Extraordinary and Ordinary at the Same Time

Image by 4653867 from Pixabay 

Yesterday, July 24, 2019 marked the five-year anniversary of God blessing me with my miraculous healing from the two rare lung diseases that had me on the verge of a double lung transplant. I am so grateful to the Lord each and every day! And so it was a momentous day, not just another day.

By the same token, the fact that I CAN have ordinary days because of my healing is a tremendous gift. And that’s how yesterday was just another day.

I began by going to the Grand Reopening of my favorite grocery story after it underwent major renovation. In the afternoon, I went to church and practiced with the organist in preparation for doing the special music at both of our services this coming Sunday. From there, I visited with my parents until it was time for me to come home and make dinner. Other activities included devotional and prayer time, finishing the book, Letters from the Land of Cancer by Walt Wangerin Jr. (pastor, professor, and inspired Christian author), and getting ready for a jaunt to Maryland in a couple of days to help my bestie pick up her dogs.

I realize I’ve probably got you yawning and your eyes glazing over from boredom. I know, there was nothing special about what I did yesterday–except for the fact that I did move through the day, easily, busily, and as a healthy 60-something. Because God loves me, whether my circumstances are good, bad, or indifferent, each and every day is both ordinary and monumental. This was true yesterday, today, during the ten years I dealt with the lung diseases, and every day of my life.

Soli Deo Gloria! (To God Alone be the Glory!)

Happy New Year!

New-year-party-favor-clipartNo, I haven’t lost my mind (although some of you might disagree). Yes, I know it’s early September. But this time of year, this day after the US holiday of Labor Day always feels like a second “new year” to me.

When I was growing up, the first day of our new school year fell on the Tuesday after Labor Day. I remember those sleepless nights, the anxiety about starting a new grade, having new teachers, classes filled with kids I didn’t know, had I picked the right outfit to wear, etc. Then, I went through it with my own kids (now grown), worked in a profession that revolved around the school calendar, and now in my older years, am involved in activities that break for the summer and resume after Labor Day. Life always feels like it gets put on hold during the summer.

I no longer experience the anxiety I did when younger, but I love the cyclical flow of the days and months that come with the fall and look forward to it. It’s a time when I re-examine the structure of my days and re-evaluate my priorities and projects. It’s a time of new beginnings even as I look toward the December holidays and end of the year. It’s a time when I feel like I have a second chance to do the things I committed to do in January, but which have fizzled out as the year progressed.

Maybe you feel like you’re in the same boat, with unfinished business and a lack of progress in areas you’d hoped would be further along by this time. It’s never too late to begin again. Every day that the sun rises is an opportunity for a fresh start. And since it comes up every 24 hours, we receive a clean slate, another chance. Whatever we accomplish is something that would not have happened if we hadn’t started over and tried. As Dory says in the movie Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.” One inch, one action, one step at a time will do it! Come on this adventure with me. We’ll finish the year strong–together!

Oh, and by the way,

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(I’m re-committing to writing one picture book manuscript a month and editing an existing picture book manuscript. What will you do? Send me a comment or begin following this blog and I’ll email you a list of 10 actions I’ve found helpful to get myself “unstalled” and moving again.)

Three Years Later–And the Time Is Now

Source: Three Years Later–And the Time Is Now

Three Years Later–And the Time Is Now

X profile photoYesterday. July 24. A red-letter day, at least for me. Three years ago, God blessed me with a miraculous healing, snatching me back from the brink of a double lung transplant. In truth, I celebrate this blessing every day, thanking Him for His grace and mercy to me.

These three years have passed so fast. God continues to bless me with good health and even continues to improve it. At the last visit with my pulmonologist, a pulmonary function test showed that I am now breathing as well as 90% of all normal people. Compare that to the 39% I was at right before my healing! The pressure in my pulmonary artery is also in the normal range. My doctors are still a bit mystified, but have accepted the reality of my situation.

As for me, what has happened in the past three years has gone far beyond the physical. During the ten years I was sick, the Lord taught me many things: trust, deeper prayer, joy–just to name a few. Those lessons have continued as I have redefined my life and searched the heart of God for what He wants me to do now that I am healthy. I am grateful every day that I serve a God who speaks to me through His word and whispers to my heart as I come before Him in prayer. He wants me to be in relationship with Him, He wants me to know Him and does not keep Himself secret or hidden from me.

