Devote.

Sometime before the first of February, I decided to devote some time each morning to God. I have a devotional book on my shelf—Jesus Calling by Sarah Young—a page for every day of the year written as if Jesus himself were speaking. Each day a sentence or two leaps off the page, and I try to remember the message in its simplest form all day long. Please accept a few jewels from this month so far:

“Talk with Me about every aspect of your day. including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with Me.”

April 1

I didn’t grow up talking about my feelings, and once upon a time some counseling revealed my tendency to stuff them inside. At the time, I felt I had no one to talk to. Since then, I’ve opened up more. I understand vulnerability makes certain people uncomfortable, so I choose what to say to whom with care. We all need at least that one person, and God invites you to talk to Him about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. I find great comfort in an honest relationship like that.

Your deepest, most constant need is for My Peace. I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live, but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds…Thank Me for troublesome situations; the Peace they can produce far outweighs the trials you endure

April 2

Oh boy, do I ever need peace? Sometimes I forget to thank God for my troublesome situations, but I’m trying so hard to remember this simple formula:

Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope

In Me you have everything. In Me you are complete.

April 3

Despite your beliefs in God, these are beautiful affirmations. I have everything. I am complete. It’s so easy to want more and to feel less than. Say it again. I have everything. I am complete.

A person who is open to My Presence is exceedingly precious to Me…I see you trying to find Me; our mutual search results in joyful fulfillment.

April 4

I’ll admit I was a little angry with God this year for just plain personal reasons, but I continued to feel His presence. It’s a comfort to know He considered me precious through my tantrum. Reading a devotion a day was a way to make peace with Him and find some balance for me. You know what they say about anger—it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I knew I had to let my bitter feelings go. I acknowledged the emotion by sharing it with God, and I’m trusting the Gardener to rid my heart of the weeds. Who doesn’t want to be filled with Love, Joy, and Peace?

Thanks so much reading my 2021 A-Z Challenge post today. That means a lot to me. This April, I’m sticking to a theme of action, mental and physical, things I might already do or haven’t attempted in years or maybe never. You know what else I’m trying for some balance? Answers found in these links: Abstain, Ballet, Cartwheel.

It brings me joy that you made it to the bottom of this post. Thank you so much for reading! For the April 2021 A-Z Challenge, I hope to stick to a theme of action—I’m thinking both mental and physical, continued current activities, those of days gone by, and possibly a few never attempted. You know what else I’m trying for balance in my life? Click links to posts so far: Abstain, Ballet, and Cartwheel.

To Blog (A-Z) or Not To Blog (A-Z) That Is the Question

One year ago, and for the first time ever, I blogged A-Z during the month of April as part of a challenge. I committed at the very last minute, wrote my first post A is for Apple on April 1st and posted it on the 2nd. I chose a theme of gratitude, which seemed important at the beginning of a pandemic and in keeping with the nature of my blog:

Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope.

Other than that, I didn’t have a big plan. I chose an attitude of gratitude for twenty-six days according to each letter of the alphabet and posted on the fly. It was all part of keeping my own sanity.

I missed this year’s big theme reveal day on March 8, and I read that technically I don’t have to stick to a theme. That’s what I love about blogging—freedom of voice. Whew!

This semester my MFA program comes to an end, and the deadline of my thesis looms on the horizon—April 26. Revisions continue on my memoir, a quest for help for my son who has a severe brain illness and a coming-of-age story of a middle-aged woman who realizes the only person she can truly help is herself. I see my work as a playbook of sorts for someone in my position and hope it’s relatable despite a person’s circumstances.  

During the spring semester of 2021, I’ve submitted the first two-thirds for feedback from my professor, and the next third is due at the end of March.

Parts I-III: 20,650 Words and 74 Pages

Parts IV-V: 23, 271 Words and 87 Pages

Parts VI-VII: 23,882 Words and 84 pages

Grand Total Today: 67,803 Words and 245 pages

Then, two more rounds of MAJOR revisions on my part, and after that three more professionals will read for extra opinions. So I might be mad to even consider a challenge. Then again, if I go for it, I might be building my audience of potential readers when the time comes to publish Help in the Time of Schizophrenia.

Happy Birthday, Dear Mama!

Photo by Skylar Kang on Pexels.com

I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. Geez, if you hang in here with me after that line, well, then, God bless you.

