When You Don’t Fit In

Maybe you’re feeling out of sorts like you don’t fit in, like a penguin on a hot sandy beach looking for cooler waters. Or maybe you feel like you’re the only one doing what you’re doing, and you wonder if the world is looking at you like you’re nuts.

You are not alone, my friend! Check out the rest of my blog post here.

Reading, “Meeting Jesus Face to Face”

Another video and another short story, my friends! I hope this short Easter story touches your heart as it did mine. May we all grow closer to God as we come to His Son, Jesus Christ.

Thanks for watching, and God bless you!

Distractions – Stepping Off Your Path

God has a specific calling, a path for each of us to walk. But what happens when you step off of that path for just a minute?

Let me give you an example:

My path is writing, and I recently had an opportunity to write a short story for publication. So I prayed. (I’m FINALLY learning this is the first and most important step!) I had such wonderful peace and clarity. The words for the beginning of the story started even before I finished praying. I couldn’t wait to get to the keyboard.

And so I began typing, the story unfolding in crisp, detailed images. And I was enjoying the fellowship with the Holy Spirit as I was, once again, in awe of the delicate way He vividly paints pictures in my mind.

But then a tiny thought like a dandelion seed blew into my mind: I need to send a quick email.

Instead of staying on track and staying close to God in the moment, I stepped off the path just to send a quick email.

When I returned to the story, I tried to pick up where I left off. But text messages started coming in. Then someone stopped by. Then another visitor. The distractions became a whirlwind of dandelion seeds so thick I couldn’t focus on God’s voice or the painting He’d used the tips of my fingers to brush.

It all began when I let my mind wander. Just a quick email.

It was my own fault. If I would have stayed on track, I believe the story would have been finished before the first text came. God knew what my day was going to be like. (And I wouldn’t have been so grumpy with everyone the rest of the day!)

God narrows our path for His perfect reasons. We have divine moments of opportunity, blessings from Him. The timing becomes very specific. He knows the pitfalls to the left and the distractions to the right.

God wants us to keep moving forward with Him. He wants us to stay on track. Stay focused on the very touch of His hand in ours, the gentle guidance of His Holy Spirit, and our path of purpose. We don’t need to know the outcome. We just need to walk it.

Life is FULL of distractions, my friend. Don’t let your mind turn so quickly to see what all the noise is about. Don’t let the tickle of a dandelion seed pull you out of God’s presence.

Stay focused on God and the ever-narrowing path He’s leading you on. It only leads you closer to Him.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.” (Proverbs 4:25 NIV.)

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2a NIV.)

Reading, “Flowers in February”

If you’re struggling with loss or discouragement during this cold and dark season, I pray my short story, “Flowers in February” reminds you of the unending hope you have in the Lord. ♥️

Be blessed, and thank you for watching!

(If you’d rather read the story instead of watching this video, click here.

Believe

With things still spinning outside my window (pandemic, politics etc.), I’ve been calling out to God and asking Him what I should do.

I mean, really. We all have a part. We all have a purpose. (Are you asking Him what you should do?)

For me, it all goes back to the word He gave me for this year:  Believe.

At first I thought the word was just for the Christmas story I wrote last month. But the more I travel into January, I know it’s for this year. (He gave me another word, but I believe that’s something He’s going to do and is already doing. But that’s for another post.)

But the believing, well, that’s up to you and me.

We believe God parted the Red Sea, and Jesus calmed the storm. We believe Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We believe the countless times when Jesus showed up people were healed, changed, challenged, and redeemed.

Don’t let the storms, the cresting waves of this world threaten you, scare you, or send you running for cover, my friends.

Believe in God. Believe in His power and His promises. Believe in His faithfulness and His love. Believe that He never leaves you. Believe that He has good plans for your life. Believe that in all things He is working things out for the good of those who love Him. Believe that Jesus rose from the grave and is seated at the right hand of the Father right now, interceding for us. Believe the Holy Spirit is on planet Earth, inhabiting the spirits of the willing vessels who surrender and call out to Him, inviting Him to guide, counsel, comfort, and direct. We don’t have to wander around aimlessly and hopeless.

We don’t have to lower our heads as discouragement tries to weigh us down.

We lift our eyes to the hills, where our help comes from, and we praise our God because we KNOW He is faithful! He always has been and always will be. And nothing is impossible for Him or too hard for Him.

When we believe in God, we are turning our eyes (see, that’s our part) to focus on God instead of the noisy waves crashing all around.

