Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ready for Christmas, without shopping

Christmas checklist

Is the gift shopping done?
Nope.

Have I finished decorating the house?
Nope.

Have I baked the Christmas goodies?
Nope.

Am I ready for Christmas?
Absolutely.





This year our family faced a series of challenges.
  • Massive fire
  • Multiple hospitalizations 
  • Job loss 
  • Divorce
  • Death. 

But through every devastating event,
the Lord strengthened us.
                                               Encouraged us.
                                                                    Comforted us.
                                                                                           Loved us.

So in spite of the negative experiences and drawbacks, my husband Jake and I are more focused than ever on the gift of Jesus.



While gifts under the tree are sparse,
the greatest gift ever given resides in our hearts.


Jesus wants to share that gift with you too.
The gift of eternal life, purchased at the cost of his own.

He loves you that much. 
You're that precious to him.





Pray this out loud, believe it from your heart, and you will become saved (born again.)


"Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior. Guide my life and help me to do your will. In your name, amen."



If you prayed that with a sincere heart, you belong to God, His own child, living with Him for all eternity.
All heaven is celebrating the gift you just accepted from Jesus.

Now you're ready for Christmas!

All photos courtesy of photo courtesy of digidreamgrafix @freedigitalphoto.net



 









Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Author Extravaganza






Picture Combine seven authors, live music, give-aways, stories, and refreshments and what do you have?

The
free Author Extravaganza hosted by Angela D. Meyer at the Ralson Public Library.
 

This event is to support National Family Literacy Month, and to kick off the holiday season.

If you live in the Omaha/ Council Bluffs area please join Angela D. Meyer, Kim Stokely, Brooke Williams, Shawn Brink, Norma Donovan, Lee Warren, and myself on
Saturday Nov.7th 12:30-2:30pm. 


I'm excited to be a part of this event. It's even more special to me because my grandson, Asher, will be there as my official. photographer.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cheesecake and Godly wisdom


Wouldn't it be great if every problem could be solved with cheesecake?

  • Are you sad?    You should eat cheesecake.
  • Are you overwhelmed?    You should eat cheesecake.
  • Are you dieting?    You should send me your cheesecake.

Photo courtesy Sira Anamwong @ freedigitalphotos.net
Did I say "problem"  earlier?

I meant "growth opportunity."

Following my cheesecake advice brings tremendous growth opportunity...generally in the hip and thigh area.
photo courtesy of nenetus@freedigitalphotos.net

The Bible offers better solutions.

James 5:13-16 says:
  Are any of you suffering hardships?  

                                   You should pray. 
photo courtesy of graur razvan ionut2@freedigitalphotos.net

  • Are any of you happy?   
                                  You should sing praises. 
photo courtesy stockimages3@freedigitalphotos.net
 Are any of you sick?   

                       You should call for the elders of the church to pray over you, anointing you...in the name of the Lord.

Photo courtesy Naypong@ freedigitalphotos.net
 James adds,

"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results."

Yep, bible advice produces better results than a cheesecake binge. 

Even without chocolate sauce and strawberry toppings.
 
photo courtesy of samuiblue@freedigitalphotos.net

Since I'm currently dealing with multiple problems--er, growth opportunities--I'm diving into my bible. 

And a slice of blueberry cheesecake.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Going Forward Backwards

Ever felt like you were regressing instead of progressing?



photo courtesy of Stoonn at freedigitalphotos.net
This past year I've camped out in the valley of "Holy-Smoke-I-Can't-Catch-Up."

Anybody else vacationed there?


Situations attack my time like a Kodiak bear after a salmon.

Photo courtesy of Rosemary Ratcliff at freedigitalphoto.net
Like a grizzly after a deer.

Like Yogi and Boo Boo after a pic-a-nic basket. 



photo courtesy of Frankie242@freedigitalphotos.net

I put out one fire and five new ones flare up. 

My internal pressure geysers mount like Old Faithful. 

Photo courtesy of Exsodus@freedigitalphotos.net



Are you going through something similar?
Take heart, because there's hope.

Recently my friends all encouraged me with the same phrase:

"This is only a season. It will pass."

  • Coincidence?
  • Christian-ese?
  • Cliche?

I believe my brothers and sisters in Christ spoke encouragement straight from God's heart to mine.



So  instead of being discouraged, distraught, and disheartened let's take their advice and trust God's timing.

King Solomon, a wise man--not a wise guy--said,

"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT

Photo courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at freedigitalphotos.net

Even in a season of crazy we can

  • Cultivate a Godly attitude.
  • Sow compassion.
  • Grow spiritual fruit. 
  • Reap strength.

Nothing is lost, nothing is wasted when we allow God to shape and hone us in the midst of trials.

