More than a holiday.
More than a gathering.
More than a meal.
It’s an attitude of gratitude.
It’s choosing to count your blessings
instead of your sorrows.
It’s a way of life.
Always be thankful.
More than a holiday.
More than a gathering.
More than a meal.
It’s an attitude of gratitude.
It’s choosing to count your blessings
instead of your sorrows.
It’s a way of life.
Always be thankful.
Yes, I’m talking to you.
You do not have to be someone that you’re not. Quit killing yourself trying to look like others, talk like others, act like others.
God made you to be – well, you.
You with your particular talents.
You with your unique skill set.
You with your one and only personality.
You with all of your quirks.
God doesn’t want you to ignore who He’s made you to be just so you can appear to be like someone else. He doesn’t want you to throw away the talents and gifts He’s given you in order to fit the mold of the world.
God simply wants you to take what He’s given you and use it to point the world to Him.
And follow Him.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.
The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Don’t let the opportunity to do good pass you by!
There she was, sitting with her face buried in her hands, tears trickling through her fingers and soft sobs evading her feeble attempt at concealment. I looked on with mixed emotions. I was frustrated with the boy who caused the tears, sympathetic of the girl who had been offended and completely overwhelmed by memories from my past. The scene was all too familiar and it carried me back to my childhood, to a time when I was sitting where this child sat, a time that forever changed my view of who God made me to be.
I was there – completely broken, tears streaming down my face and spirit crushed because of someone’s careless words. I still remember the hurt I felt as I heard that awful name spewing from the mouth of a teenage boy in front of the whole world, or so it seemed. We were on the school bus but it might as well have been the whole world. I was 9 years old. I was different because of a physical disorder and all I wanted was to fit in, to be accepted, to be normal. That day, this teenager’s laughter and mocking dashed any hopes I had of that happening.
I couldn’t contain my tears. I couldn’t wait to get off of that bus. I wanted to be at home. I wanted my mom. And my mom is just who I needed because the advice she gave me that day impacted my life in ways I could never have imagined. I don’t remember everything my mom said that afternoon but I will never forget what she told me to do the next day on the school bus. She told me to fight back, to retaliate the next time this teenager called me a name. I was a tiny little thing and this boy was probably four times my size but my mom said to stand my ground. It empowered me.
I know what you are thinking. “Your mom actually told you to call that kid a name?” Yes, she did and she even gave me the name to call him! And being the good little girl that I was, I did exactly what my mom told me to do. The very next afternoon, after I struggled up the bus steps and began walking down the aisle to my seat, I heard it. The words “Duck Walk” pierced through the commotion of kids playing and talking and hit me square in the back of the head. I turned, glared straight into the boy’s face and returned insult for insult. “Dog Face!” I blurted. He did not strike back. Instead, he smiled, sat down and never called me “Duck Walk” again.
At age 9, I didn’t quite grasp the value of the lesson I learned that day or fully understand all that my mom was trying to teach me but today, I have come to cherish the priceless wisdom I gained from that experience. My mom was reminding me of who I was that afternoon when she told me to fight back. She was showing me that God does not make mistakes despite the opinions of the world and that I cannot let anyone tell me differently. I cannot let anyone steal my joy, my happiness or my hopes. That’s quite a lesson learned from simply calling a bully a “Dog Face”!
And so, I passed this lesson on to the girl who had been insulted, the girl who is picked on every day at school because she does not look like everyone else. No, I did not tell her to call her bullies some silly name – I left that to her mom! But I did tell her to stand her ground, to take pride in who God made her to be, to defy Satan in his attempts to steal her joy, and to hold her head up high. God has a purpose for this precious girl and she’s going to be just fine. She may not understand it now but one day she’ll be standing in my place passing on this pearl of wisdom to another little girl or little boy who needs to know that God’s Love is so much greater than any insult hurled by this world and that God does not make mistakes.
I wake up to a new day with hope for all it will bring.
I open a cabinet full of food that I may or may not eat.
I survey a closet full of clothes and mull over which shirt or shoes to wear.
I drive my car, not my husband’s truck or my son’s car, but MY car.
I take my children to a school where they not only learn to read and to write but also to make their own decisions, to socialize with their peers, to laugh, to get mad, to flourish, to fail.
I earn a paycheck at a job of my own choosing. I can be late. I can be on time. I can work overtime. I can speak freely. I can advance. I can quit.
I walk proudly into a voter’s booth and exercise my right to choose the officials I deem best suited for the job – without coercion, without threat of harm.
I attend a church without fear, without looking over my shoulder, without sneaking into dark corridors.
