Ready to Head to the Mountains? I Have Just the Book For you!

Pauses for the Vacationing Soul MountainsAre you ready to head to the mountains?

With summer fading and hopes of autumn just around the corner, I thought it would be the perfect time to share about my new book, Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains, set to release in September.

When the idea for writing vacation devotional guides emerged, I admit the beach is where it all started, but the mountains quickly followed.

There has always been some type of draw to the mountains way down deep in this old soul of mine. Maybe it’s because my mom’s parents loved the mountains and took us there for roadside picnics by the river. Or maybe it’s because we had a five-acre parcel of land that sat at the foot of a mountain that we visited most weekends while growing up that makes me love them like I do.

All I know is that the draw to be closer to the mountains was so strong that the creature of habit within me took a giant step back and allowed a sometimes-friend, adventure, to step forward and move us away from all we’d known for the past twenty plus years⎯friends, church, our century-old home, comforting backroads, and the Ice Cream Station. Don’t judge.

 

There is just something about being near to the mountains that make us feel closer to God.

 

The sheer height reminds us of the mightiness of our God while the pristine nature surrounding us woos our heart to Him like a first love. Breathing in the sweet crisp air invigorates our senses, giving us clarity of mind, a sometimes difficult commodity in our busy culture.

Pauses for the Vacationing Soul // Mountains is designed for a one week vacation but it can also be used for weekends or even a single day trip, with all seasons represented. Each day invites you to draw closer to God through a brief personal story, a scripture verse, devotion, and a sensory exercise. And did I mention Edie Melson is writing the foreword? Pauses is a prayed-over, Spirit-led, and a beloved little book I trust God will use for His glory in beautiful and unexpected ways.

Blue Ridge Mountains

I would LOVE for you to be a part of the God-Lovin’ Mountain-Goin’ Launch Team! (It doesn’t require as much time as you might think.)

 

  • Read: Because the book consists of seven days you could choose to read a devotion every day if you like. The sensory exercises could be set aside for your own vacation in the future, which helps to cut your time significantly. You would have three weeks to read it.
  • Review: I’m learning just how priceless reviews are for any book on Amazon. Your agreeing to leave a review on the launch day is THE most vital part of your commitment. I will keep you updated along the way.
  • Share: On launch day and for a few weeks afterward, I ask that you share the book on your social media platforms. If you only do Facebook, that’s fine! No pressure here — share where you feel comfortable. If you have a blog, I would welcome the opportunity to guest post (just another way to share). I’ll have pre-made tweets and Facebook postings on my site. You need only click to share! I’m all about saving you time.
In return, I will joyfully do the following:
  • Send you a FREE PDF copy of the book.
  • Mention your name in the book.
  • Mention your name on my site’s book page, along with a hyper-link to your site (I reserve the right to decline this offer, if necessary)

If you would like to be a part of a project that inspires and refreshes while drawing readers closer to God as a result, here’s an opportunity! Thanks to those of you who have already contacted me saying you would love to join the team. Your support and encouragement mean the world to me!

Want to be on the God-lovin’ Mountain-Goin’ Launch Team? Please email me via the button in the sidebar or leave a comment. I’ll be in touch — thank you!

Above all, I welcome prayer from you, my friend. Self-pubbing is not for wimps and although I’ve never considered myself to be the bravest, I feel I’ve wratched up the ol’ survival skills scale this year but I still have a ways to go.

You’re the best and I thank God for you⎯often.

“One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.” -John Muir

Coming to our {Summer} Senses // Friendships & A Giveaway!

Sheltering Tree

We have a sheltering tree. Its double-trunk supports wide-sprawling branches, offering respite on these sweltering days in the South.

 

Friends are like that, too.

 

When we feel we’re being bombarded by the unexpected, wayward children, or a million little things⎯all at once⎯we find comfort in a friend’s touch.

When we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to thinner, prettier, more successful, Mary-like women, our friends are there to pull us out of the muck and speak truth into our lives.

