Proverbial Meditation (An A-Z Challenge Extra)

Throughout the month of April for the A-Z Challenge, 1st Writes, my writer’s group blog, has been meditating on Proverbs. Each day a member of our group writes about a Proverb containing a word corresponding to the letter of the alphabet for the day. Even members who don’t blog have written interpretations of the Proverbs. The entries in the series are short, inspiring and refreshing to the spirit – with the possible exception of today’s entry!

Today is the letter ‘V’ in the Challenge and the word of the day at 1st Writes is ‘Vomit’ – found in Proverbs 25:16 (If you find honey, eat just enough— too much of it, and you will vomit). Surprisingly, nobody in our group volunteered for this word! So I gladly reluctantly signed up. Even more surprising, I actually came up with two (maybe one and a half) different meditations on a word so repulsive, just hearing it triggers my gag reflex.

The first meditation posted on 1st Writes ponders gluttony in blogging. Is it possible to be a ‘blog glutton’?

My second contribution is shorter and quite possibly more of an observation rather than a reflection.

 

At times in our writing, using a word with negative connotations is the best way of attracting an audience and getting our point across.

To me, the best use of the word ‘vomit’ in a title is  – Comment Vomit: How Not To Leave Comments by Melissa who manages two blogs – Adventuroo and Momcomm.

It’s one of her most popular posts ever, in part, I’m sure, due to it’s title, which doesn’t repulse, but shocks and intrigues. The post was so popular it spawned a badge that reads – This is a comment vomit free zone. The graphic on the badge is a cute little cloud opening its mouth and spewing forth a cute, colorful rainbow. The pleasant graphic helps soften the harshness of the word while maintaining its power. It’s so wrong and right at the same time.

While musing about the word ‘vomit’ for only a few seconds, after thinking – ‘pregnancy’ and ‘gross’, I remembered this post, which proves it’s a memorable title!

A Mother-in-Law’s Gift

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV

Have you ever been eating in a restaurant and overheard a conversation?  Above the sound of the clinking of silverware against plates and the murmur of voices, I heard the following exchange between two middle aged women:

“My mother-in-law and I got along great for 20 years.”

“Now you don’t?  What’s changed in 20 years?”

“She moved to our town.”

I was reminded of the many jokes based on the idea that mothers-in-law are manipulative, bossy, interfering women.  It’s a common theme in our culture that the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship is filled with conflict and resentment.

Thankfully, my relationship with my mother-in-law, Bette, is the complete opposite of the negative stereotype.  Ours is based on mutual respect, love and appreciation.  It’s a joy to spend time together.

One day when we were in the car on our way to the hair salon for our monthly “beautification,” as Bette laughingly refers to getting our hair done, while stopped at a red light, Bette casually mentioned, “The pastor’s wife is going to have a Bible study for writers.”

I could tell she thought I should go, but she’d never say that.

Bette knows that I often lack faith in myself, especially in my writing. Her mothering instincts extend even to me, and she tries her best to build me up.  But she never forces her opinions on me; instead, she gently offers suggestions “…as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass” (Deuteronomy 32:2 NKJV).

Photo Credit - Pawel Gaul

“I think it will be interesting,” she added as the light changed and we began moving.

“Yes, it sounds different,” I responded noncommittally.  Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the salon and, in her wisdom, Bette dropped the subject.

But I didn’t forget about it.

I had never attended a Bible study before and was unsure about trying it, but since I’ve seen how the church, especially Sunday school and Bible study, has enriched Bette’s life, I thought it might be worth a try.

When she brought the idea of Bible study up again, I surprised her by saying that I was going to go.

A huge smile spread across her face.  “I prayed so hard over whether to suggest it to you or not.  I’m so glad I did,” she said happily.

“I’m glad you did too,” I smiled back.

Her simple suggestion of joining the writer’s Bible study turned out to be a wonderful gift.  I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I’ve always lacked confidence in myself, believing that what I write is not interesting or important to anyone.  But these negative feelings changed after the very first night of Bible study.

