The Moment Before and After You Hear the Word Cancer

“I have a little news to share.”

I knew dad was taking medicine for a recent issue but it turned out the medicine was no match for the mass occupying most of his bladder.

With the biopsy looming two weeks later, I protected my thoughts like a mama bear, refusing to allow “what if’s” to sink in and do their damage.

 

There’s a comforting thread of normalcy that hangs in the air between the moments of not knowing and knowing.

 

Two weeks following the procedure, the phone rang. The cancer was aggressive, possibly penetrating the nearby muscle. It would be another two-week wait before learning the biopsy results, answering the dreaded question about the lymph nodes.

 

“If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes. The Lord’s people have always been a waiting people.”  – Charles Spurgeon

 

There’s nothing fun about waiting, especially when it concerns someone you love. But it does give the heart and mind time to meld together, strengthening the muscles that bow to God’s sovereignty.

On October 11th, we learned cancer had not spread to his lymph nodes. Let’s just say my happy dance learned a few more moves and this daughter couldn’t be more thankful. He still has a ways to go with the removal of his bladder scheduled in November but it’s the first major step toward healing. (We found out yesterday that his surgery is today!)

In the weeks that have passed since dad’s initial phone call announcing “a little news” I would be lying if I didn’t confess the desire to cling to the comforting thread of normalcy where my only waiting time involves a Keurig.

 

How lovely is the mundane, the normalcy of our days.

But they are to be treasured, not idolized.

 

It’s a hard lesson I didn’t even know I needed to learn.

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Watch for the final two posts of 2019 coming up Tuesday, November 12th (Tiny House Tuesday) and Tuesday, November 19th.

Tiny House Tuesday will unveil the NEW front door color! (Yep, the chartreuse is gone and I can’t wait for you to see it on the 12th).  If you’re a part of our *tiny* kindred community you’ll find the first snapshot of the new door color in today’s Monthly Letter.

For the 19th, in addition to the post, I’ll share a special download for Christmas, KEEPING CHRISTMAS.

Depending on how things go with dad, I plan to share pictures of a decorated tiny house in December, and if you’re a subscriber, watch for your personal tour via video!

A lot of exciting things are happening up on the hill. Thank you for your prayers and for simply being here.

You are a blessing.

 

 

Image source by Pixabay.

How God Answered My Prayers Through a Man Named Finis

He wasn’t where he was supposed to be on the first night of the conference.

Someone noticed an older man walking in a room that was off limits until it was officially opened by faculty. A few people rescued him with the same fervor one might have when rescuing sailors at sea. Writer’s conferences take sign-ups seriously, after all. *wink*

The man shuffled out of the room and stood nearby like a schooled student. His gray hair and age-worn hands stood out among the rest. I wondered about his story and the spunk required to hone his writing skills at that age. But the first thing I noticed about this man was the black eye that cushioned his glasses.

The following morning, I made my way to the cafeteria for breakfast.

 

I’d barely added grits to my butter when I spotted the black-eyed man sitting alone at a distant table.

 

I walked over, leaned down, and asked if he’d rather wait on someone or come over and sit with us. He quickly responded, “I’d much rather come sit with you.”

He met Dee Dee, along with several other friendly faces around the table for eight and introduced himself as Finis (pronounced fine-us). He drove from Texas despite a recent fall that left him with a black eye and a bum knee. We talked about the places he and his wife have lived over the years, one being my favorite tiny town, Saluda NC.

Over the next few days, I saw him in passing and during the large gatherings. He may have regretted sitting behind me, Dee Dee, and Carlton. But if he did, you would’ve never known it.

One night, we saw him at the Nibble Nook. (For those who watched our Two Peas video a couple of years ago in front of the Nibble Nook, I can attest to the fact that there is now nibbling going on in the nook.) But this time, Finis wasn’t alone. Two older volunteers from Ridgecrest walked through the doors behind him. As it turned out, he and one of the volunteers graduated high school together. It did my heart good to hear laughter coming from their corner.

