Coming to Our {Summer} Senses // Shine, Sister, Shine!

Shine, sister, shine

Summer offers a plethora of scents that leave us dizzy, mostly with delight:

  • Roses in bloom
  • Lit charcoal fluid
  • Suntan lotion
  • Freshly mowed grass (for allergy suffers like me this one literally leaves me dizzy!)
  • Chlorine ( = swimming)
  • Saturated air after a summer afternoon storm
  • Hawaiian Fruit Punch (throwback to the 70’s)
  • Citronella (delight in the sense that there are fewer mosquitoes!)

And when one is, oh say, 56 days away from a beach vacation, one must turn to the next best thing to capture the sea-side scent: a candle. But not just in any candle.

While searching for beach-themed goodies to promote my book Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, I came across this candle. The scent was not the first thing to grab my attention.

Non-lit candle can't shine

Being a sucker for all things visual, it took a mere three seconds to place myself in this VW van, front emblem and all. Then I noticed the packaging. A canvas material with California Dreamin’ printed in a funky font was only the prelude to the delight waiting beneath it, and one whiff was all it took. I paid more than I normally do but it was dreamy VW van (which I love) and I was there, in it, with ocean breezes blowing by as I drove down the California coast line. {Told you I was a sucker.}

But I digress.

Less than one mile from the TJ Maxx parking lot, I’d already finagled a way to keep this little treasure for myself. I would use it for inspiration by burning it each time I sat down to work on the next book in the series. Never mind that the book setting is in the mountains! Plus, it would be too heavy to mail if it became a contest prize. {If you care to hear more excuses as to why I needed to keep it, feel free to email me.}

Fast forward three months. This carefully carted VW-lovin’-ocean-breeze candle continues to sit on my kitchen bar⎯unwrapped, unopened, and unlit. Oh, I stop by occasionally to hover, inhale, and dream for a brief moment but I hesitate to take the cover off and light it. I want it to last. Burning it will only make it disappear. And because of this hesitation, the candle is neither being enjoyed or used to its fullest potential.

Jesus had something to say about this in Matthew 5:14-16. (Although tempted to focus on the 2 Corinthians 2:14 passage that eludes more to fragrance, Matthew just wouldn’t let it be.)

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

A covered, unlit candle’s fragrance is scant compared to one which sits on a stand and is lit. From the moment the flame licks the wick, everyone in the room benefits⎯both from the light it sheds, and from the delightful fragrance it diffuses.

Jesus declares that you and I are the light of the world! We are to display God’s gospel-work in our lives and not hide it away. It is meant to be shared and seen by others for His glory. So how do we shine our brightest, reflecting God’s glory to a darkened world?

 

3 Suggestions to Help Us Shine, Sister, Shine!

 

Recognize Who is behind our shine.

In John 1:9, John proclaims Jesus to be the true light who gives light to everyone. We are only able to shine because we are reflecting His great light! In Matthew 5:16 we’re given the very reason why it’s vital that we shine. When our calling, our spiritual gifts, our good works are seen, God is glorified.

Recognize that too many yes’s can actually diminish our ability to shine.

The candle wick’s purpose is to deliver fuel (liquified wax) to the flame. If it’s not trimmed before each lighting, it will burn too quickly. Just because we can shine in a lot of different ways doesn’t mean we should place ourselves between every problem/opportunity and the solution. Burning out is not glorifying, nor is it a true reflection of Jesus.

Recognize how community helps everyone to shine brighter.

Have you seen the multi-wick candles? Some think the extra wicks cause the candle to burn faster but the truth is, it helps the candle to burn more evenly. Isn’t it the same with us? Bearing one another’s burdens, being vulnerable and transparent with others, and keeping a teachable spirit so that others can speak truth into our lives are all good places to start. If we release what is not ours to carry we are all able to shine brighter for God’s glory.

If we release what is not ours to carry, we are all able to shine brighter for God's glory. Click To Tweet

An unlit candle doesn’t shine. Neither does a covered one.

Heavenly Father,

Reveal anything or anyone that is hindering my ability to shine for Your glory.
Help me to lay bare my sin, my struggles, guilt, shame, and fears before You now,
confident that in the process of uncovering the darkness way down deep within,
You will bring forth light, ushering in fresh grace and mercy
that I might shine brighter for Your glory and fame.
This is my heart’s desire.
Amen.

