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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Saturday, December 31, 2011


... drumroll please ...
Jalana Franklin of Loretto, Tennessee is the winner of my Home To Willow Creek series for naming all 20 of the Christmas Carols correctly. Actually there were several who named them all correctly, so all those names got put in a basket and my hubby drew a name.

Jalana, be watching for your shipment of books.

I pray everyone has a Blessed New Year!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


In the book of Hosea there is a verse (okay, so it’s just part of a verse) that says Take words with you. As a writer, words are my tools, but they can also be toys. Here is a game geared for anyone who loves to play with words.

Email me the answers at connie@conniestevenswrites.com I will collect all the names (be sure to include your email address) of those who name each one correctly, and enter them in a drawing for THREE FREE BOOKS—my Willow Creek series. Have fun.


1. Quadruped with Crimson Proboscis
2. Eight PM to Six AM Without Noise
3. Miniscule Hamlet In The Near East
4. Jocular Ancient Venerable Benefactor
5. Exuberance Directed To The Planet
6. Listen, Aerial Spirits Announcing
7. Trio Of Monarchs
8. Yonder In The Hay Rack
9. Cherubim Audited From Aloft
10. Assemble, Everyone Who Believes
11. Hallowed Post Meridian
12. Fantasia Of A Colorless December 25
13. A Dozen Twenty-four Hour Yule Periods
14. Befell During The Transparent Bewitching Hour
15. Homo Sapian Of Crystallized Vapor
16. Desire A Pair Of Incisors On December 25
17. I Spied My Maternal Parent Greet With Smooch
18. Amble Through December Solstice Fantasy
19. Adorn The Vestibule
20. Clattering Tintinnabulums

Words can be a lot of fun, especially when one uses them to craft a story. Words can also be a lifeline to minister to a hurting heart or communicate the gospel with someone who needs to hear God’s truth. Words can soothe and words can inflict pain. It’s the choice of every person who utters them how those words will be used. I encourage you to make your words a Christmas gift to someone this year.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.” 2nd Corinthians 1:3-4
Earlier this year, I received some news I didn’t want to hear. The publishing house with whom I am published announced they were planning on closing down the line for which I was writing. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I’d proposed a three-book series in February and was notified that they wanted all three books. A contract for the first book soon arrived. With the first book of the series finished and sent, I had begun researching for the second book when I got the unwelcomed news. So I put aside my notes and tentative synopsis for book two, and focused my attention on a different project—writing a novella with a group of three other writers, and all four stories would be connected. Sounded like fun, and I dove in. However, I needed to think beyond the novella and develop another story idea for a new proposal.

With the encouragement of my writing partners and my agent, I stepped out of my comfort zone and worked on a story idea that could be developed into trade-length fiction (80,000 words) It was a scary step because I was comfortable writing the shorter length stories, but it seemed God was nudging me to try my wings.

In September, I traveled to St. Louis to attend the annual conference of the American Christian Fiction Writers, planning on pitching this longer story idea to the editor of Barbour. To my great surprise, I received an email from this same editor the day before the conference kicked off, telling me they had decided to keep the line going for which I had been writing, and she was requesting the manuscript for book two. And she needed it as soon as possible.

Book two? It wasn’t written yet. All I had was a tentative synopsis. And she wanted it when? Can you spell P-A-N-I-C? My writing partners and my agent all encouraged me to go for it. But did they truly realize what this meant? I wasn’t just stepping outside my comfort zone. I was being launched out of it. My comfort zone was a nice, tidy, little box with predictable boundaries.

* I would never put myself under a tight deadline, because I can’t write under stress.
* I don’t write fast. One chapter a week is my max.
* I never could understand how some writers could juggle more than one story at a time.
* Write an entire book in a month? Preposterous!!
* I’ve always tried to make sure my home is neat and clean, meals are ready on time, laundry is done, errands are run, and the oil in the car gets changed on schedule.

Well, God pretty much blew up my comfort zone and put me in a place where I had to zing out a chapter a day for the first week, and then a chapter every other day in order to meet this deadline. In addition, I’ve still had to balance the novella project and keep the longer story idea on the back burner so it doesn’t get cold. Can’t remember the last time my floors saw a Swiffer. Dinner? Um, leftovers again. What do you mean you’re out of clean underwear? Last but not least, I am writing an entire book in one month. Comfort zone? What comfort zone?

But here I am almost thirty days later, one chapter away from completion. How did I do that? . . . . I didn’t. God did. He knew He had to take away everything I viewed as a cushion until I had no other recourse but to fully trust Him to do what I considered impossible.

Two days ago, I got a sweet Facebook message from a dear friend. She’s working on her contracted debut novel, and she’s getting discouraged because she’s found herself in a place that frightens her. She afraid she’ll discover she can’t do what is expected of her, and she asked me for advice. What she really needed was her comfort zone, but once an author becomes contracted, the definition of the comfort zone changes. She needed someone she loved and trusted to encourage her along this crazy writing journey. Since I’ve had several encouragers along the way, I was thrilled and humbled to step into the role of encourager—and in this case, comforter.

