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So here’s a hypothetical question: What if, the minute you had an inspired idea, it was susceptible to thought-hackers? You’d get to the drawing board right away. Wouldn’t you?

In a moment of divine inspiration, you came up with an idea that would change the world. At the same time, you’re aware that thought-hackers may be listening in on a secret brain-wave wire tap. You’d make sure you got over to your lab and created that world-changing thing right away.

Now, I have no such delusions of grandeur, but I just had an interesting thought that made me re-think the way I see all of the things I pray that God will make right in my life. What if that’s what life is supposed to look like, really? All of the problems that keep persisting. Are they really just projects?

If pain is a clue to let you know that there’s something in your body that is hurting and needs attention, maybe problems are breadcrumbs. Got this one fixed, but here comes another one just like it.

Not a problem. A project.

Not a difficult person. A story to unravel.

Not a lack. A lesson.

Maybe the hard road is not too much for us to bear. Maybe it’s God, right on time, believing in us enough to know that we’ll use our ingenuity, our inspiration, our innovation to find a way to make things work. And when need be, we can always fall back on our secret weapon: prayer.

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Did you ever find yourself in a snit about little things that seem to accumulate?

I had medical appointments and procedures over the last couple of weeks (everything’s fine) but got behind on reading blog updates, emails, etc. My schedule was thrown off and getting out of my usual routine really got under my skin.

You look at the salt shaker on the counter and think, Why is this here? It belongs in the cabinet! Stupid, small things become monumental.

Why is it overcast today? Just to annoy me? You start to think that everyone is doing things just to get on your nerves.

It becomes an almost tangible roadblock that can lead to a kind of spiritual gridlock.

You start to think everything’s out of whack, when really, it’s just a matter of pruning. Taking stock of what’s most pressing, and tending to the roots.

This is what matters most in life: faith, family, friends. Praying, staying in a peaceful state of mind, taking care of yourself. The rest is really just logistics. 

We spend so much time making sure all our ducks are in a row that we forget to feed the ducks! Don’t neglect to do the very things that would smoothe out those edges:

  • Pat your pets
  • Look at the sunset
  • Re-read a favorite book
  • Listen to music
  • Relax in a comfy chair
  • Read uplifting passages from Psalms
  • Wear a comfy sweater, even if it has a hole in it

Don’t throw out the sweater because it’s got a little imperfection. Sew it up, if you know how, or just toss on a scarf. Who’s going to know? Keep the comforts close at hand, so when it feels like life is getting out of control, you remember: there’s always tomorrow.

Count your blessings. Life is good.

Yeah, I realize that this post has more clichés per capita than a basket full of fortune cookies, 😊 but this is the gospel truth: God’s got your back.

Ride it out, and next thing you know, the sun is back up again. And lo and behold! All is well.

Clean and Clear PostAlways Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements

So I was in the kitchen washing dishes yesterday, when, for reasons unknown to me now, I started to think of a time years ago when I made mistakes as a mother, and it left me feeling sad.

How could I do that? I asked myself. Before long, I was in tears, still scrubbing away at plates.

At just that moment, I noticed some marks on the wall where the trash bins used to be kept. There were little flecks of debris that I’d never noticed, as this wall was behind a door we always kept open.

The garbage can was gone from that spot. All that was left was the residue.

Just as the things I was beating myself up about were well in the past, and all that was left was the regret.

It isn’t here anymore, I said to myself, wiping down the wall. It’s been removed.

Odd as it may seem, I felt that God was speaking to me through the grungy grime!

The things we can’t forgive ourselves for are echoes from a bygone era. If we’ve truly changed our ways and have brought it to God in prayer, the only thing left to do is release it. Not forgiving yourself is like saying God doesn’t know best. If he’s forgiven you, there’s nothing left to forgive. It doesn’t exist anymore.

When I was done with the dishes, I realized that I felt lighter, as if a burden had been lifted. As I cleaned in the kitchen, my conscience had cleared. I did my best at the time, I reminded myself, and I’ve learned to do better over the years.

