Thursday, March 29, 2007

Signs of Spring

My daffodils are blooming. And that is really saying something since gardening and I are not the best of friends. We're barely even aquaintances. I dig the leaves out from under the shrubbery once a year (this task is sorely in need of doing right now!). I cut my unruly rose bushes back in the fall. And I'll water the new tree we put in two years ago when it gets to dry. Other than that, the plants on their own.

My 90 year old grandmother lives with us and she is the type of person who can just be near a plant and it thrives. She can make anything grow. Me, well, I kill my plants. Her "green gene" missed me completely. The plants that are alive around me are alive in spite of me, not because of me.

I don't remember planting daffodils (it is quite possible that my grandmother did it years ago.) But each spring they are the first thing to blossom. Just a few days before the pear trees burst into their white bloom, the yellow daffodils open up as if they are announcing that spring is on it's way. I love spring. (Well, I love spring when I'm on Claritin...but that's another story.) It comes each year no matter what we do. We don't have to hope it comes, we don't sit around praying for it to come - it just comes, because that's the way God designed it.

We all go through "spiritual seasons" as well. In my regular life, we are going through a very difficult time. It feels like it will never end, that things will never "get better" and that I will be stuck here in this spot forever. It might feel that way ten times a day, but in my heart - I know that's simply not true. This season will end when God wants it to. And not one day before. He is working out some grand plan that I cannot see, working things together, changing me on the inside and teaching me very important things. The delay might because He is still doing something, or it could be because I still have something to learn. Whatever the reason, I hear his precious voice telling me to keep my eyes on Him. To stop looking at the circumstances - and to focus my heart and mind on Him alone.

It's not always easy. But every once in a while, he'll give us a sign that spring is on it's way. Like the daffodils in my garden that burst from the ground, God will often give us little signs to help us "hang in there". Simple gestures that tell us that things will change, that spring will come - when it's the right time.

So if you're stuck in a "winter" time, keep your eyes on him, and be aware of those signs that spring is on the way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I'm just now getting a group of Bff's. (best friend forever in case you don't know). ♥♥ I usually felt safe talking to maybe one or two friends, but I guess I'm learning to trust a little more. Open up more.

Last night, I went to an Italian restaurant with them. Six of us girls. We're all over 40, but we still call ourselves girls.

I thought about our fun night and came up with some pluses for making bff's:

♥ Bff's help us learn to laugh at ourselves.

♥ Bff's make it feel safe to tell how we REALLY feel.

♥ Bff's never judge us for our sins.

♥ Bff's are honest. They'll tell us when they get a gut-level feeling we're getting off the right path.

♥ Bff's aren't jealous. They always, always, always want the best for us.

♥ Bff's pray for each other.

♥ Bff's remember each others' birthdays. And it doesn't have to be with a present. Sometimes, for me, the best present is just sitting and talking.

♥ Bff's don't blab private stuff.

♥ Sometimes, our Bff's raise us up, and sometimes we lift them. It's give and take.

"A friend loveth at all times." Proverbs 17:17

Any thoughts on Bff's?


Monday, March 26, 2007

A Day Late, or maybe two weeks

First, I need to apologize to my wonderful Girls, God, and the Good Life bloggers! I was supposed to blog two weeks ago and somehow time slipped past as I traveled and wrote.

And here I am, out of turn, but with a promise to get back on track.

Lately life has been a blur--but a good blur.

A new book is out. Making It Real: Whose Faith Is It Anyway? is a discipleship book for teens. I started this series when I started hearing the reports that many twentysomethings and college students were abandoning their faith when they go to college or leave home for the first time, even when they were totally connected to God all through their teen years.

There are a lot of reasons that people say this happens, but after getting to hang out with wonderful teens for a long, long time, I think that sometimes faith gets all mixed up with other good things--like church, or tradition, or family beliefs. That's good stuff, but not enough when you need to dig down deep and find out what you believe when you're on your own and life hits, or when others question why you believe.
So, Making It Real helps you discover your own beliefs, carving out all the voices so that you can hear God, and make your faith your own.

Besides this book, I'm in the editing process of my next book for twentysomethings called The Woman I Am Becoming: Embracing the Chase for Identity, Faith, and Destiny. Isn't the cover beautiful?

Last, I'm packing my bags tomorrow to go to a wonderful Christian writer's conference at Mount Hermon, and then I'm off to Europe to speak in Hungary, Austria, and Germany with a very cool organization called Hearts at Home.
So, busy, yes. But also grateful. Each of these adventures are a little scary, and a whole lot of wonderful, and I'd love to know that you are praying. I need those prayers.
Are you a communicator? Are you someone who feels that one day you'd like to write? Or perhaps share the gospel in creative ways--speaking, drama, comedy? I think there are many of you who do. In fact, one of my friends has started a conference for teens and twentysomethings called She Speaks! for those who feel that God has called them to communicate the message of hope!
This is the deal. If you have that dream, I pray that you'll begin to use those gifts and sharpen those skills. For me, speaking is just as powerful in my home city of Muskogee, OK as I speak in high schools each month as it is Budapest. Writing in this amazing blog and getting to connect with you is just as awesome to me as writing my next book.
Talk to us about it. I want to hear your dreams, and perhaps what you hope God will do in your life, as well as where you are going with that dream--right now, right where you are.
Suzie (T. Suzanne)

Introducing Sandra Byrd!

Hi! I am author Sandra Byrd, and I am so glad to be a new G3 blogger! My latest series of books for teens is called Friends for a Season. It’s never been a more important series to me than right now.

You see, my best friend died this week.

We were close friends for 11 years – through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’d read her manuscripts (she was an author, too!) and she’d read mine. She didn’t like lipstick – I do. I always like to have a plan. She’d say, plan? What plan? I like gardening and she did not. She teased me when I planted bulbs last fall, and I’d “planned” to take some pictures of them coming up this spring to show her. But no matter how different we were, we complimented each other and let each other be the person God created us to be.

