Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Code of Sweet Sisterhood

I recently discovered that I’ve been under secret video surveillance in my own home. By my seven-year-old niece Devon. 

I opened up the Photo Booth program on my laptop to see that she’s created 41 movies, complete with special effects and backgrounds. About half of the videos are of me and it’s a little unnerving watching myself since I’m completely unaware I'm being recorded.

I’m standing on a ladder hanging curtains. {Clambering up and down as if I were attempting to scale Mt. Everest.}

I’m pounding a nail into the wall, trying to hang a picture. {Which seconds later crashes to the floor.} 

I’m talking on the phone to my sister. {Dramatically relating an assortment of trivial details.}

Evidently, I don’t pay enough attention to my niece when she’s at my house. I think she’s just playing over at my desk, but she’s been hard at work designing and producing her little movie creations. 

And I didn’t even notice until the finished product was right in front of me.

Isn’t that how God sometimes works in our lives? 

When we can’t understand what he’s doing and we can’t make sense of what we’re going through, we wonder if he really sees us. 

But he promises that we’re never out of the frame of his panoramic view although we could be completely unaware of his presence.

We pray to an invisible God, making our requests to the ceiling and asking for his blessings from the sky. Often surrounded by silence, we wait. Hoping for a confirmation that he really is the director in the production of our lives.

So I will trust that even when I don’t see a change in my circumstances, he’s working behind the scenes, splicing together all things for my good. 

I put my confidence in his promise that he cares about every little thing that happens to me even when I can’t see his hand. 

And when I return to kneel at his feet once again, he reminds me to look back at what he’s already done. To remember that what I thought was so impossible, so improbable, came to pass in an extraordinary way that only God could direct. 

And that’s why I know that nothing is hopeless or far-fetched when he is overseeing the action of my life.

In Sophia Nelson’s just-published book, The Woman Code, she delivers a message of resilience and strength for women to live a life of faith and purpose. This former White House reporter and Congressional Committee counsel shares the 20 codes -- or beliefs -- that she lives by to inspire women to live with love, compassion and gratitude. 

Her codes include making peace with your past, guarding your heart, aging gracefully, being brave and choosing your thoughts and words wisely. She relates personal stories and urges women to treasure the sisterhood of the women in their lives, who she says truly are gifts to be appreciated.

I share this tradition of sisterhood since my sister is my only sibling and both of my parents had a tribe of just sisters.

So it was quite the momentous occasion in our family when my nephew was born ten years ago. Although I found myself head over heels in auntie-love with him, I still dreamed of a niece to carry on our girl-to-girl traditions.

It was on my birthday, three years later that my sister found out she was having a baby girl and told me my wish was coming true. {Devon never tires of hearing how she was my birthday present that year.} 

Having a niece is everything I've dreamed of. It’s in my kitchen where she decorates ghostly marshmallows for Halloween and sends her mother texts that she's excited to shred a zucchini. 

And when she told her class at school that her aunt’s house was her favorite place to be, I felt like the star attraction.

Devon thinks secretly recording me is hilarious. She says I do a lot of crazy things she likes to capture so we can remember them later. 

These days I’m feeling a little like an extra in my own home. From now on I'm going to keep a watchful eye out for the red record button on my computer. But I don't think I'll stop Devon from making her little movies. I think she might have a future as a documentary film producer of a blogger. 

She already has 41 movies to her credit.

I’m part of Revell publisher’s blogger review tour for The Woman Code by Sophia Nelson. I received a complimentary copy of the book, but my opinions are completely my own.

I'm linking up with my friends a Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart. Click the image for more inspiration.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your Presence is Requested

Since I finished my six-week cooking course, I’ve been thinking about inviting a fearless adventurer {I mean guest} to sample my newly acquired culinary skills. I thought of the only person who would eat it even if he didn’t like it. Who would tell me it was great no matter how bad it tasted. 

My dad. 

He thinks everything I do is top-notch. He thinks I should be the president and CEO {of something}. I knew he would certainly applaud my chef-ish endeavors.   

But when I told him I wanted to cook for him, he vehemently protested saying it was too much trouble. Until I said I just wanted to practice and all I really needed was his presence. 

I wanted to try out my new grill pan so I planned a menu of chicken with a side of pasta and fresh tomato sauce, cheesy biscuits and tossed garden salad.

I pulled out my new ceramic chef’s knife {a gift from a friend} and chopped up the tomatoes and onions. I remembered a few of the techniques I’d learned and oh, what a difference a sharp knife made! I had them diced in no time. 