How do you sense God calling you to shine, sister, shine?

 

Lit candles shine


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4 Books on My I-Can’t-Wait-To-Read Radar

4 Books on my Radar

I have a heightened sense of appreciation for brave souls who traipse through the what-if, who-me, and can-I-do-this type questions for the sole purpose of helping another through their story. Like, helping wives who desire to fully embrace their God-given role or mother of brides-to-be who long to cling to God while their daughters are preparing to cling to another. Or, perhaps those in uneasy in-between places who need to re-embrace God’s faithfulness or writers desiring to become super-productive.

Two of the four I-can’t-wait-to-read books are recent releases. And two are now available for pre-order. There’s something for those who enjoy the anticipation of a good read as well as those who prefer immediate gratification.

 

Four Books on My I-Can’t-Wait-To-Read Radar

 

Kaitlyn E. Bouchillon // Even if Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the In Between

Even if NotI’ve recently had the pleasure of getting to know Kaitlyn as a fellow Hope Writer. She is a young woman brimming with sage advice.

Why I can’t wait to read this book: Kaitlyn is the real deal and frankly, the book description hooked me from the get-go: “In Even If Not, Kaitlyn Bouchillon invites you to let go of trying to figure out the ending of your story and instead lean into the faithfulness of God. With honest and vulnerable storytelling from her own in-betweens, Kaitlyn encourages you to say – no matter what page of the story you find yourself on – that although you believe God could come through how you’re asking, you’ll trust Him… even if not.”

 

C. S. Lakin // Crank it Out! The Surefire Way to Become a Super-Productive Writer

Crank it outCrank it Out! finds itself on my list for both noble and selfish reasons. {Don’t judge} Noble, because I’ve read her work in Writer’s Digest as well as a poetry forum and love it. Selfish, because after working on my e-book {more info coming soon!} Brian said we would need to hire a housekeeper if I wrote another one. Turns out, I actually plan to write several more so it’s a must that I become more super productive. #bringonthehousekeeper

Why I can’t wait to read this book: I savor C. S. Lakin’s voice. It’s unique, succinct, and I’ve yet to read anything she’s written without learning something valuable for my own writing journey. And, I obviously need to crank out future books in a more timely and orderly way. Oh, and did I mention it’s only $.99 on Kindle?

 

Leigh Ann Thomas // Ribbons, Lace, and Moments of Grace…Inspiration for Mothers-of-the-Bride

Ribbons, Lace, and Moments of GraceRibbons, Lace, and Moments of Grace will release on March 28th but you can pre-order now.

Why I can’t wait to read this book: I had the pleasure of getting to know Leigh Ann a little better last year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She is lovely and oh so gracious. As a fellow contributor to Almost an Author, I can attest to the fact that she’s quite the cheerleader as well. I’m not Leigh Ann’s target reader for this book as I was a mother-of-the-groom⎯twice. But her Barnabas-like way of encouraging others makes this book a must-read for all mother-of-the-brides.

 

Jen Weaver // A Wife’s Secret to Happiness: Receiving, Honoring, and Celebrating
God’s Role for You in Your Marriage

A Wife's Secret of HappinessOnce again, the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference played matchmaker. Dee Dee Parker and I had the pleasure of meeting Jen back when she was expecting her sweet boy. We had no doubt that God had major plans for her writing.

Why I can’t wait to read this book: Jen is spunky, engaging, and approachable⎯as is her writing. And regardless of how many anniversaries I’ve celebrated with Brian {27 this October!} I want my role as his wife to be one that brings God glory.

Here’s a quick blurb on Jen’s book by Latan Murphy.

 

Do you have a favorite book your reading radar? Or is their one above that sparks your interest? Please take a moment to share in the comment section. I always enjoy hearing from you!

 

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Stop Waiting for Hope at Life’s Drive-Thru Window

Hi, Cathy here.

Today, it’s my honor to introduce you to Karen “Girl” Friday. We met last year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference and it has been a delight watching God grow her ministry ever since. Karen’s bold declarations of love for the Lord is downright inspiring. I know you’ll enjoy her guest post.

Join me in offering Karen a warm welcome!

Drive Thru

The drive-thru window of life remains understocked with real hope.

