“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

N - Oh, how I love you

My friend Kristen participated in a cute little meme about favorite things beginning with a specific letter (in her case, G), and I volunteered to play along too! She assigned me the letter "N," so I've been thinking about my favorite N things. (and this was MUCH harder than I would have thought it would be!)

So, here I go!

Ten Things I Love - All Beginning With The Letter "N"
  • The New Testament: yes, I love the whole Bible (even Leviticus!), but the truths of Jesus, Paul, and the others never cease to amaze, convict, and bless me. And besides, it's all new to me--relatively, anyway!
  • Nachos: I love them. Could eat them all day every day. Seasoned ground beef. Lettuce. Tomatoes. Olives. Salsa. Jalapenos. Guacamole. Tortilla chips. My mouth is watering already.
  • Naps: A little doze during the day does wonders for my energy level, not to mention my disposition. Don't take 'em often, but when I do...:)
  • Notebooks: I spend a lot of time sitting in a car, and in other places I can't be on a computer. So, when I have an idea, I need my notebook to write it in--or at least a loose sheet of paper. In fact, I jotted down notes for at least half of this very post inside a spiral notebook. What would I do with all the crazy ideas in my head while I'm sitting in a carpool line if not for my notebooks? Notebooks are most definitely a good thing. Definitely.
  • Nature: The beauty of God's creation never ceases to amaze me. Though I certainly wouldn't call myself "the outdoorsy type," I love to look at trees in their varying colors, mountains, sunsets, sunrises, and the flora and fauna of this beautiful world. One of these days, I REALLY want to go camping with my family. The idea of waking up under the stars sounds wonderful.
  • Needless Chatter: Well, I wouldn't exactly call it needless. Many, though, likely would. There is little that helps me relax, unwind, and laugh, more than what my husband would call a "hen party." Just chatting, being silly, sharing laughs. No real focus, except sharing stuff with your friends. Playing silly word games that have no meaning. Making your sad friend laugh hysterically. Yeah - THAT kind of chatter.
  • Nail Polish: Admittedly, this is a VERY new love. I just started wearing it a month or so ago, but it just makes me smile to look down and my shiny nails--and I've stopped biting my nails! (Plus, my 5-year-old now loves to wear it too. And there is LITTLE cuter than a 5-year-old in nail polish - especially when she's dribbling a basketball!)
  • Neurosurgeons: If it weren't for one, I have no idea what shape my wonderful husband would be in--if he'd even be alive. I have to admit, the one who operated on my husband (three times) may not have been an ideal one (NOT going there!), but he certainly did a better job than I would have done.
  • Nurturing: I truly enjoy taking care of folks and watching over them, whether they like/need it or not. I love being the "mama" (just ask my Jewelers!) and making sure everyone and everything is taken care of. Makes me feel good.
  • the 'Net: I love my computer. That's where all my friends live. I'm only half-kidding, of course. So many of my favorite things are online: blogs, FaithWriters, dear friends from across the country and world, easy shopping. I could go on, but I'm pretty sure I'm preachin' to the choir. :)
So, there you go! If you wanna play too, just let me know in the comment section here, and I'll assign you a letter (and I promise to be kind! No x or z, I promise!). Then be sure to let me know when you post.

Friday Fiction: "Keys To My Heart"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted this week at Dorinda's blog Treasures In Jars of Clay. Be sure to stop by there for lots of wonderful fiction. Contribute your own if you'd like--all are welcome! Just add your link to the Mr. Linky gadget at the bottom of her post!
I wrote this story about nine months ago for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge. The topic was "mother." It is "true," for the most part. I got a lot of positive feedback from it, and hope you enjoy this piece.


In the dimness of the dusk, she heard silence for the first time that day. She eased into her chair, but felt a bump in her rear pocket as she sat.

Danielle slid her keys from her pants and let them rest in the palm of her hand. She flipped them over and over, focusing on each trinket in turn.

The house key

Probably the least-used item in her hand. Living in a rural area, entry was almost always through the garage. Nothing was within walking distance--at least nothing far enough away that it would require locking the door. Besides, living on a busy road (for a rural area, anyway) made walking down the street somewhat dangerous for her and her young brood.

Yet, she would never leave home without the house key. Too many times the power had been out, making the garage door opener nonfunctional. The one time she had left the house key at home--to head to a conference with some friends--she was stuck outside for a good twenty minutes waiting for her family to return from a lunch out. Since she was getting a ride to the gathering, there had been no reason to take her car keys. The house key, she'd learned that day, was another matter.

The keyless remote for the minivan

She chuckled. It had stopped working months ago. She had to depend on putting the actual key in the actual lock now, and if she wanted to open the slider, she had to (gasp) open it. She'd looked into getting it repaired, but the cost was more than the benefit was worth. Why it was still on her ring was another question. She still occasionally tried using it--when the load and the company were especially heavy--in the hopes that the "keyless remote repair fairy" had waved her wand while Danielle was otherwise occupied. She hadn't shown up yet, but Danielle was hopeful. There was always tomorrow.

Their library card

She and the family loved heading to the local library. It didn't happen as much during the school year, but over the summer it was definitely a weekly occurrence. There was nothing the kids liked more than picking out a new book to read, and sometimes even a video.