In my cooking class, the chef told us to toss an onion, a few tomatoes, some spices and garlic in a pot, and in 20 minutes we’d have fresh tomato sauce. But I think I must have missed something crucial in the recipe because my sauce wasn’t anywhere close to tasting delicious, even after 30 minutes.

I put the chicken on the grill pan, but after a few minutes it started to sizzle and smoke. 

I put the biscuits in the oven, but promptly forgot about them in my efforts to snuff out the smoking chicken.

Then my smoke alarm went off. As my dad silently eyed the chaos in my kitchen, I took the chicken off the stove and shoved it into the oven, too.

My ambitions of dishing up delectable cuisine went up in a puff of smoke. {More like billows of smoke, actually.} 

When I realized the chicken wasn’t going to be completely edible for a while, I just sliced off the cooked-through ends and put them on my dad’s plate. 

{I was hoping he couldn't detect raw chicken through all the smoke anyway, although he seems to have a sixth sense about under-done meat.} 

In the end, the only part of the meal that was truly tasty was the pre-made salad I bought at the grocery store. 

Maybe if I cooked for myself every night my skills would improve, but that’s not really why I wanted to learn how to cook. I was hoping to serve up some culinary goodness while savoring the presence of my friends and family.

This is what I want from God too. 

I want to experience his presence. Delight in it and savor it. 

I'm beginning to understand that I want God’s presence more than I want whatever it is I’m chasing after and praying for. 

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if my prayer were answered. The one that moves me to request his presence.

I'm wondering if maybe you have one too? A prayer-plea that wrings your heart and stretches your faith more than you ever thought possible. A heartfelt prayer-petition that requires his presence.

I wonder if I would still desperately long for his presence or would I tune out his whisper? Would I continue my quest to know him more or would I stop being struck by his wonder?

Sometimes I wonder what God thinks when he answers a long-prayed-for request of mine. Although I know that he knows everything, I wonder if he expects me to go off on my merry way until I need him again. 

Because I've done that before. 

I’ve abandoned my prayers for the trivial pursuits that distract. I’ve slacked off and quit seeking. 

Until the next crisis comes along that I can’t quite handle on my own. Then my passionate please-help-me requests are rekindled. 

But now my heart is sure. I know that my words are entering the very presence of God because I’ve experienced him breathing life into what I thought was dead. I've watched him turn what I thought was impossible into modern-day miracles.

And I'm praying that it's here in this sacred, radiant presence that I'll always want to be.

My dad and I eventually sat down to dinner. The chicken wasn’t finished, the tomato sauce tasted terrible and the biscuits were burned. 

My dad graciously ate it though, and declared it good. 

But I know that it wasn’t. 

Maybe cooking's not my gig. I eat mostly salads in my single-girl kitchen anyway. 

Or maybe I just need more diners to practice on. 

Anyone care to swing by for a bite to eat? I'd be honored by your presence.

But you might want to BYOD {bring your own dinner} because I'm still airing out my kitchen.

I’ll take care of the salad.

Grace. Love. Hospitality. Family. What word has God put on your heart this year? 

Check out the new Letterpress blocks by (in)courage at

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart. Join me there for more encouragement!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Adoring the Gift and the Giver

For my birthday a few weeks ago, my sister let my niece and nephew choose the gifts they wanted to give me instead of tagging their names onto gifts she bought for me. My niece let it slip that they were going birthday-present-hunting, so I couldn’t wait to see what ended up in their shopping bags.

They both gave me jewelry, but it was my ten-year-old nephew’s gift that made me laugh. I opened the box to find an enormous rhinestone bracelet with gargantuan gemstones.

I slid it on my wrist and a kaleidoscope of snazzy colors glowed brilliantly from every mammoth stone. I was pretty sure I could attract any type of insect {from very large to very small} with these rays of multicolored light beaming from my bracelet.

As I oohed and ahhed over it, my nephew said, “As soon as I saw it, I knew that’s what I wanted to give you. That really caught my eye because it will go with any color you want to wear.”

It certainly will. I think it matches everything in my closet. {And any outfit I have yet to buy in the future.}

Even though I wouldn’t have chosen the bracelet for myself, knowing that my nephew gave it to me because he knows I love fashion and jewelry changes how I think about it.

There are some pieces of my life story that I wouldn’t choose for myself either. Some of those pages hold circumstances and experiences that I certainly don’t view as gifts. I think of them to be tolerated or endured or hurried through. 

And I wish for something else instead. 

Something delicious with a cherry on top, perhaps. All treats and no tests or trials. 

