Grace update #1

So many of you have been kind to ask after our little smoke tree that suffered, as my friend AJ says, “aggressive pruning” at the hands of the roadside cleanup crew earlier this year. Thank you for your concern.

I am happy to report that Grace seems to be working hard to recover as you can see below. I am even happier to say that the lesson of grace continues to be a daily reminder as I look out my kitchen window each day. I do hope it sticks.

Perhaps as Grace the tree grows so will grace the practice…in each of us.

“…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30


Have a  marvelous  weekend!

Grace and peace!


Saying grace

We sat around my dining room table and spent some time catching up with one another. Our lives have changed over the past year or so and our gatherings, which used to be a natural extension of our proximity, now require some scheduling.

As our allotted minutes raced by, we laughed and shared without any trace of distance because our hearts are still bound together in a sisterhood of faith in Jesus. We kept on talking well past our original plan and then we began to pray.

That’s when time stood still.

Hearing the heart prayers of one friend after another as we deliberately gave back to God all the cares, concerns, and celebrations we had just shared along with requests for God’s blessing over us and our loved ones, well…“sweet” doesn’t even cover it.

It was grace…precious, precious grace.

When we speak a blessing over the food we’ve received, we call it “saying grace” and what happened today around my table was exactly what table prayers are supposed to be.

Come to think of it, it’s what ALL of our prayers should be.

Grace and peace!


Photo credit: Jaybrena Passmore

Timely reminders

I woke up Saturday morning and groaned. That knotted muscle that I thought was finally eased had tightened up again overnight. Neither knotted muscles nor groaning is my normal thing. (Thank you, God!) In fact, I usually wake up and talk to God first thing, but with our travels and getting back into the swing of routine at home, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t started up that way for several days, so after I stopped the groaning, I apologized to God and hobbled for the heating pad. I had a two hour meeting at the church later in the morning to help us share Jesus with others, tax prep paperwork all over the dining room table with a looming appointment, more upcoming travel, and I still needed to work on my Bible study before I could lead on Tuesday. I was WAY behind with more stuff headed my way, and I have to say this: I was not in the mood to share ANYthing with ANYone right then, much less Jesus. Oh, how I wish I could say I was more spiritual than that, but I just flat-out told God all of that as I asked Him to PLEASE change my attitude before that meeting.

As I reached for the bag with my study materials, I tugged on the handles (trapped under a heavy bowl without my knowledge) and out spilled fruit and snacks…all over the floor. Oranges rolled in every direction. This would require bending and that would be painful.

I just cried.

I  was hurting. I was mad.  I was behind and totally unspiritual. It was all my fault…and margin was nowhere to be found.

Thankfully, my husband was nearby and came to my rescue. He picked up all the oranges, got me settled on the heating pad, brought me juice, offered breakfast, and then left me to recover.

As I settled into his big chair, I had to start somewhere, so I prayed again. This time for a friend who was leading a women’s ministry retreat at her church using the same study our ladies had just finished: BREATHE, by Priscilla Shirer. As I texted my friend, I prayed for ALL of us to breathe God in so deeply that we have no choice but to breathe Him back out to those around us. I knew for certain that I needed that for myself!

I physically concentrated on breathing in and breathing out as I prayed. And then…the margin came…mainly because God showed up in the middle of my mess and my messy prayers and began again the work of peace for my soul.

I opened my study materials and the first thing I was asked to do was read Psalm 107 out loud. I turned to it and read.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.”  Psalm 107:1-2 

More margin. More peace. More reminders about the goodness of my God and how he has redeemed me.

That word “redeemed” is something special. It means “bought back; recovered with a price.” We had studied it in depth last year and the lessons learned then flooded over me again.

My God loves me! He loves you! He loves us so much that He chose to pay the highest price so that we could all spend eternity with Him! The joy of that made everything else unimportant right then. I had to share it or explode…so I wrote this blog post to share it with You! (Because no one else was there at the time and I was sticking with that hot pad!) I knew this wouldn’t be published for a day or so and that you might not get to it for a bit, but I am still confident that the timing will be right when you finally read it. Maybe it will come when you’re in the middle of a meeting or a muddle. Perhaps it will come in on a day when all is going well, but you’ll still need to be reminded or know someone who needs to be reminded: God is good. He loves us–right in the middle of whatever we’re dealing with! He is with us. If we breathe Him in and breathe Him out, the margins begin to suddenly get larger automatically because He can’t be constrained by our circumstances.

