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).

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Believing in Fences

Fenway caught red-pawed
Dang. There's another hole. Ole Fenway's been at it again.

This must be the 15th escape attempt (most of them successful, I might add) since we fenced our backyard three weeks ago. The conclusion is obvious.

My dog doesn't believe in fences.

I should have known that from the beginning; after all, that's how the scruffy little poodle became part of our family nine years ago. I found him as a one-year-old pup, barely out of Huggies, trotting down the center line of a busy road at rush hour.

The vet said judging by the filthy dreadlocks matted to his bony body and the callouses lining his well-tread paws, he'd probably been on the road for many months.

A travelin' man.

This was more than confirmed when we cleaned him up, gave him a crew cut, and hung a collar around his neck sporting a tag that read, "I'm Fenway Coty. Please return me to 833-562-7814."

I can't begin to tell you how many new friends we made from the dozens of neighbors within a 3-mile radius who called that number within the first year. Fenway always appeared overjoyed to see us, leapt wriggling into our arms, licked our faces, and then took off again at the next opportunity.

Eventually the little dickens seemed to work through his born-to-run tendencies and as his hair grayed and energy level diminished with middle age (just like his Mama mia!) he generally stuck close to home. Or at least within a few blocks.

Then came the ill-fated day last month when the new fence went up around the yard to protect the wee grandbuddies playing therein. I could see my betrayal reflected in Fenway's confused eyes as he stared down this slatted foe that taunted him with definitive parameters.

He turned his furry head and looked directly into my eyes, his incredulous look plainly stating, "Are you serious? After all we've been through together?"

I felt like Judas Iscariot.

So now on a daily basis, little Fenners presents me with big innocent chocolate brown eyes and a dirt-encrusted snout. He's clearly risen to this new challenge as testified by neighbors on adjoining streets who've told us he pops over for brief visits and then hurries to pop back under before his homies realize he's gone.

Although Spouse has tried to thwart Fenway's escapes by digging chicken wire into the dirt beneath the fence in all the obvious gaps, Fenway has managed to unearth and exploit all the UNnobvious gaps. He constantly tests the perimeter for weak points like the raptors in Jurassic Park. 

I just can't find it within me to stay angry at the little rebel. Fenway simply doesn't believe in fences. That's who he is. I can identify with that. I recall many a time over the course of my life when I've dug my way under boundaries Papa God has erected. Most of the time my forays into the wild have turned out badly. There are penalties to pay. Backtracking to do. Holes to attempt to cover up (but somehow you never quite can).

So I've learned to respect those boundaries and recognize that Papa put them there for my own good. Because He's my Papa and He loves me dearly.

Even when my snout is clogged with dirt.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Amazing Adventures of Carrot Dude

Carrot Dude goes shopping
It's been an A+ week - I don't remember when I've had so much fun! And it's all because of an unexpected 6-inch friend I dug out of my garden last weekend.

Such personality for a vegetable!

I knew the moment I uprooted Carrot Dude that he was someone special, with his long knobby legs and chubby arm resting on his tummy (or knee, depending on how you look at it), adding a suave, elegant yet witty flair to his orangeness.

Yep, he's quite debonair. Reminds me of the late great Cary Grant. Only he's Carrot Grant.

That first day, after I brought him home and scrubbed the dirt from his little orange face (or maybe that was his bum - it's hard to tell), something indefinable about him captured my attention. And my imagination.
Farmer Carrot Dude reporting for duty

I started carrying him around the house with me, propping him up on counters to keep me company. What da ya know - we bonded. I was smitten with a vegetable.

So, I thought, why not share Carrot Dude with the world? Who could resist breaking into an enormous, stress-shredding grin at his unpretentious adorableness?

So off we went - me and my wee orange buddy. To work, shopping, gardening, the playground ... you name it. And I documented our adventures on Facebook.

On the road again
I couldn't believe the scores of followers Carrot Dude collected. I had to stay up late every night just to keep up with all the comments. Most were like these:

Jacki: I am really enjoying Carrot Dude! Please don't stop.
Amy: Okay, I love Carrot Dude ... makes me laugh!
Sue: Absolutely ADORE this dude!!!

A few worried about my mental health:
Carolyn: Deb, you may need to find a new hobby. Digging up new friends from the garden, I'm a little worried. Remember, it is just a carrot.
Bette: I think you may be working too hard. Perhaps you need a little rest.
This Staples mgr wanted his own Carrot Dude
Kim: You've been under a lot of stress lately, right?
Janeree: I think you have separation anxiety.

Some were deep thinkers:
Susan: Kind of like Flat Stanley, only orangier.
Joy: Carrot Dude gets out more than I do ...
Robin: Life is for laughing!

Many were encouraging:
Cindy: It's okay to get a little crazy sometimes :)
Don: This carrot is one of God's little laughter miracles ... just a funky little heavenly reminder that we are all different.
Working out those pecs
Carolyn: Have your fun. It won't hurt anyone. You are as sane as you ever were. Take that however you want.

Some proposed interesting ideas:
Donna: Maybe you could take him to the grocery produce section; introduce him to some string beans. If they hit it off and get married they could have some 'lil sprouts!
Alan: 3 more pictures and this will be a 14-karat event.
Sean: If the adventure continues for more than a week, you may consider ensconcing Carrot Dude in either a jar of vinegar or a suit of urethane.

