Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Feed Your Creativity! The NEW Series Begins...



by Cathy Baker

Ready to feed your creative soul? This month, I'll serve up a heap o' ways to nourish that God-designed space within us that craves creativity. It's easy to think of certain people as being creative—painters, writers, sculptors, etc., but true creativity is experienced in every day life.


For instance, the way a person: 
  • uniquely budgets for the family
  • cooks deceptively healthy foods for the kids
  • spends time designing, planting, and weeding the garden
  • organizes a local farmer's market, etc.
  • comes up with creative ways to fix things at home
  • prepares a sermon or bible study that sparks the imagination
  • creates fun games for the children or grandchildren
  • works efficiently and faithfully to provide for family

Image courtesy of Unsplash/Pixabay
Point is, creativity isn't limited to artists. It is limitless, as is our Creator, and it inhabits many, if not most, of our daily decisions.

So with that, I'd like to welcome you to our July series, Feed Your Creativity.

On Monday's and Wednesday's you'll find a well of creative ideas and exercises waiting for you (and anyone else you'd like to share them with!) Some days will include excerpts and thoughts from Michael Card's, Scribbling in the Sand and the companion study guide. Other days will offer new Artist Dates from Julia Cameron's, The Miracle of the Artist's Dates to try. And I'll stay open to any other creative ideas God may bring my way.

I look forward to welcoming you back on Monday as we officially kick off our series. In the meantime, is there anything in particular you'd like to learn about creativity? 



Biblically speaking, the making of art is not an option 
but a command. 
-Harold Best, quoted in Scribbling in the Sand.



Monday, June 29, 2015

A Summer Stroll AND June Giveaways!


by Cathy Baker

Care to join me for a stroll in my garden on this sizzling summer day?


E-X-H-A-L-E

Granted, my garden has seen better days. Days when wisteria didn’t strangle the life from my beloved hydrangeas and lilies. Days when I wasn’t as timid about stepping on fire ants (I’m deathly allergic!), helping to keep weeds at bay. At some point, I grew tired of the battle and bowed to the power invasive plants demand.

Still, there are moments when I step outside, exhale and stand in awe of God’s artistic flair:







(Sorry, I couldn't resist. After all, Buttercup is now part of the landscape -- and a beaut!)

Thank you for joining me for the stroll as well as the June series. 

This Wednesday, I’ll announce our NEW series for July but in the meantime, I have two gifts I’d love to share with someone. One gift is a signed copy of Covert Justice by Lynn Blackburn (remember this post?) The second gift complements our Summer Snippets theme, beach chairs and all. Simply leave a comment on the blog and your name will be entered into a random drawing to be held on Friday. The winner will be announced in next Monday’s post!



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

We Have Just 18 Summers: Special Guest, Michelle Cox



by Cathy Baker

Many of you know today's special guest (and I do mean special), Michelle Cox. I first met Michelle when she led a newbie class at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer's Conference several years ago. Her snappy smile and non-apologetic Southern drawl convinced me I was among friends. 

In 2014, Just 18 Summers, a novel co-authored by Michelle Cox, debuted and it's touched thousands of lives ever since. When I heard the inspiration behind the idea for this novel I knew it was something I wanted to share with you. Enjoy!

-->
The official start of summer has arrived, and that’s special on many levels. For me, it’s an especially important time because of something I heard during a Sunday morning church service several years ago. My pastor had just prayed with a couple who were dedicating their infant son to God. As they turned to walk off the platform, Rev. Sexton said these words, “Don’t forget—you have just 18 summers. Take time to make some memories.”

Whew! The poignancy of those words moved me to tears. I was at the end of my 18 summers with my son and I knew how quickly each of them had zoomed by. Even though we had made an effort as a family to have fun and make memories, I found myself wishing that we had taken even more time to enjoy those precious fleeting moments with our sons.

Most parents can relate to that. Sometimes we’re so busy with the responsibilities and tasks of parenting that we forget to enjoy the journey. Activity fills every space in the daily schedule. Before we know it that newborn in pink is zipping around the cul-de-sac on her bike. That tiny boy is yanking at his collar as he poses for graduation pictures. We’ve heard it before—so many times. “Enjoy these days now. Time passes quickly.” Believe it.

Eighteen years sounds like a long time. The fact that we have just 18 summers really brings it home. Enjoy those days with your child now because someday you’ll wish you could . . . just ask any mother of a 19-year-old as she watches her child leave for college.

That's the message behind the Just 18 Summers® brand. Our blog was the first piece of the brand to release and we're excited about it! I think you'll love our staff of amazing contributors! We feature 18 categories each month, ranging from home décor and hospitality, recipes and meal ideas, fun things to do with your kids, parenting and relationship tips, inspiring stories, and many more.

My Just 18 Summers novel (co-authored with Rene Gutteridge) released from Tyndale House and is available now. We are in the process of raising the funding for a feature length film and a documentary, and have plans for additional books, music, and other Just 18 Summers products.

Moms and dads, you have just 18 summers with your child. Please don’t miss the moments! Take it from a mom who would give a million dollars if she could walk down the hall and tuck her little boys into bed just one more time.

How many summers do YOU have left? What you do with your children now will determine whether you look back someday with regrets or sweet memories.

I’ll close with the words of the elderly lady who stopped me at the mall when my son was just a little guy, “Enjoy that sweet little one. The time goes by so fast and he’ll be grown before you know it.” Turns out she was right.