God sent my reminder on time. I’m counting on Him to do the same for you.

Grace and peace!


Make a good day!

Earlier today I chose brightly colored vegetables to the tune of “Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll.” Bible study was over for the day and I had been privileged to spend some time afterward in a discussion about theology, doctrine, and obedience. I was ready to get home and fix a sandwich for lunch.

As I unloaded my items onto the moving conveyor belt, my checkout lady commented on my necklace. I told her I had made it and she and another checker who was acting as a bagger began asking questions about how I did it.

As she handed me my receipt, my cheerful checker said, “Make a nice day!” We all chuckled as she laughingly stammered out her explanation that she was still thinking about me making jewelry out of broken china while still trying to wish me a nice day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all our verbal blunders still held such profound truth?

Make a nice day. Yes, we can choose to do just that. I pondered it again as I drove home and waited for the men who were cleaning up the debris from a recent power company cleanup to allow me into my driveway. I set about putting up my groceries and making my peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Home at last. Simple goodness. On to the next thing.

Minutes ago I headed out to check the mail and view the freshly cleaned area…and actually teared up a bit to see only a small twisted stump where a favorite young tree once stood. It had survived a transplanting from MS in 2014, multiple hot summer suns, several winter storms, and the whirring blade of two previous cleanups only to fall pray to an apparently overzealous cleanup crew.

IMG_20180206_173549941I wrestled the remaining portion from the ground and carried it behind the house where I re-potted it in a large vacant planter. I went inside to do some research and, based on what I found, I am hopeful for an eventual recovery. It will take time to replace the nearly 4′ of growth, but maybe, with care, it can be done.

I could choose to be angry and call to make a fuss. Who knows? They might even try to do something about it, but I’ve decided to apply some margin for others here, as well. Although I’m definitely annoyed, I’m working hard to apply the truth that I can MAKE a good day even when frustrated by what feels like a thoughtless and unnecessary act. Better yet, I’m bolstered by the hope that I can live up to the name given to this particular type of tree, a smoke tree called, believe it or not…”Grace”…because I’m also called to live up to what Jesus did for me a long, long time ago…on a tree.

(Insert very wry grin here.)

God surely does use the strangest things to teach us, doesn’t He? ( FYI: I may still need another Grace-tree…just saying…I’m officially on the lookout…)

 “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2 (NIV)

GRACE and Peace, every one! Grace and Peace!


And the word for the year is…

A couple of weeks before Christmas I woke up knowing that several of my larger obligations for 2017 were ended or coming to a close. The resulting relief was palpable, and yet…I was just so very, very tired. It had nothing to do with getting a good night’s rest. My tiredness was at soul level. Sitting in my chair with my head in my hands, I was weary even before I began the day…and I wanted to scream at the frustration of it all.


I wanted to, but I didn’t. I didn’t have the energy for that…and yet, I was supposed to go and worship within the next short while. How was that even possible?

I grabbed a pen and a piece of yellow sticky note paper and wrote, “I am tired of ‘just getting through…’ things! I’m ready to enjoy them.” Then I began to do the only thing that WAS possible. I began to talk to God about stuff He already knew. Some of it, I already knew, too…

As I began to pray about all the frustration behind that sentiment, God–because He LOVES to communicate with us once we’re really ready to listen!!–began to bring to memory a long stream of events over the past several years. There were people and places and tasks that I signed myself up for knowing they would please others even when I knew they would drain me–and without knowing what God was about to assign me. I began to wonder whose shoes I had filled unnecessarily and what blessing I had denied them. God also gently reminded me of the irony of this since I have “preached” this message to friends and family for the longest time. He brought to mind all of the books I own–and read!!–on this topic, of verses along this theme, and of the people who have been trying diligently to support me in my tasks despite very full plates of their own.

