Saturday, August 24, 2019

God's Masterpiece



"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:14 NIV).

To some degree, I resemble the lady on the unicorn. I can understand why I might be viewed in that way. As a children's writer, I live in a fantasy world much of the time. And, I'm quite content to be there. I might not be thought of as a work of art but rather a "piece of work." Smile here. But, I am a work of art, God's work of art. And, so are you! But, what my neighbor once accused me of being totally shattered my world at the time.

A knock at my door. I opened it to find my neighbor from across the hall glaring at me with malice in her eyes. She came to say, "You are such a phony. No one could smile as much as you do and be real."

True story. We were in our last semester of our missionary training when my neighbor, a new student and young mother, felt led of God to minister to me on a biblical principle she had just discovered. Matthew 18:15 says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained a brother." (ESV)

At the time, I wished she'd kept that verse to herself, but God knew the exact words I needed to grow in Him.

The conversation went something like this. My neighbor blurted, "How can you smile so much? I watch you every day and there it is--that smile. Get real! This missionary training is the pits. How can you be happy here?"

My reply, "Thank you for sharing that with me. I'll work on it." Although, seconds later a not so nice thought crept in––Wow lady, you're some piece of work. Then, quickly confessing that thought because in my heart I knew she was God's work of art, and He was trying to teach me something through her.

And, work on it I did. My heart was bruised and my ego too. For the next few weeks, I walked around campus with a straight face. Have you ever tried not to smile? When a fellow student greeted me, I puckered my face, mumbled a reply, and tried to not be that phony person my neighbor detested. I became a complete phony while trying not to show my glistening teeth to anyone. After a few horrible weeks, I realized what a phony I had become by not smiling.

God had no intention for me to stop smiling. It wasn't a sin to smile, but He did teach me to not be a people pleaser but rather to please Him. By being ourselves, we allow God to chisel out our areas that need to be tweaked by Him. Then and only then, are we free to be all He wants us to be and shine for Him in our own unique way.

Psalm 139:14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."

God didn't want me to quit smiling, but He did want me to be sensitive to the needs of others––especially my neighbor. She became a good friend when I noticed she wasn't smiling and needed a friend to help her through the difficult time she was going through with young children and the pressures of classes and homework. I listened to her, and she gained a friend (brother). I didn't need to quit smiling, but she did need a friend. And, I needed to learn how to be a friend.  God used me just as I was––fearfully and wonderfully made––and smiling.

How about you? What attributes has God given you to bless others? We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. He has a purpose for each of us so that the world will see His wonderful works through us and turn to Him. Even if people see you as delusional––riding a unicorn––or phony because you smile too much, He has a purpose for you and will use you because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. So be yourself! Allow God to use you––just the way He made you. Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are God's workmanship," the Greek word for workmanship means work of art. We are His work of art! Thank Him for planning each detail of His creation––His masterpiece––YOU!

"Don't change so people will like you. 
Be yourself and the right people will love the real you." ~ author unknown

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Everlasting Rock


"Trust the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock." 

An annual celebration is underway here in Cochabamba. The festival of the Virgin of UrkupiƱa is celebrated with dancing, parades, and rituals that take place this week. During this time, the traffic is so dense on our road that it takes us two hours to advance a few miles––if for some reason we need to venture out during this mad rush. Recently our main road was paved, bringing with it more traffic than the years before. Looking out our windows at 6 a.m., we can see a steady stream of busses, taxis, and cars racing by on our main road a half mile from our house. They are rushing to reach the mountain 5 miles away.

This mountain is the location of the ceremony that takes place each year. It was here that the legend behind the festival began. The legend tells of a poor shepherd girl who met a young girl on this mountain while tending to her sheep on a hillside near a town outside Cochabamba. The young girl gave five stones to the peasant girl. When the little peasant girl returned home, she took them out of her pocket to show her mother. The stones had turned to precious gems. The girl's family was rescued from poverty. 

Today, this celebration will attract hundreds of thousands of people to our city. They come from all over the world. Many Bolivians who live outside the country will return to visit family and participate in the festivities. They will climb the hillside where the peasant girl received the rocks and then break off their rock hoping for prosperity in the following year––the bigger the rock, the more prosperity.

Reading my children's book, you'll travel to UrkupiƱa with Chi Chi and his sister, Fi Fi and learn more of the rabbits' dangerous adventure to this mountain. 

Chi Chi and his sister Fi Fi visited this celebration one year. They tell their story in Book 3 of The Really Rare Rabbits Series, Over the Winding Wall.



Flapping! And screeching! And, a terrifying shadow.
 There they were––giant geese--and very real!

Chi Chi watches as Fi Fi slides down Al Alpaca's fuzzy back. They bid farewell to the new friend they met on their adventure through Peppermint Pass. Now, the brother and sister head down the yellow dandelion trail to the Winding Wall where Grandfather Rabbit waits for them. But, first they must venture through the mysterious jungle of Selvaland.

They've heard a scary story about giant ghost geese who live in Selvaland. Chi Chi shrugs it off, but Fi Fi is frightened. He assures her it is just a story. After all, their friend Al wouldn't send them into Selvaland if danger lurked there. 

