Monday, June 20, 2016

Climbing Chimney Rock

Only 36,425 more steps to go
I'd heard of it all my life - North Carolina's Chimney Rock - but never had the opportunity to go there. Until last week.

What an amazing experience! Climbing 26 stories of oh-so-steep stairs was actually worth it (although I wouldn't admit that while doing it!) to soak in the 1,200 foot high view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that extends 75 miles.

But you know what? I spent the nearly two hours lifting one weary leg above the other on the gazillion steps considering the similarities between ascending this rock and taking my spiritual life to the next level in ascending toward THE Rock. You know, the one that is higher than I (or you).

Achieving closeness with Papa God.

Yep, climbing both rocks entail:

1. Set your goal. Aim high. Otherwise you just keep sitting on your tushie looking up, wondering what the incredible view looks like from up there. "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus," (Phil 3:14, NASB).

Whew! Grandbuddy Blaine takes a break
2. Do the journey with others. No one should attempt either climb alone ... the physical or the spiritual trek. Papa God doesn't want us to live isolated existences. He's into life and health and heart connections and belly laughs and soul sisters. "If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble," (Ecc, 4:10, CEV).

3. Take rest breaks. Yes, YOU. I know, I know. I'm the world's second worst at making myself stop and regroup; you're the world's worst. But we need those little slices of heaven that revive our energy, clarity, and motivation. Rest stops are our front line of defense against temperament-ravaging fatigue and acute nastiness. "You were tired out by the length of your road, yet you did not say, 'It is hopeless.' You found renewed strength, therefore you did not faint," (Isaiah 57:10, NASB).

4. Persevere. Pray not that the Lord would lessen your load, but that He would give you a stronger back. Keep moving forward. Lift one foot in front of the other. Again. And again. I had a hard enough time getting myself up that mountain, but my daughter and her husband somehow managed to do the same climb each carrying a 20-lb baby (their 10-month-old twins). Shut my whining mouth, right? Keep your eyes on the prize - your goal - and not on your sagging self. "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus ... so that you may not grow weary and lose heart," (Heb. 12:1-3, NASB).

WooHoo! We made it! 
5. Celebrate when you finally get there. I believe we don't celebrate near enough in this life - especially when we achieve physical or spiritual goals, some that we've been working toward for a l-o-n-g time. Go ahead, grab your party horn and tiarra. Papa God loves to see us rejoice! "Let your living spill over into thanksgiving," (Col. 2:7, MSG).

So at the risk of turning this post into a commercial, I highly recommend you get up, get out, and climb something. Even if it's up to your roof to lie back and watch the stars.

Set a goal to achieve something you've never done before. Something different. And then write and tell me all about it - I want to rejoice with you!  





Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fickle Faith

What will I do at the end of this path?
Eddie, one of my favorite girlfriend-senseis (hey, didn't you see Karate Kid?) said something recently that stopped me in my tracks.

It happened at our women's Bible Study, a close-knit group of 6 longtime heart-buddies plowing through this life in Christ thing together.

We'd been discussing the downright density of the Israelites after Yahweh had just just parted the Red Sea - an incredible miracle - so they could escape utter destruction at the hands of the Egyptians pursuing them. They hooted and hollered and pranced their gratitude, praising the Almighty God who could perform this marvelous intervention. Yay God! You go, Jehovah!

Next thing you know, as soon as Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, they started looking for something tangible upon which to redirect their faith. Something - anything, it seemed - besides the Mighty Deity who'd already proven Himself.

O ye of fickle faith.

They chose a golden calf. A cow. Formed by human beings. Are you ever-lovin' kidding me? I mean really, how dense can you be?

Eddie had just finished telling us about her recent revelation that Papa God had healed her years ago when medical tests first revealed a frightening problem and then suddenly, inexplicably they didn't. New x-rays revealed that the problem was gone. Gone.

Not unlike the waters of the Red Sea ... there one minute, and gone the next.

Eddie is now facing another possible medical crisis and as the temptation to search out possible ways to fix the problem herself assaults her, she's struggling to keep her faith locked on the One worthy of it. Here's what she said that rocked my world:

"My Red Sea was parted and here I go looking for cows to worship."

