“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

A Strong Redeemer

I hate to admit how often I feel frustrated and even hopeless when my life isn't rosy. I grumble and complain. I wonder if I will ever get out of my current funk. I have myself a full-blown pity party, and invite everyone I know to join the celebration.

I forget, in a word, that I'm God's, and that He is fully able to pull me through, and even get me out of, my situation, whatever it may be. Despite the countless times He has done it in the past, I think that this time, He's just gonna let me suffer, or that He's (gasp!) not strong enough to get me out of whatever my issue is (whether major or minor). Well, I may not say it - but my actions certainly make it look like I believe it.

I was having struggles with this just yesterday, as related to at least three different issues--all incredibly minor. So, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when my daily Bible reading found me lingering on a couple of verses in Jeremiah that I'm certain were not there the last time I read that book.

This is what the LORD Almighty says:
"The people of Israel are oppressed,
and the people of Judah as well.
All their captors hold them fast,
refusing to let them go.

Yet their Redeemer is strong;
the LORD Almighty is his name.
He will vigorously defend their cause
so that he may bring rest to their land,
but unrest to those who live in Babylon.
Jeremiah 50:33-34 NIV

A paper jam, potty training struggles, and writer's block are nothing compared to what the people of Israel were going through during the time of this writing. Babylon had just taken Judah captive and had removed them from their beloved land. Note - "all their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go." Now here, it seems, was a time to be hopeless, to whine and wallow in self-pity.

But that's not what happens. In this time of hopelessness, "their Redeemer is strong." What other hope do they need?

You know, their Redeemer hasn't changed. He is never too weak to handle what I am going through--and He always will. So leave the whine in the cellar, and cancel that pity party.

Your Redeemer is strong.

Brilliant? Moi??

She likes me! She really, really likes me!

My dear, amazing, sweet, encouraging, incredible Christian writer of a friend/sister in Christ Patty at Patterings seemed to have made it her mission to put a smile on my face and bless me to pieces today. I am blessed, humbled and honored to have my blog selected for this cool (and sparkly..I LIKE sparkly!) award.

Of course, this means SHE was given the award as well, and she, in a word, DESERVED it. If you are unfamiliar with Patterings, run - don't walk - and check out her amazing posts, which teach incredible lessons from her everyday (amazingly complex!) life better than just about anyone I know. Plus--she is the host of Friday Fiction - so awesome! In other words, if I could just give it right back to her, I would (LOL and maybe even leave it at that!).

But, I'm fairly certain that's not kosher. Besides, I am certainly aware of other blogs even more deserving of this award than I am, and I can't let them sit there without getting this recognition from me (LOL even if they've perhaps received it from others already). So, without further ado (and that was an AWFUL lot of "ado," wasn't it?), I prayerfully and humbly pass on this award to the incredible blogs listed below:

LauraLee's LifeSong never ceases to bless me, prick my heart, make me laugh, or point me to the Author of Life - and often all in the same post! Her beautiful, giving, loving heart shows through in everything she posts and does. Her blog, to me, defines "brilliant."

Karen at Along The Way is another blogger who has wonderful insights and thought-provoking ideas to share. She has a busy life and doesn't blog as much as some of us "addicts," but whenever God gives her the time, I definitely run over there to get fed with her perspective as fast as my connection will allow me.

Laury at In My Daddy's Arms has the tenacity of I don't know what. Despite being on vacation and/or without internet for two or three weeks during this past month, she has managed to blog EVERY SINGLE day this month thusfar (LOL and there's only one day to go!) for NaBloPoMo. And her posts are always so honest and blessing-filled and wonderful - just like her heart.

Sara at Fiction Fusion is an amazing, AMAZING writer (especially considering she's half my age--and I ain't no senior citizen!) whose depth of skill and gift for suspense is eclipsed only by her love for God and delightful personality. Mark my word--this BRILLIANT girl is going far!

My last award goes to a bright and shiny (like the sun :D) blogger who chooses to remain anonymous (yeah - I'm being good! no links). I am always blessed when I read about the goings-on in her lovely home and heart, especially when her "house guest" commandeers the computer and gives his view of the situation. There is always a blessing, and a laugh, whenever I stop by. (Oh, and by the way, anonymous, I hereby grant you the permission NOT to pay this forward)

Thank you, Patty, for this honor. Thank you, "winners," for blessing me each time I read your blogs. And thank You, Lord, for everything. You're the Brilliant One.

Mama Love Plus

I didn't sleep so well last night.

You see, I had a lot on my mind. My boy Andrew, who's seven, is away at an overnight Christian camp. This is the first time he has slept away from home without us EVER. Never slept at a friend's house. Never spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa's without his parents along. Nothin'. And, well, I'm a little concerned with how he's doing.

Yeah - I know. He's probably having so much fun he has forgotten who we are (or at least that I told him not to take his "blankie" or stuffed alligator with him so they wouldn't get dirty or lost). When go pick him up this evening--yeah, it's only ONE NIGHT away (I know - get a GRIP!)--he'll probably tell me he wants me to go home without him. But still, the house feels emptier, and so do I, with Andrew off somewhere else.

I keep having these questions running through my head:
Did he fall and hurt himself?
Did the other kids tease him?
Is he bored?
Does he miss us?
Did he fall asleep crying because he didn't have his blankie?
Did he get lost?
Does he hate camp, and me for sending him?
You know, I was actually expecting these couple days to be a nice little respite for us. Andrew is, well, high energy, and a bit of more calm (and lack of sibling squabbles) sounded like a wonderful thing. Yet, while I had some nice girly time with Annika, it has felt more like a void than anything. I miss him.

The camp puts up a little Quicktime slideshow of the kids' activities and such for each day at their website. I was there at about 4am this morning, watching (I DID say I didn't sleep much, didn't I?). I tell you, that laptop screen was about as close to my face as possible, looking for my little guy among the crowds. (Yeah, I found a few pictures of him. Made my morning - or whatever you call 4am!)

This whole experience has gotten me thinking about God. If I can get this worked up about less than 48 hours of my son out of my presence/control, how does the Lord feel when I focus on others to the exclusion of Him?
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you! Isaiah 49: 15 NIV
No matter where I go (even if it's "out to camp" for a day and a half), He will not forget me. I hate to think how much distress I have caused him when I "went away," focusing on my own desires and selfishness instead of His kingdom.

Lord, help me to remember that You love me more than I can possibly imagine. Help me to turn to You, instead of away from You, so I don't cause you even a fraction of the grief and anxiety I dealt with last night and this morning. And help me trust You, Lord, with my son, and know that whatever kind of experience he is having at camp (and life!) it is directly from You. In the name of Your Son (who You love even more than I do MY son) Jesus I pray.

