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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.

Centerpiece

 

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?

 

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A List of 25 Things I’m Loving Right Now

 

 

Things I Love

Life has been a whirlwind in recent months and I don’t see the winds dying down for awhile. So I do what I do…make lists.

I hope some of these things I’m loving right now will resonate with you and perhaps even prompt you to consider your own surroundings along with the many blessings tucked in between your days.

  1. Spacious places. Psalm 18:19 is my go-to verse with this next move. “He brought me out into a spacious place…”
  2. DW Home Hand-Poured Candles. Vanilla Bean, to be specific. I purchased every last one TJ Maxx carried –  to the tune of 35.00+ worth. Yes, they’re that delicious.
  3. Poetry. I love to read it …and write it.
  4. My church. It’s a church that loves well, no matter what.
  5. My great-grandparent’s bible. Its underlined scripture hints at the legacy they would leave behind.
  6. Peppermint Snow. Dee Dee Parker’s Christmas novella that’s sure to be a best-seller one day!
  7. Exchange Coffee. My local coffee shop makes the best lavender lattes, hands down.
  8. Pride & Prejudice, A&E version with Colin Firth. And only this version. Swoon-worthy.
  9. The original scent of Downy softener. It reminds me of my grandmother’s laundry days.
  10. A charm bracelet with each of my grandchildren’s names forged on a separate heart. {They are my heart.}
  11. Vintage VW vans. Because everybody has a little hippie in them!
  12. My well-loved cookbooks.
  13. Blogging. Absolutely. Love. It.
  14. Soft breezes on scorching hot days. A reminder that refreshment can rise even on the driest of days.
  15. Owls. Maybe it’s a throwback to the ’70s but I love them.
  16. Tiny houses. {Especially as an Airbnb on our future property!}
  17. Chickens and goats and rabbits, oh my!
  18. Pastures & ponies. These two ‘p’s’ equal a third: Peaceful.
  19. My bible. I’ve had it since 1991. Its pages paper-thin and lovingly marked.
  20. White walls, chalkboards, and Mason jars decor. {Does that count for 3?}
  21. Girl gatherings. It’s been a while since I’ve hosted one of these but once we get moved preparest thou!
  22. Chenille blankets. Vintage chenille blankets. Soft, warm, and plush comfort. {Especially on snowy days.}
  23. The way my grandchildren smile when we first see them. {Be still my heart.}
  24. Music. The gift of music meanders its way through the soul like nothing else.
  25. Rainy days when I don’t have to be anywhere. Showers falling, coffee in hand, and a good book. {Exhale.}
Do any of the above items trigger your own love-fest? I’d love to read 25 things you love, so if you decide to do the same on your blog please let me know.  Even if you decide not to publicly share your list, I encourage you to make it anyway.
It will do the soul good. Very good.

Did I happen to mention the cupcakes at Exchange Coffee?
Did I happen to mention the cupcakes at Exchange Coffee? Okay, that makes 26.

3 Things I Learned in the Wait + A Prayer for Those Who Wait

Waiting. In line. In the waiting room. For the results. On the pain to pass. To hear God answer our prayers. To see our prodigal come home. To be in love. For Fall, or for vacation, or retirement.

 

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.”  Joyce Meyer

 

Notice the title of this post is written in the present tense. I don’t have this waiting thing licked. I write with bare-skinned knees from flat-faced falls and carry band-aids in my pocket for future ones. But as a daughter of the King I’m confident there will be no lasting scars. Still, the process of waiting remains, and I have much to learn. Here are a few things I’ve picked up so far:

 

1. Misguided Expectations Eat Your Lunch and Devour Your Dessert Too.

 

In recent months, four friends sold their homes within 24-48 hours. When ours recently hit the market, I expected no less. So when no one called within the first several hours I was convinced something was wrong with the phone. I didn’t realize how much I’d allowed my expectations to get out of whack until I found myself in quite the funk…for days.

