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?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Perfecting My Stinky Face

Stinky Face Contest Winner
Yesterday's conversation as my 3-year-old grandbuddy Blaine watched me putting on my make-up to go to work:

Blaine: What's that stuff do, Mimi?
Me: It's blush; it makes me look less dead, er, I mean it gives me more color.
Blaine: Oh. Why do you want to be pink?
Me: I don't want to be pink. I just don't want to look like a walking marshmallow.
Silence while he contemplates this deep concept.
Blaine: What are you doing now, Mimi?
Me: Spraying perfume to make me smell pretty. See - [holding out left wrist for olfactory inspection] - what do you think?
Blaine: [making identical face to the little guy in the photo] Ugghh. You smell like my Pull-Ups.


I, too, have been perfecting my stinky face lately. Not intentionally, but often when I pass the reflective surface of a mirror, microwave, or window, I'm floored at the horrible expression staring back at me. The thing is, I'm not necessarily angry ... or sad ... or even displeased. I'm just preoccupied. So preoccupied that I'm not aware of what my face is doing, and apparently when ignored, my facial muscles default to the same scowl I'd seen on my mother's face a million times as a child.

I used to think she was always mad at me. And once when I asked her what I'd done, she seemed surprised and responded, "Why, nothing. I'm not upset with you; I'm focused on what I'm doing. Just ignore my face."

Well, of course that's impossible. The face is the window into the mind, and we as human beings are prone to reading the faces of those standing before us to discern what they're thinking. Frowns, pouts and snarls indicate indignation, resentment, and wrath, whereas a pleasant countenance reflects interest, encouragement, and concern. A warm and sincere smile makes us feel warm too, as well as accepted, uplifted, and loved all over. A slack jaw, sagging muscles and glazed-over eyes shout fatigue, boredom and disinterest.

It's the way Papa God wired us. Reading faces is our feedback mechanism to know where we stand with others. Body language sends signals loud and clear to those around us about what's going on inside.

So that leads me to these convicting questions: Does my expression edify people or frighten the bejeebies out of them? Are they blessed or intimidated? Does the love of Jesus shine through my eyes and encourage through my smile? Has my face caught on to the joy of the Lord in my heart?

In a nutshell, is the God's-love-with-skin-on-it ME I want to portray to people I encounter the ME they really see?  I'm supposed to attract them to Him, right, not repel them?

Hmm. Maybe I should tell my face the good news more often. Maybe I should make a serious effort to be more aware of my subconscious stinky face and offer my countenance to the Lord as an instrument of praise.

And leave the Eau de Pull-Ups at home.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Exquisite Mystery

Prayer: the least and the most we can do
I've just finished doing something that made me feel bad. Really, really bad. I immersed myself in a vat of scalding pain.

Someone else's pain. The shell-shocked parents who lost their beautiful 24-year-old daughter to suicide with no warning. No symptoms. No good-byes.

The mom who went in to wake up her 21-year-old son for work and found him not breathing.

The writer friend my age who, out of the blue, suffered a debilitating stroke that will alter her entire life.

I immersed myself in their pain and I did it intentionally. Yesterday, today, and I'll do it tomorrow too. Over and over again.

Why? Because I wholeheartedly believe in Jeremiah 29:12: "Call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you" (NIV).

I have no idea how prayer works or even why. I just know that Papa God wants me to do it and do it a lot ("Pray continuously," 1 Thes. 5:17). In fact, there are over 400 verses in the Bible encouraging us to pray, every day in every way.

Prayer is one of those exquisite mysteries of faith ... that the Creator of All Things would actually want our input and for us to tell Him (even though He already knows) our desires and petitions blows my everlovin' mind. Yet He does. And He listens, just like He promised. My own experience has taught me that, and the recent experience of my friend Cheryl even further brings the truth home.