Wow. BIG wow. Don't we all do that in our own way? I know for a fact I do.

O me of fickle faith.

I believe every one of us can look back in our lives at some point and see the undeniable fingerprints of Papa God moving in a miraculous way. Maybe not a life-or-death miracle ... perhaps something more subtle - what I call a grace note, or everyday miracle (lots and lots and lots of example in my books).

When [if] we recognize His intervention, we're so grateful! Yay God! You go, Jehovah!

But then when the darkness comes (as it inevitably will) and we're facing a faceless, terrifying monster completely out of our control, instead of defaulting to trust in Papa God, we start flailing around, searching for a stupid cow to worship: Medical science; new drug regimes; laser treatments; breakthroughs in research.

We're as dense as those dang Israelites.

As Eddie concluded, and all sincere Christ-followers must: Power is not in the tangible; everything you can hold in your hand can be stripped away.

Power is in the intangible ... the Spirit of the Living God. He is ultimately in control. Not us, the rate our heart beats, the texting driver that cuts in front of our car, the state of our bank accounts, when our livers wear out, or even hunks of metal shaped like cows.

Eddie and I choose to forgo fickle faith; we choose firm faith. Even in the darkness. How about you, BBFF?







Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hard Doesn't Mean Impossible

Something very interesting caught my eye the other day while I was enjoying a little He & Me time with Papa God.

I was reading the story of the rich, young ruler in Mark 10:21 and noticed something not included in the other two gospels that contain this account of the well-to-do young man who did all the right things - kept the ten commandments, loved his neighbors, probably even flossed daily.

When this "good" fella (by the world's standards) asked Jesus what ELSE he should do to earn eternal life, Jesus shocked the Armani sandals right off his feet by asking him to do something pretty dang hard in his day and even in ours.

"Sell all you possess, and give it to the poor ..."

Say WHAT? Nuh-uh.

You can just picture the rich guy's face falling. He was expecting to hear something like, "Give an extra shekel to every beggar you pass from now until Easter." Or maybe "Go to church six times a day to show your incredible devotion to me." Or even the ultimate in self-sacrifice,  "Take over permanent 2-year-old nursery duty at the temple."

But wait. The thing that slapped me upside the head happened after the dude asked his question and just before Jesus answered.

"And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him ..." (verse 21a)

Wow. Marinate on that a minute.

Jesus LOVED this guy, but still asked him to do something hard. Really hard. Something that, in the guy's way of thinking, was downright impossible. He was probably majorly attached to that red convertible.

The litmus test for loyalty often starts with our wallets.

Sadly, he failed the test. He chose poorly (to quote my favorite Indiana Jones movie). When it was all or nothing, he took all.

But back to my point: Could it be that Jesus does the same for us - loves us to pieces but still asks us to do something really, really hard?

I think Mother Teresa, wilting away, serving in the festering, disease-ridden slums of India would have known the answer to that.

And Corrie ten Boom, who barely survived a Nazi concentration camp because she chose the hard way of showing Papa's forbidden love in hiding Jews.

And Joni Eareckson Tada, who intentionally takes the hard road every single morning she awakens as a quadriplegic after a tragic 1967 diving accident, intent on sharing Papa God's mercy and grace with the world rather than hide away in the comfort of her home (www.joniandfriends.org).

Or Katie Davis Majors, the American teen who went w-a-y out of her way to do things the hard way by choosing to live in Uganda and adopt 13 daughters in order to share Papa God's love firsthand to those living in poverty (www.kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com).

So. Who are we missing?

Ah, yes. You. And me.

What hard thing might our loving Savior be asking of us this very day?  





Monday, May 2, 2016

Mother's Day Giveaway Winners!

I'm thrilled to announce the winners of my Mother's Day Give-away. If your name was drawn, be sure to contact me ASAP in order to receive your prize before Mother's Day (can't send it without your address!).

