In Search of Some Good News

Do you find yourself tired of hearing the phrase, “I wonder what’s going to happen next?” Are some of your friends programmed into the continuing saga of the “terrible”? Sometimes it seems that there is constant chatter which revolves around tragedy, sickness, poverty etc. I’m in search of some good news – how about you?

Please understand, I’m not denying that those things exist. I, myself, want to look for the good. Sometimes though, I think my brain is calibrated to look for the negative. Yet, last Saturday, I felt a stirring of hopefulness beating in my chest. A whisper that said, “look around and see what I have been up to and it’s good.”

So I’m encouraged, a lot! In fact, lately I’ve experienced true heroes and heroines in my everyday life. I want to share a few of these with you.

“Try not to become a man of success rather try to become a man of value.” –Albert Einstein

Good news at church

The men at Faith Community Church designed and developed a breakfast tribute to the women of the community last Saturday. It was awesome! I was amazed to see men with hearts to say, “you women are super special to us and we want to spoil you.” We were served, sung to, and encouraged by men with genuine hearts.

good news

It’s heartening to know that we have men in the land that value women. Men who value women not just on a special day, but every day!

And I’m encouraged by the bravery and solid strength of our young women of today. A month ago, I visited Ft. Worth and was overcome by the zeal and love for the Lord in so many of the young women I met at City Life Center. Young mothers, teaching school, bringing up their children, walking next to their husbands, walking a hard, but godly road.

good news 2

Good news in families

I am impressed by Michelle, my co-blogger who daily makes a decision to lovingly serve her family with joy in her heart. I was excited to be with one such mother yesterday, who is looking to strengthen her identity in God and impact her family.

I’m encouraged by a young couple, Jeremy and Cammie, who adopted 4 girls. They have recently made a heart wrenching decision to sacrifice so much, in faith that one of those daughters would grow stronger in a program away from them.

It’s hard to shine in a culture that cultivates a “me first” attitude.  We are reminded to “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Phil. 2:14

I know that television and radio generally features bad news. But if that’s all we see, it’s a mighty narrow vision. A negative focus isn’t a healthy focus. I was reminded of this, when I read Psalm 16:2-3, “I said to the Lord, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you. The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

I want you to be encouraged to look for those heroes and heroines  right in your own back yard. I’d love to hear about those folks who are being a light of encouragement in your life!

 

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Love, True Love…

Admit it, you love to quote that famous scene from The Princess Bride, don’t you?! If by any chance, I’ve lost you, head over here to enjoy it.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is coming, and it seems as though signs and symbols of love are everywhere. Love sculpture

Strangely enough, I’m not really writing this as a Valentine’s Day post, despite the title.

Did you read Laura’s post from last week? I was challenged by her experience about being spoiled by her sister. I think most of us would love to be on the receiving end of such a fun and lavish experience. But how many of us love to be the giver in such situations? Or do we find ourselves serving out of obligation? I realize that many of us do not have the discretionary income to spend lavishly on those we love, but does the spoiling have to be expensive to be lavish?

My husband’s birthday is this week, but we find ourselves in a position of needing to pay taxes, school tuition, some medical bills, car repairs etc (I’m sure you have your own list). While an overnight away with just the two of us sounds fabulous, it’s not an option at this time.

So I had to put on my creative hat. I’m not really crafty, so making him something seemed like a bit of a stretch. However, one of his great loves is pecan pie – so I make him one for his birthday every year

true love pie

I’m also making his favorite meal for dinner, and I’m ensuring that all my work is done before he gets home, so we can just enjoy the time together as a family. Both my girls made him cards, and we’ll just be with Daddy tonight.  When you love someone, spoiling them is easy.

And isn’t that the beauty of true love? It’s not based on your financial situation or your daily circumstances. It’s about being present, really present – no phone, no television, no endless “to do” lists. Just a good meal, good conversation and each other.

Who do you love?

Is there someone in your life that could use a little extra love? Maybe it’s time to put on your creative hat and make their world a little bit brighter today. As for me, I’ve got meatloaf , macaroni and cheese , green beans and pecan pie waiting.

 

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Are you spoiled rotten?

After looking at so many definitions of the words “Spoiled Rotten” I’m not sure if it is a phrase that means something good, or something bad. I thought I knew!

So does “Spoiled Rotten” mean:

a) food that had spoiled, became rotted and is no longer edible

b) indulging a child, pet, or someone by giving them what they want, whenever they want, in excess

c) someone who didn’t do anything to deserve a showering of gifts

d) your other definition here: _____________________________

e) a badge of bragging when the giver overindulges another

Then if you look up the definitions of the words “spoiled” and “rotten” separately, you are bound to get confused!