I’ve known since my healing that I was supposed to write about it. But I still had lessons to learn and to grasp the vision He had for my book. After all, one does not sit down and write a book about marriage while still a newlywed or a parenting book right after giving birth. Just like in those situations, there is a learning curve. I needed time to process what happened and find my way, with His help and guidance, into this restored life.

The Lord has revealed to me this summer that I’m ready and confirmed it to me in a number of ways as I have sought Him. It is both exciting and a bit scary to be facing the reality of this project. I can no longer just talk about it–I must DO it. It is always daunting to face a blank page/screen. I’m already discovering that I must be diligent about using my “shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the enemy” (Ephesians 6:16). And the enemy has been firing those arrows at me in the form of fear, insecurity, distractions, discouragement, etc. The devil does not want me to give God glory and is doing his best to prevent it and keep me quiet.

Sometimes I forget to put up my shield and those darts hit me, especially when he’s being sneaky and hoping I won’t notice his attacks. But this project belongs first and foremost, to the Lord, and I will not be thwarted, especially when He gives me the strength to do all things in Him (Philippians 4:13). When I was still sick, I promised the Lord that I would give Him the glory. I did it then, and I intend to continue doing just that.

I’m still learning and will continue to do so on this side of paradise. I’m so thankful that I’m not doing this alone. With the Lord at my side and guiding my words, it will come to fruition. Stay tuned!

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Sense of Wonder

 

traveling-companions

Traveling companions of Susan and me–Waddy, Piglet, Curious George, and Kermit

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”          —From The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson

 

It’s been at least 25 years—maybe more—since I first read this book. My soul leapt with joy as I recognized this defining characteristic of myself, one I could never identify and passed off as many other things over the years. The fact that I never wanted to grow up. The fact that I write for children. The fact that my children were young, and I was relating to them. I was an adult and still had this “quirk”

There it was, confirming my way of life as a good thing, not an immaturity or a defect. It was okay, even desirable, to maintain this childlike, not childish, way of looking at life, and I wouldn’t want to live any other way. Being able to observe everything around me with the eyes of a child gives me great joy and awe at the wonders surrounding me, no matter where I am or my circumstances. Jesus himself encouraged us to maintain that childlike sense of wonder in our faith and relationship to him.

This past weekend was a perfect example. My dear friend, Susan, (one who also lives life with wonder and awe) and I took a weekend trip to Coudersport, deep in the Allegheny Mountains, where there was a meeting of fans of Margaret Suttons’s beloved children’s book series, the Judy Bolton mysteries. While Susan had gone in previous years, this was my first time. As a children’s writer and childhood reader of Judy Bolton, it was pure joy to visit the places where Margaret Sutton grew up and drew much of the inspiration for her books from the surrounding area and events that occurred there.

But in addition to that, I craindrops-on-branchesouldn’t drink in enough of the vibrant colors of the changing leaves, each tableau different from the one just passed. Rows of water droplets from the early morning rain outlined bare tree branches just above a branch of dancing, dazzling red leaves. The welcome I received at private homes where I was treated as a long-lost family member filled me with warmth. The starkness of the failed Austin Dam contrasted with the beauty of the trees and wildflowers that have grown around and even in the cracks of the crumbling cement structure. Even in the sad, derelict, abandoned church we explored, Susan discovered a Bible by the still-in-place lectern open to the passages we are currently studying in our weekly women’s Bible study. I marveled at everything.

I challenge you to re-open your eyes of childhood. Remember what it felt like to begin each day with a sense of excitement and anticipation. Expect to see wonders all around you. Discover that the ordinary is, in reality, truly extraordinary—and it is still there, just as it was when you were young. And revel in the wonder and awe of it all.

Worst. Day. Ever.

We all have them—those days when nothing seems to go right from the minute our feet hit the floor.

  • The dog throws up on the carpet when you’re already late for work
  • The lid on your travel mug isn’t screwed on tight like you thought and tea (or coffee) spills all over your __________ (fill in the blank)
  • The GPS takes you to the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere instead of your desired location
  • The waitress tells you she’s just given the last piece of peach pie to another customer

I’m sure you’re all nodding in agreement and adding your own items to this list. Some of you might remember the picture book by Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, where Alexander decides moving to Australia will solve all his problems. Recently, I saw something that made me think that the people to whom this happened would come to the same conclusion. Especially since they probably didn’t have a clue at that point how bad their day would turn out to be once they got home. Let me explain.

