Thursday, December 26, 2013

5 Incredible Christmas Words

The young woman holding the guitar looked nervous as she took her place on the stool at the front of the auditorium where 400 women chattered, all seated around beautifully decorated tables for the annual church Christmas banquet.

An expectant hush fell over the room as hot tea-sipping women dressed in their holiday finest turned their eyes toward the morning's entertainment. They had come to expect only the best in this musically talented church.

But something was wrong.

The young woman fumbled the first few chords, then haltingly plucked the familiar introduction to "O Holy Night." When she began singing, her voice was far too soft and didn't project well even with the microphone.

O holy night ... the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.

Oh, no - there was another guitar clunker and her voice slid off key yet again. I squirmed in my seat, growing uncomfortable for her and wishing she'd practiced a little more. I could see other women around me having the same worried reaction.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. 

After several halting mischords, she suddenly she stopped altogether. Collectively not knowing what to do to ease her embarrassment, the audience applauded lightly, hesitantly. But her response was not one we would ever have expected.

"Oh, do you want me to stop now?" she asked in childlike sincerity. "I could be finished if you want me to."

A bit of murmuring broke out in the audience as she set her guitar aside and leaned toward the microphone to speak. Her words shot like an arrow straight from her heart to ours.

"I know I'm not a singer," she said in a shaky, apologetic voice, "but I really wanted to share this particular song with you today. You see, I've been diagnosed with a brain tumor and my doctors tell me there's a very strong possibility that I won't be able to speak after my next surgery."

She paused as a stunned silence seized the room.

"This entire Christmas season, I've been thinking about the words to this song, 'O Holy Night' - especially these 5 words: the soul felt its worth. I just want to share with you that if you ever doubt your soul's worth like I have for the past few months, just remember what Jesus did for you. There is no greater worth than your soul, for Jesus came as a babe and then 33 years later died on the cross ... just for you. Because your soul was worth that much to Him. There is great joy - regardless of external circumstances - in knowing the true worth of your soul that was proven on that holy night in Bethlehem. So please, please allow your soul to feel its amazing worth this Christmas."


BIG wow.

Like you, I've sung that song a thousand times over the years but I can't say that I've ever really considered the meaning to those 5 words before that moment. Maybe it's because I'm currently immersed in Too Loved to be Lost, the new book I'm writing about Papa God's incredible, limitless, unconditional love for us that this young woman's revelation resonated within me so deeply. I've thought about little else since. And it's made for the most happy and holy of Christmases for me. 

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

So I invite you, even though it's the day after Christmas and you're up to your eyeballs in turkey carcases, wadded wrapping paper, and creative leftover recipes, to ponder those 5 incredible words when you get a free moment. And allow the beauty and wonder and pure awe of His bottomless love for you to bathe your heart with joy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Everyone Needs a Papa

I've had several recent requests from readers to explain the origin of my use of the term, "Papa God" in my books. I'd be happy to oblige.

I guess it's one of those things you do that is so much a part of you that you don't think about it anymore. Like parting your hair on the left. Or tucking your shirttail in when the rest of the fashion world wears theirs out (I'm aware only because my daughter often rebukes me for this).

Anyway, it all started back in 2004 when I began working on my first book, The Distant Shore, which released in 2007. Up to that point, I had only written considerably shorter pieces in the form of magazine and newspaper articles, so expanding my thoughts into a full sized book was quite a challenge.

The main story line is based on the true story of a young girl who is sent away from her family - for reasons unknown to her at the time - to live on the then remote, untamed Merritt Island of 1904. Emma-Lee finds life with crusty spinster Aunt Augusta very lonely and discouraging until she is befriended by kindly Captain Stone, a freighter captain.

Captain Stone is a godly man and introduces Emma-Lee to his beloved Heavenly Father, who Emma-Lee embraces as her surrogate father ... the heavenly Papa who will never abandon or forsake her like her earthly papa has done. She begins referring to Him as Papa God, and seeing the Almighty through the lens of the unconditional love of a faithful parent fills a gaping hole in her heart.

One of the things I really wanted to portray in the book was the personal relationship we can have with the Lord, our Abba as one of the ways the Aramaic Bible refers to Him. Abba is the intimate form of Father, which translates loosely as Daddy, or in my mind as Papa.

So as Emma-Lee discovered the loyal, limitless, lovingkindness side of her Papa God, so did I. I've referred to Him as Papa God ever since.

I invite you to join me. I think you'll be surprised how quickly and almost magically the secret deep longing in your heart for nonjudgmental, all-accepting, all-forgiving love will be fulfilled. He's your Papa too.

So tell me - how do you view God? 

P.S. A funny little tidbit for you: After a speaking gig not long ago, a lovely lady from the audience approached me  In her thick German accent, she introduced herself and then said something that 'bout made me drop my teeth. "In Germany," she said, "we say someone is from the distant shore to mean they are gay."
Ha! I guess that particular book won't be translated into German anytime soon, since Emma-Lee is only ten.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Don't Want to Flunk This Lesson

Yeesh, it happened again.

Every single time I teach a children's church lesson, Papa God brings the exact dadgum lesson home to me. He knows all along that I'm the one who needs to hear it more than the kids. And sometimes His timing is, well, unfortunate. 

So there I am, wearing my big floppy flowered "Bible Story Lady" hat, leading a dozen 2 1/2-year-olds in a rousing chorus of The Prayer Song. Our lesson today is, "When someone is mean to you, you don't have to be mean back."

Not exactly R.C. Sproal theological magnitude, but hey, everyone in my audience is shorter than my belly button.That's why I took the job in the first place - no PhD needed. Just KISS and tell. (KISS=Keep It Simple, Sister!)

So there's this one kid in the class - a big boy for his age - who won't sit in his chair. He starts out there but within minutes is up and migrating with the wind currents around the room. Don't know his name. We'll call him Danny.

Everyone in the room is singing with me (except Danny) when my laid-back, sweet, adorable grandson Blaine arrives late as usual (his mama made us late for church every Sunday morning for 18 years). There is not a single chair left in the room except the one Danny vacated. So the teacher directs Blaine to the empty chair, tells him to sit, and walks away.

Blaine Boy has no sooner seated his adorable little self in the tiny red chair and flashes his 100-watt smile at Mimi (me!) - who is still leading the song up front - than Danny's migration pattern comes to a sudden halt because he notices someone sitting in his chair. Not that he wants to sit in it, mind you, he just doesn't want anyone else to.

So with a running start from across the room, Danny charges sweet, unsuspecting, adorable Blaine and wallops him with a flying full body butt, knocking him out of the chair and sending him crashing onto the floor. I'm watching all this happen in slow motion and am unable to do anything about it without stopping the song and disrupting the entire class.

So I helplessly watch the kid I love more than life itself get pummeled by a bully in training pants. My blood pressure shoots through the roof of my head. I can feel my earrings start to melt. It's all I can do not to fly out of my seat and throttle this rotten little kid. But I remind myself he's only two. Even though he looks three.

Little Blaine, looking dazed and confused, slowly rises to his feet and stands there all alone (why nobody comes to his aid, I am completely befuddled) eying Danny, obviously not knowing what happened or what to do now. Danny glares back, and climbs into the chair. Squatters rights. You lose, sucker.

Blaine's adorable little face begins to pucker. Is he about to cry because he's physically hurt? Or because his feelings are hurt? He's a gentle-natured kid, so I suspect the latter. My guts are burning with the molten lava of injustice and I can feel the volcano about to blow. I'm gonna clean nasty little Danny's clock.

And then it hits me. An IM coming right from Papa God.