Do you remember what happened when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus while he, Peter, was walking on water?

Peter began to sink. He cried out to Jesus, and immediately Jesus saved him.

Wherever you are today, my friends, don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. Stay focused on Him. And if you give into your flesh and you look away, don’t give into the sinking. Don’t give up. Call out to Jesus. Immediately, He will be there to lift you up.

Don’t doubt. Believe.

“‘But if you [Jesus] can do anything, take pity on us and help us. ‘If you can’? said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:22b-24 NIV.)

When Christmas Hurts

 

I remember standing in the cemetery at Grandpa’s funeral on a cold December day. The wind was bitter and my soul hurt beyond words. How could I possibly be joyful days later? My grandpa, the one who took me fishing, bike riding, and introduced me to church, was gone from my world.

Sometimes Christmas hurts. It seems like the whole world is celebrating while we feel completely removed. Alone.

There are times when relationships in our lives have been strained, even cease to exist, and we are reminded of it at Christmas when we reflect on the year that’s gone by.

Loneliness can strike harder than usual. It seems families and friends are gathering, and you’re alone in the corner while the whole world is celebrating.

It seems this way. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Christmas is personal. It’s between you and Jesus Christ. If you want to bring others into it, to love and share with them, that’s fine.

But my friend, don’t let the struggles of failed or strained relationships, the loss of someone you love, or even the looming darkness of loneliness steal the joy that is yours.

Joy is waiting for you because Jesus Christ is waiting for you to spend time with Him.

Remember when Jesus was visiting Martha and her sister Mary? (Luke 10:38-42.) Martha was distracted, worried, and upset about so many things that she failed to see her sister was fulfilling a greater need and desire of her heart.

Mary was spending time with Jesus. Sitting at His feet. Listening to Him.

It’s no wonder the enemy tries to distract and discourage so many during the Christmas season (sometimes with all the preparations just like Martha) as we reflect on Jesus. Satan will distract you with past hurts, current struggles, pain and loss. He will magnify it like holding a magnifying glass in the sunlight to destroy a bunch of ants.

Let God be magnified in your heart. Let Him swell and fill those hurting places. Give Him the room to stretch through every part of your life. And allow yourself the time to sit at the feet of your Savior. Allow moments of stillness and prayer to draw you closer to Him.

Perhaps you could step outside after your corner of the world has gone to sleep. Gaze upon the stars. Remember the mighty One who knows each one of those stars by name knows you. He knows everything about you. He knows why you’re struggling, who hurt you, who you’re missing. Remember, He sees every tear you cry.

There are painful times in all of our lives—we live in a fallen world. But don’t let them become the focus during this miraculous season.

Don’t give the enemy control of your focus. Don’t give him the magnifying glass so he can destroy this moment in your life.

Turn away from the enemy’s lies. Rebuke Satan out loud in the name of Jesus Christ. Use your voice and take authority over the enemy.

And let Jesus Christ be your focus.

Think about the light piercing the dark night when the angel appeared, when the heavenly multitude showed up praising God (Read Luke 2:8-20). Imagine how the earth must have trembled with joy at the appearance of the One who came to save. Can you feel the shaking in your own spirit? Can you imagine rushing as a shepherd, your heart pounding, your legs feeling numb as if you’re flying, to find the baby just like the angels proclaimed? What joy your heart would feel! To be a part of this. To be included in this moment in history.

You can have a moment like this right now. Reflect and think about it. Focus and pray and put yourself in the Scripture. Let that night encompass your heart in the miracle that is Jesus Christ. Let the light of that night break through the darkness of your suffering.

It is very personal.

Jesus left all of His majestic glory behind for you. He suffered greatly for you. He is coming back for you.

If you’re hurting and the burden is too heavy, sit with Jesus in prayer and give it to Him. Listen for the sweet voice of our Lord. Wait for the Comforter to bring you peace that makes no sense to your human reasoning but is exactly what your fragile heart needs.

He will be there for you. Cry out to Him. Whisper His name.

Jesus Christ. Savior. The One we celebrate at Christmas.

You can celebrate. Deeply. In your heart. With Jesus. Just the two of you.

What a special Christmas this can be for you.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NIV.)

One Cookie at a Time

Thank you for reading, my dear friends. I pray this year’s fictional Christmas story blesses you. And I pray you have a blessed and very Merry Christmas as you remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save us all.