Less than a mile from my neighborhood, in opposite directions, the same fast-food restaurant provides drive-thru service. At the end of our road, we must make a decision. Do we turn right or left? To the right stands a newer version of the long-lasting business established in the 1940’s.

But the same problem exists with both locations. My son arrives home and discovers his order is wrong. Like the time he placed his order for lunch, paid and waited. Yet, found his bag filled with breakfast items.

To our dismay, it also happens to me and my husband. Now, to make certain, I check everything. I open each bag, wrapper or container. It assures I leave with what I expected…what I wanted.

The Quest for Authentic Hope

Where do we turn when the unexpected happens? When we come to the end of our road, which way do we go?

As a pastor’s wife, people come to me looking for hope. Real people in tough places. Hearts broken by tragedy or disappointment. Dreams with no pillow to lay their heads.

And I’ve been parked at life’s crossroads. ­­­­­­­­­Not sure whether to go right or left. Tired of waiting. Not certain I’ll leave with what I expected…all the items I went there to get.

So, I went in search of long-lasting hope. It needed to be rooted in something other than this world.

A Certain Hope

Hoping things turn out as we want comes natural to us. Google defines hope as, “A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

Still, here’s the problem. Life is uncertain and continues to let us down. The only choices on the menu offer false promises. High hopes placed in people, programs, possessions, money, goals, careers, and religion.

Even if we examine and double-check each item.

We’ll always leave life’s drive-thru window without real hope.

But God’s Word offers a hope established before the world existed.

“For whatever was written in the former days was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” Romans 15:4 ESV.

“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” Isaiah 40:31 ESV.

The New International Version translates wait as hope. “…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.”

Windows of HopeThe Windows of Heaven

God’s story fulfills the promise of hope in a person and a place.

The Messiah, Jesus Christ, came to give us what the world could not offer. His shed blood and broken body on Calvary’s cross triumphed over evil and religion. The empty tomb trumped the enemy’s intention to destroy hope forever. Because Jesus rose from the dead.

So, we wait for real hope from a Holy King. We lay our expectation and desire in His able and sovereign hands.

Prayer ushers in hope from the windows of heaven.

Trusting God with the impossible and unexplainable parts of life.

Set your hope fully on the hope-giver. One day you’ll see.

Hope was always coming and God knew.

 

Karen Friday

Karen Friday is a pastor’s wife and women’s ministry leader. She’s an award-winning writer and avid speaker who loves words and God’s Word. For over a decade, Karen has balanced the busy life of church ministry with working from her home office in marketing and business development roles. Karen earned a communications degree and has experience in a broad spectrum of business services where she is frequently referred to as Girl Friday.

A blogger, Karen “Girl” Friday engages a community every week. Hope is Among Us is an award-winning blog that expresses scriptural truths as life happens. Karen is a regular contributor for the national site, Inspire a Fire, which draws 30,000 monthly visitors. Karen has published a number of articles and devotions in both print and online media. She is currently working on her first book project. An inspirational speaker, she addresses a wide variety of audiences. Karen is passionate about mentoring and discipleship that helps followers of Christ live with authentic faith in real life. Karen and her husband Mike Friday reside in East Tennessee and have two grown children and a grandson. The entire family is fond of the expression, “TGIF: Thank God it’s Friday.” They owe Monday an apology. www.KarenGirlFriday.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FridayKaren
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karen.clarkstonfriday
Facebook Writer Page: https://www.facebook.com/karengirlfriday/

Speaking Ministry PDF 

 

 

Why I LOVE the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference // Let Me Count the Ways

Blue Ridge Sky

Five ways to be exact.

Yes, there are more. Many more⎯but I’ll stick with my top five today. Like you, I’m busy preparing for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference and it would take hours to list the reasons I absolutely love it and look forward to it every year.

 

5 Reasons I Love the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference {And You Will Too}

 

{one}

Clouds Coffee Cafe

Clouds Coffee Shop. Starbucks has nothing on this cafe since their remodel. It’s beautiful⎯but not nearly as beautiful as those who work there. Ladies like Loretta, aka, “the Foaminator” greet us with smiles and show genuine interest in our days… and they’ve seen it all. Everything from mascara-blotted cheeks following a difficult critique to giddy grins when a book proposal is accepted. If you’re searching for a place to escape, or to slurp down a fancy frappe or sip a decent cup of coffee, you’ll want to visit the Clouds.