Helloooooo. When someone is mean to you (or in this case your adorable little grandson), you don't have to be mean back. 

But I WANT to be mean back. Danny deserves it.

Doesn't matter. When someone is mean to you, you don't have to be mean back. I wasn't mean back when they beat me up and shred my skin with whips and thrust a crown of thorns on my head. Aren't you supposed to be becoming more like me?

Oh. Yeah. I guess.

At this point, the teacher brings a chair in from another room and helps Blaine into it. His little body shudders as he fights the tears that threaten to squeeze out. He is successful. He is brave. He is adorable. He gives Mimi a shaky smile and begins to join in the hand motions of the song that Mimi feels will never, ever end.

Danny is off the chair again and paying no attention to the song. And then there's that still, small voice again.   

So now it's time to forgive Danny.

Maybe after the lesson, Lord. After I bring him up front and say, "Okay class, here's a prime example of our lesson today. This is a bully. A mean, bad, rotten little boy. He shoved Blaine out of the chair but Blaine chose not to be mean back. Who does God love more?"

I love Danny as much as you love Blaine.

Yeah, well okay, but he can't get away with busting up my grandson. Somebody needs to punish this kid. Maybe if I humiliate him in front of the class he'll learn his lesson.  

You know you can't do that. He made a mistake. Don't you ever make mistakes?

I think I'm about to right now.

But you won't. Because you love Me. And I love you. And we both love children who are learning to love me too. Now forgive him.

I can't. It's hard to forgive something like this.

Of course it's hard. That's why I'm here. I'll help you. Let's do this thing. And I'll give you an A+ on today's lesson. Let's say it together: When someone is mean to you, you don't have to be mean back. 

Got it.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Give-Away Contest

Fall 2013 Give-Away Contest

I’m tickled pink about the new Too Blessed to be Stressed Perpetual Calendar.

By the way, “perpetual” means the 365 full color pages are dated but have no year, so it can sit on your
kitchen counter forever. Or until Junior sloshes spaghetti sauce all over it.

Too Blessed to be Stressed Calendar

 And to make sure you’re as tickled as I am, I’m giving away a full DOZEN perpetual calendars!

All you have to do is shoot me an electronic photo of you decom-stressing in your favorite chillin’ zone (exotic location, back yard, couch with Fido, etc.) and I’ll choose the 12 most unique and creative photos as the winners, PLUS the top three will be posted on my blog. Make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss anything!

Send your photo to me at this e-dress or via my website by the deadline on December 5th and if you're a winner, you’ll receive your calendars in time for Christmas as my gift to you in celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Grace That's Truly Amazing

It was no use. The $100 bill was gone.

My daughter Cricket searched her pockets for the third time just to be sure. Then she ransacked the tote bag she'd been carrying around the expansive neighborhood garage sale yet again, panic evident on her pinched, bloodless face and wild eyes.

"Oh, no. Oh, nooo! It can't be gone! It was in my pocket, I'm sure of it. I only put my hand in there once, and that was about twenty minutes ago." Cricket and I, garage sale junkie buddies for most of her 28 years, had headed out before dawn to an annual treasure-filled, 200-home combined community garage sale in an upscale neighborhood.

Sale-ing went way back with us. I had fond memories of a wispy-haired blond toddler accompanying me on my Saturday morning garage sale hunting expeditions long before she'd grown up, married, and had a toddler of her own.

But things were not going so well in the present. Adult Cricket had been miffed when I picked her up that morning (my car had more fill-to-the-brim cargo space for our loot than hers so I drove) because her husband had been paid in $100 bills on a moonlighting job the night before, rather than the small bills she had been planning to take garage sale-ing bright and early.We knew from experience that sellers rarely accepted large bill at an event like this, for it would deplete all their change.

Sure enough, nobody during the first hour of our shopping expedition would touch the hunky bill, so she'd folded it and stored it in the place she thought would be safest - her jeans pocket. And now we were halfway home and wallowing in deep misery.

"It won't do any good to go back," I said, trying to be realistic but feeling just terrible for her. "If it fell out of your pocket, it wouldn't be on the ground very long. Somebody will be having a very good day today. Maybe they really needed it."

"They couldn't have needed it worse than me." Cricket's eyes welled up and her hands started shaking. "I can't believe I lost it," she said just above a whisper. "That was pretty much all we had to spend for the baby's Christmas."

So with nothing else to be done about it, we prayed. Gee. Wouldn't you think we'd have thought of that first?

We'd barely begun pouring our grief out to Papa and begging for His mercy and grace when Cricket, in desperation, thrust her hand once again into that same empty pocket she'd already tried repeatedly. Only this time it wasn't empty. This time her hand came out clutching a wrinkled green portrait of Ben Franklin.

"Oh, my goodness! God put it back in my pocket!" Cricket cried, just before we burst into laughter and rocked the car in gleeful celebration.

Ben once was lost but now is found. Just like you. Just like me. That's grace.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Never Underestimate the Power of Prayer

A lovely grace-full church we visited in Mykonos, Greece
Do you ever get tired of those marvelous grace notes Papa God plops in our laps just to prove He's got our backs?

I hope not, because I'm going to share another zinger. And yet another in next week's post.

This one is not my own, actually, but was shared with me by my writer friend Karen.

Karen and I had become friends at a national conference for writer/speakers. As I exited the hotel the morning after the conference ended, I passed Karen in the lobby on her hands and knees dissecting her luggage. There were little piles of clothes, make-up bags, boxes, and books all over the floor.

"What's up, Karen?" I asked, pausing in route to catch my waiting taxi. "Is something wrong?"

"Oh, I'm going batty trying to find my Kindle before my ride gets here," Karen admitted. "I just know I packed it in here but I can't seem to find it. It's got to be here somewhere. I just can't live without that thing."

Unable to loiter and commiserate any longer, I told her I'd be sure to lift her situation up in prayer and proceeded to do so as my driver sped me away to the airport."

The following day, I e-mailed Karen and asked if her Kindle search had been successful. Here was her answer:

"I searched and searched both suitcases four different times before the shuttle got there to pick us up. Never did find it. So while our driver stored our luggage in the bus, I explained my dilemma to the two other ladies from the conference catching the same shuttle. Without a moment's hesitation, one of the ladies launched into a heartfelt verbal prayer for the Lord to bring the prodigal Kindle back home.

"As soon as I got to the airport, while I was standing in line at the ticket counter, I unzipped the same compartment in my carry-on bag that I'd already searched over and over. I'll be dipped if the Kindle didn't pop right up like a jack-in-the-box."

To wrap it all up, Karen finished with a wallop. "Never underestimate the power of prayer."

To that I say, AMEN, sister!  And I'll be dipped.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Amazing Ephesus

Our visit to the ancient biblical city of Ephesus 
This September, Spouse and I enjoyed a wonderful 35th wedding anniversary Mediterranean cruise which took us to five European countries in 15 days.

I'll be blogging more stories about our adventures (and posting some incredible pictures) later but I just had to share with you one of the most spiritually moving parts of our trip.

Our trip to Ephesus.

Our view toward the coast en route by bus to Ephesus
Ephesus (location of one of the first ever Christian churches Paul wrote to in 1 and 2 Ephesians) is no longer an operational city and getting to it entailed riding a bus nearly an hour through the rural valleys and hills of modern day Turkey from our ship's port in Kusadasi. In biblical days, Ephesus was on the coast, but today, due to significant geological changes because of natural disasters, it's nearly 5 miles inland.

At some point (I'm not sure of the year), landslides from severe earthquakes buried the entire sprawling metropolis under tons of rock, dirt, and debris from the surrounding mountains. Archaeologists have only recently begun digging it out, and gigantic chunks of regal pillars, beautiful statues, ornate temples, stone trade centers, an enormous amphitheater, and private homes litter the ground like enormous jigsaw puzzles waiting to be pieced together.