Today would have been my mother’s eight-first birthday, and every time I tried to write something eloquent, I failed hard. She was the best, and I miss her. During these last couple of months, I have been overwhelmed by the outreach of kindness and sympathy from friends, hers and mine. These words are among my favorite:

“I have sat beside, under her leadership and so close in prayer with your mother, on many Monday mornings—

She brought life, laughter, peace, memorized scripture passages, prayer needs and most importantly she taught me about “grace notes” and moments our Lord gives to us and our family: encouragements, joy, blessings—these are prayers of praise!

Praise prayers were prayed for you: in your teaching positions, your home sales and purchases, your honors, her grandchildren, births, graduations, and accomplishments. She thanked God for Kody, his strength and promotions, provision for you. We as a circle of friends “cheered you on” with our hearts lifted in unison for any concern, worry, or need. She prayed lovingly and with faithfulness, waiting patiently on our Lord to answer. I am still learning “patiently”. So, so thankful for her wisdom and understanding our Holy God and His promise, Psalm 31:15 “our times are in His hands.”

May you, sweet Crystal see and hear in this note, your mother’s deep spiritual love, her constant commitment to you…”

And these words go on. So, today I celebrate my mother. I see her as the picture of health with a smile that radiates sheer joy, and I hear her voice through the thoughtfulness of her friend. I hope she hears me, too. Happy Birthday, Dear Mama! Happy Birthday, to you!

Mom, Will You…

Lauren called late, 10:38, last Sunday night. She said, “Mom, will you come to Dallas?” I felt a tug in my heart. Something in her voice said, I need you, whether she said it or not.

“Of course, I’ll be there tomorrow,” I said. Lauren knew I had planned on making a trip sometime before the end of February. I just needed to wrap my brain around when. Just a month ago, I helped her load her Houston apartment into a U-Haul. She had lived fifteen minutes away. Now four hours. Part of my thirty-day purge required unloading some items from my house at Lauren’s new place. Still, when your child tells you you’re needed, you go. At least I do. If I’m able. And thank God I was. So I drove the road to Dallas beneath overcast gray skies.

Lauren is okay. New place. New job. Some of the same old stresses. How many times did I call my mother, especially in my twenties, with news of how the sky had fallen off my world? Sometimes a girl just needs her mom.

Together we hung a few things on the wall, some of my discards. “Anything you don’t want, we’ll give to Goodwill,” I said. Two small bags of things went back to my car. She let me rearrange some shelves and décor. We ate a few meals out, a few meals in, and each night we curled up on the couch and tried to make it to the end of a movie. We finally finished The Devil Wears Prada and concluded that no one needs to sell their soul for work or things.

And today I’m headed home. I don’t like the thought of leaving my baby girl alone. And so I leave her in God’s hands and trust. What else is a mama to do?

And for a quick post script, this week’s purge included 6 Christmas items, 13 decorative, 23 to Lauren, 5 more for dogs, 8 from one cabinet, and 31 from the garage straight to the trash. That’s 86 things no longer needed, used or loved, now gone from my house. AND, I’m 61 items ahead of schedule going into Week Three, which is awesome since I’ve been out of town. And at Lauren’s I helped her do the same 58 items out of her closet and dresser drawers. I had a trip planned to Goodwill anyway.

A Kick in the Pants

The day was February 1st, and I needed a kick in the pants. I decided I was the one to do it. Inspired by my friend Dwight’s Less Is Now Challenge, I figured the first of the month was a good day to start. My own guidelines go like this: SELL, DONATE, RECYCLE, TRASH. I just don’t have the energy to sell. Two questions guide my decisions: Do I love it? Do I use it?

Day 1 — get rid of one thing

Day 2 — get rid of two things   

Day 3 — get rid of three things

And so on for thirty days. If my math is correct, week one’s removal adds up to 28, and the entire purge ends up eliminating 453 items.

In my entry way closet, I had a small box started with 8 items to donate. In January, I helped my daughter Lauren move and ended up with some of her laundry, which equaled 11 things. In my car, I still had 3 trash bags of her clothes to donate (I didn’t count what was inside, but I counted the bags) and 2 patio chairs that I didn’t care to keep. From my own closet, I pulled 3 dresses, 2 pairs of shoes, and 1 pair of jeans. In the pantry, I found 23 dog items I no longer needed. In the garage, I found a box of flooded books, numbering 13, and recycled. And on Monday, I made a trip to the Goodwill donation site closest to home and left everything except what will go back to Lauren. From there I drove to the post office and mailed four envelopes and counted that, too. I started my gathering last Sunday, and on Monday 70 items vacated my house. That felt awesome, and I’m ahead of schedule.

And on February 1st, I went for a walk, two miles or so. As I did on February 2nd and the 3rd and the 4th and today is young. Also I started February 1st with a devotional from a book I haven’t finished. This year I thought I would try. I’ve kept it going all week. How is that for a kick in the pants?

Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. Now I think I’ll go for that walk.

I Awoke to the Moon

The Waning Gibbous Phase

I awoke to the moon shining through the trees and studied it with delight in the cool Sunday morning breeze. I felt God with me. My mother and my dog Rain, too. No longer here. But vividly here. In my heart.

Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
Psalm 111:2

The Lord created the world. That thought alone boggles the mind. His works are great. I will study and delight in them.

This spring semester, I’m studying William Wordsworth’s epic poem, The Prelude. According to my syllabus, “it is often said that The Prelude represents the true beginning of modern literature.” Book One depicts the poet from his youth, studying and delighting in the works of the Lord. Wordsworth never directly credits God, but he contemplates nature—the time of year, the warmth of the day, the placement of the sun in the sky, the color of the clouds, the illumination of the ground, and the peace of his surroundings—in connection to his own place in the world.

‘Twas Autumn, and a calm and placid day,
With warmth as much as needed from a sun
Two hours declined towards the west, a day
With silver clouds, and sunshine on the grass,
And, in the sheltered grove where I was couched
A perfect stillness. On the ground I lay
Passing through many thoughts, yet mainly such
As to myself pertained…(74-81).

Wordsworth provides a basic lesson of gratitude in his appreciation of small pleasures, and in this case, the world’s beauty. God resides in His creation, and like Wordsworth, we can find God’s peace if only we stop long enough to see and breathe in His presence in the world. Through a meditative pause and an eye on divine creation, Wordsworth found inspiration, hope, and a soothing balance in his life, and so will we.

…Thus long I lay
Cheared by the genial pillow of the earth
Beneath my head, soothed by a sense of touch
From the warm ground, that balanced me…(87-90).
Taste and see that the Lord is good; 
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him…
Psalm 34:8

A Story from Mom

On the corner of the desk at my mom and dad’s house, a stack of addressed envelopes in my mother’s handwriting remained for years. Three, four, or more. The cards inside were written to her nieces and nephews. One was for my daughter Lauren. I always wondered why they were never mailed, but one cannot argue with Alzheimer’s. Upon my mother’s death, we opened one that was not addressed, and we found a story from my mom and a letter. I think she wants you to have it. I think it’s all to say that everything will be okay.

I want to tell you a story. This is a true story. It is about me. How my life was changed.

From Sharon Savage Petty

When I was a very little girl, before I went to school, our family went to a little white frame church. It was about a half a block east from our house. We walked to church every Sunday. I loved going to church. I loved Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I loved all the songs and the stories that I learned. I loved Jesus and knew that He loved me. When I was in grade school, the church had grown so much that they decided to build a bigger church. It was built about half a block west of our house and it was made of stone. We continued to walk to church every Sunday morning and Sunday evening and sometimes on Wednesday night. I remember one of my Sunday School teachers more than any other. Her name was Mrs. Ward. It was about that time that I began to listen to what the preacher said that we are all sinners and need a savior. He said that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. I knew at the young age of ten years old that I was a sinner and I wanted Jesus to be my Savior.

Our little Baptist Church asked people who wanted to invite Jesus into their lives to be Lord and Savior to come to the front as a witness of our commitment to follow him. I wanted to walk down the aisle to make that commitment, but I was a very shy little girl, and I couldn’t make myself go.

I believe it was the next Sunday. I will never forget what happened that day. I heard a small sound, and I looked across the church and saw one of the girls from my class at school. She was walking down the outside aisle. I thought, “If she can do it, I can too.” So I went down the aisle. I prayed to Jesus asking him to forgive my sins and be my Savior and Lord. It was a strong commitment to follow Jesus.

That afternoon, my Mother’s friend came over to visit. She said that she didn’t believe that I was saved, and she thought I went to the altar because my friend did. Her words put doubt in my mind, but I knew in my heart that Jesus was my Savior. That night when I went to bed, I prayed and prayed asking Jesus if I was really saved. I prayed for a very long time that night and, suddenly, I felt great peace come over me. I knew then for sure that I was saved. I got out of bed and went into the living room where my Mother was and told her that I really believed that I was saved. She said, “I believe that you are too.”

I truly know that Jesus has been with me since that day. He promised us that He would send His Holy Spirit to be our Counselor, Guide, and Teacher. He helped me understand the Bible. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). I can’t say that I have had a perfect life, but I can say that I have had “A Wonderful Life”. My relationship with Jesus has grown through the years. I read my Bible and pray often. I am very thankful for the life I have had. I have been truly blessed. I hope that you will make a commitment to follow Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him too. I can truly recommend him.