I read something the other day that made such an impact on me, I printed it out and stuck it on the cabinet above my desk where I can see it every day. It made me realize where our real comfort zone is. It’s not the neat, predictable schedules where everything goes as planned. It’s not remaining stagnant, and it’s not hiding under a rock praying you’ll never be asked to do something you never dreamed possible. True comfort exists only when we fully trust God for every breath and heartbeat.

God does not comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comforters.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Monday, September 19, 2011


There are fifty-six separate accounts* in the Gospels where Jesus used parables to get His point across. We think of Jesus as a great orator proclaiming the love of God from the temple or a hillside as He preached to thousands. But the people to whom He spoke weren’t always the wise and learned. More often than not, Jesus spoke to ordinary people—shepherds, fishermen, those working in the vineyards or the marketplace, and townspeople. He used the art of storytelling—that’s what a parable is—to illustrate the attributes of God and explain how God forgives sin in a way common folks could understand and apply to their own lives. In doing so, Jesus set the example for today’s writers of Christian fiction.

This week I’m traveling to St. Louis to attend the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference. The offering of classes and workshop is as diverse as the various genres available from the local bookstores, and there is something for every level of the writing journey. Beginners and veterans alike will have the opportunity to hone their craft and become better storytellers. One thing stands out—no matter if an author writes suspense or romance, westerns or fantasy, women’s fiction or young adult. Every author attending the conference desires to write the best story he or she can for God.

Jesus valued the art of storytelling. He used word illustrations to paint mental pictures for those listening, and by doing so, He removed the veil of confusion and oppression from those who were under bondage to sin, false gods, and legalism. As writers of Christian fiction, we want to take back what the world stole and reclaim it to honor and glorify the One Who placed the gift of words within us. For if Jesus used the vehicle of storytelling to reach the masses, how can we do any less?

I am humbled when I think of how God has allowed me to pursue my dream, only to remember He was the One Who instilled the dream in my heart in the first place. God won’t start something in my life that He does not intend to finish. Attending a conference like ACFW means equipping myself to follow the path in which God has directed me. If God can use my words to minister to a hurting heart or open the eyes to one in bondage, then I will be a very blessed storyteller.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

*There are thirty-nine parables—some are accounted two or three times in different Gospels.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


A few days ago, a friend of mine described this point in my writing career as “dipping my toes in the deep water”. I chuckled and reminded her that I can’t swim. But I must admit her comment made me think.

For the past year and a half I’ve been blessed with four contracts with Heartsong Presents division of Barbour Publishing. This year I had the privilege of seeing my first three books released and thrilled hold each one in my hands. My critique partners, my agent, and my Heartsong editor all told me they thought I was ready to start writing longer, trade length fiction. The very idea struck fear in my heart. I wasn’t ready to dive into the deep end of that pool. My plan was to get a few more Heartsongs listed under my name, and then maybe in another year—or two—I might think about full length fiction.

Did I mention that was MY plan? God has a way of raising His eyebrows and smiling whenever I tell Him my plans.

Last month, I received the news that Barbour had made the difficult decision to close the Heartsong Presents line at the end of this year. My “plans” were toast. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been rethinking the plan—not MY plan, but God’s. Pursuing my own agenda is an exercise in futility, and without God’s breath of encouragement, I could have given up in despair.

Am I ready to attempt longer fiction? People whose opinion I respect seem to think I am. Dipping my toes in the deep water means stepping out into unfamiliar territory. Should I wade in? Am I strong enough to withstand the current? I have the heart and the will; God has placed within me the determination and perseverance. But the deep water carries with it the possibility of drowning.

When I tried to sort out the reasons why MY plans crumbled, God just gave me this patient answer from His Word:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For 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

With this verse on my lips, I’m preparing a proposal to take to the ACFW conference in September. Am I ready to dip my toes in the deep water, as my friend suggests? I don’t know. My job is to use what God has given me to the best of my ability. The outcome is up to Him.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Friday, July 22, 2011


"These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom . . . but are of no value--" Colossians 2:23

I was perusing in Internet looking for a good rate on an airline ticket. Over on the left side of the screen, I noticed a box that proclaimed the airlines had just lowered their prices to the very city to which I wanted to go. Yippee, I thought I’d found myself a bargain!

Clicking on the unknown on the Internet is never a good idea. Within two minutes, my computer was slammed with a nasty Trojan horse virus that, among other things, disabled my real antivirus software. Then this insidious malware proceeded to take on the appearance of something else, using well-known logos and acting as though it was warning me of the attack. All I had to do, it said, was click on this security tab and register for their protection and they would insure my computer would be safe. In fact, clicking on their registry would have given them access to all my personal information, bank accounts, credit cards, bill pay information, account numbers . . .

