Let’s Give Ourselves a Time Out—For Gratitude!

Too often we wait until November, the month of thanks—or even the very end of the year—to focus on things we’re grateful for, but let’s take a time out to do it today.

After all, we should have thankful hearts all year long, right? Sometimes we let life blaze past us, forgetting to truly appreciate and express gratitude for the blessings in our lives. So let’s do our best from now on to continually cultivate thankful hearts—and we can start by being intentional about it today.

Since we’ve almost reached the midpoint of 2017, let’s each give some thought to the top ten things we’re most grateful for so far this year. Limiting it to this year will help us focus our thoughts on the most recent events in our lives rather than thinking of the general things that always come to mind when giving thanks.

Here’s my Top Ten Gratitude List thus far for 2017:

  1. I’m thankful for being able to trust God for the outcome of a big personal prayer concern as well as some work-related concerns. So grateful for the peace and rest I find in trusting him.
  2. I’m thankful for the times we’ve spent with our daughters, sons-in-law, and two sets of twin grandsons. So thankful for sweet baby smiles and little boy laughter, for snuggly cuddles and precious hugs. Thankful for trips to the zoo and for seeing baby milestones achieved.
  3. I’m thankful my dad, my sister Carolyn, and I got to go meet the newest member of our extended family—Jaxon, my niece Joanna’s baby and my sister Janice’s first grandbaby.
  4. I’m thankful for God’s Word and how he has used it to guide me and to strengthen and encourage me and how he’s allowed me to share it with others through my writing.
  5. I’m thankful to have reached one of my main author marketing goals for the year—participating in bridal fairs.  This has been a challenge because of high vendor fees, but God has led me to two so far on the lower end of the expense spectrum.
  6. I’m thankful for safe travel in all my trips to see our grandkids and also travel associated with my writing. For example, on one trip to Little Rock, I had three close calls on the interstate. I don’t take safe travel for granted.
  7. I’m thankful for the beautiful job Stephanie Wheatley of Wheatley Design did on the Wedding Inspiration cards I developed. Also very thankful for God’s leading in this project as well as my daughter Kristin’s help with various aspects of it.
  8. I’m thankful for good health for Don and me through cold and flu season. Also very thankful that God kept our grandbabies protected from the flu.
  9. I’m thankful for a quick getaway to Branson with Don in May. It had been over five years since we had been there. It was so good to enjoy Silver Dollar City once again—a place where my entire family has many great memories together.
  10. And finally, I’m thankful Don is carrying a lighter teaching load in summer school this summer. Since his Microbiology class is filled beyond capacity, he could never have kept up with all the extra work that causes plus teach Anatomy & Physiology the way he normally does as well.

So there’s my top ten—how about yours? I think you’ll find that when you get started, it will be hard to stop at ten!

“Come and see what God has done, the amazing things he has done for people.” Psalm 66:5 NCV

*What are you grateful for so far in 2017?

*Flickr photo by RnD.de.Portraits, Creative Commons License

Wedding Day Photo: Sweep Her Off Her Feet

Formal poses certainly have their place in the wedding day photos, Mother of the Bride, but chances are some of the very best photos will be the fun shots.

Some of those may come at the suggestion of the photographer, but others will unfold quite spontaneously. And if you’ve hired a top-notch photographer, he or she will be watching to capture those moments with a few click-clicks of his trusty camera.

One super fun shot for wedding day is featured above—the groom sweeping the bride off her feet. This is a shot that can be taken inside or outside the venue, planned or unplanned. The main thing is that it will be fun and romantic all at once. A winner to be sure.

So MOB, pass along the suggestion to your daughter—or ask the photographer to be watching for the perfect opportunity for such a shot. You will be glad you did. And so will the bride and groom!

*You might also want to read Wedding Photo Idea: A Veiled Kiss, Wedding Photo Idea: Black and White Bubble Shot, and Wedding Photo Idea: Groom Admires His Bride.

*The current issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, comes out today. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by galeria_stefbu, Creative Commons License

One Way to Pray Against Our Spiritual Enemy

2172772997_4d1ae0c7e1“‘A farmer went out to sow his seed . . . The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.’” Luke 8:5, 11-12 NIV (see also Matthew 13:19)

The enemy of our souls—that old serpent the devil—is a liar, a thief, and a con-artist who even at times masquerades as an angel of light. He employs whatever tactic it takes to defeat and discourage the children of God and to also keep unbelievers in darkness and chains.

This low-down thief can rob us of many things—peace, joy, our marriages and families, our good reputations and witness for the Lord, our time, our health, the list goes on. Scripture tells us he also snatches away the life-giving seed of God’s Word planted among those who do not yet understand and believe. Because of its eternal impact, this treachery is even more evil than stealing food from the starving.

One way we can fight for the souls of those who’ve had the Word planted in their lives is to pray against Satan’s tactic of snatching it away. This is not something I’ve been savvy to in the past and I need to be alert to future opportunities to do such battle in prayer.

Why not join me? Let’s take a mental inventory of those unbelievers we know who’ve recently had the Word planted in their lives.

Have we shared scripture or biblical truth with someone personally or through social media? Have we given financial gifts to help spread the good news among a particular group of people? Do we know of a mission team at work right now? Are we aware of any unbelievers who have recently sat in church and heard the Word preached? Have we heard prayer requests voiced for specific people who have been exposed to God’s Word lately?

Let’s pray against the enemy’s efforts to snatch the planted Word of God away from these precious people. Let’s ask God to place a hedge of protection around his planted Word so that the devil won’t steal the truth and hope of eternal life that it can bring. Let’s put up a fight. Let’s go to battle.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.Ephesians 6:11 NIV

*Who can you pray for this week? If you’d like me and others to join you, please tell us in the comments.