Carved symbol on certain house entrances
As we toured the ruins of the once thriving and highly populated city, I noticed several recurrent symbols carved into the doorposts of certain buildings, or crudely scratched onto entrance stepping stones. One, the fish symbol, or ichthus, which was a clandestine symbol of early Christians to avoid punishment and ridicule by the Artemus (Diana)-worshiping society of Ephesus, I recognized immediately. But the other, something that resembled a wagon wheel with spokes, stumped me completely.

I questioned our tour guide about the meaning of the crude emblem that seemed to be turning up in strange places all over the city, but she smiled mysteriously and said, "Just wait. You'll see."

After we walked and walked around the dry, dusty streets and visited ancient toilets and bakeries and massive pagan temples, I asked her again about the circular symbol we kept running across tucked here and there, usually discreetly, in various odd locations around the city.
Road leading to Amphitheater at Ephesus

Our guide, in heavily accented English, began telling us of the persecution and ridicule endured by the first Christians of Ephesus in AD 60-70, after Paul's visit on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 18:18-19). The leaders and artisans associated with the great temple of Artemus located there were not at all happy with the enthusiastic newfound Christians poisoning their bustling idol business, which also deepened the schism between traditional Jews and Gentile converts to Christianity.

Temple of Artemus
As she spoke, our guide began drawing in the loose sand at her feet with a long stick. It actually gave me chill bumps because it reminded me of the story of the adulterous woman about to be stoned by the furious mob when Jesus began drawing in the sand before at the temple in Jerusalem uttering the crowd-dissipating challenge, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8).  

Our guide first drew the fish (ichthus) symbol, filling in the center with the Greek letters I, X, O, Y, E (sorry - that's as close as I can come to the Greek alphabet with this keyboard), which roughly translated, means Jesus Christ God's Son Savior. Then she pointed to each letter separately, beginning with the I, and drew it with her stick in the sand, superimposing them one on top of the other. When she was finished, to my amazement, there was the exact wagon wheel symbol we had been seeing. It, too, was a secretive symbol of Christianity that was used to identify Jesus-followers without blowing their cover.

These Greek letters (center) superimposed upon each other create the top symbol

Incidentally, on his third missionary journey, Paul stayed in Ephesus, the commercial, political, and religious center of what was then Asia Minor for about three years, and then left Timothy in charge of the church for a time before the apostle John later made Ephesus his headquarters.

Tradition has it that John brought Mary, the mother of Jesus, back to Ephesus with him to take care of her until her death. We were able to visit the small house, now tended by nuns, set back in the wooded hills where she was supposed to have lived (below left). I'll try to squeeze another picture or two of Ephesus in here before this post overflows.
Mary's small stone cottage in the hills outside Ephesus
Deb on the original stone road at the Ephesus gate

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bear Necessities

Look who stopped by for dinner!
What a shocker!

I glanced through the picture window of our remote Smoky Mountain cabin, and there was a large black, furry face staring back at me. A bear face to be exact.

He was perched on the railing of our deck with his long tongue protruding, trying to corner a few sunflower seeds from our bird feeder. He was so startled when he saw us, I was afraid he'd either chomp on his own tongue, or fall overboard.

He probably marched up the stairs to get there, but for a quick exit, he leaped from the railing to a nearby tree, his sharp claws extended and strong muscles rippling beneath his fur coat, and shimmied down to the ground while we ran around like crazies screaming and trying to snap photos.

We'd heard there were occasionally bears spotted in our region, and a mountaineer down the slope that hosted bee hives had reported a honey-invader a few years ago, but we had never actually seen one in the 20 years we'd been spending vacation time there.

My 28-year-old daughter was in the shower, but managed to pick out through all the commotion in the living room the word "Bear!" So she grabbed her towel and camera, and with hair dripping down her face, shot out the door in the 45 degree late afternoon chasing the fleeing bear wearing only a towel.

That's when we discovered that the birdseed was merely dessert. By the looks of the nasty food debris strewn around the front yard, dinner had been our three full garbage bags that were sitting in the garage awaiting transportation to the dump. That'll teach me to keep the garage door closed when there are ripe trash bags inside.

But the funniest thing of all came later the next day when Spouse went to make himself a fruit smoothie. The jumbo jar of protein powder supplement that had been sitting beside the door leading from the den into the garage because it was too big to stay in the kitchen ... was missing.


On a hunch, Spouse went on a hunting expedition and found the jar smashed on a log in the woods at the foot of our property. Apparently Joe Black Bear had hauled it away, although we can't for the life of us figure out how. The jar was too big to fit in his snout, so he must've carried it with his front paws, walking on his hind legs. Wouldn't that have been a sight to see! And eyeball-to-eyeball we would have been all right if one of us had opened the door at just the right moment.

Now we just have to keep our eyes peeled for Joe carrying a blender into the blackberry patch.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Girl's a Girl in Any Species

Deb at TIA about to leave for Barcelona
So there we were, Spouse and I, at the airport in Venice, Italy a few weeks ago, waiting in the massive security que to board our plane.

Our long anticipated 35th wedding anniversary Mediterranean Cruise had been great fun, but we were exhausted after five countries in 15 days and anxious to get this last leg of our journey back home over.

A long line of suitcases, backpacks, purses, and totes rested at the feet of their weary owners, all travelers waiting with different degrees of impatience to partially disrobe in front of prying eyes and pass before the large screening device as their belongings rode the conveyor belt through the x-ray machine. It looked to be at least 15 more minutes before it would be our turn.

I took one last swig of my water before seeking a nearby trash can in which to toss the half-filled bottle. It was then I saw her.

Making her way boldly down the snaking procession of stalled plane-boarders was a medium-sized dog that appeared to be a beagle-bloodhound mix, dragging in her wake a uniformed security guard at the end of a short leash. I had heard about these airport sniffer dogs, trained to detect a number of illegal substances being smuggled out of the country.

This one was a proud little canine, sniffing her way confidently along, weaving through thousands of human legs while doing her job well, inspecting each bag, carry-on and tote with her large, moist, undulating black nose and then moving on to the next.  

Moving along, that is, until she reached my bags.

She passed my suitcase with no fanfare, but I'd made the mistake of sliding my 40-lb mega-mama purse off my shoulder, as always laden with everything a person could possibly need to live on a deserted island for a week, and placing it beside my carry-on to give my lopsided body a little rest before heaving it upward again when the line began moving.

The busy working dog cast a casual glance toward my purse as her furry pumping legs aimed toward Spouse's backpack. Suddenly, she halted in mid-stride. Her head literally snapped backward in a double take as her black nostrils flared and her head flew up in excitement.

Miss B (I shall call her Miss B for Beagle/Bloodhound) made a B-line right toward my purse.

Miss B became visibly more excited as she sniffed all around the exterior of my purse. Heaven help me! I thought I would puddle up right then and there like the Wicked Witch of the West in a downpour. Everyone within a quarter-mile vicinity obviously thought I was the WW of the W or at least her wayward niece as they eyed me with alarm.

I could read their minds. What kind of brazen, horrible drug-smuggling woman would pose as a regular tourist and have the audacity to STAND IN LINE BESIDE ME???

Then Miss B stuck her snout down into the interior of my purse and stood there wagging her tail as her head nearly disappeared completely into the depths of my mammoth handbag.

I noticed Miss B's handler quietly move his right hand toward the rather large handgun prominently displayed on his belt and keep it there as he asked me in heavily accented English to empty out the contents of my purse on the ground.

