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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Story

One of the greatest things I have discovered, in my new journey of being an author (I just love that word), is that everyone has a story to tell, and hopes and dreams to explore. I love that my books and this blog have opened the hearts of many to share their stories, hopes and dreams with me. I have also realized through hearing their stories that we are all alike. We all have heartaches, broken dreams, and places in our lives where our faith was tested and renewed. We have all overcome adversity and have a beautiful recounting of what God done just for us.

All of the stories of amazement and wonder reflect God’s love and mercy. We are God’s witnesses. We tell of the hope inside of us. We tell of the hardships we have encountered and overcome through God. We tell of the blessings He pours upon us daily. We tell of the wonders of His mighty hand. We tell of the feelings of our hearts. We tell of the mysteries of unexplained phenomenal occurrences orchestrated by God. We tell how we were blind, but now we see.

Isaiah 43:10-12

King James Version (KJV)

10Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
11I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.

12I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

And when we tell our personal stories it reflects the greatest story ever written or told; the story of how God sent His only begotten Son into this cruel world to die just for us. I love knowing that my Saviour gave His life freely for me and my sins because His love for me was far greater than anything earthly. They didn’t drag Him to the cross, with Him fighting and cursing them, but He went willingly. And I believe that is how we should serve Him. We should be willing to do and suffer according to His will for us and our lives. As I have learned with my own live, God’s plans for us far exceed any expectations we might have.

If we’re not careful we will make an utter and complete mess of our lives. For one thing, the flesh is never content. It is always looking for something to satisfy it, yet there is nothing. It wants glory, honor and praise. It wants to be recognized and esteemed higher than God, when you really think about it.

But there is a little part, underneath it all, that is so thankful for all of the beautiful blessings God bestows upon me. I’m so thankful that He works with me, sculpting and shaping me into the person he wants me to be. I’m so thankful that God loves me enough to mold me for His glory and honor. I’m so thankful that when He saved me He filled my heart with His amazing love.

He has blessed my life so abundantly! There are times when it hits me and all I can do is cry. My books that I have labored and cried over for seven years are going to be published and available very soon. I’m going to hold them in my hands and know I am holding a miracle (to me anyway). I call them a miracle because I know they are blessed and created by the hands of God. I know that He held my hands and guided me each step of the way. I know that I did everything possible to get them published and still couldn’t make it happen. I know that He heard my prayers in the deep recesses of the night and answered them according to His will for me and my life. These books have changed my life. Not only what is written inside, but what transpired during the process.

I also know that none of this would be possible without my God. He provided it all. I can’t take the praise and glory everyone wants to give me. I am nothing, but my Lord is everything.

I want to tell everyone who will listen what my Lord has done for me. All of my blessings come from Him. He holds my next breathe in hands and guides me along my journey. He has proven His love for me time and time again. He has shown me about faith and taught me how to TRUST Him. He is the holder of my life and the possessor of my soul.

Of all of the words created, none truly exemplifies His GREATNESS!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

You Deserve More

A few hours ago I was lying around feeling blue and I wasn’t even really sure why. My body ached and I just generally felt bad. For a few minutes I talked myself into lying around and then even proceeded to justify my actions.

I have found that I will believe whatever I tell myself. I convinced myself I deserved to snooze this morning when the alarm clock went off. I started right then making excuses for myself. And I have found I can be very convincing, especially in the wee hours of the morning. It doesn’t take much to make me forego my morning exercise routine for an extra hour of sleep. However, what I don’t mention is that when I fail to exercise I ache that day and my mood plummets. Then I just want to crawl in the bed and pull the covers over my head. I convince myself that I’m unwell and then before you know it, I’m not able to do anything the rest of the day or possibly the remainder of the week. Then I get behind on my work and feel overwhelmed, and the cycle continues. Until, I decide to change it and ask God to give me the strength and knowledge to be able to.