I confess my unbelief because, well, that’s exactly what it was⏤not believing what God has for us was His absolute best, regardless of the wait. And then I came across this post, {Above all, Trust in the Slow Work of God}, by Shawn Smucker, featured on Emily P. Freeman’s site. To me, it was a simple nod of acknowledgment from my Heavenly Father saying He is with us in the waiting room. We wait, God works.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways and
my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8,9

 

2. There’s a temptation to devour anything more than the Word.



Do you spot a pattern here? First, there’s talk of devouring desserts and now this. I wish this was a good thing, but it’s not, at least for me. There was no longer any doubt that I was an emotional eater during our wait. Stress must weigh in around 500 calories per bite. Sigh.

My indulgences⏤my dependency⏤are to be in the Word and I failed miserably. Truth finally gained traction as I clung to grace and mercy around every bend of my wayward ways.

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16

3. God isn’t a game player. He is a game-changer.

He doesn’t toy with our lives or with His time. Every breath is heavy with purpose. Being confident of this in the wait ushers in inexpressible peace. Everything God does in the lives of His children is motivated, spurred on, and poured out from a heart of love. Even His discipline is motivated by love. There’s no escaping it! He isn’t a God of love. He is love. In this, we can trust…and rest.

Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. 1 John 4:8

 

No doubt there will be other lessons to learn in this waiting room of life. But I pray I’ll be found faithful, not consumed by circumstances but by the One who is sovereignly at work behind every word, spoken or unspoken, and deed.

Heavenly Father,
You are the designer of the waiting rooms we find ourselves in today.
The walls seem high, but You are higher.
The floor shifts at times, but You are our Rock.

The chairs, they confine us when all we want to do is run
but instead, we trust.

You alone know the precise moment in which to open the door and call our name.
It’s not a moment too late or too soon.

It is perfect timing
because Your love is perfect.
Help us to awaken every morning with a whisper of gratefulness on our lips,
and a heart bursting with anticipation,
confident that You are at work
while we wait.
Amen.

 

Are you in a time of waiting? If so, do any of the above observations resonate? Or do you have a different observation to share? 

 

Photo by Glen Noble on Unsplash

3 Tips On Creative Brainstorming + An Interview with Dee Dee Parker

Creative Brainstorming

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” – Albert Einstein

It’s true, right? There’s an inexplicable synergy that takes places when two or more creative beings come together for a specific purpose. In fact, there are few things I love more than a good brainstorming session. Whether it’s with a group of ministry-minded peeps or with fellow writers, it matters not. A little later in the post I’ll share a few tips on how you can enjoy your own b-storming session.

But first…

When it comes to writing sessions, my go-to girl is Dee Dee Parker. She’s not only the other pea in our “strange little pod.” She is also one of the most creative people I know. So it’s only fair that I share her creative goodness with you.

In honor of our two peas status, I’m asking Dee Dee two questions. Let’s get started!

Me: Where do you find your creative muse?

Dee Dee: My creative muse, my inspiration, depends on what medium I am working in at the time. Inspiration for my non-fiction often comes after my morning devotions, Bible study, and prayer time with the Lord. A Bible verse will grab my attention and a devotion or article is born. My Appalachian fiction muse is often the elders of my hollow and mountain town. I overhear a conversation and an idea for a story comes about. The dialect is so rich here and the people have such a strong sense of place and deep faith that I will never run out of ideas. Of course, Cathy, you and I brainstorm often and that starts the creative juices flowing in many creative endeavors such as our Two Peas In One Strange Little Pod videos. 🙂

Me: What secret talents do you have? (I snatched this simple but insightful question from Edie Melson’s interview over @ Writing Prompts, Thoughts, and Ideas…Oh my!)

Dee Dee: I love to paint, especially watercolors! As a matter of fact stayed tuned for an announcement of my new project coming later this summer. I am very excited about working on the details of a card line with hopes it will be a blessing to you, and one you will enjoy sharing with others.

Thank you, Dee Dee!

