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 (Philipino), 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?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Cheek Tweek from Papa God

Me (left) in gangsta hat
Ha! I had to laugh out loud.

Not a tee-hee, no. One of those tilt-your-head-back-open-your-mouth-wide-and-let-it-rip kind of laughs.

Matter of fact, I'm chuckling now just thinking about it.

I was walking down a long corridor last week in the Orange County Convention Center (Orlando) toward the massive entrance doors to the ICRS (International Christian Retailers Show).

Speaking gig hat
As you can imagine by such an ostentatious title, this was a big deal. The cavernous place was stuffed with publishers, publishing house editors, manufacturers, bookstore owners and managers, authors I'd long idolized, literary agents, publicists, and just about anybody you can think of even remotely associated with Christian publishing.

Gulp. I was a little intimated and a lot nervous.This was the big time. All the players were here. I felt like a pet rock at a Barbie Doll convention. So out of place. Confidence subzero.
London touring hat

As I approached the enormous bank of double doors, each manned with uniformed Convention Center personnel, I was completely engrossed in my own thoughts about which meetings I was scheduled to attend, where, with whom, and when. No doubt my concentration scowl was front and center on my distracted face.

Stonehenge hat
Then it happened. A cheek tweek from Papa God. Just like you might do to a scared little kid you wanted to love on. And my herspective completely shifted. Here's what went down.

I came out of my stupor to become suddenly aware that the two twenty-something Convention Center staff young men standing at the door I was about to pass through were wearing huge smiles and had apparently just said something. To me.

Scottish cap in Scotland
"Uh, excuse me?" I stammered, unable to resist smiling back at their engaging expressions. Were they trying to engage me? Whatever for? Could that be ... admiration (???) on their faces? Or maybe it was constipation.

"You're rockin' that hat, girl," said the cutie about one third my age.
"Oooh, yeah," agreed the other fellow whose diapers I might have changed, nodding like the bobblehead on my car dash. "Rockin' it gooood."

Irish lass
Rockin' ... stylin'... smokin... these are not terms usually applied to me. And certainly not by young men who, by evidence of the elaborate tats peeking from beneath their shirt sleeves and the hip diamond earring studs they sported, were laboriously bobbing and weaving around fashion knockout world.

But I could tell they weren't making fun. They really meant it. Go, girl.

boating hat
The unexpectedness and absurdity of it all brought instant anxiety-reducing laughter into my stressed-out day. I howled.

"You made my day, guys. Thanks!" I called as I entered the lion's den with my chin a little higher and my shoulders a little straighter.

Posing hat
Yep, it surely was a cheek tweek from Papa. And from a most unlikely place. He knew I needed something outside the box to give me that little zing of confidence I'd evidently left locked in the 110-degree car (this was in Orlando).

He knew I needed to know I'm not a pet rock. Hey, I'm Seffner Barbie. (I just had another great guffaw there, how 'bout you?)
Hangin in Liverpool with John Lennon

But most of all, Papa knew I was a stress mess and needed to laugh. Because laughter is a catalyst to release the joy of the Lord in our spirits. And our spirits need Jesus joy spurting upward through the crusty outer layers like a volcano erupting and covering us and everyone around us with Papa's incredible love.

Your cheek tweeks from Papa probably don't have anything to do with hats. But they still serve to remind you of his never-ending affection for you, boost your confidence, and paste a goofy grin on your granite-hewn face.

Won't you share with me a few of your recent cheek tweeks from Papa God?        

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lots of Winners!!!

Hey, hey - we've got some winners here! Ten to be exact.

Congrats to the fine folks below whose names were drawn in my "Them Babies Just Keep on Bouncing" contest.

Each will receive the Too Blessed to be Stressed Baby Blessing of their choice. To find out more about each Baby Blessing, hop on my website and click on the "Books" dropbox, then Too Blessed Babies.

Some products aren't available just yet (such as the Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner, the 3-Minute Devo for Women, and the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, but as soon as they are released, I promise I'll get your prize to you).

