Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rise Up With Hope

My friend, Jolene Underwood, has started a movement called Rise Up Writers. In her words, 
This movement is a call for Christ followers to use words well, whether as an entrepreneur, a fiction writer, a blogger or simply as one who engages in the world of social media." 

She encourages us to seek Christ first of all and to live for Him. As we do this our lives can shine as lights in a dark world pointing others to Christ. 

In her first linkup, Jolene asks the question, "What does it mean to Rise Up with your words?"  As I thought about it I realized that it isn't always easy to share my words. I don't know how they will be accepted. Those kinds of thoughts seem to come when I begin to focus on myself rather than on Christ. I let the fear of man become a trap and cause me to wonder if my words are really needed.

When I spend time with God in prayer and in reading His word, the Holy Spirit does bring peace. I am reminded that I am a child of God and He is the one I answer to, not other people. When I share my heart here on this blog, I do so because I want others to know God and to find the peace that I have.

To Rise Up with my words means that I will continue to speak and write for God even though others may not agree. I don't have to worry, because I know that God will use my words for His purposes. I may at times feel vulnerable and unsure about publishing on my blog, but I will do it anyway, because I know I am being obedient to the One who has called me.

My friend, Marvia Davidson, has started a linkup called #AffirmingFridays. This week she is focusing on hope. In her words, 
I’m reflecting on having hope when life is troubling. Particularly I am pondering what it means to hold on to those things that are good, right, noble, honorable, true, and lovely even when life isn’t so pretty. This means, at least for me, I need to engage and practice and activate my faith as I believe it bolsters my hope.

I think Jolene and Marvia are on to something and I want to be a part of a movement that calls us to live out our faith in practical ways so that we can shine lights into these troubling times. Be sure to click on the links below to read more of their words. Anywhere we are we can Rise Up to share the HOPE we have found in Christ. We'd love for you to join us. 

(photograph and poem by Gayl Wright)

I'm linking up with:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Every Morning is New

Morning has broken like the first morning….” So begins one of my favorite songs, published in 1931. According to Wikipedia the English words were written by Eleanor Farjeon, and the tune is a Scottish Gaelic one that goes by the title “Bunessan.”

I wonder what the very first morning was like. In Genesis when it says there was evening and morning, the first day, there were not even any people around. It wasn't until the sixth day that Adam and Eve were created.

I wonder what the world looked like to the first people. Everything was fresh and new, unspoiled and not plagued by disease. Even today with all the problems in the world there is still so much beauty. Many places just make us gape in awe because of the beauty.

Most of the time I don't get up very early in the morning, but when I do I love it. Everything does seem fresh and new. There is not much activity. Sometimes it is foggy, and I love to watch the sun burn away the fog. Everything becomes bright.

The birds are just beginning to sing. First you only hear quiet sounds, then more and more birds join in until there is a full chorus of various tones and volume. There are robins, clear warbles from the wood thrush and also the loud cawing of crows. There is room for all.

I'm so glad God give us each new day. It's like the slate is wiped clean and we can begin again. I'm reminded of these verses in Lamentations 3:22,23. I'm using the NKJV as found on the Bible Gateway website.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

Here is one of my favorite recordings of the song “Morning Has Broken” sung by Michael Card.

I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday where the prompt for this week is the word morning.
Also linking up with:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

To Be Generous and Free

I sit here in the rocking chair gazing at the big oak tree just outside my window. Through the bare branches, swaying in the wind, I can see the deep blue of the sky peeking out between the clouds, some gray and some made bright white by the sun. In the distance I hear the chimes, an occasional car, and the seemingly constant noise of wind rushing through the trees. 

It is definitely a blustery day. 

Today was the first day in a long time that my husband and I did not have our cell phones at the breakfast table. It was nice not to have those small electronic devices vying for our attention. We just ate and talked.

My cup of Jamaican Me Crazy coffee, still about half full accompanied me upstairs as I went to my special place to write, read and pray. My phone was right where I had left it, but I didn't pick it up this time. It has become such a constant companion that it almost felt odd not to have it with me.