{Stay tuned, fellow Blue Ridge friends…Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod Productions has one last blooper reel coming your way tomorrow!}

3 TIPS FOR STARTING YOUR OWN

  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Years ago, I attended a weekly ministry-driven brainstorming session. Ideas flew fast and furious. You see, the pastor encouraged us to remember that there was no such thing as a stupid idea. We knew we were in a safe place. It didn’t mean we used all the ideas. In fact, we used only a few, but one idea would spark another, and so on. I felt free to fail and through that freedom emerged ideas that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. Edwin H. Land sums it up best: “The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”
  • Move outside. Due to distance Dee Dee and I usually do our brainstorming sessions via phone but whenever possible, move your creative b-storming outside. Take a walk together, or go to a zoo or museum to get those creative juices flowing.
  • Know the rules. State upfront any guidelines you might want to observe, such as… there are no wrong/ foolish statements, or perhaps, no cutting remarks if you disagree with something that’s suggested, etc. Agree that you’ll take everything in, write it down, and allow the information to marinate before making a definitive decision. Rules and creativity don’t always go hand-in-hand but in this case, it’s actually freeing everyone to be their best creative self.

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blogDeeDeeblueDee Dee Parker infuses wisps of Southern grace throughout both her writing and speaking. She is the author of a children’s book, Josie Jo’s Got to Know written to benefit breast cancer research. She has contributed to numerous anthologies, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, Clothes Lines and Christmas Presence. Dee Dee writes for Christian Devotions US, Guidepost books, Guidepost.org as well as Focus On the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. magazine. Her first Christmas novella has landed in the hands of her agent and she eagerly anticipates its publication in the near future. Dee Dee lives snuggled among the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains with her husband Jim, a retired minister, and their spoiled Schnoodle, Greta.

Talk about creative! Today’s featured image is courtesy of the talented Paul Foreman of Mind Map Inspiration. Visit his site for mind blowing graphics as well as much inspiration!

How to Bless Those You Met At The Writer’s Conference (and 4 Highlights From Blue Ridge)

BRmtnsNow that the dust is settling from last week’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, highlights {and ideas} are beginning to surface.

First, the highlights:

 

 

 

 

{ONE}

BRHelenrevised

Highlight: Meeting Helen McIntosh

Forging new friendships and celebrating established ones. There was a time in February when I considered not attending Blue Ridge this year (gasp!). I didn’t have a particular project to pitch, and with us prepping for a move, I thought the money should be allocated toward that goal, but it was Brian who insisted I go — “if for no other reason than to re-connect with friends, you only see once a year.” Yep, that’s my hubby! As it turned out, this was a defining year at Blue Ridge when it came to meeting new friends and deepening established ones. Rosie Williams (fellow Hope Writer!) Robin Luftig, Leigh Ann Thomas, Tammy Van Gils, Jodie Bailey, Meredith Mills, Donna Nabors, Karen Friday, Jean Wilund, Nan Jones, and sweet Helen McIntosh, author of Messages to Myself, Overcoming a Distorted Self-Image, are just some of the new friends I met last week and look forward to establishing relationships within the coming years.

 

{TWO}

Eva Marie Everson’s Visual of Nehemiah’s Wall. I admit I was tired and ready for my evening pick-me-up (which usually consisted of peanut butter crackers and a soda) when Eva Marie told everyone to get up at the end of her keynote speech and stand around the room. As she read from Nehemiah, four hundred + people lined the walls, exhorting everyone to take their place at the “wall,” much like the 44 separate groups of people who had specific tasks to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. There was a job for every group, each person, to fulfill — and our calling is no different, regardless of what it is. I can’t do what you do in exactly the same way and vice versa because God handcrafted each of us. We literally broke the mold! You have your place at the wall, and I have mine. Now let’s get to it!