My son, Nathan, and I were traveling together, enjoying each other’s company and our conversation. We came around a bend, and there it was, right in the middle of the road. No, not a dead skunk or any other animal, but a dead HD TV. Obviously on the way home from the store, the end of the box had popped open in the fall, revealing the shattered contents within. My first reaction was, “OH, NO!” then I started to wonder how it had gotten there.

My ever-empathetic son snickered and commented, “Boy, are they going to be upset when they get home.” I agreed. (Actually, he used a stronger word than upset that I don’t use, but his word was probably more accurate.) What DO you do when you get home and discover the TV you’ve just spent hundreds of dollars on is MIA? Would they drive back the way they came, looking for it? What would their reaction be when they came upon it? Would they leave it on the road, take it back to the store as defective, or make a claim on their car or homeowner’s insurance to replace it?

I voted for the latter. One insurance company has been running ads, creating outlandish situations which they claim they’ve covered. One involves the family dogs who turn on the faucets, flood the house, and perform synchronized swimming in the middle of the living room, much to their owners’ surprise when they discover the mess. “Yep, we covered it”, says the fictional insurance rep.

In my imagination, I saw film of the happy family, strapping their new TV onto the roof rack of the car, driving down the road, maybe even singing on their way home when their newest prized possession decides to take a nose dive. The camera pans to a driveway as they pile out and puzzle over the missing item, then pans back to the destruction in the middle of the road. And then I hear the voice, “Yep, we covered it.”

I will probably never know the actual outcome of this event. But I am pretty sure of one thing: this will go down in their family history as a Worst. Day. Ever.

Thou Shouldst Buy This Book

Today’s post will focus on a new book by my good friend, Bob Hostetler. Bob is an award-winning Christian author who has also co-written several books with Josh McDowell. As an avid lover of both t…

Source: Thou Shouldst Buy This Book

Thou Shouldst Buy This Book

Bard and the BibleToday’s post will focus on a new book by my good friend, Bob Hostetler. Bob is an award-winning Christian author who has also co-written several books with Josh McDowell. As an avid lover of both the Bible and Shakespeare, Bob had a brainstorm, an “aha” moment, that resulted in this literary and readable devotional. Below is a review I wrote for Amazon and Goodreads. As Bob (and Shakespeare) would say, “Thou shouldst buy this book!” And I say it as well.

 

REVIEW:The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional by Bob Hostetler

The Bard and the Bible is a wonderful and creative way to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. This new devotional works on a number of levels. One of the first and most obvious is the language. The King James Version of the Bible is still one of the most used and best-loved. It’s a natural to combine the insight of scripture to the insight of many of Shakespeare’s characters, and in fact, is clear that this version of the Bible influenced much of Shakespeare’s writing.

Each entry in this 365-day devotional follows a format that begins with a quote from one of the Bard’s plays (as well as sometimes from one of his sonnets or other poems), followed by a verse of scripture that aligns with the quote. Next comes the devotion text which gives background into the play and/or character from which the first quote is taken and its context. It segues into the Bible verse and how it not only relates to the Shakespeare quote, but how it relates to and is relevant to one’s daily life. The devotion ends with a thought-provoking question dealing with the issue at the heart of the devotion. Then comes what I consider to be a bonus; a short section of facts and trivia about Shakespeare himself, word trivia, modern incarnations of his plays, and more. A prayer as such is not included but the question at the end of each devotional entry leads the reader into reflection, self-examination, and prayer.

There is much to like about The Bard and the Bible. While still following the basic form of a devotional, Hostetler’s approach is fresh, unique, and interesting. He pulls the Bard’s quotes from each play in order of appearance so there is continuity within Shakespeare’s works rather than random quotes from random plays. It provides another layer that will delight fans of the Bard. A third layer within The Bard and the Bible is the depth of Biblical truth and its applications. Christians will be challenged to daily obedience to Jesus and to lovingly act out their faith by using the godly principles Hostetler brings to remembrance. This book also gives a slice of insight into Shakespeare’s faith and his great familiarity with scripture. It will resonate with any Christian who is a lover of literature and words. But more than that, The Bard and the Bible is a book that can be gifted to anyone interested in literature as a way to introduce them to God’s truth and love.