It looked like something it was not. It stole the logos and language of a company I trusted, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and snuck into my computer under the guise of false promises. It was an imposter.

When my computer-guru husband got home, it took him almost five hours to outsmart this thing and eradicate it from my machine. I was so thankful that my husband had the knowledge and computer skills that I lack, and was able to do what I couldn’t.

In the book of Colossians, the apostle Paul addressed the people who were confused about the rules and legalities. They were trying to follow all the man-made decrees and commands, thinking their conformity would be looked upon by God as something good. These mandates were disguised as sanctification, but it was a lie. Paul pointed out that all their good appearances were worthless because Christ was the One who forgave their sin, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
Christ disarmed those principalities and powers, and triumphed over them. He did what we could not do for ourselves.

Becoming so immersed in legalities instead the substance of true holiness robs us of the peace and joy of trusting wholly in Christ and His shed blood. When we try to add to what Christ has already done, it’s like telling Him His death on the cross wasn’t enough.

So many things in this world have the appearance of being good, or noble, or praiseworthy. Many pursuits appear innocent, but anything that suctions life from us is not of God.

That computer virus tried to make me believe it was safe by using the disguise of something I trusted. But someone smarter than me had the power to disarm and disable it.

Sometimes good works are disguised as a pathway to holiness. Good works are fine as long as they aren’t used as a substitute for what only Christ can do. Works don’t make us holy or ensure us a place in heaven. If that were true, then Christ died in vain. God help us to learn to be discerning—knowing the difference between true salvation and the imposters.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Place Where Magic Happens

Anticipation of the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference begins for me around January. I could name a host of reasons why I go to the ACFW conference, but many have already been mentioned by other bloggers. Here are just a few of mine:

* It’s encouraging to be surrounded by people who don’t look at me oddly when I talk about my characters like they are real live people.
* When I volunteer to help out, it gives me an opportunity to give back to the organization that has done so much for me.
* The classes and workshops are occasions to celebrate what we do as authors and fill our energy tanks.

But one of my favorite parts of the ACFW conferences has always been the awarding of the first-time contract by Barbour Publishing. The expression of utter joy on the author’s face and squeals from the critique partners make me want to do the happy Snoopy dance right along with them. I think as members of ACFW, whether published or not, we can relate to that exquisite kind of thrill after years of working and waiting. The anticipation of the dream coming true is what drives us to persevere.

Four months before the Denver conference in 2009, my finger hovered over the mouse and I clicked “Send”, winging my proposal off to my agent who in turn would send it to JoAnne Simmons at Heartsong Presents. Six weeks later, I received a phone call from my agent, Tamela Murray. We chatted briefly and then she said, “Someone was asking me if you were planning on going to the ACFW conference this year.” I told her I was and we talked for a few more minutes. After we hung up, I thought, Who would be asking Tamela if I was going to the conference? The question drove me nuts for about three days, and then I just forgot about it.

At the opening session of the 2009 conference, I sat with my critique partners as Brandilyn’s traditional “Helloooo ACFW!!” rang out over the auditorium to kick off the proceedings. Just before the session closed, Becky Germany and JoAnne Simmons of Barbour Publishing took the stage. I twisted in my chair and said to my crit partners, “I just love it when they do this.” Becky announced the name of the first time contract for a novella, and we all cheered for Rachael Phillips. JoAnne took the microphone and made a couple of comments about the manuscript she was about to contract. I couldn’t wait to see that joy on the face of the recipient.
Then JoAnne announced the title of the book she was contracting: LEAVE ME NEVER. My first reaction was, “Oh man! Now I’m going to have to think of a new title!” --because someone else was obviously using my title. I didn’t hear JoAnne announce my name because my crit partners were all screaming. So my second thought was, “Why are they screaming?” It was like a delayed reaction in comedic slow motion. I sat there dumbfounded with my mouth hanging open. Kim Sawyer pushed me from my chair and said, “Connie, it’s YOU.”

Some unseen force carried me to the stage where JoAnne placed an envelope in my trembling hands. I think I said something stupid like, “I need to go call my husband!” But whatever I said, it must have been at least halfway appropriate because JoAnne and Becky were both smiling.

At the time it didn’t occur to me to thank Barbour, or ACFW, or my agent, or my crit partners, although I do remember “Thank You, Jesus” running through my head as I found my way back to my seat amid more hugs and tears, more squeals and congratulations. I did call my husband and woke him up, but with everyone’s excited screams, he couldn’t understand what I was saying, so I held the phone out to my crit partners and they all chorused, “Connie got a contract!!” Poor guy still didn’t know what was going on.

Later that evening and in the days to follow, reality began to seep in. Understanding of how vital ACFW’s influence was in my writing journey began to flood my awareness. Gratitude filled me as I thought of the way my agent and crit partners (whom I met through ACFW) pushed me to improve my writing and refused to let me give up. God used the Barbour editors to make my dream come true.