I'm beyond honored :)

After only a TOUCH over a month of blogging, I have already been given my first blog award. My dear friend Tracy at Seed Thoughts has presented me with the Arte Y Pico Award. It is given to those who inspire others with their creative energy and talents in writing, artwork, design or contributions to the blogging community.

As a recipient of these awards, I have been asked to share the award with five blogs that bless me. Limiting it to five is CERTAINLY difficult, but here goes!

I am presenting this award to:
Yvonne at "My Back Door"
Kristen at "Exemplify"
Patty at "Patterings"
Dee at "My Heart's DEE-Light"
Laury at "In My Daddy's Arms"

our “official instructions” follow:

To the recipients of the award...
1. Pick five blogs you consider deserving of this award, whether for creativity, design, interesting material, or contributions to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Name each nominee and link to his/her blog.
3. Show the award and include the name (and link to his/her blog) of whoever presented you with this award.
4. Be sure to link to the Arte y Pico blog, so everyone knows the origin of this award.
5. Post these rules.

OK ladies - YOUR turn to bless some folks! Thank you for blessing ME through your blogs!

Mission Accomplished - Mission Set

Excuse my hyperactivity, but I am completely thrilled to announce to anyone who cares (LOL and anyone who doesn't care but is reading this anyway) that I have met my self-imposed writing goals for the month of July. I have a working title for my non-fiction book (Ailing Body, Nourished Soul), my introduction is completed to its third draft (and in the safe and wonderful hands of a very dear friend who is giving it its--theoretically anyway--last outside edit before I polish and declare it "ready for prime-time"), AND my first chapter is completed to its second draft (and ALSO in the hands/email box of ANOTHER dear friend who has offered to give it its FIRST outside edit). And the bonus? It's only July 27 - five days before my self-imposed deadline of August 1.

This has been an amazingly incredible time for me. I have gotten more done in the past month than I possibly could have imagined, especially with two kids home pretty much the whole time, and I KNOW it has been God. I could not have achieved these goals (and done tons of other things completely unrelated) if this project didn't have my wonderful Lord behind it. Just goes to show you:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV
Well, my journey with this book is FAR from over. My next deadline is an official one - not self-imposed. You see, the deadline for Faithwriters' Page Turner first chapter competition is September 1! So, it's time to list, for the world to see, what I need to get done by my next deadline. So, here we go:

By September 1, 2008, I, Joanne Sher, will have the following accomplished. God willing:
1. The completion of the of my book's introduction to the FINAL draft
2. The completion of my books first chapter to the FINAL draft
3. The completion of my final draft of a 500-word-or-less synopsis of "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul"
4. Submission of all of the above to the Page Turner contest

I certainly have my work cut out for me, especially considering the rest of my life needs to keep going on. But, then again, it's not just MY work, is it? And if He wants it done, it will happen. Of that I am certain. Thanks for coming along for the trip!

(0h, and for the curious, I do NOT plan to stop there! I have every intention of continuing to work on this book, though perhaps not ot the same pace, once I have my entry in. I may even set some monthly goals--it's certainly helping thusfar)

Friday Fiction: "In My View"

Hi, and welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings. This entry may not meet the exact definition of "fiction," but there's enough "made up stuff" to qualify it as so in my book. It IS based on true situations (ones that will be covered in the nonfiction book I'm working on), but a bit of the stuff is, in fact, fabricated(though not much). I originally wrote this for the FW Writing Challenge - the topic was "Father." I'd love your comments - and don't forget to check out Patterings for more wonderful fiction to read - and post some of your own if you're a writer. Enjoy!


My head feels ten feet wide. How long have I been like this? I feel like an automaton, with all these tubes, masks, probes and wires coming out of me.

I haven't worked up the nerve to open my eyes yet. Not sure I want to see what I, or my surroundings, look like. I can guess, though, from all the beeps, shuffling, and other "hospital sounds" that encircle me, and the drugs I feel entering my veins. At least I know I'm not dead.

I can smell the antiseptic cleanliness of my surroundings - and one other scent. This one is more familiar. I've lain beside it practically every night for the last nine years. I turn up the corners of my mouth as best I can.

Now I can feel her too. I would know that hand resting on my arm anywhere. My wife. The light of my existence. My strength.

I ease my swollen eyes open. Shadows. Everything is dark - like the lights are out. Or bandages cover my eyes.

"Hi sweetie. How are you feeling?"

I love that voice. I could listen to it forever.

"Been better."

She kisses my hand. I can't help but smile.

"Hun? Could you get the nurse?"

"Sure." Worry permeates her voice. "Anything I can do?"

"Don't think so."

I hear her shuffle out, and a moment or so later, I listen to two sets of footsteps approaching.

"What do you need, Mr. Burns?" I can hear the smile on the nurse's face.

"When can you take the bandages off my eyes?"

My wife sighs. Repeatedly.

"Mr. Burns, you...um...don't have bandages on your eyes. I'm so sorry."

My heart stops. "I'm blind?"

My wife rubs my arm and shoulder, and I hear a sniffle.

The nurse's long pause quickens my heartbeat. When she does speak, it's a whisper. "The doctor said some loss could be from swelling from the surgery."

I reach my arm over the bed rail, groping toward my wife. I rest my hand on her stomach as she comes closer. As tears drop from my eyes, I rub her protruding belly as her hand rests on my wrist. I feel movement, which sends my emotions haywire.

In a few months, I'll have a new daughter. A little princess to hug, hold, hear, and love. Out of this bleak, frightening place in my life joy will come. And my girl will have a father. Thank You, Lord.

But I may never know what she looks like. I may never be able to see her walk, roll over, smile or pout. I won't know if she's sticking out her tongue or winking at me. I'll never see her wedding.

I feel her kick again, bringing me back to the present. I mumble, "But you'll still be my beautiful princess."

"What was that, sweetie?" Concern filled my wife's voice.

"Nothing, dear. Just felt the baby kick." She has enough to worry about. Don't need to burden her with anything else.

"Have you been eating, hun?" My wife often forgets when she's stressed.

"A bit. I should probably go get myself something from the cafeteria. Will you be ok?"

"I'll be fine," I say with a confidence I don't feel. I shift to squeeze her hand, which is still resting on mine. "You go ahead."

She kisses my hand. I hear her footsteps fading in the distance.

I close my eyes. I think back and try to picture a day about a week ago, when we were together at dinnertime. My wife is cutting up our son's hot dog. He is looking right at me, smiling. I freeze that image in my brain, looking at every detail of his face, trying to memorize it. I shift my focus to my beautiful wife, taking in every feature of her countenance.