On the final day of our conference, Finis and I found ourselves in a workshop together. By mid-afternoon, I noticed him packing up his laptop so I assumed he needed to get on the road headed back to Texas. As he walked up the aisle, he took a sharp right and came to tell me goodbye.

 

As we hugged, Finis whispered, “Thank you.”

My eyes felt more like puddles.

 

Meeting Finis was the highlight of my conference and a direct answer to my prayer before I left for the conference. So what did I pray? It went a little something like this:

Father, help me to be sensitive to other’s needs more than my own.

This may sound like a sweet prayer but rest assured, it was birthed from a place of conviction. You see, it’s very easy to get caught up in yourself⏤your appointments, your introductions to the “right” people, and promoting yourself and your books⏤at a writers conference.

I’m not suggesting those things are wrong when done with the right motivation, but I’ve returned from the conference more than once over the last eight years feeling like I missed something, or more importantly, someone.

I wish I could say I lived out the prayer 24/7 while at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. There were still missed opportunities and downright selfish moments, but I hope and pray I’ll become even more aware of those around me in the coming years, Lord willing.

 

Finis may have thanked me but I’m the one who should thank him.

 

He taught me:

  • We’re never too old to start something new or hone our current skills.
  • We never retire from our calling.
  • His willingness to drive hundreds of miles to accomplish this shows me that even as I age, I need to be willing to step out of my comfort zone.
  • And despite his fall (and the black eye badge of honor to prove it), he didn’t let what others might think discourage him from following through.

I hope my path crosses with Finis again before they cross in heaven.

But until then, thank you Finis.

 

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While away at the conference, “Songs of Hope: 31 Days in the Psalms” released! This book includes thirty-one devotionals with reflection questions and short prayers. Twenty-five women, from all walks of life, share their stories of joy and heartache with an underlying thread of God’s hope. BONUS: Receive a FREE journal to go along with your study ordered by June 10th.

I’m both humbled and delighted to be one of those twenty-five women.

If you’d like to find out more information or order, click here! (This is an affiliate link, which means when you order through this link, I will receive the equivalent of a cup of coffee, at no extra charge to you.)

Thank you for stopping by the Tiny House on the Hill today!

 

 

 

The First Hard Conversation + Autographed Giveaway by Lori Roeleveld

Lori Roeleveld

No one goes around looking to strike up a hard conversation.

And yet, I’m not sure we can expect to walk fully in light of the gospel without a willingness to do it. Thankfully, people like Lori Roeleveld are able to take not-so-comfortable conversations and break them into hearty, but bite-sized morsels.

For almost a decade, I’ve watched Lori’s life beautifully reflect her zeal for God and His Word. She’s the real deal and I’m honored to have her guest post today. In typical Lori fashion, she went above and beyond by offering an autographed copy of The Art of Hard Conversations to one blessed recipient. For now, be blessed as you read directly from Lori’s heart because that’s the kind of writer she is.

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If you’re anything like me, my prayer preparation for any conversation that I anticipate may be challenging or uncomfortable used to sound like this. “Please make this go away. Don’t make me be the one to discuss this. Please send someone else.” (Total transparency – sometimes they still sound like that.)

I comforted myself in that it sounded a lot like Moses, but really it was my “turtle” self, longing to escape my responsibility to speak truth, share my faith, encourage a struggling believer, or resolve a conflict.

 

Through years of engaging in all manner of hard conversations, I’ve learned that most effective ones begin with showing up for a “hard conversation” with God.

 

This is where I pour my heart out to Him in prayer about the situation first. I read relevant passages of Scripture and sit quietly while He helps me sort through my feelings, the facts, His truth, and my love for the other person in order to inform my approach, timing, and words.

There are many, many times when this time of prayer is the end of the matter. This is usually when I’ve taken some offense or harbor self-righteous anger about a situation. As I confess emotions that aren’t based in His Word and read what Scripture has to say about my words, I often realize that the log in my own eye is most of the problem.