However, when I get up as soon as the alarm goes off and make myself exercise, without discussing it, I start feeling better just a few minutes into the routine. By the time I’m finished, my problems don’t seem as challenging and my life doesn’t seem so bleak. My pain diminishes and I feel wonderful, ready to face my day. I can see my blessings so much clearer and even look forward to my chores and the accomplishments they bring. We all need goals and accomplishments, both little and small, in our daily lives! Sometimes we have to do things that are just for us.

Every decision we make has an impact on some part of our lives and the lives around us. When I feel bad it affects my whole family. When I’m in a bad mood it disturbs my family and they usually mimic my behavior. When I think negative and walk around believing my life is like a half empty glass with a hole in the bottom of it, then that is exactly what I get in return; negative feelings and negative energy.

However, when I only allow myself to believe positive thoughts and actually train myself to look for those positives and seek them out, then everything about my life is better. I smile at my husband and kids and it has the boomerang effect.

It’s the same way with going to church and serving God. If you listen to that voice inside your head that tells you to stay home, or keep your mouth shut and not do the things He bids you to do, then you get in bad shape after a while. The devil will always find us a million excuses why we shouldn’t obey the Lord. In my experience, I have found the best thing to do is ignore him. Don’t even discuss it with him. He doesn’t tell you there is a day of reckoning after awhile, when you have to pay for all that you owe the Lord.

We can’t make bad choices day after day, week after week and expect our lives to get better. When we are out of fellowship with the Lord and the church, then nothing in our lives will go right.

There is no antidote for a Godly sorrow. Just like there is no price to measure up to His beautiful blessings. God controls it all. Just because we attempt to pray to Him doesn’t mean He hears us or that He will answer us. He may ignore us as we have ignored Him.

I have been on both sides, the receiving end of His blessings and the wrath of his punishment for my disobedience and I can tell you, the latter is very painful. It’s a horrible feeling to cry out in the depth of misery and be ignored. He can be a terrible God when He pours out His wrath. However, He is a wonderful paymaster for those who serve him willingly and He expects so little of us when you think about it.  

He wants us to turn our problems over to Him. He wants to carry them for us and help us. I believe He loves to bless His children. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to be prosperous in our journey. He wants us to shine our light and tell of the hope in us. He wants people to know by our lives that we belong to Him. He wants us to be able overcome that negative voice in our heads with faith and thankfulness, through Him.

He wants us to understand that if we resist the devil he will flee from us. However, if we have a conversation with him, nine times out of ten he wins. His thoughts are always the worst case scenario. His arguments are always filled with hopeless and bitterness. He is the one who gives us the feelings of fear and being overwhelmed. When we look to God we realize things are never as bad as they once seemed. In fact, they are most often times way better than we expect or even imagine.

Whenever life has you down, instead of pulling the covers over your head and giving into the temptation of surrender, realize and know you deserve more. Claim your happiness and push yourself to new limits. You will never know what you are capable of until you’re faced with the challenges.

Trials and tribulations are not meant to break us, they are used to strengthens us and mold us; therefore, making us a viable and willing vessel for God.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Work in Progress

For the first time, since I started the ritual of writing a blog every week, I don’t want to write. I’m tired, exhausted really and I just want to go to bed. This week has been demanding and so exciting. It would be so easy for me to just skip it and go crawl in my bed and snuggle under the covers or sit and stare at the beautiful draft of my book. While I can find a million excuses for not writing it this week, I’m so thankful that there is an even BIGGER reason to write it.

I started this blog as a way to praise my Lord for all of the ways He blesses my life. And the very things that are exhausting me are wonderful blessings, so worthy of praise. I realize I don’t have to write a lot, a few words would be sufficient if that’s what God puts on my heart.

This week I have gotten to preview both of my book covers and, today, I actually got to see the illustrations, with the words and in book form for Zippy and the Stripes of Courage. I’m not sure that I can ever conjure up the words to describe that amazing feeling. Imagine writing a book, being so discouraged that you even give up on it and then God comes through and makes it all happen—making it even more beautiful than you ever imagined it could be. The joy and thankfulness just bubble up inside of me and spills over. I read it to my kids and to see their smiles and hear their laughter, and even see them sympathize with Zippy was incredible to say the least. They have grown up hearing Zippy stories and have always wanted to see him and to be able to share that moment with them was amazing.