I must never forget.


"I'm too tired. I don't wanna push."

"Just one more, honey. You can do it."

The pushing and groaning of the final stages of labor drown out the hospital's noises and odors. The last push is followed by the sound we've been waiting for: the wail of our baby girl.

Our newborn daughter is brought to her mother, and I am by their sides. I listen to my wife cooing at her baby. I reach out and run my hands through soft newborn hair.

Then, with the sight-though limited-that my Lord granted back to me, I view every inch of my precious daughter.

Abnormal normal sounds

For the past hour plus, I have been sitting in a coffee shop drinking hot cocoa (sorry, Kristen!) and eating a brownie, getting stuff done on my laptop. I've finished my first "read-through/edit" of Chapter 1 of my non-fiction book (not ready to call it my second draft yet, but I'm getting there - see goals on side of my blog), checked/chatted on the Faithwriters message boards, chatted with my jewely sisters (some!), sent out jeweler assignments (don't ask if you don't know what I'm talking about - a bit confusing), and a few other things I'm not remembering. This is my first time taking my laptop "out," and I really am enjoying it.

Normally, when I'm on my laptop, I have one of two different "noise situations" going on. Either I have the TV and my kids chattering/screaming/playing/running/arguing in the background (pretty much any time they're awake), or it's fairly silent - I may hear the TV in thebackground from my husband, but really no other sounds.

Here in this coffee shop, it's a whole different kind of sound--one I have vague recollections of from when I was younger. There's lovely music in the background--not too high, not too low. I can hear the "tat-a-tat" of the three or four other folks here with laptops, and an occasional voice here or there. It feels so "normal" - I could definitely get used to this.

However, I really don't think it is likely that I will have this opportunity very often if at all - at least until summer is over, and maybe not then. I only have this opportunity today because both kids are at Zoo camp, and we don't have anything else we need to do. With a busy life, and a husband not as able as he'd like to be to get around and/or help with the kids, this may just be a lovely memory I need to hold onto until I'm in a different season of life.

But isn't that just like God? When I'm going through the active/stressful/tough times, he gives me a little reminder of what blessings await me later, while still reminding me of the wonderful ones I have right now. I AM looking forward to picking up my kids from zoo camp in a bit under half an hour, and returning to my "normal normal."

I still can't help but wait, with some anticipation, of when this "abnormal normal" may be normal for me, at least some of the time.

The "In" I'm glad I'm In

There are several places I've been in where I wish I hadn't even come close to. I've been:
  1. in trouble
  2. in hot water
  3. in a frenzy
  4. in a quandry
These are not good things to be in. It certainly makes everything going on around you seem minor.

To be in trouble, for instance, implies that trouble is all around you. You are completely encapsulated by your struggles. Nothing gets out, or goes in, without passing through trouble. Now, this may not always be the actual case, but that's certainly the implication of the phrase, as well as the three that follow it on my little list. And, of course, my biggest goal when I'm in one of these instances is to try to get out of it.

Now, this probably isn't very comforting or encouraging. However, as I was looking ahead at my devotional for tomorrow, I came across a thought that was in fact both of these things. It's related to another state that I am in.

No matter the source of the evil confronting you, if you are in God and thereby completely surrounded by Him, you must realize that it has first passed through Him before coming to you. (Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman, July 23). (emphases mine)

Now, I know that I am in God/Christ, but I never really thought about the implications of it--at least not in this way--until this morning. When I am in Christ, it means that Christ surrounds me, encapsulates me like a cocoon. Everything that reaches me--whether it is good or bad in my eyes--is allowed in by the Creator of the Universe. He is truly sovereign, and truly all-knowing.

When Marc had his first brain surgery, He was there--and he allowed it by His divine knowledge and mercy. When Marc's vision got worse for no apparent reason, God "saw it coming," if you will, and allowed it into the cocoon of my and Marc's position "in Christ." And when God moved a brother or sister in Christ to anonymously give us a very large amount of money when we really needed it, he let it slip right through that cocoon and into our waiting arms.

I'll never think of being "in Christ" the same again. And that is certainly an "in" I'm glad I'm in.

By Name (and ponderings)

Ever had a blog idea/devotional come over and slap you in the face - the first thing that popped into your head after it happened was, "I need to write a devotional about that!" It happened to me Wednesday night.

Perhaps you've noticed that it is now Saturday night. Perhaps you have also noticed that it hasn't been seen yet. Well, I've been busy. Wednesday night I was at prayer meeting (can't exactly write a devotional during prayer meeting, can you?). Thursday and Friday I was in Saugatuck with my wonderful husband on our first mini-vacation/night away from home in three years. Writing then wasn't exactly at the top of my to-do list. Saturday I was catching up with what I'd missed my two days away. So, here it is, Saturday night.

I've been thinking about just "blowing it off," if you will. My time has come and gone, I figure. Maybe this delay was because the idea was silly and sophomoric (that thought even crossed my mind Wednesday night). Maybe it's not a message I'm supposed to share.

Or maybe God wanted me to mull it over in my own mind first - and maybe my timing isn't His. Well, I'm posting it here anyway, and I hope it (or this blabbering I've been doing above) blesses you.

This past Wednesday night, my 7-year-old son Andrew, my 4-year-old daughter Annika, and I were pulling into the parking lot of our church for Wednesday night children's church and prayer meeting. We were parking in one of the three parking lots, and were a few minutes early. My son commented, quite surprised, that there were no cars parked in the particular lot we were in. This was unusual - but we were a few minutes early. Right as we stopped the car, another car pulled up next to us - the car of one of the church secretaries, and a woman I'd prayed with several times in prayer meeting, Mrs. Patterson. She knew about many of the struggles of our family, and knew who the kids were.

Now, Andrew had seen her in church before, but didn't know her well. Right as he was getting ready to get out of the car, I said to him, "Look, Mrs. Patterson is here now. We're not the only ones." Andrew proceeded to get out of the car and go over to her driver's side window.

"Hi, Mrs. Patterson," he said with a smile. She spoke to him, though I'm unsure what she said. A minute or two later, he came back over to us with an absolutely amazed look on his face. With wonder and excitement, he looked into my eyes and said, "She knows my name!"

My son was simply amazed that this grown-up, this woman who he knew only by looks and what mommy told him, knew that his name was Andrew.

Did you have an amazed feeling like that when you were a new believer--when you were seeking the Lord? You feel silly, perhaps, asking a "big God" like Him for your measly request. I mean, he has a whole world to attend to. Your needs are just a drop in the bucket, a minor issue that he may nor may not deal with.