Cheryl works nights at a laboratory. She also plays piano for her church. Recently, Cheryl was asked to play for the funeral of a dear friend at her church at 11 a.m. on a weekday. She knew it would be tough, but she's not a complainer, so without saying anything to anyone about this sacrificial act of love occurring in the middle of her "night," Cheryl rushed home from work at 8 a.m. and set her alarm to awaken her at 9:30 in order to make it to the funeral on time. She collapsed into bed and was asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.

But Cheryl was so wiped out that she slept right through her alarm. Oddly enough, she suddenly awoke for no apparent reason at 10:45 (the alarm had stopped ringing long ago), fully alert and ready to leap out of bed. She was able to throw on her clothes and apply make-up at red lights, making it to the church in the nick of time.

At the luncheon after the funeral, an acquaintance - not a close friend by any means - approached Cheryl. "I just wanted to tell you," the woman said, "that when I woke up this morning, I felt strongly led to pray for you. I don't know why, but I just kept praying that God would help you in some special way today."

Cheryl was amazed as she realized that the prayers of this woman she hardly knew had woken her up. Her prayers had served as the catalysis for allowing Cheryl to serve Papa God and her grieving friends.

Yep, prayer always matters. Whether we're praying for a casual friend for some reason we can't fully comprehend or for someone who is hurting so badly we must allow our hearts to break alongside theirs, prayer always matters.

When have the prayers of someone else made a difference in your life?  


Saturday, February 14, 2015

And The Winners Are ...

Valentine's Day hugs and kisses to the winners of sweet love, love love!

Or at least a book about it!

The following 3 lovely (get it - love-ly???) ladies have each won a copy of my newest book Too Loved to be Lost in honor of this day when we celebrate the greatest thing besides Godiva: LOVE!!

Congrats to:
Kim Morgan
Angela Chestnut
Pam Proctor
(Girls, please send me your mailing addresses so I can pop your prizes in the mail!)

Many, many thanks to all of you who entered the drawing; stay tuned for the next contest coming round the bend. (So if you haven't already subscribed to my blog, be sure to do it so you won't miss any giveaways.)

In fact, to show my gratitude for your support, a few others who aren't on the winners list above might just receive a surprise gift as well, as my way of sending a little BBFF (Best Blog Friend Forever) lovin' your way.

So in honor of this beautiful day we celebrate love, I'd like to close with an excerpt from Too Loved to be Lost

"Love: We can either embrace it or disgrace it.

It's not about all the good deeds we can do, the money we can donate, the homeless we can feed. It's not what we do, it's why. Because when our inside-out focus reverses to outside-in, we lose sight of our upward purpose and fall into a downward spiral.

Christ-servers don't do things for others because of what we can get in return .We do them to spread Papa God's eternal love. To love others into His warm, welcoming arms so they can experience His incredible, never-ending agape love, too."

May you experience a Valentine's Day filled with incredible, never-ending love, dear BBFF!


Monday, February 9, 2015

A New Dent in my Fender

Now this cake I can make! 
One of the chapters in my newest book, Too Loved to be Lost, is about colliding with difficult people. It's called, appropriately, "Dents in My Fender."

So of course a collision occurred this week. Papa God loves to bring home these lessons I think I've learned. Poetic justice. A brand new whopper of a chink now desecrates my shiny chrome.

First you have to understand that Harry, as I'll call him, is the only brother of a dear friend of mine who passed away just last year. I'm still mourning and missing her every day. So when Harry e-mailed out of the blue (I've never been actual friends with Harry, mind you; in fact, I've artfully avoided him for three decades) to ask if Spouse and I would come to his birthday dinner in two weeks, I didn't hesitate. Of course we'd come. My beloved friend would have wanted it that way.

One additional thing you should know is that Harry has never had many friends of his own. He's one of those Mensa-types who's so brilliant he can't function on a practical level. Certainly not on a social level. "Blunt" and "tactless" are the two words that best describe Harry on a good day. He loves to hear himself talk. The handful of times I've been around him in the past, he's offended me repeatedly with his dogmatic leftist opinions and droning insistence of the worthless banality of Christianity.

I knew this. So what happened next shouldn't have come as a surprise.

