In the past, I normally would have had my tree up and my house looking like Christmas threw up in it. From the moment you enter, you would have been inundated with reindeer, multiple Christmas Snoopys, music boxes, Santas, baby Jesus scenes and a colorful mish-mash of Christmas fun in every nook and cranny - and before Thanksgiving!
This year, I'm behind my own game. But the internal celebration is deep, joyful, and gearing up for the external manifestation of what my heart knows it's all about. That Jesus is Lord. I'm incredibly thankful for the reason for the season. I love telling people Merry Christmas as I'm focused on the Christ part of Christmas. And I pray daily to shine bright in the midst of life's very real challenges and opportunities as I smile and choose joy, because of who He is in my life.
I am also aware that I am faced with choices - like every year - on whether I focus on the pain of past Decembers or on the joy that Christmas is meant to be.
Do I focus on spreading cheer, giving a hug, and sharing an encouraging word?
Or do I think of my mom's journey with cancer and her death?
Do I celebrate my birthday because I LOVE LOVE LOVE birthdays?
Or do I focus on my nephew's too soon passing and memorial?
Do I celebrate my daughter's birthday and decorate her personal party table as I've always done?
Or, do I get lost in the sadness over the Christmas of 2012 that went horribly wrong from a family conflict, leaving me celebrating Christmas, again, without my family being together?
How do I choose the joy that the Christmas story brings- to us a Savior is born - and share the space with grief at remembering loved ones that are gone? Can I truly feel happy, while hurting over moments that changed a season from togetherness to ones of separation?
That is my choice.
One I'm blessed and at peace to make, once again.
So I celebrate my birthday with gratitude, thanking God for another year I get to be here and enjoy my one life. And love my husband, children, and friends well. Or write books. Or paint pictures. Or mentor those who desire to grow personally and spiritually.
I surprise my grown daughter with another table full of her favorite things, celebrating another year of her life.
And I excitedly choose the joy of Christmas.
C H R I S T mas... praising God, reflecting on Jesus, putting up my tree, decorating the house, cooking, baking, exchanging gifts, and looking forward to opening all the colorful presents on Christmas day!
I also remember my mom. I remember fondly my nephew. I pray for those I know that are hurting and going through their own loss and struggle, and I find joy running parallel with grief as I embrace both.
I pray for you and yours a beautiful Christmas as you too may have to dance with joy and pain, and choose for yourself what this holiday season will be. Sending you hugs!! Merry Christmas!
Love and Blessings,
Do you remember a life dream you had from a long time ago?
Has it been forgotten or filed into the “never-gonna-happen vault?”
Is it a dream you thought was supposed to be for your younger self?
Have you diligently been laboring after it or have you let it go?
Do you believe it can still come to pass?
I hope you are inspired as you read, More Than a Book.
My book, Heavenly Ink, was finally published on November 7, 2017. What a glorious moment! It felt so good holding that little gem and realizing that the past sixteen months of hard work and focus had paid off. This book baby was born and I was deeply relieved. Not excited yet, but exhaustively relieved.
As I tried to rest both mind and body from the heavy demands of an assumed-sprint-gone-marathon, I knew I needed to take some time to think about what really just happened…
It was more than a book being written and published.
It was more than achieving a great success that I wanted to be proud of.
I knew it wasn’t merely about me.
As I sat in the solitude of created space, I started to remember…
Sitting under the darkened sky, I noticed how shiny the stars were in the brisk gray air. The quietness was gold – no one to distract me from this time of intentional aloneness. A giant tree sheltered me, its limbs hovering over the grassy rug as I nestled into my blanket. Prayers poured out to the One who loves me.
Quietly, the whisper claimed my ear to listen… “One day you will be published.”
No fireworks. No ah ha moments. Simply, one day you will publish your book.
One day …
Time stopped and I felt sealed into a path of clarity and promise — a Divine declaration. It didn’t make sense to me. I wasn’t a writer, not a real one. Not a competent one. Certainly not a published-worthy one. I was simply a vomit-or of words: a sloppy-on-paper processor of emotions which kept me sane in the midst of life’s circumstances.
In awestruck wonder I hid that resilient and momentous promise within my heart – praying back, “O Lord, let it be so… one day.”