 

Other times, this period of prayer highlights a lack of love on my part.

 

Love lapses are responsible for much of our lack of evangelism, internal church conflict, even family struggles. Too often, I try to operate solely from a foundation of my own human affection. God prods me, always, to rely on His perfect love to infuse me and inform my relationships with others, as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This gets worked out in this time of prayer.

Always, this time of prayer reduces my fear and reminds me of God’s presence with me and His desire to include me in His work. That’s exciting! Hard conversations may begin as a painful exercise, but often, they are the vehicles of transformation and breakthrough God desires and how blessed are we to be witness to that!

When I feel there may be a hard conversation in my future with another person, I pray for God to give me His heart for that person and let me see them through His eyes. I pray for their heart to be fertile soil and for God to go before my words to prepare the way. I pray for the right opportunity and timing to appear with clarity and favor. And, I ask God to remove any barriers in me and in the other person that may interfere with communication and with God’s Work in our hearts.

 

Preparatory prayer is as vital for hard conversations as it is at the beginning of any worthy endeavor.

 

If you anticipate a challenging chat – being open with someone about your faith or biblically-informed belief, confronting sin, working through a conflict, or sharing tough news – commit to daily prayer leading up to your tough talk.

 

Show up with God unguarded.

 

Read the Psalms and see how David exposed his messy heart to God in prayer. Doing this with friends is unproductive and sometimes sinful. Doing it with God is life-altering. Admit your anger, envy, self-righteousness, fear, or even your lack of faith that the conversation will make any difference. Receive His forgiveness and correction, knowing we all must keep growing until we are home with Him.

Keep the Word of God open before you and read several passages that pertain to the topic of your conversation or about what God expects of our words (such as James 1:19-25 or James 4:13-18). Confess thoughts or emotions that are not in line with God’s expectations for believers. Then pray those Scriptures for the person with whom you hope to speak.

 

Ask for God’s wisdom and then believe He’ll provide it.

 

Ask for Him to clearly provide an opportunity to speak and then, watch for it. Be persistent in prayer and see what God will do when you take the risk of engaging in an uncomfortable conversation to speak His truth into someone’s life.

Too often, I think everything there is to know about a situation is what I can see. Prayer reminds me there is an entire dimension – the spiritual realm – that is at work. It’s strengthening, encouraging, and informing when I connect with that dimension in prayer before I engage in conversation – hard or otherwise.

Do you want your next hard conversation to be effective? Show up for the first hard conversation by praying and inviting God into a tough talk with you. Then, watch how the adventure unfolds.

Lori RoeleveldLori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

 

 

To enter for an autographed copy of The Art of Hard Conversations, simply leave a comment below. A winner will be selected randomly on Sunday, March 3rd. Thank you for sharing a few minutes of your day in the Tiny House on the Hill.

 

 

How I Set Up My Prayer Journal for 2019 + A LePen Giveaway

Prayer Journaling

I want to be that woman⏤the one who swirls her colored pencils, creating a design befitting a beautiful prayer journal.

 

But I’m not.

 

Instead, I buy pencils and markers in an array of colors, along with hand-lettering books, to feel like the woman who does such things. Truth is, I buy a fetching three-ring binder from Target, a pack of College-ruled notebook paper, and new for 2019⏤a pack of LePens. (Hey, if I can’t create a design, I can at least write in fabulous colors.)

Years ago, I searched for crisply lined journals with lovely covers to write poetry, but creativity clutched my brain like a toddler to a mother’s leg, refusing to let loose. Don’t write a word on that gilded line until you have the perfect word. Needless to say, few poems made their way to the pages. But somewhere along the way, I started using plain ol’ notebooks to record my poetic thoughts. It’s a mental game, of course, teasing the brain that it’s okay to write away because it’s a throwaway notebook.

 

For me, it’s the same with prayer journals.