The day before we were to meet at a designated restaurant for Harry's birthday celebration, he e-mailed me asking if I'd make him a birthday cake. Did you catch that this happened the day before the party?

By the grace of Papa God, I resisted my initial impulse to blast him with, "Are you KIDDING me????? Can't you find someone who actually likes you to make your cake? Do you have ANY idea how busy I am writing feverishly against a book deadline looming over my head while working overtime at the rehab clinic to cover for my sick daughter, plus taking care of my 3-year-old grandson while his mother is down and out?"

Saved by a rhino-in-the-road prayer for supernatural grace, what did finally issue forth from my tapping fingers was, "Sure, Harry. I'll make you a birthday cake. What flavor do you like best - vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or carrot cake?"

He immediately responded that he didn't like any of those. Couldn't I make him a hummingbird cake? He had tasted one once and liked it.

"No, Harry," I painstakingly typed back. "I cannot make a hummingbird cake. I have never made a hummingbird cake. I don't have a recipe for hummingbird cake. Besides my shotgun isn't working and I'd have to use my bow and arrow. Those critters are so tiny it would probably take 10 to fill up a measuring cup. Here are your choices within the parameters of my capabilities: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or carrot cake. Pick one."

His reply was a link to a hummingbird cake recipe.

"Give me patience, Lord," I prayed. I knew that hasty words spoken in anger would make the best retort I would ever regret.

Taking a deep breath, I wrote back: "Harry, I'm sorry but I will not be able to make you a hummingbird cake on such short notice. Here are your choices once again: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or carrot cake. Surely one of these will do."

He responded that he didn't like any of them. Vanilla was too blah, chocolate made him retch, and he abhorred icing of any kind, especially strawberry flavored and cream cheese frosting. Then came the request that completely turned the tide. "Can't you make a carrot cake but substitute pineapples for carrots?"

Okay, that one made me laugh. Thankfully, the inanity of this whole transaction eclipsed my irritation and after that, everything became hilarious fodder for Spouse and me to begin enjoying the absurdity it all.  My attitude toward Harry changed for the better. I was able to see him with more compassion and subsequently treat him with more tolerance.

Even when I tried to talk him into letting me make Spouse's favorite dessert, Pineapple Comfort Food, which is an unorthodox but magical culinary delight of pineapple blended with cheddar cheese (in case you're wondering, this mouth-watering recipe will be included in the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook releasing this fall; hummingbird cake will not.)

"No. Cake. It has to be a cake," was his clipped reply. "It's a birthday CAKE."

Even when we arrived at the restaurant and I handed him the Happy Birthday balloon I had made a special trip to buy and it immediately floated up to the high ceiling completely out of reach. "Aaah, It doesn't matter," he said, shrugging. "I don't like balloons anyway."

Even when, while attempting to blow out the candles, he spit all over the pineapple upside down cake I'd spent another special trip buying ingredients for and two hours creating.

But you know what? Despite everything I actually had a nice time and would do it again in a heartbeat. Harry felt loved and celebrated by his six guests (all of which, incidentally, were Christians - that means everybody present at the table except Harry were dedicated Christ-followers. Not coincidental, I think. More of Papa's poetic justice. A divine irony which I hope wasn't lost on Harry).

And that's my point in Too Loved to be Lost. "Once we can understand and embrace the magnitude and breadth of Papa God's divine grace, we can begin reflecting the nature of Papa within us. It's because of His grace toward us that we can extend grace to others."

So what's the big hooha about a little relational fender bender? In the grand scheme of things, of what eternal importance is the state of my bumpy bumper?

When it comes to grace, actions speak volumes. Love and acceptance of Harry by Christ-lovers, when the rest of the world beats a path in the opposite direction, are what will finally demonstrate the truth. The truth that Papa God loves Harry - as He does each of us - from the bottom of His heart. And His heart is bottomless.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

New Book Giveaway!

This is what I'm wearing to work on Valentine's Day
During this Valentine season, discover the kind of love that is never too lost or too late.