It was then I started to sweat. I could barely breathe. I'd read frightening stories about foreign prisons and Americans who mistakenly ended up in them. What were Italian prisons like? Were they crawling with roaches and vermin? Did they still have firing squads?

The silent crowd around us parted like the tremulous waters of the Red Sea.

I had a hard time wrestling my purse away from Miss B, who was reluctant to disengage her finely tuned sniffing apparatus from my bag, but after a little ado, I was finally was able to display the embarrassing contents for all to enjoy. And by the laughter that ensued, I'm quite sure my impromptu fellow-traveler audience enjoyed themselves immensely at my expense.  

It was hard to discern which item had interested Miss B most. It could have been the remains of a ham and cheese sandwich consumed the day before. Or the baggie of chocolate candies I'd collected from our cruise cabin pillows each night. It might have been the three granola bars, or the blueberrry muffin, or the crumbling chunk of leftover cheese pastry from breakfast.

But I'm pretty sure it was the half-eaten Snickers, because when Miss B's vacuum-cleaner nose assaulted the gooey, caramelly, chocolaty bar, her tail began beating back and forth like a clock pendulum in hyperdrive.

When the obviously irritated handler had finally managed to reinstate a little space between the quivering Miss B and the dastardly stash she had unearthed, he turned a glare on me that could melt butter.

Unlike the tittering onlookers, he was not amused. Not one smidgen.

I turned to Spouse for guidance but he was white-faced and speechlessly mortified. I mean, honestly, you'd think after being married to me for 35 years, nothing would rattle the man.

So I turned back to the nice security guard and smiled my brightest smile, shrugged my shoulders, and offered in my least criminal-like voice, "I'm sorry. I like to be prepared."

Then would you believe it? He actually rolled his eyes. I didn't think professional security people were supposed to do that. After all the crazy things they find in people's luggage? Humph. One minute I'm an international crime suspect and the next I get an insulting eye roll? Please.

So feeling properly rebuffed and humiliated, I scooped the contents of my purse back inside as the guard barked some incoherent gruff command to the canine, who instantly looked chastised and remorseful for her little faux pas. My heart went out to the poor little dog as he whisked her away. I know sniffer dogs are supposed to ignore all other smells in their quest to locate only the hidden illegal substances they've been trained to find. But who could NOT get tail-wagging excited about all that chocolate?

Miss B's handler might not get it, but I understand completely. She's a girl dog.




Thursday, October 24, 2013

Walking Today Through the Wellness Journey

Deb visits a lovely stone cottage in Scotland
A few weeks ago, a dear writer friend, Rick, happily volunteered to walk with my niece, Andie, at the annual Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat.

My niece is an awesome girl - actually, I should say woman, since she is now a junior at USF majoring in English. But she has some lifelong physical disabilities due to cerebral palsy that make it difficult for her to get around. Especially stairs like we had to climb to get to the lunch hall and then back down to the meeting room at the FIWR.

And her eyesight is extremely limited as well, so that she needs assistance finding her way around anywhere new, and sorting out written instructions and correspondence, such as the myriad of handouts we encountered at the retreat.

Knowing that I would be tied up running the show (I'm co-director and the other co-director was ill), Rick graciously volunteered to be Andie's buddy for the retreat, meeting her at the door when she arrived and walking with her throughout the entire day. He made sure she got everywhere she needed to be and thanks to him, she thoroughly enjoyed herself.

Now there's something else about Rick you must know. He also voluntarily walks with his sister-in-law during her battle against breast cancer on the other coast of Florida. That means he travels across the state nearly every weekend to just be there with her and support her in her wellness journey.

The way I see it, to walk with someone in this sense, the stronger partner subtly paces himself to the stride of the weaker, and without being condescending in the least, although at times he must actually physically support his friend, most often he simply offers emotional support and guidance. He silently sacrifices his own comfort and needs to cover those of his companion.

The weaker partner knows that she is being looked after and lovingly protected and is therefore able to relax and lean into the caring encirclement of the stronger.

Much like Papa God walks with us through our own wellness journeys.

Andie will never be "normal" but she can achieve the state of wellness, as in "It is well with my soul." Rick's sister-in-law may not regain complete physical health again in this world (although we pray she does), but she can attain wellness. Spiritual wellness.

I've always loved the words of that wonderful old hymn which were written in the mid-1800s by a man who first lost all his possessions, then his only son to illness. Soon after, all his daughters drowned at sea when their ship capsized as they traveled to Europe to be with him. Yet somehow, after losing everything he once held dear, he was able to pen these incredible words:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It's really a rare and incomparable opportunity for us to walk with someone on their personal wellness journey. To silently sacrifice our own comfort and needs to cover those of our companion, so that they can say in the end, "Whatever my lot ... whatever my lot, it is well with my soul."

I believe Papa God put Rick in my life as an example of walking with someone, so that I, too, can aspire to do it in the same way Papa walks with me. I want, more than anything, to be able to say in the end, "It is well ... It is well with my soul."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The 56th Cake

A few weeks ago it was my honor and privilege to speak to a large local gathering of women. As those of us on the program met beforehand to discuss the upcoming evening, I overheard the term, "the 56th cake" mentioned several times in hushed, reverent tones.

My curiosity finally won out and I had to ask, "Will someone please tell me about the 56th cake?"

And what a story it was.

The church hosting this community women's event celebrating chocolate had been advertising and selling tickets for nearly six weeks. Many, many prayers had been sent up, asking Papa God to bless the details of this event honoring Him. A week prior to the event, 400 tickets had been sold and 50 fancy chocolate cakes were ordered from a local bakery to serve as the centerpieces of each table, and dessert for the ladies sitting there after dinner.

These were not just your run-of-the-mill chocolate cakes, they were culinary works of art, adorned with chocolate curls and doo-dads and ornate decorations that would make your saliva run like a fireman's hose when you merely glanced at one.

But in the days just before the event, a rush of orders came in for tickets, and the good ladies just couldn't bring themselves to turn anyone away. Another five cakes were rush-ordered and were to be picked up right before the event was scheduled to start.

As the designated cake-picker-upper drove to the bakery on the afternoon of the event, she received a frantic call from the church. Ten more last minute tickets had been purchased. There were nearly 500 now sold. Another table would be added. Another cake would be needed.

"But there's no way the baker can make another cake that fast," she told the caller. "And those 55 cakes were custom decorated just for us. I'll just have to try to look in their display case and see what they've got that's already made. I may have to just get a plain one. If they have any at all. Pray hard."

As she waited for the five boxed cakes to be handed over the counter, she saw that there were no other chocolate cakes in the display case remotely close to the same size or splendor of the ones they'd ordered.

In a quandary about what to do, she admitted to the lady in the white apron behind the counter that she really needed another cake. Was there anything at all they could do?

A big smile spread across her face. "I'm the baker," she said. "I have a surprise for you." She disappeared into the back room and reappeared holding another beautifully decorated cake exactly like the other 55.

"Something told me I should make an extra cake. And so I did."

Wow! Don't you just LOVE a grace note story like that? I sure do. It's a reminder that Papa God loves us dearly and is involved in every detail of our lives. Involved enough to whisper sweet somethings into the ear of a baker in order to meet a need that wasn't even a need yet.

I'd love to hear about a grace note in your life this week!    


Thursday, October 3, 2013


While I was pedaling my bike on my usual Sunday afternoon trek this week, I saw something ahead in the road. It was moving.

Braking my bike, I noticed that recent rains had elevated the level of the pond on the left side of the road and the swamp on the right, so that they were now nearly conjoined, separated only by eight feet of black ribbon road.