Chi Chi soon changes his mind when they meet Hotchie, a strange looking creature guarding the entrance of Selvaland. But, Hotchie is not the scariest creature they will meet along the way. When the rabbits stop to rest, their fears mount. Fi Fi trembles, but Chi Chi encourages her to believe God's Word that says, "Trust the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock." Chi Chi doesn't know how much he and Fi Fi will need to trust the Lord all the way to the Winding Wall––and beyond!

Available on Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2TM1Mp1  


Sunday, August 4, 2019

Dancing with Ants


 "There are four small creatures, wisest of the wise they are––ants..." (Proverbs 30:24-25 MSG)

After church, we parked the car off the dirt road in our area to head down a narrow muddy path to Guichi's house. Guichi is our Bolivian ministry helper. His whole family awaited our arrival. They were cooking cow heart for us––yes, we love it. But, first I'd do a dance on the edge of a neighbor's dried up alfalfa field––a scary dance.

I slid out of the car into a high, hay-like area. I hit the ground and what seemed like a hundred large black ants attacked both of my legs––stinging their hearts out on my bare legs––of all the days to wear a dress, I picked this day. I landed in a hidden ant hill. The jumping and screaming missionary ant dance alarmed the neighbors I'm sure, but what did they think when Chuck began smacking my legs? I can now say I danced with ants. Hopefully, the neighbors saw an ant dance and not a missionary marriage problem.

We ran to Guichi's house. Chuck immediately gave me a cortisone shot, and I gulped down a Benadryl. I rubbed baking soda all over the bites up to my knees. There were so many bites I couldn't begin to count them all.  BTW, I am allergic. I didn't have to use the epi-pen I carry for my fish allergies. Just can't make up this stuff, and I'm a writer. Our medical experience and medical kit saved me from the epi-pen and after effects that could have ended in a hospital trip.

Thankfully, it was an ant hill and not a snake nest. I may start wearing cowgirl boots 24/7. After many years on the mission field, your surroundings are so familiar that you forget to take photos. Then, you begin to forget the dangers, too. But even though we become lax, God is faithful to protect us and give us warnings.

Do you know that ants are wise? "There are four small creatures, wisest of the wise they are––ants––frail as they are, get plenty of food for the winter;" (Proverbs 30:24-25 MSG)

One thing for sure, they enjoyed their Sunday feast of white meat thanks to their not so wise missionary neighbors.

Let's be wise like ants so we don't fall into the proverbial ant hills of life.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Chasing the Wind



"Restore to me the joy or your salvation." (Psalms 51:11,12 NRSV).

While drinking my tea and chomping on my cookie––I'm not a breakfast person, but I make up for it the rest of the day––I made a mental list of all I wanted to accomplish on a Monday morning. I flipped on the morning news to check about blockades in the country where I live in South America. All roads closed because of a looming problem within the country. No problem since I had no plans to head out anytime soon. Then, checked the news to see that all was right with the world––well, for the morning anyhow. Now, what next? Should I clean those blinds staring at me or work on correspondence? I hadn't a clue the wind would soon change my course.

Jolted by a swishing sound, I paused from all the noise in my head. This noise clamored around my windows and caught my attention. Wind! Gusty wind! Scary wind! Then it ceased. And, so did my schedule.

Instantly, my thoughts soared heavenly. God caught my attention. "So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned first hand that pursuing all of this is like chasing the wind" (Ecclesiastes 1:17 NLT).

I set out chasing the wind. I reached for my Bible and glanced out the window. Trees bent in the wind but didn't break. New leaves budded, and their greenery etched against the blue sky. A reminder that my soul may bend but never break, and just as the leaves bud again, I too have a new beginning each day. My heart warmed, and the wind in my soul ceased. I read these words "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy or your salvation." (Psalms 51:11,12 NRSV).

My soul relaxed. The clamoring stopped. My joy returned.

Chasing God brings joy. What are you chasing today? Do you want God to restore your joy? Chase Him!

"We must allow the Word of God to correct us the same way we allow it to encourage us." 
A.W. Tozer

Monday, July 1, 2019

Happy Fourth of July


Every day is a happy one when we are in our home country––even when we got food poisoning the first week of our arrival from Bolivia one furlough a few years ago. We were blessed because we had the best health care and recovered quickly.
While in the States on furlough one summer, I had the blessing of attending the AWSA conference in St. Louis and had a signing at the ICRS. What an awesome blessing from the Lord to meet amazing authors and speakers at both events. They are an inspiration to all!
Meeting my first publisher, Tracy Ruckman was a blessing. Memories that last forever are treasured. I also met my editor, Julie-Allyson Ieron, and her mom for the first time––live and in person. What a fun time and good food! Nine years of working with these talented and godly ladies, and they still put up with me.
I am thankful that God ushered me into this wonderful world of publishing in this phase of my life––the senior phase! "Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence" (Psalm 21:6 NIV). His unending blessings amaze me, and the joy of His presence was evident in these three events. This is all possible because of our country and its freedoms and opportunities.
We love seeing the flags flying all over our country when we are home, and we're thankful for the freedom we have as Americans––and especially thankful for those who have sacrificed so we can enjoy that freedom. We are blessed to be Americans!
God bless you, and God bless America, land that we love! Happy Fourth of July!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Let Him Shine



Do you ever wish for more time in the day? God can do that––He did do it. The Bible says so. "The sun stood stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies" (Joshua 10:13 NIV). God still does miracles today--maybe the sun won't stand still, but we can find more time. He can do a miracle in our life without the sun standing still. He can shine through us, so others see God's miracles in us. How?

