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


The missing piece

My maternal grandmother loved birds. Actually, I think she just loved LIFE, but she had a special fondness for the birds. She watched them, fed them, and fussed when the “mean old blue jays” swooped in and frightened off the other ones. She couldn’t stand birds who “acted ugly.”

I still remember the rows of Audubon Society bird prints in their matching  thin black frames that hung over the sofa in the front room. I spent a good deal of time looking at those prints (kneeling because you weren’t supposed to put your shoes on the furniture! remember rules as a child? grin.) and trying to remember the different kinds of birds so I could ask her about them later, because there were always a lot of us around and it was rarely quiet. (At her passing, she had 13 granddaughters and 13 grandsons…and that number has expanded a bit since then. Yes, there were a LOT of us, so conversation with her one-on-one was something to be prized. Still, I think most of us would say that we got our share of her attention and bloomed because of it. She made quite a deep impression on each of us mainly because of the way she loved us.)

Grandmother’s Audubon bird prints were beautiful in a formal mass-produced sort of way which always seemed a stark contrast to the bedlam often happening around them and I think, even then, my internal color sense was a bit offended by the added contrast of the late 60’s-early 70’s upholstery beneath them. I kept trying to figure out why these things didn’t seem to go together…for at least a few seconds before joining in the fray.

IMG_20170125_110849382The sofa had a matching chair and that chair was always referred to as “Grandmother’s chair.” It was where she held court at Christmas when the whole family gathered around and waited to see her reaction to whatever gift she happened to be opening at the time. We all measured our growth a bit by how many of us it took to fill the seat when she wasn’t in it. I know my Cousin Bobby and I did, anyway.

After Grandmother passed, the chair ended up at my mother’s house and it sat in the back hall for a long time before I got up the nerve to ask for it. It didn’t go with anything I owned, but I had coveted it for years.  I didn’t have the money for getting it reupholstered, so I threw a favorite old bedcover across it and declared it “good enough.” Once I decided to make that project a priority, I took my time thinking about the fabric I wanted. (That chair got it’s own Pinterest board for awhile!) I settled on something traditional, pretty, mostly pink (because it was one of her favorite colors), and spiced up with a few threads of red and green and gold thrown in to deepen the elegance factor. I think I may have been trying to get it to finally live up to those Audubon bird prints. (grin)

My friend Cyndi did the job of chair transformation about a year ago and I love it! I had her marry a spare ottoman I found to the chair and threw in a little contrast fabric just on it just for fun. I have loved it, but I still felt like there was something missing.

Yesterday, I found the missing piece.

IMG_20180126_101051123It’s a crazy-patterned pillow…with some very silly-looking birds on it. It made me laugh right there in the store and I knew it had to go home with me even though it doesn’t match anything else in my house except that chair…and my amazing childhood memories. The fact that the chair is now more elegantly attired and the birds look wildly silly is a bonus for me. It seems things have come full circle. Better yet, it was on sale for $10, and my thrifty grandmother would definitely approve…and you can tell that Smokey isn’t bothered, either.

I’ve smiled or laughed every time I’ve entered the room since I put it in place, so I’d say that’s a double bargain.

Who knew I’d find margin in a silly ten-dollar bird-pillow and childhood memories about a woman who was never famous, but had so much influence on the people around her? God did…and I think He’s still chuckling with me.

Grace and peace.

Snow day

The sun is shining here and the ground is resuming it’s more familiar leaf covered appearance as the snow continues a strategic retreat.

Despite the laughter I know is erupting from my northern friends and family, we had ourselves a “snow day” yesterday.

We know it doesn’t compare in volume to what so many experience with that term. In fact, I had a pretty good chuckle myself as I looked at the photo of a cousin’s young daughter waiting for the bus in WAY more snow than we have in the ground. That chuckle turned into full-blown laughter as I read the newspaper article that said their town had officially received over 100 inches of the cold white stuff already this season.

We. Would. Have. DIED!

First, from horror, and then because we’re absolutely clueless about how to function in that kind of frozen precipitation. Give us a 100 degree heat wave ANY time over the cold. THAT, we’re good at down here.

My husband attempted to get to work once we had light enough to see the roads. He left tracks in the snow on his way to the truck and I braved the cold on our back porch long enough to stick my hand out and snap a couple of photos. Over two hours later, he returned home and set up shop on our dining room table. He spent most of the day on the phone and his computer while I alternated between household chores and some business paperwork.

Lunch was a sandwich of freshly made chicken salad and then we went back to our respective chores. He mentioned that those earlier tracks were now mostly ice.

A few hours of productive work later, I made a deliberate choice to include some margin in our day: it was time for a break and a pan full of hot homemade cookies. Dessert BEFORE supper! (A childhood dream!) While they baked, I headed out to clear off the porch and the walkway…and catch a glimpse of the sunlight peeking through the trees. As I swept the snow away, my husband’s footprints remained visible…just as if in a reverse negative photo. (Extra points for those of us who remember using actual film in a camera!)

I posted the two photos elsewhere on social media and thought I’d do it here, too.



Well, Becky, what’s the point of all this? It’s pretty simple, actually: sometimes God goes to a lot of trouble to give you unexpected time with people you love. It’s up to us to take full advantage of it and it’s a good idea to not lose sight of the footprints whether they guide you to where you want to go or just warn you where not to slip and slide.