And there, on the hot asphalt swatch betwixt the two watery worlds, a turtle was determinedly marching.

I use that word, marching, intentionally, because this little fellow wasn't plodding, or poking, or loitering, as turtles tend to do. He was rhythmically lifting those squat spotted legs high and forward so that his his heavy shelled body was pushing forward at an impressive pace. For a turtle.

Since my bike route is rural and there were no cars coming at the moment, I stopped for a spell to watch the little guy, wondering where he was going in such an all-fired hurry. His shell was mottled with green slimy algae, indicating that his usual abode was likely beneath the surface of the waters in either the swamp or the pond.

It occurred to me that he was out marching on foreign midday asphalt this fine day for one of three reasons:

  • Adventure
  • He was running away from something 
  • He was running toward something

Now not to wax too anthropomorphic, but I thought I detected in his resolute trek down the yellow line a trace of excitement. It's adventure then, I thought. I'll bet he's never been out of Water World before. This is his first chance to see the big wonderful Earth and he's making treks before the water recedes and his opportunity is gone.

But he was in the highway. The highway. Where cars and trucks and mini-vans run over and crush flat little adventurous turtles. And wouldn't you know it, at that moment, a green pick-up appeared in the distance, heading our way.

I tried to herd the fellow over to one side of the road, but when he saw big lumbering me, he instantly closed up shop, retreating head and legs into the protection of his shell.. There he sat in the middle of the highway, thinking that he was safe from harm, not realizing his shell was no match for the two-ton vehicle of steel and chrome that would soon be bearing down on him.

So I quickly ditched my bike in the shallow water on the pond side of the road and picked him up, holding that hard place beneath the shell between his front and back legs. His head shot out immediately, snapping at me, and his legs began furiously scratching at my hands. But I hung on long enough to place him in the murky waters of the edge of the swamp, where he splashed away until he reached waters deep enough to glide beneath and disappear.

You know, I think I'm like that turtle in some ways. I need a good reason to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me, because I'm way too comfortable in in my own little Water World. And when I finally do venture out of my comfort zone into the unknown, I tend to march off without a clue of my destination.

I don't know where I'm going, but I'm sure in a hurry to get there.

At the first hint of danger, I crawl into my shell, where I perceive I'm safe, without realizing there are a whole lot of things that I know nothing about in this wide, wide world that could cause me harm.

And that's why dependency on Papa God is so important. He has a much broader view than I do. I must learn to trust Him to pick me up and move me to where I need to be, even though sometimes I snap at His fingers and try to scratch my way out of His grasp, not seeing that His intervention is for my own good.

How about you? What's your motivation for marching out your comfort zone today? Are you looking for adventure, running away from something, running toward something, or maybe just sitting in the middle of the road in your shell?  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Gate Swings Both Ways

A few weeks ago, I was taking a shortcut through a subdivision I'd never entered before when something interesting caught my eye. There, in an overgrown garden at the side of an overgrown house, was a gate.

Not a fence and a gate. Not a barn gate, or a corral gate. Just a gate.

A gate that served no apparent purpose. It didn't lead to a path of any sort. It wasn't the entrance to anything observable, or the exit either. It just stood there in the middle of the yard. Calling my name.

Now I wouldn't have ever believed a simple gate could be so compelling, but as I slowed to take a better look, I could hardly contain myself. I just had to walk through that gate.

Of course the idea was silly. Why in the world would I trespass in a stranger's yard to walk through a gate to nowhere? But I'll be darned if I didn't want to. Badly.

Instead of following my irrational whim, like the law-abiding, sensible, grown-up, mature woman that I am, I pressed the gas pedal and pressed on to my appointment, for which I was already late.

I thought about that gate again this morning, and wondered what would have motivated me to want to jump out of my car, race across the lawn, swing it open and step through the threshold. Oddly enough, the moment I pictured that gate in my mind's eye, I felt my countenance lift and my heartbeat quicken. I felt ... what do you call this sensation? Excited. Yes, that's it. I felt excited.

Has it been that long since I've felt that emotion to recognize what excitement feels like?

And then suddenly I had my answer. THAT's why the gate compelled me so. It was the mystery, the fun, the adventure that the gate represented. Visions of other exciting gates in my past swirled in the periphery of my subconscious - gateways to other worlds like Narnia, visiting Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which in A Wrinkle In Time, and cavorting through old stone London gates with the Artful Dodger in Oliver.

The gate in that yard wasn't just a gate to me. It was an opening for the imagination. A place I've always loved to go, a place that always refreshed my spirit and renewed my zeal for living. A place that I just haven't had the time to visit lately with the responsibilities and drudgery of adult life.

I realize now that I need that gate. Well, maybe not that gate, but a gate. My spirit yearns to be set free in the glorious freedom and frolic of imagination symbolized by stepping through the gate.

So maybe I'll do it. Maybe I'll rig up my own gate ... in my mind. It'll look just like the gate Dorothy stepped through into the Emerald City. And maybe I'll make it a point to step through my gate now and again. Then maybe the responsibilities of adulthood won't seem like drudgery.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Heartbreaking Destiny

As I pedaled my bike down the quiet country road on my regular Sunday afternoon exercise jaunt, something I saw on the side of the road made me hit my brakes.

I hadn't noticed it in a very long time, and on this particular day, its image of stark loneliness struck me as morosely sad.

It was a mighty oak tree, several feet in diameter and as tall as a three-story building. The oak had matured in the twenty years since I first laid eyes on it, back when it was a mere impressionable teenager, and so terribly in love.

Yep. Completely, totally, in love. Smitten. And not afraid to show the world.

For the oak had sprouted right beside a young palm tree, and the two had grown together, intertwined as it seemed, for all eternity. The oak had grown around the base of the palm, so that the palm seemed to spring from its very center. And the oak had wrapped two small branches around the palm, with digit-like twigs that strongly resembled fingers extending from the ends of those winding, clinging branches, exactly like arms embracing a lover.

It was remarkable, really. You couldn't pass by without an AWWW escaping your lips and feeling a warm fuzzy feeling somewhere deep in your innards. Love was their destiny and it was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I always intended to take a picture of the tree-lovers, but I somehow never did.

And then one day, it was too late. The palm tree was gone. Severed from the arms that surrounded it with such passion. The new owners of the property must have thought the palm would eventually threaten the health of the oak, so they'd chain-sawed it away. Boy was I angry. No, more like livid. How could they be so cruel to ruthlessly separate the lovers like that?  

The poor pathetic oak stood there with its arms frozen in an empty embrace, encircling, loving, protecting ... nothing. I felt like my heart was ripped in half every time I saw it from then on, so in the passing years, I'd disciplined myself from looking in that direction.

Until this particular day. And would you believe it? After all this time, that oak tree still had it's arms locked in the same empty embrace? The hole in its center had never filled in, leaving the imprint of the long-gone palm tree as if it were still there. Loved. Protected.

I couldn't help but think of the funeral I had just attended that week. Married over three decades, *Justine and Mark had been high school sweethearts who never dated anyone but each other. They were both my classmates, and there was never any doubt that they were meant for each other. They clung to each other through the bad times and drew strength from each other during the good.

It was their destiny to be together.

Until Mark suddenly fell over with a heart attack at age 56.

Justine appeared to be in shock at the funeral. She was surrounded by her children and the brand new grand-baby that Mark had absolutely doted over. She hugged them over and over, she hugged her friends, she hugged everyone who came to offer their condolences. But I knew her embrace was empty, like the empty embrace of this mighty oak, left to live alone without its lover.

And twenty years from now, I'll bet the imprint of Justine's own palm tree will still be in her center as clearly as this brokenhearted oak tree. It's their destiny.