 Realize--What is our spirituality?

 It is God in us–-serving each other and the world. How many miracles have we missed because we don't believe and trust the Lord? Worse yet, we don't always realize the miracles God performs for us because we aren't aware of God in every aspect of our life. Joshua believed God to defeat the enemy. He realized God existed. He believed. We can start the day defeated before hitting the floor––hurried, frustrated, and miserable before the day starts because we don't first recognize Who brought us through the night and Who gives us another day to live. Or, we can thank God for another day, pray for our day, and give Him first place in our first thoughts and daily life. What if we just say good morning to God and realize He wants to be a part of our day from beginning to end? 

 Reflect––Who do we reflect?

So many verses talk about God's face shining on us. The Psalmist asked God to teach him His decrees. "Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees" (Psalm 119:135 NIV). He wanted to be close to God and learn about Him and His ways. When we spend time in the Word, we learn of God's teachings––His decrees. But, applying those teachings changes our life. It's then we reflect His shining face and others see Christ in us. When I apply moisturizer in the morning, my face shines. But as the day progresses, it looses its shine––applying more brings back the shine. If we keep reading and applying God's Word, our lives shine continuously. It's then we reflect and shine The Light in this dark world.

 Rest––He can do the rest! Rest assured!

We have a free will to seek God or not. He doesn't force us to love Him and serve Him. But, He will do the rest if we trust Him and obey His Word. Yes, He will give us rest and peace, and He will carry our burdens, and He will give us all we need to serve Him and accomplish His will. We'll find the time we need when our priorities match His. He promises us not just life but abundant life. So rest assured, He keeps His promises. 

Apply God's moisturizer all day  (His Word) and let Him shine!



Monday, May 20, 2019

Dumbells and Smart Belles


"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, 
if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me" (Acts 20:24 NIV).

I'm not an exercise guru, not even close. But, I keep going physically, mentally, and spiritually. Yes, there are days I want to just give it all up––the writing, the classes, even the ministry. Did I just admit that? Haven't you been there a time or two, honestly? I'm guessing, yes. Admitting it is a way of facing the reality that things change and sometimes God does want to move us into a new task. But, just maybe, He wants to renew us for the task at hand. Maybe, we are burned out or just weary. Either way, He doesn't want us to give up, just keep moving. When I reach that point, I ask myself if I want to give up or, do I want to keep going and do more? A reality check that shakes my soul because deep down, I don't want to give up. I want to finish the race––on the path I walk or another path waiting for me directed by my God.

You don't have to enter the senior years to feel like giving it all up to go sit on the beach. Seasons in our lives cause us to want to give up on our dreams, give up on our marriage, our family or our job. We can lose our drive, our purpose, and our way if we lose sight of why we are in the race. The finish line has vanished from our view, and we lose sight of the task the Lord gives us. 

In my book, Shape Your Soul, I write about resistance training in one chapter.  Resistance training increases stamina. As you grow stronger, you don't tire as easily. The more weight you bear, the more you resist giving up. Likewise, the more we resist the devil, the more our faith muscles straighten and our faith increases. Each victory over sin builds our faith. We resist the temptation to give up, and we don't give in to the devil. "Therefore, submit to God. But, resist the devil, and He will flee from you" (James 4:7 HCSB).

I push myself in many ways––although not through exercise per se. But, physically, yes, I do push myself. I love to scrub floors, go figure. We have many on our mission base so I can't get away from my floor scrubbing exercise. I look for ways to exercise in my daily routine. I put things away where I'll have to bend––yep bending exercises. I keep moving, physically, mentally, and spiritually. If not, the body withers, our minds get lazy, and the soul dies.

A few years ago I developed carpel tunnel because I worked on the computer daily. Then last year, my right arm developed golf elbow and tennis elbow from completing five book contracts. Both times, I had physical therapy for months on end and part of that was lifting dumbbells to straighten my wrists and arm. Grueling can't accurately describe the pain of the therapy. But, without it, my shoulder could be frozen, possible surgery for my wrists and one of my dream jobs (writing) coming to and end. Not to mention, my day job as a missionary and teacher to young girls in jeopardy also. I saw the end result and worked towards it without hesitation. I wanted to get to the final therapy session and enjoy my work again.

Reaching the end of the race and accomplishing God's tasks for me keeps me going. Daily working out my faith straightens my soul to keep going in the race. There may be setbacks and rest periods along the journey, but I keep going to reach the finish line.

Resistance training with God moves our mountain of defeat. If we resit the devil, we gain strength, and complete our task for the Lord––never giving up and never defeated.

Let's be smart belles using our preverbial dumbbells to strengthen our souls so we never give up.