Last fall my friend Jane got leukemia, and I got the chance to walk through the end of her life with her, too. We still talked on the phone, and then text messaged one another, and then when she couldn’t talk any more, we just prayed in our hearts. Last Sunday she went to be with Jesus, and while I am very sad, I know we’ll be together again in heaven. In the meantime, I know she’s got some very cool friends in heaven and I know that God will bring new friends into my life, too.

Jane and I were, in the most important way, best friends for a season. But there will be other friends, and other seasons.

Just like me, each one of you will have many friends during your lifetime. You might have a friend who has been your best friend since third grade, or your closest friends might be the group you started hanging out with this year. You might be afraid because you have to move next year and you’ll have to start all over. But that’s okay. We’ll move into and out of peoples’ lives from the time we’re born till the time we die. No matter how long or short your friendships last, you can always put good things in one another’s lives.

Maybe you plant compassion to a girl who is always trying too hard. Maybe you tell your best friend the truth when she hurts your feelings – growing the thought that honesty among people who care for each other is a good thing, and doesn’t drive people apart. Maybe you do secret acts of kindness for a friend whose parents are divorcing. Maybe you reach out to someone who seems lonely. Then, when you move on to new friends, or your friend moves on in her way, you’ll leave behind good deeds, love, and memories that will cause you both to become even more beautiful inside.

I went out to my garden this week to catch some sun. As I was weeding, I noticed the little crop of beautiful bulbs springing up. I smiled. I can’t show the picture to my friend, but I know she can see them. I planted them long ago and they are just showing their beauty now. The love, joy and encouragement that Jane planted in me will last forever, too. I can bring them to the next season of friends. And so could you.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Is it spring yet?

I am so bored.

It always happens this time of year-- spring's not really here yet and I just want winter gone. I have seedlings started in my little greenhouse and a million projects both inside and out just waiting for warmer weather to start.

But, in the meantime, I'm bored.

God's timing is something, isn't it?

I've been really focusing on just HOW bored I've been lately in anticipation of spring, and I find my studies take me to 2 Samuel. We all know David-- he's the man God called "a man after His own heart." If there was a superhero in the Bible other than Jesus, His ancestor David would be the one. He wrote a lot of the Psalms. He slayed Goliath. If you've grown up in the church, you KNOW David.

David got bored once, too.

And he found himself in a lot of trouble because of it.

For David it was simple, he was right with God. He was king. He was the conquering warrior and hero, loved by all. He didn't just defeat his enemies-- he destroyed 'em. Life was good.

Just like many of us, when life got good for David, he got lazy. Instead of leading his troops into battle like he was supposed to do, he stayed home. His pillow just felt too good that morning or something, I guess. I bet we can all understand the place he got to. His friends were all at the war. He had no responsibilities, nothing he had to do, and just not motivated to do the things he probably should have been doing.

So, he starts wandering around his big, old house a lot like we probably surf around the internet or scrounge through the cupboards when we're in that state, but instead of a bag of Doritos or strings of mindless Strong Bad videos, he caught sight of the wife of one of his soldiers. It was bad enough that he spied on her. He knew who she was, who her husband was. But David was really bored, and her husband was a long ways away, and David's thoughts were so wrapped up in his desires and boredom that he wasn't listening to God. He just wanted to cure that boredom, so he sent for her to be brought to the palace. Women didn't have many rights in this culture and David was king. There was no saying no for her.

His actions with Bathsheba start a downward spiral for the great David.

All because he was bored.

He never would have been bored if he would have been doing what he was supposed to be doing-- be the king, the leader of his people.

Life is good right now, and I'm getting lazy-- as lazy as a mom of six kids can get. I'm getting lazy in my time with Him, in my studies, in my fellowship. I'm going to try to do better than David at listening to his warning about being bored. How about you?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rotten Fruit

In third grade, I had a teacher named Mr. Slocum. I adored Mr. Slocum. He was really old (though since I looked at him from an 8 year old perspective, he might not have been as ancient as I remember) but he was so nice.
At some point early in the year, maybe Christmas time, I was at the grocery store with my mom and we picked out a fruit basket to give him as a gift. I loved giving gifts so I was thrilled to bring it in to him.
At the very end of the year, I was getting something from some storage cabinets that sat along the side of our classroom. I opened a drawer, and there was my lovely fruit basket, nasty and rotten, the cellephane unbroken.

I was crushed.

I quickly closed the drawer and walked away, but the moment is burned in my brain. An image that stuck with me for many years.

Sometimes I think about that little girl skipping into the classroom bringing a gift to her teacher and my heart just breaks. Not because I was the girl, but because this happens to us all the time. We open ourselves up, like a flower, then a cold blast of wind snaps us shut. My early years were, unfortunately, full of moments like this, simple moments that cut deeply.

To be honest, it still happens. Times when I give of myself with joy only to face rejection.

But oh, how wonderful, to know that God is different than people. It's so easy to think that our gift becomes worthless when it is rejected by someone. The time we gave, the money we spent or the thoughtfulness that was just ignored ending up just like that rotten fruit in the drawer. When I was a kid, I didn't know God. I didn't know that God loved me and that even though Mr. Slocum let that fruit rot in the drawer, God saw the gift I gave, and received it.

Now, when I see a gift I've given dropped to the ground, I can lift my face and offer it to God. I can remember that while people may fail us, God never does. When I give now, I can give freely, with no expectation, and trust that my gift is going straight to heaven regardless of what happens here on Earth.

God takes pleasure in you, and your gifts to Him will never fall to the ground. Isn't that nice to know?
(And believe me - having just found another basket of rotting fruit, I take comfort knowing that everything I just said to you is true - even when I have to remind myself of it!)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Sister, My Brother

Yesterday I was taking my grandma out to lunch when she called out, "Oh, look my brother."