*Names changed for privacy.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nurturing Us to Our Bloomingest

I've never had much of a green thumb - it's more brownish black. But you wouldn't know it by looking at my yard.

That's because I've learned the fine art of harboring only plants that thrive on their own without any help from me. Survival of the fittest. Lord of the Venus Fly-traps.

One of those hearty independent souls in my yard is the hibiscus. Three years ago I planted two 8-inch high variegated-leaf hibiscus (okay you spelling fanatics, is the plural version hibisces, hibisci, or hibiscuses?) in a spot in my side flowerbed vacated by the last victim of neglect. The lovely little plants were covered with beautiful red-orange blossoms sticking out long orange tongues bejeweled with tiny yellow sparkles.

Yep. Three years ago I planted them, and three years ago was the last time I saw them bloom.

That's not to say they haven't grown - not at all. One look at the 7-feet-tall lush plants would make you believe they're actually thriving. I notice my neighbors fertilize theirs several times a year and the crazy things bloom constantly all the way through the summer. They also prune their hibiscus back to short bare stalks each winter, but I've never bothered with all that. And mine just keep getting bigger and bigger, so they must be doing okay, right?

But they never bloom.

I don't get it. Isn't that what flowers are supposed to do?

And then yesterday I walked outside after a rainstorm to find my jumbo hibiscus plants lying flat on the ground. Apparently they'd grown so tall, their long lanky stems couldn't withstand the additional weight of rain collecting on their leaves and they finally gave way beneath the strain.

Oh. Could that be why my neighbors cut theirs back?

As I stood there shaking my head at their pitiful plight, the thought occurred to me that people are a lot like those hibiscus. We may grow and look like we're doing fine, but if not given enough fertilizer, we may never bloom. And if we're not pruned and cared for properly, we'll collapse beneath the weight of storms we simply can't endure.

Thankfully, Papa God is a MUCH better gardener than I am and He knows how to nurture us to our bloomingest.

On a happy note, we were able to save the spunky little fellas. Spouse chopped them in half and within a day, they were standing erect again, looking mighty happy to be there. And I thought I heard the littlest hibiscus stalk whisper, "Please, sir, may I have some gruel?" I think he meant fertilizer.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Exciting Announcement PLUS New Contest!

Congrats again to the 10 sweet gals who won free copies of my Too Blessed to be Stressed 2014 Planner! (Scroll back to find the names of the winners.) And kudos to Pam from Florida, the grand prize champ, who also scored the entire 3-book Take On Life series.

Okay, now for more good news!

I'm still in shock and trying to process the incredible news I received earlier this week: The Too Blessed to be Stressed Planner has sold 6,000 copies in the 6 weeks it's been available in bookstores and online.

Can you BELIEVE it? What an enormous YAY GOD!

Many, many thanks to all of you sweeties who made that happen by picking up a Planner for yourself and a friend. If you haven't yet, it's not too late - you can help me reach my goal of 10k by Christmas! (Just Google Too Blessed to be Stressed 2014 Planner if you're ordering online.)

That's my good news; now for YOUR good news!

To celebrate hitting 6k in 6 weeks, I'm going to give away 6 more Planners! 

To enter this new drawing, just subscribe to my blog if you haven't already, and invite a friend to subscribe too during this upcoming week (Aug 20 -27). Then shoot me an e-mail at giving me the names of you and your friend as my new best blog buddies.

If you're one of the three names drawn out of the hat and announced on August 28, you AND your friend will receive a brand new autographed Too Blessed to be Stressed 2014 Planner absolutely free. Plus, in honor of my last book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate, I'll send you both a sample of my new favorite chocolate - the absolutely smoothest, creamiest, richest chocolate you've ever wrapped your tongue around!

I hope to hear from you soon!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waxing Eloquent

"What did you say?" I couldn't quite make out Spouse's words. My ears had been clogged since I'd taken a dozen or so laps underwater at the pool on our vacation a few days before.

"I think we should try candling your ears." Spouse exaggerated the words as if speaking to a deaf person.

"Candling my ears? What you smokin, mon?"

But he was serious. My well meaning, health-food-nut husband who loves to buck the traditional system was always open to trying alternative methods. If you want proof, just re-read the "Shoving the Envelope" chapter in my book, Too Blessed to be Stressed, when he Hiroshima'ed our home by juicing a bushel of garlic.

So for lack of any better ideas, I allowed him to pull out the 8-inch "candles" he had purchased years before, stick them in my ears, and light 'em up.

Before you think we've altogether lost our minds, let me inform you that candling is actually an ancient practice that is supposed to remove excessive ear wax. No kidding. Somebody a long, long time ago came up with the idea of creating "candles" of fabric impregnated with beeswax that when lit on the ends, supposedly create a vacuum that serves to soften and disintegrates errant ear wax clogging the ear canal.

Spouse even pulled up a couple of video clips of pleasant looking Asian people lighting fires on these things in each others ears, while smiling and saying things to the camera like, "Don't move head while candle lit or you burn hair off head."

Although my heart did skip a beat or two at this last admonition, I trust Spouse (most of the time) and was more than over not being able to hear the smoke alarm go off when dinner was ready. So a' candling we go.

Unfortunately, it didn't work. After 20 minutes of blowing warm crackling smoke into each ear, I could hear no better. In fact, it actually got worse. I think the candle heat must have melted the ear wax into into a solid cork.

So after a sleepless night, the next morning found me in line at the local Walk-In clinic. When the 15-year-old doctor finally made an appearance (I swear the kid had never shaved), he peered into my ears with his magnifying thingie and remarked. "Yep, it looks like ear wax all right. But there's a strange round black spot on the ear canal wall that I've never seen anything like before."

I figured Doogie Houser had probably never seen anything like it before because he just got out of med school last week. "It's most likely singed hair follicles from candle smoke," I replied cheerily.

His little freckled face looked confused.

"Candles," I explained. "You know, candling. You put candles in your ears to remove the ear wax. Only it didn't work."

"W-W-WHAT?" Doogie sputtered in disbelief. Something akin to horror played across his young innocent features. I could tell he was picturing me with lit birthday candles sticking out of both sides of my head. "You put candles in your EARS??"

So I tried to explain the legitimacy of the whole thing, but he couldn't stop shaking his head and muttering something that sounded like, "inconceivable." I wanted to tell him that that I saw that movie too and, "I don't think it means what you think it means" in a Spanish accent, but he seemed to be in a big hurry to exit the room.

Shortly afterwards I heard, through the closed door, a chorus of "What?" from the rest of the medical staff in the hall. Then a 12-year-old MA came in with an awesome little pressure washer gizmo and blasted those ear wax corks right out of there. I asked if I could borrow it to use on my driveway, but she didn't bite.

So goes another episode in the Coty stump-the-medical-profession game. You thought I couldn't top the doctor fainting dead away on the floor during my colonoscopy, didn't you?  (Scroll back for that post.)

Life is such an adventure. Can't wait to see what's next!  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Offbeat Phobias

As a follow-up to my recent series of posts related to my new book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of
Chocolate,  I ran across these real fears that people have on the bizarre end of the spectrum.

At first glance, we may think they're too weird to be taken seriously, but seriously, folks, people all around us have all kinds of crazy fears looming over their heads. Fears as real and threatening to them as the little pooch in the picture. (Do I hear a collective AWWW here?)

So the next time you think anxiety is whipping your behunkus, think about those poor souls limping through life struggling with:

Pentheraphobia: Fear of your mother-in-law. Yikes! NOT a recipe for a long and happy marriage.