First of all, I'm delighted to share the names of the 5 winners of their choice of my newest Baby Blessings:

Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook
Too Blessed to be Stressed 5 Minute Devotion
Too Blessed to be Stressed Coloring Book 

And here they are:

  • Mary Lou Weldy
  • Lillian Ashe Pennington
  • Megan Staebell
  • Donna Parker
  • Adriana Fuentes

So happy for you ladies! Just message me which Baby Blessing you'd like and your mailing address I'll get it in the mail right away.

And without further ado, the winner of the GRAND PRIZE, including a copy of each of the new babies PLUS a fabulous kitchen decom-stressing kit is:

Michelle Evans     

Super Contrats to you, Michelle! Again, send me your mailing address ASAP and I'll get your Mother's Day gift from me off to you ASAP.

Many thanks to everyone for entering!

Please stay tuned for more giveaways coming down the chute:

July release of the Too Blessed to be Stressed 2917 Planner and Sept release of the Too Blessed to be Stressed 5-Year Keepsake Journal.  

Thanks so much for following. A BIG HUG to all my BBFFs! (Blessed Blog Friends Forever)


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Whimsical Battlefields

My Fearless Leader
On our little hike, we just needed to get from Point A to Point B. No-brainer, right? The best route is a straight line, right?

Not when you're with a 4-year-old.

Having magnanimously bestowed upon my grandbuddy Blaine the title of Fearless Leader, I was obliged to follow in his footsteps wherever they may lead.

So instead of taking the nice respectable road as I suggested (begged is probably more accurate), Fearless Leader lit off through the Christmas tree farm the size of two football fields.

I'd no choice but to follow.

And of course we had to fight off attacking bad guys left and right with our laser sword sticks along the way, which meant zig-zagging back and forth across the gargantuan field to make sure we hadn't missed any concealed enemies.

This was a bit difficult for me, since the bad guys were invisible, but Fearless Leader seemed to have no problem at all locating their hiding places. We were aided in our quest by Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and Larry Boy (in case you're not tuned in to the preschool set, he's the Veggie Tales superhero).

Silly Mimi couldn't see them either but Fearless Leader humored me by channeling their voices as we soundly defeated foe after foe.

An hour later, we emerged on the other side, victorious, exhausted, and plastered with dandelion parachutes. We must've run through millions of those things in our relentless pursuit of truth, justice, and the Mountain Way. It seemed whimsically appropriate to be snow-covered with one of the imaginative staples of childhood.

Fearless Leader said we must be gonna have a LOT of our wishes come true. Cool.

So from now on when I pass that Christmas tree farm, I shall never look at it the same way again. Life's full of battlefields where you least expect them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Stairways

Stairway to ... where you want to be
I received a note last week from an aspiring writer who felt as if she was climbing the same set of stairs over and over again.

She'd worked hard to complete a manuscript, only to have an editor (whom she herself had hired) recommend she rewrite the whole confounded thing.

Six months later when she presented the revised ms to a potential agent, the list of re-rewrite points was longer than her arm.

 Sigh. I feel her pain. So do you. Climbing, climbing, always climbing. So difficult when we can't see the top of the stairway.

Overwhelmed by massive goals (Spouse in black at bottom)
It's not just a writer thing. It's a life thing.

We learn the same lessons over and over again, each time thinking, "By golly, I've got it this time!"

But the beast inside chomps through his muzzle, or the boss lampoons your last nerve, or you decide to defy the definition of insanity and do that same thing just once more, feeling sure it will turn out differently this time.

All these thoughts swirled through my head as Spouse and I tried a new mountain trail this week. You can see from the photos what a piece of gristle it was ... I'm still sore.

Can I even get there from here?
In the wake of the gal's letter, so many of the challenging scenes resonated with me: unending stairways, steep and rock-hard; feeling minuscule and defeated by the immensity of your goals before you even get started; doubts that they're even possible to achieve.

Who hasn't felt that way?

But that's not to say we shouldn't try. Because I believe sometimes in Papa God's eyes, the journey is actually our destination.

It seems all uphill for a time, but there are little respites along the way, if we pause to look for them. Like the wee wildflowers (I prefer this moniker over weeds) inexplicably growing among the rocks.

