Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Contest Winners!!!


A BIG hug to everyone who entered; thank you for sharing your favorite promises from Papa God with me - I was truly blessed. I wish I could send each and every one of you a book. But since I can't ...

I'm hereby announcing the drawing winners of a free copy of my brand new Too Blessed to be Stressed Promise Book - you're gonna love the tremendous wealth of scriptures related to subjects from my book, Too Blessed to be Stressed, like:

Coping with Loss
Dealing with Difficult People
Finding Everyday Balance
Developing Greater Trust
Living Gratefully
Finding Peace

So without further ado, I present the seven winners (I know I originally said six, but seven seemed like a more biblical number) and their favorite promises from the Bible (some of the translations might be different):

  • Phyllis - Hebrews 4:9: "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God."
  • Marian - Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
  • Kerry - Joshua 1:5: "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
  • Jan - Zephaniah 3: 17: "The Lord you God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
  •  Pamela - Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" 
  • Veronica - John 3:16: " For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." 
  • Donna - John 14:1-4: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

Congrats to each of you!

If you see your name and scripture on the list above, please e-mail me your mailing address privately at and I'll get your autographed book in the mail. For those who didn't win this time, please keep trying in the next contest (scroll below to see which Blessed baby will come out next), and in the meantime, order yourself and that special woman in your life a Promise Book from

Coming Attractions: The next Too Blessed to be Stressed offspring will be:

Too Blessed to be Stressed 2015 Planner (due in July)
Too Blessed to be Stressed Journal (due in September)

Stay tuned for more chances to win free books (and planners and journals)!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Night That The Lights Went Out in Barcelona

View of Barcelona from the top of the arena
It was the first night of our Mediterranean cruise. Well, actually the cruise wouldn't start until the following day; we'd arrived in Barcelona a day early with our friends Bob and Sandi, who were, like us, celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. (We've been friends since college and intentionally scheduled our weddings two weeks apart so we could attend each of them.)

It had been a long but glorious day traipsing the streets of the old-made-over-as-new-as-possible bustling port city after checking into our modern high rise hotel in the heart of the place.

Deb in Barcelona
Building architecture varied wildly, from ancient to modern, often times standing side by side. One of my favorites was the Hemingway-esque bull fighting arena remodeled into a unique shopping mall. It was pretty incredible. Once a place celebrating death for sport, it now is the epitome of urban 21st century life, filled with trendy restaurants, upscale boutiques, a movie theater, and quaint little ice cream shoppes.

Although the arena retained its original round shape and traditional red brick edifice, the inside had been completely transformed into six stories of ultra modern shiny chrome and glass for your shopping pleasure. One tremendously long escalator transported you from the bottom seemingly into the sky, depositing you on the roof of the arena to enjoy the gorgeous panoramic view above.   

Bull fighting arena turned shopping mall
Poor Chuck, never a shopping enthusiast, in the spirit of tourista conceded to dutifully follow me from floor to floor as I explored every nook and cranny. I bought a pair of earrings with a Spanish flair to remind me of our wonderful day.

After meeting up with Bob and Sandi to dine in an outdoor cafe Paris-style, we returned to our hotel and retired around 8 try and remedy a little of the jet lag that was now nipping at our heels.

Bob and Sandi's room was next to ours on the 16th floor so Chuck and I bid them good-night and began unpacking. I settled down to a book in bed while Chuck fiddled with his computer at the desk as an hour passed uneventfully.

Suddenly, accompanied by a sound like a trunk falling on concrete, the lights went out. Not just in our room, but across the entire floor of the hotel. It was black dark, and soundless, at least at first. Like we'd fallen into a hole into the center of the earth. Totally eerie, let me tell you.

Then in the silent tarry darkness of the room, I hear a faint "Uh oh" from my fella. It had a guilty ring to it.

"Chuck, what exactly do you mean by 'uh oh'?"
"Um ... I think maybe I did that."
"You did what?"
Pregnant silent pause here. 
"Blew the electricity when I plugged in a charger that didn't want to fit."

Yikes. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. American electrical gizmos are apparently not compatible with Spanish electrical sockets.

By that time we could hear people stirring outside our room, roaming the dark halls in various stages of undress, bumping into handrails and each other, some speaking anxiously in foreign languages, others in heavily accented English, asking, "What happened?" "Is your power off?" "What kind of hotel is this?"