Because if I could, I would choose only dazzling days filled with faithful friends, captivating conversations, brilliant books and cozy cups of coffee and cream. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

But what if I considered that everything that happens in my life is given with love in the heart of the giver? Artfully planned and thoughtfully chosen just for me. 

From a God who wants to show me his goodness. 

But good isn’t always wrapped up like a gift. 

That’s the surprising secret I’m unlocking. What at first looks like a heartache or unhappiness could turn out to be the unrecognized gift of grace.

Sometimes it’s hidden in a difficulty that feels more like a problem or an ordeal.  

Sometimes it’s concealed in a prayer when the answer God gives is no instead of yes.

Sometimes it’s tucked deep inside a disappointment that gives God the opportunity to heal a hurt heart.

I’m opening the door of a truth I’ve long wondered about. Why should I pray if my life’s story is already known to God from beginning to end? Aren’t all my days already written with indelible ink? 

But God sees the entire movie-reel of my life, from beginning to end. Challenges or difficulties aren’t interruptions but opportunities for divine encounters when I try to see them from his perspective.

I don’t understand all the mysteries about prayer, but I know that it changes how I view my days. And how I think about my life.

I’ve been praying a prayer for longer than a year now. I didn’t know how hard this God-led adventure would be. How much stamina and perseverance it would require. 

But I also didn’t know how exhilarating and stunning it would be. I find myself saying words to God that surprise me, even shock me a little because I've silenced my heart for so long. Now I'm discovering desires of my heart that I didn’t know were there.

But it's the unlocking and opening of my heart that leads me on, closer and closer to the heart of God.

These days of journeying with God are vivid and dramatic, vibrant and radiant, forming the ever-changing, multifaceted kaleidoscope of my life that looks a lot like my new bracelet. 

I don’t think I have another piece of jewelry that matches everything I could possibly wear like that bracelet does.

When I look at it, I see a dazzling gift from my nephew, given to me with love because he was thinking about the things that I love.

And that changes everything.

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart. Click the image for more encouraging words!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Making Space for Breathing Room

I came to my neighborhood coffee shop to find a quiet place to write. I chose my table in a little alcove by the window and set up shop. My phone, my laptop, my books, my iced tea, all arranged on my table. I’m ready to write. Except it's not very quiet.

I am surrounded by a gang of preteen boys.

Two boys arrive with a skateboard and sit at the table next to me. Two more boys with skateboards join them.

They just keep on coming as three more boys pull up chairs. Now there are seven boys crowded into my little alcove. {Along with several skateboards, which appear a lot larger than I would imagine when they are propped against my table.} They’re loud, laughing and playing videos on their phones. 

I'm not really sure why they're hanging out at a coffee shop, but I feel like I need some space. A spot a little less crowded with a few empty chairs. I could definitely use some breathing room.

Leeana Tankersley honestly and tenderly explores this idea in her new book, Breathing Room. She finds herself overwhelmed after moving to Bahrain with her three small children to join her husband who is stationed there for the Navy. 

She writes deeply about her feelings. Wondering why she’s coming apart at the seams, even when her life is good. 

She bravely writes about courage. Clinging to it through her turbulent days as a mother, wife and a friend, searching for what God is doing in her life. 

She steadfastly writes about perseverance as she hunts for splashes of color and beauty in the beigeness of Bahrain.

She beautifully writes about beauty. That it is all the more magnificent when it is hard-won and we recognize God in the frayed and fabulous scraps of our lives

She acknowledges the mysterious unfolding of God's plan for her, that she doesn’t always understand or even agree with, but marvels that he loves her enough to take her on a journey.

So do I.

When it feels as if life is suffocating me, God unfathomably gives me some breathing room and I glimpse the sky above me. 

But I've noticed that the answers to the questions I prayerfully ask, aren't really answers but wisdom for my life.

When I look for an answer to what God is doing in my life, God asks me to trust him.

I want to know what the future holds. I want to know what the coming months will bring. But God tells me to trust him each day, every morning anew, with just enough grace, just enough courage to see me through.

When I look for help and direction, God asks me to follow him.

He doesn’t write it in the sky for me. He doesn’t hand me a map. And he doesn't print me turn-by-turn directions. 

He just asks me to follow him. When I want to know what to do, how I should handle a perplexing situation, and what my perspective should be, I listen for his whisper. 

And I hear these words: pray, trust, wait.

And when I look for God, I'm reminded of him all around me. 

Eagles roost down by our neighborhood lake, high in the trees. I’ve seen them there once or twice, but never in flight. 

Until last week, when I recognized the white head of a bald eagle as it flew over my screened courtyard early in the morning.  

