Archives for September 2008

Feeling Nostalgic

I hate to admit it, but I’ve reached a new high in being made to feel old. Believe it or not, this weekend Kristin and Shawn were home to attend her 10-year high school reunion. If I’m not mistaken, this new milestone is even making her feel older. Maybe I should tell her to try being the parents of someone who’s been out of high school for 10 years, though. Now that’s old :)

Not only has this event made me feel every bit of my 50+ years, it’s made me feel nostalgic, too. Yesterday morning before Kristin and Shawn took off for their first reunion activity, we started talking about things like trouble with lockers and the first day of high school. Before we knew it, it felt like the first day of school. I was snapping pictures of Kristin while she tried to speed Shawn along with hurried pleas of “Come on, Shawn! The tour starts in five minutes — I don’t want to be late!” I caught a glimpse of that little girl nervousness on her face that I’ve seen so many times over the years. There she was — my little girl headed off to school once again.

I’ll spare you a detailed walk down my memory lane, but you can imagine how a milestone event like this in my daughter’s life triggered memories of other big moments we’ve witnessed and shared with her. You’ve probably experienced most of them with your kids, too. Their first steps, first days of school, the dreaded driver’s license that we eventually discover spells freedom for us, graduations, watching them leave home, landing that first big job, and finally giving them up to the love of their lives to start a new family… Anyone sighing with me about now? Our kids may get older, but they never outgrow our love, do they?

This crazy, deep, devoted love that parents have for their children — where does it come from? My guess is from the Author of love Himself, also a devoted Father. God has told us, “‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters…'” (2 Corinthians 6:18). I love the fact that God is my Father, that He loves me even more than I love my daughters. On one hand, that’s hard to imagine because I know how deeply I love them. On the other, I know He is God and loves me with a depth I can’t even comprehend.

I don’t know if God ever feels older as He watches His children grow older, but I bet He feels nostalgic at times. I’m sure He recalls with love the milestones and the “firsts” in our lives — and He probably has a few more on His list than we do. Chances are, as He thinks of us, He looks back and breathes a sigh as He remembers the day we gave Him our hearts and began calling Him Lord and Savior, or maybe He recalls the first time we trusted Him to provide for us or the first time we placed our future in His hands. And don’t you think he loves to remember the times we started sharing our faith with others or serving “the least of these”?

What are you feeling nostalgic about today? Go ahead and give in to it for a few minutes. You’ll be in good company.

“I remember the days of long ago…” Psalm 143:5a

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Gifts – Unclaimed or Unwrapped?

Remember the Sweet Giveaway I had for Valentine’s Day? The one with Godiva chocolate as the prize? Well, my daughter Kelli won the gift card, but she just this week got around to using it. Crazy, huh?! How could anyone delay her delight and sit on a gift of chocolate like that for seven months?!

In Kelli’s defense, I must tell you that she doesn’t have a Godiva store in her community so she did have to wait for an opportunity to use the card. On the other hand, she actually missed some chances because she forgot to bring it with her when she traveled to cities flowing with milk, honey, and Godiva chocolates. It drove me crazy knowing there was unclaimed chocolate in our family :)

After several reminders from me over the months, Kelli finally remembered the gift card this week, and I was lucky enough to be on hand when it was used. Yes, you heard me right. I got to sink my teeth into a piece of one of my own giveaways :) A “chocolate souffle” truffle to be exact! Kelli and I met in T-town for a day of shopping before she began her new job, and you better believe Godiva was on our list of stops. If she had brought the card with her back in June when her sister joined us for a day on the town, Kristin could have enjoyed the gift, too. (Kristin, I would say Kelli owes you a chocolate!).

Just think — Kelli had a gift sitting around for seven long months that didn’t do anyone any good. I wonder how many of us have gifts we haven’t used yet? I’m not just talking about presents we’ve been given that we don’t really care for or haven’t been able to use for some reason. I’m talking about our talents and abilities and those special spiritual gifts that God tells us He has given to all believers. Scripture says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (1 Peter 4:10a). Yes, we each have been given gifts.

I jotted down a quote some time ago (author unknown) that says, “Everyone is gifted — but some people never open their package.” Have we opened our packages? Are we using the gifts God has given? If not, let’s think about what’s holding us back and do our best to move beyond those hurdles. Remember, when we’re not using our gifts, we are shortchanging ourselves as well as others. Someone is missing out on a blessing. Someone’s delight is being delayed — or never experienced at all.

We don’t want to just sit on our gifts, do we? I say “let the unwrapping begin!”

“…I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” 2 Timothy 1:6

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*Flickr photo by shimelle, Creative Commons License

Blogging Blessings

I missed my anniversary! Not my wedding anniversary (thank goodness), but my blog-iversary. I meant to mark it here in some way, but the day blew by without me giving it even a momentary thought. I guess I was too caught up in telling you about the writers conference. Today I will rectify my oversight and celebrate the blog :)

One year ago on September 17th, I plunged into the world of blogging. What began as a way to grow as a writer and become more visible to readers blossomed into so much more. With the first post, I caught a glimpse of the incredible ministry potential the blog afforded, and that immediately expanded my purpose and vision for it. Now God has blessed by allowing those first goals to become a natural outgrowth of my desire and efforts to refresh spirits and nourish souls. Isn’t He good?!

