Monkey Says The Most Precious Things

Talk of possibly having another baby has been flying around our house for the past few months. Should we be blessed enough to get pregnant again, I’m fine with another girl or a boy. Hubby is definitely ‘Team Boy’ while Monkey has firmly planted herself on ‘Team Girl’. For a while she was excited for a baby brother, but has recently become quite certain she will have a baby sister:

“Can we name my baby sister ‘Mermaid’?” Monkey asked. 

“I don’t think so. Besides, we don’t know if it’s going to be a baby sister or a baby brother. God decides,” I answered.

“God told my heart it was going to be a baby sister,” she told me with absolute conviction.

“And He said it’s alright to name her ‘Mermaid’?” I was skeptical.

“Yes. He told my heart,” she affirmed.

Well, color me happily surprised. Reading a Bible verse every night and saying our prayers together really seems to be affecting my little angel (perhaps not as much as the movie ‘The Little Mermaid’ has affected her, but close enough).
It was at least a month ago when I explained that God always listens to our prayers and He speaks to our hearts. I haven’t really talked about it since, but on many nights we have read this short devotion from Really Woolly Bedtime Prayers by Bonnie Rickner Jensen:


I praise the Lord because he guides me. Even at night, I feel his leading. (Psalm 16:7)

[God] goes ahead of you,

To guide you with His love.

He helps you when you ask Him to,

With wisdom from above.

And when you say your prayers at night

He’s listening –it’s true!

He whispers to your little heart,

I am taking care of you.

~ (RWBP)

Of Mice And Christian Writers

Did you know that if you boil a mouse, its skin falls off and you can reconstruct the bones?

Award-winning author Joyce Magnin

No? Me neither. And like me, you probably could have gone your entire life without knowing that morbid piece of information, but I bet you never forget it – just like I won’t forget the very memorable and inspiring workshop on writing that award-winning author Joyce Magnin gave at a meeting of Lancaster Christian Writers this past Saturday (May 19, 2012).

The ‘mouse’ tidbit came up while discussing quirky and eccentric characters. The inspiration for Joyce’s off-beat characters stems from her own quirky personality and her mother, who was a special woman and who encouraged Joyce, even if that meant allowing her to experiment on a dead mouse. I don’t know about you, but if my mother had discovered I’d boiled a dead mouse in one of her pans on the stove, she would not have been calm, cool and collected about it! But Joyce’s mother was, and in the process, helped Joyce grow to be confident and true to herself.

Listening to Joyce was a real treat! I laughed a lot and learned a lot about what God has to do with our writing, which was the theme of her workshop.

Highlights of Joyce’s presentation:

  • The truth is we are children of God; we are beloved; we are sisters and brothers in Christ. We must embrace who we are in Christ first and foremost.
  • Once we accept that God loved us so much He sent His son to die for us, we should also accept that God loves us and has given us a gift – writing. He wants us to use that gift.
  • If God is in us, He’s in our writing. Don’t stress about conveying the message of salvation or teaching the gospels. God will lead the reader to the truth He wants them to find. To me, this was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders!
  • Writers have an incredible responsibility to share the truth. Joyce suggested that writers are like pastors in between Sundays. During the week, we turn to books, magazines, blogs, articles, devotionals, television and movies for education, encouragement and inspiration. Writers have many opportunities to minister with their words.
  • God gives us the ability to write, but it’s not enough to be born with it; we must practice and develop our writing skills. When success comes, and Joyce warns that success will come in God’s time and that we may have to wait, but when we succeed, we should remember not to turn our eyes from God, and instead remember to be humble and give God the glory.
  • Once we’ve accepted the truth and developed our talent, we must then fine-tune our technique. It’s okay to want positive feedback on our creations and it’s beneficial to our talent and technique to hear constructive criticism. We grow as writers by reading, writing and critiquing.
  • So, what does God have to do with writing? The answer, in a word, is…everything!

Final encouraging words from Joyce –

  • God created us for His story.
  • We are a part of His narrative.
  • We are all characters in His creation.

I highly recommend –

My Cure For Insecurity

Greetings to my fellow insecure writers! As we gather together on this sunny spring day, I have a question for you – are you just insecure about writing or like me, are you insecure about pretty much everything you do?