I can share my faith with a stranger openly, loudly, boldly. That stranger can refute my faith openly, loudly, boldly and we can both return peaceably to our homes.
I can drink clean water. I can buy junk food. I can throw away bags and bags of clothes that no longer suit me. I can hug my children. I can go to the movies with my husband. I can sing praises to my God. I can shout at bad drivers.
I can do all these things and so much more because I am free – not of my own accord, no. I am free because someone paid a price for my freedom, someone who did not even know me but who believed that I should be free to live as I choose and to believe as I choose.
You see, freedom is not free but I live as if it were. I throw away this priceless gift each day while men and women give their lives to protect it. Oh, how I take this freedom for granted and then I worry when I think it might be lost or waning.
But there is no need to fear for that someone who paid the price for my freedom, those courageous and selfless men and women in our armed forces will continue to fight even if all I do is throw it away.
Freedom is not free. Someone has to pay the price. I thank God for the Purchasers and Protectors of our Freedom. I thank you, Veterans and members of the armed forces, for believing with all of your hearts, souls and lives that freedom is worth the price.
In a little village, there lived a man who had three girls.
To you and me they’d look the same – same smile, same eyes, same curls.
But each of these three daughters were as different as could be
And if you took a closer look, the differences were plain to see.
Sophia was the drama queen; she loved the finer things
And preferred to have an audience so she could dance and sing.
Sasha loved her mirror and the reflection that she saw.
She primped and brushed and painted – she did not tolerate any flaw.
Then there was sweet Sara whom her sisters thought quite odd.
She did not primp; she did not dance; she spent her time with God.
Though these girls were different, their father loved them all the same.
And in return, they shared his love each in their own special way.
Sophia entertained her dad – she loved to make him smile.
Sasha decked their entire house with her great sense of style.
Sara hung on every word and learned all her father taught.
These girls loved their father so – a greater love there was not.
One sad day, the news was brought that their father had passed on.
An accident out in the field – Oh how the girls did mourn!
But their father had a plan for the lives of these three girls.
He left behind instructions for them to go out in the world.
“Take your share of my estate,” his instructions did direct.
“Choose a path to follow – a new life you must erect.
To take along your journey, a bag for each I’ve left.
How you choose to fill it will be the measure of your success.”
“Success,” thought Sophia, “I like the sound of this great plan.
I’ll take my scores of music and I’ll take my shoes for dance.
My dream is to be famous and the richest of them all.”
So she packed her bag and set her course to answer glory’s call.
Sasha opened up her bag and sighed, “What am I to do?
This bag does not reflect my taste. I’m not happy with its hue.
Beauty is my talent and I’ll use it to find true love.”
So brushes, make up, mirrors and more in her bag she did stuff.
Sara quietly packed her bag though she did not want to leave.
“I do not know your plan, Lord, but I’ll follow where you lead.”
She took along her Bible, some money, some food, some clothes.
She began her journey praying, “Lord, be with me as I go.”
Fame and fortune soon became Sophia’s dream come true.
Her shelves were lined with trophies and her name filled the news.
Each night the wealthy and society’s great were found within her home.
But each morning when Sophia woke, she was always all alone.
Sasha’s dream to find true love came easy or so she thought.
She used her dazzling beauty to ensnare a young man’s heart.
He doted and he showered his new bride with lots of stuff.
But each gift that he presented, he found was never good enough.
The path on which Sara trod was not ordinary by far,
Yet in the eyes of her sisters, Sara was no shining star.
While earning her degree, Sara worked in a little store
Where she never met a stranger – the needy had an open door.
Years went by and there came a day when Sophia was forgotten.
No more applause, no more awards, no hype to be caught up in.
Surrounded by great treasures, she found her life empty and cold.
She’d filled her bag to the brim and left no room for what meant the most.
Sasha, too, found life and love to be a disappointment.
Her husband left; her beauty waned – hers only for a moment.
Her time was spent reflecting on herself and her desires.
Her bag might not be empty if she had looked a little higher.
Now, Sara, she was happy; she found joy with each new day.
She saw no need to hoard and store; she loved to give away.
She helped all who crossed her path without thought of her own life.
As for her bag, she would always find the contents did suffice.
Late one night as Sara slept, she saw her father in a dream.
She was sitting at his feet; to him tightly she did cling.
“Oh, I’ve missed you,” Sara said, his hand tightly in her grasp.
“I’ve much to tell but first, I have a question I need to ask.”
“At the outset of the journey of my sisters and me,
You gave a bag to each of us to fill as we did please.
Sophia’s riches and Sasha’s matchless beauty I did not gain.