Please don't fret if your name's not on the list this time; stay tuned for another great giveaway coming up in conjunction with the fall release of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook (and I'm talking prizes including not only free autographed books but also GROCERY STORE GIFT CARDS for buying the ingredients to try out the Cookbook's 110 terrific recipes requiring less than 20 minutes prep time ... plus a few ultra cool surprises!)

So without further ado, here are the winners of a free Baby Blessing!

Angela Holland                           Kathy Newborn
Rick Jackson                              Paulette Smallwood
Adriana Fuentes                          Kathy James
Kristen Schuettenberg                 Pamela Black
Tina Rae Collins                          Ana Raquel

Congrats!! Just e-mail or FB message me with your choice and mailing address and your prize will soon be on its way!

And here are your prize options:

Too Blessed to be Stressed (original book)
Muy Bendecida Para Estar Estrasada (Spanish version of original book)
Too Blessed to be Stressed Journal
The Bible Promise Book: Too Blessed to be Stressed Edition
Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook (releasing Nov 1)
Too Blessed to be Stressed Wall Calendar
Too Blessed to be Stressed: 3-Minute Devotions for Women (releasing this winter)
Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner (releasing Sept 1)

A whopping THANK YOU to all my BBFF (Best Blog Friends Forever) for entering - you're always a winner with me!


Friday, June 26, 2015

Expecting a Miracle

My baby's having a baby! Or two.
Many of you who follow my shenanigans on Facebook (if you don't, now's the time to start!) already know about the miracle my family is expecting this very minute.

It has to do with my daughter and best friend, Cricket.

The same Cricket who married her high school sweetheart and bought the house next door to us.

The same Cricket who, since the age of 3, when anyone asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, answered : a mommy.

The very same Cricket who, after giving birth to my precious grandbuddy Blaine four years ago, was told by multiple infertility specialists that she would never again conceive.

And then Papa God stepped in.

Cricket is now expecting twins from different mothers. Woohoo! The miracle of life. Times two.

While you try to wrap your head around that concept, let me clarify: They are having a little boy and adopting a little girl within a week of each other.

Yep. Right after they filled out reams of paperwork, went through the home inspections, and took all the adoption classes, Cricket found out she was pregnant. Miracle #1!

But then she got sicker and sicker. In the midst of her long struggle with HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum), including IV's, a pump inserted into her abdomen, chronic nausea, hospitalizations, and receiving total nutrition through a tube, Papa God provided an unexpected opportunity to adopt. And the babies were due nearly at the same time. Miracle #2!

As you might imagine, with only a few weeks left to go, we are all ecstatic and more than eager to cuddle the little screamers. The cribs are ready. The diapers are assembled. But there's a problem. Adoptions are shockingly expensive (can you say $20k?) and the hospital bills are starting to roll in.

So dear friends, my baby needs Miracle #3. We would all greatly appreciate your prayer support and if you feel led, your financial support as well. Papa God is in the miracle business, and He often uses the hands and feet of the people who are called by His name to accomplish His purposes.

We've been blessed to have a volunteer-led, nonprofit partner with us in this endeavor. The Promise Love Foundation turns over every penny of donations to the families they help with adoption (and donations are tax deductible). Here is Cricket's story along with more details about how to give on the Promise Love Foundation website:

Thank you so very much for lifting my family up in prayer during this exciting but stressful time.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Unexpected Mountaintop Cathedral

First Soprano
Warning: You're probably not going to believe this really happened but I'm here to tell you that it really did.

Yep. Hand me that stack of Bibles and swear me in.

So I was hangin' out in our remote Smoky Mt. cabin early one morning last week, long before anyone else had risen. The sun had just slivered through the misty tree boughs and I'd cranked open the windows to breathe in the crisp morning air.

Now I love to play mountain music up there. Probably because it's in the mountains. You know the type of music I mean ... dulcimer, banjo, mandolin, string bass - fast paced and free. Good ole foot stompin' stuff. 