Michelle Cox is the creator and developer of the Just 18 Summers® brand of parenting products and resources. Visit her (and learn more about Just 18 Summers) at www.just18summers.com. You can also visit Michelle each Tuesday and Thursday at her “Life with a Southern Grandmother” column on www.guideposts.org



Thank you, Michelle. I pray your words of wisdom will leave an indelible God-glorifying mark on the hearts of parents, grandparents, and anyone with children in their sphere of influence. 

Now let's go out and make some memories! Do you have a special memory with your son, daughter, or grandchild you'd like to share? 

"As with everything in life, there are no guarantees. You do what you can while you have them. In the blink of an eye, time has passed and you missed half the things you intended to do." - Just 18 Summers (favorite quote by Denise's Reviews)


 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Surrounding Yourself With Beauty


by Cathy Baker

I don't remember the last time we went to a garage sale, much less woke up at 6:20 a.m. to get there. But the pictures in the ad caught our eye. Brian, the vintage stereo equipment. Me, the painted blue chair. 



SURROUND YOURSELF WITH BEAUTY

Strolling away from the garage sale with the blue chair in tow, Brian asked why I needed another funky chair. My corny words slipped out before I could catch them: Because it makes me smile (as did the price.) Who doesn't want a pale-robin's-egg-blue-chalk-painted-vintage chair? Okay, I know at least one person. Moving on. 

My journey to a less-cluttered way of living came to a standstill earlier this year due to unexpected surgery with a host of other excuses on its heels. But temps are rising, as are my expectations. 

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." William Morris 

My goal is to release anything and everything that I've kept based on guilt (I can't throw away something _____ gave me), the "one day I might need it" excuse, or because one day I might need that pant size again. Otherwise, how can I make room for beauty?

Maybe I'm not alone. If you're willing to share, I'd love to know your favorite excuse OR your favorite decluttering tip.



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Funny What A Few Flowers Will Do


by Cathy Baker


Sunshine warms the body but
encouragement 
warms the soul. 
 




E-N-C-O-U-R-A-G-E-M-E-N-T

We were enjoying a meal, my friend and me. Well, maybe enjoying isn't the right word. She was struggling to come to grips with possible changes in her life and I was struggling for the right words to say. 

And then it happened. Joe, an older gentleman whose family once attended church with ours, approached our table out of nowhere and handed each of us a bouquet of flowers. 

The hands that offered us the flowers were Joe's—the heart that prompted them, however,
 was God's. 

Joe bought flowers that morning having no idea how greatly God would use them to encourage a person he didn't even know. He simply felt prompted to buy and share them with others. 

Who could use a little encouragement in your sphere of influence this week? 

After all, it's funny what a few flowers will a do. 



Monday, June 15, 2015

Rainy Days and Mondays (3 Summer Activities to Enjoy on Days Like These)

 
 by Cathy Baker


"Lost time is 
never found again."
Benjamin Franklin

R-E-D-E-E-M-I-N-G  
S-U-M-M-E-R

I made a lot of mistakes as a mom of two little boys, especially before coming to know Christ. But one thing I longed for as a young mother was to create good memories for my children. Today, I'm sharing three favorite family activities from way back when. Thankfully, rainy days and uncharted roads still offer much fun for children and adults alike. 

On rainy days, pull out a lightweight sheet, gather a few chairs, and make a tent indoors. Fluffy pillows, popped corn, and a favorite movie are the perfect ingredients for a gaggle of giggles. Enjoying a picnic-type lunch under the sheet makes peanut butter and jelly taste even sweeter. Now I make tents for the grandchildren and they love it as much as their dads did all those years ago.




Play in the rain! I can't say this happened often but when it did, it was fun. On days when lightening stays at bay but rain pours in buckets, take the kids outside, stick your tongues out and take it all in, for in a blink they'll be taking their own children out to play. Trust me.  






 
    Explore! On a whim, I'd load up the boys to explore back roads we'd never traveled just to see where we'd end up. Of course, our final destination was located on a very familiar road offering up a well-acquainted dessert, the TCBY Shiver. (Who says I'm not adventurous?)



    Your turn! Do you have a favorite activity you share (or shared) with the little ones in your life? We'd love to read about it, if so. Please share in the comment section. 

    "School teachers are not fully appreciated by parents 
    until it rains all day Saturday." Unknown

    Wednesday, June 10, 2015

    When a New Perspective Sneaks Up and Refreshes Your Soul


    by Cathy Baker

    Is there anything more refreshing than a an ice cold slushy or a splash in the pool on a sweltering summer day?

    R-E-F-R-E-S-H-M-E-N-T

    Turns out, there is.



    If you've attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer's Conference there's one particular room where dreams have the potential to either take flight, or deflate as quickly as Tom Brady's fleet of footballs. On one side of the table sit the agents, editors, publishers, etc. On the other, attendees waiting to pitch ideas or ask questions within their fifteen minute appointment. If an attendee arrives for their appointment and finds the person ahead of them still pitching past their allotted time, we're told to quietly go stand behind the other conferee, signaling their time is up. 

    This year, while sharing my appointment time with Ginger Harrington, friend and fellow blogger, she noticed that her time immediately followed mine.

    I smiled and told her to feel free to sneak up on me if my time ran over. Without hesitation she said, "I won't be sneaking up on you, I'll be standing there praying for you." 

    This is one of many reasons I love the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer's Conference: 
    Prayer supersedes plans more often than not.

    Our exchange that morning left me feeling refreshed—physically, emotionally, and especially spiritually. New perspectives have a way of doing that, don't they? 

    So, how has God brought refreshment to your soul via another person lately? 

    (Congratulations to Ginger! She won 1st place in Blogging this year. Visit her site and you'll see why.)