The morning of the third day of the conference, we were singing “While I’m Waiting” in the praise and worship session. It occurred to me that somewhere in that room of 500+ people there was a person who felt the same way I had the year before. “Is this truly God’s will? Am I supposed to be pursuing publication, or am I just following my own agenda? Will my time ever come?” That person’s “time” was next year, but he/she didn’t know it yet, so I started praying for that unknown person.

My prayer continued the next day, and the day after that, and after I went home. I discovered praying for this person whose name I did not know was a sweet privilege. For an entire year, I prayed for the recipients of “next year’s contracts” without knowing their identity. At the opening session of the 2010 conference, I cried when one of those contracts went to my dear friend, Rose McCauley. When I told her I’d been praying for her for an entire year without knowing it was her, she pounced on the idea. Rose has been praying for the recipients of the 2011 contracts since last year’s conference.

Whether our prayer is one of anticipation or gratitude, or even a petition for an unknown person, communication with our heavenly Father is the GPS that guides us on this crazy journey we refer to as publishing. Right now, there is an ACFW member who has clicked “Send” and is wondering, “When will happen for me?” Maybe this year is their time.

I’m counting the days till the 2011 conference. I’m asking God to let me learn and grow as a writer, and to give me the opportunity to serve in some way. I pray He places someone in my path to whom I can be an encouragement. What a privilege it is to play a small part in this organization that has been so instrumental in my writing journey.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oh, how He loves . . .

"In this the love of God was manifested toward us..." 1st John 4:9

I was feeling a bit down yesterday. Everyone has moments in which they wish circumstances were different. I knew this event was coming up, and like every year for the past twenty or so, I was NOT looking forward to it, I didn’t want to acknowledge it, nor did I want anyone else to even know about it.

Yesterday, I turned sixty-one. I think I must have misplaced a decade somewhere because I’m not supposed to be this old. Every year I threaten my husband not to make a big deal about my birthday. He always asks me what I want for my birthday and I tell him I don’t want a fuss made. I don’t want to go out to dinner. I don’t want a bunch of people announcing “Happy Birthday” with silly grins. This year, because my birthday fell on a Sunday and our church was having a fellowship dinner after the service, I held my breath, hoping no one would know. (My husband knew better than to tell a soul!!) What I wanted was for the day to pass unnoticed.

The night before, I lay awake grumbling in my spirit about not wanting to celebrate another birthday. Despite my complaining, God whispered to my heart that He created me, He loved me, and whether I liked it or not, HE was going to celebrate my birth. I mumbled, “Okay, God, You can celebrate. But don’t tell anybody.” Can you imagine what God thought about that?

Switching gears for a minute:

I enjoy bird watching. There are several species that I delight in, but my all-time favorite has to be the goldfinch.
Such a bright, sunny little bird with a perky attitude. Unfortunately, the only time I see goldfinches in Georgia is very late autumn, winter, and early spring. In the winter, their plumage changes to a dull yellowish green. In the spring, their yellow feathers re-emerge and I love watching them flit around the backyard for a week or so. Then they all migrate north and my heart grieves a little, knowing they won’t come around again for seven or eight months and I’ll miss my sunny little friends.

Switching gears back to the birthday thing again:

Yesterday morning, I was sitting in the sunroom, sipping my coffee, when a flash of yellow happened to zip past the window. I leaned forward to catch a better look, and there, perched on a tall stem of my cosmos flowers, was a bright yellow goldfinch. I caught my breath. Surely I was seeing things. A goldfinch in Georgia in July? But there he was, pecking away at the cosmos blossoms. He was joined a moment later by his mate. As I stood at the window staring, open-mouthed at this unexpected sight, it hit me. God was celebrating my birthday by giving me a gift He knew would be a sweet blessing, but nobody else would know. Unless I chose to tell them.

And how could I not share such a precious mercydrop from God? My friend calls things like this a God-kiss. I think she might be right. God gave me a goldfinch for my birthday.

Many of us can list a thousand ways God demonstrates His love for us—the greatest of all being sending His Son to die for us. But how many little, seemingly insignificant ways, does God show us how much He loves us? Do we take the time to notice? Do we even acknowledge that such little things are intimate blessings from God’s heart to ours? Like a goldfinch . . . in Georgia in July . . . in my backyard.

Thank You, God. I love You, too.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Friday, June 24, 2011


The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him, Who shelters him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders. Blessed of the Lord is his land, with the precious things of heaven..." Deuteronomy 33:12-13

I’ve been a gad-about for the past several weeks, taking a research trip to the mountains in north Georgia in May. The setting for the three book series I’m currently working on is the north Georgia mountains. I saturated myself in the history and feasted my eyes on the vistas. Trying to capture the beauty with a camera doesn’t quite to justice to the real thing, but the panoramas are etched in my mind and when I close my eyes, I can see my characters surrounded by the mountain panorama.

