When A Puppy Breaks One Heart and Heals Another

Broken Heart


It didn’t turn out as expected. Not even close.

When Rupert, our twelve-year-old Lhasa Apso, attacked me in 2016 due to neurological issues it was a traumatic time on many levels, so we knew it would be a while before we decided to get another dog. But last November we put a deposit on the first male pick of a Shih Tzu litter two towns over. Like Rupert, Henry the Shih Tzu would also be a hypoallergenic dog, so I began envisioning many years with our new pup.

I imagined the grandkids being greeted by him well into their teens and summer days when we could take him swimming in the pool, or tuck him in his special spot in our tiny house (more on that in the near future!) I’d even looked forward to watching the Daytona 500 with him in my lap (now there’s something about me I bet you didn’t know!)  🙂

We had to wait a total of eleven weeks before we could bring him home. Meanwhile, Brian and I ventured off to pet stores in search of the perfect toys. Would he prefer those shaped like animals that crinkle at the slightest touch or the red rubbery ones that gave his jaw a workout? We purchased everything he needed and perhaps a few things he didn’t like a custom-made crate cover with his name on it. After all, his name carries the influence of one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known, my granddaddy, Henry Knighton.

Finally, the day came to pick up Henry, the Shih Tzu that had stolen our heart before he was even born. Holding him for the first time was something I’d dreamed of for weeks. During our brief visits, we could only watch him play⏤no touching was allowed. He squirmed all the way home to my delight. And like any proud parent, we took his picture and announced his arrival on Facebook.

Beginning the night we brought him home, I began waking up at 2:00 am with sharp headaches. Of course, I was convinced I had a brain tumor. So when I caught a glance of the bright red splotches all over my arms and legs two days later, I started searching the Internet for a correlation between hives and brain tumors.


My allergist performed an asthma test that morning and in the end, confirmed something that left a gaping hole in my heart. I was allergic to my hypo-allergenic dog.


Henry had to be returned to the breeder and so he was—on Valentine’s Day. I was caught off guard by the tsunami of emotions that overwhelmed me for days following his departure. Could I have done anything differently? Did I miss something that should’ve alerted me not to buy a puppy? Why would God allow us to go through all those weeks anticipating his arrival only to give us three days with him?


Having experienced a miscarriage, I recall asking similar questions at the time. Certainly one does not compare to the other but when there are unfulfilled longings, the emotions are raw and the pain is tender, regardless of the why.


Three days later, with tears still flowing, I decided to post on Facebook again. Everyone had been so nice to wish us well. And honestly, I didn’t want to have to explain the situation to numerous people in the days and weeks ahead. I had no expectations from the post but within minutes, encouragement began pouring in. {Thank you!} And then I noticed it—a Facebook message waiting for me from a friend whom I’d not seen in years.


Shannon shared how her friend had been praying for a puppy for a year.



You see, it had been one year since Renee’s twelve-year-old grandson died unexpectantly. Some of her fondest memories with him included perusing the Internet for a puppy shortly before he passed away. She felt a puppy would bring healing to her broken heart. Within a few hours, Renee and her husband drove Henry to his new home. {Yep, she kept his name, which means so much to me.} Renee even texted, sharing how sorry she was for my situation but also adding, “You just can’t know how I have prayed for this puppy!”


You’re right, Renee. I couldn’t have known⏤but God did⏤and only He could have orchestrated this ending.


It’s obviously not the one we’d hoped for or planned. But I’m learning to rest in the knowledge that God is in control of everything, including his smallest of creatures.


Has God ever used something unexpected (and perhaps a little furry) to heal a hurt in your life?



How Keeping a List of Victories Can Help Gain Freedom Over Fear

Invasion of Fear

The invasion began three decades ago.

Everyone else was at work despite the snow-covered roads. I felt pressure to be there so I bundled up my oldest and headed down the road. I drove for miles without any issues until I rounded a shady curve on an exit ramp to I-85. We slid to the side of the road. As I was getting out of my car to meet a gentleman who had stopped to help, a woman driving too fast for conditions skated around the curve and plowed into my car. In turn, my car hit me and I landed in a nearby gully and the car, along with my eight-month-old son, sailed down the ramp. The policeman said if he’d not been in a car seat he would’ve been thrown from the vehicle. {Thank You, Lord}

Fear laid low like a crouching tiger for two years. Then one night while driving in a rainstorm an eighteen-wheeler crept into my lane causing me to swerve. In an instant, fear lept into action. Over the years, the severity increased. Driving or riding on highways, it didn’t matter. I started avoiding all highways, then busy roads, then bridges and tunnels.


Fear is never satisfied⏤it always desires more, invading the abundant life God desires for us.


I’ve missed out-of-town birthdays, trips to my husband’s hometown in DC, and early on, even a few family beach outings. Truth is, I’ve missed out on much more⏤but even I can’t bear to admit how much.

At one point, I considered stepping away from teaching adult Bible studies, something I’d done for over twenty years. Guilt pursued me whispering how can you call yourself a Bible teacher when you struggle with all these fears? Recognizing this voice was not from God but still feeling the weight of the accusation, I sought counsel from a wise scholar of the Word. He helped to infiltrate my weary soul with a soaking of grace⏤something I’m quick to offer to others but sometimes slow to offer to myself.

I began keeping a journal of God’s faithfulness. When a difficult trip came up, I wrote it down. Sometimes the sentence was as simple as Lord, help me drive to the grocery store in the storm. Every time God chose to miraculously clear the skies or the roads, I gained confidence. And on those days when the skies refused to clear or a kiss from the back bumper left me rattled, I found comfort in knowing God was there, allowing it for my ultimate good.

Almost two years ago, in an effort to move closer to our grandchildren and to the mountains, we considered leaving our beloved century-old home and the city we’d lived in for twenty-five years. Leaving everyone and everything I knew to move an hour away (which was approximately 55 minutes outside my comfort zone) was overwhelming at times. But during the process, we found a home perched on a hill with a spectacular view of the mountains. The only downside was the drive to civilization. Instead of taking five minutes to reach the closest Starbucks (is there a better point of reference?), it would require twenty. Yep, a 40-minute round trip for a grandi-licious cup of coffee.

Fear tempted me to re-think the move. I had enough trouble driving around the corner on rainy days. How could I even think of driving twenty minutes to anywhere? But I had allowed fear to invade too much of my life already. I refused to let it determine we where we lived.


With the words, Enough is enough! the heavy strike of my foot hit the dirt, claiming my right to freedom.


We moved to that house on four acres with a mountain view a little over a year ago. It is an act of faith to drive forty minutes on a two-lane road dotted with roadside crosses but it feels like a kick in the enemy’s shin every single time I do it.


Journal of Victories


Another shin-kick was dealt at Disney last November. While there, Brian insisted I make a list of everything that tested my anxiety on the trip⏤but did anyway, even if done so poorly. (Let’s just say I WILL ride something on the next trip!) When I returned home, I made the list. Words flowed effortlessly, as did the tears. Mini-victories measured 8-1/2″ x 11″ that day. And as the victories increase, so will the pages. Each one reminding me of God’s desire to live abundantly and that He is here, with me, in the struggle as well as the victories.


Journaling our mini-victories over fear reminds us of God's faithfulness, giving us the courage to take another step toward freedom. Click To Tweet


Friends, I wish I could end this post in true David and Goliath style. But my fears aren’t totally slain, or honestly, even close. I can, however, say that with every small declaration against fear, freedom gains ground.

And I suppose this is where victory over fear begins for us all.

I covet your prayers on this journey. Maybe I’m not alone. Is there some way I can pray for you? 


Why Be Yourself When You Can Be So Much More? + Starbucks Valentine’s Day Giveaway!

Becoming a Swan

Be yourself, but always your better self. Karl G. Maeser

I received the call on a blazing hot afternoon⏤family was coming for an overnight stay. While I was thrilled with the idea of seeing them, I began stressing over details that multiplied quicker than the bunny next door.

At one point, I was convinced that my innate Southern hospitality would override the anxiety. I mean, surely I could put on a smile like the one I do when walking into church after arguing with Brian all the way there. *wink*


Or, I could be myself⏤a woman who deeply desires to love others without surrendering to anxiety.


The inner struggle continued up to a mere hour before their arrival.

Brian wasn’t home and I was scurrying from room to room trying to convince myself I could cover all evidence of the ever-encroaching anxiety. But God wasn’t having it. I slowly made my way to the couch, plopped down, and stayed quiet until this prayer emerged from my weary soul:


Father, help me to be who I cannot be without You.
Father, help me to be who I cannot be without You. Click To Tweet

God knew my heart. He knew I wanted to love and enjoy my guests. He knew I wanted them to feel welcomed. But He also knew my limitations, struggles, and above all, my sinful nature that often desires comfort at any cost. Even at the cost of loving others well.

I can only say (due to the wonder of it all) that at one point during their visit, Brian looked over and asked what I’d done with his wife. You see, my hubby is also well acquainted with the struggle between my desire to be the woman God created me to be and the anxiety. Too often, he’s seen the latter win the battles. He could barely recognize a win.

I’ve prayed the same prayer more than once since that summer afternoon, not because those eleven words help me to be a better me, but because the sincere desire releases God’s power to help me be more like Him.

I wish I could say that all my desires are this pure, but they’re not. I am what God calls a WIP — Work In Progress. Maybe this is why we like hanging out together. 🙂

If so, this is my prayer for us:


A Prayer for 2018


Is there a particular role in your life that longs for God’s leading?


Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d share a little yummy-licious giveaway today! I wish I could give one to every gracious person who takes time to read what the Lord lays on my heart to share but since I can’t *sigh*, I’ll randomly draw a name from the comment section this Friday. I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a comment because if your name is drawn, you’ll win this nifty Starbucks reusable cup (=discounted coffee) and a 5.00 cup o’ coffee gift card.

Starbucks Giveaway




Swan Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

We Love Our Church So Why Are We Leaving?

Church is not a Building

“This is our time on the history line of God. This is it. What will we do with the one deep exhale of God on this earth? For we are but a vapor and we have to make it count. We’re on. Direct us, Lord, and get us on our feet.” –Beth Moore


Our time with Summit seems too important, too intertwined with our lives, to settle for a simple goodbye.

Summit Church Upstate in Greenville SC has been our church home for almost seven years. From the get-go, Jason and Kyle welcomed us warmly, loved us deeply, and challenged us through biblical teaching. We developed friendships that will not be deterred by a change in address because the Church isn’t defined by brick and mortar. We are the Church and wherever we go, we take with us their love and influence.

Stop to consider the reasons why you love your church. Write them down. It's good for the soul. Click To Tweet



Let’s see if some of your reasons resonate with mine.


An Inclusive Mindset


During our services, we prayed for churches across the world but we also prayed for those across the street. In fact, the teaching team at Summit never shied away from building up other churches in our area because they recognized⏤and reminded us⏤that we’re on the same team. We’re not competition. This is a foreign concept in some churches today, many of which are dying.


Teaching Team


When we first began visiting Summit, we sat under Jason Malone and Kyle Estepp’s teaching. Jason’s well-timed zingers made us laugh one minute and be contemplative the next while Kyle’s tender delivery of the Word melted the hardest of hearts. A few years ago we helped a new Summit campus get started. We discovered more lasting friendships and another engaging and solid pastor, Nathan Forrest. We miss them so much!




I was delighted and honored to serve on the staff communications team for almost two years. What I saw behind-the-scenes was exactly what we all saw on Sunday mornings and every day in between. Not perfection, nor the desire to be, but rather, authentic Christ-followers with a robust faith who desire to share the gospel with every man, woman, and child.


People Family


There’s not enough space to share the many reasons why I love our church family. Deep relationships deepened and new friendships were forged. We enjoyed serving alongside them in the music and hospitality ministries. And in a very real way, we still will, wherever we land.


I hope it’s obvious as to how much we love Summit Upstate. So why are we leaving?


Well, we moved almost an hour away from our home campus and while there is another campus closer to us, it’s still thirty minutes away. In the big scheme of things I suppose that’s not terribly far but after months of prayer, we sense the need and desire to serve our little community at the foot of Glassy Mountain. If there’s a need, we’ll be close enough to deliver a meal before it gets cold and who knows? We might actually bump into someone we go to church with at the only grocery store within 20 minutes or the best restaurant around, The Hungry Drover (and I don’t say that just because they carry my books!) *wink*


Leaving a church is never easy, especially one you love, but we have Summit’s blessings (which came as no surprise) and we look forward to seeing where God will lead us.

“We’re on. Direct us, Lord, and get us on our feet.” –Beth Moore


What’s one thing you most love about your church? It matters!


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

Pauses Mountain CoverAre 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 Tuesday, September 19.

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.



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!

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