Hopefully, this post today, is not nearly so confusing. It’s really about a sister loving a sister in an extraordinary way, giving from the heart and receiving graciously.

So here is the set-up: my sis Leesa said, “drive an hour and a half to Sarasota so I can treat you to lunch for your birthday.” She knew full well that this would not make sense to her uber logical, older sister. I mean if it’s my birthday…well, you finish the thought. Anyway, I love her and trust her, but on the drive I kept thinking, “what could be so special”, huh?

Oh how I was spoiled

She whisked me off to a enchanted cottage in downtown Sarasota called The Garden Room cafe at Shoogie Boogies. What a name, but oh my, oh me, what a splendid, charming place!

For me, it was as if I had gone down the rabbit hole as Alice in Wonderland and voila! I expected to see the Red Queen ready to escort us from one lovely room to another. A totally unexpected retreat from daily life.

The lovely hostess and owner Kathryn Kittinger was welcoming and delightfully prepared, for my birthday luncheon, a cozy table for two in the corner.

The food was yummy…really perfect; we both had mushroom soup (light, yet creamy). I had a fluffy broccoli and ham quiche, Leesa had the most marvelous looking crepes!

But the best part was just being together. Two sisters laughing, talking, sharing, just having a leisurely time of it! It really tickled me and she knew it. So elegant, so fun, great conversation with the closest and one and only sister!

Are you spoiled or a spoiler?

Plenty of giving gets done in our society, but it’s more on a tit for tat approach. Real giving can be an unexpected delight for the receiver. Jesus pursued me to give me an unexpected gift of not only eternal life but a life that is abundant with His presence. If you haven’t received that gift, the way has been made for you already:  “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13.

Soon you’ll learn a lot more about Kathryn Kittinger’s (Photographer and Creative Entrepreneur) amazing life and how she came to be in Sarasota and open this peaceful restaurant. Look for my next interview with her to really “over-the-top” encourage you!

In the meantime, have you ever been graciously spoiled by someone? I’d love to hear about it!

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Need an energy boost?

I gain energy by creating and I am in the thick of painting as you can see below. I’ve still got a ways to go because this one is a doozie – large, exciting and acrylic! I’ll be sure to post a picture when it’s all completed!

Painting energy 

Sometimes, I get so involved in the creative process of painting that I even forget to eat (the cereal boxes are purely props!) As my energy started to flag, a thought popped into my head and I was reminded of Ft. Worth, TX. I’ll be sharing lots with you about the marvelous trip my good friend Pam treated me to in later blog posts.

energy boostBut for now, I want to share a dynamite energy booster that we had as we tooled through the streets of Ft. Worth. Yummy and nutritious, a super snack that was fully of healthy goodies. It kept us going, night and day, in the car and in my purse.  I had never had it before. It was so good that I had to take a picture of it! It really made a difference and helped us to “hold the line” when we were too busy to eat a meal.

A different kind of energy

There is another Sustainer that I recommend and He is so much better than trail mix! He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother—Jesus. 

The Bible describes Him magnificently in Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (emphasis added)

Jesus sustains our world and our lives. May I suggest you get an a true energy boost by getting to better know the One who loves and sustains you.

Where do you turn when you need an energy boost?

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The Ugly Place

Any time I start on a new painting, I pass through different phases: the nervousness of starting, the excitement of finishing the sketch and starting to add color, and then what I call the “ugly stage.” The ugly stage can turn a painter inside out, and it happens to all of us no matter what the project. You know you are in the ugly stage when certain thoughts come to mind: “Why did I ever start this?” “This is nasty looking!” “I have no idea how this will ever work out!” “Ugh! I should just rip it up and destroy it!”  

If you are doing something that you have never done before and it seems especially hard, maybe you are in the “ugly stage” but do not recognize it. And so you just give up: The dessert is just not coming together, so you call the bakery. Your plans are not adding up, so you decide not to start the business. Or you never get as far as trying and just call the handyman or go to the store, and then watch TV and growl when someone asks you about that project you were thinking about starting. 

That point when you are wondering whether to quit — that point is the critical make-or-break point. Maybe you really have bitten off more than you can chew. There are times when we need to call in an expert. But maybe there are times when all we see is the ugliness, and so we quit way too soon.

The ugly stage

Once I understood that there is always an ugly stage, once I was able to recognize it for what it actually is, I was able to work through it. The ugly stage is just part of the process; it is just one phase, but not the whole project. I had to learn that creativity is not merely a matter of gritting my teeth and pushing through, but also a matter of seeing things in context and recognizing what will pass.