{two}

Staff. Experts in their realm of the writing community come prepared to equip, encourage and inspire us. They’re approachable and leave a lasting impact on the lives of many. The fact that conferees are able to enjoy lunch and dinner with staffers is a bonus. I’m especially looking forward to sitting with Todd Starnes from FOX news again this year. He’s a staunch supporter of our faith but he’s also a lot of fun, as are many of those on staff. Who are you looking forward to sitting with this year?

{three}

Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod…Productions! Last year, in the wee hours of the night, my cohort in crime fellow pea, Dee Dee Parker, came up with an idea to film our disappointment over the lack of real snack food available in the vending machine on our floor. While those on the upper floors were feasting on Cheetos, candy bars, and peanuts, we were stuck with Daisy razors, plastic combs, Listerine, and hand wipes. Not to say these items weren’t needed when enclosed with hundreds of other people but we had our hygiene under control. Our appetites, not so much. We went on to produce a few more videos that week and heard more than once how our friendship inspired others, and for this, we thank God. {Watch for us again this year!}

{four}

Fellow Attendees  Fellow {Quirky} Writing Friends. You may arrive at the BRMCWC with fellow attendees but chances are, you will leave calling many of them friends. Where else can you spend days surrounded by other believers and writers who totally get you? Quirks and all.

{five}

Tech Savviness. The BRMCWC Facebook group is stellar. Especially for newcomers. There, you can ask any question you have about the BRMCWC experience. Want to know what to wear? What to pack? How to prepare for an appointment? No question is too silly. It’s a closed group and you’re among friends. You will find nothing but encouragement awaiting you. {Bravo, Bethany Jett!}

And let’s not forget the collaborative effort that goes into the BRMCWC Web site. Our exposure to top-notch information is no longer limited to one week at the conference. It’s now available five days a week. It’s obvious this team values our time by the information they share on a consistent basis. Scroll down the home page to find the Ridgecrest app. And finally, if you’re not already following Blue Ridge on Twitter, do so today – @BRMCWC.

Dee Dee Parker and Cathy Baker

The Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod…with Frappes!

So, these are my top five reasons I love Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference. I can’t imagine a better way to close out my month of LOVE posts than highlighting a conference that has changed my life in many ways.

If you are a returning attendee, what’s one thing do you love about the conference? If this is your first year to attend Blue Ridge, what are you most looking forward to?

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

 

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Love… One Sip At A Time // A Valentine Tea Party

Valentine Tea Party

Because love isn’t limited to one day on a calendar I decided to share a few pictures from my Valentine Tea Party earlier this week.

I began hosting tea parties in 2002, with the highlight being an annual Christmas Tea — sometimes two. One with long-time friends and another one with new friends I’d made that year. I separated the two due to space issues. Basically, there was none.

In December 2007, I hosted my last tea party. During that Christmas Tea, I received word that my sweet grandmother had been admitted to the hospital. She would die only a few days later. I grieved longer than first realized. There was no desire to host a Christmas Tea the following year…or the next, and on and on.

But this recent move toward the mountains ushered in a fresh desire to host more teas and simple gatherings. And so it begins.

The Valentine Tea earlier this week was small, intimate. I consider my writer/critique group friends first, writers second. We pray for one another, share in both victories and struggles, and support what God has called us to do by giving honest feedback,  grounded in love.

Writers Critique Group

Marcia Moston, Carol Roper, and Beth Saadati

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I hope this is true as I have more pictures than words today.

Valentine Tea Roses

Initially, I’d plucked a neatly wrapped bunch of non-Valentine flowers out of one of the grocery store floral buckets. I knew they would be pretty enough, maybe even save a few pennies. And then I spotted these trio-colored roses. I quickly put the non-Valentine bunch of flowers back (and okay, a few Yasso’s). The roses were worth it.

Valentines Day Yogurt

One favorite treat (I think) was the yogurt, vanilla-almond granola, and fruit in half-pint jars. I ordered these mini (and I do mean mini) red spoons from Target. {I just realized I forgot to tie a bow around the top. Oops!}

Valentine Tea Scrabble

A last minute idea was to add a fun element by spelling out the obvious. After all, I was surrounded by gifted wordsmiths.

I admit to feeling a bit inept in preparing for the tea. The to-do lists began weeks prior but I had to continually remind myself that perfection was not the goal of this gathering (or any, really) but rather, the celebration of friendship…and kinsmanship in spirit and in deed.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” -C.S. Lewis

Or too many reasons to celebrate with friends. -Cathy Baker

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day this week? Please share! 

 

10 {Meaningful} Valentine Gifts Money Can’t Buy

Gifts Money Can't Buy

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it’s the perfect time to gift those you love with something far more meaningful than flowers or candy. Or books. Wait, what?

No doubt the Beatles were onto something with the lyrics “Can’t Buy Me Love”. Love⎯real love⎯cannot be purchased or persuaded. This kind of love cannot be bound by a date circled in red on our daily calendar. It deserves to be wooed year-round and is not limited to spouses. The ideas below can also be gifted to others, including singles and widows in your life who could use a little extra love this Valentine’s Day.

So here are ten no-bow-required ideas for Valentine’s  Any Day.

Priceless Valentine Day Gifts

TEN PRICELESS GIFTS TO GIVE ANOTHER
A Road Trip

Okay, so there’s gas money involved but you get the idea. Take your spouse to a place nearby that holds a special meaning for you both. For us, it’s Applebees and we still celebrate our first date in 1990 by eating dinner there every January 6th. Don’t have such a place? It’s time you create one. Or visit the place where you gave your life to Christ. Once in a blue moon, I still drive by the brick duplex where my condemnation kneeled in the presence of unconditional love.

A Bloody Lip

The gift is biting your lip, not bloodying the lip of another.  One of the best gifts we can give to another is to speak less and listen more. {At least that’s what I’ve been told *wink*}. Seriously, there are times I have to pray to be more aware of what I’m blurting out – like in the car. I’m not a great passenger. Most of us know what pushes the buttons of those closest to us and it’s our responsibility to not only be aware of those buttons but to also be proactive in promoting peace. Even if it means biting your lip once in awhile.

A Skill

Are you a whiz at saving money at the grocery store? Offer these skills to a new wife or mom trying to make ends meet. Mad skills in the kitchen? Offer your help to a new college grad setting up their own place. Like to clean? {You are my hero} Offer a final clean up job for someone moving. Like to piddle with cars? A single mom would love your help. The list goes on.

Forgiveness

People who have trouble forgiving others have yet to grasp the depth of their own sin. There it is. It probably hurts as much to read that statement as it was to write it. But the truth is when I struggle to forgive I need only look in the mirror to be reminded of how much God has forgiven me. And the crusty layer of bitterness attempting to form around my heart is divinely pummeled to pieces. Forgiveness is not only a gift we give to others. It’s also one we give to ourselves.

A Sticky Note

Or a dozen. Nothing says “I love you” like sticky notes proclaiming the specific reasons you {and/or God} love another plastered all over the house. Add a Hershey’s kiss to each one? Boom!

A Prayer

I would rather the prayers of one person who I’m confident will pray than ten dozen people promising to pray. Follow up a time of prayer for a person with a note letting them know how you prayed specifically on their behalf. Or if you’re with the person, pray with them on the spot.

Serve

This is intended to be a tad different from sharing a skill in that you don’t require any skills to simply serve someone else. Deliver a meal. Serve a meal. Welcome someone new at church. Babysit for a single mom. Cut grass for the elderly person down the street. Visit a nursing home. Again, the list goes on.

Your Time

It’s our most precious commodity so to give it away to another is a gift no bow can wrap itself around. Take a walk together, plan a hike, go out for coffee even though you have a Keurig at home (no distractions). Sit around a campfire with a marshmallow in hand (along with a Hershey bar…and graham cracker, of course). Or set aside a specific time each week with the sole purpose of catching up with one another.

Write A Poem

Yes, a poem. You don’t have to be Mary Oliver or Robert Frost to pen your feelings in a melodic way. Need help getting started? Here’s a link on how to write a poem for Valentines Day.

Write A Love Letter

If writing poetry intimidates you, turn to a letter. Spilling your heart onto the pages are priceless gifts that are sure to be tucked away for further reading in the future. Could it possibly serve as a tangible reminder for the generations that may one day plunder through their family’s possessions? We never know. I’ve discovered priceless letters to loved ones in my family homes and they are treasured.

Now let’s go love on others with the indescribable love of Christ!

Do you have another idea to add? Or is there one above you plan to try this year? Please share in the comment section.

 

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