They had a nice little children's area where the kids didn't have to be completely silent (Whatever happened to the "shushes" of the libraries of her day? Good riddance, she thought). The best part, of course, was checking out books. It was so much easier to use the key ring card than the one that was inside her wallet. There was always something of a minor battle over who got to swipe the card, and who got to check out first. There were certainly worse things they could be fighting about.

Aaron's picture

She loved that the schools were including the key chain pictures in the picture day packets now. It gave her a chance to eyeball her son, with his typical "I know everything" seven-year-old look, with ease. The picture always made her smile. She knew she'd be getting one from Andrea's school soon. Of course, there was a space on the key ring ready for it, next to her brother's.

The shed key

Her husband called it his shed, but Danielle knew it was more than that. Sure, many of the things locked inside were gardening related, and that was mainly his department. Yet, it was also where the "off season" outdoor toys were stored.

The kids always brightened up when she unlocked and opened its doors. Bicycles and sand toys and such were sure to appear in spring, and summer would bring out the play sprinklers, Slip 'n Slide, and plastic wading pool. Even the toboggan was stored in there for wintertime fun.

Her favorite Mother's Day gift ever

Danielle closed her eyes, sighed, and grinned. The beautiful key chain she had received the previous May from her husband always reminded her of how blessed she was. Attached to a heart-shaped ring were two beautiful dangles. On one were crystals and charms, along with letter beads spelling out her firstborn's name. The second was similar, though the charm was different, and the letters spelled out the name of her youngest. A lovely ornament, like the giver and the children it brought to mind.

Danielle enclosed the entire key ring within her palms and smiled. Her treasure was in her hands.


Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by Dorinda's blog for more great fiction!

Monday Manna for February 2 - short

Monday Manna

The purpose of Monday Manna, created by dear Kristen of Exemplify Online and {dancing} in the margins and passed on to me, is to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word.

For those of you unfamiliar, on the first and third Mondays of each month, anyone who wants to participate can post their thoughts on a specific verse. It doesn't have to be a long post -- just a few thoughts, a picture you feel helps express it, a poem, a short story, a devotional. The verse is posted here at my blog on the Thursday before, to allow you to chew on it over the weekend.

So, after all this lead-up, the verse for this Monday's contemplation is one that has captured me over the past few days. I struggled with whether it was just the one that God wanted me to post for today, and I finally decided it was. And without further ado...

Jesus wept. John 11:35 NIV
Just two words. The shortest verse in the Bible. But absolutely full of meaning and things to ponder. Feel free to comment on the verse in its context, or as it applies to your life, other parts of scripture, or any other way the Spirit moves you.

I've definitely got some thinking to do. Don't forget to stop back on Monday to add your link to the gadget that will be at the bottom of my post. And be sure to read the contributions, whether you choose to participate or not.

See you back here on Monday!

Word-Filled Wednesday: Your Love

Which comes first--the verse or the picture? I haven't been doing this for very long, but up until now, for the most part, it has been the verse. I'll have a bit of Scripture in mind, and I'll go out on the 'net and look for a picture to go with it.

This time, however, I was just looking around at pictures, and a particular one absolutely grabbed me. It screamed "pick me!" And within 10 minutes, I had the perfect verse to go with it. I pray it blesses you--and reminds you of God's love and faithfulness to us.

For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Psalm 57:10 NIV
Heavenly Father, whenever I am frustrated, help me to look up and be awed by your love and faithfulness. Your love is truly limitless, and there is no end to your devotion and loyalty. I thank You, Lord, that Your creation declares Your glory. Help us all to see it, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Be sure to stop by AmyDeanne's blog for more

For the curious

I've had a few people ask me how I'm doing overall on my book, as well as what it's going to look like format-wise. I've also mentioned that I have some other projects on the back burner, and some were curious about them.

SO, to satisfy your curiosity, be sure to check out my "Book Progress" tab. I have a fairly accurate total word count there (I update it each time I finish writing a chapter), plus some details on what I'm planning the book to look like. I also jotted down a bit about the other books I feel led to work on (at some point in my life!!)

Oh, and one MORE fairly big announcement (well, to me, anyway!). Starting with February, I'm going to be the regular host of the meme Monday Manna. (click here for more information) This incredible meme was started by my dear friend Kristen Schiffmann of {dancing} in the margins and Exemplify Online. She and I were both hosting it, but with her busy schedule and new ezine, she has passed the privilege on to me. I hope you will participate!

Thhhtthhhhttthhhat's allll, folks ;) Have a blessed weekend.

Friday Fiction: Malus Domestica

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Patty at Patterings. Be sure to stop by her blog for more excellent stories from assorted bloggers, and feel free to post your own fiction and link up at the Mr. Linky gadget at the bottom of her post. All are welcome!
I wrote this story a year and a half ago for the Faithwriters' Writing Challenge. It was what FW regulars/old timers knew as the "genre quarter," and this particular week we were to write an adventure. But don't worry - no gunfights or car chases in this one! I hope you enjoy my...um...unique take on the topic.

Malus Domestica

I don't know why, but I've always felt I was special. While my friends would hide behind leaves or branches, I was born with the desire to be noticed. So, when a man grabbed me out of my tree and put me in a crate, I knew my life would change dramatically, and for the better.

It was quite a boost being in that box. I knew I was superior. I didn't have a blemish, I was perfectly shaped, and my color was uniform. There wasn't a specimen in that crate that could compare.