My grandma is 77-years-old and her only living brother lives 1,000 miles away.

I was confused until I spotted one of those gold fish emblems on the back of the car in front of us. Then it hit me. Every day all around me are my brothers and sisters ... members of a family I'll be celebrating with for eternity.

I was still pondering this when I came across this quote by Max Lucado in my daily devotional reading:

"Knowing he would be asked about his profession at a Rotary Club meeting [Russ Blowers] resolved to say more than 'I'm a preacher.'

"Instead he explained, 'Hi, I'm Russ Blowers. I'm with a global enterprise. We have branches in every country in the world. We have representatives in nearly every parliament and boardroom on earth. We're into motivation and behavior alteration. We run hospitals, feeding stations, crisis-pregnancy centers, universities, publishing houses, and nursing homes. We care for our clients from birth to death. We are into life insurance and fire insurance. We perform spiritual heart transplants. Our original Organizer owns all the real estate on earth plus an assortment of galaxies and constellations. He knows everything and lives everywhere. Our product is free for the asking. (There's not enough money to buy it.) Our CEO was born in a hick town, worked as a carpenter, didn't own a home, was misunderstood by his family and hated by his enemies, walked on water, was condemned to death without a trial, and arose from the dead. I talk with him every day."
~Max Lucado, Traveling Light, p. 33

I like that. I'd also add, 'Our Organizer also has a huge family with kids all over this planet. Kids who love and appreciate each other and who can't wait for their family reunion some day.'

Won't that be great?! When we can meet some day?

"Hey, SIS, Finally! Hey, BRO, what's up?"

Until then I encourage you to reach out and connect with the brothers and sisters around you--even if it's a honk and a wave to that person with the fish on his/her bumper.

Your sis,

P.S. Have you heard about

P.S.S. Check out my profile at

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Roller Coaster

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like my relationship with God is like a roller coaster. There are times when I feel close to Him and times when I feel distant. The distance isn’t because I am doing something wrong or because I’m not living my life to bring Him glory. I just feel distant. I can’t quite put my finger on the why. Do you know what I mean?

I am in seminary right now getting my masters degree in Biblical Studies. While I love studying the Bible, the academic part of it sometimes ruins the wonder of God for me. For instance, I am knee-deep in a 25-page paper on the argument of the book of Hebrews. Yikes! I sometimes get so bogged down that I miss the beauty of God’s Word.

Something changed yesterday. I was able to wake up earlier than normal. My husband left early to go workout at the gym so the house was empty and quiet. I sat in my bed with my coveted cup of coffee and opened up my Bible and a couple of books. I read Psalm 77 aloud. This Psalm was written by a man who was in anguish. He felt distant from God. He felt like God had abandoned him. He said that his soul cried out, but could not be comforted. He spent the first half of the Psalm describing his anguish, but then the Psalm takes a dramatic turn. He chose to remember what the Lord had done for him in the past. So, that’s what I decided to do. I wrote out a list of things that God had done personally for me over the years. Some things were big and some were small.

Before I knew it, 45 minutes had passed! I normally do not have the luxury of that kind of time, but it was exactly what my soul needed. I needed to sit quietly with no distractions. The day before I was distant, but then the roller coaster climbed back up the hill. I don’t know where you are on the roller coaster, but I pray that you continue to press on even when you feel like God is distant. Continue to seek Him because there will come a point when you find Him. I did, and my day was blessed because of it.

Sarah Bragg

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Saw God’s Handprint on My Backyard Fence

I knew that title would get your attention. Don’t worry I haven’t turned into one of those weirdoes who thinks she saw an image of Jesus’ face in an old log or on the back of her English muffin. I doubt anyone will take a pilgrimage to my home hoping for a miracle. But we did have our own personal family miracle and my father-in-law has pictures to prove it.

On Saturday afternoon a small brush fire made its way to one of the homes on our block. Less than thirty minutes later firemen evacuated the entire neighborhood, including us. Later that night we returned to a dark house with no backyard fence. All of the trees and bushes lining that fence were burnt as well. Apparently the fire hit the fence line and just made its way down.

Here’s the miracle: the fence is inches away from our storage shed, which contains our gas-powered lawn mower, propane barbecue, and a camping stove that also runs on propane. Basically, our shed could double as a bomb if anyone struck a match inside of it. The small section of fence behind the shed is the only part left standing. The boards are blackened on the back and two are leaning toward the shed. It’s as if God sent an angel to stand in that spot, holding the fire back.

Even as we waited for power, cable, phone, and Internet service (the last two just came on this afternoon) I praised God for sparing us from far worse. One house up the street is completely gone, several others are badly damaged. I count myself blessed to be among those who lost a fence, a few small trees, and some rose bushes.

This experience made me think of the many times that God has spared me from unimaginable harm. Will He show me someday, all of those near-misses? I also took this moment of protection as His creative way of saying, “I care about you and your family. If I can hold back a fire, I can provide for your needs.”

I pray that I’ll remember that whenever I look at that charred remaining section of fence—the one with God’s handprint on it.

How has He blessed you recently?


Jane Orcutt

A writer friend of mine died yesterday morning. Please pray for her husband, Bill, and two sons.

Her name is Jane Orcutt. She lost the earthly battle against Leukemia, but sashayed through the gates of Heaven as a princess child of God.
As a writer, I know that Jane would first want to be held close in her family's hearts with treasured memories and as a lasting influence on her young men/sons.