From Feb 1-14, register for the drawing to be held on Valentine's Day for 3 copies of my book about unconditional love, Too Loved to be Lost. 

I'm hosting a simultaneous giveaway on Goodreads so you actually have a dandy chance of winning a book one way or the other!

I hope you're feeling the love I'm sending your way and will take a moment and click HERE to register.  (If for some reason the link won't work, hop over to my website and click on Too Love to be Lost giveaway under "contests").

Remember, Papa God loves us just the way we are - broken. But he also loves us enough not to leave us that way!  "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Splish Splash

Don't even think about tweaking my cheeks
It happened five days ago. It was shocking, mind-boggling, and completely unexpected. It shook my little world.

I woke up in the morning as always and rolled out of bed. Yawning, I noticed my face felt oddly stiff ... like I was wearing a mask.

I reached up and touched my cheek. What in the world? I was wearing a mask. Or at least it felt like one. My skin felt completely foreign to my touch - grainy and dry and thick as all get-out. I could feel my fingertips probing my face but it didn't feel right at all, like on the inside it was still me but on the outside I was petting a python who'd just had lunch.

Rushing to the bathroom mirror, I stood there staring but not comprehending. Is that really me staring back? GASP!

My entire face was grotesquely swollen; huge fluid-filled bags beneath my skin pulled my eyelids downward and pushed my cheeks upward so that my eyes were reduced to slits. My cheeks had puffed up right into my line of vision so that I had to tilt my chin down to see over them. I looked like the human version of a Shar-pei.

Spouse nearly dropped his teeth when saw me. "Have you been robbing beehives again?" he asked, trying to make sense of the mess that was my face. The only possible explanation I could come up with was a new moisturizer I'd tried the day before. It must be some sort of contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction, I reasoned. So how long until it goes away?

Unfortunately, the answer was elusive. In the following days, I remained fully inflated, enduring the gawks and stares of neighbors, loved ones, and co-workers with as much grace and humor as I could muster. But then it was Sunday, and I feared that the 2 and 3-year-old's at church for whom I'm the Bible Story Lady would get one look at my face and run screaming out the door.

So that morning I introduced myself as Miss Piggy instead of Miss Debbie and assured them it was still me under all that extra face. That today there was just more of me to love. And sure enough, love me they did. The little darlings accepted me completely, rolls, furrows and all.

It got me to thinking. How do people with permanent physical disabilities continually cope on an infinite day-after-day-after-day basis?

Buell Smith came immediately to mind. When I was a little girl, Buell was a friend of my grandparents and was inflicted with some sort of purple-ish golf-ball sized tumor that hung in a skin sack over the right corner of his top lip. I vividly recall staring mesmerized at poor Buell as he pushed the thing out of the way to fork Granny's lemon cake into his mouth. I stared, that is, until I felt The Look from Mama. You know - that death ray that told you in no uncertain terms that you were being inexcusably RUDE and if you don't stop it right now, you likely won't be able to sit down for a week.

But the thing I remember most about Buell was his deep, melodic laugh. And he laughed all the time. Even as a kid, I wondered how someone with a giant meatball hanging on his face could be so jolly. Buell was entirely likable, fun, and seemed perfectly happy within his own skin. Even the extra parts. I once offered to help him out and cut that woggly thing off with my blunt-nosed craft scissors, but he just laughed his hearty laugh and said he wished it was that easy. Along came The Look from Mama again so I dropped that line of conversation pretty fast.

And then there's my friend Rob. Rob is the nicest, funniest, most out-going man you could ever meet. He has highly visible leadership positions in his city government and church, tons of friends, and the most beautiful model-esque wife you can imagine. And Rob has Turret's Syndrome.

I recall being distracted by Rob's constant facial tic and head twitch when I first met him thirty years ago, but soon it disappeared. To me, anyway. When I began to know and love him, I truly didn't notice it anymore. In fact, someone recently asked me if he still had the facial tic and I had to answer that I honestly didn't know.

The answer, it turns out, is yes, the tic is still there, but because Rob doesn't pay it heed or allow it to hinder him in any way, no one else does either.