OK, so not everybody loves C.D. 
And of course there were plenty of questions which I did my best to answer:
Jody: Are you getting strange looks from people?
Me: You betcha! But most people just jump right in and enjoy the laugh. Although a few jump and run.

Carrot Dude won the door prize at my speaking event! 
Carol: So where is his head? You really need a head for Carrot Dude.
Me: It's a handicap; he was born headless. The good news is that it's not fatal - I know several people with this same handicap and it didn't slow them down in the least. They became politicians.
Nancy: Why are you holding him upside down?
Me: Whoa - good catch, Nancy! Once those boots and cowboy hat we ordered come in, we should be better able to tell which end's which.
Jeane: You do know that at some point the carrot is going to die, right?
Me: But he'll have no regrets ...
Carrot Dude comes clean 

And the best question yet:

Wen Dee: Inquiring minds want to know: What is the story behind Carrot Dude, please?
Me: You know, I honestly had no idea until a FB friend hit the nail on the head today with a comment that she completely understood the Carrot Dude thing. This was baffling because I, myself, didn't understand the Carrot Dude thing. I just knew it was something I had to do or bust.

Carrot Dude taking his happy nappy
Then she went on to say that she, too, is helplessly watching her daughter suffer through a difficult pregnancy (like I am) and she totally gets that we just need to let our silly out sometimes ... like an overflow valve.

I suspect the fact that I burst into tears when I read her comment means there's more than a little truth there. A certain freedom comes with oozing pent-up silly. And in this case mine is drooling out all over the place.

I'm always appreciative when someone explains me to me, because I'm usually clueless.

So I'm now closing out this rather long post with some of my favorite Carrot Dude comments:

Nancy: I love the idea that you planted him, grew him, dug him up, dusted him off, and he became somebody. This is not just any carrot.
Kim: A chuckle disperses stress!
Juanita: Can't wait for tomorrow's adventures of Carrot Dude and Debbie Duddette!!! Is that even a word?

Breaking news, Carrot Dude fans: Stay tuned for the movie  ... coming soon to a computer screen near you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Do You Have a "Be Still & Know" Place?

The path leading to my Be Still & Know spot in the mountains
Eureka! I found it! A little soggy maybe, and I sometimes leave there polka-dotted with more than a few mosquito pox, but it's a special secret spot that I know Papa God picked out specially for me.

Why do I need such a place? And more importantly, why do you need such a place? Read on ...

With our hectic schedules and crazy-busy lifestyles, sometimes we just can't get a bead on that still, small voice of God. And that's exactly what it takes - being still - to truly know that He is God and know what He is whispering to our spirits.

"Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10, NIV, emphasis mine.)

Oh, we can say it till we're purple; we can sing it in praise songs and hymns, we can spell it out through our journaled thoughts and even write books about it.

He is God. He's in control.
He's got the whole world in His hands.
Our God is an awesome God (a nod to the unequaled Rich Mullins who is probably tearing up Heaven's best Steinway with his praise songs at this very minute).

But our words often smear on the chalkboards of our minds and somehow miss a connection with our hearts.

In order to internalize the incredible width and breadth and depth of the goodness and godness of Papa God, not to mention the unbelievable fact that He desires an intimate relationship with each of us, we must mute the cacophony of the world, find stillness of our bodies, minds, and emotions, and allow our hearts to ingest this truth ... only then can we really know.

So how do we find this elusive stillness? Where do we go? What do we do once we get there?

A few years back, I rooted out a Be Still & Know spot up in the woods near our mountain cabin. I actually stumbled across it one day by accident, but the minute I saw the fallen logs that formed a cozy woodland seat and back support amid the beautiful forest greenery, I knew. I immediately realized that Papa God had it earmarked especially for me. For the time we would spend together. For the precious time I would sit, be still, and just know.  

My secret spot is off the beaten path, so it's secluded - no unexpected visitors, loud noises (just birds and bunnies and bush beasties), or interruptions (I always turn my phone off during my Be Still & Know time). It's near the one-of-its-kind, humongous tree - almost as enormous as I imagine a Sequoia to be - that reminds me of Papa's bigness, His incredible power.

A few yards away, there's a reflection pool - the tiniest of ponds, actually more like a large clear puddle, filled with chilled mountain rainfall  that reflects the majestic green treetops surrounding this sacred place. The place where my soul drinks in His beautiful creation and feels the magnitude of the Creator of all things ... and I know. 

As wonderful as my mountaintop cathedral is, I'm not up there much of the year. I'm down here. In flat, hot, humid Florida. So I petitioned the Lord for a Be Still & Know spot here too. And just last week, He provided one.

So what that it borders a marsh? (watching out for them gators!); that it's halfway underwater after a hard rain? (I can borrow my grandbuddy's rubber Spiderman boots). Listen, who cares about a few (dozen) mosquito bites? It's secluded (who else in their right mind would go there?). I have a bottle of Off. The resident sand hill cranes have welcomed me with open wings. And Papa plans to meet me there every single time I show up.

I was convinced the minute I saw the fallen logs that formed a cozy lakeside Be Still & Know site (some might even argue that it's IN the lake). Not as majestic as the mountains maybe, but hey, this is Florida. The only mountains we have are speed humps.

So I'm excited. I now have my own little hideaway to, well, hide away. And know. 

How about you? Do you have a Be Still & Know place of your own?