Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Some Day

Fascinating Turkey
We were four old friends sitting together in a restaurant catching up over lunch.

Judie enthralled us with exotic tales of her trip to Turkey, which she had always said she'd take some day, and finally did.

Joy's fork paused halfway to her mouth and she pensively said, "Some day. I just read about a woman who always said that some day she'd wear the beautiful nightgowns she received every Christmas.

But that some day never came. When she died, they were all folded neatly in her closet with the tags still on them."

"My aunt did that too," Nancy chimed in. "She always had the most frayed, worn towels hanging in the bathroom, so we gave her set after set of pretty new towels, which she said she'd use some day. We found them all stacked beneath her bed after she was gone."

A long silent moment passed. Then Joy said, "I think we need to break free of that way of thinking ... putting off the best for some day. Some day is now."

She's right.

Saving the best for some day resonated with me. Maybe I got that from my mother, who always dressed like a ragamuffin when company wasn't coming and saved her good clothes until she outgrew them and never got the chance to wear them.

Or maybe I just fancy myself too plain, practical and pragmatic to eat on the good china. So it sits in the china cabinet untouched year after year collecting dust.

Why do we do that? Why do so many of us limp along, making do with second best or even rags in life? I'm not talking about just nightgowns or towels, but jobs, relationships, personal accomplishments ... so many areas in which we give up trying too soon.

Do we not think we're worthy of something better?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stirred, Not Shaken

Our charred porch

I startled awake from a dead sleep last Sunday afternoon, the word we all dread to hear vibrating through my every molecule.

"Fire!" I heard it again, this time recognizing Chuck's strained voice only a decibel below scream level.

Sitting up and staring dumbly at my surroundings, I groggily realized I was in bed. Then it came back to me - I had been taking a much needed afternoon nap after getting 2 hours of sleep the night before and teaching 9 preschool classes within 3 hours that morning. Ugg. Talk about a lead weight in your head.

What's going on? I thought, still not quite awake. Then I smelled smoke.

I jumped up and ran into the smoke-hazy den, where through the glass porch door, I could see Chuck throwing a bucket of water into the corner. The smoke alarm started screeching. I raced over to the metal porch door, but it was super-heated. Ouch!

Peering through the window onto the porch, I saw glowing embers surrounding a blackened lump that used to be a large potted silk fern. Black soot left a smoke trail up the stucco wall and darkened the white metal ceiling. The floorboards were charred. Chunks of smoldering fiberglass from the four-foot fountain in the corner - the one now sporting a gaping hole in its side - were scattered to the far end of the porch, 30 feet away.

One sizable chunk had adhered itself to a wooden rocking chair leg like one of those cannonball blobs fired at Mr. Incredible on the runway of the secret island computer room. (Now don't tell me you aren't an Elasti-Girl fan - I know you saw that movie!)

We still don't know exactly what happened, but our best guess is that an electrical cord attached to the fountain pump shorted out and somehow caused the potted fern to explode, turning pieces of the fountain into flaming projectiles. By the grace of God (and that is NOT just a flippant expression here), Chuck was home (he usually goes outside to get exercise on Sunday afternoons at that time), sitting in a chair he rarely sits in about as close to the porch as you could get.

He heard the explosion and thought it was a tree falling.(With all the rain we've been getting lately, huge oaks have been falling about every other week.) Then he noticed pretty good sized flames erupting through the glass porch door and started yelling while he ran to grab buckets of water so I would wake up and get the heck out before the house burned down.

Long after Chuck had doused the fire, we were still trembling. What if we hadn't been home when the fern exploded? Two hours earlier or two hours later we would have been gone ... and come back home to a blazing inferno. The entire wooden porch would have ignited quickly, eventually engulfing the house as well. Every single thing we own could be gone. And our sweet little dogs? Can't even go there.

Be still my heart.
This is what a nuked fern looks like.

So you can imagine how immensely grateful we are to Papa God for His mercy and care. I found a new verse I've added to my Life Saver scriptures: "Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken" (Acts 2:25, NIV).

Stirred, yes. Shaken, no. Papa's got our backs.

Now I've just got to figure out how to get the smoke odor out of my sweaters hanging in the closet nearest the porch. I'd really rather not walk around this winter reeking of charred faux fern and molten fiberglass. Ideas, anyone?  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stress-Free Cooking

I'm sooo excited to share this first short video introducing stress-free cooking recipes from my Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, releasing online and in bookstores Nov 1. 