So why was my bag plenteous when theirs did not sustain?”
Sara’s father looked down at her face and wiped her tears.
Then he spoke these words that to this day Sara still holds dear:
“My child, the objects in the bag matter not in this life.
It’s the longings of your heart and the goals for which you strive.
“Your sisters sought to please themselves; they did not seek the Lord.
While you, my dear, gave all to Him, in you good things He poured.
Fortune, beauty, even love, can leave one empty and chilled
But the one who longs for righteousness, that life will surely be filled. “
I have a new-found appreciation for cake decorators. The skill, time, imagination and creativity required to produce even the simplest of cake designs is unfathomable.
Yet, I – the one who cannot prepare a single dish in the kitchen without following a recipe; the one who has no idea what most ingredients in a recipe are or what the instructions actually mean; the one who burns herself every time she even turns on the oven – yes, I thought myself equal to the cake bosses of this world and decided that I could create a spectacular Fallout birthday cake for my son’s 13th birthday.
Surely, I have what it takes.
Creativity ✔️ (I don’t like to brag but… 😉)
Imagination ✔️ (Isn’t that what Pinterest is for?)
Time ✔️ (1 Saturday morning should be plenty!)
Ok. Three out of four ain’t bad!
I searched Pinterest for a beginner’s level cake design. “This should be easy enough,” I thought.
(Apparently, I don’t know the definition of “beginner.”)
Then, I hit the grocery store for the necessary ingredients: cake topper, cake mix, frosting, gel icing and grey fondant.
Hmmmm. No grey fondant.
Now this is where I should have stopped to reevaluate my plan. But noooooo, I simply grabbed some food coloring and went on my deluded way.
The plan was simple. The party was Saturday. We were to leave the house around 12:30 pm to begin the festivities. My mother-in-law would bake the cake Friday and I would put together the party bags on Friday evening after work. Then Saturday, I would wake up early to decorate the cake.
I’ve got this…
Well, the party bags didn’t come together as quickly as I thought they would. I filled them with “goodies” from the Fallout game like “Sugar Bombs Cereal” (Goldfish Crackers), “Fancy Lads Cakes” (Hostess Cupcakes) and “Nuka Cola” (Coca-Cola) using templates for the food boxes and labels I found on Pinterest. Simple enough but I was up til 1:30 AM!
7:30 came very early Saturday morning – very early. But I had a cake to decorate so I dragged myself out of bed. I had lots to do but first things first:
After a few sips, I did a quick google search for instructions on how to turn white fondant grey. I found a short video that instructed me to place several dots of food coloring on a ball of fondant and then fold and fold the fondant til the color worked its way through. Easy enough. But by the time the color had worked its way through the entire 24-oz package of fondant, I ended up with an oversized wad of used, purplish-colored chewing gum that was sticking not only to my hand but everything it touched. (Sorry – no picture. My hands were kinda stuck!)
Grrrrr. Maybe more coffee will help.
After googling another video on how to make grey actually look grey, I finally got the purplish tint out of the fondant. Then using a whole lot of flour on my rolling pin, I was able to roll out the fondant into a big enough sheet to cover the cake.
I gotta tell you. This was a feat for puny, little me. I really need to start lifting weights!
Next up, I stacked the previously baked cake layers, added a thin coating of icing so the fondant would stick (As sticky as it already was, I don’t think I needed this step!), carefully rolled the sheet of fondant onto the cake and cut off the excess.
As I began the design, I looked back at the inspiration cake. Wait – my grey fondant was not dark enough!
It was 10:30 AM. What I should have done was shrug my shoulders and move on. But the perfectionist in me was screaming that it had to be darker. All I could think to do was “paint” it with gel icing.
Bad decision. It turned out entirely too dark!
<Insert reluctant shoulder shrug here.>
On to the details – the sprockets.
Warning: Cutting sprockets out of fondant is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the Christian trying her best to keep all of the Ten Commandments. Number three was shot around sprocket number 3! (Not really. Well. I did have to bite my tongue over and over again!)
No matter how hard I tried to cut out those neat little sprockets shown in that God-forsaken Pinterest pic, my sprockets ended up looking like – well – not like the picture!
Sigh. As I placed each sprocket on the cake, my hope of redeeming my Fallout birthday cake crumbled into pieces.
With very little time remaining, I grabbed the icing to write the message on the cake and my heart sank even further. The icing was black. And I did not have enough of a lighter color. Ugh! I wrote the message and added the topper.
At least the cake was finished.