Once at the grocery store, I was beaming. I knew I'd be away from the riff raff and in a grateful owner's kitchen in no time, as I was clearly the best specimen on display. My location on top of the pile wouldn't hurt either.

A few people passed me up for inferior specimen, but soon a woman with impeccable taste approached. She picked up half a dozen others, scrutinized them, and returned them to the pile. Then, her velvety hands found me. She turned me over several times, caressed my crimson skin, and placed me in a plastic bag. After finding a couple others of near quality, she placed us ever-so-gently into her basket, where we joined a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and some pork chops.

I won't bore you with details of the drive home. Just know it wasn't the gentlest ride, and I was thrilled the bread was there to cushion me.

Once we arrived, I was placed in a bowl on the counter. I knew I was in a fine home with a great appreciation of my kind. After all, I was out there on display, unlike the bread and milk hidden in the refrigerator.

The family seemed nice enough - the woman, a man about her age, and a little boy named Timmy. Each of them glanced my way several times that day. It was nice to be appreciated.

Anyhow, before I knew it, the woman had grabbed me, rinsed me off, and put me in Timmy's lunch box. It was one tight squeeze. A couple slices of bread were there, with some turkey and cheese. Joining us were a juice box and some cookies. I could barely move, and it was so dark I couldn't see anything once the box was closed.

Still, I had high hopes. Timmy, I was sure, would savor every bite of me. He might show me off to his friends, or give me to his teacher. Thinking about the pleasure I would give that boy helped me pass the time until lunch.

As soon as Timmy picked up the lunchbox, I wondered how accurate my assessment really was. He hit that box against the wall at least a dozen times en route to the lunchroom. It's a wonder I wasn't bruised beyond recognition.

My hopes were raised again once we reached the lunchroom. Timmy placed me on the table first, and did I ever have a prime view. I was surrounded by thermoses, sandwiches, grapes, cookies, slices of pizza. The sights practically made my non-existent mouth water.

It was the lunchroom banter that really got me sweating (figuratively, of course). Timmy started asking around. It seemed that he preferred bananas to apples.

I couldn't believe it. How could anyone prefer one of those short mushy yellow things to the wonderful redness of me?

Before I knew it, I experienced utter humiliation. I was tossed into another boy's hands, and Timmy got his banana. Shockingly, it had three bruises. Oh, the shame!

Still, I looked at the boy with skepticism. Would he give me the respect I deserved? Would I give him the eating pleasure I was destined to provide?

As he brought me toward his mouth, I was hopeful. The sparkle in his eye and his tongue movement made me believe he was as excited about our encounter as I was. As his teeth sank into my juicy flesh, I was certain his taste buds were rejoicing.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Within three seconds of that bite, the contents of the boy's mouth were expectorated on the lunchroom table, and I was flung halfway across the room, landing squarely in this trash receptacle, where you find me now.

I've certainly had an entertaining life: for you at least! Next time, I suppose, I shouldn't get my hopes too high. Besides, who knows? I could yet be recycled for horse feed.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 NIV

note: Malus domestica is the scientific name for an apple

Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by Patterings for more great fiction.

Word-Filled Wednesday: Knit Together

Welcome to my contribution to AmyDeanne's Word-Filled Wednesday.

Psalm 139 is one of my very favorite psalms. There is so much richness in that one chapter of the Bible. I was thinking about everyday miracles that God has created, and a picture very similar to this came into my head - so I had to go find it, and add some incredible scripture to it.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

The next time you wonder if God still performs miracles, think about how amazing it is that you can wake up every morning. That your fingers move. That you can breathe. And don't even TRY to tell me that's a product of evolution.

Be sure to stop by AmyDeanne's blog for more Photobucket

Lookie! Lookie!

Thanks to the completely, totally, and entirely wonderful Kristen of {dancing} in the margins and Exemplify Online (who is an INCREDIBLE blog designer in addition to being an anointed writer, amazing friend, and inspiring woman of Christ), I have a whole new look to my blog. I really think she has captured my personality. (if you don't know me very well, just look at the blog. Ok? Now you know me ;))

I'm so excited about it (yeah - I'm a blog geek. It's all right). I would love your feedback if you feel so led. I look forward to seeing you all here with all my bright new colors!

Thanks for stopping by. (just LOVE those colors!)

Monday Manna - Callings

Welcome to Monday Manna. Twice a month (once at my blog and once at {dancing} in the margins) we meet together to contemplate, ruminate, and share on a specific scripture. It can be brief thoughts, a picture, a poem, a short story, a devotional--whatever. The idea is to chew on the same scripture and learn from each other.

This Monday's scripture is Isaiah 6:8: the calling of the prophet Isaiah. Looking forward to seeing what this scripture has inspired in all of you.

My thoughts are below:


I have often wondered (especially when I was doing something unpleasant, hard, or dirty) "is this fill-in-the-blank really God's calling for me?"

"Is cleaning poopy underpants the work the Lord has created me to do?"

"Does he REALLY want me to work in the nursery?"

"Am I truly supposed to be writing a check to this organization? Is that truly where God has called me to send my money?"

I'm sure you've asked these questions as well.

Well, there is one thing I've learned over the past week--mostly from a daily devotional on our "Monday Manna" verse. There are actually (at least) two kinds of callings from God.