Arachibutyrophia: Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. Symptoms include excessive sweating, itching, and even convulsions when peanut butter is nearby.

Cathisophobia: Fear of sitting. Not just for hemorrhoid sufferers, this disorder is sometimes rooted in excessive childhood punishment, or the unfortunate event of sitting on sharp or painful objects one too many times.

Novercaphobia: Fear of your stepmother. This one was likely founded by a little Cinder girl with an affinity for glass footwear.

Deipnophobia: Fear of dinner conversation. I would imagine this disorder runs rampant in people who firmly believe that you don't look stupid until you open your mouth and prove it.

Blogophobia: Fear of blogging. Okay. I made this one up, but I think I might be coining the phrase very soon.

What's your most obscure fear?

*Special shout out to Jamie Frater, founder of  for his input on offbeat phobias.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Contest Winners!!!

Yoo Hoo Girlfriends!

I just couldn't wait another minute to post the winners of a Too Blessed to be Stressed 2014 Planner, and the grand prize winner who not only wins one of these adorable planners, but also my 3-book "Take On Life" series, which includes:

Too Blessed to be Stressed
More Beauty, Less Beast
Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate!

If you find your name on this list (Spouse drew the names, so if you're not on here, blame him!), please e-mail me ( your mailing address so I can send your prize!

If I don't hear from you by Saturday, Aug 17, I'll have to choose someone else to take your prize, so don't delay!

Thank you - ALL of you - for entering! I wish I could send every single BFF (Blessed Friend Forever) who entered a prize. Hey, maybe I can! Stay tuned for more contests coming up this fall.

Okay, here goes ... and CONGRATS everyone!

Lori Drake
Phyllis McKinley
Cindy Morrow
Lisa Gingerich
Abi Buening
Bethany Lancaster
Ruth Babel
Michelle Stroup
Candy Gesemyer

And the grand prize winner: (DRUMROLL RRRRRRRRRR): Pam Edmonds

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Life After Financial Death

Ever feel shackled by debts? Spouse and I do!
Be sure to scroll back through my previous post about the same subject before you proceed. 

Okay, here are some tried-and-true tools, gleaned from different people who've been there/done that, to help you grow trust in Papa God on your journey through the valley of the shadow of financial death:

  • Don’t give up hope. He will continue to be faithful to us no matter what. “If we are not faithful, he will still be faithful. Christ cannot deny who he is” (2 Tim. 2:13, CEV). 
  • Separate your needs from your wants. Sometimes we get confused and pray for a Mercedes when what we really need is a bicycle. But Yahweh, Master of all things great and small, knows the difference. “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need” (Phil 4:19, MSG). 
  • Sweeten your bitter words. You might have to eat them one day. Don’t dwell on the unfairness of your poverty. Be careful what you say; be careful what you think. “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right” (Phil. 4:8, NLT). 
  • Keep communication lines open. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17, NASB). Talk to your heavenly Father – even cry out your frustrations. Then dry your tears and thank Him for the blessings you do have. If you need a little perspective on your blessings, visit a surgical ward. Or a homeless shelter. Or a battered woman’s center. 
  • Remember what God has done for you. He gave you the ultimate sacrifice: His Son on a cross. Salvation. Eternal life. Quote John 3:16 to refresh your recall. 
  • Keep serving others. Even if you feel that you’re the one needing service. “God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown you r love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do” (Heb 6:10, NLT). Give of yourself to the poor or needy even when you think you don’t have anything to give. The best blessing you can give someone is your time. Use your downtime to bless someone. 
  • Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Do the things you know you need to do to honor your Savior, even if you don’t feel like it. “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you” (Prov. 4:25, NLT). Go to church, hang out with believers, study your Bible, listen to Christian music … because feeding our faith starves our fears.
 Hey, I know all too well that ominous dread that seizes your heart when official-looking men with clipboards appear at your door. Or when your electricity is turned off. Or when you run out of answers when your kids don’t understand why they can’t go places and do the same things their friends do. And you’re bone tired. And more discouraged than you’ve ever been in your life.

I really do know. I’ve been there. And I want to offer you hope. There is life after financial death. Cling to hope, dear one, because fear is devoid of hope and hope is devoid of fear. And as Lazarus discovered, hope is what Papa God does best.

More about defeating fear in my new book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate (Barbour Books). Excerpts, reviews, and more at

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Passing Through the Valley

It's no secret that we live in volatile economic times. Many people have lost their jobs, their livelihoods, and their financial security. 

Deep financial scars create deep fears. Retirement, which once promised peace, now threatens distress.

Did you know that finances are important to Papa God? There are more than 2000 Bible verses about money and possessions.

When talking about money and what it buys, we must first recognize that what little – or much – we own isn’t really ours in the fist place. We’re just caretakers. “The earth and everything in it belong to the Lord” (Psalm 24:1, CEV).

So although the bank account, trust fund, or mortgage might display our name, we’re not the real owner. Papa God is.

Our perspective, then, will stay focused on honoring the Lord with His possessions, the resources that He give us the responsibility – and privilege – to manage. That means not looking at our belongings as mine, mine, mine. And not clutching our possessions to our chests in fear of parting with one single molecule.

Why are we so afraid of losing what we have? I believe it’s because deep down inside, we don’t believe the Lord is actually in control, and if we don’t defend what’s ours, no one will.

But we want to develop trust. We want to believe that Papa God is somehow still in control. We desire more than anything to be a Lazarus and experience life after financial death. 

Stay tuned for my next post on how to rise from the financial grave. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Do They Make Prune Smoothies?

I hope I'm a hot Mimi boogie maniac when I grow up
I have a theory. Well, I actually have many theories (I call them Coty Near-Facts of Science and sprinkle them throughout my books), but one in particular about aging. 

I call it the Increasing Gravity Phenomenon. The IGP postulates that the earth's magnetic pull is increasing every year. Yep - the magnetic core of the earth is sucking everything loose toward it more and more. 

Like one of those vacuum tubes at the dentist’s office that, when you close our lips around it, pops your eyeballs out of their sockets and would suck down your tongue if it wasn’t attached back there by your hangy-ball.

I’m a zealous believer in the Increasing Gravity Phenomenon. The evidence is right there on the back of my arms and dangling off my chin. 

Speaking of loose neck skin, if you ask me, the reason so many of us mature, sweetly ripened women develop kyphosis (hunchback) is because we’re subconsciously trying to hide the majority of our chins by rounding our shoulders and protruding our heads forward.

I call it the chicken-neck maneuver. Works pretty well for jowls and wattles too.

So if you’re one of us who are facing the IGP black hole, take heart! You’re in good company. You won’t be the only one concussed by the Dumbo flap on the backs of your arm as you reach for your prune smoothie.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Skin is a Funny Thing

Aging is a peculiar thing. Just when you begin to grow into your skin, it outgrows you. And the extra has nowhere to go except to hang there all crinkled up like a discarded Twinkie wrapper.

In a research poll for my book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate, one-fifth of all women surveyed ranked fear of aging among their top three fears. Although this particular fear was most prevalent in the 60+ age category (the #2 greatest fear, in fact), gals from 18 -59 admitted that getting older worries them too.

And rightly so. As we near menopause, the evacuation of estrogen makes our upper faces respond with receding hair on our scalps and eyes, but our lower faces get even by sprouting dapper little Clark Gable mustaches and random six-inch chin hairs.

Those crazy hormones can also increase our appetite for chocolate, which may in turn cause our derriere rumpage to quadruple, making many of us feel that we are defined by our behinds. We find ourselves battling symptoms of CDD (Chocolate Deficit Disorder), which include stashing Tootsie Rolls in potted plants and hiding M&M’s in our ibuprofen bottles.