“You enlarge my steps under me, And my feet have not slipped.” Psalm 18:36

Margin for a snow day…

What does “margin” look like?

Last evening I received a sweet email from my friend, the amazing Althea. She’s an encourager of the first order and her simple message said, “See you in the morning. Sleep good tonight in the margin.” Isn’t she precious?! I do love a friend who tries to help you achieve your goals! I quickly responded, however, that I’d be surprised if I slept much at all since Bama was playing for the national championship and I intended to see the entire game. (RTR! Y’all HAD to know that was coming, but I won’t belabor the point right now! I’ll just leave a lot of new tags on this post…grin)

As I thought about her comment a little bit later, I did a mental checklist on all the reasons it made sense to follow her suggestion and get some sleep: early morning on Tuesday, the start of another semester of Bible study, I was scheduled to teach, first days are always a little squirrely so you need to be ready and able to be flexible, and…I really wanted to see that game, so…I stayed up REALLY late and got up REALLY early…and survived just fine, thank you very much!

I made the decision to make “margin” look like what works best for me based on whatever I’m facing at any given moment. Sounds simple doesn’t it? For someone who thrives on her OCD planning skills, it was downright revolutionary. (grin)


As we began our study this morning–on the practice of Sabbath in our lives, no less! (Don’t tell me God isn’t on the ball, since both the study and the timing were decided last summer!!)–I reminded the gathered women that we’re not allowed to just hear God’s truth and move on without becoming responsible for it. Decisions will be made one way or the other about what we do with that truth, but the responsibility for follow-through remains intact and squarely on our shoulders!

Since, as a teacher/leader, I’m required to be especially responsible for the way I handle God’s truth, I decided to put a little Sabbath rest and margin into my afternoon. My practice of it may not look anything like yours–and that’s ok! God made us different on purpose! The main thing is that we make the effort so we’re rested and ready for the next assignments God chooses to hand us.


In an effort to clarify how my practice of adding a little Sabbath rest to my life got implemented today, “margin” currently sounds a lot like Earl Scruggs and Vince Gill making a little bluegrass heaven along with the hum of the washing machine for some added rhythm. It smells like a crock-pot full of hot vegetable-beef soup to go with the leftover cornbread. It was seeking out a birthday card for someone I love, paying bills with a smile on my face for God’s provision, having a snack lunch and then roaming in the woods for awhile since the temperature was finally up in the 40s today. (Major praise!!) It included lots of little stray pines being pulled up from where I don’t want those eventually-towering giants to be, picking up fallen limbs from the last storm, and seeking out some wild grapevine treasure from the woods for a more beautiful “later” and being in curled up and blogging in comfortable pajamas even before I eat supper.

In short, it was a pretty great day, so thanks, Althea, for reminding me to rest in the margin! It didn’t look like a full night’s sleep last night, but I had a ball!

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.


As an audiologist, I often had to speak with patients about the difference in being “hard of hearing” and being “hard of listening.” Many of us don’t know the difference, but they are not the same thing.

Being “hard of hearing” means that there is a defect in the mechanical system of the body. Being “hard of listening” means there is a defect in the attention span. It is possible to be afflicted with both maladies. Neither issue is always easy to remedy and there are many who aren’t that interested in doing so, regardless of which affliction they possess…because it requires change.

Change often scares people–even the ones who claim to love it.

I’ve noticed that loving the one who speaks often makes a difference in the amount of attention we pay to them. I’ve also noticed that you can love the one who’s speaking…and still be preoccupied with other things to the point that we have difficulty processing anything outside our own whirling minds. I am the poster child for that second thing. It’s one of the many reasons that I’m glad God is patient.

As we approach a new year, many people make resolutions about things they want to do differently in the coming days. I can’t remember the last time I made a list of resolutions, but I do like to pick a theme. This year, for the third year running, my theme will be missionary-martyr Jim Elliot’s quote, “Wherever you are, be all there.” 

It’s the third year in a row because…I’m still not always good at doing it…

…and I want to be.

I’m choosing to work on this theme again because God in His infinite patience has been teaching me something through my efforts and in spite of them. He’s teaching me about settling my mind enough to be in the place where my feet are so that I can hear Him better.

As I thought about getting this down in writing, the following verses came to mind:

“Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:8b-10 (NIV)

Several things spring to mind as I read these words:

  • Sometimes we can HEAR God calling and not be sure to whom that voice belongs–even when we’re already serving Him and His people. (This is a call to know Him better.)
  • Sometimes we will need guidance to help us identify the important things in life. (This is a call to surround ourselves with those mentors who know God’s voice even though they–and WE!–will often be far from perfect in serving Him well.)
  • Sometimes it’s important to lie down and be still in order to hear from God. (This is a call to build in some space for rest.)
  • As important as it is to lie down and be still, one more element is still required: you need to know where your place is. (This is a call to focus on doing what God has called YOU to do and a reminder that you can’t do it all. Hint: That’s why God made more than one person.)
  • God WILL come calling. He always does and He never quits after just one attempt. (This is a reminder that He is patient and insistent, but never rude. His calling is a privilege, not a dictator’s mandate.)
  • We have to CHOOSE to listen.

There’s more; SO much more, but I’m closing for today. I have a full day of being where I am and it’s time to get focused on that. I hope you’ll have a wonderful day and that you’ll join me in exploring what God has for each of us in 2018. As for me…

“Speak, Lord, I’m listening.”

Grace and Peace!

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!!