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.


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.

‘Tis the Season

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love getting mail! ALL kinds are welcome: snail mail, email, personally delivered, parcel post or freighted! It reminds me of that line from Richard Rogers’ immortal song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music: “…brown paper packages tied up with strings…” (and now, I must apologize for the earworm, but I’m singing along with Julie Andrews, so you might as well do the same!)

Yesterday was a very lovely “package day” at my house! Although I’m not really into the acquisition of “things” for myself, I had mail of every kind imaginable delivered and it was FABULOUS! I opened several Christmas cards, some simple household products, two gifts I’d ordered for others, and two marvelous Christmas happies for ME from dear friends who live in different towns in Mississippi!

I also received a nice long phone call and a great text message. Actually, I had several of each, but these two were special. Why even mention them? Because almost everyone I know uses those tools every single day and somehow we don’t stop to think of them as “gifts” because they’re not generally tangible.

The content of these two communications was special to me, however, because God used them to confirm something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. They contained encouragement about exercising a gift He has given to me that I haven’t been using to full advantage. Though the messages were vastly different and neither was harsh or loud, they spoke powerfully to me about what God would have me do in the days to come. Without chiding or deriding, God chose to use the voices of friends and give me the gift of their time…and His.

I’m grateful for that. In a loving voice and the forwarding of a daily devotional , GOD showed up and spoke to me in a very personal way. The words these friends shared inspired me and reminded me that we too often forget the power of communicating with each other. We forget to give of ourselves in simple, personal ways…or we discount the idea that what we have to share might truly make a profound difference.

This is the season for gathering and gifts–whether or not you believe, as I do, that the real reason for all of the hoopla was the quiet birth of the One who came to save the world. This is just your friendly reminder that your words and your actions can be gifts of even more significance than anything you might order, wrap, or have delivered this year.

Use them wisely. Share them generously. Choose them as carefully as you would the finest present and use them to bless and not just add to the cacophony of seasonal noise. Share the thoughts, feelings, ideas, and writings that encourage and inspire YOU with others. You may never know how it can be used to influence them or be passed along to others.

Grace and Peace…and packages of God-delight for you and yours this season!

NCN 2017–Day 28

Today is Giving Tuesday and in view of that, I’ve decided to share an opportunity to give with you!

My friend  Janet Robertson (we went to the same school growing up!) has spent the past few years in Rwanda doing all kinds of things to help people. Talk about becoming a person of influence? This woman has done it! She’s taught school, worked to better the lives of mentally and physically challenged people, encouraged participation in community-building events and, honestly, I’m not sure what she could have decided to do next except help build a school…so that’s what she’s working on right now.

She needs some help.

thumb_IMG_8204_1024Actually, the KIDS need some help and so does the community around them. They have walls now, but the roof needs to be finished in this rainy season, there are mouths to feed, minds to educate, and a community to bring HOPE to by just sharing whatever amount you choose. Here’s a bit more information for you on this wonderful project in Kigali, Rwanda! (I couldn’t get the video to embed here, but I worked on this link and I DO hope it works! Copy and paste to your browser, if possible. It really is neat to see the progress and hear from people in the community!)

You can donate online at (drop down: Love God/Give Online and then choose Rwanda–Janet Robertson) or by writing a check with HOPE SCHOOL in the memo line and sending it to

Columbus Church of Christ

2401 7th Street N

Columbus, MS 39705

ANYTHING you can send will help make life better for these children and it will make you smile, too, I think, so it’s really a win-win! (and just so you know, the only thing I get out of this is the opportunity to share one of my happy-happy favorite things with you: helping my friends do what God has called them to do!)

Grace and Peace!!

NCN 2017–Day 20

cropped-heartWelcome to Day 20 of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! It’s the week of Thanksgiving and gathering in together to celebrate the blessings of life. To do that properly, we’ll need to turn off the narrative of the world with its relentless push for more and focus on giving thanks for what IS instead of what ISN’T.

Deciding to do that isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth it, because what we end up with, then, is an opportunity for contentment. Oh, there’s no doubt that there are many things wrong in the world, but quite a few of them could be fixed if each of us started off recognizing just how blessed we are right now.

“Real contentment must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.” – Warren Wiersbe

Don’t you love that quote?! The problems of the world can threaten to overwhelm and discourage us. Focusing on improving who we are by resolving to become more positive in our outlook and our communications with others is a concrete and achievable goal!  Imagine it: if we all changed the world within US by taking this small step forward, then the world AROUND us would change, as well.

Are you willing to change the world within you? Becoming a person of influence starts with influencing yourself!

Grace & Peace!

NCN 2017–Day 1

Good morning, dear friends! Isn’t it a glorious day to start off this new month of busy schedules and frenzied preparations and holiday shopping and decorating and lots of people in your house who aren’t normally there and…no complaining?! WHAT?! Becky, do you really mean, NO complaining…about ANY of it?! Just…doing it…without fussing and arguing and grumbling and…and…yes. Yes! YES, to all of that and more!

It is Day 1 of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, so today is the day we start it off right! This is the day we strengthen our minds to focus on the positive and, even when confronted–sometimes, face first!–with the negative, we will still CHOOSE not to complain about it. We chose to cope. We choose to breathe deeply and smile. We choose to grit the teeth, if necessary, and face it head on…and not complain.

It is a choice, you know. Most of life is–and isn’t that really the crux of it all? That we become more deliberate in our choices and choose well. Think of it! A world without complaint! A world of choosing to make the best of it and moving on without bringing more negativity into your life, because here’s the rub: you can’t be negative toward someone else without a lot of if sticking with YOU! Isn’t that WORTH choosing?

I think so.

Scripture says, “For as he thinks within himself, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (NASB) and Matthew 12:34 (also NASB) says, “…For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”

I really like seeing all the different translations of that last verse. Here are just a few:

“…For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (HCSB)

“…Your mouth says what comes from inside you.” (GOD’S WORD translation)

“…For the mouth speaks about what overflows from the heart.” (NET)

“…For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (NIV)

“…For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (NLT)

“…for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (ESV, Berean Study, KJV, NHEB)

I think I like that last one best of all simply because of the word “abundance.” Abundance is usually a good thing and it’s a concept we’ve all associated with this month containing falling leaves of red and gold, Thanksgiving, cornucopias, and tables full of good food all surrounded by family and friends. It’s a comforting word because it means you’re not likely to run out of something…and hopefully, that something is something good, pleasant, or beneficial.

That’s the goal for NCN 2017: that we not run out of good things to say, that we speak out of abundant hearts all of the GOOD things that we’ve been blessed with, and that we become people who are known for building up and not tearing down. At the heart of it all, it is about becoming people of influence…for good.

Will you join us? My Jester line is in, my husband says he’ll do it, there are friends and family who have communicated that they’re in for this, and that’s really great because the more we get on board with this, the bigger the influence we can have in the world! Grab a friend, a coworker, a family member, or even your postal worker and join us in NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2017!

You’ll be glad you did, or your money back…guaranteed! (giggle)

Grace and Peace!