So, last week, three friends came over for lunch. There was no agenda other than to catch up, encourage one another, and offer respite through lots of laughter, good food, and raspberry lemonade.

Centerpiece

 

Friendships⎯like trees⎯grow, mature, and blossom in a variety of ways.

 

FriendshipsFor instance, when I think of Edie, the Lily-of-the-Valley tree, better known as Sourwood, comes to mind. This tree offers beauty in all seasons. In Spring, white fragrant pearly clusters of flowers bloom profusely. In Autumn, its red leaves gloss over like shiny waxed apples. Regardless of the season of life, she finds herself in⎯joyous or downright tough⎯Edie exudes Christ. But there’s one particular characteristic about the Sourwood tree that reminds me of her. This tree is a tremendous source of nectar for bees to produce honey. Over the last 9 years, I’ve seen her selflessly pour herself, her gifts, prayers, and talents into other writers, such as myself. As God brings her own hard work to fruition, the work of countless others who have drawn wisdom and insight from her help also bring Him glory. And then they, in turn, help other writers, creating a beautiful circle of life.

Vonda’s qualities, although too many to mention (truly!) remind me of a well-loved evergreen tree called the Southern Wax Myrtle. Like the Sourwood, it too puts on a show year-round with its lustrous green leaves in the summer months and bluish gray clusters of berries in the winter. The leaves release a very aromatic scent when crushed, that smell much like a bay berry candle. Although you don’t hear Vonda complain, she sometimes carries a heavy load behind-the-scenes. But like the Myrtle tree, when she is at her weakest, “crushed” beneath the weight, there is a sweet aroma released from her soul. It’s not the fragrance of bay berry, but that of Christ. And like the Sourwood, the Wax Myrtle tree also supplies nectar for the bees. God has used both Edie and Vonda to bless a multitude of writers over the years. {Thank you!}

And then there’s Pea, aka, Dee Dee Parker. She’s my Weeping Willow tree. Her sickness earlier this year had me shedding many prayerful tears but thankfully they’re now induced by laughter. Much laughter. One interesting fact about the Weeping Willow tree is that it’s often planted by streams so that their braid-like roots will protect the bank from erosion. In the same way, Dee Dee’s prayers are woven throughout her day as she too seeks a water Source⎯Jesus. He is the only One who can ultimately refresh, restore, and renew those she lifts in prayer.

All three friends touch my life and the lives of many others in ways they’ll only know once they reach heaven.

I could learn a thing or two from these women when it comes to being a sheltering tree for others. This hasn’t exactly been a banner year for me in that department. Partly because of the new distance between me and most of my friends back in our old hometown. And in all honesty, the struggle to discover the balance for needing long stretches of writing time and life in general, is real.

But isn’t that what sheltering trees are all about? When struggles, storms, and hard situations enter our lives, we know we can find refuge beneath their branches. It is there we also find refreshment.

 

A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9

 

Leigh Ann Thomas is a friend whose gentle spirit and tenacious love for Christ is evident in her life as well as her words. Her recent release, “Ribbons, Lace, and Moments of Grace…Inspiration for the Mother of the Bride” is no exception. I wish her book would’ve been available when our boys were getting married. Mothers of the Groom need a little inspiration (and a lot of coffee) too!

Today, I’m giving away a copy of Leigh Ann’s beautiful book to one blessed reader. If you are a mother of a bride {or groom} prepare to be inspired. If you know someone else in this role, inspire away by purchasing a copy for them. I can’t imagine a better gift.

Enter the drawing by simply answering the question below.  I’ll randomly select a name next Tuesday!

How has a friend touched you⎯refreshing your soul⎯in recent days?

 

Join our Creative Community!

Subscribe to my blog and receive a scripture-based coloring page to enjoy on your beach vacation (and another goody is on the way!) No more bookmarking, searching, or waiting. Posts (once every week during the summer) and the monthly newsletter arrive directly in your inbox. The newsletter gives you behind-the-scenes information on the blog as well as my books. Oh, and did I mention there’s a giveaway each month? Yep, it’s the place to be and we would love for you to join us. Simply go to the sidebar and enter your email address. That’s it!