But it was also very freeing.

I did not need to be at the mercy of notifications and news of social media. This was my time with God and the fewer distractions the better. I already had enough thoughts creeping in to steal my concentration.

My room is quiet except for the outside noises. The orange-scented candle casts a soft glow. It seems a perfect time and place for pouring my heart out to God.

Why don't I do it more often? Why do I let other things keep me away?

Generosity is the theme for #wholemama this week.

Sometimes I find I'm all but generous with the time I spend in prayer to God. 

I want that to change, not because it's some magic formula that will suddenly make my trouble go away. That is a myth. No, my time spent in prayer helps me remember I'm not alone. I give my burdens to God and He gives me peace. My problems have not gone anywhere, but the urgency for me to do something right now goes away. I remind myself that God knows and His timing is not the same as mine. He sees the whole picture, but I see only a small part.

I know that God has things under control.

Once when I left my oldest daughter in charge at home, I asked her to try to keep things under control with her younger siblings. Her solution was to write the word control on a piece of paper and tape it to the ceiling. That way when I asked if things were under control she could say, “Yes!”

Of course we got a good laugh out of that, but we all know a piece of paper on the ceiling doesn't really mean things are under control. I'm glad God has a better way. My job is to trust Him and not let the problems cause me to be discouraged and stressed. When I trust I can go about my day with joy. That does not mean I am happy all the time, but deep inside is a peace.

God has been very generous in His dealings with me.

He provides for me every day. I have air to breathe, eyes to see the beauty of creation and of my family, ears to hear music and the wind blowing, and I could go on. So many things we take for granted are blessings from God. I want to be more grateful for His provision and be generous in my dealings with others.

To me generosity is a happy word. It brings to mind people helping others by giving some of what they have. It doesn't always have to be money.

  • I can be generous with my time by being available when my family needs me.
  • I can offer to babysit or take someone to the store.
  • I can prepare meals and invite people over to share them with us.
  • I can provide a listening ear giving undivided attention.
  • I can show grace and forgiveness to one who has hurt me.
  • I can give others the benefit of the doubt when unsure.
  • I can always be ready to lend a helping hand even if I think I don't have time.

There are many more ways to live a life marked by generosity. I would love for you to share your thoughts!

I'm linking up with:

Monday, February 15, 2016

My Little Corner

Indigo curtains sway
touched by a gentle breeze
wafting through the window

A lamp of pink tulips
illumines the wooden
claw-footed round table

A yellow highlighter
sits ready to mark words
as I read my Bible

Subtle hints of orange
fill the air with fragrance
as scented candle burns

Inspiration appears
through paintings on the wall
lovingly made by friends

Art supplies wait nearby
ready to be employed
in a creative way

Inspiring music plays
lyrics of truth and grace
streaming from a cell phone

Thinking about my life
I see how God has blessed
My grateful heart sings praise

I'm linking up with:
#LMMLinkup (Literacy Musing Mondays)

This poem was originally inspired by a prompt from Beth Morey on our Facebook page for the ecourse Poetry Is. She suggested we walk around the room or outdoors jotting down what we see, think of adjectives to describe the words we chose and then write a poem.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Little Kindness

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other,
just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
(Ephesians4:32 NASB)

When I was a little girl we used to sing a song in Sunday School about being kind to one another. It must have been taken from this verse because I remember the first few words were Be ye kind one to another. A little kindness can go a long way. Sometimes it doesn't take much to brighten someone's day.

We also need to be kind to ourselves.

How often do we push ourselves almost to the point of exhaustion? I realize that sometimes we have no choice especially when our children are sick and need us. But what about those times when we just want to get something finished and we keep going even though we know we need a break? I think we would do well to make sure we get a few minutes each day to stop, relax and just breathe. Sometimes that's all it takes to give us renewed energy.