So I plugged in a CD called Hymns of the Smokies. It wasn't long before the upbeat rhythms had me juking and jiving praise along to old time hymns of our forefathers like "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." I was having a great little solitary worship time, singing along and getting my bad self down on the dance floor, er, I mean living room plank floor.

And then the choir arrived.

I mean to tell you, as soon as the first notes of "Shall We Gather at the River" rang out, birds started gathering at the window by the CD player. I kid you not. All kinds of birds. They perched on branches of the trees and shrubs just outside the cabin, and even on the windowsill itself, singing along with that worship music at the top of their little birdie lungs.

They sang. I sang. We all sang and praised our Papa God together. It was enough to swell your heart to the size of an eggplant.

I have no idea why they were attracted to that particular song, but as soon as it ended, all but one flew away. One stalwart little soul hung around for part of "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" and then he, too, took off for whatever it is mountain birds do in the mornings (besides church).

It just tingles the toes of my soul to imagine that Papa's little creatures might actually do just that. Do church. In their own way, in their own language, in their own venues, far away from human eyes and ears. Doesn't the Bible say that all of creation will praise His name?

"The heavens will praise Thy wonders, O Lord, Thy faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones" (Psalm 89:5, NASB).
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" (Psalm 150:6, NASB).
"Praise the Lord from the earth ... mountains and all hills ... beasts and all cattle; creeping things and winged fowl" (Psalm 148:7-10, NASB).

And for my praise to have momentarily intersected with their praise will always be one of the greatest thrills of my life.

I just hope bear church is on another mountain.

(If you're interested in doing a mini-study of creation worshiping Papa God in song, also see Psalm 5:3, Psalm 5:11, Psalm 8:7-9, Psalm 9:2,11 and all of Psalm 148.)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Simple Pleasures

One of life's simple pleasures
Navigating the winding road leading up the mountain to our cabin, I tuned my car radio to the only station it could pick up in these twisty-turvy Smokies. Country.

Now I've got nothing against country music. In fact, it's the only thing I listened to every single morning for 18 years growing up. Mama would have the radio blaring country  music as she flapped our jacks and poached our eggs, so I knew all about Lucille leaving 4 hungry children and a crop in the field ... and the day Billy Joe McGallister jumped off the Tallahachee bridge (sorry about any spelling errors).

Anyhow, as I gripped the wheel to focus on the narrow, twisting mountain road, the gal on the radio warbled on and on about wanting to do something crazy. About chucking her simple life and trading it all for a wild night on the town drinking and carousing with her friends. What fun, she said. Living a little, she called it.

And then I recalled the only two invitations I'd received during the five days I'd been in town - both involved bars and music and drinking.

Um. How do I say this nicely?

No. No thanks. No way.

I don't consider myself a prude; I like to have fun as much as the next dude. But perhaps my idea of fun is tempered a bit because of exposure to what alcohol can do to a person and ultimately to a family. It ain't pretty. It ain't fun. And it ain't living, even a little.

Give me the simple pleasures. That's fun for me. Walking in the early morning woods, chasing fireflies at sundown, feeling the tickle of a pony nuzzling my palm, cuddling with someone warm and fuzzy, good conversation with friends over a quiet dinner table, enjoying great music, dancing my brains out, reading a book I can't put down, making chocolate crack and eating the whole pan (this stuff is to die for; the recipe will be in my cookbook coming out this fall).

These are just a few of my personal pleasures. Simple but not shallow. High on life but not intoxicated.

So what's your idea of a good time, BBFF? What simple pleasures of life do you enjoy? 

*BBFF = Best Blog Friend Forever


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Magical, Mysterious Words

The anonymous text appeared on my phone out of nowhere.

I love you.

At first I was confused ... is this a joke? There's no name attached, only a phone number with an area code I don't recognize.