In early June, I flew out to Kansas for a writer’s retreat. The Kansas trip is something I look forward to every year. Getting together with the ladies from my critique group (we’re really more like a support group!!) is therapeutic and inspiring. We brainstorm each other’s stories and visit museums, pulling story ideas from the charming sights. We laugh a lot too!!

I was home just long enough to do my laundry and re-pack and head north for a visit
with my sister and her family in Pennsylvania. Hanging out with my sister who never fails to make me laugh – [we were playing a hilarious board game with her grandkids and one of the cards Pam drew instructed her to smell the feet of the person next to her!! I laughed till I cried!] -- and nephews who know how to barbeque killer baby-back ribs – [Mmmm, the aroma made my mouth water. Best ribs I ever ate!] – and simply enjoying watching the young’uns play enabled me to make some sweet memories.

We took a side trip to Ohio Amish country and stayed in a gorgeous bed and breakfast—The Charm Country View Inn in Charm, Ohio http://www.charmcountryviewinn.com. This is the view of the Amish farm across the road from the bed and breakfast. What a serene setting. Hearing nothing but birdsong and the clip clop of horse-drawn buggies. We had a wonderful time and picked up some lovely Amish and Mennonite-made crafts to bring home.

But no matter how much I enjoy going, I think I enjoy coming home more. There is something about being home that draws me. Maybe it’s the promise of the HOME we will one day see where we will bow at Jesus’ feet and reunite with our loved ones who have gone before us. When I grow restless and itchy to travel and see friends and family, I can buy an airline ticket or jump in the car and go. But sometimes the restlessness is deeper. It can’t be appeased with an airline ticket or packing a suitcase. It’s a longing to step beyond the bonds of this earth and be welcomed into a Home I’ll never have to leave.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Friday, June 10, 2011


"For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." 1st John 3:11

There is nothing like hanging out with a bunch of writers—people who understand the passion for taking pretend characters and turning them into warm-blooded, breathing beings on the page. When I talk about the hero in my story like he is a personal friend, they don’t look at me strangely and threaten to call 911.

I had the privilege of hanging out with a few of my favorite people this week. We brainstormed stories and prowled around museums, cheated on our diets, snuggled with kitties, harassed our hostess’s hubby, and laughed way more than is probably legal.

How blessed I am to be part of the best critique group on the planet—THE POSSE!!!

Kim Vogel Sawyer opened her home and entertained us with her never-ending tang-tungled expressions.

Eileen Key (otherwise known as Biker Babe) proved this Nana is not so sedate that she won’t go for a new adventure.

Margie Vawter, alias The Cat Whisperer, offered insight and possiblities into what makes my characters tick (Margie, I still need another conflict thread between my H & H.)

I can’t divulge EVERYTHING that happened, because as our shirts so colorfully state: What happens with the Posse stays with the Posse. It’s girlfriend/sister time at its best.

I thank God for the privilege of sharing my heart with these ladies.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I’ll admit it—I hate clutter, I hate disorder, and I hate confusion. Four different calendars—each one dedicated to a specific part of my life—keep me on schedule. I feel like one of those folks who stand up in a meeting and acknowledge their weakness. My name is Connie and I’m an organizer.

Recently I decided to reorganize the closet in my office. The space was no longer functional or efficient so I headed to my favorite toy store—Staples—and stocked up on dividers,, sectioned organizers, plastic bins that pulled out like drawers, canisters to hold all manner of small items, bookends, and tiered trays. Then, of course I needed a variety of mailers, labels, envelopes, folders, and binders. For the next twenty-four hours I was in organizer’s bliss. I cleaned out and discarded stuff I didn’t need, purged files, I grouped things into categories, and planned the most efficient use of my space. I made labels for everything. I was as happy as a flea on a hound dog.

Some of you are rolling your eyes. You think I’m unbalanced to enjoy a task like that. If you only knew how different I am now from the way I was as a kid.

In my early years, I shared a room with my older sister. She was a neatnik (still is!) and I was a slob. We were like the odd couple—She was Felix and I was Oscar. I drove her nuts. She used to draw a line down the center of our room and kick all my sloppy mess over on my side of the line. I couldn’t have cared less if my side of the room was a wreck. But people change . . .

When I got older and could never find things or forgot about things, couldn’t finish what I started and let stuff fall through the cracks, I didn’t like the way that made me feel. I knew I had to do something but I didn’t know where to begin. Then, when I was still a newlywed, I attended a workshop about the virtuous wife, or the infamous Proverbs Thirty-one Woman.

Yikes!!! That woman scared the beejeebers out of me. There was no way I could live up to an example like that. So I avoided reading Proverbs thirty-one. Just pretended that woman didn’t exist. Because she didn’t—at least not in my house. But I found other verses that caught my attention.

“Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.” Proverbs 16:3
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
Now that was something I could do. Commit my hands and my energy to God and let Him make order out of my chaos. Approaching the organizational tasks from that perspective took the pressure off me because God was the one in charge.

But when I read Isaiah 40:25-26 I was in awe of the way God “organizes” His universe. “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host (stars) BY NUMBER; HE CALLS THEM ALL BY NAME, by the greatness of His might, and the strength of His power; NOT ONE IS MISSING.”
I’m not even a grain of sand in God’s grand scheme of things. I can’t number the stars and I certainly can’t call each one by name. But I can ask God to bless the work of my hands and help me do things decently and in order. I can give God my best—and if my best is cleaning out a drawer or a closet, if doing my best means organizing files or keeping track of important documents, I can do that. God expects me to do the best I can with the abilities He has given me, but the result isn’t up to me.

Yeah, sometimes I get a little obsessive about having everything in its place, but I’ve already experienced what will happen if I don’t stay organized. I don’t want to go back to the days of Felix and Oscar.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Monday, April 11, 2011


"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8

I couldn’t wait to plant my garden this year. I was so tired of looking out the window and seeing brown—bare dirt, leftover autumn leaves (not the pretty ones, just the brown ones), brown grass, bare tree limbs. I wanted to see color!

Early spring teased me with a few crocuses and daffodils, but I longed to see an entire palette of color splashed across my backyard. So I bought some seeds and sowed them in strategic spots in the garden where the hot pink cosmos, royal blue morning glories, and burnt orange nasturtiums would greet me every morning. The pictures on the front of the seed packets were gorgeous, but you know, those seeds don’t look anything like the promised blossoms. Seeds are ugly, shriveled little things, and once I planted them, they were covered with dirt—brown dirt.

I looked at the calendar. It really was too early to be putting in bedding plants, but my heart was hungry for beauty in my yard. So I thought, “I’ll just get a couple of plants and stick them in.”

Yeah, right!!

Anyone who has ever followed me around in a nursery knows very well I’m not going to leave there with just a couple of plants. The folks at Home Depot love to see me coming. The sun fell warm and gentle on my face as I took a flat bed wagon and loaded up a tray of coreopsis, two trays of zinnias, two trays of petunias, two trays of dianthus, two trays of marigolds, a tray of African daisies, four large pots of geraniums, pots of columbine….you get the idea.

Since we live surrounded by woods, I’ve learned that deer—beautiful though they are—are a real nuisance to gardeners. Certain flowers are to deer what a plate of barbeque is to my husband, so there are several species that I don’t plant because I’d just be creating a buffet for the deer. Then I read that if you plant aromatic herbs in and around your garden, it deters the deer. Herbs are attractive to look at even if you don’t use them for cooking, so I also purchased pots of rosemary, lemon balm, thyme, and basil.

I loaded the trunk, and had to fold down the back seat and park a couple of trays and pots on the floor up front. But Jarhead (my car) was filled with COLOR. I spent a whole day cleaning out dead leaves, adding Miracle Grow Garden Soil and peat moss to my garden. Then, like a new mother, I started tucking these baby plants into the sun-warmed soil. Pinks, whites, creams, purples, yellows, blues, reds—my garden looked like a rainbow hiccupped. I mixed granulated Bloom Booster fertilizer and carefully watered each plant.

Every day I went out to survey my work. I watered. I fertilized. I gently pushed rich soil around each plant. The seeds hadn’t sprouted yet, so those areas were still just brown dirt. Only a few days after I’d cleared out the garden in preparation for planting, I found…..WEEDS!! The little rascals popped their heads up in defiance and stuck their tongues out at me. I yanked them out by their roots. “Ha! Take that!!”

Then one morning I looked closely, and saw…..DEER TRACKS!! Without any sense of propriety or respect, they tromped right through my garden. And the beasts had even chowed down on one of my columbine plants. ~~sigh~~

About ten days after I’d planted the seeds I went out to visit my garden and was greeted by tiny little sprouts, not even a quarter inch high. Their appearance made my heart sing. Those infant seedlings were a joy to behold. But danger lurked.

Later that same day, the evil weatherman dared to say the F-word. Yes, you guessed it . . . FROST was in the forecast. Right after supper that evening, my husband and I took every sheet in the house and carefully arranged them over my budding, colorful nursery. As soon as the sun was up the following morning, I hurried out to see how my babies had fared. I pulled back the sheets to find pink, yellow, blue, white, purple and red faces smiling up at me.

Every gardener who has ever planted a seed or tucked a plant into the earth has done so with hopeful expectation. But in order for those plants to grow and thrive, the gardener must become a nurturer. Left to itself, a garden will become overgrown and choked with weeds, it will wither and die without the right amount of water, the plants will become anemic without fertilizer to enrich the soil, and the garden can become the target of thieves if the gardener doesn’t take measures to deter trespassers and predators.