This newly-minted subterfuge may result is what I call the Obstinate Orca Propagation Site, or OOPS for short. This Coty near-fact of science involves those humpback whales that suddenly grow on the outside of your upper thighs right where they attach to your hips. 

One morning you wake up and OOPS, there they are. Beached orcas, refusing to return to the open sea.

My obstinate orcas are named Shamu and Shazam. It’s good to be on a first-name basis with your appendages if you’re going to do life together. 

I feed them Ferrero Rocher instead of plankton.

What do you feed yours?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Beauty IS the Beast

Ancient beauty in an English castle
The other day while I was riding my bike through our subdivision, I saw a very attractive teenager walking up her driveway. At least I thought that's what I saw.

And then she turned around.

It wasn't a teenager, or even a twenty-ager. The strikingly beautiful woman with long shiny blond hair, stylish size 4 skinny jeans and awesome boots, was 50. I know this because I met her and her young daughter ten years ago.

Ah, her daughter. That's another story. Keri, as I'll call her, was chubby, nondescript, and shy from the day she was born. Now nearing twenty, she's still, well, chubby, nondescript, and shy.

How must it feel to grow up with a drop-dead gorgeous mother? I thought, pedaling my bicycle. Usually it's the other way around - we moms fade into the background as our lovely daughters come into full bloom. That's hard enough. But to be the plain-Jane daughter of someone who turns heads wherever she goes?

Gotta be rough.

But don't we all live on some sort of comparison hamster wheel? There's always someone prettier around to compare ourselves to and make us feel that we just don't measure up. A sister ... cousin ... neighbor ... co-worker. And it's rough.

Then I remembered something from my book, More Beauty, Less Beast. It was in the chapter called, "Not Just Plain Vanilla," about the tendency we women have to focus on the external rather than the internal to feel more beautiful. It can become an obsession if we're not careful.

"The real issue is our dependency upon augmentation of our God-given appearance for acceptance and self-esteem, whether through makeup, surgical alterations, or high fashion. How dependent are we on external fixes to feel that we fit in? Are accepted? Are attractive?

Papa God created us, each and every one a masterpiece - in our natural state, rough-hewn and raw. And He loves us lavishly, just that way.

Not one of us is plain vanilla! Our flavor comes through the creative passion of our Master Designer, not how we decorate ourselves."

I hope sweet, dear Keri realizes she can be mocha mint chocolate chip if she wants to be. Because her unique flavor comes from the inside out.

So what flavor are you?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How To Dissolve a Worrywart (Part 2)

Be sure to scroll back to Part 1 before continuing with Part 2.

Check out these simple-to-implement solutions for dissolving worrywarts:

  1. Postpone worry. Set aside 15 minutes a day as your Designated Worry Time (DWT). Then, whenever a niggling fret tries to worm into your brain during the day or night, jot it down. Then forget about it until your DWT.
  2. Morph worry into prayer. Fretting is not productive. Prayer is. Prayer is the nerve that innervates the hand of God. When you do get to your DWT, turn each problem into a prayer request and turn it over to the One who can actually do something about it.
  3. Become a busybody. When you realize you’re beginning to worry about something, redirect your thoughts by giving your brain – and body – something else to do. Action defuses anxiety. Get your hands busy and your mind will follow.
  4. Go to your happy place. Another gem for worry-redirection, especially late at night when your whirling mind won’t let you relax. Imagine that you’re in the special place that brings you calmness and happiness … maybe the warm surf of a favorite beach, or a lovely mountain trail. Ahh. Feel the anxiety melt away.
  5. Rest in the Word. Another great worry-buster for restless nights when you’re more uptight than a twisted thong. Reflecting on a favorite scripture brings peace to your soul. Say it aloud then let it roll through your mind over and over until you can think of nothing else.
  6. Perform emotional triage. Sort your nagging concerns into two piles: those with outcomes over which you have no control, and those that are potentially solvable. Give the first pile to the Lord, turn your back on it, and focus on the solvable problems. Once you come up with an action plan and begin seeing results, your worry will diminish.   
You know, worry is the result of putting our faith in the wrong place – in ourselves (instead of Papa God) to figure it all out, maintain control, and provide protection from what might harm us.

We don’t have to be worrywarts. Our loving Father really will take care of us if we just let go of our worries and trust Him. Things may not always turn out the way we want, but they’ll always turn out the way He wants.

“Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done,” Phil. 4:6 (NLT). 

*More about defeating fear in my new book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate (Barbour Books). Excerpts, reviews, and purchase info at

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How To Dissolve a Worrywart (Part 1)

Have you ever been secretly scared that if you stop worrying, the very thing you’re afraid might happen most definitely will?  

That somehow the energy generated from your fretting is the force field keeping the dreaded outcome at bay, and if you lower the force field for even one minute … Blam.  Annihilation. Devastation. 

The end of the world as you know it.

If you’re like me and the majority of folks, I’ll bet you’re picking up exactly what I’m putting down right now.

Yep, worry makes the average woman's world go round. We have watched our mothers and grandmothers worry themselves into a tizzy, and we’ve learned to do the very same. Fretting and stewing and fussing seem perfectly normal because we’re so used to it. We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we’re doing the responsible thing by agonizing over our dilemmas. 

And the scariest thing is that we're passing this legacy of lunacy right on along to our children. When will the cycle ever be broken if we don't do something about it? 

Worry is a type of fear that loves to masquerade as responsibility. By dwelling on our troubles, we think we’ll somehow become enlightened with magical answers that will change inevitable outcomes.

Is there any other way to intimately care about our family and friends besides obsessing over their problems? 

Well, actually there is. “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done,” Phil. 4:6 (NLT).

Stay tuned for Part 2 for some simple-to-implement solutions for dissolving worrywarts.

*Adapted from Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate (Barbour Books). 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Listen to the Birdies Teach

This morning on my prayer walk, I happened upon a pair of cardinals on the ground at a neighbors house, apparently shopping for a nice grass seed breakfast.

They were so busy pecking here and there, they didn't notice me or my nosy dog approach. But Fenway sure saw them.

He began straining at his leash for enough leeway to get up close and personal with the new couple on the block, but I held him back so I could study them a spell.

The little mister, in his gorgeous flaming crimson suit, became aware of us first. He skittered a bit closer to the female, in her much more subdued red plumage (like a faded housecoat), who was preoccupied with her shopping list. When she still didn't look up as he hopped about in a distressed little "Hey, Edna, pay attention, will ya?" circle, he just up and flew away.

At first glance it looked like the cowardly thing to do. Desert your woman at the first hint of trouble. Don't hang around to help, just go do your own thing. Humph. I was totally indignant on her behalf. She just kept on pecking away at her chores, oblivious to the potential danger not ten feet away.

I found myself channeling to my little feathered sister, "You deserve better than him, honey. Good riddance. What a jerk!" when the twit suddenly chirped a piercing chirp from a nearby branch so loud it made Fenway and me both jump.

The lady bird immediately looked upward to where her fella sat perched high above the fray and flew directly to his side. I can only surmise he had squawked something along the lines of "Edna, get your tail feathers up here RIGHT NOW!" He then gently tapped her beak with his (could that have been a kiss peck?) and together, they gazed down at Fenway and me, both gawking up at them.

Oh. Apparently I was mistaken. He wasn't leaving her. He was leading her. The same way Spouse sometimes leads me when I won't listen the first time he makes a suggestion. The way Papa God sometimes leads me when I'm too busy to hear His voice.

Oh. Maybe I should try a little harder to pay attention in the first place to those who love me and are trying to look out for my best interest, instead of staying immersed in my must-do list.