One Cookie at a Time

I nibbled on stale candy corn while my fingers hovered over my laptop. I hesitated to send the email, knowing it would make everything so final. But the truth was, the numbers were bad, and I’d already lost hope in my bakery. There was no point in dragging out the inevitable. I had to tell my faithful client list I would be closing at the end of the year. And I had to tell my daughter, Jenna, there would be no business to return to after graduating from college. I just couldn’t hold on anymore.

It was Christmas Eve, and it took everything I had not to close my doors permanently tonight, to hold out and wait for a miracle. But I knew that stuff only happened in Christmas movies to happy people with happy lives. Not the kind of life I’d lived—an ugly divorce, bankruptcy, and struggling to make a fresh start with only a dream and a box of my own recipes.

“It’s freezing out!” Jenna said, the bakery door jingling as she came in blowing on her hands.

I closed my laptop.

“Are you ready to go? The snow is really coming down.”

I sighed. “I’m ready. I just need to grab these last few boxes.”

“Deliveries?”

“No. Cookies that didn’t sell. No one will want to buy stale Christmas cookies after Christmas.”

“Mom, what have you always told me? ‘Pray and trust.’”

I couldn’t tell her I was too tired to pray, and I didn’t know how to hold onto trust when it seemed like grasping at sugar in a sandstorm. So instead, I put on a smile for my daughter, knowing when the time came to tell her the truth, maybe then she’d understand.

We loaded the white boxes onto the backseat of Jenna’s pickup and climbed into the cab. With my laptop and unwanted cookies in tow, I turned to see my bakery, dark and shrouded in a heavy snowfall. I was thankful the wind was bitter—it could explain the tears in my eyes.

Jenna steered away from the curb and whispered something.

“What was that?”

“I was praying.”

At least I’d done something right. Train up a child…

As we headed across town, the snow stopped falling, leaving the sidewalk as a satin ribbon of white. Evergreen wreaths dangled from the streetlights as their timid colored lights cast a glow into the night.

“Look over there,” Jenna said, motioning to a church parking lot with people spilling out of the building.

She pulled the truck over, reached around to the backseat, and lifted two boxes. She hopped out and handed one to a man and woman with three small children—all with scarves covering most of their faces. The other box she handed to an elderly couple. Their words of gratitude floated in the night air in a puff of white as Jenna returned to the truck.

“Come on, Mom. We’ve got more deliveries.”

“What are you talking about? It’s Christmas Eve.”

“Exactly.”

I tried not to laugh as my twenty-year-old daughter bent over the steering wheel with fierce determination like she’d done when she’d first learned to ride a bike.

“Over there.” Jenna gave a nod before parking at the community center. A man had just stepped out, silver keys shining in his hand.

She grabbed more boxes, jumped from the cab, and hurried to the man who chuckled at her offer while rubbing the back of his neck. She followed him inside and moments later, returned without the boxes. She hoisted herself into the truck, giggling.

“What in the world are you up to?”

“The community Christmas dinner is tomorrow. He told me donations were low this year, and they need cookies.”

My mouth slipped open. “Really?”

“Uh huh.”

Moments later, Jenna steered onto a dimly lit street. The stretch of houses, lonely without Christmas lights hanging from the porches or inflatable snowmen waving in the yards.

“I need your help, Mom. Take a box and leave it.”

I turned to inspect the backseat. “But we only have a few left. And leave it where?”

“At each house. Until we run out.”

I did just that, feeling a surge of adrenaline each time I bent to leave a box of cookies and hurrying away before anyone spotted me. As I was about to leave my last box on a dark porch, a light came on and the door creaked opened. I stepped back when a woman glared from her screen door. A little girl in pigtails ran to her side, but after spotting me, hid behind the woman’s leg.

“I’m sorry to bother you. I was leaving a box of Christmas cookies. I own the bakery down the street, and, well, I have enough to share.”

The woman reached out to take it, the hard lines of her face softening. “Thank you.”

I smiled, and as I turned for the truck, the woman gasped.

“Is something wrong?”

The little girl ran off to another part of the house, her feet thumping on the floor, while the woman gently held the opened box to her chest.

“It’s been a rough year,” she whispered. “A really rough year. My husband lost his job. Two weeks later, my sister passed away. I prayed God would help. Just give me a word to hold onto to get through everything, you know? Just a word. I wanted to believe He was going to help us, but it’s hard to believe when things seem so dark.” She paused to stare into the box. “But then you brought me this.”