But then, you realize that the God of the universe, who you know only in part, knows you completely. He knows your name. He knew your name--everything about you--before you were born.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16

The creator of the entire universe knows my name. And better yet, He loves me. Even if I don't please Him, serve Him, or love Him, He created me and knows me--not just as a face in the crowd, but by name. Isn't that an amazing thought?

Friday Fiction - "A Paper Clip Opened The Door"

Hi there, and welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings. I wrote this story nearly a year and a half ago for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge. I still think it has one of the best titles I've ever come up with. I've done a bit of tweaking here and there from that original entry, but it's still the same basic story. Hope you enjoy it! Would love any feedback. And be sure to check out more great fiction at Patterings - and add your own if you're a writer!

A Paper Clip Opened The Door

Leah carefully scraped the dirt out from under her left thumbnail with a paper clip. Satisfied with her accomplishment, she watched an ant crawl across her desk. Every inch or so, she diverted its path with the clip.

She had stopped listening ten minutes ago to the soliloquy Dr. Langdon V. Stormfeather was giving at the front of the lecture hall. A ticking metronome would have been more interesting to her.

Beats me why I need to take this silly history class. I’m a sculptor: an artist. Why am I even in college?

Picking up the paper clip again, she wiped off the dirt, then worked to straighten its curves. She smiled with satisfaction at the straight metal line she had created. Her fingers then began intricately working the metal, bending it this way and that, until the clip was transformed into the likeness of a flower. Satisfied, Leah opened her purse and slid her newest work of art into an inside pocket.

Lord, I know how You have gifted me. I love to create works of art. I would be content to paint or sculpt just for You every moment. But why do You want me to go to college first--to take these classes I will likely never use and that bore me to tears? I don’t understand. Please clarify in some special way that You want me here, Lord. I’m about ready to quit!

Glancing at her watch, Leah let out a sigh of relief. Just a few minutes of class remained. She returned her attention to Dr. Stormfeather, knowing he would announce their homework assignment shortly.

As usual, the professor closed his lecture with an assignment to read a couple chapters in their required text and write out the main points in outline form. Leah jotted down the assignment in her notebook, then picked up her books and filed out into the hallway with the rest of the students.

In response to her rumbling stomach, Leah strolled toward the university’s student center. She had a good hour until her fundamentals of drawing class, giving her plenty of time to grab a bite for lunch.

Leah wiggled her way through the packed dining area to the cafeteria, where she purchased a tuna sandwich, a bag of chips, and a drink. Scanning the room, she found a small, unoccupied table where she slid into a seat and took out her sketch pad and pencil.

Leah scanned the tables around her. She noticed a young woman cradling a small baby in her arms. Smiling, the young artist began sketching the pair as she munched on her sandwich.

“Is this spot taken?”

Leah glanced to her right to see a redhead, about her age, addressing her. The student looked vaguely familiar, but Leah couldn’t recall where she’d seen her before.

“Nope. Have a seat.”

The woman sat down and glanced at Leah’s sketch pad.

“That’s a beautiful drawing you’re making. I love the soft lines.”

“Thanks.” Leah looked up and smiled. Her eyes then refocused on the picture she was creating.

“I love that little doodad you made in Stormfeather’s class too.”

Leah looked up, surprised.

“I’m Stacey, by the way. I was sitting next to you in class today. Your little project was far more interesting than he was.”

Chuckling, Leah opened her purse and fished out the paper clip creation, placing it in front of Stacey.

“For me?” Stacey picked up the flower and examined it. “You know, you are quite good. I wish I could make stuff like that!”

Leah blushed. “Thanks. It’s really a God-given talent.”

“Well, however you got it, you’ve definitely got it. I’m not much of a God-person myself. If he did give you that talent, He must be pretty awesome.”

Leah took a deep breath and prayed silently.

Lord, give me the words to say; and thank You for showing me why You want me here.

“That’s definitely not the only gift God has given me, Stacey. Would you mind if I told you about the best one?”

Unbridled, childlike joy

I have had the immense privilege of watching the excitement and joy of TWO children over the past day or so--along with a steadfastness and focus I'm not sure I've ever seen in either of them.

Last week, my son was looking through a toy catalog we'd gotten in the mail (mostly because we'd ordered several things from it - a TOTALLY fun catalog at generally reasonable-ish prices). He spotted a toy he really wanted: one of those marble race building things. We decided to use this as Andrew's first opportunity to TRULY learn the value of money (and perhaps anticipation). He had about $15 of allowance saved up (not sure what he was saving it for - except maybe his lazy mama to take him to the dollar store), and the cost was $20. We told him if he'd give us $10 we'd pay the rest. Annika had also found a harp in the catalog that she was dying to have, so we decided to get it for her too (she's only 4, after all!).

Well, the box came by UPS yesterday. I don't think I have EVER seen either of my children so excited as they were as the opened that box and saw their new toys. They wanted to play with them right away, and both of them (though Andrew more) were literally dancing the entire time they were playing with it. They didn't want to eat (not even a Creamsicle), drink, sleep, play at the playground - nothing. Andrew just wanted to play with his marble maze, think about playing with his marble maze, plan how he was going to play with his marble maze, get everyone else to play with his marble maze with him. Annika was much the same way about her harp - she even played a little song to her stuffed doggie "to put him to sleep", and carried it with her to the restroom! You'd think I'd given them a million dollars, or bought Disney World for them. If this kind of incredible happiness only costs $40 for the two of them, I'd gladly fork out the cash.

Shouldn't we be the same about the gifts that God gives us? I should be dancing around the room celebrating the writing gift the Lord has blessed me with, and I should truly enjoy "playing with it," like Andrew is with his marbles (yes, it's been 24 hours, and he's STILL enraptured). And how about the gift of His Son, and my salvation? It truly should be my obsession, and should bring about unbridled, childlike joy.
For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. Psalm 92:4 NIV
Lord, help me to rejoice in Your wonderful gifts to me. Help me to learn from the joy of my children how to feel, and express, the joy I have for all You have given me, including Your precious son. It is in His name I pray with joy. Amen.

Two Years Ago Today: A Tribute

Exactly two years ago today, I was surfing the internet, and I found something very special. I can't tell you exactly what I was looking for, but I will tell you this--I had spent the last three years using every bit of creative energy I had persevering (with God's incredible help) through the many issues that had been added to my life since my husband got sick. I was finally feeling like I had a bit of spare creativity to use elsewhere. Perhaps I was looking for somewhere to channel that creativity that was a bit more fun than crisis management. What I found has become an integral part of my life.

