Sunday, November 28, 2010

A lesson from pretzel goldfish

A couple weeks ago, on a grocery store whim, I picked up a bag of pretzel goldfish for my 3-year-old. In McKenna's eyes, this is possibly the smartest thing I've ever done.

She loves them so much, they've become her most requested snack, replacing fruit snacks and cocoa almonds. When we're out shopping, I toss a Ziploc bag of them in my purse as a potential reward for good behavior.

Yesterday at Costco, she devoured her bag of goldfish as my husband and I jetted up and down the aisles. As we buzzed toward check-out, McKenna held up one of the remaining few goldfish to my husband and said, "Daddy, would you like one?"

My first thought was, "What a sweet, generous girl we've raised!"

And then I thought, "But of course she doesn't yet grasp that there's a finite amount of pretzel goldfish. Even if she ran out, she'd just say, 'That means it's time to go to the store.'"

And that's when I started thinking about my own generosity and how I tend to hoard what's precious to me. From little things like the frappuccinos in my refrigerator, to bigger things like my free time, or even money.

I hope I can grow to be more like my preschooler in such things. Because everything I have really belongs to my Father, and He has infinite resources. He's in charge of all creation.

If I offered my brother-in-law a frappuccino next time he came over - instead of saying, "You're welcome to anything except my frappuccinos" - I'm guessing it would all even out somehow. (Actually, as I typed that, I remembered that my brother-in-law bought me coffee on Friday night, so I actually owe him....)

It's scary to give like that - like there's an abundance of replenishments - which is why I shy away from doing it. Every time I prepare a baggie of pretzel goldfish for my daughter, I'm going to pray that God will give me more opportunities to be generous with people, and thereby increase my faith in Him to provide. And my boldness to say, "All out, God. It's time to go to the store."

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels a few years ago and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. To check out her blog and read samples of her books, check out and

Monday, November 22, 2010

Figuring it all out!

In your teen years it's a time when you will come to a fork in the road. Do you believe God because that's what your parents believe? Or do you believe God because ... you believe?

If you're at the point in your life when you're trying to figure it out, here are some questions to ask.

The Bible is ...
The Bible means ____________________ to me.
Jesus is ...
The one way to get to heaven is ....
As God's child I ....
Those who do don't follow Jesus will ...
God has given me a Holy Spirit to ...
As a believe God wants me to ...

If you'd like to share your answers, please leave them in the comment section. If you don't know the answers, please leave that i the comments too. All us blog writers here would love to help you with your questions!

Friday, November 19, 2010

"I've Always Wanted to Learn to . . . "

I have a long list of things that I’ve wanted to learn to do. The problem is finding the time to do them and/or someone to teach me. Well, a few weeks ago I finally got to scratch one item off my “I’ve always wanted to learn to . . . “ list. It all started at our church’s women’s retreat.

During dinner, several ladies were talking about knitting and crocheting. Diane and Marion were both working on projects for the homeless; Diane was knitting scarves for them and Marion was creating ropes made from plastic grocery bags and crocheting them into sleeping mats (the process alone is amazing). I’ve wanted to learn to knit and crochet for years!

“My grandma taught me to crochet over wire hangers when I was a kid,” I piped in. “But that’s as far as I got.”

“I can teach you to crochet,” Marion said. “It isn’t hard at all. We can meet for an hour before choir practice.”

We started that week. While I started out feeling like I’d never get it right (I have a beginner’s sampler to prove it), I quickly caught on and am officially hooked. Last week I made a set of six coasters and now I’m working on a scarf.

In addition to the fun of learning a new skill, my weekly lessons have provided a very peaceful respite from the busyness of my everyday life. Instead of teaching others (Did I mention that I’ve been teaching a writing class through a community college enrichment program?) I am the one growing and being taught. I am learning a craft that is not only enjoyable, but useful. The coasters and scarf will both be Christmas gifts for family members. On top of all of this I am getting to know Marion, which is such a blessing!

So what is on your “I’ve always wanted to learn to . . . “ list? What is stopping you from giving one of those things a try?

Make your desire known. You might discover that you are sitting beside someone who is willing to teach you.

Seize the opportunity. When you get the chance to achieve a goal (or at least test it out), go for it!

Enjoy the benefits. A sense of accomplishment is only one of the many rewards of learning something new. Pay attention to the many others, like how it allows you to make new friends and step out of your ordinary world.