When I think about how we have all sacrificed so I could follow my heart and dreams, it makes everything so much more special. We’ve not went on vacations or got to do very many fun things, due the fact that I either didn’t work or only worked part time. My kids have had to make sacrifices in some ways and they have done so without complaining. We used to sit at the dinner table and dream (and still do). They would always say, when Momma sells her book we will do this or that. And then when you have a child look at you and say, dreams do come true don’t they Momma? Well, that’s just priceless.

It shows me that we are all just a work in progress. We all have dreams and obstacles standing in the way of those dreams. It’s up to us if we give up or keep trying until we achieve our goals. God wants us to do everything possible in order to accomplish our dreams and leave the impossible to Him. With God there is no impossible. He can make things happen for us if we only believe.

And every time we overcome one thing there is another one standing in our way. But I’m so thankful my God is a wonderful strength in times of trouble and suffering. And the rewards are far greater than any troubles or heartaches we might endure. God is a wonderful paymaster!!

He has blessed me with so much more than I expected or deserve! He has pushed me to the end of my strength and then showed me He is my strength. He pushes me outside of my comfort zone to show me what I am capable of through Him. He continues to allow obstacles to be in my way so that He may prove His unyielding love to me. With every fear I conquer and every trial I endure and overcome, He shows me the depth of my faith and enormity of His love. He shows me I have nothing to fear because He is my protector—He is my God.

And even when I mess up and do things wrong, He can take my errors and turn them into blessings. He has showed me that when it really matters, He won’t allow me to fail. He can take the smallest there is and make it great, and make us all look good if we only adhere to that small still voice, beckoning us to live our lives for Him.

He’s the best thing that ever happened to me! And I look so forward to the next step of my journey with Him.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bitter Sweet

Do you ever have one of those moments when you’re happy and sad at the same time? That’s how I feel every time I look at the illustrations for Zippy and the Stripes of Courage. I’m so happy that his story is coming to life on the pages before me. I’m so happy that I’m going to have an opportunity to share him with the world and potentially help others. I’m so happy that I will get to do school visits and read his story to children. I’m so happy that his story has depth and meaning and that God has blessed me not only to write it, but to share it as well.

On the other hand, I’m so sad that he is a zebra without stripes in a world that demands them. I’m so sad that he has struggles and hardships to deal with. I’m so sad that some children may laugh at him, and even sadder for the children who can relate to his story— the children who are going through similar struggles right now in their lives.

There is a big part of me that wants to be selfish and give him stripes. It’s so hard for me to look at the illustrations and know that he doesn’t have stripes because I decided not to give them to him. When I look at the beautiful, bold colors, cute little faces, and amazing detail I’m awed, but when I look at Zippy, I’m heartbroken. And it gives me a better imagine of how I’m viewed at times.

I’ve always wondered if it hurts God to see me struggle with my scars. If it hurts him to see other people laugh and stare at me. Did it hurt Him when I used to cry and beg Him to give me beautiful hands? Through Zippy, and knowing how I feel, I have found my answers.

While I believe it does hurt God to see me go through all of these things, He knows the ending is just beautiful and worth it all. He knows my struggles have molded me into a better, more compassionate and loving person. He knows that if He removed my scars it would change my purpose. He knows that before you can truly help another person with their struggles you have to have overcome them yourself. He knows that sometimes all that is needed is a new perspective.

However, I believe it is God who gives us that different perspective. So instead of looking at Zippy as a pitiful little zebra without stripes, I now see him as a wonderfully, brave zebra who changes the world. And when I look at his pictures I’m no longer sad. So often how we see ourselves is how others will see us, too.

I know that he will help someone with their own struggles. I know that he will be a blessing to some broken heart. I know that he has a beautiful story to tell and it will help many along the way.

And I know the ones who laugh and make fun of him are the ones who need to read his story the most. They are the ones who are cold and bitter on the inside, desperately needing a different perspective.  