Faithwriters was the answer to the prayer I hadn't even prayed yet. I had worked as a newspaper reporter before I had kids, and had even dabbled in a bit of fiction (and ghastly poetry), but it was at this wonderful site that I finally had the opportunity to exercise my "writing muscles"--for the first time as a Christian, in a Christian environment. I found the amazing message boards that very day, and submitted my very first challenge entry the following day (note the horrible spacing, plethora of exclamation points, and annoying abundance of capital letters).

Through the past two years, I have grown dramatically in my writing and my confidence in it. I have made some amazing Christian friends who are closer to me than many members of my family. I also learned, through comments from some of these very special friends from around the globe, what one of my Spiritual Gifts is, and I have started up a bit of a ministry at the site to help me and several like-gifted sisters in Christ an opportunity to exercise their encouragement gift.

It was not very long after I became a regular at Faithwriters that I joined the Faithwriters 500. It seemed like a logical thing to do - so many benefits to take advantage of, plus the amazing benefits I was already receiving. How could I not spare the $10 a month to support this site that had helped me so much already?

Since joining, I have had several stories featured in Faithwriters Magazine, as well as the magazine "BraveHearts" and the Sunday School paper "Purpose." I've had a story in a Faithwriters anthology, and have one set for publication later this year in another magazine. I have submitted quite a few articles and stories to paid publications, and through some of them, I have helped supplement our income a little--and every little bit helps, of course.

Being a FW500 member has encouraged me to write in completely new ways and to try things I never would have tried before. I am working on a non-fiction book about God's workings in our lives since my husband got sick (gonna be submitting it to the FW500 only Page Turner Contest), and I even have an idea, and a bit of preliminary writing done, for a Biblical fiction novel on the Biblical queen Michal.

I also had the amazing privilege and blessing of attending the inaugural Faithwriters Writing Conference last summer in Detroit. The fellowship was incredible, and it was unlike anything I had ever attended before. I learned so much, and it was just special in every way. I still miss every one of those people, even though it's been a year AND I chat with many of them still anyhow.

Now, it seems my very favorite website in the world is having some major financial difficulties. In the words of my dear friend and all-around-everybody at Faithwriters, Deb Porter/Breathfreshair:
I really can't tell you how serious the situation is for FaithWriters. Without the financial support of the members, I really don't know what the future holds.

Membership in the 500 provides so many benefits, but FaithWriters itself is such a blessing. The fact that so many people give so much time, voluntarily, is testimony to how much this place means to so many people.

I won't beat around the bush. We need your help.
I am already a member, and am sponsoring another, and I'm not sure I can afford to do another. I do NOT want to wake up one morning and have Faithwriters gone. After my two years there, I can't imagine NOT having that wonderful place.

I did not write this in order to be a "marketing campaign" for Faithwriters, but because of my deep love for the site, the people at it, and the amazing benefits it has provided to me (and the body of Christ!) over the past years. I am praying like I never have to Keep Faithwriters Alive, and I'm trying to put feet to those prayers. If you love Faithwriters too (or love me - or even just kinda like the idea of it), can you join me? I want this site around for a very long time so others can benefit, and so I can celebrate ANOTHER two years of blessing in 2010. :)

Chuggin' along

Well, I am pleased to say that I am MAKING PROGRESS on my August 1 goals! I'm even enjoying doing it (for the most part, anyway).

If you recall, I have three goals to meet. My first one involves the first thing you will see when looking for my book on the shelf (when it gets there - note when and not if)
I will have a working title for my non-fiction book.
I have actually been pondering this some. Nothing definite yet, but I'm playing around with ideas like "everlasting arms" and "under His wings" - something about His ever-present and ever-palpable assistance.

My second goal is the one I was furthest along on when I actually started this project.
The introduction to my non-fiction book will be completed to the third (also known as second-to-last) draft.
I have begun working on the third draft - did some serious editing of one of my paragraphs while my kids were in swimming lessons this morning. The encouraging thing - to me, anyway - is that I had a friend and AMAZING editor look over my second draft and give me suggestions. The paragraph I changed was NOT something she suggested, but was along the same lines. I'm SEEING places it needs improvement "without editor intervention!" (LOL maybe that shouldn't be encouraging to me, but it was!)

Finally, my third goal is the one I had been "plugging away on" for the past several weeks.
The first chapter of my non-fiction book will be completed to the second draft.
I have actually FINISHED writing the first draft, as of yesterday! I am VERY excited about it - that's a MAJOR thing for me. It is VERY rough, and obviously needs some serious polish before I can even call it a second draft, but it is a big step toward meeting my goal.

So, I'm definitely making progress--and having this blog has definitely helped me stay on track. Thanks to all of you who are cheering me on!

I also have something of a prayer request. I have been feeling somewhat down and a bit irritable lately. I'm sure it is at least partially related to rehashing/reliving some of the things Marc and I went through during his health issues, as I write about them. Please pray I can remember the encouragement this book is meant to be - and focus on the blessings and not the stress of that time.

Thanks again, and God bless!

Friday Fiction: "Making the Pieces Fit"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday at Patterings. This story was originally written for "Seek," a Sunday School paper put out by Standard Publishing. They were unable to use it in their publication, so I thought I'd share it with you (and I figured with so many readers being Faithwriters regulars, I might try to post a piece most, if not all, of you had never read.) I hope you enjoy it! And be sure to stop by Patterings to read more wonderful fiction - or add some fiction of your own!

Making The Pieces Fit

Phyllis examined the puzzle piece in her hand. The blue shading seemed to match the sky in the right corner of the puzzle before her. Rotating the piece several times, she tried it in a few different spots in the upper portion. She was frustrated until she realized the tinge of white in one corner of the puzzle, which she had thought was cloud, was actually foam from the sea's surf. She found the spot right away, slipping the piece into place in the lower left.

"Almost done," she announced to no one. Phyllis had been working on this puzzle for a good week, any time she had a break in her schedule. It looked like she'd be able to complete it before she had to get back to work. She grabbed another piece as her telephone rang. Phyllis placed the piece back on the table and picked up the receiver on the second ring.


"Hello. Is this Phyllis?"

"Yes, it is. How can I help you?"

"Hi, Phyllis. My name is Brenda Soren. We met at church on Sunday - my husband and I were sitting behind you during Sunday School."

"Oh yes - you used to teach at my alma mater, right? What can I do for you?"

"Well, I'm trying to put together a little presentation for the city's Winterfest - for the church, you know - and a couple of people mentioned that you used to write scripts. I was hoping you'd be willing to put something simple together for us."