The Luke Challenge Catch-Up

At the beginning of December, I started Year One of what I hope is a new tradition. I challenged myself to read the Book of Luke, an entire account of Jesus’s life, a chapter a day, leading up to Christmas. Below. My summaries. My interpretation follows. I’m no Bible scholar, just a regular person, trying to be better than the person I was yesterday. Maybe next year I’ll add to this outline. Maybe this year you’d like to join me for the last ten days of Luke.

  • Luke 1:
    • The angel Gabriel appears to Elizabeth’s husband and Mary (separately) to announce immaculate conceptions for both.
  • Luke 2:
    • Jesus is born.
    • Within the chapter he is twelve, listening and asking questions of temple teachers.
    • He grows in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.
  • Luke 3:
    • Genealogy of Jesus.
  • Luke 4:
    • Jesus is tested and rejected, and he heals the sick.
  • Luke 5:
    • Jesus call his first disciples.
    • He heals leprosy and forgives and heals a man with paralysis.
    • He eats with sinners.
  • Luke 6:
    • Jesus prays before choosing his disciples/friends.
    • He heals more and more people.
    • He teaches:
      • Love your enemies.
      • Do not judge and you won’t be judged.
      • Forgive and you will be forgiven.
  • Luke 7:
    • Jesus performs a resurrection.
    • He forgives a sinful woman.
    • He teaches with a story of debts and forgiveness.
  • Luke 8:
    • Jesus teaches with parables—the seed sower and the lamp on the stand.
    • Jesus chooses his family.
    • He calms storms.
    • He heals.
    • He resurrects.
  • Luke 9:
    • Jesus gives disciples the power and authority to heal and humbly spread news of God.
    • Jesus feeds five thousand, heals more people, and speaks about God’s kingdom.
    • Peter declares Jesus the Messiah.
    • Jesus, as son of man, says—
      • That he must suffer.
      • That he will be rejected and killed.
      • That he will be raised from the dead.
      • Follow me if you want to save your life (for everlasting life).
    • Peter, John, and James pray with Jesus on the mountain.
      • Jesus transforms and his face glows.
      • Moses and Elijah appear in glorious splendor and speak of Jesus’s departure.
      • A cloud descends and God speaks—“This is my son, listen to him.”
    • Jesus heals another person and predicts his death a second time.
      • He tells his disciples to get rid of their egos.
      • He says—Whoever is not against you is for you.
    • On the way to Jerusalem (to his death)—
      • Jesus isn’t welcomed by the Samaritans, and he moves on.
      • People say they will follow him, but they have excuses in the moment.
  • Luke 10:
    • Jesus sends out 72 to spread God’s word.
    • He teaches with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
    • At Martha and Mary’s house, Martha busily prepares to be a hostess.
      • Mary spends time with Jesus.
      • Martha is bitter about her self-imposed work.
      • Jesus tells Martha that Mary’s choice is better.
  • Luke 11:
    • Jesus teaches his disciples to pray:
      • Give thanks, ask for forgiveness and help in forgiving others and help with temptations.
      • Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.  
    • Jesus says that kingdoms and houses divided will fall.
    • Jesus says to let the light within you shine.
    • Jesus instructs us to be generous to the poor.
  • Luke 12:
    • Jesus says, “Whoever acknowledges me before others…will also acknowledge before the angels of God.”
    • “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
    • Jesus teaches with the parable of the rich fool.
    • Jesus tells us we won’t prolong our life through worrying.
    • Jesus says, “Be ready…the son of man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
    • He says that there will be division in families and asks, “Why don’t you judge for yourself what is right?”
  • Luke 13:
    • Jesus instructs us to repent or perish and uses the parable of a man who has a fig tree that doesn’t bear fruit.
      • The advice to that man is—leave it alone for another year and see what happens.
    • Jesus heals a crippled woman who cannot stand straight.
    • Jesus uses the mustard seed and yeast parables for God’s growing kingdom.
    • Jesus says that the entrance into God’s kingdom is a narrow door.
    • Jesus hears that Herod wants to kill him. (This is a different Herod than Herod the Great who tried to have Baby Jesus killed).
  • Luke 14:
    • Jesus heals a man with abnormal swelling.
    • In a wedding feast parable, Jesus concludes, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
    • In the parable of the great feast, the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame are invited.
    • Being a disciple costs you yourself. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

No matter what you believe about Jesus or Christianity, in Luke we see Jesus spreading good news and deeds, in a humble, non-preachy way. He’s a natural teacher, using stories that allow people to draw their own conclusions. He doesn’t judge, and he forgives. Satan tests him, others reject him, and he suffers. Such is life. I believe that he calms storms and heals people and resurrects the dead to show us perfection in the afterlife. I don’t know about you, but Jesus gives me hope—and shows that our struggles strengthen us, that better days lay ahead. I could use a little hope. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and good tidings to you!   