I didn’t understand. They were just sugar cookies – frosted stockings, Christmas bulbs, and snowflakes with assorted sprinkles. That sort of thing. Nothing special.

The woman’s eyes filled as she carefully lifted one of the round bulbs from the box. It was frosted in red with white sugar crystals like a gentle dusting of snow. And written in the center in gold was one word: Believe.

I’d forgotten each Christmas bulb proclaimed that word like the angels announcing Jesus’ birth. Or maybe I’d forgotten the word altogether because I’d also found it hard to believe. It was hard to believe God hadn’t given up on me when everything seemed to be falling apart. I’d lost hope in so many things this year. I hadn’t realized until that moment that I’d even lost hope in Him.

“Are you ready, Mom?” Jenna asked from the sidewalk.

“Thank you,” the woman whispered. “Thank you for bringing me hope.”

The words I wanted to say lodged in my throat, so I simply nodded as my eyes began to fill.

I started for the truck, willing my tears to stop, as I peered down the street. We were able to leave a box of cookies at each house. It didn’t make sense. We didn’t have that many to share.

Later that night, Jenna curled up in the living room to watch a Christmas movie with a bowl of popcorn in her lap while I sat at the kitchen table. Reluctantly, I reached for my laptop to finish the email to my customers—those faithful clients who’d been so supportive but also struggled this year.

But when I opened my email, a message appeared in my inbox from the mayor, thanking us for sharing hope with so many—he was amazed the cookies had reached from one end of town to the other.

But we didn’t go that far.

Suddenly I remembered the One who multiplied a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread to feed thousands. And tonight, He’d multiplied hope and stretched it clear across town at a time when we all needed it. When I needed it. God wasn’t far away. He hadn’t given up on me or any of us. He was still the God of godly miracles and mighty rescues. Even if it meant using one cookie at a time.

I smiled and closed my laptop without finishing the email to my customers, knowing I needed to pray and trust. Even though things seemed dark, I found myself believing God still had a plan for us. And I couldn’t wait to see it light up the world.     

Thank you for reading! If you’d like to read another one of my Christmas stories, you can click on A Touch of Fiction at the top of the page, and you’ll find more of them there.

As I do every year, I’d like to bless someone through this Christmas story, but I’m doing something a little different this year. I’d like to give a shout-out to a local bakery owner, Amanda, at Ginger’s Bakery in Uhrichsville, Ohio. If you are blessed by this story, maybe you can give this wonderful bakery a shout-out of your own by ordering some of their delicious Christmas cookies – everything is made from scratch! To order, call (330) 691-7201. Thank you!

Merry Christmas!

          

Hating Christmas?

I was recently in a store when I overheard a woman at the register saying, “I’m beginning to hate Christmas.”

My heart sank because I adore Christmas. But not for reasons most would know.

When I was a little girl, I went to church but never really knew God. And what I knew of Him, I was afraid of. I felt like He was this big monstrous person who was out to get me.

Until Christmas.

Christmas time, the church was decorated with trees in the front of the sanctuary. The harsh, overhead lights were dimmed and the soft glow from those trees gave a gentleness to church.

And there was baby Jesus lying in the manger right in front. I found myself standing on tippy toes (we always sat in the back), believing He was going to move any minute, and I was going to see Him and tell everybody. I spent most of those December services, staring at baby Jesus. I was hopeful. Expectant.

It took years (that’s another story), but I realized God wasn’t a cruel god who was out to get me and zap me with a lightning bolt whenever I messed up. Like the baby Jesus with His arms reaching out from the manger, God was reaching out to me. And He’s done it every Christmas since.

It has nothing to do with decorations, although I enjoy them immensely. It has nothing to do with baking and presents and watching my favorite Christmas movies (there are many).

Christmas has everything to do with Jesus Christ reaching out to save us from eternal darkness and from our own personal dark places (mine – the falsehoods I thought were true about Him). It’s about Him drawing us into a relationship with Him by showing us how much He loves us. He came for us. He’s coming back for us.

It’s all about standing on tippy toes with expectation and excitement and joy sending you into fits of laughter because His love is swelling within and you can’t  contain it. You just can’t.

So, my dear friend, if you’re saying you hate Christmas, ask yourself why.  Commercialism, despair, stress, and anxiety are all thieves. They will steal your joy if you let them.