Phyllis' face flushed remembering some of the plays she'd helped put together. "That was a long time ago, Brenda, and they were definitely not appropriate for a church setting." They had a bit more innuendo than any of her new friends would appreciate - or Phyllis herself, for that matter.
One of the first changes Phyllis noticed when she became a believer about six months earlier was her new aversion to the foul language that used to pepper her speech. And to Phyllis, writing a script without foul language seemed impossible. The two, to her, were inseparable. She didn't think she could ever get beyond that to write another.

"I don't know, Brenda. Just the thought of writing one brings back some pretty bad memories. Still, when do you need to know?"

"By the weekend is fine - and don't feel pressured, Phyllis. I just figured it was a good way to get you plugged in here."

"I do appreciate that, Brenda." Phyllis bit her lip. "Okay - what if I pray about it, chat with my husband, and get back to you in a couple days?"

"That would be fine. Don't be afraid to call if you need more details. Do you have my number?"

"I think so. Is it in the directory?"

"Sure is. Anyhow, I won't take up any more of your time. Have a good day, and I'll talk to you soon."

"You, too." Phyllis turned the phone off and put it back on the wall.

Phyllis plodded to the kitchen and started working on dinner, but couldn't concentrate.

"I dunno, God. What should I do?"

"Do about what?"

Phyllis turned with a start and smiled. "When did you come in, handsome?" She kissed her husband John on the cheek.

"Just a minute or so ago. You were enraptured in that ground beef, I believe."

Phyllis rolled her eyes. "You're nuts. Anyhow, how was your day, sweetheart?"

"Not bad. Sounds like yours was at least eventful."

"That's a good word for it." Phyllis put the beef mixture in a meatloaf pan and spread ketchup over the top. "Do you remember Brenda Soren? She sat behind us in Sunday School."

"I think so."

"Well, she called, and asked me if I'd be willing to write up a simple script for the church's part in the Winterfest."

"That sounds great." John smiled and grabbed the meatloaf pan off the counter and put it in the preheated oven. "So what's the problem?"

Phyllis set the oven timer for 45 minutes. "You know how crude my plays were. Do you really think I can write one without going back to that foul mouth of mine?"

"Yes, in fact I do." John raised his eyebrows. "And weren't you just saying yesterday how you wanted to start helping out at church?"

"Yeah, but couldn't I just do something else to help? Like folding napkins, or passing out tracts or something?"

"I suppose - but that's not your talent, darlin."

"Yeah, but, I could still do it, right?"

John chuckled. "Come here, Phyllis." He led her back into the living room. "Have you ever tried to put a puzzle together upside down?"

Phyllis tilted her head. "Excuse me?"

"Humor me a minute here, hun."

She nodded, shrugging her shoulders.

John grabbed a dozen unplaced pieces from her puzzle and put them down on the coffee table picture-side down.

"Theoretically, it could still be done, right?"

She nodded.

John took two pieces and attempted to join them. After several false tries, he found two that fit.

"It would definitely take longer, but it could be done -- except..." John raised his eyebrows and smiled.

He turned the two pieces over. One was clearly part of the sky, while the other appeared to belong in a portion of a flower patch.

"They don't go together," Phyllis observed.

"Right. They may look like a match from the back, but when you look at the big picture, you see that they aren't."

"Fascinating - but what does this have to do with me writing a play for the church?"

John smiled. "The body of Christ is kind of like a puzzle. Each believer is a piece of the puzzle, and we all have a place in the big picture. If we end up in the wrong place, the job may still get done, but not as easily - and the puzzle won't look quite right. If we look at each piece, however, we can be sure to put it in the right place.

"You, my dear Phyllis, have a very specific talent." John put her hands in his. "Our church needs someone with your talent to complete the 'Winterfest puzzle.' Do you think God can't help you get over your writing hurdles? He gave you that talent for a reason, you know. And I'll be here to support you besides."

Phyllis smiled. "You're right. Glad I didn't say 'no' right off the bat."

John winked. "So, you'll do it?"

"You bet. I'll call her right after dinner."

John grabbed the puzzle pieces off the coffee table and put them back with the others. "While dinner's cooking, how about I help you with this?"

"Sounds good." She kissed him gently on the cheek. "You seem to have a thing for puzzles today."


Have you ever been in the middle of waiting for a whole lot of things? Sometimes it's a wonderful wait, and sometimes not-so-wonderful.

Right now, I have A LOT of fun/wonderful/exciting things "right around the corner," and there are times I feel so giddy in waiting that I could burst.

  1. One week from today, my husband and I are going to have a mini-vacation to Saugatuck overnight (his parents are staying with the kids). We haven't done something like this in a VERY long time.
  2. I am working through reading through the Bible straight through in a year (a few chapters each day) - something I've done every year but one since I got saved - and I am only a couple days from one of my absolute favorite chapters in the entire Bible - Isaiah 53.
  3. In a week and a half, both of my kids are going to be at Zoo camp four mornings for 2 1/2 hours each morning- so I am going to be kidless for a total of ten hours!
  4. I am making some good progress on my book, and am getting excited about reaching my August 1 goal and working on my September goal of entering Page Turner.
But waiting is not always this fun. In working on my book, I am currently writing about the time when my family was waiting to hear the results of the very first CAT scan that Marc had taken when we were first realizing there was something wrong. THAT wait was not one filled with anticipation - instead, it was chock full of anxiety. But God provided peace for us during and following, through many different "methods" (which you'll have to read the book to learn about!).

So, whatever you are waiting for, wait with anticipation - anticipation for the exciting event, or anticipation of what God will do through your difficulty. Trust me - it will be worth the wait.

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Energizing gifts

Have you ever noticed that when God gives you the realization of your spiritual gift(s), you suddenly are able to see places to use it everywhere, and it energizes you more and more to continue exercising it?

Well, for those of you who know me, this may not come as much of a surprise, but God has definitely gifted me in encouragement. This is something I did not discover until I found Faithwriters and started interacting with the writers there, and commenting on the Weekly Challenge. I had several people tell me it was my gift, and as they pointed it out, opportunities came quickly and abundantly to help me exercise that gift - both at Faithwriters and away from it.

And, do you know what? 99% of the time, no matter how much "work" it may seem to be, I come out of it more energized than when I started. That's how it is with spiritual gifts much of the time. Because they are of the Spirit, God gives me the power and energy to accomplish them - with viv and vigor to spare. It's a wonderful way to determine if you actually ARE exercising your gift.

One of the main reasons I am writing my nonfiction book is to encourage others - Christians and nonbelievers - who are in stressful situations like or unlike the one my family has been through. It is my hope that, by showing what we went through - and how God got us through it - others will be able to get through their own difficulties with the same hope (or even more!) that I had.

