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.” He was describing a local retirement home our church visited before COVID. 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

Engaging Our Five Senses this Summer + Starbucks Giveaway!

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

 

Afternoon storms, buzzing bumblers, and Ricky the lizard give it away.

Summer is rounding the corner. And although this is the season known for relaxation, it can become one of the busiest in no time flat.

If I’m not careful, my heart can become a hurried one, drying out quicker than the beach towels sunning on my deck after an afternoon swim. When I hear the edges of my heart begin to crisp, I know there’s only one way to reset my stay-in-step with the Spirit button and that’s to set aside some dedicated time to spend with God.

Confession, repentance, and receiving God’s grace and mercy help me get back on track, but how do I keep my heart hydrated to avoid the snap crackle pop in the first place?

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11

 

It’s hard to be guided when we get ahead of God.

 

Another way to keep the heart hydrated?

 

Remain attentive to the small but generous goodness of God that water the soul and refresh our spirit.

 

Want to join me as you did in spring to pause and praise our Maker for these morsels of goodness?

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What We See:

  • Fireflies glittering in all their glory when the world goes to sleep.
  • Summer sunsets (Click here to download/print sunset verses to read as you see the day come to a close.)
  • The United States of America flag flying high!
  • Children splashing in the pool with smiles that stretch ear-to-ear. “Then followed that beautiful season…Summer…filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light, and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

What We Hear:

  • If we’re lucky, the chug of homemade peach ice cream churning on the back porch. Is there anything more delightful?
  • Hot licks of fire and the sound of delicious that happens when marshmallows and chocolate bars collide in between graham crackers.
  • Thundering waves pounding the shore.
  • The crack of a ripened watermelon. Followed by the sound of a salt shaker. (Is that weird?)
  • Fireworks celebrating our freedom. (Thank You, Lord!)
  • Flip flops slapping cement.
  • Your breath as you quietly lie on a blanket taking in all summer has to offer. “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” John Lubbock

 

What We Smell:

  • Coconut and sunshine in a bottle: Coppertone.
  • Salty breezes.
  • Cheeseburgers sizzling on the grill.
  • The earthy, fresh scent created after a summer thunderstorm.

 

What We Touch:

  • Those first slow and methodical steps into the pool, or the slicing of water if you’re brave enough to dive in before dipping the toes.
  • Granules of sand.
  • The warmth of your skin.
  • Berries! It’s the perfect picking season.
  • The force of wind when you poke your arm out the car window on a sunny day.

 

What We Taste:

  • Syrupy sweet Popsicles that can be broken in half and shared. Or stowed away in the back of a freezer to be enjoyed alone. Not that I’d know anything about that.
  • The nectar from a slightly squeezed honeysuckle blossom.
  • The fresh tang of cilantro…on anything!
  • Green matcha latte with whole milk, two extra scoops of matcha, and stevia (Is that too specific? Okay, it’s my new favorite but leave a comment below to be included in a Starbucks giveaway so you can enjoy your own favorite summertime drink!)

 

From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised. Psalm 113:3 ESV

So tell me, what’s one good gift from God you will pause to praise this summer? Is it something you see, hear, sniff, touch, or taste?

(The winner of the $10.00 Starbucks gift card will be notified next Monday!) *** Congratulations Charla Matthews!

 

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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 that shares the latest happenings in the Tiny House on the Hill, along with practical ideas on drawing nearer to God and loving others well.

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

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!

Engaging Our Five Senses this Spring!

Never was Spring more welcomed than this past March.

Longer lit days, the promise that when one season closes, another will open.

I wonder if we’ll notice more this spring as we work, play, and do school from home. If the necessary pause in our society will heighten our awareness to God’s goodness in ways we all experience — salvation, biblical community, a baby’s birth, nature — as well as the way He personally ministers to us through His Word, prayer, and even our God-given senses.

My hope is that we don’t see the following only as a list to check off or something to look for, but also, opportunities to praise our Maker.

 

This is one way we slow our soul down to a holy pace.

 

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What We See:

  • Leaves unfolding from a long winter’s nap.
  • Daffodils and other memory-making flowers. (It’s hard to pass a patch of these tiny trumpets without thinking of my grandmother. She loved old-timey varieties that held a touch of sweetness.)
  • Song Birds gathering twigs, mud, and feathers for their nests.
  • Kites catching spring winds and riding them across the sky.

 

What We Hear:

  • Bird songs, especially early in the morning before their day begins. “In the trees nearby, the birds make their nests and sing.” Psalm 104:12 GNT
  • Lawnmowers (and if you have four acres, you’ll hear it for hours).
  • A personal concert created by wind chimes stirring to rhythmic winds.
  • Collisions of unstable air, moisture, and lifting in the atmosphere, producing spring storms that hold the power to jolt us from our bed. And on those days you might enjoy “Engaging Your Five Senses on a Rainy Day.”

 

What We Smell:

  • The sharp, distinct scent of a freshly mowed lawn.
  • A musky mingling of soil and air when the shovel turns its first scoop onto the ground. It’s the fragrance of spring!
  • The savory fragrance of meat on a grill.
  • A clean home, but not perfectly so. A comfortable home creates a sweet fragrance that lingers long after any cleaning product is gone.
  • Spring flowers, heavy with the scent of victory, for they survived the winter.

 

What We Touch:

  • Tufts of green moss carpeting the woods nearby.
  • Sandals instead of boots. Light sweaters, not heavy. Bye, bye bulky.
  • Spring breezes that scoot through open windows.
  • Pool water, because we want to believe it’s warm enough for a swim.
  • Feathery fern fronds, lacy Japanese Maples, bristly pine needles, and smoothly textured leaves.

 

What We Taste:

  • What have we not tasted during this quarantine? Sweet mercy!
  • Strawberries (Subscribers, watch your inbox today for a simple, old-timey Strawberry Pound Cake recipe from my namesake, Catherine Edwards. Did I mention there’s icing involved?)
  • Fresh produce. Now’s a great time to support our local farmers.
  • Is it safe to say we could be tasting a bit of loneliness? Being apart from those we love, our church gatherings, and perhaps even from the loss of normalcy. It’s okay, you’re not alone. But distance doesn’t have to distance us where it matters.
  • God’s goodness. Every moment, every day. Memorizing a Scripture verse is one of the most powerful ways to engage our season, both in spring and life. Click here to download spring-inspired verses.

 

“This is what the LORD says⏤he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, the poplar trees by flowing streams.” (Isaiah 44:1-4)

 

So tell me, what’s your favorite part of spring?

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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 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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