIS word is truth without conditions or exceptions – Jesus didn’t say I may, or I will possibly; He said if we follow Him, He will make us fishers of men. We know Jesus never lied, and His promises are true and sure.

So the challenge is in looking at Jesus’ words in reverse – if we are not fishers of men, we are not following Him.

Be blessed as you cast your net today….a moment at a time.

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Come and Knock on My Door

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The deadbolt lock was turned to the up position. He had turned it himself and now the door was locked tightly.

And he could hear the knocking and desperately wanted to open the door.

But he was only 3 and could not figure out how to unlock it.

All of the kids had been in our motorhome changing into bathing suits. In the midst of their excitement to go tubing behind the boat, he had been left behind.

His mother called out to them as they boarded the boat. Where is he?

“We don’t know.”

But we knew.

She went to the door but it was too late. He, in attempting to open the door, had locked it instead.

And now five adults and five kids stood around a door knocking and asking him to unlock the door.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice,
and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and
he with Me. (Rev. 3:20)

Jesus is knocking at the door of our hearts.

And we somehow think because we have already answered the door, he is not knocking again.

But the knocking continues!

Revelation 3:20 shows us what our relationship with God should look like.

We should be continually answering the door when Jesus knocks. It says we’ll hear His voice. He’s always speaking.

Am I listening?

Are you?

Or do we remain behind a door? A door that we ourselves have locked….

Mayo retrieved a ladder and started checking pointlessly for unlatched windows.

A mommy continued to stand patiently at the door and knock on the same spot beside the locked deadbolt.

“Turn this one. Right where Mommy is knocking,” she called gently.

There was no panic in her voice so there was none in his…just continual calling out to him. Calling and urging him to listen to her instructions.

And just as Mayo was deciding which window we would sacrifice, the door opened!

And a little boy jumped straight into his Mother’s open arms.

And he was free.

Because he listened.

Will we listen?

Freedom is not Free

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A couple of police cars parked near the plane next to ours caught my attention. I peered out curiously from my window seat at LAX.

Before our pilot’s voice over the intercom could offer explanation, I became painfully aware of what was happening as six soldiers dressed in all white climbed out of a van and lined up perfectly.

A tall man dressed in a dark uniform opened the doors of another van and encouraged the passengers, family members, out. Several airport personnel worked to help the flag covered coffin down the ramp.

For love of country they accepted death… – James A. Garfield –

An officer walked over to the family gathered and clinging to each other and offered his arm to the elderly woman dressed in black. I whispered a prayer for her courage as she released herself from the elderly man beside her and took the officer’s outreached arm. She held her head high and proud as she walked slowly toward the plane.

Tears streamed freely down my face as she threw herself upon the box that held her son.

I wanted desperately to hug her and tell her how grateful I am for my freedoms and for the sacrifices made by her and her son.

I wanted to tell her that I lost a brave 12 year old soldier to a very different battle.

To many, Memorial Day simply marks the start of summer and is celebrated with cookouts, trips to the beach and appliance sales. However, to the war veteran and to the families of fallen soldiers, Memorial Day carries significance so deep that words cannot express their hearts

So many pay a higher price by sacrificing everything.

Because freedom is not free.

”There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” ~John 15:13

To the families of the fallen, I pray you will you feel Jesus close to you on this Memorial Day. May you feel loved by the One who knows the sting of loss Himself.

And to the living who still serve and have served, we honor you and the sacrifices made by you and to ALL who love you.

May we all take a moment to say thank you on this Memorial Day and every day.

PS – if anyone knows how to find out the name of the fallen soldier received at LAX on the morning of Saturday, May 4, 2013, please let me know. I would like to send a letter to his family

The biggest risk we take is not taking any risks at all

My heart pounded intensely, as I realized I was next.  Our instructor reminded us if we did not volunteer, he would call us on first in the next exercise.

Seated on the front row of a writer’s class filled with successfully published authors and aspiring writers, I had no quick and easy escape.

The class started out easy enough.  I was confident and eager to learn.  But those feelings had moved quickly into a state of panic and I found myself fearful of writing in a writing class.

He would bark out instructions, give us a couple of minutes, then sound the 30 second warning and call STOP.  Participants would then read their words and receive appropriate “feedback”.

It seemed simple enough until I realized I was next.

How could I possibly describe a room in a way in which my audience could smell it, feel it and possibly even taste it (without licking the wall), in 2 minutes?

My mind was racing and I had nothing. Then I wrote a couple of words and scratched them out and wrote a few more. Time was ticking!

I wanted to scream at the guy behind me who was noisily typing (click-click-clicking) away on his keyboard.  How dare he interfere with my creative thinking?  I was a real writer.  I had my notebook and pen.

And then of course, there was the voice in my head asking me why I even thought I was qualified to come to a writer’s conference in the first place.

Somehow, in the midst of this going on in my own little world, I managed to scribble out several sentences.

And I was terrified when he called my name.

At first, I reminded him I was a nonfiction writer in class filled mostly with fiction writers.  I am not even sure why I felt the need to give him that information and he certainly did not care.