That description of the work of a gardener can be applied to almost anything in this life. It’s the way we strive to educate and equip ourselves to do our jobs, maintain our homes and our marriages, raise our families, and be stewards of what God has given us. Most importantly, it’s the way we should nurture our personal relationship with God. We must feed on His word (John 6:48), drink the living water (John 4:10), be watchful to pull the weeds of pride, selfishness, critical spirit, or ungodliness (Romans 6:12-14), and guard our heart against those things that would rob us of the blessings God wants to give us (Phil 4:7).

In the Gospels, Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of life, the Door, the Living Water, the Good Shepherd, and the Savior. He is King of kings, Lord of lords, chief Cornerstone, our Rock, our Deliverer, Emmanuel, Lamb of God, Messiah, Wonderful Counselor, and Prince of Peace. But He is one more thing: He is the Tender of our garden—that garden that grows within us for the purpose of glorifying God and drawing others to Him.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. Psalm 139:1-4

Have you ever asked God to forgive you for something over and over and over again? Many will raise an eyebrow at that question, thinking perhaps my faith needs a tune-up. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes struggle with the issue of forgiveness. Please don’t misunderstand, I KNOW—I have sweet assurance—that God has forgiven me. But have gone through times of struggling to forgive myself for various things in my past. I finally came to grips with a particularly ugly demon with which I wrestled for about four years. I’ll not go into all the details here because that particular topic isn’t the theme of this post. In short, that issue was something far beyond my control, but I blamed myself anyway…(it’s a mother thing.) But last year I finally realized how offensive it is to Jesus when I refuse to forgive myself. If He shed His blood and gave His very life so that I might have forgiveness, then my refusal to forgive myself was like saying to Him, “Your blood and Your life wasn’t good enough.” I finally acknowledged how wrong I was to cling to that misplaced guilt and I allowed Him to free me, completely and forever.

So why do vivid memories of things I did years ago still parade through my mind and haunt me with regret? When these pictures manifest themselves in my mind’s eyes, I cringe within my spirit. I couldn’t shake those thoughts off. I KNEW God had forgiven me, and I’d released the guilt I’d been dragging around. So why would those memories not leave? I prayed, and asked God to please take those ugly pictures out of my head and wipe them from my memory. Then, maybe a week or two later, I’d remember something else, and think, “Why was I such a jerk? Why did I behave that way? Why did I lose my temper like that?” And those regretful things would rise up in my mind again.

Finally, this morning I was having my devotions—I use Sarah Young’s daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, side by side with my Bible. There I read a statement that so captured my heart, tears poured down my face. It said, “Trust Me (Jesus) enough to accept the full forgiveness that I offer you continually.” I read it again, and again. And then I squeezed my eyes shut and said, “But Father, why don’t those pictures go away? Why do the memories of those things for which You have already forgiven me keep coming back to me?”

No, I didn’t hear God’s audible voice speaking, but I felt Him whisper so clearly to my spirit, “Look child. Look at all those things I’ve forgiven. Look at all the grace I’ve bestowed on you. Every single one of these past regrets, as you call them, were opportunities for my Son’s cleansing blood to wash away the guilt forever. I don’t want you to take on the guilt and regret again when you remember these things. I want to show you how much you’ve been forgiven and how much I love you.”
God’s grace leaves me breathless. When He created me with a memory, it wasn’t so I can continually berate myself. It was so I could continually remember His awesome grace.

"The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands." Psalm 138:8

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Getting old isn’t for wimps. Many of us take measures to prevent others from detecting our age. We are an obsessed nation living in a state of denial. I hear from old friends whose children I taught in Bible club fifteen years ago and I’m shocked to hear that those same children are married and have two kids.

Years ago I remember my mother making statements about women’s clothing, saying a certain style was “timeless” or “classic”. I now realize what she meant was “matronly”. Despite our advancing years, we try to dress in current fashions, but the new “baby doll” style that came out a year or so ago is a line I cannot cross. I’m sorry, but those things look like maternity tops to me, especially since I’m carrying around more pounds than I want to admit. Can you imagine what people would think seeing me with all my gray hair sporting a maternity top?

Some women I know color their hair. I used to but I had to schedule it on my calendar so I wouldn’t forget to do it. I schedule all sorts of things on my calendar because I know if I don’t, I’ll forget. Like making dinner. And speaking of forgetting…

When I was a young whippersnapper, I’d roll my eyes at the women who wandered aimlessly around the Walmart parking lot looking for their cars. How pathetic is that. You park the car, shop for an hour, and forget where you left the car? Really? That will NEVER happen to me! Or so I thought. I’ll never forget the first time it happened. There I was with my loaded cart, sending out a frantic GPS signal from my brain to my car, praying that God would honk the horn or something. I kept thinking, Those people are staring at me pushing this stupid cart in and out of the parking spaces, and they are all thinking how pathetic I am. What goes around comes around.