Three additional videos are in production and will be released within the next two months. 

Rachael Ray I'm not, but I do enjoy creating quicker, easier ways of doing all things kitchen like she does. I'd love to hear what you think of my videos! (Always open to improvement!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Near Misses

KaBLAM. Whoa.

That was close.

My nose hairs are standing at attention, my skin is crawling and my teeth are tingling like I just bit into a wad of tin foil.

Ever felt like this?

Living in the lightning capital of the world (Tampa area), I experience this nasty sensation more often than I'd like. And since my sister was knocked senseless by lightning when we were kids, I have more than a healthy respect for those silver bolts of destruction. I have fear.

(Don't worry - my sister recovered. Mostly. Except for her strange chia pet hair and that crazy twitch of her left eyebrow that makes her look like Mr. Spock flirting with a Klingon.)

My neighbor had a near miss recently. During a severe thunder storm, a particularly virulent bolt zig-zagged strategically through the thick leafy canopy of a 50-year-old oak about 15 feet from his house, leaving a clean slice mark on the trunk but largely ignoring the tangle of oak branches while exploding its wrath on the much smaller crepe myrtle sheltered beneath the eaves of the house.

It was like the bolt was aiming. It snaked through and around the branches of the massive oak and the roof of the house sheltering the little bush to zero in on its target. Ka-BLOOEY! Big time.

The poor little crepe myrtle looked like it had jumped right out of its bark. Its branches were splintered into small shards, spread all over the front yard.  

You could only survey the damage and shake your head, pondering all the disastrous could haves.

 Near misses. You've had your share too, haven't you? Maybe not with lightning, but something that was so close to calamity, it frightened the bejeebies out of you. How did you react? Did you dwell on the could haves and allow fear to kidnap your heart?

Or did you open your palms toward heaven and thank your Papa God that He protected you yet again?

I actually do both. What about you? I'd love to hear about your experience with near misses.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Double Blessing Contest Winners!

Many thanks to everyone who entered the Double Double Blessings Blessings Contest!

I was very moved by the double blessings from Papa God that you so graciously shared with me and may possibly include some of them in the Too Blessed to be Stressed Daily Devotional I'm now writing (set to release in 2017).

If my editor chooses yours, you'll receive a free copy of the Devo and your name will be included in the book!

And now ... without further ado, I present the six winners in the drawing for a free copy of the Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner:

Charmaine Andrews
Pamela Black
Adrianna Fuentes
Kristen Sweat
Ronda Crawford
Karla Hanns

Congrats ladies! Now if you'll just get me your mailing addresses, I'll send your prizes out right away.

Hey BBFF's (Blessed Blog Friends Forever), if you weren't a winner this time, stay tuned for my next great give-away right around the corner.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Winner Dinner!

We're all too blessed to be stressed! 
So last night was our Winner Dinner and we had an absolute blast!

Congrats to grand prize winner Donna and her husband Ish (on far left in photo holding 3-week-old Baby Boy; I'm in the middle, and my daughter and son-in-law are on the right holding 5-week-old Baby Girl).

As you may recall, a few months ago, we had an adoption fund-raising dinner for my daughter's family combined with a drawing for 5 autographed copies of my upcoming Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, which debuts Nov. 1.

Yummy Chocolate Eclair Cake for dessert
All the recipes for the fundraising meal were from the Too Blessed to be Cookbook - Baked Spaghetti, Parmesan Nuggets, and Mudbar Ecstasy were a huge hit! Some excited folks even called the next day begging for more.

The grand prize winner (congrats, Donna!) received a home-cooked dinner with the author (moi!). Once again, the menu consisted of recipes from the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook - Teriyaki Pork, scalloped potatoes, Spinach-Broccoli Surprise, mixed fruit, and for dessert, none other than my ooey, gooey, Chocolate Eclair Cake.
Chili  Dip as our appetizer

Oh, mustn't forget the zesty Chili Dip with Frito Scoops we scarfed as an appetizer.

You know, it was hardly any trouble at all because every recipe in the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook takes less than 20 minutes hands-on prep time. The hardest part was deciding which delicious dishes to serve.

Coming Nov 1, 2015
Yummm. At the end of a great evening with some great folks, in one accord, we all said, "Let's do it again!"

Monday, August 17, 2015

Funny on the Inside

A long lost childhood friend e-mailed me this week. A gal who lived next door for a handful of my pre-teen years. We bummed around together a lot on hot summer days, playing board games, running barefoot, and dipping our toes in the pond behind her house.