Well. Laundry is next on my to-do list. I wonder what life-lesson I’ll learn from fluffing and folding?

This Post Contains Spoilers

To be a writer, you need skin thick enough to withstand the rejection of publishers, agents, potential clients – none of whom know you, but all of whom are making assumptions about you.

Comparing you to the best-selling authors they are truly seeking. Extrapolating – based on the length of your resumé – that you might be a tad long in the tooth – one might say – and perhaps aren’t current in terms of topical trends and social media.

But you also – simultaneously – need skin thin enough to feel life as it flows through you so you’ll have something to write about. To be sensitive and sentient. To be a risk-taker. An open-hearted soul-explorer.

The same paradox holds true for those of us who profess faith.

Sometimes I think my own ideology is somewhat – let’s say – idealized. I want to believe in the goodness of humanity. I want to believe that it will all make sense one day. But I believe that faith is a muscle, and it must be stretched – and that’s just what happens when we experience loss, feel doubt or go through hardships.

It seems sometimes that the hardest part isn’t the pain, but the struggle to stay human.

Spoiler alert: God’s still in charge.

I believe with all my hopeful heart that it will work out for you in the end.

People may try to pigeon-hole you, stereo-type you, or call you a “work-in-progress.”

They may passive-aggressively say they’ll “keep you in their prayers.”

But you know who you are. And you know whose you are. You won’t be constrained by hyphens. You can’t be contained by pain. You are God’s own. You’re not alone.

You write the story as you go – published by Providence and ghost-written by Grace.

Here’s to a hope-filled happy ending!

Contractors had come to my house to fix some shingles on the roof, and after they left, I noticed a single tiny nail, sitting above the glass of my skylight.

Of course, it’s only one small nail, but, for a moment, it was disconcerting. What should that be holding together? And how many other nails may have just flown off, unnoticed? Will the effect eventually be cumulative, and then one day, it makes the entire house collapse?!? I’d better call the emergency random tiny nail restoration hotline. They’ll know what to do! 🙂

It’s amazing what we can find to worry about in the course of any given day.

That got me thinking of all the little hinges we perceive to be holding the world together, like the double yellow lines on the highway. The flu shot. The ozone layer. These protective layers we wrap around us as we head out into the world to keep traffic and germs and gravity at bay.

Sometimes I think that if I don’t inoculate myself with prayer before I venture out into the world, I may have used up the faith-fuel in my tank. Maybe God will say, Oops! You should have asked if you wanted my protection. Sorry! You’re out of luck.

But I know that it isn’t what I do, nor the words I speak (or don’t speak) that keeps me covered by the umbrella of Providence. It’s nothing that I’ve done to earn such favor. Just grace.

Otherwise known as the hinge holding you, me, and the whole world together. It’s good to know that I don’t need to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” I just need to remember I’m not on this journey alone.  

Fresh Bloggie Posts 2015.docxMusic adds so much joy to my life, and I like a wide range of genres, but my true go-to song is something of an unexpected gem.

It’s a version of the great gospel song, “I Love the Lord,” by a South African gospel group called Joyous Celebration.

Now mind you, I’m so pale I’m almost pink. So white that you can see my veins right through my skin! In fact, when I get my monthly infusions for MS, the nurse always says, “My goodness! You’ve got great veins.”

“Yes,” I respond, “because my skin is almost see-through!” And I joke that I could put that skill on my resume: great veins. Plus a winning personality!☺

So while this song is from another culture and is partially in a language I don’t understand, I simply adore the vibe of it and the wonderful young lady who sings it, Ntokozo Mbambo.

Of course, I must admit that when I first heard it, I thought, Oh my! She’s getting carried away, adding a lot of ‘verve” to a song that I’d only ever heard as a sedate, low-key ballad. But by the end of the song, I thought, Wow. I feel what she’s singing deep down in my soul.