(In case you missed it, click on this link, The Bard and the Bible to buy a  copy of Bob’s book!)

Blessings Indeed

View at dusk Indianapolis

The view from our hotel room–Indianapolis at dusk

 

 

Tom and I have just come back from the International Gideons Convention that was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. People were there from over 90 countries from around the world. One of the things I love about convention is meeting and getting to know folks from countries that are so different from my own—and hearing of the difficulties many are facing with faith, courage, and perseverance.

As I listened to how God is working, especially in countries where it is hard and even dangerous, to be a Christian, it made me uncomfortable and sometimes ashamed to be a Christian in America. I thought of Luke 12:48: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” I have been given so much and was reminded of my responsibility!

In my last blog, I shared my experience of packing food aid for Syrian refugees. The prayer of my heart is that I will be more mindful of the ways I can make a difference for the Lord and for this hurting world. I don’t ever want to take for granted how much I have been blessed. With that in mind, here are just a few of my recent blessings:

    • Hosting Jean Marc, a gentleman from France for two nights in our home and getting to know him

      Jean Marc 2 (2)

      Tom and Me with Jean Marc

    • Having more food available than I could possibly want or eat
    • The availability of fresh, clean water to drink
    • Being in air-conditioning, protected from the dangerous and excessive heat we were experiencing
    • The view from our hotel room
    • Having dinner with Glen, our new friend from Jamaica
    • Celebrating the two-year-anniversary of my miraculous healing (July 24)
    • The hospitality of Tom’s sister and her husband, Barb and Roy
    • The beauty and peacefulness of their home on a lake
    • That I was able to do these things freely and without fear of attack or fear for my safety

I could bore you by going on and on, but I think you get the picture. I am especially thankful for the blessing of refreshment this time away offered me. And now, it’s time to get back to work to change the world in whatever way I can from my humble home in Pennsylvania.

The most important thing I can do is to treat everyone I meet with love and respect, no matter who they are, no matter their circumstances, no matter their beliefs. If we all acted this way in our own corner of the world, we would make a difference. Smiles and love ARE contagious! Will you join me in doing this?

 

SO LITTLE TIME; SO MUCH FOOD

Recently I participated in a food packing event sponsored by my friend, Joey Payne of the Global Aid Network (GAiN). This organization sends humanitarian aid of every kind all over the world, including things such as clothes, food, wheelchairs, walkers, washable fabric menstrual pads, refugee bags, blankets and quilts, motorbikes, regular bikes, small stuffed animals, toys, soccer balls . . . The bottom line—if you donate it, they know someone who needs it and will get it to them.

At any rate, Joey brought her show on the road to her hometown of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. She enlisted the help of local churches to raise the money needed to buy the bulk food and supplies, and to round up the volunteers necessary to prepare the food for shipping. The aid from this event was earmarked for the refugees flooding Greece, escaping from the war in Syria. It didn’t take long for both goals to be met.

Upon arrival and registration, each of us was assigned a station and a specific job at that station. Mine was to check the inner seal of the rice-filled bags to be sure not a grain could escape. Other jobs were measuring rice, filling bags, and sealing bags. (Some stations packed lentils, and some packed rice.) Over 200 of us gathered in the large open space of the Big Run War Memorial on a hot and muggy Pennsylvania Saturday (no air conditioning!)

The event was only scheduled for two hours, and I wondered how much could really be accomplished in that short amount of time. A WHOLE lot, I discovered! The final count: 46,282 meals were packed! That translated into being able to feed over 330 refugee families for an entire MONTH.

Even more important has been the response of the people receiving the aid. When GAiN volunteers deliver the meals, they are asked by many of the mostly Muslim refugees, “Why are you Christians doing this for us when our own people are the reason we are here? Why do you care?” It has opened many opportunities for them to talk about the love that rules us as Christians and the love that compels us to action. These volunteers return with testimonies of hearts being touched because we are seeing them hungry and are giving them food (Matthew 25:35).

I started to think. If we could do that much in just two hours, how many we could feed if we did that for 8 hours or for 5 days, or for a month? While I’m not good at numbers, it is obvious, even to me, how many lives could be touched exponentially.

Each of us can do something. And when that something is added to someone else’s something, before long, we ARE making a difference. We are being “God with skin” to these folks. And as Christians, it’s what we do. 

What one thing can or are you doing to help others at home or around the world? Share your experiences in the “Comments” section.

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