In other words, though endurance is necessary, there is more to life than persistence. There is also perspective. Gritting your teeth on a project might work, but lack of perspective often chokes your creative flow. 

Here is my advice for the ugly stage: Step back in order to get some perspective. Take a break, call a friend, listen to some music, go for a walk, ask for advice. Remember that we are all works in progress, that God’s perspective on us in Christ is not to look back on our faults and our failures, but to look at the perfection of His Son. He sees our ugly stage in the perspective of His transforming work. We can give generously and risk sacrificially because He is able to make all grace abound to us so that we can abound in every good work!

More than a Mouthful, no longer ugly

 

Are you going through, are have you gone through, your own ugly stage? Maybe sharing it will encourage others. Leave me a comment! 

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Norman Rockwell and Thanksgiving

rockwell

In our house, we like to joke that Thanksgiving is about “family, food, and football.” Although when I think about it, maybe we aren’t really joking! Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time when we ought to reflect on all the things for which we are thankful. I truly do have so much for which to give thanks; God has blessed me far more than I deserve.

As I look at this Norman Rockwell painting, I wonder how many of our Thanksgiving celebrations even resemble this picture any longer. Do multiple generations of the same family dress up and gather around our table to enjoy a scrumptious feast? Last Saturday, I gathered with multiple generations for a pre-Thanksgiving feast, but it was served on paper plates rather than china. And we were gathered in my grandmother’s assisted living facility, not her house. Did that make it any less a time for giving thanks? Absolutely not. It was a delight to see my children enjoying time with their great-grandmother, and to see her face brighten just to be at the same table with us. 

Last week, we gathered with three other families from our church small group and enjoyed another pre-Thanksgiving feast. While none of us are related biologically, we all share an even deeper family connection through our faith in Christ. Our family in Christ may not look like a Norman Rockwell painting, but we shared a time of giving thanks nonetheless.

We will gather tomorrow for our “official” family Thanksgiving. The china will be out, the turkey will be scrumptious. But the faces will be varied – maybe just the four of us in my immediate family, perhaps some far-from-home college students, perhaps a few of our neighbors who decided not to be alone for the holiday. Again, not Rockwellian, but worthy of thanks still.

I don’t know what your Thanksgiving feast will look like. If your table is full, rejoice. If it is not, find others who may also be lonely and share your thanks (and your food) together. What is it that fills your heart with thankfulness this year? Share that with those gathered round you. Make memories; be thankful. 

If this year should find a once-filled chair now empty, don’t hide from the sadness. Remember the times that you shared and find joy in the memories. I pray you may find comfort in the God of all comfort. 

“Oh give thanks to the LORD for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1)

 

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Who is at your table?

boating party

It’s November, so I guess that officially puts us in the “holiday season.” Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and there are only 43 shopping days left until Christmas!  Although this is supposed to be a time of celebration, it seems that what I hear more often is how busy everyone is – parties, shopping, school activities, recitals, dinners, decorating… The list goes on.  In my home, we have no shortage of those events, either.

But I want to challenge us all with something this holiday season: Are we focused on ourselves, or can we make room for others and invite them in? Into our homes, our celebrations, our lives.

This delightful painting by Pierre August Renoir is called Luncheon of the Boating Party. I have a rather large framed print hanging in my dining room. It was a housewarming gift to me many, many seasons ago from some dear friends when I graduated from seminary. Since that time, it has graced the wall in my dining room in seven different homes. It is one of the first pictures to be hung once we move into a new home. Why? Because it portrays the type of home I want to create. 

Look closely – all kinds of folks are gathered together enjoying what I imagine to be delicious food and drink. From those most lavishly dressed to those most humbly attired, all are together talking and enjoying one another. I just feel happy when I look at this painting. 

I want my table to be a place where folks of all types gather, where good food is savored, conversation enjoyed, and memories made. My home doesn’t need to be large; its walls need not be ornately decorated; the furniture does not need to pass a white-glove inspection. It just needs to be welcoming. My food doesn’t need to be fussed over for days. It just needs to be presented with affection.

As we enter into a time of celebrating all for which we are thankful and the birth of the One who gave us everything, who will be at your table? Look beyond those with whom you always gather; see those there that might be forgotten, for whom there is no boating party, no welcoming spread. Set a place for them at your table; invite them in; be the aroma of Christ to them. Then tell me about the joy that filled your home as a result.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2).

 

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