Blogging, as with any of my writing, allows me the amazing privilege of touching hearts and lives. My statcounter gives me a peek into how far-reaching that can be at times. During this past year, I have had hits from 28 foreign countries, from Canada to Peru to Bangladesh. Here at home, 43 of 50 states have been represented, along with Washington, D.C.. If you know anyone in Hawaii, Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island, send them my link. By my second anniversary, it would be fun to claim all 50 :)

I have met new people as they have breezed through my blog and left comments, and I’ve also made some new friends who stop by again and again. The blog helps me stay more connected to those of you I already know as well. It makes me day when readers leave comments — we writers thrive on feedback, you know :)

And speaking of comments, one change I think I should make in this second year of blogging is how often I comment back to comments :) Since writers spend a lot of time at the computer as it is, I need to streamline my computer time where I can. I love your comments so keep them coming, please. They bless me and also add to the blog. Just know that I’ll be trying to resist the urge to reply to every single person :) I will still be commenting from time to time but want to allow myself the freedom to do it as I have time or see a need.

And now to celebrate my first blog-iversary, let me say “woo-hoo!” and “thank you” for being a part of my blogging family. I echo the words of Paul, Silas, and Timothy as they said to the Thessalonians, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…” (1 Thes. 2:8).

Here’s to another year of sharing our lives — be blessed!

*Flickr photo by pebblechen

Conference Gifts from God

I’m no longer a newbie! I now have my first writers conference under my belt and can’t wait until it’s time to attend another one. Just imagine — two days crammed full of instruction and inspiration, meeting new people, fellowship, good food, networking, giving and receiving advice, and building relationships. What an overall wonderful experience — as long as I don’t count the Dallas traffic and several episodes of getting lost :)

I have more experiences to share than you have time to read so let me just give you the highlights. On day one, as soon as Jeneal and I walked into the dining hall where everyone was gathering, I heard someone with surprise yet certainty in her voice say, “Cheryl.” I turned to look, and there was Renae (pictured above) coming towards me with arms outstretched. “You look just like your picture!”

Believe it or not, Renae and I “met” through the blogging world, as a result of comments left on Jean’s blog (both Renae’s and Jean’s links can be found to the right). During the past few weeks, we discovered through our blogs that we were both going to the NTCW conference. We immediately began looking forward to meeting in person. What a joy it was to get to talk face to face, learning more about each other and encouraging one another. A fun Internet relationship got the chance to blossom into a sweet, in-the-flesh friendship. How amazing is that?!

And while we’re on the topic of amazing, get ready for my next highlight: I won one of the writing contests! Everyone attending had the chance to enter pieces in six different categories, and I won the non-fiction article category! There were 136 entries in all the categories, and I’m not sure how many entered the one that I won — but I do know that others entered because I heard remarks later like “why did you have to win my category?” :) The prize? I was awarded $50, a copy of Frank Ball’s book (Eyewitness, a chronological compilation of the gospels and related scripture), and a certificate. The main prize, though, was the honor of winning. My traveling partner and long-time friend is now having fun calling me an award winning author :)

Another thing that ranks right up there with these other highlights is a meeting I had with one of the conference faculty. I had the opportunity to show a multi-published author a book proposal I’m working on, and she gave me very positive feedback on both the idea and the writing itself. I think I must have floated out of the room after that and could barely contain myself until I had the chance to spill the news to Jeneal.

Of course, just getting to go to the conference with Jeneal was a blessing in itself. Lots of good girlfriend catch-up time as well as moral support during my first conference experience. All of these highlights, all of these blessings, were gracious gifts from God, and I thank Him for each one. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17a).

How has God blessed you lately? What gifts has He showered down on you? Share with a comment — let’s all rejoice together!

**Renae has just found out that her dad, James, has cancer. Please pray for him, Renae, and their entire family.

**9/19 – further news: Renae’s aunt was killed in a head-on collision this week. Please cover this precious family in prayer!

Book Review: Hope For The Journey Through Cancer

I’ve just returned from the writers conference (more on that later!) so thought I would post something I already had up my sleeve. I hope and pray this will come at just the right time for someone. Here is a book review I wrote for Hope for the Journey through Cancer by Yvonne Ortega:

“In 2001, I joined the ranks of more than one million people in the United States who were diagnosed with cancer that year. Their lives would never be the same. Neither would mine,” says author Yvonne Ortega in Hope for the Journey through Cancer – Inspiration for Each Day, a sixty-day devotional designed to help cancer patients and their loved ones “look for hope in the midst of cancer.”

Based on her own personal experience with the disease, Ortega builds encouraging devotions around specific events and emotions she encountered along the way. Her easy-to-read style and soothing tone, combined with each day’s brief selection and scripture, make this devotional a breath of fresh air for those who long for a touch of comfort and hope but may not feel well enough to read for more than a few minutes.

Ortega is an award winning writer and a full time certified domestic violence and abuse counselor. But more importantly, she is a cancer survivor. She intimately knows the battles cancer patients must fight as well as the desperately needed joys that pop up at unexpected moments. Her prayer is that “God will wrap His arms of love around [her readers] and give them hope” and that they “will get to know the Lord in a deeper, richer way.”

Any individual or family faced with a diagnosis of cancer would most certainly be blessed by reading Yvonne Ortega’s refreshing devotional (published by Revell and available here). To learn more about Yvonne, check out her website  and her God tube video.

“But as for me, I will always have hope…” Psalm 71:14