In the course of all this reminding, He also brought me a word to go along with my recurring theme of “Wherever you are, be all there.”

He brought me the word “Margin.”

Margins are those areas of blank space around an art piece that focus our attention on the actual art in front of us.

Margins are what keep our words from running off the page and jumbling together so that they can become readable and make sense.

In business, margins are the difference between what is spent to produce an item and the amount for which it can then be valued to the next one who will use or purchase it.

Margin is specifically defined by the online Oxford English Dictionary here, if you’re interested:

My favorite part of this definition is the part of the second one, which says this:

An amount by which a thing is won or falls short.

  1. 2.1 An amount of something included so as to be sure of success or safety.
  2. 2.2 The lower limit of possibility, success, etc.

Did you see that? Without margin, we fall short and reduce our possibilities of winning, of being successful…and of being safe. Surely God Himself must have written this definition for me on that day. I had fallen short and had stretched myself and my schedule so thin that I no longer felt safe.

Margin may not sound glamorous, but it is critical to success, and isn’t that what we all want? A successful life. There are probably as many definitions for THAT as there are people on the planet. As for me, I take my definition for it from Scripture. These verses are, in fact, what made me start this blog all the way back in August of 2012…

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” I Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV)

Because this word “Margin” is my word for the year, I’ll be writing about it as we go about living 2018 together. My ears are attuned to it now and I’m beginning to see it pop up in the most unlikely places. It is now ever before me as I wake and set about ordering the tasks and the days for this year. I don’t think this word is just for me, however.

I think some of you need it, too.

Will you join me in seeking to implement the margins God would have us set so that we may focus on HIM and the art of the life He has set before us.

Grace and Peace…and Margin.

Manger Musings


“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5 ESV

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 NKJV

Our Sunday School class received a rare treat this morning! We had a young woman who came to share her gift with us. Using ASL, she signed the song “Mary Did You Know” for us as a wonderful complement to our lesson about how Mary readily accepted her assignment from God without fuss or complaint. That’s an amazing thought all by itself, isn’t it?!

As our teacher set the stage for the lesson, she reminded us that the stable wasn’t like what we see in most depictions of drama or on our mantels each year. Instead of a separate wooden structure much like what we’re used to seeing, it was most likely a nearby cave. She further reminded us that instead of a “traditional” manger of wood and hay, what the animals most likely ate from would have been a simple, rough, hollowed-out crevice in a nearby piece of cave rock. “Who,” she asked, “would want to place their newborn baby in that?!”

The rest of her lesson was beautifully presented as she continued, but I confess that my mind was still whirling over that manger-thing. I grabbed a post-it note from my purse (because thanks to my Tuesday Ladies I have a bunch of those now! grin) and I scribbled the following: “The Light has come and the hollowed out place was filled.”

Think about that for a moment with me. Hundreds of years ago, Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, inventor, and theologian wrote the following:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?

This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”  ~Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662 

His gorgeous quote is often reduced to the simple (?!) idea of a God-shaped hole…and that thought brought me down another trail. Imagine with me the Creator God as He formed the earth and as He got to this particular piece of ground how He might have paused and thought, “This is it. THIS is where I’m going to send My Son one day.” Imagine that. Think of the intention of God in creating that hollowed-out place of a dark cave and the intention He has to create that kind of place for Himself…in us!

What kind of care do we take when we prepare things for our loved ones–especially at this time of year? How easy do we try to make it for them, how beautiful, how convenient, how comforting and comforting? Yet, God seemingly did none of those things for His only begotten Son–so that WE could one day be saved through the death, burial and resurrection of this Jesus into a relationship with Him and be filled with God the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. Stunning.

As I continued to think about the intentionality of that crevice in the rock serving as a place for the animals to feed, I wondered if God created that manger by His very own thought or if He had the condensation of cave water drip there so long that it created that little hollowed out place or if He had someone else come along and chisel it out later. Without God’s intervention, the fact is that holes in rock are rarely created quickly or by ease. Either some work was involved or, at the very least, some many years and years of dripping and dripping and dripping of water upon stone in a seemingly unimportant task. How many times would be needed for the drops to drip or the chisel and hammer strike to create the place where the Holy One would lie wrapped in swaddling clothes (death clothes to foreshadow what was to come!)?

