Archives for August 2012

Casting a Shadow

Shadows. They can be scary, can’t they? They hold the unknown. They sometimes even hold danger.

In life, we encounter shadows of a figurative kind. The menacing ones seem gigantic. Things like cancer, terrorism, financial problems, loss of loved ones, and divorce. Shadows like that can nearly suffocate us.

But not all shadows in life are negative. This time of year—in the heat of summer—shadows provide shade and welcome relief. We don’t run away from them. Instead we run to them. Some we welcome with open arms.

Loved ones cast a comforting shadow when we’re hurting. Mentors provide the shade of experience and encouragement as we try to grow. Friends offer the shelter of companionship when we’re lonely or needing some fun. And the Word of God stands ever-ready to give us whatever kind of refuge we need. No, not all shadows are negative.

The question we need to consider is what kind of shadow are we casting today in the lives of those who know us? What would they say about our influence or our impact on them if given the opportunity?

Do we bring others (or maybe just certain people) down by our negative or critical attitudes and words? Do we add a dark cloud of worry wherever we go? Or instead, do we lift people’s spirits with our happy dispositions and words of encouragement? Do we cast a ray of sunshine instead of an unwelcome shadow?

If you’re like me, it may be a mixture of both. Sometimes our families get an up-close and personal taste of the negative side of our personalities. Hopefully, those are balanced out by all the positive influences we bring into their lives.

Let’s make sure our shadows—whether with family or with the world in general—are the kind people run to, the kind that provide shade and welcome relief.

Let’s cast shadows that people welcome with open arms.

“O LORD, you are my God . . . You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:1a, 4a

*Who has cast a positive shadow in your life?

*Don’t miss out on the “Back At It” Giveaway. Deadline to enter is noon Sunday!

Staying Focused

Focus. A word that has extra meaning for me this year.

You may remember that I chose focus as my theme word for 2012 and wanted to apply it in particular to my writing. I’ve reminded myself of it—and the Lord has brought it to mind as well—numerous times so far this year in order to stay on task with my main projects.

I witnessed the perfect example of staying focused not long ago. I got to watch a bird build a nest one morning. The photo above is of that very bird at work. You might recognize the shot from my Summer Photo Fun: For the Birds post.

I had taken my camera outside, hoping to spot a photo-worthy sight. I wasn’t disappointed. I spied a robin building her nest in a neighbor’s tree. Lucky for me, it was on a lower branch that overhangs our yard. Photo-worthy indeed, huh? Amazing to watch and fun to photograph, too.

As the bird worked steadily, I approached more and more closely, unable to believe how close she actually let me get. It was almost as if she had blinders on. Nothing distracted her from the all-important task at hand.

She even seemed to work in rhythm. She flew to the ground, seeking out the next twig or blade of dried grass to include in her newest home, and then with her latest find grasped safely in her beak, she’d fly back up to her nest-in-progress and place it just so, tamping it down and forming it to her specifications. If she gave my interloping presence any thought, she didn’t let it show. She just worked on.

The qualities that enabled my feathered example to finish her project will help me complete my work as well. Steady work, ignoring distractions, finding a rhythm that works, using the best materials, skilled craftsmanship, and perseverance will all work together to help me create written works that can touch the lives of others.

Focus. A quality I need day in and day out. Next time I get distracted or feel tempted to give up on my dreams, I hope I remember my mentor with wings. I hope I remember to work on.

“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” 2 Corinthians 8:11 NIV

*Where do you need focus right now?

*Don’t miss out on the “Back At It” Giveaway. Deadline to enter is noon Sept. 2.

*The latest issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out earlier this month. It’s still not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!


My husband takes his chances when it comes to sunburns, but not me. I don’t like them. Sunscreen is my friend and never more so than when I’m in higher elevations. In fact, I bought a new tube of sunscreen just before our trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone. And believe it or not, I even remembered to take it with me and use it before each outing.

One day, though, I somehow missed applying my trusty protector to one particular area—my left wrist and hand, just below my watch. I didn’t notice the effects of my negligence until the next morning. I could feel the burn and my hand resembled a bright red paw. Good grief. Just the look I wanted for vacation, huh?

You wouldn’t think my hands would be in the line of direct sunlight, would you? However, we’d been in Yellowstone the day before visiting Old Faithful and other points of interest, and I had been a picture-taking fool.

While manning the camera, I’d held my hands in an upraised position much of the day—especially at Old Faithful, where I waited poised and ready for any action. Unfortunately, I was also poised for the sunburn I didn’t see coming. You can bet I didn’t neglect protecting my hands after that.

Sometimes we fail to protect ourselves spiritually. The enemy of our souls is on the prowl, just looking for chinks in our armor. He watches for areas where we’ve neglected to cover ourselves with the Word of God and prayer.