One--the one we think of more often--is like the calling many from both the Old and New Testaments received.
This type of call is a specific one, to a specific person or persons.
Adam and Eve were called to "be fruitful and multiply."

Noah was called to build the ark.

Abraham was called to be the father of many nations.

David was called to be a king of Israel.

The Twelve were called to be Jesus' disciples.

Paul was called to be an evangelist to the Gentiles.

People today get called this way too sometimes. God may impress on your heart a need to perform a specific ministry, serve someone in a certain way, or do some other act. It often seems that a specific job is tailor-made for your God-given gifts and talents. And, perhaps it was (or you were made for it!).

But there is another type of calling too--one we are often much less likely to notice, much less follow. This is what I will refer to as a "general call."

This is the call Isaiah answered in Isaiah 6:8. Let's read it again, closely.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8 NIV
God didn't approach Isaiah--as he did Adam, Paul, and others--and tell him "I have called you to go." He didn't necessarily make this prophetic ministry specifically for this wonderful prophet of God (as He did for Jeremiah, for instance). No, the Lord put out a blanket call, so to speak, and waited to see who would answer.
And Isaiah did. He answered the call, which then became his calling.
How often do we skip or overlook opportunities for blessing because we don't feel God tapping us specifically on the proverbial shoulder to perform a task? Do we avoid ministries we don't feel prepared for because God didn't perform a miracle to ready us for it?

But if we are not sensitive to His voice, we will not hear this type of call. And if we don't hear it, we won't answer it, and we will miss the blessing.
"God did not direct His call to Isaiah--Isaiah overheard God saying, '...who will go for Us?' The call of God is not just for a select few but for everyone. Whether I hear God's call or not depends on the condition of my ears, and exactly what I hear depends on my spiritual attitude....If we will allow the Holy Spirit to bring us face to face with God, we too will hear what Isaiah heard--"the voice of the Lord." In perfect freedom we too will say 'Here am I! Send me." Oswald Chambers: My Utmost For His Highest, January 14
I want to hear, and answer, God's calls of this type. Don't you?

Heavenly Father, help me to hear Your calling, whether it is specifically for me, or a general call You desire for me to answer. Give me the discernment and wisdom from Your Holy Spirit to "overhear" Your holy call to serve. And, Lord, give me the faith and courage to say, as Isaiah did, "Here I am. Send me." In Jesus' precious name I pray. Amen.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out the other participants in this edition of Monday Manna, and feel free to blog on your own thoughts and link up below in the Mr. Linky gadget. (and if you DO link up, I'd REALLY appreciate a link back to my blog so folks can find the rest of the "manna.")

Just For Fun

I've been tagged (sneaky girl - just by reading her post, she tagged me!!) by dear, sweet Kristen at {dancing} in the margins to do this silly, fun little meme. Sooo - here I go (and feel free to consider yourself tagged by ME!)
To find your ROCK STAR NAME take your first pet & current car:

Max Venture

To find your GANGSTA NAME take your favorite ice cream flavor and your favorite cookie:
Fudge Brownie Thin Mint
YOUR DETECTIVE NAME? Your favorite color and favorite animal:
Pink Cat
Want to know your SUPERHERO NAME? Just add the word "The" plus your 2nd favorite color, and your favorite drink:
The Purple Milk (remind me not to be a superhero - not very hero-worthy, eh?)
Your NASCAR NAME. Take the first names of your grandfathers:
Harry Arthur
If I ever go into WITNESS PROTECTION you can find me with this name. Your mother & father’s middle names:
Ann Nil (yeah - my dad doesn't have a middle name - nor did his father, nor one of my brothers)

TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME? Just take your 5th grade teacher’s last name and add a major city that starts with the same letter:
York Yemen
Of course, if you find me in witness protection I will assume it was because you were using your SPY NAME. Add your favorite season/holiday to your flower:
Easter Lily (c'mon - HAD to do that one!)
Tell your kids their CARTOON NAME by taking your favorite fruit, an article of clothing you’re wearing right now, now add "ie" or "y":
Clementine Socky

And lastly, your ROCKSTAR TOUR is heading across the northeast...it's called ("The” + Your fave hobby/craft, your fave weather element + the word “Tour”):
The Writing Rainbow Tour
Aww - c'mon. Play along!!

Friday Fiction: Peace Like A Pond?

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Lynn Squire at Faith, Fiction, Fun and Fanciful. Be sure to stop by her blog to read more great fiction, and to link up your own fictional piece at the "Mr. Linky" gadget at the bottom of her post.

This is a very early entry for me. I wrote it only a month and a half after finding the Faithwriters Writing Challenge, but it is still a favorite of mine, partly for the message I was able to convey. I hope you enjoy it!


The sun was just creeping over the tree line, spreading its glow onto the landscape. Leaves crackled underfoot, but not loud enough to drown out the rushing of the water against the rocks.

"Move it, Mason!"

Harold Mason, sauntering along the riverbank taking the last drag on his Camel, increased his pace to a slowish trot, tossing his spent butt ahead of him and squashing it with the heel of his work boot as he ambled along.

Mason turned around with a start as he felt a jab in the small of his back.

"Hey - pick up that thing! We’re here cleanin’, not litterin!"

"Guards," Mason grunted under his breath as he took a few steps back, grabbed the cigarette butt and put it in the small orange bag tied to his back belt buckle, bumping into the guard.