I was reminded of the scripture about eagles in Isaiah. And I was encouraged to keep hoping in the Lord, who will renew my strength so I can soar just as if I were carried on the strong wings of that eagle.

I am so overcome by his presence. I want to experience it more. This is what my heart longs for. 

Especially in the quiet spaces I am learning to make for him in my life.

Eventually I found some breathing room at the coffee shop.

The boys left in a rush. One boy told the group that they should put the chairs back, but no one listened to him. 

I watched him hesitate, then he turned to the chairs scattered around the alcove and put them all back around the table.

As he picked up his skateboard, I told him that was an awfully nice thing to do. He shrugged and said thanks and joined his friends outside.

Suddenly, my little alcove in the coffee shop was peaceful again and I had a lot more breathing room. 

I am part of Revell Reads blogger review tour for Breathing Room by Leeana Tankersley. I received a complimentary copy of the book, but my opinions are completely my own.

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart. Click here for more encouragement!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Girl Meets Goats

I had no idea there was a goat farm in the heart of Atlanta. In the middle of one of the city’s historic neighborhoods {fittingly located near the zoo} is a turn-of-the-century house with goats and chickens and turkeys that run free across the lawn.

I stayed at this goat farm last weekend since it’s also a bed and breakfast inn.

When I chose the accommodations earlier in the month for a weekend in Atlanta, it sounded like an adventure. Even though I’m a city girl who enjoys getting away to luxury, I thought staying at a farm would be kind of fun. 

But after a stress-filled week, I found myself dreaming of a luxury hotel, sinking into a super-soft bed with feather-filled pillows and the sweet scent of lavender and vanilla surrounding me.

But here I was at a goat farm in the middle of Atlanta. 

With goats named Tallulah and Daisy and Maverick and Angus, peering at me while standing atop their barnyard table.

With plenty of feathers floating around, just nowhere near my pillow. 

With the lingering aroma of bacon and potatoes in the air whenever I stepped out of my room. 

With the farm’s four cats roaming the barnyard and the house, sleeping wherever they fancied. 

I knew I'd left the city far behind when I returned to my room to find the door open and a cat snuggled on my pillow. 

The same cat that I had seen just a few hours earlier rolling in the grass with the chickens and turkeys and goats.

I was kidding myself {did you get the goat pun?} thinking that if I turned over the pillow, the other side {wrinkled with a bit of stray cat fur} would be fresh and clean. 

Since I'm a little {a lot} obsessive about my hair, I'm not quite sure how I managed to sleep through the night with my head on that pillowcase without any nightmares. 

But miracles do happen. Of that I am sure.

So if farm animals were going to be my constant weekend companions, I wanted photos of them to prove that I could really revel in country life.

But those chickens were surprisingly clever. 

Every time I walked toward them to snap a picture, they jogged away from me at breakneck speed in the opposite direction. 

I’m guessing something inborn tells them they’re often chased for rather nefarious reasons.

The innkeeper snickered as she watched me chase her chickens around the yard in my high-heeled boots and finally snatched up one of them and held it out to me. I was horrified. 

I didn’t mean I wanted to TOUCH a chicken, I just wanted to be sort of close to one to take a picture with it. 

I envisioned a photo of me looking all casual and glamorous, strolling with some chickens. Like several feet away, and certainly not close enough to look in its beady little eyes.

As the chicken tried to flap its wings and kicked, I couldn’t believe I was reaching out and grabbing it. 

I screamed for my sister to snap the photo before I dropped the chicken.

I barely recovered from that {here comes another pun} fowl experience when I was surrounded by turkeys. 

The innkeeper explained that the turkeys were mistaking me for one of their own and were trying to court me by strutting their stuff. At first it felt kind of nice to be romanced by so many dark and handsome fellows.

But with a black goat standing in a wheelbarrow staring unnervingly at me and the turkeys chasing me to ask me on a date, I was pretty sure I’d had enough of the farm-girl adventure.

I couldn’t find any glamour amidst the goats. And if I had to talk turkey, well, I guess farm life isn't really my style.

But I discovered that luxuriating in an experience doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be luxurious. 

There might be a little goat waste to wallow in. I may not have a bed of roses to sleep in. And I could get some chicken droppings on my high heels.

So if I were to reflect on my brief sojourn in the country, I guess I sashayed through the goat pen in my ruffly black suede boots. I held a squawking chicken in my arms. I was courted by some passionate turkeys. 

I'm not sure why but somehow that all sounds remarkably familiar. 

I think it just might paint a picture of the adventure that is my life.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart. Click the image to read some inspiring posts!