In the improvised part at the end of the song, she sings, “I came to let you know that with God you can and you will make it.” And it feels like she’s talking to everybody in pain. “Just hold on a little bit longer, hold on, hold on…”

If I ever win the lottery, it’s only right that I should send that singer the money I would have spent on a therapist, because when she sings, it’s a healing session for me.

You can find yourself wondering: does anybody know what I’m going through? And suddenly you realize it. Everybody’s going through something. We can be there for each other, because at one time, it felt like no one was there for us.

Sometimes comfort comes from God through a conduit. It might be another person, a song, a bluebird or a rainbow. Look around: there’s always somebody who’s been through it, ready to remind you of this deep truth. You’ll make it. And when you do, before you know it, you’ll be singing a song for the next person looking for comfort. You can tell them from the heart: this, too, shall pass.

Listen. It’s not just that I believe you can make it. No, I know you can. And you will.

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This sign was sitting in the front of the gift shop over a year ago, and it really caught my fancy.

A sign! One that says, basically, so, you’re looking for a sign from God, eh? Well, here it is! Clever.

I wanted to buy it, but couldn’t justify the price. 

A few months later, it was in the middle of the shop with other random bric-a-brac. I picked it up again, but put it back down.

Finally last month, it was on clearance. This time, the price was right, so I took it home. (Just to clarify, I paid for it first! A kleptomaniac, I’m not.)

It has a light-hearted message, to be sure, but the words on the sign really resonated with me.

You see, every so often, I find myself waiting for a nudge from God and end up in a holding pattern.

Like the time I wrote a short story some time back, but didn’t submit it to any markets because it wasn’t my usual genre. It was science fiction, and I figured the editors would take one look at it, exclaim, “novice!” and toss it into the slush pile.

Finally, over the summer, I took the advice of this silent, wooden sign and took a shot. I submitted my story to Analog, a science fiction magazine. Chances are, it may well end up in the slush pile. Even so, it’s higher on the evolutionary scale of getting the piece published than it would be gathering dust on my computer (virtually speaking, that is.)

That sign is a silent sentinel, saying: Don’t wait any longer to walk toward your dreams.

You don’t need an engraved invitation from God. 

I believe that the minute you take a step toward that goal in your soul, you’ll find that God shows up on the path and walks with you.

Of course, in truth, he was there all along. You’re the one who finally took that leap of faith and met him halfway.

But if you’re like me and you need a sign, there it is, good people. It’s no burning bush… just a friendly nudge in the right direction.

1I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace. I will boast of all his kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together and exalt his name.

Psalm 34:1-3 (The Living Bible)

When my son was younger, I’d sit with him and his friends in our sunroom and we’d chat about whatever was on their minds. Sometimes, it seemed as if this was the only time in their lives an adult had ever asked them, “So how are you doing, son?”

Once, during “Sunroom Time,” one of my son’s friends plopped down on the couch and started flailing a long, sharp stick around. “Honey, put that down. You might hit your brother by mistake,” I said. Problem was, as someone with ADHD, he really wasn’t able to stop. His brother, sitting next to him, grabbed his hand and held it down. Even while restrained, the stick was madly moving around, making “whooshing” sounds.

“Wait, let him go,” I told his brother. “He’s not being heard. He’s speaking through the stick.” For some reason, it seemed that his body was telling him it was urgent to do this, and that he must not stop. I told him to aim it away from the others, which he did. Eventually, the flailing subsided and he was able to calm down.

Communication comes in many different forms. Earlier this year, my cat woke up one day unable to “meow.” He’d open his mouth and no sound would come out. His furry face looked so sad. After a visit to the vet, his voice was restored. That night, at 3 AM, when KitKat “meowed” to wake me up so we could play the Stealth NinjaCat Game (barrel roll into bathtub, dash down hall, slide under rocking chair and zoom up onto bed), I wondered if I’d made the right decision to give him back his voice!

People also speak without words. Waking my son in the morning, I am greeted with a fair dose of “side-eye,” as if his body is communicating: This is madness! You’re trying to wake me up?!? It’s summer, for Pete’s sake! Have you lost your mind, woman?