So again, what have you always wanted to learn? And what’s stopping you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I love this blog--Praise and Coffee. I found this story and song there.

So beautiful. Here's the story behind the song.

Here's the actual song video.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What we get talked into.

Yeah, it sounded like fun and easy to do, but it is never easy to ask friends for money. I'm sure hoping people donate, not only because I feel like an idiot getting myself into this predicament. But also, because it is a good cause. They have made tremendous headway in the fight against muscular dystrophy. One of my landlords when I was very young had a son afflicted with this malady. I am so glad that kids today have a better chance of survival and a better quality of life. This organization has been around for years and 75% of what they raise goes straight to the patients.
So I'm going to jail on Thursday.

DON’T LEAVE ME IN THERE! Let's hang the vacant sign.

I’m going behind bars for good THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18TH and I need to raise $1,500 to send children to MDA Summer Camp in Empire, CO. Their smiles are worth my time in the slammer!

This is my final plea to get bailed out of jail at Biaggi’s. You can help me reach my bail by visiting my webpage (click the link below) where you can make an easy, secure contribution online.

Thank you so much for your support. Let’s hope I look good in stripes!

Towards a cure,

Donita K. Paul

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Filling Baskets

I just sent off a proposal to my agent. A process that I've found doesn't get easier with time. Those questions niggle in the back of my mind every time my cursor hovers over that "send" button: "What if she hates it? What if she reads it and regrets signing me? What if all my ideas are tired and predictable? What if I've lost my ability to perceive a good idea from a bad one?" And so on.

So I'm grateful for the story in John 6 of the little boy who helped Jesus feed five thousand. The story is in my preschoolers rhyme Bible, which my daughter constantly reads (seen pictured below) so I've become extra familiar with the events.

According to John 6, there's a crowd following Jesus and he asks his disciples where they should buy bread for everyone to eat. The disciples cannot conceive of how they'll manage to feed such a crowd, but Andrew brings forward a boy who has "five small barley loves and two small fish." We're told that Jesus gave thanks for the food, began to distribute it to the crowd, and miraculously there was even food left over. Enough to fill twelve baskets, we're told.

My entire life, I've read this as an account of what happened that day. Which is a fine way to read it.

But the last time I read to McKenna the story of "The Boy who Shared His Lunch," it struck me as a parable for what happens when we see a need and do our best to meet it while offering our work to Jesus.

The boy sees that there is a need. A huge need. I'm guessing he never dreamed his lunch would feed the entire crowd, but he came forward thinking it might be able to feed somebody. He sacrificed. And Jesus took what little the boy sacrificed and supernaturally met the need at hand.

There's nothing wrong with you wanting to be the best you can be. With wanting to be the best swimmer or the best student or the best friend. Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

But don't worry when you fall short. Don't worry when the need around you seems far too large for you to hope to make even a dent. We learn from the boy who shared his lunch, who sacrificed personal comfort to meet the needs of others, that God can stretch your talents, abilities, time, and riches to go further than you ever could have imagined.

The proposal I sent to my agent isn't perfect. I'll never be able to make it so. But I've done my best and now it's time to turn it over to Jesus. He gave me the inspiration, He sees the needs it can meet, and now the wait begins. Not the nail-biting wait to see if this book will sell, but the eager, joy-filled wait to see Jesus show up and fill some baskets.

-Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels a few years ago and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. To check out her blog and read samples of her books, check out and

Monday, November 08, 2010

Dreaming of Mr. Right

It’s easy to spot Mr. Right in the movies or in a good novel. He’s the one who shows up out of nowhere, casts a handsome smile, and sweeps little Miss Lonely off her feet. There are struggles to be sure. There may be moments when Mr. Right seems long gone, but if the movie/book is one of those happily-ever-after stories Him and Her will end up realizing their love and committing themselves to each other for life. Riding off in the sunset with Mr. Right is the correct ending for every good story.

Yet there is a time in all of our lives when we doubt there is a Mr. Right for us. Those dumb boys at school aren’t nearly as cute, or smart, or kind as the heroes on television, but sometimes that doesn’t seem to matter very much because we’re not necessarily Cinderella or even Snow White.

At night, as we lay in bed drifting off in sleep we may dream about our future, about our wedding day and our life, our career and our kids. But once we’re at school, or work, those thoughts seem like fading dreams. Our focus turns to reality—to today—and we forget to plan, or pray for, all those tomorrows that are hanging in the future with bright expectations.