 

God isn’t expecting or seeking perfection in the words poured out onto the page. He’s not moved by the handwriting, but rather, the heart that is writing. When I use a three-ring binder stocked with loose-leaf paper and four tabs, I feel free to write, cross out words, jot down scripture references, and scribble sideways when necessary.

In the past, I’ve journaled prayers using My Prayer Partner Notebook by Becky Tirabassi, fancified journals with life-giving words on the cover, and five-subject notebooks. But one small important distinction between using journals/notebooks and three-ring binders/loose-leaf paper is the ability to add loose paper to specific sections, as needed.

 

Sections, you say. Why, yes.

 

On one sheet of loose-leaf paper, at the front of the binder, I create a cover page that lists specific needs I can pray over each day of the week.

  • Sunday – our church, pastors
  • Monday – our children, grandchildren, and family
  • Tuesday – Hope*Writer and Facebook requests
  • Wednesday – our small group
  • Thursday – missions
  • Friday – the lost
  • Saturday – fellow writers and their work

After the cover page, I have tabs that vary in subject at times, but these are the standard four:

 

First Section :: Adoration

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name…” Psalm 29:2

I see this different from a time of praise. It’s a specific space to declare my awe and wonder of God — who He is, not what He does for me in specific situations. I read through a Psalm, choose one specific characteristic and write out the verse. Sometimes that’s the only thing written. When I allow myself to meditate on this truth of who God is, it becomes more about being (still) and less about doing.

 

Second Section :: Thanksgiving

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

Because focusing on God’s characteristics can’t help but lead to a grateful heart, it’s here I write the ways I’m thankful for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It’s also the place I record the specific why behind the gratitude, helping to take it the gratefulness to a deeper, more personal level.

 

Third Section :: Search and Find

“Search me, 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 NIV

It’s here I pause and ask God to search my heart, confident there are sins and struggles I simply don’t see. I usually write them down, but sometimes I don’t, refusing to be legalistic about my time with God. The main point is to have a searchable heart that results in confession, cleansing, and sweet restoration.

 

Fourth Section :: Intercession

“Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open.” Ephesians 6:18 The Message

I like to divide this section into two: one for friends struggling with long-term issues like sickness, ongoing marriage or children issues. The other, for short-term requests. Pocket Prayers are also used for both when I’m in a pinch for time. Not sure what those are? I share more in the post How to Pocket Your Prayers.

 

Quick Tips:

  • Date your entries. You’ll appreciate pinpointing the date of original prayers and praises in the future.
  • I address entries to my heavenly Father. People have shared how this one point often trips them up in prayer journaling — not knowing how to direct their prayers on paper. Again, it’s not about the paper, but the heart.
  • Leave ample space beside requests for praise and answers to prayer. Pray expectantly!
  • Recording God’s answers to prayer will not only heighten appreciation, but it will also serve as a journal of God’s faithfulness for future generations.
  • There may be times when you need to write something so personal that the thought of anyone reading it tempts you not to record it. Go ahead, write it⏤get it out⏤on a separate sheet of loose paper in your binder, pray through it, and then throw it away.

 

Oh my, how I’d love to say I journal every day, but I don’t. On those days I miss, I rest in knowing that my prayers⏤my connection with God⏤isn’t limited to ink that flows onto man-made pages. Our prayers go wherever we go.

Journaling is simply a tool to slow us down and focus, helping us to become more intentional about prayer in a world that wants us to be anything but.

So, how about you? Do you journal your prayers? If so, what type of book do you use? If not, is this something you will consider doing in 2019?

 

A Prayer Filled 2019

I’m loving my new LePens so much (thank you Amazon Lightning Deal) that I’d like to give away a three-pack in celebration of journaling our prayers in 2019. Simply answer the question above (or just pop in and say hello) to be entered in the giveaway. The winner will be randomly selected via miniwebtool.com on Saturday, January 5th.

Thank you for joining me on this *tiny* journey in 2018. Lord willing, this new year will see a completed Tiny House on the Hill, a small space that I pray will magnify our great God for years to come.