Second she would want her written work to keep touching lives. If you see one of her books, please pick it up and read. You will enjoy.Here is a list from Amazon:

1. All the Tea in China (Rollicking Regency, A) by Jane Orcutt (Paperback - Jun 1, 2007) Available for Pre-order
2. The Hidden Heart by Jane Orcutt (Paperback - Oct 20, 1998)
3. Dear Baby Girl (Thirsty(?)) by Jane Orcutt (Paperback - Feb 18, 2005) 4. The Living Stone by Jane Orcutt (Paperback - Sep 26, 2000)
5. Lullaby by Jane Orcutt (Hardcover - April 2002)
6. Tales from Grace Chapel Inn by Jane Orcutt (Hardcover)
7. Porch Swings and Picket Fences by Lisa T. Bergren, Barbara Jean Hicks, Suzy Pizzuti, and Jane Orcutt (Paperback - Jun 15, 1999)
8. Restoration and Romance by Shari Macdonald, Jane Orcutt, Barbara Jean Hicks, and Barbara Curtis (Paperback - Sep 18, 2001)
9. The Fugitive Heart (Heart's True Desire) by Jane Orcutt (Paperback - April 1, 1998)
10.Pipe Organ: Tales from Grace Chapel Inn by Jane Orcutt (Hardcover - 2005)
11.Something Old, Something New: Tales From Grace Chapel Inn by Jane Orcutt (Board book - Dec 8, 2005) - Large Print
12.The Pipe Organ (Tales from Grace Chapel Inn) by Jane Orcutt (Hardcover - 2005)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Just Stick It? I Don't Think So.


Sometimes when people talk about this—okay, often—I let it go. It flies through my head and right back out. I forgive people! I don’t hold grudges! But on closer inspection, that’s just not true. Just because I have the ability to be reasonably kind to someone who has “wronged” me, doesn’t mean that I’ve really let it go, that I’ve truly forgiven.

Recent unexplained health issues have caused me to take a second look at my unforgiveness. Does this word apply to me? Do I not let things go like I think I do? Have I not forgiven those who have hurt me in the past? I firmly believe that unforgiveness can take its toll on the body, just like anxiety (another control issue) can.

I remember my junior high and high school years were one opportunity after another to exercise forgiveness. I wasn’t the strongest in my faith back then, so I probably didn’t handle the daily dramas with much grace. For example, there was this girl who was a total Barbie doll. She was beautiful, blond, skinny, and a total boy magnet (we’ll call her Kimmie). I couldn’t stand her. We were not friends and we were not kind to one another. This was a LONG time ago, people. Recently a friend of mine, with no knowledge of Kimmie, said, “Hey, I was at the dentist’s last week, and my hygienist asked if I knew you.” When I discovered she had met Kimmie, I said, “Next time you go in, repeat these words to her: ‘Jennifer says sorry for high school.’” Seriously. How sad that I had let all that time go by and had never told this girl how sorry I was for the total heifer I had been to her in high school.

And then I think about the daily things that get under my skin. Maybe a friend is always late. Maybe a person at church snubbed me. Maybe someone said something embarrassing or unkind. I could go on and on.

In Matthew 18: 22-35, Jesus tells Peter that he has to forgive to infinity and beyond. “No, dude, you can’t just forgive once, twice, three times. You must always forgive.” (My translation.) In fact, Jesus lays it on the line and reminds us all how serious it is. He tells the story of a servant who begged his king to forgive him and let his debt go. The king took pity on him. But THEN the king found out that the servant turned around and refused to show someone else mercy. So the King THOROUGHLY punished the servant. Jesus says, “This is how God will treat you if you don’t totally forgive from your heart.”

What things are you holding onto? Don’t let them eat at you. I used to have a boss that would say, “Don’t let those people live rent-free in your head.” Don’t give those people permission to remain in your head and poison your mind, your thoughts, your health, and your walk with God.
Is it something giant you haven’t forgiven? Maybe a parent who abandoned you? An adult who left scars too deep for words? A friend who altered your friendship in an unspeakable way? Pray for God to begin the healing process. He commands us to forgive. But he also understands the cost and the pain that goes with it. But with forgiveness, comes the healing that you need to be whole.

Maybe it’s small things. A friend who said something about your clothes. Your mom hurting your feelings. Nobody noticing that new hair do. You gotta let it go. As Beth Moore says, “Stick up that hand and say, ‘I refuse to let that stick on.’”

This week, I am personally gonna try that. In fact, let’s all try that now.
Raise your right hand and stick it out like you’re gonna high five someone.
Now put on your best “I got attitude” face.
Now repeat after me: "I refuse to let that stick on."
I feel better already.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Thanks, Nicole

Someone sent this CD to my daughter.
Amazing music. I'm getting ready to teach my high school girls tomorrow in Sunday school. I stuck this CD called "Brave" in my computer to help get my thoughts moving. I'd never listened to it before right now.
Have you ever noticed that God sends just what you need and He uses unexpected ways to get through to us?
I wish I could thank Nicole personally. Maybe she'll read this blog.
Nicole, how did you know we needed to hear your heart at my house? We needed to feel God's love through your words today. You reminded us that no matter how bad we mess up, how far we wander, God waits with His arms held out.
My dear Nicole, your CD reminded me that God's always, always here. He forgives. He heals. He loves us no matter what. And He can reach us any way He wants to.
Sometimes, He uses a beautiful voice on a CD.
Blessings on you, Nicole. You're using your amazing talent to, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matt. 5:16