Back in October of 2014, I wrote a poem that I think embodies the spirit of kindness, and I'd like to share it again here.

A Touch of Love

I could keep a vase of flowers
sitting out within our sight
I could light a scented candle
an aroma to delight

I could serve some homemade chai tea
to warm us with its spices
I could make a chocolate sheet cake
with big ginormous slices

I could call a friend who's hurting
to provide a listening ear
I could speak with words of kindness
Never harsh tones causing fear

I could smile instead of frowning
Bringing cheer for those I see
I could say words of thanksgiving
Let complaining never be

I could put on happy music
to replenish us with mirth
I could compliment another
Helping them to see their worth

I could pray each day for guidance
To help me in this quest
I could linger on the porch swing
Taking time for daily rest

May we all take a little time to do small acts of kindness. It will not only bless others but will bless ourselves as well.

I'm linking up with Erika Shirk and #wholemama where the word KIND was our prompt last week. I'm a little late to the party, but better late than never, right? 
I'm also linking with: 
Soul Survival Monday Linkup 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Limited, Or Not

Praise the Lord.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,

how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;

he gathers the exiles of Israel.

He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;

his understanding has no limit.

Did you catch that last line above? There is NO limit to God's understanding! We can come to him with anything and he will not be surprised. He already knows what we are going to say anyway. No matter how we feel about it he understands completely, probably more than we do ourselves.

As a human being I am limited in so many ways. I'm not as young as I used to be so I can't do as many things or as quickly as I could in the past. There are aches and pains that just don't seem to go away. I get tired, even exhausted at times.

If I were to dwell only on my limits I would be a sad person indeed. 

But our limits aren't always a bad thing. Other people can help where we fall short and we can help them in different ways. Our limits show us that we need each other. 

Our limits show us that we need God. 

The God who created us and loves us has promised to be with us, to give us strength in our hard times. Our weakness gives opportunity for God's strength to show through us.

We are finite. We will not live forever in these bodies we have. 

There is only so much time on earth for us to live. We need to make the most of our time. We need to care for ourselves by getting enough rest and exercise. We also need to do the things our hearts long for.

We could bewail our limits and never accomplish anything or we can look past them, find out what we are able to do and pursue the goals we desire.

(cross stitch I made for my mom many years ago)

I'm linking up with:
Kate Motaung and #FiveMinuteFriday
Family, Friendship, Faith Fridays
Word of God Speak

Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Imagining

(picture taken from my back driveway)

I am the colors of the sunset,

ablaze with yellows, blues and pinks

I am a sphere

bouncing through the portals of life

I am a clear voice

full of sparkling diamonds

I am a butterfly with phosphorescent wings

buoyant and gentle

I am the song of the wood thrush

pure and luminous

I am one of many voices

igniting the fire of truth

I am a soft warm sofa

all aglow when children are near

I am a pineapple, pepperoni pizza

balancing flavors of sweet and sour

I am a shiny flute spreading frivolity

through a prism of notes

I am a mountain covered with snow

glaring at the world below

I am a glittering waterfall cascading

down into a frothy river

I am a weeping willow wrapping

her arms around those who are sad

This is a poem I wrote for an ecourse called Poetry Isdesigned and led by Beth Morey. One of the books we have been using is Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. An exercise in the book gives you some questions, then has you answer them beginning with the words I am…

I combined it with another assignment from our group call where we each chose a word, looked it up in a thesaurus and wrote down the words that stood out to us. The word light is what I chose and was surprised by the number of synonyms listedIt was fun to figure out how many of them I could use in my poem. 

If you read it again, see if you can find all the words that have to do with light.

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear any comments or impressions you have.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Restoring my Quiet Place

Back in June I wrote a blog post about setting aside a place in my bedroom for writing and praying. I was hoping to start a practice of praying several times a day. Since that time I have gotten away from using that space very often. Little things creep in, a schedule gets interrupted and my good intentions have flown away.