And observing someone else just ahead of us on the trail, getting it DONE. Going through the same huffing, puffing and pain we are, but getting there nonetheless.

Little snippets of  hope 
Hey, if she can do it, I can too.

And then finally, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, we persevere long enough to reach the top, the satisfaction and joy of accomplishment is unspeakable.

Because we ...

DID IT.

Even though we occasionally slid backwards on our behunkuses, we got up, dusted off our fannies, and kept putting one foot in front of the other until we reached the last step.

But you know a secret I've discovered? You may have already discovered it too.

The stairs really don't ever end.

I'll just wait here
Once you conquer one stairway, there's always another starting just a little ways further on the landing.

And that's a good thing. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Otherwise we might spend the rest of our lives lounging by the reflection pool and forget there's more out there. Something different to see, feel, experience at the top of the stairs.

So I gotta go put another cold pack on my achy calf (leg, not cow) and try to think of something comforting and inspirational to say to this writer lady who wants to give up.

Maybe I should just tell her to take a hike.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

New Mother's Day Giveaway!

Grand Prize Package
Who doesn't love a BOGO, right?

My new Mother's Day Giveaway is simple: Buy a Cookbook, get a free Baby Blessing!

If you purchase a copy of my award-winning Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook between April 1-30, just CONTACT ME and I'll put your name in the drawing for an awesome Grand Prize Package.

Plus, 5 additional winners will receive BOGO prizes you can share with the beloved ladies in your life on Mother's Day. And you get to choose which of my three newest Baby Blessings will be your prize!

The Grand Prize Package includes an adorable "Will Cook for Shoes" apron (sooo cute!), assorted cool kitchen doodads, a hefty stash of chocolate, and copies of my three newest Baby Blessings:


  • Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook
  • Too Blessed to be Stressed 3 Minute Devotions for Women
  • Too Blessed to be Stressed Coloring Book for Women (plus neon coloring pencils)


So there will be SIX winners in all!

Don't put off til tomorrow what you can win today! I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Oh ... there just might be a special surprise for one of you, my BBFFs (Blessed Blog Friends Forever)!

So be sure to hit the subscribe button (top right) - you never know, it might just be you!


Friday, March 25, 2016

Back to the Beginning

Remember the scene in everybody's favorite
movie, The Princess Bride, when the Brute Squad is emptying the Thieves Forest by order of Prince Humperdinck and a very stubborn, inebriated Spaniard refuses to leave?

Inigo Montoya (played by Mandy Patinkin) has lost his way. His one friend (Fezzik, played by Andre the Giant) has disappeared, and his quest to kidnap Princess Buttercup has fizzled.

Not knowing how to get back on track, he follows original instructions from his Sicilian boss, who, unbeknownst to Inigo, has already been bested by Sweet Wesley in a battle of wits: "Vizzini said if somezing goes wrong, go back to the beginning ... so here I am, back at the beginning!"

That scene flashed through my mind this morning as I was reading the biblical account of Jesus and His boys during the days after his crucifixion and resurrection.

The disciples had fled like field mice in a snake pit during Jesus' trial and crucifixion, but eventually regrouped in time to witness the appearance of their risen Lord in the upper room (John 20:26). After Jesus proved to the last of them (Thomas) that He was indeed the living, breathing Messiah, He vanished.

I imagine this left the disciples in an uber tizzy. "What do we do now?" they must have cried. "How do we find Him again?"

But the two Mary's and Salome, the faithful ladies who'd encountered first the empty tomb and then it's newly evacuated occupant, related Jesus' instructions from that glorious Easter morning. "Tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He said to you'" (Mark 16: 7, NASB).

Notice: Jesus said He'd already told them. Hmm. I guess they forgot.

And being men, I suspect the disciples never would have asked for directions anyway so it's a decidedly good thing that Jesus opted to clue the women in.

(By the way, why do you suppose Jesus singled Peter out in that directive; he was one of the disciples too, right? "Tell His disciples and Peter ...")