Friday, March 16, 2007

24 Hours

No, not the TV show--my life!
Have you ever noticed how once in a while God allows a day or a week where everything seems over-the-top as far as drama-trauma goes.That has been my experience, and I always wonder what God wants me to learn.Yesterday morning my friend and I went to visit another friend in hospice. She's a young lady, in her thirties, with a 7-year-old son, and a very loving husband. But she has lost her battle with cancer. It was a hard visit, but a good one. She's got her place in heaven reserved through Jesus.Then on the way home, my friend who had driven us there, got a phone call from her daughter's school that her daughter had been put on suicide watch. The teen was at home alone with her Alzheimer grandmother, having left school "feeling sick."The end of that episode was good. After the panic-enduced fear, we discovered the child at school who had raised the alarm meant another blonde teen.I went home expecting to do a radio interview in the afternoon. I thought the chat would be 10-15 minutes long. They have been in the past. Praise God the radio called ahead of time. I found out the interview would be 40 minutes. ACK! What do I possibly have to say that would take 40 minutes?That, too, turned out all right. The radio personality was a wonderful interviewer and asked great questions that made me sound good.Then in the evening, I caused a teen a great deal of distress. I had to ask her to change her behavior in a weekly group meeting, and it was like a stab in the back to her. To me it was a necessary part of maturing to be a more integral part of the group, but to her it was devastating. I hurt for her hurt, but felt totally inadequate to make everything okay in her heart. I am so glad God is in charge and will work even when I am so clumsy.Now we come to nighttime and sleep and no trauma, right?No.Our dog has been having issues. Yes, issues! Much like a wayward child. I woke up to dog pee in the bathroom. At least it wasn't the rug.Then we hurry, hurry, run, run to get the house polished and ready for the real estate agent to bring over a prospective agent, while the two grandsons express their displeasure at being hurried with totally inappropriate behavior.Is this 24 hour trial ever going to end?The doorbell rings a half hour early. They real estate agent and the people come in, turn around, and go out. The buyers are allergic to dogs. Somehow on our form the box that says do you have pets is marked no instead of yes.We promised the kids we'd go to McDonalds because we needed to be out of the house while it was shown. But now the house has had the peek-in showing without one hope of a sale from it, and the boys don't understand there is no longer any reason to go to McDonalds.So we go to McDonalds.A little girl gets her hand stuck in the sliding door between the playroom and the ordering counter. A teen runs over and rescues her without injury to him or her.Phew!That's it.No trauma-drama in the last six hours.What did I learn? I honestly can't tell you I learned one thing that I didn't know already. Maybe it's like scales that you need to do every so often on the piano to keep your skill up to par. Maybe it is like keeping in shape to jog, so that if you ever have to run for your life, you can. I practiced being a Christian more in the past 24 hours than I usually do over a month. But right now, as I sit in my brown comfy chair with my laptop, I feel closer to God than I have in a month.
Just to let you know the 24 hours was not totally bleak, let me share a spot of humor.My five-year-old grandson objected, as he does from time to time, to cleaning up his toys. He asked why Mama couldn't do it, and I answered, "Because Mama is not your slave." He turned, looked at me earnestly, and asked, "Who is my slave?"I had to laugh. I've never found a slave in all my years of looking, and I would probably be too guilt-ridden to "use" another human that way even if I found someone willing.
I hope you grab onto God's shirttail the next time you encounter a "24 Hours."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Meet my dad, Frank La Chapell. Isn’t he handsome? This picture was taken on his most recent business trip—his first one overseas. The day he left for the airport Mom told me, “Pray for Dad. He really wishes that he didn’t have to go on this trip. Everything is going wrong and it’s going to be nonstop work and stress.”

His first stop? London. Instead of seeing Buckingham Palace and other fun sights, Dad and his coworkers had a nightmare meeting with clients and Dad spent all of his free time in the hotel trying to fix the problem. Talk about depressing!

When Mom told me the news, I almost cried. God, please turn this trip around. Do something to encourage him. Well, God really went all out.

Next stop? Israel! Dad and one of his buddies, who is also a Christian, found themselves with half a day off and were able to take a tour of Jerusalem. Yesterday Dad sent pictures via e-mail, of the Via Delarosa, Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, and other places where Jesus walked. Does he look unhappy or stressed in this photo? No, I’d say he looks pretty content.

It was a tour that never would have happened if work hadn’t sent Dad overseas for a trip that he didn’t want to take. He was overwhelmed by the experience of walking in Jesus’ footsteps. In the process, I was overwhelmed by the reminder of God’s goodness. He knows exactly when and how to lighten our load and give us a gift that wouldn’t have been possible had we not obeyed and taken the plane that we didn’t want the ticket for, let alone a passport.

Thank God for the many times that He has blessed you with something unexpected, at the very moment you needed a boost. When you finish, thank Him in advance for those you are yet to experience.

In His Love and Mine,

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Where Do You Stand on the Popularity Food Chain?

Hey guys! Yesterday was my day to post, but I was out of town unexpectedly. When I was younger (oh, and who am I kidding?, still today,) I loved to take quizzes. So, now I like to write them! Here's one of my favorites. I hope it makes you stop and think a bit.


1. Volleyball is the sport of the day in your circle of friends, but you’ve always had a thing for swimming. Do you…
a. show up at the summer volleyball camp with everyone else? You know you really aren’t going
to like it, but you don’t want to be the only one not on the team.

b. take on the role as equipment manager and hit the pool as often as you can? This way you’re
still hanging with your buds and between games and practices you can catch some laps.

c. root your friends on from the sidelines when you can make a game? Your swim meet schedule
at the Y is pretty jam packed, but chances are, if they’re real friends, they’re in the stands for
you, too.

2. Your church is holding the greatest youth fun day event—on the same day as Miss Most-Popular-in-the-School’s birthday party. Do you…
a. invite everyone you know to the church event? Who can resist some good music and messy games? Besides, maybe not everyone wants to go to Miss Popular’s party, and everyone does need Jesus.

b. tell a few close friends about the event? They probably don’t want to go to another one of her Look-at-me events anyways, and you know they’ll have a good time.

c. listen to all the party chatter all week long without saying a word about the event? You know you’ll see the people in your bible study, and if anyone asks why you weren’t at the party at school afterwards, you can always come up with something.

3. While shopping with your best friend, you find the most awesome shirt—the same time she does. Do you…
a. put the shirt quietly back on the shelf? She’d probably look better in it anyways.
b. find the same one in another color? You’d both look great in it! But with different colors at least you’ll still be yourself. Plus, you can always borrow each others.
c. get the shirt anyways? If she thinks its cool, then its all the more reason to get it.