"Hey there!"

"Sorrrrryyy!" Mason said with a sheepishness that was obviously phony.

Tittering, several of the other inmates looked Mason’s way and gave him the thumbs up. Mason smirked. Oh, how he loved getting a rise out of the guards, and a laugh out of the guys!

The group of them - about a dozen total - walked to a clearing, where it appeared several groups had picnicked recently. Food, napkins, cups, old boxes and other assorted trash were strewn about.

"OK - get to cleanin’. No goofin’ off, either. This ain’t no vacation!"

The men got to work, some more enthusiastically than others. Mason began picking up assorted garbage and slam dunking it into his trash bag.


Mason turned to see a young inmate, probably half his own 40 years, gathering trash beside him and glancing his way.

"Hey yourself. Name’s Mason."

"I know your name - everyone here does. I’m John Phillips. Just transferred here a couple weeks ago."

Mason nodded. The two men returned to garbage collection, working side by side in silence for several minutes.

"Mason, can I ask ya something?"

"You can ask," Mason quipped.

Phillips pointed at Mason’s right forearm.

"Noticed your cross tatt. You a Christian?"

"What do you think?" he snickered.

Phillips shrugged.

"I may have been one before, but I sure as heck ain’t one now! Why would God stick me here? I didn’t even do anything! How can I follow Him when He deserts me?!"

"No peace, eh?"

"Who the HECK can have peace when they’re in jail for a crime they didn’t commit?!"

"Paul did. Peter did. So did Joseph and Jeremiah."

Mason rolled his eyes and turned away, focusing on picking up a large pile of napkins that had blown over the picnic area.

"You guys can take a break," the guard shouted. "Sit down and have your lunch."

The men each grabbed a box lunch from a crate the guard had brought out and sat on the ground. Phillips brought his lunch over by Mason and sat. Mason shifted, facing away from Phillips and toward the rushing river.

"God never promised you a stress-free life, you know, Mason."

"And why the heck not, Mister Christian??"

"Do you see that river out there, Mason? Does it look peaceful to you?"

"Guess so. But what does that have to do with anything?"

"Look at how the water pounds the rocks. Sure doesn’t look calm to me!"

"OK - guess not! Still; what are you getting at, Phillips?"

"God promises us peace like a river - you remember that?"

Mason nodded, turning toward him.

"He doesn’t promise us peace like a pond - now THAT is calm. A smooth sail; an easy life. That’s what you were expecting. He promises us peace like a river: peace and security as you go over the twists, turns, and boulders of life. Jesus promised us trouble in this life - but he also said we could have His peace through it.

"God hasn’t let you down, Mason - you have let you down! You can have peace - His peace - peace like a river!"

Mason looked at Phillips thoughtfully, then walked out to the river’s edge, watching the water drift down the river - past rocks, logs and other obstacles in its way.

"Peace like a river, eh?..."

Scriptures used: Isaiah 48:18, John 16:33

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to stop by Lynn Squire's blog for more great fiction!

Monday Manna for January 19: Send Me

After a bit of a long break, welcome to Monday Manna! As this coming Monday is the third Monday in January, it is my turn to host. (Kristen at {dancing} in the margins does the same thing for the first Monday of the month) We give you the weekend to chew on the verse, and then post something (anything, really - long, short, a photo - whatever). The idea is to all chew on the same scripture and learn together. On Monday, MY thoughts on the verse will be up bright and early, along with the Mr. Linky gadget so you can post your own Monday Manna and link up here at my site.

So, without further ado, here is the verse I've chosen.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8
I'm looking forward to seeing what wonderful insights you all receive from this amazing bit of Scripture. See you on Monday!

Word-Filled Wednesday: Clothing

The beauty of this world is astounding to me. Yet, most of it is to be found on temporal things. Flowers. Animals. Sunsets. Mountains. God makes these temporal things amazingly pleasing to the eye.

Yet Man, the only eternal aspect of this earth, worries about appearance.


God cares for us more than this flower, or this butterfly. How can we be concerned about our clothing--about how we look? He will provide. You can count on it.

Just FYI: I actually took this picture myself, on a "solitary visit" to the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids (the day away was actually a special gift to me from my husband back in early 2003). Each year during March and April, they have an exhibit called "Butterflies are Blooming," that has a huge number of butterflies of many types. It is a wonderful place to visit, and I try to go each year.

Be sure to stop by The 160 acre woods for more visual inspiration from Scripture!

Grabbing the Initiative

I learned my first New Testament verse of scripture, from memory, when I was in elementary school.
To many of you, this may not be a very fascinating tidbit. I imagine it is a fairly common occurrence among those raised in the Christian faith.

But those who know me better perhaps find this fact rather perplexing. I was, after all, raised in the Jewish faith, not the Christian one. Memorizing the words of Jesus was not exactly on my, or my parents', list of productive ways to spend time.

Of course, the fact that I didn't even know it was a Bible verse probably had something to do with it.

You may have already guessed what this particular verse is (or maybe not!). But it's probably the best known verse in the whole Bible. Matthew 7:12, also known as "the golden rule."
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (translation I learned - beats me whose it is!)
It wasn't for a good 20 years that I found out those were the words of Jesus. Made me wonder why my parents didn't get upset when I said it (just like I STILL wonder, to this day, why they encouraged me to read "The Chronicles of Narnia" - though, of course, I missed every bit of Christian analogy in the whole thing!)