That night was a very long time ago. I’ve gotten older —definitely wiser —and my hair a tad more gray underneath the glorious hair color that keeps it looking vibrant and young. Many seasons have come and gone; marriage, motherhood, careers, and various ever-changing relationships. I’ve experienced deep loss and pain alongside mountain top jubilation since that fleeting moment under the tree, and I am wise enough to realize how little I know.
And I remember…
I remember that the publishing of Heavenly Ink is so much more than I published a book. It is the fulfillment of a whispered promise from God that was pronounced over 30 years ago. A word spoken in the quiet night to a young girl whose only desire was to get closer to Him. And now, in His sovereign timing, He has chosen to set the dream loose —a writer with arsenals of paper and pen to share His love and hope to others.
It’s not about me, this promise realized.
And it’s all about me —the joy now experienced because of it.
May your heart be encouraged that it is not too late for you either! Happy dreaming!
Connect with me on www.facebook/artistofinkandpaint
(If you want to get your own copy of Heavenly Ink, you can get it HERE).
Today, I walked into a Verizon store, a woman-on-a-mission. To the stunned amazement of the salesperson who greeted me, I proceeded with my customer request, “So what-da-ya-got that’s not smart? You know those flip phones, do you have those?”
This was not as he initially presumed when he first asked, “Are you looking to upgrade your I-Phone 6 plus?”
Giving him a moment to recover, I explained that because I am a writer and an artist, I want the dumbphone to eliminate distractions on days I need to focus. I didn’t think it was important to go into the other hard facts, like: when I am dating my husband, I would like to focus on his face without trying to take selfies - so I can post us having a date. Or when I’m bored, or tired, or relaxing, or waiting in line, I would like to be more aware of the life going on around me than I am on the feeds scrolling before me. I would like to be present enough to know it’s my turn, before someone has to honk, saying “Hey!”, or prompt me forward - the way I have had to do for so many others.
He actually thought that was a great idea and set to work to find my cheap, dumbing-down device. I believe his exact words were, “Wow, I get it! I admire you wanting to have control over that.”
For a brief moment I was so tempted to post his comment! Look at me, I’m getting a real live “like” here! Thankfully, I resisted and pressed on to acquire the means to choose when I disconnect - to be connected. Amputate to thrive. Let go to take hold. Anonymity to be known.
Several times I had to ask myself, “So what’s my end-game here? After a full year of downloading all my favorite apps, learning how to master them with all their latest and greatest capabilities and guaranteed entertainment and guidance, won’t I miss the thrill of convenience, connection, and instant access - to everything!?”
How will I handle not being in the continuous information loop on the days I opt to leave my smart phone at home? What if I’m invited to something spectacular and I miss it!?
How about the endless hours of cute animal videos, amazing recipes I intend to make, or inspiring quotes to pass on? And for a learner like me, what about the blog posts, articles to read, and how-tos of all the things I appreciate. The never-ending moments that can be viewed, liked, disliked, loved, chimed-in-with, shared, encouraged, or that makes me feel like a miniscule part of people’s lives.
I’m intensely drawn, (dare I say, addicted), to the overflow of fun that is on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and all of my interactive apps: Fitbit, My Fitness Pal, poetry reads, art lessons, meet-ups, Groupon, and the boundless others that promise to make my life a little easier, or better yet - improved!
Then, there’s the camera. Okay, don’t get me started on the joys of snapping multiple pictures so that one day I can paint a beautiful painting from this captured moment. 14,335 pictures later, I am still waiting for the paint to pop onto the canvas so it can one day inspire another.
I detect a potential problem here.
This is why I must make a change that sets me up for success. Rather than watching, I need to be doing - for I have dreams to conquer and life goals to manage on a daily basis. This is my end-game.
My sales hero returns, “Okay, we do have a flip phone, and it’s $49.00. You can get it today for only $2.00 a month (what a deal!). So for the sake of my technological sanity and ushering balance into my real world, I say yes to only $2.00 a month. How can I pass that up?
His fingers fly across the IPad screen, creating my new account and number. I’m fully committed to my need for space - to think, feel, create, and engage with my surroundings in real time. And with my transaction complete, I have purchased the freedom to choose my level of connection with the world around me. I have decided that I will not be the one on the cell phone when I am with someone, enjoying somewhere, or writing a book, or painting a picture. I will not be the one distracted while reading, taking a walk, meeting a friend, dating my husband, or playing at the beach. The pull to post it – in the middle of the activity - and solidify its validity by shares and likes has now been contained.