4. On the way to school everyday, the kids around you sing songs and talk about music videos that you don’t know. Do you…
a. sneak the radio on the top 40 channel in your room and learn the songs so you can join in? It’s just some fun music. What’s the harm?
b. pretend like you know them, but bring your portable CD player and act like your Christian music is much cooler than the stuff they listen to?
c. take the time to share Christian alternatives to the songs they like? The beats are just as cool but the lyrics could bring them closer to Jesus. And isn’t that what the Great Commission is all about?

5. You’re visiting cousins out-of-state, and they take you to the city basketball court to hang out with their friends. Next thing you know, someone’s holding a cigarette in front of your face, inviting you to take a puff. Do you…
a. accept it? You’re miles from home, parents, and your friends. No one’s going to know anyways.
b. take it, look it over, mumble something about not liking the brand, and pass it on? If they think that you just don’t like that kind, maybe they’ll not think less about you.
c. firmly say “No, thanks.” You don’t care what they think about you, you believe what they Bible says about your body being His Temple and you aren’t putting that kind of stuff into it.

6. A couple buds and you just bought tickets to the latest G-rated animated movie, but once in the theater, they want to movie-hop to the PG-13 teen flick that just came out. Do you…
a. go along? So maybe you aren’t 13 quite yet and maybe your parents specifically have voiced their concerns about the topic of the movie and would kill you if they knew you went to see it, but your friends do always seem to know the coolest shows to watch.
b.remind them that if they get caught, you’ll all get thrown out with no movie at all? Hopefully, you can sway them into seeing what you paid to see. If not, at the first sign of trouble, you’ll fake a stomach ache and get to the bathroom quickly.
c. stand your ground? Even if you are the only preteen in the theater, you’re watching the animated movie you bought tickets for. Besides, most of the time, they’re the best movies.

7. A group of the in-crowd wants you to join them at the lunch table, but they don’t want your best friend to follow. Do you…
a. refuse? He might be small and weird, but he’s been your best bud since preschool. If they don’t want him around, you can do without them.
b. go over and plead his case? The whole time you talk about what a great guy he is and how much they would like to have him around. I mean, they can’t give him a chance if they don’t know anything about him, right?
c. meet them in the lunch line? Your friend will understand how cool it is to be invited to be part of the crowd. You’ll catch him later and explain the good news.

8. Miss Most-Popular-in-School is paired with you to do a science project, and she wants you to do the whole project for both of you. Do you…
a. do it? This could be your big break into the popular crowd.
b. agree to do most of it? But she still has to help some. You both know that you are a science
whiz and that she struggles. It probably be the best for both of you anyways.
c. refuse? Partners mean equal time and no matter what the grade or who she is—you’re both going to work on the project.

9. There’s a book everyone in school is talking about, and you feel like the only person alive who hasn’t read it. Do you…
a. ask for the book and lay out the plot for your parents? You know that your mom objects to fantasy stories with witchcraft, but maybe she’ll read it with you together so you can talk about it.
b. keep the book out of her sight and just give the bare minimum details if she does find it? You can always act shocked over the content as well if she finds it. You can’t be the only kid in school who hasn’t read it.
c. not even worry about it? There’s a lot of really good books out there that doesn’t compromise your beliefs, and you’ll stick with those.

10. Before youth group starts, someone says a racial joke that made everyone laugh. Do you…
a. laugh, too? It was funny.
b. chuckle but still say something about it being mean and uncalled for? It was funny even
though it was mean, but it didn’t hurt anyone.
c. voice your disproval with the joke. There may not be anyone in the room of that ethnicity, but
it still was hurtful in Jesus’ Eyes.

Add up your score:
1.a. 1 b. 2 c. 3
2.a. 3 b. 2 c. 1
3.a. 1 b. 3 c.2
4.a. 1 b. 2 c. 3
5.a. 1 b. 2 c. 3
6.a. 1 b. 2. C.3
7.a. 3 b. 2 c. 1
8.a. 3 b. 2 c. 1
9.a. 2 b. 1 c. 3
10.a. 1 b. 2 c. 3

Hey, girl! God created you in His Image, not the image of Miss Popular or your best buds. It might take some baby steps, but start working on the person God intends you to be and stop trying to be like everyone else. Sometimes, it might be easy—like joining a club that interests you, and other times, it might be really hard—like leaving your old friends behind and making new ones. God has made you in purpose and for a purpose to be someone special. Start taking notes on how you follow others and how you be yourself, talk to God about it when you pray, and start making changes today.

The idea of BFF (best friends forever) is important to you, and you’re willing to compromise part of your individuality to be one of the gang. At times, there’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes, old habits are hard to break. When you start out compromising on the little stuff like listening to music that you know doesn’t glorify God, you can find it a lot harder to stand up to the big stuff like a cigarette in your face when the time comes. Remember Romans 12:2: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

You have being an individual down to an art! You’re not afraid to stand up for what’s right or what you believe in—no matter what the costs might be to you on the popularity food chain. You know that there’s a Higher Power out there than Miss Popular and that’s who you try to always answer to. Use your uniqueness in the way God has intended you to use it—by spreading the News of Jesus Christ to the in-crowd and beyond. Keep seeking Christ in your decisions and others will follow.

Meeting yourself on the page

A little girl lives across the street. Her name is Amanda and she's six years old. Friday I noticed her standing at their screen door, looking out into the front yard at . . . nothing.

Absolutely nothing was happening out there. No traffic driving by. No pets frolicking on the lawn. And yet she stood there for the longest time, just staring.

Eventually she left, but she came right back with a toy stroller, which she pushed up next to the screen so Baby Doll could join the fun. And they stood there together. Watching something I couldn't see. Something that was probably happening only in Amanda's imagination. A valiant knight coming to rescue her and Baby Doll from their tower prison. A butterfly ballet. A tiger slinking its way through the jungle.

