“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

Embracing DIfficulties

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, James 1:2  NIV

Time to be honest here. That verse up there? I struggle with it. A LOT. Trials - a JOY? And not just one trial here and there. Trials of MANY kinds. I'm supposed to rejoice when things go wrong? Seriously?

Thanks, I wanna say, but no thanks.

But as I read on in this passage, I can't help but nod my head - reluctantly, but vehemently.
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:3-4  NIV
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The more the trials, the easier it is to handle the next ones. And there WILL be next ones. Cuz remember - that verse at the top? It doesn't say "if ever you face trials of many kinds." It says "whenever."

"In this world you will have trouble," Jesus told his disciples, on His way to some of the worst trouble of His earthly life. Not you might. Not some of you will. It's a promise. The Lord promises His children trouble.

But the second part of this verse is also a promise. "But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 NIV And He is in us - so we can overcome too.

Okay - I can OVERCOME my troubles. But rejoice in them? Embrace them? NOT try to escape them?


We humans learn through experience. And, to be honest, the more difficult the experience, the more we learn. And the more what we learn sinks in. And the Lord knows this.

And we might know it too. But we forget. Or ignore it. And, focused on our own comfort, we try to get out of our trials as soon as we can.

But it is IN our trials where we draw closer to the Creator and Lover of our soul. It is when we allow the Lord to use our trials to make us more like Him that we truly grow in our Christian walk.
"Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14b NKJV
Can you rejoice in your trials - knowing that Go put you there for His purpose? Can you allow Him to use you in your struggles without struggling against Him, knowing He knows best? Can you, my friend, use every moment of your trial to draw you closer to the One who loves you more than anything?

A difficult order, to be sure. But one, I dare say, we should strive for through our troubles - no matter how much we don't want to. Because He is trustworthy and faithful.
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

New in November

This post is part of Patty Wysong's 
 A to Z meme. This week's letter is "N."
A to Z blog hop at Patterings. 
A lot of my writer friends are gearing up for what may be the craziest idea anyone ever came up with.

Yes, one week from today, hundreds of thousands of writers will attempt to write an entire novel, basically from scratch, in a month.

If you are unfamiliar, November 2013 is the 15th annual National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel between November 1 and 30. (more details on the FaithWriters blog today, actually - a FW regular and NaNoer is guest posting)

I tried it once a couple years ago. I did NOT succeed (was about 20,000 words short), but I DID learn a lot about myself (check out this old post of mine if you're interested).

Guess what? I'm NOT doing NaNoWriMo again in 2013. But I am giving something else a try - something more in line with my new writing focus.

Click here to check it out!
When I was looking through children's author blogs looking for ideas/a blogging focus to go along with my new children's book writing focus, I found this little challenge at the blog of children's author Tara Lazar. She is the creator of Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo - doesn't roll off the tongue as nicely as NaNo - but oh well), in its fifth year. In her words:
  Tired of novelists having all the fun in November with NaNoWriMo, I created PiBoIdMo as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers. The challenge is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes).     You don’t need potential best-seller ideas. You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas and your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass.
A Laurie Keller we love - got a signed copy!
Sounds like fun, a super way to get those creative juices going, and besides - isn't that logo adorable? There were will also be posts by professional authors and illustrators all month- including Jan Yolen, Laurie Keller (a favorite at our house) and MORE. And those who complete the challenge can win prizes!

Personally, I'm fairly certain something like this is just what I need to make the leap - in my writing AND my mind - into writing children's books. And a bonus? There is NO way I'll be 20,000 words short on December 1!

I'm pretty excited about this new adventure I'm planning to take on in November. I'm praying that, by the end of the month, I'll know if picture books are truly where God is calling me to use His writing gift to me.

Are you doing/have you done NaNoWriMo, PiBoIdMo, or anything like it? Got plans for anything new in November?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Check out these "N" posts, and/or add your own!

Old or New?

Our society, it seems, is obsessed with new. We need the newest gadget. We're always striving for the next big thing. We prefer bright and shiny to well-worn.

But a lot can be said for the old - the tried and true.

Join me at Jewels of Encouragement today, as I talk about the one old thing - Ancient, actually - that is infinitely better than anything fresh off the assembly line. Come with me and follow the Old-Fashioned Paths. You won't be sorry.
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Seeking Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 

When I'm not sure of the right answer to a question I have, or a dilemma I'm facing, I've got lots of options for getting an answer.

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If it's writing related, I might check a writing craft book or  website, or possibly post the question to a more experienced writer friend, or a group like American Christian Fiction Writers, or the FaithWriters forums. If I'm having parenting troubles, Focus on the Family might be a good place to start. Or I could ask another parent friend who might have some thoughts on the issue. Parenting books are also a normal go-to resource. And, of course, there's always Google.

Yes, these are all places to go for ideas to solve my problem. But not one of them is the best place.

If I want to know the right path to take in ANY endeavor, if I want wisdom for my next step, there is only one place to go that guarantees I don't get led astray. And that is the Lord and His Word. Just check out James 1:5 again.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
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It doesn't say to Google it. Or ask your BFF who has been through it. Or to read a self-help book. It says to ASK GOD. And He will give it to you. And because He is God, you can bet your boots it will be the right answer.