Photo Credit - Martin Ruegner

If there was a support group for everything I’m insecure about, I’d have a meeting every day of the week. Marriage, motherhood, running, writing, blogging – you name it; I’m insecure about it. I lack self-confidence so much that sometimes I wonder how I’ve managed to accomplish anything in my life. By rights, I should still be living at home with my parents.

Do I suffer from temporary bouts of insanity that cause me to take chances?

Most days I know I’m not crazy. So there must be something else that is stronger than my insecurity. Something I’ve just always taken for granted.

So what is it that gives me the courage to pursue my goals and dreams?

Today the answer is obvious – faith. Like with everything else in my life, I thought I was insecure in my faith too. But my life has proven me wrong. When I look back on the risks I’ve taken – scuba-diving lessons, going 9 hours away to a college where I didn’t know anyone, signing up for my first marathon, getting pregnant – I can’t help but wonder, what in the world were you thinking?

When there are decisions to be made, my mind goes in a million directions and experiences a multitude of emotions, including doubt and insecurity, yet my heart never wavers. I have the confidence to act because I have faith in God. I know in my heart that whatever I do, I do it with God – He will see me through.

I met my husband in college, ran and finished two marathons, have an amazing little girl, have stories published, have finished two A-Z Challenges – all because I relied on God. I think the only reason it’s so clear to me now is that I spent a month fully engaged in His Word. Reading the Bible, studying different characters, meditating and praying over what message to convey in my posts has opened my eyes to the true value of my faith and all it has helped me do.

It’s okay to be insecure about everything else, as long as I’m firm in faith and sure of God, who banishes my every insecurity with His own incredible, amazing and unshakable confidence.

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

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).

Passing Along A Great Idea

It happens more often in the winter. Leaving Target or the grocery store with the back of my car loaded with groceries and other items I need, or more likely don’t, I stop at a red light to see a man standing there with a cardboard sign that reads – Homeless Need Help.

My heart goes out to the man and I want to help, but I don’t want to invite a stranger over to my car and hand him cash. Mostly because I’ve just spent all my money and partly because I’m not convinced cash is the way to help, but still I hear Jesus’ words in my mind:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:35-40 NIV).

Driving away from the man, I know I’ve failed to follow Jesus’ words, and I pray for forgiveness and for Him to show me how I can help those in need. He answered my prayer today in a blog post that I’d like to share with you – Be A Blessing – Blessing Bags .

I look forward to putting a few of these bags together with my daughter’s help. I don’t know if I’ll include a Bible, unless I can get a donation like this blogger did or find a good deal. Helping in the smallest way, is still helping and I’m so grateful for answered prayers!

How do you respond to those asking for help at traffic lights? Is it safe to invite them over to your car to hand them a bag? I watch a lot of crime shows and imagine danger in the simplest of situations.

I’m a Confirmation Mentor

I have the honor and privilege of mentoring a confirmation student this fall. Our meetings began last night and will run through December. I debated on whether or not to write about the experience. Ultimately, I’m so excited that I can’t help but write about it.

After just one night, I’m so impressed with my student’s dedication and eagerness to learn more. She’s insightful and not afraid to ask questions. I pray God equips me with the right words when she comes to me with her inquiries.

Undoubtedly the confirmation process will be an education for me as well. Although I went through confirmation classes and was confirmed, that was 21 (oh my! 21!) years ago. I could use a refresher course!

The two things I remember most from my confirmation experience:

  • Sitting in a little office inside the priest’s house that was wedged directly between the Catholic school and church I attended, I was speaking to the confirmation leader about the Holy Spirit. She asked me if I could define it, and I couldn’t find the right words, but I could feel the Holy Spirit within me. My chest seemed to expand and fill with something beautiful and tears clouded my eyes. This was the first deep spiritual experience of my life, at least that I can recall.
  • Sitting cross-legged on the floor of an old monastery trying to concentrate on reading the Bible, but obsessing over ‘Tony’, the very cute football player who was also on the confirmation retreat.

What I remember most from last night’s confirmation session:

The ‘Dynamite’ Verse – Romans 10:9-10 [Ten:Nine-Ten]

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

I’m always looking for ways to memorize scriptures and the ‘TNT’ acronym works for me.