I can only guess. But her unhurried contentment reminded me of myself as a child--how I loved to go outside at dusk and swing on my swingset until the stars came out, pumping the swing as hard and high as I could go, imagining all sorts of fantastic things. I'd close my eyes as the wind flung my hair first back then forward, laughing at the sensations of plunging down and rising up. If any neighbors were watching, they may have wondered why I kept at something so monotonous for so long. But I wasn't there. I was flying off to distant lands "where dreams are born and time is never planned."

One reason I think everyone should write is to meet yourself on the page. Even if no one but you ever reads your words. The older we get, it's easy to forget the kind of simplicity that stands at the screen door living an imaginary adventure. Writing lets us go back to Neverland again.

Here's some pixie dust. Now, fly!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Love Covers That

(Tricia and her sister, Lesley)

I have a highly developed guilt complex. I hate conflict, and I REALLY hate it when I think I've done something to hurt someone else. Do you know anyone like that?

It's even worse when I feel I've disappointed God. Such as, when I kept my mouth shut instead of sharing God's goodness with a friend. Or when I've listened to someone ranting about another person instead of walking away. Or ... when I've told a little white lie instead of facing the consequences of the truth.

Guilt is good when it keeps us from disobeying, or when it lets us know when we screw up. But there comes a time when we need to let it go. When we confess to God we need to then accept His forgiveness. I was thinking about this when I came upon this quote by Max Lucado:

It’s time to let God’s love cover all things in your life. All secrets. All hurts. All hours of evil, minutes of worry.

The mornings you awoke in the bed of a stranger? His love will cover that. The years you peddled prejudice and pride? His love will cover that. Every promise broken, drug taken, penny stolen. Every cross word, cuss word, and harsh word. His love covers all things.

Let it. Discover along with the psalmist: “He ... loads me with love and mercy.” Picture a giant dump truck full of love. There you are behind it. God lifts the bed until the love starts to slide. Slowly at first, then down, down, down until you are hidden, buried, covered in his love.

“Hey, where are you?” someone asks.

“In here, covered with love.”

(Max Lucado, A Love Worth Giving)

That makes me feel better. How about you? Yes, you've mess up. I have, too. But when you seek forgiveness remember ... God's love covers that.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

From Donita!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I missed my day!

Some of you already know that I zoomed around town in a swanky, sleek red sports car last week. My day to post is on the second of the month and I was still zooming around in the rental car going back and forth to a writers' conference. I got to learn from Angela Hunt, Nancy Rue, Alton Gansky, and Kathryn Mackel.I need to tell you about the snowstorm and my night in the castle. That's night, not Knight.The writers' conference I attended was in Glen Eyrie, an absolutely gorgeous home built in the early 20th century and modeled after castles in England. Some of the furniture and even a fireplace was brought here from Jolly Ole Britain. But I was commuting because the rooms are pricey, and I had THE ZOOMIE. But on Wednesday, a wet snow fell during the day. It melted as it hit the roads, then froze over. So we had sheets of ice as slick as the skating rinks to drive on. Even though I had taken out the complete insurance package on THE ZOOMIE, I listened to the reports of a 40 car pile-up and an 8 car pile-up and other horror stories and decide that this grandma would stay the night. Poor me! I had to stay in a castle.And it was fabulous. Just walking around the room and examining the beautiful wood in the paneling, the odd door knobs, the unusual way the windows were set in the frames was astonishing. I bought a toothbrush in the lobby and fellowshipped with other conferees in the late night cafe, then went to sleep in a bed I know was built before my mother was born.I felt like a princess, (well, an old and rather achy princess, but still royalty.) Then I remembered I am a princess. I'm the joint heir with Jesus, the Prince of Peace. I am a child of God. AND, as luxurious and as impressive as the Glen Eyrie castle is, it is nothing compared to the mansion that is being prepared for me in Heaven. Hey! if it weren't true, HE wouldn't have told me so. So dust off your crowns, fellow Christians, we have a grand and glorious future that earthly homes can only poorly imitate.Not that I wouldn't spend the night in an earthly castle anytime the offer came up. That was FUN!!! Just as fun as little red zoomie. BTW, ZOOMIE has been returned to rental. *sigh* At least it didn't turn into a pumpkin.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

My Biggest Struggle

Has there ever been a lesson in your life that you feel like you keep having to learn over and over and over? That’s how I feel about pride. I feel like God has been teaching me this lesson all my life.

Pride is anything that exalts yourself—whether over or under exalted. It is anything that focuses on “me”. It can masquerade itself it many different masks. Did you realize that low self-esteem is pride? Beth Moore said, “Pride is self-absorption whether we’re absorbed with how miserable we are or how wonderful we are.” What else does pride look like?

“I feel under appreciated. Once again, another guy has passed me up. Why don’t they pick me? Everyone else seems to think that I am so pretty and so funny. Why don’t they see what everybody else sees? I just don’t get it.”

“I lost another tennis match. I don’t understand why I keep losing. I am good at this sport. I have the best ground strokes on the team, yet I can’t win many matches. The girl who beat me has one of the worst swings on the team. How did this happen?”

“I am always the one doing all the work. Does my boss see me? Does he think I do a good job? I don’t think anyone here appreciates me!”

“She is so much prettier than me. She is more outgoing than me, and she has a boyfriend. I am “nothing”. I want people to notice ME.”

These are all thoughts I have had throughout the years. Have thoughts like these ever crossed your mind? Maybe yours haven’t been about guys or tennis, but they could be about anything you feel you deserved but didn’t get to have. Or perhaps you felt underappreciated. If you answered “yes” to any of these, it’s a sign of pride. Pride can creep into your life undetected. I never knew what pride looked like until after college. I had heard countless messages on the subject, but it was only head knowledge and not heart knowledge. These thoughts have filled my mind lately. Therefore, I have been trying to renew my mind to the truth. I wanted to share a poem with you about Pride written by Beth Moore. Maybe if you are like me and struggle with pride, it can be an encouragement to you.