*Flickr photo by W. Visser, Creative Commons License

Dream Like Crazy

13026914033_d92fcaf0b0_zDo you have a dream? If so, be encouraged by my post today. Over seven years ago I wrote a piece called “Dream Like Crazy” for my very first Life Notes newsletter, and the dream I shared in that piece is in the process of coming true right now. That’s right, my first book will be released on July 1st!

So won’t you read “Dream Like Crazy” today and rejoice with me at how God is honoring the dreams of little ordinary me. Hope it encourages you to pursue those dreams of your own!

Dream Like Crazy (written in November 2008)

Are you a dreamer? I am. When I sleep, I dream like crazy, but for the past several years, I’ve become a dreamer of a different sort. I’m a writer now, and writers have to be dreamers. Not only do we have to dream up ideas and words, we must have vision—dreams and goals—if we hope to have our work published.

My writing dream didn’t start until I was 40 years old. Just as the world was telling me I was over the hill, I saw a new hill to climb. And even though I’ve had to take a couple of detours along the way, I’ve been climbing slowly but surely ever since. One step at a time.

The dream to touch other lives through my writing has grown over the years. When I began, I just hoped to have some articles and poems published, but within a few years, a desire to write a book took root as well. Now I have more than one book project tumbling around inside my mind and out onto my keyboard. I continue working at my ongoing goal of having more of my work used in various publications, compilation books, and on greeting cards, but now my dream encompasses seeing books of my own published as well.

A book sounds like a pretty big dream for a small-time gal like me, doesn’t it? Especially given the fact that my over the hill 40th birthday is now a distant memory. You know what keeps me pressing on, though? I believe God has given me my dreams and called me to write. I’m just following his lead.

As far as traditional book publication goes, I know the odds are stacked against me. In the publishing world, the market is more competitive than ever before. Some might say, “Why bother? Why go to all that effort? You’ll probably never get a book contract.” And you know what? They may be right. If so, I’m okay with that. I still feel incredibly blessed to have any of my work out there touching the lives of others.

Even so, I’m not ready to give up my dream of book publication. Those voices could be wrong. Jesus said, ‘”…with God all things are possible…'” (Matthew 19:26), and after all, God is the One who has given me my dreams as well as the ability to write. I’m just getting ready for his blessing. Just doing my part to see my dreams become reality!

*Do you have a dream? Take it to the Lord and get ready for His blessing!

*Sign-up for my free Life Notes newsletter is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Moyan_Brenn, Creative Commons License

9 Connections to Improve Your Life

53371612_bd8183988e_bWho isn’t eager to improve her life, even in a small way, when she has the opportunity? Most of us love to find simple ways to make our lives richer, ways that are within the reach of all. After all, we want to enjoy our time here on earth to the fullest, don’t we?

One simple way to improve our lives is through connecting—both with people and with things. Every time we connect we’re taking a step outside of ourselves, and that’s a great step to take. Too much self-focus and/or living in a too-small world we’ve built for ourselves will drain us of joy and zap our energy levels.

So who or what can we connect with that will bring positive changes or vibes to our lives? Here are nine connections that can make a difference. Why not try them all?

1. Connect with God. No better connection in the world, right? When we connect with God through worship, prayer, or reading his Word, he infuses our lives with what we need on any given day—peace, joy, comfort, inspiration, perseverance. The list goes on.

2. Connect with loved ones and friends. Whether it’s a family member, a dearly loved friend, or a more casual friend, we receive an immediate boost from a conversation, a look, a smile, a hug, a note of encouragement, an interaction through social media, or another gesture from a fellow sojourner in life. It’s a good reminder to keep our interactions positive so we can provide that same loving boost to those we care about.

3. Connect with nature. Stepping out into the great outdoors and connecting with the creative wonders of our mighty God can soothe our spirits and energize us at the same time. After all, when we connect with nature, it’s just another way to connect with God, right?

4. Connect with strangers. Yes, we can even improve our lives when we connect with strangers. As we extend a smile and kind word to those we come in contact with, we’ll feel positive energy and be a blessing to them as well. We might even open the door to a new friendship!

5. Connect with the written word. As we read (or write!) books, articles, poetry, and other material, we enlarge our worlds and/or make it possible to see things in new and different ways. We gain information, inspiration, comfort, and encouragement. And of course, the most important written word—God’s Word—will make all the difference in our lives.

6. Connect with music. Whether listening, singing, playing, or composing, interacting with music moves us. Like nature, it can soothe or energize. Like the written word, it can inspire, comfort, and encourage. Our lives are simply better with music. Music gives joy.

7. Connect with art. Enjoying the beauty of stories told through drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other creative endeavors adds yet another layer of wonder and inspiration to our lives. Both observing and participating enrich us.

8. Connect with good food. Oh yes, good food—whether good-for-us food, new-to-us food, comfort food, or special-treat foods, food improves our lives. Of course, we need food to live, but it also adds joy, refreshment, and adventure to our days.

9. Connect with knowledge. I touched on this when mentioning the written word, but we can connect with knowledge in a variety of ways. Just think of all the ways we learn and gather information. Hopefully, when we connect with knowledge, we grow. And along the way, a special bonus comes when wisdom is acquired.

So friends, let’s take time to connect—today and every day!

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

*Which of these connections do you enjoy the most? What else can you add to the list?

*The latest issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out earlier this month. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by elaine faith, Creative Commons License