With friends like these ...
Within minutes, Bob and Sandi knocked on our door, confused and discombobulated as the rest of them. Chuck quickly ushered them in and secured the door behind them like he was James Bond hiding allies from Russian spies. Sandi had been sitting on the bathroom counter soaking her aching feet in the sink when darkness abruptly descended so she was still barefoot in her nightgown.

As soon as they heard what happened, Bob burst into uncontrollable belly laughter and Sandi burst into song - a tweaked rendition of a popular song from our youth, "That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia; that's the night that they hung an innocent man ..."

Well, Chuck did fess up to his crime when the authorities showed up to try and restore order. And power. He received a polite but firm rebuke from the electrician who kindly brought him the proper adapter so that it wouldn't happen again.

And for the rest of the trip we got serenaded with that infernal song by our friends who will never let us forget.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sitting Geese

While traveling to a wedding in Alabama last weekend, Chuck and I stayed at a motel in a newly developed area on the fading border between urban and rural.

Next to our motel was a gigantic big box-like store that I'd never seen before: Gander Mtn, known as your firearms superstore.


Now I am not a hunter; I'm a weeping heart who would rather not think about where my steak comes from. Illogical as it may be, I refuse to acknowledge that my bacon once had legs. I cannot fathom raising my own fried chickens (although my granny in north Georgia certainly did and used to entertain us grandkids with stories of wringing the necks of her hens she'd raised from egghood when meat was sparse in winter and Sunday dinner rolled around with a mess of hungry mouths to feed).

When we pulled in to the motel, I was a bit nauseated by the huge guns-r-us store with its goose-in-midflight logo. Poor little wild geese, I thought. At least they can fly away - gives them a fighting chance.

Then to my horror, I saw them. Two pairs of long necked geese hanging out right there at the very place intended to be their demise. A newly equipped hunter would practically trip over them as he exited the doors loaded down with his brand new ammo.

Sitting ducks. Er, geese.

What's wrong with you? Get away from here. Far, far away! There're ponds everywhere safer than this. Here is where you die.  

But not only did they hang out in the field by the store all day, the next morning as I took my 6 a.m. prayer walk, they casually strolled right into the get-your-killer-gear-here parking lot like they were greeting customers or something.

I couldn't believe it. What was wrong with these dense birds? They have everywhere in the world to choose from and they park themselves smack dab in the middle of harm's way.

So like the fix-it gal that I am, I ran at them, arms flailing, yelling, "Shoo! Leave while you can! You don't know it, but staying here will be the end of you!"

Did they listen to reason? No. Like a synchronized swim team, they stretched their wings wide and raised their long necks tall and honked and squawked at me like I was the one out to harm them. They were ready to defend their poor choice to the death. One of the riled up ganders rushed back at me and chased me halfway back to the motel. (Angry geese are a scary thing, let me tell you!)

I even dreamed about those dadgum geese last night. In my dream, I tried and tried to make them see the folly of their choice and fly away. But I never could. All they did was attack me and entrench themselves deeper into defending their territory, which wasn't really theirs at all.

It was their enemy's territory. They just couldn't see it.

And when I awoke, fitful and frustrated, I knew Papa God was making a statement through my dream. I've spent the morning considering which areas of my life I'm a sitting goose. I've identified several and I'm still counting.

How about you? Are there any sitting goose places in your life?

Places you don't perceive as dangerous so you stake claim in enemy territory. You park yourself smack dab in the middle of harm's way as Satan raises his shotgun and takes aim at your heart.

And when people who see the bigger picture try to shoo you away, to warn you that staying there will be the end of you, you're ready to defend your poor choice to the death. You ruffle up your feathers and honk and attack right back at them until they leave you alone.

Alone to slide back down the slippery slope of that customized sin you thought you were strong enough to withstand. Alone to face the consequences of your poor choices. Alone in your regret.

Okay, so we're all sitting geese at one time or another. Such is sinful human nature. That's the bad news. The good news is that we can fly away to a better, safer place. We just have to choose to do so. And Papa God's got the perfect pond in mind for each of us.

C'mon. Spread 'em. Flap 'em. Let's go. 



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Taking a Swig from the Dipper

A Dipper Full of Blessings
I was awakened by a nightmare shortly before 4 o'clock this morning.

With heart racing and sweat gluing me to my sheets, I tried for nearly an hour to dissipate the dark cloud of fear that enveloped my mind and spirit.