"My name is Pride. I am a cheater.

I cheat you of your God-given destiny...because you demand your own way.

I cheat you of contentment...because you“deserve better than this.”

I cheat you of knowledge...because you already know it all.

I cheat you of healing...because you’re too full of me to forgive.

I cheat you of holiness...because you refuse to admit when you’re wrong.

I cheat you of genuine friendship...because nobody’s going to know the real you.

I cheat you of love...because real romance demands sacrifice.

I cheat you of greatness in heaven...because you refuse to wash another’s feet on earth.

I cheat you of God’s glory...because I convince you to seek your own.

My name is Pride. I am a cheater.

You like me because you think I’m always looking out for you. Untrue.

I’m looking to make a fool of you.

God has so much for you, I admit, but don’t worry...

If you stick with me you’ll never know." --Beth Moore

Sarah Bragg

Monday, March 05, 2007

Unexpected Opportunities

This morning I’m speaking at one of our local Christian schools. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity. It’s one of those things that came out of the blue. The school wanted a guest speaker to kick off their Read-a-Thon so they called one of the Christian bookstores who recommended me. I was floored! Why would my name come to mind when asked “Do you know of someone who can speak to our kids?” Sure, I’m a local author, but I’m in no way famous and I’m not known for speaking (until now). But when the call came I eagerly accepted the offer.

I didn’t have much time to prepare. I got the request on Thursday. My job is to get kindergarteners through seventh-graders excited about reading. Since reading is one of my favorite pastimes, I had very little trouble coming up with things to say. My trouble might be, knowing when to shut up. What a wonderful chance to pass my passion for books on to kids!

This experience reminded me that I never know when opportunities will come my way—chances to help others, share a gift, or even share my faith. The most exciting ones usually come when I’m not on the lookout for anything special. Am I always prepared? No! But God seems to have a way of equipping me for the task. Does each call involve something that I love as much as literature? Unfortunately, not always. When God is in it, however, the rewards are great.

Think about the last time that God handed you a surprise assignment. What was it? How did God equip you for the job? Thank Him for His willingness to use ordinary people like us to spread His joy, passion, and message. I’d love to hear about any big things that come your way this week!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Amazing Grace

I just got home from seeing the movie Amazing Grace.

A little slow, a little disjointed, but overall a great movie that is thought-provoking, inspirational, and interesting.

It is the story of William Wilberforce, a British Parliament member who was a champion and pioneer of many causes, namely the abolishment of slavery. What I found most interesting about Wilberforce was the man behind his dream and his service to God, John Newton. Newton's name is one not often recognized. But his song "Amazing Grace" sure is.

Newton had once been a slave trader. He then became a minister and an abolitionist and lit a fire under William. Newton's story alone is worth seeing the movie.

I planned to come back and say something really profound about the movie and its lessons. But I'm all out of profound. Instead my mind is whirling with ideas, quotes, images, and impressions. This is one of those movies that sticks with you for days and absorbs into your system in pieces.

So until I can narrow it down to something concrete and utterly profound (because that is so me, right?), here are my thoughts that I came away with tonight.

1. The song "Amazing Grace" is about a man finding redemption and forgiveness from his Savior after buying, selling, and transporting human cargo for years. John Newton knew the number of lives he was responsible for. He carried them with them for life.

2. God places people in our lives who are there to inspire us, teach us, and lead us to our better selves--lead us closer to fulfilling our purpose for Christ. John Newton was that person for William Wilberforce. Do you have someone in your life that is your mentor? Your spiritual confidant? If not, be in prayer for God to place a trusted Christian advisor in your life.

3. Just because God or the world says "no" doesn't mean that's the final answer. William fought for the end to slavery for YEARS before he saw it happen. He got discouraged. He got defeated--even physically sick from it. But knowing this was a passion and purpose God placed on his heart, he ultimately never gave up. He had a long wait, but the end results were felt around the world. They changed his life and they changed history. I don't want to mess up something like that. Do you? We have to be patient when God sends us out. He will deliver.

4. There is nothing so ugly that grace cannot cover. John Newton said he was haunted by the tens of thousands of ghosts of the slaves he had traded. They haunted his dreams. He saw them when he was awake. Yet he knew his Lord and Savior had paid the ultimate price to free him. In the end of the movie, John says, "I know two things for sure. I am a great sinner. And Christ is a great savior." I wish I could tattoo that quote on my heart. Christ died for our sins. And to not let go of our ghosts and our guilt after forgiveness is to deny the power of the cross--the power of Christ.

My final thought from the movie involves my thankfulness that men no longer wear powdered wigs, but that's for another day. (Watch the movie and TELL me you don't agree.)

Live this week in His grace.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Plan

Can you believe that God cares about every single
D-E-T-A-I-L in your life?
Can you believe He cares if you try out for cheerleading or not?

Or if you decide to take Honors Language Arts or regular Language Arts.
Or if you go to the prom.

Or if you want to get involved in the Drama program at your school.
Or if you learn to play the guitar.
He cares because it matters to you. And every part of your life matters to Him. He is able to weave something that seems tiny to us into His amazing plan.
I know someone who is praying about whether or not to try out for cheerleading again her junior year. She had a rough time this year with it. She's sick of it, but she just doesn't know what to do.
I know someone praying for the right prom date.
I know someone who is thinking she wants to learn to paint.
Sometimes I jump ahead--so sure I know God's plan. I'm almost positive how my life should go. ALMOST.
But I'm not always right.
I'm learning to stop and say, "I want Your way. Help me know what to do."
Anybody struggling with decisions?