Does this mean you should stop seeking advice from friends, experts, and everybody's favorite search engine? I don't think so. But it sure DOES mean you should seek His wisdom first, and lean on it more than anything you hear from man.

By the way, I'm sharing this not because I am an expert. In fact, this is one of my greatest struggles. I LOVE going to "the world" to get my wisdom. It's easier. It's quicker. It's more fun. But the consequences can be devastating. So pray with me:

Heavenly Father, You know my struggle to seek You first in my desire for wisdom. It has become so easy - so automatic - to take my problems to my friends, my family, even the Internet. I know in my head, Lord, that Your answers are best, and that You will generously give them to me if I will only ask. Help me, my God, to know it in my heart, soul, mind, and ACTIONS as well. You are the giver of wisdom, and every other good gift. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

 Where have you been seeking your wisdom?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths


This post is part of Patty Wysong's 
 A to Z meme. This week's letter is "L."
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
As a child (and even now!), one of my very favorite movies was The Wizard of Oz. Now, I have heard of folks who were petrified of the flying monkeys, or some other scene in it, and refuse to watch it (or allow their children to). But, well, folks - that's not me.

Wax Wizard of Oz: Josh Berglund
I watched it every year when it came on TV (you know - in the olden days before TiVo and even VCRs - gasp!!). I could sing just about every song by heart (I'm sure I had the record, or cassette tape, or something). And even though I knew exactly what was coming just about every minute of this classic film, I was dazzled by it each time I watched it. Along with The Sound of Music (which very well may be another post in the future!), this was "must-see-TV" (I'm dating myself, aren't I?).

Follow the yellow brick road! Sam Howzit
I loved The Wizard of Oz so much, in fact, that despite the fact that I was one of the tallest kids in my class from the day I was old enough to be IN a class (up to now - I am 5'10", after all!), I developed the nickname "Munchy" - short for Munchkin (loved those little dudes and dudettes!). It was mostly only family who used it - and one dear family friend. Whenever I see the movie, think about it, or get one of the song stuck in my head (like right now), I think of Stacee Ullman - who I haven't seen in decades. (May have to do a Facebook search - haven't in a bit)

Of course, I now own this movie (and my other favorite of course! :D), so I can watch it any time I want. And even if I don't have time, the songs never fail to run through my head (at the most opportune OR inopportune times!)
What movies can you never watch enough?
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Read more M posts and/or share your own here!


Being Used by God

So often, we feel there's no way we can change anything. We're just a miniscule dot on this earth. What good can little me do? And, as people, we're often right.

 But if you add God, that's a whole different ball of wax.
Would love it if you stopped by Internet Cafe Devotions today, and check out my post about this very thing. The next time you feel like you can't make a difference, remember God uses the tiniest things to make miracles. And You Think He Can't Use You?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Don't Seal the Cracks!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthian 4:16 NIV

 "It's what's on the inside that counts."

I've heard - and said - that statement likely more times than I care to count. And it's true in almost every instance. Especially, I learned recently, in the believer.

You see, I just finished a wonderful Bible reading plan from the website She Reads Truth - they have several available (I actually did mine through YouVersion), and the one I did was called Fresh Start. And the topic of the inside vs the outside...well...came up. One of the readings was from 2 Corinthians 4. You know, the part where Paul talks about us being clay jars.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV
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I don't know about you, but my first instinct is to take care of "my jar." Try to keep it as smooth, nice-looking, and blemish-free as I possibly can. Wouldn't want anyone to see my flaws or, heaven forbid, find a crack in my exterior.

But I realized that this is absolutely the WRONG attitude. Cuz when our outside is smooth and unmarred, nobody can see our inside. And THAT's where the good - the God -  stuff is.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:10 NIV
If we want people to see Jesus in us (and that should most definitely be our goal), they need to be able to SEE in us. And the only way they can, is if we have cracks and areas that are worn through.

For the indwelling Holy Spirit to be visible to the world around us, we must be broken. And the more broken, the better.
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Every crack, every missing piece of the jar I live in - every tear in the the tent that is my body (2 Corinthians 5:1) is a fissure through which God's Holy Spirit can flow to the world. And when I try to fix them, I'm blocking off the true Source of everything that is good.

So, don't seal those cracks. The more broken you are, the more He can use you - from the inside out.

We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Have you been sealing your cracks? 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Liquid Loves

This post is part of Patty Wysong's
   A to Z meme. This week's letter is "L."
 A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
I had a bunch of WONDERFUL words I was considering for my L post.

Los Angeles (where I was born and raised!)

But the ideas for them just weren't coming. So, my topic for today is a bit less inspiring and earth-shattering. But still fun (I hope!).

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I don't drink as much as I should. MANY have told me this. I don't ever recall being completely dehydrated, but I know more liquid consumption would be VERY good for me (and now I think I'll take a quick break to go fill a cup with water. I MIGHT have it empty in a few hours. If I remember).

Okay - I'm back. Took my first sip of water of the day (not counting the one I took with my multivitamin before it got light).