Blessings to you and yours in 2019!

3 Action Steps + A Prayer For Those Days When Disappointment Strikes

When You're Disappointed

Since returning from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, my days have had more twists and turns than Disney World’s Thunder Mountain.

 

On my ride home from the conference, I could barely see the ground for all the clouds. Two weeks later, I was sniffing dirt.

 

Two weeks after that, I was back to downing coffee, tweaking chapters and polishing an introduction, only to dust the dirt off my dreams once again. I think the word disappointment sums it up pretty well.

 

Somehow I feel like I’m not alone.

 

Disappointment is one of the most common emotions we experience. A dream job fizzles, friends let us down, or life simply takes unexpected detours. One doesn’t have to look far to find unmet expectations.

 

And yet, it’s what we choose to do with this disappointment that determines our next steps, and even our future.

 

“Don’t ever let today’s disappointment cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dream.” – Unknown

From Genesis to Revelation, we read of the disappointed. Moses, David, Rachel, Hannah, and poor Elijah was so downhearted, he asked God to take his life. Disappointment can dim our perspective, resulting in long-term discouragement, the too-early release of a ministry, the loss of relationships, depression, etc.

Perhaps it’s my own struggle with depression that alerts me to its danger, inspiring me to remember the following. I hope in some small way, it will help you too.

 

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BE KIND TO YOURSELF

 

Imagine telling a friend to “get over it” when the disappointment is so new it cries when spanked. So why would we treat ourselves any differently? I gave myself three days:

  • Day 1: Embrace the numbness. It tends to clip the heels of disappointment.
  • Day 2: Engage in prayer.
  • Day 3: Write down the next right thing to do and the specific steps required to move forward.

This structure proved helpful for my situation. Obviously, there are no time constraints for the grieving or 1-2-3 formulas for deeper disappointments.

Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t devote the first day to prayer? It’s not that I wouldn’t or didn’t want to, but in a way, I couldn’t. Numb is numb. Instead of beating myself up for it (which I’ve done in the past), I embraced it as tightly as I did my heavenly Father’s love.

 

God knows the time required for filtering our emotions down to the point of an offering.

 

PRAY IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

 

On the second day, and the following few, I noticed how my prayers were laser-focused on writing. Such as, What can I learn from these experiences? How should I proceed with the book? Should I proceed with the book?

There’s nothing wrong with these prayers. And yet at that moment, I realized my focus was more on the writing and less on the Author. I paused, thanking God for reminding me that He’s not nearly as interested in my writing as He is with me, His daughter. It’s my heart He desires above all, not my fingertips.

 

REMEMBER, GOD WASTES NOTHING

 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

It’s this truth I cling to above most else when struggling with disappointment. When spitting dirt, it’s hard for us to imagine how God might use such an experience for good.

But the kingdom of God specializes in the redemption of dirt. Jesus spat on it to create mud that healed the blind man in John 9:6. Nothing is wasted when God is in the mix.

 

A Prayer for the Disappointed

 

Heavenly Father,
You know the words that linger in my mind but have yet to be spoken.
Nothing I say, think, or feel catches You by surprise.
You know me full well…and love me still.

Transparency is a glorious privilege. Every speck of disappointment, confusion, and frustration is not only heard but also received, and molded into glory.

Take all my expectations, Lord — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Tuck them safely beneath Your authority,
the only place where they find true purpose, redemption, and rest.

Amen.

 

My disappointment quickly faded and I’m now working on new projects. Every word is for His glory regardless of the type of book that holds them. And if I had to do it all over again, I’d still climb into the rollercoaster because some lessons can only be learned from a heavenly perspective.

  • How do you handle disappointment? Please share in the comment section. Encourage away!
  • If you’re the one struggling today, know that I would count it a privilege to pray with, and for you.
  • Or maybe you know someone who would be encouraged by this post. Feel free to forward it and/or share.

 

Thank you for stopping by!

 

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
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