So in the glacial-paced days since my facial fiasco, I've pondered a lot about everyday heroes like Buell and Rob and how they live full, rich, wonderful lives despite physical obstacles. How they choose to be filled to the brim with Papa God's unconditional love and intentionally let it overflow to those around them.


They inspire me - and you too, I hope, if you ever wake up with a cauliflowers face - to live out loud 1 Thessalonians 3:12, MSG: "May the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you."

Won't you share with me - What everyday hero in your little world splashes Papa's love onto you?


Monday, January 19, 2015

Everyday Hope

A lovely wedding we witnessed in Italy
One of my favorite perks of being an author is hearing from new friends and getting to know them on a personal level.

I received a note from a reader this week via my website sharing some of her current problems and asking for guidance in finding everyday hope through her faith. I prayed for her, and for leading from Papa God in how to best meet her need. I thought I'd share my answer with you in case you, too, may benefit from a bit of everyday hope:

My dear Erica,

Thank you for taking the time to write; it means a lot to me that you've turned to me for spiritual guidance. A role I fear I don't deserve, but will do my best to earn.
You asked about everyday spiritual encouragement through scriptures - a crucial thing for believers, to be sure. I don't know how any of us could go on without daily encouragement. I'd like to share with you my system for daily nourishment from Papa God's Word - I call it Life Savers, as I talk about in Chapter 4 of my book, Too Loved to be Lost. It's a simple system for making sure you chew and digest your own spiritual food, and not depend on someone else to chew it for you.
Since it's January, it's the perfect time to begin. Here's how it works: grab your calendar and record one Life Saver from the list below on the first day of each month. They're short, pithy, powerful, and oh, so sweet. Memo that Life Saver you've chosen for that month on your i-device and jot it on sticky notes to post in all the places you'll be sure to notice - your bathroom mirror, your car console, your chocolate stash, you know, your hot spots.
Then every time you run across your monthly Life Saver, repeat it aloud three times and let it melt into your heart. Consider the meaning of each word. Savor the Saver. Suck the joy out of that spiritual treat until it's completely digested and permanently implanted in your innards.
Talk about an infusion of strength! It's like topping off your gas tank. You'll be revved up and raring to go anywhere. Plus you'll be amazed by how many times Papa God uses that very verse to speak to you and through you during that month. By the year's end, you'll have twelve new decision-impacting verses memorized. And best of all, they'll be imprinted on your gray matter hard drive for the rest of your life.
Here are a year's worth of my favorite Life Savers - all twenty words or less - that pack the biggest punch for me. The last four are brand new; I've just added them within the past few weeks.
1. "God is greater than our worried hearts." 1 John 3:20, MSG
2. "Let your living spill over into thanksgiving." Col 2:7, MSG
3. "I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4, NASB
4. "It's the praising life that honors me." Psalm 50:23, MSG
5. "Encourage one another and build each other up." 1 Thes. 5:11, NIV
6. "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray." Phil 4:6, MSG
7. "A gentle tongue can break a bone." Prov 25:15, MSG
My devo of everyday encouragement
8. "Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God!" Psalm 43:5, NLT
9. "Live generously." Matt 5:42, MSG
10. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Gen 18:14, NIV
11. "God will fight the battle for you. And you? Keep your mouth shut!" Ex 14:14, MSG
12. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Prov 4:23, NIV
I hope you find these Life Savers helpful. I know they've certainly saved my life numerous times. There are additional ones listed in Too Loved to be Lost, and of course you should feel free to add you own from your personal reading of the scriptures.

I'd also like to send you a copy of Everyday Hope, a little devotional I wrote a few years ago that I hope will help and encourage you. It's out of print now, but I still have a little stash that I make available at my speaking events. 

Please keep in touch and let me know how I can pray for you. And I'd LOVE to hear some of your own Life Savers if you'd be kind enough to share them with me.

Hey, that goes double for you, my BBFF (Blessed Blog Friend Forever)!