So while we wait for the season to change, let's move from Camp Crazy to Hotel Joy.
Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.fr

And take time to share a pic-a-nic basket with Yogi and Boo Boo.
 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Approaching the Throne


I'm a Chicken Soup junkie.
photo courtesy of tiramisustudio @freedigitalphotos.net

Not the kind in a bowl, the best selling book series.

(My favorites are the ones my stories are in.)

You'll find my story "Approaching the Throne " in their latest release,  Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back.

Of course, I also posted it below for all you wonderful blog friends.


 

Sunlight streamed through Bible Truth Ministries' multicolored windows. I relaxed on the blue padded pew, ran my fingertips across its glossy wood back, and enjoyed the fresh scent wafting through the air. This friendly church already felt like home.

My husband, Jake, and I sat with other new members in an orientation meeting led by a congenial deep-voiced elder. As the session drew to a close he said, "Should you feel a call to serve, we have many options available."

I squeezed Jake's hand and smiled. We enjoyed helping others. Surely there'd be a place we could be useful.

The elder read the list of service opportunities in his James Earl Jones voice:

Grounds Crew. Jake perked up. He already helped many of our neighbors with their mowing and snow shoveling. I knew he'd found his niche.

Food teams. I thought of my non-existent culinary skills and pictured black smoke billowing from the church kitchen. I knew to steer clear of that one.

Choir. Being slightly tone deaf, my voice sounded like a cat in a blender. No need to inflict that on our new church family.

Youth ministry. I'd taught children's church for years. I thought, "This is it, right Lord?"
Silence. No Holy Spirit nudge. No divine light bulb shining overhead.
I slumped back and listened to the rest of the list. 
     Ushers. 
           Safety Patrol. 
                Technical services.

Then the elder paused and proclaimed in a voice of doom,
"Church cleaning team."

I felt a nudge in my spirit. I scanned the gleaming sanctuary and mentally calculated the hours it might take to clean the large space. I decided I wasn't hearing God after all.

photo courtesy of tiramisustudio @freedigitalphotos.net
God prodded again.

I adopted a "Get thee behind me, Cleaning!" posture. "Lord, surely you don't expect me to clean the church?"

But he did.

With a mental scowl, I signed up for a cleaning slot.

The next Friday evening I joined a team of hug-slinging church members. Five women, ages ranging from young to grandma, plus one forty-something man, extended a cheerful welcome.

"Do we meet every week?" I asked, trying to hide my apprehension.
Our team leader had the grace to look appalled, "Mercy, no! Each team cleans once a month."
I silently congratulated God. I could handle once a month...maybe.

The team leader explained the division of tasks: dusting, vacuuming, window washing, etc. The lone man on our team pointed to a mop and said, "I always clean the throne room."

Throne room?

The bible talked about God being on his heavenly throne, but I'd never heard of anyone taking a mop to it. The others paused at my blank look. "Um, I'm not familiar with that theological reference," I said.

Good-natured laughter erupted. A lady put her arm around my shoulder. "'Throne' is slang for toilet."

Photo courtesy of foto76 @ freedigitalphotos.net

Another woman patted my arm, still giggling. "'Throne.' Girl, you're a hoot."

I smiled weakly and took the backpack sized portable vacuum she handed me. I strapped the shell-shaped appliance to my back, and like a middle-aged mutant cleaning turtle, sucked crud from the pew crevices as instructed. The rest of the team sprang into action.

With Bellevue, Nebraska's Strategic Air Command close by, Air Force members and veterans comprised the majority of the church. This group demonstrated military precision in their search and destroy mission against Enemy Dirt. Dust bunnies quailed before their feather-duster onslaught.

Most surprising to me, no one complained or grumbled. Between vacuum bouts I heard snatches of laughter and song.
photo courtesy of radnatt @ freedigitalphotos.net

The ensuing months brought a myriad of new "opportunities," like pew polishing and carpet cleaning.
One evening, washing windows beside a cheerful mite of a woman, I asked, "Do you enjoy cleaning?"

She laughed. "None of us like cleaning. We do it to serve God, and serve others."

Her words rose to mind soon after, the day our regular bathroom volunteer went MIA­--­missing in action. Our team grandma asked, "Jeanie, would you mind cleaning the throne room?"

Unwilling to show my apprehension before this hard-working woman, I gulped and squeaked, "No problem."

Shouldering the arsenal of bathroom cleaning weapons, I headed off to do battle in the throne room.