His response was not sympathetic and there would be no free pass for me.  He simply said “BUT you’re in my class today so please read to us what you have written.”

And my words were given a quick praise by the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction.  I think that is when I started breathing again.

The unexpected pressure in this class, and many others this week, stretched my abilities in ways I could not have imagined.   Five days of classes, workshops, and one-on-one appointments with editors, publishers, and agents pulled me out of my comfort zone and into the courage zone.

Can any of us ever hope to achieve success if we are not willing to get out of our comfort zone and into a zone that may be laced with failures?

This week at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference I met many inspiring people who are willing to risk failure to pursue their dreams of impacting people for God.

I am called to use my words for God through writing and speaking.  But I do realize that the only words that really matter are the ones I live.

I pray that my words will save even one.

I pray that you will join me in the courage zone and do the thing that God has called YOU to do…

Because the biggest risk we take is not taking any risks at all.

Be blessed as you live life a Moment at a Time.

PS – Thank you to Alton Gansky, Conference Director,  and everyone who had a part in making this conference such an amazing experience for me and countless others. May God continue to be glorified through each of us.

Two of the most courageous boys I will ever know...Zack had the courage to die and Nick has the courage to live on without a big brother. Love and miss you every moment Zack Attack!

Two of the most courageous boys I will ever know…Zack had the courage to die and Nick has the courage to live on without a big brother. Love and miss you every moment Zack Attack!

Someday is Now

20130521-215303.jpg The lady next to me didn’t know I was listening but how could I not? Only a flimsy curtain separated our pedicure chairs.

Her nail tech listened dutifully as the woman shared visions of her future. “Someday,” she said sighed, “we are going to move to the country and have a farm because I always breathe a little easier and find peace when I visit the country.” “Someday,” she continued, “we are going to have a garden because I have always wanted to grow my own food but I have no room where I live and my work requires so much travel.” I listened on as she mentioned something about wanting animals – cows, chickens, horses and a dog. She explained that she loved dogs but could not have dogs because of her work.

As she went on talking about all of her somedays, I had to wonder if her someday would ever come?

Have we all been guilty of “someday thinking?

I know I have.

But to hear it spoken again and again from this woman made me ponder my own somedays and caused me to reaffirm my belief in someday is now.

Because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. And life can and does change in a blink.

I have been working on a book and planning to get it published…someday.

The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference kicked off last night with me feeling overwhelmed, excited and nervous. My writing will be critiqued, praised, accepted, rejected, and everything in between – because that is a writer’s life – so I am discovering. I will meet with agents, publishers, and editors this week and I will attend workshops and classes on how to improve my craft.

So I have stepped out in faith to pursue my someday.

I pray God will use me and my words to help others and glorify Him.

I pray you will take a leap of faith and step out today to pursue your someday in this life.

But more importantly, I pray for you to pursue your someday in eternity because there is nothing more important.

The cost of waiting is high and someday is now.

Be blessed a moment at a time…

Slapping Her Did Make me feel Better…

“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite” ― Cassandra Clare

Someone said to me recently – “Time heals all wounds and it is coming up on two years so I’m sure you are feeling like your old self again. You know,”  she continued, “feeling better.”

And I did feel better.

Right after I slapped her.

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Okay.

I didn’t really slap her.

But the vision did flash through my mind as I wondered if people really think you can feel better – ever – after burying a child?

And I wondered if there would  ever come a day in this life when I wouldnt shed a tear?

My days are not spent sitting in a corner crying for hours on end  – although there are times when I have to admit that does still feel like a good option.

But smells, sounds, thoughts or even ordinary things like unloading the dishwasher or folding clothes can bring tears out of nowhere.

Sometimes one or two. Sometimes a bucket full.

Because the missing isn’t erased by the space of time and grief cannot be put away on a shelf.  Grief is ugly. Grief is beautiful. Grief is confusing.

Grief is at best, managed.

Sometimes graciously. Sometimes poorly.

Grief is not an outfit. Grief is a permanent accessory.

Grief is lived…

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And I am convinced that grief does not change you.

Grief reveals you.

And grief reveals others to you.

And time cannot possibly make me “feel better.”

Only God can.

“His is a joy which consequences cannot quench. His is a peace which circumstances cannot steal.” – Max Lucado

May you seek HIS joy in the moment – no matter what today brings.

And remember today is only temporary…

“There is a spot, mid barren hills,
Where winter howls, and driving rain;
But if the dreary tempest chills,
There is a light that warms again.”
– Emily Jane Brontë

(And if you run into someone who has lost a loved one, please do them and yourself a favor and think carefully before you speak. Open mouths are dangerous and grief is very unpredictable. You never know when a slap just might slip out.)

be blessed…

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Commandment #3

Commandment #3 do not take the name of the Lord in vain. Others hear you every time you say “Oh My God” in every other sentence and you are obviously not praying and they read it when you write OMG. “…for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (see Exodus 20) Walk the talk – a moment at a time…