This picture of Warren Harding’s mistress and their “love child” says more than the entire article. I can only imagine she had a hard life and never really felt the “love” as a child.

Sometimes words can say too much. This neighbors’ dispute over barking dogs lead to an obnoxious sign. I was amazed to read that the couple hoped that writing disparaging remarks on a posted sign would make their neighbor apologize – even though he appears to have done nothing wrong. That sign doesn’t communicate, it exacerbates.

Often, words are merely ill-chosen. When I read this headline on Yahoo News, I was certain that an announcer had been shot during a football game, but it was just a very poor choice of words.

It seems like the Tower of Babel in the world today, with everyone talking a different language, and many with forked tongue. Not everyone has the best intentions when they speak, but here are some words you can count on: God said it. We believe it. That settles it!

 

Three Little Words

When I first started out as a Freelance Writer, I carefully kept track of my submissions on WritersMarket.com. I kept all of my folders organized and kept a steady stream of queries in the mailbox with the little flag up.

As responses came in, I’d be sure to make a notation on the tracker – accepted, rejected, follow-up, date submitted, date accepted, name of agent.

All of these things were done right, but there was one thing that I look back on and realize was done wrong. Really, really wrong.

I held onto all of my rejection letters. For a good year or two, I’d put all of my “thanks, but no thanks” letters from agents and publishers into an old briefcase that I stored in my closet.

So, every day, as I got ready for my office job in the morning and went to the closet to get my clothes, I’d look down and see that bag of rejection. My heart would sink.

Still have the day job. Still not a best-selling author. Still not where I want to be.

It took me a while, but eventually I realized that I had to ditch the bag if I wanted to get anywhere as a writer. It was poisoning my soul to see that bag at the start of every day.

Most of the papers were actually form letters or postcards sent by agents summarily dismissing my work with those three dreaded little words:

Not for us.

Sort of the polar opposite of the most famous three-little-words, “I love you.”

As long as I kept track of submissions online, there was no earthly reason to keep rejection letters indefinitely. So they didn’t like that piece. I would try a different agency at another time. I’d define my niche and study the market until I knew where to send the next submission.

Sometimes rejection can seep into your psyche without your realizing it. The best way to keep making progress toward your goal is to replace those three little negative words with ones that shore you up and restore your soul.

I’m here, child.

Call on me.

You are loved.

And take your mind off of the things that bring you down by doing things that bring you up.  Look at flowers. Pat the cat. Hug your kids.

Just three words, but they really pack a punch. And remember: God is good. All the time.

This scripture was posted on an inspirational blog that I follow, B is for Blessed, and it really took hold in my soul.

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14 (NKJV)

Today is my 50th birthday, and this phrase resonated with me, since some say that our best years are behind us. You might think, it’s all downhill from here! As it happens, that’s not actually the case.

Turning fifty is supposed to be a milestone, but as it turns out, it’s just another day on the calendar. As I look back on my life, some of the true milestones flew under the radar, such as that moment a few years ago when I realized how important it is to figure out what you don’t want in life – that’s how you draft the map in your mind to your soul’s sacred space.

Milestones are stepping stones, like bricks on the path toward the life you want to create.

The upward call says it all. Keep pushing toward a goal. Have a sense of purpose. Indulge your passion. Even if you’ve got health issues. Keep going. Even if you don’t know how to get what you want out of life. Start stepping.

Moving in any direction is better than standing still. Get up. Get dressed. Get to work. If you stay rooted to the spot you’re sitting in, you’ll have no incentive to expand your world. If there’s a mountain in your way, get your hard hat on. It’s time to dig out of the trenches.

One of the keys to making progress is not looking back. Re-playing bad scenes from the past is like paying admission to see an awful movie you hated the first time.

Never forget as you navigate this world that you’ve got a silent partner and a hotline to heaven called “prayer.”

I say, onward and upward. It’s not about the calendar, it’s about the calling. It’s not about the “days of yore,” it’s about what’s in store.  No matter your age, keep the faith: the best is yet to come.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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