 

What is God Redeeming in Your Life Today? {And A Gift for You!}

Redemption

I marvel at God’s redeeming power. Salvation. Forgiveness. Mercy. Grace.

Lives once lost, now saved — and that reality of redemption reaches deep into our days. Not one experience, one gift, one talent, one sin, one stumble, one glint of shame, one creative idea, or one of anything else is beyond His redemptive reach. He uses it all. Nothing in our life goes to waste.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

Today, the discussion of redemptive power in your life and mine continues on Karen ‘Girl’ Friday’s blog, “Hope Is Among Us”. Click her to join us. {And did I mention a Starbucks gift card will be given away in celebration of the this week’s launch of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach? What better way to celebrate than with a cup of coffee? It’s chock-full of sensory benefits! Visit Karen’s amazing site and leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing. See you there!}

Arrow

A THANK YOU GIFT… FOR YOU

Pauses SmallThank you to the best creative community ever! Your support and encouragement spur us all on to be the women God has created us to be. I’m deeply grateful for the amazing help you offered by sharing, purchasing, and reviewing my new book on its launch day Tuesday.

To celebrate, all new subscribers will receive an uber-cool beachy scripture-based coloring page. Design artist Brittany Leigh Powell of Britt Leigh Design & Marketing Studio created this just for YOU. {Current subscribers, if you did not receive the newsletter with the link to your coloring page, please let me know.} Enjoy!

Visit Brittany’s Etsy Store to grab your own cool designs for a multitude of projects.

The Power of With {One Week After Easter}

The power of with

This wasn’t the post I intended to write the week after Easter. Things, however, have been topsy-turvy at the Baker house. Last week, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The tiredness is a reality that feels more like a nightmare. And while there’s never a good time to be sick, there’s certainly a bad time⎯like now. I wasn’t able to attend our Easter service or hunt eggs with the kids. And then there’s my little book that’s set to launch on Tuesday, May 2nd, that requires more of me than I have to give right now.

But amidst all this — the disappointment of missing out on a special holiday with my family, the feelings of inadequacy, and the concern of flat-out failing to launch the book properly, one word has held me together: WITH.

The weight of this word with is heavy and sweet like the scent of tea olives in Spring. It brings rest to the soul. Mark 16:20 frames the word in all its glory:

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.  [Emphasis mine]

After the crucifixion and before the resurrection the disciples were confused and afraid. John 20:19 says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews…”.

But then they discovered the power of the empty tomb. Jesus was not there. He had risen! In that moment they went from being without Jesus to being with Him, and Him with them. Jesus wasn’t only with them following His resurrection⎯He worked with them. And the same Jesus works with you and with me this very day to accomplish your goals for His glory.

Recently, I had a slight but powerful shift in my relationship with Christ, my prayer life, and my calling when I began walking in the reality of God’s “with-ness”. I’ve experienced the reality of His presence within me since becoming a Christ-follower at the age of 27. But only in recent months have I harnessed the power of His being with me.

With me when I don’t have the physical energy to complete necessary tasks.
With me when I can’t understand the timing of getting sick.
With me when I’m feeling alone in an overwhelming process.
With me when I can’t be all that I want to be for my family and for myself.

His with-ness provides the grace, mercy, and rest required to move forward when everything else around me feels backward. His sovereignty trumps it all. And knowing that He is with me⎯and not indifferent toward me or against me⎯changes everything.

Have you considered how grasping the reality of God being with you might shift your perspective in your ministry, as well as life in general?