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

A New Tradition

Have you ever opened the bible at random to find a divine message from God? Perhaps I have. If so, it’s been awhile.

A day or two after Thanksgiving, my daughter Lauren called to tell me about her encounter with God. I could hear her smile and energy through my cell phone. “I opened the Bible and ended up in Amos, and I was like, ‘Amos, where am I?’” She laughed her twenty-eight-year-old laugh. “And this is what I found, I’m going to read it.” She hesitated through the words. “‘Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is’ (Amos 5:14). The words were bolded. They jumped off the page. I was like, ‘Seek good, not evil.’” She paused. The way she phrased the scripture sounded more like a question. “Of course, that makes sense.”

And I said, “No matter what you believe, the Bible has some good advice.”

Lauren agreed, and eventually we said our goodbyes, and a day or so later while Facebook scrolling, I found this:

I texted the image and a message to Lauren: I saw this today. I think I’m going to do this.

 She texted me: Oh that sounds good maybe I should do that

Me to her: We could read it and talk about it. New tradition.

And so I read Luke 1. If I ever knew the story, I didn’t remember that the angel Gabriel appeared to Elizabeth’s husband as well as Mary to announce immaculate conceptions for both. Two immaculate conceptions. One for a menopausal woman. The other for a virgin. I love a good miracle. Miracles keep my hope alive.   

On December 1, my friend Denise called. Denise, my friend since age five. I told her about Luke, and she wanted to join Lauren and me in the new tradition.

Later she texted me and some friends: I’m reading Luke – a chapter a day. I hadn’t remembered Mary going to Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist). All we need is that one friend right!?! God knew.

And I texted: Love that perspective.

And Cheri texted: Same here. I’ll join you.

And now for Luke 2. Let me tell you, Luke is not messing around. He jumps into the story. Jesus is born, and within the chapter he is twelve. Sitting among teachers at the temple. Listening. Asking questions. Growing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

And no matter what you believe, Jesus was a good guy. We could all learn a little something through him. Who’s in? New tradition. The reason for the season.

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

On the Turning Away

Church started with Pink Floyd last Sunday. Technically it was Domino. With his iconic dreads and electric guitar, he sang, “On the Turning Away.” I saw it online, and I just happen to have a link. Next came Jeff Jones, he’s the senior pastor, and the current series is “Love Like Jesus.” Feel free to scroll on. I’m posting it believing someone might need to hear and will watch.

Jeff started out his sermon with some word associations: “If I said ______, you would say _____.” Eventually making it to his point. “If I said, ‘Christian,’ I don’t know what you would say, depending on what your experience is…”

I knew where Jeff was going. I knew what should go in the blank, but I’ll be honest, my first thought was not positive. Forgive me for going there. I know there are lots of good Christians, amazing humans who give generously of their time and resources and have an unbelievable level of grace for others. But I also know lots of people who won’t step foot into a church…who feel judged by Christians…who have had bad church experiences. Almost daily during my online scrolling and sometimes in overheard conversation, I hear and see Christians passing judgement. And I think—what would Jesus do? What would Jesus say? What would Jesus post?

Jeff continued, “…but I know what we should be able to say, what anybody in the world should be able to say whether they are Christian or not or believe anything about Jesus…the first thing they should think about when they think about ‘Christian’ is love…because that’s the one thing that Jesus said,…’Love like I love.’”  

The weekend before last Ryan Leak kicked off the series. He’s a teaching pastor and a professional speaker. And the strange thing is—I saw him for the first time preaching at a church in Houston about a year ago, and then suddenly he’s popping up at my home church back in Dallas. Throughout the pandemic, Chase Oaks Church is my go to for Sunday mornings. I find extra inspiration and hope here. The sermons are archived on their website if needed, and you can fast forward through the music—or not.

 

Anyway, I go to church each Sunday for my weekly attitude adjustment. I am far from perfect. FAR. But I try. On the day of this U.S. Presidential election, I might not be perfect. Despite results, I’m sure I’ll need to be back in church by Sunday.

Jesus knows we’re all messed up. He offers forgiveness as a gift. And because He would, I’m sending love and peace your way—no matter who or where you are, no matter what you’ve done or what you believe. ❤️