Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Biking or Bumbling


"Don't assume that you know it all" (Proverbs 5:&7 MSG).

Learning to ride a bike sometimes results in scratches, sore muscles, and maybe even broken bones––two out of three is my experience. Yes, just one experience––a memorable one. A memory of my son's seventh birthday. He got a bike and so did I. Warning: Don't learn to ride a bike at the same time your kids are learning.

So, what I can tell you about my biking experience is this. I was young! My son couldn't wait to ride. And, how hard could it be to sit on two wheels and stay upright? Pretty hard, I found out.

The July sun beamed down on the shiny new bikes. My son and I walked our bikes down the driveway and across the highway onto a less-traveled mountain road. Earlier that day, my husband pleaded for me to wait until he came home so we could all be together for this memory-making venture. Knowing our son couldn't wait to mount that new bike, he conceded and agreed to join the adventure when he arrived home later.

I helped my son up to the seat. He got the hang of it quickly while I played the role of traffic police until my turn. Then my turn, I sat with the posture of a natural cyclist even though I had no idea about brakes or speeds or balance. Determined to do this thing, I pushed the peddles while my son took a turn as traffic police.

With one push of the peddles, I sped into the wind. Whoa, what fun! Fun yes, until I had no idea how to brake. Panic set in as the wheels seemed to lift from the pavement under me. How to stop? What if a car came over the little noll? Think, I told myself! The only place to go and the only way to stop, I headed into a fence. Crash! But, a big bush kept me from a fall.

My son couldn't keep the tears from falling over his sweet face. I assured him I'd be okay. We walked those bikes home while I tried not to limp. The experience never deterred that seven-year-old from learning to ride––but I put my bike up for sale that very night.

Sometimes God nudges us to avoid a bumbling outcome. And, sometimes He pushes us into a fence instead of a dangerous fall on the pavement while He teaches us we don't know it all, but He does. We see God's hand that guides us to safety instead of falling into a dangerous situation.

I'm sure God's hand held me up that day and kept me from falling. I learned this, "...don't try to figure everything out on your own" (Proverbs 3:6 MSG). Sometimes we go ahead of Him as I did that day by not waiting for my husband who knew how to ride a bike. Sometimes He uses others to teach us.

My biking experience certainly taught me a lesson about how to wait on God and allow Him to direct my steps. When we are out of step with God, it's a dangerous place to be and may end on a pavement with bruises or even worse. Even so, He promises He will direct us in the way we should go––even into the bushes to lessen our injures from going our own way and not waiting on Him.


"Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track" (Proverbs 3:6 MSG).

Have you gone off track and crashed into the bushes thinking you know it all––as I've done more than once? So, how do we avoid the proverbial crashes and bushes?

Listen for God's voice. He'll keep you on track. The key is...drumroll please: Listen to His voice by reading His word, praying, obeying and learning from our circumstances.

I finally learned to ride a bike while passing through mid-life. But even now in my seventh decade, I still strive to trust God for less bumbling and more proverbial "biking" without crashes because He does know it all. I am still learning to ride my proverbial bike. How about you?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Night of the Frogs



“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; 
for he acknowledges my name” (Psalm 91:14 NIV).

I sipped tea while looking at a frog––he’d caught my eye when I glanced across the room. There he sat on top of my lamp. I couldn’t stop my lips from turning upwards––then a burst of giggles. Memories returned of frogs on an eerie night in a foreign field––actually miles of fields around the little mud house we called home for a while. Unlike my ceramic frog atop the lamp that held the lampshade from going ajar, the frogs that night were real.

We’d arrived at the mission school to join the staff after less than a month in Bolivia. We’d lived for a time in the attic/guestroom of the school library, and then prepared to move to the “farmhouse.” Before you form the image of a sweet stateside farmhouse, let me paint a picture of this “farmhouse” in Bolivia.

The school rested on a flat landscape atop a valley. A short walk on a winding dirt road brought you to a curve where a breath-taking panorama of acres of fields came into view. At the bottom of the hill sat the “farmhouse” that we had eagerly awaited to inhabit. There it sat, a little mud house in the middle of nowhere. Our barrels hadn’t arrived from the States so many household items were on loan to us, but we needed a refrigerator. 

My husband left for the city eight hours away to buy a frig, leaving our five-year-old daughter and me alone in that tiny house. Our son had settled into dorm life with boys his age, and we quickly became good friends with his dorm parents––also recently arrived missionaries. So, no neighbors, no lights outside, and no way to communicate with anyone at the school.

On the second night alone in that secluded little abode, I heard a noise, a strange noise. The hour neared that the school generator would shut down, leaving only candlelight. The noise continued. I looked out the kitchen window where the sound seemed to be loudest. Pitch. Black. It resembled the sound of a motorcycle trying to start. After listening to that sound for what seemed like hours, my imagination kicked into high gear. What if there were more motorcycles than just one. Hell’s Angels came to mind. Could there be similar gangs in this remote area? Were they waiting for the generator to shut down to make their move? Fear took over. Who could come to our rescue?

Fear held me hostage. But, more scared for my daughter than myself, I had to get a grip. Couldn’t God take care of her––of us? We were in the youth of our ministry, and just as Timothy was in the youth of his life and ministry, the enemy certainly didn’t want him (or me) to continue spreading the gospel. This would be the first time I confronted my fears on the mission field, but not the last––if I were to continue in the ministry God called me to.   

Scriptures came to mind. Why did Paul write this to Timothy? “I call to remembrance the faith that is in you…” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV). Paul encouraged Timothy by reminding him of the faith he’d seen in him. Maybe that statement today would sound like, Hey, Tim, you can do this!

Paul reminded him, “to stir up the gift of God in you through the laying on of hands,” (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV). Go get ‘em, boy! I remembered hands laid on me only a few months before this night. And, then these powerful words of exhortation to Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy1:7 NIV). Fear paralyzes our ministry. Faith in God powers our ministry. Believe. Pray. A calm settled over me. I trusted God to take care of us. Peace.

Then, a knock at the door. I inched to the door. A familiar face looked back. It was our son’s dorm parent, Mike. My sweaty hands turned the doorknob. Telling him my scary story, he took his flashlight and ventured out into the darkness returning quickly. Nothing. But there was a noise. We both listened intently. “There, do you hear it?” Mike burst into laughter, then trying to control himself but to no avail. What on earth was so funny?

“Those are frogs making that sound.” No way! Eventually, I found the humor in it all, but with a bit of embarrassment. 

Gathering my dignity, I asked Mike, “Do they have little motorcycles?” We both burst into laughter until our eyes wept.

Do you know what I learned that night? I learned that God is always with us and never leaves us alone. He watches out for us and rescues us–-even from frogs with little motorcycles.

There will always be fears to face, but when we trust God, He will take us from fear to faith. He promises to rescue us. What are your fears today? Will you let God stretch your faith in whatever circumstance you find yourself? We can go from fear to faith daily and stir up the gift of God in us so that He can use us for His purpose.

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!