I suppose, for a novice, I didn’t do such a horrible job. In fact, I even learned something from this agonizing experience – two important somethings to be exact:
No. 1 – I don’t have to be perfect all of the time. (Wow, that was difficult to write!) My kid loved the cake and that’s all that matters, right?
No. 2 – Fondant is the Devil. And if you plan on squaring off with the Devil, you better be packing a whole lot more than beginner level cake decorating skills!
(Yes, yes, there are only 12 candles on this cake. I found one that rolled under the paper plates as I was cleaning up. Par for the course, I suppose. At least no one else noticed. So we’ll just keep this little blunder between us!)
The office is quiet. Finally.
You’ve been attempting to finish a project all morning but the phone, clients and unexpected matters keep pulling you from the task at hand. Now that the craziness of the day has subsided, you can dig in to your work.
Ahhh! This is good! I might actually get this done toda-
What is that? No matter. Back to work.
There it is again. What could be causing that sound? I don’t see anything. Ugh – I need to finish this project.
Seriously. What on earth?
Jumping from your chair, you set out to find the source of the annoying noise. You don’t have to venture very far. Across the hall, sits your co-worker, phone in hand, punching away at little keys. DING. DING. DING. She’s playing a game.
“Come on! Even if you don’t have work to do, the rest of us do! Have you never heard of a volume button?” you scream as you snatch your co-worker’s phone from her hands, throw it on the floor and stomp it to bits.
You’re awakened from your vengeful fantasy by the sounds of your co-worker’s game.
Most of us probably wouldn’t admit to secretly desiring to Hulk-smash someone’s phone simply because that person was playing a game or having a conversation too loudly. But there are times when I become so frustrated with the actions of another that my first reaction, if I were to follow my inclinations, would be considered completely irrational and unacceptable behavior. (Hmmm. I should probably seek professional help or something. 😉 )
But I can’t believe that I’m the only one with similar inclinations. In fact, I know I’m not. All I have to do is open the Word of God to find reassurance that I’m not alone in the struggle with my fleshly desires. Take a look at what the Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans:
Paul – one of the most prominent figures of the early church, the apostle who declared, “Follow me as I follow Christ”, the missionary and teacher who preached the Gospel even when it cost him everything – yes, that Paul, openly admitted to an ongoing struggle between his flesh and his spirit.
I’m in pretty good company! 😉
But how do I overcome this fleshly desire to choke out my co-worker when she insists on putting every call on speaker phone? (I really do have some violent tendencies, don’t I!)
Paul helps me out here, too.
You see, the outcome of the battle within depends on the fruit I am cultivating in my life. When I allow spiritual fruits like love, peace, patience and self-control to influence my thoughts, words and actions, it’ll be those fleshly desires that get choked out – – – not my co-worker.
The angry, vindictive monster living inside does not have to win. I just have to fill him up with some good ol’ Fruit of the Spirit!
“So my teacher had this chiropractor come speak to our class today,” began my older son. He’s in his junior year of college working toward his goal of becoming a physical therapist.
“He tried to convince us to become chiropractors,” my son continued. “He even told us how much money they make a year.”
“Well, I don’t care how much money they make. I’m not going to be a chiropractor,” he ultimately declared. “I don’t like spines!”
And suddenly I was transported back to a quiet bedroom in which a restless 3-year-old boy was lying in bed beside me as I attempted to lull him to sleep with a bedtime song.
“Do I have bones?” my three-year-old son timidly asked.
“Yes,” I answered without further explanation. I could tell his little mind was troubled so I waited patiently to see how this conversation would unfold.
After several minutes of pondering, he finally declared, “I don’t like bones!”
At this point, I knew exactly what sparked this conversation. Halloween had just passed and spooky decorations were everywhere. Houses were clad with spider webs, witches, monsters and… SKELETONS. And it was those creepy skeletons that scared my little boy the most. He just did not like them. So, I chose my next words very carefully.
“You know,” I said. “God gave you your bones. He made us all with bones.”
Following his 3-year-old logic, my little boy concluded and then hesitantly responded, “I don’t like God.”
“But God loves you very much! That’s why he made you with those bones,” I explained. “Without bones, you couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t sit; you couldn’t stand; you couldn’t walk. God gave you bones so you can be strong, you can jump, you can run and –”
“—And I can fly?” he optimistically interrupted as the wheels began to turn in that little head of his and a spark reignited in his sleepy eyes.
So, without any fear that I would be squashing the dreams of a three-year-old child, I emphatically replied, “Oh, no! Little boys cannot fly!”
But he’s been flying ever since!
Happy 20th Birthday, Son! Never stop soaring.
“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Psalms 30:5b NLT