On the other hand, I will also be thankful for times I choose to surf the web, post a picture, or share my day with others - as I count this a blessing too – along with celebrating their thoughts and adventures.
What I accomplished with this simple decision was giving myself options. I now have the ability to say no to distractions and hindrances when I need to, and say yes to the moments and dreams I desire most.
Happily, I am now the proud owner of a dumb phone. Let-freedom-ring!
The breezy, rainy night makes the morning cold. The moment is perfect to sit by the fireplace, bundled in flannel jammies and covered with my Christmas throw. Creating space for God, I rest my mind, so I can be still and tune into His Presence, pondering His words and heart for me. My life drama, real and perceived, begs for His attention, possibly His intervention, and definitely His affirmation that He is with me.
Bible in hand and reading the Book of Isaiah, the words trust God and find my strength in quietness and confidence illuminate. I can’t stop circling, underlining, and journaling my thoughts and prayers of what TRUST and STRENGTH mean. How, when, where, or what do I surrender in whatever I’m facing (financially, emotionally, and physically)? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that TRUST and STRENGTH are my new words for 2017. I feel edified.
Driving to work, these two words are still fresh in my mind. I vow to be open to what trusting Him will look like and what being strong in Him requires.
Eventually, the clients begin showing up for their appointments. One young lady comes up to the counter, excitedly letting me know she has a Christmas gift for me. Thank you! That is so sweet!
Taking hold of the recipe cards and Scripture verses she intentionally stacked together, I thumb through each one thoughtfully, appreciating the inspiration. She is telling me how she thought of me when she saw these two tags. I only see the backs with tiny words; they are so cute! Turning them over, my heart quickens as tears well up. For, in that moment, God Himself showed up to hand me His heart and tell me that He is with me.
One dog tag reads TRUST and the other STRENGTH.
I'm constantly looking for the colossal epiphany that answers all of my questions.
Where am I going? What am I supposed to be doing? Will I get to become all I've dreamt of?
Often it doesn't come. Not the way I want.
Instead, I'm compelled to ask that I hear His voice in the whisper, as He gently takes my hand in His:
Like a father his child,
a lover his love.
Lord, Guide me in my blindness to our appointed destination.
For I am still trying to decide, when I just need to discern
Moment by moment; step by step.
I act as if God is standing in a field and pointing out the direction to take, yelling to me, go there!
Like a coach at a baseball game, shouting commands to run! stop! steal! go home!
The distance seems great between us.
I act as if all I can do to complete my life assignments (mission impossible style) is to believe I heard, choose to accept it, then sprint off in my own strength and abilities to make it happen.
Only, it's not a game.
It's more like a safari, trudging through the jungle wasteland together; plowing through the shrubs and thick trees.
Hoping to not be devoured by ravaging beasts and aggressive fellow-trudgers;
Machete in hand He knowingly paves the way that leads me through.
My hand is still nestled securely in His.
Slashing and cutting through the obstacles, a way appears where there seems to be none.
He is so good at that!
I can see the light promising me victory.
He's still holding me.
I should be excited as we near the destination.
But I try even harder to do things my way; my timing, my pace, as if I am leading Him.
He applies loving pressure, knowing my internal struggle and doubt.
I attempt to take my hand back; wondering if this is the right way.
Looking back at me, His loving gaze invites me to trust Him.
Let go; rest, trust, believe - He's got this.
Nodding, I decide to be willing to do things His way: His timing, His pace.
I am following.
THE DAY has been set aside to be still.
Time to not hustle around, producing.
Not chase cars through traffic in a game of Simon says,
urgently attempting to satisfy the urgent.
Quiet the mind, in hopes of silencing the noise.
Open the mind, to steer the heart towards creative fruit.
All my senses Lord, use all of my senses;
Breeze brushing my hair across my face,
sights of butterflies and deeply twisted roots cascading through the ground.
The smell of lavender inviting calm,
hear the whisper and important sounds, heeded more loudly than voices found.
Rushing water, whistling trees,
inviting me to sit by them and leave the distractions behind.
Let this time Lord, be about touching butterflies and blossoming dreams.