And one important part of spreading this encouragement to others is to actually FINISH this book - so I have set another deadline for myself (in addition to the September 1 page turner deadline).

By August 1 - I will have the second draft of my first chapter, and the third draft (second to last) of my introduction done.

That will leave me the month of August to completely polish the first chapter and intro, and to write my synopsis.

Thanks for the encouragement :)

Pond-Side Reflections

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, so the kids and I made our first (but certainly not last) trip out to our backyard pond for our first swim/play of the summer.

It is an absolutely beautiful pond - and fairly large (200 feet long and probably 40 feet wide). Lots of trees and flowers and bushes around it - tall enough that you can't even see the house when you're in it. It's like going to a completely different world. There are all sorts of birds that live in the trees around it, and it's currently filled with several frogs, lots of fish, and an AMAZING number of polliwogs to investigate. The pond has a sandy bottom, and is spring fed, so it's good for swimming or fishing (though we haven't actually fished it - we will at some point though, I'm sure.)

I wanted to share a picture of our whole pond, but I couldn't find one, and I've unfortunately misplaced my camera, so I couldn't take a new one. Anyhow, I DID find this picture I took of my husband and son in it (a good four years ago). I'd estimate that this picture shows about one-third of the whole pond.

Behind where my husband and son are in this picture is a little clearing where we can put towels and flip flops and stuff. The water is also quite shallow at the end of our pond, so the kids can play in the water without getting in "over their head," so to speak. The pond is fairly deep in the middle (at least 15 feet).

It's amazing how kids can be at each other's throats all morning, but take them out to the pond where they can toss leaves in, play in the water and dig in the mushy sandy bottom and they're best friends again. It's amazing how I can start out grumpy, and head out to the pond and be absolutely mesmerized by God's creation, His goodness to us for giving us this wonderful place to live, AND the blessings of seeing it not only through my eyes, but the eyes of my children.

As I work on my non-fiction book, I am constantly reminded of the difficulties that our family has gone through over the past five years (yup - it will be five years next month!) since Marc had that migraine. We dealt with brain surgery, financial struggles, unmowed lawns, repeated trips to the hospital, no definite ride to the hospital to give birth, and so many more things. But in every case, God provided.

And he still does. It's often easier to remember God's provision when it feels like it's the only thing that's keeping you going - when you're in the midst of a huge trial. But the reality is this: whether your life is a catastrophe, bursting with blessings, or somewhere in between, God's provision is the only thing keeping you going.

Don't forget to thank the Lord for your many blessings - whether in the middle of your trials or in the midst of "good fortune." He provided every bit of it.

Fiction Fridays: A Game?

Welcome to my contribution to "Fiction Fridays" at Patterings. It was originally written for the FW writing challenge in October 2006. This, however, is a somewhat improved version that ran in the December 2006 issue of Faithwriters Magazine (though with a different title). I hope you enjoy it, and that you learn a little bit about the religion of my birth. It is also my hope that, on this American Independence Day, it makes you reflect on one of the marvelous freedoms we enjoy in this wonderful country in which we live.

A Game?

A sharp wind entered the small house. Closing the door behind him, Chaim brushed the snow off his pants, pulled his prayer book from his woolen coat's inside pocket, and hung the wrap on a wooden peg by the door. Looking into the front room he found that a handful of his friends were already seated cross-legged on the floor, chatting quietly, their prayer books open.

"Shalom, Chaim," a young boy, with mousy brown hair and a mischievous grin, said in muffled tones. "Sit by me today, OK?"

Chaim smiled and took his place beside his friend.

"Get your lesson done, Eli?"

"Mostly," Eli whispered. "Had trouble memorizing Judah Maccabee's father's name."

Chaim nodded.

One more student arrived, sitting to Chaim's left.

Soon Maxim Lainer entered the room. He scrutinized each face, and after assuring himself there were no uninvited guests, locked the front door and pulled the drapes closed.

"OK. Let us begin with the Shema."

The students rose, and Mr. Lainer gestured that they begin. Seven voices, in not-so-perfect chorus, then recited the six most precious words in all Judaism: "Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad."

"And who remembers it in Russian?"

About half of the boys raised their hands. Mr. Lainer gestured toward Chaim.

"Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,"* Chaim recited in his native tongue.

Mr. Lainer smiled and nodded, signaling for the boys to sit down.

"Who can tell me what starts at sundown today?"

"Hanukkah!" several boys shouted, with huge smiles on their faces.

Mr. Lainer looked at them disapprovingly and went to the front room window. He peered out for a moment, and then replaced the drapery.

"You boys should know better than that--keep those voices down!"

The boys muttered apologies.

"Well, despite that, you are right, of course. Hanukkah does start this evening. We have already talked about it, but who can tell me why we celebrate Hanukkah?"

Several boys raised their hands. Mr. Lainer acknowledged Eli.

"King Antiochus had said Jews could not follow their traditions, and he'd turned the Temple into a place for idol worship-he even sacrificed a pig on the altar! Judah Maccabee and his brothers fought against him and his huge army, and we won!"

"That's right. Can someone else tell me why Hanukkah is eight days?"

Chaim raised his hand and was recognized.

"Once they got the temple back, they could only find enough holy oil for the temple menorah² to last for one day, but it lasted for eight days, which was long enough for them to make more."

"Very good, boys. I have some more information to share about this holiday--an historical fact you might find quite interesting. Does anyone know why playing dreidel is part of the holiday celebration?"

Mr. Lainer pulled a small, wooden top from his pocket. It had four sides, with a different Hebrew letter on each face.

"To help us remember the miracle of the oil lasting eight days?" one boy volunteered.

"Sure, Nathan, that is part of it. The letters on the dreidel do stand for "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham"-a great miracle happened there. However, the main reason was to protect the Syrian Jews from the government that forbade them from practicing their religion."

That got their attention. All eyes were glued on Mr. Lainer.

"You mean, like us, sir?" Eli asked in amazement.

Mr. Lainer nodded. "When Jews were under Syrian control, it was against the law to study Torah, just as it is here in Communist Russia. But, just like us, they followed God's commandments--his mitzvot--and studied anyway."

"But what does that have to do with a dreidel?"

Smiling, Mr. Lainer continued. "A student would always keep a dreidel in his pocket. If the police came by, he would close his book, pull the dreidel out and pretend to be playing."

Mr. Lainer then pulled several dreidels out of his pocket, giving one to each boy. He allowed them to play a while before having them put the dreidels away and get back to the lesson.