I think a lot of people try to live by the golden rule (and not "whoever has the gold makes the rules!") whether they are Christians or not. At least among some, treating others as you'd like to be treated is a good "word to live by."

That is exactly how I have "interpreted" that verse since I first heard it before I'd even reached double digits in age. The other day, however, I was able to look at it with new eyes, thanks to the Bible version I was reading from.
Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get. Matthew 7:12 The Message
Maybe it's just me, but by reading through this particular paraphrase, the golden rule takes on a different and new life to me. It becomes active. Proactive. It's not just a matter of being as nice to people as you would like them to be to you. It's about thinking about your own needs and wants, and then, out of love, meeting them FOR OTHERS--even if you don't have those requirements or desires met yourself.

In practical terms, it's giving your bratty little brother the last brownie on the plate, no matter how much you love chocolate. It's dreaming of winning the race, then slowing down to help someone who fell so he can win. It's providing compassion and grace for those you long to receive it from, without expecting reward. It's purposefully, deliberately aiming to put others' desires before your own, even (and perhaps especially) if it means yours will be denied or delayed. It is exactly what Christ did for us.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippans 2:3-8 NIV
Jesus healed others, but did not heal himself. He grabbed the initiative and met the needs of others before his own. And that is what He wants us to do.

Are you--am I--being proactive about the golden rule? Are we capturing the initiative and meeting the needs of others, no matter the price to us? Allow God to help you to do this.

Heavenly Father, thank You for using the Message to see this passage I have known most of my life with new eyes. Lord, so often I put my needs first, and while I do try to treat others kindly, I generally use my "leftovers" to do so. Help me, Lord, to give my firstfruits to others, to grab the initiative and treat others exactly as I wish to be treated, even if it means they "get" more than I do. Help me, Dear God, to truly esteem others better than, and before, myself. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

Friday Fiction: "To Thread A Camel"

Welcome to my contribution to Patterings' Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Catrina Bradley at A Work In Progress. Be sure to stop by her blog for more great fiction, and don't be afraid to participate as well. Just post some fiction on your blog then link up at the Mr. Linky gadget at Cat's site. All are welcome!
I wrote this story almost a year ago for the Faithwriters writing challenge (the topic was "Sewing," by the way). It was definitely a different approach for me, but it was certainly fun to write. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did putting it on paper!


The strand of spaghetti was getting sticky.

Alistair Chesterfield slipped an off-white satin handkerchief out of the breast pocket of his suit and wiped it across the strand, turning it to mush.

Sighing, he pushed a black button on his executive telephone, leaning into it.

"Sally! Bring another one in, and a paper towel or something."

"Be right there, sir," a diminutive voice sang through the speaker.

Stuffing the handkerchief back into his pocket and placing a sewing needle in his drawer, Alistair leaned back, resting his wingtips on the edge of his mahogany desk.

A slight, mousy woman walked in with a cloth in one hand and a small bowl in the other. Alistair shifted his feet slightly as Sally placed the bowl on his desk, then wiped the bits of soggy spaghetti into her hand with the cloth.

"Anything else, Mr. Chesterfield?"

"Not now, but I'll need half-inch thick twine shortly. Make sure it's ready for me."

"Yes, sir." Sally shuffled out.

Alistair brought his feet to the floor and rolled his chair toward the desk. Grabbing a new strand of spaghetti with his left hand, he examined it, then lifted the needle back out of the drawer with his right.

"It's a small hole, all right. But if anyone can do it, Chesterfield Innovations can."

Pushing his chair out, Alistair rose, holding the needle level with his face. He strode toward a large, framed photograph hanging on his office wall. Taken in Saudi Arabia, the original photo had been enlarged, so the picture's subject, a camel, was nearly life-sized.

Looking at the picture through the needle's eye, he grinned, shaking his fist in the air.

"Chesterfield Innovations will."

Alistair ambled toward his door and out to Sally's desk, resting his arm on her computer monitor.

"Sally, get Bob and Mart in my office stat. And join us yourself. This is big."

Within two minutes, the four were seated in his office.

Alistair hit the desk with his fist. "Listen up. Since 1923, Chesterfield Innovations has provided amazing tools for the common man. Our instant coffee cup with brewing attachment has revolutionized coffee breaks. No one can deny that our sock connectors have saved customers hundreds of trips to the store to replace the sock lost to the sock monster. But that"s small potatoes. We need to go for the gusto--grab the brass ring."

Alistair paced the room, finally resting his arm on the short, pudgy man seated beside Sally.

"Mart, what do people want more than anything? What is every person's greatest desire?"

"Umm, money, sir?"

"No, you idiot! Security! They want to feel safe. Well, we're going to start selling eternal security."

Mart's face screwed up. "Eternal security, sir?"

"You bet! And we need to start with this," Alistair yelled, holding his needle up in the air.

"A pin?" Bob muttered. "Pardon me for asking, but how does one get eternal security with a pin?"

"It's a needle, you fool. And it's the key to eternal security. All we need to do is fit a camel through it."

The silence was deafening.

Alistair's eyes glowed and sparkled. "Don't you see? That Bible thing says if you can fit a camel through the eye of a needle, you can get to heaven. So, if we can do it, people will come running; and if we sell stock in it, every man, woman and child will want to buy a piece of that eternal security--their little bit of the forever American dream!"