 

{THREE}

BRcoffeeIt’s not just about the coffee. It rarely is, right? Starbucks sells an experience, and it’s no different for the Clouds Cafe on the Ridgecrest Conference campus. Yes, it’s newly renovated but the polished floors and expanded menu are not what makes this gathering place memorable. It’s the people who serve/volunteer there. Women like Loretta and Linda (lovingly known to Marcia Moston and me as the “froth queens”). Seeing their smiles is an experience I look forward to every single year.

 

 

 

{FOUR}

God Stepped Up When I Stepped Out…of My Comfort Zone. Two friends made this clear at Blue Ridge. One quietly offered me a hand to join in the adventure. The other threw me overboard to sink or swim. I love them both and God used both approaches to reveal Himself.

BRDDmerevisedWhile staying in my room Saturday night, Dee Dee Parker came up with the brilliant idea (at 2:00 AM)  to do a fun video the next morning on the subject of snacks at Blue Ridge, or the lack thereof, in our nearby vending machine. Now I’m the girl who doesn’t even like to have my picture taken, but something inside (perhaps it was the lack of sleep) said, “Go for it!” And we did. {2Peasin1LittlePod…Productions! #wejustwanttobeablessing} We proceeded to do two more videos that were also well-received. (Thank you!) But what touched us most was the feedback from those who shared how our friendship was evident in the video. Some even said they wanted to attend the conference next year to be a part of the fun. “Comfort zone” Cathy would not have dared to shoot a silly video, but because Dee Dee invited me to join in the fun, and I was willing to step over the proverbial line between silly and serious, new friends were made. From what we hear, many were blessed. To God be the glory!

BRLoriresizedbLori Roeleveld, a sweet friend and mentor in many ways, scooted shoved me out of my comfort zone a little differently. After I shared how I’ve never liked being called out in a class setting with Lori over lunch, she promptly stood up, shouting to Jim Rubart, one table over, how he needed to put me on the spot in the next session. Really? 🙂 It wasn’t until I actually began considering skipping that class the next day that I knew this was much bigger than my insecurities. Feeling certain that Jim’s class was one I needed to attend, it was no surprise the enemy would try to use an innocent and well-intended shout-out to prompt my fears into action. Not only did I attend the final class, but I also thanked Lori for the outburst that initially had me shaken because it led to an opportunity to stand steadfast, stomping my fears into smithereens.

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blessing fellow writers-1

Edie Melson, our fearless leader and Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, encouraged us to exchange business cards with one another again this year. While there’s an array of reasons for doing this, there is one I’ve overlooked in the past⎯the opportunity to pray for fellow writers. As I begin to write each morning, I will lay my hands on the piles of cards and pray for them, for us. Prayers like:

  • business cardsKeep our motives pure, Lord. (Psalm 139: 23,24) Flesh pinches the tenderest of places, tempting us to put the spotlight on ourselves, our name, and our brand when our greatest desire is to reflect You, Your name, and Your kingdom alone.
  • Keep our priorities aligned in a way that pleases You, Lord. What do we gain if our name is on a book but find it no longer written on the hearts of those we love?
  • Keep our eyes fixed on You, Jesus. For You are the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Let the things on earth grow strangely dim as we rejoice and write in the light of your love.
  • Help us run this journey as companions, not competitors. There is no room in the kingdom for competition. This is not Your desire for us. We are on the same team: Team Your Glory.
  • Infuse our writing with divine creativity for You are Creator! Your Spirit indwells within us, equipping us to write beyond our means. As Al Gansky said in his keynote speech, “Creativity Begins With The Creator.” Amen.
  • Help us to release our work for Your glory. Some are called to plant, and some to water, but You alone, God, bring growth, landing our work in Your chosen places. We don’t need to manipulate, beg, or sulk. Help us to embrace truth — that You are for us, not against us, even when we cannot see, hear, or feel You at work.
  • Help us to find our validation in You alone, Jesus.

Now it’s your turn! Please take a moment to share one of your highlights from last week’s conference (or another one!). Or, feel free to share which of the above prayers you will begin praying for yourself and fellow writers.

 

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