How many times do we question the importance of what we’re being asked to do? How often do we experience deaths (both real and figurative) in our relationships–the seemingly thoughtless remarks that eat away at us, or the harsh cutting away of some part of our lives leaving behind a raw and gaping hole and we wonder the eternal angry question of “WHY?!” What if, instead, we looked at these hard and hurtful things as opportunities God can use to fill us with Himself?

THAT is the real message of Christmas, you know. God sent His only Son to fill in our hollow places. The Rock of Ages was laid in a hollowed out cave rock so that we could become whole again and spend eternity with Him. The Light of the World came into our darkness so we could fully see the beauty of God and His great love for us.

May everything that is good and holy and intentional about God’s original gift to us be present in our celebration of the birth of Christ today. If that concept is foreign to you or you find this holiday season to be a difficult one, I hope you’ll be open to a new experience this year. He came for us so that we could come to Him.

Don’t wait. Come to Him today and be made whole.

Grace and Peace!–and Merry Christmas!!


God has been nudging me about my schedule for awhile now. I’ve largely ignored most of it and continued blithely or, actually, rather ignorantly onward…to my own peril. I knew that a great majority of what I was involved in was actually God’s doing, so I kept up the pace and chose to believe that my service was all worship and all at His behest.

I was right. I was also very wrong.

Oh, don’t mistake my meaning! I WAS doing what he called me to do…and some of what some others thought I should…or, maybe, what I thought they thought I should be doing, and what I thought would be the proper Christian thing, and what made it more convenient for some people, and many things I’m TOTALLY equipped to do, and…and…and…He continued to equip me for the work. Good things happened as a result. A lot of things got accomplished…some of them, I was even supposed to do. (insert VERY wry grin here!)

None of it was bad. Most of it wasn’t even that difficult. That’s what made it so easy to say “yes” in the first place! There was just a lot of it. AND, did you notice all the “I” words in that paragraph above. Yes. Me, too. It is possible to do good things selfishly even when that isn’t your intent. Saying “yes” can make you look good or get you praise and gratitude. Even when those things aren’t your primary motivation, they can still become powerfully addictive incentives.

Anyway, I recently ran out of steam. Physically, I just crashed and I believe God allowed that on purpose. The enforced break in routine helped me stop long enough to start seeing His fingerprints, and remembering His nudges, and commit myself to be still and listen. He’s been doing a lot of talking to me about this topic as I’ve been recovering and I’m absolutely certain He’s not through teaching me. That means you’ll be hearing more about this as I keep listening and learning and applying.

Please hear me when I say that God was gracious and kind in His nudging. Even the physical crash and resulting time of illness wasn’t as nearly as bad as it could have been. God is GOOD. Every single day. He is also extremely patient because He allowed me to keep going at a pace not His own for several years before I finally began to see how He was keeping and empowering and blessing me even in the midst of my ignorant insistence about doing it all for Him. I took those first five words of Philippians 4:13 as a personal mandate. Go ahead. Go look it up again. I’m not posting it here because I want you to go read it out loud to yourself–or, at the very least, quote it back to yourself if you have it memorized.

Grace is REAL, y’all! Seriously real.

It turns out that God, in HIS goodness has a plan for our good–and sometimes, it doesn’t look like what we expect. I think I might have written about that here before. (The eye roll here is a given.) Even writing this post now makes me chuckle with God about how He has continued to gently nudge and the number of times I continued to misinterpret so many of those messages as being for “someone else.”

His plan for us as individuals may look quite a bit different, but then, again, WE look different. We ARE different. I share my lessons–and mistakes!–here so you can learn from it and I’d love to hear what God is teaching you, as well. This is how we each become people of influence.

It is my prayer that whether it be your own schedule or any other topic God is dealing with YOU about, that you’ll choose to pay closer attention and be obedient faster than I.

This has been your free and friendly nudge from me…or, maybe, from Him. (grin)

What’s He saying to YOU today?

Grace and Peace!