It took me many years to write this book and there are probably a hundred different versions, but I’m so thankful that God didn’t give up on me. With each draft he showed me a little more about myself and brought me closer to the person He was molding me to be. Through Zippy he gave me a new perspective on life and taught me acceptance. And somewhere along the way I learned our stories were one in the same.

Here is one of the illustrations from the book my wonderful publisher allowed me to share. It is one of my favorites because it exemplifies how I have felt so many times in my life. So often I’ve hide in the shadows and watched the world go by because I was afraid no one would want to be my friend or that no one would like me. I believe the illustrator, Jack Foster, created this image just beautifully. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My God, My Strength

I love my God! There are times when I would love to just hug Him and show Him how much I love Him. And how very much I appreciate all of the wonderful things He does for me, everyday.  I know that I could never, ever repay Him for His love and mercy, grace and forgiveness, but I believe He wants us to tell others how absolutely wonderful He is to us, and a few of the beautiful ways He blesses us each day.

I love to feel blessed. It surrounds me with an aura of happiness and thankfulness. It makes me so grateful for all of my trials and accomplishments, and opens my eyes to how merciful God is to me. Whenever I start examining my life and pulling apart the threads woven through battles, and the scars they left behind, I am always awed at how God brought me through each one. And each time He gives me a spot, knotted and tied, that reminds me of where we have been and what we have overcome together.

The older I get the more precious God’s word is to me. Regardless of how many times I read the scriptures, there is always something new in them—just for me. Take this verse for example:

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13.

That is such a powerful verse, filled with so much meaning. While I don’t have the ability to dissect the verses and discuss the meaning, I do know what God shows me. And today He has showed me about that strength. It comes from Him and by Him. He is our strength. If we only look to Him as the author and finisher of our faith, then anything is possible. However, I have found the blessings are extra powerful and special when you least expect them and when you’ve given up on them. When I say given up, I mean, believe that it is not God’s will for me.

 I, honestly, never believed I would be able to work again. However, there has always been a little spark of hope, even during the darkest days. Every day I get up and exercise and try to increase my endurance and strength, hoping that one day I will get better. I try to do more today, then I did yesterday. I’ve learned to welcome the pain and realize it’s necessary to get stronger—naturally and spiritually.

And I’ve learned that sometimes God pushes us to our limit just to show us that we can go way beyond what we imagined. It’s not our own strength that we need to rely on anyway. At some point my strength will always fail, but when I look to God there is always an abundance of strength. When I really think about it, I realize, I can’t even walk without Him holding my hands. When we realize we need God in order to live, then that is a wonderful shape to be in. It forces us to stay close to God and call upon Him, relentlessly. It reminds us that we are absolutely nothing, but God is everything.

Today, I start a new job. I didn’t fi1l out an application or even ask for a job, but God saw fit to give me one. He heard my pleas, whispered during the darkest hour of the night and saw the tears of my heartache. He knew I desired to work, but that I feared my limitations would prevent me from doing a good job. He knew that my family and I have made sacrifices in order for me to follow my dreams. He knew that it would be a while longer before my books provide me with any income. He knew that when pushed that I wouldn’t go against His word and go out on my own. He knew I would stand still and wait on Him to make things better for us. He knew that I would trust Him to take care of me.

And so He made a way for me, even when there was no way.

The absolute best part is that I don’t have to give up anything. I can still write for my Lord and put Him first in my life. I can still be a good Mommy (or try to be) and put my kids before my job. God has made a way for me to be able to do it all, without making any important sacrifices. Whenever my books are published, I will still be able to promote them and do school visits without getting behind. I'm not even worried that my hands will fail because I know if they do, God will wrap His hands around mine and bless me to do whatever I need to do.

And the best part is that He will bless me to help someone I love very much with her own dreams. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Today, I’ve learned our limitations are God’s way of blessing us even more. They are placed before us as a reminder we need to pray and ask God to help us. Alone I can do so little, with God I can do ANYTHING!

Author shares message through Zippy the zebra