My best memories of Ginny involve scarfing a bowl of freshly popped Jiffy Pop swimming in a whole stick of melted butter.

Mmm. Those were the days. No diets, no cares, no cholesterol counts.

Ginny's e-mail said she had recently run across a book called Too Blessed to be Stressed and loved it. She said she'd laughed out loud 3 times in the first 5 pages. Unprecedented. She just had to look me up to see if that Debora Mitchell Coty and I happened to be one and the same. Surely not, right?

I was the one LOLing when she wrote, "Maybe you were funny when we were young, but I don't remember it."

You know, I get that a lot. I guess I'm only funny on paper and not in person because more than once someone who interacts with me in the real world has expressed shock when they find out I write women's humor. Then they read one of my books and say things like, "No way. Wait. You did NOT write this."

Makes me wonder how people perceive me compared to how I perceive myself. Goofy stuff is always bouncing around in my head. I guess the craziness doesn't make it to my face or out my mouth as often as it should. Is there such a thing as a split-end personality?

It's so cool how Papa God starts preparing us for our life ministry from our earliest days.

He began molding me for my ministry when I was just a wee tyke by surrounding me with humor. Mama loved to laugh and make other people laugh (still does at 86) and Daddy was hilarious (and still is at 88) but nobody ever knew it because he was always drowned out by Mama. He was soft-spoken and very quiet around most folks, but at home he displayed a dry, wry wit that I absolutely adored.

He was smart and keen, and could turn a clever phrase better than anybody I've ever met. He was from Georgia (so was Mama) and routinely pronounced everything adorably weird: I peenched the eench worm on the beeeench when I went to wreench (rinse) my hands in the saynk (sink).

I had to become English-backwoods bilingual in order to understand most of my relatives.

My sister, two years older than me, would rather laugh than eat. During the whole of our growing-up years, when we weren't wrestling or fighting over shoes, we were laughing. There was always something to giggle about if you just looked for it.

Then I married Chuck when I was just a big child (age 20) and he is one funny, twisted soul, let me tell you. He still keeps me chuckling 37 years later.

So not surprisingly, I turned out to be a humorist. At least on the inside.

Take a minute and ponder ... what ministry has Papa been preparing you for your whole life? I'd love to hear from you BBFF!



Thursday, August 6, 2015

New Double Blessing Contest!

Win one of six 2016 Planners!
Okay, BBFF's (Best Blog Friends Forever), I've heard from many of you asking for my new planner, so it is!

In honor of our recent double family baby blessing, I'm giving away SIX copies of my newest literary Baby Blessing - the brand new Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner! 

My daughter and our double blessing
Just send me a short account of a time in your life that you felt doubly blessed and you'll be entered in the drawing for a Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner

The winners will be announced on my blog on August 28. (So if you haven't already subscribed to my blog, do it now so you won't miss out on your prize!)

As a double blessing, your story may be chosen to be included in my next book!

So get on it right away and plan (hey, it's a Planner, right?) on enjoying your double double blessing blessing!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Precious in His Sight

Our sweet little Bree-Bree
Hallelujah - she's here!!!

If you've been keeping up with my FB and newsletter posts (and I hope you have!) you know exactly who I'm talking about.

She's been referred to alternately as:
  • Baby #1
  • Girl Baby
  • The firstborn twin from different mothers
She's the tiny but enormous blessing that many of you have helped bring into our family with your prayer support, financial support, and words of constant encouragement.

We are very, very happy as we await the birth of her brother, the other twin from different mothers (Papa God blessed my daughter - who is my best friend as well as backdoor neighbor - with an adopted girl and a biological boy due within 2 weeks of each other). Nothing but joy, joy, joy, singing bluebirds and misty sunbeams. Right?

Well, almost. Sigh.

Alas, isn't there often a fly in the pudding? A rip in your jeans? Someone who throws lightning bolts at your parade?

This particular fly/rip/bolt-heaver was an acquaintance on the tennis court next to mine the day after our precious blessing was born. The very day the adoption papers were signed and sweet Bree-Bree became a forever piece of our hearts.

"So she's adopted, is she?" this woman asked, as soon as I finished gushing out the awesome story of her birth. "Does she, um ... does she look like the rest of you?"

"Well, not exactly," I naively answered. "She's got dark hair and the rest of the family are more blond, but it's no big deal. She'll also probably be quite tall and my side of the fam are all shorties but that's cool with us."