I pulled on two pairs of rubber gloves and gingerly entered the first of four bathrooms. The church men might be aiming for Godliness, but they sure weren't aiming for this throne. I backpedaled and sent up a King James's type plea. "Oh Lord, surely thou canst deliver thy servant from the evil before me."
Pic courtesy of Raktim Chatterjee @freedigitalphotos.net

No answer from the upper throne, so I set to work on the one in front of me, anointing it with copious quantities of Pine-Sol. After completing the fourth bathroom I sprayed myself with enough Lysol to open an ozone hole overhead.

photo courtesy of tiramisustudio @freedigitalphotos.net
Although I never grew to love cleaning, I did grow to love my teammates, and learned their true mission--prayer. After every cleaning session we gathered together, clasped hands, and approached God's heavenly throne, seeking his help for people and situations around the world.

Each time we prayed their dedication struck me afresh. Their love for God overflowed, evidenced by their faithful service to him and others.

Time passed and I volunteered for other church activities, like holiday productions and the praise dance team. My kitchen stints remained limited to non-cooking areas for the health and safety of all involved.

Through it all, I stayed on the cleaning team. Ironically, I became our regular bathroom cleaner, the "Throne Room Queen" wielding a toilet brush in place of a scepter.

One day someone will settle into the pew I'd occupied years before. Sunlight will stream through the clean windows. She'll run her fingertips over the glossy wood pew. Her children will play nearby on the spotless carpet. She'll think, "I want to join the cleaning team."

My replacement will join the ranks.

In the mean time, God's on his throne, and I still have one to clean.

The end. 

My pastors, Rordy and Ramona Smith of Bible Truth Ministries Church in Bellevue, Nebraska.



 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Complain about Everything


Raise you hand if you've experienced: 

  • Home appliances breaking down--the moment the warranty runs out.
  • Week-end guests who decide to stay for a week. 
    Photo courtesy of Toa55@freedigitalphotos.net
  • A flat tire on the way to work. And another on the way home.
  • Gaining weight when you're on a diet.
  • Your spouse morphing into Grumpy the Bear.
    photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici @freedigitalphotos.net
  • Your children behaving like creatures in a SCFY original movie.
 Neighbors: "Aaah, run! It's an Anacondopus!" 
You: "No, that's my daughter Brittney."
Photo courtesy of Akarakingdoms @freedigitalphotos.net

Distractions and intrusions can dissolve our composure faster than Big Foot disappearing into the woods.


                            Family discord.  
                                       Health issues.  
                                                 Time crunches on the job...
                                                           and home...
                                                                 and church... 
                                                                      and Little League, soccer, piano practice, ballet...

photostock@freedigitalphotos.net

Recently I'd fallen so far behind that catching up proved more elusive than the Lock Ness monster.

Frustration and self-pity set in.

If attitude determines altitude, I'd cruised below sea level.

Instead of being gratitude for the tremendous blessing surrounding me, I gave negative thoughts free rein. 

Argh! I'll never catch up.
How did I overbook myself again?
Why do I always get stuck doing that?


Until one morning I woke up to this Holy Spirit nudge:

"Precious daughter, you're complaining about everything, and praying about nothing."

Ouch.


But the Lord had the never-fail fix ready in Philippians chapter 4.

     Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici.@freedigitalphoto.net

 Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 

So no matter how low we get, we've never flying under God's radar screen. Even if we're traveling through a mental Bermuda Triangle.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pressed but not Crushed



A series of non-stop interruptions rule my life lately.

Matters ranging from important to trivial suck the time from my day faster than Superman's speeding bullet. Faster than the speed of light. Faster than me slurping down a chocolate shake. Almost.

Disruptions that can't be ignored, like dog vomit...and worse...on the carpet. And they're not even our dogs.
grumpy young man cleaning
photo courtesy artur84 at freedigitalphotos.net


Note: My folks call it "doggie doo-doo."  
But when it comes to my rugs it's definitely a "doggie don't-don't."

But as I knelt to perform a Lysol Carpet Baptismal Service, ancient words came to mind. The writer and his colleagues daily faced danger and possible death for sharing their beliefs. Paul wrote:

  "...since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up...
 

  ...We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord...
 
 
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.  


    tiny dog sleeping with one eye open
    photo courtesy of Stuart Miles@freedigitalphotos.net
  •  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. 

  •   We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 

  •  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. 

    • blazing white cross against a dark background
    photo courtesy of Naypong at freedigitalphotos.net
  • We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.


  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus...

...as God's grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. 


  For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. 

Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." 
                                                                                                   2 Corinthians 4:1-18

 That puts my puking pups into perspective!
hound dog caught sleeping on bed
photo courtesy of federico stevanin at freedigitalphotos.net

 3 Questions:
  • What hindrances trip up your day? 
  • How do you get past them? 
  • Would a chocolate shake help?