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I'm not much of a pop/soda/coke drinker. I'm not terribly fond of the taste of several of these beverages, and, well, the carbonation affects me more than most (I've been called a gaseous anomaly in the past :::blush::: ). There are a few (root beer, ginger ale - that's all that's coming to mind) that I'll drink in a pinch, but generally, it's not on my list. Not a fan of coffee either.

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My favorite liquid is milk (or leche, for my Spanish-speaking and "L"-conscious friends). Skim. Low fat is okay too - just don't give me whole. I would gladly drink it for just about every meal. Yummy! (In fact, I have a glass of milk with my Bible reading each morning - that picture on my blog header is NOT a mistake!).

But, if I'm eating out, milk is, in general, expensive - and you don't get free refills on it! So, as far as ordering drinks, my go-to liquid is lemonade. Regular, Pink. Raspberry. Strawberry. You name it, I enjoy it. Love me my lemonade. Not as much as milk - but still.

And if they don't have lemonade (or I'm just not in the mood)? Ice water.

Do You Drink Enough? What's Your Favorite Liquid?
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
 Read more L posts and/or share your own here!


Whatever the Weather

The weather in Michang is much like a proverbial woman - apparently, it has the prerogative to change its mind. And lately, it has used that prerogative a good deal.
 The Barn Door

I'm over at the Midwest blog The Barn Door today, talking about just that - reminding myself that I LOVE the variety (cuz, well, sometimes I forget). And I'm here to stay - whatever the weather!

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Blinded So I Can See

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.  Acts 9:8 NIV

Distractions are everywhere. On my computer. In my house. On the TV, the Kindle, my phone. Out my window. In my car. At church. Everywhere I look, there is something to keep me from what I should be doing.

Photo Credit
And sometimes, all I need is one thing to distract me. I have a tendency to be, well, the queen of tunnel vision. Give me one thing to focus on, and... well... everything else can disappear - if I'm focused enough, of course. If not, then all those little things mentioned above will jump in and distract me.

Sometimes that tunnel vision is good. I have a project I need to work on, and the TV blaring,  the cat jumping on my back, or the lawnmower running outside will do nothing to break me out of "the zone." I work hard. I get done what I need to. Go me!

But what if my "project" is outside God's will? What if what I'm supposed to be doing is one (or more) of those "distractions?" Well, then we have a problem.

I think maybe that's what Saul/Paul's issue was. He comes across to me as a very focused person - maybe even with Joanne-Sher-like tunnel vision. He knew those Christ followers were drawing people away from Judaism, profaning the name of the God he had worshiped all his life.  Blaspheming. And he had to do something about it.

So he went to Damascus with permission to imprison any Christ followers he found. His vision was razor-sharp on his mission.
Until God took that vision away from him. (Acts 9:1-19)
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Yes, the Lord struck Saul with blindness, so even his tunnel vision was gone. He could see nothing - except what the Lord wanted him to see. Which was the truth.

Could it be that Saul's vision was so filled with lies that the only way he would follow the truth would be for the Lord to blind Him? Could my vision be the same? Could yours?

Heavenly Father, blind me so I can see.

We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

It's Kicking Season

This post is part of Patty Wysong's
   A to Z meme. This week's letter is "K."
 A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
For the past month or so, my son Andrew has been involved in his(and my!) first school team sport experience. He is on his school's soccer team - the Cross Creek Cougars.

There's my boy going after the ball
 I have never seen more kicking in such a short time in my life. Just since September 9, the Cougars have played nine games and practiced at least that many times. The soccer season is intense. Almost every school day, the kids are either playing or practicing. Every day after school, it's kick, kick, kick. In fact, there's a game today - I might be out cheering the "kids in blue" on as you read this very post!
A "victory lap" - the kids run across the field and back at the end of each game

My son is loving it - and so are his teammates, from what I can see. I'm not QUITE as fond of it as he is (honestly, the schedule feels brutal to me), but I love to watch him and his friends play.

The boy in blue is one of four kids named Austin on the team
The thing is, the team is pretty big. There are twenty-eight boys on the Cross Creek Cougars, and with only ten positions, each kid certainly isn't out there the whole game. But the coach gives all of them a chance to play each game, which, I figure, it how it should be.

Those kids really hustle out there!
The thing is, soccer is still somewhat confusing to me. Don't get me wrong - I comprehend the basic premise of the game. It's the other stuff.  Most of the time, I don't understand the penalties, and I might just have to award a prize to the person who can actually make me understand exactly what "offsides" is. Most people have stopped even trying to explain (and I don't blame them. I'm a lost cause!).

There's some fancy footwork!
But I totally get the kicking part. And the "no hands" part (unless you're the goalie). And for now, I guess that's gonna have to do.

Besides, the season is nearly over - playoffs (which we may or may not be in - NOT a clue!!) start in a little over a week. And once that's over,  I'll get my life back it won't matter if I don't get it - cuz any kicking my son will be doing will be for fun only (unless, of course, he's misbehaving - but that's a whole different issue!).

Are you/have you been involved in the organized sports thing?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Read other K posts, and/or add your own link below!


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...