So back to Galilee they went, back to their beginning ... to the very place Jesus had called them to himself three years earlier. The place they first met the One who changed everything. The place they began to know and love Jesus. The place where joy and excitement and wonder knocked their dusty sandals off.

Sure enough, Jesus met them there. Being in His presence fired them up enough to change their world.


The beginning's not only a good place to start, it's a GREAT place to return to when we've gotten lost and off-track. When our friends and goals have disappeared; when our vision for the future is gone.

If we return to the joy and excitement and wonder of the time and place Jesus first called us to Himself, His presence will surely fire us up enough to change our world too.

Happy Resurrection Day, my dear BBFFs!
   

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tumbleweeds

Yup. I'm a piler, not a filer. 
Every woman has her own organizational style. That's not to say mine is better than yours, but hey. It is.

The scene to your left is what I see every day from my computer chair. It's my reference file as I slave away on my 365-day Too Blessed to be Stressed devo set to release in January, 2017.

This file (loosely termed, of course) contains 6 Bible translations, all the books in my "Take On Life" series, several devo compilations I've worked on, 2 topical scripture books, and 3 of my fave go-to references for the numerous names of God.

(I can't believe Papa God isn't one of them, but that's for another post.)

My pile - I mean file - is completely accessible and user-friendly. I can instantly spot what I need and it takes no time at all to refile material for future reference. A simple flick of the wrist will suffice.

Can you say as much about your organizational system, hmmm?

The only downside is that my office floor hasn't seen the underbelly of a vacuum in 6 months, but the roaches seem to be enjoying their soccer matches with the dust bunnies. As long as dog hair tumbleweeds don't roll past the hallway and venture into the kitchen, I'm good.

By the way, if you're a BBFF (Best Blog Friend Forever), you'll be happy to hear that after my pathetic lament about the ravages of Spontaneous Degeneration (scroll back two posts), I now have a sweet domestic savior who will begin excavating my living room in April. God bless her very soul.

So tell me honestly - how many of you neatniks out there felt your teeth go to edge when you first laid eyes on today's photo? Go ahead - lay it on me, baby. I can take it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Radical Grace

Good match.

Nice slice.

I hate your stinkin' guts.

Which of these would you not expect to hear while shaking hands across the tennis net at the end of a match?

Well, I've heard 'em all. Although the last was supposedly tongue-in-cheek, I suspect there was hidden truth there. (Actually I'm sure of it because it was me speaking.)

Just kidding.

Sorta.

Anyway, the point is - losing sometimes clogs our spirits with nasty. Whatever graciousness might usually reside there is thrown under the bus of frustration. We are ANGRY because we/our team/our kid didn't dominate. So anything goes. Let 'er rip. Diplomacy be hanged.

We tell ourselves that's just sports. Part of competition. So it's okay. But it's not.

So imagine my surprise when, at the end of a league match a few weeks ago (in league play, tension is high because the match counts either for your team or against with a championship at stake), my opponent (who lost) did something completely unexpected.

I still can hardly believe it. Are you ready?

She gave me her shoes. Her shoes. 

Yep. She shook my hand, asked my shoe size, then handed me the $80 Nike's she'd only worn once."Try them on," she said, mopping her sweaty brow. "They don't fit me right. If you like them, they're yours."

I back-pedaled big time, boy. She'd been a tough, grisly, no-nonsense competitor and I was all ready to dislike her. Then she sucked the wind right out of my sails.

She took me so by surprise I couldn't seem to put a cohesive sentence together. Sputtering nonsense, I plunked down, tried on the perfectly fitting shoes and watched her walk away barefoot with a "so that's that, then" smile and nod.

I was totally reeling the rest of the day. Why in the world would someone be that nice?

Radical grace knocked me upside the head. And made me think. Why is extending grace to someone you don't really know or even like so shocking? Especially for emulators of Jesus. He was the epitome of grace in forgiving his own executioners; aren't we supposed to be more like Him?

Or more precisely, aren't I supposed to be more like Him?

I love my new tennies. I think about that incredibly gracious gal every time I wear them. And they remind me to be radical.

Tell me, when have you last experienced radical grace?