Arrow

The Power of With:
  • You wonder if what you’re doing is making an eternal difference or if you’re just spinning temporal wheels. Jesus is with you, prompting others to encourage you at just the right moment. No — that email, text, or call was not “out of the blue”. He is with you and knows exactly what you need to keep moving forward in your calling.
  • In the grocery line, you feel prompted to share the joy of the empty tomb with the woman ahead of you. Your pulse pumps with fear — but Jesus is there — right there, standing with you, ready to give you the bravery to speak.
  • Your work weighs you down emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Jesus is with you. He longs for you to ask for His wisdom and discernment instead of relying on your own. Your work matters to Him.
  • You’re a single mom or a widow. You’re exhausted and loaded down with questions of “what if?”. Jesus is with you, upholding you, giving you manna-strength for the day.
  • You’ve received a dreaded diagnosis. Jesus is fighting for you and He is with you.

Easter is my favorite day of the year. Without the resurrection, there would be no hope. No hope of God being in a relationship with us, no hope of forgiveness, no hope of an eternity with Him. No hope of seeing our loved ones again — and the list goes on. But because the tomb was empty that Easter morn, with-ness with God is a reality.

As the song says, “May we never lose our wonder.”

“This is an invitation to spend your lives pursuing what you most enjoy doing⎯together with God. Raising a family. Investing in your passion. Chasing your dreams. In all of it, God’s primary goal isn’t to teach you lessons. He’s a Father who teaches, not a Teacher who fathers. And a Father’s deepest desire is to invite his sons and daughters into more intimate relationship with Him. Which means God didn’t primarily create us so we would do things for Him. Or even to learn lessons about Him. His primary reason for creating us is so we can be with Him.” — Allen Arnold, The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love & Create

How does it make you feel to know that the God of the universe created you to be with Him?

 

Pauses for the Vacationing Soul

ON SALE MAY 2ND

 

 

 

 

 

A Prayer For Those Desiring a Teachable Spirit

A Teachable Spirit

I remember the days when my spirit was anything but teachable. I wasn’t under the tutelage of the Spirit at the time but perhaps a person can’t fully embrace the beauty of a teachable spirit until they have been broken by dirt poor wisdom.

Today’s post is for those who long to have a teachable, pliable, open heart to God. For those who want to wake up brimming with expectancy, fully confident that the same God who spoke life into existence long ago is even more excited to speak life into your soul this very day.

Psalm 25

Psalm 25:1-5

 

Show me your WAYS, O LORD

In Your
I-can’t-see-it-but-I-still-believe-it // unexpected // behind-the-scenes // life-awakening // justified // higher-than-mine // sovereign // heart-seeking // turn-the-other-cheek // love-those-who-pounce-on-you // Fatherly ways

TEACH me your paths;

Through
life-giving words that awaken the deadest of hearts // answered prayer // prayers yet to be answered // nature // words from babes // the deepest and darkest moments // abundant-life chasers // staying in step with the Spirit // humility

Guide me in the TRUTH

The truth that sets me free from
perfection // deception // grip of sin // disastrous decisions // legalism // mistaken identity // wasted time // the lie that says I must be doing in order for God to love me, accept me // the prison of my own conscience

for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.

 

Desiring a Teachable Spirit

Father,

With outstretched hands, I adore You, here and now.
Your ways soar above my own.
Your timing. It is precise, perfect. It is never one second too soon or too late.
Your presence. It is sweet and strong. It surrounds me, comforts and encourages me.
Sovereignty reigns in You alone. Nothing escapes Your attention, or care.
Even Your instruction⎯Your discipline⎯is a display of Your deep love for me. In this, I am confident for You are a good Father.

Obedience is Your love language.

Without You, I am nothing, Pappa.
Before You, I lay bare every lie I’ve ever believed that I could do anything meaningful without You.
I confess my pride — the idea that I have all of You that I need.
Though these words never leave my lips, this lie latches onto my actions. You see it when I refuse to ask questions for fear of seeming less-than. And when I choose not to listen well to wise counsel, or invest time in reading, studying, and taking notes to become more like Jesus.
I say I need You but I don’t seek You like a parched woman thirsting for water.
Please forgive me.