The nightmare wasn't real, I told myself. Get over it. Think about daisies and bunnies and summer mountain meadows. Okay, no problem. For about two minutes. And then back into the pit of anxiety I'd slide. I just couldn't shake it.

When I couldn't reason myself out of dismality (if that's not a real word, it should be), I finally slugged out of bed, hooked the leash to the poor dog who was listing to the starboard in a sleepy stupor, and went for a walk. You know - change of scenery, change of mood. 

I actually like walking at 5 a.m. My neighborhood is deafeningly quiet. Even the birds aren't up yet. The only humanity I encounter is the newspaper lady zipping by on her route. Some might think the stillness eery but I find it sublimely serene. The kind of deep serenity you can't find the rest of the day.

So there I was walking along dragging the catatonic dog through all this soundless, motionless, nothingness, still encased in my portable tomb of post-nightmare gloom, when I happened to look up. There, in the inky blackness of the sky, was the Big Dipper, standing out from its peers like the Pentatonix in the 2013 Sing-Off. No comparison. A class by itself. A star is born (pun intended).

Now, I've seen plenty of Big Dippers in my day, but this one was different. It was not only brighter than usual, it was tilted so that the dipper appeared to be pouring out its contents. And guess what was located just below the flow. 

None other than my humble home.

Seriously. From my angle, you could draw a straight line directly down to my roof. 

Hmm. I think Papa God is trying to tell me something. My wisdom is a little slow kicking in before daybreak. 

The words of a precious old hymn we used to sing in church when I was a child wormed its way into my consciousness.

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God hath done.
("Count Your Blessings" by Johnson Oatman, Jr and Edwin O. Excell)

Then I knew. Those were blessings Papa God was pouring out on my home. Sure enough. Blessings, lots of them.  Spouse and I are well. We have jobs. We have enough food to eat. We have a beautiful grandbuddy we get to see every day. We have a dog (for whom I was frantically digging a plastic baggie out of my pocket for the surprise package he was now leaving on the neighbor's lawn).

And just like that, the gloom lifted. I really did feel blessed. Too blessed to be stressed (hey, someone should make that a book title!).

Now I'll be singing that song worm all day, but it's a wonderfully blessed worm that's really a caterpillar already beginning to morph into a butterfly of joy.

"He awakens me morning by morning. He awakens my ear to hear as a disciple" (Isaiah 50:4-5, NASB). 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Generating Mercy

Last week in tennis, I was paired as a doubles partner in a USTA match with a gal who was playing for the first time in four months because of a neck injury. She could barely turn her head, so you can imagine how impaired her court movement was, not to mention how much her timing was off from not playing for so long.

I wasn't surprised that we lost, but how we lost was an eye-opener.

Once our opponents realized that my partner wasn't up to par, they intentionally picked on her, relentlessly pounding the ball just out of her reach so that she was forced to repeatedly dive to her bad side, putting herself at risk of re-injury.

Now I know this level of competition is fierce and many women are out for blood ... to win at all costs. But I was taken aback at this blatant display of what all of life would be like without compassion.

Without mercy.

In contrast, the next day I watched my 2-year-old grandbuddy Blaine wrestling on the floor with his 200-lb daddy. When Blaine was gently manipulated into a pinned position he couldn't break with his own limited strength, he cried, "Mercy! Mercy!" and his daddy released all pressure and helped him up. The two laughed together and then had at it all over again. 

Blaine willingly entered into the struggle knowing that if he got into trouble and asked for mercy, he would receive it. Because love was present.

What a difference it makes in our behavior ... our relationships ... our courage ... when love is present. 

According to Webster, mercy is, "Compassion shown to an offender." In other words, not giving someone what they deserve. And why would anyone not pay back what is due to a guilty person? To someone who has hurt you? Tread over you? Disrespected you? Humiliated you?

Only one thing comes to mind: love. The underlying reason why all Christ-followers should treat others with respect, courtesy, and yes, mercy. We receive love from Papa God. We, in turn, must choose to extend it to others.

To everyone, yes, but especially the guilty. The ones who don't deserve it.

So this is my weekly lesson from Papa God. I am determined to do better. To be more merciful to my offenders - the lady who threw the barely veiled insult at me, that perpetually cranky neighbor who gets under my skin, the man who ignored the stop sign and came within an inch of crunching my car.

Because even if they're not yelling "Mercy! Mercy!"on the outside, if I listen hard enough with my spiritual ears, I can hear the cry from a deeper place when Papa God's love is present.