One problem which I have mentioned before is how social media gobbles up a lot of time. It starts innocently enough by reading emails, checking on Facebook groups, then on to reading blog posts and making comments. All of these are good things, but when other areas are being neglected I need to make some changes.

In Lisha Epperson's post for #GiveMeGrace she tells about a small used desk she has purchased to be used for her space. Here is what she says about it.
"For some time now I’ve craved something I couldn’t name. The desk is that thing. The desk is the fulfillment of a quiet wish for space, for room to think and breathe. Giving a name to that need fills me – it satisfies."

 Before she brought the desk into her room she ran her hand across it and said a prayer of blessing, because she wants God to use it in her life. In her words,
"The desk is a promise to humbly surrender to Gods reconstruction of my life. I purpose to give Him room." 

Like Lisha, I also want to give God room and be open to His leading. I have recently acquired a small round table that belonged to my paternal grandmother, and had already put it in place of the folding card table I had been using in my bedroom spot. 

When I read Lisha's article I was inspired. It reminded me of my desire to spend more time in prayer and contemplation before God, even though I had let other things push it aside.

The table had been neglected, but it was still waiting for me. I got out my homemade furniture polish to freshen it up a bit. Finishing touches included a scented candle, my Bible and some books to enhance the time I would spend there. The wooden rocker has been replaced with my mother's old Lazyboy rocker and the lamp belonged to my husband's mother. 

It's almost like sitting with those who have come before me.

It does seem more inviting to have a special place to tend to your heart. Just before bedtime last night, I sat there with a cup of Mint Melange tea while I read, prayed and reviewed the dayI thanked God for new friends and for time to rest. When I climbed into bed to continue my nightly Bible reading, I felt more peace and continued communing with God as I settled down for the night. It wasn't perfect, and I did end up chatting on my phone with a daughter just before I turned out the light, but the sense of peace was still there as I drifted off to sleep.

I want to establish a routine of starting each day with some prayer and contemplation, but old habits are hard to break. The first thing I did this morning even before getting dressed was to check the messages and Facebook groups on my phone as usual. This is not always a bad thing as I am able to see any prayer requests first thing and can pray as I am getting ready to head downstairs for breakfast. 

My goal is not to be rigid and think I have to get up at a certain time, have my prayer time the same each day, and force myself to fit a schedule. No, I want the time in my special place to be something I eagerly await. Getting up extra early doesn't usually work for me, and would probably disturb my husband since my special place is in the bedroom. What I purpose to do is spend just a few minutes praying before getting out of bed. Then after breakfast I can take extra time at my special place.

What about you? Do you have a special place to pray, write, read or think?

Maybe your days are filled with little ones needing your attention and you don't have the luxury of a time of quiet. If that is the case, you can just send up little prayers in snatches throughout the day. The important thing is knowing God is there and hears our prayers. He can give peace and comfort in the midst of storms. 

I'm linking up with:

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Different Focus

It's time for Five Minute Friday! We write for five minutes without worrying about getting everything right. It is meant to be a fun exercise. You can read all about it HERE.

Sometimes I find it really hard to focus on the task at hand. My mind has a way of wandering, thinking of other things I might rather do. If the job is a dreaded one my distractions are even worse. I will find other things to do and keep putting off what I don't like.

Distractions come easily to me, and I have to intentionally decide to start and finish a chore. Yesterday, I finally swept and mopped the kitchen floor. It had been put off too long, but I just kept finding excuses.

Sometimes it is hard to focus because I've been too long looking at a computer screen. That's when I need a distraction to clear my mind, something else to focus on. One of the things that really helps me is to go outdoors and walk around the property. Yesterday that is just what I did.

I felt the cool breeze, petted the dogs, looked at the sky from different angles. Our land is hilly so I had lots of different perspectives to gaze from. 

It was easy to focus on the beauty I saw and the freedom I felt. When I came back indoors I was ready to focus on the things that needed my attention.

Won't you join us at Kate Motaung's place for #FiveMinuteFriday?
I'm also linking up at #SmallWonder