Don’t let the darkness distract you from the Light of the world that’s reaching out to you. Instead, dance in the light of life this Christmas with the One who came to draw you into His arms for all eternity.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12 NIV.)

A Christmas Moment in July

 

 

table-setting-with-christmas-theme-3329110

As the blistering sun toasts our grass into a crispy brown, I’m thinking about Christmas.

Yes, that’s right. Christmas. In July. (Cue eye-rolling for those of you who think I’m nuts.)

Let me explain. I’m not thinking about the Christmas in July sale ads or even the Hallmark Christmas movies that are playing right now.

What I’m thinking is we could all use a Christmas moment.

A moment where we pull back from what’s going on in the world around us and focus in on a little miracle that wasn’t so little after all, changing our lives in a big way.

Jesus Christ. Our Savior. The Messiah. The One Who came to save us. The One Who’s coming back for us.

Of course, we can think about the smell of almond extract coming from the candy cane cookies baking in the oven (my daughter’s favorite). We can think about snuggling under a cozy blanket with a cup of hot cocoa while reading a Christmas book or watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. (Where’s the remote?!)

We can even think about snow, remembering how those delicate flakes reflect Christmas lights like wintry fireflies. Or the way the snow frosts the ground like a sugar cookie, those tiny flakes dazzling like sugar sprinkles in the moonlight.

We can remember Christmases where little feet in footy pajamas raced to the tree, sleepy eyes opening wide with anticipation and excitement. Or the first Christmas we wore wedding rings or just settled into a new house with hardly any furniture.

We can even remember final Christmases with someone we loved before we had to let go. Those painful moments replaced with joy when we remembered where they were going, Who they were going to be with, and the celebration they would experience like nothing we could even imagine.

And we can remember the moment when the true meaning of Christmas became real to us—when we began to understand the miracle that took place so long ago that still changes lives today.

The calendar may tell us Christmas is still months away. The temperature may be a scorching ninety-something and summer chores may be tugging on our shirt sleeves like impatient children. And it may be the season to toast marshmallows over a fire instead of plopping them into a mug of hot cocoa.

But Christmas is just a moment away. All we need to do is take the time to remember Jesus and be thankful.

And the joy that fills our hearts will undoubtedly spill out and into the world around us, reminding us all that when God brings great joy, He brings great hope.

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:10-11 NIV.)

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

 

 

 

 

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

adult-air-beautiful-beauty-321576

I’m a word girl. I know, big shocker there to discover a writer that likes words. What can I say? Words are the tools of my trade. Without them, I would be scribbling stick figures with awkward, uneven eyes and jagged lips doing all sorts of acrobatics to indicate their internal turmoil. It just wouldn’t make much sense.

Similarly, God’s Word is the tool of the Christian’s trade. That would explain how, when the world seems to be falling apart and is in total chaos, we can read God’s Word to find wisdom, understanding, direction, and peace when the world offers us none.

Instead of looking through our own eyes at what’s happening in the world today, we can look through eyes of faith and see things more clearly the way God intended through His Word:

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15 NIV, emphasis my own.)

The word that stood out to me was “devour.” I remembered reading that here:

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV, emphasis my own.)

Can you see how “devour” in both of these cases consumes in order to destroy?

There’s another word. Destroy.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10a NLT, emphasis my own.)

So our enemy, the devil, is out to destroy us, wanting to devour us. That’s his purpose. Can people actually be used by the enemy to destroy each other?  If they’re not filled with the Holy Spirit and staying alert to the enemy’s schemes, sadly, yes.

What does God’s Word say about how we should treat each other?

“This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17 NIV.)

 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NIV.)

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” (Romans 12:9-10 NLT.)

There’s a powerful word. Love.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT.)

So when we look through our eyes at a world that seems to be crumbling all around us, we have the opportunity to look through God’s Word and see. Really see. We can see through eyes of faith that the enemy is behind the killing, stealing, and destroying.

As we know, the thief comes to cause harm, but Jesus Christ has come to give us life to the full (John 10:10) and peace. True peace which the world can never give us.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV.)

We are not to be troubled or afraid, my friends. We are to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV.)

And when the world looks back and sees God’s children joyful in their hope as they seek their Father’s face, patiently awaiting His direction during times of disorder, and faithfully praying to God for each and every need and person the Holy Spirit guides them to pray for, then the world may very well get a glimpse of peace in the midst of chaos.

What a beautiful sight that would be for all eyes to see.

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)