We may think we’re not at risk in a certain area or get too busy or distracted to turn to God’s Word or call on him for wisdom, help, and protection. We may submit most areas of our lives to his leading but hold onto a few for ourselves. Or maybe we’re rather half-hearted and take a hit and miss approach to time spent with God. Worse yet, we might neglect Him completely, taking our chances and assuming we’ll be able to deal with whatever comes down the pike.

We may not notice the effects of our negligence immediately, but if we continue on in our own way, we’ll soon be dealing with the consequences of a spiritual burn. And by that time, it may be visible to others as well.

Let’s be alert to the dangers that threaten our spiritual lives. Let’s be diligent to apply the protection God offers us. Let’s cover ourselves with the Word of God and prayer.

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

*What area of your life do you sometimes forget to protect?

*Don’t miss out on the “Back At It” Giveaway. Deadline to enter is noon Sept. 2.

*The latest issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out earlier this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

"Back At It" Giveaway Returns!

Does your calendar talk to you? Mine does. It’s telling me it’s time for my mid-August tradition! :)

That’s right, it’s time for another “Back At It” Giveaway. Time to say “goodbye” to Summer Photo Fun and get back to writing my regular-style posts again.

What better way to help us switch gears from the season of flip-flops and sunscreen to one of pencils and pens than a trip to Barnes & Noble. And what’s even better, one of you will make your next trip armed with a $15 B&N gift card!

To enter the “Back At It” Giveaway, leave a comment on this post by noon Sept. 2 (CST) to be included in the drawing. If I don’t know you personally or can’t contact you via your own blog, you must include your email address in your comment to be eligible for the giveaway.

Any comment will work, but to make it a little more fun, tell us about one of your most memorable moments from this summer. Let’s share some of our summer fun before we say goodbye to it completely!

I had lots of summer fun on our trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone, but one of my other memorable summer moments wasn’t quite so much fun. It was unusual, though, so it will have a lasting place in my memory I’m sure. I had to fight fire!

When I was out watering our flowers one evening, I noticed a teenaged boy walking down the alley behind our house. A few minutes later, I walked into the backyard and saw that a fire was blazing in a neighbors’ trash barrel—and not just in the trash but out in the grass and bushes beyond (this was one of those crazy-windy, hot days we’ve had). The neighbors had moved so I knew they hadn’t started it.

I ran in the house and called 911 and then went back out to check on the fire. I decided I should try to throw some water on it until the fire department could get there. I filled my trusty bucket and away I went. One lesson I learned? Don’t try to fight fire in flip flops :) Thank goodness, I didn’t fall and break something, but I did end up with blood running down the side of my foot from a scrape of some sort :)

So what happened to you this summer? Can’t wait to hear your stories! :)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out earlier this month. It’s still not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by striatic, Creative Commons License

Summer Photo Fun: Photographer Elece Hollis

You’re in luck. I have one more special guest to introduce you to before Summer Photo Fun concludes this week. I’m especially excited because the star of today’s post, Elece Hollis, is not only becoming a great photographer, but she’s one of my writing buddies as well.

Elece and I met around six years ago when I joined Fellowship of Christian Writers in Tulsa, OK. She’s been a source of inspiration and encouragement to me ever since. Elece is a diligent writer who is published regularly, and I’m always excited to hear how her work is being used.

Elece and I spur each other on in our writing careers, and we also share a love of poetry and poetic language. What a blessing to have writer friends like Elece who truly “get” me and can understand and share in the joys and struggles of the writing life.

To introduce herself to you, Elece says, “I live south of Tulsa in Oklahoma where my husband and I work our pecan grove. We have raised a large family of seven children and have eighteen grandchildren. I love to take photos of people.

The shots below are all people in costumes. Most were taken at the Rendezvous, a yearly encampment of folks into American history. At Rendezvous, the participants reenact the historical yearly meetings of mountain men, trappers, pioneers, and traders to buy, sell, and trade things they have collected, produced , grown, or hunted.

Here are links to my four blogs: Images of Home, a photo-a-day blog where I also post a homemade poem along with the picture. My blog about the prairies is called Prairie Places. Another of my blogs is made up of photos, poems, and letters to friends, family, and God: Letters From Home. Another of my blogs with lots of photos is about my home and family, and gardening and flowers, etc. It is called Thoughts Join Letters.”

Hope you enjoy Elece’s unique photos and her captions for them! 

I loved this woman’s hat of white rabbit fur and her earrings made of brass thimbles.

This little boy in his three-cornered felt hat was charming. He said his name was Connor.

Loved the lively step of this old man with a cane dressed in a gray wool coat.

This old trapper/hunter had a rattlesnake rattle woven into his beard.

Woman with blue skirt carrying her ax.

A trader in orange shirt and brown hat and vest looks a bit distrustful.

The Mountain Man stirring up some fun.

Friends: Basket weaving Indian woman named Wabi and my daughter Brenna.

Thank you, Elece, for sharing your photos with us! It’s good to remember our roots, isn’t it?

“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past.” Deuteronomy 32:7a

*Which of Elece’s photos do you find most interesting?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!