The employees looked at one another in disbelief. Bowing his head slightly, Bob half-raised his hand.

"Um, Mr. Chesterfield, sir? How are we going to get a camel through the eye of a needle?"

"Not a problem, Bob my boy. We have the best R & D department west of the Mississippi. I have complete confidence they will come through for us. Any other thoughts?"

Mart cleared his throat. "No disrespect meant, sir, but I think you may have slightly misunderstood that verse. Jesus actually said 'it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"*

Alistair rested his hand on Mart's shoulder. "Is that all? PR can take care of that. They are expert spin doctors. Now we need to get serious. Mart, I need you to talk with the zoo about camel acquisition. Bob, you check on needle futures. Sally, you get that press release ready. We're gonna put Chesterfield Innovations on the map."

Matthew 19:23 NIV

Thanks for reading my silly little piece. Don't forget to stop by A Work In Progress for more great fiction!

Word-Filled Wednesday: In A Nutshell

This verse was an absolute favorite of mine for several years, and it popped into my head the other day. It seems like such a wonderful, all-encompassing verse. To me, it's the Christian life "in a nutshell." Follow this advice, and you're good. Yanno?

Thank You, Lord, for reminding me of this wisdom from Your word. Help me to live it. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.


Be sure to stop by the 160 acre woods for more

Going Out

I'm guessing this will be the first in a series of blogs based on insights I get from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest. My Bible-in-a-year plan for 2009 includes this devotional (along with reading through the Message paraphrase using a chronological OT/NT schedule). If I'm already inspired to write with the SECOND one I've read, it's a pretty sure thing at least some of the 363 that follow will do the same.

Friday was a fun day for my family: especially the younger members. My husband and I decided to take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese. With only a couple of days until Christmas break is over, we knew they would love it.

So, starting on Tuesday, we told them there would be a surprise for them on Friday. They had a lot of fun guessing what it would be throughout the week, and we did answer a few questions they asked (Yes, we are going somewhere. Yes, you have been there before. No, we're not leaving the country.), but not all. Every time they guessed a specific place, we would say "maybe." We even made a few suggestions. (Maybe we're going to the doctor's office. Perhaps it's a trip to the gas station.) And they made several valid guesses, one of which was our actual destination (by Annika, by the way).

Well, by Friday, we had whipped the kids into a frenzy of anticipation. We couldn't leave early enough. And, when we got there, they were not disappointed. And, of course, my beautiful daughter was so proud to announce that "I knew we were going to Chuck E. Cheese."

The whole incident reminded me of my morning devotional reading from My Utmost for His Highest. The January 2 reading was based on Hebrews 11:8, part of "the hall of faith."
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. NIV
In a very concrete way, that is exactly what my children did on Friday. They went with us with no idea where they were going. They didn't fight us, or fear that we might be taking them, for instance, to their death. They asked questions, sure, but eventually chose to go along for the ride because they trusted the ones who were leading them. And we did not disappoint.

The Lord is ultimately more trustworthy than my husband and I are, of course. While Andrew and Annika had the right to doubt their parents' sincerity and care (Marc and I are selfish humans, after all), we have no right to do so toward our Father. And He often asks us to "go out," just as Abraham (and my children) did, trusting not the location, but the One directing the journey. And trust is certainly the key.
Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to "go out" in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to "go out" through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, January 2)
God's plan is always best, and it is often part of his grand scheme that we not know the details, for faith and trust are built from "walking blind," so to speak. It is not trust to for me to follow someone to a familiar location. When I am led on an unfamiliar path, however, my trust is increased, as is my faith. I know He will lead me to the best, no matter where it is.
One of the most difficult questions to answer in Christian work is, "What do you expect to do?" You don't know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. (Chambers)
This is truly the key, isn't it? And it is certainly not easy. I am embarrassed to admit how many times I have hesitated, or even avoided, "going out" because I did not know where God wanted me to go, or what He expected me to do. I was afraid of what I might encounter, of the uncomfortable position He might put me in, of having to give up my selfish desires for His perfect ones.

But there is no reason to fear or worry, for it is God we're talking about here. There is no One upon whom it is safer to depend. So "go out" boldly and without fear.
He will never disappoint.
Heavenly Father, help me to trust You completely, even and especially when Your purposes and my destination are unclear. Like my children, help me to remember that You do not give bad gifts, and that You will never lead me down a wrong path. Help me to be willing to "go out" in every area of my life, trusting You completely. Help me, once again, to learn faith from my children, the kind of faith You wish all of us to have. I pray You would guide me, and I would listen, on my "going out" in every aspect of my life. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Friday Fiction: "Fleeting Respite"

Well, the darling Patty Wysong from Patterings has allowed me to host Fiction Friday this week, and I am thrilled and honored to oblige. Be sure to go to the bottom of my post to find links to more great fiction--and post your own and link up with the Mr. Linky gadget. The more the merrier!
I wrote this story just over six months ago for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge. The subject actually started to captivate me several months earlier when I wrote my first story on this topic, and I have written a couple more since then. Eventually, I plan to write a novel on this (gotta finish my nonfiction first, though!). I hope you enjoy it.


She rested against the wall and examined her surroundings.