We don’t think about Mr. Right at school. Or when we’re with our friends. We don’t consider our future wedding day and all the marriage days to follow. Instead we look around and see that all our friends are dating and we want to keep up. We watch the teen movies and desire some of that romance that we see on the big screen. We feel empty inside, incomplete, and we want loved. Need love. Sure our parents, and siblings, and maybe even friends from church or school love us, but it’s not the same. We want to experience those giddy feelings and that flutter of butterflies in our stomachs … you may feel that way, too.

So then comes the day when that guy that sits three seats in front of you in Chemistry asks you out you quickly agree. He’s just average looking, and he doesn’t go to church. He mostly hangs around his friends and plays video games or football on the front lawn after school. He’s not someone you can really imagine spending your life with, but he’s not that bad and he likes you. And you don’t want to miss the chance. After all you do want to go to the prom and you do want to experience a kiss. And so those hopes that you had when you were drifting off to sleep are forgotten. Mr. Right is just a fantasy and you live for the here and now. After all, there is no guarantee for a good future, right?

Then again, maybe there is something you can do. Maybe there is something you can do with your friends. It’s a place to start. And it starts on your knees. Before you date. Before you give your heart PRAY. Pray for God to guide you. Pray for His will. Seek HIS peace.

And then, if you don't have peace that this guy is God's good, perfect will for you ... at this time ... for your heart.

Run. Run away from temptation. Run to God.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Who is in the Lead?

San Francisco’s yearly Fleet Week draws families from all over the California Bay Area. While the military ships are exciting to see, the biggest attraction is the Blue Angels. This year I happened to be visiting my parents during Fleet Week so we made a spontaneous trip across the Bay. Knowing how crowded the city would be, we drove to a former military base in nearby Sausalito. For over 30 minutes we watched the famous team of planes zoom over our heads in tight formations. The loops and dives didn’t amaze me nearly as much as the fact that the planes didn’t crash into one another. They were so frighteningly close!

Later, my dad (who flies small planes and loves to read about aviation) explained how the pilots do it. Six planes may be grouped together but only the lead pilot keeps his eyes on the sky, watching for what’s ahead. The rest are assigned a specific spot on the plane ahead of them, to watch at all times. Each pilot knows that attempting to look ahead instead of at his assigned spot could not only pull him out of formation, but could cause a fatal error, both for him and whoever he crashes into. He must trust that lead pilot to know what is ahead and guide the group.

I immediately saw God as that lead pilot, watching the skies ahead, and myself as one of those commanded to keep my eyes on one spot. How often do I insist on looking ahead, unable to trust the One in the lead to know what He is doing? And what happens each time, without fail? I either fly off course or cause a crash. It might not be literally fatal but it does damage. Thankfully, God, in His kindness, never fails to guide me back, offering a loving reminder that things will work out so much better if I just obey and keep my eyes on the assigned spot.

More and more, I am learning the benefits of trusting God with what is ahead. All I have is my assigned focal point—today. He guides me through each loop, dive, and breathtaking assent. When I have the faith to simply follow I have peace. Even if it seems like His directions are making me air sick, I accept that He knows what He is doing and that I’ll land safely when we’re finished.

Are you struggling to trust God for what is ahead? Try asking Him to point out the one thing He wants you to focus on for today. Pray that He will help you trust Him to lead until this season of dips and sickening loops comes to an end.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Love Notes

I'm sitting here in my writing loft looking at index cards I've scotch-taped around me. When I'm feeling discouraged, I read them as though they're love notes from God. I guess they are. The words never lose their power. I've read them a zillion times.

When my three children were little, I'd send love notes in their lunch bags--often with a scripture included. Sometimes I left love notes in their rooms. This scripture is to my left, written on a neon green index card. I remember writing it for each child. Believing it for all three children. A perfect scripture for me, too. "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:6 Don't you love it?

If I look to my right, there's an orange index card. "Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down. He won't leave you." Deut 3:15 Thank you, Lord.

Here's a simple love note a friend sent me:
Be still.
Don't run.
Let me.

Reminders of God's love, power, and grace never lose their power. They bring me back to Him over and over.

Do you have a scripture you cling to?

My love,

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day

from the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, who hast created us in thine own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.