"Let's review the three blessings that are said over the Hanukkah candles tonight. Turn in your prayer books to page..."

Mr. Lainer turned with a start as he heard an insistent, repetitive pounding on the door. He put his books in a closet, stuffed his dreidel back in his pocket and went cautiously to the door.

A glance through the peephole relieved his fear of the authorities, but the look on his dear friend Slava's face did not calm him completely.

He let Slava in, locking the door behind him. The two men sat at a card table and spoke in hushed tones.

"Maxim, your nephew Joshua was arrested-they caught him reciting his morning prayers."

"Oy vey! How are Marina and Igor taking it?"

"Not well--they weren't home, but neighbors saw it and let them know. Igor and Marina want Nathan with them. I've come to take him home."

"Understandable. I'll get him right now."

He turned to his students, and found them sitting on their prayer books, intensely playing with their dreidels.

Mr. Lainer smiled in spite of himself.

"You boys learn quickly, and it is a good thing. Nathan, you need to go home with Mr. Linksy."

Nathan grabbed his things and left.

"Now boys, we must be especially careful. Joshua was caught praying this morning, and has been arrested."

The entire group gasped.

"Do not give up the faith, boys - but do it safely. We must keep Judaism alive. Do your mitzvot, but do them carefully, and in secret."

Another boy raised his hand.

"But, Mr. Lainer, aren't we supposed to light our menorahs** and put them in our windows?"

Mr Lainer nodded.

"That kind of display, Alex," Mr. Lainer sighed, "would not be wise."

* * *

* Deuteronomy 6:4, JPS
** Hanukkah candelabrum

Books :) (a Meme)

Kristen at Taste Buds tagged me with this Book Meme - and I'm an "enjoyer" of reading and readers, so I couldn't resist (besides, I'm a sucker for tags - much of the time, anyway!).

1. Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?
I don't remember for sure, but I can make an educated guess. My mom was a children's librarian before she quit to raise me and my brother. Also, I have vivid memories of my grandmother taking me to the library weekly after my mom passed away when I was 7 - so she "took over the job," so to speak.

2. What are some books you read as a child?
I LOVED "Are You My Mother?" by P. D. Eastman, and "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster. "The All Of A Kind Family " series was another favorite, along with Nancy Drew (and even the occasional Hardy Boys). My parents also had the "Colliers Junior Classics" book series (10 anthologies in the series with TONS of stories in each). I read those cover to cover over and over. I still have most of them in my library, and plan to read them to my kids - or have them read them themselves - soon.

3. What is your favorite genre? I like just about every genre - as long as the storyline is compelling, I'm good (though a touch of hope is always a good thing).

4. Do you have a favorite novel?
Aunt Jane's Hero by Elizabeth Prentiss (discovered it because I read another book by her and was so impressed I looked up other works by her - it's basically a Christian marriage manual masquerading as a wonderful story.).

5. Where do you usually read? Wherever I can - I'd prefer to do it in an easy chair

6. When do you usually read? Whenever I have time.

7. Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?
Generally not

8. Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction? Depends on why I'm reading it - if I'm doing it for research, I may highlight the book or take notes (and I may be researching when reading fiction as well!). But no real difference.

9. Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?
We buy them for the most part - but we have SO MANY we bought before and haven't read yet that there really is no need to buy more (LOL though I did just order "Hinds Feet on Hinds Places" as recommended by a friend at Amazon Marketplace).

10. Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them? I almost always keep them.

11. If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? Were they some of the same ones you read as a child?
I have shared "Are You My Mother" with the kids, and they liked that, as well as "Make Way For Ducklings" - another of my favorites. Probably my favorite books I've shared with them that I did NOT read as a child (mostly because, I believe, they weren't written yet!) are "God Gave Us You" By Lisa Tawn Bergren and "I Love You As Much" by someone whose name is escaping me. (yes, I'm VERY mushy LOL)

12. What are you reading now?
"Child Of My Heart" - a book of testimonies from Shepherds Ministry (they are a Christian residential facility for the mentally disabled in Wisconsin)

13. Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list?
Not really - though I may have TBR pile on my night stand :) Does that count?

14. What’s next?
Probably "Hinds Feet," unless I finish what I'm reading sooner and find something else in my house that grabs my fancy before it gets here.

15. What books would you like to reread?
The Bible (hehe - every year), Aunt Jane's Hero (it's lent to a friend currently, or THAT would be next on my list!), most Max Lucado books

16. Who are your favorite authors?
Max Lucado, Jan Karon, several folks at Faithwriters who aren't necessarily published - including Ann Grover and Jan Ackerson. To be honest, lately I have been doing a LOT more reading at Faithwriters than of books. There's some AMAZING stuff over there!

OK! Now, I suppose I need to tag some folks. Hmmmmmm. How about Amy at Sparrow's Flight and Josh - do me proud, my friends!

Anyone else who wants to do this is, of course, welcome to join in!

The Self-Opening Gate

I was doing my devotions and Bible reading this morning (and it was quiet, unlike most days - but that's totally unrelated to my thoughts) and I came across an amazingly wonderful and wonderfully amazing insight that I had to share with you all. I believe it will help me, at least, in moving forward with this book, and anything else God is leading me to do.

In my July 2 devotional from "Streams in the Desert," (why the date on the online one is January 6 is anyone's guess)I found the author's analogy to a self-opening gate especially apt.

There is a self-opening gate which is sometimes used in country roads. It stands fast and firm across the road as a traveler approaches it. If he stops before he gets to it, it will not open. But if he will drive right at it, his wagon wheels press the springs below the roadway, and the gate swings back to let him through. He must push right on at the closed gate, or it will continue to be closed.

The writer (Henry Clay Turnbull) goes on to explain that our walk with God is just like this. If we find an obstacle in our path, we are not to stop and wait for it to move. We must continue moving forward, and God will move the obstacle for us. Just like the Israelites crossing the Jordan in Joshua 3, we may have to step into the water before the obstacle will go away. Yet, if it is God's will, we will step through on dry ground.

It is much easier, often, to give up, or try to figure out the problem in our own power. Yet, stepping forward in faith, if you are in His will, is clearly the right thing to do. So, in the words of Turnbull:

Is there a great barrier across your path of duty just now? Just go for it, in the name of the Lord, and it won't be there.

So, I need to step forward in faith: work on my book despite the distractions, raise my children in God's way even if it's not easy, exercise my spiritual gifts no matter the difficulties. Once I do, God will move the mountain.

My One Word: 2016 and 2017

Most who know me know I am a very goal-oriented person (in fact, I already shared my goal wrap-up for 2016 and my new ones for 2017 on this...