The place wasn't huge. In fact, it was quite small, considering where she'd grown up. At least it was generally tidy, and she did her best to make it inviting for herself and her husband, especially to the nose. Whether it was the scent of a loaf of bread or a bouquet of flowers, Michal had learned young how welcoming a pleasant smell could be.

"Strive to be pleasing both in vision and aroma, girls," her mother Ahinoam had told Michal and her older sister Merab repeatedly. "It's a sure way to capture a man's interest, and to keep him devoted."

Since her marriage, Michal had strived to make their modest house a place of refuge for her husband. He certainly needed it, with his responsibilities in the wars against the Philistines, as well as his duties to Michal's father the king.

The animosity between these important men in her life was troubling. Ever since she and David had wed, her father's attitude toward her husband had grown increasingly sour.

David had confided in her not a week ago. "He sees me as a threat, Michal. I don't know how much longer I will be able to remain in his view."

Michal had nodded and bit her lip. She had had enough experience with her temperamental father to know David was right. All I can do is make our little home a place of respite for him for as long as I am able. I need to be sure he doesn't dread coming here, when he is running from everything, and everyone, else in his life.

Michal brushed the top of a life-sized wooden statue in the bedroom with her hand and turned the figure slightly to the right. It now faced the corner of the bed, where she sat and faced the walkway between the bedroom and the kitchen.

"Rivkah? Is the evening meal almost ready?"

Hearing no response, she scrunched up her face and then smiled. She must have gone to market. I suspect she'll be back soon.

Michal stood and straightened the bedcover. "I may have to choose between them at some point," she mumbled. '"I hate that."

The sound of footsteps in the adjacent room brought Michal back to the present. She walked toward the kitchen area, where Rivkah stood with flour and a few leeks.

"Will dinner be ready in time?"

"Yes, madam." Rivkah gulped, her eyes lowered. "I have distressing news."

"Tell me, Rivkah." Michal's voice was urgent.

"The king's cook was in the square. He said the king is angry with your master David."

Michal raised her eyebrows. "This is new information?"

"Madam, this sounded much more serious. The cook overheard the king speaking to his men, ordering them to watch David's house and kill him in the morning."

As Rivkah finished speaking, Michal looked up to find a ruddy and flushed David entering the kitchen. He pecked Michal on the cheek and headed toward the bedroom.

"Your father had another of his rages this afternoon. What I do to deserve them, I know not. He was a handbreadth from killing me." David peeked his head around the corner of the bedroom back into the kitchen. "I'm going to have a sleep, then, Michal, I'm afraid I'll need to go into hiding --possibly as soon as tomorrow."

Michal entered the bedroom and took David's hands in hers. "Apparently my father has already sent men to watch the house." She stared into his eyes. "If you don't run for your life tonight, tomorrow you'll be killed.*"

David sighed, embracing his wife. "The sooner I leave, the better, I suppose."

She nodded. "And I wouldn't leave the way you came. Wait until the sun sets, then sneak out the window."

David looked up. "Just know, dear Michal, that I may never feel as welcome anywhere again as I have here."


Michal watched David sneak away into the darkness. Glancing off to the right, she spotted a few of her father's men watching the front door. It was clear they saw nothing. She sighed and headed for the bedroom.

They will come looking for him soon enough. I need to delay them. He needs as much of a head start as possible.

Michal surveyed the room. When her eyes fixed on the statue in the corner, they brightened.

"That's it." She placed the statue in David's place on the bed and tucked it in.

*1 Samuel 19:11b
Based on 1 Samuel 19:9-17

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to link up below, and/or read more great fiction from Mr. Linky!

Another month down: an "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul" update

Well, with all of you folks talking about a brand new year, I thought I would make a point of reminding you that it is also a brand new MONTH. (Yes, this is Captain Obvious, at your service!)

And those of you who follow my blog know what that means: time for an update on my progress on my book, as well as some goal setting for the new month.

As far as December, I would have to say that I did fine. If you check out my ticker below, you will discover that I DID meet my 10,000 word goal - but not by much.

10001 / 10000 words. 100% done!

A bit of fun and exciting news (LOL to me anyway) is that I actually went through and did word counts on all the chapters I've written, and I am excited to say that, with God's help, I have completed 27,021 words (albeit mostly in very rough draft form). I'm definitely making progress. My slow and steady approach (approximately 325 words a day, just about every day) appears to be working quite nicely.

One thing I determined this month, however, is that I need to take some time to read back through my manuscript thus far. I'm concerned I'm repeating myself, or possibly missing something important. There's also the consistent voice issue.

So, my January goals are going to be a bit different than in months previous. And heeeeeeerreee they are!
During the month of January 2009, Lord willing, I plan to accomplish the following:
  • Read through, taking notes and doing minor editing along the way, "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul" thus far
  • Complete 8,000 new words in "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul" (which, for the curious, comes out to 330ish words a day, assuming seven days of "nonwriting" for my first goal)
So, here you go! I plan to keep up my ticker this month, just as I did in December, though the word count may not change much, if at all, for the first week (though if I add words as I read through, I'll certainly count them!). Thank you so much, folks, for all your support during this process. It is only with your, and the Lord's, help that I am accomplishing as much as I am.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful progress You have helped me to make, and the ideas You have put into my head as I was writing my book. I pray that, if You are willing, You will allow me to continue on this path to Your glory. You are the only One who will allow me to progress in my book. May Your will be done. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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...