We were reading different scriptures, including 1 Corinthians 15:58, and suddenly it hit me: God has given me a gift and to honor him I must use it.  I may dismiss my writing as nothing special, but I can’t deny that what God has to say through my writing is worthy of sharing, that my “labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

I would never have come to this realization if it weren’t for that day in the car when Bette suggested I join the writer’s Bible study.  There I met other people who enjoyed writing and found in them support, inspiration, and most importantly, confidence.

I thank God for my mother-in-law and her willingness to “mother” her grown daughter-in-law!

***

Today’s Bible Blogger is Naomi. The Ruth and Naomi relationship inspired this piece I wrote and submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul. It wasn’t selected for publication, but c’est la vie!

Remember that there’s still time to enter for a chance to win Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven, where my story about my Grandma Bone was selected for publication. Just comment on the post below! Comments close tonight at midnight (eastern standard time).

Words Sweet as Honeycomb

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 (KJV)

In real life, I’ve been described as negative, even curmudgeonly. I admit that I tend to view the glass as half-empty. I blame my mother. Growing up, she was always there to poo-poo my parade. It seemed her mission in life was to convince me that life sucked. Her favorite expressions were: “Life’s not fair,” and “I never promised you a rose garden.”

Thanks to my mother (and to be fair, my father too; he’s sarcastically known as Mr. Sunshine), it’s easy for me to always look at the downside, with one exception. All my negativity disappears when I’m running because I’m too busy focusing on how good it feels to run and how grateful to God I am for the ability to run. I see everything in a new perspective; nothing is impossible; the sun is always shining even when the sky is dark and thunder roars.

There was no thunder, but there was plenty of rain on my long run Saturday. Half way through I thought, ‘Well, Mom never promised me that every run would be in the sun.’ I smiled because Mom would appreciate the thought. Then I realized I’m glad every run isn’t on a warm sunny day. How completely boring — almost as bad as running on a treadmill. Not to mention that I run faster in cooler weather. And actually, rain is a blessing while running in the sweltering summer heat. I lifted my face to the cooling drops and rejoiced!

I struggle to stay positive when I’m not running, but it’ worth the effort for my daughter’s sake. The words I say to her now are seeds that will one day bear a positive or negative outlook on life. I don’t want to ‘sugar-coat’ life, but I don’t want to soak it in a bowl of lemons either. I want to plant words of affirmation, confidence and conviction. Rather than tear her down, I want the words I speak to my daughter to build her up.

With your help, Lord, may the words I speak to my daughter be as sweet as honeycomb to her soul. Amen


Fit in Faith

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

 

“I can’t do it!”

“Yes you can!”

“It’s too hard!”

Encouraging my sister to exercise is no easy task. She finds every excuse in the book to avoid it, but I’ve finally managed to get her outside and walking! Every step she takes, I’m there to keep her moving, and when she complains that it’s too hard to walk up hill, I tell her, “When you challenge your body, you make it stronger! One day you’ll walk up this hill without breaking a sweat, but you have to put in the work first.”

As I spoke the words, I realized that what I said applied to my own walk with Christ. When my journey takes me up a mountain, I can easily climb it if my faith in the Lord is strong. But have I put in the work to keep my faith fit?

For a long time, I didn’t even pick up my Bible. During this time I also stopped attending church. I still prayed; I still believed in God, but when my prayers weren’t answered the way I wanted, when everything seemed hopeless, I struggled. I was just like my sister trying to walk up hill; I wanted to give up.

My faith was weak. Without faith, I lacked the strength to overcome life’s obstacles. Then I went to a Bible study for writers. The first time I picked up the Bible to look up a scripture, I felt nervous. It had been a long time, but as my fingers flipped through the pages, I just knew where to look and my confidence grew a fraction. Week by week I felt my faith increase, and with it, I gained the strength to face my troubles and overcome them without giving in to despair.

Everywhere I look there are reminders to eat healthy and exercise to keep my body strong. There aren’t as many reminders to read the Bible to keep my faith strong. When I find myself having doubts about God, I put myself through a spiritual triathlon of reading, writing and meditating on scripture. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV).