Coming Full Circle: The Story Behind the Instagram Picture

There’s always a story behind the scenes, right?

This story begins in the sixties when Ma-Ma (my paternal grandmother) coaxed me into her big ol’ car with the promise of a fudge sickle when we returned. She knew my love language was sugar.

Within minutes, we arrived at a worn, brick nursing home.

 

The floors were beige linoleum squares with bright specks and the walls were lined with wheelchairs, holding people who longed to be held.

 

With one folded arm, Ma-Ma held her purse that snapped taut on top, and with the other, she held my hand along with a bag of hard candy. Although we were there to visit one of Ma-Ma’s friends, she handed out peppermints to everyone, covering their hands with her nubby knotted fingers, ravaged by arthritis.

Driving home, Ma-Ma talked about how much our visit meant to her friend. The long goodbyes and multiple hugs made that obvious even to an eight-year-old little girl. I wish I could say that over time I joyfully lept into her Oldsmobile without a fudgy coaxing, but it felt like drudgery… until the ride home.

 

Twenty years later…

 

I had two little boys of my own. Below our church sat a small brick assisted living center. I’d not visited one since those days with Ma-Ma but I was drawn to it like an eight-year-old to a fudge sickle. The first morning I visited, the stench of soiled sheets was so strong I could barely catch a clean breath. But then I saw a familiar sight⏤wheelchairs lined along a cement block wall, filled with people who smell it every day, all day. I could smell fresh air later.

Over the next eight years, I smuggled in 2-liter Dr. Peppers, fig bars, cards, postage stamps, and hard candy.

On some weekends, our whole family visited. Brian played the guitar, I shared a devotion, and Brandon, still in elementary school, dressed up like a clown and juggled for the crowd. Zach, the youngest son, was petted and passed around like a cute puppy. After our visits, we’d head to TCBY, the modern-day fudge sickle, and I repeated Ma-Ma’s words with a smile. You have no idea how happy you made them today.

 

Twenty years later…

 

The boys have children of their own. They, along with their wives and children, serve the Lord faithfully (all glory to God). Zach’s family lives twenty minutes from us, and Brandon’s is in Ohio. Before the pandemic struck, Zach’s small group at our church, including the kids, began visiting the residents of a local assisted living center.

 

Two Weeks Ago…

 

While driving the two older grandchildren home, we talked about pulling out my rubber stamps and making cards. Six-year-old Gabe asked if we could make cards for those “older people who all live in that one house together,” perfectly describing the residents at the local assisted living center. Smiles stretched across both of their faces and plans were soon underway. I upped my insurance policy and began digging through the closet to find craft supplies from long ago.

 

Last Weekend…

 

Before we started stamping, we talked about how a lot of people assume older folks know Jesus, and how it’s not true. So each card includes a scripture verse or a written reminder of God’s love. That night, before bedtime, we prayed for the people who will receive the cards.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Ma-Ma was peeking down from above with a smile as she witnessed her kindness toward an often forgotten generation coming full circle.

We celebrated the completion of our twenty cards with the first batch of homemade ice cream in our new maker. After all, some things never change.

 

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Thank you for stopping by Creative Pauses from The Tiny House on the Hill!

Bi-weekly posts invite you to come in from the craziness of life, take a seat, and pause awhile, allowing your soul to be refreshed with God’s truth and promises.

Each month, I send subscribers of this community a letter from The Tiny House on the Hill that includes:

  • Practical but meaningful ways to draw closer to God
  • Creative ways to show God’s love to your family, friends, and strangers
  • The latest happenings at the house, my books, and ministry
  • What I’m reading in the Book Nook
  • A favorite (often family) recipe
  • A FUN giveaway…and more!

It’s pithy but packed with grace-filled goodness.

So, come on over and sit a spell. I’d love to get to know you!

Ready to Create A Travel (with God) Journal?

If you’re ready to start your own travel journal, buckle up sister!

I’ve kept many types of journals over the years — prayer, gratitude, health, etc. — but when I cracked open my first “Travel Journal” in January, life changed.

I first read about a travel journal in Allen Arnold’s The Story of With, a book mentioned in a past post, Three Books I’m Reading This Winter.

It reads:

“Those brave enough to carry a travel journal for their adventures with God reveal hearts of expectancy. There is such freedom when you live in this posture of expectancy while letting go of all your expectations. There’s no demand on how the Story of your life will go. Relinquish the script you’ve been holding so tight and replace it with an expectancy for all God desires. Not just for you but that He wants to do with you. The journal reminds you of the adventure you are on with God.”

 

What could happen if I created a designated spot to record so-called “random” ideas and sparks of God’s truths?

 

Well, let me tell you.

 

Your spiritual eyes do more than see. They quicken with insight and wonder.

 

It’s why my little leather journal stays with my Bible at all times. Observations leap from the paper-thin page onto the cream-colored thicker ones. Most times, I jot them down immediately. Later, I’ll ask God to show me how or where they could be applied. Some get straight to work, while others take their own sweet time.

 

Your spiritual ears⏤those that God transforms from hearing to listening⏤awaken.

 

For instance, while watching a movie several weeks ago, the father of the main character, a violinist, noted a specific issue in her playing. She may have fallen for the idea that she was simply reading from a script but in reality, God answered a question I’d jotted down weeks ago.

 

Becoming intentional is a simple gesture of faith — engaging this belief that the Spirit of Truth peels back the obvious to reveal a deeper reality if we’re willing to show up.

 

In a greater sense, I think of Mary visiting Jesus’ tomb that early morning. She came with spices expecting the obvious — a body in the beginning stages of decay. But what she found was a large stone rolled away, an empty tomb, and two men in dazzling white clothes asking why do you seek the living One among the dead? She showed up because of her love for Jesus and was blessed by experiencing a glorious new reality.

This same living One lives in us, with us, and us with Him. Are you ready to join the adventure?

 

Tips for Creating Your Travel Journal

 

  • Pick a journal without lines. Being a visual person, I sometimes draw out an idea that’s forming and I have a feeling I’m not alone, so avoiding lines is a plus. Also, no boundaries on a page remind me that all things are possible with God.

 

  • Keep a designated pen nearby. So far, I’ve used only my go-to Pilot Precise V-5 in black for the entire journal, but whatever you choose, keep it handy because as the Chinese Proverb reminds us the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.

 

Creating a travel journal has deepened my relationship with the Lord so how could I not offer someone else a head start in creating their own?

Share a favorite place to travel and consider yourself entered into the random giveaway for this genuine leather journal!

 

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Thank you for stopping by! I hope you’ll decide to stay awhile. If you’d like to become a part of the community, simply type your e-address in the top right-hand sidebar. >>>>

Bi-weekly posts offer a pause of goodness to your busy days. And once a month, you’ll also receive a fun but pithy newsletter with the latest happenings in the Tiny House on the Hill, along with practical ideas for drawing nearer to God and loving others well.

So, come on over and sit a spell. I’d love to get to know you!

 

Image by Dirk Vetter from Pixabay

While You Wait Outside Hospital Doors for a Loved One

It’s a helpless feeling, isn’t it?

Leaving loved ones on the stoop of hospital doors, entrusting healthcare workers to fill in the gaps we want to fill but can’t.

Lives lost, dream weddings postponed, jobs eliminated, and the inability to enter health facilities with loved ones being admitted, are just some of the situations we find ourselves in these days.

Several weeks ago, my stepmom took dad to the ER for a high fever. Saying goodbye at the stiffly guarded steel doors only to return alone to her car and wait was one of her hardest moments.

 

“The worst part of life is waiting. The best part of life is having someone worth the wait.”

 

When Jessica Brumley penned these words, she wasn’t referring to the same kind of wait, but the words still ring true, don’t they?

Choosing to see blessings beyond our circumstances is an act of faith.

Recently, I started creating sensory-based pauses (mini-devotions) for my subscribers to enjoy while in specific spaces. One month is it was the garden. Last month, a picnic. For each of the five senses, I offered a simple prompt to help push the pause button and focus on the goodness of God that stretches far beyond a steering wheel.

 

The simple act of focusing on God turns an upside-down world right-side up.

 

Today, “A Pause While You Wait” (including an inspirational page to color) is my gift to you. Feel free to share this post with your circle of friends because sometimes we don’t know we’ll need it until we do.

 

“You will keep the mind that is dependent upon you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.” Isaiah 26:3

 

To download your copy of A Pause While You Wait, simply click here. The coloring page is included.

 

 

 

 

Is there some way I can pray for you today?

 

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Thank you for stopping by! I hope you’ll decide to stay awhile. If you’d like to become a part of the community, simply type your e-address in the righthand sidebar. >>>>

Bi-weekly posts offer a pause of goodness to your busy days, and once a month, you’ll also receive a fun but pithy newsletter with the latest happenings in the Tiny House on the Hill, practical ideas for drawing nearer to God and loving others well.

So, come on over and sit a spell. I’d love to get to know you!

© Can Stock Photo / scottshoots

Ten Ways to Show-Up for Others this Summer!

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

 

Because that’s what we do, right?

As our nation slowly unfolds into a new normality, we’re all navigating what it means to go to church, to gather with friends, and to eat out {thanks to Chick-fil-A, I conquered this one early on.} But here’s one truth we know:

 

We can help others draw closer to Christ from behind our doors or in person. That’s the beauty of the show-up.

 

Every season offers unique opportunities to share the gospel. With daylight stretching long into the night, open pools of water, and enough iced tea to serve the south, summer is definitely no exception. And aren’t we blessed? Regardless of where we find ourselves during these trying times, we can joyfully love and serve in small but meaningful ways.

 

God specializes in multiplying our meager offerings for glory’s gain.

 

A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” Mark 12:42, 43

 

A couple of years ago, I created Ten Ways to Show Up for Others This Summer, an exclusive download for the {a-mazing!} subscribers of this community. And now it’s available here. So put your own God-given creative spin on these ideas and let’s redeem the days of summer! Some ideas have been tweaked in light of our nation’s current situation but there’s enough space for us all, masked and unmasked.

What’s your favorite part of summer? Is there a particular way you minister during this season? Do share!

 

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We’d love for you to join our Creative Pauses community! Simply type your e-address in the righthand sidebar. >>>> (You can unsubscribe at any time.) Bi-weekly posts offer a pause of goodness to your busy days. And once a month, you’ll also receive a newsletter chock-full of the latest happenings in the Tiny House on the Hill. It includes ideas for drawing near to God and how to love others well. So, come on over and sit a spell. I’d love to get to know you!

One Simple Way to Engage with Scripture (& A Color-Me Download!)

Photo by Rachel Lynette French on Unsplash

 

Reading Scripture is valuable. Engaging Scripture changes a person.

I know because it changed me. A babe in Christ at the age of twenty-seven, I only knew the basic Bible stories: Jesus on the cross, Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, and The Ten Commandments, thanks to Charlton Heston.

Granted, those basic stories are some of the most beautiful, but God used Precept Ministries and Kay Chandler, the local {and amazing!} instructor, to show me how to engage Scripture for myself.

What I’m sharing today isn’t a Precept method. It’s simply an exercise I stumbled upon while singing “Blessed Assurance” in church. Words describing my own story stood up when I sat down to put pen to paper. This moment is recorded in my post, This is My Story. What’s Yours?

 

Psalm 139:23, 24 became my Blessed Assurance.

 

Two verses begin most of my mornings:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23, 24

 

My searchlight is poorly lit, powered by emotions, a selfish heart, and limited vision.

 

So I pull out my archaic sheet of paper, grab my go-to pen, and write out these two verses in sections. Under each one, I quickly jot down words and phrases that come to mind. There’s no right or wrong way:

 

Search me, O God

as a shepherd searches for a lost sheep, search my heart // penetrate my soul with Your piercing light // in every crevice that seeks to hide my sin // for every particle of pride // for slivers of selfishness // for bits of bitterness waiting to take root in my unsuspecting heart // for sin in every form⏤search me, Father // I want to know what You see // to repent // to turn away // to walk in the freedom You’ve provided.

 

and know my heart

the one that sin soiled // and Jesus cleansed // Knower of my heart // the good // the sinful // the well-meaning but often misunderstood // You created me // You formed me // You know me better than I know myself // I trust Your findings // comfort // peace // joy // confession //

 

test me and know my anxious thoughts

worries masked as concerns // misplaced trust // worries of what people think // or might think // driving // riding // out of control // future // virus // comparisons // feeling invisible // a good wife // grammy // daughter // friend //

 

See if there is any offensive way in me,

any way // sin // pride // bitterness // unforgiveness // grudges // lack of self-discipline // quick words // negativity //

 

and lead me in the way everlasting.

an eternity // my destination // my home // lead the way, Lord // give me wisdom // discernment // choices that point to glory, not to self // help me follow well // quick obedience // loving others selflessly // embracing community //

 

Now, I prayerfully consider the words spilled onto the page, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, and the hand writes.

Search my heart: I’m well aware of how easily I can deceive myself and its cost. So, whatever He finds, I want to know it. God already knows my sins and loves me still. Nothing catches Him off guard. His spotlight is welcomed⏤not because I’m confident of what He won’t find⏤but rather, of what He will.

Test me and know my anxious thoughts: I’m not a fan of asking to be tested/tried but this examination goes hand-in-hand with the search. Like the Christmas gift hidden behind the tree and tucked beneath the others, anxiety also has a way of hiding in inconspicuous places.

See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting: One last call for any hint of sin in the heart and a point in the right direction.

 

Psalm 139:23, 24 holds a key that unlocks what we truly believe about our heavenly Father.

For those willing to turn the key, the power and freedom of the gospel await.

 

Maybe the richness of this simple exercise isn’t found in the words we write down, but instead, the heart that is reflected through them.

 

Would you like to try this exercise using Psalm 139? I created a downloadable, easy-to-print (and dare I say colorable?) page. Just click here!

 

 

 

Which section of these verses do you find the easiest to pray, and/or the hardest?

 

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I’d love for you to be a part of the Creative Pauses community! Simply type your e-address in the righthand sidebar. >>>> (You can unsubscribe at any time.) Bi-weekly posts offer a pause of goodness to your busy days. Once a month, you’ll also receive a newsletter chock-full of the latest happenings in the Tiny House on the Hill. It includes ideas for drawing near to God and how to love others well. So, come on over and sit a spell. I’d love to get to know you!

One Way to Answer When Wisdom Calls + Journal Giveaway!

Do you hear her?

“Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice?” (Proverbs 8:1 NIV)

Perhaps it’s because I followed unwise whispers for my first twenty-seven years (and saw the devastation of those choices) that now, I can’t lean in far enough to hear wisdom’s voice.

God says if we lack wisdom we can ask for it, and He will give it generously and without fault. (James 1:5) He is our one true source of wisdom.

 

“He who walks with the wise grows wise.”

 

Even though Proverbs 13:20 isn’t directed toward our relationship with God, it certainly rings true just the same.

So earlier this year, I added the practice of reading one Psalm a day, in order, and the Proverb that corresponds with that particular day to my morning routine.

 

It’s funny how one tiny but intentional tweak can breathe new life into a quiet time!

 

I can’t explain it, but knowing what I will read before I open my Bible helps me to stay focused. Without a specific direction, my brain skips around like a little girl who just downed a second box of Skittles. It’s painful to admit how often I’ve allowed that one silly snafu to trip me up over the years.

But on April 8th, I read this Proverb:

“Listen to wisdom’s instruction and be wise. Do not ignore it. Blessed is the man [and woman] who:

  • listens to me
  • watching daily at my doors
  • waiting at my doorway

… for whoever finds me, finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 8:33-35

I grabbed my needle-thin pen and carefully drew a line beneath the words listens, watching, and waiting. 

 

I couldn’t look away.

 

Although I’ve read the book of Proverbs many times over for the past thirty years, it’s the first time I noticed the number of active verbs on the way to wisdom. So I began praying:

What’s one way I could be more attentive to the beauty and value discovered in wisdom? Before the question had time to escape my brain (as so many things do), the idea to keep a master list of what I learn about wisdom took a seat and made itself right at home in my heart.

 

So what’s one way to answer when wisdom calls? Create a Topical List Journal.

 

Within minutes, I plowed through my pile of empty journals. When I spotted the luggage cover, it reminded me that we’re all sojourners, not stayers, so it was the lucky winner.

Now, in the mornings when I move my way through the book of Proverbs, I read through a chapter in its entirety first. Then, I circle back to list what I learned about wisdom, like:

  • She is a tree of life to those who embrace her. (3:17)
  • Wisdom = straight paths. (4:11)
  • Nothing we desire compares with wisdom. (8:11)
  • Wisdom loves those who love her and those who seek her find her. (8:17)
  • The LORD brought wisdom forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old. (8:22)

I sit speechless as I consider the benefits of listening to wisdom’s voice (and the woes if not). Seeing these truths in a list-form format helps me to digest them easier and reflect on them longer.

But you and I, we know it’s not about making a list or finding the “right” journal. And it’s not about becoming wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7) but rather, lifting words from living pages (Hebrews 4:12), and allowing truth to pierce our good ideas, our take on things, and what we think others want to hear.

“Look for wisdom like silver. Search for it like hidden treasure. If you do this, you will understand what it means to respect the LORD, and you will come to know God. The LORD is the source of wisdom; knowledge and understanding come from his mouth.” Proverbs 2:4-6 ERV

 

Do you hear her calling?

 

Writing down what we learn about wisdom is a good place to start, but maybe the Holy Spirit is tugging on your ear about a different word or theme. The subjects are endless because the Word speaks to every area of our lives.

 

  • Is there one area in your life you’re struggling with right now? That may be your first subject.
  • If you don’t have a journal handy, no problem! Office supply nerds like me seem to always have a stash hidden away, but right now, we’re blessed to just have toilet paper and paper towels, so write it down where ever you please — notebook paper, your phone, dinner napkins (oops, those are also hard to find!).
  • Taking an extra second or two to jot down the scripture reference will save time in the long run. Trust me.
  • Read the verses aloud as you write them down, and then ask God to show you how to apply the truths. We’re after a heart change, not head knowledge.
  • See this as a treasure hunt! Because it’s exactly that, regardless of the subject.

The wise ones search for what is theirs in Christ, and when they search, they find it. And when they find it, their ears open to hear and obey as one who just discovered the greatest treasures this side of heaven.

 

Are you ready to join the hunt? Share the subject that popped in your mind while reading this post and you’ll automatically be entered into the Topical List Journal giveaway! (Subscribers, you get an extra vote!)

 

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Searching for ways to think of others during the quarantine? Click here to read “30 Meaningful Things to Do if You’re Self-Quarantined.

I’d love for you to be a part of the Creative Pauses community! Simply type your e-address in the righthand sidebar. >>>> (You can unsubscribe at any time.) Bi-weekly posts offer a pause of goodness to your busy days, and once a month, you’ll also receive a newsletter chock-full of the latest happenings in the Tiny House on the Hill, along with ideas on ways we can draw near to God and love others well. So, come on over and sit a spell. I’d love to get to know you!

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