Father, this is my heart cry today, and every day:
Create within me a teachable spirit.
One that longs for You, thirsts for You, and finds everything I need in You.
For You alone are worthy.
Cloak me in discernment and wisdom to guard against sin and its disastrous effects,
for sin never leaves its slimy imprint on just one person’s life.
Pry open each finger of resistance to display an open hand and heart
desiring only You, Your ways, Your timing.

Amen.

 

// Your Turn //

 

Is there a word or phrase from the above prayer that you desire to make your own before the Lord? Or, what is one specific way you pray for a teachable spirit? Please share.

 

If you like what you read here, please consider subscribing to my blog by simply adding your email address in the specified spot in the sidebar. I promise to value your time and privacy. As a subscriber, you’ll receive my weekly post in your inbox and you’ll be privy to all the latest {and exciting!} announcements on the horizon here at Cultivating Creativity! Thanks so much.

How I Boosted Meaningful Productivity Through These Rituals

Turntable

Daily rituals fascinate me.

Is there a secret to this creative energy bubbling up in writers, poets, artists, and musicians? Would my waking up earlier, staying up later, or drinking lattes with the perfect amount of froth propel my creative energy into overdrive? I can’t say for sure but I have discovered how a few (nine to be exact) wisely-placed rituals lead my day well. This is especially true on the days dedicated to writing, which have radically increased while finishing up my first e-book scheduled for release in April. {I’m excited to share more about that subject in a few weeks!}

Alarm clocks

9 Rituals That Boosts Creativity & Productivity

 

  • Wake up early. Now that Brian has an hour commute we’re waking up by 5:45 am. Even on weekends, I prefer to wake up early. Part of this, I’m convinced, is genetic. But I’m thankful I’ve always been an early riser. For me, embracing the feel of a full day is exhilarating. Add a cup of hot coffee to the mix, and the day is officially underway.
  • Cue the praise music. After breakfast, the TV goes off and the music comes on. I listen to three different channels on Pandora:  Brandon Gilliam {our son}, Aaron Keyes, and Bethel Music. I crank up the music for 15-20 minutes, sing, raise my arms toward heaven, and worship. Zephaniah 3:17 says the Lord sings over us. I love singing to Him in return.
  • A Conversation. The music stays on, but now it lays low. I read through the Bible chapter-by-chapter, keeping my small hardbound steno close by. Speaking, listening, praying⎯all lay the foundation for a glorifying kind of day. At least, that’s my prayer.
  • Get dressed/ready. Now that we live twenty minutes from civilization I don’t “go to town” nearly as much as I once did. It can be semi-tempting to leave on the pajamas and leave off the makeup. But I’ve recently come to see that, at least for me, getting ready helps me to view my writing as work/ministry⎯not a hobby. So I get dressed, comb my hair, and swipe on a little color — sometimes more, sometimes less. {Both grandmothers loved their lipstick. I suppose this is genetic, too.}
  • Switch the Pandora channel to George Winston. This simple swapping of stations triggers my mind that it’s time to shift to writing mode. I don’t play this station any time except when I write.
  • Sit at the desk, not the couch. Another trigger to prompt my brain that it’s time to work, not play.
  • Mute the phone and shut down Facebook. I still check both but only at set times.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to join me in the process. He doesn’t require an invitation but it reminds me that He is with me, for me. That we are in this together.
  • Pour a cup of Paris tea. I reserve this treat for the afternoon, and it’s my way of winding down.

Paris Tea from HarneyI pretty much stumbled upon most of these rituals or at least their order, but when the creative process began clicking, there was no turning back. Tweaking my schedule has increased my productivity two-fold.

Your goals and the steps you choose to attain those goals will probably look different than mine {especially if you’re not an early riser *wink*} and that’s perfectly fine. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than one of my favorite finds, Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It’s a peek into the minds of brilliant artists of all types. Their idiosyncracies make mine look mildly boring, and it’s a lovely feeling, I must say.

How about you? Do you have some type of ritual that helps you to be more creative and productive? Please share!

 

If you like what you read here, please consider subscribing to the blog by simply adding your email address in the sidebar. The weekly posts will automatically arrive in your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time. Thank you!