A quick consult with techie Spouse left me even more baffled. There's no way to find out who sent this message without flat out asking them, he said.

My mind reeled. If I ask who they are, they'll probably be insulted. Or at least hurt. I'm supposed to know who they are, no doubt, someone who feels comfortable enough to send a message like this to me. But I have no clue. They're not in my inner circle of acquaintances or a name would show up. I'd really like to know who it is. How sweet. How bizarre. Maybe they meant to send it to someone else and it's a mistake.

Or maybe it's not.

I love you.

Like a magnet I simply could not resist, I kept pulling out my phone all day to simply gaze at those three magical, mysterious words. Someone was mightily blessing me today ... who could it be?

A friend who knew I needed a little pick-me-up?
A reader who meant that she loved my book, not necessarily me?
A long lost relative feeling the need to reconnect?
A secret admirer? (I know, I know. What can I say? Writers have great imaginations.)

The possibilities seemed endless and oh so alluring.

I was amazed at the effect this powerful and mysterious declaration of affection had on me. All day long I felt warm and fuzzy. I found myself grinning for no reason. My shoulders deslumped of their own accord. I was worthy of someone's love, someone who was not obliged to say it like a family member or bestie.

Someone who chose to drop the L bomb for no apparent self-serving reason and then remain unknown. Someone who just wanted to bless my socks off by gifting me with the highest verbal affirmation known to mankind.

I love you.

Whew. Deep breath. Totally amazing. My beige world was suddenly technicolored. What an incredible bequest.

And then it became strangely unimportant to find out the source of this unexpected joy. Even if it was a mistake, it wasn't. It was a love note from someone acting as Papa God's tangible fingers on earth, reminding me how valued and cherished I am.

Something we all need to feel, especially on those dully-funk days.  

You know, I think I just might drop someone an anonymous love note myself. So if you receive a Valentine in the middle of May, it's not from me. Just sayin.  


Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Movie Time!

Okay Carrot Dude fans ... your wait is over. It's movie time!

Nuke some popcorn, grab a Diet Coke and scrape some used bubble gum from the bottom of your chair. 

Incredible Edible Superheroes proudly presents ... 
The Amazing Adventures of Carrot Dude! 

Guaranteed to be the best 2-minute adventure flick you'll see today or your money back!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Fifty Shades of Play

Wanna play?

Grown-ups don't get that question nearly enough. Especially from other grown-ups. And MOST especially from their spouses.

This revelation dawned on me during a God-smack moment the other day when Chuck entered my writing cave and performed his customary early-morning greeting. He pressed his balled up fist to his forehead and genuflected.

I'm not funnin' ya. He bowed.

Lest you think we have some sort of kinky bondage thing going, let me 'splain. No time. Lemme sum up (a nod to everybody's fave flick, Princess Bride).

Since evacuating estrogen has recently morphed my 50-something hair into hay, I've had to install a pink roller in the front of my head over breakfast to make my bangs look more like real hair and less like a baby porcupine having a frizzy quill day.

At first, Chuck, stared with alarm at this hideous pink appendage assaulting his senses every morning. But then, as he has for the 36+ years of our marriage, he began to look for the playful side of an unpleasant situation. He developed this ridiculous salute where he creates his own forehead roller with his hand in homage to his queen and genuflects with the proper gestation due her royal hiney.

Or maybe that's gesticulation and highness.

Whatever. It makes us both smile.

It's become our secret handshake of sorts. Like we're the only two members of an exclusive club. Anyone else observing would roll their eyes and shake their heads. Nobody gets us but us. Isn't that the way it should be with two people who choose to grow old and weird together?  

Despite what we think we know, seriousness is taken far too seriously. Especially in marriage. There's enough gravity and solemnity in every other aspect of our life. Why not throw a little silliness glue into the relationship we hope outlasts them all?

So my BBFF (Blessed Blog Friend Forever) - what are some of your fifty shades of play? I'd love to hear about the silliness glue in your closest relationships (doesn't have to just be marriage).