After that happened, I developed my own little secret plan. Every time I pull into the parking lot of some place that I frequent, I always park in the same row or at least in the same general area so I always know where my car is. I’ve maintained this practice for a few years now, and it has served me well. Until yesterday.

I went to the grocery store, and there weren’t any available parking spaces in the row where I generally park—Row 5. But there was one in Row 4 directly across from where I normally park. Close enough.

I was in the store for about a half hour. Upon exiting, I headed toward Row 5 like a homing pigeon, trotting down the row looking for my trusty Jarhead (my car’s name). Since Jarhead isn’t a large car, sometimes those big SUVs and vans conceal him. So I kept pushing my cart farther and farther until I was almost to the end of the row—you know, almost to the street! No Jarhead.

Somebody has stolen Jarhead! Had I remembered to lock him? Good heavens, why would anyone want to steal a 13-year-old car that has 176,000 miles on it?
Jarhead is easy to pick out in a crowded parking lot because of all the Marine Corps stuff he wears. I’ve often said I can spot a Marine Corps insignia at a thousand yards. But there was no doubt about it, Jarhead was MIA.

I turned around and started back toward the store, pushing the cart in and out of Row 5, thinking perhaps I’d parked on the OTHER side of Row 5. I know people had to be staring at me. After all, who pushes a loaded cart from the street side of the parking lot toward the store? Most loaded carts are pushed AWAY from the store, that is unless they are being pushed by a gray-headed old bat like myself, in which case they are being pushed every which way.

I used to think that parking lot was level, but now I am quite certain it is uphill going toward the store. The cart was growing heavier by the minute, the panic in my heart was getting thicker, and the embarrassment….well, we won’t talk about that. Suffice to say, more than one person pointed and snickered. Just keep walking and pretend they aren’t laughing at you. And pray you don’t know any of them.I had almost reached the front end of the parking lot and I was fishing in my purse for my cell phone to report my stolen car. I heard a car approaching from behind me so I moved over in back of a parked car to my right (Row 4) to let the car pass. After it went by, I started to angle my cart to proceed back toward the store. That’s when I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye—a Marine Corps insignia--not a thousand yards across the parking lot, but right next to me.

With a stealthy glance to the right and left, I hurriedly unlocked the back door, shoved my groceries inside, and turned Jarhead toward home. If I could have sold tickets to all those people who were pointing and laughing, I could have made enough to pay for my groceries.

Thanks for letting me share my gray-headed heart.

Friday, January 14, 2011


We’ve all been there. Bumper to bumper traffic, we’re running late, and the gas gauge needle is hovering dangerously close to the E. We tighten our grip on the steering wheel and pray that we can make it to the next available gas station and not be stranded on the side of the road. The engine sputters. Why didn’t we take time to stop and fill up earlier? Why didn’t we pay closer attention to the gauge? Other motorists are honking at us to get out of their way as we steer toward the shoulder as the engine dies all together. Now we’re at the mercy of whomever might stop to “rescue” us. Not a fun place to be.

Have you ever read those scriptures that describe being filled with God’s Spirit or filled with joy, and thought, “Wow! That’s the way I want to be.” One of my favorite scriptures is Ephesians 3:17-19. When I first read and pondered those words – “…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” my mind staggered. How can we be filled with all of God’s fullness here on earth where we are bombarded with distractions and carnal influences? Trading worldly chaff for the treasure of God’s presence is the desire of most Christians. So why is it that we find it such a struggle?

Emptiness is traditionally associated with despair. Humanly speaking, we tend to think that being empty carries the connotation of being poor, broke, hopeless, unloved, forgotten, and alone. Emptiness indicates weakness and vulnerability. But in God’s eyes, being empty is an optimal condition.

Carrying around emotional baggage means our hands and hearts are too full to receive. A vessel that is already full of some substance can’t be used to contain anything else—it’s already full. In the book of 2nd Kings, the prophet Elisha encountered a widow in despair. All she had left in the house was a small jar of oil. Elisha’s instructions probably raised the widow’s eyebrows. Elisha directed her to gather all the vessels she could find—EMPTY vessels—and he admonished her, “Do not gather just a few.” Then he told her to take that small amount of oil that she had left and begin pouring it out into all the empty vessels she had collected. What? That doesn’t make any sense. But she complied and began pouring out all that she had and God filled every single vessel. But the blessing didn’t happen until she was willing to pour out what she had.

If we desire to be filled with joy, filled with the Spirit, and filled with all the fullness of God, we must first be emptied. Pour out the worthless things—your strength, your pride, your position, your status, your pretense—and offer up your emptiness to God. Being empty isn’t a shameful thing. Emptiness means availability,
for if we are emptied of ourselves, only then can we be filled to overflowing with those things that God desires to pour out for us. His blessings can never be contained. So as you empty yourself, gather all the vessels you can, and don’t gather just a few. God is waiting to fill you with all the fullness of Himself.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.