"Dark hair?" the woman continued, glancing around to see who might be listening. She leaned in close. "What about her skin tones?" I honestly had no idea where she was going with this.

"Uh ... I guess she might have a little more olive tones than we marshmallows do." What in the world is she getting at? I thought to myself.

Then she dropped the bomb.

"She's not ... she's not black, is she?"

I swear I felt like someone had socked me in the stomach.

Indignation erupted somewhere in my gut and rage poured of me out before I could stymie it. I don't even remember what all I said, but it was loud and clear and included the fact that my family is colorblind and proud of it and when my daughter and her husband applied to foster and adopt, they prayerfully specified that children of ANY race were more than welcome to be loved and loved and loved some more in their home. We fully expected a child of a different race and we were delighted about it.

As I paused to take a breath, I recalled the pain of the friend who confided that her parents refused to accept the beautiful Latina and African-American daughters she and her husband had adopted. They only sent Christmas and birthday gifts to their four biological children and ignored the other two. At this moment, her pain became my pain.  

I felt disgusted just having this conversation. Are you kidding me? How do people like this sleep at night?

Before me flashed the lovely face of my best friend in college, Nadine, who used to laugh about being able to easily pick me out of the crowd in the photos of her wedding - the only pale face amid hundreds of color.

And my current BFF and heart-sister, Eddie, who is one of my most beloved spiritual mentors. And happens to be black. (By the way, Eddie considers herself black rather than African-American, so on the rare occasion that a label is required, that's how I refer to her too.)

I've decided that if I ever need a racial explanation, I prefer peaches and cream. No. On second thought, make me white chocolate.

I love the way my Indian friend Lali refers to people flavors. She considers herself  "curry" and other races as chocolate (black), vanilla (white), swirl (mixed), salsa (Latina), sushi (Japanese), mango (Filipino), pineapple (Polynesian) ... you get the idea.

Seriously. Why can't we all realize that our different flavors are simply Papa God's way of spicing up our world?

So after I removed my tennis racket from this woman's throat (not really, but I did consider stuffing it where the sun don't shine a time or two) I said a prayer for her. And for me. And for all the children of the world who have to deal with bigotry ... red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children of the world. And so should we.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Make Your Bed

Make your bed.

These are the surprising words that Women of Faith veteran Patsy Clairmont credits with saving her life in her book, Stained Glass Hearts.

Here's her incredible story as I recounted in the chapter of my book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate, about dealing with anxiety:

"Patsy, even as a believer, was unable to accept responsibility for running away from people and things that intimidated her. In her mind, her fear-avoidance behavior was always someone else's fault and out of her control. Patsy downed tranquilizers like candy and became drug dependent.

After suffering hundreds of debilitating panic attacks, Patsy finally reached a breaking point. This was not living. She was the equivalent of a breathing corpse. Something had to change.

One morning, while she was hiding beneath her blanket, Patsy heard her Savior's still, small voice whisper three life-changing words to her tormented heart: Make your bed.

No kidding.

Although at first 'Make your bed' didn't sound much like a divine directive from the Master of the universe, it was brilliant, really. So simple ... it was something she could actually do. Patsy felt powerless to address the mountain of problems in her life, but by golly, she could make her bed. And by making her bed, she couldn't still be cowering in it. She had to get up and start putting one shaky foot in front of the other on the long, twisting road back to living."

Make your bed.

Three simple little words. Yet profound healing power is contained therein.

These very words jumped out at me recently while I was reading the story of Peter performing a healing miracle in Jesus' name in Acts 9:33-34.

"And there he [Peter] found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, 'Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; arise, and make your bed.' And immediately he arose" (NASB).

Funny, I'd read that story dozens of times before but  somehow had never noticed those particular three words. But this time, with Patsy's story fresh in my memory banks, they glowed like neon lights.

Make your bed.

Wow. These simple words were astounding game-changers in the lives of Aeneas and Patsy. So how do these unlikely but powerful words apply to me? How do they apply to you?

Perhaps it has something to do with motivation. With taking the first step away from our stagnancy and moving forward. With shucking our old normal and taking the risk to seek a better normal. With becoming more obedient, courageous, or dependent on Papa's strength rather than our own.

What if complacency is robbing us of the "more" Papa God has in mind for us to be and accomplish before we burst through Heaven's gates?

Or maybe we simply need to change the sheets. Hmm.

Make your bed.

What do you think, BBFF? (Best Blog Friend Forever) How does this three-word mandate apply to you?